August Wrap-Up

All hail the conqueror of books! And I managed to pick out such good ones last month! I mean, there were a couple of duds, because there always are, but for the most part, I really enjoyed what I read in August. 😀 In total: 8 novels, and 1 play (and I’m sure none of you can guess what that last one might be, right? 😉 ). I also managed to complete my Goodreads challenge of 60 books! I’ve increased it to 100 now, and the widget is (worryingly) telling me that I’m now a few books behind, but I’m hoping to catch up soon. 🙂

A.M. Dellamonica//Child of a Hidden SeaChild of a Hidden Sea by A.M. Dellamonica. The first book in the Hidden Sea Tales series, which follows a marine biologist and videographer called Sophie, who, while searching for information about her biological parents, finds herself flung into Stormwrack – another world, filled with magic, oceans and swashbuckling adventures. This book was a huge amount of fun, and really refreshing to read; I haven’t read any world-hopping fantasies in quite a while, and I don’t think I even know of any that aren’t targeted at children. The plot was both gripping and complex, involving all kinds of mysteries and politics, and I really love the world that Dellamonica has created, as well; I hope that it will be explored further as the series goes on. At times, the story did feel a little rushed, and some of the supporting characters weren’t very well fleshed-out (most notably, Parrish, Sophie’s love interest, who barely seemed to interact with her except for plot-related reasons), but these are my only real complaints.4 starsHuntley Fitzpatrick//The Boy Most Likely ToThe Boy Most Likely To by Huntley Fitzpatrick. The sequel/companion to My Life Next Door, which follows Jase’s sister Alice, and his and Sam’s friend Tim. I was initially going to give this book four stars, pretty much wholly because I went into it thinking that even if it was goo, it couldn’t possibly match up to My Life Next Door – I had never felt that much of a connection with Alice, and it seemed to me that Tim’s flirting with her in the first book was more obligatory than anything else. But you know what? This relationship really worked, and this book ended up being amazing. It’s certainly less dramatic than My Life Next Door, and there’s much less focus on romance, but I really loved the way both Tim and Alice’s characters developed, and Cal was adorable. ❤ I really hope that Huntley Fitzpatrick will write more in this series (a book for Joel, maybe? Or Nan? 😛 ).5 stars

J.K. Rowling//Harry Potter & the Cursed ChildHarry Potter & the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne & John Tiffany. The script of the new Harry Potter play, which needs no description (and will get none, since basically anything I could say about the plot of this would be a spoiler)! I wasn’t sure what I’d think of this, as I’ve never been a huge fan of reading plays, and the comments I’ve seen about it so far have been pretty mixed, but I loved it! Albus and Scorpius (but mostly Scorpius) were wonderful, I loved the slowly-changing relationship between Harry and Draco, and I might even have been (marginally) reconciled towards the Harry/Ginny relationship (which I’ve never been a fan of). The plot was also intriguing, though I was able to guess the identity of the main villain fairly early on, and there was even a scene towards the end of the book with Dumbledore’s portrait that managed to make me tear up… 😥 I can’t wait to see this on stage!5 stars

Carrie Hope Fletcher//On the Other SideOn the Other Side by Carrie Hope Fletcher. A cute story about an old woman who, after her death, has to let go of all her secrets before she can enter Heaven, and so she pays a series of ghostly visits to some of the people she’s left behind, all the while recalling the love of her life, whom she hasn’t seen in decades. I really, really wanted to love this book, but while it was cute, it was also problematic in a number of ways: The characters were all seriously under-developed, and as much as we were told about them, we never really get to know them for ourselves; the main character, Evie, felt a lot like a self-insert – an idealised version of the author – and after the first few times, it got really tiring hearing about how wonderful everyone thought she was. The conflicts she faced seemed incredibly contrived, as well: Granted, I was never really able to place this book in terms of time periods, but the amount of control Evie’s mother had over her beggared belief (she’s 27! And doesn’t even live at home!), and on a related note, Evie’s reason for breaking up with Vincent was utterly unconvincing. (Also, it was obviously supposed to come across as noble and self-sacrificing, but it pretty much made everyone miserable. In particular, I felt sorry for Jim, who was never given a chance to move on from a girl who would always be in love with someone else.) The descriptions of Heaven’s “waiting room” were kind of interesting, there were a couple of characters that I liked, and as I’ve mentioned a couple of times, I found the relationship between Evie and Vincent really cute (especially at the beginning), but it’s a shame that the best thing about this book is really the song that Carrie Fletcher wrote about it.2 stars

Philip Reeve//RailheadRailhead by Philip Reeve. In interstellar adventure featuring trains that travel between planets, robots developing their own personalities, and an epic heist that could decide the future of the galaxy. I loved this book so much! The characters were brilliant, the plot thrilling, the world super-imaginative, and the writing beautiful – it blew way past all the expectations I had for it! I’ve written a full review of this book, which you can read here. 🙂 5 stars

Karen McCombie//The Year of Big DreamsThe Year of Big Dreams by Karen McCombie. The story of a teenager called Flo, whose mother is taking part in a huge, X-Factor-style reality TV show. I wasn’t blown away by this, but it was my Library Scavenger Hunt pick for August, so I’ve written a mini-review here which explains why.2 starsLeigh Bardugo//Six of CrowsSix of Crows by Leigh Bardugo. A fantastic fantasy novel, set in the same world as Bardugo’s Grisha trilogy, but following an entirely new cast – a crew of thieves who come together in hopes of pulling off a seemingly-impossible heist: retrieving a dangerous prisoner from the super-secure Ice Court. I enjoyed Bardugo’s previous books, but have always felt rather underwhelmed by their endings, so I was a bit nervous about starting this series, but I was absolutely worried for no reason – I loved this book! The plot was brilliant, and kept me guessing from start to finish; the characters were all wonderful; and I shipped the two main romances so much! I was a little sad that there were no chapters from Wylan’s perspective, but it was definitely a narrative choice that made sense, and hopefully he’ll get a few chapters in the sequel… which I can’t wait for (if that wasn’t already obvious)!5+ starsKiersten White//And I DarkenAnd I Darken by Kiersten White. The first book in The Conquerors Saga, which is a novelisation of the life of Vlad the Impaler and his younger brother Radu, growing up as hostages in the Ottoman Empire, and their friendship with Mehmed, the son of their captor – but with an interesting twist: Vlad is not Vlad, but Lada, princess of Wallachia. I wasn’t expecting too much going into this book, as – despite the overwhelmingly positive reviews I’d heard – I don’t always get on with very dark books, particularly when the main protagonist also has a very dark mindset. And, yes, this book was dark, and twisted, and Lada was frequently terrifying. It was also wonderful. Apart from being set in a really interesting time period, and featuring a fascinating set of characters, And I Darken was amazingly well-written, with a brilliant plot (inspired by real events, rather than retelling them), and left me desperate for more. Radu is my ultimate favourite, but Mehmed was super-cute as well (even though it feels really weird to be saying that about an actual historical figure), and even Lada grew on me after the first few chapters. This was also another shippy book for me, but the romance wasn’t a dominating part of the story.5 starsKresley Cole//Poison PrincessPoison Princess by Kresley Cole. The first Arcana Chronicles novel, set in the US in the aftermath of a terrible disaster called the Flash, which scorched the earth, killing millions, and making food and water scarce for the survivors. The main character, Evie, is struggling to survive in this post-apocalyptic world, while also coming to terms with the strange abilities that she and a group known as the Arcana all possess – and, of course, dealing with her confusing and unwelcome feelings towards a boy she almost hated back when they were just normal teenagers. I wouldn’t say that this was great literature, but it was really fun to read, especially as the story went on. It took me a while to warm up to the setting (going into this, I thought it was going to be a paranormal romance; clearly I did not read the blurb, or even glance at it. ^^’ ), and to Evie and Jack, who had the same kind of strange, unhealthy, obsessive relationship that seems so popular in “bad boy” romances, and most of the first half of the book was utterly forgettable… but it still managed to hook me. I will definitely be reading more of this series. 😉4 stars

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April Wrap-Up

I was in top form last month! For some reason, reading’s pretty much the only thing I’ve wanted to do, and I’ve had some really great luck (or intuition?) with the books I picked up, as well; I gave almost everything I read in April either 4 or 5 stars! In total, I managed to read 9 novels, 2 short stories, and one (short) graphic novel. 😀

Genevieve Cogman//The Invisible LibraryThe Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman. A great mystery/adventure story about a librarian called Irene, who works as an agent for the Invisible Library, collecting rare books from different worlds and returning them to the Library to be preserved. This book was action-paced from start to finish, and incredibly exciting. I loved trying to puzzle out Irene’s quest, and it was quite refreshing that the characters seemed to figure things out at a similar pace that I did (getting left behind in mystery books is always frustrating, but so is waiting for the characters to catch on to something that seems obvious). The characters themselves were all wonderful, as well: Irene, Kai and Vale in particular, but I also loved the way that Irene’s history with Bradamant was tied into the story, and even the villains were a delight to read. Highly recommended!5 stars

Ella Frances Sanders//Lost in TranslationLost in Translation by Ella Frances Sanders. An adorable collection of words that have no clear equivalent in any other language. (The word I found most relatable was tsundoku, which is Japanese for a continually-growing pile of unread books. 😉 ). This book is perfect for any lover of words (or cute illustrations)! I actually bought this as a birthday present for my dad, but of course I couldn’t resist reading it myself first. 😛5 starsAlison Goodman//The Dark Days ClubThe Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman. A Regency-era historical fantasy about the young Lady Helen, who one day discovers that she has the ability to fight a kind of demon called “Deceivers”, and is drawn into the sinister world of the Dark Days Club, an organisation of people with powers like her own. This book was so much fun! I almost regret reading it, since I’m now going to have to wait another year to read the sequel! 😥 I loved all the characters, and the plot intrigued and surprised and excited me in equal measures; I ended up staying up until 4 in the morning on a work night, simply because I just had to read “one more chapter” (by which I mean the whole book). I’ve written a full review of this book, which you can read here.5 starsSally Green//Half TruthsHalf Truths by Sally Green. The second spin-off novella in the Half Life trilogy, which takse place during the beginning of Half Bad, but is told from Gabriel’s perspective. I don’t have too much to say about this, except that I wish it’d been longer, so there would’ve been more Nathan in it (it ends pretty soon after Gabriel and Nathan first meet).4 starsSally Green//Half LostHalf Lost by Sally Green. The third and final book in the Half Life trilogy, which was released at the end of March… I feel like I’ve waited forever for this book, but it was absolutely worth it. Obviously there’s not much that I can say about the plot, since this is a sequel, but it was equal parts disturbing, heartwarming, and heartbreaking, which is what I’ve come to expect from this series… Half Wild is still my favourite in the series, but this was an excellent concluding novel – even though I spent most of the last part of the book trying not to cry (and only mostly succeeding). 😥5 starsMelissa Landers//StarflightStarflight by Melissa Landers. A space adventure following a teenage girl on her way to the fringes of the galaxy in order to find some semblance of a happy life, despite her criminal record, and the spoilt son of a fuel tycoon, who hires her on as an indentured servant in excange for her fare – but mostly just so he can make her journey hell. This book was the perfect antidote to my post-Half Lost melancholy; it was just so much fun! 😀 The characters were all wonderful, and Doran and Solara’s romance was surprisingly not cheesy at all. The plot was action-packed, taking quite a few surprising (in the best possible way) turns before reaching its conclusion, and the fast-paced narrative suited the story perfectly.5 starsPeter V. Brett//The Skull ThroneThe Skull Throne by Peter V. Brett. The fourth book in the Demon Cycle series, which I’ve been readalong-ing with Chloë. I have so many mixed feelings about this book… :/ In terms of pacing, the whole book was one long, drawn-out climax, and game-changing twists were being thrown around like no-one’s business. This really felt like the follow-up that The Daylight War needed. And it was well-written, and I really loved some of the earlier plot and character developments (e.g. Arlen and Jardir finally getting a chance to talk things out, Sikvah turning out to be awesome, and the way Thamos really seemed to humanise Leesha). In some ways, this is the best book in the series so far… But almost the entire second half of the book just made me angry. The story’s certainly moving in an interesting direction now, but I really dislike the steps that Brett took in order to get it there. It’s been a long time since a book has made me feel this much hate, and while it’s a good thing that Brett’s managed to get me that invested in the story he’s telling, it’s still a really uncomfortable feeling. I’m definitely glad to be taking a break from this series while I wait for the last book to be released… ^^’4 starsNagaru Tanigawa//The Melancholy of Haruhi SuzumiyaThe Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya by Nagaru Tanigawa. The first book in the Haruhi Suzumiya series, which follows a high school boy known only by his nickname Kyon, who gets dragged into the frequently ridiculous life of his classmate Haruhi – a girl who has (though she’s not aware of it) the power to destroy the world on a whim. Another book that was just pure fun. 🙂 I love Kyon’s narrative, and how he deals with all Haruhi’s drama… I watched the anime adaptation of this series years ago, and my main take-away from that was “fun, but weird”; that still holds true for this  novel, but I also found it much less confusing than its counterpart.4 starsBeate Grimsrud//A Fool, FreeA Fool, Free by Beate Grimsrud. A vaguely autobiographical-feeling (though not, as far as I can tell, actually an autobiography) novel about an author and filmmaker who suffers from schizophrenia. I ultimately enjoyed reading this book, but had some pretty mixed feelings about it… but since it was my Library Scavenger Hunt pick for April, I’ve written a mini-review where I’ve talked about it more – read it here!3 stars

Huntley Fitzpatrick//My Life Next DoorMy Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick. A contemporary romance that follows a teenage girl called Samantha, who lives next door to the warm but chaotic Garrett family, whom her driven, political mother completely disapproves of. So naturally, Samantha ends up falling for one of the Garrett boys. Everything about this book was just wonderful: The characters, the storyline, the relationships, the writing… Samantha was very relatable, and she and Jase were incredibly cute together, and I loved how much we got to see of the two of them as a couple; so many romances just focus on the main characters getting together, and then end once they’re actually in a relationship. The focus on Jase and Samantha’s families was really nice as well, and the more dramatic turns that the plot took towards the end were incredibly gripping.5 starsMy Heart is Either Broken by Megan Abbott (from Dangerous Women). A short story about a man trying to deal with the disappearance of his daughter, and the fact that the police and the public all seem to suspect that his wife was the one responsible. I’m not usually one for crime novels, but I actually really enjoyed this one – it had a wonderfully sinister feel to it, and since it was a short story rather than a full novel, it wasn’t long enough to drag…4 starsMorgan Matson//Second Chance SummerSecond Chance Summer by Morgan Matson. A bittersweet story about a teenage girl called Taylor, who’s spending the summer with her parents and siblings at the lake house that they haven’t visited in years (since she had an argument with two of her friends there, and ran away rather than try to fix their relationship), as a last chance for some quality time as a family, since her father only has a few months left to live. Naturally, this book was very sad, but it was also uplifting at times; Taylor got a chance to really get to know her father before his death, and their shared grief let her connect with her brother and sister in a way that she never had before. She also had the “second chance” referred to in the title – with her former best friend Lucy, and her ex-boyfriend Henry, with whom she’d had a disastrous parting… Taylor’s tendency to run away from her problems could sometimes be frustrating, and was perhaps a little overdone, but she was still very relatable, and the writing was excellent. I actually liked this book even better than Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour, though I would still recommend reading that book first, as there’s a nice cameo near the beginning of the book!4 stars