October & November Wrap-Up

Some more really great reads in the last couple of months (including what  might be a new favourite)! 😁 I was a little bit slumpy at the end of October/beginning of November, so there’s not a huge number of books here, but quality-wise, it’s been a really great autumn! 🍁🍁🍁

BOOKS I REVIEWED

[REVIEW]

[REVIEW]

[REVIEW]

[REVIEW]

OTHER BOOKS I READ

Sinner by Maggie Stiefvater.

A sequel/companion novel to the Wolves of Mercy Falls series, following Isabel and Cole as they attempt to put their lives back together, and sustain a relationship. I don’t remember the original trilogy super-well at this point (it’s been literally years, and I could definitely do with a re-read), but despite (or maybe because of) her general antagonism towards the protagonists, Isabel was always my favourite character. And happily, I still loved her in Sinner! Which is a good thing, as it’s a pretty character-driven book.

The story mainly revolves around Cole moving to LA in order to be closer to Isabel, and the chaos that follows him wherever he goes getting between them, which I might have found annoying if it’d been written by a less skilled writer (or about characters that I cared less for)… but as it is, Sinner was a pretty enjoyable ride; the romance was great, the conflicts realistic, and the characters compelling… and it was really lovely to be back in this world. 😊

Kulti by Mariana Zapata.

Successful soccer player Sal Casillas is astonished to find that her former idol Reiner Kulti is about to become her team’s new coach… and seems determined to be a complete dick to her. I loved this book so much (and must now devour every other book Mariana Zapata has written)! It’s a very slow-burn enemies-to-friends-to-lovers romance, with two great lead characters, and enough going on beyond the romance that I was never bored (which tends to be a problem for me with romances), even though it’s a pretty long book. 💕

Lusus Naturae by Alison Goodman. [SHORT STORY]

A quick story from the world of The Dark Days Club, which re-tells Lady Helen and Lord Carlston’s first meeting, but from Carlston’s perspective. I liked this; it was quick, and a little nostalgic, but Carlston’s thoughts and feelings upon meeting Helen weren’t anything unexpected, and I don’t feel like the story really added anything to the series.

Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes.

The first book in the Falling Kingdoms series, which centres around three kingdoms on the brink of war, and the search for an ancient magic that will restore the continent’s dying land. Re-reading this wasn’t part of my reading plans for November, but I’m glad to have picked it up anyway; I kind of hate the storyline of this series, as well as the world and most of the characters, but somehow it’s weirdly addictive? Cleo and Magnus (who are two of the three primary characters), though not at their best in this book, are definite bright spots of the series, and it was fun to revisit their beginnings – even though my general opinion of this book hasn’t changed.

Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman.

The two Owens sisters grow up under suspicion of witchcraft, and desperate to escape their hometown – but life away from their childhood home comes with unexpected challenges, and the more that they try to stay apart, the more that they find that they need each other.

I liked the almost dream-like writing in this, and found both Sally and Gillian (as well as Sally’s younger daughter Kylie) to be compelling leads, but wasn’t hugely invested in either the plot or the romances, unfortunately… The book seemed to wander kind of aimlessly through the sisters’ lives without coming to any real point until near the end, and all the love interests were introduced really suddenly, and neither they nor their relationships were ever really fleshed out much. I found myself wondering if this book is only so famous because the film (which I’ve heard is very different from the book) was very popular? Because I liked it, but didn’t think it was really anything special… And I probably won’t be revisiting this world for the sequel/prequels.

Borders of Infinity by Lois McMaster Bujold. [AUDIOBOOK; Narrator: Grover Gardner; SHORT STORY COLLECTION]

A collection of three of Miles’ adventures, framed by an original story for this collection in which Miles recovers from bone-replacement surgery – an important episode in his life, even if the tale in itself isn’t the most gripping. The three short stories were all ones I’d read before, but I enjoyed revisiting them a lot, and bumped up my individual ratings for both The Borders of Infinity (which I was much more invested in this time around), and The Mountains of Mourning (which I honestly thought I’d given five stars already… but apparently not). Labyrinth is my least favourite of the bunch, but still an entertaining read (/listen).

Red at Night by Katie McGarry. [SHORT STORY]

A quick story from the Pushing the Limits universe, in which the popular Jonah begins to spend time at the graveyard after a traumatic accident, only to find that it’s “Trash Can Girl” Stella’s favourite spot. This was cute, and I liked both the main characters, but it was too short, and moved to quickly for me to really feel like I’d got to know either of them, or (consequently) for me to get invested in their future. My favourite scenes: their first graveyard-talk, and when Stella took Jonah to volunteer with her.

Eve of Man by Giovanna & Tom Fletcher.

In a dystopian near-future where the birth rate for girls has drastically declined, Eve – the last girl to be born – is humanity’s only hope for survival. No rating for this one; I DNFd it almost halfway through, because whoever came up with the plan to save humanity was clearly an idiot, and I was so frequently reminded of the fact that I was unable to enjoy any other part of the book. I’ve been informed (by a friend who did read the whole thing) that some of my issues with the plot are addressed in the second half, but regardless, I have no plans of picking this up again.

The Midnight Bargain by C.L. Polk. [AUDIOBOOK; Narrator: Moira Quirk]

Beatrice plans to restore her family’s fortunes by summoning a greater spirit of luck and becoming an assistant to her father, while her family is banking on her making an advantageous marriage – which would mean sealing away her magic until widowhood. But when she meets Ianthe Lavan (handsome, charming, eligible, and – most astonishingly of all – understanding of her plight), her choice becomes that much more difficult.

This book was barely even on my radar this year, but I’m so glad that I decided to pick it up; if not an all-time favourite, it’s definitely one of my favourites of the year! 💕 I don’t want to say too much here, as I’m planning to write a full review soon, but my favourite thing about The Midnight Bargain was the gradual shift in so many of Beatrice’s relationships, from mercenary to respectful, then to genuinely affectionate. And there were so many wonderful characters (my favourite was Ysbeta, though)!

#BotWathon Final Update!

JUST FINISHED: The Second Sleep by Robert Harris.

Father Christopher Fairfax is sent to Addicott to conduct the funeral of its former priest, but there’s more to Father Lacy’s death – and to the man himself – than Fairfax could have imagined.

The Second Sleep is undoubtedly well-written: though the story is not particularly fast-paced, it reads very quickly, and Harris does an excellent job of keeping the reader engaged. And the world that he’s created here is a very interesting one, blending recognisable parts of the present into a very historical-feeling background…

However! Sadly, that’s pretty much where my praise for this novel ends. ☹️ I didn’t like the main character very much; he was complex and interesting, but sometimes came across as kind of skeevy… He has two potential love interests, and I really disliked the way he thought about them. In fact, this book really could have done without the romance altogether, as it wasn’t particularly well-developed, and added nothing to the plot. Also (though I’ll admit that this is a personal thing), I often find it frustrating to read from the perspective of very religious characters, which didn’t help my enjoyment of this book.

And as for the plot, the mystery of Father Lacy’s death was brushed aside fairly quickly in favour of the historical mystery, which was intriguing for most of the novel, but had a very underwhelming resolution. I don’t often read thrillers, and mainly decided to pick this one up because Fatherland (by the same author) is one of the few that I’ve really enjoyed, but unfortunately it wasn’t quite what I hoped it would be.

CURRENT READATHON STATUS: Finished! If on a slightly disappointing note. ☹️ This last book was for the Great Plateau challenge (to read a book that’s out of my comfort zone), and also allowed me to complete the Weapon Connoisseur bonus challenge, for every book I read to be from a different (main) genre. 🎉 Despite its lacklustre end, I’ve really enjoyed this round of BotWathon, and I’ll definitely be looking forward to the next one! 😁

Books Read: 5
Pages Read: 1967
Hours Listened: 10:13
Main Challenges Completed: 5/5
Bonus Challenges Completed: 3/3

Breath of the Wildathon: Vah Ruta Quest TBR!

As if two readathons at a time wasn’t enough, I’ve decided to add a third with the next round of the Breath of the Wildathon, which started last Monday, and will be running until Wednesday 20th October. This round is the first section of the main quest, during which we’ll all be making our way to Vah Ruta and hopefully defeating Waterblight Ganon! 🤞 I’ve joined Team Revali 🦅, which will be taking me on a path around the Southern edge of the Faron Grasslands and East Necluda.

1) THE GREAT PLATEAU – read a book that’s out of your comfort zone – This first book is the one I’m most torn on; it’ll either be The Second Sleep by Robert Harris, a post-apocalyptic thriller, or Cod by Mark Kurlansky, a non-fiction about, well, cod. The Second Sleep is the one I’m most drawn to, but I just played my TBR game for October and landed on a non-fiction square, so reading Cod here would combine those two, and thereby slightly increase my chances of getting to Empire of the Vampire next month? (Which is definitely a priority.) Let me know what you guys think! 🐟/🐎?

2) BRIDGE OF HYLIA – read a book where a character crosses between worlds – I’m stretching this prompt somewhat in order to fit in something that’s not fantasy (for those pesky bonus challenges), but I’ve decided to go with Nightwing vol. 4: A Darker Shade of Justice, in which Dick has to go undercover to infiltrate Blackgate Prison… which is kind of another world?

3) LURELIN VILLAGE – read a 5-star prediction – This one was a pretty easy choice, since this is also one of the Magical Readathon prompts that I haven’t fulfilled yet: The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson! I started this on day 1 of the readathon, and am currently almost halfway through, and really enjoying it, even though I was definitely not looking forward to fitting a 1000-page book into an already busy reading month. But oh well, it seems to have worked out. 😅

4) BLOOD MOON – draw a blood moon card – The card I drew told me to pick a book over 500 pages, but I will be cheerfully using my Team Revali perk here to ignore that card and read whatever book I want instead… And that book is The Kingmakers by Clay & Susan Griffith, the final book in the Vampire Empire trilogy, which is decidedly less than 500 pages, and is essentially a romance between a human princess and a vigilante vampire hunter with a lot of secrets. 💕 There’s an interesting plot, too, but to be honest I’m mostly into this series for the romance.

5) DIVINE BEAST VAH RUTA – read a book with a water-related word in the title – Last up is Beach Read by Emily Henry! A romance between two rival authors, who decide to switch genres in order to combat their writer’s block. I started the audiobook of this a couple of days ago, and am really enjoying it so far! 😁 I was initially going to pick The Ocean at the End of the Lane for this challenge (because I didn’t realise that we could double up with the bonus prompts), but am really happy with the change – and not just because I now have something to listen to while I knit!

6) BONUS CHALLENGES – I’ve doubled up for all of these, so Beach Read will be counting for the Dueling Peaks Tower challenge (to read a book with a rivalry or a competition), and I will be attempting to read A Darker Shade of Justice in one sitting to fulfil the Eventide Island challenge. And the final challenge – weapon connoisseur – is for every book on my TBR to be from a different genre, which I’ve just about managed: I’ve got either a thriller or non-fiction, a superhero comic, a high fantasy, a steampunk/urban fantasy, and a romance! The only potential overlap is between The Second Sleep and The Kingmakers, which are both post-apocalyptic, but they each blend in other (different) genres as well. 👍

Luckily, I managed to complete all the rune trials during the Great Plateau round, and earned myself the glider perk, so I’m allowed to read these in whatever order I like – and I’ll be starting with (have already started with, in fact) The Way of Kings and A Darker Shade of Justice, as they overlap with my Bookoplathon and Magical Readathon TBRs. After that, it’s anyone’s guess what I’ll be reading.

Summer Catch-Up

Seeing such a long list of books makes me much more satisfied with my reading than I have been for my last few wrap-ups (/catch-ups), though I know it’s a slightly artificial satisfaction (but not entirely! Booktubeathon meant that I read a lot more this summer than I would ordinarily have); three months naturally results in more books read than one, after all… 😅

Also, I find myself liking this new format. It’s kind of labour-intensive (I had to completely re-code it last night, which was a chore), but I expect that it will become less so as I get more used to it. And it looks very tidy, which I appreciate. 😊

FAVOURITE OF THE SEASON*

LIBRARY SCAVENGER HUNT PICKS

29748925 Ann Leckie//Ancillary Mercy

JUNE

[REVIEW]

mary beard//women and power

JULY

[REVIEW]

robert harris//fatherland

AUGUST

[REVIEW]

OTHER BOOKS I REVIEWED

Adam Silvera//History Is All You Left Me

[REVIEW]

Catherynne M. Valente//The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making

[REVIEW]

sarah prineas//ash and bramble

[REVIEW]

jack london//White Fang

[REVIEW]

Kiersten White//Bright We Burn

[REVIEW]

Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff//Obsidio

[SERIES REVIEW]

BOOKS I DIDN’T REVIEW (INDIVIDUALLY)

29748925Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor. [AUDIOBOOK; Narrator: Steve West]

The first book in a new series of the same name, which follows the orphaned Lazlo Strange, who has always been fascinated by the lost city of Weep, which was one day erased from the world, as if by magic, leaving few who even remembered that it was ever more than a myth. I liked Daughter of Smoke and Bone a lot, but this may be my favourite thing that Laini Taylor has written so far. I really loved both Lazlo and Sarai (the book’s second protagonist), and the supporting characters were all incredibly memorable, despite there being quite a few of them. The conflict at the centre of the book was fascinating, too, and the world-building amazing. I’m very much looking forward to returning to Weep, and am glad that I only have a month more to wait for Muse of Nightmares, which is unsurprisingly my most anticipated autumn release – and which I will definitely also be listening to, rather than reading in print, as Steve West’s performance of Strange the Dreamer was fantastic.5 stars

35037401Dragon Age: Knight Errant by Nunzio DeFilippis & Christina Weir. [COMIC; Illustrators: Fernando Heinz Furukawa & Michael Atiyeh]

A brief (and self-contained) story set in the Dragon Age world, about Vaea, the elven squire to drunken knight Ser Aaron Hawthorne – and, unbeknownst to her master, a thief. I’ll admit that I’m inclined to enjoy every foray into this world, regardless of length (or even story or writing quality), but Knight Errant surpassed all my expectations. It’s very short, but did a great job of making me care about Vaea and Ser Aaron, the two main characters (who are original to this comic), and although the plot is simple, it’s also solid, and a lot of fun. Varric and Sebastian from the games also had fairly significant roles, and it was great to see them both again (as well as Charter, who made a brief appearance). 😊 In terms of timeline, this takes place after Inquisition, but is not directly connected to the events of that game.4 stars

8146139The Call of the Wild by Jack London.

The tale of a domestic dog called Buck, who’s stolen from his owners in California and taken all the way to the Yukon, where he lives a much less comfortable life as a sled-dog, but is drawn to the wild places that exist just beyond the borders of his new life. This was a really interesting read! I picked it up a few days before Booktubeathon, because I was hoping to read White Fang for one of the challenges, and mistakenly thought that the two were directly connected, but I actually ended up liking this one a bit more, as the pacing was much more consistent, and the story a little gratuitously violent… Buck’s life in the North is a harsh one, but London doesn’t dwell on the brutality of it quite so much as in White Fang. Still, for such a short book, it packs a huge emotional punch.4 stars

Sabaa Tahir//An Ember in the AshesAn Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir. [AUDIOBOOK; Narrators: Aysha Kala & Jack Farrar]

An excellent, Roman Empire-inspired fantasy following two leads: Laia, a teenage girl who becomes a slave in order to spy for the Scholar resistance, and Elias, a Martial soldier who wants only to be free of the Empire. I first read (and reviewed) this book a couple of years ago, and my feelings on it haven’t changed in the slightest. 💕 The audiobook was a new experience for me, but also a good one; both narrators did an excellent job, though I feel like the communication between them might not have been particularly great, as there were several words that they each pronounced differently. It wasn’t usually too jarring, and the most significant pronunciation disagreement was corrected after a few chapters, but it’s something that really should have been addressed by an editor or director (or whoever is in charge of voice work) before recording… especially when it’s the name of one of the main characters!5 stars

Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff//ObsidioObsidio by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff.

The final book in The Illuminae Files, which introduces two new protagonists: Asha, Kady’s cousin who was left behind on Kerenza IV when the majority of the population fled, and her ex-boyfriend-from-before-Kerenza, Rhys, who is now a technician for the invading BeiTech forces. As the conclusion to the trilogy, the plot of this book was much less self-contained than the other two, and it wrapped up the plot really nicely, and made for an incredibly powerful ending – though at the expense of some development for Asha and Rhys, who had to share their screen time with the series’ previous four protagonists (or five if you include AIDAN). However, I do think that they were both very well-fleshed out characters regardless, and the Kerenza-based perspective that they both provided to the story was essential. The pacing of the story was fast and tense, and only became more so as the stakes got higher and higher towards the end… and although I didn’t like this book quite as much as Illuminae, it was a near thing. A truly great ending to this fantastic series!5 stars

Jane Austen//Pride and PrejudicePride & Prejudice by Jane Austen. [AUDIOBOOK; Narrator: Lindsay Duncan]

The classic tale of Lizzie Bennet and Mr. Darcy, who meet at a ball and absolutely do not hit it off. 😉 This is one of my favourite books, and always a joy to re-read, but I decided to buy the audiobook to listen to with some friends on our recent pilgrimage-of-sorts to Pemberley! (Or rather, Lyme Park, which played the part of Pemberley’s exterior in the 1995 BBC adaptation, i.e. the best adaptation.) There are several different audio versions of this book, so much deliberation went into the choice of this one in particular, and I’m pleased to say that I was not disappointed! Lindsay Duncan’s performance was incredible, and I especially liked her take on Mrs. Bennet. 🎶5 stars

*Not including re-reads.

Library Scavenger Hunt: August

This month’s LSH challenge was to read a book that was recommended to you, and I’m sorry to admit that I cheated (just a little bit) once again. 😳 This was a genuine recommendation, but that recommendation was also accompanied by a gift of the book in question, so I’m afraid that I haven’t actually set foot in the library this month… 😓 (I will do better next time, I promise!) But in any case, my pick for this challenge was:

FATHERLAND
Robert Harris

It’s 1964, just one week before Adolf Hitler’s 75th birthday – and the body of a high-ranking Nazi official is found floating in a lake. Was it an accident? Suicide? Or is that just what it’s supposed to look like?

On the surface, Fatherland is your basic murder mystery (unusual setting notwithstanding), which I’m generally not a fan of, and I probably wouldn’t have ever chosen this book for myself – but I’m grateful for the recommendation that led me to it! The mystery is of course an integral part of the plot, but Harris seemed less concerned with the murder that occurred than with the political implications of it, which were fascinating, and utilised the Orwellian backdrop excellently.

In fact, I found myself reminded a lot of 1984 while reading this – or rather, of what I hoped 1984 would be. The two books share their unsettlingly close-to-possible style of dystopia, but while I detested everybody in 1984Fatherland’s protagonist, SS Sturmbannführer Xavier March, was sympathetic despite his (reluctant) Nazi affiliation, and there was a memorable and compelling supporting cast. As the book went on, I became particularly invested in March’s relationships with his partner Jaeger, and with the American journalist Charlie Maguire.

It’s an excellently-crafted world: Picking out the differences between Harris’ alternative history and our true history was an interesting experience, but the similarities were also very striking (again, in a rather unsettling way), and I was impressed by how well Harris was able to play off my expectations of which things would and wouldn’t have changed.

[Find out more about the Library Scavenger Hunt by following this link!]

#BookTubeAThon2018 TBR~ 💕

This year’s Booktubeathon comes at a fortuitous time, since I will be on holiday for the entire duration, and hopefully in the mood for a great deal of reading. 😁 The readathon is going to be from Monday 30th July to Sunday 5th August, and you can find more details about it in this announcement video – but what I want to focus on for this post is the challenges, which as always will be shaping the majority of my TBR ~🎶 So here goes:

1) The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente. This book has popped up on a lot of my TBRs in the last couple of years, but for some reason I never seem to get around to it – but maybe this summer will be the summer of Fairyland! This is my pick for challenges two (read a book about something you want to do; in this case, sailing, which I expect, though don’t know for sure is involved in this book) and three (read a book with green on the cover; it’s there, if only barely), and it also won the coin toss against The Princess & the Captain (which I subsequently removed from my TBR altogether), so if I do actually manage to start the readathon with it, then it will count for the first challenge (let a coin toss decide your first read) as well! Not bad for a less-than-300-page book! 😋

2) White Fang by Jack London. Another book that has the benefit of being extremely short, and has also been sitting unread on my kindle since I got it (maybe five years ago?). There’s a recent Netflix adaption of this, so I’ll be using it for challenge three (read and watch a book to movie adaptation), and due to its length it will probably also be my hat book (for challenge five: read a book while wearing the same hat the whole time), as it’s much too hot to be wearing a hat for any significant amount of time at the moment… 😓

3) Ash & Bramble by Sarah Prineas.Cinderella retelling (I think) that I’ve been meaning to read for a couple of years now at least, and which will easily tick off challenge six (read a book with a beautiful spine; it’s red, with the same thorn design & ornate font as the cover). At 449 pages, this is the longest book on my TBR, but I find that most Young Adult books are quite quick reads, so I’m not too worried. And even if I only read these three books, I still will have ticked off all the challenges except the last…

4) So, the final challenge is to read seven books, and I’m planning on leaving it fairly open. I’ll be taking my kindle on holiday with me, with its hundred-or-so unread books, and since I’ll be spending the last day of the readathon in transit, I also have a couple of audiobooks loaded onto my phone. The only two physical books that are possibilities are Women & Power by Mary Beard, which I’m hoping to read before Booktubeathon starts, but will otherwise be my first book of the readathon, as I need to finish it by the end of the month anyway (potentially thwarting the coin toss challenge, I know, but needs must ☹️); and Fatherland by Robert Harris, which was a birthday present from my aunt.