January Wrap-Up

The first month of the year is over, and I feel like I got off to quite a good start with all my reading goals! 🙂 And to make things even better, I really enjoyed everything I read – 5 novels, 1 graphic novel, and 2 short stories – with the exception of one short story (which only took up about half an hour of my life in any case 😉 ). Here’s what I thought of them all:

Laure Eve//The GracesThe Graces by Laure Eve. The first in a new series about a teenage girl called River who moves to a new town and becomes fascinated by a glamourous local family, whom the entire community believes are witches. This is ringing some Twilight-shaped bells, right? But it’s also seriously messed up, and (unlike Twilight) aware of how messed up it is, and fully embracing the sheer messed-up-ness. I posted a mini-review of this book a few weeks ago – you can find it here.4 starsIsabel Greenberg//The One Hundred Nights of HeroThe One Hundred Nights of Hero by Isabel Greenberg. A new collection of folk-tales in comic form, told in the style of One Thousand and One Nights, with a woman called Hero telling stories night after night, in order to stave off a man who’s hoping to seduce her lover, Cherry. My particular favourite of Hero’s stories was A Very Honest Harp, which was about two sisters who were courted by the same man, to a disastrous end, but, as with Greenberg’s previous work, the whole book is made up of beautiful, haunting tales, charmingly illustrated.5 starsAmy Alward//The Potion DiariesThe Potion Diaries by Amy Alward. The first book in a series about a talented (but not “Talented”, which means something quite different) young potion-maker called Sam, who is called to join in a nation-wide race to create a cure when the kingdom’s princess accidentally doses herself with a love potion… and falls in love with her own reflection. A fun, lighthearted read, though not without its flaws. I read this book for the January Library Scavenger Hunt challenge, so my review’s already posted – you can find it here!3 stars

Rae Carson//The Bitter KingdomThe Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson. The third and final book in the Fire & Thorns series, which I’ve been re-reading for the last few months. Like with Crown of Embers, my opinion of this book hasn’t changed at all upon re-reading it; it’s still a fantastic story, with wonderful characters, and really impressive character growth. In the final part of the book, I did feel a bit disorientated to be back in Brisadulce after such a long time (Elisa leaves around the mid-point of Crown of Embers and doesn’t return until close to the end of The Bitter Kingdom), but I figure that’s mostly because I really took my time with this book the second time around. Overall, definitely a series that’s worth coming back to a few times. 🙂5 starsNora’s Song by Cecelia Holland (from the Dangerous Women anthology). Holland is apparently a historical fiction author of some prolificacy and renown, but I found this short story – about Eleanor, the second daughter of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, as a young girl – rather lackluster. The writing was engaging, and the period of history in which the story is set is an interesting one, but the story itself suffered seriously from a lack of… anything, really; a few confusing events are all presented in a great rush, and then it ends. I do think that this might have made a good prologue for a longer story, but on its own it doesn’t leave much of an impression.2 starsSarah J. Maas//A Court of Mist & FuryA Court of Mist & Fury by Sarah J. Maas. The sequel to A Court of Thorns & Roses, which was an imaginative retelling of Beauty & the Beast involving fairy courts and a fantasy realm held hostage by a madwoman. I enjoyed this book a lot, but still had quite a few problems with it, which I won’t go into here lest this paragraph become an essay. ^^’ I’ve written a spoiler-free review, however, which you can find here.4 stars

Neil Gaiman//Odd & the Frost GiantsOdd & the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman. A short story written for World Book Day in 2008, in which Odin, Thor and Loki find themselves in something of a pickle, and need to rely on Odd – an improbably optimistic young boy, who’s just run away from home – to help them resolve it. An incredibly cute story, with a surprising amount of character development and depth, given its length. Definitely the best Norse mythology novel(la) I’ve read in a long time, and the perfect thing to get me out of the reading slump that I was beginning to feel coming on. 😀4 starsHonobu Yonezawa//The Kudryavka SequenceThe Kudryavka Sequence by Honobu Yonezawa. The third book in the Kotenbu series of light novels, which inspired the anime Hyouka (one of my favourites!); a mix of mystery and slice-of-life, focusing on a group of characters who are all members of their school’s Classics Club. In this book, the school’s cultural festival is disrupted by a phantom thief, who’s been taking random items from various different clubs, and leaving notes to replace them. It’s difficult to explain the appeal of this series, but I really love it, and The Kudryavka Sequence definitely lives up to the books that came before it (Hyouka and The Credit Roll of the Fool, respectively). ❤ It’s not available in English at this time, so the version I read is a fan translation from Baka-Tsuki.4 stars

November Wrap-Up

We’re drawing close to the end of the year now, which is a terrifying thought, and another terrifying thought (though I’ve pretty much come to terms with this one, now) is that I will almost certainly fail my Goodreads Reading Challenge and all my reading goals. 😦 I am, however, happy with the amount that I read in November (a grand total of 3 novels, 1 novella, a picture book, a graphic novel, and an audiobook) and I’ve definitely had a long streak of books that I’ve really enjoyed – one which I hope will continue through December and maybe even into next year! 😉 So, without further ado:

Elizabeth Gaskell//North & SouthNorth & South by Elizabeth Gaskell. A Victorian novel about a young woman who’s forced to move from her idyllic childhood home in the South of England, to a Northern industrial town when her father unexpectedly leaves his position in the Church due to a crisis of conscience. This was a re-read – or a re-listen, rather, as this time I decided to listen to it as an audiobook – of what has become one of my favourite books. I’ve already written a full review of it, and since my feelings haven’t changed at all, I don’t see any need to talk about the plot itself further, but I will say that I was surprised by how good the narration was (the version I listened to was produced by LibriVox, which is a volunteer organisation, and therefore all the voice work was done by amateurs). There were several different narrators, and although a few of them weren’t very good, for the most part, they all performed admirably, and a couple were even fantastic. Naturally, the inconsistency of the narration meant that I didn’t enjoy it as much as the written version, but it was still a really good however-many-hours of listening, and North & South is still one of the best books I’ve ever read.5+ stars

Andrzej Sapkowski//Time of ContemptTime of Contempt by Andrzej Sapkowski. The fourth book in the Witcher series (but second book in the Saga of the Witcher, i.e. the novels as opposed to the novellas), which continues the adventures of Geralt of Rivia, monster hunter for hire, along with the sorceress Yennefer, and Ciri, their adoptive daughter. I’m really loving the way that the bonds between the three main characters are forming, which is quite surprising since they’ve spent most of the series separated from each other. In particular, there’s one wonderful moment in this book where they’re all together for about a heartbeat before they’re split up again, which was really enjoyable to read. The characters themselves continue to grow on me, and the story flowed a lot better in this book than in the last, which was brilliant (my only real complaint about Blood of Elves was that the pacing was quite choppy). This has definitely been my favourite instalment in the series so far.5 starsYuri Herrera//Signs Preceding the End of the WorldSigns Preceding the End of the World by Yuri Herrera. A short but excellent novel about a young Mexican woman who crosses the border to the US illegally in order to find her brother. This was my Library Scavenger Hunt pick for the month, so I’ve already posted a review, but in short, it was a really enjoyable, thought-provoking read. 🙂4 starsJory John//Penguin ProblemsPenguin Problems by Jory John. A hilarious and completely relatable picture book about a grumpy penguin. Because, you know, penguins have a lot to deal with, too! The art (by Lane Smith) is super-cute, and the story is brilliant – recommend for anyone who needs a pick-me-up when it seems like the whole world sucks. ❤5 starsBryan Lee O'Malley//Lost at SeaLost at Sea by Bryan Lee O’Malley. A meandering graphic novel about a girl who believes that her soul has been stolen by a cat, on a road trip with almost-strangers. I really enjoyed the slow-building friendship between the characters in this book, and Raleigh’s internal awkwardness really resonated with me. I definitely feel that there’s a lot in this book to relate to, for a lot of people, but the story itself was rather fragmented; the narrative in an almost stream-of-consciousness style that didn’t exactly bother me, but stopped me from getting too invested. Also, I would really, really have liked to find out what was in the letter that Raleigh never opened – otherwise, what was the point in even mentioning it?3 starsAndrzej Sapkowski//Baptism of FireBaptism of Fire by Andrzej Sapkowski. The fifth Witcher book, and third of the novels, in which Geralt sets out on a mission to rescue Ciri from the Emperor of Nilfgaard, and somehow manages to acquire a mismatched group of companions along the way. I loved this book so much! The story was on point, and has been developing so well; all of Geralt’s companions were amazing, and their interactions were hilarious. In particular, I really loved Milva, who is clearly the common sense of this operation, and Cahir, the Nilfgaardian who insists that he’s not a Nilfgaardian (for reasons that took me completely by surprise). I’ll have to wait a while before I get to read the last two books in this series, but, to be honest, it’s hard to imagine them topping this one.5 stars

Rae Carson//Crown of EmbersCrown of Embers by Rae Carson. The second book in the Fire & Thorns trilogy, which I’m slowly making my way through for the second time. I’m not going to re-hash my initial opinion of this book (which you can find here), but my feelings haven’t changed in the slightest; this is a truly fantastic series, and it only gets better as it goes on.5 stars

Alwyn Hamilton//Rebel of the SandsRebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton. The first in a new series featuring a gunslinging young heroine called Amani who’s desperate to escape the small desert town she lives in and the dismal prospects it offers, and finds her chance for something more when she crosses paths with a mysterious foreigner on the run from the law. I started out a little unsure about this book, as I’m really not a fan of the Wild West genre, and the idea of fusing it with a Middle Eastern-style setting seemed interesting, but not all that appealing – so I was really taken by surprise by how much I enjoyed it! The story starts out a little slow, but it picks up quickly, and I enjoyed that initial time getting to know Amani (who I found hilarious, if a little foolish). There was also a nice balance of romance and plot; there was a good amount of romantic tension, but Hamilton never tried to make it the story’s sole focus. Most of all, this book was just incredibly fun, and I’m really looking forward to the sequel! 🙂5 stars

October Wrap-Up

Well, I’ve did a terrible job of keeping to my blog schedule in October! Don’t worry – I’m still alive! 😛 I’d like to blame work, but although things are still pretty hectic on that front (though not as bad as a few weeks ago), the actual reason for my long absence is that I’m trying to write a review for The Lumatere Chronicles, and every time I decide to work on it, my brain goes blank and my fingers freeze up. ^^’ So, writer’s block, I guess. But – review or no review – I’ll try to do better this month.

On a more positive note, I have managed to do quite a bit of reading, and most of what I’ve read lately has been really great! 😀 Here’s what I thought of them all:

Holly Black & Cassandra Clare//The Copper GauntletThe Copper Gauntlet by Holly Black & Cassandra Clare. The follow-up to The Iron Trial, which I read a couple of Christmases ago. This sequel follows Call and his friends in their second year (or their Copper Year) at the Magisterium, where they’re trying to find out about a mysterious magical artefact called the Alkahest. I enjoyed The Copper Gauntlet, though I didn’t feel that it was quite able to live up to my expectations after reading The Iron Trial (which was fantastic); it just felt too rushed. The entire book seems to take place over the course of a few weeks, whereas the first book took an entire year to build up to the climax… I’m still having a lot of fun with this series, but I’m not quite as excited for the third book as I might otherwise have been.3 starsRae Carson//The Shadow CatsThe Shadow Cats by Rae Carson. A novella set in the Fire & Thorns universe, and telling the story of Alodia – Elisa’s older sister, and heir to the throne of Orovalle – on an official visit to a region on the border of the kingdom, where the locals have been being terrorised by a creature that they call Espiritu… An interesting insight into Alodia’s character, since she was a bit of a mystery in the main series, and it was odd to be reminded of where Elisa started, considering how much she’s grown by the end of the series. The story itself was good, too, though it was lacking the thing that I like most about the Fire & Thorns series – Elisa’s fully-realised self! 😉3 starsRae Carson//The Shattered MountainThe Shattered Mountain by Rae Carson. A brief but powerful look at Mara’s life just before she was introduced in Fire & Thorns, as she tries to lead a group of children to safety after her village is attacked by Inviernos. This story was incredibly intense and emotional, which is particularly remarkable when you consider how short it is. I became very attached to all the children in Mara’s group, and the one major character death that I already knew about (because it’s mentioned in the main series), was agonisingly built-up to, and then heartbreaking when it finally occurred. 😥 A must-read for anyone who liked the main series.5 starsRae Carson//The King's GuardThe King’s Guard by Rae Carson. The last of the three novellas in The Girl of Fire & Thorns Stories, which follows a teenage Hector as he begins his first year in the Royal Guard, and has to prove himself all his superior officers and his fellow recruits, who believe he’s only been allowed into the Guard because he’s friends with the new king. This story wasn’t as emotional as The Shattered Mountain, but it was much more plot-driven – and that plot was excellent! I won’t say too much about it for fear of spoilers, but it was truly shocking in places, and it sheds a really interesting light on some of the events of the main series (which I believe I may be re-reading soon, now that I have this new perspective. 😀 ).4 starsLesley Fairfield//TyrannyTyranny by Lesley Fairfield. A short graphic novel about a girl with an eating disorder. This was my Library Scavenger Hunt pick for the month, and again (and this seems to be becoming a disappointing trend), I wasn’t hugely impressed by it – but you can read my mini-review of the book here. 🙂2 starsAndrzej Sapkowski//The Last WishThe Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski. The first book in the Witcher series, which is actually a collection of short stories – not usually the greatest way to be introduced to a new world or protagonist, but in this case it really worked; the way that the stories tied together made them read very much like a single novel (though admittedly one with several different storylines). As for the stories themselves, a couple of them were a little confusing (but still enjoyable), and all the others I really loved, especially A Grain of Truth and The Witcher. I wasn’t a huge fan of Yennefer, which surprised me, since I’ve really liked what I’ve seen of her so far in the game-verse, but I guess I’ll have to wait and see how she’s developed in the later books…4 starsRae Carson//Fire and ThornsFire & Thorns by Rae Carson. A re-read of the first book in the Fire & Thorns trilogy, which lived up to, and even surpassed my first experience of reading it. I remember finding the first part of the book quite slow before, but this time I was able to enjoy spending time with Elisa’s more naive side, since I wasn’t so impatient for the story to develop. Otherwise, my feelings haven’t changed much; this is still a brilliantly-written book, with wonderful characters and a fantastic story to tell.5 starsAndrzej Sapkowski//Sword of DestinySword of Destiny by Andrzej Sapkowski. The second book in the Witcher series, and another short story collection, though this one was a bit more of a mixed bag; I really enjoyed the final three stories in the collection – A Little SacrificeThe Sword of Destiny, and Something More – but I found that the first half of the book dragged quite a bit… This is probably partly because the first couple of stories concentrated more on Geralt’s relationship with Yennefer, which I’m not entirely on board with (I still don’t like Yennefer much, and nor do I really like the way Geralt acts when he’s around her/moping over her). On the whole, this was an interesting collection of stories, but they didn’t flow together in the way that made The Last Wish so enjoyable, but instead felt quite disconnected from each other (with a couple of exceptions). This is obviously not entirely unexpected, but it’s one of the main reason I don’t get on that well with short stories in general – they’re just too short for me to really get invested in them! ^^’3 starsAndrzej Sapkowski//Blood of ElvesBlood of Elves by Andrzej Sapkowski. The third Witcher book, and the first full novel in the series, in which Geralt finds out that there are dangerous people looking for his adoptive daughter, Ciri, and sets out to find them – and to stop them, while Ciri herself begins training in magic with Yennefer. As I expected, I’m beginning to like Yennefer (and also Dandelion) more, now that she’s a more prominent character, and Ciri only got more and more wonderful as the book went on, though I would’ve liked to have seen more of her and Geralt together. The plot was a bit disjointed in places; it jumped between characters and story-threads a lot, and there was a very abrupt time-skip halfway through the book (in which Triss disappeared from the story completely, without explanation), but overall, this was a really enjoyable novel, and I’m looking forward to reading more of this series.4 stars

Books you should be reading if you love Game of Thrones!

So, the new series of Game of Thrones is finally here! No spoilers, please; I’m not up-to-date with the show at all. ^^’ I am, however, all caught up on the books, and (not-so-patiently) awaiting the next one… Waiting is hard. 😦 But I’ve got you covered! With luck, these excellent series will be enough to tide you over until The Winds of Winter is released!

Peter V. Brett//The Painted Man1) The Demon Cycle series by Peter V. Brett. A seemingly quite traditional fantasy series, which follows a small group of protagonists living in a world that’s beset by demons which come up from the Core every night. This series only gets more complex as it goes on, however, introducing several new conflicts in the later books, and sympathetic (as well as despicable) characters on every side. This series made my heart so confused.

Mark Lawrence//Prince of Thorns2) The Broken Empire series by Mark Lawrence. If you like dark fantasy, then this series is perfect for you, as it’s one of the darkest things I’ve ever read. It follows a largely amoral prince, aiming to avenge the death of his mother and brother, and to become king, but prone to looting and pillaging, and murder and rape – a terrifying (but perfect) mix of Robb Stark and Ramsay Bolton that I wouldn’t have thought was even possible before reading this…

Rae Carson//Fire and Thorns3) The Fire & Thorns trilogy by Rae Carson. Another fantasy series, but this time following a young, insecure princess called Elisa who’s sent away from her home against her will, in order to marry the ruler of a neighbouring kingdom. The story puts a lot of emphasis on religion – as Elisa was born with something called a Godstone, which marks her for an important religious duty – and her struggle to adapt to her new home, and her responsibility towards it, but the reason I think it will appeal to Game of Thrones fans is because of Elisa’s incredible growth as a character, which was very reminiscent of Danaerys Targaryen (and, to a lesser extent, Sansa Stark) in the first couple of A Song of Ice & Fire books.

Sally Green//Half Bad4) The Half Life trilogy by Sally Green. A dark fantasy series set in a world where there are “good” White Witches and “evil” Black Witches, who live isolated from one another, and despise each other. Nathan, the main character in these books, has been raised by his mother’s White family, but is an outcast in White society, as his father is one of the most notorious Black Witches around. I’m kind of obsessed with this series at the moment, but the main reason I’m adding it to this list is that Sally Green is not at all afraid to make her characters suffer.

5) Philippa Gregory//The White QueenThe Cousins’ War series by Philippa Gregory. This last recommendation is blind, as I haven’t read the books… I have seen the BBC adaptation of the first book, which was really well done (and made me feel a lot of the same things as Game of Thrones). But I’m mainly recommending this series – which is a novelisation of the War of the Roses – is because this time period was a major inspiration for the events in A Song of Ice & Fire.

[An aside: You know how, since Game of Thrones became popular, almost every fantasy book that’s come out has had the tagline “Perfect for fans of Game of Thrones!”, or words to that effect? And then they all turn out to be nothing like it, or only like it in some incredibly superficial way? (I’m looking at you, Falling Kingdoms.) I can’t be the only person bothered by this, right? :/ Well anyway, I hope I’ve done a little better in that respect.]

Thematic Recs: Religion

Religion’s not a topic that you often see covered in children’s fiction – I suspect because it can be quite controversial – but I’ve noticed that when authors do decide to touch on in, they tend to do it very well (so long as they can avoid being over-preachy). I’ve not read too many religious books, but here are a few that stood out to me:

Annabel Pitcher//My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece1) My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher. This story follows a young boy whose sister died in a terrorist bombing in London, after which his family fell apart. Now living with his increasingly intolerant father, Jamie struggles over the Christian command to honour one’s father and mother, in the face of his growing friendship with a muslim girl at his new school.

David Almond//The True Tale of the Monster Billy Dean2) The True Tale of the Monster Billy Dean by David Almond. This post-apocalyptic novel focuses on the secret, illegitimate son of a priest, who’s lived in seclusion all his life. Billy’s perspective (and spelling!) can be a little confusing at times, but the story is both powerful and chilling, and the religious aspects of it are incredibly well thought out.

Rae Carson//Fire and Thorns3) The Fire & Thorns trilogy by Rae Carson. A high fantasy series about a young princess who was born with something called a “godstone” embedded in her belly, indicating that she would have an important duty to perform for God. The actual religions portrayed in this are fictional, but the attitudes towards them and the conflicts that arise between them ring true.

E. Lockhart, Lauren Myracle & Sarah Mlynowski//How to Be Bad4) How to Be Bad by E. Lockhart, Lauren Myracle & Sarah Mlynowski. For the most part, a fun contemporary novel about three friends on a road trip. One of the girls (Jesse, whose character was written by Lauren Myracle), however, is deeply religious, and often wonders if the troubles that she and her family are facing are some kind of divine punishment for her sins.

Philip Pullman//Northern Lights5) The His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman. Last up, I’ve picked out a much darker take on religion for you. His Dark Materials follows a girl called Lyra, who leaves her home in Oxford for the Arctic Circle in pursuit of a missing friend. On the surface, this doesn’t sound like it has much to do with religion at all, but the Church plays a huge (antagonistic) part in the story, and there’s a lot of allegorical allusions as well, particularly as the series goes on.

♡ BOOKS: Some bookish quotes for Valentine’s Day!

Happy Valentine’s Day, for those of you who celebrate it! I thought it was a bit soon to do another Thematic Recs post, but I still wanted to do something to mark the occasion, so I’ve decided to put together some of my favourite romantic book quotes~ (& for those of you who aren’t celebrating, don’t worry – there are a few heartbreak quotes, too!)

historyoflove

“Love is stupid. It has nothing to do with reason. You love whomever you love.”
~Fire by Kristin Cashore

“I think sometimes when we find love we pretend it away, or ignore it, or tell ourselves we’re imagining it. Because it is the most painful kind of hope there is.”
~The Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson

“Do you stop loving someone just because they betray you? I don’t think so. That’s what makes the betrayal hurt so much – pain, frustration, anger… and I still loved her. I still do.”
~The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson

clockworkangel

“Love: a single word, a wispy thing, a word no bigger or longer than an edge. That’s what it is: an edge; a razor. It draws up through the center of your life, cutting everything in two. Before and after. The rest of the world falls away on either side.”
~Delirium by Lauren Oliver

“He loved her, and would love her; and defy her, and this miserable bodily pain.”
~North & South by Elizabeth Gaskell

“I love you breathlessly, my amazing man.”
~The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons

crownofembers

January Haul

I’m trying to cut back on book buying at the moment, which is why my January stack is considerably smaller than some of the others that you’ve seen. But my self-control is far from flawless, so I’ve still managed to accumulate a few new books to tell you about. A few of these I bought with leftover Christmas money; the rest I just couldn’t hold myself back from… 😉February Haul

1) Flambards and The Edge of the Cloud by K.M. Peyton. These are the pretty new editions of the first two books in the Flambards series, which follow an orphaned girl named Christina who moves to the countryside to live with her uncle and two cousins. I’ve already read (& own) the whole series, but I’ve been wanting to replace my ugly old copies for a while. The last two books (Flambards in Summer and Flambards Divided) will hopefully be released in this edition later this year.

2) The Folk Keeper by Franny Billingsley. A book I know basically nothing about, but it looked interesting. Presumably it has something to do with folk-tales (which I’ve been rather in the mood for recently).

3) A Little Something Different by Sandy Hall. A romance novel told from several different outsider perspectives. I’ve been wanting to read this since I found out that one of the narrators is a squirrel, but, again, I don’t know too much else about it.

4) The Girl of Fire & Thorns Stories by Rae Carson. This is a bind-up of three novellas set in the Fire & Thorns universe. I read the whole Fire & Thorns trilogy late last year, and loved it, so I’m looking forward to reading these. The three stories are called The Shadow CatsThe Shattered Mountain and The King’s Guard.

5) Aristotle & Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz. An apparently brilliant story about an unexpected friendship between two boys. I stumbled across this quite by accident at the Oxfam bookshop, and decided to pick it up because (it was incredibly cheap, and) it’s the Little Book Club pick for January and February.

6) 642 Things to Write About by the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto. This is basically a creative writing exercise book, with 642 different prompts. I decided to get this in hopes that it would get me back into the habit of writing again. It hasn’t worked yet, but I do keep picking the book up and flipping through it to look at all the different prompts, and they look pretty fun, so hopefully I’ll get there in time. 🙂

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

November Wrap-Up

Cassandra Clare//Clockwork PrinceNovember feels like it went by way too fast… :/ & I didn’t actually do all that much reading in the latter part of the month, because the new Pokémon games came out, and I was first caught up in excitement, then in playing the games (which are awesome, by the way). Nevertheless, I managed to read a grand total of 11 books in November, as well as 3 short stories – and this is them:

Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare. I had so many feelings about this book that I actually ended up writing a mini-review, which you can read here.5 stars

Cassandra Clare//Clockwork PrincessClockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare. Needless to say, I went straight on to the sequel, which answered all my questions (even the ones I hadn’t realised I was wondering about). I wasn’t entirely satisfied with the way Jem’s storyline seemed to be wrapping up, but that little niggle was thankfully fixed in the epilogue, and my only other  problem with the book was the Will’s-greatest-hits montage at the end, which I thought was a little cheesy… But that was just a tiny, tiny thing, & easily overlooked. It does make me really, really eager to read The Mortal Instruments book now, but I think I need to take a little break (& maybe read some of the books that I already own) first…5 stars

Morgan Matson//Amy & Roger's Epic DetourAmy & Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson. A sweet, but sad contemporary road trip novel. I really loved both Amy & Roger, as well as most of the many, many people they met on their trip, and I particularly loved that Morgan Matson included loads of photos and reciepts and the playlists that they listened to…4 stars

Tabitha Suzuma//ForbiddenForbidden by Tabitha Suzuma. Excellently written, & very thought-provoking, and though I liked the book a lot, I’m not entirely sure how I felt about the situation it presented… On the one hand, Maya & Lochan’s relationship was kind of squicky, but on the other hand, their relationship never really felt like one between siblings, even before they admitted their feelings, and I kind of wanted to root for them to find an escape together someday… My main problem with the way their relationship was portrayed was actually in the early parts of the book, when Maya was pushing Lochan for a relationship that seemed to scare him more than anything – but then again, somebody had to be the instigator (otherwise there’s no story), and reading about the instigation of an incestuous relationship is always going to seem kind of creepy… For those of you who’ve read the book already (or who don’t mind spoilers), feel free to check out my spoilery discussion post here. I’d love to hear your thoughts!3 stars

Paullina Simons//The Bronze HorsemanThe Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons. This book was such an emotional roller-coaster! So much tragedy, and then every time Tatiana & Alexander managed to get together, & things seemed to be going well for them, something would come up to drive them apart… 😦 I absolutely loved this book – the characters were so well-written (even the ones like Dimitri, who I really, really hated), & the drama was incredibly intense. There’s a slight cliffhanger at the end, so I’m looking forward to reading the sequel.5 starsRosamund Hodge//Cruel BeautyCruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge. A Beauty & the Beast re-telling, though is more complicated than a simple girl-meets-monster-and-redeems-him story, and it also has rather a dark edge to it, which I enjoyed – and a lot of Greek mythology! I liked the story a lot, even though it took me a while to warm up to the main character, Nyx, and I thought that the big reveal about Ignifex & Shade’s connection wasn’t quite as unexpected as it might have been intended to be… I think I may have officially restarted my fairytale retelling obsession now… 😉4 stars

Marissa Meyer//CinderCinder by Marissa Meyer. The first book in the Lunar Chronicles, and a cyberpunk-Cinderella retelling. Really interesting and inventive, and I loved all the characters so much! 😀 The ending was a little abrupt, but that was the only real problem I had with the book, and I hope that the sequels will take care of any lingering dissatisfaction, even though they follow different characters…5 stars Marissa Meyer//ScarletScarlet by Marissa Meyer. I’ll admit that I didn’t enjoy this quite as much as Cinder (not enough Cinder/Kai 😉 ), but it was definitely a solid follow-up. The plot seems to be escalating dramatically, and the new characters are fun, too – although I don’t feel that I managed to connect with either Scarlet or Wolf as much as I did with Cinder and Kai… I did appreciate, though, that rather than presenting this second book from an entirely new perspective (as I had expected), Marissa Meyer included chapters from Cinder and Kai’s perspectives, too; building on the first book rather than starting over.4 starsThe Little AndroidGlitches and The Queen’s Army by Marissa Meyer. These are three of the novellas set in the Lunar Chronicles universe, and I figured I’d read them before getting started on Cress. They’re all pretty quick reads (naturally), and well-written and developed (especially considering how short they are… All three stories can be read online for free, and if you’d like to do so, then I’ve linked each one to the cover inages below:

Marissa Meyer//The Little AndroidThe Little Android is set not too long before Cinder, and is a Little Mermaid-retelling about an android mechanic who falls in love with one of her human co-workers. Cinder herself appears briefly in the novella (in the role of the witch who turns Mech6.0 into a human), which was one of my favourite moments, and feel of the story is bittersweet.5 stars

Marissa Meyer//GlitchesGlitches is a direct prequel to Cinder, and is about Cinder’s childhood in New Beijing, the beginning of her friendship with Peony and Iko, and how she first discovered her talent as a mechanic. It was really lovely to see Cinder as a little girl, so unsure of everything in her new life, but this one was also pretty sad, and the ending was somewhat abrupt (though not unexpectedly so…).4 stars

Marissa Meyer//The Queen's ArmyLastly, The Queen’s Army follows the childhood of one of the new characters who’s introduced in Scarlet, and I wouldn’t recommend reading it before you’ve read both Cinder and Scarlet (even though it’s kind of a prequel), as it’s super-spoilery. Also for that reason, I can’t tell you all that much about it! I did enjoy the book, but I felt that the narrative was much choppier than the other two novellas, and I didn’t like it quite so much…3 stars

Marissa Meyer//CressCress by Marissa Meyer. I loved this book so much! Definitely my favourite in the series so far – the plot seems to be really taking off (literally!), and I’m seriously excited for Winter, the last book in the series… Character-wise, Cress was adorable and incredibly relatable, and I really loved the relationship development between her and Thorne; I’m definitely getting more attached to Wolf and Scarlet, even though there wasn’t so much of them in this book; Jacin was an unexpected delight to read (and that scene in the Rampion when he and Cinder talk about Winter was probably one of my favourite scenes in the whole book); and Winter! I wasn’t expecting Winter to even show up in this book, but I am so glad that she did, and I can’t wait to learn more about her!5+ starsRae Carson//Fire and ThornsFire and Thorns by Rae Carson. This is the first book in the Fire and Thorns trilogy, and in the US I believe it is called The Girl of Fire and Thorns, so if you’ve heard of that one, then, yes, this is the same book. It was a little slow-going at first, and I didn’t enjoy part 1 all that much: I liked how realistic the main character, Elisa, seemed, but I didn’t much care for any of the other characters, and not much of the book’s main conflict had been revealed – in fact, much of part 1 was focused on Elisa’s insecurities. However, in the second and third parts the book really picked up, and (in addition to watching Elisa grow as a character, which was wonderful), I grew attached to many of the supporting characters, and the world and its conflicts were really fleshed out. 🙂4 starsRae Carson//Crown of EmbersCrown of Embers by Rae Carson. Elisa’s (continued) growth is incredible, and there are so many other characters that I came to love over the course of reading this: Some older ones like Hector and Mara and Belén, and some new ones, like Tristán and Storm (who grew on me like a weed, and won’t let go). I did miss Cosmé, though, and I’m still not a huge fan of Ximena – but her part in this book and the direction her relationship with Elisa takes is certainly interesting. Writing-wise, this was a lot faster-paced than Fire and Thorns, which made it a lot easier to get into, and the mix of political intrigue and adventure made the plot engaging right from the start.5 stars