November Wrap-Up

A productive month! And one that included a lot of books that I was very excited to read. 😀 In total, I read 8 novels, 2 novellas, and 3 graphic novels, which is more than I’ve read in a single month in quite some time (or so it feels, anyway). I’m also definitely out of my reading slump at this point, and I’ve been enjoying getting back into my books~ ❤ Here’s what I read in November:

Nunzio DeFilippis & Christina Weir//The Avalon Chronicles vol. 1The Avalon Chronicles, Volume 1: Once in a Blue Moon by Nunzio DeFilippis & Christina Weir. The first in a graphic novel series that follows Aeslin, a girl from our world who is one day transported via a magical book to Avalon – the setting of a story that her parents used to read to her as a child, and where she has an epic destiny waiting for her. This book was super, super-fun! The characters are all great, and the art (by Emma Vieceli) is beautiful – and I’m enjoying the story even more than I was expecting to (which was quite a lot already)!4 starsNunzio DeFilippis & Christina Weir//The Avalon Chronicles, vol. 2The Avalon Chronicles, Volume 2: The Girl & the Unicorn by Nunzio DeFilippis & Christina Weir. The second instalment, in which Aeslin gets serious about her destiny, Cassidy & Will are awesome, and a whole load of game-changing info gets dropped. I’m really, really excited to see what’s going to happen next! 😀4 starsMargaret Atwood//The Handmaid's TaleThe Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. The bleak and oddly dispassionate tale of Offred, a Handmaid living in the early years of the Republic of Gilead, whose only purpose is to conceive a child. It’s a story I’ve been meaning to read for some time, and it definitely didn’t disappoint – the story is wonderfully creepy and mysterious, and piecing together the origins of the Republic of Gilead, and how Offred ended up where she is, is incredibly interesting. The historical notes section at the end (written in the form of a speech delivered by a fictional Professor of Gileadean Studies, or some such field) served as a really great epilogue to Offred’s rather open-ended narrative, answering a lot of the questions I had about Gilead and about Offred herself, while leaving other threads of the story appropriately unresolved… much in the way of life itself. A ponderous read – I suspect I’ll still be thinking about it for some time.4 starsEmma Vieceli//Dragon Heir Reborn vol. 1Dragon Heir Reborn, Volume 1 by Emma Vieceli. A fantasy adventure comic which follows the four Dragon Heirs – people fated to carry the different aspects of the sacred dragon Spiratu – as they come together to prepare for the Rite of Transcendence. The art is beautiful, and the story intriguing, if a little confusing at the beginning. It suffers, however, from a rather overcrowded cast: There are five main characters, as well as a few other important supporting characters, and they and the main villain are all introduced in reasonably quick succession, without being developed much (though they all seem fairly likeable – villain excepted!). The setting is similarly flawed, as the characters seem to jump rapidly from place to place, without ever exploring or explaining the culture of their world much. It does show some promise, though, and I’m looking forward to seeing where this story is going.3 starsMaria V. Snyder//Poison StudyPoison Study by Maria V. Snyder. The first book in the Study trilogy, which makes up the first part of the Chronicles of Ixia high fantasy series. This book follows Yelena, who’s been imprisoned for murder, but on the day that she’s due to be executed, she is instead offered the chance to become the Commander’s (the leader of Ixia’s military dictatorship) new food taster. I loved this story so much: The characters were wonderful, the plot was gripping, and I was fascinated by Ixia’s social structure – which could very easily have had a dystopian bent, except for the fact that it was actually stable and functional. Given that this is a YA (or at least YA-ish) novel, I also spent a lot of time waiting for Obvious-Love-Interest-Anon to show up, but I was really pleasantly surprised with the romance that Snyder decided on, and with the way that it played out. Would definitely recommend. 😀5 starsFrances Hardinge//Cuckoo SongCuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge. My Library Scavenger Hunt pick for this month; a mystery/horror story that follows a young girl who crawls out of a river one day with no memory of how she came to be in it in the first place, and finds that she’s no longer the person she remembers being before. I really enjoyed this book, and have written a mini-review of it here, for your reading pleasure~ 😉4 starsMaria V. Snyder//Magic StudyMagic Study by Maria V. Snyder. The sequel to Poison Study, in which Yelena finds herself in Sitia. Still very enjoyable, though not quite so much as the first book, which is a shame. The social contrast between Ixia and Sitia was really interesting, and there were several cool new characters who were introduced in this book – I really liked Yelena’s relationships with both Leif and Cahil, though I felt that Cahil’s character development took a serious turn for the worse towards the end… The book’s only major flaw was that Sitia is such a big place, with lots of different cultures and traditions – the magicians of the Magician’s Keep, the jungle-dwelling Zaltanas, and the Sandseeds of the Avibian Plains, as well as various other breakaway groups – and they were all introduced in such rapid succession that it was difficult to really get a feel for them, or to get attached to any of the new characters.3 stars

J.K. Rowling//Harry Potter & the Philosopher's Stone illustrated Robin Hobb//Assassin's Apprentice Jandy Nelson//I'll Give You the Sun

At this point in the month, the Anti-Bullying Readathon came around. It lasted a full week, during which I managed to read three books that featured bullying: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (illustrated edition) by J.K. RowlingAssassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb, and I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson. You can see my thoughts on each of those books by looking at my #AntiBullyReads wrap up.

5 stars 5 stars 4 stars

Maria V. Snyder//Fire StudyFire Study by Maria V. Snyder. The third book in the Chronicles of Ixia series, and the conclusion to the Study trilogy, wherein Yelena has to confront the Daviians, and negotiate a peace between Ixia and Sitia. The beginning of this book was quite frustrating, in much the same way that Magic Study was, but thankfully it picked up towards the middle of the book, and the story ended on a high point. Definitely an improvement on Magic Study, though still lacking the spark that made Poison Study so fantastic. I posted a full review of this trilogy (and the two related novellas) yesterday, which you can read here.4 starsMaria V. Snyder//Assassin StudyAssassin Study by Maria V. Snyder. A short story set between Poison Study and Magic Study, which follows Valek as he hunts down an assassin who’s after Yelena. This was a fun, quick read, and it was interesting to see Valek’s perspective, but not really a necessary addition to the main story.3 starsMaria V. Snyder//Power StudyPower Study by Maria V. Snyder. Another novella, this time following Ari and Janco after the events of Fire Study, when they return to Ixia and are faced with a talented but suspicious new recruit. I liked this one a bit better than the last, and Ari and Janco’s banter was very entertaining. Both of these stories can be read for free on Snyder’s website.3 stars

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Library Scavenger Hunt: November

Hello all! This month’s challenge was to read a book by an author with the same first name as you, and since I’m trying to keep super-on top of things at the moment, I set off the library early this month to pick out my book! 🙂 I looked up my name into the library catalogue to see what my options were, but was rather overwhelmed by the 20+ pages of results that it gave me… apparently Frances is quite a common name. :/ But after trawling through what seemed like hundreds of study guides and cookbooks and books on architecture, and even one on raising chickens (which my friend tried very hard to persuade me that I wanted to read), I stumbled upon Frances Hardinge, who’d written a couple of books that were currently available at my local library – both of which looked really interesting! After much agonising, however, I finally decided on…

CUCKOO SONG
Frances Hardinge

Frances Hardinge//Cuckoo SongThis book follows an 11-year-old girl called Triss, who crawls out of a river one night with no memory of how she got there, and begins to worry that she’s going mad – her dolls are speaking to her, she’s hungry all the time, she keeps waking up with leaves and dirt all over her, and her little sister, Pen, keeps insisting that she’s not the real Triss.

There’s not really much else that I can say about the story without spoiling it – and, believe me, it’s best to go into it knowing as little as possible, for maximum enjoyment – but I can say that I really, really liked it (I came very close to giving it 5 stars)! ❤ It’s not scary, exactly, but it’s super-creepy, and the mystery of what’s happening to Triss is resolved at a really nice, believable pace: Slow enough that it feels properly mysterious to the reader, but also not so slow as to begin to feel tedious. It’s nice, as well, that Triss’ understanding of events developed at about the same pace as mine, so I never felt as if I was just waiting for her to notice things that I thought were obvious. Triss’ perspective in general, actually, was really interesting – I’ve never read anything quite like it.

My favourite thing about this book, however, was its characters, and the dynamic between them, particularly in the case of Triss and Pen. You learn pretty early on that they’ve never really been able to get along, and the almost spiteful nature of their interactions rang very true, considering their family situation (Triss is spoiled and smothered by their parents, while Pen seems always to be either ignored by them, or blamed for everything that goes wrong), and also meant that it was really wonderful to see them come to understand each other more – and even begin to become friends – as the story progressed. I also really enjoyed their relationship with Violet (the former fiancée of Triss and Pen’s dead brother), when she eventually came into the story as more than just a character who showed up occasionally to cause controversy within the family, and her eventual part in the story’s climax was brilliant.

So, to sum up (and I feel like I’ve said this a lot): Interesting – really interesting – and very different from most of what’s out there. Would definitely recommend. 😀4 stars

[Find out more about the Library Scavenger Hunt by following this link!]