February Wrap-Up

In a shocking turn of events, I managed to read seven whole books in February (as well as most of an eighth), despite it being a short month, and my being busy with work and friends – and the various podcasts I’ve managed to get myself hooked on… ^^’ A lot of these books are ones that I’ve been really eager to read, too, and I’m happy to say that they invariably lived up to (or surpassed) my expectations! XD Here’s what I read:

Michael Morpurgo//Kensuke's KingdomKensuke’s Kingdom by Michael Morpurgo. A young boy – Michael – gets shipwrecked on an island, and meets an old man who was also wrecked there during the Second World War, and has been living alone ever since. A quick-paced and engaging read, with a great pair of lead characters. 🙂 Like most of Morpurgo’s books, there was a point in the story where it got very sad, and in this case it was the story of how Kensuke ended up on the island – not coincidentally, this was probably my favourite part of the book, along with the bits of Michael’s travel journal that we got to see before the shipwreck. I do wish, however, that Morpurgo wouldn’t include the author’s notes in his books that imply that they’re true stories; parts of Kensuke’s Kingdom may have been inspired by truth, but it’s definitely not the case that Morpurgo was shipwrecked as a child, and lived on an island with a group of orang-utang and an elderly Japanese man for a year… He did this in the introduction of War Horse, too (though to a lesser degree), and it’s beginning to feel a bit like a Boy-Who-Cried-Wolf situation… :/3 starsAlison Goodman//The Dark Days PactThe Dark Days Pact by Alison Goodman. The second book in the Lady Helen series, which I’ve been obsessing over since reading The Dark Days Club last April – and this sequel really lived up to its predecessor, as well as my (ridiculously high) expectations! I’ve posted a review of The Dark Days Pact already, which you can find here, if you so desire, but in short, the only reason this book isn’t on my favourites list already is that I have an amazing feeling that the third book in the series will be even better! XD5 starsElise Kova//Air AwakensAir Awakens by Elise Kova. The first book in the Air Awakens series, which follows a young woman who works as an apprentice in the palace library, until one day she saves the life of the crown prince, and accidentally creates a magical bond between them in the process. I’m not sure what exactly I was expecting from this series, but I had a lot of fun reading this first book (which reminded me a lot in tone – and worldbuilding – of Avatar: the Last Airbender; a very favourable comparison, I promise 😉 ). The plot itself seemed rather simple, but it does seem to be laying a thorough groundwork for the rest of the series… I really loved all the characters, too, and fell completely in love with the world. I’m working on a review at the moment, which ought to be posted in the very near future.4 starsEmma Haughton//Cruel Heart BrokenCruel Heart Broken by Emma Haughton. A contemporary novel about a teenage girl called Laurie, who’s being torn apart by a big secret that she’s keeping from her family and friends. Her former best friend Charlie has done something he regrets, too, and it may already be too late for either of them to fix things. A hard-hitting, but also quite hopeful story, which I liked much more than I expected to… This was my Library Scavenger Hunt pick for February, so (once again), I have a more detailed review of it up already; you can find it here.4 starsWild Lily//K.M. PeytonWild Lily by K.M. Peyton. A wonderful, enchanting novel set in the 20s about a young man called Antony who demands an aeroplane for his birthday, and Lily, a spirited young girl who’s willing to do pretty much anything to get him to see her worth. Such nostalgia! (Even though this book is in no way related to the Flambards series.) I loved Lily and Antony both so much, and the aeroplane scenes were amazing! I’ve said a few times before that K.M. Peyton is the author who first made me love aeroplanes, and Wild Lily really spoke to (and re-invigourated) that love. The very matter-of-fact writing style took a little while to get back into, so I was initially a little worried that I wouldn’t like this book that much, but once I managed it, I was hooked. ❤ My brief description doesn’t really do the story or characters justice, but I do intend to post a proper review of this book, too – look out for it soon!4 starsJ.K. Rowling//Harry Potter & the Chamber of SecretsHarry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling (illustrated edition). The second book in the Harry Potter series, which I’ve been re-reading along with the Harry Potter & the Sacred Text podcast. This is actually my least favourite book in the series, but I still loved it, and Jim Kay’s beautiful illustrations really enhanced my reading experience this time around. If I have one criticism, then it would just be that there seemed to be a lot less illustrations in Chamber of Secrets than in the illustrated edition of the Philosopher’s Stone… and also the sheer number of – very realistic! – pictures of spiders. 😥5 stars

Renée Ahdieh//The Wrath & the DawnThe Wrath & the Dawn by Renée Ahdieh. Thie first book in a duology that retells the story of A Thousand and One Nights, where a young woman named Shahrzad volunteers to marry the murderous king of Khorasan in order to avenge her best friend – his previous wife, whom he killed the morning after their marriage. This book was being super hyped-up a short while ago, so I didn’t want to go into it with my expectations so high that they could never be met, but I have to say, The Wrath & the Dawn blew way past everything I expected. I loved all the characters, and the stories that Shahrzad told Khalim in order to delay her own death (though there weren’t as many of them as I expected), and the overarching plot of the series seems to be moving in a really gripping direction. If I had one complaint, it would be that at the beginning of the book I felt the need to rush through Tariq’s chapters in order to return to Shahrzad’s storyline (i.e. what I was actually interested in), but that’s more to do with how addictive the Shahrzad chapters were than anything to do with Tariq’s storyline itself – and I did get pretty invested in it eventually. ^^’5 stars

Review: The Dark Days Pact by Alison Goodman (Spoiler-Free)

Alison Goodman//The Dark Days Pact[Warning: This is a spoiler-free review, but I will be referring to some events from The Dark Days Club, so if you haven’t started the series at all yet, beware. You can find my review of The Dark Days Club here.]

After breaking off her betrothal and being disowned by her uncle, Lady Helen is spending the summer season in Brighton, playing the invalid in order to avoid society, and training for her new role in the Dark Days Club with her mentor Lord Carlston. All things considered, life isn’t going terribly for her – that is, until Mr. Pike (a representative of the new Home Secretary) arrives in Brighton, convinced that Carlston is going mad, and demanding that Helen fulfil a dangerous task for him, or face charges of treason.

Well, I thought that there was a lot going on in the first book, but this one really escalates everything! So much happened; that little introductory passage barely even scratches the surface! ^^’ And yet it also manages to completely side-step the trap of having so much happening at once that it becomes impossible to follow along. The writing is remarkably clear, and has the same addictive quality as in the previous book. I also really loved how much research went into this book – the location and time period both feel incredibly real, but at the same time, I never felt as if the historical details were being shoved in my face; they were just there in the background, enriching the atmosphere.

In terms of characters, I really loved the way that many of the characters from The Dark Days Club were further developed, particularly Mr. Hammond and Lady Helen herself, as well as Lord Carlston, who remains something of a mystery, but is clearly beginning to lower his guard. The new characters were brilliant as well: Lowry was completely despicable, the Comte d’Antraigues was fascinating, and although I spent much of the book despising Pike, I ended up really loving the way his role in the story played out. Duke Selburn is the other major player in The Dark Days Pact, and while I quite liked him in the first book, I’m beginning to find the way he inserts himself into Helen’s affairs quite irritating (and it seems that Helen is, too), however well-intentioned he may be. I’m definitely looking forward to how his character, and his relationship with Helen, develops in the sequel (or sequels, maybe? I certainly hope so!).

The one thing that I was really hoping wouldn’t happen somehow ended up happening in the last few pages of the book, which was not entirely unexpected, but a bit sad. I will have to wait and see, however, if Helen is able to at least escape from the consequences of it in the next book. And I did feel that the mystery of Lady Elise was a little underwhelming, and brushed aside too quickly, but this is pretty much the only thing that the book didn’t do brilliantly, and it does seem like the issue is likely to come up again in future instalments in the series.

On the other hand, the story itself was masterfully executed, with what felt like a thousand twists and turns, each one more heart-poundingly difficult than the last. I’ve become ridiculously invested in this series, and I almost wish that I hadn’t read it straight away, as I now have a whole year to wait for the next book (such agony!). 😥
5 stars

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! 😀

Upcoming Releases: Winter 2016-17

The last three months have clearly been so packed with new releases that the publishing companies need a break… but there are still a few books coming out in December, January & February to get excited over. I’m definitely excited, and am likely to be buying at least the final two books on this list as soon as they’re available, if not all three! 🙂

[All dates are taken from Amazon UK unless stated otherwise, and are correct as of 23/11/2016.]

Genevieve Cogman//The Burning PageThe Burning Page by Genevieve Cogman (15th December)

The third book in the Invisible Library series, which is about a librarian called Irene, who travels between worlds in order to collect rare books to be studied and preserved in the mysterious Library. I’m not up to date on this series at all, but if the first book is anything to go by, The Burning Page will be a thrilling ride, full of intrigue, disguises, brilliant literary references, and one of the most interesting magic systems I’ve ever come acrossExcitement level: 6/10

Alison Goodman//The Dark Days PactThe Dark Days Pact by Alison Goodman (26th January)

The second book in the Lady Helen series, which will (I presume) follow Helen’s adventures as an official member of the Dark Days Club. I’m hoping to see a lot more Lord Carlston, too, and maybe we’ll even get to unravel a few of the (very intriguing) mysteries that surround him. The Dark Days Club was one of the most fun books I read last year, so I have very high hopes for this sequel. Excitement level: 10/10

Melissa Landers//StarfallStarfall by Melissa Landers (7th February)

This book doesn’t appear to be a direct sequel to Starflight – the amazing feel-good space adventure that came out earlier this year – but it does follow arguably the most interesting character in that book, Cassia, and the aftermath of a very dramatic revelation that came near the end of the story. Excitement level: 8/10