November Wrap-Up

A productive month! And one that included a lot of books that I was very excited to read. 😀 In total, I read 8 novels, 2 novellas, and 3 graphic novels, which is more than I’ve read in a single month in quite some time (or so it feels, anyway). I’m also definitely out of my reading slump at this point, and I’ve been enjoying getting back into my books~ ❤ Here’s what I read in November:

Nunzio DeFilippis & Christina Weir//The Avalon Chronicles vol. 1The Avalon Chronicles, Volume 1: Once in a Blue Moon by Nunzio DeFilippis & Christina Weir. The first in a graphic novel series that follows Aeslin, a girl from our world who is one day transported via a magical book to Avalon – the setting of a story that her parents used to read to her as a child, and where she has an epic destiny waiting for her. This book was super, super-fun! The characters are all great, and the art (by Emma Vieceli) is beautiful – and I’m enjoying the story even more than I was expecting to (which was quite a lot already)!4 starsNunzio DeFilippis & Christina Weir//The Avalon Chronicles, vol. 2The Avalon Chronicles, Volume 2: The Girl & the Unicorn by Nunzio DeFilippis & Christina Weir. The second instalment, in which Aeslin gets serious about her destiny, Cassidy & Will are awesome, and a whole load of game-changing info gets dropped. I’m really, really excited to see what’s going to happen next! 😀4 starsMargaret Atwood//The Handmaid's TaleThe Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. The bleak and oddly dispassionate tale of Offred, a Handmaid living in the early years of the Republic of Gilead, whose only purpose is to conceive a child. It’s a story I’ve been meaning to read for some time, and it definitely didn’t disappoint – the story is wonderfully creepy and mysterious, and piecing together the origins of the Republic of Gilead, and how Offred ended up where she is, is incredibly interesting. The historical notes section at the end (written in the form of a speech delivered by a fictional Professor of Gileadean Studies, or some such field) served as a really great epilogue to Offred’s rather open-ended narrative, answering a lot of the questions I had about Gilead and about Offred herself, while leaving other threads of the story appropriately unresolved… much in the way of life itself. A ponderous read – I suspect I’ll still be thinking about it for some time.4 starsEmma Vieceli//Dragon Heir Reborn vol. 1Dragon Heir Reborn, Volume 1 by Emma Vieceli. A fantasy adventure comic which follows the four Dragon Heirs – people fated to carry the different aspects of the sacred dragon Spiratu – as they come together to prepare for the Rite of Transcendence. The art is beautiful, and the story intriguing, if a little confusing at the beginning. It suffers, however, from a rather overcrowded cast: There are five main characters, as well as a few other important supporting characters, and they and the main villain are all introduced in reasonably quick succession, without being developed much (though they all seem fairly likeable – villain excepted!). The setting is similarly flawed, as the characters seem to jump rapidly from place to place, without ever exploring or explaining the culture of their world much. It does show some promise, though, and I’m looking forward to seeing where this story is going.3 starsMaria V. Snyder//Poison StudyPoison Study by Maria V. Snyder. The first book in the Study trilogy, which makes up the first part of the Chronicles of Ixia high fantasy series. This book follows Yelena, who’s been imprisoned for murder, but on the day that she’s due to be executed, she is instead offered the chance to become the Commander’s (the leader of Ixia’s military dictatorship) new food taster. I loved this story so much: The characters were wonderful, the plot was gripping, and I was fascinated by Ixia’s social structure – which could very easily have had a dystopian bent, except for the fact that it was actually stable and functional. Given that this is a YA (or at least YA-ish) novel, I also spent a lot of time waiting for Obvious-Love-Interest-Anon to show up, but I was really pleasantly surprised with the romance that Snyder decided on, and with the way that it played out. Would definitely recommend. 😀5 starsFrances Hardinge//Cuckoo SongCuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge. My Library Scavenger Hunt pick for this month; a mystery/horror story that follows a young girl who crawls out of a river one day with no memory of how she came to be in it in the first place, and finds that she’s no longer the person she remembers being before. I really enjoyed this book, and have written a mini-review of it here, for your reading pleasure~ 😉4 starsMaria V. Snyder//Magic StudyMagic Study by Maria V. Snyder. The sequel to Poison Study, in which Yelena finds herself in Sitia. Still very enjoyable, though not quite so much as the first book, which is a shame. The social contrast between Ixia and Sitia was really interesting, and there were several cool new characters who were introduced in this book – I really liked Yelena’s relationships with both Leif and Cahil, though I felt that Cahil’s character development took a serious turn for the worse towards the end… The book’s only major flaw was that Sitia is such a big place, with lots of different cultures and traditions – the magicians of the Magician’s Keep, the jungle-dwelling Zaltanas, and the Sandseeds of the Avibian Plains, as well as various other breakaway groups – and they were all introduced in such rapid succession that it was difficult to really get a feel for them, or to get attached to any of the new characters.3 stars

J.K. Rowling//Harry Potter & the Philosopher's Stone illustrated Robin Hobb//Assassin's Apprentice Jandy Nelson//I'll Give You the Sun

At this point in the month, the Anti-Bullying Readathon came around. It lasted a full week, during which I managed to read three books that featured bullying: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (illustrated edition) by J.K. RowlingAssassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb, and I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson. You can see my thoughts on each of those books by looking at my #AntiBullyReads wrap up.

5 stars 5 stars 4 stars

Maria V. Snyder//Fire StudyFire Study by Maria V. Snyder. The third book in the Chronicles of Ixia series, and the conclusion to the Study trilogy, wherein Yelena has to confront the Daviians, and negotiate a peace between Ixia and Sitia. The beginning of this book was quite frustrating, in much the same way that Magic Study was, but thankfully it picked up towards the middle of the book, and the story ended on a high point. Definitely an improvement on Magic Study, though still lacking the spark that made Poison Study so fantastic. I posted a full review of this trilogy (and the two related novellas) yesterday, which you can read here.4 starsMaria V. Snyder//Assassin StudyAssassin Study by Maria V. Snyder. A short story set between Poison Study and Magic Study, which follows Valek as he hunts down an assassin who’s after Yelena. This was a fun, quick read, and it was interesting to see Valek’s perspective, but not really a necessary addition to the main story.3 starsMaria V. Snyder//Power StudyPower Study by Maria V. Snyder. Another novella, this time following Ari and Janco after the events of Fire Study, when they return to Ixia and are faced with a talented but suspicious new recruit. I liked this one a bit better than the last, and Ari and Janco’s banter was very entertaining. Both of these stories can be read for free on Snyder’s website.3 stars

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#AntiBullyReads: Wrap-Up

Well, #AntiBullyReads is finally over, and despite a quite slow start (I barely read anything before the weekend), I’m pretty happy with my results. I managed to read two whole books, and about half (the last half) of a third, and I even won a giveaway (the day 2 prize pack, which was donated by The Book People)! XD In this wrap-up, I’ve shared my thoughts on the books I read, and I’ve picked out what I thought was an appropriate Anti-Bullying Week quote from each of them. Enjoy!

J.K. Rowling//Harry Potter & the Philosopher's Stone illustratedHarry Potter & the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling. The illustrated edition! I’ve been reading this for a while, going slowly so as to savour the experience, but I thought that this was the perfect opportunity to finish it off – and I loved it! It’s an amazing book, of course, but reading it in this format, with all the beautiful illustrations (and they’re really lovely), was just perfect. XD My favourite anti-bullying quote from this first book:

Harry felt in the pocket of his robes and pulled out a Chocolate Frog, the very last one from the box Hermione had given him for Christmas. He gave it to Neville, who looked as though he might cry.

‘You’re worth twelve of Malfoy,’ Harry said.

5 stars

Robin Hobb//Assassin's ApprenticeAssassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb. The first book in the Farseer trilogy – a high fantasy series that follows Fitz, the illegitimate son of the heir to the throne, who is dumped on his father’s family and household, none of whom really know what to make of him. The story is written as if it’s a memoir – in first person, and with blanks in areas where Fitz has gaps in his memory (though thankfully that happens less and less as he ages) – which works really well, and lets you really get to know him before any of the real action begins, and brief segments at the beginning of each chapter talked about the history of the Farseer world, which was both interesting and very helpful in fleshing it out (especially since Fitz’s own world is so small, at least for the majority of the book). The characters, I also loved, particularly Fitz himself, as well as Prince Verity, Chade, Burrich, and a whole host of others.

In terms of bullying, I’ll confess that for most of the first half book there isn’t really any, excepting the mild disapproval that Fitz seems to garner wherever he goes. It wasn’t until near the halfway point that it became clear to me why this book was recommended for the readathon: Fitz finds himself at odds with one of his instructors, who is cruel to all his students, but seems to take particular joy in abusing and belittling Fitz – and, his spirit broken (or at least a little bit squished), he has difficulty mustering the will to respond. This is the advice that Burrich eventually gives him:

‘You didn’t fail, you fool. Galen tried to drive you away. If you don’t go back, you’ll have let him win. You have to go back and you have to learn it. But,’ and here he turned on me, and the anger in his eyes was for me, ‘You don’t have to stand there like a carter’s mule while he beats you. You’ve a birthright to his time and his knowledge. Make him give you what is yours. Don’t run away. No one ever gained anything by running away.’

5 stars

Jandy Nelson//I'll Give You the SunI’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson. The story of a pair of twins – Noah and Jude – once close, but torn apart by lies and misunderstandings, and their attempts to heal the breach. The book is divided into two parts, and jumps between Noah’s perspective just before the events that separated them, and Jude’s perspective a couple of years after, and it makes for a compelling narrative – we’re able to figure out bits and pieces of the mystery, but are never able to see the full picture before the end. I really enjoyed this book, in terms of story, characterisation and structure, but I also found it a little challenging at times, since Nelson uses so much artistic metaphor, which made it difficult to decipher what was real and what wasn’t (I might even go so far as to describe this as a magical realism book), but thankfully I was able to get used to it eventually.

It also doesn’t contain as much bullying as I thought it would. Noah is bullied a little at the beginning, and there’s a character introduced a little later on who worries a lot that he might be bullied, but on the whole, it was more of a coming-of-age, self-discovery type story. But regardless, here’s my favourite (kind of) anti-bullying quote from this book:

“Listen to me. It takes a lot of courage to be true to yourself, true to your heart. You always have been very brave that way and I pray you always will be. It’s your responsibility, Noah. Remember that.”

4 stars

T5W: Books I wanted to start yesterday!

So, there are a couple of different ways I could’ve interpreted this topic, and I’m not entirely sure which was the intended one, but I’ve decided to think of it as books that I’m so ridiculously excited about that I wish I was already reading them. I’ve also decided not to include books that haven’t been released yet, since otherwise it would basically just be a list of new releases I’m anticipating (there are a lot)…

Alexandra Bracken//The Darkest Minds5) The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken

I’ve been wanting to read this for the longest time, but unfortunately it’s been a little difficult to get hold of. 😦 Apparently it’s a dystopian road-trip novel, featuring teenagers with super-powers, which sounds like a lot of fun. 🙂

Morgan Rhodes//Falling Kingdoms4) Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes

I’ve heard this book described as the Game of Thrones of YA literature, which is probably overdoing it somewhat… but I do really like Game of Thrones, and I’ve heard lots of really positive things about Falling Kingdoms. Plus, I can’t seem to get enough of the fantasy genre lately (you’ll start to notice a trend very shortly 😛 ).

Laini Taylor//Daughter of Smoke & Bone3) Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Demons. Hidden worlds. Forbidden love (I think?). What’s not to be excited about? This whole series has been sitting on my shelves for a while, waiting for the opportune moment to be read, but I keep having to put it off, because I have so many other books to read! :/

Robin Hobb//Assassin's Apprentice2) Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb

This is the book that I’m most likely to read in the near future, as the whole Farseer trilogy was available recently as a Kindle Daily Deal, so I snapped them up. I don’t really know what the trilogy’s about (other than assassins, obviously 😉 ), but Robin Hobb is one of the greats of modern high fantasy, so I’m definitely looking forward to it.

Erika Johansen//The Queen of the Tearling1) The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

I was kind of on the edge over whether or not I wanted to read this book, until recently. I’ve heard really amazing reviews, and apparently it’s also been optioned for a film starring Emma Watson, which is very exciting! Realistically speaking, I don’t know when I’ll get round to reading it (maybe when it’s out in paperback?), but I hope it’ll be soon.

[The thing that I usually forget to say…: Top 5 Wednesday was created by gingerreadslainy, and if you’re interested in finding out more, you should check out the Goodreads group.]