Summer Catch-Up

Seeing such a long list of books makes me much more satisfied with my reading than I have been for my last few wrap-ups (/catch-ups), though I know it’s a slightly artificial satisfaction (but not entirely! Booktubeathon meant that I read a lot more this summer than I would ordinarily have); three months naturally results in more books read than one, after all… 😅

Also, I find myself liking this new format. It’s kind of labour-intensive (I had to completely re-code it last night, which was a chore), but I expect that it will become less so as I get more used to it. And it looks very tidy, which I appreciate. 😊

FAVOURITE OF THE SEASON*

LIBRARY SCAVENGER HUNT PICKS

29748925 Ann Leckie//Ancillary Mercy

JUNE

[REVIEW]

mary beard//women and power

JULY

[REVIEW]

robert harris//fatherland

AUGUST

[REVIEW]

OTHER BOOKS I REVIEWED

Adam Silvera//History Is All You Left Me

[REVIEW]

Catherynne M. Valente//The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making

[REVIEW]

sarah prineas//ash and bramble

[REVIEW]

jack london//White Fang

[REVIEW]

Kiersten White//Bright We Burn

[REVIEW]

Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff//Obsidio

[SERIES REVIEW]

BOOKS I DIDN’T REVIEW (INDIVIDUALLY)

29748925Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor. [AUDIOBOOK; Narrator: Steve West]

The first book in a new series of the same name, which follows the orphaned Lazlo Strange, who has always been fascinated by the lost city of Weep, which was one day erased from the world, as if by magic, leaving few who even remembered that it was ever more than a myth. I liked Daughter of Smoke and Bone a lot, but this may be my favourite thing that Laini Taylor has written so far. I really loved both Lazlo and Sarai (the book’s second protagonist), and the supporting characters were all incredibly memorable, despite there being quite a few of them. The conflict at the centre of the book was fascinating, too, and the world-building amazing. I’m very much looking forward to returning to Weep, and am glad that I only have a month more to wait for Muse of Nightmares, which is unsurprisingly my most anticipated autumn release – and which I will definitely also be listening to, rather than reading in print, as Steve West’s performance of Strange the Dreamer was fantastic.5 stars

35037401Dragon Age: Knight Errant by Nunzio DeFilippis & Christina Weir. [COMIC; Illustrators: Fernando Heinz Furukawa & Michael Atiyeh]

A brief (and self-contained) story set in the Dragon Age world, about Vaea, the elven squire to drunken knight Ser Aaron Hawthorne – and, unbeknownst to her master, a thief. I’ll admit that I’m inclined to enjoy every foray into this world, regardless of length (or even story or writing quality), but Knight Errant surpassed all my expectations. It’s very short, but did a great job of making me care about Vaea and Ser Aaron, the two main characters (who are original to this comic), and although the plot is simple, it’s also solid, and a lot of fun. Varric and Sebastian from the games also had fairly significant roles, and it was great to see them both again (as well as Charter, who made a brief appearance). 😊 In terms of timeline, this takes place after Inquisition, but is not directly connected to the events of that game.4 stars

8146139The Call of the Wild by Jack London.

The tale of a domestic dog called Buck, who’s stolen from his owners in California and taken all the way to the Yukon, where he lives a much less comfortable life as a sled-dog, but is drawn to the wild places that exist just beyond the borders of his new life. This was a really interesting read! I picked it up a few days before Booktubeathon, because I was hoping to read White Fang for one of the challenges, and mistakenly thought that the two were directly connected, but I actually ended up liking this one a bit more, as the pacing was much more consistent, and the story a little gratuitously violent… Buck’s life in the North is a harsh one, but London doesn’t dwell on the brutality of it quite so much as in White Fang. Still, for such a short book, it packs a huge emotional punch.4 stars

Sabaa Tahir//An Ember in the AshesAn Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir. [AUDIOBOOK; Narrators: Aysha Kala & Jack Farrar]

An excellent, Roman Empire-inspired fantasy following two leads: Laia, a teenage girl who becomes a slave in order to spy for the Scholar resistance, and Elias, a Martial soldier who wants only to be free of the Empire. I first read (and reviewed) this book a couple of years ago, and my feelings on it haven’t changed in the slightest. 💕 The audiobook was a new experience for me, but also a good one; both narrators did an excellent job, though I feel like the communication between them might not have been particularly great, as there were several words that they each pronounced differently. It wasn’t usually too jarring, and the most significant pronunciation disagreement was corrected after a few chapters, but it’s something that really should have been addressed by an editor or director (or whoever is in charge of voice work) before recording… especially when it’s the name of one of the main characters!5 stars

Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff//ObsidioObsidio by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff.

The final book in The Illuminae Files, which introduces two new protagonists: Asha, Kady’s cousin who was left behind on Kerenza IV when the majority of the population fled, and her ex-boyfriend-from-before-Kerenza, Rhys, who is now a technician for the invading BeiTech forces. As the conclusion to the trilogy, the plot of this book was much less self-contained than the other two, and it wrapped up the plot really nicely, and made for an incredibly powerful ending – though at the expense of some development for Asha and Rhys, who had to share their screen time with the series’ previous four protagonists (or five if you include AIDAN). However, I do think that they were both very well-fleshed out characters regardless, and the Kerenza-based perspective that they both provided to the story was essential. The pacing of the story was fast and tense, and only became more so as the stakes got higher and higher towards the end… and although I didn’t like this book quite as much as Illuminae, it was a near thing. A truly great ending to this fantastic series!5 stars

Jane Austen//Pride and PrejudicePride & Prejudice by Jane Austen. [AUDIOBOOK; Narrator: Lindsay Duncan]

The classic tale of Lizzie Bennet and Mr. Darcy, who meet at a ball and absolutely do not hit it off. 😉 This is one of my favourite books, and always a joy to re-read, but I decided to buy the audiobook to listen to with some friends on our recent pilgrimage-of-sorts to Pemberley! (Or rather, Lyme Park, which played the part of Pemberley’s exterior in the 1995 BBC adaptation, i.e. the best adaptation.) There are several different audio versions of this book, so much deliberation went into the choice of this one in particular, and I’m pleased to say that I was not disappointed! Lindsay Duncan’s performance was incredible, and I especially liked her take on Mrs. Bennet. 🎶5+ stars

*Not including re-reads.

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Library Scavenger Hunt: November

This month’s challenge was to read a book that I should have read in school, and really, I could’ve picked any number of things, as I used to really hate reading, and tried to avoid assigned reading whenever possible. But since most of those books are ones I still have very little interest in reading, my choice was somewhat obvious:

NORTHANGER ABBEY
Jane Austen

Seventeen-year-old Catherine Morland is obsessed with Gothic novels, and all the horrors that they can offer, and when she’s given the opportunity to visit Bath with some family friends, she’s able to meet others who share her passion – but her new friends are not all who they appear to be, and Catherine may be leading herself into a different kind of trouble than what’s found in the books that so enthral her.

I first started reading Northanger Abbey in secondary school, but only made it about halfway through before my own feelings of embarrassment on Catherine’s behalf made me unable to continue; and while her visit to the Abbey was just as awkward as I remember, I’m happy to say that I managed to power through this time, and actually finished the book. And, more importantly, I really loved it! 😁 Catherine is still naive and foolish, but in a way that makes her seem incredibly true to life, rather than just irritating, and I really enjoyed her relationship with the Tilneys, and how it contrasted with her relationship with Isabella and John Thorpe.

Austen’s writing is also as excellent as always; there are lots of asides in this book where she talks about the literary and societal conventions of the time, and they’re frequently hilarious. One of my favourite passages in the book is one such aside, where Austen discusses how novels are looked down upon as a choice of reading material, and how strange it is that authors always seem to write about heroines who despise them… 😂 Austen is frequently praised as an excellent romance writer (which she is, of course), but she also had a brilliant sense of humour, which shouldn’t be overlooked.

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

November Wrap-Up

I spent most of November pushing through a reading slump, so I haven’t been reading all that much. Or posting, either. (Sorry about that 😓) But it does seem to be coming to an end, or at least tapering off somewhat… In any case, here’s what I did  manage to read last month (and there’s a post that’s in the works for each of them, hopefully coming up soon):

Homecoming by Kass Morgan. The third book in the 100 series, in which the original hundred children who were sent back to Earth are joined by others from the Ark, and the two groups struggle to find a balance between their two different methods for survival. This series only seems to get weaker as it goes on, but I still enjoyed this book for its silliness (and a fair amount of fanservice).Rebellion by Kass Morgan. The last book in the 100 series, which focuses on an extra plot involving a fanatic Earth-worshipping cult… This book probably didn’t need to happen (apparently Homecoming was supposed to be the last, but I guess Morgan & her publishers decided to carry on due to the TV show’s popularity?), but although it was the peak of the series’ ridiculousness, it was still fairly entertaining in places. I liked that Octavia got a slightly bigger role in the story (though I can’t say that there was much else in the way of character development), as well as the continuing focus on Clarke & Bellamy’s relationship… But for the most part, the story and characters just seemed to be getting stale. 😕Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen. My Library Scavenger Hunt pick for the month! 😁 & definitely a winner. The earliest of Austen’s novels, which follows a teenage heroine who loves to read gothic romance and horror, and tends to confuse reality with the literary conventions of her time. The characters were really well fleshed-out, the story was a tonne of fun, and the writing was hilarious… My review will, with luck, be up very shortly.

March Wrap-Up

I spent the majority of March obsessing over Horizon: Zero Dawn (probably one of the best games I’ve ever played), so I didn’t do as much reading as I might otherwise have done… but I did manage to read six novels and a short story, and finish off a manga series that I started a little while ago. 😀 Better yet, almost everything I read was really amazing; it was definitely a good month in terms of reading quality!

David Gaider//AsunderAsunder by David Gaider. The third book in the series of Dragon Age spin-off novels, which tell the stories of various side-characters and background events from the video games… Asunder tells the story of Cole in the lead-up to the Mage Rebellion and, consequently, the events of Dragon Age: Inquisition, as well as his two friends at the White Spire (Val Royeaux’s Circle of Magi), Rhys and Evangeline… and it’s by far the best of the Dragon Age novels I’ve read so far! I’m pretty preoccupied with the plight of the mages, so this book seems almost like it was written for me; so many of the things that were said in it are things that I’ve been wanting to hear people acknowledge since I started playing the games! Even beyond the Mage Rebellion issues, the plotline was fascinating, and the characters were all great, too: It was wonderful to revisit all of the returning characters from the games, and I really loved all the new characters who were introduced.5 starsLove So Life by Kaede Kouichi. A manga series about a high school girl who is taken on as a babysitter for an adorable pair of three-year-old twins, and ends up falling in love with their guardian. The characters were all super-sweet, and I loved the romance between Shiharu and Seiji, as well as Shiharu’s relationship with the twins. ❤ As with many slice-of-life series, there’s not much to say in regards to plot – it’s fairly standard rom-com fare – but it was very well executed. This was such a cute series to read; I’m really glad that I stumbled across it in my journeys through manga-land! 😉Sense & Sensibility by Jane Austen. A classic novel about two very different sisters who both find that their paths to happiness may not be as straight as they were expecting. This was a really enjoyable read; I love Jane Austen’s writing and characters so much, and Sense & Sensibility definitely lived up to my expectations. I didn’t like it quite as much as Pride & Prejudice or Emma, but anyone who knows how much I love those two books will realise that that’s really not saying much. 😉 I’ve written a proper review of this book already; you can find it here.Fearless by Tim Lott. A dystopian novel about a girl living in what appears to be a boarding school, but is actually an institution where supposedly criminal girls are sent to become the City’s unpaid labour force. I picked this up for the March Library Scavenger Hunt, but it was distinctly uninspiring… My LSH picks seem to be rather hit-or-miss, and unfortunately this one was definitely a miss. :/ You can find my full review here.

The Hands That Are Not There by Melinda Snodgrass. A sci-fi short story from the Dangerous Women anthology, which tells the story of a human aristocrat who’s having a risky affair with a half-human stripper, in a future where all human-alien relationships are illegal. I’m not usually one to get very invested in short stories, but really enjoyed this one, and only wish that there’d been more of it; the world that Snodgrass set up was fascinating, and the plot definitely had the complexity to support a much longer book…Darcy’s Story by Janet Aylmer. A retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice from Mr. Darcy’s perspective. The problem I often have with Jane Austen fanfiction (which is what this is, regardless of its publication status) is that the writers usually try to imitate Austen’s writing style, and it ends up coming across very stilted, but I’m pleased to say that Aylmer has done a reasonably good job in that respect, and Darcy’s voice rang true even during the scenes that were not part of Pride & Prejudice. In terms of dialogue, she has barely strayed from the original work, so it is naturally excellent, but not very original. I didn’t mind this, as it’s to be expected in a straight-up retelling, and in fact it probably would’ve irritated me if it’d been modified overmuch… with the exception of one scene in particular (when Lady Catherine visited Darcy to tell him about her talk with Elizabeth at Longbourn), which included some shoehorned-in direct quotes which made the conversation feel very unnatural… Overall, however, this was an enjoyable read, and an interesting study of Darcy’s character.Jeremy Poldark by Winston Graham. The third book in the Poldark series, which follows a Cornish family in the 1700s, who are all very involved in the copper trade. As with previous books in this series, I found the insight into the copper industry itself to be really fascinating, and the continuing plot and character development are both tense and frustrating (in the best possible way). Some of the suspense was removed for me by the fact that I already knew what was going to happen (I’ve been watching the TV series, too), but I don’t think that really effected my enjoyment of the story except in that it made me a little surprised by how not-belligerent Ross was being for most of the book, compared to his on-screen portrayal… I’ve rated Jeremy Poldark slightly lower than the previous two books, not because it’s not as good, but because I wasn’t quite as engaged with it as I was with Ross Poldark or Demelza, but needless to say, I’m still really enjoying this series.The Mad Scientist’s Daughter by Cassandra Rose Clarke. An unexpectedly powerful and thought-provoking story about a girl who falls in love with a robot, at a tumultuous time when robots are beginning to be thought of as people, but haven’t been given rights. I won’t say too much more about it here (except that, of course, I really liked it), as I’m hoping to have a proper review of it up shortly. 🙂5 stars

Review: Sense & Sensibility by Jane Austen (Spoiler-Free)

Upon their father’s untimely death, Elinor and Marianne Dashwood, along with their mother and younger sister, are forced to leave their childhood home of Norland for distant Devonshire, where they must live in significantly reduced circumstances, and with significantly less chance of making good marriages. Love, however, can come from unexpected places – and unexpected people.

Of all of Jane Austen’s books, Sense & Sensibility has long been the one I had the least interest in reading, for reasons that are entirely irrational: I was prejudiced against it when, at the age of about 10, I attempted to watch the 1995 adaptation (featuring Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet) and was rendered bored within the first ten minutes. This isn’t all that surprising, considering the attention span of the average ten-year-old, but I am surprised by how long it’s taken me to give this story another chance…

And I ended up really enjoying it! (Not quite as much as Pride & Prejudice or Emma, but considering my extreme love for both those books, that’s not really saying much.) The story was wonderfully crafted, full of mysteries, and unexpected twists and turns – and although there were quite a few slow parts, I was so absorbed in Austen’s witty writing style that I barely noticed them, and wasn’t bothered by them in the slightest.

Elinor and Marianne both made excellent leads, and contrasted one another perfectly – Marianne wild and romantic, Elinor unfailingly proper and reserved, but no less feeling – and I would be hard pressed to choose a favourite from between them. Marianne comes across as quite silly early on in the book, but goes through some really amazing character development, and the way Elinor internalises all her struggles for appearance’s sake is really heart-wrenching. I also really liked both of their romances, and felt that they were both resolved in a very satisfactory manner, as was the friendship between them, which became much deeper as the story progressed.

My absolute favourite thing about this book, however, was the wide and varied cast of supporting characters. Margaret, the youngest Dashwood sister, was unfortunately rather a non-entity for much of the book, but with that one exception, all of the side characters were remarkably well fleshed-out, and extremely memorable, from the delightfully awful (e.g. John and Fanny Dashwood, the sisters’ half-brother and his wife; the snobbish Mrs. Ferrars), to the perplexing (e.g. Lucy Steele, whose bizarre methods confused me up until the very last pages of the book), to the lovable (e.g. Mrs. Jennings and her daughter Charlotte, who, though not the most proper, were two of the warmest, most friendly characters in the story).

The Sunshine Blogger Award, Version 2.0

sunshine blogger awardI actually already did this award a little while back, but I have the good fortune to have been nominated once again, this time by Ariana, a.k.a. The Quirky Book Nerd, whose blog you should all take a look at, if you like awesome things! 😉 I’m not going to be nominating anyone new this time around, or asking any questions of my own (since I did that last time), so this post will just be my answers to Ariana’s questions – they look pretty fun! 😀

Ariana’s Questions:

1) If you could travel to any period in time, where would you go and why?

The classicist in me is urging me to say Ancient Rome. Roman Britain, specifically, which was my favourite period to study when I was at uni. But it would also be interesting to see/read all those lost Greek dramas, so maybe Athens instead, circa 420 B.C., to overlap with Euripides, Sophocles and Aristophanes (though not Aeschylus, sadly).

2) What is your favorite under-hyped novel?

I’m actually going to be doing a full post on under-hyped novels soon, since the Under-Hyped Readathon is coming up! I have a few different favourites, but the least-known of them is probably A Traveller in Time by Alison Uttley. I’ve never met anyone else who’s read it. 😦

3) What type of music do you enjoy listening to the most?

A mix, really, though I’m disproportionately fond of folk music…

4) What are three books you absolutely refuse to read?

I wouldn’t say that I’d all-out refuse to read any book, since I never know where my mood will take me. Even books that I know are going to be really trashy; sometimes I’m just in the mood for trashy writing. (Don’t ask me why. I have no idea. ❓ ) Some well-known books that I’m not likely to ever read, however…

  • The Fifty Shades series by E.L. James (which I suspect many people will be picking for this question),
  • anything by Stephen King (I don’t like being scared. At all), and… hmm…
  • Maybe The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling? (I’ve heard mixed reviews, but as much as I like J.K. Rowling, this doesn’t sound like my kind of book).

Then again, never say never! 😉

5) Do you prefer series or standalones?

Series, on the whole (or very long standalones). I like to spend a lot of time with the same characters, getting to really know them and watching them grow. The market seems to be overflowing with series at the moment, so it’s nice to find a good standalone once in a while, but nothing quite beats a really good series. 🙂

6) What are your favorite and least favorite book to movie adaptations?

The adaptations of both The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky and Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones are a couple of my favourite films. And I found the 2005 adaptation of Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen (starring Keira Knightly & Matthew Macfadyen) incredibly lackluster. :/ I tend to stay away from adaptations that look like they’re going to be terrible, though – a tendency that has served me pretty well so far.

7) What is one food you never get tired of eating?

Probably… bread? Or maybe eggs. Hmm… ❓

8) What are the most difficult and most rewarding things about blogging for you?

The most difficult thing is probably keeping up with my schedule, as there are quite often times when I’d rather just spend my time reading, or playing a video game. And keeping up with my target of posting a full review every month can be hard, too, since I’ll sometimes read a whole load of books in the month, but not really have much to say about any of them… (This is why my full reviews usually go up towards the end of the month! ^^’ )

The most rewarding thing is probably seeing the posts when they do go up, and getting to read the comments and talk about the books I’ve read. It’s a great community. 🙂

The Bookish Alphabet Tag

This tag was created by Mariana at fireheartbooks, and I was tagged by the wonderful Loreva from La Book Dreamer, whose blog you should all definitely check out! The goal is to pick out a book for every letter of the alphabet, and the only rule is that you need to own (or to have previously owned and read) every book on the list. You also don’t need to include articles, e.g. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess would count for “C” rather than “A”.

So, without further ado:

MY BOOKISH ALPHABET

The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud

Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

Daughter of Storms by Louise Cooper

Emma by Jane Austen

Fire by Kristin Cashore

The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey

Half Wild by Sally Green

The Iron Trial by Holly Black & Cassandra Clare

Just Listen by Sarah Dessen

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

Let It Snow by John Green, Lauren Myracle & Maureen Johnson

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews

Night Owls by Jenn Bennett

Obsidian by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder

Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas

River Daughter by Jane Hardstaff

A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin

A Traveller in Time by Alison Uttley

Unravel Me by Tahereh Mafi

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis

Wild Magic by Tamora Pierce

xxxHolic by CLAMP

Young Blood by Meg Cabot

Zombie-Loan by Peach-Pit

Phew. That was a lot of books! ^^’ But I’m pleased to say that I have read all of these books, and I still own them all except for Unravel Me, which I gave to one of my cousins, and River Daughter, which I donated (it was a good book, I just couldn’t imagine myself reading it again). And I did have to break out my manga collection for “X” and “Z” – something I’d been hoping I wouldn’t have to do – but I regret nothing. 😎

I tag: