December Wrap-Up

Happy New Year, everyone! The last month of 2017 was, for me, full of shopping and baking, an awful lot of eating, and – of course – lots and lots of books. Most of what I read was actually short stories, as I was trying to tick off the last of my reading challenges for the year, but still, I did a lot more reading in the last month than I have in a while. 😊 In total, I managed to read three novels, and eight short stories (and, yes, I did manage to complete that challenge 🎊).

Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally. The first book in the Hundred Oaks series, a collection of contemporary books that share a setting, but have largely disconnected stories and lead characters… I had high hopes for this series as another set of cute contemporaries – this time with a sports focus, which I seem to be susceptible to 😅 – but I probably would have been better off just re-reading Now & Then (by Emma Mills), which is just a better book all around. It was quite cute, but the characters were all pretty bland, and the story and romance were both completely predictable. I doubt I’ll be reading any more from this series.Bombshells by Jim Butcher.Dresden Files novella that I found in the Dangerous Women anthology, which follows Harry Dresden’s apprentice Molly on what she thinks is a mission to rescue a vampire who’s being held hostage – but she quickly realises that she’s only been told a small fraction of the true story. I found the plot of this quite interesting, but, as someone who’s only read the tiniest bit of The Dresden Files (volume 1 of one of the graphic novel adaptations) and barely remembers it, most of the finer details were lost on me… I definitely think that this is a story that is aimed at people who already know the series, though it does still make an enjoyable standalone.Raisa Stepanova by Carrie Vaughn. A short story from the Dangerous Women anthology about a Soviet fighter pilot during the second world war, who’s aiming for the five kills she needs in order to be recognised as an ace fighter, but is held back by worry for her brother, who’s recently been declared missing in action. As is the case with many short stories, I enjoyed this, but found that there wasn’t really enough of it for me to find something to get really invested in. Raisa was an interesting character, and seeing the air force from the perspective of a female pilot was also interesting… Given everything that she was going through, however, I was surprised that the narrative was so fast-paced and action-oriented…Wrestling Jesus by Joe R. Lansdale. Another short story from Dangerous Women, though in this case the titular dangerous woman didn’t have much of an active role in the story; the main character is a teenager called Marvin who’s having problems with bullies, and ends up being taken under the wing of a surprisingly tough old man, who turns out to be a former wrestler. These days, he only fights once every five years though, against a rival who’s in love with the same woman… Despite my dislike for wrestling, I really liked this story; it’s definitely one of my favourites so far from this anthology. Marvin was a great, relatable lead, and the old man (usually called by his stage name X-Man) offered both wisdom and comedy… I was more interested in Marvin’s situation with the bullies than with X-Man & Jesus’ rivalry, but both parts were very entertaining. 👍 (Also, major Karate Kid vibes, especially in the first half.)Neighbors by Megan Lindholm. A short story (also from Dangerous Women) about an old woman called Sarah whose neighbour disappears one foggy night. Sarah witnesses Linda’s departure, but when she later sees strangers in the streets wearing Linda’s distinctive backpack, nobody believes her. Meanwhile, believing her to be unable to care for herself any longer, Sarah’s two children try to persuade her to sell her house and move into an assisted living home… A powerful and moving (and also quite sad) take on growing old, with a touch of magical realism, and an incredibly unreliable narrator. Lindholm’s writing was beautiful, and made me feel really connected to Sarah, which is an impressive feat in a story that’s less than fifty pages long. Definitely a hit!

I Know How to Pick ‘Em by Lawrence Block. A man and a woman meet in a bar, and the woman takes the man home with her, hoping that she can entice him to help her sort out a little problem, but unfortunately he’s already guessed at her plan, and has one of his own. This short story (from Dangerous Women) was an interesting look into the minds of two terrible people (neither named); one incredibly selfish, and the second – from whose perspective the story is told – deeply disturbed. And Block’s narrative cleverly makes it so that it takes a while to realise exactly how awful each of the characters (but particularly the second one) truly is… I don’t know if I’d say that I enjoyed this, but it definitely got me thinking.Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell by Brandon Sanderson. A short story from Dangerous Women which is set in the world of Cosmere, and tells the tale of an innkeeper and her daughter, who live in the middle of a dangerous forest filled with spirits, and secretly hunt down criminals who cross their path. Sanderson’s worldbuilding is always top-notch, and this story was no exception to that rule; he was really able to bring the forest and all its dangers to life. The plot was really intriguing, too, and I really liked both the main characters, Silence and William Ann… I believe there are more Cosmere books, but I definitely feel that this story can stand alone.Royal Wedding by Meg Cabot. The final book in the Princess Diaries series, set several years after the conclusion of the main series, and documenting Mia’s adult life, where her main thoughts have shifted from Michael, her domineering grandmother, Michael, and the difficulty of being a teenage princess, to Michael, her still domineering grandmother, Michael, and the difficulty of being a no-longer-teenage princess… So, Mia is still the same person she’s always been, and I kind of love her for it. And also find her hilarious. 😂 This book was very much a blast from the past, and I enjoyed it immensely; I hadn’t realised quite how much I’d missed Mia and all her crazy worries. This was my Library Scavenger Hunt pick for the month, so you can find a full review of it here.A Queen in Exile by Sharon Kay Penman. A historical short story (from Dangerous Women) about Queen Constance of Sicily, with a focus on her husband’s invasion of her homeland, and the birth of her son (Frederick II, who would go on to become the Holy Roman Emperor). This was an interesting story, but I’m not sure how much I actually liked Constance’s voice, and Penman’s writing style was rather matter-of-fact… I am, however, somewhat curious to read some of her other books, so clearly it wasn’t actually all that off-putting. 😉

Midnights by Rainbow Rowell. Snapshots of a pair of friends during the countdown to every New Year they’ve experienced together. This was a really cute little story (from the anthology My True Love Gave to Me, for a change! 😋); not as good as Kindred Spirits, Rowell’s other short story, but that one sets the bar pretty high. The characters were well fleshed-out, however, and the snapshots of them year after year showed the progression of their relationship brilliantly.Radio Silence by Alice Oseman. My final book of the year follows a sixth-former called Frances, who is focused on doing well at school to the exclusion of almost everything else – until one evening a boy she knows accidentally reveals himself to her as the creator of her favourite podcast, Universe City, which tells the tale of a person stuck in a strange, monster-ridden university campus. I heard briefly about this book a while ago, but wasn’t really all that interested in reading it until I found it on a list of books with confirmed asexual characters, something that there isn’t nearly enough of in the literary world as a whole, let alone YA… But I’m really glad that I decided to pick this up, as it connected with me on so many levels, even disregarding the asexuality issues that it brings up (briefly; that’s not the focus of the book by a long shot). I’ll be posting a review soon (once I’ve got all my New Year posts out of the way), so keep an eye out for that, but in short: An amazing book, and definitely one of my favourites of 2017.

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August Wrap-Up

Make yourselves comfy, because this’ll be a long one. 😉 I read a grand total of 24 books this month, which is a lot, even for me. Seriously, I’m not even sure that I knew it was possible…

A.S. King//Please Ignore Vera DietzPlease Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King. I really loved this book – Vera & Charlie were both believable and likeable, and A.S. King’s writing was as amazing as ever. The only other A.S. King book I’ve read is The Dust of 100 Dogs, which was also great, but of the two, I definitely prefer Please Ignore Vera Dietz.5 stars

Gene Luen Yang//BoxersGene Luen Yang//SaintsBoxers & Saints by Gene Luen Yang. Technically two books, but I marathoned them, & my love towards each of them was more-or-less the same. I think I liked Saints a little better than Boxers, but, as I said, there’s not much in it. This series made me feel all the feels, & I definitely recommend it for anyone who likes powerfully-written graphic novels.4 stars

Veronica Roth//FourFour: A Divergent Collection by Veronica Roth. This is almost a prequel to the Divergent series, told from Four’s perspective. It was really wonderful to get to know Four as he was pre-Tris, and to get another view into his mindset. I actually preferred reading his POV here to his chapters in Allegiant, as he’s much less of an emotional mess in Four. The bonus scenes from Divergent were also pretty cool, but not as interesting as the four novellas that make up the majority of the book.5 stars

R.J. Anderson//UltravioletUltraviolet by R.J. Anderson. I actually picked up the sequel to this book from the library by mistake, and then had to hunt down this book as well. I found it pretty disappointing, though. I liked most of the characters, but the main romantic relationship had some pretty creepy undertones (particularly at the beginning), and there were a few things that happened that were never really explained. I may have rated this book a little harshly, since the writing is actually very solid, but the summary made me think that this was going to be a superpower-book, and I was kind of annoyed when I figured out that it really, really wasn’t…2 stars

Skye Jordan//RecklessReckless by Skye Jordan. My first venture into what is basically erotica. I don’t have much to say about this book except that I was surprised by how much I liked it. The characters were likeable and well-written, and the plot was solid, if somewhat clichéd & a little cheesy at times.4 stars

R.J. Anderson//QuicksilverQuicksilver by R.J. Anderson. The (far, far superior) sequel to Ultraviolet. I actually really liked this one. Allison (the main character from Ultraviolet) shows up occasionally, but the story follows Tori in the months after Ultraviolet. I loved Tori and her friend Milo, and I even liked the way that Sebastian was portrayed in this book (through Tori’s eyes as opposed to Allison’s). Also, I’m pretty sure that this is the only book I’ve ever read with an openly asexual main character, which scores it all kinds of bonus points.4 stars

Tim Bowler//Night RunnerNight Runner by Tim Bowler. Starseeker, also by Tim Bowler is actually one of my favourite books, so I was pretty excited when I found his most recent release just lying around at the library, but I wasn’t all that impressed by it. I did like the main character Zinny, and the things that he was going through made me kind of want to hug everyone who was even a tiny bit nice to him in the book, but unfortunately I didn’t find the plot particularly interesting.3 stars

Jennifer L. Armentrout//ObsidianObsidian by Jennifer L. Armentrout. The first book in the Lux series. I basically only read this book because I heard that it was like Twilight, but with aliens instead of vampires, and I really needed something Twilight-y in my life. This series is probably better described as “Like Twilight, but a hundred times better, and also with aliens.” Needless to say, I loved it, and when I finish the last book in the series, I’ll probably write a series review.4 stars

Susanna Clarke//Jonathan Strange and Mr. NorrellJonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke. Finishing this (audio)book made me feel ridiculously accomplished. My sister gave me the physical copy of it for my birthday several years ago, but it’s incredibly slow-paced and I found it really difficult to get into. A couple of years ago I decided to give the audiobook a try, and although I really liked it, it’s taken me until now to get through the whole thing, as I don’t tend to listen to audiobooks very often, or (when I do listen to them) for extended periods of time. This book is very slow, like I said, and also very long, so it’s not for the easily intimidated, but once you do manage to get in to it, it’s incredibly funny and enjoyable. The characters are amazingly-written, and the climax is well worth the 900-or-so pages it takes to get there.4 starsJim Butcher//Furies of CalderonFuries of Calderon by Jim Butcher. I actually bought this book (and the sequel) in order to read on the plane back from China, but unfortunately I just wasn’t in the mood for reading (which made the whole flight feel like a horrific waste of time). I finally finished it about halfway through the month, & I actually really enjoyed it. It felt a little lackluster in the beginning, but once it gets going, it’s incredibly exciting. I particularly liked the chapters towards the end of the book, when Tavi and Kitai had to take the Trial of Wits (which was, of course, perfect for Tavi). The characters were wonderful; I loved Tavi and Kitai (though she was only introduced towards the end), and Amara and Bernard’s developing relationship was really sweet to read about. The plot was a little confusing in places, but it’s easy enough to follow what’s going on once you’ve got a grasp of the world, and I’m very much looking forward to the sequel.4 starsStephanie Perkins//Isla and the Happily Ever AfterIsla & the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins. The final book in the Anna & the French Kiss trilogy, following Anna & the French Kiss and Lola & the Boy Next Door. This was actually my favourite of the series so far, possibly because (having only read the first two books quite recently) I haven’t had that much time to get really attached to either Anna or Lola. But whatever the reason, I really enjoyed this book. I personally found Isla the most relatable of the three heroines, and Josh was absolutely swoon-worthy. They actually get together quite early on in the book, and it was lovely seeing how they were as a couple, rather than just as teenagers who liked each other a lot (as we saw in Anna and Lola’s books). Most of the criticism I’ve heard of this book is to do with the main conflict between Isla and Josh, and how it really only happened because of Isla’s insecurities, but I found it incredibly realistic, and it actually probably made me like the book even more.5 starsLeah Hocking//Once Upon a Glass HeartOnce Upon a Glass Heart by Leah Hocking. An almost-retelling of several fairytales, including Snow WhiteHansel & GretelLittle Red Riding Hood and Rapunzel, with a heroine called Lily, who crosses from our world into a place called the Kingdom after finding a glass heart on her doorstep. I bought this book because it was on special offer on amazon, and because I thought it sounded interesting, but I ended up not really liking it at all. I didn’t manage to connect with Lily at all (although some of the supporting characters were likeable enough), and the plot seemed to lack any kind of direction. Basically the whole book felt like pointless filler between the introduction and the conclusion.1 starJennifer L. Armentrout//OnyxOnyx by Jennifer L. Armentrout. The second book in the Lux series! I loved it! This book was mainly world-building and relationship-development, but it also put together the framework for potentially epic plot in the next book.4 stars

Alan Garner//ElidorL.J. Smith//Dark AngelL.J. Smith//The ChosenMatt Fraction//Little HitsGarth Nix//Lord SundayGarth Nix//SabrielMark Lawrence//Prince of Thorns

At this point in the month, the bout-of-books readathon started, and, in the interest of not repeating myself too much, I’ll link you to the my updates from days 1-3, 4-5 and 6-7, where I’ve talked about most of the books I read. My overall ratings for the books were as follows:

Elidor by Alan Garner3 stars

Dark Angel by L.J. Smith3 stars

The Chosen by L.J. Smith4 stars

Hawkeye Vol. 2: Little Hits by Matt Fraction4 stars

Lord Sunday by Garth Nix3 stars

Sabriel by Garth Nix5 stars

Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence3 stars

Jennifer L. Armentrout//OpalNext up, I read Opal by Jennifer L. Armentrout. The third book in the Lux  series, and a much more plotty entry than the previous two. With all the main relationships established, and the framework for the plot laid down, this book was absolutely epic, and I loved it.4 starsRick Riordan//Percy Jackson and the Greek GodsPercy Jackson & the Greek Gods by Rick Riordan. I just had a really strong craving for Percy Jackson book, and in the absence of the new Heroes of Olympus book, I turned to Percy Jackson & the Greek Gods. Which was not a mistake at all – this book was hilarious. I particularly liked the chapters on Hades and Persephone, and the ones on Kronos and Rhea, Gaia and Ouranos, and Dionysus. Also, I don’t think I’ve ever felt quite so much sympathy towards Hades. He’s such an adorable character in this book!4 starsJennifer L. Armentrout//OriginOrigin by Jennifer L. Armentrout. This is the last book I managed to read this month (and I actually only finished it a couple of minutes before I started writing this). I can’t really say much about this book without spoiling major plot points, but needless to say it was amazing. Probably my favourite entry in the series so far.4 stars