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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Thematic Recs: Arthurian Mythology

My current read, The Table of Less Valued Knights, is on one of my favourite topics: King Arthur! (Or the stories of him, at least.) And it’s very enjoyable, but I keep getting distracted by Mass Effect life, so I haven’t been making the progress I was hoping for… (& the readathon I picked it up for is already over 😳 ). So, I thought I’d spur myself on a little bit! And what better way than to share some of my absolute favourite Arturian stories? 😀 In no particular order, I present…

Susan Cooper//The Grey King1) The Dark is Rising sequence by Susan Cooper. A boy called Will finds out on his eleventh birthday that he’s an Old One, charged with defending the world against the Dark. King Arthur doesn’t really come into the series until book three, The Grey King (which is my favourite), but it’s definitely worth waiting for! This is the series that sparked my love for Arthurian mythology~ ❤

T.H. White//The Once & Future King2) The Once & Future King series by T.H. White. The ultimate (in my opinion) tale of King Arthur’s life, from his childhood to his death. Beautifully written, though the style is – naturally – somewhat old-fashioned, and with one of the most interesting portrayals of Merlin that I’ve ever come across.

Kevin Crossley-Holland//The Seeing Stone3) The Arthur trilogy by Kevin Crossley-Holland. A surprising and fresh take on the Arthurian myths… A young boy called Arthur is one day given a seeing stone, which shows him visions of another Arthur, who is destined to be king. I read these books quite a few years ago, but they’ve really stuck with me. 🙂

Marie Phillips//The Table of Less Valued Knights4) The Table of Less Valued Knights by Marie Phillips. And last but not least, the book that inspired this list! 😀 The Table of Less Valued Knights is made up of those knights who’ve been kicked off the Round Table, for old age, infirmity, or cowardice. As I mentioned, I’m not that far into it yet, but what I’ve read so far has been fun, and very witty.

#UnderHypedReads: TBR!

Tomorrow begins the Under-Hyped Readathon, which I am (ironically) super hyped-up for! 😉 As many brilliant books that hype has driven me to read, there are still loads of books out there that just haven’t got the attention they deserve, and this readathon aims to fix that (kind of). The readathon will run for the whole week (27th February – 4th March), and it’s not super-strict, but the basic guidelines for choosing your books are:

  • Books with less than 2000 ratings on goodreads.
  • OR books that you haven’t heard people talking about.

For more information, be sure to check out the goodreads group, which I’ve linked above. 🙂 But in this post, I thought I’d let you all know which books I’m hoping to pick up over the next few days (though I doubt I’ll get to them all). So, without further ado:UnderHypedReads TBR 2016

Lorali by Laura Dockrill. A mermaid book, I believe. I know absolutely nothing else about this book; it’s just sitting on my shelf, daring me to read it, so I think I will. 😛

A Dark Horn Blowing by Dahlov Ipcar. A fantasy novel about a woman who’s kidnapped and taken to another world, in order to be a nursemaid to the prince.

The Girl on the Liar’s Throne by Den Patrick. The third book in the Erebus sequence, which I’ve been super-excited for since I read The Boy Who Wept Blood… (It left off on such a tense note!)

And lastly, if I have the time (and also for the sheer appropriateness of picking it for this readathon in particular), The Table of Less Valued Knights by Marie Phillips, which is an Arthurian-style story about, well, knights who didn’t make the cut for the Round Table.

[This post was actually supposed to contain recommendations, as well, but I got a bit carried away… ^^’ So I’ll be posting those later today. Something to look forward to! (Or not, as the case may be.)]

February Haul

SO TALL! (You should be able to see the titles if you click on the image to zoom in...)

SO TALL! (You should be able to see the titles if you click on the image to zoom in…)

Something else that I should’ve posted a while ago… :/ And as you can see from the lovely picture to your left, this post is certainly not late because I didn’t buy enough books to merit a haul post. Rather, it’s late because I’ve had to take a significant amount of time to recover from the shame of having bought so many (& most of them are comics, too, which are expensive). 😦 The reason for my sudden splurge? Chloë came to visit towards the end of the month, and when I am with other bookish people, I tend to go to lots of bookish places, and buy books. (Self-control? What is this “self-control” you speak of?)

But anyway, here’s what I bought:

1) Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris. All I know about this is that it’s non-fiction (probably), which I’ve been wanting to read more of, and it was super-cheap, so I thought I’d give it a try.

2) Great Tales from English History by Robert Lacey. Another non-fiction book (obviously), which I bought as part of the same deal. My historical knowledge is sorely lacking, so hopefully this will teach me a few things…

3) Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World by Mark Kurlansky. I don’t even know what this is, but I couldn’t resist…

4) The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller. A re-telling of Homer’s Iliad, which I’ve been wanting to read for a while now. I have heard super-good things about it, and I am a Classicist… 😀

5) No Life but This by Anna Sheehan. A sci-fi (possibly romance?) novel that I found at the second-hand book stall at the market. Of course, only after buying it did I discover that it’s a sequel, but both books sound interesting, so I’ll have to track down the first book (A Long, Long Sleep) soon…

6) Sasameke, Volume 2 by Ryuji Gotsubo. This is actually a bind-up of the last half of the Sasameke series, which is a sports manga about a boy who was really, really good at football, then went away to play abroad for a year, and came back having given up the sport completely. It’s been a while since I read the first volume, so it probably merits a re-read, but I remember enjoying it a lot, & I’m looking forward to finishing off the series.

7) Little Red Riding Hood & Other Stories by Charles Perrault. A beautifully-illustrated edition of several classic fairytales, including Little Red Riding Hood (naturally), CinderellaBluebeard and Puss in Boots.

8) Peter Pan in Scarlet by Geraldine McCaughrean. A sequel to J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, which I don’t know all that much about, plot-wise, though I’ve been aware of it for a while…

9) The Table of Less Valued Knights by Marie Phillips. A comedy set in Arthurian times, about the Knights of the Round Table. Again, I don’t really know anything else about it.

10) Adventure Time with Fionna & Cake by Natasha Allegri. A gender-swapped Adventure Time graphic novel, which I have already read and loved, so you can read about it in my February Wrap-Up.

11) Various DC New 52 comics, including: Volumes 2 & 3 of Teen Titans by Scott Lobdell, Fabian Nicieza, Scott Snyder & Tom DeFalco; Volume 3 of Red Hood & the Outlaws by Scott Lobdell, Fabian Nicieza & Scott Snyder; Volumes 2 & 3 of Nightwing by Kyle Higgins, Scott Snyder & Tom DeFalco; Volumes 2 & 3 of Batman & Robin by Peter J. Tomasi & Scott Snyder; Volumes 2 & 3 of Batman by Scott Snyder & James Tynion IV; Batman: Night of the Owls by Scott Snyder, Kyle Higgins, Tony S. Daniel, Scott Lobdell, Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray, Gail Simone, Duane Swierczynski, Peter J. Tomasi, James Tynion IV & Judd Winick; and The Joker: Death of the Family by Scott Snyder, John Layman, Ann Nocenti, Adam Glass, James Tynion IV, Gail Simone, Scott Lobdell, Fabian Nicieza, Kyle Higgins, Tom DeFalco & Peter J. Tomasi. This impressive number of comics takes all the series on my buy-list through the Night of the Owls and Death of the Family storylines, and up to volume 3.

12) Saga, Volumes 1-4 by Brian K. Vaughan. The first three volumes I got in a massive bind-up, which is that blue book labelled “Book 1”, and Volume 4 individually (because I couldn’t bring myself to wait another 3 years or so for the next deluxe edition). Again, I’ve already read this, & I talked about it in my wrap-up, but to sum it up, it’s a sci-fi series about forbidden love in wartime.

13) Pride of Baghdad by Brian K. Vaughan. A graphic novel about a pride of lions that escape from Baghdad Zoo, which, again, I’ve talked about already in my wrap-up.

14) The Encyclopedia of Early Earth by Isabel Greenberg. A collection of folk-tales set in “Early Earth”, a place that apparently existed before actual Earth. And, once again, I’ve already read this, & I’ll tell you about it in my March wrap-up, so there’s (thankfully, since my fingers are getting tired now) no need to say any more about it here.