Summer Haul

summer haulYou remember that book-buying ban I was on? Well, it’s failed utterly. I did fantastically in June, and in July I only bought three books (though my birthday was in July, so I also received a few as gifts 😀 ), and then in August I went completely crazy… resulting in the photo above. ^^’ On the plus side, several of these I’ve read already, so the stack of unread books on my bedroom floor hasn’t grown too much…

1) Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. A birthday present from my friend Grace, who has (among others) been trying to get me to read it for a while now. And I loved it, just as everyone was sure that I would! 😀 I read this in July, so you can see what I thought of it in my wrap-up.

2) The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz. Another birthday present, this time from my sister. A thought-provoking novel about a Dominican-American boy who has never quite managed to fit in anywhere… I read this during the Booktubeathon, so I’ve also posted a mini-review of it.

3) 1066 and All That by Walter Carruthers Sellar & Robert Julian Yeatman. A tongue-in-cheek history book that was given to me by my friend William. I haven’t read this one yet, but I’m hoping to get to it soon.

4) The Spy’s Bedside Book by Graham & Hugh Greene. Also a present from William, this is a collection of short spy stories and tips, from what I’ve been able to gather. It looks like another super-fun book, so I’ll probably be picking it up reasonably soon.

5) Harry Potter & the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne & John Tiffany. The follow-up to the Harry Potter series, in script form! I bought this the day it was released (of course), and read it almost straight away, and despite the misgivings of others, I really enjoyed it. I’m sure that the play itself will be better – and I really want to see it soon – but this was a nice traipse back into the Wizarding World. More detailed thoughts on this are in my August wrap-up.

On the Other Side - photo6) On the Other Side by Carrie Hope Fletcher. The new novel by youtuber ItsWayPastMyBedtime, which I couldn’t resist picking up after hearing the song she wrote for it. Unfortunately I wasn’t a huge fan of the story itself (again, reasons why are in my August wrap-up), but I do feel like I should take the time to point appreciate the fact that someone at Little, Brown must have put a huge amount of effort into making this book as beautiful as it is.

7) The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan. The first book in Riordan’s new Percy Jackson-universe series, The Trials of Apollo. I’m not sure when I’ll actually read this, but I wanted to pick it up while it’s still available in hardback, so that it will match the rest of my Rick Riordan books…

8) The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken. I bought this one solely because it showed up unexpectedly at the second-hand bookshop where I work, and I’ve been looking for a copy for ages. This is another one that I’m eager to read soon, though my eagerness is somewhat tempered by the knowledge that I have no easy access to either of the sequels. 😦

9) A Court of Mist & Fury by Sarah J. Maas. The sequel to A Court of Thorns & Roses, which I liked when I read it, but have had my reservations about since… I wasn’t initially sure whether I was going to continue this series, but so many people have told me that this book is way better than the last, so I’ve decided to give it a try. Also, it (along with the next three books I’m going to list) was buy-one-get-one-half-price at Waterstones, so I didn’t really have a choice in the matter. 😉

10) And I Darken by Kiersten White. An intriguing novelisation of the life of Vlad the Impaler, if he had been a she. This is another book that I read pretty promptly after buying, so my (long, rambling) thoughts on it are all in my August wrap-up.

11) Railhead by Philip Reeve. I’ve not actually read much of Philip Reeve’s work, but I remember really loving his Hungry City Chronicles when I was in school, so of course I couldn’t resist seeing what his most recent book was like. Spoiler: it was fantastic – and I’ve written a full review of it here!

12) Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo. The first of a new duology set in the same universe as Bardugo’s Grisha trilogy, which I binge-read a few years ago and loved. And much to my surprise, Six of Crows was even better – I’m really excited for the sequel! Once again, I’ve talked about this book in my August wrap-up.

13) Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle Volumes 11-20 by CLAMP. And lastly! Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle is a series I’ve been reading since it was first released in English, but I’ve always had trouble tracking down any volumes after the first 10 (except online, but I’ve never much liked buying manga online), so when the first 20 volumes all showed up at work, I took it as a sign. 😉 I’m looking forward to catching up (at least partially) on this series soon!

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August Wrap-Up

All hail the conqueror of books! And I managed to pick out such good ones last month! I mean, there were a couple of duds, because there always are, but for the most part, I really enjoyed what I read in August. 😀 In total: 8 novels, and 1 play (and I’m sure none of you can guess what that last one might be, right? 😉 ). I also managed to complete my Goodreads challenge of 60 books! I’ve increased it to 100 now, and the widget is (worryingly) telling me that I’m now a few books behind, but I’m hoping to catch up soon. 🙂

A.M. Dellamonica//Child of a Hidden SeaChild of a Hidden Sea by A.M. Dellamonica. The first book in the Hidden Sea Tales series, which follows a marine biologist and videographer called Sophie, who, while searching for information about her biological parents, finds herself flung into Stormwrack – another world, filled with magic, oceans and swashbuckling adventures. This book was a huge amount of fun, and really refreshing to read; I haven’t read any world-hopping fantasies in quite a while, and I don’t think I even know of any that aren’t targeted at children. The plot was both gripping and complex, involving all kinds of mysteries and politics, and I really love the world that Dellamonica has created, as well; I hope that it will be explored further as the series goes on. At times, the story did feel a little rushed, and some of the supporting characters weren’t very well fleshed-out (most notably, Parrish, Sophie’s love interest, who barely seemed to interact with her except for plot-related reasons), but these are my only real complaints.4 starsHuntley Fitzpatrick//The Boy Most Likely ToThe Boy Most Likely To by Huntley Fitzpatrick. The sequel/companion to My Life Next Door, which follows Jase’s sister Alice, and his and Sam’s friend Tim. I was initially going to give this book four stars, pretty much wholly because I went into it thinking that even if it was goo, it couldn’t possibly match up to My Life Next Door – I had never felt that much of a connection with Alice, and it seemed to me that Tim’s flirting with her in the first book was more obligatory than anything else. But you know what? This relationship really worked, and this book ended up being amazing. It’s certainly less dramatic than My Life Next Door, and there’s much less focus on romance, but I really loved the way both Tim and Alice’s characters developed, and Cal was adorable. ❤ I really hope that Huntley Fitzpatrick will write more in this series (a book for Joel, maybe? Or Nan? 😛 ).5 stars

J.K. Rowling//Harry Potter & the Cursed ChildHarry Potter & the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne & John Tiffany. The script of the new Harry Potter play, which needs no description (and will get none, since basically anything I could say about the plot of this would be a spoiler)! I wasn’t sure what I’d think of this, as I’ve never been a huge fan of reading plays, and the comments I’ve seen about it so far have been pretty mixed, but I loved it! Albus and Scorpius (but mostly Scorpius) were wonderful, I loved the slowly-changing relationship between Harry and Draco, and I might even have been (marginally) reconciled towards the Harry/Ginny relationship (which I’ve never been a fan of). The plot was also intriguing, though I was able to guess the identity of the main villain fairly early on, and there was even a scene towards the end of the book with Dumbledore’s portrait that managed to make me tear up… 😥 I can’t wait to see this on stage!5 stars

Carrie Hope Fletcher//On the Other SideOn the Other Side by Carrie Hope Fletcher. A cute story about an old woman who, after her death, has to let go of all her secrets before she can enter Heaven, and so she pays a series of ghostly visits to some of the people she’s left behind, all the while recalling the love of her life, whom she hasn’t seen in decades. I really, really wanted to love this book, but while it was cute, it was also problematic in a number of ways: The characters were all seriously under-developed, and as much as we were told about them, we never really get to know them for ourselves; the main character, Evie, felt a lot like a self-insert – an idealised version of the author – and after the first few times, it got really tiring hearing about how wonderful everyone thought she was. The conflicts she faced seemed incredibly contrived, as well: Granted, I was never really able to place this book in terms of time periods, but the amount of control Evie’s mother had over her beggared belief (she’s 27! And doesn’t even live at home!), and on a related note, Evie’s reason for breaking up with Vincent was utterly unconvincing. (Also, it was obviously supposed to come across as noble and self-sacrificing, but it pretty much made everyone miserable. In particular, I felt sorry for Jim, who was never given a chance to move on from a girl who would always be in love with someone else.) The descriptions of Heaven’s “waiting room” were kind of interesting, there were a couple of characters that I liked, and as I’ve mentioned a couple of times, I found the relationship between Evie and Vincent really cute (especially at the beginning), but it’s a shame that the best thing about this book is really the song that Carrie Fletcher wrote about it.2 stars

Philip Reeve//RailheadRailhead by Philip Reeve. In interstellar adventure featuring trains that travel between planets, robots developing their own personalities, and an epic heist that could decide the future of the galaxy. I loved this book so much! The characters were brilliant, the plot thrilling, the world super-imaginative, and the writing beautiful – it blew way past all the expectations I had for it! I’ve written a full review of this book, which you can read here. 🙂 5 stars

Karen McCombie//The Year of Big DreamsThe Year of Big Dreams by Karen McCombie. The story of a teenager called Flo, whose mother is taking part in a huge, X-Factor-style reality TV show. I wasn’t blown away by this, but it was my Library Scavenger Hunt pick for August, so I’ve written a mini-review here which explains why.2 starsLeigh Bardugo//Six of CrowsSix of Crows by Leigh Bardugo. A fantastic fantasy novel, set in the same world as Bardugo’s Grisha trilogy, but following an entirely new cast – a crew of thieves who come together in hopes of pulling off a seemingly-impossible heist: retrieving a dangerous prisoner from the super-secure Ice Court. I enjoyed Bardugo’s previous books, but have always felt rather underwhelmed by their endings, so I was a bit nervous about starting this series, but I was absolutely worried for no reason – I loved this book! The plot was brilliant, and kept me guessing from start to finish; the characters were all wonderful; and I shipped the two main romances so much! I was a little sad that there were no chapters from Wylan’s perspective, but it was definitely a narrative choice that made sense, and hopefully he’ll get a few chapters in the sequel… which I can’t wait for (if that wasn’t already obvious)!5+ starsKiersten White//And I DarkenAnd I Darken by Kiersten White. The first book in The Conquerors Saga, which is a novelisation of the life of Vlad the Impaler and his younger brother Radu, growing up as hostages in the Ottoman Empire, and their friendship with Mehmed, the son of their captor – but with an interesting twist: Vlad is not Vlad, but Lada, princess of Wallachia. I wasn’t expecting too much going into this book, as – despite the overwhelmingly positive reviews I’d heard – I don’t always get on with very dark books, particularly when the main protagonist also has a very dark mindset. And, yes, this book was dark, and twisted, and Lada was frequently terrifying. It was also wonderful. Apart from being set in a really interesting time period, and featuring a fascinating set of characters, And I Darken was amazingly well-written, with a brilliant plot (inspired by real events, rather than retelling them), and left me desperate for more. Radu is my ultimate favourite, but Mehmed was super-cute as well (even though it feels really weird to be saying that about an actual historical figure), and even Lada grew on me after the first few chapters. This was also another shippy book for me, but the romance wasn’t a dominating part of the story.5 starsKresley Cole//Poison PrincessPoison Princess by Kresley Cole. The first Arcana Chronicles novel, set in the US in the aftermath of a terrible disaster called the Flash, which scorched the earth, killing millions, and making food and water scarce for the survivors. The main character, Evie, is struggling to survive in this post-apocalyptic world, while also coming to terms with the strange abilities that she and a group known as the Arcana all possess – and, of course, dealing with her confusing and unwelcome feelings towards a boy she almost hated back when they were just normal teenagers. I wouldn’t say that this was great literature, but it was really fun to read, especially as the story went on. It took me a while to warm up to the setting (going into this, I thought it was going to be a paranormal romance; clearly I did not read the blurb, or even glance at it. ^^’ ), and to Evie and Jack, who had the same kind of strange, unhealthy, obsessive relationship that seems so popular in “bad boy” romances, and most of the first half of the book was utterly forgettable… but it still managed to hook me. I will definitely be reading more of this series. 😉4 stars

The Skyrim Book Tag

Guess who finally decided to play Skyrim? If your answer was me, then you’d be right! 😀 It certainly took me long enough, with pretty much everyone I know going on and on about how much they thought I’d love it. And guess what else; I am absolutely loving it. XD This tag was created by The Quirky Book Nerd, and I wasn’t tagged by anyone, but I thought I’d give it a go anyway – it looks super-fun! 🙂

Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff//Illuminae1) Fus Ro Dah – A book that blew you away.

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff! I read this last year, and it made me feel so many things! I laughed, I cried, I nagged all my friends to read it incessantly… 😛 It also really got me into sci-fi, a genre I’d previously been rather leery of (and which I now really enjoy). I can’t wait for the sequel!

J.K. Rowling//Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone2) Dovahkiin – Favorite “chosen one” story.

This is probably an overused answer, but as far as Chosen Ones go, nothing beats the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. 😉

J.K. Rowling//Harry Potter & the Cursed Child3) Thu’um – A book that got a verbal reaction out of you (good or bad).

I tend to stay pretty quiet when I’m reading, but there was a point near the end of Harry Potter & the Cursed Child (during that scene between Harry and Dumbledore’s portrait) where I realised that the strange whining noise I could hear was coming from me. 😳

Sarah J. Maas//Queen of Shadows4) Arrow to the Knee – A book or series that started out well but ended up being disappointing.

Will I incite a lynch-mob if I say Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas? (Probably, but I’m saying it anyway.) The whole Throne of Glass series just seemed to be getting better and better as it went on, and Heir of Fire was close to perfection, but all the character-development decisions that Maas decided to make in the most recent book were a huge disappointment to me. 😦

Patrick Ness//The Knife of Never Letting Go5) Shadowmere – Favorite literary/fictional animal or pet.

I really, really love Manchee from The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness – he’s the ultimate doggy friend. 😀 I like Angharrad (a horse who appears later on in the same series) a lot, too, but Manchee still wins.

J.R.R. Tolkien//The Fellowship of the Ring6) Alduin – Most frightening literary/fictional animal.

Hands down, it has to be Shelob from The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. I deal badly enough with normal-sized spiders…

Sarah J. Maas//Heir of Fire7) Companions Guild – Best literary friendship.

I don’t know if this strictly counts, since it did eventually become a romance (much to my annoyance), but one of my favourite things about Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas was the slow-burn friendship between Celaena and Rowan…

Susan Hill//I'm the King of the Castle8) Dark Brotherhood – The darkest story you’ve ever read.

Probably I’m the King of the Castle by Susan Hill, a chilling story about bullying that you can’t escape from, and authority figures too blind to notice it. Everything I’ve read of Susan Hill’s has been dark, but this one was pitch black.

Scott Lynch//Lies of Locke Lamora9) Thieves Guild – Favorite morally ambiguous character.

Locke Lamora! From the Gentleman Bastard series by Scott Lynch. He’s a conman, and does some pretty extremely questionable things over the course of the first book (the only one I’ve read so far), but I couldn’t help but love him anyway! ❤

Rainbow Rowell//Kindred Spirits10) Wuld Nah Kest (whirlwind sprint) – Your fastest read.

I couldn’t say for sure (I’ve read a lot of very short books, very quickly), but probably something like Kindred Spirits by Rainbow Rowell – an adorable World Book Day novella that I read in less than an hour.

George R.R. Martin//A Dance with Dragons11) Tiid Klo Ul (slow time) – Your slowest read.

A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin took me forever to read, mostly because it mainly featured all my least-favourite characters from the A Song of Ice & Fire series… I spent months carrying this book everywhere with me in hopes that I’d crack it open, with very little success. 😦

Tamora Pierce//The Magic in the Weaving12) Tamriel – Favorite fictional world.

Both of Tamora Pierce’s fantasy worlds are ones that I love to get lost in, but since most of my favourite books of hers are part of the Circle universe, I’ll go with Emelan, where the Circle of MagicThe Circle Opens, and The Circle Reforged series are all set. The magic system is wonderful, the world is richly imagined, and it’s full of some of my favourite stories and characters… I really hope I get to read more from this universe soon! XD

Bonus Question:

+1) “Sworn to Carry Your Burdens” – The heaviest book you own.

A Dance with Dragons, which I own as a massive hardcover. All that carrying it around that I mentioned? My shoulders were punishing me for it long after I finally finished the book. 😳

Upcoming Releases: Summer 2016

Happy summer! The sun is shining today (at long last), and I am decidedly not outside, because I clearly have no common sense… And because I wanted to write a blog post, of course. 😉 There don’t seem to be quite so many new books being released this summer as there were in spring, but there are still a few that I’m really excited for – here’s what I’m looking forward to picking up in the months of June, July and August!

[NB: All dates are taken from Amazon UK unless stated otherwise, and are correct as of 05/06/2016.]

David Kudler//RisukoRisuko by David Kudler (15th June)

The first in a new historical series called Seasons of the Sword, which is set in sixteenth-century Japan, known as the Warring States Era, and follows a girl called Risuko (which means squirrel) who gets caught up in the civil war and is (presumably) trained to be a kunoichi – a female ninja / spy. This is a period I don’t know all that much about, but which has always fascinated me, so I’m really excited to pick this up. And who can say no to a good ninja story? Not me, certainly. 😉

Melissa Grey//The Shadow HourThe Shadow Hour by Melissa Grey (12th July)

The sequel to The Girl at Midnight, which I read almost as soon as it came out last year and really loved. It’s only been a year, but I do feel like I’ve been waiting forever for this book, since there were some really dramatic revelations at the end of the last one, and it definitely left me wanting more. If you haven’t yet started this series, then now’s a great time to pick it up! 😀

J.K. Rowling//Harry Potter & the Cursed ChildHarry Potter & the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne & John Tiffany (31st July)

A book that needs no introduction, and seems to be on everyone’s “most anticipated” lists for the whole year, let alone the summer. I myself am more excited to see the play than to read the script, but I will absolutely be doing both anyway. XD The first performances will actually be staged in just a couple of days, though I expect I’ll have to wait quite a bit longer to see it… ^^’

Meg Cabot//RemembranceRemembrance by Meg Cabot (11th August)

Lastly, a Mediator spin-off novel, which takes place several years post-series, and follows Suze (and her relationship with Jesse) as she starts her first job. Meg Cabot also wrote a post-Princess Diaries book a little while ago (although I still haven’t read it), & I’m really liking this trend of revisiting the characters from her series when they’re adults (as most of the books’ fans now are); I hope it’s something that she’s planning on continuing with… a Missing sequel, perhaps? 🙂