Mid-Year Book Freakout Tag

I’ve been seeing this tag floating around quite a lot recently, and – since I’m not really feeling the reviews at the moment – I thought it might make an interesting post. Also, it’s the middle of the year, and “freaking out” is a pretty accurate way to describe my attitude towards books right now, even though, unusually, I’m ahead on my Goodreads challenge! 🎉

lois mcmaster bujold a civil campaign1. What’s the best book you’ve read so far in 2019?

A Civil Campaign by Lois McMaster Bujold, which I just read a couple of weeks ago! I stumbled across the massive Vorkosigan Saga at the beginning of the year, and have been obsessed with it ever since… and the books just keep getting better and better! A Civil Campaign is my favourite so far, by a small margin.

2. What’s the best sequel you’ve read so far in 2019?

Well, as above (closely followed by Memory, from the same series), but in the interest of not spending the whole of this tag gushing over the same few books… I thought that The Wicked King by Holly Black was also a really great follow-up to The Cruel Prince, and improved on it in basically every way. I can’t wait to see how the trilogy is going to wrap up! 😊

3) What’s a new release that you haven’t read yet, but want to?

My book-buying ban combined with my new Vorkosigan Saga obsession has meant that there are quite a few of these, but the one that stings the most is probably The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie… I keep going into bookshops and staring longingly at it on the shelves, which really isn’t helping, but maybe I’ll get some book money for my birthday, or something. 🤞 I really loved Leckie’s Imperial Radch trilogy, & am dying to see what she’ll do with the fantasy genre.

rainbow rowell wayward son4. What’s your most anticipated release for the second half of the year?

That would be Wayward Son by Rainbow Rowell! Rowell seems very much to me to be in the business of wish-fulfilment; when I read Fangirl, I couldn’t help thinking how much I wanted to read a read Simon Snow book, and when Carry On (one of my all-time favourite books) came into existence, all I wanted was a sequel… and now we’re getting that, too! 24th September, wait for me! 😆 (I’m also very excited for The Secret Commonwealth by Philip Pullman, but my hype for it isn’t quite so extreme.)

5. What’s your biggest disappointment of the year?

Definitely Starfall by Melissa Landers. It’s not the worst book I’ve read this year, but it was such a let-down after the first book in the series, which at the time of reading was close to a favourite. Worst of Starfall‘s crimes, though, is that it’s kind of tainted Starflight by association… What if it was never as good as I thought it was?! 😣

6. And the biggest surprise?

Probably Before Adam by Jack London, which I wasn’t expecting to like at all, but actually turned out to be pretty gripping. I posted a review of this book recently that talks more about the whys-and-wherefores, but in short: I found the entire premise off-putting, but clearly should’ve had more faith in London’s ability to spin a good story.

7. Do you have a new favourite author?

I do! Lois McMaster Bujold, the author of the Vorkosigan Saga! My aunt mentioned her to me over Christmas as a reputedly really excellent fantasy writer, and upon looking her up I was vaguely interested in trying some of her works (though the sci-fi appealed to me more than the fantasy, surprisingly), and then I stumbled across one of her books (Young Miles) second-hand in January… Naturally, I picked it up, but I wasn’t expecting to love it nearly as much as I did. Bujold hasn’t just become a favourite author of 2019 for me, but an all-time favourite, for sure.

8. Or a new fictional crush?

This one not so much, I’m afraid. The Vorkosigan Saga is full of incredibly charming characters, but I don’t think I’d call any of them crushes, exactly…

9. Who’s your newest favourite character?

Miles Vorkosigan~! 💕 He pulls you in like he’s a planet; it’s inevitable. 😉 But really, this series has given me so many new favourite characters, Miles is only the most blindingly brilliant of them. Others include: Ivan and Gregor, Miles’ mother Cordelia, Mark and Kareen, and most recently the wonderful Ekaterin, who came as a(nother) huge surprise to me, and I might even have come to like even more than Miles himself…!? (Maybe. Don’t hold me to that; I haven’t made my mind up yet.)

Honorary mentions as well to Midoriya and Todoroki from the My Hero Academia series, the manga of which I started this year, although I was already familiar with their anime counterparts…

10. What book made you cry?

I think the last book that made me cry actual tears was The Book Thief, and I read that, what, five years ago now? I’m not holding my breath for another one any time soon… but of this year’s reads, The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa has definitely come the closest.

11. What book made you happy?

A fair few. 😊 A Civil Campaign probably made me the happiest, but I also really loved the ridiculously fluffy Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett.

satoru noda golden kamuy vol 212. What’s the most beautiful book you’ve bought (or been given) this year?

This may be a slightly weird answer, but I think it’s probably Golden Kamuy, Volume 2 by Satoru Noda. None of the (admittedly few) books I’ve obtained this year have been fancy special editions, or anything, but I really like Noda’s art style, and the picture of Asirpa on the second volume is particularly pretty. Click on the cover for a (much) closer look! ☞ ☞ ☞

13. What books do you need to read by the end of the year?

So many books! All of the books! More specifically, though: I’ve only read two of the eight books on my 5-star predictions list, which I promised myself I’d read this year (those being Uprooted and Lies We Tell Ourselves), but of the remaining six, the ones I’m most anxious to get to are Eon by Alison Goodman and The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller. Otherwise, I’d really like to finish Cassandra Clare’s The Mortal Instruments series soon, if only so that I can finally move on to the other Shadowhunters books…

eon alison goodman madeleine miller the song of achilles cassandra clare city of lost souls cassandra clare city of heavenly fire

[Tag’s original creators: Earl Grey Books & ReadLikeWildfire.]

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June Wrap Up

I’ve been super-busy this month, with work and my trip to Iceland, as well as various other social commitments, but I’m pretty pleased with the amount of reading I managed to get done in spite of it all. 🙂 In total, I read nine novels in June, as well as four comic books. I also seem to be approaching the completion of my new year reading resolution challenges, which is exciting! The two that I haven’t quite finished yet are to re-read five books (so far I’ve on;y read two), and to read five books that showcase foreign cultures (only one left to go for this challenge!)… Anyway, this month I read:

Jodi Lynn Anderson//Tiger LilyTiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson. A dark and eerie re-imagining of Peter Pan, focusing on the character of Tiger Lily, and, interestingly, told from Tinker Bell’s perspective. This was an incredible book, and I’ve written a full review of it, which you can read here, if you so desire.5 stars

Bill Willingham//Fables book 2Fables: The Deluxe Edition, Book 2 by Bill Willingham. This comprises the main series’ Storybook Love storyline – wherein Snow White and Bigby Wolf are sent on holiday together, where an assassin plots against them – as well as a few side stories, including some Jack and Boy Blue backstory, the tale of the Lilliputians, and a 2-issue comic where a reporter mistakes the Fabletown residents for vampires. This series is just getting better as it goes along, & I’m really looking forward to reading more. I’ve switched to the deluxe editions now, since they include more of the spin-off issues…5 starsCassandra Clare//City of AshesCity of Ashes by Cassandra Clare. The second book in the Mortal Instruments series, where Clary, Jace & co. try to figure out who’s killing Downworlder children, and why. I didn’t enjoy this one quite as much as City of Bones, but it was definitely worth reading. The tension between Clary and Jace is really well done, and Simon is growing on me a lot, although his relationship with Clary felt rather forced… At this point, I’m also really beginning to see what everyone means by Clary having really, really poor decision-making skills, but so far it hasn’t bothered me too much.4 starsTerry Pratchett//Interesting TimesInteresting Times by Terry Pratchett.Discworld novel, in which Rincewind is sent to the Counterweight Continent in order to help with a rebellion. This book was hilarious, as Terry Pratchett’s books always are, and I read it alongside my friend Clare while we were on holiday together, which made it even more fun. I wouldn’t, however, recommend reading it unless you’ve also read some of the previous Rincewind-centric stories, as they’re directly linked… There’s a really great Discworld reading guide here, if you need help figuring it all out (as I often do!).4 starsCassandra Clare//City of GlassCity of Glass by Cassandra Clare. The third Mortal Instruments book, and the conclusion to the series’ initial storyline. Also the first book I decided to read for the #Rainbowthon, and I decided to count it as my orange book, even though I read it on my kindle, and I was already halfway through it when the readathon started… 😳 Anyway, I really enjoyed the book, and it was a great conclusion to the storyline, even though I felt that some of the elements (particularly the romantic ones) were a bit predictable. It’s got nothing on The Infernal Devices, of course, but it was still a lot of fun. I’ll probably take a break before continuing the series, though. 🙂4 stars

Stella Gibbons//Cold Comfort FarmCold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons. A parody of late 18th & early 19th century agricultural novels (e.g. the works of Thomas Hardy or D.H. Lawrence), wherein Flora Poste, after the death of her parents, decides to embark on a career as a parasite, and descends on her unusual relatives, determined to sort out their lives. Thematically, the book reminded me a lot of Emma by Jane Austen, though as a parody, Cold Comfort Farm was understandably much more ridiculous… It took me a little while to really get into it, but once I did, I found it hilarious. In regards to the #Rainbowthon, this book counted for both red and blue.4 starsE. Lockhart//The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-BanksThe Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart. This was my green book for the #Rainbowthon, and it was fantastic! It completely sucked me in, and I managed to read it almost in one sitting (it would’ve been one sitting, if not for the fact that I didn’t start it until about 1am, and also work…). It follows Frankie, who is a sophomore at an elite boarding school, which has a secret boys’ club called the Bassets. Feeling excluded, Frankie decides to infiltrate the club, and everything just escalates from there. I initially picked this up on faith (because I liked We Were Liars so much), since I was under the impression that it was a revenge book, which isn’t usually my thing… but I’m so glad I was wrong! The book is heavy on the social commentary, à la George Orwell’s novels – super-interesting, and very well-written – but unlike those, the characters were really likeable, and the story was buckets of fun~! 😀5+ starsJesse Andrews//Me & Earl & the Dying GirlMe & Earl & the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews. The story of a boy called Greg, who is forced by his mother (by means of incessant nagging) to befriend a girl who’s just been diagnosed with leukemia, and consequently has his life ruined (kind of). This was a great, and surprisingly funny take on a cancer story, with really interesting characters and relationships, and an incredibly deadpan narrator. The narration/writing style was probably my favourite thing about the book: It’s fast-paced, and a lot of it is written in script-format, so it’s very easy to get drawn into the story… (This was not one of the books I picked out for the #Rainbowthon, but I did finish it while that was still going on (but only just), and it technically qualifies to be my yellow book – which means I managed to get all the colours of the rainbow except purple! 🙂 )4 starsTed Naifeh//Princess Ugg vol. 1Princess Ugg, Volume 1 by Ted Naifeh. The first volume in a series about a viking-style princess who goes off to princess school in hopes of finding a nonviolent way of ender her people’s war against the frost giants. I was beginning to get a bit slumpy at this point in the month, so I thought I’d pick up a comic to stave the feeling off – and this book was really fun! 🙂 The story, characters and concept were great, and I really liked the art, too. I’m looking forward to seeing where this story goes.4 starsAntony Johnston//Umbral vol. 1Umbral, Book 1: Out of the Shadows by Antony Johnston. Another comic, this time about a thief who’s running from evil shadow monsters that seem to be killing everyone around her and taking their places… This was a strange, confusing story, and it didn’t really help that we were just dropped in in the middle of the action, which never really slowed down enough to explain anything. Apart from Rascal, the aforementioned thief, the story doesn’t stay with any characters long enough for us to really get attached to them, either, and unfortunately the character design meant that it was difficult to tell some of the characters apart…2 starsAntony Johnston//Umbral vol. 2Umbral, Book 2: The Dark Path by Antony Johnston. The sequel, in which the storytelling improved drastically, the pace slowed down, and the main characters were finally identifiable. I really enjoyed this, which surprised me – but it was certainly a happy surprise!4 starsSkye Jordan//RicochetRicochet by Skye Jordan. The third book in the Renegades series, which follows Rachel, the Renegades’ secretary/gopher/person-who-does-everything, and Ryker, a soldier on leave from Afghanistan, who’s called in as an explosives expert on a stunt they’re filming. This was a surprising hit, as I wasn’t too thrilled by the last book in the series! But Rachel and Ryker were both really great, sympathetic characters, and their relationship was both interesting and believable… Consider yourself warned, though: This series is definitely not for younger readers~ 😛4 starsAmy Tan//The Kitchen God's WifeThe Kitchen God’s Wife by Amy Tan. The life story of a woman called Winnie – growing up in China, her disastrous first marriage, and how she eventually escaped from it. I read this mainly because my dad thought I’d like it – and he was right! The narrative was a bit slow to start with, as it took a while to really set the scene, but once I got to the part where Winnie began to tell her daughter about her life in China, I got very invested, very quickly. This book also features one of the most despicable antagonists I’ve ever come across: Winnie’s first husband Wen Fu is right up there with Joffrey from A Song of Ice and Fire and Dimitri from The Bronze Horseman in vileness…5 stars

Series I want to FINISH this year!

This week’s Top 5 Wednesday theme was series I want to start this year, but since I’m hoping to do more finishing old things than starting new ones this year (one of my reading resolutions was even to finish some of the series that I’ve already started), I thought I’d share a couple of series that I hope to either finish or catch up on in 2015. So without further ado (& in no particular order):

Patrick Ness//The Knife of Never Letting Go1) The Chaos Walking trilogy by Patrick Ness

I read the first book in this trilogy (The Knife of Never Letting Go) over a year ago, and liked it so much that I actually wanted to move on to the second book straight away. Unfortunately, I was stuck on a train, and the only other book I had with me was another first-book-in-a-series, and by the time I got home I was really into that other series, so Chaos Walking got put on the sidelines for a little long while.

Tahereh Mafi//Shatter Me2) The Shatter Me trilogy by Tahereh Mafi

I only bought this series recently, and was planning on marathoning it, but I got somewhat distracted by various other books (and Christmas!). I’ve only managed to read the first two books so far, but I’m enjoying them a lot.

L.J. Smith//Secret Vampire3) The Night World series by L.J. Smith

This is not the best-written series, by far, but I’ve found it a lot of fun. Since the books are only loosely connected and all follow different protagonists, it’s quite easy to just dip in and out of. I’ve already read books four to nine, but have yet to read the first three books (which is not the way I usually do things)…

Jennifer L. Armentrout//Obsidian4) The Lux series by Jennifer L. Armentrout

I persuaded my cousin to start this series over the Christmas holiday, and her enthusiasm seems to have rekindled mine, so I’m hoping to get to this soon. The only books I have left to read are Opposition, the final book, and the spin-off novella Shadows.

Cassandra Clare//City of Bones5) The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare

I read City of Bones a month or two ago, and was surprised by how much I liked it, since most of the things I’ve heard have been pretty mixed. That said, I’m not in a great hurry to finish the series (since there are five more books I need to read, and that’s quite a lot, even by my standards), but it’d definitely be nice to start off Cassandra Clare’s new Shadowhunter series as soon as it comes out without spoiling anything from her previous books…

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