2018 in Review: Highlights

🎊🎊🎊 Happy New Year’s Eve Eve, everyone! 🎊🎊🎊 It’s the time of year again for everyone to talk about their favourite books! 📚 … And usually I’d be joining in with the numbered-list-o-mania, but I’ve read so many great books this year, so instead I thought I’d talk about some of my bookish highlights for the year! 😊 Not all of these are necessarily my absolute favourites, but these are the books I found particularly memorable in 2018:

If you’ve been following my monthly/seasonal wrap-ups, you’ll probably have noticed that I finally got myself an Audible subscription, which I’ve been enjoying immensely. I find it hard sometimes to tell whether my feelings about the book being read are affected by the narrator’s performance, or vice versa, but quite a few of my favourites this year turned out to be ones that I’d listened to rather than read. In terms of pure performance, though, nothing comes close to Garth Nix’s Frogkisser!, which was wonderfully read by Marisa Calin; you can find my review of it here.

The other stand-out audiobook I listened to was Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor, though in this case I think my enjoyment was based mostly on the story itself (though Steve West’s narration was also excellent), and I’ve no doubt that I would have liked it just as much in print form. I was a little behind the bandwagon in starting this series, but this first book definitely lives up to the incredible amount of hype surrounding it, and the sequel (Muse of Nightmares, which was released a few months ago) was almost as good.

And on the topic of more recent releases: The Illuminae Files by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff and The Conqueror’s Saga by Kiersten White both ended this year, and are by far some of the best series I’ve read in the last few years. Neither Obsidio nor Bright We Burn were my favourites from their respective series, but they both made for incredibly satisfying endings.

After a slightly disappointing start to the series, I was also pleasantly surprised by how much I liked The Dark Prophecy by Rick Riordan, which I finally – and reluctantly – picked up for the Fall into Fantasy readathon in November. I was never entirely sure why The Hidden Oracle didn’t resonate with me, but The Dark Prophecy has definitely saved the series for me; I’m currently reading book three (The Burning Maze), and enjoying it just as much, and no doubt it would be included in this post, too, if not for the fact that I’m unlikely to finish it before New Year. (I also have a review up for this book, which you can find here, if you’re interested.)

On the whole, my 2018 seems to have been a really great (and intense) year for fantasy books, and it’s been really wonderful to delve so deeply back into my favourite genre, including my first (kind-of) go at one of the classics: Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea Cycle! I’ve been meaning to read this series for such a long time, and now that I’ve started, I can’t believe it’s taken me so long! So far, I’ve only read the first three books, but I’ve loved them all, and the second book, The Tombs of Atuan, is probably my favourite book of the year; it was such a wonderful read. 💕 Needless to say, Tehanu (the fourth in the series) will be one of the first things that I read in 2019.

Finally, I’d like to also give a quick mention to We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler, which is probably the most thought-provoking book I read this year, and was an incredible roller-coaster of emotions. I feel like I read it so long ago that it’s heard to believe that it was really still 2018, but it’s stuck with me, and I have no doubt that it will continue to do so for a long time to come.

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Autumn Catch-Up

Almost immediately after implementing this new format, I am forced to re-think it again, as, with my reading slump now completely over, this post will be a mammoth one! 😅 (Perhaps flexibility is the key…) In any case, I read a great deal over the autumn months, and was mostly in the mood for fantasy, but with bits and pieces of quite a few other things mixed in, too! All in all, I managed to get through: 18 novels, 1 short story, 1 comic, 7 manga volumes, 2 pieces of non-fiction, and 5 audiobooks…

FAVOURITE OF THE SEASON*

LIBRARY SCAVENGER HUNT PICKS

ursula le guin//the tombs of atuan

SEPTEMBER

[REVIEW]

OCTOBER

[REVIEW]

NOVEMBER

[REVIEW]

 

OTHER BOOKS I REVIEWED

[REVIEW]

[REVIEW]

[REVIEW]

[SERIES REVIEW]

[REVIEW]

[REVIEW]

[REVIEW]

BOOKS I DIDN’T REVIEW (INDIVIDUALLY)

The Girl in the Mirror by Lev Grossman. [SHORT STORY; Anthology: Dangerous Women]

A quick tale from the world of The Magicians, that makes me almost tempted to read the main series… Undergraduate Plum and her friends in the League play an elaborate prank on the college’s student wine steward – who has been short-pouring the wine at dinner – only for it to take a rather unsettling turn just before its completion. What I’d heard about this series makes me think I probably won’t like it, but I enjoyed this short story a surprising amount. I didn’t like Plum all that much, and even felt a little sorry for her chosen victim, Wharton, but the way that the prank played out was great fun (for the reader, though not the participants 😉).

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd. [AUDIOBOOK; Narrator: Jenna Lamia]

The story of a white girl called Lily who runs away from her abusive father, and sets out – dragging along her nanny and best friend Rosaleen, in trouble with a dangerous group of racists after spitting on a white man’s shoes – in search of information about her mother, who died when she was a toddler. I had a hard time getting into this story, but once I got through the first section of the book I was hooked. Lily was probably the weakest of the main cast (though I still liked her a lot by the time the book ended), but the relationships she formed with the people who helped her on her search were incredibly compelling. She and Rosaleen had their ups and downs, but their love for one another was always very obvious, and the bond that grew between Lily and the Calendar Sisters (and August in particular) was wonderful. Lamia’s narration was also beautifully done; I don’t know if I would’ve liked this book half so much if not for her excellent performance.

I Am Pusheen the Cat by Claire Belton. [COMIC]

A collection of short comics about a very silly, very cute cat (with whom I’m sure we are all familiar). I actually bought this to give to a friend who really loves Pusheen, and hadn’t intended to do more than flip through it myself, but as is often the case with episodic cartoons like this, a quick flip-through turned into an entire read-through without much input from me. (It was still pretty quick, though. 😋)

A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin.

The first book of the Earthsea Cycle, which tells the story of the early years of the wizard Ged, who, as a boy, and out of pride, summons a terrible shadow that stalks him throughout the rest of his childhood – and which he must hunt in turn once he is a fully fledged wizard. I stalled halfway through reading this book about ten years ago, and have been meaning to get back to it ever since, but somehow it was never a priority. But I’m really glad to have finally been able to experience the beginning of this amazing series! 😁 It’s a very character-driven story, with slow pacing and an often a somewhat lonely tone, and a vast world, saturated with magic.

Hard in Hightown by Varric Tethras (a.k.a. Mary Kirby). [Illustrators: Stefano Martino, Álvaro Sarraseca, Andrés Ponce & German Ponce]

A short tale from the world of the Dragon Age video games, as told by Varric – a companion character from both Dragon Age 2 and Inquisition – who is one of Thedas’ most popular authors. The majority of this book exists in-game in the form of unlockable codex entries (of which I had already read a few), but it was really lovely to read them all together, with some wonderful accompanying illustrations. The story itself – a murder mystery – is nothing particularly special, but the real charm of Hard in Hightown is all the familiar locations and characters that are scattered throughout the book, as Varric’s penchant for modelling his characters after his friends is greatly in evidence. 😊

The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula Le Guin.

The second Earthsea book, which is told from the perspective of Tenar, the young priestess of the Nameless Ones, who wield a dark power in the sacred tombs beneath her island home of Atuan. I think I may have enjoyed this book even more than A Wizard of Earthsea! The new perspective was unexpected (and I was surprised by how long it took for Ged to appear in the story), but I liked Tenar a lot, and her small world above and below the island were fascinating.

Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor. [AUDIOBOOK; Narrator: Steve West]

The sequel (and conclusion) to Strange the Dreamer, in which Lazlo Strange and his companions come face to face with the horrors of Weep’s past, and begin to uncover the reasons behind them. Since this is a sequel, I don’t want to say too much about the plot, but I had somewhat mixed feelings about it; while I loved all the backstory and worldbuilding in this book, and felt that the story wrapped up in an interesting way, I wasn’t as blown away by it as I hoped to be… Given that my expectations were sky-high, perhaps that isn’t saying much, but I found the book a bit too romance-driven (even though the romances were all ones I liked), and thought that the consequences of the dramatic – and potentially game-changing – twist at the end of Strange the Dreamer were avoided more than addressed… But regardless, I still think this was a fantastic series, and my interest in Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy (which I think this one is peripherally connected to?! Though I could be mistaken about that!) has definitely been re-invigorated.

A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb.

A love story between two ghosts who are only able to meet by possessing the bodies of two teenagers. I didn’t have high expectations for this book, but was pleasantly surprised by it! It wasn’t particularly scary, but the spooky atmosphere was excellent, and I loved how the characters were caught between their desire to be together, and the dubious morality of their actions. I believe that the sequel is about the two teenagers whose bodies they were inhabiting, which sounds interesting, and I hope to read that at some point, too.

The Farthest Shore by Ursula Le Guin. [Illustrator: Charles Vess]

The third book in the Earthsea Cycle, where Ged – now Archmage – is called away from Roke by a young prince who visits the island, bringing news that magic is fading from the world. As the majority of this story was spent travelling, it covered a lot of places in Earthsea that I hadn’t seen before, and which it was very interesting to visit, and I also really liked Ged’s new companion in this book, Prince Arren, and the bond that grew between them… Of the three books I’ve read so far, I found this the least-compelling, but that’s not much of a criticism! 😅 Having just begun reading from my new illustrated edition, I wish that there had been more pictures, but that only speaks to the quality of Vess’ artwork.

Secret Vampire by L.J. Smith.

The first book in the Night World series follows a human girl called Poppy who is secretly in love with her best friend – who is, unbeknownst to her, a vampire, and possibly also her soulmate. This is probably one of the weakest stories from this series, as it’s almost entirely romance-driven, and neither of the two lead characters are particularly compelling, but it’s quite short, and I some of the secondary characters are interesting (meaning Ash, and Poppy’s brother Phil).

Daughters of Darkness by L.J. Smith.

The second Night World book, in which the three Redfern sisters run away from their vampire family in search of a little freedom, and find themselves living next door to an inconveniently observant human girl, who suspects they may be killers. In contrast to Secret Vampire, this is one of the best entries in the series. I really liked all three of the Redferns, and Mary-Lynnette, their neighbour, was a great protagonist, although the length of these books doesn’t really lend itself to a great deal of character development. I appreciated, too, that the focus of this story was on the murder mystery, rather than pure romance – though the romantic aspects of the book were also very well done.

Spellbinder by L.J. Smith.

The third in the same series, which is about two teenage witches who find themselves in competition over a mortal boy, and throwing around spells that are quickly growing beyond their control. This was another promising entry in the series, and I enjoyed the focus on Blaise and Thea’s friendship, despite their wildly different values. I liked Eric a lot, too, and his growing romance with Thea was very sweet.

Dogs, volumes 0-6 by Shirow Miwa. [MANGA]

A dystopian series about a group of characters who are all searching for a way into the Below, their home city’s sinister underground. I had previously read the first three volumes of (and prequel to) this series, but decided to give them a (much needed) re-read before continuing on, as it’d been such a long time. And I find myself (for a second time) intrigued by the story and characters, and wowed by the beautiful art, but wishing the series was a bit less violent, as much of it seems unnecessary, and the action scenes are sometimes quite hard to follow. I’m also a little worried that, with Heine’s backstory now explained, the most interesting part of the plot may be over – despite the tease at the end of volume 6 of a new, powerful enemy for the team…

Frozen Tides by Morgan Rhodes.

The fourth book in the Falling Kingdoms series, which follows a group of young protagonists, each of whom is trying to get their hands on the four Kindred – a set of stones with powerful magical abilities – for reasons of their own. The plot is definitely escalating dramatically in this new entry in the series, and I like where a lot of the relationships are going. Princess Amara of Kraeshia also joins the main cast in this book, and I’m not sure how I feel about her as a character yet, but she certainly adds an interesting new perspective on this world… And I still hate Jonas – I will probably always hate Jonas – but he does seem to be getting at least a little less insufferable as the series goes on. I tend to talk quite negatively about this series, but I do kind of love it. It’s not great literature by any definition, but it’s super-fun, and I’m really looking forward to reading the last two books. 😁

The Rights of Man by H.G. Wells.

A new edition of Wells’ manifesto on human rights, introduced with an essay by Ali Smith. The beginning of the book is primarily made up of a proposed bill of rights, which is rather dry when read in its entirety (despite the importance of its contents), but I found Wells’ discussion of each clause interesting, and considerably more engaging. This is definitely not the most extensive thing ever written on human rights, but it provides a good introduction for those interested in the topic.

The Secret Crusade by Oliver Bowden. [AUDIOBOOK; Narrator: Gunnar Cauthery]

A novelisation of the first Assassin’s Creed video game (with some elements from later games which explain why it’s the third in the novel series, and not the first), which tells the tale of Altaïr Ibn La-Ahad, the youngest ever Master Assassin, who’s stripped of his rank after a series of horrific misjudgements on an assignment put the whole of the Order of Assassins in danger. I was hoping that this book would fill in some of the gaps that were left in the game’s storyline (which jumps around a lot in terms of times and locations), particularly in regards to Altaïr’s relationship with Malik. But while it did offer a lot of extra content – including extra backstory for Altaïr, an explanation of his enmity with Abbas, and a continuation of the main story which really fleshes out his relationship with Maria – Bowden didn’t elaborate much on the retelling of the game itself, which is a shame.

The Bear & the Nightingale by Katherine Arden. [AUDIOBOOK; Narrator: Kathleen Gati]

The enchanting first book in a fantasy trilogy inspired by Russian folklore, which follows a young girl with a hint of magic, who becomes caught in an unending battle between the gods of life and death. Vasya was a really wonderful lead character, and the haunting, wintery wilderness of northern Russia – full of magic and spirits – was as much a character as a backdrop to the story. The slow pacing may be a little off-putting for some people, and the start of the book is a little confusing (since a lot of the characters are introduced all at once), but needless to say, I loved it! I’m already nearly done with the second book in this series, and can’t wait for the third! ❄️4 stars

*Not including re-reads.

[EDIT (23/12/18): Decreased rating for The Bear & the Nightingale from 5 to 4 stars after further consideration, and replaced it with The Tombs of Atuan in my “favourite of the season” slot. My feelings on the book haven’t changed, just my assessment of those feelings… if that makes any sense. 🤔]

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.

Upcoming Releases: Autumn 2018

If summer is the season of YA, then autumn is definitely the season for sci-fi and fantasy (and even horror, with Halloween coming up), something that this list unintentionally reflects… This is great news for me, however, since that’s all I ever really want to read once the weather starts to get cold; give me a hot cup of tea, some nice warm socks, and a book I can sink my teeth into, and I’ll be happy for the rest of the year! ☕️🧦📚 With that in mind, here are (some of) the books I’m going to keeping an eye out for in September, October & November:

[All dates are taken from Amazon UK unless stated otherwise, and are correct as of 30/8/2018.]

The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein by Kiersten White (25th September)

A retelling of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, as told by Victor Frankenstein’s fiancée, Elizabeth Lavenza. I’ll admit that nothing about this book makes it seem like something that I would particularly want to read (from the basic premise, to the synopsis, the the incredibly off-putting cover), but I thought the same thing about The Conquerors Saga, which turned out to be amazing, so I’m cautiously optimistic about this one, too. My fingers are crossed; don’t let me down, Kiersten White! 🤞 Excitement level: 7/10

Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor (2nd October)

The sequel to Strange the Dreamer, which follows the orphaned librarian Lazlo Strange, who is unexpectedly at the forefront of a conflict between humans and godspawn, in the tormented city of Weep. Probably the book on this list that I’m most excited for, as Strange the Dreamer ended on such a cliffhanger – and I’m extremely relieved that I don’t have much longer to wait! As with it’s predecessor, I will probably be getting this book in audio-form rather than in print, partially for continuity’s sake, but mainly because Steve West’s narration of the first book was incredible. Excitement level: 10/10

The Books of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin (25th October)

A new bind-up of the entire Earthsea series, including three short stories (one of which has never been published in print before), and 50 illustrations by Charles Vess (whose work includes the amazing illustrated edition of Neil Gaiman’s Stardust). I already have a bind-up of the first four books in this series, and haven’t read all that much of it, but if I end up liking Earthsea as much as I anticipate I will, then I am much more likely to replace it with this beautiful edition than to just buy the last two books on their own… Excitement level: 6/10

brandon sanderson//skywardSkyward by Brandon Sanderson (6th November)

The first in a new sci-fi trilogy, which follows a young aspiring pilot by the name of Spensa, who finds an ancient – and sentient – spaceship. In addition to having loved everything I’ve read by Sanderson (though I haven’t read nearly as much as I would like to have), sentient A.I. has become something of a favourite topic of mine since reading Ancillary Justice, so this seems right up my alley. 💕 Hopefully it won’t disappoint! Excitement level: 6/10

george r.r. martin//fire and bloodFire & Blood by George R.R. Martin (20th November)

A history of the Targaryen family from Martin’s A Song of Ice & Fire series… My excitement for Fire & Blood is tempered somewhat by the fact that it is not The Winds of Winter, and by my general dislike of Danaerys (the main series’ primary Targaryen representative), but on the other hand, what’s already been written about the family intrigues me, and I’m also looking forward to the extra detail that this book will undoubtedly add to the already-very-well-developed world of Westeros. Excitement level: 7/10

& some honourable mentions:

  • 9 from the Nine Worlds by Rick Riordan (2nd October) – short stories from the Magnus Chase universe
  • Soulbinder by Sebastien de Castell (4th October) – the fourth in the Spellslinger series
  • Kingdom of Ash by Sarah J. Maas (23rd October) – the final Throne of Glass book

June Wrap-Up

I wasn’t particularly on top of my blogging game in June, but I did manage to read a few good books – three novels, one comic, and one essay – as well as tick off one more of my reading goals for the year (the one for reading books that people have given me)! 😁 Here’s what I read:

Bellamy & the Brute by Alicia Michaels. A retelling of Beauty & the Beast set in modern-day Georgia, and starring a teenage girl called Bellamy, who gets a summer job as a babysitter for the wealthy Baldwin family, and ends up getting involved with their eldest son Tate, who hasn’t been seen in public since being struck by a mysterious disfiguring illness… Conceptually, this was a really interesting book; it’s unlike any other Beauty & the Beast retelling I’ve read (and I’ve read quite a few of them), and the way that Michaels played around with the source material made for a really fresh, exciting story. It’s also very well written, and I liked the characters a lot (though – as many others have also mentioned – Bellamy did at times seem a little too perfect), as well as the way that Bellamy and Tate’s relationship progressed as the story went on. However, this story had two separate aspects to it (the love story, and the murder mystery), and the way that Michaels tried to tie them together just didn’t really work… the further I got into the story, the more contrived it felt… but it was still a really enjoyable book.Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor. The tale of a girl called Karou who lives two lives; the first as a talented – though somewhat eccentric – art student in Prague; the second as an assistant to the chimera Brimstone, who trades wishes for teeth. I’d heard amazing things about this book, and I’m pleased to say that it absolutely lived up to my expectations! The characters were all wonderful, the writing beautiful, and the story fascinating… The romance does come across as a bit instalove-y, but Taylor managed to make it fit in with the story really well, and I’m super-interested in seeing where it goes in the next two books (which I will hopefully get to soon! 😆).Bee & Puppycat, Volume 1 by Natasha Allegri & Garrett Jackson. A really cute comic book spin-off of the Cartoon Hangover web-series of the same name, which follows a girl called Bee, who meets a strange cat-like creature and then becomes a trans-dimensional temp worker. I picked this up without knowing anything about the cartoon beforehand – which may have been a mistake – but still ended up enjoying the book more than not. I wrote a more complete review a couple of weeks ago, which you can find here if you so desire, but in short: Pretty and whimsical, but more style than substance (especially in the second half)…

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. A 2012 TEDx Talk of the same name, now adapted into essay form – on feminism, and why it is important not just for women, but for everyone. This short book had a message that I really approved of, delivered in a very powerful, striking manner. It’s also very readable, despite being non-fiction (a genre I often find I have to slog through), and is littered with anecdotes from Adichie’s life that illustrate her views and helped to shape them. A must-read for anyone who’s at all interested in feminism, or in any form of movement towards equal rights.

Hurt by Tabitha Suzuma. A drama/mystery novel about a teenage diver who undergoes a horrible ordeal, and begins to fall apart as he tries to deal with the aftermath all by himself. Enjoyable isn’t really the right word to use to describe this book, but I did find it very interesting, and I felt that it did a good job of tackling a really difficult topic… This was my Library Scavenger Hunt pick for the month, so I’ve written a more detailed review of it already, which you can find here.

Upcoming Releases: Spring 2017

At long last, winter is drawing to a close! Goodbye, sniffles! Goodbye, bitterly cold rain! Hello, slightly-warmer-but-no-less-wet rain! … 😛 But whatever the weather, there’s definitely looking to be some really great books coming up this spring. XD Here are a few of the ones I’m most excited for in March, April & May:

[All dates are taken from Amazon UK unless stated otherwise, and are correct as of 25/02/2017.]

Andrzej Sapkowski//Lady of the LakeThe Lady of the Lake by Andrzej Sapkowski (16th March)

The seventh and final book in the Witcher series, which follows the mutated monster-hunter, Geralt of Rivia, and is now being officially released in English. I probably won’t be picking this one up straight away – even though I’m really eager to see how this series will end – as I expect it will initially be released as a large-format paperback, & I’d rather get it when it’s available in standard size (to match the rest of my copies of this series), but I’ll have to wait and see if I’m able to hold out for what will likely end up being around a year… ^^’ Excitement level: 9/10

Laini Taylor//Strange the DreamerStrange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor (28th March)

This is something of a wildcard for me, as I still haven’t read anything by Laini Taylor (Daughter of Smoke & Bone has been sitting on my high-priority shelf for quite some time, but somehowI never seem to get round to actually picking it up), yet the more I learn about it, the more intrigued I become. It will be the first book in a new series, and from what I can tell, it seems to be a fantasy-mystery story featuring gods, heroes, and an Atlantis-style lost city – all things that appeal to me greatly! Excitement level: 7/10

Brian K. Vaughan//Saga vol. 7Saga, Volume 7 by Brian K. Vaughan (4th April)

The latest volume in the epic space odyssey that is Saga – a story about two lovers from warring races, who are running from basically the entire universe in order to protect their daughter; the living evidence of a love that both their cultures find abominable. The story, the art (by Fiona Staples), and the characters in this series are all incredible, and it only seems to be getting better as it goes on. Highly recommended. 😀 Excitement level: 7/10

As a side-note, the deluxe edition of volumes 4 to 6, entitled Saga, Book 2, is also due to be released just a month afterwards (2nd May), and I will probably also be picking that up as a treat to myself. 😉 I already own volumes 4 & 5, but I love the way the deluxe editions are put together, and the concept art and author’s notes are a really nice extra. Excitement level: 8/10

Sarah J. Maas//A Court of Wings & RuinA Court of Wings & Ruin by Sarah J. Maas (2nd May)

The third book in the A Court of Thorns & Roses series, which follows a young woman called Feyre, who one day kills a faerie while she’s out hunting, and is forced to come and live in the Spring Court in order to atone. Little does she know, she’s actually there in hopes that – at long last – she will be the human who is able to break the curse that the High Lord and his entire Court are suffering from. The first book is primarily a Beauty & the Beast retelling, but with the release of A Court of Mist & Fury, the series has now moved drastically away from its source material… Recently, I’ve developed something of a love-hate relationship with Maas’ books, but I did really end up enjoying A Court of Mist & Fury, so I’m reasonably optimistic about this one, too – though still somewhat nervous. Excitement level: 7/10

T5W: Books I wanted to start yesterday!

So, there are a couple of different ways I could’ve interpreted this topic, and I’m not entirely sure which was the intended one, but I’ve decided to think of it as books that I’m so ridiculously excited about that I wish I was already reading them. I’ve also decided not to include books that haven’t been released yet, since otherwise it would basically just be a list of new releases I’m anticipating (there are a lot)…

Alexandra Bracken//The Darkest Minds5) The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken

I’ve been wanting to read this for the longest time, but unfortunately it’s been a little difficult to get hold of. 😦 Apparently it’s a dystopian road-trip novel, featuring teenagers with super-powers, which sounds like a lot of fun. 🙂

Morgan Rhodes//Falling Kingdoms4) Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes

I’ve heard this book described as the Game of Thrones of YA literature, which is probably overdoing it somewhat… but I do really like Game of Thrones, and I’ve heard lots of really positive things about Falling Kingdoms. Plus, I can’t seem to get enough of the fantasy genre lately (you’ll start to notice a trend very shortly 😛 ).

Laini Taylor//Daughter of Smoke & Bone3) Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Demons. Hidden worlds. Forbidden love (I think?). What’s not to be excited about? This whole series has been sitting on my shelves for a while, waiting for the opportune moment to be read, but I keep having to put it off, because I have so many other books to read! :/

Robin Hobb//Assassin's Apprentice2) Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb

This is the book that I’m most likely to read in the near future, as the whole Farseer trilogy was available recently as a Kindle Daily Deal, so I snapped them up. I don’t really know what the trilogy’s about (other than assassins, obviously 😉 ), but Robin Hobb is one of the greats of modern high fantasy, so I’m definitely looking forward to it.

Erika Johansen//The Queen of the Tearling1) The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

I was kind of on the edge over whether or not I wanted to read this book, until recently. I’ve heard really amazing reviews, and apparently it’s also been optioned for a film starring Emma Watson, which is very exciting! Realistically speaking, I don’t know when I’ll get round to reading it (maybe when it’s out in paperback?), but I hope it’ll be soon.

[The thing that I usually forget to say…: Top 5 Wednesday was created by gingerreadslainy, and if you’re interested in finding out more, you should check out the Goodreads group.]