2020 in Review: Highlights

🎉 Happy New Year’s Eve, all! 🎉 Once again, the year is at an end and so everyone has to pick a favourite book (or several)! And, once again, I can’t do it. 😓 So these are some of the highlights of my reading year, rather than a top 10, and it’ll definitely include some 4-star reads as well as the usual 5-stars:

Starting with my most recent read, which was Nevernight by Jay Kristoff! I feel as though I haven’t read as much really great fantasy this year as I usually do, so I was delighted to end 2020 on such a high point! Super-edgy, with a witty narrative, a really memorable cast of characters, and a plot that kept me on the edge of my seat the whole way through; this book was everything I wanted it to be, and more. 🤩

However! To me, the most notable thing about my reading this year is just how much re-reading I’ve done; with my book-buying ban finally starting to cut my physical TBR down to a less anxiety-inducing size, I’ve felt a lot more comfortable with re-reading old favourites rather than always reaching for something new, and it’s been wonderful to revisit worlds that I haven’t been to in ages! I’ve discovered a new appreciation for Tamora Pierce’s Circle of Magic series (which I already thought very highly of), and I loved Tim Curry’s reading of the original Old Kingdom trilogy, which I listened to in order to prepare to finally read the more recent entries in the series. And although Twilight has never been and will never be my favourite series, my chapter-by-chapter re-read of the first two books along with the Twilight in Quarantine podcast kept me sane through the first bout of lockdown-and-return-to-work; I’m very much hoping that book three will do the same for this most recent one… 🤞

Besides re-reads, another thing I’ve read a surprising amount of this year is science fiction! I don’t know how the numbers would hold up compared to genres like fantasy, or even romance, but so many of the sci-fi stories I’ve read this year have been truly fantastic. Notable among them were Becky Chambers’ A Closed & Common Orbit, a book which not only lived up to my sky-high expectations, but actually managed to surpass them; and Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee, who may well be one of my favourite new(-to-me) authors… I’ve yet to finish up his Machineries of Empire trilogy, but I got a collection of his short stories for Christmas, and I’m dying to make a start on it, even though traditionally I don’t like short fiction that much.

And! On the subject of sci-fi short stories, I also really, really loved This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone. Was it my favourite book of the year? … Maybe? I’m not entirely sure, to be honest, but if not, it definitely comes close. The writing and imagery were absolutely beautiful, the story itself was unlike anything I’ve read before, and the audiobook – which was how I consumed this story –  was expertly narrated by Emily Woo Zeller & Cynthia Farrell.

And finally, the last book I want to mention is I Was Born for This by Alice Oseman, which was a surprise favourite early on in the year. I won’t say much about it here, since I talked about it already in my Mid-Year Book Freakout post, but it’s definitely stuck with me, despite all the other really great books I’ve read since. 😁

August Wrap-Up

Another great reading month! I hit a bit of a slump towards the end, as I’d just finished catching up on the Attack on Titan anime, and consequently only wanted to read fanfiction… but I pulled through – and a lot of the things I ended up reading this month I loved! 💕 Here’s what thought of them all:

BOOKS I ALREADY REVIEWED

 

[REVIEW]

 

OTHER BOOKS I READ

New Moon by Stephenie Meyer.

The second book in the Twilight series, which I’ve been re-reading along with Hot & Bothered’s hilarious Twilight in Quarantine podcast (which I highly recommend). This is still by far my least favourite in the series, but my experience with it this time around was much more fun than I remember my first read-through being… perhaps because I knew what I was getting this time, or perhaps because of the podcast, but probably a combination of both.

On Liberty by John Stuart Mill.

An essay on the freedoms of the individual, and when and how far governments should be permitted to limit those freedoms – coming down hard in favour of individuals. Mill made a lot of points that I agreed with, and a good number that I didn’t, but all were great food for thought. The parts of this essay that I personally found most interesting were those that involved religious tolerance and religious indifference; the benefits and disadvantages of a standardised curriculum in schools; and the discussion of the sale of poisons (as an example of limitations on trade), which reminded me of more modern attitudes towards the sale of firearms… And although Mill’s paragraphs do tend to go on for pages, I found this surprisingly readable – and his points are clearly put if not succinctly.

The Magic in the Weaving by Tamora Pierce. [AUDIOBOOK; Narrators: Tamora Pierce & Full Cast Audio]

The first book in the Circle of Magic series, which is part of Pierce’s Emelan universe, in which Sandry, Tris, Daja and Briar are brought to Winding Circle, meet each other for the first time, and discover their unusual magics. This is one of my favourite series of all time, and it still holds up on re-reading (or listening, in this case); in fact, I found myself liking this first book even more than I did before! The narration was a little less expert than I was anticipating after listening to The Healing in the Vine in July, but I don’t think it would’ve been so noticeable if I’d been listening to the series in order… 😅

Heartstopper, Volume 1 by Alice Oseman. [COMIC; Illustrated by the author]

The first in a cute comic series that serves as a prequel-of-sorts to Solitaire, and follows Charlie (Tori’s brother) and Nick (his new classmate) as they become friends, and begin to develop romantic feelings for one another. I generally prefer my romances to be a bit more angsty than this, but there’s also something to be said for a story so unrelentingly fluffy. 💕

Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell.

A middle-grade story about a girl who’s found floating in a cello case after a shipwreck, and her search for the mother whom everybody keeps telling her must have died. I found both the writing and the characters a little too self-consciously quirky for my taste, but I enjoyed the story, and the bonds that Sophie formed with her guardian Charles and her rooftopper friends.

Heartstopper, Volume 2 by Alice Oseman. [COMIC; Illustrated by the author]

The second volume in the Heartstopper series, in which Nick questions his sexuality, and Charlie struggles with his assumption that he’s falling in love with a straight guy… My feelings on this were much the same as for volume one: still very cute; still very fluffy; & overall a quick, enjoyable read. Aled (from Radio Silence) also made a brief appearance in this volume, which simultaneously gave me hope for more cameos, and made me want to cry a little (because Aled… 😭).

Heartstopper, Volume 3 by Alice Oseman. [COMIC; Illustrated by the author]

… and the last of the currently-released volumes of Heartstopper, wherein Charlie and Nick finally get together, but are faced with the new challenge of having to tell their friends. This is definitely my favourite of the series so far! There’s a lot more conflict – not so much between Nick and Charlie, but between them and their friends – and the way that the shifting dynamics of the whole cast was written is both compelling and believable. The side-characters are also much more prominent in this book than the last two, and I enjoyed spending time with them a lot – in particular, Charlie’s friend Tao is rapidly becoming one of my favourites, and I also found myself bizarrely invested in the two teachers who are supervising their school trip, even though they’ve barely had any page time… 😅

The Power in the Storm by Tamora Pierce. [AUDIOBOOK; Narrators: Tamora Pierce & Full Cast Audio]

The second book in the Circle of Magic series, in which pirates prepare to attack Winding Circle, Tris is reunited with her long-lost cousin, and the four mages begin testing the limits of their combined powers. This was one of my favourite books in this series on my first read-through, and my feelings on it haven’t changed much; the continuing development of the characters, relationships and world are all excellent, and I particularly enjoyed the interactions between Tris and Briar. 😊

Attack on Titan: No Regrets by Gun Snark (complete edition). [MANGA; Illustrated by Hikaru Suruga; Series created by Hajime Isayama]

A prequel manga to the Attack on Titan series, following my (and basically everyone else’s) favourite character Levi when he first joins the Survey Corps – for less than savoury reasons. I loved the anime version of the No Regrets storyline, but the anime goes into even more detail, and in consequence is even better! Also, the art is amazing… & I may be a little bit in love with the way that Hikaru Suruga draws Levi. 💕

The Miller’s Dance by Winston Graham.

The ninth book in the Poldark series, and my least favourite so far, not because the writing was worse, or the story any less gripping, but because most of my favourite characters didn’t make much of an appearance, and almost everyone who did, I either hate with a passion (i.e. Stephen), or am extremely annoyed at/disappointed with. 😑 As is always the case with this series, I found it emotional and exhausting, and I definitely need a bit of a break before I start the next one – in which hopefully there will be less Stephen. (All I want is for Stephen to go away forever; is that too much to ask?! 😭)

The Fire in the Forging by Tamora Pierce. [AUDIOBOOK; Narrators: Tamora Pierce & Full Cast Audio]

The third book in the Circle of Magic series, and the last in my out-of-order re-read (though there are four books in total), in which the four young mages travel with their teachers to the drought-stricken Gold Ridge, get involved with a visiting Trader caravan, and try to untangle their out-of-control magics… I’ve found myself appreciating Daja a lot more in this read-though of the series than in previous ones, and this was very much her story, with the encounter with her former people being its emotional heart. And a very emotional one it was indeed! I don’t actually cry at much, but there were a few moments in this that made me a little weepy (for both happy and sad reasons).

 

Recommendations: Fantasy by Women

Fantasy seems to have developed this reputation of being a very male-dominated genre, and true, a lot of the very famous early fantasies were written by men, but nowadays there are so many great ones written by women, too! I’ve been asked by a couple of people now to make a list of my favourites, and having done so, it seemed only logical to blog some of the highlights. 😊

1) Tamora Pierce’s Emelan universe, which consists of The Circle of Magic QuartetThe Circle Opens Quartet, and The Circle Reforged – and should be read in that order (I have strong feelings on this 😅). The books follow a group of four children with unusual magical powers that are tied to crafts and nature, as they grow up and learn to harness their magic, and become a family to one another. I’m re-reading the Circle of Magic books right now, and I keep finding more and more to appreciate with every re-visit – and that’s really saying something for a series that already contains two of my all-time favourite books (Street Magic and The Will of the Empress), and many other close contenders.

2) The Realm of the Elderlings by Robin Hobb, which consists of The Farseer TrilogyThe Liveship TradersThe Tawny ManThe Rain Wild Chronicles, and The Fitz and the Fool. This is admittedly quite an intimidating list of books (chunky ones, too), and I myself have only managed to get through the first trilogy so far – but I’m so excited to read more from this world. Hobb’s writing is very slow-paced, which some people may find off-putting, but her plots and characters are all excellent, and I found myself completely hooked on Fitz’s journey (which is the subject of the Farseer trilogy), even when I wished it was going in a different direction and thought he was being an idiot… and I was absolutely blown away by the ending.

3) For those who like their fantasy with a heavy dose of history, I highly recommend trying the Temeraire series by Naomi Novik, which is set during the Napoleonic Wars, with a focus on the fictional Aerial Corps – which is made up of dragon riders. In the first book, naval Captain William Laurence gets drawn into this new branch of the military when his ship captures a dragon egg, only to have the infant dragon form a strong bond with him before he’s able to hand it over to the Aerial Corps. Novik has become better-known recently for her fairytale retellings, Uprooted and Spinning Silver, but although the Temeraire books are just as excellently written, their tone is quite different, and they will probably appeal more to fans of adventure stories (and especially adventure on the high seas!).

4) The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie is a more recent favourite of mine, and tells a very weird and hard to explain story about the birth of civilisation, and the struggles between gods as their power grows and wanes, and of a usurper in the kingdom of Iraden, whose theft may have caused his people’s downfall. Beautiful, clever and surprising, the sticking point with this book will, for a lot of people, be that it’s written in second person – but I entreat you to try it anyway! The narrative style really works for this kind of story. 💕 (And I absolutely think that The Raven Tower was robbed in last year’s Goodreads Choice awards.)

5) Next up is The Lumatere Chronicles by Melina Marchetta, an epic that follows a race of people whose homeland has been cursed so that nobody can enter or leave. In the first book, Finnikin, one of the Lumatere people who is trapped in exile, meets a young woman who claims that she can lead him to the presumed-dead Prince Balthazar, but seems instead to be leading him home. Such incredible worldbuilding! Such a heartwrenching plot! So many compelling characters! And despite its excellence, I’d say that the first book, Finnikin of the Rock is actually the weakest in the series, which as it goes on, constantly expands, and grows deeper and deeper… 🌏

6) And finally, I give you The Seer and the Sword by Victoria Hanley, a novel about a young princess who, when her father returns from war with a neighbouring kingdom, is gifted a crystal ball – and the conquered prince as her slave. She promptly frees him, and as they grow older, Torina and Landen’s relationship deepens as they separate and then come together again, and work in their different ways towards freedom for both their kingdoms. This is probably the most romance-driven of the books on this list (and it’s a very sweet romance), but the story – though simple – is very well executed, too, and I remember it vividly despite having not re-read this book since I was a teenager. I wish so much that more people would read it! There are also two companion novels, which I should probably get around to reading at some point, but The Seer and the Sword stands perfectly well on its own.

Anyone interested in my full list of recommendations can find it on Goodreads, but there’s a couple of things I should mention about it: 1) where applicable, I’ve only added the first book in each series, and 2) it’s only made up of things that I’ve read myself, so there are some conspicuous absences – the most notable of which is N.K. Jemisin, whose books are on my want-to-read-desperately list, but I don’t feel comfortable recommending to people until I’ve actually done so. Also missing is Lois McMaster Bujold, as although I loved her sci-fi series, and fully expect to feel the same about her fantasy writing, I just haven’t got round to it yet… 😓 (On that note, if anyone would like to see a sci-fi by women post, just let me know!)

July Wrap-Up

July was such a great reading month! Helped along in no small part by the Reading Rush… but even if six of the eight books I finished were in a single week, I’m still very satisfied with how much I got read over the month as a whole, in terms of both quality and quantity 😊 – and I’m especially happy to have finally got around to a few books that’ve been sitting on my TBR forever. Since I was readathoning last month, most of the books I read I’ve already written reviews for, but here’s a refresher, along with everything else!

BOOKS I ALREADY REVIEWED

[REVIEW]

[REVIEW]

[REVIEW]

[REVIEW]

[REVIEW]

[REVIEW]

OTHER BOOKS I READ

Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman. [AUDIOBOOK; Narrator: Greg Tremblay]

The second book in the Arc of a Scythe trilogy, which takes place in a society where humans have learnt how to cure death, and the population is controlled by a group of state-sanctioned killers called Scythes, who are the only people that are allowed to kill people for good. The story follows two young apprentice Scythes, and the very different paths that they take as they enter and learn to navigate the Scythedom, with all its politics and in-fighting.

This second instalment in the series fleshed out Shusterman’s world quite a bit, which I appreciated, and I also enjoyed seeing the world from the Thunderhead’s (the world’s benevolent AI ruler) perspective, but on the whole I didn’t find that I enjoyed it quite as much as I did Scythe… the action certainly ramps up a lot, and I’m excited to see where the story will go next, but there were also a few plot developments that I didn’t care for. For instance, I found the reveal of this book’s main antagonist kind of… cheap? And although I liked our new POV character Grayson, I found it hard to maintain my interest in the parts of his arc that involved the Unsavouries. I will say, however, that the ending of this book was absolutely phenomenal.

The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness.

The story of a group of teenagers just trying to make it to graduation without the school blowing up, despite the inevitable supernatural weirdness that constantly follows around their Indie kid classmates… I really loved the concept of this; your usual superhero or paranormal story, but told from the perspective of a group of characters who are completely uninvolved, and would really like to stay that way. And in execution, it was a pretty solid read. Nothing about it really blew me away, but I liked all the characters, and was invested in their struggles, and enjoyed Patrick Ness’ witty writing. Ironically, I kind of wish I’d learnt more about the weird stuff that was going on with the Indie kids, but I suppose that that would kind of defeat the point of the book. 😅

Also, Jared was my favourite. He’s such a sweetheart. 💕

 

#ReadingRush 2020: Update 4 & Review

JUST FINISHED: The Healing in the Vine by Tamora Pierce.

The fourth and final book in the Circle of Magic series, which is set in Pierce’s Emelan universe – in which a deadly new illness is plaguing Summersea, and while Briar and Rosethorn are stuck in quarantine in the city, the rest of the people of Winding Circle are all caught up in the race to find a cure.

I picked this book out primarily because it’s one of my old favourites, not thinking at all about how appropriate it would be in our now COVID-ruled lives, and I’ll admit that all the talk of masks and gloves and quarantine procedures felt eerily relevant… 😅 Story-wise, this book was just as excellent as I remember it being; the characters are all ones I love, and being both right at the centre of the search for the cure and in quarantine with the first few infected made for a tense and fascinating read (/listen).

I listened to this as an audiobook this time around, so I’ll also mention that I really enjoy the full-cast experience of most of Pierce’s audio adaptations, even though the pacing can be a little jarring (Pierce narrates quite slowly, while most of the actors speak at a faster pace). I would 100% recommend the audiobooks for this series. As well as this series in general. And this particular book most of all. 😁MY READING RUSH PAGE

CURRENT READATHON STATUS: I’ve made good progress on All The Birds in the Sky so far today, and am also about halfway through my next (very short) audiobook – The Magic in the Weaving – so it looks like I might manage to finish seven books after all! 🤞 I will just have to read tomorrow as if my life depends on it.

Books Completed: 4
Pages Read: 796
Hours Listened: 8:32
Challenges Completed: 6/7

Spring Catch-Up

Once again, I’m trying a new layout for my wrap-ups, and I’m thinking of also switching them to being seasonal rather than monthly, at least at times (like now) when I’m not reading all that much… Let me know what you think! 😊 I did post a wrap-up of my March reads, so this post has everything that I read/listened to in April and May – a total of six novels, two audiobooks, and one (very short) comic:

FAVOURITE OF THE SEASON*

LIBRARY SCAVENGER HUNT PICKS

[REVIEW]

[REVIEW]

OTHER BOOKS I REVIEWED

[REVIEW]

OTHER BOOKS I READ

When Anxiety Attacks by Terian Koscik. A short, autobiographical comic about Koscik’s experience with anxiety, and her decision to see a therapist, along with a call for others not to feel ashamed or embarrassed to do the same, if they feel that it would help them. This was super-short, but it conveyed its message very well, and the cute artwork made it really fun to read, too. 😊
The Will of the Empress by Tamora Pierce. One of the later books in Pierce’s Emelan series, as well as my audiobook purchase for March. This is one of my favourite books of all time; I love the story and the characters, and how the four main characters have all changed after their years of separation make for a lot of tense, emotional re-thinking of their relationship. One thing that struck me this time through was how childish Sandry was at times in comparison to the others… Of course, she is a child, so it’s not entirely surprising, but I don’t remember ever really noticing it before… The performance was also excellent: Pierce took the narrator’s role, while the characters were each played by different voice actors. I did find that the actors who played Tris and Daja had quite similar voices (for a while I even thought that they were the same person), but they differ so much in personality that it was only occasionally difficult to tell which of them was speaking.5 stars
The Four Swans by Winston Graham. The sixth book in the Poldark series, which takes place in a small Cornish mining community, and follows the titular Poldark family – though the number of protagonists has been steadily increasing as the series goes on, and characters whose names are not Poldark have been becoming much more significant to the story. Obviously since this is a sequel, I can’t say too much about the plot, but it remains very exciting. I’m very glad that Morwenna’s plight has not been forgotten, and her younger sister Rowella is also an interesting addition to the cast; while I’m definitely rooting for her, and am frequently concerned for her, I’m still not entirely sure how much I like her… 😓 Ossie continues to be super-disgusting (as I talked about in another recent post), and the feud between Ross and George takes some unexpected turns in this book, too. I can’t say I found it quite as good as The Black Moon, but it was a little less anxiety-inducing to read… the Poldark series as a whole has a tendency towards drama that is probably not good for my heart, but definitely keeps me invested! 😋
Spellslinger by Sebastien de Castell. A fantasy novel set in a society where magic-users, known as Jan’Tep, rule absolutely, while the magic-less Sha’Tep live lives of subservience, regardless of their own preference. Our protagonist Kellen is the son of a prominent Jan’Tep family, but with his sixteenth birthday rapidly approaching, and his magical abilities having been growing steadily weaker all his life, he has to come up with an incredible con in order to avoid the fate of becoming a Sha’Tep. I found the premise of this book really, really interesting; the tension between the different social classes, and the very real possibility of Kellen failing his trials both lent themselves to a potentially epic storyline – but while I did think that Kellen’s personal journey was very compelling, I found that the world-building wasn’t strong enough for me to feel any investment in the story beyond its immediate effects on Kellen… Ferius (probably the most important of the supporting cast) also felt quite convieniently-forced-in-for-the-convenience-of-the-plot at times, which was disappointing, although I did like her as a character. I did enjoy the book enough to continue with the series, though it’s a shame that (in my opinion) it didn’t quite live up to its potential.
Shadowblack by Sebastien de Castell. The sequel to Spellslinger, in which Kellen leaves home with Ferius, and the squirrel-cat Reichis in hopes of learning the Argosi way, but is soon caught up by a mysterious girl called Seneira, who seems to have contracted Shadowblack as a disease, despite having no magic to speak of. The beginning of this book was quite slow, but I found myself really enjoying it once the plot got going (around the time they reach the University). The new characters that were introduced were all a lot of fun, and although I’m disappointed that the new setting meant that my world-building issues from Spellslinger haven’t been fixed yet, I remain hopeful that they may be eventually, as apparently this is going to be a six-book series. Book 3, Charmcaster, is out already, and hopefully I’ll have a chance to read it sometime soon. 😊
Magic Steps by Tamora Pierce. The first book in the Circle Opens quartet, which is set in Pierce’s Emelan universe, and follows Sandry a few years after the Circle of Magic books, now with her magical qualifications, and a student of her own to teach – whether she feels ready for it or not. I’ve read this book several times before, and still love the story and characters just as much as ever. I decided to listen to it as an audiobook this time (I’m slowly making my way through the whole of Audible’s collection of Tamora Pierce books), and it definitely wasn’t a mistake; the whole cast did an excellent job. 🎶

*Not including re-reads.

T5W: Second = Best

Second books get a lot of criticism. If a series started out strong, then they have a lot to live up to, and sometimes they can seem like just a whole book’s worth of filler before a (hopefully) epic final novel… but I actually tend to really like them; with quite a few of my favourite series, I end up liking the second book best. 😊 So, naturally, I was thrilled to discover that this week’s Top 5 Wednesday theme was second books… Here’s my (heavily abridged) list:

5) A Court of Mist & Fury by Sarah J. Maas

This may be a bit of a cheat, since I haven’t finished the series yet, and so can’t know for sure whether A Court of Mist & Fury will be my favourite, but I couldn’t help including it here, simply because it was such a dramatic improvement over the first book… I liked A Court of Thorns & Roses, but the more I thought about it after I finished it, the more underwhelmed I felt; I was somewhat reluctant to even pick the sequel up, despite all the amazing things I’d been hearing about it… but, wow, was this book a huge step up. If you’re not sure about this series after book one, then rest assured that it’s worth it (so far🤞).

4) Lirael by Garth Nix

Nix’s Old Kingdom series is fantastic as a whole, but as much as I loved Sabriel and Touchstone in the first book, Lirael’s character arc in this book has always stuck with me. It doesn’t hurt, of course, that the new storyline that Lirael began was fantastic, and she had a wonderful set of sidekicks in Sam, Nick, and the Disreputable Dog. 😋

3) Half Wild by Sally Green

Not a huge amount happens in Half Wild compared to the other two books in the trilogy, so this may be something of an odd choice, but what I really love about this book is how, with the action slowed down, there was so much character and relationship development. In particular, there was some really amazing exploration of Nathan’s relationship with his estranged father Marcus, as well as his two potential love interests, Gabriel and Annalise…

2) Fire by Kristin Cashore

Fire is the second book in the Graceling Realm trilogy, and seems to be a lot of people’s least favourite entry… It’s certainly very different from the other two books – it’s even set in a different world! Kind of. But although I found the transition between books quite jarring (I wasn’t even expecting the change in protagonists, and that’s the least of the changes from Graceling), I very quickly became attached to the new characters, their world, and I loved how much this book effected the other two, despite their apparent disconnect… 💕

1) The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman

His Dark Materials is such an incredible series, and deserves all the praise it’s ever received and more; it’s exciting, thought-provoking, heart-breaking, beautifully written… Naturally, I love all three books in the trilogy, and the spin-off novellas, and I’m eagerly awaiting The Book of Dust. But Will’s introduction, and how our own world was pulled into this story with him, is what makes me love The Subtle Knife so much. (It also gave me what was probably my first ever OTP. Lyra & Will forever. 😭)

And an honourable mention for Street Magic by Tamora Pierce, which is one of my favourite books of all time, and also the second book in The Circle Opens quartet… which is itself a follow-up to the Circle of Magic series. I didn’t include it on the main list mostly because I tend to think of it as being a sixth book rather than a second, but this is also a series that people should definitely read! 🙏

(Also, in no particular order: The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater, Froi of the Exiles by Melina Marchetta, The Boy Who Wept Blood by Den Patrick,  Quicksilver by R.J. Anderson… and probably about a hundred more. But I’ll stop here, for the sake of all our sanity.)

[Top 5 Wednesday is run by Sam from ThoughtsOnTomes. To find out more or join in, check out the Goodreads group.]

Autumn Activities Book Tag

There’s really only a few weeks of autumn left this year, but it’s never too late for a fun tag, in my opinion! The Fall Activities Book Tag (which I have conveniently re-named) was originally created by Ashley from Dreaming Through Literature, and I was tagged by Ariana from The Quirky Book Nerd – be sure to check out her great answers to these prompts, too!

Leigh Bardugo//Crooked Kingdom1) Apple picking – a book on your TBR that looks so delicious you can’t wait to take a bite out of it.

There are a lot of books on my TBR at the moment that I’m really excited about, but the one I’m most eager for is undoubtedly Crooked Kingdom by Leigh BardugoSix of Crows was amazing, and I can’t wait to see where the story’s going to go next!

Andrzej Sapkowski//The Last Wish2) Corn maze – a book that’s fun to get lost in.

I could pick any number of books for this prompt (mostly fantasy), but among those is the series I’m currently working my way through: The Witcher series by Andrzej Sapkowski! So much is going on in these books that it’s a little difficult to follow at times, but it’s also incredibly engrossing, and I’m having a tonne of fun reading it. XD

Emily Carroll//Through the Woods3) Haunted house – a book that scared you silly.

I don’t read a lot of scary books (because I’m a bit of a wimp), but the graphic novel Through the Woods by Emily Carroll has some seriously creepy stories in it – including an actual haunted house! 😉 The art is wonderfully creepy, too, and it makes for a perfect Halloween read.

J.K. Rowling//Harry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets4) Pumpkin patch – the latest book you purchased.

The last book I picked up (for myself, at least) was the new illustrated edition of Harry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling, which is a thing of beauty. ❤ There don’t seem to be quite as many illustrations as in the first book, but what there is is really lovely.

Catherynne M. Valente//Deathless5) Scenic drive – a book that is beautifully written.

Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente is so beautifully written that it’s practically poetry; the way she phrases things is unusual, but in a way that gives her words incredible power. I’ve not read any of Valente’s other works yet, but I’m definitely looking forward to the day when I finally pick some of them up.

Holly Bourne//Soulmates6) Pumpkin carving – a book you wouldn’t mind carving up.

For a complete change of tone, I definitely wouldn’t mind chopping up Soulmates by Holly Bourne, and maybe tossing the pieces on a bonfire afterwards. I very rarely read a book and feel like I’ve wasted my time entirely (even with books that I didn’t enjoy), but this one was so bad that it actually made me angry.

Philip Reeve//Railhead7) Hiking – a book that was an enjoyable romp.

The word “romp” makes me think of adventures more than anything, so for this I decided to pick something a bit more lighthearted and fun, so… Railhead by Philip Reeve! This story didn’t stand still even for a moment, and I enjoyed it so much that it was difficult to put it down, even for necessary things like eating and sleeping. 😛 [Review.]

Tamora Pierce//Street Magic8) Apple cider – a book to curl up under the covers with.

My ultimate comfort read – as I’ve mentioned about a million times before – is Street Magic by Tamora Pierce (or anything by her, really, but Street Magic is my favourite), so that’s the book I turn to if I ever want to huddle up in bed for a whole day… if I’m ill, or just miserable – or cold, as the case may be. 😉 I also listen to the audiobook of it a lot, whenever I’m out and about and sick of music; it’s a wonderful production.

C.S. Lewis//The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe9) Jumping in leaves – a book that reminds you of your childhood.

The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis are hugely nostalgic for me. I remember first starting to read them when I was staying at my granny’s house for Christmas, and – once the holiday was over and I’d gone home – having to beg my parents for my own copies so that I could carry on reading. 😀

Bram Stoker//Dracula10) Scary movie night – your favourite spooky read.

As I said already, I’m not a huge fan of scary stories, but I did (finally) read Dracula by Bram Stoker earlier this year, and ended up really enjoying it. I wouldn’t say that I found it particularly spooky, but I reckon it still qualifies. 🙂 [Review.]

Becky Chambers//The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet11) Costume party – a book with an eclectic cast of characters.

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers has a wonderfully varied cast of characters, who are really the driving force behind this story. Every member of the Wayfarer‘s crew is fully developed and sympathetic, and has an interesting story to tell… a good thing, since – stuck on a trip through deep space – there’s not much going on plot-wise. [Review.]

The Reader Confession Tag

For once, I seem to be doing a tag that I was actually tagged for; remarkable, isn’t it? 😉 The tagger in question was Ariana from The Quirky Book Nerd – you should go ahead and read her great post, too!

1) Have you ever damaged a book?

Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman//Good OmensNaturally, I do my best to keep my books in good condition, but accidents are bound to happen once in a while. My first copy of Good Omens got half drowned when I discovered that my backpack wasn’t anywhere near as waterproof as I’d previously thought it to be. And I don’t like to think about the time I had a mishap while bleeding my radiator, and drenched a whole shelf. 😥 (Don’t worry, I was able to salvage them!)

J.K. Rowling//Harry Potter & the Goblet of FireIn less watery news, my original copy of Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire ended up completely falling to pieces, as well, though that was mostly from over-reading (and because it was the first massive hardback that I’d ever owned, and I had no idea that they fell apart if you didn’t take care of them. ^^’ ).

2) Have you ever damaged a borrowed book?

I’m always super-careful with any books that people lend me – more careful than I am with my own books, even – but I will admit to occasionally (very occasionally) having dog-eared a library book or two… 😳 This is supposed to be a confession tag, after all!

3) How long does it take you to read a book?

I can usually finish an average-length book (about 300 pages) in two or three days, but it often depends on my mood, and how busy I am outside of my reading schedule…

4) Books that you haven’t finished?

Even when I’m really not enjoying a book, I prefer to finish it, in hopes of finding some redeeming factor, so there aren’t many books that I’ve DNF’d. Most of these I did actually like, but I just wasn’t in the right mood for them at the time – hopefully I’ll get round to finishing them reasonably soon, though! In order of priority, they are:

5) Hyped/Popular books you didn’t like?

Tahereh Mafi//Shatter MeThere have been a few that disappointed me a bit, but the only one I can think of that I actively disliked was the Shatter Me trilogy by Tahereh Mafi, and even then I didn’t dislike everything about it. Just, you know, the abysmal plotline, and non-existent world-building. I wrote a series review for it a while ago, which you should definitely check out!

6) Is there a book you wouldn’t tell anyone you were reading?

I sometimes like to read trashy romances, and I’m always a little embarrassed afterwards to discuss them in my wrap-ups, but I don’t think I’d ever actively hide the fact that I was reading one… (Except from the kids I babysit. I will definitely be taking Something Else to read at theirs. ^^’ )

7) How many books do you own?

I have no idea, but between my physical books and my kindle books, probably somewhere between 300 and 500…

8) Are you a fast reader or a slow reader?

Pretty fast, I think, though nowhere near speed-reading standards. I usually get through two or three books in a week (depending on my mood, and the length of the book), but there’ve been times when I’ve finished a new book almost every day. (When I was in China, I read like a woman possessed. 😳 )

9) Do you like to buddy read?

Now and then. I’ve done a few readalongs with my friend Chloë (a.k.a. SSJTimeLord), and it’s fun to talk about the books as we’re going along, but unfortunately we don’t always have the time… :/

10) Do you read better in your head or out loud?

In my head, definitely. I can even do character voices! (But just in my imagination.)

11) If you were only allowed to own one book, what would it be and why?

Tamora Pierce//Street Magic

Frances Hodgson Burnett//The Secret GardenWhy do you torment me with such questions, Tag?!?! 😦 Probably my battered old copy of Street Magic by Tamora Pierce, because it’s my favourite book. Or else one of the Folio Society editions that my dad’s given me over the years (The Secret Garden has an inscription in it that I’m rather fond of)…

Ultimate Fictional Heist Team!

[A.K.A. The 5 fictional characters I’d want with me on the heist I’m totally (not) planning.]

I’ve been reading a lot of heist books recently, for some reason (well, two, but since that’s two thirds of all the heist books I’ve ever read, it feels like a lot), and they’ve all had such good teams in them that I’ve been daydreaming about who I’d take with me if I ever needed to steal a potentially universe-destroying artefact, or break into an impenetrable fortress. Fun times! 😉 One catch here: I’m not going to be picking any characters from the aforementioned heist books, ’cause that would make this too easy (by which I mean the whole list would be characters from Railhead and Six of Crows. With a guest appearance from Locke Lamora ^^’ ).

Tamora Pierce//Street Magic1) Evvy Dingzai (from Tamora Pierce’s Circle of Magic universe)

Apart from being one of my favourite characters in anything, ever, Evvy is also a stone mage, which means she can sense the presence of different types of stones, and (usually) get them to do what she wants. As you can imagine, this would be a handy power to have along if your heist team is stealing gems, or needs to get through stone walls… I actually had a hard time deciding between Evvy and Daja (from the same series, and who has a similar ability with metals), but ultimately I think Evvy’s morals would be less likely to get in the way than Daja’s.

Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff//Illuminae2) Kady Grant (from The Illuminae Files by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff)

So, we have a solution for low-tech security (i.e. walls), but in case of computers, I’m also bringing a hacker, and Kady is a great one – she spends practically the whole of Illuminae hacking into super-secure systems, and battling with a rogue A.I., which is (in my humble opinion) pretty impressive!

Rick Riordan//The Lost Hero3) Leo Valdez (from the Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan)

Leo’s an inventor, and would be in charge of all the team’s equipment (and hopefully building some extras, too! Maybe a getaway dragon?). Also, he’s good at blowing things up, and if Six of Crows has taught me anything about heists, it’s that explosions can come in handy. 😛

Veronica Roth//Divergent4) Tris Prior (from the Divergent trilogy by Veronica Roth)

Say what you like about the Divergent books, but Tris definitely gets things done – she’s great in a pinch, and usually on the ball with split-second decisions, so she’ll be the team’s combat specialist… and will not be making any important strategic decisions, for reasons that will probably be obvious to anyone who’s read Allegiant.

Kiersten White//And I Darken5) Radu Dragwlya (from The Conquerors Saga by Kiersten White)

Which brings me to my last team member: the strategist! I don’t know how down Radu would actually be with a heist situation (his sister Lada would probably be much more excited by the prospect), but I’ve just finished reading And I Darken, and I was super-impressed by all his plotting and political manoeuvring, and ability to read people and situations.

So now I have my team! Next step: deciding what we’re actually going to do. Probably something with precious gems, in order to make the most of Evvy’s talents, but beyond that I have no clue… I’ll be leaving all the planning to Radu, after all. 😉