#FallIntoFantasy Readathon | TBR

With autumn soon coming to an end, Penguin is launching the aptly-named Fall Into Fantasy readathon, which will run from 18th-25th November, and challenges us to read at least four fantasy novels over the course of the week. There are more specific challenges as well, of course (which I’ve used to tailor my reading list), as well as a FallintoFantasy_Challenges_InstaFB-1024x1024collection of official buddy reads (which I haven’t; some of the books do look interesting, I just don’t have any of them…), all of which can be found on Penguin’s site (linked above), and in the infographic to the right. 👉

And a second readathon will also be going on at the same time: The Tome Topple readathon, which is all about reading big books – 500 pages or more – will be on from 16th-29th November. And since fantasy books tend to be more chunky than not, I think these readathons go together perfectly! 🎶 I won’t be jumping into this one from the start, as I have a couple of shorter things I want to finish off before I get carried away to fantasyland, but if I’m still in as much of a reading mood after #FallIntoFantasy as I am now, I’ll definitely be picking up a(nother?) tome to finish before the 29th. 😊

Here’s what I’ll (probably) be reading:

1) Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho. The first book in the Sorcerer Royal series, which tells the story of Zacharias Wythe, former slave and distinguished sorcerer, who sets out on a journey to Fairyland in order to find out why magic seems to be running out. I’ve been getting serious Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell vibes from this book since I first heard of it, but I’m hoping that it will be a little more accessable, by virtue of being about a quarter of the length. 😋 This book will tick off challenges #1 (a new series), #2 (been on my TBR too long) and #4 (a diverse fantasy).

2) The Dark Prophecy by Rick Riordan. The second book in Riordan’s Trials of Apollo series, which takes place in the same universe as the Percy Jackson books, but follows the god Apollo, who is transformed into a human teenager as punishment for annoying his father – the king of the Greek gods, Zeus – one too many times. Apollo is canonically bisexual, so this is (shockingly) the only fantasy I own (and haven’t read yet) that could possibly satisfy challenge #3 (and LGBTQ fantasy), but it will also do for #7 (a sequel), and is another contender for challenge #2 – though, to be honest, I could say the same for pretty much any of these… 😅

3) A Court of Wings & Ruin by Sarah J. Maas. The third book in the A Court of Thorns & Roses series, and the conclusion to Feyre’s storyline, I believe. I’ve been somewhat nervous about picking up any of Maas’ books since reading Queen of Shadows, so this has been lingering on my TBR for a while, but I am cautiously optimistic about it, as I really enjoyed the last book in this series… 🤞 This book will fulfil challenges #2, #7, and #8 (Booktube recommended).

4) The Smoke Thieves by Sally Green. Last but by no means least is the first in a new series by one of my favourite new authors of the last few years! I don’t know much about the story of this one, but I do know that it’s a high fantasy (as opposed to Green’s previous urban fantasy trilogy), follows four different protagonists, and was released earlier this year – thereby completing the last two challenges, #5 (multiple POVs) and #6 (a new fantasy). 🎉

A Court of Wings & Ruin will also count for the Tome Topple readathon, as it’s well over 500 pages, and although The Smoke Thieves isn’t, I’m still going to include it, as 494 pages is awfully close… Some of the other tomes that I might pick up when my fantasy sprint is over are: The Angry Tide by Winston Graham or Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling, both of which I’ve already started on, but still have well over 500 pages to go, or perhaps Life After Life by Kate Atkinson – something I’ve been meaning to read for years now… 😓

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Upcoming Releases: Autumn 2018

If summer is the season of YA, then autumn is definitely the season for sci-fi and fantasy (and even horror, with Halloween coming up), something that this list unintentionally reflects… This is great news for me, however, since that’s all I ever really want to read once the weather starts to get cold; give me a hot cup of tea, some nice warm socks, and a book I can sink my teeth into, and I’ll be happy for the rest of the year! ☕️🧦📚 With that in mind, here are (some of) the books I’m going to keeping an eye out for in September, October & November:

[All dates are taken from Amazon UK unless stated otherwise, and are correct as of 30/8/2018.]

The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein by Kiersten White (25th September)

A retelling of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, as told by Victor Frankenstein’s fiancée, Elizabeth Lavenza. I’ll admit that nothing about this book makes it seem like something that I would particularly want to read (from the basic premise, to the synopsis, the the incredibly off-putting cover), but I thought the same thing about The Conquerors Saga, which turned out to be amazing, so I’m cautiously optimistic about this one, too. My fingers are crossed; don’t let me down, Kiersten White! 🤞 Excitement level: 7/10

Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor (2nd October)

The sequel to Strange the Dreamer, which follows the orphaned librarian Lazlo Strange, who is unexpectedly at the forefront of a conflict between humans and godspawn, in the tormented city of Weep. Probably the book on this list that I’m most excited for, as Strange the Dreamer ended on such a cliffhanger – and I’m extremely relieved that I don’t have much longer to wait! As with it’s predecessor, I will probably be getting this book in audio-form rather than in print, partially for continuity’s sake, but mainly because Steve West’s narration of the first book was incredible. Excitement level: 10/10

The Books of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin (25th October)

A new bind-up of the entire Earthsea series, including three short stories (one of which has never been published in print before), and 50 illustrations by Charles Vess (whose work includes the amazing illustrated edition of Neil Gaiman’s Stardust). I already have a bind-up of the first four books in this series, and haven’t read all that much of it, but if I end up liking Earthsea as much as I anticipate I will, then I am much more likely to replace it with this beautiful edition than to just buy the last two books on their own… Excitement level: 6/10

brandon sanderson//skywardSkyward by Brandon Sanderson (6th November)

The first in a new sci-fi trilogy, which follows a young aspiring pilot by the name of Spensa, who finds an ancient – and sentient – spaceship. In addition to having loved everything I’ve read by Sanderson (though I haven’t read nearly as much as I would like to have), sentient A.I. has become something of a favourite topic of mine since reading Ancillary Justice, so this seems right up my alley. 💕 Hopefully it won’t disappoint! Excitement level: 6/10

george r.r. martin//fire and bloodFire & Blood by George R.R. Martin (20th November)

A history of the Targaryen family from Martin’s A Song of Ice & Fire series… My excitement for Fire & Blood is tempered somewhat by the fact that it is not The Winds of Winter, and by my general dislike of Danaerys (the main series’ primary Targaryen representative), but on the other hand, what’s already been written about the family intrigues me, and I’m also looking forward to the extra detail that this book will undoubtedly add to the already-very-well-developed world of Westeros. Excitement level: 7/10

& some honourable mentions:

  • 9 from the Nine Worlds by Rick Riordan (2nd October) – short stories from the Magnus Chase universe
  • Soulbinder by Sebastien de Castell (4th October) – the fourth in the Spellslinger series
  • Kingdom of Ash by Sarah J. Maas (23rd October) – the final Throne of Glass book

Autumn Haul

Well, this post has been a long time coming! I think the last book haul I posted must’ve been in July? Or maybe even earlier… In any case, I’ve been adding things to this list since August, when I broke my book-buying ban on a trip to Topping in Ely… But I’ve managed to be pretty good since then. 👍 (The library has been my friend.) These are the books I bought from August to October:

1) The Art of Fire Emblem: Awakening. A book that’s pretty self-explanatory… Fire Emblem: Awakening is one of my favourite games, and I really loved all the art in it, so I was very happy to find this at Topping, despite the pain I felt in the general vicinity of my wallet (at the total price of everything I bought there, rather than just the price of this book, which wasn’t unreasonable for an art book of this size)…

2) The Dark Prophecy by Rick Riordan. Another treat to myself from Topping. I was actually debating between getting this or History is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera, but I came down on the side of The Dark Prophecy because they had signed copies. The second book in the Trials of Apollo series, set in the Percy Jackson universe but focusing on the god Apollo who’s been turned into a mortal teenager. This isn’t my favourite of the Percy Jackson-verse series’, but I had a lot of fun with The Hidden Oracle, and I’m sure that I’ll enjoy this one, too.

3) On the Pleasure of Hating by William HazlittOn Liberty by John Stuart MillThe Rights of Man by H.G. Wells. The last three books from my splurge in Ely, all of which are indulgences of my (kind of) recent obsession with civil rights… The first two books are part of the Penguin Great Ideas series, which I’m tempted to start collecting (they’re really nice editions), despite the fact that not all of them appeal to me content-wise. 😓 I read On the Pleasure of Hating back in October, but have yet to start on the other two.

4) The Claiming of Sleeping BeautyBeauty’s PunishmentBeauty’s Release by Anne Rice. The entire original Sleeping Beauty trilogy (though I believe another sequel was written not long ago). Not pictured, because I couldn’t bring myself to remove them from my “get-rid-of-ASAP” pile. I read (and had way too many thoughts about) the first book in September, and it was one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever come across. Which is saying a lot… I was hesitantly considering reading the other two out of morbid curiosity, but decided on further refection that sticking needles in my eyes would be a better use of my time. 😑

5) La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman. The first volume of The Book of Dust, which is a companion series to His Dark Materials, one of my favourite trilogies of all time. I haven’t managed to start this book yet due to way too many other time commitments, but I’m hoping it’ll be one of the first things I read in 2018. 😆

6) Royal Wedding by Meg Cabot. The follow-up to the Princess Diaries series, which follows a grown-up Mia dealing with the stress of her royal duties and all the personal drama that always seems to follow her around. I started reading this the night before last, and it’s been great fun so far, getting back into Mia’s head, but with a slightly (only very slightly) more mature spin on things. I had a grin on my face the whole time I was reading. 😁 Review to come soon.

7) A History of Magic. The catalogue for the exhibition that’s currently on at the British Library, which is about Harry Potter and occult history. I wrote a whole post about the exhibition just the other day, but in short, it was really fascinating, and this catalogue is basically the exhibition in book form -though, of course, it’s different seeing the exhibits in the flesh (as it were) than in pictures. A wonderful book that I will be perusing often now that I’ve recovered it from my mother. 😋

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.

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 fleeing 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. 🙂