Thematic Recs: Graphic Novels

Well, it seems like I end up saying this every time I do a new Thematic Recs post, but… it’s been a while since the last time I did a Thematic Recs post! 😉 This time I wanted to share some of my favourite graphic novels with you all.

There are plenty of comics that I love, too (and I expect I’ll be doing a post on them at some point as well), but they’re often very interconnected, and their quality often fluctuates with their creative teams, so they can be difficult to recommend… So for now I’ve decided to stick to graphic novels (i.e. non-serialised publications) as well as a couple of limited-series comics (i.e. comics with a pre-determined number of issues), as their stories tend to be more self-contained than other comics. But enough rambling, and onto the recommendations!

[An aside: I just realised that three out of five of these are blatantly about death, even without going into spoiler territory (which might reveal that they’re all about death! Or not. 😛 ). What that says about my taste, I’m not certain. ^^’ ]

1) The Encyclopedia of Early Earth by Isbel Greenberg. A wonderful story about a storyteller who’s travelling the world in order to find the missing piece of his soul, and telling all kinds of stories to the people he meets along the way. Greenberg’s art style is really cute, and complements the folk-tale feel of her writing perfectly; I stumbled upon this book two years ago, and it’s probably my favourite graphic novel of all time.

2) The River of Lost Souls by Isabel Greenberg. Another Greenberg story, written in a very similar style, though this one is only a few pages long, and was never officially released. It tells the story of a young woman who follows her father into the afterlife, and ends up meeting – and marrying – Charon, the ferryman of souls. I’d actually be quick to recommend any of Greenberg’s work, but this, and The Encyclopedia of Early Earth are probably my favourites.

3) Pride of Baghdad by Brian K. Vaughan. A single-volume limited series that’s set in Baghdad in the aftermath of an American bomb raid, and follows a pride of lions that escaped from the zoo. Beautifully illustrated, and incredibly moving, and apparently inspired by a real pride! Vaughan’s Saga series has become really well known in the last couple of years, but Pride of Baghdad is every bit as excellent.

4) Death: The High Cost of Living by Neil Gaiman. This is a spin-off from the Sandman series, but I’m recommending it here anyway because it’s a completely self-contained story, as well as a fantastic one. The personification of Death must live as a mortal for one day in every century, and this time, she’s spending her time exploring New York with her new friend Sexton – who’s pretty sure she’s crazy. The Sandman has some really great spin-offs, and The High Cost of Living is definitely one of the best.

5) The Undertaking of Lily Chen by Danica Novgorodoff. A strange tale about a young man called Deshi who is tasked with finding a bride for his deceased brother (apparently an old tradition in Northern China). The story is both haunting and incredibly intriguing, and is accompanied by some really amazing watercolour illustrations. I wasn’t the biggest fan of the character design, but that’s a very minor complaint, considering everything else about this fantastic book.

January Wrap-Up

The first month of the year is over, and I feel like I got off to quite a good start with all my reading goals! 🙂 And to make things even better, I really enjoyed everything I read – 5 novels, 1 graphic novel, and 2 short stories – with the exception of one short story (which only took up about half an hour of my life in any case 😉 ). Here’s what I thought of them all:

Laure Eve//The GracesThe Graces by Laure Eve. The first in a new series about a teenage girl called River who moves to a new town and becomes fascinated by a glamourous local family, whom the entire community believes are witches. This is ringing some Twilight-shaped bells, right? But it’s also seriously messed up, and (unlike Twilight) aware of how messed up it is, and fully embracing the sheer messed-up-ness. I posted a mini-review of this book a few weeks ago – you can find it here.4 starsIsabel Greenberg//The One Hundred Nights of HeroThe One Hundred Nights of Hero by Isabel Greenberg. A new collection of folk-tales in comic form, told in the style of One Thousand and One Nights, with a woman called Hero telling stories night after night, in order to stave off a man who’s hoping to seduce her lover, Cherry. My particular favourite of Hero’s stories was A Very Honest Harp, which was about two sisters who were courted by the same man, to a disastrous end, but, as with Greenberg’s previous work, the whole book is made up of beautiful, haunting tales, charmingly illustrated.5 starsAmy Alward//The Potion DiariesThe Potion Diaries by Amy Alward. The first book in a series about a talented (but not “Talented”, which means something quite different) young potion-maker called Sam, who is called to join in a nation-wide race to create a cure when the kingdom’s princess accidentally doses herself with a love potion… and falls in love with her own reflection. A fun, lighthearted read, though not without its flaws. I read this book for the January Library Scavenger Hunt challenge, so my review’s already posted – you can find it here!3 stars

Rae Carson//The Bitter KingdomThe Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson. The third and final book in the Fire & Thorns series, which I’ve been re-reading for the last few months. Like with Crown of Embers, my opinion of this book hasn’t changed at all upon re-reading it; it’s still a fantastic story, with wonderful characters, and really impressive character growth. In the final part of the book, I did feel a bit disorientated to be back in Brisadulce after such a long time (Elisa leaves around the mid-point of Crown of Embers and doesn’t return until close to the end of The Bitter Kingdom), but I figure that’s mostly because I really took my time with this book the second time around. Overall, definitely a series that’s worth coming back to a few times. 🙂5 starsNora’s Song by Cecelia Holland (from the Dangerous Women anthology). Holland is apparently a historical fiction author of some prolificacy and renown, but I found this short story – about Eleanor, the second daughter of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, as a young girl – rather lackluster. The writing was engaging, and the period of history in which the story is set is an interesting one, but the story itself suffered seriously from a lack of… anything, really; a few confusing events are all presented in a great rush, and then it ends. I do think that this might have made a good prologue for a longer story, but on its own it doesn’t leave much of an impression.2 starsSarah J. Maas//A Court of Mist & FuryA Court of Mist & Fury by Sarah J. Maas. The sequel to A Court of Thorns & Roses, which was an imaginative retelling of Beauty & the Beast involving fairy courts and a fantasy realm held hostage by a madwoman. I enjoyed this book a lot, but still had quite a few problems with it, which I won’t go into here lest this paragraph become an essay. ^^’ I’ve written a spoiler-free review, however, which you can find here.4 stars

Neil Gaiman//Odd & the Frost GiantsOdd & the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman. A short story written for World Book Day in 2008, in which Odin, Thor and Loki find themselves in something of a pickle, and need to rely on Odd – an improbably optimistic young boy, who’s just run away from home – to help them resolve it. An incredibly cute story, with a surprising amount of character development and depth, given its length. Definitely the best Norse mythology novel(la) I’ve read in a long time, and the perfect thing to get me out of the reading slump that I was beginning to feel coming on. 😀4 starsHonobu Yonezawa//The Kudryavka SequenceThe Kudryavka Sequence by Honobu Yonezawa. The third book in the Kotenbu series of light novels, which inspired the anime Hyouka (one of my favourites!); a mix of mystery and slice-of-life, focusing on a group of characters who are all members of their school’s Classics Club. In this book, the school’s cultural festival is disrupted by a phantom thief, who’s been taking random items from various different clubs, and leaving notes to replace them. It’s difficult to explain the appeal of this series, but I really love it, and The Kudryavka Sequence definitely lives up to the books that came before it (Hyouka and The Credit Roll of the Fool, respectively). ❤ It’s not available in English at this time, so the version I read is a fan translation from Baka-Tsuki.4 stars

The Reader Confession Tag

For once, I seem to be doing a tag that I was actually tagged for; remarkable, isn’t it? 😉 The tagger in question was Ariana from The Quirky Book Nerd – you should go ahead and read her great post, too!

1) Have you ever damaged a book?

Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman//Good OmensNaturally, I do my best to keep my books in good condition, but accidents are bound to happen once in a while. My first copy of Good Omens got half drowned when I discovered that my backpack wasn’t anywhere near as waterproof as I’d previously thought it to be. And I don’t like to think about the time I had a mishap while bleeding my radiator, and drenched a whole shelf. 😥 (Don’t worry, I was able to salvage them!)

J.K. Rowling//Harry Potter & the Goblet of FireIn less watery news, my original copy of Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire ended up completely falling to pieces, as well, though that was mostly from over-reading (and because it was the first massive hardback that I’d ever owned, and I had no idea that they fell apart if you didn’t take care of them. ^^’ ).

2) Have you ever damaged a borrowed book?

I’m always super-careful with any books that people lend me – more careful than I am with my own books, even – but I will admit to occasionally (very occasionally) having dog-eared a library book or two… 😳 This is supposed to be a confession tag, after all!

3) How long does it take you to read a book?

I can usually finish an average-length book (about 300 pages) in two or three days, but it often depends on my mood, and how busy I am outside of my reading schedule…

4) Books that you haven’t finished?

Even when I’m really not enjoying a book, I prefer to finish it, in hopes of finding some redeeming factor, so there aren’t many books that I’ve DNF’d. Most of these I did actually like, but I just wasn’t in the right mood for them at the time – hopefully I’ll get round to finishing them reasonably soon, though! In order of priority, they are:

5) Hyped/Popular books you didn’t like?

Tahereh Mafi//Shatter MeThere have been a few that disappointed me a bit, but the only one I can think of that I actively disliked was the Shatter Me trilogy by Tahereh Mafi, and even then I didn’t dislike everything about it. Just, you know, the abysmal plotline, and non-existent world-building. I wrote a series review for it a while ago, which you should definitely check out!

6) Is there a book you wouldn’t tell anyone you were reading?

I sometimes like to read trashy romances, and I’m always a little embarrassed afterwards to discuss them in my wrap-ups, but I don’t think I’d ever actively hide the fact that I was reading one… (Except from the kids I babysit. I will definitely be taking Something Else to read at theirs. ^^’ )

7) How many books do you own?

I have no idea, but between my physical books and my kindle books, probably somewhere between 300 and 500…

8) Are you a fast reader or a slow reader?

Pretty fast, I think, though nowhere near speed-reading standards. I usually get through two or three books in a week (depending on my mood, and the length of the book), but there’ve been times when I’ve finished a new book almost every day. (When I was in China, I read like a woman possessed. 😳 )

9) Do you like to buddy read?

Now and then. I’ve done a few readalongs with my friend Chloë (a.k.a. SSJTimeLord), and it’s fun to talk about the books as we’re going along, but unfortunately we don’t always have the time… :/

10) Do you read better in your head or out loud?

In my head, definitely. I can even do character voices! (But just in my imagination.)

11) If you were only allowed to own one book, what would it be and why?

Tamora Pierce//Street Magic

Frances Hodgson Burnett//The Secret GardenWhy do you torment me with such questions, Tag?!?! 😦 Probably my battered old copy of Street Magic by Tamora Pierce, because it’s my favourite book. Or else one of the Folio Society editions that my dad’s given me over the years (The Secret Garden has an inscription in it that I’m rather fond of)…

Summer Haul

summer haulYou remember that book-buying ban I was on? Well, it’s failed utterly. I did fantastically in June, and in July I only bought three books (though my birthday was in July, so I also received a few as gifts 😀 ), and then in August I went completely crazy… resulting in the photo above. ^^’ On the plus side, several of these I’ve read already, so the stack of unread books on my bedroom floor hasn’t grown too much…

1) Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. A birthday present from my friend Grace, who has (among others) been trying to get me to read it for a while now. And I loved it, just as everyone was sure that I would! 😀 I read this in July, so you can see what I thought of it in my wrap-up.

2) The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz. Another birthday present, this time from my sister. A thought-provoking novel about a Dominican-American boy who has never quite managed to fit in anywhere… I read this during the Booktubeathon, so I’ve also posted a mini-review of it.

3) 1066 and All That by Walter Carruthers Sellar & Robert Julian Yeatman. A tongue-in-cheek history book that was given to me by my friend William. I haven’t read this one yet, but I’m hoping to get to it soon.

4) The Spy’s Bedside Book by Graham & Hugh Greene. Also a present from William, this is a collection of short spy stories and tips, from what I’ve been able to gather. It looks like another super-fun book, so I’ll probably be picking it up reasonably soon.

5) Harry Potter & the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne & John Tiffany. The follow-up to the Harry Potter series, in script form! I bought this the day it was released (of course), and read it almost straight away, and despite the misgivings of others, I really enjoyed it. I’m sure that the play itself will be better – and I really want to see it soon – but this was a nice traipse back into the Wizarding World. More detailed thoughts on this are in my August wrap-up.

On the Other Side - photo6) On the Other Side by Carrie Hope Fletcher. The new novel by youtuber ItsWayPastMyBedtime, which I couldn’t resist picking up after hearing the song she wrote for it. Unfortunately I wasn’t a huge fan of the story itself (again, reasons why are in my August wrap-up), but I do feel like I should take the time to point appreciate the fact that someone at Little, Brown must have put a huge amount of effort into making this book as beautiful as it is.

7) The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan. The first book in Riordan’s new Percy Jackson-universe series, The Trials of Apollo. I’m not sure when I’ll actually read this, but I wanted to pick it up while it’s still available in hardback, so that it will match the rest of my Rick Riordan books…

8) The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken. I bought this one solely because it showed up unexpectedly at the second-hand bookshop where I work, and I’ve been looking for a copy for ages. This is another one that I’m eager to read soon, though my eagerness is somewhat tempered by the knowledge that I have no easy access to either of the sequels. 😦

9) A Court of Mist & Fury by Sarah J. Maas. The sequel to A Court of Thorns & Roses, which I liked when I read it, but have had my reservations about since… I wasn’t initially sure whether I was going to continue this series, but so many people have told me that this book is way better than the last, so I’ve decided to give it a try. Also, it (along with the next three books I’m going to list) was buy-one-get-one-half-price at Waterstones, so I didn’t really have a choice in the matter. 😉

10) And I Darken by Kiersten White. An intriguing novelisation of the life of Vlad the Impaler, if he had been a she. This is another book that I read pretty promptly after buying, so my (long, rambling) thoughts on it are all in my August wrap-up.

11) Railhead by Philip Reeve. I’ve not actually read much of Philip Reeve’s work, but I remember really loving his Hungry City Chronicles when I was in school, so of course I couldn’t resist seeing what his most recent book was like. Spoiler: it was fantastic – and I’ve written a full review of it here!

12) Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo. The first of a new duology set in the same universe as Bardugo’s Grisha trilogy, which I binge-read a few years ago and loved. And much to my surprise, Six of Crows was even better – I’m really excited for the sequel! Once again, I’ve talked about this book in my August wrap-up.

13) Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle Volumes 11-20 by CLAMP. And lastly! Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle is a series I’ve been reading since it was first released in English, but I’ve always had trouble tracking down any volumes after the first 10 (except online, but I’ve never much liked buying manga online), so when the first 20 volumes all showed up at work, I took it as a sign. 😉 I’m looking forward to catching up (at least partially) on this series soon!

July Wrap-Up

July is over, and I’ve read a truly surprising amount! I think I can safely say that I’m now out of my minor reading slump (hopefully for good!). In all, I managed to read 9 novels, and two short stories last month, and although there were a couple of duds in the mix, most of them were really enjoyable! 😀 Here’s what I thought of them:

Melissa Marr//Ink ExchangeInk Exchange by Melissa Marr. The follow up to Wicked Lovely, which I enjoyed but didn’t think was particularly wonderful. In fact, I mainly read that book because I thought this one sounded interesting when I stumbled across a second-hand copy at work. 😉 Luckily, my book-sense has yet to lead me astray; Ink Exchange was a big improvement on its predecessor. The story follows Aislinn’s friend Leslie, who is struggling to deal with her often-absent father and her abusive brother, and – the cherry on top – catches the eye of Irial, King of the Dark Court of Faerie. Naturally, the plot of this book was a lot darker and more serious, but I also felt that the main characters were much more relatable and enjoyable to read than Aislinn & Keenan were. The love triangle in this book, too, was a lot more palatable than the one in Wicked Lovely, since (despite the less-than-altruistic reasons for Irial’s interest in Leslie) there seemed to be a lot more genuine affection between the three of them; right up to the end, I had no idea who Leslie would decide to be with (if anyone).4 starsPatrick Rothfuss//Slow Regard of Silent ThingsThe Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss. A novella set in the Kingkiller Chronicle universe, which follows Auri about her strange, everyday life. This story seems to have sparked a lot of controversy with Rothfuss’ fans – they either love it or hate it – but I’m happy to report that I really enjoyed it! Not much happens in the story, there’s no dialogue whatsoever, and Auri is the only character who appears, but I loved the atmosphere that Rothfuss was able to create, and the insight into Auri’s mind (and I suspect that she is much cleverer than she appears to be), and how the inanimate objects around Auri really seemed like living, feeling things.4 starsKitty Aldridge//A Trick I Learned from Dead MenA Trick I Learned from Dead Men by Kitty Aldridge. A short-ish novel that follows a young man who’s training as an undertaker while supporting his deaf brother and depressed stepfather. This was my Library Scavenger Hunt pick for July, so I have a mini-review of it up already. 🙂2 starsSimone Elkeles//Perfect ChemistryPerfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles. A romance between a teenager called Brittany who – due to some problems at home – feels the need to always be seen as perfect, and Alex, a classmate of hers from a dangerous part of town, who joined a gang in order to get protection for his family. I downloaded this mostly on a whim, and regretted it a bit afterwards, since I’ve heard very mixed things about the series, but I actually really enjoyed it. Sure, it’s incredibly cheesy in places, and there were bits of Alex and Brittany’s dialogue that came across as laughably unrealistic, and there was a 23-years-later epilogue that really annoyed me (as unnecessary last-minute flash-forwards always do)… but it was also a lot of fun to read, and pretty well-written. I don’t know if I’m likely to pick up the rest of the series, but I don’t regret reading this one, at least.3 stars

Before I could finish anything else, Booktubeathon came along! I managed to read a grand total of five books over the course of the readathon (which is pretty good, if I do say so myself, especially considering how busy I was that week), all of which I’ve written mini-reviews for – you can read them by clicking on the covers:

Junot Díaz//The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao Franny Billingsley//The Folk Keeper Sabaa Tahir//An Ember in the Ashes Brandon Sanderson//Perfect State Bram Stoker//Dracula

Neil Gaiman//NeverwhereNeverwhere by Neil Gaiman. A fantastic novel about a man who, after finding an injured young woman on the side of the road and deciding to help her, gets dragged into the mysterious world of London Below, where people end up when they fall through the cracks of society. In an effort to reclaim his life, he ends up going on an adventure with Door (the aforementioned young woman), who’s trying to solve the mystery of her family’s murder. I loved absolutely everything about this book: The memorable characters, the beautiful writing, the whole world of London Below (which was incredibly bizarre, but also managed to make an odd sort of sense). The way that the story progressed was quite similar to Stardust, and I therefore found the ending a little predictable, but I was so enchanted that I didn’t even mind.5 stars

Abbi Glines//Until Friday NightUntil Friday Night by Abbi Glines. The first book in The Field Party series, which is a romance between a football player called West, who’s struggling to deal with his father’s cancer, and a girl called Maggie, who hasn’t spoken since her mother died. I’ve written a full review of this book, where you can read all my (numerous) thoughts about the story and characters, etc. – you can find it here.2 stars

February Haul

Only three books this time! I’m so proud of myself. *Pats self on back* 😉 And I only bought one of them new, which is even better (for my bank balance)! It almost wasn’t worth writing a book haul at all, except that I needed something to post today, and I’m also pretty excited about these books, and have been looking for an excuse to talk about them. 😛
February Haul 2016

1) The Girl on the Liar’s Throne by Den Patrick. The third book in the Erebus Sequence, which is a gothic fantasy following a group of deformed children (though they’re not really children any more, at this point in the series) called Orfani. This was probably my most anticipated new release of winter, and came out at the end of January… though unfortunately, since my local bookshop didn’t have any copies in stock initially, I didn’t manage to get my hands on it until February… 😦 But anyway, I’m looking forward to reading this (very) soon!

2) Odd & the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman. An old World Book day novella that’s inspired by Norse mythology. I was given this by one of my co-workers, who said he thought I’d enjoy it. 🙂

3) The Book of the New Sun, Volume 1: Shadow & Claw by Gene Wolfe. A bind-up of the first two books in the Book of the New Sun series, The Shadow of the TorturerThe Claw of the Conciliator – a high fantasy series about a boy called Severian, who is an apprentice in the Guild of Torturers. I’m currently about halfway through The Shadow of the Torturer, and am really enjoying it so far, though it’s pretty confusing in places… ^^’

February Wrap-Up

Another satisfying month of reading, and quite a few four-star books this time, particularly towards the end of the month… A lot of these were blind picks, too, so I’ve been pretty lucky! 😀 In total, I read 7 novels and 2 short stories in February; here’s what I thought of them:

Amy A. Bartol//Sea of StarsSea of Stars by Amy A. Bartol. The second book in the Kricket series, wherein Kricket and Trey find themselves (once again) on the run from the Alameeda clan. I liked this book, but the series is getting a bit same-y (which is probably not a good sign when I’m only on book two!), and Kricket’s overwhelming tendency to be good at everything, and incredibly beautiful, and somehow gain the undying love and loyalty of everyone she meets (okay, I’m exaggerating on that last one) garnered quite a few eye-rolls. Bartol seems to be pushing the fact that she can’t swim as her major character flaw, which does not a relatable heroine make. ^^’ Again, I am still enjoying this series, but I’ll probably leave off for a while before reading Darken the Stars (despite Sea of Stars‘ not-all-that-suspenseful cliffhanger ending).2 stars

Julie Berry//All the Truth that's in MeAll the Truth that’s in Me by Julie Berry. A short crime novel that follows a girl named Judith, who went missing as a teenager, only to reappear two years later with her tongue cut out so that she couldn’t say what had happened to her. This was my Library Scavenger Hunt pick for February, and as such I’ve already written a review – you can find it here.3 starsHimself in Anachron by Cordwainer Smith (from The Time Traveller’s Almanac). The story of a man who takes his wife with him on his search for something called the Knot of Time as their honeymoon. And, of course, things go horribly wrong. This story was more about the emotion of what was happening than the science of it, which I appreciated, and the story itself was both interesting and inventive. One of the better entries that I’ve read so far from this anthology.
3 stars

Some Desperado by Joe Abercrombie (from Dangerous Women). A short story about a highway(wo)man who is on the run from her former associates, who have betrayed her. It had something of a Wild West feel to it, though there was a distinct lack of guns (the characters are all armed with swords, knives, and bows and arrows), so I’m not sure whether it was meant to, or if my imagination just ran away with the word “desperado”. Well-written, and I liked the main character (Shy) a lot, but it was a bit too bloody for my taste, unfortunately.3 starsNeil Gaiman//StardustStardust by Neil Gaiman. A romance between a man who is half faerie, and a woman who is actually a fallen star. Neil Gaiman’s prose is beautiful, and I particularly loved the way he portrayed the land of Faerie and its inhabitants. The beginning was a little bit slow-going, but everything that happened afterwards more than made up for that… The edition I was reading was also illustrated by Charles Vess, and his art suited the story perfectly – it really emphasised the simultaneous beauty and danger of Faerie; both enchanting and at times incredibly gruesome. I’ve written a full review of this book, which you can find here.5 starsMorgan Rhodes//Gathering DarknessGathering Darkness by Morgan Rhodes. The third book in the Falling Kingdoms series, in which things escalate, there is a great deal of duplicity, and my ship finally sails! 😀 What to say about this book without spoiling it? Hmm… Well, Magnus is rapidly becoming my favourite character in the series, and I’m really intrigued by the direction Lucia’s character seemed to be taking towards the end of the book. I still love Cleo, though the way she’s choosing to deal with her situation makes me supremely uncomfortable – as manipulation of one’s supposed friends tends to, so that’s not really all that much of a surprise. There were also some very interesting developments with Nic, though I still miss the happy-go-lucky Nic of the first book… 😦 Also, I take back everything I said (or at least felt) in my review of Rebel Spring about how Jonas was growing on me. He’s not. His plans are all ridiculous, and how anyone thinks he’s a serious threat is beyond me; the fact that girls in the book seem to be falling in love with him left and right is becoming extremely annoying. 😡 That said, this series is still getting better as it goes on, which is a trend that I hope will continue.4 starsPeter V. Brett//The Desert SpearThe Desert Spear by Peter V. Brett. The second book in the Demon Cycle, in which we continue to follow our heroes – Arlen, Leesha & Rojer – in their efforts to save the world from corelings. There was a new major protagonist in this book, too, who I remember despising in The Painted Man: Jardir! About the first third of the book is taken up with his perspective, which I didn’t initially like all that much; it was interesting, but also quite disturbing. So I wasn’t a huge fan of the first part of the book, but once Arlen & co. were brought back into the spotlight, things got seriously epic (and often hilarious), and the book ended on a definite high point. I’m looking forward to reading The Daylight War soon (i.e. for next month’s readalong).4 starsE.K. Johnston//A Thousand NightsA Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston. A new retelling of A Thousand and One Nights, in which an unnamed (and that’s an interesting theme in this book) protagonist tricks the demon king Lo-Melkhiin – who has killed all his previous wives – into picking her, when he comes to her village to choose a new bride, in an effort to save her sister. And then, much to her surprise, Lo-Melkhiin is not able to kill her. I’d heard mixed things about this book before picking it up, and although I liked it a lot, I can also see why others might not. There is almost no romance, which I didn’t expect; most of the book is taken up with the main character’s thoughts and memories, about her husband and her sister, whom she has visions about; and the plot is so slow-building that the story’s climax really sneaks up on you. These were all positive points for me – I loved learning about her family and culture, and the glimpses we got of Lo-Melkhiin were such that a stronger romantic sub-plot would have seemed out of place… And I do love a good slow-burn story, even though A Thousand Nights is actually quite a short book. And the writing was also beautiful, which certainly helped.4 starsLaura Dockrill//LoraliLorali by Laura Dockrill. A standalone paranormal novel, about Lorali – a young mermaid who makes herself human – and Rory, the teenage boy who finds her lying naked on the shore after her transformation. And pirates. Lots of pirates. 🙂 There’s definitely a visible The Little Mermaid influence, as well, but it’s certainly not a straight-up retelling. As for my thoughts on the story itself – it was wonderful. Rory and Lorali were wel-developed, likeable and sympathetic leads, and much of the story was also told from the perspective of the sea itself, which was interesting (and very well executed). I wasn’t initially sold on the pirates, but they definitely grew on me, and I really, really loved the portrayal of Rory’s friend Flynn and his grandfather Iris. The plot was also surprisingly action-packed (in the best possible way), and it was fascinating trying to piece together the mystery of Lorali’s past, and of all the Mer – which was revealed at the perfect pace. (This was also the first book I picked up for the Under-Hyped Readathon, and it definitely got me off to a great start!)4 stars

[EDIT (3/5/2017): Changed rating of Sea of Stars from 3/5 to 2/5 after finishing the last book in the trilogy & thinking on the series as a whole.]

Review: Stardust by Neil Gaiman (Spoiler-Free)

STARDUST
5 stars

Neil Gaiman//StardustSUMMARY

Tristran Thorn is half-human and half-fairy, and fully in love with the most beautiful girl in his small town of Wall, which guards the barrier between the mortal world and the world of Faerie. Her name is Victoria, and one day, while Tristran walks her home, they see a shooting star fall beyond the wall – and he swears that he will bring that star back to her, to win her love.

Stardust was originally published in 1999.

STORY [5/5]

This is a love story, but romance is definitely not all there is to it. In some places it’s all about the adventure; in others, it managed to be pretty disturbing (though thankfully without venturing too deep into horror territory. I don’t scare well). I found the pacing a little slow at the beginning of the book, during the chapter that centred on Tristran’s father, but the story picked up very quickly afterwards, and had me hooked right up until the end – which managed to be both unexpected, and entirely appropriate in a dramatic sense. I wasn’t initially sure whether or not I liked how the plot was resolved, but after some time to think about it, I’ve come down firmly on the “liked it” side. 🙂

CHARACTERS [5/5]

The two main characters in the book are Tristran and Yvaine, two very different characters, who are at odds for much of the book. Tristran is, of course, trying to bring the fallen star back to Victoria, in hopes of winning her affection; Yvaine, on the other hand, is stuck tagging along on his journey, and would very much like to leave. Both characters are extremely likeable, and it’s very easy to sympathise with both of their situations.

Other important characters include two of the heirs of the faerie castle of Stormhold – Primus and Septimus – who are each searching for a particular magical gemstone that will allow them to become the next Lord, while simultaneously trying to outwit the other; the Queen of the Lilim, a fearsome witch who is also searching for the star, which will restore her youth; another witch, of rather less ability, who has enslaved Tristran’s faerie mother; a strange, hairy man who accompanies Tristran for the first leg of his journey; the captain and crew of a sky-ship, which sails around the clouds, fishing for lightning bolts; and a wonderful unicorn. (The unicorn is my favourite.)

Victoria is also quite important to the story, but more because of her effect on Tristran than because of her actual character. We see little of her during the larger part of the story, but she is conspicuous in her absence; Tristran thinks about her constantly.

ROMANCE [5/5]

Despite the summary I gave of the story, the actual romance is not between Tristran and Victoria – who never believes for a second that Tristran will follow through with his promise – but between Tristran and Yvaine. It’s a slow-building relationship, but definitely worth waiting for. I loved watching their relationship grow, and their feelings develop, and Yvaine’s stubborn offence at Tristram’s behaviour provides a good amount of tension between them.

WORLD-BUILDING [5/5]

The world-building in this book is probably its strongest point (though, to be honest, everything about the book was pretty much perfect). The world of Faerie was incredibly well developed, and beautifully described, and Gaiman somehow managed to portray it as simultaneously enchanting and harrowing; as lovely as it is deadly.

WRITING [5/5]

There’s not really much that I can say about the writing, except that it was excellent, and really brought across the whimsical nature of Faerie and its inhabitants. Several steps up from anything else I’ve read recently.

OVERALL IMPRESSION [5/5]

A very sweet love story, set in a beautifully fleshed-out world, that is both sinister and lovely. Tristran and Yvaine are both wonderful characters, but this book really shines is in the writing and the world-building, both of which were perfect.

RECOMMENDED FOR…

Lovers of fairytales in the more traditional sense, such as the works of the Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen & Charles Perrault. For something a bit more recent, Stardust will probably also appeal to fans of The Princess Bride by William Goldman.

Books to read when life sucks.

A friend of mine recently not-so-recently asked me to recommend a pick-me-up book, since she was feeling a little down about life, the universe and everything, and, after a little thought, I was able to rattle off a whole bunch of suggestions – then she specified that she didn’t want to read any fantasy, which stumped me a little (Doesn’t everyone want to read fantasy? All the time? Okay, so that might just be me. 😛 ). But I eventually managed to come up with a couple of what I thought were good suggestions.

But since I’d already done all that thinking about it, I thought I might as well share some of my suggestions with you guys, since – let’s face it – everyone has off days/weeks/months/years now and then. So, without further ado, here are some books that make the world suck a little bit less!

Stella Gibbons//Cold Comfort Farm1) Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons. A hilarious parody of late eighteenth / early nineteenth century agricultural novels (e.g. books by D.H. Lawrence or Thomas Hardy), in which Flora Poste becomes an orphan at the age of nineteen, and, in order to support herself, descends on her distant relatives in order to begin a career in parasitism. 😉

Rainbow Rowell//Carry On2) Carry On by Rainbow Rowell. Simon Snow, a mage, returns to Watford School of Magicks for his last year of education, and in hopes of saving the world – and manages to fall in love along the way. Especially recommended to anyone who likes to read or write fanfiction, because of its connection to Fangirl (which is also a great pick-me-up read, but if I let myself put multiple books by the same author on these lists, then this one would basically just be a Rainbow Rowell bibliography… 😳 ).

Sarah Daltry & Pete Clark//Backward Compatible3) Backward Compatible by Sarah Daltry & Pete Clark. A love story between two gamers, who meet when they end up in competition for the last copy (at the midnight launch) of a game that they both want. Very cute and fluffy. This book (and, again, Fangirl) was my antidote to The Fault in Our Stars, which should tell you quite a bit about how happy it made me. 😀

Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman//Good Omens4) Good Omens by Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman. For those whose tastes run slightly darker, here’s a comedy about the apocalypse, which mainly follows Aziraphale the angel and Crowley the demon, neither of whom are particularly dedicated to their jobs; and Adam, the Antichrist (who has a pet hellhound called Dog). In my personal opinion, Good Omens is the best thing that either author have ever written (that I’ve read).

Yumi Unita//Bunny Drop vol. 15) Bunny Drop by Yumi Unita. Last but by no means least is an adorable manga about a man who takes in his grandfather’s illegitimate six-year-old daughter, and how the two of them come together as a family. I’ve only read the first two volumes of this series, but I already love it! XD And Rin (the aforementioned six-year-old) is quite possibly the cutest kid I’ve ever come across in literature.

Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon: TBR

The time for the October Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon has almost arrived! And, once again, I plan on participating. 🙂 For those of you who don’t know, the gimmick (I suppose) with this readathon is that it lasts for 24 hours straight, and the starting and ending times are the same wherever you are in the world. That – and all the competitions and events that run on the Dewey’s blog – make for a really fun readathon, and a pretty strong sense of community.

Here are some links for you:

I’m probably not going to be doing quite so many of the memes and challenges this time around, as last time I think I went a bit overboard with my post-spamming. I’m also not going to be trying to stay up all night – my sleep schedule has been completely out-of-whack recently, and an all-nighter would probably be one of the worst things I could do while I’m still trying to fix it. I will however be doing my usual mini-reviews for each book that I finish, and I’ll also be doing posts for those challenges that I do decide to take part in… I hope you’re all looking forward to it! 😀

Last (but by no means least) up, here’s my tentative TBR (and it is very tentative, as my reading has been quite slow of late):

Dewey's TBR

1) Carry On by Rainbow Rowell. I started reading this book a few days ago (and am loving it), so there’s a good chance I’ll have finished it before the readathon starts… But if not, then this book will be my first port of call. 😉

2) The Sandman, Volume 8: World’s End by Neil Gaiman. Another book that I’ve already started (just barely). I’m not particularly fussed about whether I finish this one particularly soon, though, so it may end up falling a little by the wayside.

3) Harry Potter & the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling (illustrated edition). This one I will probably not be finishing during the readathon, as I’m really enjoying taking my time with it. I am very likely, however, to read a couple of chapters of it between my other books.

4) The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. I’ve wanted to read this for quite a while, and it’s the Waterstones Book Club pick for October, so I want to read it soon… I haven’t actually been in the mood for dystopian lately, though, so who knows? (Certainly not me. 😉 )

5) Seeker by Arwen Elys Dayton. The book on this list that is most likely to actually be read (after Carry On, of course). A YA fantasy, which I’ve been strangely craving in the last couple of weeks. Probably because of all the Dragon Age I’ve been playing. 😛

6) A Dark Horn Blowing by Dahlov Ipcar. Apparently a classic fantasy novel, though I know very little about it. I am quite intrigued, however, so this is probably what I’ll pick up next if I finish both Carry On and Seeker.