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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February Wrap-Up

Another satisfying month of reading, and quite a few four-star books this time, particularly towards the end of the month… A lot of these were blind picks, too, so I’ve been pretty lucky! 😀 In total, I read 7 novels and 2 short stories in February; here’s what I thought of them:

Amy A. Bartol//Sea of StarsSea of Stars by Amy A. Bartol. The second book in the Kricket series, wherein Kricket and Trey find themselves (once again) on the run from the Alameeda clan. I liked this book, but the series is getting a bit same-y (which is probably not a good sign when I’m only on book two!), and Kricket’s overwhelming tendency to be good at everything, and incredibly beautiful, and somehow gain the undying love and loyalty of everyone she meets (okay, I’m exaggerating on that last one) garnered quite a few eye-rolls. Bartol seems to be pushing the fact that she can’t swim as her major character flaw, which does not a relatable heroine make. ^^’ Again, I am still enjoying this series, but I’ll probably leave off for a while before reading Darken the Stars (despite Sea of Stars‘ not-all-that-suspenseful cliffhanger ending).2 stars

Julie Berry//All the Truth that's in MeAll the Truth that’s in Me by Julie Berry. A short crime novel that follows a girl named Judith, who went missing as a teenager, only to reappear two years later with her tongue cut out so that she couldn’t say what had happened to her. This was my Library Scavenger Hunt pick for February, and as such I’ve already written a review – you can find it here.3 starsHimself in Anachron by Cordwainer Smith (from The Time Traveller’s Almanac). The story of a man who takes his wife with him on his search for something called the Knot of Time as their honeymoon. And, of course, things go horribly wrong. This story was more about the emotion of what was happening than the science of it, which I appreciated, and the story itself was both interesting and inventive. One of the better entries that I’ve read so far from this anthology.
3 stars

Some Desperado by Joe Abercrombie (from Dangerous Women). A short story about a highway(wo)man who is on the run from her former associates, who have betrayed her. It had something of a Wild West feel to it, though there was a distinct lack of guns (the characters are all armed with swords, knives, and bows and arrows), so I’m not sure whether it was meant to, or if my imagination just ran away with the word “desperado”. Well-written, and I liked the main character (Shy) a lot, but it was a bit too bloody for my taste, unfortunately.3 starsNeil Gaiman//StardustStardust by Neil Gaiman. A romance between a man who is half faerie, and a woman who is actually a fallen star. Neil Gaiman’s prose is beautiful, and I particularly loved the way he portrayed the land of Faerie and its inhabitants. The beginning was a little bit slow-going, but everything that happened afterwards more than made up for that… The edition I was reading was also illustrated by Charles Vess, and his art suited the story perfectly – it really emphasised the simultaneous beauty and danger of Faerie; both enchanting and at times incredibly gruesome. I’ve written a full review of this book, which you can find here.5 starsMorgan Rhodes//Gathering DarknessGathering Darkness by Morgan Rhodes. The third book in the Falling Kingdoms series, in which things escalate, there is a great deal of duplicity, and my ship finally sails! 😀 What to say about this book without spoiling it? Hmm… Well, Magnus is rapidly becoming my favourite character in the series, and I’m really intrigued by the direction Lucia’s character seemed to be taking towards the end of the book. I still love Cleo, though the way she’s choosing to deal with her situation makes me supremely uncomfortable – as manipulation of one’s supposed friends tends to, so that’s not really all that much of a surprise. There were also some very interesting developments with Nic, though I still miss the happy-go-lucky Nic of the first book… 😦 Also, I take back everything I said (or at least felt) in my review of Rebel Spring about how Jonas was growing on me. He’s not. His plans are all ridiculous, and how anyone thinks he’s a serious threat is beyond me; the fact that girls in the book seem to be falling in love with him left and right is becoming extremely annoying. 😡 That said, this series is still getting better as it goes on, which is a trend that I hope will continue.4 starsPeter V. Brett//The Desert SpearThe Desert Spear by Peter V. Brett. The second book in the Demon Cycle, in which we continue to follow our heroes – Arlen, Leesha & Rojer – in their efforts to save the world from corelings. There was a new major protagonist in this book, too, who I remember despising in The Painted Man: Jardir! About the first third of the book is taken up with his perspective, which I didn’t initially like all that much; it was interesting, but also quite disturbing. So I wasn’t a huge fan of the first part of the book, but once Arlen & co. were brought back into the spotlight, things got seriously epic (and often hilarious), and the book ended on a definite high point. I’m looking forward to reading The Daylight War soon (i.e. for next month’s readalong).4 starsE.K. Johnston//A Thousand NightsA Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston. A new retelling of A Thousand and One Nights, in which an unnamed (and that’s an interesting theme in this book) protagonist tricks the demon king Lo-Melkhiin – who has killed all his previous wives – into picking her, when he comes to her village to choose a new bride, in an effort to save her sister. And then, much to her surprise, Lo-Melkhiin is not able to kill her. I’d heard mixed things about this book before picking it up, and although I liked it a lot, I can also see why others might not. There is almost no romance, which I didn’t expect; most of the book is taken up with the main character’s thoughts and memories, about her husband and her sister, whom she has visions about; and the plot is so slow-building that the story’s climax really sneaks up on you. These were all positive points for me – I loved learning about her family and culture, and the glimpses we got of Lo-Melkhiin were such that a stronger romantic sub-plot would have seemed out of place… And I do love a good slow-burn story, even though A Thousand Nights is actually quite a short book. And the writing was also beautiful, which certainly helped.4 starsLaura Dockrill//LoraliLorali by Laura Dockrill. A standalone paranormal novel, about Lorali – a young mermaid who makes herself human – and Rory, the teenage boy who finds her lying naked on the shore after her transformation. And pirates. Lots of pirates. 🙂 There’s definitely a visible The Little Mermaid influence, as well, but it’s certainly not a straight-up retelling. As for my thoughts on the story itself – it was wonderful. Rory and Lorali were wel-developed, likeable and sympathetic leads, and much of the story was also told from the perspective of the sea itself, which was interesting (and very well executed). I wasn’t initially sold on the pirates, but they definitely grew on me, and I really, really loved the portrayal of Rory’s friend Flynn and his grandfather Iris. The plot was also surprisingly action-packed (in the best possible way), and it was fascinating trying to piece together the mystery of Lorali’s past, and of all the Mer – which was revealed at the perfect pace. (This was also the first book I picked up for the Under-Hyped Readathon, and it definitely got me off to a great start!)4 stars

[EDIT (3/5/2017): Changed rating of Sea of Stars from 3/5 to 2/5 after finishing the last book in the trilogy & thinking on the series as a whole.]

January Wrap-Up

I got off to a pretty good start this year: 6 novels, 3 short stories, and 1 picture book. And my average rating was pretty high, too – most of the books I read this month I gave 4 stars; only the short stories fell a little short… Hopefully I’ll be able to keep up this momentum over the next few months! 😀

Coralie Bickford-Smith//The Fox & the StarThe Fox and the Star by Coralie Bickford-Smith. An incredibly beautiful book about a lonely fox whose only friend is a distant star – which one day disappears, setting the fox off on a journey to find it again. This may be essentially a picture book, but I’d recommend it for anyone, regardless of age. The story is very touching, and when I first opened this book, the art literally took my breath away.5 stars

Morgan Rhodes//Falling KingdomsFalling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes. A high fantasy series that follows several different protagonists: Cleo, the second princess of Auranos, a spoilt but well-meaning teenager who’s hoping to escape from an arranged marriage to a boy she hates; Janos, the son of a poor Paelsian wine merchant, who is filled with rage at the injustices his people have suffered; and Magnus, the prince of Limeros, who mainly just wants to keep his sister safe. This one was a fun read, though I found it a little difficult to get into at first – it takes a while for anything to really happen plot-wise, and Morgan Rhodes’ writing style is not bad, but her phrasing is somewhat unconventional in places, which I found slightly jarring. The characters are rather hit-or-miss, but I feel like they’re the kind to grow on you as you read more. I didn’t really like any of them (except Theon) much at the beginning, but as the story went on, I found myself feeling more and more for Magnus, and even Jonas seemed to show some promise towards the end of the book. Cleo I got attached to a little earlier in the story, but at times I also found her frustratingly naive… I was, however, completely hooked by the time I reached the end of the book, and I’m looking forward to reading more.3 starsThe Threads of Time by C.J. Cherryh (from The Time Traveller’s Almanac). A short story about a man whose job is to fix the paradoxes that people have created by illegally travelling back in time. An interesting story, and less confusing than some of the others in this collection – but only slightly. ❓2 starsTriceratops Summer by Michael Swanwick (from The Time Traveller’s Almanac). Another short story, this time about a man who sees a herd of (presumably cloned) triceratops that have escaped from a lab, and – finding out from one of the scientists on the project that they’re planning on resetting time to fix their mistake – tries to find something exciting or meaningful to do before his timeline fades out of existence. This one was also pretty interesting, conceptually, but unfortunately (as is often the case with short stories) I didn’t feel any connection to the characters. :/2 starsMorgan Rhodes//Rebel SpringRebel Spring by Morgan Rhodes. The sequel to Falling Kingdoms, which I’m not going to be saying too much about, because there are a lot of things I could potentially spoil from the first book… However, the POV characters have changed a little in this book: Lucia has a much more prominent role, as do Alexius and Nic, and I was surprised when Rhodes also added King Gaius and Queen Althea to the short list of people whose perspectives we see. There’s also a brand new character called Lysandra who seems to be becoming very important to the story – I don’t always like her (she’s very pushy), but it is quite gratifying when she constantly calls Jonas out on his terrible plans (and they’re sometimes really, really terrible). As far as character development for the returning characters goes, Jonas and Cleo both seem to be maturing a lot, in the best possible way (though – as I touched on before – they both still make awful, unhelpful, obviously-doomed-to-failure decisions); Lucia’s back-and-forth between kindness and viciousness is kind of fascinating; and Magnus is quickly becoming my favourite character in the series. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a Magnus/Cleo romance, too, though I’m  not sure how popular that opinion is with this series’ fans… ^^’4 starsMelvin Burgess//Nicholas DaneNicholas Dane by Melvin Burgess. The story of a teenage boy who – after his mother overdoses on heroin – is sent to a boys’ home, where he is horrifically abused, and how this abuse impacts his life, even after leaving. This was my Library Scavenger Hunt pick for the month, so I’ve written a mini-review of it – you can read it here.4 starsThe Most Important Thing in the World by Steve Bein (from The Time Traveller’s Almanac). A story about a taxi driver who finds a suitcase left in the back of his car by a customer – and containing a suit which borrows time from the future to be used in the present instead. The science of this story is (as always) a little over my head, but I found that the characters – Ernie the taxi driver; his wife Janice; and of course the scientist who created the suit – were all very compelling, and I ended up enjoying the story a lot more than I have many of the others in this collection. 🙂3 starsBecky Chambers//The Long Way to a Small, Angry PlanetThe Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers. A standalone sci-fi novel that follows the a tunnelling crew (who drill holes in “subspace” in order to allow faster travel between planets) on a long journey, the goal of which is to create a path to a new planet. The story itself is quite episodic – there is an overarching plotline, but for the majority of the book it’s pushed aside in order to deal with obstacles in the way of the crew’s journey, and for more personal story-arcs – and the pacing is accordingly quick; each chapter is dated, but if they hadn’t been, I probably wouldn’t have realised that more than a year had passed over the course of the story… This is usually a negative point for me, but in this case I actually didn’t mind too much, as the mini-arcs themselves were all quite interesting, and the story as a whole actually turned out to be more character-driven. And, on that note, the (incredibly diverse) cast of characters were all wonderfully fleshed out. Lovey and Jenks were particular favourites of mine, but I really did love them all (even Corbin, eventually!). A sequel/companion novel is apparently scheduled for release in October this year, and I’m already looking forward to reading it. 😀 I’ve written a full review of this book, which you can read here, if you so desire.4 starsAmy A. Bartol//Under Different StarsUnder Different Stars by Amy A. Bartol. The first book in the Kricket series, which follows a teenage girl called Kricket, who’s hiding from Social Services when she’s abducted by a group of people from another planet (or possibly dimension), and finds out that she’s one of them. The writing in this book was witty and engaging, and I enjoyed the story and characters a lot, despite the fact that Kricket could seemingly do no wrong, and the way she reacted to everything that was happening to her was ridiculously unrealistic (she’s definitely more of an ultimate-wish-fulfillment character than a relatable one). I did find her continuous use of Etharian slang to be kind of irritating at times (and I regularly lost track of what each word actually meant), but that’s a pretty minor issue… I wouldn’t recommend this book for die-hard sci-fi fans, as it barely read like a sci-fi novel at all (it’s very romance-centric), but it was definitely an enjoyable read nonetheless.3 starsPeter V. Brett//The Painted ManThe Painted Man by Peter V. Brett. Three children – Arlen, Leesha and Rojer – grow up in a dangerous fantasy world, where the night is ruled by fearsome demons called corelings. I read this book as part of a readalong with Chloë, which probably added to my enjoyment quite a bit (it’s always nice to have someone to rant/rave at without having to worry about either spoiling them, or getting spoiled myself 😛 ), but even so, it was extraordinarily good. Fast-paced, exciting, and with really strong characterisation and a great plot! There was a romance towards the end of the book that I wasn’t too happy with (it developed way too quickly), and – also towards the end – I found myself a bit disappointed with the direction that Leesha’s storyline seemed to be taking, and with the huge time-skip in Arlen’s storyline, but otherwise, I really, really loved basically everything about it! And the ending was absolutely epic! XD4 stars

[EDIT (3/5/2017): Changed rating of Under Different Stars from 4/5 to 3/5 after finishing the last book in the trilogy & thinking on the series as a whole.]

December Wrap Up

This month I managed to get through thirteen books! Or rather, ten novels, two short stories, and one art-book. Certainly not my best reading month, but then again, December never is (there’s always so much to do!), so I’m pretty satisfied with this. Anyway, here’s what I thought of it all:

Rae Carson//The Bitter KingdomThe Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson. A really satisfying conclusion to the trilogy (which seems to be rare these days). All the different threads of the story were wrapped up nicely, and it was lovely to see Cosmé, Alodia and Ximena again (however briefly). The pacing of the book was pretty fast, and though I didn’t feel that it was necessary for Hector to have his own POV chapters, I found myself liking them anyway. What struck me most about this final instalment, however, was the humour – which is not to say that the book was a particularly funny one, but Rae Carson had a great way of diffusing the tension whenever it got too thick (particularly towards the end), and some of my favourite moments were the little character interactions that made me chuckle (i.e. Red being introduced to Rosario; Storm and Waterfall talking about the Joyans; & so many more…).5 starsSally Green//Half LiesHalf Lies by Sally Green. A short story set in the Half Life universe, that I only discovered by accident when I stumbled upon it on Amazon… It’s written in diary form, and told from the perspective of a young Black Witch called Michèle – Gabriel’s younger sister. The story itself was very simple: It fleshed out the world a little, and introduced some more bits of Black Witch culture, which was interesting (and was also something that  was really hoping for after reading Half Bad), and it also explained how Gabriel became a fain, but at its heart it’s really a love story, between Michèle and a boy called Sam. It’s a little sad, but there’s some humour, too (and of course Gabriel is the type of guy who’d read his sister’s diary 😉 ). I’m a little curious about Caitlin’s motivations, and I hope that it might be touched on in the rest of the series, though I’m not sure how it would come into the story…4 stars

Cassandra Clare//City of BonesCity of Bones by Cassandra Clare. I realise that I probably should have read this before reading the Infernal Devices trilogy, but I have no regrets – and (as an interesting but not particularly important aside) having read Clockwork Princess certainly gave me a different perspective of Brother Jeremiah than I probably would have had otherwise… I enjoyed the book a lot, despite the fact that I’ve heard that it’s the weakest in the series, and it was different enough from the film (which I saw a couple of months ago) that I didn’t feel that I already knew the story. In terms of the main characters: I liked Clary and Isabelle well enough, and I really liked Alec, but I thought Simon was a little bland, and Jace somewhat too… snarky for my tastes. Overall, it was good fun, though, and I’m looking forward to reading the sequel.4 starsThe Gernsback Continuum by William Gibson (from The Time Traveller’s Almanac). A short story that is less about actually travelling through time, and more about seeing through time (or perhaps into another world). A little on the trippy side, but enjoyable all the same, and Gibson has a very fluid writing style, which makes things easy to picture.3 starsTahereh Mafi//Shatter MeShatter Me by Tahereh Mafi. A dystopian superpower book, about a girl with a lethal touch. I liked it a lot, though I felt that the first-person perspective held it back a little, at least in terms of world-building (which I would like to have seen more of), and it bothered me to a surprising degree that Juliette’s powers haven’t yet been explained. I enjoyed Juliette’s voice, though, and the disjointed writing style really brought out the fragility of her mind – in a way, it was almost like reading a journal, with all the crossed-out passages… Romance-wise, I’ve already been spoiled for this series’ endgame, but I’m enjoying the way that Juliette interacts with both Adam and Warner; character-wise, I like basically everyone so far (and even Warner is interesting, if not pleasant), and I’m looking forward to reading more.2 starsKatie McGarry//Breaking the RulesBreaking the Rules by Katie McGarry. The last book in the Pushing the Limits series, set between the first two books, and following Noah and Echo, the main couple in the first book. It was definitely great to see Noah and Echo again (they’re my favourites), and how they interact now that they’ve been a couple for a little while longer. I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as either Pushing the Limits or Crash Into You, but it’s earned a pretty solid bronze medal, and it was a close call. Noah and Echo’s relationship development was very realistic, and the story addressed some of their issues that weren’t tackled in the first book. I also really enjoyed the interaction between Echo and Beth, which took me a little by surprise, as I’ve never liked Beth very much in any of the previous books…4 stars17378508Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater. I really enjoyed this book, but for some reason I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as I did the previous two… In the beginning, especially, I loved the scenes with Blue and Gansey (I wish there’d been more of them), and I also find myself growing more attached to Ronan after the events of The Dream Thieves. Malory’s part in the book was hilarious (and the Dog!), and I really liked Jesse Dittley (the part where he met Malory was one of my favourite quotes in the book). I think, however, then the book would have benefitted from a stronger antagonist: In the first book there was Whelk; in the second there was Mr. Gray and Kavinsky; in the third there was Greenmantle, but he seemed a little lackluster, and except for Adam and Ronan, none of the characters seemed to be particularly concerned about him… There was a lot of good build-up for the last book, though, so I’m definitely excited about that. 🙂4 starsAlexandra Bracken//Brightly WovenBrightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken. This book was surprisingly fast-paced for a high fantasy novel, and I feel that that held it back somewhat – the world-building was lacking, the characters moved from place to place too quickly, and the story’s climax came out of nowhere and was over in what seemed like a flash. Despite its flaws, though, it was an interesting story, with likeable characters and a sweet (if predictable) romance, and it plays to its strengths well, with the writing focusing more on Sydelle and North’s relationship than on the plot. It reads a little like High Fantasy-Lite, but it was definitely enjoyable all the same.3 starsStudio Ghibli Layout Designs: Understanding the Secrets of Takahata and Miyazaki Animation by the Hong Kong Jockey Club. A catalogue (I think) from the Hong Kong exhibition of the same name. The written parts of the book were a little technical for my taste, but would probably be more interesting to somebody who’s hoping to get into animation as a hobby or profession… The main highlight for me was (naturally) the art, though, and there was a lot of it in here, and it was all absolutely beautiful. Some of the pictures I even almost preferred as rough sketches (there was a before-and-after section in the book). A wonderful, wonderful book. (There are so many Ghibli films that I still need to see!)5 starsWendy Higgins//See MeSee Me by Wendy Higgins. A romance novel about an arranged marriage between a human girl and a leprechaun. The premise was interesting, I thought, but I found the story and characters rather lacklustre, and everything about the romance was far too convenient – despite not having communicated in any way for their entire seventeen-year engagement, they fall in love almost immediately… Insta-love isn’t something that I always have a problem with in romance books, but in this one I thought that it felt very contrived. The plot, however, was what I had the biggest problem with: It basically consisted of a tug-of-war between two uninteresting girls, over an equally uninteresting boy… It wasn’t the worst book I’d ever read, but…1 starAnders Nilsen//Rage of PoseidonRage of Poseidon by Anders Nilsen. A graphic novel portraying the god Poseidon (and several other divine figures) in the modern world. This is actually a collection of several different stories with the same theme, which I wasn’t expecting, but I really enjoyed all of them. My favourites were probably Rage of Poseidon and Leda and the Swan, but the final (one-page) story – Jesus and Aphrodite – was hilarious, and Nilsen’s art style really suited the story and subject matter. Altogether, a humourous but thought-provoking take on religion, old and new(/current).5 starsBryan Lee O'Malley//SecondsSeconds by Bryan Lee O’Malley. A standalone comic about a woman who stumbles across a way to erase her past mistakes, and goes a little crazy trying to make her life perfect, with increasingly disastrous results. The art was beautiful, and I really loved O’Malley’s writing style (this book has several particularly funny “dialogues” between the narrator and the main character, Katie). The story was both humourous and touching, and the characters (especially Hazel!) were great!5 starsJohn Green, Lauren Myracle & Maureen Johnson//Let It SnowLet It Snow by Maureen Johnson, John Green & Lauren Myracle. A set of three interconnected short Christmas romances, and a really enjoyable, uplifting read. I started reading this book on Christmas Eve, and it really got me into the right mindset for Christmas! 😀 Of the three stories, I think I liked Lauren Myracle’s the best, but mainly because it was the last, and I really loved the way she managed to weave the three stories together at the end. Super-cute!5 stars

September Wrap-Up

This September I read 13 books, which isn’t quite as ridiculous as my August total, but still a surprising amount. Most of these I really liked, too, so without further ado…

Prudence Shen//Nothing Can Possibly Go WrongNothing Can Possibly Go Wrong by Prudence Shen. I was surprised by how much I ended up liking this book – I expected it to be fun, but it also felt really nostalgic (mainly for this old robot-fighting TV show that I used to be obsessed with). The second half had a very different feeling from the first half, though: It goes from high-school drama to robot war very quickly. There’s overarching emotional things going on with the main character, too, which added a lot to the story, & I really love Faith Erin Hicks’ (the illustrator) art style!

5 stars

Faith Erin Hicks//Friends with BoysFriends With Boys by Faith Erin Hicks. The story was interesting (it follows a home-schooled girl who’s switching to a normal school for the first time, & there’s also a ghost involved), but the main selling point for me was (the art, and also) the characters, especially Lucy, who is adorable.4 stars

Malorie Blackman//Boys Don't CryBoys Don’t Cry by Malorie Blackman. A very emotional story, especially in the second half & excellently written (as Malorie Blackman’s books always are). My favourite character was Dante’s brother Adam, but I felt like there was simultaneously too much of him & not enough. I would’ve preferred to have learnt about his problems from Dante’s perspective, rather than having a dual-POV, as most of Adam’s chapters seemed way too short. There’s a sequel/companion (I’m not sure which) out as well, called Heart Break Girl, but unfortunately it doesn’t seem to be available anywhere…3 stars

Brian Selznick//The Invention of Hugo CabretThe Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick. Beautifully written & drawn, and the constant switching between pictures & words makes nice contrast, without being too jarring. I especially loved the way Professor Alcofrisbas was incorporated at the end (something not mentioned in the movie), explaining the reference to Hugo’s “invention” in the book’s title. Minor characters (i.e. the station master, other shopkeepers, etc.) weren’t quite as sympathetic as in the movie, as we don’t see so much of them.4 stars

Sally Green//Half BadHalf Bad by Sally Green. I don’t have too much to say about this one, since I’ve already written a full review, but I really loved the whole story, & I’d definitely recommend it. 🙂 4 stars

Christine Pope//Dragon RoseDragon Rose by Christine Pope. A nice, unpretentious love story which re-tells the tale of Beauty & the Beast. I really enjoyed it, but I thought the ending was a little rushed, & would’ve preferred it if Rhianne had seen Theran’s cursed-form at least once before breaking the curse. The side-characters were also sadly under-developed, but that’s actually pretty understandably, since the whole premise of the story is that the two main characters are pretty much in isolation the whole time.3 stars

Christine Pope//Ashes of RosesAshes of Roses by Christine Pope. A Cinderella re-telling this time! I loved the characterisation & how the romance developed, and the dual POV was a surprise after Dragon Rose, but I liked reading from Torric’s perspective, too. Plot-wise, there weren’t too many surprises, but waiting for the penny to drop on Ashara’s disguise was somewhat suspenseful, & the conclusion was very satisfying.4 stars

Christine Pope//One Thousand NightsOne Thousand Nights by Christine Pope. This one was pretty fun, but not so good as Ashes of Roses or Dragon Rose. I enjoyed seeing more of the Latter Kingdoms world, but liked Lyarris & Besh much less then previous couples in the series. Some threads of the plotline (like Besh’s daughter) could have been developed further, & it was overall plot-lite (which isn’t always necessarily a problem in romance fiction, but I found Lyarris’ constant whining about Besh not wanting to sleep with her kind of annoying). It probably would also have benefitted from a dual-perspective, as I never really felt that I got to know Besh very well. Also, the Scheherazade aspects were only present in a couple of chapters of the book, & completely not essential to the storyline. Definitely my least-favourite in the series so far.2 stars

Christine Pope//Binding SpellBinding Spell by Christine Pope. In contrast, this was probably my favourite in the series! Lark was a great, interesting heroine, though I wish she’d been a little slower to accept her fate. Kadar was a lot of fun, too, and probably the most realistic of the love interests so far. Their relationship development was very believable, too. I’m not sure which fairytale this is based on, though, or even if it is a re-telling, despite the fact that the other books in this series all seem to be…4 stars

Pale Roses by Michael Moorcock (from The Time Traveller’s Almanac). I’m not too sure what to say about this one. A bizarre story, with characters I didn’t like much… Werther (the main character) reminded me a little of Winston from 1984, though I’m not entirely sure why. It took a long time to finish, but I’m glad I’ve finally read it & can move on to the next story in the collection.1 star

Intisar Khanani//ThornThorn by Intisar Khanani. Well-written, with an interesting storyline – my first experience with the Goose Girl fairytale, so I don’t know how faithful it is to the original, but it definitely had a magical quality to it. I loved how Alyrra struggled between her desires and her duties, and how she finally found the courage to stand up for what she believed in. Kestrin was interesting, too, but less developed. Unfortunately, the combination of first-person & Alyrra’s pseudonym also meant that I continually forgot what her real name was… :/4 stars

Shannon Hale//The Goose GirlThe Goose Girl by Shannon Hale. Another Goose Girl re-telling (obviously), but much lighter in tone than Thorn. Ani was also far more “princess-y” than Alyrra was (understandably, since Ani had actually been treated like a princess, where Alyrra was scorned by her family). It was beautifully-written, & the side characters were better-developed in this one (with the exception of Selia, whose character & motivations were much less clear than Valka’s). I also found myself liking Geric & Ani’s romance a lot, even though it only played a small part in the story & the twist at the end was a little predictable (as fairytale “twists” often are!). I’m not entirely sure which version I liked better, but they were definitely both worth reading! 🙂4 stars

Diana Gabaldon//OutlanderCross Stitch by Diana Gabaldon (known simply as Outlander in the US). It read surprisingly easily, for an 800+ word book. I actually picked it up because I was enjoying the TV series so much, but I ended up liking the book even more. There’s less of Frank, of course (since it’s written in first person, from Claire’s perspective), which makes it less conflicting for the reader, and the TV series seems to have more fleshed-out side characters & settings, but at the expense of Claire & Jamie’s romance (the book focuses much more on their interactions). I like where the plot seems to be going, & am looking forward to seeing Bonnie Prince Charlie in book 2!4 stars