2017 · Favourites · Wrap-Ups

My Top 5 Favourite Books of the Year So Far

It’s hard to believe that it’s already the end of June! I haven’t read that much during the first half of the year, so I’m a bit behind on my reading challenge, but I’m hoping to fix that during the summer 🙂 . Anyway, here’s my annual list of the top five books I’ve read during the first half of the year. Usually, I don’t include rereads, but I’m going to do so now because I’ve reread a couple of books this year that I ended up liking more the second time around. And, as per usual, this list is in no particular order.

  • To the Bright Edge of the World, by Eowyn Ivey

I read this at the very beginning of the year, and liked it a lot. I especially liked the format – it’s told through letters and diary entries –  and I also liked reading about Alaska. It felt as if I got to explore it alongside the characters. If you want to know more of my thoughts on it, you can find my review here.

  • The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald

I first read this around three years ago, but I didn’t really see what was so special about it. Then I reread it for class earlier this year and loved it! It helped a lot to discuss it in class, because now I have a more full picture of all the little details. This is now one of my favourite classics, and if you want to know more of what I thought about it, you can find my review here.

  • Norse Mythology, by Neil Gaiman

I especially liked the humour in this, and how the gods would continually mess up and then ended up having to clean up after themselves. This is a very accessible retelling of the myths, so I would definitely recommend checking it out. My full review can be found here.

  • The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss

I don’t think I like this as much now as I did when I first finished reading it, but I still like it better than the second book in the series. The narrator of the audiobook was great, and I liked Kvothe as a character because he’s smart and he knows it, but he also does some stupid shit sometimes. It had a lot of what I want from high fantasy novels. You can find my review here.

  • Strange the Dreamer, by Laini Taylor

I liked this book so much, and Lazlo is such a sweet character! This is possibly the first time I have ended up having a favourite chapter in a book. Laini Taylor is also good at making both sides of a conflict complex with their own motives – that’s something I appreciated about the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy as well. My review can be found here if you want to check it out 🙂 .

That was everything for today’s post! You can find last year’s half-year favourites-post here if you want to see which books I listed there. I hope y’all are having a nice summer so far – which are your favourite books that you’ve read so far this year?

2017 · June · Reviews

Book Review: “Strange the Dreamer”, by Laini Taylor

Published in 2017 by Hodder & Stoughton | Strange the Dreamer #1 | 4.5 feathers

(Happy Midsummer, everybody! 🙂 )

*This review contains spoilers*

Summary:

I think that the less you know about this book, the better. It’s about Lazlo Strange, an orphan who grew up in a monastery to become a junior librarian in the Great Library of Zosma. He has always been obsessed with the lost city of Weep – a city that used to be at the heart of civilisation, but suddenly people stopped coming out of the city, and whoever went in search of it would disappear and never come back. And one day, the real name of the city was erased from everybody’s minds. Now it is only known as Weep, a half-forgotten legend no one really believes in anymore.

Review:

This was one of my most anticipated books of the year, and it did not disappoint. I loved the idea of a lost city and a main character who is obsessed with researching said lost city. And Lazlo is such a cinnamon roll, I liked him so much <3.

I think that this was the first time ever I had a favourite chapter in a book – in this case it was the one titled “Another World”, when Sarai first visits Lazlo’s dream. Partly because it painted such a beautiful picture of Weep, even if that version of the city doesn’t exist anymore, but partly also because I loved the scene when Sarai walks up to Lazlo and outright stares at him before she realises that he can actually see her.

Laini Taylor is also good at making both sides of a conflict very complex. I found myself sympathising with both sides, and hoped that they could somehow find a middle ground. The only character I didn’t like was Minya, that evil little shit. There was a point towards the end when I felt a flicker of understanding towards her, but she lets herself be so blinded by her hate of humans that she becomes cruel, even to the people she’s trying to protect.

I am, however, sceptical to using dreams as a plot device. It works here, but I always feel as if the author disregards their magic system by letting dreams take up a huge space. I loved Sarai’s gift of being able to enter people’s dreams, but it felt too easy that she and Lazlo could actually talk to each other in the dream.

Also, though I liked the badass that Lazlo became in the end, I would have preferred if he stayed the dreamer with his head in the clouds. Sure, save Sarai all you want, but I wasn’t fully on board with his turning out to be Godspawn.

It did also get a bit insta-lovey, so it would have been nice if the romance had been a bit more slow.

Overall, though, I really liked this book, and I’m looking forward to reading the next book in the series.

2017 · June · Reviews

Book Review: “Lord of Shadows”, by Cassandra Clare

Published in 2017 by Simon & Schuster | The Dark Artifices #2 | Four feathers

Summary:

This is the second book in the Dark Artifices series, so I’m not going to go into any detail on the plot because of spoilers.

Review:

I have a weird relationship with the Shadowhunter books. I loved The Infernal Devices, but didn’t really like The Mortal Instruments that much, so I was a bit hesitant about reading Lady Midnight last year. Then I ended up enjoying it, so I was excited to pick Lord of Shadows up when it was released. And, generally, I liked it. My favourite characters were Kit and Ty, and I love them and their relationship so much <3. The book in general was actually pretty funny at times, which I hadn’t expected. There were these instances when I would actually giggle out loud, so that’s a big plus. Also, I did not see that ending coming! I had seen some vague reviews on Twitter before I started reading and I knew shit was about to go down, but what actually ended up happening was nothing like what I had imagined.

What I didn’t like as much , though, is that most of the “shocking” action took place in the last 15 or 20 pages and LoS is 700 pages long. So I was waiting for this huge thing that everyone had been talking about to happen, and then it didn’t until the very end. I know it was probably intentional to leave off at a cliffhanger, and it’s not like there’s no action in the rest of the book, but to me it seemed a bit off to wait with the huge tear-dump until the very end. As it was, I sat waiting for it, and expected it to show up maybe 50 or 100 pages before it actually happened.

Let’s talk about Julian. I do not trust him, and I’m not sure I like him that much. He would literally do anything for the people he loves, and he doesn’t care who else he hurts in the process. He actually scares me a little bit, and it’s going to be interesting to see what happens to him in the last book in the series.

That was everything I had to say about Lord of Shadows! I’m pretty proud that I managed to finish it in the time that I did, considering the size of it. Also, I know I said in a recent post that I was going to get back to my ordinary posting schedule over the summer, but I didn’t post anything on Tuesday this week – I’m working on getting back into it, so hopefully I’ll be fully back soon 🙂 .

2017 · June · Reviews

Book Review: “Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy”, by Cassandra Clare, Sarah Rees Brennan, Maureen Johnson, and Robin Wasserman

Published in 2016 by Margaret K. McElderry Books | 3.8 feathers

*This review contains spoilers*

Summary:

This is a short story collection set after the events of City of Heavenly Fire, in which Simon goes to the Shadowhunter Academy to become a Shadowhunter and regain his memories.

 

Review:

If you’re wondering about the weird rating, it’s because I rated each short story individually and the overall rating is an average of each individual rating.

Overall, I thought this collection was a bit all over the place. There were some stories that I either loved (the one about James Herondale <3) or liked a lot, but sometimes it felt as if the authors were trying a bit too hard. In some of the stories, the characters seemed slightly ridiculed. It was so obvious that they were supposed to be funny, but instead it came across as forced and fell flat. You could also tell how Izzy was testing them in The Evil We Love, again due to the characterization – Izzy just felt so off that it became obvious that something wasn’t entirely right.

There’s also the story set in the London Institute, where Jessie ends up saving them from the demon, where I found it a bit weird that a demon actually got into the Institute. And how the h**l do you hide people, however small, in chimneys?

Then there were instances where I fell in love with the characters, especially in Nothing but Shadows about James Herondale. I could relate to him so much, and it spoke to my literature-student heart how his ability to become a shadow was so symbolic of him feeling lonely. It was definitely my favourite story in the entire collection <3.

At times it was also pretty obvious that these stories were published individually before they were published as a bind-up, because they would occasionally be a bit over-explanatory and mention/explain something that just happened in the previous story. This seemed slightly unnecessary – I see why it was done, as it would have been easy to forget plot points if it had been a while since you read the last story, but perhaps those passages could have been edited to make this run more smoothly as a collection.

To wrap this all up, I thought I’d show you my individual ratings:
Welcome to Shadowhunter Academy (Cassandra Clare & Sarah Rees Brennan) – 3 feathers
The Lost Herondale (Cassandra Clare and Robin Wasserman) – 4 feathers
The Whitechapel Fiend (Cassandra Clare & Maureen Johnson) – 3.5 feathers
Nothing but Shadows (Cassandra Clare & Sarah Rees Brennan) – 5 feathers
The Evil We Love (Cassandra Clare and Robin Wasserman) – 3 feathers
Pale Kings and Princes (Cassandra Clare and Robin Wasserman) – 4 feathers
Bitter of Tongue (Cassandra Clare and Sarah Rees Brennan) – 4 feathers
The Fiery Trial (Cassandra Clare and Maureen Johnson) – 4 stars
Born to Endless Night (Cassandra Clare and Sarah Rees Brennan) – 3.5 feathers
Angels Twice Descending (Cassandra Clare and Robin Wasserman) – 4 feathers

2017 · April · read-a-thon · Wrap-Ups

Tome-Topple Wrap-Up

I didn’t actually finish any books for this. I didn’t even read that much so I’m not really sure why I’m doing this wrap-up, but hey, why not?

The main reason why I wanted to participate was that Neil Gaiman’s American Gods has been made into a TV show which is being released in late April, so I wanted to have read the book before I watch the show. I only got around 120 pages into this, and it’s over 600 pages long. I am liking what I have read so far, though, but I don’t think I will have finished it before the series starts.

My “slack book” was The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss. I call it that because it’s my current audiobook which I would have listened to regardless of the readathon, and it’s something that I just listen to whenever I’m doing something else, like going to class or whatever. I am around 10 and a half hours into this, and like it a lot!

I also got Laini Taylor’s Strange the Dreamer in the mail a couple of days into the readathon, and I had to start reading it right away. I read maybe 70 pages of it before the readathon was over, and I love it so far <3.

This means that I read a total of around 190 pages and listened to maybe 9 hours worth of audiobook during these two weeks, which I still feel is pretty good.

2016 · 2017 · April · Reviews

Book Review: “Dracula”, by Bram Stoker

Published in 2016 by Penguin | Originally published in 1897 | 3 stars

Summary:

I guess y’all know the plot of this already, but it’s about Jonathan Harker who goes to Transylvania to help Count Dracula buy a property in England. However, the count soon turns out to be a very sinister person.

Review:

To begin with: I did not actually finish this, though I did mark it as finished on Goodreads. However, I have read everything apart from the last maybe 70 pages, and I know exactly how it ends because I wrote an essay on it for class without actually having finished the book and thus had to look up a detailed summary of it. So I feel as if I can write a full review.

I can’t decide if I actually think that this is worth 3 stars. I like having read the “original” vampire story, and it was interesting to see how far some of the modern vampire books are from this in some places. And it surprised me that Dracula isn’t actually in this very much. He’s more of a background figure than I thought he would be. Also, when I actually picked it up I did find the story interesting.

However, it was so slow, and the plot feels unnecessarily drawn out. I would find myself wishing that they’d just get to the point. What also annoyed me was the view of women. Mina would frequently be left out of things on the sole basis that she happened to be a woman – because, according to Van Helsing and Dr Seward, she couldn’t handle the vampire-hunting business (also on the sole basis of her happening to be a woman). And at some point, Van Helsing says that she “has a man’s brain” (yes, he actually said that), meaning that she’s a “better” sort of woman than other, typically “weak” women. This annoys the crap out of me, and it makes the book feel incredibly dated. In that respect, it has not aged well.

The chapter division also seemed a bit weird to me. Sometimes, there would be a chapter division in the middle of someone’s diary entry. And it also made everything seem so intentional – in the beginning, there’s a note saying that the diary entries has been placed in a particular order, and the reason for that would become clear as you continue reading. The chapters sort of destroyed that. I don’t that think they should have been there at all. Of course, it would perhaps have made it more difficult to read (the droning slowness would have been even more distinct), but still.

So I dnf’ed this. I just didn’t like it enough to continue reading it. Which is sad, because I really wanted to like it.

2017 · April · Reviews

Book Review: “The Name of the Wind”, by Patrick Rothfuss

Published in 2008 by Gollancz | Audiobook published in 2008 (I think) by Orion, read by Rupert Degas | The Kingkiller Chronicle, Day 1 | Five Feathers

Summary:

I’m of the opinion that the less you know about this book going into it, the better. But it’s about a travelling trouper turned orphaned thief and beggar turned notorious wizard. This is his story.

Review:

I loved this book so much. It’s easily one of the best books I’ve read this year so far, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it still holds that position by the end of the year. It might even have made it onto my list of favourite books ever. It’s that good.

It’s hard to pin down exactly what I liked about it, but the narrator had a lot to do with it. I think there are different people reading the American and British audiobooks, but this was the British one and it was so good. I’ve been listening to audiobooks for just over a year now and I think this is one of my favourites. It would almost be weird to read these books without listening to them on audiobook now, because the narrator has become such an integral part of it to me.

The characters had a lot to do with it as well. I ended up caring about what would happen to them, and it was sweet seeing how Bast actually cared about Kvothe, Nonetheless, neither of them is anyone I would like to end up in a fight with.

I’m writing this the same evening I finished it, and I haven’t fully collected my thoughts on it yet. I fully realise that I am adding to the hype right now, but let me say this: it had everything I could ever want from a high fantasy novel, and I would highly recommend it.

2017 · March · Reviews

Book Review: “Cinder”, by Marissa Meyer

Published in 2012 by Puffin | The Lunar Chronicles #1 | 2 feathers

*This review contains spoilers*

Summary from Goodreads:

A forbidden romance.
A deadly plague.
Earth’s fate hinges on one girl . . .

CINDER, a gifted mechanic in New Beijing, is also a cyborg. She’s reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s sudden illness. But when her life becomes entwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she finds herself at the centre of a violent struggle between the desires of an evil queen – and a dangerous temptation.

Cinder is caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal. Now she must uncover secrets about her mysterious past in order to protect Earth’s future.

This is not the fairytale you remember. But it’s one you won’t forget.

Review:

This was the second time I read this book, and I reread it because I’m including it in my BA essay. However, I’m sorry to say that I didn’t like it as much this time around. I just feel so frustrated about this book. This is due to Cinder in particular, because she is basically Artificial Intelligence and that is not discussed at all. Her brain is pretty much entirely made up of wires and electronics, but she acts as if it is not. The way she behaves is as if it’s only her skull or something that is made up of electronics, but I get the sense that it’s at least part of her brain as well. This means that she should not be behaving or thinking like a human being. Sure, she could cut pretty close if the people who made her into a cyborg did a good job of it, but shouldn’t there be something slightly off about her?

Also, considering how much of her brain is mechanical, shouldn’t she be immune to the Lunar bioelectricity thing? How can Cinder herself still have that power if she doesn’t even have her original brain anymore? This does not make sense.

After rereading this, I will probably not read the last two books in the series. I originally read this book in the summer of 2015, then I read Scarlet (book 2) in early 2016, and though I thought I would probably read the rest at some point, rereading Cinder killed it a bit for me. This book pissed me off a bit with the inconsistency of Cinder as a character.