December Wrap-Up

Happy New Year! In the final month of 2018, I am pleased that my intense desire to read all the time remained strong (despite the shocking realisation that the single-player mode in the new Smash Bros. game is actually fun 😱), and so I managed to get through 7 manga volumes, 6 novels, 2 audiobooks, 1 novella, 1 picture book, and 1 data book! 😁 Here’s what I thought of them all:

FAVOURITE OF THE MONTH

LIBRARY SCAVENGER HUNT PICK

[REVIEW]

 

OTHER BOOKS I REVIEWED

[REVIEW]

[REVIEW]

BOOKS I DIDN’T REVIEW

My Hero Academia: Vigilantes, volume 1 by Hideyuki Furuhashi. [MANGA; Illustrator: Betten Court]

A spin-off series from the My Hero Academia manga, which focuses on a young man who wasn’t able to become a licensed hero due to the unsuitability of his quirk, so joins up with a group of vigilantes instead. I obviously haven’t managed to read much of this series yet, but I really like all the characters so far, and appreciate the alternative take on hero society that it offers.

Crimson Dagger by Morgan Rhodes. [NOVELLA; Available here: Part 1 / Part 2]

A prequel novella to the Falling Kingdoms series, featuring a pre-series Magnus regretting a cruelty he committed as a small child. This comes across more as fanservice than as something that’s meant to add to the series as a whole, but Kara seems like a cool character, and it would be interesting if she were to show up in one of the last two books. The other benefit of this snippet? 7-year-old Magnus, who is adorable. 💕

Santa’s Husband by Daniel Kibblesmith. [PICTURE BOOK; Illustrator: A.P. Quach]

A cute picture book that portrays Father Christmas as a gay black man, and talks about his life with his husband. I am of course not the target audience for this book, but I appreciated it as a challenge to the typical image of Father Christmas, and liked its underlying message that there is no wrong way to think of him – or other folk figures like him.

Crystal Storm by Morgan Rhodes.

The fifth book in the Falling Kingdoms series, about a group of characters who are in contention over the magical Kindred, which will decide the fate of the world. Super melodramatic, and oftentimes frustrating, but great fun overall. This book and the next (which I’ll talk about in a moment) are definitely the series’ high point.

My Hero Academia, volumes 1-6 by Kohei Horikoshi. [MANGA]

A series about a boy with no superpowers, in a world where almost everyone has superpowers, and his journey to become a hero. I’ve been loving the anime version of this series, and decided to pick up the manga while I’m waiting for the next season to be released. Needless to say, the story and characters are all just as charming as their anime counterparts, and I’m looking forward to reading more as soon as my book-buying ban will allow. 😅

Immortal Reign by Morgan Rhodes.

The sixth and final book in the Falling Kingdoms series. As I’ve said before, these books aren’t without their (significant) faults, but I’ve really enjoyed my time with them (and am actually kind of tempted to re-read some of the earlier books soon…). The characters have all grown so much, and I’m a little sad to be saying goodbye to them all; even Jonas, who I hated for the majority of the series, has been quite likeable in the last couple of books! 😱 And the plot, too, wrapped up in a satisfying way, though I was definitely less invested in it than in the characters.

The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden. [AUDIOBOOK; Narrator: Kathleen Gati]

The sequel to The Bear & the Nightingale, wherein Vasya, disguised as a boy, leaves home for Moscow, and becomes caught up in a hunt for a group of bandits that are raiding villages and stealing girls, but seem to leave no tracks behind. This book was just as hauntingly atmospheric as the last one, and it’s plot was engaging and suspenseful in a way that made it very difficult to stop listening. Some of the first book’s minor characters were more prominent here, and it was wonderful to be able to get to know them a bit better, along with some really interesting new characters… I’m looking forward to seeing where Vasya’s story will take her next.

The Angry Tide by Winston Graham.

The seventh book in the Poldark series, which follows the inhabitants of a Cornish mining community, mainly focusing on the titular Poldark family. Naturally, as a sequel, I don’t want to say much about the plot, but there were some developments in this one that made me very happy, as well as a few that made me very sad. The writing was as engaging as ever, and I remain incredibly emotionally invested in all the characters – even the ones I despise. As always, the emotional rollercoaster made the book somewhat draining to read, however, so I will probably be taking a(nother) break before reading the eighth one… but hopefully it won’t be too long!

Tortall: A Spy’s Guide by Tamora Pierce. [DATA BOOK; Co-authors: Julie Holderman, Timothy Liebe & Megan Messinger; Illustrator: Eva Widermann]

A companion to Pierce’s Tortall-universe novels, primarily made up of letters, journals, pamphlets, and intelligence reports (hence the title, though one of the larger sections of the book is also a more blatant guide for spies). My favourite parts were probably an interesting set of letters that led up to Lord Wyldon’s appointment as training master, Daine’s gorgeously-illustrated notes on Immortals, and an amusing homework assignment near the end, in which Thom (of Pirate’s Swoop, not Trebond) is tasked with compiling a timeline of the kings and queens of Tortall, which he does with much sass.

As regards spoilers: I’d say that the book contains fairly minor spoilers for basically all the Tortall series except for the Beka Cooper trilogy, and more significant spoilers for the Trickster’s books, The Immortals, and Protector of the Small. The very last section of the book (entitled “An Official Chronology of Tortallan Events”), is spoiler-heavy for basically the whole series.

The Christmas Hirelings by Mary Elizabeth Braddon. [AUDIOBOOK; Narrator: Jennifer Saunders]

A short story about an elderly man who’s persuaded to hire some children in order to liven up his home for Christmas. The early part of the story that talked about Sir John’s time with his two daughters I found quite interesting, but on the whole this book was rather tedious; it’s primarily character-driven, but all the characters were either bland or annoying, and Moppet – the most prominent of the hirelings – in particular was incredibly grating, not only for her own actions, but also for how all the other characters acted around her. I wasn’t particularly taken by Jennifer Saunders’ performance, either, but it was very expressive, and I probably would have enjoyed it more if it hadn’t been attached to such a dull book.

 

Review: Darkbeast by Morgan Keyes (Spoiler-Free)

In a world where every child is bound at birth to a darkbeast – a creature that will take their faults through childhood, before being ritually killed – Keara is preparing to leave her childhood behind. But Caw, her darkbeast and her oldest friend, will not be an easy sacrifice to make.

Keara was a really great protagonist, and she – and the relationships she formed throughout the story – were by far the best things about Darkbeast. The book is structured around the different flaws that she’s (tried to) offer to her darkbeast, but those flaws are also her strength, making her feel incredibly realistic. Individually, Caw was less developed, but Keara’s affection for him was clear, even though she spent much of the book trying to hide it. I also really enjoyed her friendship with Vala (and, to a lesser extent, Goran), although I didn’t always like her that much – and their contrasting views made for some interesting plot developments.

The defining trait of this world is its strict religious society, which was interesting. Unfortunately we’re not shown much about the belief system beyond the darkbeast tradition, but the role of the Inquisitors, who find and punish the Lost (those who go against religious tradition), was given some emphasis, lending the book an almost dystopian air – and when they appeared in the story, Keyes did a good job of making their presence genuinely threatening. As much of the story takes place in the midst of a travelling troupe that performs religious plays, there were  a lot of opportunities to expand upon the history and mythology of this world that could have made it feel a lot more real and fleshed out, but these were sadly missed.

The plot was mostly focused on Keara’s life with the Travelers, which I enjoyed, but I didn’t find myself particularly invested in what looks like it’s going to be the series’ overarching storyline; either about finding a place where darkbeasts don’t have to die, or else social and religious reform… Probably the latter, since the sequel is called Rebellion, but I don’t know if I’ll be sticking around to find out.

Although on the whole Darkbeast didn’t really resonate with me, I do think it’s a good book, and reading it made for an enjoyable few hours. I didn’t feel that it was quite up to the same standard as, say, Tamora Pierce’s books (which I found myself comparing this to as I read), but it will likely appeal to a similar fanbase, and to the younger part of that fanbase in particular.

#BookTubeAThon 2017! | TBR

Guys, it’s Booktubeathon time again! 😆 Which means… a whole week of reading, and reviews, and challenges! (If I can drag myself away from my PS4…) If you’re new to the Booktubeathon, it’s an annual week-long readathon hosted by Ariel Bissett on Youtube, and always includes reading challenges to guide your TBR, daily video challenges and giveaways, a discount code over at The Book Depository, and this year there will also be a readalong, so that people can (if they so desire) all pick up the same book and read together for a day. I don’t tend to take part in much beyond the actual reading, but it’s still probably my favourite of all the readathons I’ve taken part in.. 💕

As always, I’ve tried to tailor my TBR to tick off as many of the challenges as I possibly can (and I hope to be posting reviews of each one as I go along), though, interestingly, it looks like that might be a bit more difficult this year than usual, as quite a few of the challenges are more situational than book-specific. If that makes any sense at all (it probably doesn’t, but you’ll see what I mean)… 😓 But in any case, here’s what I’ve decided on so far:

1) Read a book with a person on the cover.

For this challenge I’ve decided (after much agonising, because there are so many books I want to read that could qualify for this challenge) to go with Darkbeast by Morgan Keyes, which is a fantasy novel about a girl who lives in a society where everyone has an animal companion that represents their inner darkness – or something of the kind – which is sacrificed when they come of age.

2) Read a hyped book.

In contrast, I knew what I was going to read for this challenge almost as soon as it was announced: The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken, which I picked up ages ago after hearing so many people heaping praise on the series… and then never looking at it again. I don’t even know what it’s about, really (kids with superpowers, I believe, and something to do with a road trip?), but I’m looking forward to finding out! 😁

3) Finish a book in one day.

This is the first of the two “situational challenges” that I mentioned earlier (meaning, ones that are to do with how you read, rather than what you read), so I haven’t really picked out anything specific for it; it may well end up being Darkbeast, as it’s quite short, but more certain is that if I get this challenge done, it will be on either Wednesday or Thursday, as those are my two days off next week…

4) Read about a character who’s very different from you.

I was tempted to choose Now I Rise by Kiersten White (the sequel to And I Darken) for this challenge, as Lada – a murderous Transylvanian princess – is about as different from me as a person can get, but I thought it would be a bit of a cheat to pick a book that I’d already started reading, even though I’m only about 60 pages in… So instead I decided to go with Nowhere People by Paulo Scott, which is about a Brazilian law student (also called Paulo), who one day decides to give a lift to a young indigenous girl who he spots on the side of the road as he drives home.

5) Read a book only while outdoors.

This is the challenge that I’m dreading the most, as it looks like it’s going to rain for most of next week… Understandably, I’d like to pick something short for the challenge, but picking Darkbeast again seems like a bit much (especially since it’s going to be ticking off the next challenge as well 😓). All My Friends Are Superheroes by Andrew Kaufman might work, as it’s both very short, and on my kindle (which has a waterproof cover), but I’m not feeling particularly enthused about it right now, so who knows.

6) Read a book you bought because of the cover.

Like most people, I’m drawn to pretty covers, but I was surprised by how difficult I found it to pick a book out for this challenge, as the only book I own that I bought solely because of the cover is The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell, which I’ve finally decided to get rid of, after accepting the fact that I’m never going to read it… So I’ve decided that this is going to be another challenge that will be fulfilled by Darkbeast; I didn’t just buy it for its cover (it also has complimentary comments from my favourite author on the back, and the synopsis sounds pretty interesting, too), but it was definitely a significant contributing factor… 😅

7) Read seven books.

And all this leaves me with three more books to pick out if I want to meet the ultimate Booktubeathon goal of seven books in seven days (which I do)! But I figure I should give myself some flexibility here – and I don’t want to just end up re-hashing the TBR I did for my holiday in Skye last week! A couple of (very shaky) possibilities are A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb or The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente. Or maybe a graphic novel? 🤔 I guess I’ll figure it out when I get there. 😊

[EDIT (22/7/17): The Booktubeathon starts on Monday, and will end the following Sunday… which is probably something I should’ve mentioned earlier… 😓]

January Haul

It feels like it’s been a while since I obtained enough books in a single month to justify writing a dedicated haul, but I just about made it in January. And, amazingly, I still haven’t broken my book-buying ban! (I’m allowing myself to buy one book for every five that I read, but that doesn’t include gifts, and I had a couple of book-credits saved up before Christmas, so…) I have four books to show you this time, & I’m super-excited about them all; let me know if you’ve read any of them!january haul 2017

1) The One Hundred Nights of Hero by Isabel Greenberg. A graphic novel set in the same universe as The Encyclopedia of Early Earth – probably my favourite graphic novel of all time! XD I read this as soon as I got hold of it, so you can find all my thoughts on it in last month’s wrap-up, but in short, Greenberg’s work is as beautiful and charming as ever.

2) My Ideal Bookshelf. A collection of bookshelves, put together by a variety of people from different walks of life (most of whom I haven’t heard of, though I am familiar with a few of them), made up of the books that shaped their lives. Each section is about a page long, and is accompanied by a hand drawn picture (by Jane Mount) of the books they picked. The collection is edited by Thessaly La Force.

3) Darkbeast by Morgan Keyes. The first book in a series of the same name, which is set in a world where every child grows up with a creature called a darkbeast magically bound to them, which takes in all the darkness inside them before being ritually killed. I’d never heard of either the series or the author before stumbling across this book, but the concept sounds super-interesting, and it was blurbed by Tamora Pierce (my favourite author!), so my expectations are reasonably high. 🙂

4) The Dark Days Pact by Alison Goodman. The sequel to The Dark Days Club, one of my favourite books from last year! My sister pre-ordered me this as a Christmas present, and I picked it up as soon as it arrived on my doorstep; so far, it’s definitely living up to its predecessor! 😀