December Wrap-Up

December ended up being a pretty great reading month – in terms of both quantity and quality – despite being crazily busy at work and at home in the build-up to Christmas. I read a grand total of 5 novels, 1 short story collection, and 10 manga volumes – including several books that I’d been really excited for for a long time! And they most definitely did not disappoint~ 😀

Leigh Bardugo//Crooked KingdomCrooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo. The sequel to Six of Crows, which follows a group of criminals trying to make their fortunes in the underbelly of the Amsterdam-inspired city of Ketterdam, and bring ruin to everyone who’s ever crossed them. I didn’t enjoy this book as much as Six of Crows (though I still enjoyed it a great deal); there was a plot development near the end that I really didn’t like, and, worse, felt was completely unnecessary, and it didn’t leave me with quite the giddy, excited feeling that I had after reading the first book. What it did do was tear out my heart and stomp on it. 😥 The writing was wonderfully emotional, the character development was superb, and the plot was brilliantly complex; a masterfully crafted roller-coaster of a story, full of dramatic twists and turns. Definitely a worthy ending to a great series.5 stars

Kate A. Boorman//WinterkillWinterkill by Kate A. Boorman. The first book in series which follows a young girl called Emmeline, who lives in a remote and isolated community that’s plagued by a strange monster called the malmaci. This was my Library Scavenger Hunt pick for the month, so I’ve already posted a review of it here, but in short: it was well-written, with an engaging plotline, likeable characters and a great, spooky atmosphere, and I had a lot of fun reading it. 🙂3 starsAmie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff//GeminaGemina by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff. The second book in The Illuminae Files, which all document an attack on a mining planet called Kerenza, but from several different points of view. Gemina showed the incident from the perspective of two teenagers aboard the Heimdall space station, where the Kerenza survivors were fleeing during the first book – Hanna, the station commander’s daughter, and Nik, an unregistered civilian whose family is running a drugs operation – and like Illuminae, it’s fast-paced and action-packed, and surprisingly emotional for being written as a series of data files. So, naturally, I loved it. ❤ Hanna and Nik were both great characters, and the story’s twists and turns kept me on the edge of my seat the whole way through… Illuminae is a tough act to follow (one of my favourite books of all time), and I don’t think Gemina was quite so good, but it comes pretty close. Needless to say, I’m very excited for the next book in the series.5 starsCLAMP//Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle vol. 11Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE, Volumes 11-20 by CLAMP. A fun and energetic series about a group of friends travelling between different worlds (and meeting lots of other-world versions of characters from CLAMP’s previous works) in search of Princess Sakura’s stolen memories, which take the form of magical feathers. It’s been a long time since I last rad any of this series (several years, in fact), but I was surprised by how easily I was able to pick up where I’d left off, even though I’d been in the middle of a story-arc when I last stopped – the story and characters are all incredibly memorable. In these 10 volumes, the plot took a very surprising turn, taking the series in a rather dark direction, and I’m really excited to see how this new dilemma is going to be resolved!4 stars

Francesca Simon//The Monstrous ChildThe Monstrous Child by Francesca Simon. The story of Hel, the Norse goddess of death, and Queen of the Underworld, imagined as a teenager who’s despised by her divine family. Understandably – since this book is about Hel’s whole life rather than just a certain event – the plot lacks direction somewhat, and I wasn’t a huge fan of Hel herself; she’s rather an abrasive character. This was, however, really interesting as a character study, in a way that was almost reminiscent of Fairest by Marissa Meyer, and I really enjoyed that aspect of it, along with the writing, which was fluid and engaging.3 starsMarie Rutkoski//The Winner's CurseRick Riordan//Percy Jackson & the Greek HeroesTo finish off the year, the Holiday Booktubeathon arrived, and I managed to read two books over the course of it: The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski, and Percy Jackson & the Greek Heroes by Rick Riordan. I’ve written mini-reviews for both of them, which you can find by clicking on their respective covers. 🙂

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#HolidayBookTubeAThon 2016: Update 1 & Mini-Review

Marie Rutkoski//The Winner's CurseJUST FINISHED: The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski.

Kestrel is the only child of Valoria’s most distinguished general, and as such, she is expected to go far in her country’s military, but she’s always preferred to fight her battles through subtler means: politics and influence; reading people, and effecting their reactions. Arin is a Herrani slave, bought impulsively by Kestrel when she recognises – and identifies with – a defiant streak in him. In purchasing Arin, however, she may have brought the winner’s curse upon herself, paying more than she ever intended, or even imagined was possible.

Before picking this up, I’d heard some pretty rave reviews, but passed them over, since nothing in the book’s description really grabbed me, and I’ve definitely been burned a few times before by the hype machine. That said, I’m really glad that I finally did decide to pick up The Winner’s Curse, because it was fantastic. I expected to find that the story was all about Kestrel’s conflict over the inevitable choice that she’d have to make between marrying a man she doesn’t love (the man she does love being a slave, and therefore not a viable marriage option) or joining the army, but while there was an aspect of that, the plot was mainly composed of building social tension in the first half, and really interesting demonstrations of the different ways to fight a war in the second (after a climax that came much sooner than I was expecting).

The slow-build in this book is something that I really appreciated, as it gave ample time for character development and world-building – the two things I value most in stories – as well as an interesting and engaging plotline. And both of these were done incredibly well. I really loved both Kestrel and Arin, and the almost-but-not-quite friendship they managed to build up in the first half of the book made for an incredibly dramatic second half (in the best possible way). In terms of world-building, Rutkoski did a great job of creating an absorbing, believable setting, without resorting to massive info-dumps, and while this book took place almost entirely in one city, its ending left me with a great deal of hope that we’ll be able to explore the wider empire in the next two books – something I look forward to immensely.

I’ve seen this book compared a lot to series like Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas, but the comparison that really struck me while I was reading was to An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir (probably one of my favourite reads of the year), and I feel that fans of that book will definitely like this one, and vice versa.
5 stars

CURRENT READATHON STATUS: Ready for bed, but I’ll definitely be taking my next book – Percy Jackson & the Greek Heroes – to work with me tomorrow. 😉

Books Completed: 1
Pages Read: 359
Challenges Completed: 0/4

#HolidayBookTubeAThon: TBR!

Happy Christmas, everyone! It’s (almost) time for the Holiday Booktubeathon once again, which means that I will be spending next weekend reading away. 🙂 I’m not really going to be sticking to the challenges – which you can find in the official announcement video – too closely, as I’m going to be surprisingly busy over the Booktubeathon period and I don’t know how much reading time I’ll be able to fit in, but I do still have a tentative TBR:

Rick Riordan//Percy Jackson & the Greek Heroes1) Percy Jackson & the Greek Heroes by Rick Riordan. I started reading this today, and I’d like to have finished it before the Booktubeathon starts, but if I haven’t, then this’ll be my first priority. A collection of Greek heroic myths, hilariously re-told by the one and only Percy Jackson

Marie Rutkoski//The Winner's Curse2) The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski. The first book in the Winner’s trilogy, which was super-popular a little while ago, & which I’ve heard fantastic things about. I picked this up today in the 12 Days of Kindle sale (along with way too many other things ^^’ ), and I’m super-excited to read it, even though I don’t know too much about the story.

Wild Lily//K.M. Peyton3) Wild Lily by K.M. Peyton. If I manage to finish both of those, then I’ll be picking up Wild Lily next, a new book about aeroplanes from the author who first made me love aeroplanes. This will also count for a challenge (a book that was a gift), so I suppose there’s a small chance that I might manage to complete one of them this year! 😛

I haven’t previously bothered with mini-reviews for the Holiday Booktubethon, since there’s always so much else going on, but I will be making an attempt at it this year, so keep an eye out for updates (if you think they’re something worth anticipating 😉 )!