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.]

The Reader Confession Tag

For once, I seem to be doing a tag that I was actually tagged for; remarkable, isn’t it? 😉 The tagger in question was Ariana from The Quirky Book Nerd – you should go ahead and read her great post, too!

1) Have you ever damaged a book?

Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman//Good OmensNaturally, I do my best to keep my books in good condition, but accidents are bound to happen once in a while. My first copy of Good Omens got half drowned when I discovered that my backpack wasn’t anywhere near as waterproof as I’d previously thought it to be. And I don’t like to think about the time I had a mishap while bleeding my radiator, and drenched a whole shelf. 😥 (Don’t worry, I was able to salvage them!)

J.K. Rowling//Harry Potter & the Goblet of FireIn less watery news, my original copy of Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire ended up completely falling to pieces, as well, though that was mostly from over-reading (and because it was the first massive hardback that I’d ever owned, and I had no idea that they fell apart if you didn’t take care of them. ^^’ ).

2) Have you ever damaged a borrowed book?

I’m always super-careful with any books that people lend me – more careful than I am with my own books, even – but I will admit to occasionally (very occasionally) having dog-eared a library book or two… 😳 This is supposed to be a confession tag, after all!

3) How long does it take you to read a book?

I can usually finish an average-length book (about 300 pages) in two or three days, but it often depends on my mood, and how busy I am outside of my reading schedule…

4) Books that you haven’t finished?

Even when I’m really not enjoying a book, I prefer to finish it, in hopes of finding some redeeming factor, so there aren’t many books that I’ve DNF’d. Most of these I did actually like, but I just wasn’t in the right mood for them at the time – hopefully I’ll get round to finishing them reasonably soon, though! In order of priority, they are:

5) Hyped/Popular books you didn’t like?

Tahereh Mafi//Shatter MeThere have been a few that disappointed me a bit, but the only one I can think of that I actively disliked was the Shatter Me trilogy by Tahereh Mafi, and even then I didn’t dislike everything about it. Just, you know, the abysmal plotline, and non-existent world-building. I wrote a series review for it a while ago, which you should definitely check out!

6) Is there a book you wouldn’t tell anyone you were reading?

I sometimes like to read trashy romances, and I’m always a little embarrassed afterwards to discuss them in my wrap-ups, but I don’t think I’d ever actively hide the fact that I was reading one… (Except from the kids I babysit. I will definitely be taking Something Else to read at theirs. ^^’ )

7) How many books do you own?

I have no idea, but between my physical books and my kindle books, probably somewhere between 300 and 500…

8) Are you a fast reader or a slow reader?

Pretty fast, I think, though nowhere near speed-reading standards. I usually get through two or three books in a week (depending on my mood, and the length of the book), but there’ve been times when I’ve finished a new book almost every day. (When I was in China, I read like a woman possessed. 😳 )

9) Do you like to buddy read?

Now and then. I’ve done a few readalongs with my friend Chloë (a.k.a. SSJTimeLord), and it’s fun to talk about the books as we’re going along, but unfortunately we don’t always have the time… :/

10) Do you read better in your head or out loud?

In my head, definitely. I can even do character voices! (But just in my imagination.)

11) If you were only allowed to own one book, what would it be and why?

Tamora Pierce//Street Magic

Frances Hodgson Burnett//The Secret GardenWhy do you torment me with such questions, Tag?!?! 😦 Probably my battered old copy of Street Magic by Tamora Pierce, because it’s my favourite book. Or else one of the Folio Society editions that my dad’s given me over the years (The Secret Garden has an inscription in it that I’m rather fond of)…

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~ ❤

The New Year’s Resolution Tag

It’s getting a little late in the month for Resolutions, but it’s still January, so what the heck. 😛 And it’s a tag; I like tags, as you’ve all probably figured out by now. 😉 This tag was co-created by Emily at Embuhlee liest and Shivii at Brown Eyed Musings, and I was tagged to do it by Chloë at SSJTimeLord and Her Books – thanks, Chloë! 😀

And now, on with the questions!

bookshelves1) Get in shape: Name a book that doesn’t quite fit on your shelf correctly.

The illustrated edition of Harry Potter & the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling. It’s too tall to fit on any of my shelves except my comics shelf (which is already full), so it’s been propped up against my TBR bookcase since I bought it, which doesn’t feel like an appropriate place for it at all! 😦

Elizabeth Gaskell//North & South2) Eat healthily: Name a book you feel was good for you to read.

North & South by Elizabeth Gaskell. Not only did I really love this book, but it also reminded me that reading classics didn’t have to be a chore – and I do sometimes need to be reminded of that, since they can be quite difficult to get into, even when they’re really good.

3) Read more: Name a book you keep telling yourself to read but haven’t yet.

Maggie Stiefvater//SinnerThere are hundreds of them, but the one that sticks out the most to me is probably Sinner by Maggie Stiefvater. I spent ages waiting for the paperback release, so that it would match the rest of the series, and that whole time, I was really, really eager to finally read it. Then I got it, and it’s been sitting on my TBR shelf, unread, ever since. Why? Not a clue. ❓

Tamora Pierce//Street Magic4) Quit smoking: Name a book you kept going back to even though you had finished it.

Street Magic by Tamora Pierce. I’ve read this several times, but it’s the audiobook that I keep going back to over and over again. It’s masterfully done, and I tend to switch it on whenever I feel like listening to something that isn’t music; it never gets old! 😀 Street Magic is also my #1 comfort read.

Patrick Ness//The Rest of Us Just Live Here5) Save more money: Name a book you got for a really good price.

Hmm… Recently, I got the hardback edition of The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness for just £5; The Book People has some really great deals… 🙂

6) Be more organised: How do you organize your bookshelf?

By genre, nowadays. I used to organise it alphabetically, but it just wasn’t practical in terms of space (which I kept running out of)… 😦 One day, when I have more bookcases, I hope to arrange them alphabetically again.

Kate Beaton//The Princess & the Pony7) Be punctual: What’s the shortest time and longest time it took you to read a book?

George R.R. Martin//A Dance with DragonsWell, it depends on the book. Books like The Princess & the Pony by Kate Beaton, or The Fox & the Star by Coralie Bickford-Smith I can read in a matter of minutes. On the other hand, it took me several months to get through A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin

8) Go out more: What book made you isolate yourself from the outside world?

George R.R. Martin//A Game of ThronesThe A Song of Ice & Fire series by George R.R. Martin! (Well, most of them.) I read the first four books in this series in rapid succession while I was on holiday in Skye a couple of years ago, and thoroughly (and vocally) resented every moment I was forced to spend away from them. 😳

Rainbow Rowell//Carry On9) Be unique: What was your favourite book of 2015?

Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff//IlluminaeEither Carry On by Rainbow Rowell, or Illuminae by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff! I talked a lot about why in my 2015 favourites post. 🙂

10) Be more personal: What book are you waiting for most this year?

Den Patrick//The Girl on the Liar's ThroneAt the moment, most of my excitement is for The Girl on the Liar’s Throne by Den Patrick (which is, thankfully, coming out in just a few days). The last book in the series left off on such a tense note that I’ve been dying to know what happens next since the moment I finished it!

David Mitchell//Cloud Atlas11) Really, resolutions?: What book do you promise to read next this year?

Haha. I’ve written a whole list of them – which you can read here – but of the books on it, the one I most want to read soon is probably Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell.