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.]

The Bookish Alphabet Tag

This tag was created by Mariana at fireheartbooks, and I was tagged by the wonderful Loreva from La Book Dreamer, whose blog you should all definitely check out! The goal is to pick out a book for every letter of the alphabet, and the only rule is that you need to own (or to have previously owned and read) every book on the list. You also don’t need to include articles, e.g. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess would count for “C” rather than “A”.

So, without further ado:

MY BOOKISH ALPHABET

The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud

Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

Daughter of Storms by Louise Cooper

Emma by Jane Austen

Fire by Kristin Cashore

The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey

Half Wild by Sally Green

The Iron Trial by Holly Black & Cassandra Clare

Just Listen by Sarah Dessen

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

Let It Snow by John Green, Lauren Myracle & Maureen Johnson

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews

Night Owls by Jenn Bennett

Obsidian by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder

Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas

River Daughter by Jane Hardstaff

A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin

A Traveller in Time by Alison Uttley

Unravel Me by Tahereh Mafi

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis

Wild Magic by Tamora Pierce

xxxHolic by CLAMP

Young Blood by Meg Cabot

Zombie-Loan by Peach-Pit

Phew. That was a lot of books! ^^’ But I’m pleased to say that I have read all of these books, and I still own them all except for Unravel Me, which I gave to one of my cousins, and River Daughter, which I donated (it was a good book, I just couldn’t imagine myself reading it again). And I did have to break out my manga collection for “X” and “Z” – something I’d been hoping I wouldn’t have to do – but I regret nothing. 😎

I tag:

 

March Wrap Up

So it seems I’m still on some kind of graphic novel kick, though I think it’s petering out a little. This month, I read a total of 11 comics, 8 novels, 8 short stories, and I also listened to 1 audiobook – so despite going ridiculously overboard with my book-buying, I can at least comfort myself with the thought that I am still reading more books than I’m buying… That said, here’s what I read in March:

Mag Rosoff//Picture Me GonePicture Me Gone by Meg Rosoff. A part-mystery, part-road trip story about a girl who goes to New York with her father, in order to find her father’s missing best friend. There’s a dose of magical realism in the mix, too, as Mila (the main character) has almost supernatural senses, which could (in true Meg Rosoff style) be just as easily interpreted as her simply being incredibly perceptive. I enjoyed the book, and the characters a lot – the mystery elements were perhaps a little predictable, but I felt that the story was really more about Mila’s journey, and how she has to grow in order to find the right answers (and a lot of pondering over whether or not that growth is a good thing). I wouldn’t rank it quite as highly as How I Live Now, but it’s definitely up there, and Mag Rosoff’s writing is as wonderful as ever.4 stars17137639Superboy Vol. 2: Extraction by Scott Lobdell & Tom DeFalco. The Superboy series is fun, but kind of all over the place, and this volume is no exception. It starts off with a couple of issues from The Culling crossover event, which don’t make too much sense on their own, then go on to a couple of brief stories about Superboy (kind of) joining the Teen Titans, and adjusting to life outside N.O.W.H.E.R.E. The Zero issue at the end of the collection was kind of interesting, and I hope that the connection (if there really is one) between Kon and Superboy will be elaborated on eventually…2 starsIsabel Greenberg//The Encyclopedia of Early EarthThe Encyclopedia of Early Earth by Isabel Greenberg. A graphic novel about a storyteller from the Land of Nord, who is travelling the world in search of the missing piece of his soul (and telling a lot of stories on the way). The stories are all incredibly witty, and the art is both cute and distinctive. A fantastic read.5 starsTom DeFalco, Scott Lobdell & Tony Lee//Superboy vol. 3Superboy Vol. 3: Lost by Tom DeFalco, Scott Lobdell & Tony Lee. The beginning was a bit shaky, with more chatter about events from other series, but it picked up a lot during the H’El on Earth tie-in issues (though the end of the storyline was cut off, presumably because it took place in Superman or Justice League, or one of the other series that was part of the H’El on Earth crossover). I enjoyed the dynamic between Superboy and Superman a lot, and the Harvest backstory was interesting, too. I’m looking forward to seeing how the series will move forward from here.3 starsDoogie Horner//100 Ghosts100 Ghosts: A Gallery of Harmless Haunts by Doogie Horner. A cute little book of pictures of ghosts in various different situations. Some of my favourites include the athletic ghost, the ventriloquist, the Fantastic Four, and the mini dachshund. 😀4 starsFanny Britt & Isabelle Arsenault//Jane, the Fox & MeJane, the Fox & Me by Fanny Britt & Isabelle Arsenault. A short graphic novel about a young girl who’s being bullied at school because of her weight, and how she tries to escape from reality by reading Jane Eyre. The story is very short, but powerfully-written, and it reminded me a lot of books like Speak and Wintergirls (both by Laurie Halse Anderson). The artwork really suited the melancholy tone of the book, and the contrast between the black-and-brown shades used to illustrate Hélène’s life, and the full-colour pages that appear when she talks about Jane Eyre was particularly poignant.4 starsLemony Snicket//HorseradishHorseradish by Lemony Snicket. A book of quotes and observations about (at the risk of sounding unoriginal 😉 ) life, the universe, and everything. Very witty, and written in Lemony Snicket’s usual straightforward doom-and-gloom style, which I enjoy – though it does tend to get rather stale after a while, and unfortunately I found myself enjoying the last few sections of the book much less than the first few (although the whole thing only took me about an hour to finish…).3 starsScott Lynch//Lies of Locke LamoraThe Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch. A fantasy novel following the adventures of the con-man Locke Lamora and his crew. Excellently written, though I had a little difficulty getting into it at first, as cons are not a theme that I am entirely comfortable with – somehow, stealing from people who have shown you kindness seems so much worse than stealing from strangers… That said, the con itself was only one part of the story, and everything was woven together so cleverly that it didn’t take me too long to get over myself. Overall, the book was thoroughly enjoyable, and I am looking forward to reading more of Locke’s adventures (and I hope that we will finally be meeting Sabetha in the next book!).5 starsIsabel Greenberg//The River of Lost SoulsThe River of Lost Souls by Isabel Greenberg. A (very) short comic about Charon (the ferryman from Greek mythology), and a human woman who marries him. The art was cute and quirky, and the story was really cute, too (though of course I would’ve liked it to be longer… 😉 ). I’d definitely recommend this to anyone who’s at all interested in Greek mythology.5 starsSarah J. Maas//Throne of GlassThrone of Glass by Sarah J. Maas. The story of an assassin who is taken out of a labour camp in order to compete in a tournament to become the King’s Champion. First of all, let me just say that Celaena is just as amazing a character as people keep telling me she is – snarky and sassy, without it being annoying, and I really liked the fact that, despite being a legendary assassin, she still loves balls and pretty dresses. The romance perhaps developed a little quickly, but I liked both Dorian and Chaol (though at this point I am definitely on Team Chaolaena!), and Celaena’s friendship with Princess Nehemia was particularly enjoyable. 🙂 Plot-wise, it was sometimes a little predictable, and the villains ended up being exactly who I expected them to be, but I feel that the real mystery in this series is going to be Celaena’s past, which I am very intrigued by (and already forming theories about).5 starsEoin Colfer//Artemis Fowl & the Last GuardianArtemis Fowl & the Last Guardian by Eoin Colfer. The final book in the Artemis Fowl series, which follows Artemis the boy genius as he attempts to swindle, and then eventually becomes friends with fairies. In this book, Opal Koboi tries to destroy the world, and Artemis and Holly have to stop her. I thought it was a decent conclusion to the series – though I wasn’t particularly impressed by the very end of the book – and the characters were all spot-on. It was a shame that we didn’t see more of Juliet, but I really enjoyed the insights into Foaly’s relationship, and, of course, the dynamic between Artemis, Holly and Butler. I actually listened to this as an audiobook, which I would definitely recommend, as I was beginning to get tired of the series after the first three books or so, but Nathaniel Parker’s excellent narration really re-invigorated my interest.3 stars

Isabel Greenberg//The Snow Queen & Other StoriesThe Snow Queen & Other Stories by Isabel Greenberg. Another short comic, which re-tells the stories of first The Snow Queen, and then The Emperor’s New Clothes. Both stories were very cute (though The Snow Queen was told in rather more depth), but with the same humourous dash of common sense that I’ve come to appreciate in Isabel Greenberg’s work.4 starsSarah J. Maas//Crown of MidnightCrown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas. The sequel to Throne of Glass, which obviously I can’t tell you all that much (or, in fact, anything) about, because spoilers. But it was definitely an excellent follow-up, with a couple of surprise plot developments (though the major twist at the end was not quite so surprising), and great character and relationship development, particularly for Dorian, who I thought was a bit under-developed in the first book.5 starsSarah J. Maas//Heir of FireHeir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas. The third book in the Throne of Glass series. It was a little odd at first to have all the main characters separated, but it definitely allowed for a whole load of plot development that wouldn’t have happened otherwise. Several new characters: Rowan took a little getting used to (& I was initially afraid that he was going to be another potential love interest…), but he really grew on me, & is now probably one of my favourite characters in this series; Manon, I also really like, and she provides a really interesting new perspective for the story; Sorscha was probably the least interesting of the new characters, but still likeable; and Aedion shifted wildly from being borderline threatening to hilarious (mainly due to his odd relationship with Chaol). I’ve written a whole spoilery discussion of the book here, which you can take a look at if you’re already caught up. 😀 Mostly, though, I am just super, super-impatient for Queen of Shadows to be released.5 starsSarah J. Maas//The Assassin and the PrincessThe Assassin & the Princess by Sarah J. Maas. A brief, but cute scene set between Throne of Glass and Crown of Midnight, where Celaena and Nehemia go shopping together. I enjoyed it a lot (& I can’t help hoping that Celaena will wear that dress sometime in one of the future books, to show off her new tattoos!), but it was very short…4 starsThe Captain & the Prince by Sarah J. Maas. Another short scene between Dorian and Chaol, this one set before they leave for Endovier in Throne of Glass. Basically, just a nice little insight into their relationship… You can read it online here.4 starsThe Assassin & the Captain by Sarah J. Maas. The last of the three extra scenes that Maas has written (though there are also several novellas, of course), set between Throne of Glass and Crown of Midnight, and featuring Chaol meeting Celaena as she arrives back in Rifthold after an assignment. This one was split up into several parts, which can be read online here: Part 1, part 2, part 3 & part 4.4 stars

Sarah J. Maas//The Assassin's BladeThe Assassin’s Blade by Sarah J. Maas. A bind-up of the five prequel novellas for the Throne of Glass series. I’m rating these together because, put together, they ended up making a pretty cohesive story in and of themselves, despite initially being published separately, and also because I’ve done a full review where I talked about each individual story (you can read it here). They all have their strengths and weaknesses, but overall it was solidly written and incredibly enjoyable.4 starsSally Green//Half WildHalf Wild by Sally Green. Wow, did that escalate quickly! 😮 The sequel to Half Bad, which I read late last year, and I’ve been looking forward to this book ever since. Nesbitt and Van were interesting new characters, and I really loved how Marcus’ character has finally been fleshed out. Nathan and Gabriel’s relationship development was great, too, as was Nathan and Annalise’s (though I could never bring myself to trust Annalise entirely). An incredibly quick read, despite being over 400 pages long (I finished it almost in one sitting), a really engrossing story, and a whole ton of emotions, which I felt was the only thing really missing from Half Bad.5+ starsPaullina Simons//Tatiana & AlexanderTatiana and Alexander by Paullina Simons. The sequel to The Bronze Horseman, an epic-length historical romance set in the Soviet Union during World War II. This second book focuses mainly on Tatiana in New York, trying to find out what’s become of Alexander, and on Alexander trying to find a way to escape from the Soviet Union and reunite with Tatiana. As I’ve come to expect from this series, it was in many places incredibly bleak (which is probably why it’s taken me several months to finish), though Tatiana’s storyline at least included some bright spots (such as Anthony, and her friendship with Vikki). There’s not too much else that I can say without risking huge spoilers, but, needless to say, I really loved it, and I’m hoping that The Summer Garden, the last book in the trilogy, will be a little happier.5 starsSimone Lia//Please God, find me a husband!Please God, find me a husband! by Simone Lia. A graphic memoir about the author’s journey to find peace with God (and hopefully also a husband). I don’t really know what I expected from this book, given its title and synopsis (which I clearly did not bother to read before picking this up), but, although I didn’t exactly dislike the book, I found it a bit too preachy for my tastes, and not nearly so funny as I was hoping…2 starsJean Regnaut & Émile Bravo//My mommy is in America and she met Buffalo BillMy mommy is in America and she met Buffalo Bill by Jean Regnaud & Émile Bravo. Another graphic memoir, this one about Regnaud’s childhood growing up without his mother, and always wondering where she is and why he hasn’t seen or heard from her in so long. This was beautifully written, with a great balance of funny and sad moments, as well as a really cute art style.4 starsGrant Morrison//Batman Incorporated vol. 1Batman Incorporated Vol. 1: Demon Star by Grant Morrison. I was a little unsure about whether or not I wanted to read this, because on one hand, I know that important DCU continuity things take place in this series, but on the other hand, I’ve never been a huge fan of Grant Morrison’s writing – mainly because I really, really don’t like the way he’s chosen to portray Jason Todd, and this book is no exception in that respect, though thankfully Jason only made a brief appearance… That said, I enjoyed this a surprising amount. Various different things were going on as Batman & his allies tried to take down the Leviathan cult, but the heart of the story was Bruce’s relationship with his son Damian, which I enjoyed a lot. My only real problem with the series at this point is the artwork, which is pretty ugly, but I’ll definitely be picking up the next volume when it’s available at the library…4 starsJustin Jordan, Scott Lobdell & Michael Alan Nelson//Superboy vol. 4Superboy Vol. 4: Blood & Steel by Justin Jordan, Scott Lobdell & Michael Alan Nelson. This volume is half made up of a story involving Superboy and Doctor Psycho attempting to take on H.I.V.E., which I enjoyed, and the rest of the volume appeared to be some random issues from various crossover events (one with the Superman and Supergirl titles, I assume, and the other with Teen Titans), and although both of these events seemed interesting, there was no real way to determine what was going on, as both stories were incredibly fragmented…3 stars

Upcoming Releases: Spring 2015

For your viewing pleasure, a few of the books that I’m most looking forward to reading this spring! This post will cover new releases over the course of March, April and May 2015.

[NB: All dates are taken from Amazon UK unless stated otherwise, and are correct as of 12/02/2015.]

Sally Green//Half WildHalf Wild by Sally Green (26th March)

The sequel to Half Bad, which I read last year and loved. It will, I imagine, follow Nathan as he learns to use his new Gift and (I hope) rescues his friend Gabriel. Things I want to find out in this book: 1) What  Annalise’s game is, 2) What happened to Gabriel, and 3) If there will be a Nathan/Gabriel romance. I’m can’t be the only one shipping Nathan and Gabriel… right?

Melissa Grey//The Girl at MidnightThe Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey (28th April)

This is Melissa Grey’s debut novel, and is being pitched as a book for those who liked Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series and Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha trilogy (both of which I have enjoyed/am enjoying). I don’t know all that much about it, but I am excited nonetheless – as far as I can tell, it follows a thief called Echo, who sells stolen artefacts on the black market in a fantasy world that’s hidden away from humans.

Rosamund Hodge//Crimson BoundCrimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge (5th May)

Another fairytale-retelling, along the lines of Cruel Beauty, though I don’t believe that they’re set in the same universe. Crimson Bound is a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood, and follows a girl named Rachelle, who fights monsters in service to the King, and her romance (presumably) with his son Armand.