May-July Haul

My book-buying ban has somewhat derailed, I’m afraid, but at the end of last month it was still going strong, and so I only have seven books to show you in this post, several of which were gifts, and all but one of which I have already read (incredibly. I’ve never known myself to read things so promptly after buying/receiving them!). In any case, here they are:

1) Geekerella by Ashley Poston. A super-cute love story between die-hard fans of Starfield, a fictional Star Trek-esque TV show, which jumped straight to the top of my to-buy list almost as soon as I discovered that it existed. 💕 I’ve already read this book, and you can find my review of it here.

2) We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. An essay about why feminism is (or should be) important to everyone. This book was a gift from my friend Grace, who just so happened to have a spare copy lying around, and kindly offered it to me when I off-handedly mentioned that I’d been meaning to read it for a while… 😁 I didn’t write a full review for this one, but you can find my thoughts on it in my June wrap-up.

3) Bee & Puppycat, Volume 1 by Natasha Allegri & Garrett Jackson. A cute comic book about a girl and her alien/cat/puppy flatmate, doing bizarre temp jobs. I bought this on a whim when it appeared at the second-hand bookshop where I work, entirely due to the cuteness of the art and Natasha Allegri’s name on the cover… And although I liked the book, it’s not a series that I think I’ll be continuing with. ☹️ Not pictured because I re-donated it a few days ago; my review is here.

4) The Legend of Zelda: Art & Artifacts. A beautiful and amazing book of art from the Legend of Zelda series, which was a birthday present from my best friend Chloë (who also gave me Hyrule Historia – which Art & Artifacts accompanies – for Christmas last year!). As it’s an art book, it’s not really the kind of thing to be read cover-to-cover, but I have spent a significant amount of time staring at it, and can confirm that it is a thing of wonder. 😍

5) Now I Rise by Kiersten White. The sequel to And I Darken, which is about a young Vlad the Impaler, had he been born a woman. This is the only book on this list that I haven’t finished reading yet (I’m currently about a quarter of the way through it, but I keep getting distracted by life – and readathons), but I’ve really enjoyed what I’ve read so far, & I hope to get round to continuing it soon. I really can’t recommend this series enough. 😊

6) Once & for All by Sarah Dessen. The latest of Dessen’s teen romances, which I bought – along with Now I Rise, as they were both on buy-one-get-one-half-price at Waterstones – right before going on holiday to Skye. I was actually intending to finish this book before I left, but didn’t quite make it, and so it came with me on my trip, and was very much enjoyed. 😋 Not my favourite of Dessen’s books, but an amazing read nonetheless… you can find my review here.

7) Calum’s Road by Roger Hutchinson. The last book I acquired in July was a birthday present from my sister Helen, the biography of a man called Calum MacLeod, who build a two-mile road between Brochel Castle and South Arnish in Raasay, with only a wheelbarrow, shovel, pickaxe, and his own two hands. Biographies are not usually my thing, but this was an incredible story – which I’ve reviewed here. (Also not in the picture, because I lent it back to Heli to read almost as soon as I’d finished it myself, but this is definitely a book I’ll be keeping. 👍)

Summer Holidays ~🎶

This Friday my family and I will be heading off on our annual trip to Skye. I’m looking forward to escaping from the heat and humidity of Cambridge for a while, and (I confess) to having a break from work – but most of all, I’m excited for peace and quiet, and lots and lots of time to read books. ☺️ For the sake of not taking up too much car space, I won’t be taking more than a couple of physical books, but with them and my kindle, I hope that I’ll have enough to keep me going… Here’s what I’m currently planning on reading:

1) Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling. I’ve been reading this along with the Harry Potter & the Sacred Text podcast, but I still have a lot of catching up to do, and long car trips are perfect for at least the listening part of the process, so I’ll definitely be bringing this book along. 😊

2) Now I Rise by Kiersten White. The second book in The Conquerors Saga (which started with And I Darken), which is going to be released on Thursday. Obviously, I haven’t got a copy of this book at the moment, but I do have a credit saved up at the moment from my book-buying ban (/restriction), and I’m planning on using it for this book, which I’m super-excited to pick up as soon as I can. Barring unexpected circumstances, I’ll head into town on Thursday to purchase a copy…

3) There really are a lot of Evil Spirits! by Fuyumi Ono. The second book in the Akuryou series, which hasn’t officially been released in English, though fan-translations are available online. Recently, I’ve been re-reading/re-watching/finally reading the sequel to to Ghost Hunt manga and anime, and since I’m enjoying it so much, I thought I’d also pick up some of the novels it was based on… I read the first one quite a while back (though I may decide to re-read it; they’re only short, after all), so I intend to start again from volume two this time.

As for the rest, I’m still undecided, but there are a few books on my kindle at the moment that I might give a go… They include: Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien, A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki, or perhaps the second and third books in Robin Hobb’s Farseer trilogy (which I started during the Anti-Bullying Readathon in 2015 and loved)… Or I might cave in and finally buy A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir; it will likely depend a lot on my mood. 🤔 However, as has become the usual when I post one of these TBRsI will be trying to do a proper review of everything I read on my trip, so whatever I decide to read, expect to be hearing about it! 😆

Upcoming Releases: Summer 2017

In a miraculous turn of events, it’s actually been sunny here for the last few days – which is wonderful when you have the day off, but not so wonderful when you’re trapped inside all day… 😓 I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the good weather will stick around for a few more days, but if it doesn’t, then at least I’ve got some exciting new books to look forward to! Here are just a sample of the new releases I’m most eager to see in June, July & August:

[All dates are taken from Amazon UK unless stated otherwise, and are correct as of 27/05/2017.]

   

Harry Potter & the Philosopher’s Stone, House editions by J.K. Rowling (1st June)

It feels like Harry Potter has been a part of my life for way more than 20 years, but the 20th anniversary of the publication of Harry Potter & the Philosopher’s Stone is imminent, and to celebrate, Bloomsbury are releasing brand-new editions of the first book in all four house colours! I’m not entirely certain if I’ll be picking one of these up (my heart is saying yes, but my self-control is saying no; I’m not yet sure which will win out), but don’t they look amazing? And they’re doing paperbacks, too! You can find the full range here.
Excitement level: 10/10

Never Say Die by Anthony Horowitz (1st June)

A follow-up to the Alex Rider series, in which Alex moves to San Francisco to recover from the loss of his best friend and guardian at the end of Scorpia Rising, only to come across a suspicious email that seems to indicate that she may be alive after all. A co-worker of mine mentioned to me last week that this book was a thing, and it was a huge bombshell! I never expected to have more Alex Rider in my life, but it’s a welcome surprise! 😆 Excitement level: 9/10

The Rise & Fall of D.O.D.O. by Neal Stephenson & Nicole Galland (15th June)

A time-travel adventure set in both 19th century London and 21st century America, and involving a group of agents who are tasked with travelling back in time in order to prevent the disappearance of magic. I’ve never read anything by Neal Stephenson before (or even heard of Nicole Galland), but I’ve heard really amazing things about his work, and this story looks like a super-fun place to start. 😊 Excitement level: 7/10

Now I Rise by Kiersten White (6th July)

The sequel to And I Darken, which retells the life of Vlad the Impaler and his brother Radu, had Vlad been born a girl – Lada – instead… And I Darken was an unexpected favourite of mine last year, and I’ve been eagerly anticipating Now I Rise ever since I finished its predecessor. It hasn’t been too long a wait, but it certainly felt like one. Excitement level: 9/10

Also out soon in paperback:

  • A Closed & Common Orbit by Becky Chambers (15th July)
    Excitement level: 8/10
  • Black Light Express by Philip Reeve (1st August)
    Excitement level: 8/10

Summer Haul

summer haulYou remember that book-buying ban I was on? Well, it’s failed utterly. I did fantastically in June, and in July I only bought three books (though my birthday was in July, so I also received a few as gifts 😀 ), and then in August I went completely crazy… resulting in the photo above. ^^’ On the plus side, several of these I’ve read already, so the stack of unread books on my bedroom floor hasn’t grown too much…

1) Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. A birthday present from my friend Grace, who has (among others) been trying to get me to read it for a while now. And I loved it, just as everyone was sure that I would! 😀 I read this in July, so you can see what I thought of it in my wrap-up.

2) The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz. Another birthday present, this time from my sister. A thought-provoking novel about a Dominican-American boy who has never quite managed to fit in anywhere… I read this during the Booktubeathon, so I’ve also posted a mini-review of it.

3) 1066 and All That by Walter Carruthers Sellar & Robert Julian Yeatman. A tongue-in-cheek history book that was given to me by my friend William. I haven’t read this one yet, but I’m hoping to get to it soon.

4) The Spy’s Bedside Book by Graham & Hugh Greene. Also a present from William, this is a collection of short spy stories and tips, from what I’ve been able to gather. It looks like another super-fun book, so I’ll probably be picking it up reasonably soon.

5) Harry Potter & the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne & John Tiffany. The follow-up to the Harry Potter series, in script form! I bought this the day it was released (of course), and read it almost straight away, and despite the misgivings of others, I really enjoyed it. I’m sure that the play itself will be better – and I really want to see it soon – but this was a nice traipse back into the Wizarding World. More detailed thoughts on this are in my August wrap-up.

On the Other Side - photo6) On the Other Side by Carrie Hope Fletcher. The new novel by youtuber ItsWayPastMyBedtime, which I couldn’t resist picking up after hearing the song she wrote for it. Unfortunately I wasn’t a huge fan of the story itself (again, reasons why are in my August wrap-up), but I do feel like I should take the time to point appreciate the fact that someone at Little, Brown must have put a huge amount of effort into making this book as beautiful as it is.

7) The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan. The first book in Riordan’s new Percy Jackson-universe series, The Trials of Apollo. I’m not sure when I’ll actually read this, but I wanted to pick it up while it’s still available in hardback, so that it will match the rest of my Rick Riordan books…

8) The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken. I bought this one solely because it showed up unexpectedly at the second-hand bookshop where I work, and I’ve been looking for a copy for ages. This is another one that I’m eager to read soon, though my eagerness is somewhat tempered by the knowledge that I have no easy access to either of the sequels. 😦

9) A Court of Mist & Fury by Sarah J. Maas. The sequel to A Court of Thorns & Roses, which I liked when I read it, but have had my reservations about since… I wasn’t initially sure whether I was going to continue this series, but so many people have told me that this book is way better than the last, so I’ve decided to give it a try. Also, it (along with the next three books I’m going to list) was buy-one-get-one-half-price at Waterstones, so I didn’t really have a choice in the matter. 😉

10) And I Darken by Kiersten White. An intriguing novelisation of the life of Vlad the Impaler, if he had been a she. This is another book that I read pretty promptly after buying, so my (long, rambling) thoughts on it are all in my August wrap-up.

11) Railhead by Philip Reeve. I’ve not actually read much of Philip Reeve’s work, but I remember really loving his Hungry City Chronicles when I was in school, so of course I couldn’t resist seeing what his most recent book was like. Spoiler: it was fantastic – and I’ve written a full review of it here!

12) Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo. The first of a new duology set in the same universe as Bardugo’s Grisha trilogy, which I binge-read a few years ago and loved. And much to my surprise, Six of Crows was even better – I’m really excited for the sequel! Once again, I’ve talked about this book in my August wrap-up.

13) Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle Volumes 11-20 by CLAMP. And lastly! Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle is a series I’ve been reading since it was first released in English, but I’ve always had trouble tracking down any volumes after the first 10 (except online, but I’ve never much liked buying manga online), so when the first 20 volumes all showed up at work, I took it as a sign. 😉 I’m looking forward to catching up (at least partially) on this series soon!

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

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. 😉