Upcoming Releases: Spring 2017

At long last, winter is drawing to a close! Goodbye, sniffles! Goodbye, bitterly cold rain! Hello, slightly-warmer-but-no-less-wet rain! … 😛 But whatever the weather, there’s definitely looking to be some really great books coming up this spring. XD Here are a few of the ones I’m most excited for in March, April & May:

[All dates are taken from Amazon UK unless stated otherwise, and are correct as of 25/02/2017.]

Andrzej Sapkowski//Lady of the LakeThe Lady of the Lake by Andrzej Sapkowski (16th March)

The seventh and final book in the Witcher series, which follows the mutated monster-hunter, Geralt of Rivia, and is now being officially released in English. I probably won’t be picking this one up straight away – even though I’m really eager to see how this series will end – as I expect it will initially be released as a large-format paperback, & I’d rather get it when it’s available in standard size (to match the rest of my copies of this series), but I’ll have to wait and see if I’m able to hold out for what will likely end up being around a year… ^^’ Excitement level: 9/10

Laini Taylor//Strange the DreamerStrange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor (28th March)

This is something of a wildcard for me, as I still haven’t read anything by Laini Taylor (Daughter of Smoke & Bone has been sitting on my high-priority shelf for quite some time, but somehowI never seem to get round to actually picking it up), yet the more I learn about it, the more intrigued I become. It will be the first book in a new series, and from what I can tell, it seems to be a fantasy-mystery story featuring gods, heroes, and an Atlantis-style lost city – all things that appeal to me greatly! Excitement level: 7/10

Brian K. Vaughan//Saga vol. 7Saga, Volume 7 by Brian K. Vaughan (4th April)

The latest volume in the epic space odyssey that is Saga – a story about two lovers from warring races, who are running from basically the entire universe in order to protect their daughter; the living evidence of a love that both their cultures find abominable. The story, the art (by Fiona Staples), and the characters in this series are all incredible, and it only seems to be getting better as it goes on. Highly recommended. 😀 Excitement level: 7/10

As a side-note, the deluxe edition of volumes 4 to 6, entitled Saga, Book 2, is also due to be released just a month afterwards (2nd May), and I will probably also be picking that up as a treat to myself. 😉 I already own volumes 4 & 5, but I love the way the deluxe editions are put together, and the concept art and author’s notes are a really nice extra. Excitement level: 8/10

Sarah J. Maas//A Court of Wings & RuinA Court of Wings & Ruin by Sarah J. Maas (2nd May)

The third book in the A Court of Thorns & Roses series, which follows a young woman called Feyre, who one day kills a faerie while she’s out hunting, and is forced to come and live in the Spring Court in order to atone. Little does she know, she’s actually there in hopes that – at long last – she will be the human who is able to break the curse that the High Lord and his entire Court are suffering from. The first book is primarily a Beauty & the Beast retelling, but with the release of A Court of Mist & Fury, the series has now moved drastically away from its source material… Recently, I’ve developed something of a love-hate relationship with Maas’ books, but I did really end up enjoying A Court of Mist & Fury, so I’m reasonably optimistic about this one, too – though still somewhat nervous. Excitement level: 7/10

Fairytale Features: Beauty & the Beast

fairytale features

The tale of Beauty & the Beast (originally called La Belle et la Bête) is probably familiar to most people: One night, a merchant gets lost in a forest during a terrible storm, and finds shelter in a great palace, where he is offered food and drink and a warm place to sleep. The next morning, on his way out, he picks a flower for his daughter, Beauty – only to be set upon by a terrifying Beast, who accuses the merchant of stealing his most precious possession. The merchant is allowed to leave, but only after promising that he will send his daughter to the palace instead. Over time, Beauty ends up falling in love with the Beast, and through her love, the curse that had transformed him into a monster is broken.

This story was originally written in 1740 by the French author Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve, and was influence by many different stories, including Cupid & Psyche (Apuleius; late 2nd century A.D.) and the Italian fairytale The Pig King (Giovanni Francesco Straparola; c. 1550-53), and may also have been partially inspired by the life of Petrus Gonsalvus (1537-1618), a Spanish man who became famous during his lifetime because he suffered from hypertrichosis, which made him abnormally hairy.

A more complete list of adaptations and retellings of this story can be found here, but these are a few of my favourites:

RECOMMENDATIONS

Robin McKinley//BeautyBeauty by Robin McKinley is a straight-up retelling of the original fairytale – by which I mean that the plot deviates very little from Villeneuve’s original story, though naturally both Beauty and the Beast are considerably more fleshed-out as individual characters. McKinley’s writing, however, is beautiful, and I really loved the slow, realistic relationship development in this book.

Christine Pope//Dragon RoseDragon Rose by Christine Pope is another reasonably straight-up retelling, but it’s also mixed with elements of legends such as St. George & the Dragon, where a maiden must be sacrificed every year in order to appease a terrible monster. In Dragon Rose, Rhianne (i.e. Beauty) offers herself up in the place of her friend, and is sent off to become the latest in a long, long line of brides to the cursed Dragon Lord, none of whom have ever been seen again after setting foot in his castle. Pope’s writing is not the best I’ve ever read, but I enjoyed the unpretentious nature of this story, as well as the way it played with the princess-and-the-dragon trope. It’s actually the second book in the Tales of the Latter Kingdoms series (many of which are fairytale retellings), but all the books in this series can be read as standalones.

Andrzej Sapkowski//The Last WishA Grain of Truth by Andrzej Sapkowski is a short story from The Last Wish (which is, in turn, part of the Witcher series), and manages to completely turn the tale of Beauty & the Beast on its head: Women come to the Beast willingly, enjoying their chance to flirt with danger, while their families are given a generous payment – and after a time, they leave. The Beast, for his part, is not particularly interested in breaking the curse that makes him a monster, as he fears that companions will be harder to find if he becomes less of a curiosity. Beautifully written, and fascinatingly re-imagined, this is probably one of my favourite re-tellings of this fairytale.

Rosamund Hodge//Cruel BeautyCruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge imagines Beauty (this time called Nyx) as a young woman who – promised to the Beast (Ignifex, the kingdom’s evil and immortal ruler) at birth due to a bargain struck by her father – has been raised as an assassin, trained to kill Ignifex, and break the curse he’s held over the kingdom for the last 900 years. This was a fast-paced, exciting retelling, with a dark bent to it that I really enjoyed. Hodge also managed to blend the tale of Beauty & the Beast seamlessly with a whole load of Greek mythology – something that really appealed to the Classicist in me!

Sarah J. Maas//A Court of Thorns & RosesAnd of course, I couldn’t possibly leave out A Court of Thorns & Roses by Sarah J. Maas – the book which pushed me to start writing this post (at long last)! In this book, the Beast (a.k.a. Tamlin) is a High Lord of Prythian, the kingdom of faeries, and “Beauty” (this time called Feyre) is a human huntress, struggling to support her impoverished family after her merchant father lost everything. One day, while hunting, she kills a Fae disguised as a wolf – but although she expects to be killed as punishment, instead she’s taken away to the Spring Court, where the High Lord is labouring under a terrible curse… and running out of time to break it.

There’s a lot going on in this series beyond the retelling that it starts with; in the second book, it breaks away from the fairytale almost entirely. The more epic tone of the story – the intrigue and politics and the looming threat of war – is the main thing that sets this apart from other retellings, and is probably its main selling point, but its also unusual in that it has a considerable cast of (well-developed) characters beyond Feyre and Tamlin, all with significant roles to play. [You can find my spoiler-free reviews of A Court of Thorns & Roses, and A Court of Mist & Fury here.]

[Navigation: INTRODUCTION | BEAUTY & THE BEAST | (More to come)]

January Wrap-Up

The first month of the year is over, and I feel like I got off to quite a good start with all my reading goals! 🙂 And to make things even better, I really enjoyed everything I read – 5 novels, 1 graphic novel, and 2 short stories – with the exception of one short story (which only took up about half an hour of my life in any case 😉 ). Here’s what I thought of them all:

Laure Eve//The GracesThe Graces by Laure Eve. The first in a new series about a teenage girl called River who moves to a new town and becomes fascinated by a glamourous local family, whom the entire community believes are witches. This is ringing some Twilight-shaped bells, right? But it’s also seriously messed up, and (unlike Twilight) aware of how messed up it is, and fully embracing the sheer messed-up-ness. I posted a mini-review of this book a few weeks ago – you can find it here.4 starsIsabel Greenberg//The One Hundred Nights of HeroThe One Hundred Nights of Hero by Isabel Greenberg. A new collection of folk-tales in comic form, told in the style of One Thousand and One Nights, with a woman called Hero telling stories night after night, in order to stave off a man who’s hoping to seduce her lover, Cherry. My particular favourite of Hero’s stories was A Very Honest Harp, which was about two sisters who were courted by the same man, to a disastrous end, but, as with Greenberg’s previous work, the whole book is made up of beautiful, haunting tales, charmingly illustrated.5 starsAmy Alward//The Potion DiariesThe Potion Diaries by Amy Alward. The first book in a series about a talented (but not “Talented”, which means something quite different) young potion-maker called Sam, who is called to join in a nation-wide race to create a cure when the kingdom’s princess accidentally doses herself with a love potion… and falls in love with her own reflection. A fun, lighthearted read, though not without its flaws. I read this book for the January Library Scavenger Hunt challenge, so my review’s already posted – you can find it here!3 stars

Rae Carson//The Bitter KingdomThe Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson. The third and final book in the Fire & Thorns series, which I’ve been re-reading for the last few months. Like with Crown of Embers, my opinion of this book hasn’t changed at all upon re-reading it; it’s still a fantastic story, with wonderful characters, and really impressive character growth. In the final part of the book, I did feel a bit disorientated to be back in Brisadulce after such a long time (Elisa leaves around the mid-point of Crown of Embers and doesn’t return until close to the end of The Bitter Kingdom), but I figure that’s mostly because I really took my time with this book the second time around. Overall, definitely a series that’s worth coming back to a few times. 🙂5 starsNora’s Song by Cecelia Holland (from the Dangerous Women anthology). Holland is apparently a historical fiction author of some prolificacy and renown, but I found this short story – about Eleanor, the second daughter of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, as a young girl – rather lackluster. The writing was engaging, and the period of history in which the story is set is an interesting one, but the story itself suffered seriously from a lack of… anything, really; a few confusing events are all presented in a great rush, and then it ends. I do think that this might have made a good prologue for a longer story, but on its own it doesn’t leave much of an impression.2 starsSarah J. Maas//A Court of Mist & FuryA Court of Mist & Fury by Sarah J. Maas. The sequel to A Court of Thorns & Roses, which was an imaginative retelling of Beauty & the Beast involving fairy courts and a fantasy realm held hostage by a madwoman. I enjoyed this book a lot, but still had quite a few problems with it, which I won’t go into here lest this paragraph become an essay. ^^’ I’ve written a spoiler-free review, however, which you can find here.4 stars

Neil Gaiman//Odd & the Frost GiantsOdd & the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman. A short story written for World Book Day in 2008, in which Odin, Thor and Loki find themselves in something of a pickle, and need to rely on Odd – an improbably optimistic young boy, who’s just run away from home – to help them resolve it. An incredibly cute story, with a surprising amount of character development and depth, given its length. Definitely the best Norse mythology novel(la) I’ve read in a long time, and the perfect thing to get me out of the reading slump that I was beginning to feel coming on. 😀4 starsHonobu Yonezawa//The Kudryavka SequenceThe Kudryavka Sequence by Honobu Yonezawa. The third book in the Kotenbu series of light novels, which inspired the anime Hyouka (one of my favourites!); a mix of mystery and slice-of-life, focusing on a group of characters who are all members of their school’s Classics Club. In this book, the school’s cultural festival is disrupted by a phantom thief, who’s been taking random items from various different clubs, and leaving notes to replace them. It’s difficult to explain the appeal of this series, but I really love it, and The Kudryavka Sequence definitely lives up to the books that came before it (Hyouka and The Credit Roll of the Fool, respectively). ❤ It’s not available in English at this time, so the version I read is a fan translation from Baka-Tsuki.4 stars

Mini-Review: A Court of Mist & Fury by Sarah J. Maas (Spoiler-Free)

Sarah J. Maas//A Court of Mist & Fury[Warning: This is a spoiler-free review, but I will be referencing some events from A Court of Thorns & Roses, so if you haven’t started the series at all yet, beware.]

Feyre has broken the curse on the Spring Court, and is free to return to it with her lover Tamlin, the High Lord. Nothing now stands in the way of her future happiness… except for the possibility of an impending invasion… and the pesky deal she made with Rhysand, the powerful and greatly-feared High Lord of the Night Court, in order to save her own life. But her time Under the Mountain has altered Feyre both physically and mentally, and the dreams she once held so dear may turn out not to be what she truly wants any more – or needs.

What this book does well: It builds on the world of Prythian excellently; large groups of new characters are introduced, and they’re all well-developed, with their own backstories; the overarching plot of the series escalates brilliantly, and the writing (especially in the second half) does a great job creating a dramatic, tense atmosphere; and of course the romance, which comes across as much deeper and more convincing than in the first book.

What it doesn’t do so well: This seems to be something of a trend with Maas’ books, but many of the supporting characters from the previous book are just thrown by the wayside in A Court of Mist & Fury, or – even worse – altered entirely. This book also completely breaks away from the Beauty & the Beast mythos, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing in itself (after all, the story Maas is telling seems to be a much more intricate and engrossing one than simply girl-falls-in-love-with-monster-and-makes-him-a-man), but the way that it’s done really begs the question, why even bother using Beauty & the Beast as a springboard, if you’re then going to turn around in the next book and undermine the entire message of that story? (I can’t be the only person who felt this way, right?)

(Also, the first half of the book was really slow, but that’s a minor complaint next to the other two.)

A Court of Mist & Fury is superior to A Court of Thorns & Roses – a book that I enjoyed reading (you can find my initial thoughts on it in my review), but had more issues with the longer I thought about it – in every way that I can think of. I really, really liked this book, despite my reservations over it, and I remain anxious but hopeful about A Court of Wings & Ruin, which is slated for release this spring.4 stars

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

Summer Haul

summer haulYou remember that book-buying ban I was on? Well, it’s failed utterly. I did fantastically in June, and in July I only bought three books (though my birthday was in July, so I also received a few as gifts 😀 ), and then in August I went completely crazy… resulting in the photo above. ^^’ On the plus side, several of these I’ve read already, so the stack of unread books on my bedroom floor hasn’t grown too much…

1) Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. A birthday present from my friend Grace, who has (among others) been trying to get me to read it for a while now. And I loved it, just as everyone was sure that I would! 😀 I read this in July, so you can see what I thought of it in my wrap-up.

2) The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz. Another birthday present, this time from my sister. A thought-provoking novel about a Dominican-American boy who has never quite managed to fit in anywhere… I read this during the Booktubeathon, so I’ve also posted a mini-review of it.

3) 1066 and All That by Walter Carruthers Sellar & Robert Julian Yeatman. A tongue-in-cheek history book that was given to me by my friend William. I haven’t read this one yet, but I’m hoping to get to it soon.

4) The Spy’s Bedside Book by Graham & Hugh Greene. Also a present from William, this is a collection of short spy stories and tips, from what I’ve been able to gather. It looks like another super-fun book, so I’ll probably be picking it up reasonably soon.

5) Harry Potter & the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne & John Tiffany. The follow-up to the Harry Potter series, in script form! I bought this the day it was released (of course), and read it almost straight away, and despite the misgivings of others, I really enjoyed it. I’m sure that the play itself will be better – and I really want to see it soon – but this was a nice traipse back into the Wizarding World. More detailed thoughts on this are in my August wrap-up.

On the Other Side - photo6) On the Other Side by Carrie Hope Fletcher. The new novel by youtuber ItsWayPastMyBedtime, which I couldn’t resist picking up after hearing the song she wrote for it. Unfortunately I wasn’t a huge fan of the story itself (again, reasons why are in my August wrap-up), but I do feel like I should take the time to point appreciate the fact that someone at Little, Brown must have put a huge amount of effort into making this book as beautiful as it is.

7) The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan. The first book in Riordan’s new Percy Jackson-universe series, The Trials of Apollo. I’m not sure when I’ll actually read this, but I wanted to pick it up while it’s still available in hardback, so that it will match the rest of my Rick Riordan books…

8) The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken. I bought this one solely because it showed up unexpectedly at the second-hand bookshop where I work, and I’ve been looking for a copy for ages. This is another one that I’m eager to read soon, though my eagerness is somewhat tempered by the knowledge that I have no easy access to either of the sequels. 😦

9) A Court of Mist & Fury by Sarah J. Maas. The sequel to A Court of Thorns & Roses, which I liked when I read it, but have had my reservations about since… I wasn’t initially sure whether I was going to continue this series, but so many people have told me that this book is way better than the last, so I’ve decided to give it a try. Also, it (along with the next three books I’m going to list) was buy-one-get-one-half-price at Waterstones, so I didn’t really have a choice in the matter. 😉

10) And I Darken by Kiersten White. An intriguing novelisation of the life of Vlad the Impaler, if he had been a she. This is another book that I read pretty promptly after buying, so my (long, rambling) thoughts on it are all in my August wrap-up.

11) Railhead by Philip Reeve. I’ve not actually read much of Philip Reeve’s work, but I remember really loving his Hungry City Chronicles when I was in school, so of course I couldn’t resist seeing what his most recent book was like. Spoiler: it was fantastic – and I’ve written a full review of it here!

12) Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo. The first of a new duology set in the same universe as Bardugo’s Grisha trilogy, which I binge-read a few years ago and loved. And much to my surprise, Six of Crows was even better – I’m really excited for the sequel! Once again, I’ve talked about this book in my August wrap-up.

13) Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle Volumes 11-20 by CLAMP. And lastly! Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle is a series I’ve been reading since it was first released in English, but I’ve always had trouble tracking down any volumes after the first 10 (except online, but I’ve never much liked buying manga online), so when the first 20 volumes all showed up at work, I took it as a sign. 😉 I’m looking forward to catching up (at least partially) on this series soon!

Upcoming Releases: Autumn 2016

Autumn looks like it’s shaping up to be an exciting season for books (October especially!); there are so many things coming out soon that I couldn’t even fit them all on this list! But after much agonising, here are the books I’m most excited to see in September, October & November!

[NB: All dates are taken from Amazon UK unless stated otherwise, and are correct as of 28/08/2016.]

Sarah J. Maas//Empire of StormsEmpire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas (6th September)

The next book in the Throne of Glass series, which has been getting more and more exciting as it’s gone on. I wasn’t hugely thrilled with Queen of Shadows in terms of character development, but the plot was really great, so I still have high hopes. 🙂

Leigh Bardugo//Crooked KingdomCrooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo (27th September)

I finished reading Six of Crows just a few days ago (as I’ve been telling you all incessantly), so it’s a stroke of luck that the sequel’s coming out so soon! I am more excited to read this than I’ve been for any book in a long time, so I’ll probably be reading it pretty promptly, too! My hopes for it: I’d really like some chapters from Wylan’s perspective, and maybe a little more of Jesper, too; they were the characters that I felt got the least development in Six of Crows (though, naturally, I still want to see loads of Kaz, Inej, Nina and Matthias! 😉 ).

Garth Nix//GoldenhandGoldenhand by Garth Nix (4th October)

To be honest, I know nothing about this book except that it’s a new Old Kingdom story. And I still haven’t even read Clariel (the book that comes before it, and which I’ve had on my shelf since it was released two whole years ago. But I want it anyway, and I’m sure it’s going to be brilliant – Garth Nix’s books always are. XD

J.K. Rowling//Harry Potter & the Chamber of SecretsHarry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling (4th October)

The illustrated edition, because it’s that time of year again! 😀 Re-reading Philosopher’s Stone last year was such a wonderful experience, and Jim Kay’s art was beautiful, so of course I’m excited to see what’s he’s done with Chamber of Secrets.

Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff//GeminaGemina by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff (20th October)

Another book that I’m expecting to be beautiful. And heart-wrenching. And generally amazing. Illuminae was one of my favourite books from last year, and I really hope that this sequel will live up to it… I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed!

Honourable mentions, cut because I’m not yet up to date on either of these two series… and because this post was in danger of becoming far too long even without them: Magnus Chase & the Hammer of Thor by Rick Riordan (4th October) and The Thorn of Emberlain by Scott Lynch (22nd September).