March Wrap-Up

I spent the majority of March obsessing over Horizon: Zero Dawn (probably one of the best games I’ve ever played), so I didn’t do as much reading as I might otherwise have done… but I did manage to read six novels and a short story, and finish off a manga series that I started a little while ago. 😀 Better yet, almost everything I read was really amazing; it was definitely a good month in terms of reading quality!

David Gaider//AsunderAsunder by David Gaider. The third book in the series of Dragon Age spin-off novels, which tell the stories of various side-characters and background events from the video games… Asunder tells the story of Cole in the lead-up to the Mage Rebellion and, consequently, the events of Dragon Age: Inquisition, as well as his two friends at the White Spire (Val Royeaux’s Circle of Magi), Rhys and Evangeline… and it’s by far the best of the Dragon Age novels I’ve read so far! I’m pretty preoccupied with the plight of the mages, so this book seems almost like it was written for me; so many of the things that were said in it are things that I’ve been wanting to hear people acknowledge since I started playing the games! Even beyond the Mage Rebellion issues, the plotline was fascinating, and the characters were all great, too: It was wonderful to revisit all of the returning characters from the games, and I really loved all the new characters who were introduced.5 starsLove So Life by Kaede Kouichi. A manga series about a high school girl who is taken on as a babysitter for an adorable pair of three-year-old twins, and ends up falling in love with their guardian. The characters were all super-sweet, and I loved the romance between Shiharu and Seiji, as well as Shiharu’s relationship with the twins. ❤ As with many slice-of-life series, there’s not much to say in regards to plot – it’s fairly standard rom-com fare – but it was very well executed. This was such a cute series to read; I’m really glad that I stumbled across it in my journeys through manga-land! 😉Sense & Sensibility by Jane Austen. A classic novel about two very different sisters who both find that their paths to happiness may not be as straight as they were expecting. This was a really enjoyable read; I love Jane Austen’s writing and characters so much, and Sense & Sensibility definitely lived up to my expectations. I didn’t like it quite as much as Pride & Prejudice or Emma, but anyone who knows how much I love those two books will realise that that’s really not saying much. 😉 I’ve written a proper review of this book already; you can find it here.Fearless by Tim Lott. A dystopian novel about a girl living in what appears to be a boarding school, but is actually an institution where supposedly criminal girls are sent to become the City’s unpaid labour force. I picked this up for the March Library Scavenger Hunt, but it was distinctly uninspiring… My LSH picks seem to be rather hit-or-miss, and unfortunately this one was definitely a miss. :/ You can find my full review here.

The Hands That Are Not There by Melinda Snodgrass. A sci-fi short story from the Dangerous Women anthology, which tells the story of a human aristocrat who’s having a risky affair with a half-human stripper, in a future where all human-alien relationships are illegal. I’m not usually one to get very invested in short stories, but really enjoyed this one, and only wish that there’d been more of it; the world that Snodgrass set up was fascinating, and the plot definitely had the complexity to support a much longer book…Darcy’s Story by Janet Aylmer. A retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice from Mr. Darcy’s perspective. The problem I often have with Jane Austen fanfiction (which is what this is, regardless of its publication status) is that the writers usually try to imitate Austen’s writing style, and it ends up coming across very stilted, but I’m pleased to say that Aylmer has done a reasonably good job in that respect, and Darcy’s voice rang true even during the scenes that were not part of Pride & Prejudice. In terms of dialogue, she has barely strayed from the original work, so it is naturally excellent, but not very original. I didn’t mind this, as it’s to be expected in a straight-up retelling, and in fact it probably would’ve irritated me if it’d been modified overmuch… with the exception of one scene in particular (when Lady Catherine visited Darcy to tell him about her talk with Elizabeth at Longbourn), which included some shoehorned-in direct quotes which made the conversation feel very unnatural… Overall, however, this was an enjoyable read, and an interesting study of Darcy’s character.Jeremy Poldark by Winston Graham. The third book in the Poldark series, which follows a Cornish family in the 1700s, who are all very involved in the copper trade. As with previous books in this series, I found the insight into the copper industry itself to be really fascinating, and the continuing plot and character development are both tense and frustrating (in the best possible way). Some of the suspense was removed for me by the fact that I already knew what was going to happen (I’ve been watching the TV series, too), but I don’t think that really effected my enjoyment of the story except in that it made me a little surprised by how not-belligerent Ross was being for most of the book, compared to his on-screen portrayal… I’ve rated Jeremy Poldark slightly lower than the previous two books, not because it’s not as good, but because I wasn’t quite as engaged with it as I was with Ross Poldark or Demelza, but needless to say, I’m still really enjoying this series.The Mad Scientist’s Daughter by Cassandra Rose Clarke. An unexpectedly powerful and thought-provoking story about a girl who falls in love with a robot, at a tumultuous time when robots are beginning to be thought of as people, but haven’t been given rights. I won’t say too much more about it here (except that, of course, I really liked it), as I’m hoping to have a proper review of it up shortly. 🙂

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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

April Wrap-Up

I was in top form last month! For some reason, reading’s pretty much the only thing I’ve wanted to do, and I’ve had some really great luck (or intuition?) with the books I picked up, as well; I gave almost everything I read in April either 4 or 5 stars! In total, I managed to read 9 novels, 2 short stories, and one (short) graphic novel. 😀

Genevieve Cogman//The Invisible LibraryThe Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman. A great mystery/adventure story about a librarian called Irene, who works as an agent for the Invisible Library, collecting rare books from different worlds and returning them to the Library to be preserved. This book was action-paced from start to finish, and incredibly exciting. I loved trying to puzzle out Irene’s quest, and it was quite refreshing that the characters seemed to figure things out at a similar pace that I did (getting left behind in mystery books is always frustrating, but so is waiting for the characters to catch on to something that seems obvious). The characters themselves were all wonderful, as well: Irene, Kai and Vale in particular, but I also loved the way that Irene’s history with Bradamant was tied into the story, and even the villains were a delight to read. Highly recommended!5 stars

Ella Frances Sanders//Lost in TranslationLost in Translation by Ella Frances Sanders. An adorable collection of words that have no clear equivalent in any other language. (The word I found most relatable was tsundoku, which is Japanese for a continually-growing pile of unread books. 😉 ). This book is perfect for any lover of words (or cute illustrations)! I actually bought this as a birthday present for my dad, but of course I couldn’t resist reading it myself first. 😛5 starsAlison Goodman//The Dark Days ClubThe Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman. A Regency-era historical fantasy about the young Lady Helen, who one day discovers that she has the ability to fight a kind of demon called “Deceivers”, and is drawn into the sinister world of the Dark Days Club, an organisation of people with powers like her own. This book was so much fun! I almost regret reading it, since I’m now going to have to wait another year to read the sequel! 😥 I loved all the characters, and the plot intrigued and surprised and excited me in equal measures; I ended up staying up until 4 in the morning on a work night, simply because I just had to read “one more chapter” (by which I mean the whole book). I’ve written a full review of this book, which you can read here.5 starsSally Green//Half TruthsHalf Truths by Sally Green. The second spin-off novella in the Half Life trilogy, which takse place during the beginning of Half Bad, but is told from Gabriel’s perspective. I don’t have too much to say about this, except that I wish it’d been longer, so there would’ve been more Nathan in it (it ends pretty soon after Gabriel and Nathan first meet).4 starsSally Green//Half LostHalf Lost by Sally Green. The third and final book in the Half Life trilogy, which was released at the end of March… I feel like I’ve waited forever for this book, but it was absolutely worth it. Obviously there’s not much that I can say about the plot, since this is a sequel, but it was equal parts disturbing, heartwarming, and heartbreaking, which is what I’ve come to expect from this series… Half Wild is still my favourite in the series, but this was an excellent concluding novel – even though I spent most of the last part of the book trying not to cry (and only mostly succeeding). 😥5 starsMelissa Landers//StarflightStarflight by Melissa Landers. A space adventure following a teenage girl on her way to the fringes of the galaxy in order to find some semblance of a happy life, despite her criminal record, and the spoilt son of a fuel tycoon, who hires her on as an indentured servant in excange for her fare – but mostly just so he can make her journey hell. This book was the perfect antidote to my post-Half Lost melancholy; it was just so much fun! 😀 The characters were all wonderful, and Doran and Solara’s romance was surprisingly not cheesy at all. The plot was action-packed, taking quite a few surprising (in the best possible way) turns before reaching its conclusion, and the fast-paced narrative suited the story perfectly.5 starsPeter V. Brett//The Skull ThroneThe Skull Throne by Peter V. Brett. The fourth book in the Demon Cycle series, which I’ve been readalong-ing with Chloë. I have so many mixed feelings about this book… :/ In terms of pacing, the whole book was one long, drawn-out climax, and game-changing twists were being thrown around like no-one’s business. This really felt like the follow-up that The Daylight War needed. And it was well-written, and I really loved some of the earlier plot and character developments (e.g. Arlen and Jardir finally getting a chance to talk things out, Sikvah turning out to be awesome, and the way Thamos really seemed to humanise Leesha). In some ways, this is the best book in the series so far… But almost the entire second half of the book just made me angry. The story’s certainly moving in an interesting direction now, but I really dislike the steps that Brett took in order to get it there. It’s been a long time since a book has made me feel this much hate, and while it’s a good thing that Brett’s managed to get me that invested in the story he’s telling, it’s still a really uncomfortable feeling. I’m definitely glad to be taking a break from this series while I wait for the last book to be released… ^^’4 starsNagaru Tanigawa//The Melancholy of Haruhi SuzumiyaThe Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya by Nagaru Tanigawa. The first book in the Haruhi Suzumiya series, which follows a high school boy known only by his nickname Kyon, who gets dragged into the frequently ridiculous life of his classmate Haruhi – a girl who has (though she’s not aware of it) the power to destroy the world on a whim. Another book that was just pure fun. 🙂 I love Kyon’s narrative, and how he deals with all Haruhi’s drama… I watched the anime adaptation of this series years ago, and my main take-away from that was “fun, but weird”; that still holds true for this  novel, but I also found it much less confusing than its counterpart.4 starsBeate Grimsrud//A Fool, FreeA Fool, Free by Beate Grimsrud. A vaguely autobiographical-feeling (though not, as far as I can tell, actually an autobiography) novel about an author and filmmaker who suffers from schizophrenia. I ultimately enjoyed reading this book, but had some pretty mixed feelings about it… but since it was my Library Scavenger Hunt pick for April, I’ve written a mini-review where I’ve talked about it more – read it here!3 stars

Huntley Fitzpatrick//My Life Next DoorMy Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick. A contemporary romance that follows a teenage girl called Samantha, who lives next door to the warm but chaotic Garrett family, whom her driven, political mother completely disapproves of. So naturally, Samantha ends up falling for one of the Garrett boys. Everything about this book was just wonderful: The characters, the storyline, the relationships, the writing… Samantha was very relatable, and she and Jase were incredibly cute together, and I loved how much we got to see of the two of them as a couple; so many romances just focus on the main characters getting together, and then end once they’re actually in a relationship. The focus on Jase and Samantha’s families was really nice as well, and the more dramatic turns that the plot took towards the end were incredibly gripping.5 starsMy Heart is Either Broken by Megan Abbott (from Dangerous Women). A short story about a man trying to deal with the disappearance of his daughter, and the fact that the police and the public all seem to suspect that his wife was the one responsible. I’m not usually one for crime novels, but I actually really enjoyed this one – it had a wonderfully sinister feel to it, and since it was a short story rather than a full novel, it wasn’t long enough to drag…4 starsMorgan Matson//Second Chance SummerSecond Chance Summer by Morgan Matson. A bittersweet story about a teenage girl called Taylor, who’s spending the summer with her parents and siblings at the lake house that they haven’t visited in years (since she had an argument with two of her friends there, and ran away rather than try to fix their relationship), as a last chance for some quality time as a family, since her father only has a few months left to live. Naturally, this book was very sad, but it was also uplifting at times; Taylor got a chance to really get to know her father before his death, and their shared grief let her connect with her brother and sister in a way that she never had before. She also had the “second chance” referred to in the title – with her former best friend Lucy, and her ex-boyfriend Henry, with whom she’d had a disastrous parting… Taylor’s tendency to run away from her problems could sometimes be frustrating, and was perhaps a little overdone, but she was still very relatable, and the writing was excellent. I actually liked this book even better than Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour, though I would still recommend reading that book first, as there’s a nice cameo near the beginning of the book!4 stars

February Wrap-Up

Another satisfying month of reading, and quite a few four-star books this time, particularly towards the end of the month… A lot of these were blind picks, too, so I’ve been pretty lucky! 😀 In total, I read 7 novels and 2 short stories in February; here’s what I thought of them:

Amy A. Bartol//Sea of StarsSea of Stars by Amy A. Bartol. The second book in the Kricket series, wherein Kricket and Trey find themselves (once again) on the run from the Alameeda clan. I liked this book, but the series is getting a bit same-y (which is probably not a good sign when I’m only on book two!), and Kricket’s overwhelming tendency to be good at everything, and incredibly beautiful, and somehow gain the undying love and loyalty of everyone she meets (okay, I’m exaggerating on that last one) garnered quite a few eye-rolls. Bartol seems to be pushing the fact that she can’t swim as her major character flaw, which does not a relatable heroine make. ^^’ Again, I am still enjoying this series, but I’ll probably leave off for a while before reading Darken the Stars (despite Sea of Stars‘ not-all-that-suspenseful cliffhanger ending).2 stars

Julie Berry//All the Truth that's in MeAll the Truth that’s in Me by Julie Berry. A short crime novel that follows a girl named Judith, who went missing as a teenager, only to reappear two years later with her tongue cut out so that she couldn’t say what had happened to her. This was my Library Scavenger Hunt pick for February, and as such I’ve already written a review – you can find it here.3 starsHimself in Anachron by Cordwainer Smith (from The Time Traveller’s Almanac). The story of a man who takes his wife with him on his search for something called the Knot of Time as their honeymoon. And, of course, things go horribly wrong. This story was more about the emotion of what was happening than the science of it, which I appreciated, and the story itself was both interesting and inventive. One of the better entries that I’ve read so far from this anthology.
3 stars

Some Desperado by Joe Abercrombie (from Dangerous Women). A short story about a highway(wo)man who is on the run from her former associates, who have betrayed her. It had something of a Wild West feel to it, though there was a distinct lack of guns (the characters are all armed with swords, knives, and bows and arrows), so I’m not sure whether it was meant to, or if my imagination just ran away with the word “desperado”. Well-written, and I liked the main character (Shy) a lot, but it was a bit too bloody for my taste, unfortunately.3 starsNeil Gaiman//StardustStardust by Neil Gaiman. A romance between a man who is half faerie, and a woman who is actually a fallen star. Neil Gaiman’s prose is beautiful, and I particularly loved the way he portrayed the land of Faerie and its inhabitants. The beginning was a little bit slow-going, but everything that happened afterwards more than made up for that… The edition I was reading was also illustrated by Charles Vess, and his art suited the story perfectly – it really emphasised the simultaneous beauty and danger of Faerie; both enchanting and at times incredibly gruesome. I’ve written a full review of this book, which you can find here.5 starsMorgan Rhodes//Gathering DarknessGathering Darkness by Morgan Rhodes. The third book in the Falling Kingdoms series, in which things escalate, there is a great deal of duplicity, and my ship finally sails! 😀 What to say about this book without spoiling it? Hmm… Well, Magnus is rapidly becoming my favourite character in the series, and I’m really intrigued by the direction Lucia’s character seemed to be taking towards the end of the book. I still love Cleo, though the way she’s choosing to deal with her situation makes me supremely uncomfortable – as manipulation of one’s supposed friends tends to, so that’s not really all that much of a surprise. There were also some very interesting developments with Nic, though I still miss the happy-go-lucky Nic of the first book… 😦 Also, I take back everything I said (or at least felt) in my review of Rebel Spring about how Jonas was growing on me. He’s not. His plans are all ridiculous, and how anyone thinks he’s a serious threat is beyond me; the fact that girls in the book seem to be falling in love with him left and right is becoming extremely annoying. 😡 That said, this series is still getting better as it goes on, which is a trend that I hope will continue.4 starsPeter V. Brett//The Desert SpearThe Desert Spear by Peter V. Brett. The second book in the Demon Cycle, in which we continue to follow our heroes – Arlen, Leesha & Rojer – in their efforts to save the world from corelings. There was a new major protagonist in this book, too, who I remember despising in The Painted Man: Jardir! About the first third of the book is taken up with his perspective, which I didn’t initially like all that much; it was interesting, but also quite disturbing. So I wasn’t a huge fan of the first part of the book, but once Arlen & co. were brought back into the spotlight, things got seriously epic (and often hilarious), and the book ended on a definite high point. I’m looking forward to reading The Daylight War soon (i.e. for next month’s readalong).4 starsE.K. Johnston//A Thousand NightsA Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston. A new retelling of A Thousand and One Nights, in which an unnamed (and that’s an interesting theme in this book) protagonist tricks the demon king Lo-Melkhiin – who has killed all his previous wives – into picking her, when he comes to her village to choose a new bride, in an effort to save her sister. And then, much to her surprise, Lo-Melkhiin is not able to kill her. I’d heard mixed things about this book before picking it up, and although I liked it a lot, I can also see why others might not. There is almost no romance, which I didn’t expect; most of the book is taken up with the main character’s thoughts and memories, about her husband and her sister, whom she has visions about; and the plot is so slow-building that the story’s climax really sneaks up on you. These were all positive points for me – I loved learning about her family and culture, and the glimpses we got of Lo-Melkhiin were such that a stronger romantic sub-plot would have seemed out of place… And I do love a good slow-burn story, even though A Thousand Nights is actually quite a short book. And the writing was also beautiful, which certainly helped.4 starsLaura Dockrill//LoraliLorali by Laura Dockrill. A standalone paranormal novel, about Lorali – a young mermaid who makes herself human – and Rory, the teenage boy who finds her lying naked on the shore after her transformation. And pirates. Lots of pirates. 🙂 There’s definitely a visible The Little Mermaid influence, as well, but it’s certainly not a straight-up retelling. As for my thoughts on the story itself – it was wonderful. Rory and Lorali were wel-developed, likeable and sympathetic leads, and much of the story was also told from the perspective of the sea itself, which was interesting (and very well executed). I wasn’t initially sold on the pirates, but they definitely grew on me, and I really, really loved the portrayal of Rory’s friend Flynn and his grandfather Iris. The plot was also surprisingly action-packed (in the best possible way), and it was fascinating trying to piece together the mystery of Lorali’s past, and of all the Mer – which was revealed at the perfect pace. (This was also the first book I picked up for the Under-Hyped Readathon, and it definitely got me off to a great start!)4 stars

[EDIT (3/5/2017): Changed rating of Sea of Stars from 3/5 to 2/5 after finishing the last book in the trilogy & thinking on the series as a whole.]