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