January Wrap-Up

The first month of the year is over, and I feel like I got off to quite a good start with all my reading goals! 🙂 And to make things even better, I really enjoyed everything I read – 5 novels, 1 graphic novel, and 2 short stories – with the exception of one short story (which only took up about half an hour of my life in any case 😉 ). Here’s what I thought of them all:

Laure Eve//The GracesThe Graces by Laure Eve. The first in a new series about a teenage girl called River who moves to a new town and becomes fascinated by a glamourous local family, whom the entire community believes are witches. This is ringing some Twilight-shaped bells, right? But it’s also seriously messed up, and (unlike Twilight) aware of how messed up it is, and fully embracing the sheer messed-up-ness. I posted a mini-review of this book a few weeks ago – you can find it here.4 starsIsabel Greenberg//The One Hundred Nights of HeroThe One Hundred Nights of Hero by Isabel Greenberg. A new collection of folk-tales in comic form, told in the style of One Thousand and One Nights, with a woman called Hero telling stories night after night, in order to stave off a man who’s hoping to seduce her lover, Cherry. My particular favourite of Hero’s stories was A Very Honest Harp, which was about two sisters who were courted by the same man, to a disastrous end, but, as with Greenberg’s previous work, the whole book is made up of beautiful, haunting tales, charmingly illustrated.5 starsAmy Alward//The Potion DiariesThe Potion Diaries by Amy Alward. The first book in a series about a talented (but not “Talented”, which means something quite different) young potion-maker called Sam, who is called to join in a nation-wide race to create a cure when the kingdom’s princess accidentally doses herself with a love potion… and falls in love with her own reflection. A fun, lighthearted read, though not without its flaws. I read this book for the January Library Scavenger Hunt challenge, so my review’s already posted – you can find it here!3 stars

Rae Carson//The Bitter KingdomThe Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson. The third and final book in the Fire & Thorns series, which I’ve been re-reading for the last few months. Like with Crown of Embers, my opinion of this book hasn’t changed at all upon re-reading it; it’s still a fantastic story, with wonderful characters, and really impressive character growth. In the final part of the book, I did feel a bit disorientated to be back in Brisadulce after such a long time (Elisa leaves around the mid-point of Crown of Embers and doesn’t return until close to the end of The Bitter Kingdom), but I figure that’s mostly because I really took my time with this book the second time around. Overall, definitely a series that’s worth coming back to a few times. 🙂5 starsNora’s Song by Cecelia Holland (from the Dangerous Women anthology). Holland is apparently a historical fiction author of some prolificacy and renown, but I found this short story – about Eleanor, the second daughter of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, as a young girl – rather lackluster. The writing was engaging, and the period of history in which the story is set is an interesting one, but the story itself suffered seriously from a lack of… anything, really; a few confusing events are all presented in a great rush, and then it ends. I do think that this might have made a good prologue for a longer story, but on its own it doesn’t leave much of an impression.2 starsSarah J. Maas//A Court of Mist & FuryA Court of Mist & Fury by Sarah J. Maas. The sequel to A Court of Thorns & Roses, which was an imaginative retelling of Beauty & the Beast involving fairy courts and a fantasy realm held hostage by a madwoman. I enjoyed this book a lot, but still had quite a few problems with it, which I won’t go into here lest this paragraph become an essay. ^^’ I’ve written a spoiler-free review, however, which you can find here.4 stars

Neil Gaiman//Odd & the Frost GiantsOdd & the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman. A short story written for World Book Day in 2008, in which Odin, Thor and Loki find themselves in something of a pickle, and need to rely on Odd – an improbably optimistic young boy, who’s just run away from home – to help them resolve it. An incredibly cute story, with a surprising amount of character development and depth, given its length. Definitely the best Norse mythology novel(la) I’ve read in a long time, and the perfect thing to get me out of the reading slump that I was beginning to feel coming on. 😀4 starsHonobu Yonezawa//The Kudryavka SequenceThe Kudryavka Sequence by Honobu Yonezawa. The third book in the Kotenbu series of light novels, which inspired the anime Hyouka (one of my favourites!); a mix of mystery and slice-of-life, focusing on a group of characters who are all members of their school’s Classics Club. In this book, the school’s cultural festival is disrupted by a phantom thief, who’s been taking random items from various different clubs, and leaving notes to replace them. It’s difficult to explain the appeal of this series, but I really love it, and The Kudryavka Sequence definitely lives up to the books that came before it (Hyouka and The Credit Roll of the Fool, respectively). ❤ It’s not available in English at this time, so the version I read is a fan translation from Baka-Tsuki.4 stars

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Mini-Review: The Graces by Laure Eve (Spoiler-Free)

Laure Eve//The GracesEveryone in River’s new town is obsessed with the mysterious Grace family, and River finds herself inevitably drawn to them, too; to their wealth, their beauty, and the rumours that they’re all witches. And when Summer Grace – the youngest of the three Grace siblings – one day invites River to take part in a strange ritual with her, River seizes her chance to become a part of their sphere… by any means necessary.

The parallels between The Graces and Twilight are uncanny, and not just in the way they’re described; the main characters all have their counterparts, and the book’s premise – a girl moving to a new town and becoming fascinated by a mysterious, potentially supernatural local family – is identical. The appeal of The Graces, however, was an implication that it was a book that was fully aware of just how creepy its character dynamics were, and was planning on taking them in a much darker direction. It didn’t disappoint.

The first half of the story was very slow, and I’ll admit that I struggled with it quite a bit. River was super-shallow and melodramatic, and the plot seemed to be taking itself far too seriously; there were hints of the creepiness that’d been promised, but they were slight enough that I felt like I’d been tricked into reading this book. I also found River kind of grating sometimes, and I didn’t have any particular affection for the other characters, either.

The second half, on the other hand, was fantastic, and I found that it almost completely made up for the slow start. The plot worked out almost exactly the way I was hoping it would, and its ending left me eager for more. Even River turned out to be kind of an interesting character after all! 😉 This was definitely not the most original story, but it put an unusual spin on a tale that’s familiar to most of my generation, and managed to feel fresh despite its Twilight-echoes. I’ll definitely be keeping my eyes open for the sequel.
4 stars

November & December Haul

I’ve divided this post into two sections; the first for books that I bought myself, and the second for books that were Christmas presents. That second section, by the way, is almost twice as long as the first, because (amazingly) my book-buying ban (or “book-buying restriction”; I’m allowing myself to buy one book for every five that I read) is going really well at the moment! 😀 Anyway, here’s what I bought in the last two months:november/december haul

1) Gemina by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff. The sequel to Illuminae, which I spent the whole of 2016 eagerly anticipating. This is another deep-space survival story told through IM transcripts and data logs and the like, but featuring two new protagonists – Hanna and Nik – and showing another aspect of the Kerenza incident that was documented in Illuminae. I read this book in December, so you can find my thoughts about it in my wrap-up for that month.

2) The World’s Best Street Food by Lonely Planet. Something in-between a cookbook and a guide book, this book was one of the books we had in our new products range at Oxfam this year, so I made sure to snap one up before they all sold out. I haven’t tried out any of the recipes yet, but the pictures are really beautiful, and I love that it includes information about the countries where all these interesting recipes come from.

3) The Monstrous Child by Francesca Simon. A re-telling of the tale of Hel, the Norse goddess of death, and Queen of the Underworld. I won’t lie, I mainly picked this book up because it had a really beautiful cover… but it also had an interesting premise. I read this book in December, too, so I’ve talked about it in the same post as Gemina, but I’m also hoping to post a full review of it in the not-so-distant future.

4) The Graces by Laure Eve.Twilight-esque, but (deliberately) super-creepy story about a teenage girl who moves to a new town, and becomes caught up in the town’s fascination with a local family called the Graces – who are rumoured to be witches. Look out for a mini-review of this book soon, as I finished reading it a few days ago, and have a lot to say.


These next few books were Christmas presents from various (wonderful) friends and relatives! People don’t often give me books as presents, as it’s difficult to find things that I’ll definitely be interested in, but don’t already have, but everyone seemed to anticipate me really well this time around! I haven’t read any of these quite yet, but I’m super-excited for them all. XD

christmas haul1) The Dark Volume by G.W. Dahlquist. The second book in Dahlquist’s The Glass Books series, which I know basically nothing about. I picked this book out for myself, & mysteriously found it in my stocking on Christmas morning ( 😉 ), but I will need to get hold of the first book in the series before I can read this one.

2) Hyrule Historia. A thing of beauty, given to me by my friend Chloë (from SSJTimeLord and Her Books), which is all about the history, art and making of the Legend of Zelda series of games. I’ve been wanting this book for so long, it’s kind of hard to believe that I finally have it in my hands… ❤

3) How to Bake by Paul Hollywood. Another beautiful book about bread, which was given to me by my parents. I’ve started making sourdough recently, and this book seems to have a lot of tips that I can learn from (and also some interesting new variations to try). 🙂

4) Wild Lily by K.M. Peyton. I’ve described this book a couple of times before as “a new book about aeroplanes from the author who first made me love aeroplanes”, and I don’t think there’s really any more that I can add to that, except that I’m really, really looking forward to it, and I really, really hope that it’s good. (I’m sure it is.) This wonderful book was a gift from my aunt and uncle, Lucy and Mark.

5) The Probable Future by Alice Hoffman. This book and the next were both from my other aunt and uncle, Catty & David, and they’re completely unknown to me. From reviews, I’ve managed to glean that this one is some kind of magical-realism mystery novel that focuses on the relationship between a mother and daughter… it definitely looks like it could be interesting.

6) Rainforest by Jenny Diski. I know even less about this book, but it did come with a recommendation from Catty, who apparently really enjoyed it. Neither this nor the last book really sound like things that I would’ve picked out for myself, but I am trying to branch out a bit in my reading this year, so hopefully they’ll both be good for that – and getting to try new kinds of books is part of the fun of receiving them as gifts!

7) Frozen Tides by Morgan Rhodes. Lastly, the fourth book in the Falling Kingdoms series, which was a present from my cousin Laila. 🙂 I’ve been waiting to read this for a long time now, as I didn’t want to buy it before it was out in paperback… and now I have it! (Possibly) Interesting trivia: Falling Kingdoms was one of the first books I read in 2016, and Rebel Spring (the sequel) was the first book I bought. It seems oddly fitting that the latest(-but-one) book in the series should be the last new book I received in the year. 😛