March Wrap-Up

Once again, March was not a heavy-hitter in terms of the number of books I read, though it was strong on quality, with two of the three books getting five-star ratings – and one of which was a behemoth of an (audio)book that I’ve been slowly making my way through for a couple of years now. 😁 I almost finished a fourth book, too, which is quite astonishing considering how preoccupied I’ve been with Zelda for the last couple of weeks… 😅 But anyway, here’s what I thought of my March reads:

Dune by Frank Herbert. The epic tale of a boy whose family is embroiled in a bitter power struggle involving the planet Arrakis and the strange – and expensive – drug that’s produced there, known as spice. That’s a massive oversimplification, by the way, but the plot and the characters and the world that Herbert creates in Dune is far too complex to explain properly in just a sentence or two… It’s taken me about two years to finish this book, not because I wasn’t enjoying it (I was), but because until the last couple of months I just didn’t listen to audiobooks that often – but I’m so glad that I finally decided to buckle down and finish it; it’s such a great book! I loved all the characters, the story was wonderfully intriguing, and the book as a whole made such a strong impression on me that it was really easy to pick back up where I’d left off, again and again! 😊

Tempests and Slaughter by Tamora Pierce. The first book in a prequel series to The Immortals quartet, which tells the story of Numair’s years at the Imperial University in Carthak. Returning to this world was such a joy, and Numair’s backstory is something I’ve always been curious about, so it was really nice to learn some more about that, too. 💕 I wouldn’t say that this is one of Pierce’s strongest books, but I really enjoyed it nonetheless, and am looking forward to the rest of the series. You can find my full review here.The Problem with Forever by Jennifer L. Armentrout. A contemporary novel about two teenagers, Mallory and Rider, who lived in the same abusive foster home as small children, but were separated later on… and then reunited by chance in high school, when Mallory decided to attend a public high school in an attempt to overcome her severe social anxiety. I picked this up mainly because of Armentrout’s name on the cover (her Lux series was great fun), but although I enjoyed The Problem with Forever, and it definitely had its poignant moments, I didn’t find it all that memorable. It’s solidly-written, the romance was sweet, and I feel like Armentrout did a good job of portraying the crippling severity of Mallory’s anxiety… but it’s not up to the standard of the other books of hers that I’ve read.

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Review: Tempests and Slaughter by Tamora Pierce (Spoiler-Free)

[This is a spoiler-free review, however I may allude to some events from other Tortall-based series – particularly The Immortals quartet, to which this book is a prequel.]

Numair Salmalín is one of the world of Tortall’s most powerful mages, but at the age of 11 – then a student at the Lower University of Carthak, and going by his birth name, Arram Draper – he was only just beginning to learn the magic that would help him so much in later years. Talented, but frequently in trouble with his instructors, Arram’s life is changed forever when he is befriended by the charismatic Prince Ozorne and his lovely friend Varice, now two of the University’s brightest students, but who will eventually go on to become the dreaded Emperor Mage and his head of entertainment.

This is the first book in a new trilogy called The Numair Chronicles, which acts as a prequel to the Immortals quartet by explaining the history of one of its most prominent but enigmatic characters: Numair, and focuses on events that are alluded to parts of that series, but never really explained in much detail. The nostalgia comes across very strongly in this book, with plenty of cameos from the original series, including one particularly great one that snuck up on me (the gladiator Musenda, who I had thought was a new character, but was suddenly revealed later on to be a familiar face), and although the young Arram is very different from his older counterpart, we can clearly see his character being shaped over the course of this book, from his growing doubts about remaining in Carthak, to his fascination with obscure magic that many more academic mages refuse to believe in…

That said, the story itself is quite fragmented. There’s no strong overarching plot, and there doesn’t seem to be much indication of one to come in the later books. What there is is a few strong story arcs, such as a brief murder mystery towards the end, and a couple of vaguely medical-drama-y sections, while the bulk of the novel concentrates on character and relationship development. There’s also quite a bit of political intrigue, but it’s focused on Ozorne rather than Arram, and so mostly stays in the background.

(An aside: Of these mini-arcs, I probably enjoyed the medical sections the most. My favourite Pierce books are actually the Emelan-based ones, and of those, I like Briar’s stories the best – something that I’d assumed was primarily because I like Briar. But although I do really like his character, reading this book has also driven home for me just how good Pierce is at writing engrossing historical sickroom-based stories.)

While I do hope that there will be a stronger plotline in the sequels to Tempests and Slaughter, I also found that the slow start to the series really gave me time to get to know these characters in their present incarnations, while still providing enough interesting action to keep me engaged throughout the book. After all, most readers will know how things are going to turn out for Arram before they even open the book, and the interest in reading it is seeing all the little things that lead up to that point. Perhaps there will also be one giant straw that breaks the figurative camel’s back (in the form of an overarching story), but even if there isn’t, I think that more of what Tempests and Slaughter has already offered will be enough for me to love this series. 💕

January & February Wrap-Up

My reading year didn’t exactly get off to a great start (at least in terms of quantity); I only managed to finish two books in January, both of which I wrote full reviews for, which is why I decided to hold off for another month on posting this wrap-up. February was a lot more promising. 😊 In total, over the last two months, I got through four excellent novels, two graphic novels, and an audiobook! (I re-started my Audible subscription, and it’s amazing! 💕 Though I’m finding it very difficult to be patient while I wait for my next credit…)

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler. A novel about a young woman called Rosemary, who one day came home after staying with her grandparents to find that her sister Fern was gone. The book deals mainly with how what happened with Fern affected their family over the years… This was such a fascinating story! I really wanted to write a review of it, but wasn’t sure how to go about it without spoiling a plot twist that really makes this book what it is. But even beyond the twist, this is an excellent novel; I really enjoyed Rosemary’s perspective, and her relationships with her parents and siblings, and Fern’s part in the story was heartbreaking in places. 😥 The non-linear narrative greatly increased the effectiveness of the story as well, and I had a great time trying to puzzle out everything that had happened to Rosemary’s family, while she herself danced around the subject, leaving little breadcrumbs for us to follow.Grayson Volume 1: Agents of Spyral by Tim Seeley & Tom King. The first in a DCU-based comic series, wherein Dick Grayson (a.k.a. Nightwing, a.k.a. the first Robin) is undercover in the mysterious organisation Spyral, and reporting to Batman on their activities. Perhaps I would have enjoyed this more if I were up-to-date on the Nightwing series (which I believe this is supposed to follow on from), but as it was I found the plotline pretty incoherent, the characters (including Dick) boring, and the artwork not compelling enough to make up for the book’s flaws… I was initially quite excited by the appearance of Helena Bertinelli, but sadly in the New 52, she seems to have traded in her Huntress persona to become the bland Spyral agent known as Matron. 😑 It’s a shame, because my fondness for the Robins (all of them) makes me predisposed to like their solo titles, but doubt I’ll be continuing with this one.Wolf-Speaker by Tamora Pierce. The second book in the Immortals quartet, which is part of Pierce’s Tortall universe – wherein Daine is called upon by her old wolf friends to negotiate with the local humans on their behalf, and discovers a sinister plot against the king and queen while she’s there. The Immortals is a familiar (and beloved) story to me, but this was my first time listening to the audiobook version of it – which was excellent! The voice acting really brought all the characters to life, and although the difference in speed between Pierce’s narration and the rest of the cast’s speech took was a little jarring at first, I got used to it quickly – and (on principle) I do like it when authors narrate their own books… 😊

BOOKS I ALREADY POSTED REVIEWS FOR:

 
 

Upcoming Releases: Winter 2017-18

A lot of sequels and spin-offs seem to be coming up in December, January & February, including one that I’m absolutely desperate for by my favourite author! 😁 Winter always seems to be somewhat barren in terms of exciting new releases, but I think that these four at least, are worth paying attention to:

[All dates are taken from Amazon UK unless stated otherwise, and are correct as of 4/12/2017.]

The Lost Plot by Genevieve Cogman (14th December)

The fourth book in the Invisible Library series, which follows a woman called Irene who travels between worlds in order to collect and preserve unusual books for her workplace, the mysterious Invisible Library. Seeing this book pop up in my feed was a massive – and wonderful – surprise, as I’d been under the impression that this series was just a trilogy! 😊 I’ll be more excited once I’m all caught up on the earlier books, but for now it’s just great to see that there’s so much more of Irene and Kai to come. Excitement level: 6/10

Batman: Nightwalker by Marie Lu (3rd January)

The second book in the new DC Icons series, which is written by several popular YA authors and features DC’s characters as teenage superheroes… I don’t know how connected this one is going to be to its predecessor (Leigh Bardugo’s Wonder Woman: Warbringer), which I haven’t read, and wasn’t planning to, but since Batman is one of my favourites, I might have to dive into this series after all… & it looks like there’ll also be a Catwoman book coming up later in the year. Excitement level: 7/10

Hero at the Fall by Alwyn Hamilton (1st February)

The third and final book in the Rebel of the Sands trilogy, which was a surprise hit with me when I picked up the first book last year… The trilogy combines the Wild West and Arabian Nights-style settings, and follows a gunslinging heroine called Amani, who in the first book escapes from the small desert town where she’s grown up, and inadvertently ends up joining a rebellion… This is another series that I’m not yet up-to-date on, though, so I’ll reserve the majority of my anticipation for after I’ve read Traitor to the ThroneExcitement level: 6/10

Tempests & Slaughter by Tamora Pierce (6th February)

And last but by no means least, Tempests & Slaughter! 😆 I feel like I must’ve waited an age for this book – it’s been listed on Pierce’s website as “in progress” for years now – but it’s finally here! This is the first in a new Tortall-universe series that will follow the adventures of Numair Salmalín (first introduced in The Immortals quartet) as a young man at  University in Carthak. I expect that seeing Numair without Daine will be somewhat strange, but I’m hoping that the lack of Daine will be made up for by Arram and Ozorne, and a lot of exploration of Carthaki society. 👍 Excitement level: 10/10

Upcoming Releases: Autumn 2017

The next few months seem to be choc-a-bloc with great new books I could mention here… but in the interest of not letting this list go on forever, I’ve picked out a few that I’m most excited for, or intrigued by that will be released in September, October & November

[All dates are taken from Amazon UK unless stated otherwise, and are correct as of 28/08/2017.]

The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding by Alexandra Bracken (5th September)

This might seem like an odd choice, since although I like Alexandra Bracken’s work, I’m not a die-hard fan… but something about The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding just sounds incredibly charming to me. It seems to be about an unremarkable boy from a family with a history of being anything but, who finds out one day that he’s sharing headspace with a demon. The impression I’m getting is a mix of Naruto and A Series of Unfortunate Events, which would make for an interesting combination! I’ll have to wait and see, however; the early reviews for this book have been somewhat mixed… Excitement level: 6/10

Provenance by Ann Leckie (28th September)

I only read my first one of Ann Leckie’s books recently (Ancillary Justice), but I was so blown away by it that I couldn’t help but add this to my “most anticipated” list as soon as I found out that it was going to be a thing… What I can tell about it so far: deep space and thievery. What I assume about it from my experience with Leckie’s writing thus far: complicated politics, rich world-building and great characters and plot. What I haven’t been able to discern: whether or not this is set in the same universe as the Imperial Radch books… 😓 So I likely won’t be picking it up until I’ve finished those books first (which will hopefully be very soon!). Excitement level: 8/10

Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling (3rd October)

The Prisoner of Azkaban has been out for years, of course, but Harry Potter fans (who seem to make up the majority of the world’s population) are bound to know already that Bloomsbury has been re-releasing new, beautifully-illustrated (by Jim Kay) editions of all the books… and this year is the turn of my favourite book in the series! The art for the last two books was amazing, so I can’t wait to see what this one will look like! 😆 Excitement level: 10/10

La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman (19th October)

The first of the three-volume Book of Dust, which takes place in the His Dark Materials universe, though it follows a new set of characters. I don’t know much more about this book than that; I really don’t need to, as I am sure to buy it anyway, and I doubt very much that I won’t enjoy it. Like many others, I feel like I’ve been waiting for this book for years, so naturally, I’m very excited that it’s finally (almost) here! Excitement level: 10/10

Tortall: A Spy’s Guide by Tamora Pierce (31st October)

It’s been so long since I read anything new from Tamora Pierce! So even though this seems to be a dossier-style book (along the lines of The Artemis Fowl Files or The Demigod Files), rather than a whole new novel, I will undoubtedly devour it. Hopefully, like the other two books I mentioned, there will also be a short story or two in the mix… Excitement level: 7/10

T5W: Second = Best

Second books get a lot of criticism. If a series started out strong, then they have a lot to live up to, and sometimes they can seem like just a whole book’s worth of filler before a (hopefully) epic final novel… but I actually tend to really like them; with quite a few of my favourite series, I end up liking the second book best. 😊 So, naturally, I was thrilled to discover that this week’s Top 5 Wednesday theme was second books… Here’s my (heavily abridged) list:

5) A Court of Mist & Fury by Sarah J. Maas

This may be a bit of a cheat, since I haven’t finished the series yet, and so can’t know for sure whether A Court of Mist & Fury will be my favourite, but I couldn’t help including it here, simply because it was such a dramatic improvement over the first book… I liked A Court of Thorns & Roses, but the more I thought about it after I finished it, the more underwhelmed I felt; I was somewhat reluctant to even pick the sequel up, despite all the amazing things I’d been hearing about it… but, wow, was this book a huge step up. If you’re not sure about this series after book one, then rest assured that it’s worth it (so far🤞).

4) Lirael by Garth Nix

Nix’s Old Kingdom series is fantastic as a whole, but as much as I loved Sabriel and Touchstone in the first book, Lirael’s character arc in this book has always stuck with me. It doesn’t hurt, of course, that the new storyline that Lirael began was fantastic, and she had a wonderful set of sidekicks in Sam, Nick, and the Disreputable Dog. 😋

3) Half Wild by Sally Green

Not a huge amount happens in Half Wild compared to the other two books in the trilogy, so this may be something of an odd choice, but what I really love about this book is how, with the action slowed down, there was so much character and relationship development. In particular, there was some really amazing exploration of Nathan’s relationship with his estranged father Marcus, as well as his two potential love interests, Gabriel and Annalise…

2) Fire by Kristin Cashore

Fire is the second book in the Graceling Realm trilogy, and seems to be a lot of people’s least favourite entry… It’s certainly very different from the other two books – it’s even set in a different world! Kind of. But although I found the transition between books quite jarring (I wasn’t even expecting the change in protagonists, and that’s the least of the changes from Graceling), I very quickly became attached to the new characters, their world, and I loved how much this book effected the other two, despite their apparent disconnect… 💕

1) The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman

His Dark Materials is such an incredible series, and deserves all the praise it’s ever received and more; it’s exciting, thought-provoking, heart-breaking, beautifully written… Naturally, I love all three books in the trilogy, and the spin-off novellas, and I’m eagerly awaiting The Book of Dust. But Will’s introduction, and how our own world was pulled into this story with him, is what makes me love The Subtle Knife so much. (It also gave me what was probably my first ever OTP. Lyra & Will forever. 😭)

And an honourable mention for Street Magic by Tamora Pierce, which is one of my favourite books of all time, and also the second book in The Circle Opens quartet… which is itself a follow-up to the Circle of Magic series. I didn’t include it on the main list mostly because I tend to think of it as being a sixth book rather than a second, but this is also a series that people should definitely read! 🙏

(Also, in no particular order: The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater, Froi of the Exiles by Melina Marchetta, The Boy Who Wept Blood by Den Patrick,  Quicksilver by R.J. Anderson… and probably about a hundred more. But I’ll stop here, for the sake of all our sanity.)

[Top 5 Wednesday is run by Sam from ThoughtsOnTomes. To find out more or join in, check out the Goodreads group.]

Autumn Activities Book Tag

There’s really only a few weeks of autumn left this year, but it’s never too late for a fun tag, in my opinion! The Fall Activities Book Tag (which I have conveniently re-named) was originally created by Ashley from Dreaming Through Literature, and I was tagged by Ariana from The Quirky Book Nerd – be sure to check out her great answers to these prompts, too!

Leigh Bardugo//Crooked Kingdom1) Apple picking – a book on your TBR that looks so delicious you can’t wait to take a bite out of it.

There are a lot of books on my TBR at the moment that I’m really excited about, but the one I’m most eager for is undoubtedly Crooked Kingdom by Leigh BardugoSix of Crows was amazing, and I can’t wait to see where the story’s going to go next!

Andrzej Sapkowski//The Last Wish2) Corn maze – a book that’s fun to get lost in.

I could pick any number of books for this prompt (mostly fantasy), but among those is the series I’m currently working my way through: The Witcher series by Andrzej Sapkowski! So much is going on in these books that it’s a little difficult to follow at times, but it’s also incredibly engrossing, and I’m having a tonne of fun reading it. XD

Emily Carroll//Through the Woods3) Haunted house – a book that scared you silly.

I don’t read a lot of scary books (because I’m a bit of a wimp), but the graphic novel Through the Woods by Emily Carroll has some seriously creepy stories in it – including an actual haunted house! 😉 The art is wonderfully creepy, too, and it makes for a perfect Halloween read.

J.K. Rowling//Harry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets4) Pumpkin patch – the latest book you purchased.

The last book I picked up (for myself, at least) was the new illustrated edition of Harry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling, which is a thing of beauty. ❤ There don’t seem to be quite as many illustrations as in the first book, but what there is is really lovely.

Catherynne M. Valente//Deathless5) Scenic drive – a book that is beautifully written.

Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente is so beautifully written that it’s practically poetry; the way she phrases things is unusual, but in a way that gives her words incredible power. I’ve not read any of Valente’s other works yet, but I’m definitely looking forward to the day when I finally pick some of them up.

Holly Bourne//Soulmates6) Pumpkin carving – a book you wouldn’t mind carving up.

For a complete change of tone, I definitely wouldn’t mind chopping up Soulmates by Holly Bourne, and maybe tossing the pieces on a bonfire afterwards. I very rarely read a book and feel like I’ve wasted my time entirely (even with books that I didn’t enjoy), but this one was so bad that it actually made me angry.

Philip Reeve//Railhead7) Hiking – a book that was an enjoyable romp.

The word “romp” makes me think of adventures more than anything, so for this I decided to pick something a bit more lighthearted and fun, so… Railhead by Philip Reeve! This story didn’t stand still even for a moment, and I enjoyed it so much that it was difficult to put it down, even for necessary things like eating and sleeping. 😛 [Review.]

Tamora Pierce//Street Magic8) Apple cider – a book to curl up under the covers with.

My ultimate comfort read – as I’ve mentioned about a million times before – is Street Magic by Tamora Pierce (or anything by her, really, but Street Magic is my favourite), so that’s the book I turn to if I ever want to huddle up in bed for a whole day… if I’m ill, or just miserable – or cold, as the case may be. 😉 I also listen to the audiobook of it a lot, whenever I’m out and about and sick of music; it’s a wonderful production.

C.S. Lewis//The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe9) Jumping in leaves – a book that reminds you of your childhood.

The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis are hugely nostalgic for me. I remember first starting to read them when I was staying at my granny’s house for Christmas, and – once the holiday was over and I’d gone home – having to beg my parents for my own copies so that I could carry on reading. 😀

Bram Stoker//Dracula10) Scary movie night – your favourite spooky read.

As I said already, I’m not a huge fan of scary stories, but I did (finally) read Dracula by Bram Stoker earlier this year, and ended up really enjoying it. I wouldn’t say that I found it particularly spooky, but I reckon it still qualifies. 🙂 [Review.]

Becky Chambers//The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet11) Costume party – a book with an eclectic cast of characters.

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers has a wonderfully varied cast of characters, who are really the driving force behind this story. Every member of the Wayfarer‘s crew is fully developed and sympathetic, and has an interesting story to tell… a good thing, since – stuck on a trip through deep space – there’s not much going on plot-wise. [Review.]