July Wrap-Up

July is over, and I’ve read a truly surprising amount! I think I can safely say that I’m now out of my minor reading slump (hopefully for good!). In all, I managed to read 9 novels, and two short stories last month, and although there were a couple of duds in the mix, most of them were really enjoyable! 😀 Here’s what I thought of them:

Melissa Marr//Ink ExchangeInk Exchange by Melissa Marr. The follow up to Wicked Lovely, which I enjoyed but didn’t think was particularly wonderful. In fact, I mainly read that book because I thought this one sounded interesting when I stumbled across a second-hand copy at work. 😉 Luckily, my book-sense has yet to lead me astray; Ink Exchange was a big improvement on its predecessor. The story follows Aislinn’s friend Leslie, who is struggling to deal with her often-absent father and her abusive brother, and – the cherry on top – catches the eye of Irial, King of the Dark Court of Faerie. Naturally, the plot of this book was a lot darker and more serious, but I also felt that the main characters were much more relatable and enjoyable to read than Aislinn & Keenan were. The love triangle in this book, too, was a lot more palatable than the one in Wicked Lovely, since (despite the less-than-altruistic reasons for Irial’s interest in Leslie) there seemed to be a lot more genuine affection between the three of them; right up to the end, I had no idea who Leslie would decide to be with (if anyone).4 starsPatrick Rothfuss//Slow Regard of Silent ThingsThe Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss. A novella set in the Kingkiller Chronicle universe, which follows Auri about her strange, everyday life. This story seems to have sparked a lot of controversy with Rothfuss’ fans – they either love it or hate it – but I’m happy to report that I really enjoyed it! Not much happens in the story, there’s no dialogue whatsoever, and Auri is the only character who appears, but I loved the atmosphere that Rothfuss was able to create, and the insight into Auri’s mind (and I suspect that she is much cleverer than she appears to be), and how the inanimate objects around Auri really seemed like living, feeling things.4 starsKitty Aldridge//A Trick I Learned from Dead MenA Trick I Learned from Dead Men by Kitty Aldridge. A short-ish novel that follows a young man who’s training as an undertaker while supporting his deaf brother and depressed stepfather. This was my Library Scavenger Hunt pick for July, so I have a mini-review of it up already. 🙂2 starsSimone Elkeles//Perfect ChemistryPerfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles. A romance between a teenager called Brittany who – due to some problems at home – feels the need to always be seen as perfect, and Alex, a classmate of hers from a dangerous part of town, who joined a gang in order to get protection for his family. I downloaded this mostly on a whim, and regretted it a bit afterwards, since I’ve heard very mixed things about the series, but I actually really enjoyed it. Sure, it’s incredibly cheesy in places, and there were bits of Alex and Brittany’s dialogue that came across as laughably unrealistic, and there was a 23-years-later epilogue that really annoyed me (as unnecessary last-minute flash-forwards always do)… but it was also a lot of fun to read, and pretty well-written. I don’t know if I’m likely to pick up the rest of the series, but I don’t regret reading this one, at least.3 stars

Before I could finish anything else, Booktubeathon came along! I managed to read a grand total of five books over the course of the readathon (which is pretty good, if I do say so myself, especially considering how busy I was that week), all of which I’ve written mini-reviews for – you can read them by clicking on the covers:

Junot Díaz//The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao Franny Billingsley//The Folk Keeper Sabaa Tahir//An Ember in the Ashes Brandon Sanderson//Perfect State Bram Stoker//Dracula

Neil Gaiman//NeverwhereNeverwhere by Neil Gaiman. A fantastic novel about a man who, after finding an injured young woman on the side of the road and deciding to help her, gets dragged into the mysterious world of London Below, where people end up when they fall through the cracks of society. In an effort to reclaim his life, he ends up going on an adventure with Door (the aforementioned young woman), who’s trying to solve the mystery of her family’s murder. I loved absolutely everything about this book: The memorable characters, the beautiful writing, the whole world of London Below (which was incredibly bizarre, but also managed to make an odd sort of sense). The way that the story progressed was quite similar to Stardust, and I therefore found the ending a little predictable, but I was so enchanted that I didn’t even mind.5 stars

Abbi Glines//Until Friday NightUntil Friday Night by Abbi Glines. The first book in The Field Party series, which is a romance between a football player called West, who’s struggling to deal with his father’s cancer, and a girl called Maggie, who hasn’t spoken since her mother died. I’ve written a full review of this book, where you can read all my (numerous) thoughts about the story and characters, etc. – you can find it here.2 stars

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Review: Until Friday Night by Abbi Glines (Spoiler-Free)

UNTIL FRIDAY NIGHT2 stars

Abbi Glines//Until Friday NightSUMMARY

Maggie is not speaking. To anyone. Physically, she’s capable of it, but emotionally? Not so much. Silence is how she protects herself, now that her mother’s dead and her father’s in prison, and she’s afraid that if she starts talking again, people will want her to talk about what happened – something she’s definitely not ready for.

West has problems, too: His dad – his hero – has been diagnosed with cancer, and doesn’t have much longer to live. He hasn’t told any of his friends because he doesn’t want their pity, but pretending everything’s normal is becoming less and less possible as his dad’s time gets shorter. Enter Maggie, who’s guaranteed to keep his secret, and might just be the only person in his peer group who understands what it’s like to lose a parent.

Until Friday Night is the first book in The Field Party series, and was published in 2015.

STORY [2/5]

This was very much a character-driven story: In terms of plot, not much happened at all, except for a few football games that were largely glossed over. Mostly, it revolved around Maggie and West both avoiding their own problems by trying to help each other instead, and agonising over their feelings for one another. Maggie’s cousin – and West’s best friend – Brady was the main obstacle to their romance, but his role seemed a little contrived at times; only added so that there would be some kind of conflict for the story to resolve.

CHARACTERS [2/5]

So, main character #1 is Maggie, who’s likeable enough. She’s a bit of an outsider, enjoys reading, and doesn’t much like attention. West, on the other hand, gets a lot of attention. He’s the star player on the football team, has a tonne of friends, and a very public relationship with the most popular girl in school. He’s also a bit of a git.

First off, I want to say that I did like both of these characters. Maggie was a little bland, and West took a (long) while to warm up to, but I did like them. They had a lot of problems however, the first of which is the aforementioned fact that West is not a nice person. He’s moody and controlling, and treats both the girls he dates before Maggie like crap – and it seems like we’re supposed to forgive this just because his dad’s dying. His relationship with Maggie is also slightly problematic (and I’ll talk more about that in a bit), but it also brings out a softer, more vulnerable and sympathetic side to him. My main problem with Maggie is that she’s way too forgiving of West. The first time they meet, he basically assaults her, and she’s okay with it because… she can apparently see into his soul, and knows that he’s a good person deep down? This excuse gets used a lot in the beginning of the book, and it gets old quickly.

[As a side note, I’d like to acknowledge that Maggie should definitely be seeing a counsellor after what happened to her. The fact that she’s not is absurd, especially since she apparently hasn’t spoken at all in two years – she is very obviously Not Coping.]

In regards the the side characters, most of them were complete non-entities. I liked Brady and Nash a lot (though neither of them had particularly big parts to play), but was annoyed by the portrayal of all the female characters, who were divided into two categories: They were either long-suffering, innocent angels (Maggie, her aunt, and West’s mum), or stereotypical slut/bitch-type characters, all of whom were out to steal West from Maggie (or, in the case of the older characters, spread malicious gossip about West’s mother). And, no, that’s really not a simplification.

ROMANCE (& RELATIONSHIPS) [2/5]

For a romance book, the main romance in this story was decidedly weak. It was the story’s main focus (and this was a reasonably long book), yet Maggie and West’s relationship development felt extremely rushed and unnatural; and although they both claimed to have some kind of incredible connection, they misunderstood each other a lot, and not in a way that made the story any more interesting or exciting… The best word to sum it up? Unhealthy. Also, codependent. Which is actually kind of understandable, given what they’ve both been through, and how their relationship develops, but is still a bit uncomfortable to read. This is (briefly) addressed towards the end of the book, but doesn’t seem to change their relationship in any meaningful way.

I’ve also seen a lot of reviews complaining about how West was just using Maggie, but one thing I did find that I liked about their relationship was how reciprocal it was. Yes, a big part of it was Maggie helping West to deal with his father’s imminent death, but he was also able to help her build up the courage she needed to (literally) find her voice.

I’ve tagged on the “and relationships” part to this section, not because there was any particular emphasis on platonic relationships (even West’s relationship with his father was kind of eclipsed by his relationship with his father’s illness), but because I want to talk about West’s friendship with Brady… We’re told at several points that they’re best friends, but I was never able to see any real evidence of this. They don’t act like best friends; in fact, they’re downright hostile towards each other when Maggie’s involved, and a friendly-neutral the rest of the time. In West’s friendship group, the only thing that really seems to set Brady apart from all the others is that he knows about West’s dad, but that’s not because West told him – it’s because their mothers are friends.

Perhaps the strangeness of their supposed epic friendship has been warped slightly because of how badly West has been coping with his father’s illness, in which case I’d hope to see some improvements as the series goes on, but as it stands, this is a really poor portrayal of friendship.

WRITING [3/5]

By far the best thing about this book, the writing flowed really well, and was very easy to read. The dialogue was occasionally a bit cheesy, and I found the chapter titles (made up of often-melodramatic quotes from the chapter in question) rather cringe-worthy – though thankfully, they were easily ignored.

OVERALL IMPRESSION [2/5]

A fun, but problematic romance, which I enjoyed a lot while I was reading it, but which I liked less, the more I thought about it. I’m sure that this series will have its fans, but as far as far as I’m concerned, if you’re looking for a story about teenagers-with-issues falling in love, read some of Katie McGarry’s books, and if you want a book about a misfit who falls in love with her school’s star football player, read First & Then by Emma Mills. Both are far more worth your time than Until Friday Night.

RECOMMENDED FOR…

Fans of Simone Elkeles, Sarah Dessen, or Katie McGarry’s books – particularly McGarry’s new Thunder Road series. People who liked the misfit-falls-for-football-star aspect of this story should also try First & Then by Emma Mills (a really fantastic novel).

#BookTubeAThon TBR!

It’s Booktubeathon time, people! (Almost.) Are you excited? I’m excited, as you can probably tell from all my rambling. XD And imminent readathons mean it’s time for TBRs!

As always, I’ve tried to line up my TBR to meet the Booktubeathon challenges, but this year I’ve had to add a few restrictions, too, for practical reasons: Since I have a job now, I’ll be working on most weekdays, so I’ve tried to pick a few shorter books, and I’ll also be going on holiday towards the end of the readathon, and am not planning on taking any physical books with me, so most of the books I’ve chosen are also ones that I have on my kindle… Lastly, I’ve been pretty indecisive lately about what I want to read, so I may well change my mind about some of the books on this list – but here is my tentative TBR:

Junot Díaz//The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao1) Read a book with yellow on the cover.

This will probably be the first book I pick up for the readathon, and if all goes to plan, it will also be the only physical book on my TBR: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz, a birthday present from my sister that I’m super-excited for. 😀

2) Read a book only after sunset.

To be honest, I have no idea what I’ll be reading for this challenge, and it will probably just end up being whatever I happen to be reading when I’m on the overnight train to Skye. Thematically, it would be quite nice to combine this with challenges 5 & 6, but you’ll have to read on to see why… 😉

Sabaa Tahir//An Ember in the Ashes3) Read a book you discovered through booktube.

This challenge is the one I’m most looking forward to, as I’m finally going the be able to read An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir! I’ve been wanting to read this book for such a long time, but it was just too expensive – until a few days ago, when the price suddenly dropped to 99p in the Kindle Summer Sale ❗

Brandon Sanderson//Perfect State4) Read a book by a favourite author.

Again, there were a couple of things that I thought about picking for this challenge, but at long last, I managed to settle on Perfect State by Brandon Sanderson, which is a short story that doesn’t seem to be tied in with any of his other series… Of his other books, I’ve only read the Mistborn trilogy so far, but I adored them, so I’m hoping that this one will be really great, too.

Bram Stoker//Dracula5) Read a book that’s older than you & 6) Read and watch a book-to-movie adaptation.

I thought I’d combine these two challenges with a classic, since I’ve been meaning to read more of them this year, and there are a lot of adaptations to choose from, so I decided to go trawling through the unread classics on my kindle and my shiny new Netflix account to see if I could find a match. There were three, but I’m currently leaning towards Dracula by Bram Stoker, as it’s quite a bit shorter than the other two…

Abbi Glines//Until Friday Night7) Read seven books.

Genevieve Cogman//The Masked CitySo, as it stands, I have a total of four books that I’m planning to read, but if I want to complete all the challenges, I’m going to need to pick out three more! 😀 What those three end up being will probably largely depend on my mood at the time, but there are a couple that are looking quite likely. Namely: Until Friday Night by Abbi Glines, which I just downloaded a couple of days ago, The Masked City by Genevieve Cogman, the sequel to The Invisible Library, which I read a few months ago, and was really pleasantly surprised by… What I’ll pick for the last book, I haven’t the foggiest. ^^’