2016 in Review: Favourites

Happy New Year, everyone! I hope you all enjoyed your eggnog / champagne / whatever it is that people drink at New Year. 😉 Here at the Jar of Books, I will still be talking about 2016 for a few more days, as it’s time to share with you my favourite books of the year! 😀 So, here they are (in order of reading, not preference):

Alison Goodman//The Dark Days ClubI read a lot of good books this year, but the first one that really impressed me was The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman, which I picked up on a whim back in April, knowing almost nothing about it (except that it was by the same person who write Eon, a book I had heard about but not read), but thinking it sounded like fun. It was so much more than fun, though, with exactly the right balance of action and mystery and romance for my mood at the time. The sequel will be coming out in a few weeks, and I plan to read it as soon as it’s in my hands; hopefully it’s just as good as this one! 🙂 [I have a review up of this book, if you’re interested.]

Sabaa Tahir//An Ember in the AshesFantasy seems to have been the vast majority of everything I read in 2016, but this next book was really different from any fantasy I’d ever read before: I was originally drawn to An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir because of its quasi-Roman setting (Classics being my main academic interest), but the tense, complex story, and the wonderful characters blew me away. This is another book I reviewed, since I read it during Booktubeathon this summer, and it’s also another book with a sequel that I’m greatly anticipating; it’s been released already, but I’m waiting for it to be a little more affordable… ^^’

Leigh Bardugo//Six of CrowsNext up is Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo, which was my absolute favourite book of the year, and the only one on this list that made it onto my all-time favourites list (though the others were all close calls). I was intrigued by this book when I first heard about it, but not hugely excited, since I was a little disappointed by Bardugo’s Grisha trilogy (which Six of Crows is a spin-off of), but it surpassed all my wildest dreams, and ended up being close to perfection in book-form. ❤ I read the sequel a couple of months ago, but while it was still really good, it wasn’t quite able to live up to its predecessor in my eyes.

Andrzej Sapkowski//Baptism of FireLast but by no means least is Baptism of Fire by Andrzej Sapkowski (and if anyone knows how to pronounce that name, please tell me!), the fifth book in the Witcher series, which I started reading in October after getting hooked on the video games based on the books. The series started off strong, and only seemed to get better and more fascinating as it went on, culminating in the awesomeness that was Baptism of Fire; not the last book in the series, but the latest one that I’ve been able to get hold of. If this upwards trend continues, then I can’t even imagine how great the series finale will be, but it’s definitely something to look forward to in the coming year. XD

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July Wrap-Up

July is over, and I’ve read a truly surprising amount! I think I can safely say that I’m now out of my minor reading slump (hopefully for good!). In all, I managed to read 9 novels, and two short stories last month, and although there were a couple of duds in the mix, most of them were really enjoyable! 😀 Here’s what I thought of them:

Melissa Marr//Ink ExchangeInk Exchange by Melissa Marr. The follow up to Wicked Lovely, which I enjoyed but didn’t think was particularly wonderful. In fact, I mainly read that book because I thought this one sounded interesting when I stumbled across a second-hand copy at work. 😉 Luckily, my book-sense has yet to lead me astray; Ink Exchange was a big improvement on its predecessor. The story follows Aislinn’s friend Leslie, who is struggling to deal with her often-absent father and her abusive brother, and – the cherry on top – catches the eye of Irial, King of the Dark Court of Faerie. Naturally, the plot of this book was a lot darker and more serious, but I also felt that the main characters were much more relatable and enjoyable to read than Aislinn & Keenan were. The love triangle in this book, too, was a lot more palatable than the one in Wicked Lovely, since (despite the less-than-altruistic reasons for Irial’s interest in Leslie) there seemed to be a lot more genuine affection between the three of them; right up to the end, I had no idea who Leslie would decide to be with (if anyone).4 starsPatrick Rothfuss//Slow Regard of Silent ThingsThe Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss. A novella set in the Kingkiller Chronicle universe, which follows Auri about her strange, everyday life. This story seems to have sparked a lot of controversy with Rothfuss’ fans – they either love it or hate it – but I’m happy to report that I really enjoyed it! Not much happens in the story, there’s no dialogue whatsoever, and Auri is the only character who appears, but I loved the atmosphere that Rothfuss was able to create, and the insight into Auri’s mind (and I suspect that she is much cleverer than she appears to be), and how the inanimate objects around Auri really seemed like living, feeling things.4 starsKitty Aldridge//A Trick I Learned from Dead MenA Trick I Learned from Dead Men by Kitty Aldridge. A short-ish novel that follows a young man who’s training as an undertaker while supporting his deaf brother and depressed stepfather. This was my Library Scavenger Hunt pick for July, so I have a mini-review of it up already. 🙂2 starsSimone Elkeles//Perfect ChemistryPerfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles. A romance between a teenager called Brittany who – due to some problems at home – feels the need to always be seen as perfect, and Alex, a classmate of hers from a dangerous part of town, who joined a gang in order to get protection for his family. I downloaded this mostly on a whim, and regretted it a bit afterwards, since I’ve heard very mixed things about the series, but I actually really enjoyed it. Sure, it’s incredibly cheesy in places, and there were bits of Alex and Brittany’s dialogue that came across as laughably unrealistic, and there was a 23-years-later epilogue that really annoyed me (as unnecessary last-minute flash-forwards always do)… but it was also a lot of fun to read, and pretty well-written. I don’t know if I’m likely to pick up the rest of the series, but I don’t regret reading this one, at least.3 stars

Before I could finish anything else, Booktubeathon came along! I managed to read a grand total of five books over the course of the readathon (which is pretty good, if I do say so myself, especially considering how busy I was that week), all of which I’ve written mini-reviews for – you can read them by clicking on the covers:

Junot Díaz//The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao Franny Billingsley//The Folk Keeper Sabaa Tahir//An Ember in the Ashes Brandon Sanderson//Perfect State Bram Stoker//Dracula

Neil Gaiman//NeverwhereNeverwhere by Neil Gaiman. A fantastic novel about a man who, after finding an injured young woman on the side of the road and deciding to help her, gets dragged into the mysterious world of London Below, where people end up when they fall through the cracks of society. In an effort to reclaim his life, he ends up going on an adventure with Door (the aforementioned young woman), who’s trying to solve the mystery of her family’s murder. I loved absolutely everything about this book: The memorable characters, the beautiful writing, the whole world of London Below (which was incredibly bizarre, but also managed to make an odd sort of sense). The way that the story progressed was quite similar to Stardust, and I therefore found the ending a little predictable, but I was so enchanted that I didn’t even mind.5 stars

Abbi Glines//Until Friday NightUntil Friday Night by Abbi Glines. The first book in The Field Party series, which is a romance between a football player called West, who’s struggling to deal with his father’s cancer, and a girl called Maggie, who hasn’t spoken since her mother died. I’ve written a full review of this book, where you can read all my (numerous) thoughts about the story and characters, etc. – you can find it here.2 stars

#BookTubeAThon 2016: Update 3 & Mini-Review

Sabaa Tahir//An Ember in the AshesJUST FINISHED: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir.

Laia is a Scholar, a race of people subjugated by the Martial Empire, so her life’s never been easy, but she’s been lucky so far; she has her friends and family, and is learning a trade, so she’ll be able to support herself when she leaves home. But this all changes when her brother is accused of conspiring with the Scholar Resistance. He’s taken prisoner, their grandparents are slaughtered, and Laia finds herself on the run.

Elias is training to become a Mask, one of the Empire’s elite soldiers, and the heir to one of its oldest, most powerful houses, but he despises the violence and oppression that he sees – and is forced to take part in – every day. With his graduation approaching fast, he’s planning on deserting, until an opportunity presents itself for true freedom, without betraying his friends and family, but which may cost him his life.

I was super-excited for this book before it came out (a fantasy setting based on ancient Rome? Yes, please!), but my enthusiasm waned slightly as I waited for the chance to read it (hardbacks are expensive, and even if I’d bought it, my bookshelves are pretty much full :/ ). But I’m so glad that I finally did; I loved this book! The writing was engaging; the plot intriguing, with plenty of unexpected twists and turns (I had real difficulty tearing myself away from this book, even when I had important things to do, i.e. packing). For me, though, the main appeal was the characters:

Laia and Elias were really great leads, both incredibly likeable and relatable, even though they were ostensibly on opposing sides, and at odds for much of the story. Their character growth, too, was incredible; it was wonderful to see how much they both (but especially Laia) changed as the story went on. I also really enjoyed their relationship, which was fraught with tension and misunderstandings, but in a way that always really built up anticipation for their next encounter. And as for the romance, my shipper’s heart has been completely brought to life! 😉 I’m definitely rooting for Laia and Elias, so Elias’ will-they-won’t-they relationship with Helene made me quite anxious at times. I wasn’t so convinced by Laia and Keenan, as they had so few shared scenes (and I had a lot of difficulty trusting Keenan, right from the beginning), but I’m looking forward to seeing how their relationship progresses – and keeping my fingers crossed that it’ll take a few more platonic turns. 😛
5 starsCURRENT READATHON STATUS: Didn’t get as much reading done on the train as I’d hoped to, but I’m also making decent progress on Dracula… (It’s much longer than I thought it was.)

Books Completed: 3
Pages Read: 947
Challenges Completed: 2

#BookTubeAThon TBR!

It’s Booktubeathon time, people! (Almost.) Are you excited? I’m excited, as you can probably tell from all my rambling. XD And imminent readathons mean it’s time for TBRs!

As always, I’ve tried to line up my TBR to meet the Booktubeathon challenges, but this year I’ve had to add a few restrictions, too, for practical reasons: Since I have a job now, I’ll be working on most weekdays, so I’ve tried to pick a few shorter books, and I’ll also be going on holiday towards the end of the readathon, and am not planning on taking any physical books with me, so most of the books I’ve chosen are also ones that I have on my kindle… Lastly, I’ve been pretty indecisive lately about what I want to read, so I may well change my mind about some of the books on this list – but here is my tentative TBR:

Junot Díaz//The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao1) Read a book with yellow on the cover.

This will probably be the first book I pick up for the readathon, and if all goes to plan, it will also be the only physical book on my TBR: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz, a birthday present from my sister that I’m super-excited for. 😀

2) Read a book only after sunset.

To be honest, I have no idea what I’ll be reading for this challenge, and it will probably just end up being whatever I happen to be reading when I’m on the overnight train to Skye. Thematically, it would be quite nice to combine this with challenges 5 & 6, but you’ll have to read on to see why… 😉

Sabaa Tahir//An Ember in the Ashes3) Read a book you discovered through booktube.

This challenge is the one I’m most looking forward to, as I’m finally going the be able to read An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir! I’ve been wanting to read this book for such a long time, but it was just too expensive – until a few days ago, when the price suddenly dropped to 99p in the Kindle Summer Sale ❗

Brandon Sanderson//Perfect State4) Read a book by a favourite author.

Again, there were a couple of things that I thought about picking for this challenge, but at long last, I managed to settle on Perfect State by Brandon Sanderson, which is a short story that doesn’t seem to be tied in with any of his other series… Of his other books, I’ve only read the Mistborn trilogy so far, but I adored them, so I’m hoping that this one will be really great, too.

Bram Stoker//Dracula5) Read a book that’s older than you & 6) Read and watch a book-to-movie adaptation.

I thought I’d combine these two challenges with a classic, since I’ve been meaning to read more of them this year, and there are a lot of adaptations to choose from, so I decided to go trawling through the unread classics on my kindle and my shiny new Netflix account to see if I could find a match. There were three, but I’m currently leaning towards Dracula by Bram Stoker, as it’s quite a bit shorter than the other two…

Abbi Glines//Until Friday Night7) Read seven books.

Genevieve Cogman//The Masked CitySo, as it stands, I have a total of four books that I’m planning to read, but if I want to complete all the challenges, I’m going to need to pick out three more! 😀 What those three end up being will probably largely depend on my mood at the time, but there are a couple that are looking quite likely. Namely: Until Friday Night by Abbi Glines, which I just downloaded a couple of days ago, The Masked City by Genevieve Cogman, the sequel to The Invisible Library, which I read a few months ago, and was really pleasantly surprised by… What I’ll pick for the last book, I haven’t the foggiest. ^^’

Upcoming Releases: Summer 2015

These are the new releases I’m most looking forward to this summer, & will cover June, July and August 2015.

[NB: All dates are taken from Amazon UK unless stated otherwise, and are correct as of 6/05/2015.]

Garth Nix//To Hold the BridgeTo Hold the Bridge by Garth Nix (4th June)

A short story collection in which the titular work is a novella set in the Old Kingdom universe, which is one of my favourite series of all time. The story is about Morghan, an aspiring cadet in the Greenwash Bridge Company. The other stories in the collection appear to be from various different genres, and I’m really interested to see what spin Garth Nix will put on them.

Sabaa Tahir//An Ember in the AshesAn Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir (4th June)

There’s been so much hype for this book, and I believe that it’s already out in quite a lot of places, which I’m obviously super-jealous about, since I’m going to have to wait until June. :/ This is a fantasy book based on ancient Rome, and it’s currently a standalone, though I’ve heard that the story really begs for a sequel…

Meg Cabot//Royal WeddingRoyal Wedding by Meg Cabot (2nd July)

The long-awaited sequel to the Princess Diaries series, in which Mia is all grown up and getting married! I’ve been wanting a book like this since I finished Ten Out of Ten, and I’m so excited that it’s finally going to be a thing! 😀

Rick Riordan//Percy Jackson & the Greek HeroesPercy Jackson and the Greek Heroes by Rick Riordan (6th August)

A re-telling of some of the heroic Greek myths from the point of view of Percy Jackson, à la Percy Jackson and the Greek Gods, which I loved. I don’t know which stories will be included in this, but I’m pretty excited for them regardless.

Patrick Ness//The Rest of Us Just Live HereThe Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness (27th August)

A save-the-world-type story, told from the perspective of the hero’s best friends, who really just wants to finish school without the world ending (or any other such things). This book sounds like so much fun, and since it’s by Patrick Ness (who wrote the Chaos Walking series as well as The Crane Wife, which I loved), I can already tell it’s going to be really well-written.