June Wrap-Up

I wasn’t particularly on top of my blogging game in June, but I did manage to read a few good books – three novels, one comic, and one essay – as well as tick off one more of my reading goals for the year (the one for reading books that people have given me)! 😁 Here’s what I read:

Bellamy & the Brute by Alicia Michaels. A retelling of Beauty & the Beast set in modern-day Georgia, and starring a teenage girl called Bellamy, who gets a summer job as a babysitter for the wealthy Baldwin family, and ends up getting involved with their eldest son Tate, who hasn’t been seen in public since being struck by a mysterious disfiguring illness… Conceptually, this was a really interesting book; it’s unlike any other Beauty & the Beast retelling I’ve read (and I’ve read quite a few of them), and the way that Michaels played around with the source material made for a really fresh, exciting story. It’s also very well written, and I liked the characters a lot (though – as many others have also mentioned – Bellamy did at times seem a little too perfect), as well as the way that Bellamy and Tate’s relationship progressed as the story went on. However, this story had two separate aspects to it (the love story, and the murder mystery), and the way that Michaels tried to tie them together just didn’t really work… the further I got into the story, the more contrived it felt… but it was still a really enjoyable book.Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor. The tale of a girl called Karou who lives two lives; the first as a talented – though somewhat eccentric – art student in Prague; the second as an assistant to the chimera Brimstone, who trades wishes for teeth. I’d heard amazing things about this book, and I’m pleased to say that it absolutely lived up to my expectations! The characters were all wonderful, the writing beautiful, and the story fascinating… The romance does come across as a bit instalove-y, but Taylor managed to make it fit in with the story really well, and I’m super-interested in seeing where it goes in the next two books (which I will hopefully get to soon! 😆).Bee & Puppycat, Volume 1 by Natasha Allegri & Garrett Jackson. A really cute comic book spin-off of the Cartoon Hangover web-series of the same name, which follows a girl called Bee, who meets a strange cat-like creature and then becomes a trans-dimensional temp worker. I picked this up without knowing anything about the cartoon beforehand – which may have been a mistake – but still ended up enjoying the book more than not. I wrote a more complete review a couple of weeks ago, which you can find here if you so desire, but in short: Pretty and whimsical, but more style than substance (especially in the second half)…

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. A 2012 TEDx Talk of the same name, now adapted into essay form – on feminism, and why it is important not just for women, but for everyone. This short book had a message that I really approved of, delivered in a very powerful, striking manner. It’s also very readable, despite being non-fiction (a genre I often find I have to slog through), and is littered with anecdotes from Adichie’s life that illustrate her views and helped to shape them. A must-read for anyone who’s at all interested in feminism, or in any form of movement towards equal rights.

Hurt by Tabitha Suzuma. A drama/mystery novel about a teenage diver who undergoes a horrible ordeal, and begins to fall apart as he tries to deal with the aftermath all by himself. Enjoyable isn’t really the right word to use to describe this book, but I did find it very interesting, and I felt that it did a good job of tackling a really difficult topic… This was my Library Scavenger Hunt pick for the month, so I’ve written a more detailed review of it already, which you can find here.

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Library Scavenger Hunt: June

This month’s Library Scavenger Hunt challenge was a pretty easygoing one – read a book with a one-word title – and I managed to find my book quite quickly, but it’s taken me a little while to finish reading it, due to various preoccupations (i.e. video games, mostly 😅)… But I’ve finally finished, so here’s my review:

HURT
Tabitha Suzuma

Mattéo Walsh is Britain’s star diver, and everything looks to be on track for him to enter – and have a good shot at winning – the next Olympics. But then disaster strikes: something happens at the National Championships in Brighton, and it’s not something that Mattéo comes out of unscarred. Physically, emotionally, and mentally, he seems to be falling apart – and worse than that, telling anyone what happened could mean losing everything he cares about…

My feelings on this book are somewhat mixed. I genuinely liked and felt for Mattéo, and Suzuma’s evocative writing helped a lot with that. I also really love the way she portrayed family relationships in this book; the friendship and trust between Lola and her father Jerry was wonderful to read, and the affection between Mattéo and Loïc provided a wonderful contrast to the strained distance between them and their parents. The plot was also very engaging, and the various twists and turns kept me guessing right up to the end of the book; there was a really good balance of hints and red herrings, and although I did end up being right about the “what” of what happened in Brighton (which I was less than certain about), the “who” (of which I had been utterly convinced) came as a huge surprise.

On the other hand, I wasn’t massively happy with Lola’s role in the book; I found the intensity of her romance with Mattéo a little unrealistic, and I really didn’t like her part in the novel’s conclusion, though I suppose I kind of understand why Suzuma had the book end the way it did. And I also felt that the story as a whole (and particularly the second half) was drawn out for far longer than it needed to be.

Hurt is a book that I’ve been meaning to read for a long time now, and I’m glad that I finally made the time for it, though it didn’t quite live up to my (admittedly high) expectations. I’d say I liked it about as much as I did Forbidden (the only other one of Suzuma’s books I’ve read), which was similarly hard-hitting, but a little more problematic in terms of its subject matter.

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

November Wrap-Up

Cassandra Clare//Clockwork PrinceNovember feels like it went by way too fast… :/ & I didn’t actually do all that much reading in the latter part of the month, because the new Pokémon games came out, and I was first caught up in excitement, then in playing the games (which are awesome, by the way). Nevertheless, I managed to read a grand total of 11 books in November, as well as 3 short stories – and this is them:

Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare. I had so many feelings about this book that I actually ended up writing a mini-review, which you can read here.5 stars

Cassandra Clare//Clockwork PrincessClockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare. Needless to say, I went straight on to the sequel, which answered all my questions (even the ones I hadn’t realised I was wondering about). I wasn’t entirely satisfied with the way Jem’s storyline seemed to be wrapping up, but that little niggle was thankfully fixed in the epilogue, and my only other  problem with the book was the Will’s-greatest-hits montage at the end, which I thought was a little cheesy… But that was just a tiny, tiny thing, & easily overlooked. It does make me really, really eager to read The Mortal Instruments book now, but I think I need to take a little break (& maybe read some of the books that I already own) first…5 stars

Morgan Matson//Amy & Roger's Epic DetourAmy & Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson. A sweet, but sad contemporary road trip novel. I really loved both Amy & Roger, as well as most of the many, many people they met on their trip, and I particularly loved that Morgan Matson included loads of photos and reciepts and the playlists that they listened to…4 stars

Tabitha Suzuma//ForbiddenForbidden by Tabitha Suzuma. Excellently written, & very thought-provoking, and though I liked the book a lot, I’m not entirely sure how I felt about the situation it presented… On the one hand, Maya & Lochan’s relationship was kind of squicky, but on the other hand, their relationship never really felt like one between siblings, even before they admitted their feelings, and I kind of wanted to root for them to find an escape together someday… My main problem with the way their relationship was portrayed was actually in the early parts of the book, when Maya was pushing Lochan for a relationship that seemed to scare him more than anything – but then again, somebody had to be the instigator (otherwise there’s no story), and reading about the instigation of an incestuous relationship is always going to seem kind of creepy… For those of you who’ve read the book already (or who don’t mind spoilers), feel free to check out my spoilery discussion post here. I’d love to hear your thoughts!3 stars

Paullina Simons//The Bronze HorsemanThe Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons. This book was such an emotional roller-coaster! So much tragedy, and then every time Tatiana & Alexander managed to get together, & things seemed to be going well for them, something would come up to drive them apart… 😦 I absolutely loved this book – the characters were so well-written (even the ones like Dimitri, who I really, really hated), & the drama was incredibly intense. There’s a slight cliffhanger at the end, so I’m looking forward to reading the sequel.5 starsRosamund Hodge//Cruel BeautyCruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge. A Beauty & the Beast re-telling, though is more complicated than a simple girl-meets-monster-and-redeems-him story, and it also has rather a dark edge to it, which I enjoyed – and a lot of Greek mythology! I liked the story a lot, even though it took me a while to warm up to the main character, Nyx, and I thought that the big reveal about Ignifex & Shade’s connection wasn’t quite as unexpected as it might have been intended to be… I think I may have officially restarted my fairytale retelling obsession now… 😉4 stars

Marissa Meyer//CinderCinder by Marissa Meyer. The first book in the Lunar Chronicles, and a cyberpunk-Cinderella retelling. Really interesting and inventive, and I loved all the characters so much! 😀 The ending was a little abrupt, but that was the only real problem I had with the book, and I hope that the sequels will take care of any lingering dissatisfaction, even though they follow different characters…5 stars Marissa Meyer//ScarletScarlet by Marissa Meyer. I’ll admit that I didn’t enjoy this quite as much as Cinder (not enough Cinder/Kai 😉 ), but it was definitely a solid follow-up. The plot seems to be escalating dramatically, and the new characters are fun, too – although I don’t feel that I managed to connect with either Scarlet or Wolf as much as I did with Cinder and Kai… I did appreciate, though, that rather than presenting this second book from an entirely new perspective (as I had expected), Marissa Meyer included chapters from Cinder and Kai’s perspectives, too; building on the first book rather than starting over.4 starsThe Little AndroidGlitches and The Queen’s Army by Marissa Meyer. These are three of the novellas set in the Lunar Chronicles universe, and I figured I’d read them before getting started on Cress. They’re all pretty quick reads (naturally), and well-written and developed (especially considering how short they are… All three stories can be read online for free, and if you’d like to do so, then I’ve linked each one to the cover inages below:

Marissa Meyer//The Little AndroidThe Little Android is set not too long before Cinder, and is a Little Mermaid-retelling about an android mechanic who falls in love with one of her human co-workers. Cinder herself appears briefly in the novella (in the role of the witch who turns Mech6.0 into a human), which was one of my favourite moments, and feel of the story is bittersweet.5 stars

Marissa Meyer//GlitchesGlitches is a direct prequel to Cinder, and is about Cinder’s childhood in New Beijing, the beginning of her friendship with Peony and Iko, and how she first discovered her talent as a mechanic. It was really lovely to see Cinder as a little girl, so unsure of everything in her new life, but this one was also pretty sad, and the ending was somewhat abrupt (though not unexpectedly so…).4 stars

Marissa Meyer//The Queen's ArmyLastly, The Queen’s Army follows the childhood of one of the new characters who’s introduced in Scarlet, and I wouldn’t recommend reading it before you’ve read both Cinder and Scarlet (even though it’s kind of a prequel), as it’s super-spoilery. Also for that reason, I can’t tell you all that much about it! I did enjoy the book, but I felt that the narrative was much choppier than the other two novellas, and I didn’t like it quite so much…3 stars

Marissa Meyer//CressCress by Marissa Meyer. I loved this book so much! Definitely my favourite in the series so far – the plot seems to be really taking off (literally!), and I’m seriously excited for Winter, the last book in the series… Character-wise, Cress was adorable and incredibly relatable, and I really loved the relationship development between her and Thorne; I’m definitely getting more attached to Wolf and Scarlet, even though there wasn’t so much of them in this book; Jacin was an unexpected delight to read (and that scene in the Rampion when he and Cinder talk about Winter was probably one of my favourite scenes in the whole book); and Winter! I wasn’t expecting Winter to even show up in this book, but I am so glad that she did, and I can’t wait to learn more about her!5+ starsRae Carson//Fire and ThornsFire and Thorns by Rae Carson. This is the first book in the Fire and Thorns trilogy, and in the US I believe it is called The Girl of Fire and Thorns, so if you’ve heard of that one, then, yes, this is the same book. It was a little slow-going at first, and I didn’t enjoy part 1 all that much: I liked how realistic the main character, Elisa, seemed, but I didn’t much care for any of the other characters, and not much of the book’s main conflict had been revealed – in fact, much of part 1 was focused on Elisa’s insecurities. However, in the second and third parts the book really picked up, and (in addition to watching Elisa grow as a character, which was wonderful), I grew attached to many of the supporting characters, and the world and its conflicts were really fleshed out. 🙂4 starsRae Carson//Crown of EmbersCrown of Embers by Rae Carson. Elisa’s (continued) growth is incredible, and there are so many other characters that I came to love over the course of reading this: Some older ones like Hector and Mara and Belén, and some new ones, like Tristán and Storm (who grew on me like a weed, and won’t let go). I did miss Cosmé, though, and I’m still not a huge fan of Ximena – but her part in this book and the direction her relationship with Elisa takes is certainly interesting. Writing-wise, this was a lot faster-paced than Fire and Thorns, which made it a lot easier to get into, and the mix of political intrigue and adventure made the plot engaging right from the start.5 stars