2021 in Review: Highlights

Well, the world may still be crazy, but in terms of reading, 2021 ended up pretty great! I blew my Goodreads goal out of the water (though I had deliberately set it low so that I wouldn’t stress over it this year) with 98 books read, and so many of them were fantastic! 😆 I finally got around to starting a bookstagram account in April, and I’m pretty pleased with how it’s going so far… and if I do say so myself, my 2021 My Year in Books page is looking pretty neat. 😋

As for some specific book stuff, I started some excellent new fantasy series last year. Notably, The Stormlight Archive (which has been a very long time coming); Black Sun (which has left me on tenterhooks for the sequel); and The Tiger’s Daughter (a sapphic, Mongolian-inspired fantasy with a heavy focus on its central love story – though I’m very much looking forward to more demon-fighting in the rest of the series).

I also did a lot of re-reading this year, and I’m pleased to say that a couple of the books I re-read, I liked even better than the first time around, those being Komarr, which I now rate among my all-time favourites, and The Edge of the Cloud, which was a burst of nostalgia that came at the perfect moment. And speaking of nostalgia, I managed to end the year on a real high point with Terciel & Elinor, a new prequel to a series that’s been one of my favourites since I was a teenager. ☺️

This was a great year for romance, too! It’s not a genre I’ve ever been super-into, but (like many people, I think), I’ve been appreciating it a lot in the last couple of years, and am definitely hoping to read more in 2022. Some of my favourites were Kulti (a slow-burn sports romance), Beach Read (a fun rivals-to-lovers story), as well as the political sci-fi romance Winter’s Orbit, and the Regency-inspired fantasy romance The Midnight Bargain.

… And my summer in general somehow ended up being very Regency-themed, with me (kind of accidentally) participating in #JaneAustenJuly. At long last, I read Persuasion, the last (completed) Austen novel I had left – and it was well worth the wait. 😁 I re-listened to Pride & Prejudice on my summer holiday not long after, inspired by a couple of spin-offs and continuations of that story that I’d been enjoying; namely Longbourn and The Other Bennet Sister.

And last but not least, an unexpected favourite (though also somewhat Austen-adjacent) was the Mean Girls inspired Regency rom-com Reputation. I was nervous to pick this one up, as I’ve historically had pretty bad luck with authors who I initially liked for other reasons (Lex Croucher, who wrote Reputation, is also a youtuber), but it was absolutely hilarious, and the perfect book for the moment in which I read it. 🎶 I’ll definitely be keeping my eyes open for their next release, Gwen & Art Are Not in Love, which should be out in early 2023. 🤞

(ROUGH) TOP 10:

  1. Komarr by Lois McMaster Bujold* [REVIEW]
  2. Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse
  3. The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson [REVIEW]
  4. Terciel & Elinor by Garth Nix
  5. The Midnight Bargain by C.L. Polk
  6. The Tiger’s Daughter by K. Arsenault Rivera
  7. Persuasion by Jane Austen
  8. The Edge of the Cloud by K.M. Peyton*
  9. Reputation by Lex Croucher
  10. Longbourn by Jo Baker [REVIEW]

(*Re-reads included only where I’ve changed my rating.)

August & September Wrap-Up

Another wrap-up, and a whole month late! (Or two months, even, for some of these.) But in my defence, October was pretty crazy. 😓 However! August and September seem to have been some of my best reading months of the year – helped along by a long family holiday, then three concurrent readathons… So here’s what I read (featuring quite a few great rereads, and even a new – though unsurprising – favourite!):

BOOKS I REVIEWED

[INSTAGRAM REVIEW]

[REVIEW]

[INSTAGRAM REVIEW]

[REVIEW]

[REVIEW]

[REVIEW]

OTHER BOOKS I READ

The Lady & the Fox by Kelly Link. [SHORT STORY; from My True Love Gave to Me]

A cute story about a girl who visits her extended family every Christmas, and a boy who’s under a curse, and can only visit her if it’s snowing. I don’t have much to say about it, but I liked it more than I do the average short story; naturally, it was too short for me to get fully invested, but the premise was interesting, I liked both the main characters, and I thought their romance was very sweet.

For the Wolf by Hannah Whitten.

As the first Second Daughter born in generations, Red’s fate is to be sacrificed to the Wolf in the Wilderwood in hopes of persuading him to release her kingdom’s trapped gods… but neither the Wolf nor the Wood turn out to be quite what she expected, and while she’s slowly making a new life for herself, her older sister Neve will do anything to bring her home.

This was such a great book! I loved the world that Whitten created, and the romance between Red and Eammon was super-cute, and the story ended on a very tense note – so I’m relieved that I don’t have too long to wait until the sequel (next June)! The characters were all pretty great as well; I wish that some of the side characters had had a bit more devlopment, but can’t fault Whitten for wanting to focus more on Red, Eammon, and Neve – and I was pleased that the relationship between the sisters seemed to be just (/almost?) as much a focus of the novel as Red and Eammon’s romance. To be honest, Neve was probably my favourite character; her chapters were only sporadic, but she was so interesting! And from the title (For the Throne), I assume that there’ll be a lot more of her in the sequel! 😆 

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

The classic romance between Lizzy Bennet and Mr. Darcy, who are the very definition of mistaken first impressions. This is an old favourite of mine, and I’m sure I’ve read (and probably talked to you guys about it) a million times before, so I don’t have much to say here, but: Pretty much the perfect book, and Lindsay Duncan’s performance of the audiobook is absolutely wonderful. 💕

Ghostweight by Yoon Ha Lee. [SHORT STORY; from Conservation of Shadows]

A sci-fi short story about a girl and a ghost who steal a warship together in order to get revenge on the people who destroyed their world. I’m not generally a fan of short stories, but I loved this, and really wish it had been a full novel. The worldbuilding was really interesting, and I love the concept of people carrying ghosts within them (after which the story is named).

The Shadow Postulates by Yoon Ha Lee. [SHORT STORY; from Conservation of Shadows]

Another short story, about a student who’s struggling to complete a research project, for which she ambitiously chose to study a mathematical concept that’s baffled her predecessors for generations. I didn’t like this as much as Ghostweight (it’s very maths-y, and a little confusing), but I liked the characters a lot, and (once again) loved the world and concepts that Lee explores here.

Klara & the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro.

Klara, an artificial friend, watches the people in the streets each day from her shop window, as she waits to be purchased – and then, afterwards, must adjust to a new role as companion to a sick child. This was an interesting book, and very well-written, but I ultimately found it a little disappointing. There was a lot of interesting worldbuilding going on in the background which never became part of the story; lots about the characters was never explained; the explanation of “lifted” children wasn’t as interesting as I had hoped; and the twist was kind of intriguing, but not as impactful as it might have been had Ishiguro actually followed through on it.

However! I really loved Klara’s perspective: her perceptiveness about people, contrasted with her misunderstanding of many simple concepts, eg. the Cootings machine, or “oblongs”. And her acceptance of her role as something to be of use, and then discarded, was also quite chilling, considering her very human-like feelings. My favourite part of the book was definitely the first, when Klara was in the shop with Manager and the other AFs, observing people through the window.

Point Blanc by Anthony Horowitz.

The second Alex Rider book, in which Alex is asked to go undercover at Point Blanc, an exclusive reform school for the children of the incredibly wealthy, to see if there’s any connection between the school and a couple of deaths of the parents of former students. This is my favourite in the series, and I decided to reread it after watching the Amazon series, which (loosely) adapts this book… And it was a little more rushed that I remembered, & its characters a little less fleshed out, but I still had a lot of fun with it. 😊

XOXO by Axie Oh.

A cute romance about a cellist who falls in love with a k-pop star without knowing who he is, and then meets him again when she temporarily transfers to an arts school in South Korea. I didn’t think that this book had the most realistic relationship development in the world, but to be honest I didn’t really care. The characters were wonderful, their relationship adorable, and I could really feel the love of music that went into this book. 🎶💕 Predictably, my favourite character was Sori; I’m a complete sucker for the popular-girl-who’s-never-had-a-real-friend trope… 😅

Vampire Knight, volume 2 & volume 3 by Matsuri Hino. [MANGA; Illustrated by the author]

Yuki is a Guardian at Cross Academy, charged with keeping the Day Class (made up of humans) and the Night Class (full of vampires) apart, and torn between her fellow Guardian Zero – a former vampire hunter whose whole family was slaughtered – and Kaname, the mysterious leader of the Night Class, who saved her life years ago.I don’t have all that much to say here: Volume 2 contains a lot of angst, as it details some of Zero’s backstory, and I loved the flashback scenes with a young Yuki in volume 3 (she’s the cutest 💕). These were both rereads (I need a refresher before I move on to some of the later volumes in the series), so while I’m enjoying getting to know the characters (again) at the moment, I’m looking forward to the story picking up a bit more in the next few volumes.

The Throne of Fire by Rick Riordan.

The second book in the Kane Chronicles, in which the Egyptian god of chaos Apophis threatens to destroy the world, and Carter and Sadie Kane have five days in which to stop him. This was a quick, fun read, but for some reason I’m just not as invested in Riordan’s Egyptian books as I have been in his Greek and Roman ones. I like Carter and Sadie, and new character Bes was a great addition to the story – but most of the other side-characters were pretty under-developed (even Walt, who had more page-time than the others). And it’s no secret that I generally dislike Riordan’s romances, but I think that Sadie’s love triangle might be one of the worst he’s written; it’s actually kind of creepy, given that she’s twelve/just thirteen, and her two love interests are 16 and older-than-time… 😓

The Rift Walker by Clay & Susan Griffith.

The sequel to The Greyfriar, wherein Gareth and Adele try to prevent an all-out war between humans and vampires, while Adele’s heroic husband-to-be hatches a plan to instead win the war, but at the cost of the entire human population of the North… Like its predecessor, The Rift Walker was a bit slow to get started, but I really enjoyed it once it did. ☺️ And I wish that there had been more scenes where Gareth and Adele got to spend time alone together (unsurprisingly, since I’m kind of living for their romance), but the scenes we did get were some of my favourites of the whole series!

Rule of Wolves by Leigh Bardugo. [AUDIOBOOK; Narrator: Lauren Fortgang]

The final book in the Nikolai duology, in which Ravka faces the double threat of a looming war with Fjerda, and a blight on its lands which is reminiscent of the Fold that still haunts its people. King of Scars felt like it was mostly build-up, and that definitely paid off here! I was still more invested in Nina’s plotline than in Zoya or Nikolai’s (and likewise more invested in her new romance), but I was very pleased with how all the branches of the story came together in this book, and I absolutely loved the ending! 😆 So satisfying!

Mrs Death Misses Death by Salena Godden. [AUDIOBOOK; Narrated by the author]

A strange tale about an author who’s writing the biography of the personification of death. I had very mixed feelings about this one: It yo-yos between poignant and gross, with a lyrical writing style that I loved, and some really interesting historical references (I got sucked down quite a few wikipedia rabbit holes while listening to this). So parts of it I liked a lot, but other parts of it I really, really disliked. 😓 On the whole I would say that I respect this book a lot though. The narration was also great, but very, very slow – presumably for dramatic effect? But I could never have listened to it at normal speed, even though in general I hate speeding up audiobooks even a tiny bit.

Nightwing: A Darker Shade of Justice by Chuck Dixon. [COMIC; Illustrators: Scott McDaniel, Karl Story & Roberta Tewes]

The fourth volume of Nightwing, in which Blüdhaven is overrun by refugees from the disaster-torn Gotham, and Dick heads back to Gotham to help out. This is definitely my favourite volume so far, with no real low points! Dick had a really great team-up with Superman near the beginning, and the Blackgate arc (though I’d read it before, as part of the Batman: No Man’s Land collection) was a little fleshed out here, with a whole extra issue where Dick hallucinates an encounter with Robin, and a short arc afterwards where he recovers from his ordeal under Oracle’s care. In general, this volume was more character-driven than action-driven, which very much worked for me. 😊👍

July Wrap-Up!

Another great reading month! Including three 5-star books, and a couple more that came close! 😆 I also managed to accidentally take part in Jane Austen July, which I didn’t realise was a thing until it was nearly over, even though I’d been reading (or else wanting to read) Jane Austen-related things  all month… 😅

BOOKS I READ

The Vor Game by Lois McMaster Bujold.

Vorkosigan Saga story following Miles as he graduates from the Barrayar Military Academy, and is given a very undesirable first assignment as meteorological officer at a frozen base in the middle of nowhere… and promptly gets on the bad side of his new commanding officer. This was a somewhat spontaneous re-read, and I’m pleased to report that I loved the first half of the book (previously published as the novella Weatherman) just as much as I did the first time… but to my surprise, I also had a lot more appreciation for the second half this time around! I remember finding the change in tone, setting, and storyline very jarring (perhaps because I was finding the politics confusing?), and while it certainly still feels very different from Weatherman, I was able to follow along a lot more easily, and really enjoyed the insight we get into Gregor’s character here, as well as Miles’ reunion with Elena, and his battle of wits with Cavilo! 😊

Secret Weapon by Anthony Horowitz. [SHORT STORY COLLECTION]

A collection of seven short stories from the Alex Rider universe, of which my favourites were probably Alex in Afghanistan (in which Alex sneaks into a terrorist base to find evidence of a nuclear weapon) and Spy Trap (an unusually-formatted story about Alex waking up in hospital and trying to piece together the events that brought him there). I tend to prefer the longer stories in this series, as the set-up (plus gadget descriptions) and re-caps don’t take up so much of them (percentage-wise), leaving more room for character development and interactions, so it’s not surprising that I wasn’t blown away by this collection… It was certainly enjoyable (and definitely worth reading if you’re a big fan of the series), but nothing exceptional or out of the ordinary except for the somewhat experimental framework of Spy Trap.

Longbourn by Jo Baker.

A re-telling of Pride and Prejudice from the perspective of the Longbourn servants, who see everything that’s going on in the Bennet family, but are decidedly more concerned by the everyday matters of getting the washing done and the fires lit, and impressing Mr. Collins so that he won’t dismiss them all when he inherits… This was pretty much the perfect complement to Pride and Prejudice (and I say that as someone who has very fixed ideas about P&P and is incredibly picky about spin-offs), but my more detailed thoughts on it were starting to get quite lengthy, so I’ll be saving them for a proper review soon. 😅 Keep your eyes peeled!

Reputation by Lex Croucher.

Abandoned in London with her incredibly dull aunt and uncle, Georgiana Ellers counts herself lucky to have caught the eye of the anything-but-dull Miss Frances Campbell – but as she gets sucked into Frances’ world of parties and boys and far too much drink, she begins to realise that her reputation isn’t the only thing at stake.

This book was so much fun! Hilarious, but with plenty of serious (and relevant to the present day) social commentary. The setting was closer to something like Netfilx’s Bridgerton (in terms of the characters’ behaviour and dialogue, and so on) than how I imagine the actual Regency would have been (not that I’m an expert), but not so much so that I found it distracting… and really, the story was so engaging that I didn’t much care anyway. The characters were all wonderful; they felt very real, and I was super-invested in all of them! And the romance was perhaps a little bit rushed, but so cute! (I loved the flirty letters! 💕)

The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick.

An exploration of an alternative America which has been occupied by Japan after the victory of the Axis powers in World War II… which I found much less interesting than its premise would appear to promise. But there wasn’t much of a coherent plot here; it read more like a day-in-the-life, with too many characters for me to really get invested in any of them. I found myself unfavourably comparing this to 1984 a lot, and I didn’t even really like 1984 that much (though at least it was more interesting than this), so I can only conclude that maybe I just don’t mesh with classic dystopian stories? 😓

Persuasion by Jane Austen.

Persuaded as a young woman to break off her engagement to a man whom she loved, but with very uncertain prospects, Anne Elliot is alarmed to hear that Captain Wentworth – now having made his fortune in the war – will be entering her small circle of society once again. But although Anne’s feelings haven’t changed, it’s impossible that Captain Wentworth might still love her…

My last unread Jane Austen novel! This certainly had some lofty expectations to live up to, and I’m happy to say that it didn’t disappoint! 😊 It’s a lot sadder than Austen’s other novels; it still had its fair share of witty dialogue and ridiculous characters, but it is much less about the comedy of life than about hope and regret, and even depression (depending on your interpretation of Anne, I suppose). As a heroine, I liked Anne a great deal, and very much felt for her. Captain Wentworth I was a little less impressed with, but his actions are understandable though often ungallant… and his letter-writing skills are second to none!

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens.

When a local man is found dead, suspicion immediately falls on Kya the “Marsh Girl”, who lives alone with the marsh and its creatures, and is misunderstood and mistrusted by the entire town. Part murder mystery, and part coming-of-age story, Where the Crawdads Sing was both beautifully written and incredibly frustrating in the best possible way. I loved Kya’s character, and it was really hard to follow the investigation knowing how severely public opinion was against her… and in the parts of the story that were set in the years before the murder, I enjoyed learning about Kya’s childhood and her relationships, and how she learnt to survive by herself. I also really appreciated Owens’ descriptions of the marsh, and of Kya’s studies of it, which were written with a lot of care and attention; it’s easy to see that Owens is a naturalist herself!

The Other Bennet Sister by Janice Hadlow.

A retelling and continuation of Pride and Prejudice, following Mary Bennet as she grows up as the least thought-of of her sisters, and tries to find herself and her place in the world. I thought that this was an enjoyable enough story in its own right, but much too long; I found the first (of five) section interesting, and really enjoyed the final two, but the middle of the book dragged quite a bit… Additionally, I found that Hadlow had a very different interpretation of many of the characters to my own, so many of them felt off to me. In particular, her reading of Charlotte was very harsh, but I also felt like a lot of Lizzy and Darcy’s character development in Pride and Prejudice was ignored here, and even Mary – though I can certainly imagine her growing into the woman she’s portrayed as here – is very different from how Jane Austen wrote her…

Thin Air by Michelle Paver.

Stephen Pearce is brought in as a last-minute replacement medic on his brother’s expedition to climb Kangchenjunga, the world’s third-highest mountain. But Kangchenjunga is a merciless killer, and as Stephen and Kits follow their hero’s route up the mountain, Stephen begins to wonder if their team will suffer the same fate. This was a little slow, and less spooky than I was hoping, but it was wonderfully atmospheric, and I liked the main character and was intrigued by the mystery of the Lyell expedition. Cedric was very cute, too, and I always appreciate a Good Dog! 🐶

 

January & February Wrap-Up

This year’s got off to a great start! 😁 Helped along by a readathon that lasted most of January, I managed to get through 8 novels, 5 short stories, 3 comics and 2 audiobooks in the last couple of months, which is well above my average – and most of these were pretty great reads, too!

BOOKS I REVIEWED

[REVIEW]

[REVIEW]

[REVIEW]

[REVIEW]

[REVIEW]

[REVIEW]

[REVIEW]

OTHER BOOKS I READ

The Runaway Queen by Cassandra Clare & Maureen Johnson. [SHORT STORY]

Set during the French Revolution, Manus Bane is drawn into a plot to rescue the Queen of France by a promise of company from a very attractive royalist. I liked this better than the first Bane Chronicles story, and it dragged a lot less, but – once again – I don’t find that Magnus’ quirky adventures are really enough to hold my attention without any significant character development – which, to be honest, I figured was supposed to be the main point of this collection… There was a memorable hot air balloon scene, though, and I found Magnus’ interactions with the vampires mildly interesting.

Batman: No Man’s Land, volume 1 by Bob Gale, Dennis J. O’Neil, Devin Grayson, Ian Edginton, Greg Rucka, Scott Beatty, Lisa Klink & Kelley Puckett. [COMIC; Illustrators: Alex Maleev, Wayne Faucher, Roger Robinson, James D. Pascoe, Dale Eaglesham, Matt Banning, Sean Parsons, Jaime Mendoza, D’Israeli, Frank Teran, Jason Pearson, Cam Smith, Damion Scott, Chris Renaud, Sal Buscema, James A. Hodgkins, Guy Davis, Jon Bogdanove, Eduardo Barreto & Phil Winslade]

With Gotham isolated from the rest of the US after a series of disasters, gangs rule the streets, and Batman and his allies are caught in a seemingly endless fight to keep Gotham’s citizen’s safe. This comic was a re-read for me, and a pleasantly surprising one! I’d been considering giving this series up after struggling with volume 2, and then spending several years about a chapter into volume 3, but decided to give it another go… and this volume, at least, tells me I made a good decision. In particular, I really liked Two Down, a story about Detective Montoya near the beginning of the lock-down; as well as Home Sweet Home, an incredibly touching, Up-esque tale about an elderly Gothamite trying to protect his home and help out the kids in his neighbourhood. Less interesting were the Azrael sections of the story, but on the whole they didn’t take up too much of the book.

Vampires, Scones, & Edmund Herondale by Cassandra Clare & Sarah Rees Brennan. [SHORT STORY]

Magnus attends a meeting at the London Institute about a proposed treaty with the Downworld, and is drawn to two very different people: the lovely and flirtatious Camille Belcourt, and Edmund Herondale, a rebellious young Shadowhunter. I enjoyed this a lot more than either of the previous two stories in this collection, perhaps because it had more of a connection to the rest of the Shadowhunters universe… but also because I really enjoyed the side characters. Edmund and Camille were both very entertaining, and I liked their interactions with Magnus. Also, I’m a sucker for an angsty love story (even a very short one), so naturally I liked that aspect of this story as well. 😉

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen. [AUDIO DRAMA; Narrators: Billie Piper with a full cast]

Taken in as a child by her aunt and uncle Bertram, shy Fanny Price grows up largely dismissed by her wealthy relations – with the exception of her kind cousin Edmund, with whom she is secretly (and contentedly) in love. But with the arrival of Miss Mary Crawford and her brother, Fanny begins to realise that she may not be so happy to stand by while Edmund’s affection is won by another.

I’ve heard a lot of people say that this is Jane Austen’s least-good book (not that that’s saying much), and I can see why, even though it’s not my least-favourite. The characters are a lot less complex than in most of Austen’s novels, Fanny is a very passive lead, and the romance happens almost entirely off-page. It is still, however, a very entertaining story, and in the case of this production, very well-performed. The story was full of small, domestic dramas that kept me engaged the whole way through, and Mary Crawford was a stand-out character, even though she wasn’t the most likeable… I enjoyed her relationships with both Edmund and Fanny, and the glimpses we got of her internal struggle were really interesting.

The Word of Unbinding by Ursula K. Le Guin. [SHORT STORY]

A story set early in Earthsea’s history, about a wizard who’s trapped in a dungeon, trying to escape and save the world from his captor, whatever the cost to himself. This is too short to really say much about, but it was a sad little tale, and I enjoyed this glimpse into the Earthsea world as Le Guin was still building it.

The Midnight Heir by Cassandra Clare & Sarah Rees Brennan. [SHORT STORY]

Magnus returns to England after a long absence, and a reckless – and familiar – young Shadowhunter catches his attention. Another hit from this collection! And, if I’m not mistaken (which I might well be, as I’m only two series into the Shadowhunter universe), a first glimpse of the characters and conflicts of The Last Hours? Once again, I liked this a lot; James and Grace were interesting new characters, and I loved seeing Will and Tessa again! (They get a whole star all to themselves. 😊)

The History of England by Jane Austen.

A tongue-in-cheek descrition of some of the Kings and Queens of England, with an empasis on proving the awfulness of Elizabeth I. More interesting to me was a brief, unfinished epistolary novel, Lesley Castle, that was also included, about two friends, one of whose father is marrying an acquaintance of the other. History was quite an enjoyable read, but Lesley Castle was much more fun, and I would love to have seen where the story was going. But alas. 😔

Batman: No Man’s Land, volume 2 by Greg Rucka, Kelley Puckett, Chuck Dixon, Scott Beatty, Denny O’Neil, Dafydd Wyn, Chris Renaud, John Ostrander & Larry Hama. [COMIC; Illustrators: Mike Deodato Jr., Wayne Faucher, Damion Scott, John Floyd, Andy Kuhn, Chris Ivy, Sean Parsons, Staz Johnson, Stan Woch, Roger Robinson, James Pascoe, Pascale Alixe, Eduardo Barreto, Graham Nolan, Bill Sienkiewicz, Scott McDaniel, Karl Story, Dan Jurgens, Jim Balent, Marlo Alquiza, Rick Burchett & James Hodgkins.]

The second volume of No Man’s Land, which wasn’t quite as interesting as the first. The Azrael storyline did pick up a bit, however, and I really enjoyed the chapters of Batgirl that were included (featuring Cass!), even though they’re also included in the regular Batgirl volumes, which I’ve already read. And I liked the Poison Ivy episode a lot! Not much else to say here, but I’m definitely still enjoying this series enough to continue on to volume 3 (the first in the series that won’t be a re-read!).

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë.

An orphan with few prospects, Jane Eyre decides to make her own way in life by advertising as a governess, but her unusual new employer is as intrigueing to Jane as he is intrigued by her, and it’s not long before she finds herself hopelessly in love. I found the beginning of this book very slow-going, but was able to get more into it once the unending misery of Jane’s childhood was done with, thankfully… And I was also surprised by how much I enjoyed the romance! There was so much chemistry between Jane and Mr. Rochester, and the way they interacted was incredibly sweet (most of the time). Downsides: the very un-nuanced characterisation of Bertha, though given her role in the story, and the time period in which this was written, I wasn’t really expecting anything else.

Nightwing: A Knight in Blüdhaven by Chuck Dixon. [COMIC; Illustrators: Scott McDaniel, Karl Story & Roberta Tewes]

Dick Grayson strikes out alone, and tries to make a life for himself in Blüdhaven, both as a civilian and as the city’s masked protector. I like Dick as a character, and enjoyed seeing him try to make his way without relying on Bruce, and form his own network of information. There’s not much to the story here, but I’m hopeful that the series will get better as it goes on. (And I’ve already enjoyed glimpses of it that I’ve seen in other Batman bind-ups.)

Gingerbread by Helen Oyeyemi. [AUDIOBOOK; Narrated by the author]

Harriet and Perdita Lee are ordinary Londoners with an unusual family history: as a girl, Harriet came to England from Druhastrana, a land of unknown location, and dubious reality. And when Perdita sets out to find her homeland, and her mother’s childhood friend Gretel, Harriet must explain how – and why – she left.

Helen Oyeyemi’s writing is some of the most beautiful I’ve ever come across, but I don’t always find that her stories mesh with me, and that’s the case once again with Gingerbread. I got more into the story once Harriet began her tale, but was often confused (especially in the final third of the book when a whole slew of new characters were introduced), and left the story not entirely sure what it was about… but still wanting to read everything else Oyeyemi has ever written. 😅 Harriet and Perdita were both great characters, too, and I really enjoyed Oyeyemi’s narration of the audiobook. 🍊🍊🍊

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.

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.4 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

[EDIT (10/5/2020): Changed rating of Asunder from 5 to 4 stars to more accurately reflect my feelings.]

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).4 stars

[EDIT (4/1/2020): Changed rating from 5 to 4 stars after re-reading.]

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. 🙂