April Wrap-Up

Not my greatest reading month in terms of quantity, but pretty impressive in terms of quality! 😉 Also, as I now appreciate more fully, non-fiction can be pretty time-consuming, even when you’re enjoying it… So in April I read a total of two novels, and one academic book. Here’s what I thought of them:

The Tower of the Swallow by Andrzej Sapkowski. The sixth book in the Witcher series (and the fourth of the novels which make up the Saga of the Witcher), in which Geralt and his companions continue their search for Ciri, as do several other interested parties, most of whom have less-than-noble designs. Obviously there’s not much I can say about the plot, but it continues to thicken, and I’m simultaneously dreading and anticipating reading the next (and final!) book in the series!

The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan. The first book in Riordan’s most recent Percy Jackson-verse series, The Trials of Apollo, which follows the god Apollo after he’s been turned into a mortal teenager by Zeus. I just about managed to scrape together a review of this book (which I liked a lot, though perhaps not so much as I have previous books from this universe); you can find it here. 🙂Seeing Voices by Oliver Sacks. My Library Scavenger Hunt pick for the month, which is an exploration/study of Deaf culture and Sign Language (amongst other things). It’s rare that I foray into the world of non-fiction, but this made for an interesting read, even though much of it was completely over my head. You can find my full review here.

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Review: The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan (Spoiler-Free)

[Warning: This is a spoiler-free review, but may contain references to some events from the Percy Jackson & the Olympians and Heroes of Olympus series, with which The Trials of Apollo shares a continuity. My previous reviews from this universe: The Blood of Olympus (Heroes of Olympus #5); Percy Jackson & the Greek Heroes.]

Apollo has irritated his father Zeus, King of the Gods, about a hundred times too many. His punishment? To be turned into a mortal teenager, complete with acne and flab (the horror!). Meanwhile Camp Half Blood is in crisis, as the Oracle of Delphi has lost its power, and it may well be up to Apollo – as the (former) god of prophecy – and his new demigod “master” – a wild urchin called Meg – to find a way to restore it.

I didn’t like this book as much as I have previous entries from the Percy Jackson continuity (not that that’s saying much, as my love for Percy Jackson is somewhat extreme), but it did make an interesting break from Riordan’s usual formula. The choice of a god (or ex-god, I should say) as narrator and protagonist was a refreshing change from Half Bloods discovering the world of demigods for the first time. Apollo himself was conceited to an annoying degree, but underwent amazing character growth as the story went on… and my annoyance with him in the early parts of the book were more a me-thing than a he’s-a-terrible-chracter-thing, as it was mostly just because The Hidden Oracle has a slightly different sense of humour than Riordan’s previous books, and it didn’t resonate with me quite so well.

Things that I did really appreciate about the book, though: Firstly, there was no obvious love interest for Apollo. I’ve made no secret of the fact that I don’t think Rick Riordan does romance very well, so I’m holding out hope that the relationships in this series (or Apollo’s relationships, at least) will remain platonic – and it seems likely, as the most prominent characters in the book other than Apollo himself are either a) his children, b) in a relationship already, or c) too young even for Apollo’s teen-incarnation. Secondly (and most importantly), the actual storyline was really, really fun. The Trials of Apollo definitely looks like it’s gearing up to be another great, high-stakes adventure in Percy Jackson-land, and I’m looking forward to getting my hands on The Dark Prophecy (which is coming out next week!) soon.

T5W: LGBTQ+

This is a day late, I know, so it’s more like a Top 5 Thursday than a Top 5 Wednesday, but I’ve been meaning to do a post of my favourite LGBTQ+ books for a while, so I wasn’t going to let this excuse pass me by. 😉

5) The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

A story about the crew of a spaceship, who’ve signed on to create a wormhole between two distant planets, a task that involves a long journey through deep space, and a lot of time with only each other for company. This book is, naturally, heavily character-driven, and the thing I like most about it is the sheer diversity of it, both in terms of race/species and relationships (and the “plus” part of LGBTQ+ plays a prominent role here). My favourite relationship in the book is between one of the crewmembers and the ship’s A.I., which is incredibly sweet, but the book also does a really great job of portraying same-sex relationships, inter-species relationships, and even polyamory.

4) The Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan

The gay character (who I won’t name here for the benefit of the one person in the world who hasn’t read this series yet, a.k.a. Chloë) in this series is actually closeted for the majority of it (as well as the Percy Jackson & the Olympians series, in which he also plays a fairly prominent role), but his forced coming-out scene in The House of Hades is one of my favourite moments in any of Riordan’s books, ever. So many feelings! 😥 I’m not a huge fan of the eventual pairing that Riordan seemingly picked out of a hat for him (something that I’ve been forced to confront more and more recently, as I’ve just started reading The Trials of Apollo series, which is set not long after Heroes of Olympus), but he himself is a really wonderful, well-rounded character, and I love how the (quite sudden) revelation of his sexuality didn’t change his role in the books in the slightest.

3) The Boy Who Wept Blood by Den Patrick

The second book in the Erebus Sequence (though the first one reads very much like a prequel, so I think that The Boy Who Wept Blood might actually be a better starting point for this series), which follows a group of Orfani – people who are all remarkably talented and highly educated, but horrifically deformed – in a gothic fantasy setting. The main character in this book (who is also present in The Boy with the Porcelain Blade, but only as a small child) struggles a lot with his sexuality, as his world is about as accepting of homosexuality as our own, over 100 years ago… so, not very much. :/

2) The Half Life trilogy by Sally Green

The main pairing in Sally Green’s Half Life trilogy – which follows a young man who’s half-Black Witch and half-White Witch, and persecuted by both societies – took me somewhat by surprise. It was a relationship I was rooting for from their very first meeting, and I was aware of comments that Green had made on social media that they were perfect for each other, but somehow it always seemed like Nathan would be running from his feelings until long after the series’ ending. (And also, he had a girlfriend, which didn’t bode hugely well.) Needless to say, I was overjoyed when it became canon. 😀 These were two amazing characters, and a beautiful, heartbreaking, and incredibly realistic love story, despite their fantastical circumstances.

1) Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

Lastly, one of my favourite books of all time, Carry On, which tells the story of Simon and Baz at Watford School of Magicks, where a mysterious being known as the Insidious Humdrum is threatening magic’s very existence. It’s actually a spin-off of another of Rowell’s books, Fangirl, whose main character writes fanfiction of the mega-successful Simon Snow series (which is the Harry Potter of the Fangirl universe). It’s all very meta (and also fantastic)… So pretty much everyone knew from the time the book was announced that Simon and Baz were going to be a couple, and their relationship played a major part in the novel, without eclipsing the main storyline in the slightest. It was just there, slowly and wonderfully developing in the background, while all the drama and mysteries unfolded around it.

You might have noticed that none of the books on this list (except maybe Carry On) advertise themselves as LGBTQ+ stories (i.e. books that deliberately focus on sexuality, and how it influences the lives of their protagonists). This wasn’t exactly a deliberate choice, but although there are plenty of specifically-LGBTQ+ books that I really like (and when you’re writing a book specifically about LGBTQ+ issues, then the only way your readers won’t know about it going in is if they don’t bother to read the blurb), I really appreciate it when authors don’t feel the need to make a big deal out of their characters’ sexuality… and I feel that it goes a long way towards normalising diversity in literature, without trivialising the struggles that LGBTQ+ people face in society.

Also, an honourable mention for Quicksilver by R.J. Anderson, which has a special place in my heart as one of the few books out there (and the only one I’ve read so far) with an openly asexual lead character. It’s also a really good book, of course, just not quite as amazing as most of the books on this list. (It was such a difficult choice!)

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

December Wrap-Up

December ended up being a pretty great reading month – in terms of both quantity and quality – despite being crazily busy at work and at home in the build-up to Christmas. I read a grand total of 5 novels, 1 short story collection, and 10 manga volumes – including several books that I’d been really excited for for a long time! And they most definitely did not disappoint~ 😀

Leigh Bardugo//Crooked KingdomCrooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo. The sequel to Six of Crows, which follows a group of criminals trying to make their fortunes in the underbelly of the Amsterdam-inspired city of Ketterdam, and bring ruin to everyone who’s ever crossed them. I didn’t enjoy this book as much as Six of Crows (though I still enjoyed it a great deal); there was a plot development near the end that I really didn’t like, and, worse, felt was completely unnecessary, and it didn’t leave me with quite the giddy, excited feeling that I had after reading the first book. What it did do was tear out my heart and stomp on it. 😥 The writing was wonderfully emotional, the character development was superb, and the plot was brilliantly complex; a masterfully crafted roller-coaster of a story, full of dramatic twists and turns. Definitely a worthy ending to a great series.5 stars

Kate A. Boorman//WinterkillWinterkill by Kate A. Boorman. The first book in series which follows a young girl called Emmeline, who lives in a remote and isolated community that’s plagued by a strange monster called the malmaci. This was my Library Scavenger Hunt pick for the month, so I’ve already posted a review of it here, but in short: it was well-written, with an engaging plotline, likeable characters and a great, spooky atmosphere, and I had a lot of fun reading it. 🙂3 starsAmie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff//GeminaGemina by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff. The second book in The Illuminae Files, which all document an attack on a mining planet called Kerenza, but from several different points of view. Gemina showed the incident from the perspective of two teenagers aboard the Heimdall space station, where the Kerenza survivors were felling during the first book – Hanna, the station commander’s daughter, and Nik, an unregistered civilian whose family is running a drugs operation – and like Illuminae, it’s fast-paced and action-packed, and surprisingly emotional for being written as a series of data files. So, naturally, I loved it. ❤ Hanna and Nik were both great characters, and the story’s twists and turns kept me on the edge of my seat the whole way through… Illuminae is a tough act to follow (one of my favourite books of all time), and I don’t think Gemina was quite so good, but it comes pretty close. Needless to say, I’m very excited for the next book in the series.5 starsCLAMP//Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle vol. 11Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE, Volumes 11-20 by CLAMP. A fun and energetic series about a group of friends travelling between different worlds (and meeting lots of other-world versions of characters from CLAMP’s previous works) in search of Princess Sakura’s stolen memories, which take the form of magical feathers. It’s been a long time since I last rad any of this series (several years, in fact), but I was surprised by how easily I was able to pick up where I’d left off, even though I’d been in the middle of a story-arc when I last stopped – the story and characters are all incredibly memorable. In these 10 volumes, the plot took a very surprising turn, taking the series in a rather dark direction, and I’m really excited to see how this new dilemma is going to be resolved!4 stars

Francesca Simon//The Monstrous ChildThe Monstrous Child by Francesca Simon. The story of Hel, the Norse goddess of death, and Queen of the Underworld, imagined as a teenager who’s despised by her divine family. Understandably – since this book is about Hel’s whole life rather than just a certain event – the plot lacks direction somewhat, and I wasn’t a huge fan of Hel herself; she’s rather an abrasive character. This was, however, really interesting as a character study, in a way that was almost reminiscent of Fairest by Marissa Meyer, and I really enjoyed that aspect of it, along with the writing, which was fluid and engaging.3 starsMarie Rutkoski//The Winner's CurseRick Riordan//Percy Jackson & the Greek HeroesTo finish off the year, the Holiday Booktubeathon arrived, and I managed to read two books over the course of it: The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski, and Percy Jackson & the Greek Heroes by Rick Riordan. I’ve written mini-reviews for both of them, which you can find by clicking on their respective covers. 🙂

#HolidayBookTubeAThon 2016: Update 2 & Mini-Review

Rick Riordan//Percy Jackson & the Greek HeroesJUST FINISHED: Percy Jackson & the Greek Heroes by Rick Riordan.

A collection of tales about Greek heroes, re-told through the hilarious voice of Percy Jackson, á la Percy Jackson & the Greek Gods. Highlights include: Perseus & Medusa, Jason & the Argonauts, Theseus & the Minotaur, almost 100 pages on the trials of Hercules… along with several others. My particular favourite was probably the story about Psyche & Eros, if only because it was one of the few stories that ended happily, and Hera (who the Percy Jackson & the Olympians series has already conditioned me to dislike immensely) makes for a truly beastly villain.

I didn’t enjoy this book quite as much as Percy Jackson & the Greek Gods, however, and I think that was mainly because some of the stories tended to drag… I already mentioned that the Hercules chapter was almost 100 pages long, but it could also be quite repetitive at times, and many of the other stories the same flaw. This is for an obvious reason: while Greek Gods was divided up into individual stories, Greek Heroes was instead divided by character, and many of the heroes of Greek mythology did a great deal of adventuring.

That said, this was still a fantastic book, full of great stories told in a fresh, and very witty way. Riordan’s characterisation was really great, as well, and although I was already familiar with a lot of these stories, I found myself often looking at the characters in a different light than I had previously (especially Jason, who came across as something of a sweetheart in this, even if he makes some colossally stupid mistakes).

4 stars

CURRENT READATHON STATUS: Probably going to finish up my readathon here, as I have various things to do tonight other than reading. I’m happy with these results, though, so all is well. ^^’

Books Completed: 2
Pages Read: 610
Challenges Completed: 0/4

#HolidayBookTubeAThon: TBR!

Happy Christmas, everyone! It’s (almost) time for the Holiday Booktubeathon once again, which means that I will be spending next weekend reading away. 🙂 I’m not really going to be sticking to the challenges – which you can find in the official announcement video – too closely, as I’m going to be surprisingly busy over the Booktubeathon period and I don’t know how much reading time I’ll be able to fit in, but I do still have a tentative TBR:

Rick Riordan//Percy Jackson & the Greek Heroes1) Percy Jackson & the Greek Heroes by Rick Riordan. I started reading this today, and I’d like to have finished it before the Booktubeathon starts, but if I haven’t, then this’ll be my first priority. A collection of Greek heroic myths, hilariously re-told by the one and only Percy Jackson

Marie Rutkoski//The Winner's Curse2) The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski. The first book in the Winner’s trilogy, which was super-popular a little while ago, & which I’ve heard fantastic things about. I picked this up today in the 12 Days of Kindle sale (along with way too many other things ^^’ ), and I’m super-excited to read it, even though I don’t know too much about the story.

Wild Lily//K.M. Peyton3) Wild Lily by K.M. Peyton. If I manage to finish both of those, then I’ll be picking up Wild Lily next, a new book about aeroplanes from the author who first made me love aeroplanes. This will also count for a challenge (a book that was a gift), so I suppose there’s a small chance that I might manage to complete one of them this year! 😛

I haven’t previously bothered with mini-reviews for the Holiday Booktubethon, since there’s always so much else going on, but I will be making an attempt at it this year, so keep an eye out for updates (if you think they’re something worth anticipating 😉 )!

October Haul

October seems to have turned into another crazy month for book-buying, for which I have no defence, except that there’ve been a lot of new releases recently that I’ve been really looking forward to – and I also got really into The Witcher video games, and decided that I needed to read the books that they’re based on, too. 😳 In fact, every time I look at this stack of books, I’m almost paralysed with indecision over which one to pick up next; I’m so excited for all of them!

On a less positive note (was that first paragraph even a positive note? Perhaps, partially), my book-buying ban definitely needs to be re-implemented, which unfortunately means I won’t be getting my hands on Gemina (the other new release that I’ve been wanting) for a little while yet… 😦
october 2016 haul

1) Goldenhand by Garth Nix. The fifth book in the Old Kingdom series, which I know absolutely nothing about, and don’t want to know anything about, since I still haven’t read Clariel

2) Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas. The fifth book in the Throne of Glass series, which seems to have been on everyone’s most-anticipated lists… I’m excited to read this, though I’m also quite nervous about it, as I wasn’t a huge fan of some of the decisions that were made in the last book. Hopefully this one will be better, though!

3) Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo. The sequel to Six of Crows, which I read a couple of months ago and absolutely loved. This is probably going to be the first book I read once I’ve finished my mini-marathon of the Andrzej Sapkowski books that I currently own; my insides have been twisting with anticipation every time I catch sight of it in my TBR pile… Obviously, I have very high hopes. XD

4) Magnus Chase & the Hammer of Thor by Rick Riordan. The second book in the Magnus Chase & the Gods of Asgard series. Of all the books I picked up last month, this is probably the one I could most have done without, as I still haven’t read the first book. I do, however, have faith that this series is going to be just as amazing as Riordan’s other books that I’ve read, so I don’t regret it, and I also wanted to make sure that I remembered to get it while it was still available in hardback. The paperback is still a long way off, but I tend to forget about things if I put them off for too long… ^^’

5) The Last Wish, Sword of Destiny, Blood of Elves, Time of Contempt & Baptism of Fire by Andrzej Sapkowski. The first five books in the Witcher series, which inspired the aforementioned video games! Interestingly, the first two books in the series are short story collections, while the main saga actually begins with book three (Blood of Elves). I’ve already read the first three of these books (which I’ve talked about in my October wrap-up), and am currently about mid-way through Time of Contempt – so far, they’re really great, and they only seem to be getting better as they go on!

6) A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb. An apparently quite spooky paranormal romance featuring ghosts, which I first heard about on a youtube video by ChapterStackss, about her favourite romance novels. I was intrigued, but not enough so to go looking for it… but the very next day I came across a copy at work, and knew that I had to have it. 🙂 Hopefully I’ll be able to get to this before Halloween is too distant a memory. 😛

7) Among Thieves by Douglas Hulick. Another book that I stumbled upon at work, though I know even less about this one than the last. It’s a dark fantasy, and the first book in the Tales of the Kin series, but I can’t tell you any more than that… ^^’

8) Harry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets (illustrated edition) by J.K. Rowling. This book needs no introduction. I’ve been looking forward to it all year, and I’m definitely impressed with what I’ve seen of it so far! I’ve already started this, but I’m going to be taking it quite slow, and reading along with the Harry Potter & the Sacred Text podcast, which quite coincidentally started on book 2 around the same time that this was released! XD