March Wrap-Up

Another good month of reading! I spent most of the month feeling pretty slumpy, since it felt like I hadn’t finished a book in ages… but it turned out that that was just because I was reading so many different books at once, and it was really slowing down my progress. Finishing several long books within a few days of each other was pretty satisfying after that! 😳 In total, I managed to read 6 novels and 2 short stories in March – and in the process, I finally managed to finish an anthology that I’d been working my way through for about 2 years now! 😀 Success!

Dahlov Ipcar//A Dark Horn BlowingA Dark Horn Blowing by Dahlov Ipcar. An eerie, atmospheric fairytale about a woman who is lured from her home by a magic horn, and taken to Erland in order to nurse the evil Erl King’s sickly son. The story draws from various different folk tales, which make for an interesting and enjoyable mix, and the writing was very pleasant to read. The main draw of this book, though, is the characters. I wasn’t a huge fan of Nora’s early chapters, which were very slow, but once she regained her memories, I felt more of a connection with her, and she became a much more sympathetic character. Eelie, too, was hard to warm up to at first, spoilt and fussy, but he really grew as a character in the book’s second part. My favourite parts were the odd friendship that developed between Eelie and Owen, and the small glimpses we got of Eben’s perspective. Overall, I really enjoyed this book, but I wish there’d been more of it. So this is a very high three stars. (Just so you know. 😉 )3 starsRainbow Rowell//Kindred SpiritsKindred Spirits by Rainbow Rowell. An adorable short story (written for World Book Day) about queuing overnight to see the most recent Star Wars film. 🙂 Familiarity with Star Wars is recommended for this book, but probably not necessary, and there’s nothing even vaguely resembling a spoiler. I don’t have much else to say about this, since it was so short, but I’m always amazed by how well Rainbow Rowell is able to portray fan culture; everything in this story just felt incredible relatable, even though I’ve never been in an overnight queue…5 starsYoung Zaphod Plays It Safe by Douglas Adams (from The Time Traveller’s Almanac). A prequel novella to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which features Zaphod Beeblebrox before he was the President of the Galaxy. I found that I enjoyed re-familiarising myself with Adams’ humour, from which I’d been taking a long, much-needed break (I gave up at some point during the Hitchhiker’s series, simply because the overabundance of silliness was beginning to grate at my nerves), and what I read was both interesting, and amusing without being over the top. The plot, however, was quite unmemorable, with the exception of the ending – which was remarkable only because it didn’t really feel like an ending at all. :/2 starsAnn & Jeff VanderMeer//The Time Traveller's Almanac Part 1: ExperimentsWhich brings me to the end of The Time Traveller’s Almanac Part I: Experiments, edited by Ann & Jeff VanderMeer, which was a very mixed bag of stories; some brilliant, and others absolute rubbish. This book is definitely worth getting hold of (and I actually have the bind-up of all four parts myself) for die-hard fans of time travel fiction, but I very much doubt that there’s anyone who’ll be thrilled with every story in the collection (particularly, I sense, in the case of this first volume, which is much more eclectic – hence the title “Experiments” – than the others seem to be). My own personal favourites were Another Story OR A Fisherman of the Inland Sea by Ursula K. Le Guin, and Hwang’s Billion Brilliant Daughters by Alice Sola Kim. [For my individual ratings of each story, see my review on goodreads.]3 stars

Marie Phillips//The Table of Less Valued KnightsThe Table of Less Valued Knights by Marie Phillips. A comic adventure with a backdrop of Arthurian mythology, following Sir Humphrey – once a Knight of the Round Table, but now relegated to the Table of Less Valued Knights – on a quirky, twist-filled quest to recover the kidnapped fiancé of a damsel in distress who shows up at Camelot a little too late to present her quest to a more prestigious knight. Also featuring: Elaine, the aforementioned (and secretive) damsel; Martha, a reluctant Queen and even more reluctant wife; Edwin, a delightfully incompetent villain; and Conrad, Humphrey’s half-giant squire. The plot was silly, but without going so far as to be ridiculous rather than humourous, and although it was slow to get started, it was ultimately quite satisfying. The real highlight, however, was in the character dynamics – in particular, I loved the relationship between Humphrey and Conrad, and later Martha as well.3 starsJames Patterson & Lisa Papademitriou//Homeroom DiariesHomeroom Diaries by James Patterson & Lisa Papademetriou. The diary of a high school outcast who’s just been released from a psychiatric ward after being abandoned by her mother… This book evoked quite mixed feelings from me, but since it was my Library Scavenger Hunt pick for March, you can read all about why in my mini-review! 😉2 starsPeter V. Brett//The Daylight WarThe Daylight War by Peter V. Brett. The third book in the Demon Cycle, which I’ve been readalong-ing with Chloë. There was another prominent new POV character introduced in this book: Inevera, one of the more important side-characters from The Desert Spear… And I actually liked her (numerous) chapters a lot, though I still don’t like her as a character; Brett was able to explain a lot about why she is the way she is, without making me feel like I was being pushed to like her against my will (unlike Jardir’s chapters). This book was also a lot more consistently good than the last two, which were both awesome most of the time, but with significant bits that really bothered me. Which is not to say that this book was perfect, but I definitely feel like the series is getting better as it goes on.4 stars

Gene Wolfe//The Shadow of the TorturerThe Shadow of the Torturer by Gene Wolfe. The story of Severian, an apprentice in the Guild of Torturers, who finds himself in trouble with the Guild when he falls in love with one of their prisoners. This was… a strange book. I actually ended up liking it a lot, but there were a lot of things about it that bothered me as well: Wolfe’s made-up words were all over the place, and often quite confusing; the story was told in a very anecdotal way (particularly in the beginning), and often didn’t seem to be going anywhere; Severian’s views on love were particularly strange; and the book didn’t really have an ending at all – it just stopped. I’m definitely interested in reading more, but probably not too soon, as this one was quite tough to get through…3 stars

Susan Kaye Quinn//Third DaughterThird Daughter by Susan Kaye Quinn. A steampunk adventure set in a fantasy world that’s inspired by India. The story follows Aniri, the third daughter of the Queen of Dharia, who – since she has little political influence – has always believed that she’ll be able to choose her own husband once she’s of age. As her birthday draws near, however, she is instead asked by her mother to accept the hand of Ash, the “barbarian” prince of Jungali, in order to prevent a war between the two countries. I went into this book expecting it to be a romance, and while there was definitely a strong romantic sub-plot, the actual bulk of this book dealt with Aniri’s attempts to discover the truth of Jungali’s mysterious weapon. The steampunk elements took me a little by surprise, as well, though – with the exception of the skyship – they were mostly relegated to the background, and not too noticeable… Overall, though, this was an incredibly fun story, and I really look forward to reading the rest of the series sometime soon. I’ve also written a full review of this book, which should be up in a few days (i.e. about a week late. :/ ).4 stars

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The Chocolate Book Tag!

As usual, nobody asked me to do this tag – but I decided to do it anyway, since tomorrow is Easter Day, and everyone knows that the true meaning of Easter is chocolate (right? 😉 ). The Chocolate Book Tag was created by Faye from A Daydreamer’s Ramblings, and you can find the original on youtube (or her blog if you’d prefer a written version).

James Patterson & Lisa Papademitriou//Homeroom Diaries1) Dark chocolate – a book that covers a dark topic

The first one that comes to mind is Homeroom Diaries by James Patterson & Lisa Papademetriou, since it touches on a lot of dark topics (abandonment, mental illness, bullying, grief, suicide, amongst others), and I also just finished reading it. It’s not the greatest book, but I thought it dealt with the majority of these subjects quite well.

Rainbow Rowell//Carry On2) White chocolate – your favourite light-hearted / humourous read

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell, which is a new favourite of mine – I’m sure that I was grinning like a lunatic the whole time I was reading it! 😀

Renée Ahdieh//The Wrath & the Dawn3) Milk chocolate – a book that has a lot of hype that you’re dying to read

At the moment the book I most want to jump on the bandwagon for is The Wrath & the Dawn by Renée Ahdieh. The hype for this book started almost a year ago, but unfortunately it’s still too expensive for me to justify buying… 😦

Emma Mills//First & Then4) Chocolate with a caramel centre – a book that made you feel all gooey in the middle while you were reading it

I pretty much turned to mush when I was reading First & Then by Emma Mills. Such a cute book! ❤

Rainbow Rowell//Kindred Spirits5) Wafer-free Kit-Kat – a book that surprised you lately

The most recent surprise was probably Kindred Spirits by Rainbow Rowell, which I expected to like (since it is, after all, a Rainbow Rowell book), but not to love – I’ve never been much of a short story person, unless I’m already invested in the characters (as in the case of spin-off novellas). The ending of this one was pretty startling as well, in the best possible way.

Peter V. Brett//The Painted Man6) Snickers – a book that you are going nuts about

At the moment I’m really into The Demon Cycle by Peter V. Brett, which I’ve been readalong-ing with my friend Chloë for the last couple of months. It’s a high fantasy series set in a world where demons come up from a place called the Core every night and prey on humans, and (as of book three, The Daylight War, which we just finished) it’s only getting better as it goes on.

Tamora Pierce//Street Magic7) Hot chocolate with cream and marshmallows – the book you’d turn to for a comfort read

I feel like (i.e. know) I’ve said this a thousand times already, but my ultimate comfort read is Street Magic by Tamora Pierce. I also tend to listen to the audiobook of it a lot, since it’s really fantastic. 🙂

Rick Riordan//The Lightning Thief8) Box of chocolates – a series with a little something for everyone

Oh, dear; that’s a tall order! And, in fear of unoriginality, I can’t just say Harry Potter… 😉 So instead I’ll pick the Percy Jackson & the Olympians series by Rick Riordan (and its sequel series, Heroes of Olympus!), which I don’t think I’ve ever known anyone to dislike. It’s got action, humour, romance (which I personally wasn’t a fan of, but which seems to be popular with most other readers), drama… the list goes on! I have so much love for these books~ ❤

Library Scavenger Hunt: March

This month’s challenge – to read a book with a shoe on the cover – was (as I could tell the moment the challenge went up) picked by Chloë entirely (or almost entirely) because she wanted to read Cinder… which is the obvious “shoe” book to go for, really. That wasn’t really a viable LSH option for me, however, since I already own, and have read Cinder. So I went off to the library, wracking my brain, and the only book that came to mind was How to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran, which I figured would at least make a good back-up option if I couldn’t find anything else. But within seconds of arriving, my eye was caught by a pair of bright red Doc Martens, which I grabbed and checked out before giving myself a chance to re-think my decision – so the book I ended up reading was…

HOMEROOM DIARIES
James Patterson & Lisa Papademetriou

James Patterson & Lisa Papademitriou//Homeroom DiariesMaggie “Cuckoo” Clarke has been ditched by her mother, and has just spent some time in a psychiatric ward after having a breakdown. Now, with help from her foster mother Mrs. Morris, and her small circle of close friends, she’s determined to Get Happy – and this diary is the first step.

I was majorly conflicted over how to rate this book, and have been flipping back and forth between 2 and 3 stars for the last couple of days… On the one hand, I spent around two thirds of the book being either bored or annoyed by it; on the other hand, I really liked the ending, and I always find that I can forgive a book a lot of its flaws if everything comes together well enough in the end. (In a way, this book actually reminded me of Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green & David Levithan, which I probably would’ve rated much lower than I did if I hadn’t liked the ending so much.)

So, the things that annoyed me: Cuckoo and her group of friends seemed completely in love with the idea of their own weirdness, and it frustrated me that, in their efforts to avoid being clichés, they became clichés. Cuckoo’s friends individually weren’t unlikeable, but they were almost completely one-dimensional – with the exception of her best friend Katie (a.k.a. Brainzilla), who had a bit more depth. Her teachers’ actions (particularly Ms. Kellerman’s) beggared belief; the inclusion of Laurence Darcy (the younger brother of Mr. Darcy from Pride & Prejudice, whom Cuckoo made up and regularly daydreams about) reminded me of the most irritating kind of self-insert fanfiction (though I don’t know if I would have minded so much, if he didn’t show up in the story quite so often); and in terms of plot, nothing really happened until the last few chapters.

I do have some more positive things to say about the book, however. I really liked Mrs. Morris, and it was a real shame that we didn’t see more of her; I also thought Dr. Marcuse, Cuckoo’s therapist, was a great character, during her brief appearances in the story; Cuckoo’s relationships with both Mrs. Morris and with Katie were endearing and well fleshed-out; the illustrations (by Keino) were cute, if sometimes a bit distracting; and, of course, the ending was very heart-warming. The central themes of bullying, grief and mental illness were all dealt with really well, though Cuckoo – since we see everything through her eyes – doesn’t always take her own problems very seriously. On a related note, I thought I’d share my favourite quote from the book, which I think drives home one of the story’s most important messages:

“You have a right to be sad, Maggie. You’re fine. Sadness is not a mental illness.”

I look back up at the leafy wall hanging. The forest. Even trees go through sad times. But then they burst back to life. That will be me, I tell myself.

That will be me.

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

Edit (25/3/2016): Changed rating from 3/5 to 2/5, which is my final answer (I promise!).