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

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Booktubeathon: Update 3 & Mini-Review

Marcus Sedgwick//Killing the DeadJUST FINISHED: Killing the Dead by Marcus Sedgwick.

Written for World Book Day 2015, this is a short novella set in a girls’ boarding school, and told from the perspective of several characters – students, teachers, and a young boy who lives in the nearby town – though the central figure in the story is one whose point of view we never hear: Isobel, a student who died the previous year. The story deals for the most part with the mystery of her death, and with the effect it’s had on the people she left behind – even those who never knew her. And it’s incredibly well-done. Both haunting and a little chilling in tone, Killing the Dead brought to mind books like Susan Hill’s I’m the King of the Castle and William Golding’s Lord of the Flies. A truly fantastic read.

A brief aside: I’m still not entirely certain whether or not this story is supposed to be connected to The Ghosts of Heaven (also by Marcus Sedgwick), since I haven’t actually read that book yet. They certainly have their spiral-imagery in common, and presumably the synopsis of Killing the Dead, which reads “Let the ghosts of heaven tell their story”, is supposed to make you think of that book, but whether they share a setting or any characters remains a mystery to me – and one that I will have to solve as soon as I manage to get hold of a copy of The Ghosts of Heaven.4 stars

CURRENT READTHON STATUS: On a roll!

Books Completed: 3
Pages Read: 729
Challenges Competed: 5

BOOKTUBEATHON TIME!

Tomorrow is the start of the 2015 Booktubeathon, which I’m super-excited about, as you can probably tell from the capslock title~ 😛 Last year’s Booktubeathon (before I even started this blog) was my first ever readathon, and I had so much fun that I’ve been looking forward to this one ever since… And it’s finally here!

So, first of all, here are some handy informational links:

The readathon will be going on from 3rd – 9th August, and there’s no official sign-up, so it’s never too late to join in! And all the challenges are non-mandatory, so there’s no need to worry if you don’t complete them, or if there’s one that you just don’t want to do. I really enjoy them, however, so I’ve made a tentative TBR with each of the challenges in mind, which is as follows:

 Morgan Matson//Second Chance Summer1) Read a book with blue on the cover.

The book I’ve chosen for this challenge is Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson, which I’ve been meaning to read for a while. I find Morgan Matson’s writing style to be quite quick to read, so hopefully this won’t take me too long.

Marcus Sedgwick//Killing the Dead2) Read a book by an author who shares the first letter of your surname.

An author with an S-W surname would be a task to find, unless I wanted to read something by one of my relatives (which I don’t; they’re all dry, academic volumes on subjects I know next to nothing about). So I’ve decided to stick with “S”, and pick Killing the Dead by Marcus Sedgwick, which is the novella he wrote for World Book Day this year, so it’s very short.

Antoine de Saint Exupéry//The Little Prince3) Read someone else’s favourite book.

I asked my friend Chloë about this challenge, and her favourite book is The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, which works out quite well for me. I’ve already read it a couple of times, but it’s quite short – so it’s a good choice for a readathon – and I’ve been meaning to re-read it for a little while anyway, in preparation for the film… 🙂

Yumi Unita//Bunny Drop vol. 14) Read the last book you acquired.

The last book I got my hands on is Bunny Drop Volume 1 by Yumi Unita, which I bought when I was in London yesterday. I’ve also ordered a few graphic novels from the Book Depository, however (using the Booktubathon discount code!), so if they arrive today, then I’ll be reading one of them instead – probably Nimona by Noelle Stevenson.

5) Finish a book without letting go of it.

As I’ve got two very short books on my TBR already, I’ll be combining this challenge with one of the earlier ones, and reading either Killing the Dead or The Little Prince. Whichever is shorter (probably Killing the Dead).

Sarah J. Maas//A Court of Thorns & Roses6) Read a book that you really want to read.

What I choose for this challenge will depend largely on my mood at the time, but at the moment, I’m leaning towards reading A Court of Thorns & Roses by Sarah J. Maas, simply because I’ve been dying to read it since I bought it, and other priorities keep getting in the way… 😡

Sarah Dessen//Saint Anything7) Read seven books in total.

Winston Graham//Ross PoldarkSince I’ve only got five books on my TBR so far, I’ll be picking a couple more to finish up this challenge (that is, if my new graphic novels don’t arrive before the end of the week). And my most likely choices are: Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen, which is another one like A Court of Thorns & Roses, where I just don’t understand why I haven’t read it yet; and Ross Poldark by Winston Graham, a historical romance/social novel that I’ve been wanting to read since I finished watching the TV series~ 😛

I’m planning on writing mini-reviews for each of the books that I read, and I haven’t heard if there are going to be blog/video challenges in addition to the reading challenges this year, but if there are, then I will likely be posting some of them, too. So if all goes well, they you will be hearing from me a lot over the next few days! 😀

March Haul

A worrying thing happened a couple of weeks ago: My Dad came into my room to wake me up, sat down on the bed, looked around for a moment, and then said, “Frances, I think you shouldn’t buy any more books.” This was, I suppose, an intervention (of sorts), but my my excuse this time is that I bought most of these books at the Oxford Literary Festival – and so clearly should not count towards book-buying bans! The Cambridge Literary Festival also happened just last weekend, and I went, but I think that now I really should cut back…

In other news, I thought I’d do something a little different for my haul photo this month, since so many of the books I bought in March were both beautiful and rather oddly-shaped! What do you think?

March Haul

1) Jane, the Fox and Me by Isabelle Arsenault & Fanny Britt. A beautifully-drawn graphic novel about a girl who’s being bullied at school. I read this towards the beginning of March, so all my thoughts on it are in my March wrap-up.

2) The River of Lost Souls by Isabel Greenberg. A short comic about Charon, the ferryman in Greek mythology. I’ve also read this already, so, again, there’s more about it in my last wrap-up.

3) The Snow Queen and Other Stories by Isabel Greenberg. Another comic, this one based on The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen. This book, along with The River of Lost Souls, seems to only be available from Isabel Greenberg’s Etsy store.

4) The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman. A re-telling of Sleeping Beauty, with elements mixed in from Snow White, and beautiful illustrations by Chris Riddell. I’d been on the edge about buying this for a while, but I finally decided to pick it up while I was in Oxford, ’cause I was really in the mood for fairytales… 🙂

5) Killing the Dead by Marcus Sedgwick. A short story that was published for World Book Day. I really don’t know anything else about it, except that I’ve really liked what I’ve read of Marcus Sedgwick’s writing so far.

6) Nowhere People by Paulo Scott. These next three books on the list were something of an impulse buy, which I picked up mainly because I really want to read more culturally diverse books this year… Paolo Scott is a Brazilian author, and this book was originally written in Brazilian (naturally).

7) By Night the Mountain Burns by Juan Tomás Ávila Laurel. See (6) for reasoning. This book was originally written in Spanish, and is, I believe, set in West Africa.

8) The Alphabet of Birds by SJ Naudé. Again, see above. This was translated from Afrikaans, and Naudé is a South African author.

9) Aladdin and the Enchanted Lamp by Philip Pullman. Another impulse buy from Oxford, but I’ve always loved Philip Pullman’s writing, and the illustrations in this book were absolutely beautiful!

10) Wordsmiths and Warriors: The English-Language Tourist’s Guide to Britain by David Crystal & Hilary Crystal. A book about the history of various different English words (presumably, most of them particular to Britain). I’ve read a couple of David Crystal’s other books, and enjoyed them, and I’m looking forward to reading this, too. 🙂

11) 100 Ghosts by Doogie Horner. A collection of cartoon ghosts, with various different cute and quirky themes.

12) Flambards in Summer and Flambards Divided by K.M. Peyton. The new Oxford University Press editions of the last two Flambards books, which I read years ago. I bought the first two at the beginning of the year, and have been eagerly waiting for these to be released, so that I could finally have a matching set!

13) Sorry, I’m British! An Insider’s Romp Through Britain from A to Z by Ben Crystal. Another book about Britishisms, though this one looks to have a more humourous approach…

14) The Gospel of Loki by Joanne M. Harris. A novel inspired by (or possibly a re-telling of) the stories about Loki in Norse mythology. I’ve always been interested in Norse myths, but even more so now than I have been previously, because I’m so excited about Rick Riordan’s new Asgard series. 😀

15) The Story of Alice: Lewis Carroll and the Secret History of Wonderland by Robert Douglas-Fairhurst. A biography of Lewis Carroll which I bought in Oxford (which was quite fitting, since that’s where he lived). I’ve only read the introduction so far, but since I’m going to go to a talk by Robert Douglas-Fairhurst later this month, I’m hoping I’ll have a chance to read some more of it soon (& maybe get it signed!).

February Wrap Up

February (particularly the latter half of it) turned out to be the month of the graphic novel. And I certainly read some excellent ones: the Saga series, Pride of Baghdad, and so on… In total, I ended up reading ten novels, one novella, and nine comic books, which is pretty good going for the shortest month of the year!

Patrick Ness//The Crane WifeThe Crane Wife by Patrick Ness. The story of a man called George, who saves the life of a crane, and then meets and falls in love with a mysterious woman called Kumiko. Also featuring prominently are George’s daughter Amanda, her co-worker Rachel, and a Japanese folk-tale about a crane and a volcano. A very emotional story, all about love and loss and forgiveness. As always, Patrick Ness’ writing is beautiful, and his characters very real, and the way that he spun the folk-tale into their lives was masterful.5 starsElizabeth Gaskell//North & SouthNorth & South by Elizabeth Gaskell. A classic romance set during the Victorian era, between the daughter of a parson fallen on hard times, and the master of a cotton mill. I absolutely loved this book – it kept me awake for a couple of nights, just wanting to keep on reading – and I’ve written a full review of it here.5+ starsGeorge Orwell//Animal FarmAnimal Farm by George Orwell. The story of a group of farm animals that overthrow their human masters and decide to run the farm themselves. As with 1984, which I read last year, I had mixed feelings over this novel. On the one hand, it is very interesting, and provides an excellent commentary on socialism and corruption; but on the other had, hardly any of the characters are developed in such a way as to encourage any kind of emotional attachment to the author – in fact, many of the prominent characters in the book are utterly unlikeable (the only notable exception is Boxer). That said, I enjoyed Animal Farm more than I did 19843 stars

20488847Master of the Mill by Cate Toward. A re-imagining of Elizabeth Gaskell’s North & South, where Margaret’s mother passed away before the family moved to Milton. I thought that it had an interesting (and for the most part, quite well-executed) premise, but unfortunately none of the characters really rang true, and I was particularly frustrated by the characterisation of Mr. Lennox, who I feel was unjustly portrayed as the book’s villain, when (even though he was my least favourite character) his only real crime in North & South was loving a girl who did not love him back.2 starsTrudy Brasure//In ConsequenceIn Consequence by Trudy Brasure. Another retelling of North & South, this time speculating on how the story might have progressed had it been Thornton who was injured during the riot, rather than Margaret. I found this one much more realistic than Master of the Mill, and also more in keeping with the characters as they were portrayed in the original novel. It was also very nice to see how Margaret and Thornton might interact in a happy relationship, since in North & South we only got a glimpse towards the very end. The story did seem to be mostly fluff, however, and while that made me smile a lot, at times it became a little too cheesy…3 starsBrian K. Vaughan//Saga vol. 1Saga, Volume 1 by Brian K. Vaughan (& illustrated by Fiona Staples). A sci-fi adventure following a married couple who belong to warring species, and are being hunted across the galaxy (and maybe beyond?) for their crime of loving one another. The story is narrated by their infant daughter (or rather by her older self), which gives an interesting perspective. But overall (though this is obviously just the beginning of the story), the characters are awesome, the story is fast-paced and exciting, and the art is gorgeous. I’m definitely excited to read more. 😀5 starsBrian K. Vaughan//Saga vol. 2Saga, Volume 2 by Brian K. Vaughan. The second volume, which is also amazing. I’m a little worried about how quickly I’m getting through this series, since I know there’ll be a long wait before volume 5 is released… Also, I am becoming unexpectedly fond of both Prince Robot IV and The Will, despite the fact that they’re both hunting Alana and Marko.5 starsTrudy Brasure//A Heart for MiltonA Heart for Milton by Trudy Brasure. This is not a retelling, but a sequel to North & South (which I am still obsessed with), and has much the same tone as Brasure’s other book, In Consequence. I think that perhaps I would’ve liked this better if I’d read it before I read In Consequence, because, to be honest, the story felt incredibly samey. I actually ended up liking this a little less (though there’s not much in it, really), partly because of that similarity, but mostly because there was no real conflict in the story, to break up the fluff… :/ 2 starsChrissie Elmore//Unmapped CountryUnmapped Country by Chrissie Elmore. Probably the last fan-written North & South book I’ll be reading for a while, since I’m starting to feel ready to move on… This one is an almost-sequel, set after the events of North & South, but dismissing Gaskell’s ending to the book, where Margaret and Mr. Thornton finally resolve their differences. I found it a bit of a struggle to get through at first, since much of the story seemed to be focused on new characters, when all I really wanted to read about was Margaret and Thornton, but once I got into it, I found it very enjoyable. Of all the North & South spin-off works I’ve read, this is probably the closest to Gaskell’s novel in tone and content – my only real problem with it was that (much like North & South itself) we saw very little of Margaret and Thornton as a couple, having moved on from all the misunderstandings of the original book, which kind of defeats the purpose of looking for a continuation in the first place…4 starsBenjamin Alire Sáenz//Aristotle & Dante Discover the Secrets of the UniverseAristotle & Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz. An introspective novel about two very different boys who form an unexpected friendship. I’d been meaning to pick this up for a while, but it seems that the last little push I needed was the Little Book Club – this was the January & February pick for the LGBTQ+ theme – and I am so glad that I have finally read it, because it was amazing! I loved Ari, and I loved Dante, and their parents were really fantastic (which is incredibly rare in YA fiction). I would definitely recommend this book to basically anyone. 😀4 stars

6250211Fire by Kristin Cashore. This is the second book in the Graceling Realm trilogy, and is my first re-read of the year! The story is set in what appears to be some kind of pocket-universe that can be accessed through a series of tunnels within the Graceling universe, so it’s only really peripherally connected to the other two books in the series, but it’s probably my favourite of the three. It follows a girl named Fire, who is a “human monster”, a creature that looks (and for the most part, acts) like a human, but is incredibly beautiful, with unnaturally brightly coloured hair and the power to sense and control people’s minds. Fire is a very passive heroine (though she’s definitely not a weak lead), which I appreciate, so instead of charging off into important battles, much of the book is spent exploring the Dells, and dealing with her emotional issues. Major themes in this book are guilt, love (romantic and platonic), forgiveness, and so on, and the whole series would definitely be a great read for any fantasy lover.5 stars

Philip Pullman//Once Upon a Time in the NorthOnce Upon a Time in the North by Philip Pullman. A prequel-of-sorts to the His Dark Materials trilogy, detailing the first meeting of two of my favourite characters from the series: Lee Scoresby the aeronaut and Iorek Byrnison the armoured bear. It’s a short story, but very enjoyable, and it was a lot of fun to read about these characters again, and to be back in the His Dark Materials universe, which I seem to have missed more than I’d realised.4 starsDavid Almond//The True Tale of the Monster Billy DeanThe True Tale of the Monster Billy Dean by David Almond. The story of a young boy who was raised in a locked room and not let out until he was a teenager, at which point he was perceived as some kind of saint because of his naïvety… It’s an odd story, and there are a lot of religious themes, which is unusual in YA literature. I found myself enjoying it quite a bit once I got into it, but it was very difficult to get into, mostly because it’s written phonetically. The almost post-apocalyptic setting was interesting, as were most of the characters, and the whole book had quite a creepy vibe to it.3 starsJudd Winick//Batwing vol. 2Batwing Vol. 2: In the Shadow of the Ancients by Judd Winick. Rather more episodic than I remember the first volume being, which I thought was not entirely to the book’s benefit. That said, I enjoyed the end of the Massacre storyline, the Night of the Owls and Zero Month tie-in issues were both good, and Dustin Nguyen and Marcus To’s artwork was striking (though not quite so striking as Ben Oliver’s in Volume 1).3 starsFabian Nicieza//Batwing vol. 3Batwing Vol. 3: Enemy of the State by Fabian Nicieza & Judd Winick. Batwing investigates a cult led by a brainwasher called Father Lost, then faces a billionaire industrialist who’s been bribing the police. Again, not quite so good as Volume 1, but a definite improvement on Volume 2. I enjoyed the backstory between David and Rachel, and the building tensions within the police department in the second story arc were interesting, too. With Batwing, at least, I think I tend to prefer the comics where there’s not too much involvement with of the rest of the DC Universe, so this book was right up my alley. 🙂4 starsBrian K. Vaughan//Saga vol. 3Saga, Volume 3 by Brian K. Vaughan. And the third volume, which was also awesome! So far I’m definitely impressed by how Vaughan has managed to show the sympathetic sides of all the characters in the story, even the ones who are technically the series’ villains… Also in this volume: Marko’s beard, which was kind of hilarious. 🙂5 starsBrian K. Vaughan//Pride of BaghdadPride of Baghdad by Brian K. Vaughan. A standalone graphic novel about a pride of lions that escaped from Baghdad Zoo during a bomb raid. I don’t have all that many coherent thoughts about the story – it was so good that it seems to have short-circuited my brain – but all the characters were well rounded without seeming too human, and the story was incredibly moving. Niko Henrichon’s art was beautiful, as well.5 starsNatasha Allegri//Adventure Time with Fionna & CakeAdventure Time with Fionna & Cake by Natasha Allegri. Fionna and Cake save the Fire Prince from the Ice Queen! I haven’t actually seen much of the Adventure Time cartoon,  but I’m a huge fan of the Fionna & Cake episodes, so I thought I might enjoy this – and I did! The story is both fun and oddly touching in places, and the artwork is very cute. There are three short stories in the back, too (by Noelle Stevenson, Kate Leth and Lucy Knisley), which were all very funny.5 starsBrian K. Vaughan//Saga vol. 4Saga, Volume 4 by Brian K. Vaughan. The adventure continues! Now featuring Hazel as a toddler, and marital trouble for Marko and Alana (amongst other things). Alana’s new job is kind of hilarious, and I have high hopes for Marko and Prince Robot IV’s team-up. The only real flaw of this volume is that I’ve now finished it, and it’ll be another year or so before I can get my hands on volume 5… 😥5 starsMarkus Sedgwick//Dark Satanic MillsDark Satanic Mills by Marcus Sedgwick. A dystopian comic inspired by William Blake’s poem Jerusalem, set in a future where a fanatical religious cult called the True Church is on the verge of taking control of England after manufacturing a “miracle” in order to convert huge numbers of people. The book had an interesting premise, as a religious-dystopian, but in execution I thought it was too simplistic. I wasn’t a huge fan of the artwork, either, though I think it might’ve been improved if it had been done in colour.2 stars

January Wrap Up

January was not my best reading month, mostly because I spent the majority of the month in a rather severe reading slump, the likes of which I haven’t experienced in a few years. Luckily, I managed to get through it (with the help of a couple of readathons), and I eventually managed to read a grand total of five books, and two short stories.

Tahereh Mafi//Unravel MeUnravel Me by Tahereh Mafi. The sequel to Shatter Me, which I read in December. I found it a little slow at first, which wasn’t much help with getting out of my reading slump, but I made it through eventually! The world’s a lot more fleshed out in this, which I appreciated, and I also found myself liking Warner more and more as the book went on, while liking Adam much less (I’ve definitely figured out where my loyalties are in terms of this series’ love triangle).3 stars

Kim Thúy//MãnMãn by Kim Thúy. A beautifully-written book about life, love and food, set in a Vietnamese immigrant community in Montreal. I’ve written a full review of this book, which you can read here.5 stars

Marcus Sedgwick//The Dark HorseThe Dark Horse by Marcus Sedgwick. The story of a boy named Sigurd growing up in what seems to be an island fishing village, and his foster sister Mouse, who was raised by wolves then rescued by Sigurd’s tribe. The story is quite slow-moving, particularly at the beginning, but I found that it suited the story that Marcus Sedgwick was telling. Sigurd was an interesting and believable character – a young boy trying to do right by his family, even when he’s not really sure what the right thing is – and his relationship with Mouse is sweet. The whole story has a folkish feel to it, which I liked a lot, though the ending was quite sad. 3 stars

Jane Hardstaff//The Executioner's Daughter

The Executioner’s Daughter by Jane Hardstaff. A slightly fantastical tale set in the Tudor period, about a girl who has grown up in the Tower of London and longs for the outside world. I liked the writing a lot – it was both quick and engaging; the main character, Moss, was an interesting and likeable protagonist; and her friend Salter’s cynical outlook on the world was a fun contrast to Moss’. The historical and fantasy elements of the story were blended together very well, and lent the book a rather spooky undertone. My favourite part of the book, however, was the relationship between Moss and her father, which, though full of misunderstandings, was resolved beautifully in the end. There’s a sequel (River Daughter), which I’m now looking forward to reading, too, though The Executioner’s Daughter was also an enjoyable read in and of itself.3 stars

Tahereh Mafi//Destroy MeDestroy Me by Tahereh Mafi. This is the first of the novellas in the Shatter Me universe, and follows Warner from the end of Shatter Me through to around the middle of Unravel Me. Warner’s perspective is definitely interesting, and after reading this novella and Unravel Me, I finally feel like I understand where all the hype over this series is coming from. Despite the fact that this was released between the first two books, I definitely wouldn’t advise reading it before finishing the second book.4 starsPrudence Shen//Do Not TouchDo Not Touch by Prudence Shen. A short story about a security guard in an art gallery, whose duties involve rescuing people who have fallen into paintings that they weren’t supposed to touch – in this case, retrieving a schoolboy from Georges Seurat’s Le Cirque. Generally speaking, I’m not really an art person, so some of the specific painting references were a little over my head, but Prudence Shen’s writing was very fluid and enjoyable. The concept for this story is original, and also incredibly well-executed. It’s also a Tor.com original, so it can be read online here.3 stars

Delle Jacobs//Loki's DaughtersLoki’s Daughters by Delle Jacobs. An adult historical romance novel about an Irish Celtic girl who was saved from Vikings as a child by one of their own, and when she is an adult, Ronan (the boy who saved her) comes back to make her his wife. The characters could be quite frustrating at times, as they constantly failed to communicate, and in the early parts of the book I also found myself often annoyed by Birgit and the other women in Arienh’s village, who seemed to be constantly undermining all her attempts to protect them, but as the story progressed this became less of a problem. The two main romances (Arienh and Ronan, and Birgit and Egil) were both very sweet, and the story was engaging – I particularly liked the way that Jacobs managed to reconcile Ronan and Arienh’s very different cultures, and bring their two communities together.4 stars

2014 in Review: Some Superficial Favourites

Just to end things on a more positive note than my last post, I thought I’d finish off my “2014 in Review” series by showing you some of the prettiest books that I came across over the course of the year. For the record, I haven’t read all of these (but I certainly hope to!).

Philip Pullman//Four TalesFour Tales by Philip Pullman. This is a bind-up of four fairytale-style stories, & I really love the way this is reflected by the Disney-style castle on the cover. If you look at the details at the bottom, you can see some of the various characters & props from each of the stories: The rat; the scarecrow & his servant; the pair of shoes; &c. The simple two-tone colour scheme is beautiful as well – though the white-looking line art is actually silver – and lends the book the look of a starry night.

David Mitchell//The Bone ClocksThe Bone Clocks by David Mitchell. I love the whimsical style of this cover, with all the different objects connected by threads of birds and water and I believe that the spiral in the lower left corner is made up of cards (?). I haven’t read this book yet, so I don’t know what the significance of each item is, but the look of it is certainly striking.

Marcus Sedgwick//MidwinterbloodMidwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick. This cover reminds me of the opening scene in the film of Watership Down, though I don’t know how many of you will have seen that. I love the style that the rabbits are drawn in (made up of lots of lines rather than block colour), and the red and purple go well together for the background. The skull-and-thorns motif on the side looks pretty, too, and adds a sinister touch.

Tahereh Mafi//Ignite MeIgnite Me by Tahereh Mafi. This whole trilogy has really beautiful covers, but of the three books (plus novella bind-up), I think Ignite Me is the prettiest. The orange around her eyes and the flowers on her eyelashes really create an impression of spring, making it seem like life must be improving for Juliette (which I very much hope is the case, after the events of the first two books). There’s also the bird reflected in her iris on all three covers, which (as she mentions in the book) represents freedom.

Naomi Novik//Empire of IvoryEmpire of Ivory by Naomi Novik. This is the fourth book in the Temeraire series, which (again) all have really lovely covers, but since this is the only new one I bought this year, this is the one that I will talk about. I believe that this particular book is set in Africa, and at the bottom of the cover you can see a lion and some African elephants, as well as some tribal spears and shields at the sides. The warm colour scheme is nice, too (especially after the cool blues, greens and purples of the previous books), and I really like that the flowers have been done in colour, to contrast the black line art.

Rosamund Hodge//Cruel BeautyCruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge. Generally speaking, I don’t tend to like covers with people on them, unless they’re clearly hand-drawn, but I’ll make an exception for this one, simply because I really, really love the way the rose and the staircase have been blended together. The rose, of course, brings to mind the story of Beauty & the Beast (on which this story was based), while the seemingly never-ending staircase (with Nyx running down it) creates a feeling of entrapment which matches the novel perfectly.