Upcoming Releases: Autumn 2017

The next few months seem to be choc-a-bloc with great new books I could mention here… but in the interest of not letting this list go on forever, I’ve picked out a few that I’m most excited for, or intrigued by that will be released in September, October & November

[All dates are taken from Amazon UK unless stated otherwise, and are correct as of 28/08/2017.]

The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding by Alexandra Bracken (5th September)

This might seem like an odd choice, since although I like Alexandra Bracken’s work, I’m not a die-hard fan… but something about The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding just sounds incredibly charming to me. It seems to be about an unremarkable boy from a family with a history of being anything but, who finds out one day that he’s sharing headspace with a demon. The impression I’m getting is a mix of Naruto and A Series of Unfortunate Events, which would make for an interesting combination! I’ll have to wait and see, however; the early reviews for this book have been somewhat mixed… Excitement level: 6/10

Provenance by Ann Leckie (28th September)

I only read my first one of Ann Leckie’s books recently (Ancillary Justice), but I was so blown away by it that I couldn’t help but add this to my “most anticipated” list as soon as I found out that it was going to be a thing… What I can tell about it so far: deep space and thievery. What I assume about it from my experience with Leckie’s writing thus far: complicated politics, rich world-building and great characters and plot. What I haven’t been able to discern: whether or not this is set in the same universe as the Imperial Radch books… 😓 So I likely won’t be picking it up until I’ve finished those books first (which will hopefully be very soon!). Excitement level: 8/10

Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling (3rd October)

The Prisoner of Azkaban has been out for years, of course, but Harry Potter fans (who seem to make up the majority of the world’s population) are bound to know already that Bloomsbury has been re-releasing new, beautifully-illustrated (by Jim Kay) editions of all the books… and this year is the turn of my favourite book in the series! The art for the last two books was amazing, so I can’t wait to see what this one will look like! 😆 Excitement level: 10/10

La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman (19th October)

The first of the three-volume Book of Dust, which takes place in the His Dark Materials universe, though it follows a new set of characters. I don’t know much more about this book than that; I really don’t need to, as I am sure to buy it anyway, and I doubt very much that I won’t enjoy it. Like many others, I feel like I’ve been waiting for this book for years, so naturally, I’m very excited that it’s finally (almost) here! Excitement level: 10/10

Tortall: A Spy’s Guide by Tamora Pierce (31st October)

It’s been so long since I read anything new from Tamora Pierce! So even though this seems to be a dossier-style book (along the lines of The Artemis Fowl Files or The Demigod Files), rather than a whole new novel, I will undoubtedly devour it. Hopefully, like the other two books I mentioned, there will also be a short story or two in the mix… Excitement level: 7/10

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T5W: Second = Best

Second books get a lot of criticism. If a series started out strong, then they have a lot to live up to, and sometimes they can seem like just a whole book’s worth of filler before a (hopefully) epic final novel… but I actually tend to really like them; with quite a few of my favourite series, I end up liking the second book best. 😊 So, naturally, I was thrilled to discover that this week’s Top 5 Wednesday theme was second books… Here’s my (heavily abridged) list:

5) A Court of Mist & Fury by Sarah J. Maas

This may be a bit of a cheat, since I haven’t finished the series yet, and so can’t know for sure whether A Court of Mist & Fury will be my favourite, but I couldn’t help including it here, simply because it was such a dramatic improvement over the first book… I liked A Court of Thorns & Roses, but the more I thought about it after I finished it, the more underwhelmed I felt; I was somewhat reluctant to even pick the sequel up, despite all the amazing things I’d been hearing about it… but, wow, was this book a huge step up. If you’re not sure about this series after book one, then rest assured that it’s worth it (so far🤞).

4) Lirael by Garth Nix

Nix’s Old Kingdom series is fantastic as a whole, but as much as I loved Sabriel and Touchstone in the first book, Lirael’s character arc in this book has always stuck with me. It doesn’t hurt, of course, that the new storyline that Lirael began was fantastic, and she had a wonderful set of sidekicks in Sam, Nick, and the Disreputable Dog. 😋

3) Half Wild by Sally Green

Not a huge amount happens in Half Wild compared to the other two books in the trilogy, so this may be something of an odd choice, but what I really love about this book is how, with the action slowed down, there was so much character and relationship development. In particular, there was some really amazing exploration of Nathan’s relationship with his estranged father Marcus, as well as his two potential love interests, Gabriel and Annalise…

2) Fire by Kristin Cashore

Fire is the second book in the Graceling Realm trilogy, and seems to be a lot of people’s least favourite entry… It’s certainly very different from the other two books – it’s even set in a different world! Kind of. But although I found the transition between books quite jarring (I wasn’t even expecting the change in protagonists, and that’s the least of the changes from Graceling), I very quickly became attached to the new characters, their world, and I loved how much this book effected the other two, despite their apparent disconnect… 💕

1) The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman

His Dark Materials is such an incredible series, and deserves all the praise it’s ever received and more; it’s exciting, thought-provoking, heart-breaking, beautifully written… Naturally, I love all three books in the trilogy, and the spin-off novellas, and I’m eagerly awaiting The Book of Dust. But Will’s introduction, and how our own world was pulled into this story with him, is what makes me love The Subtle Knife so much. (It also gave me what was probably my first ever OTP. Lyra & Will forever. 😭)

And an honourable mention for Street Magic by Tamora Pierce, which is one of my favourite books of all time, and also the second book in The Circle Opens quartet… which is itself a follow-up to the Circle of Magic series. I didn’t include it on the main list mostly because I tend to think of it as being a sixth book rather than a second, but this is also a series that people should definitely read! 🙏

(Also, in no particular order: The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater, Froi of the Exiles by Melina Marchetta, The Boy Who Wept Blood by Den Patrick,  Quicksilver by R.J. Anderson… and probably about a hundred more. But I’ll stop here, for the sake of all our sanity.)

[Top 5 Wednesday is run by Sam from ThoughtsOnTomes. To find out more or join in, check out the Goodreads group.]

May Wrap-Up

Eight books in May! I was feeling the beginnings of a reading slump towards the end of the month (after a couple of disappointing reads), but I’m glad I managed to shake it off so quickly! 😄 And apart from those few disappointments, the majority of the month has been filled with some really excellent books! Here they all are:

Darken the Stars by Amy A. Bartol. The final (I hope) book in the Kricket series, which follows a teenage girl who’s taken to another world and told that it’s actually her homeland. The last couple of books were fun, if somewhat grating, but this last book was seriously problematic. I wrote a review of the full series near the beginning of the month, but it’s mostly just a rant about Darken the Stars. 😡The Firework-Maker’s Daughter by Philip Pullman. A sweet story about a girl who wants to follow in her father’s footsteps and become a firework-maker, and so sets out on a journey to prove herself. This was a really cute book; a bit shorter than I would have preferred, but I loved the characters (particularly Hamlet the talking elephant) and the secret behind the Royal Sulphur…I Was a Rat! by Philip Pullman. The story of a rat who is turned into a boy, and the elderly couple who take him in. I first read this book many, many years ago, so I was rather surprised by how vividly I was able to remember it… and by it being just as wonderful a read as it was the first time around. I’ve written a proper review of this book, which you can find here.Clockwork by Philip Pullman. Two dark, haunting tales told parallel to one another, about two men who both make deals with the sinister Dr. Kalmenius, who has a peculiar talent for clockwork. An excellent story, and genuinely chilling, even for someone who’s significantly older than the target audience… Of the two simultaneous story threads, I preferred the one about the clockwork prince, but the way they both came together in the end was wonderful. ☺️The Scarecrow & His Servant by Philip Pullman. A lighthearted tale about a scarecrow who is struck by lightning and brought to life, and the young (rather more grounded) boy he decides to hire as his servant. It was a fun read, but I probably would have enjoyed it more if I’d read it when I was (a lot) younger. At 27, there are still things about it that I can appreciate, but as a whole it was just a bit too silly… My review can be found here.Four Tales by Philip Pullman. This was a compilation of the four tales I’ve just mentioned, and as a collection it was very impressive (and beautiful, which a book really ought to be if possible); the stories are great, and fit together very well thematically… My favourite was probably Clockwork  something that surprised me, as I was definitely expecting it to be I Was a Rat! (if only for nostalgia’s sake) – but they’re all good fun, and excellently written.The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B by Teresa Toten. A story about a boy with OCD, who meets a girl at his support group and falls madly in love with her, triggering a rapid downward spiral in his recovery… I ended up being pretty disappointed with this book, unfortunately, but since it was my May Library Scavenger Hunt pick, I’ve written a full review of it already; you can find it here. 😑Geekerella by Ashley Poston. An adorable modern re-interpretation of Cinderella, where Cinderella (i.e. Elle) is a huge fan of the sci-fi series Starfield, as well as the daughter of the founder of ExcelsiCon, a massive Starfield convention, and Prince Charming (i.e. Darien) is a young heartthrob actor and secret nerd, who’s just been cast for the lead role in the new Starfield reboot. It’s not exactly love at first sight, but they get there in the end. I absolutely loved this book! It’s super-cute, with great characters (even the minor ones), and a few surprising twists to the traditional Cinderella-retelling mould… I will hopefully be posting a full review of this in the next couple of weeks. 😄What’s a Soulmate? by Lindsey Ouimet. A surprisingly complex look at the soulmate-identifying-marks trope, in which a teenage girl called Libby meets her soulmate at the juvenile detention centre where her father works, only to find that he’s been brought there for committing a horrific assault. I’ve been seeing this trope in various different forms (including the one Ouimet uses) all over the place lately, and I’ll confess that I’m something of a sucker for it, but I really feel that Ouimet was able to do something unexpected with it. I won’t say too much else here, because this is another book that I’d like to write a more detailed review of, but the characters were all great, and the plot and the romance were both exciting and realistically portrayed… 👍

Review: The Scarecrow & His Servant by Philip Pullman (Spoiler-Free)

One night a scarecrow is struck by lightning and comes to life, and a great adventure ensues, as – along with his newly-hired (and very hungry) servant Jack – the Scarecrow hits the road in search of fame and fortune and, eventually, home… all while being pursued by bandits, birds, and all manner of other fearsome foes!

The short version of this review would be “a jolly romp, but a bit silly for my taste”, but since that doesn’t tell you much, I’ll go into a little more detail…

The story is told rather episodically, with Scarecrow moving from one adventure to the next without much thought, and much of it seemed rather flippant. Pullman was clearly going for a more comic tone with this book, and while there were some humorous parts, for the most part I feel that it missed the mark with me. Jack’s narration was good, however, and I liked him a lot as a character; Scarecrow was incredibly silly, but Jack seems to take all his quirks in stride.

I also really loved the role of the birds in the story. Naturally, a bird is a scarecrow’s mortal enemy, but (with some intervention from Jack) the way their relationship with Scarecrow changed over the course of the book was wonderful, and culminated in a great scene near the end where Scarecrow was brought before an enormous congress of birds (including Granny Raven, who is quite possibly the best character in the whole book).

The plot did come together quite well in the end, too, and although the ending managed to seem simultaneously drawn out (by Scarecrow’s illness) and rushed (in the final four-page chapter that ties up all the loose ends for everyone, however big or small their role), it was still a good one.

Review: I Was a Rat! by Philip Pullman (Spoiler-Free)

All Bob and Joan really want is a child, but after years of trying, they’ve all but given up hope. That is, until a small boy in a tattered page-boy’s uniform knocks on their door one night with no clear memory of anything except this: That he used to be a rat.

I remember really loving this book when I was little, but it had been so long since I read it that I’d completely forgotten what it was called or who it was by… Needless to say, I was thrilled when I finally came across it again (in Pullman’s Four Tales anthology) – but at the same time, I was really nervous about re-reading it, in case my memory of how good it was had been skewed by nostalgia. Luckily for me, it turned out that it hadn’t; I Was a Rat! was just as amazing the second time around as I remember it being the first! 😀

It’s quite a short story, so there’s not that much room for extensive character development, but it’s great to see how Roger (the rat-boy) changes as he learns more about living amongst humans – for better and for worse. Bob and Joan are both wonderful parents/mentors to him, I really admired their persistence throughout the book; and all the other characters we’re introduced to over the course of Roger’s journey (however large or small their roles might be) are full of quirks, and a delight to read about.

This story is a sequel of sorts to a very well-known fairytale (which I won’t name here even though I wouldn’t really consider it a spoiler), and Pullman has twisted the familiar tale in some very interesting ways beyond just showing it from Roger’s (very interesting and very unusual) perspective. He’s definitely a master storyteller, and I Was a Rat! is a perfect demonstration of that… The edition I’ve been reading is also littered with fun illustrations by Peter Bailey, which really enhance the reading experience.4 stars

September Wrap-Up

I was feeling a bit slumpy in September (and I’ve been super-busy at work), so I’m actually quite surprised by how many books I’ve managed to read: 4 novels – most of them quite chunky – and 1 novella! And, more importantly, I really loved almost all of them! ❤

Melina Marchetta//Froi of the ExilesFroi of the Exiles by Melina Marchetta. The second book in the Lumatere Chronicles. This book follows Froi – one of the supporting characters from Finnikin of the Rock – on a mission in the enemy kingdom of Charyn, where a curse has taken hold, and no child has been born in 18 years… since the birth of Princess Quintana, whom the Charynites refer to as “Quintana the curse-maker”. I really enjoyed Finnikin of the Rock, but Froi of the Exiles was even better; the same brilliantly complex characters, and wonderful world, but built up even further, and a little easier to get into. I wish there’d been a bit more of Finnikin, but I really loved all the characters – new and old – who had parts in this new story. In particular, it was great to see how Beatriss and Trevanion’s relationship developed after their years apart, and the Charynite twins, Gargarin and Arjuro, were fascinating. The plot was wonderful, too; quiet or dramatic in all the right places, and there was a very sudden development right at the end of the book that made me very glad that I already had the sequel on my shelf, waiting to be picked up immediately. 😀5 stars

Melina Marchetta//Quintana of CharynQuintana of Charyn by Melina Marchetta. The final Lumatere Chronicles book, and what a book it was! 😀 I obviously can’t say much about what happens, but all the story threads were tied up wonderfully, the romance (and this book is definitely the most romantic in the series) was great, and the writing beautiful. Froi of the Exiles is still probably my favourite of the three books, but it’s been a long time since I was this satisfied by the way a series ended. 🙂5 starsMichael Grant//Messenger of FearMessenger of Fear by Michael Grant. My Library Scavenger Hunt pick for September, which follows a teenage girl who wakes up in a mysterious place, remembering nothing of her life before. I was a little disappointed by this book, but I’ve already posted a mini-review explaining why.2 starsPhilip Pullman//Lyra's OxfordLyra’s Oxford by Philip Pullman. A short story set a while after the end of the His Dark Materials trilogy, in which Lyra and Pan come across a witch’s daemon being attacked by a vicious flock of birds, and set out to help it on its mission. Obviously, this comes nowhere close to matching the sheer brilliance of the main series, but it was really lovely to be back in the His Dark Materials universe (and I believe I said something quite similar after reading Once Upon a Time in the North, too 😉 ), and it was doubly nice to be reading about Lyra again, at to see what’s been going on in her life, and how much she’s changed (a hint: not too much). The story was interesting, too, though I wish it’d been longer.4 starsWinston Graham//DemelzaDemelza by Winston Graham. The second book in the Poldark series, which is set in a Cornish mining community towards the end of the eighteenth century, and follows various members of the Poldark family, who are landed gentry fallen on hard times due to the falling price of the copper from their mines. I actually started reading this book sometime last year (pretty much immediately after finishing Ross Poldark, I think), but ended up putting it aside when I got distracted by other books – but I’m really glad that I’ve finally finished it! I really love the drama in this series, and the romance, and all the politics/economics (which is not something that I ever thought I’d find myself thinking) of the community where the main characters live. I had already seen the whole of the first series of the TV adaptation (which covers the events of the first two books in the series) before I started Demelza, so I already knew what was going to happen, but I found that it made me anticipate each new development, rather than making the story seem tedious.5 stars

T5W: Books I wish had sequels

Apparently once every three months or so is my limit for how often I can do Top 5 Wednesday posts – which is a shame, because I really enjoy putting them together… And this month in particular there were several interesting themes that I would’ve liked to have done a post for, if only my blogging schedule hadn’t been packed already. 😦 But anyway! Today’s theme is books you wish had sequels, or series that you wish weren’t over, which is a very common wish on my part! 😛

Victoria Hanley//The Seer & the Sword5) The Seer & the Sword by Victoria Hanley

This book is one of my oldest favourites, but somehow I’ve never mentioned it on this blog before. It follows a young princess called Torina who – when her father returns from the war with the neighbouring country of Bellandra – is given two gifts: A crystal ball that shows her visions, and Bellandra’s prince, Landen, as a slave. The former of these she keeps, the latter she frees, and what follows is a beautiful and heart-breaking love story, with a compelling plot and plenty of interesting fantasy-world-politics. There are actually two more books in this series (which I haven’t read yet) but unfortunately they’re companions rather than true sequels… 😦

Philip Pullman//Northern Lights4) The His Dark Materials series by Philip Pullman

His Dark Materials is a beautiful series, and in truth I wouldn’t want to change a single word of it; not even then ending, which broke my heart, and which I’ve been griping about endlessly to all my friends for the last fifteen years or so… ^^’ The ending in question was incredibly bittersweet, with Will and Lyra struggling to come up with solution after solution, only to realise that there’s no magical fix-it to be found. So, yeah, it’d be nice to have a sequel, even if it’s just in short story-form, to provide some kind of closure beyond a garden bench. 😥

Rainbow Rowell//Eleanor & Park3) Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

This is an interesting one, because I did really like the way Rowell decided to wrap-up the story, but at the same time, I really wanted something more. Like, maybe a reunion? “Will there be a sequel?” seems to be a question that Rowell gets asked a lot (it’s even in the FAQ section on her website), so I know I’m not alone in wanting one, but the answer still seems rather up-in-the-air. I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed. 🙂

Rainbow Rowell//Carry On2) Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

Another Rainbow Rowell book, I know! ^^’ I usually prefer not to put authors on these lists more than once, but I couldn’t help it; Carry On and Eleanor & Park were the first things that popped into my head when I saw this theme, and I want them both to have sequels so badly. With Carry On, my wishes are a little more outrageous, however: Yes, I want a sequel (Simon & Baz after Watford!), but I also want prequels (Lucy & the Mage, anyone? And, of course, Simon’s first seven years at Watford), and maybe even a next-generation spin-off stage show? 😉 In short, I want it to be the Harry Potter-like phenomenon that was described in Fangirl – even though it’s never going to happen. 😦

Elizabeth Gaskell//North & South1) North & South by Elizabeth Gaskell

And lastly, a classic! I love this book so much (and you should read my review if you haven’t already *hinthint*), but the ending was so abrupt! Some interesting trivia regarding that, however: North & South was initially published as a serial, and due to lagging sales (partially because the book was in direct competition with Charles Dickens’ Hard Times, which had a similar subject matter and was being serialised at the same time), Gaskell was “compelled” to finish the story in 20 chapters instead of the 22 that she’d planned. Maybe those two extra chapters would’ve contained the ending I – and so many North & South fans – so desperately want! (Curse you, Charles Dickens! 😡 )

[Top 5 Wednesday was created by gingerreadslainey, and is run by Sam from ThoughtsOnTomes. To find out more or join in, check out the Goodreads group.]