T5W: Books that deal with tough topics

Time for another Top 5 Wednesday! I haven’t done one of these since November, which is shockingly long ago, and I seem to have missed some really interesting themes! Speaking of which: Today’s theme is books with “hard” topics, such as mental health, illness, sexual assault, etc. And since I’m a sucker for a good tear-jerker (as books that touch on these topics often are), I’ve managed to find quite a few on my bookshelves. 😉 As always, it was difficult narrowing it down to just five, but here are some of my favourites:

Katie McGarry//Crash Into You5) Crash Into You by Katie McGarry

The Pushing the Limits series is full of characters with difficult backgrounds (orphans, runaways, drug dealers, etc.) but I singled out Crash Into You for a couple of reasons, even though most of its themes aren’t quite so heavy as in the other books in the series. Firstly, because it’s my favourite book in the series – but more importantly, because Rachel (one of the book’s two protagonists) suffers from anxiety, which is something I’ve not come across often in my literary wanderings, and makes for a really interesting read.

Haruki Murakami//Norwegian Wood4) Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

What to say about Norwegian Wood? It’s a hard-hitter right from the beginning, with Toru narrating his childhood best friend’s suicide, and much of the book also deals with depression… it only gets darker as it goes on. Murakami’s slow, ponderous – almost hypnotic – writing style fits the tone of the novel perfectly, and had me caught up in its atmosphere for a long time after I’d finished reading.

Lionel Shriver//We Need to Talk about Kevin3) We Need to Talk about Kevin by Lionel Shriver

The story of a woman trying to raise a child who hates her, and is strongly implied to be a psychopath. Of course, Eva is an incredibly unreliable narrator, and her opinions colour everything in this book – which is written in the form of letters to her husband – but I think it still counts. 🙂

Jenn Bennett//Night Owls2) Night Owls by Jenn Bennett

The “tough topic” in this book came as something of a surprise to me when I first picked it up, but I thought it was incredibly well-integrated into the story. Really, this book is a cute romance between aspiring medical illustrator Beatrix, and notorious teenage graffiti artist Jack – but later on, there’s an important new character introduced, who suffers from schizophrenia.

Sally Green//Half Bad1) The Half Life trilogy by Sally Green

Okay, so I’ll admit that this is mostly at no. 1 because I’m currently getting close to the end of Half Lost, and am obsessed. In my defence, though, it’s a brilliant series, and seriously dark in places (by which I mean from beginning to end). Even when we’re first introduced to Nathan (the main character), he’s locked in a cage, and is being tortured on a regular basis… and it never seems to let up. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that he’ll get a happy ending, but I’m definitely not going to hold my breath.

[Top 5 Wednesday was created by gingerreadslainey. To find out more, or to join in, please check out the Goodreads group.]

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Upcoming Releases: Spring 2016

It’s that time of year again! Winter is coming (to an end 😉 ), and although it’s still pretty chilly where I live, at least we’ve been getting some occasional sunshine. More importantly, though, there’s a whole slew of new, exciting books coming out this spring, so I thought I’d share some of the ones I’m most looking forward to in the months of March, April and May. 😀

[NB: All dates are taken from Amazon UK unless stated otherwise, and are correct as of 23/02/2016.]

Marissa Meyer//Stars AboveStars Above by Marissa Meyer (1st March)

A collection of all the short stories set in the Lunar Chronicles universe, plus a few new ones. I’ve actually already read a lot of Meyer’s novellas, as they’re mostly available online for free, but they’re (for the most part) so well written that I’m looking forward to having them for my own! 😛 In particular, I remember being really impressed by The Little Android… New content includes, I believe, an epilogue for Winter, and several prequel-type stories, featuring the main cast as children.

Katie McGarry//Walk the EdgeWalk the Edge by Katie McGarry (29th March)

The second book in the Thunder Road series, which began last year with Nowhere But Here (which I liked way more than I expected to). Each book has a new pair of main characters, but still centres around the Reign of Terror motorcycle club; in this case, the story will focus on Razor, one of the more mysterious club members, and Breanna, a character who only appeared very briefly in the last book.

Sally Green//Half LostHalf Lost by Sally Green (31st March)

Another sequel! But this time it’s the conclusion to the Half Life trilogy, which I’m absolutely in love with. Half-Black Witch (i.e. bad) and half-White Witch, Nathan has a foot in both societies, but is wanted by neither of them, and distrusted by both. The series has been getting better and better as it goes on, so I have high hopes for this last book. XD

Maggie Stiefvater//The Raven KingThe Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater (26th April)

The final book in the Raven Cycle, a slow-paced fantasy series about a group of boys who are searching for Glendower, a legendary Welsh king, and a girl called Blue – the only non-psychic in a family of psychics – who winds up getting involved in their quest. This series is packed-full of fascinating folklore, beautiful, atmospheric writing, and characters you can’t help but love. ❤

Rick Riordan//The Hidden OracleThe Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan (3rd May)

The first book in a new series set in the same world as Percy Jackson & the Olympians, which makes it a guaranteed buy for me. I know very little about the story at the moment (and, to be honest, I’d prefer to go into this book blind), but Riordan’s previous books have all been very witty and entertaining – particularly the Percy Jackson-universe ones – and I’m sure this new series will follow suit.

September Wrap Up

Well, September has been a bit of a let-down, especially after August, which was a really great reading month. I did manage to read quite a bit (though not as much as I usually would – once again, I got distracted by video games), but for much of the month, I felt like every book I’d read was either terrible, or a disappointment in some way… I probably just had my expectations too high for the latter ones. :/ But in any case, this September, I managed to get through a grand total of five novels, and five comic books. Here’s what I thought of them:

Ryan North//Adventure Time vol. 1Adventure Time Volume 1 by Ryan North. Wacky adventures with Finn & Jake in the land of Ooo! I actually don’t know too much about Finn & Jake, as, generally speaking, I prefer the genderswapped uiverse (with Fionna & Cake), but this comic was super-fun, and I’m looking forward to the next volume. 🙂3 starsHolly Bourne//SoulmatesSoulmates by Holly Bourne. A romance between two teenagers whose relationship is threatened by… government agents who monitor weird, unbelievable sci-fi crap? I feel bad for rating this book so low, because I really wanted to like it – there were a few moments that made me laugh (particularly in the first few chapters), and Poppy & Noah’s romance was surprisingly cute, once I managed to get past the part of the book where they were just being obnoxious gits to each other… The writing was okay, but most of the characters were unbearable. And all the government stuff? It completely ruined the story. 😦 Holly Bourne also seemed to be trying really hard to push a feminist message with this book, but it was never expressed properly (usually just coming across as man-hating instead) and just fell completely flat. I ended up feeling like I’d just wasted my time reading this book… which is something that (fortunately) doesn’t happen often. :/1 starSarah J. Maas//Queen of ShadowsQueen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas. The fourth book in the Throne of Glass series, which follows the assassin Celaena Sardothian – and saying anything else about the plot of this book would be spoilery, so I’ll keep it to myself~ 😉 That said, I felt that this book was a bit of a let down after Heir of Fire (which was definitely the best in the series so far). I still enjoyed the book a lot, and plot-wise it was as epic as I was hoping, but in regards to the romance (which, let’s face it, is an important part of this series’ popularity), I wish that Maas could take back everything that happened in Queen of Shadows… 😦 On a more positive note, though, I found Dorian’s perspective surprisingly interesting, and I really hope that that’ll continue for the rest of the series; Elide was an interesting new character, and I’m looking forward to seeing her interact with Celaena; the climax was absolutely epic; and Manon has now been solidified as my favourite character (though I wish that she and Petrah had met up again at some point) – and her’s was probably my favourite perspective to read from.4 starsKatie McGarry//Chasing ImpossibleChasing Impossible by Katie McGarry. The fifth book in the Pushing the Limits series, which follows Abby – Isaiah and Rachel’s friend from Crash Into You – and Logan, one of Ryan’s baseball friends in Dare You To. Abby is a drug dealer, and is struggling to keep her friends and loved ones safe from the dangers of her world, while Logan – an adrenaline junkie – is hiding his diabetes from his friends, because he doesn’t want to be seen as vulnerable. Abby & Logan’s story was great, too – I really liked both of them in the previous books, and they were both very sympathetic leads here. Chasing Impossible wasn’t quite as good as some of the better books in the series (i.e. Crash Into You and Pushing the Limits), but it was definitely better than the worse ones (e.g. Dare You To and Take Me On), and I had a fun time reading it.4 starsKazu Kibuishi//Amulet vol. 1Amulet, Book 1: The Stonekeeper by Kazu Kibuishi. The story of two siblings – Emily and Navin – who move to a new house with their mother after their father’s death. The house, however, turns out to be connected to a parallel world, full of monsters, and when their mother disappears one night, Emily and Navin must cross over in order to rescue her. This was a great start to the series: Fun, but with a slightly ominous atmosphere hanging over everything that happened – I found myself constantly holding my breath, waiting for something terrible to happen, which really added to the experience. In terms of the art, I’m not a huge fan of the character design, but it is growing on me, and the backdrops and the monsters are all wonderfully creepy. I’m definitely looking forwards to seeing where this series goes. 🙂4 stars

Kazu Kibuishi//Amulet vol. 2Amulet, Book 2: The Stonekeeper’s Curse by Kazu Kibuishi. The adventure continues! This volume wasn’t quite so creepy, but the story is progressing very nicely, and I really liked Leon, the new character who was introduced in this book. I’m also pretty intrigued by Trellis, and I’m hoping he’s going to be joining the crew at some point~ 🙂4 starsKazu Kibuishi//Amulet vol. 3Amulet, Book 3: The Cloud Searchers by Kazu Kibuishi. In which Emily & the crew search for the sky city of Cielis. This is the last of the volumes that I’ve managed to get hold of so far, which is a shame, since I’m really eager to read the rest of the series, now! And this book was even better than the last two – I came very close to giving it five stars~ 😀4 starsNeil Gaiman//Sandman vol. 7The Sandman, Volume 7: Brief Lives by Neil Gaiman. A book that’s been on my currently-reading list for quite some time – not because I haven’t been enjoying it, but because I find the Sandman books quite heavy sometimes, and consequently I have to be in a very particular mood to pick them up. This volume follows Dream and Delirium as they go on a journey in search of their missing brother Destruction… And I really liked it. A lot more than I liked some of the other volumes (though I doubt anything in this series will ever live up to the perfection that was volume 2). But most of all, I thought it was great to get some new insights into Delirium’s character. She’s definitely one of the more intriguing members of the Endless.4 starsKate Cann//FiestaFiesta by Kate Cann. The first book in the unoriginally-named Beach series, which was mostly terrible (though it was still better than Soulmates). This was my Library Scavenger Hunt book for September, so I’ve written a proper review of it – you can read it here.1 starKeith Austin//Snow, WhiteSnow, White by Keith Austin. A slightly odd tale about a young boy (John) who starts seeing strange images in the mirror – and then his whole world starts to change. Surprisingly, this is only vaguely connected to any fairytales, and I didn’t notice any Snow White references at all (though there is an enchanted sleep at one point). Instead, it pitches itself as a horror story… I didn’t actually find it too scary, but it was quite eerie, and the writing was very atmospheric. A pleasant surprise at the end of what has, quite frankly, been a rather underwhelming month. I’ve written a full review of this book, which you can read here.3 stars

August Wrap Up

Another month over, another load of books to tell you about~ and this was a really great reading month for me! Overall, I managed to read 9 novels, 4 graphic novels, 8 manga volumes, and 2 short stories, and 1 (amazing) picture book – and I even discovered a new favourite! 😀

Booktubeathon started before I managed to finish anything else, so the first eight books I read were all part of the challenge! I’ve already written mini-reviews for each of these, so I won’t say much about them here, but you can see my ratings and ramblings by clicking on the covers below:

Yumi Unita//Bunny Drop vol. 1 Sarah J. Maas//A Court of Thorns & Roses Marcus Sedgwick//Killing the Dead Winston Graham//Ross Poldark
Kate Beaton//Hark! A Vagrant Antoine de Saint Exupéry//The Little Prince Sarah Dessen//Saint Anything Cory Doctorow & Jen Wang//In Real Life

Emily Carroll//Through the WoodsThrough the Woods by Emily Carroll. A collection of scary short stories, in graphic novel form! First off, the illustrations for this book were amazing, with just the right blend of beauty and creepiness, and I don’t think this book would’ve been half so good without them. In terms of the story, I (thankfully) didn’t find them too scary myself, but I did still really enjoy them, and they were definitely chilling. People who scare easily might want to avoid this book!5 starsNoelle Stevenson//NimonaNimona by Noelle Stevenson. A graphic novel that follows the adventures of Lord Ballister Blackheart, supervillain, and his new shape-shifting sidekick, Nimona. I really loved this! The characters were all really interesting, the story was surprisingly deep, and the art style was incredibly cute. I just wish there was more of it! 😦4 starsShigeru Mizuki//Onward Towards Our Noble DeathsOnward Towards Our Noble Deaths by Shigeru Mizuki. A semi-autobiographical manga series, which tells the story of a company of Japanese soldiers stationed in Papua New Guinea during the World War II. After miraculously surviving a suicide charge, they’re told that they must perform another, since their deaths have already been reported. I wasn’t initially all that into this book, since there are a lot of characters, and it’s quite difficult to keep track of them all (despite the character list at the beginning of the book). But after I’d identified the most important characters, I found myself really enjoying it. Which is not to say that this is an enjoyable story – it really, really isn’t – but it is powerful, and very well-told. The art is really great as well, and the contrast between the realistic backgrounds and the cartoony character design is incredibly striking.4 starsYun Kouga//Loveless vol. 11Yun Kouga//Loveless vol. 12Loveless Volumes 11-12 by Yun Kouga. A manga series that follows a young amnesiac boy called Ritsuka, who – after coming to school one day to find his brother’s charred corpse at his desk – becomes involved with the mysterious Soubi, and gets dragged into the strange hidden world of Fighters and Sacrifices. It sounds intriguing, right? And much darker than you’d expect, judging by the cutesy artwork! Obviously, a lot has happened since the beginning of the series, but it’s still weird and wonderful, and I’m still loving it. I was a little lost at the beginning of volume 11, since it’s been a while since I last picked up this series (and I’m also pretty sure that I’ve skipped a couple of volumes somewhere along the line, so that will need to be rectified soon), but I managed to get back into it relatively quickly, and overall, it was a really fun read. 🙂4 starsRyuji Gotsuba//Sasameke vol. 1Ryuji Gotsuba//Sasameke vol. 2Sasameke by Ryuji Gotsubo. Another manga series, this time about boy called Rakuichi, a high school football player who’s recently returned home from Italy, having sworn off football for good – only to be dragged kicking and screaming into his new school’s football club. I had high hopes for this series – I read the first (bind up) volume of it several years ago, & I remember loving it – and first volume (which I re-read, as I couldn’t for the life of me remember anything that had happened) started off pretty well. But unfortunately it just got worse and worse as it went on… The characters were all either unremarkable or unlikeable and the storytelling was all over the place. I did like the art style, but it really wasn’t enough to make up for the sheer stupidity of the rest of the book. If you like sports manga, or football, then I’d advise you not waste your time on Sasameke, and just read Whistle! instead. Or Area no Kishi. Or Giant Killing. Or, really, any other number of far superior football manga – there are a lot of them out there.2 starsYumi Unita//Bunny Drop vol. 2Bunny Drop Volume 2 by Yumi Unita. The continuing adventures of Rin and Daikichi! This time featuring such exciting events as: Getting Rin ready for elementary school! The search for Rin’s mother! And Daikichi starting his new job! 😉 All jokes aside, this series continues to be adorable and charming, and I’m definitely looking forward to getting hold of the next few volumes!5 starsMatsuri Hino//Vampire Knight vol. 11Vampire Knight Volume 11 by Matsuri Hino. This series follows a student called Yuuki Cross, a prefect at the prestigous Cross Academy, whose duty is to keep the peace between the Day Class and the Night Class – who are all secretly vampires! At this point in the series, Yuuki is adjusting to life outside the Academy, and is still torn between her feelings for the pureblood vampire Kaname and the vampire hunter Zero. Vampire Knight is clearly trying very hard to break my heart with all it’s love-triangle drama, and it’s doing a very good job of it! I’m still firmly on Team Kaname, but Yuuki’s struggle over her feelings for Zero are super-painful (in a good way!) to read about!4 starsPatrick Ness//Monsters of MenMonsters of Men by Patrick Ness. The third and final installment in the Chaos Walking trilogy… Now I just have to get my hands on those novellas! Because I really, really want more of this universe. Obviously there’s not much that I can say about the events of this book, because of spoilers, but it was basically the perfect ending for this series. So many feelings! Such drama! And a surprising new protagonist, whose viewpoint was really interesting, too. Highly, highly recommended! 😀5 starsJuan Tomás Ávila Laurel//By Night the Mountain BurnsBy Night the Mountain Burns by Juan Tomás Ávila Laurel. A story that recalls the narrator’s childhood on a small, impoverished island in Equatorial Guinea, which was apparently based on the author’s own experiences growing up on Annobón Island. The book is written in an almost stream-of-consciousness style, which I found a bit frustrating, as it meant that the narrator never stayed on point for very long – and, in fact, I found it difficult to tell what the focus of this story really was: At several points, it seemed like there was going to be some kind of dramatic revelation about his mysterious grandfather, but it never materialised… That said, I did enjoy this book; the writing was beautiful and the setting was very interesting, as was the narrator’s outlook on the events of the book… If you were at all intrigued by my Teaser Tuesday post for this book, then it’s probably worth giving it a try. 🙂3 starsGeorge R.R. Martin & John J. Miller//Dead Man's HandDead Man’s Hand by George R.R. Martin & John J. Miller. The seventh book in the mosaic Wild Cards series, which I picked up for the Library Scavenger Hunt this month. Consequently, I’ve already written a mini-review for this book, so I won’t say too much about it here – only that I really enjoyed it, & I’m looking forward to reading more of this series! 😀4 starsJames Joyce//The Cats of CopenhagenThe Cats of Copenhagen by James Joyce. A short, playful letter that Joyce sent to his grandson in 1936, about how there are no cats in Copenhagen. I picked this up while I was at Waterstones, & read through the whole thing (it was really short) – and it was incredibly cute! The illustrations (by Casey Sorrow) were great, too, and managed to make me chuckle a few times, but I don’t have much to say about it otherwise…3 starsKate Beaton//The Princess & the PonyThe Princess & the Pony by Kate Beaton. A children’s picture book about an tiny princess who wants a proper warrior’s horse for her birthday. What she gets instead is a roly-poly little pony, with an unfortunate flatulence problem… 😛 I don’t often read books targeted at small children, but this one caught my interest because it’s by the same author/artist as Hark! A Vagrant, so I decided to pick it up anyway – and I’m really glad I did! It’s one of the cutest books I’ve read in years, with a charming story, and beautiful illustrations. Definitely recommended. 🙂5 starsKatie McGarry//Nowhere But HereNowhere But Here by Katie McGarry. The first book in the Thunder Road series, which centres around a motorcycle club: This story follows Oz, a teenage boy who’s grown up around the club and is hoping to join it, and Emily, the biological daughter of the club’s leader, who comes to town unexpectedly when she hears about her grandmother’s funeral. Naturally, what follows involves romance, and way more secrets than are good for any family… I remember when I was reading the first few chapters that my initial thought was how refreshing it was to be reading a Katie McGarry book where the heroine seemed to have a normal, loving, supportive (immediate) family. Then things progressed, and I realised just how mistaken that impression was. But regardless, I really enjoyed this book. Oz and Emily were both great characters to read about (and there were a lot of really great side-characters, too!), and I found Oz’s motorcycle club lifestyle interesting, if not particularly healthy… All in all, it was a great start to a new series, and I’m looking forward to reading more.4 starsJenn Bennett//Night OwlsNight Owls by Jenn Bennett. Called The Anatomical Shape of a Heart in the US, this book follows Bex – a teenager who wants to become a medical illustrator – and Jack – a notorious graffiti artist – who meet on the night bus. The story was both cute and touching, with some surprisingly dark moments; the characters were great, and their relationship was really fun to read about; and as the icing on the cake, the writing was brilliantly witty and engaging. I read this in two sittings, but it would’ve been one if only I’d started reading a little earlier in the day – I found it very difficult to put it down!5+ stars

The Playlist Tag

The playlist tag was created Little Red Reader, and I wasn’t tagged by anyone, but I decided to do it after seeing Elisabeth Paige’s video. Basically, you just have to set your playlist to random, and pick a book to go with each song that comes up.

If you’re interested, I’ve made a video playlist of my songs, for your listening pleasure~

Frances Hodgson Burnett//A Little Princess1) Vienna Teng, Anna Rose

Since this is a lullaby, I thought it was only fitting that I chose a book about dreaming and imagination, so my pick for this song is A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett: Sara, left destitute after her father dies, is forced to become a servant to pay off his debt to her fancy boarding school, and finds refuge in the stories she learnt when she lived with him in India.

Anna Rose, it’s time to dream:
I see that your imagination knows no bounds.
There it flows like some magical stream,
And carries you on its journey.

Lauren Oliver//Delirium2) Lucie Silvas, Twisting the Chain

This song fits Lena and Alex from the Delirium trilogy by Lauren Oliver pretty well, I think. There’s a lot of love between them, but everything that’s happened to them just seems to make them constantly on edge around each other.

I can see you’re hurting –
You wear it like a coat of armour.

Tamora Pierce//Melting Stones3) Lee Ann Womack, I Hope You Dance

Of course, I can’t seem to do any kind of tag without mentioning my favourite author, so the book I chose for I Hope You Dance is Melting Stones by Tamora Pierce. In this book in particular, Evvy has to decide who she wants to be in the future – whether she’ll be a force for good, or for destruction.

I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance,
Never settle for the path of least resistance.

Paullina Simons//The Bronze Horseman4) Journey South, English Rose

This song will forever make me think of Rose and the Doctor from Doctor Who (and, in fact, the only version of the song that I could find on youtube was a Doctor/Rose fan-video… 😳 ), but since that’s not a book (or rather, I haven’t read any of the Doctor Who books…), I had to go with my second choice: The Bronze Horseman trilogy by Paullina Simons! Tatiana and Alexander have to go through so much, but even so, they never give up on each other~ ❤

No bonds… nothing… no one… will ever keep me from she.

Tahereh Mafi//Shatter Me5) The Dresden Dolls, Girl Anachronism

I knew as soon as this showed up on my playlist that I was going to have to pick the Shatter Me trilogy by Tahereh Mafi! Juliette’s not quite as messed up as the girl in this song, but the people who locked her up still have a lot to answer for.

I might be catching, so don’t touch.

Morgan Matson//Amy & Roger's Epic Detour6) The Dandy Warhols, Bohemian Like You

Number six is Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson, which I chose mostly for the feel of it – near-strangers who both get along so well, dancing around the issue of possibly-more-than-friends, but having a great time of it regardless. 🙂

It’s you that I want, so please,
Just a casual, casual easy thing,
Is it? It is for me.

Sarah Dessen//Someone Like You7) Billy Joel, Only the Good Die Young

Another contemporary, of course, but this time it’s Someone Like You by Sarah Dessen, where dependable Halley falls in with the charming but slightly wild Macon.

They say there’s a heaven for those who will wait,
And some say it’s better, but I say it ain’t.

I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints –
The sinners are much more fun.

Sally Green//Half Bad8) Belle & Sebastian, Waiting for the Moon to Rise

This time it’s the Half Life trilogy by Sally Green, which is all about the journey – running from the past, along a path with an uncertain destination. The books have a rather more urgent pace than this mellow song, but I think it still fits…

I was following a trail
I’d never been along before,
Chasing darkened skies above me.

J.K. Rowling//Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone9) Belle & Sebastian, Get Me Away from Here, I’m Dying

This one’s a bit of a stretch, as the song can be a little random in places, but I ended up picking the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, mostly because there’s a verse that reminds me so much of how I felt the first time I read it. 😉 (Bear with me, this quote is kind of long…)

I’ll settle down with some old story about a boy who’s just like me:
Thought there was love in everything and everyone – you’re so naïve!
They always reach a sorry ending; they always get it in the end.

Still it was worth it as I turned the pages solemnly, and then,
With a winning smile, the boy with naïvety succeeds!
At the final moment, I cried – I always cry at endings…

Katie McGarry//Crash Into You10) Avril Lavigne, Anything But Ordinary

For this final song, I chose Crash Into You by Katie McGarry – a book about love and teenagers and wanting to be seen. And driving. Very fast.

Sometimes I drive so fast,
Just to feel the danger.
I want to scream,
It makes me feel alive.

December Wrap Up

This month I managed to get through thirteen books! Or rather, ten novels, two short stories, and one art-book. Certainly not my best reading month, but then again, December never is (there’s always so much to do!), so I’m pretty satisfied with this. Anyway, here’s what I thought of it all:

Rae Carson//The Bitter KingdomThe Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson. A really satisfying conclusion to the trilogy (which seems to be rare these days). All the different threads of the story were wrapped up nicely, and it was lovely to see Cosmé, Alodia and Ximena again (however briefly). The pacing of the book was pretty fast, and though I didn’t feel that it was necessary for Hector to have his own POV chapters, I found myself liking them anyway. What struck me most about this final instalment, however, was the humour – which is not to say that the book was a particularly funny one, but Rae Carson had a great way of diffusing the tension whenever it got too thick (particularly towards the end), and some of my favourite moments were the little character interactions that made me chuckle (i.e. Red being introduced to Rosario; Storm and Waterfall talking about the Joyans; & so many more…).5 starsSally Green//Half LiesHalf Lies by Sally Green. A short story set in the Half Life universe, that I only discovered by accident when I stumbled upon it on Amazon… It’s written in diary form, and told from the perspective of a young Black Witch called Michèle – Gabriel’s younger sister. The story itself was very simple: It fleshed out the world a little, and introduced some more bits of Black Witch culture, which was interesting (and was also something that  was really hoping for after reading Half Bad), and it also explained how Gabriel became a fain, but at its heart it’s really a love story, between Michèle and a boy called Sam. It’s a little sad, but there’s some humour, too (and of course Gabriel is the type of guy who’d read his sister’s diary 😉 ). I’m a little curious about Caitlin’s motivations, and I hope that it might be touched on in the rest of the series, though I’m not sure how it would come into the story…4 stars

Cassandra Clare//City of BonesCity of Bones by Cassandra Clare. I realise that I probably should have read this before reading the Infernal Devices trilogy, but I have no regrets – and (as an interesting but not particularly important aside) having read Clockwork Princess certainly gave me a different perspective of Brother Jeremiah than I probably would have had otherwise… I enjoyed the book a lot, despite the fact that I’ve heard that it’s the weakest in the series, and it was different enough from the film (which I saw a couple of months ago) that I didn’t feel that I already knew the story. In terms of the main characters: I liked Clary and Isabelle well enough, and I really liked Alec, but I thought Simon was a little bland, and Jace somewhat too… snarky for my tastes. Overall, it was good fun, though, and I’m looking forward to reading the sequel.4 starsThe Gernsback Continuum by William Gibson (from The Time Traveller’s Almanac). A short story that is less about actually travelling through time, and more about seeing through time (or perhaps into another world). A little on the trippy side, but enjoyable all the same, and Gibson has a very fluid writing style, which makes things easy to picture.3 starsTahereh Mafi//Shatter MeShatter Me by Tahereh Mafi. A dystopian superpower book, about a girl with a lethal touch. I liked it a lot, though I felt that the first-person perspective held it back a little, at least in terms of world-building (which I would like to have seen more of), and it bothered me to a surprising degree that Juliette’s powers haven’t yet been explained. I enjoyed Juliette’s voice, though, and the disjointed writing style really brought out the fragility of her mind – in a way, it was almost like reading a journal, with all the crossed-out passages… Romance-wise, I’ve already been spoiled for this series’ endgame, but I’m enjoying the way that Juliette interacts with both Adam and Warner; character-wise, I like basically everyone so far (and even Warner is interesting, if not pleasant), and I’m looking forward to reading more.2 starsKatie McGarry//Breaking the RulesBreaking the Rules by Katie McGarry. The last book in the Pushing the Limits series, set between the first two books, and following Noah and Echo, the main couple in the first book. It was definitely great to see Noah and Echo again (they’re my favourites), and how they interact now that they’ve been a couple for a little while longer. I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as either Pushing the Limits or Crash Into You, but it’s earned a pretty solid bronze medal, and it was a close call. Noah and Echo’s relationship development was very realistic, and the story addressed some of their issues that weren’t tackled in the first book. I also really enjoyed the interaction between Echo and Beth, which took me a little by surprise, as I’ve never liked Beth very much in any of the previous books…4 stars17378508Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater. I really enjoyed this book, but for some reason I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as I did the previous two… In the beginning, especially, I loved the scenes with Blue and Gansey (I wish there’d been more of them), and I also find myself growing more attached to Ronan after the events of The Dream Thieves. Malory’s part in the book was hilarious (and the Dog!), and I really liked Jesse Dittley (the part where he met Malory was one of my favourite quotes in the book). I think, however, then the book would have benefitted from a stronger antagonist: In the first book there was Whelk; in the second there was Mr. Gray and Kavinsky; in the third there was Greenmantle, but he seemed a little lackluster, and except for Adam and Ronan, none of the characters seemed to be particularly concerned about him… There was a lot of good build-up for the last book, though, so I’m definitely excited about that. 🙂4 starsAlexandra Bracken//Brightly WovenBrightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken. This book was surprisingly fast-paced for a high fantasy novel, and I feel that that held it back somewhat – the world-building was lacking, the characters moved from place to place too quickly, and the story’s climax came out of nowhere and was over in what seemed like a flash. Despite its flaws, though, it was an interesting story, with likeable characters and a sweet (if predictable) romance, and it plays to its strengths well, with the writing focusing more on Sydelle and North’s relationship than on the plot. It reads a little like High Fantasy-Lite, but it was definitely enjoyable all the same.3 starsStudio Ghibli Layout Designs: Understanding the Secrets of Takahata and Miyazaki Animation by the Hong Kong Jockey Club. A catalogue (I think) from the Hong Kong exhibition of the same name. The written parts of the book were a little technical for my taste, but would probably be more interesting to somebody who’s hoping to get into animation as a hobby or profession… The main highlight for me was (naturally) the art, though, and there was a lot of it in here, and it was all absolutely beautiful. Some of the pictures I even almost preferred as rough sketches (there was a before-and-after section in the book). A wonderful, wonderful book. (There are so many Ghibli films that I still need to see!)5 starsWendy Higgins//See MeSee Me by Wendy Higgins. A romance novel about an arranged marriage between a human girl and a leprechaun. The premise was interesting, I thought, but I found the story and characters rather lacklustre, and everything about the romance was far too convenient – despite not having communicated in any way for their entire seventeen-year engagement, they fall in love almost immediately… Insta-love isn’t something that I always have a problem with in romance books, but in this one I thought that it felt very contrived. The plot, however, was what I had the biggest problem with: It basically consisted of a tug-of-war between two uninteresting girls, over an equally uninteresting boy… It wasn’t the worst book I’d ever read, but…1 starAnders Nilsen//Rage of PoseidonRage of Poseidon by Anders Nilsen. A graphic novel portraying the god Poseidon (and several other divine figures) in the modern world. This is actually a collection of several different stories with the same theme, which I wasn’t expecting, but I really enjoyed all of them. My favourites were probably Rage of Poseidon and Leda and the Swan, but the final (one-page) story – Jesus and Aphrodite – was hilarious, and Nilsen’s art style really suited the story and subject matter. Altogether, a humourous but thought-provoking take on religion, old and new(/current).5 starsBryan Lee O'Malley//SecondsSeconds by Bryan Lee O’Malley. A standalone comic about a woman who stumbles across a way to erase her past mistakes, and goes a little crazy trying to make her life perfect, with increasingly disastrous results. The art was beautiful, and I really loved O’Malley’s writing style (this book has several particularly funny “dialogues” between the narrator and the main character, Katie). The story was both humourous and touching, and the characters (especially Hazel!) were great!5 starsJohn Green, Lauren Myracle & Maureen Johnson//Let It SnowLet It Snow by Maureen Johnson, John Green & Lauren Myracle. A set of three interconnected short Christmas romances, and a really enjoyable, uplifting read. I started reading this book on Christmas Eve, and it really got me into the right mindset for Christmas! 😀 Of the three stories, I think I liked Lauren Myracle’s the best, but mainly because it was the last, and I really loved the way she managed to weave the three stories together at the end. Super-cute!5 stars

Hong Kong, Here I Come! – Reading While Travelling

I’m heading off to stay with Chloë in Hong Kong tomorrow, which is incredibly exciting, but I’ve spent a considerable amount of time today agonising over which books I should take with me. So I thought I’d write a blog about it!

Of course, the flight from London to Hong Kong will take about 13 hours, and I’ll have to travel for a while on each side as well – and, since I’m one of those people who can’t sleep unless I’m in my pyjamas and lying down, I’ll be needing quite a bit of material. I also don’t like to travel with physical books, since that’s one of the easiest ways to lose or damage them. So I’ve got my kindle charged up and ready to go.

Unfortunately, though, most of the books I want to read at the moment are ones that I own physical copies of. I’m currently in the middle of reading the Shatter Me trilogy by Tahereh Mafi, and my initial hope was that I would be able to finish it off today, so I could start the trip off with something fresh, but since I’m only a couple of chapters into Unravel Me (the second book), I very much doubt that that’s going to happen. I could take the rest of the series with me, along with my kindle, but two large books plus a novella bind-up wedged in my backpack? … :/ Maybe not such a great idea.

Last time I went to China, my choice was pretty easy. I was already halfway through The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (on my kindle), and I figured I’d need something cheerful to read afterwards, so I followed it up with Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. On the way back, I decided to start on the Codex Alera series by Jim Butcher, which wasn’t such a great idea – I love the slow-build in high fantasy books, but it usually takes me a while to get really into a new world, and I ended up just making myself grumpy by trying to force myself to read it in one sitting…

So my (very, very) tentative TBR for this trip:

1) Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater. A slow-paced book, but since it’s the third in a series, and I’m already invested in the characters and storyline, I should be able to avoid the situation I put myself in with the Codex Alera books.

2) Breaking the Rules by Katie McGarry. I’ve been excited about reading this for a while (and it actually was only released on Monday!), and I’m thinking that it’ll be good to read it towards the end of the journey, since I know from experience that Katie McGarry’s books are difficult to put down.

3) Tatiana and Alexander by Paullina Simons. This one is very, very long, so I at least know that it’ll take me a while. I’ve been wanting to read it since I finished The Bronze Horseman, so I’m sure that I’ll enjoy it, but my worry is that it will be too emotionally draining to read in one sitting, so I might start off with this one, and then read the other two books when I need a break.

… Or, who knows, I might decide to read something else entirely. 😉