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

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September Wrap-Up

This September I read 13 books, which isn’t quite as ridiculous as my August total, but still a surprising amount. Most of these I really liked, too, so without further ado…

Prudence Shen//Nothing Can Possibly Go WrongNothing Can Possibly Go Wrong by Prudence Shen. I was surprised by how much I ended up liking this book – I expected it to be fun, but it also felt really nostalgic (mainly for this old robot-fighting TV show that I used to be obsessed with). The second half had a very different feeling from the first half, though: It goes from high-school drama to robot war very quickly. There’s overarching emotional things going on with the main character, too, which added a lot to the story, & I really love Faith Erin Hicks’ (the illustrator) art style!

5 stars

Faith Erin Hicks//Friends with BoysFriends With Boys by Faith Erin Hicks. The story was interesting (it follows a home-schooled girl who’s switching to a normal school for the first time, & there’s also a ghost involved), but the main selling point for me was (the art, and also) the characters, especially Lucy, who is adorable.4 stars

Malorie Blackman//Boys Don't CryBoys Don’t Cry by Malorie Blackman. A very emotional story, especially in the second half & excellently written (as Malorie Blackman’s books always are). My favourite character was Dante’s brother Adam, but I felt like there was simultaneously too much of him & not enough. I would’ve preferred to have learnt about his problems from Dante’s perspective, rather than having a dual-POV, as most of Adam’s chapters seemed way too short. There’s a sequel/companion (I’m not sure which) out as well, called Heart Break Girl, but unfortunately it doesn’t seem to be available anywhere…3 stars

Brian Selznick//The Invention of Hugo CabretThe Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick. Beautifully written & drawn, and the constant switching between pictures & words makes nice contrast, without being too jarring. I especially loved the way Professor Alcofrisbas was incorporated at the end (something not mentioned in the movie), explaining the reference to Hugo’s “invention” in the book’s title. Minor characters (i.e. the station master, other shopkeepers, etc.) weren’t quite as sympathetic as in the movie, as we don’t see so much of them.4 stars

Sally Green//Half BadHalf Bad by Sally Green. I don’t have too much to say about this one, since I’ve already written a full review, but I really loved the whole story, & I’d definitely recommend it. 🙂 4 stars

Christine Pope//Dragon RoseDragon Rose by Christine Pope. A nice, unpretentious love story which re-tells the tale of Beauty & the Beast. I really enjoyed it, but I thought the ending was a little rushed, & would’ve preferred it if Rhianne had seen Theran’s cursed-form at least once before breaking the curse. The side-characters were also sadly under-developed, but that’s actually pretty understandably, since the whole premise of the story is that the two main characters are pretty much in isolation the whole time.3 stars

Christine Pope//Ashes of RosesAshes of Roses by Christine Pope. A Cinderella re-telling this time! I loved the characterisation & how the romance developed, and the dual POV was a surprise after Dragon Rose, but I liked reading from Torric’s perspective, too. Plot-wise, there weren’t too many surprises, but waiting for the penny to drop on Ashara’s disguise was somewhat suspenseful, & the conclusion was very satisfying.4 stars

Christine Pope//One Thousand NightsOne Thousand Nights by Christine Pope. This one was pretty fun, but not so good as Ashes of Roses or Dragon Rose. I enjoyed seeing more of the Latter Kingdoms world, but liked Lyarris & Besh much less then previous couples in the series. Some threads of the plotline (like Besh’s daughter) could have been developed further, & it was overall plot-lite (which isn’t always necessarily a problem in romance fiction, but I found Lyarris’ constant whining about Besh not wanting to sleep with her kind of annoying). It probably would also have benefitted from a dual-perspective, as I never really felt that I got to know Besh very well. Also, the Scheherazade aspects were only present in a couple of chapters of the book, & completely not essential to the storyline. Definitely my least-favourite in the series so far.2 stars

Christine Pope//Binding SpellBinding Spell by Christine Pope. In contrast, this was probably my favourite in the series! Lark was a great, interesting heroine, though I wish she’d been a little slower to accept her fate. Kadar was a lot of fun, too, and probably the most realistic of the love interests so far. Their relationship development was very believable, too. I’m not sure which fairytale this is based on, though, or even if it is a re-telling, despite the fact that the other books in this series all seem to be…4 stars

Pale Roses by Michael Moorcock (from The Time Traveller’s Almanac). I’m not too sure what to say about this one. A bizarre story, with characters I didn’t like much… Werther (the main character) reminded me a little of Winston from 1984, though I’m not entirely sure why. It took a long time to finish, but I’m glad I’ve finally read it & can move on to the next story in the collection.1 star

Intisar Khanani//ThornThorn by Intisar Khanani. Well-written, with an interesting storyline – my first experience with the Goose Girl fairytale, so I don’t know how faithful it is to the original, but it definitely had a magical quality to it. I loved how Alyrra struggled between her desires and her duties, and how she finally found the courage to stand up for what she believed in. Kestrin was interesting, too, but less developed. Unfortunately, the combination of first-person & Alyrra’s pseudonym also meant that I continually forgot what her real name was… :/4 stars

Shannon Hale//The Goose GirlThe Goose Girl by Shannon Hale. Another Goose Girl re-telling (obviously), but much lighter in tone than Thorn. Ani was also far more “princess-y” than Alyrra was (understandably, since Ani had actually been treated like a princess, where Alyrra was scorned by her family). It was beautifully-written, & the side characters were better-developed in this one (with the exception of Selia, whose character & motivations were much less clear than Valka’s). I also found myself liking Geric & Ani’s romance a lot, even though it only played a small part in the story & the twist at the end was a little predictable (as fairytale “twists” often are!). I’m not entirely sure which version I liked better, but they were definitely both worth reading! 🙂4 stars

Diana Gabaldon//OutlanderCross Stitch by Diana Gabaldon (known simply as Outlander in the US). It read surprisingly easily, for an 800+ word book. I actually picked it up because I was enjoying the TV series so much, but I ended up liking the book even more. There’s less of Frank, of course (since it’s written in first person, from Claire’s perspective), which makes it less conflicting for the reader, and the TV series seems to have more fleshed-out side characters & settings, but at the expense of Claire & Jamie’s romance (the book focuses much more on their interactions). I like where the plot seems to be going, & am looking forward to seeing Bonnie Prince Charlie in book 2!4 stars

September Book Haul

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I hadn’t actually realised just how many books I’d bought this month until I piled them all up for this photo… Oops. 😦

And there are even more books that I really, really want coming out in October! But after that, I think I should put myself on a book-buying ban. I’m running out of space on my shelves, anyway… 😦

1) This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen. I’ve already read this one, and the only reason I hadn’t bought it already is that I wanted to be sure to get this edition (by Hodder). I ended up buying it second-hand on Amazon, so it’s a little battered, but I find myself not minding overmuch.

2) Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick. I still haven’t read that other Markus Sedgwick book that I bought last month! But I spotted this by chance in Waterstones & couldn’t resist the beautiful cover (this haul contains quite a lot of books that I mainly bought for the covers…). This is also the book of his which I’ve heard the most about – it seems to be a reincarnation story, and the description reminded me a little of Cloud Atlas (by David Mitchell), which I haven’t finished reading, but am really enjoying so far.

3) The Jewel by Amy Ewing. I actually don’t know very much about this book, & I only really bought it because I kept seeing it all over the place. From the blurb, it seems like it’s a dystopian, along the lines of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.

4) Daughter of Smoke & Bone and Days of Blood & Starlight by Laini Taylor. I bought these two mainly because I thought my urban fantasy collection needed some fleshing out, and I’ve heard really great things about this trilogy – though, I realise now, I don’t really know what it’s about… I believe it has something to do with demons, though, and I really love the UK covers. I was planning on buying the third book (Dreams of Gods & Monsters) as well, but it doesn’t seem to be out in paperback yet.

5) Night World Volume 1 by L.J. Smith. Consisting of the first three stories in the Night World universe: Secret VampireDaughters of Darkness and Spellbinder. I found this by chance in the Oxfam bookshop when I was dropping off some of my old books that I didn’t want anymore, & thought I’d get it, since it was super-cheap and I already own the other two bind-ups of the series.

6) Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong by Prudence Shen. I ordered this after reading Boxers & Saints, because I was really in the mood for contemporary graphic novels (as opposed to the DC stuff that I usually read when I feel like reading comics). I really loved it, & will talk about why in my next post (September wrap-up!).

7) Friends with Boys by Faith Erin Hicks. Another contemporary graphic novel, & they both have the same illustrator! I really love Faith Erin Hicks’ art style, which is why I picked these two over all the other books of this genre that’re out there…

8) Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge. A Beauty & the Beast retelling! I’ve been on a massive fairytale kick recently, so I ordered this a few days ago, & it arrived amazingly quickly. Apparently in this one, the Beauty-character has been training all her life to kill the Beast, though, so I’m interested to see how it’ll turn out.

9) Jane Austen, Game Theorist by Michael Suk-Young. I mainly bought this on a whim, since I thought the title sounded cool. It’s non-fiction, so I don’t know how long it’ll take me to get around to reading it, but it promises to be interesting! 🙂

David Mitchell//The Bone Clocks10) The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell. Who wrote Cloud Atlas, which I mentioned earlier. This one looks to be another multiple-storylines-weaving-together-type book, which I love, but to be honest, I mainly bought it for the cover. The US cover looks cool as well, but this one is a thing of beauty… ➟

11) Chineasy by Shaolan. I’ve had my eye on this since the kickstarter campaign, & I finally decided to order it around the end of last month. It’s not exactly the kind of book that you can read the whole way though (since it’s basically a text book), but it has some lovely illustrations, and even the Chinese version of Peter & the Wolf at the end!

And finally, 12) Batgirl/Robin: Year One! I almost bought Robin: Year One on its own a couple of years ago, but decided to wait when I found out that this was going to be released. The Batgirl: Year One story is the most exciting thing about this bind-up, since it’s been out of print for years, and before this book, it was selling second-hand for ridiculous amounts (even the individual issues in the series were expensive!). I’m so excited to finally have them both! 😀