November & December Wrap-Up

It feels weird to still be talking about 2020 so far into January, but alas, I’ve been very slow to collect my thoughts on my November and December reads… which weren’t numerous, I’m afraid (I hit a bit of a reading slump at the beginning of December), but made up for the quantity with pure quality! For although I only read 13 things, 5 of them were 5-stars! Which is more than half my 5-star reads for the whole year (excepting re-reads)! 😅

BOOKS I REVIEWED

[REVIEW]

[REVIEW]

[REVIEW]

OTHER BOOKS I READ

The Promise by Gene Luen Yang. [COMIC; Illustrated by Gurihiru]

A continuation of the Avatar: The Last Airbender TV series, in which Aang and Zuko’s friendship is tested by their different hopes for the future of the former Fire Nation colonies – particularly in the case of Yu Dao, which has existed for so long that its Fire Nation and Earth Kingdom residents have come to consider themselves a single people.

To be honest I love this world and these characters so much that Yang could have written basically anything and it would’ve pleased me, but this story surpassed all my expectations! 😁 I loved seeing Zuko continued to develop as a character even after achieving his goals, and his friendship with Aang and the pressure it came under here were perfectly characterised. And the side-story with Toph’s earthbending school nicely offset the more serious themes of the complexities of decolonisation…

Ravensong by T.J. Klune.

The sequel to Wolfsong, but this time following Gordo, his history with the Bennet pack, and how it’s changed over the years, and how it’s changed him. Gordo was my favourite character in Wolfsong, so it’s no surprise that I was excited for this book, but sadly I didn’t think it was quite as good. I still love Gordo, of course, and I found his backstory really heart-wrenching; the plot was also very solid, and continued on where Wolfsong left off, but I didn’t think the romance was quite as well-developed, and I didn’t manage to form much of an attachment to Mark beyond what rolled over from the last book… The best parts of this for me were probably the flashbacks, but I’m also looking forward to seeing where the plot goes in Heartsong.

A Hunger Like No Other by Kresley Cole.

Emma Troy’s search for the truth about her late parents is interrupted by the sudden appearance of a powerful, half-crazed Lykae, furious with her for no apparent reason; Lachlain, meanwhile, finds the strength to break free of his ancient prison when he catches the scent of his destined mate… but he doesn’t expect her to be a vampire.

This was a fun, and pretty addictive read, but I found myself growing a little bored towards the end, and looking back, I’m finding it kind of difficult to remember the details… The good: Emma I liked well enough; she and Lachlain had decent chemistry; the steamy scenes were a good level of steamy. The less good: I didn’t care about much of the Valkyrie or Lykae lore, which was what this book mostly focused on, worldbuilding-wise; I find phonetically-written Scottish accents more comical than sexy, and the old-fashioned slang didn’t help with that; and I found the side characters beyond the main couple all kind of boring. Also, trigger warnings for kidnapping and dubious (at least) consent, and probably other things that I can’t think of right now…

City of Heavenly Fire by Cassandra Clare.

The final book in the Mortal Instruments series, in which Clary & friends face off against the seemingly-unbeatable Sebastian and his growing army of Endarkened for the last time. As always, Clare delivered a pretty epic conclusion here, but although I really enjoyed it, I still kind of agree with the people who say that this second trilogy didn’t need to exist… The first half of this book, in particular, was a real slog (as were the two preceding novels), but I do feel like the ending made up for most of it. I’m mainly still in the Shadowhunter universe for the Infernal Devices cameos, which were finally delivered in this book (that epilogue was perfect), and other good things were: 1) Sebastian is still a really great, thoroughly hate-able villain, and 2) I’m glad that all the romances ended out well (kind of).

The Toll  by Neal Shusterman. [AUDIOBOOK; Narrator: Greg Tremblay]

Three years after the events of Thunderhead, Citra and Rowan wake to find themselves separated once again, each playing pieces for different sides of the Scythedom’s ideological split, and the world utterly changed. A great end to a great trilogy! I found the ending really satisfying, as well as the journey to get there – though, like in Thunderhead, I wish that there had been more interaction between Citra and Rowan. 😅 Some of the highlights for me were Citra’s search through the backbrain, the bits of worldbuilding we got via the chapter intros (especially all the Tonist analysis), and Grayson’s relationships with Jeri, Morrigan, and of course the Thunderhead itself… And while it wasn’t at any point as great as Thunderhead‘s most exciting moments, I found that it was much more consistently good the whole way through.

The Search by Gene Luen Yang. [COMIC; Illustrated by Gurihiru]

After the events of The Promise, Zuko finds a letter that may contain a new hint as to his mother’s location, and he sets out with the rest of Team Avatar to track her down – with a volatile Azula along for the ride! Of all the Avatar comics, this was definitely the one I was looking forward to the most, as the fate of Zuko’s mother is one of the biggest mysteries that the TV series left hanging… and it absolutely didn’t disappoint! I loved the tense interactions between Zuko and Azula, and the flashbacks to their childhood; the search itself takes a really interesting path; and the eventual reveal of Ursa’s fate was surprising and emotional… I’m really looking forward to reading more of these comics when my copy of The Rift, Volume 1 finally arrives! 😅

A Closed & Common Orbit by Becky Chambers.

Now stuck in an artifical body that she never asked for, Lovelace (now called Sidra) searches for a sense of purpose and self. Meanwhile, the young Jane 23 tries to make a life for herself outside the scrap-sorting facility that’s all she’s ever known.

I loved this so much. Becky Chambers’ books have always been great, but I this is my favourite thing she’s written by far; the characterisation is just so thoughtful (I’m not sure how else to describe it, but of course the security-AI would prefer to stand in the corner, it makes so much sense)! Naturally I loved Sidra (I’m a sucker for a good, multi-faceted AI character), but Pepper’s backstory was also incredibly touching. And the plot was basically perfect, too. There’s not much of it – the book is almost entirely character- (and relationship-) driven – but it blends the two timelines together wonderfully, and makes for a natural and gratifying conclusion to both Pepper and Sidra’s character arcs.

This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone. [AUDIOBOOK; Narrators: Emily Woo Zeller & Cynthia Farrell]

In a war that spans all of time, two rival agents send each other letters, and slowly fall in love. This is very poetically written, and I can see why it’s such a hit-or-miss book for a lot of people, but I really loved the vivid imagery, and I think this may have been my favourite book of last year. (If not, it definitely came close.) The romance was slow-building and it was wonderful to see it develop so gradually, and although there’s not much else of plot in this story, it was interesting to see the small, often arbitrary-seeming actions that Red and Blue took in order to shift the timeline.

A lot of the reviews I’ve seen for the audiobook in particular say that the two perspectives aren’t distinct enough, but I never found that a problem myself, and I think that the narrators both performed excellently.

The Novice by Taran Matharu.

And we go from an incredibly unique book to an incredibly boring one. The Novice follows a young orphan called Fletcher who accidentally summons himself a demon familiar, and must then attend a fancy magical school, where he’s out of place because of his common background, and the unorthodox way that he bonded with his demon. I liked the concept of a demon-summoning school, at least, and the three-way war between humans, orcs and elves made for a potentially intriguing storyline, especially as the series goes on… But! The characters were so awful. 😑

The villains were all comically evil, actual-enemy-of-the-nation and petty bullies alike – and Fletcher! Fletcher was the most annoying protagonist I’ve had the displeasure of reading about in a while. He’s the most open-minded person in the book, uniqely capable of accepting people for who they are; he’s the most un-racist human you’ll ever meet, able to convert the most stubborn or bigots with one encounter; he’s not naturally talented at all and has to work really hard for his skill, we’re told, even as we’re shown the exact opposite; and he’s so eloquent that he must have his own personal speech-writer following him around, scripting everything he says. Seriously, it’s not even as though he doesn’t talk like a teenager – it’s that he doesn’t talk like a person.

Nevernight by Jay Kristoff.

Thankfully, though, I was able to end the year on a high note with Nevernight, which tells the story of another orphan – Mia Corvere – who swears revenge on the men who ruined her family, and heads off to join the Red Church – an organisation of deadly assassins – in order to learn the skills she needs. Dark, witty, frequently edgy and over-the-top (which I love… sometimes), with well-developed and surprisingly likeable (for murderers) characters, and a plotline that kept me on the edge of my seat – with some truly shocking twists (though admittedly, some of them I was probably more shocked by than I should’ve been). I was given the sequel to this for Christmas, and I can’t wait to get to it as soon as my new TBR game allows… 😅🤞

 

Library Scavenger Hunt: December

Somewhat cheekily in order to cater to my own personal reading goals, as well as my building reading slump, this month’s LSH challenge was to read a short story, and so I didn’t need to agonise over my choice at all; it was made before I even posted the challenge! 😋 I’ve been trying to make progress on the Shadowhunter Chronicles books for a while now, and since I finally finished City of Heavenly Fire last month, I figured it was about time I got started with the novellas:

WHAT REALLY HAPPENED IN PERU
Cassandra Clare & Sarah Rees Brennan

In which Magnus takes a trip (or a few) to Peru, causes trouble for the locals, exasperates his friends, and is eventually banned from returning.

I like Magnus Bane, but he’s never been my favourite of the Shadowhunters crew, and while I liked learning more about his background in this story, I found that his whacky hijinks weren’t really enough to hold my interest… My favourite parts of What Really Happened in Peru ended up being Ragnor Fell’s appearances (he’s really quite charming), and what was (I think) the longest section of the story, where Magnus fails to learn an instrument for the sake of love, which I found genuinely funny in places, even though it never does away with the over-the-top feeling of the story as a whole.

So I’m not off to a great start with The Bane Chronicles, but given the lukewarm things I’ve heard about this collection, and my feelings on short stories in general, I’m not too surprised. Fingers crossed that I’ll get on better with the next one! 🤞

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

Upcoming Releases: Summer 2019

As far as I’m concerned, most of 2019’s most exciting releases were stacked near the beginning of the year (not that I’ve had a chance to read many of them yet), but that doesn’t mean there aren’t still things to look forward to! Most of these aren’t things I’ll be rushing to buy as soon as they come out, but here’s what I’ll be looking out for in June, July & August this year:

[All dates are taken from Amazon UK unless stated otherwise, and are correct as of 31/5/2019.]

The Rest of the Story by Sarah Dessen (4th June)

A contemporary about a teenager called Emma who’s spending the summer reconnecting with her mother’s estranged family. I’m expecting self-discovery, a cute romance with childhood-friend Roo, and a heartwarming (or heartbreaking, or maybe even both) storyline… Contemporaries (and YA contemporaries in particular) have become less and less my thing over the last couple of years, but Sarah Dessen (almost) always manages to get to me, so I’m looking forward to reading this sometime this summer. 💕 Excitement level: 7/10

Blastaway by Melissa Landers (11th July)

A sci-fi adventure featuring an accidental runaway, a girl who blows up asteroids for a living, and trouble with space pirates! I was burned by Landers’ last sci-fi novel (Starfall, sequel to the amazing Starflight), so I’m feeling a little cautious about this one, but it sounds like a lot of fun regardless. Excitement level: 5/10

To Be Taught, if Fortunate by Becky Chambers (8th August)

A standalone novella from the author of The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet set in a future where humans have developed the technology to adjust their bodies to survive in deep space, and main character Ariadne is on a mission to investigate distant planets for signs of life… From the sounds of it, this is going to be a pretty introspective story, exploring the isolation of space travel, and, of course, space itself – all of which were things I loved about The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet. So I’m feeling pretty hopeful! 😊 Excitement level: 7/10

Honourable Mentions: