January & February Wrap-Up

My reading year didn’t exactly get off to a great start (at least in terms of quantity); I only managed to finish two books in January, both of which I wrote full reviews for, which is why I decided to hold off for another month on posting this wrap-up. February was a lot more promising. 😊 In total, over the last two months, I got through four excellent novels, two graphic novels, and an audiobook! (I re-started my Audible subscription, and it’s amazing! 💕 Though I’m finding it very difficult to be patient while I wait for my next credit…)

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler. A novel about a young woman called Rosemary, who one day came home after staying with her grandparents to find that her sister Fern was gone. The book deals mainly with how what happened with Fern affected their family over the years… This was such a fascinating story! I really wanted to write a review of it, but wasn’t sure how to go about it without spoiling a plot twist that really makes this book what it is. But even beyond the twist, this is an excellent novel; I really enjoyed Rosemary’s perspective, and her relationships with her parents and siblings, and Fern’s part in the story was heartbreaking in places. 😥 The non-linear narrative greatly increased the effectiveness of the story as well, and I had a great time trying to puzzle out everything that had happened to Rosemary’s family, while she herself danced around the subject, leaving little breadcrumbs for us to follow.Grayson Volume 1: Agents of Spyral by Tim Seeley & Tom King. The first in a DCU-based comic series, wherein Dick Grayson (a.k.a. Nightwing, a.k.a. the first Robin) is undercover in the mysterious organisation Spyral, and reporting to Batman on their activities. Perhaps I would have enjoyed this more if I were up-to-date on the Nightwing series (which I believe this is supposed to follow on from), but as it was I found the plotline pretty incoherent, the characters (including Dick) boring, and the artwork not compelling enough to make up for the book’s flaws… I was initially quite excited by the appearance of Helena Bertinelli, but sadly in the New 52, she seems to have traded in her Huntress persona to become the bland Spyral agent known as Matron. 😑 It’s a shame, because my fondness for the Robins (all of them) makes me predisposed to like their solo titles, but doubt I’ll be continuing with this one.Wolf-Speaker by Tamora Pierce. The second book in the Immortals quartet, which is part of Pierce’s Tortall universe – wherein Daine is called upon by her old wolf friends to negotiate with the local humans on their behalf, and discovers a sinister plot against the king and queen while she’s there. The Immortals is a familiar (and beloved) story to me, but this was my first time listening to the audiobook version of it – which was excellent! The voice acting really brought all the characters to life, and although the difference in speed between Pierce’s narration and the rest of the cast’s speech took was a little jarring at first, I got used to it quickly – and (on principle) I do like it when authors narrate their own books… 😊4 stars

BOOKS I ALREADY POSTED REVIEWS FOR:

 
 

[EDIT (31/7/19): Changed rating of Wolf-Speaker from 5 stars to 4, as I am in the process of re-assessing my ratings.]

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Library Scavenger Hunt: January

This month’s LSH challenge was, in honour of it now being the year of the dog, to read a book with a dog on the cover. Creative, I know, but upon consideration (and after reading a few of the suggestions on the LSH discussion thread), I was surprised by the number of books I was able to think of that fulfilled the challenge that I had already been hoping to read: The HumansThe Art of Racing in the RainSpill Simmer Falter WitherMy Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologises, and so on, and so on. Sadly, my library had none of these, so my first trip there ended up with me coming home with a book that I had no interest in, and then regretting it so much that I eventually decided to just request a book to be sent over from another library. So the book I finally ended up reading (which arrived in the nick of time) was…

THERE IS NO DOG
Meg Rosoff

Ever thought that the world is far too chaotic to have been created by a sensible god with a plan? Well, that’s because it wasn’t. God, it turns out, is a self-absorbed, sex-crazed teenage boy called Bob, and after all these years, the only part of his creation that still interests him is the beautiful girls. Lucy is human, and wants desperately to fall in love. One day on the way to work, she sends out a prayer for love that she hopes will be heard – but unfortunately for Lucy, Bob thinks that the ideal man for her is none other than… Bob himself.

I’ve read three of Meg Rosoff’s books so far, and all of them are very original – distinct both from other works with similar themes, and from one another – but this is quite possibly one of the most bizarre books I’ve ever come across. It’s also really, really enjoyable, with a cast of wonderful and awful characters whose stories are all connected, but each with their own troubles. There’s Bob, of course, who causes catastrophe wherever he goes; his long-suffering assistant Mr. B; his mother Mona, seemingly the bane of Bob’s existence; and his pet Eck (a kind of sentient, penguin-y creature), who is despairing over his seemingly inevitable death-by-being-eaten; as well as Estelle, who’s on a mission to save Eck from being eaten by her father. On the less divine side of things, there’s also Lucy, an assistant zookeeper whose main concerns are finding love, and avoiding her grumpy supervisor at work; along with the aforementioned grumpy supervisor, Luke; Lucy’s interfering mother; and her godfather Bernard, a vicar who’s questioning the value of his work.

As you can see, the cast is huge, which might have presented a problem if the characters were any less memorable and entertaining (I won’t say likeable, because not all of them are, or are even meant to be), but in this case really doesn’t. The narrative moves fluidly between characters, and although their different concerns made it difficult to pin down any one main plot, I really liked all the miniature storylines that the book presents… It really comes across more as a snapshot of all these people’s lives with a potentially apocalyptic backdrop, rather than a cohesive story. (My favourite parts were probably Eck’s friendship with Estelle, any scene that involved Mr. B, and Lucy and Luke’s brief moments of bonding towards the end of the book.)

There Is No Dog is a comedy of wonderful absurdities, but I can definitely see why people would dislike it. The silliness could easily become too much for someone (even I was glad that Rosoff didn’t try to make it any longer than it is), and if you’re looking for some kind of deep message in this book, then you’re not likely to find one – unless it’s that, if there is a god, let’s hope they’re a Mr. B and not a Bob. 😅 I would also definitely not recommend this to anyone who’s super-serious (in the not-to-be-joked-about sense) about religion, as they’d probably find it more offensive than funny…

Also, for the record: This book has nothing to do with dogs.

[Find out more about the Library Scavenger Hunt by following this link!]

Thematic Recs: Road Trips!

In anticipation of my upcoming 2-day car journey home from Skye, in which I will be jammed into the back seat with my sister and an extraordinary number of bags (and that’s just the ones that won’t fit in the boot!), I thought I’d recommend some books about more pleasant road trips than the one I’m about to embark on. 😛 I haven’t read all that many road trip books – they’re not something I usually go looking for – but here are a few that stuck out to me:

Morgan Matson//Amy & Roger's Epic Detour1) Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson. The classic road trip novel! After her father’s death, Amy’s family moves across the country, and Amy is charged with taking the car to join her mother at the new house. But Amy is scared to drive on her own, so her mother arranges for an old friend – Roger – to drive with her, and they have an epic adventure on the way. This story is a little sad, naturally, but no overwhelmingly so. It’s wonderfully-written, the characters are really enjoyable to read, and there’s even a little romance mixed in that’s really cute~ ❤

Mag Rosoff//Picture Me Gone2) Picture Me Gone by Meg Rosoff. Mila goes on a road trip across the U.S. with her father, searching for his missing best friend, and makes some unexpected discoveries on the way. Part road trip story, part mystery, with just a hint of magical realism – this book was an unexpected hit for me! 😀

E. Lockhart, Lauren Myracle & Sarah Mlynowski//How to Be Bad3) How to Be Bad by E. Lockhart, Lauren Myracle & Sarah Mlynowski. A recent read (I only finished reading it yesterday!), in which two friends go on a road trip together in hopes of repairing their rather strained relationship, and are joined by their new co-worker, who is really just hoping to make some new friends… There’s a lot going on in this one, and each of the girls has their own problems that they’re trying to either solve or escape from, but it makes a really great feel-good summer story!

Alexandra Bracken//The Darkest Minds4) The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken. This one’s a little more of a stretch, since I haven’t actually read it, but I thought this list needed something that’s not so contemporary – and The Darkest Minds is, unusually, a dystopian road trip, following a group of teenagers with special powers. I can at least vouch for Alexandra Bracken’s writing style, as I really enjoyed her other book (Brightly Woven, a fantasy novel). This trilogy is super-popular, as well, so I have high hopes for when I actually get round to reading it (which will be soon, I hope!).

[EDIT (27/7/17): Have finally read The Darkest Minds, and can confirm that it’s everything I hoped it would be, i.e. excellent.]

March Wrap Up

So it seems I’m still on some kind of graphic novel kick, though I think it’s petering out a little. This month, I read a total of 11 comics, 8 novels, 8 short stories, and I also listened to 1 audiobook – so despite going ridiculously overboard with my book-buying, I can at least comfort myself with the thought that I am still reading more books than I’m buying… That said, here’s what I read in March:

Mag Rosoff//Picture Me GonePicture Me Gone by Meg Rosoff. A part-mystery, part-road trip story about a girl who goes to New York with her father, in order to find her father’s missing best friend. There’s a dose of magical realism in the mix, too, as Mila (the main character) has almost supernatural senses, which could (in true Meg Rosoff style) be just as easily interpreted as her simply being incredibly perceptive. I enjoyed the book, and the characters a lot – the mystery elements were perhaps a little predictable, but I felt that the story was really more about Mila’s journey, and how she has to grow in order to find the right answers (and a lot of pondering over whether or not that growth is a good thing). I wouldn’t rank it quite as highly as How I Live Now, but it’s definitely up there, and Mag Rosoff’s writing is as wonderful as ever.4 stars17137639Superboy Vol. 2: Extraction by Scott Lobdell & Tom DeFalco. The Superboy series is fun, but kind of all over the place, and this volume is no exception. It starts off with a couple of issues from The Culling crossover event, which don’t make too much sense on their own, then go on to a couple of brief stories about Superboy (kind of) joining the Teen Titans, and adjusting to life outside N.O.W.H.E.R.E. The Zero issue at the end of the collection was kind of interesting, and I hope that the connection (if there really is one) between Kon and Superboy will be elaborated on eventually…2 starsIsabel Greenberg//The Encyclopedia of Early EarthThe Encyclopedia of Early Earth by Isabel Greenberg. A graphic novel about a storyteller from the Land of Nord, who is travelling the world in search of the missing piece of his soul (and telling a lot of stories on the way). The stories are all incredibly witty, and the art is both cute and distinctive. A fantastic read.5 starsTom DeFalco, Scott Lobdell & Tony Lee//Superboy vol. 3Superboy Vol. 3: Lost by Tom DeFalco, Scott Lobdell & Tony Lee. The beginning was a bit shaky, with more chatter about events from other series, but it picked up a lot during the H’El on Earth tie-in issues (though the end of the storyline was cut off, presumably because it took place in Superman or Justice League, or one of the other series that was part of the H’El on Earth crossover). I enjoyed the dynamic between Superboy and Superman a lot, and the Harvest backstory was interesting, too. I’m looking forward to seeing how the series will move forward from here.3 starsDoogie Horner//100 Ghosts100 Ghosts: A Gallery of Harmless Haunts by Doogie Horner. A cute little book of pictures of ghosts in various different situations. Some of my favourites include the athletic ghost, the ventriloquist, the Fantastic Four, and the mini dachshund. 😀4 starsFanny Britt & Isabelle Arsenault//Jane, the Fox & MeJane, the Fox & Me by Fanny Britt & Isabelle Arsenault. A short graphic novel about a young girl who’s being bullied at school because of her weight, and how she tries to escape from reality by reading Jane Eyre. The story is very short, but powerfully-written, and it reminded me a lot of books like Speak and Wintergirls (both by Laurie Halse Anderson). The artwork really suited the melancholy tone of the book, and the contrast between the black-and-brown shades used to illustrate Hélène’s life, and the full-colour pages that appear when she talks about Jane Eyre was particularly poignant.4 starsLemony Snicket//HorseradishHorseradish by Lemony Snicket. A book of quotes and observations about (at the risk of sounding unoriginal 😉 ) life, the universe, and everything. Very witty, and written in Lemony Snicket’s usual straightforward doom-and-gloom style, which I enjoy – though it does tend to get rather stale after a while, and unfortunately I found myself enjoying the last few sections of the book much less than the first few (although the whole thing only took me about an hour to finish…).3 starsScott Lynch//Lies of Locke LamoraThe Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch. A fantasy novel following the adventures of the con-man Locke Lamora and his crew. Excellently written, though I had a little difficulty getting into it at first, as cons are not a theme that I am entirely comfortable with – somehow, stealing from people who have shown you kindness seems so much worse than stealing from strangers… That said, the con itself was only one part of the story, and everything was woven together so cleverly that it didn’t take me too long to get over myself. Overall, the book was thoroughly enjoyable, and I am looking forward to reading more of Locke’s adventures (and I hope that we will finally be meeting Sabetha in the next book!).5 starsIsabel Greenberg//The River of Lost SoulsThe River of Lost Souls by Isabel Greenberg. A (very) short comic about Charon (the ferryman from Greek mythology), and a human woman who marries him. The art was cute and quirky, and the story was really cute, too (though of course I would’ve liked it to be longer… 😉 ). I’d definitely recommend this to anyone who’s at all interested in Greek mythology.5 starsSarah J. Maas//Throne of GlassThrone of Glass by Sarah J. Maas. The story of an assassin who is taken out of a labour camp in order to compete in a tournament to become the King’s Champion. First of all, let me just say that Celaena is just as amazing a character as people keep telling me she is – snarky and sassy, without it being annoying, and I really liked the fact that, despite being a legendary assassin, she still loves balls and pretty dresses. The romance perhaps developed a little quickly, but I liked both Dorian and Chaol (though at this point I am definitely on Team Chaolaena!), and Celaena’s friendship with Princess Nehemia was particularly enjoyable. 🙂 Plot-wise, it was sometimes a little predictable, and the villains ended up being exactly who I expected them to be, but I feel that the real mystery in this series is going to be Celaena’s past, which I am very intrigued by (and already forming theories about).5 starsEoin Colfer//Artemis Fowl & the Last GuardianArtemis Fowl & the Last Guardian by Eoin Colfer. The final book in the Artemis Fowl series, which follows Artemis the boy genius as he attempts to swindle, and then eventually becomes friends with fairies. In this book, Opal Koboi tries to destroy the world, and Artemis and Holly have to stop her. I thought it was a decent conclusion to the series – though I wasn’t particularly impressed by the very end of the book – and the characters were all spot-on. It was a shame that we didn’t see more of Juliet, but I really enjoyed the insights into Foaly’s relationship, and, of course, the dynamic between Artemis, Holly and Butler. I actually listened to this as an audiobook, which I would definitely recommend, as I was beginning to get tired of the series after the first three books or so, but Nathaniel Parker’s excellent narration really re-invigorated my interest.3 stars

Isabel Greenberg//The Snow Queen & Other StoriesThe Snow Queen & Other Stories by Isabel Greenberg. Another short comic, which re-tells the stories of first The Snow Queen, and then The Emperor’s New Clothes. Both stories were very cute (though The Snow Queen was told in rather more depth), but with the same humourous dash of common sense that I’ve come to appreciate in Isabel Greenberg’s work.4 starsSarah J. Maas//Crown of MidnightCrown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas. The sequel to Throne of Glass, which obviously I can’t tell you all that much (or, in fact, anything) about, because spoilers. But it was definitely an excellent follow-up, with a couple of surprise plot developments (though the major twist at the end was not quite so surprising), and great character and relationship development, particularly for Dorian, who I thought was a bit under-developed in the first book.5 starsSarah J. Maas//Heir of FireHeir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas. The third book in the Throne of Glass series. It was a little odd at first to have all the main characters separated, but it definitely allowed for a whole load of plot development that wouldn’t have happened otherwise. Several new characters: Rowan took a little getting used to (& I was initially afraid that he was going to be another potential love interest…), but he really grew on me, & is now probably one of my favourite characters in this series; Manon, I also really like, and she provides a really interesting new perspective for the story; Sorscha was probably the least interesting of the new characters, but still likeable; and Aedion shifted wildly from being borderline threatening to hilarious (mainly due to his odd relationship with Chaol). I’ve written a whole spoilery discussion of the book here, which you can take a look at if you’re already caught up. 😀 Mostly, though, I am just super, super-impatient for Queen of Shadows to be released.5 starsSarah J. Maas//The Assassin and the PrincessThe Assassin & the Princess by Sarah J. Maas. A brief, but cute scene set between Throne of Glass and Crown of Midnight, where Celaena and Nehemia go shopping together. I enjoyed it a lot (& I can’t help hoping that Celaena will wear that dress sometime in one of the future books, to show off her new tattoos!), but it was very short…4 starsThe Captain & the Prince by Sarah J. Maas. Another short scene between Dorian and Chaol, this one set before they leave for Endovier in Throne of Glass. Basically, just a nice little insight into their relationship… You can read it online here.4 starsThe Assassin & the Captain by Sarah J. Maas. The last of the three extra scenes that Maas has written (though there are also several novellas, of course), set between Throne of Glass and Crown of Midnight, and featuring Chaol meeting Celaena as she arrives back in Rifthold after an assignment. This one was split up into several parts, which can be read online here: Part 1, part 2, part 3 & part 4.4 stars

Sarah J. Maas//The Assassin's BladeThe Assassin’s Blade by Sarah J. Maas. A bind-up of the five prequel novellas for the Throne of Glass series. I’m rating these together because, put together, they ended up making a pretty cohesive story in and of themselves, despite initially being published separately, and also because I’ve done a full review where I talked about each individual story (you can read it here). They all have their strengths and weaknesses, but overall it was solidly written and incredibly enjoyable.4 starsSally Green//Half WildHalf Wild by Sally Green. Wow, did that escalate quickly! 😮 The sequel to Half Bad, which I read late last year, and I’ve been looking forward to this book ever since. Nesbitt and Van were interesting new characters, and I really loved how Marcus’ character has finally been fleshed out. Nathan and Gabriel’s relationship development was great, too, as was Nathan and Annalise’s (though I could never bring myself to trust Annalise entirely). An incredibly quick read, despite being over 400 pages long (I finished it almost in one sitting), a really engrossing story, and a whole ton of emotions, which I felt was the only thing really missing from Half Bad.5+ starsPaullina Simons//Tatiana & AlexanderTatiana and Alexander by Paullina Simons. The sequel to The Bronze Horseman, an epic-length historical romance set in the Soviet Union during World War II. This second book focuses mainly on Tatiana in New York, trying to find out what’s become of Alexander, and on Alexander trying to find a way to escape from the Soviet Union and reunite with Tatiana. As I’ve come to expect from this series, it was in many places incredibly bleak (which is probably why it’s taken me several months to finish), though Tatiana’s storyline at least included some bright spots (such as Anthony, and her friendship with Vikki). There’s not too much else that I can say without risking huge spoilers, but, needless to say, I really loved it, and I’m hoping that The Summer Garden, the last book in the trilogy, will be a little happier.5 starsSimone Lia//Please God, find me a husband!Please God, find me a husband! by Simone Lia. A graphic memoir about the author’s journey to find peace with God (and hopefully also a husband). I don’t really know what I expected from this book, given its title and synopsis (which I clearly did not bother to read before picking this up), but, although I didn’t exactly dislike the book, I found it a bit too preachy for my tastes, and not nearly so funny as I was hoping…2 starsJean Regnaut & Émile Bravo//My mommy is in America and she met Buffalo BillMy mommy is in America and she met Buffalo Bill by Jean Regnaud & Émile Bravo. Another graphic memoir, this one about Regnaud’s childhood growing up without his mother, and always wondering where she is and why he hasn’t seen or heard from her in so long. This was beautifully written, with a great balance of funny and sad moments, as well as a really cute art style.4 starsGrant Morrison//Batman Incorporated vol. 1Batman Incorporated Vol. 1: Demon Star by Grant Morrison. I was a little unsure about whether or not I wanted to read this, because on one hand, I know that important DCU continuity things take place in this series, but on the other hand, I’ve never been a huge fan of Grant Morrison’s writing – mainly because I really, really don’t like the way he’s chosen to portray Jason Todd, and this book is no exception in that respect, though thankfully Jason only made a brief appearance… That said, I enjoyed this a surprising amount. Various different things were going on as Batman & his allies tried to take down the Leviathan cult, but the heart of the story was Bruce’s relationship with his son Damian, which I enjoyed a lot. My only real problem with the series at this point is the artwork, which is pretty ugly, but I’ll definitely be picking up the next volume when it’s available at the library…4 starsJustin Jordan, Scott Lobdell & Michael Alan Nelson//Superboy vol. 4Superboy Vol. 4: Blood & Steel by Justin Jordan, Scott Lobdell & Michael Alan Nelson. This volume is half made up of a story involving Superboy and Doctor Psycho attempting to take on H.I.V.E., which I enjoyed, and the rest of the volume appeared to be some random issues from various crossover events (one with the Superman and Supergirl titles, I assume, and the other with Teen Titans), and although both of these events seemed interesting, there was no real way to determine what was going on, as both stories were incredibly fragmented…3 stars