July Wrap Up

Another month gone, another eleven books read (or, rather, seven books, three audiobooks, and a short story). Which isn’t as much as I usually read in a month, but I’m still quite happy with it, considering that I spent a large part of July in a Fire Emblem-induced slump, and I also started a new summer job that’s taken up a lot of my time in the last couple of weeks. But anyhow, I now present to you… everything I read in July!

Den Patrick//The Boy with the Porcelain BladeThe Boy with the Porcelain Blade by Den Patrick. A gothic fantasy set in a city where a group of deformed children called Orfani are being educated and trained for reasons not explained until quite late in the book. The main character is an Orfano called Lucien, who desperately wants to join House Fontein – the noble house that trains soldiers and swordsmen – despite persecution from some of the high-up members of the House… To be honest, this book dragged a little at the beginning: It switches a lot between past and present timelines, so the action is slowed down a lot, and it took me quite a long time to get to grips with the city’s society. However, I feel like you have to expect to need to be patient when starting a new fantasy series… And once I got about halfway through, my patience was definitely rewarded. The second half of the book was both chilling and action-packed, and brought all the different threads of the story together really nicely.3 starsRoald Dahl//Danny the Champion of the WorldDanny the Champion of the World by Roald Dahl. The story of the son of a recreational poacher, who begins to learn the sport himself, with incredible results. I listened to this as an audiobook in the car, and it was incredibly enjoyable, though I suspect that my recording may have been edited for sensitive listeners, as there was one part where Danny was caned by his teacher which didn’t seem to have any relevance to the plot whatsoever, and my sister told me that she thinks it was a more prominent part of the book… This is one of Roald Dahl’s more cheerful stories, and the story, characters and narration were all really wonderful.5 stars

Den Patrick//The Boy Who Wept BloodThe Boy Who Wept Blood by Den Patrick. The second book in the Erebus Sequence, though, to be honest, it read more like a first book in a series (in that it’s clearly the beginning of a much larger story, whereas – like many prequels – The Boy with the Porcelain Blade can quite easily be read as a standalone)… There’s not much that I can say about the story without giving away major spoilers, but it takes place 10 years after the events of The Boy with the Porcelain Blade, is told from the perspective of a different main character, and deals with the aftermath of Lucien’s actions in that book. The mystery elements are less prominent in this book, too, and are instead replaced by politics and court intrigue, which was a welcome change to me (I’m not really a fan of mysteries), and while I liked The Boy with the Porcelain BladeThe Boy Who Wept Blood was a huge step up. A really fantastic read. I am now, of course, faced with the problem of desperately wanting to read the sequel (which isn’t out yet 😦 ) – I want to know what’s going on with Anea!5 starsE. Lockhart, Lauren Myracle & Sarah Mlynowski//How to Be BadHow to Be Bad by E. Lockhart, Lauren Myracle & Sarah Mlynowski. A contemporary novel about three teenage girls who decide to go on a road trip together, nominally in order to visit Vicks’ boyfriend, but actually in order to escape from all their various problems at home, and forge a really great friendship on the way… I had actually intended to pick up The Ask & the Answer after The Boy Who Wept Blood, but I really felt that I needed to read something happier – and this book definitely cheered me up! It was a little slow-going at first, and I found both Vicks and particularly Jesse quite difficult to warm up to (probably because I identified most strongly with Mel, who was very much an outsider to them both for much of the story), but they both grew on me a lot, and it was a really enjoyable read overall. 🙂4 starsRoald Dahl//Esio TrotEsio Trot by Roald Dahl. A short story about a man who is trying to woo his neighbour by helping her to encourage her pet tortoise to grow more quickly. I thought the concept of this story was quite sweet, and the narration (by Geoffrey Palmer; I listened to this as an audiobook) was excellent, but I found that Mr. Hoppy’s plan to win Mrs. Silver’s affection really bothered me, so I didn’t actually enjoy the story as much as I’d hoped to…3 starsRoald Dahl//MatildaMatilda by Roald Dahl. The story of a young girl with awful parents, but a brilliant mind, who uses her cleverness in order to make – and escape from – all kinds of trouble, and to help out her teacher, Miss Honey, who’s been terrorised all her life by the horrible Miss Trunchbull. This was probably one of my favourite stories when I was little (though I was more familiar with the film than the book), and although it wasn’t quite as good as I remember it being, it was still fantastic, and it’s definitely one of the best of Roald Dahl’s books!4 starsPatrick Ness//The Ask & the AnswerThe Ask & the Answer by Patrick Ness. The second book in the Chaos Walking trilogy, which follows the ongoing ordeals of Todd and Viola. The Knife of Never Letting Go left off on such a nail-biting cliffhanger that I can hardly believe I waited two whole years to read the sequel, but it was definitely a book worth waiting for! Obviously I can’t say much about the plot, but Patrick Ness really is a master at keeping you guessing – this book made me doubt just about everyone at one point or another. Like it’s predecessor, the tone of the narrative was one of an almost breathless kind of panic, which was one of my favourite things about The Knife of Never Letting Go… I think I can safely say that I won’t be waiting another two years before I pick up Monsters of Men! 😉5 starsNeil Gaiman//Hansel & GretelHansel & Gretel by Neil Gaiman. A retelling of the Brothers Grimm fairytale, in which two children are abandoned by their parents in the woods, and then captured by an old woman who’s planning to eat them. This edition also includes the pictures (by Lorenzo Mattotti) that apparently inspired it. I did enjoy the story (and the narrative, as usual with Neil Gaiman’s work, was beautifully haunting), but there was nothing in it that really set it apart from other fairytale retellings, and – unlike The Sleeper & the Spindle – there was no unexpected twist to the storyline. The art was compelling as well, but very dark, which – though it fit the atmosphere of the book – made it difficult to see what it was supposed to depict.3 starsStormy Smith//Bound by DutyBound by Duty by Stormy Smith. A new adult fantasy about a girl with the powers of the Keeper – someone who has been prophesised to bring an end to the reign of the evil queen – but who has grown up secluded from the magical world that her parents belong to. The plot of this story was actually pretty decent. Or it would have been, had it not been completely shoved into the background in favour of ridiculous romantic drama for the majority of the book. Additionally, Amelia was an incredibly annoying lead – constantly “solving” things by throwing temper tantrums and lashing out at people who were trying to help her. Her romantic relationship was insta-love-y in the worst possible way, and her platonic relationships were completely unconvincing. There’s a chance I might pick up the sequel to this book, just to see where the story’s going (and some of the side-characters were interesting – namely, Aiden and Micah), but it’s a very slight one – there are so many much better books out there! I’ll probably write a full review of this sometime soon.2 starsJulia Daniels//Master of Her HeartMaster of Her Heart: A Time-Twisted Tale of North & South by Julia Daniels. A re-telling of Elizabeth Gaskell’s North & South, featuring Margaret as a time-traveller from 2015. I enjoyed the beginning of the story quite a lot, though I felt that Margaret adjusted to being in 1851 a bit too quickly… but the narrative was quick and engaging, and the story concept was certainly unique! 😛 But towards the end of the book, I began to find it rather grating. Several of the threads of the plot are just abandoned without any resolution, and never mentioned again (e.g. Mrs. Hale’s illness, Margaret’s friendship with Bessy & Nicholas, and so on). Frederick is never even mentioned at all. :/ The parts of the story that were set in 2015 were clearly under-researched (the author seems to be under the impression that we use Euros in England), and the twist at the end came out of nowhere – and was never explained… I realise that there’s going to be a sequel to this, which will probably resolve some of the issues I had, but I doubt I’ll be reading it.2 starsMichael Morpurgo//War HorseWar Horse by Michael Morpurgo. The story of a horse who is sold to the British cavalry to fight in the First World War, and his friendship with the boy who raised him from a colt, and who joined the army in hopes that they would be reunited. I picked this up because I was in the mood for a tearjerker, and I’d heard that it was incredibly sad – and it was, in places (it didn’t quite manage to make me cry, but it came pretty close a few times), but it was also quite uplifting, and through the whole book, I was really rooting for Joey and Albert to find each other again, even though Joey met plenty of other wonderful people on his journeys. If I have any complaint, it’s only that I wish the story had been a bit longer, and the pacing a little slower, so that there could have been a bit more of it!4 stars

11 of the best books for children

The BBC recently came out with a list of the 11 greatest children’s books, as chosen by critics… And it’s an interesting article, but not one that I necessarily agreed with. For instance, I’m sure a lot of people remember Little Women fondly, but I personally found it unreadable when I was a child. And where are the Harry Potter books? So many people my age (myself included) only started reading for pleasure because of them, so surely that should earn them a place on the list! 😦

Anyway, I thought I’d try my hand at making my own list, as a counter to theirs, and I’d really love to hear what you consider to be the best children’s books, too! (And, for the record, when I think of children’s books, I think of the kind of books I would’ve been reading in primary school, so there won’t be any teen books on the list – though I know that, technically, they still count…)

Lemony Snicket//The Bad Beginning11) A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket

An incredibly creative series of books about a trio of orphans trying to solve the mystery of their parents’ deaths, whilst simultaneously being pursued by their distant cousin, the nefarious Count Olaf, who’s after their inheritance.

Dr. Seuss//Green Eggs & Ham10) Green Eggs & Ham by Dr. Seuss

A book that’s most famous for having been written using only 50 words, to settle a bet between Seuss and his publisher over whether it was possible to write a book with so few words. It’s a simple story about somebody who doesn’t like green eggs and ham.

Maurice Sendak//Where the Wild Things Are9) Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

The story of a boy who, after being sent to bed without supper, finds himself on an island inhabited by monsters, who make him their king. An amazingly-written book, with great, atmospheric illustrations, and themes of anger and growth.

J.R.R. Tolkien//The Hobbit8) The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

My favourite book as a child, this tells the story of an ordinary gentlehobbit called Bilbo Baggins, who is manipulated by the wizard Gandalf into going on an adventure with thirteen dwarves, in order to reclaim their homeland from a dragon. Probably one of the best pure adventure books ever written, though some people find Tolkien’s writing prosy.

David Almond//Heaven Eyes7) Heaven Eyes by David Almond

Skellig is the most critically-acclaimed of David Almond’s books, but my favourite has always been Heaven Eyes, which is about a group of friends who escape from their orphanage on a raft, only to find themselves stuck in a bog not too far down the river. They’re rescued by a strange girl called Heaven Eyes, who lives in the boggy island with her grandfather.

Roald Dahl//Matilda6) Matilda by Roald Dahl

Matilda is raised by her abusive parents and brother, and is constantly bullied by the awful Miss Trunchbull, the headteacher at her school. But through her own wits, she manages to forge a happy ending for herself and her friend, Miss Honey. A wonderful story about friendship and resourcefulness.

Dick King-Smith//A Mouse Called Wolf5) A Mouse Called Wolf by Dick King-Smith

There are a lot of Dick King-Smith books I could have chosen, but the one I remember most fondly is A Mouse Called Wolf, which follows the tiny Wolfgang Amadeus Mouse (named for Mozart, naturally), who has a great love for music, and becomes the world’s first singing mouse.

J.K. Rowling//Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone4) Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

This series really needs no introduction, as it’s famous worldwide, and for good reason! Reading about all Harry’s adventures is the best kind of escapism, and these books left millions of people wishing for their very own Hogwarts letters.

Antoine de Saint Exupéry//The Little Prince3) The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

A pilot stranded in the desert meets a prince from a small asteroid, who tells the tale of his travels on different planets, and the people he met on the way. This book is sombre, but incredibly touching, and all about childhood, and the strangeness of grown-ups.

C.S. Lewis//The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe2) The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis

The tale of four siblings, evacuated to the countryside just before the second world war, who find another world by climbing into a wardrobe, and are tasked with saving Narnia from the White Witch. A great story about family, friendship, and loyalty.

Frances Hodgson Burnett//A Little Princess1) A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Sara is made to become a servant at her elite boarding school, after her father dies, leaving her with enormous debts to the school, but she is able to make the most of her situation, befriending the school’s other servant girl, as well as, and keeping her spirits up through imagination and storytelling.

April Haul

I’m not feeling too bad about the books I bought in April, since most of them were second hand and therefore incredibly cheap, but I am absolutely on a book-buying ban from now on! 👿

April Haul

I also bought Half Wild, but it’s not in the photo ’cause I lent it to a friend…

1) All I Know Now: Wonderings and Reflections on Growing Up Gracefully by Carrie Hope Fletcher. A book of advice on dealing with difficult issues that often come up during “the Teen Age”. I’ve already read this, so you can see what I thought about it in my April wrap-up.

2) Reaper ManGuards! Guards!, Pyramids, Wyrd Sisters, The Last Continentand Lords and Ladies by Terry Pratchett. These showed up in the charity shop where I volunteer, so I decided to buy them – I’ve been collecting these editions of the Discworld series for a while now, but I don’t know specifically what these ones are about…

3) Dragons at Crumbling Castle by Terry Pratchett. A collection of short stories that Terry Pratchett wrote as a child, I believe. This is the collector’s edition, and it’s absolutely beautiful.

4) Hildafolk by Luke Pearson. A really short graphic novel about a little girl who goes on a mini adventure. I’ve read this already, too, and I’ve talked about it in my last wrap-up.

5) Roald Dahl Audiobooks: 10 Dahl Puffin Classics on 27 CDs, which consists of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, Danny the Champion of the World, Esio Trot, Fantastic Mr Fox, George’s Marvellous Medicine, James and the Giant Peach, Matilda, The BFG, The Enormous Crocodile, The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me, The Twits and The Witches. I read a couple of these when I was little, but I’m really excited to listen to the rest. 😀

6) Jabberwocky and Other Nonsense by Lewis Carroll. A collection of Lewis Carroll’s poetry, in the beautiful Penguin clothbound edition.

7) Hansel and Gretel by Neil Gaiman. A re-telling of the Brothers Grimm fairytale, illustrated by Lorenzo Mattotti. I really loved The Sleeper and the Spindle, so I have high hopes for this, too. 🙂

8) Zombie-Loan Volume 13 by Peach-Pit. This is the final volume of the Zombie-Loan series, which I picked out of the clearance bin at Waterstones for just £3, though there wasn’t anything wrong with it that I could see (unlike most of the other books in there). I probably won’t be reading this anytime soon, since I don’t have volumes 7-12 yet…

9) Half Bad and Half Wild by Sally Green. I got these at the Cambridge Literary Festival so I could get them signed, even though I own both of them as ebooks already. I love these so much~! ❤

10) A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray. The first book in the Gemma Doyle trilogy, which I’ve been meaning to read for a while. This showed up by chance at work, too, and I decided to buy it, since it was pretty cheap. As far as I can tell, it’s a historical gothic fantasy series, which sounds fun.

(A brief aside: ChapterStackss posted a really interesting video a little while ago – In Defense of Libraries – where she discussed, amongst other things, book-buying habits, and you should definitely check that out if you’re at all interested. 🙂 )