Mid-Year Freakout Book Tag 2021

I really can’t believe we’re halfway through 2021 already! So far, I’ve read 25 books this year and I’m on target to hit my goal of 40 books in 2021 so I am very happy with that. I’ve read some great books so without further ado, let’s jump into the tag.

Best Book You’ve Read So Far In 2021

The Midnight Star by Marie Lu – This book destroyed me. Can’t say too much since it’s the last in the series, but honestly it was so emotionally heart wrenching I’m still not over it.

Best Sequel You’ve Read So Far In 2021

I’ve read some really great sequels this year but two that stood out are Blood & Honey and Days of Blood and Starlight. A lot of people didn’t seem to like Blood & Honey and I went in with low expectations, which might have helped, but I really enjoyed this one and was surprised by it. Daughter of Smoke and Bone is one of my all-time faves and Days of Blood and Starlight was so good as well.

New Release You Haven’t Read Yet, But Want To

The Gilded Ones came out earlier this year and I am so excited to read it!

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June 2021 Wrap Up

I am very late with my June wrap up! Things have been very busy for me lately and I’ve been finding things very stressful. Work has been absolutely manic and we’ve also been house hunting and really struggling to find somewhere. We think we’ve found somewhere so crossing fingers we get it because that would be a massive relief. Although I’ve still then got to think about packing everything up! Hopefully I will be able to get back into blogging a bit more regularly again soon but I’ve just been really struggling to cope with everything recently.

Unravel the Dusk by Elizabeth Lim ⭐⭐⭐⭐ – I loved Spin the Dawn and Unravel the Dusk was an excellent sequel. This book seemed a bit darker and I loved that. Elizabeth Lim’s writing pulled me in once again.

Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan ⭐⭐⭐⭐ – I felt a bit of a reading slump coming on with everything in life being so hectic, so decided to reread an old favourite. It’s been years since I read this series!

Red, White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston – DNF at 74% – This book just wasn’t for me. It’s written in third person present tense and I found it really difficult to read, I just couldn’t get into the style. I also found it very slow paced and didn’t feel compelled to keep turning the pages. I probably should have DNF’d it right at the start but I so rarely DNF and it had such good reviews, I was hoping I would get into it more, but sadly I didn’t.

So June was my birthday month! And I ended up hauling quite a few books… The Mabinogion, Blade of Secrets, Days of Blood and Starlight, Dreams of Gods and Monsters, Truthwitch, The Ones We’re Meant to Find, A Feast For Crows and Queen of Coins and Whispers.

My King Arthur WIP is currently with beta readers, and I’ve had some feedback come through, so I’m starting making some plans for my next draft. But largely I’ve been having a break from that project and brainstorming a new idea I’m really excited about which is a Regency era inspired Gothic fantasy!

What books have you enjoyed this month? Chat with me in the comments!

May 2021 Wrap Up

I’m on a bit of a semi-hiatus from blogging at the moment because life has been a bit hectic! Work is very busy and we’re currently in the process of selling our house and trying to find a new home, so a lot of my time is being taken up with house hunting!

The Unbroken by C. L. Clark ⭐⭐⭐⭐ – I found the pacing of this book a little bit slow but I loved the complex world building and characters!

A Vow So Bold and Deadly by Brigid Kemmerer ⭐⭐⭐.5 – I can’t believe this series is over! I enjoyed the final instalment, but the first book in the series is still my favourite.

Bone Crier’s Dawn by Kathryn Purdie ⭐⭐⭐.5 – There is a lot about this duology that I loved, like the magic system, but I just didn’t feel the romance and some of the scenes were a bit repetitive. The ending was pretty epic though! 

The Bone Houses by Emily Lloyd-Jones ⭐⭐⭐⭐ – I loved this book so much! The magic, world building and characters are all fantastic. There’s also chronic pain rep which I was so happy to see. Also, I never imagined a dead goat could become a favourite character, but there you go. More people need to read this book! 

I only bought one book this month – Kingfisher by Patricia A. McKillip. She’s one of my favourite authors and I didn’t know she’d written an Arthurian inspired book, so I just had to get my hands on it when I found out!

I finished the second draft of my WIP at the start of May! It came in at a whopping 100,000 words so it got a lot longer with that redraft. I’m currently reading through it at the moment, but it’s taking a while because I’ve been so busy.

What books have you enjoyed this month? Chat with me in the comments!

The Medieval Queens Book Tag

It’s been a little while since I’ve done a tag but this one has such an interesting theme, I just had to do this one. Thank you to A Couple of B’s for tagging me, and to Jess from Jessticulates for coming up with the tag!

EMPRESS MATILDA (1102-1167)

After her father, Henry I, died naming her his heir, Matilda’s cousin, Stephen, subsequently took the throne for himself. Matilda never stopped fighting for what was rightfully hers. Though she would never be named Queen of England in her own right, she was able to convince Stephen to name her son, the future Henry II, his successor over his own children.

Choose a book with a protagonist who stands their ground.

A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer – Harper is one of my favourite characters and I love how fierce and fearless she is, and how she always stands her ground.

ELEANOR OF AQUITAINE (1122-1204)

Before she married Henry II and became Queen of England in 1152, Eleanor was Queen of France as the wife of Louis VII. She sought an annulment from her marriage to Louis, and he eventually agreed because 15 years of marriage had produced no sons, only for Eleanor to go on to have eight children with Henry—five of whom were sons. Ouch!

Choose a book or series in which the heroine has more than one romantic relationship.

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas – The heroine actually has a few relationships throughout this series! It’s not something I’ve seen that much, as most often books seem to follow the protagonist on one romantic journey.

ELEANOR OF CASTILE (1241-1290)

A keen patron of literature and a successful businesswoman in her own right, Eleanor was Edward I’s first wife. He was so heartbroken when she died that he erected the Eleanor Crosses, twelve stone crosses marking the places where her body rested overnight on its journey from Lincolnshire, where she died, to her burial place in London. Three of the crosses still survive today.

Choose a bittersweet book.

The Midnight Star by Marie Lu – No spoilers but this series had such a good, albeit bittersweet, ending! I was tearing up at the end.

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April 2021 Wrap Up

I’ve not been blogging as much this month because life decided to get in the way of everything. I’ve been busy at work and we’re going to be trying to sell our house soon so we’ve been doing lots of cleaning and tidying, and it’s all just left me feeling a bit exhausted. So things might still be a bit quiet around here for a little while but I’ll still be posting and reading all your awesome posts when I can.

Links take you to my reviews!

Malice by Heather Walter ⭐⭐⭐⭐ – I was really excited to get an eARC for this book. It’s a Sleeping Beauty retelling from the perspective of the villain and I absolutely loved the world building and Alyce’s character journey.

Crownchasers by Rebecca Coffindaffer ⭐⭐⭐⭐ – I’ve read so much fantasy this year, that I really enjoyed reading a scifi book for a change. This YA space opera is so much fun, and I can’t wait for the sequel to come out!

Light by Michael Grant ⭐⭐⭐.5 – The final book in the Gone series. I have finally managed to make it to the end. It’s taken me eight years to read all six books. I have quite mixed feelings about this series, but I am glad I’ve finished it.

Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy by Cassandra Clare ⭐⭐⭐⭐ – I don’t generally enjoy short stories that much, but I like how these ones were connected and had a thread running through them, following Simon’s journey as he progressed through his training.

For once, I actually managed to keep up a book buying ban? I didn’t buy any new books this month. I did place a couple of pre-orders for special editions which won’t arrive until August/September, but other than that, I didn’t buy any books.

I successfully hit my 20,000 word goal for Camp NaNoWriMo, which I am really chuffed with! I am so nearly finished my second draft, so that’s quite exciting. I think I will definitely finish it in May. And then I just have to read through it again, since I edited a lot of the chapters out of order, I will need to read it through and make sure I’m happy with the order of everything and check for consistency errors.

What books have you enjoyed this month? Chat with me in the comments!

March 2021 Wrap Up

I didn’t read that many books this month but I did read The Priory of the Orange Tree which is super long and I’m actually pleased with how quickly I read it considering how long it is.

Links take you to my reviews!

Gut Feelings by C. G. Moore ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ – This novel in verse is a really raw and powerful read. It’s an own voices novel in verse based on the author’s own experiences of living with Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP). I really related to the depiction of chronic illness and would really recommend.

Lore by Alexandra Bracken ⭐⭐⭐⭐ – This book is basically a mash up of Percy Jackson and The Hunger Games and that is a really cool combination. The Greek mythology is worked into the story really well and this book was a wild ride.

The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon ⭐⭐⭐⭐ – I was a bit intimidated by the length of this book but I am so glad I read it. Even though it was long, I never felt bored while reading it. The world building is so detailed and I loved how all the different characters’ stories weave together.

I got so many books in the post this month, but a lot of them were pre-orders, and a couple should have come in February but were delayed. So many books seemed to come out in March? So here’s a quick roundup – Goldsboro edition of Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse, Illumicrate edition of Red Tigress by Amélie Wen Zhao, A Dark and Hollow Star by Ashley Shuttleworth (I had an eARC of this and just had to pre-order because it was so good), Waterstones paperback edition of House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J. Maas, The Unbroken by C. L. Clark, and Fairyloot edition of Bone Crier’s Dawn by Kathryn Purdie.

I made so much progress with the second draft of my book this month so I’m really pleased with that! I hit 72,000 words at the end of March. Still have quite a bit left to go, but I’m hoping I can keep it under 100k as I don’t want it to get too long.

What books have you enjoyed this month? Chat with me in the comments!

Let’s Talk Bookish: Diversity in Books

Let’s Talk Bookish is a weekly meme hosted by Rukky @ Eternity Books and Dani @ Literary Lion. This week’s discussion is all about diversity in books, which is a super important topic.

What do you think is the meaning of diverse?

I think diverse, in relation to the book world, means many different voices from different places getting to tell their stories. But as well as authors, it’s also about having diversity in all areas of publishing, as well as attitudes to diversity, which is something that is still changing and evolving and work still needs to be done so that no one is excluded from these spaces. When I think of diverse stories, I think of books with BIPOC, LGBTQ+, neurodiverse and disabled characters.

Who do you think is qualified to write a diverse book?

I’ve seen a lot of discussions recently about #OwnVoices, especially after several cases where authors felt they had to come out because of questions around their sexuality and whether they were ‘qualified’ to write their books. Although having books by people who have lived those experiences is really important, we also shouldn’t be forcing people out of the closet, or making them disclose details about their physical or mental health, that they’re not comfortable to disclose, or which it’s perhaps not safe for them to.  

Another issue, especially when very few books about something are being published, is that one book and one experience is seen as a monolith for that experience. While people from the same background, with the same sexuality, or with the same disability, might have a lot of shared experiences, each person’s experience and viewpoint is also unique, and we shouldn’t view their books and their perspective as the sole example of that experience. This is why we need lots of diverse books!

As a straight, white writer, I’m not the right person to write a book about coming out, or about the Black experience. But I also think it’s important for books to have a diverse cast of characters. Every book should have BIPOC and LGBTQ+ characters, but stories that are about those identities, are probably best told by people who have lived that experience. So #OwnVoices books are really important.    

How do you find diverse books to read?

Seeing people share publication announcements and cover reveals on Twitter, and reading recommendation lists on blogs mainly.

What are some diverse topics/POVs that you specifically look for when you’re finding books and why?

I think it’s important to read diversely and widely, so I try and read books with BIPOC and LGBTQ+ characters. Recently, I’ve also especially been looking for books with disability (which seems to be a lot harder to find?), as I have a chronic illness myself, and would like to see that experience explored in fiction a lot more. I’d also really like to see more disability in fantasy and sci-fi – I want to see disabled people go on adventures!

How do you decide if a diverse topic/POV is done well?

I think this is difficult to do unless you share the character’s identity/disability/etc. So I try and find reviews by people who have shared the experiences explored in the book to see their perspective. But I think there are some red flags that anyone can spot.

Do you have any thoughts on diversity in books? Chat with me in the comments!

Let’s Talk Bookish: Predicting Trends

Let’s Talk Bookish is a weekly meme hosted by Rukky @ Eternity Books and Dani @ Literary Lion. This week we’re talking about trends! This is a topic I suggested and now I have to come up with something to say about it I’ve realised it’s quite a hard topic! Though I do find looking at trends quite interesting. I’ll mostly be talking about YA since that’s what I have most knowledge about.

There are some genres that always seem to be popular, like fantasy and retellings, but there can be trends within them. Some genres are really popular for a time, and then fade away as the market becomes oversaturated and readers’ attention move on to something else.

Over the past years, I can think of two particularly big trends. After Twilight came out, there were so many vampire and werewolf books in the YA section. Everywhere you looked, there was paranormal romance. I read a lot of these books because they dominated the shelves when I was growing up, but I wasn’t a fan of a lot of them. Then there was the dystopia faze, with books like The Hunger Games, Divergent, The Maze Runner, Delirium and many, many more. This was more my thing as I love science fiction. But I found a lot of the books in the paranormal romance and dystopia fazes were dominated by the same kinds of tropes and got quite repetitive.

With both of those trends, I think the issue was that a lot of those books were just a bit too similar. And because there were so many of them, eventually people moved on to something else and those genres kind of fizzled out. Dystopian books just don’t seem to get published as much in YA these days, which is a shame because I think it’s a really interesting genre. YA books have changed a lot since the dystopia boom, and I’d love to see what new and diverse authors might do with the genre.

As for future trends, dark academia seems to be coming up big. It’s not a genre I really read, but I keep seeing it popping up on Twitter, so I wouldn’t be surprised if we get a lot of these. Also, with The Great Gatsby coming out of copyright this year, I expect there’ll be an influx of retellings.

I’d love to see a boom in YA science fiction. Not dystopia, but space operas and other subgenres of science fiction. At the moment, there aren’t loads of YA sci-fi books out there, and it’s hard to get YA sci-fi published. I’ve loved the YA sci-fi I’ve read, like Illuminae, Aurora Rising and Defy the Stars, and would love to see more of it out there.

With the pandemic putting a bit of a spanner in the works for the entire world, it will also be interesting to see how that effects trends. Will we see an influx of pandemic/zombie/apocalypse books? Or do we want escapism? Do we want something fun like rom coms?

Trends can be a great thing, as they can really uplift certain books and put them in the spotlight, but that also means that other books don’t get as much attention. And it can be tempting to read whatever is trending, but I think it’s important we read what we enjoy, not just what’s popular! But if what you love is popular, then I guess it means you have a lot of books to choose from…

What trends have you noticed? Do you think trends are a good thing or a bad thing or neither? Chat with me in the comments!  

February 2021 Wrap Up

This month was pretty good for reading considering I read two 5 star reads! I don’t give 5 stars very often so to have two in one month is pretty amazing. But on the flip side, the other two books I read were quite disappointing which isn’t so good.

Links take you to my reviews!

The Midnight Star by Marie Lu ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ – This was just the perfect ending to the Young Elites series. I felt so emotional reading the last few chapters.

Shadow Kiss by Richelle Mead ⭐⭐⭐ – This is the third book in the Vampire Academy series and I found it a bit slow. I’m not sure if I’m still enjoying this series enough to continue.

Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ – This was the best book in the Throne of Glass series so far – I loved it! I was hooked all the way through and absolutely devoured it in hardly any time at all.

The Prison Healer by Lynette Noni ⭐⭐ – I’ve started writing my review for this but I think I need a bit of time to process and think through what I want to say about this one. I found the twist ending very frustrating.

I absolutely love Ancient Greek mythology so I just had to have Lore by Alexandra Bracken and I’m excited to read it soon. I ordered a set of signed / signed book plate editions of the Shades of Magic series by V. E. Schwab from Forbidden Planet but at the moment I’ve only received the second and third books. I’m starting to wonder if I’ll ever get A Darker Shade of Magic.

I had a bit of a wobble this month and didn’t do any writing for more than a week. I wasn’t feeling so good and just wasn’t feeling like writing. But I’m now 40,000 words into the second draft of my Arthurian retelling WIP so I’m still pretty pleased with my progress. I think this second draft is definitely going to be longer than the first at this rate!

What books have you enjoyed this month? Chat with me in the comments!

Let’s Talk Bookish: Has Blogging Affected Your Reading?

Let’s Talk Bookish is a weekly meme hosted by Rukky @ Eternity Books and Dani @ Literary Lion. Today’s topic was suggested by Mini @ Book and Corner and is all about the impact blogging has had on our reading.

Has blogging affected your reading in a positive or negative way? If so, how?

Before I started regularly blogging, I’d find books by browsing my local Waterstones. I wasn’t aware of what was hyped or popular, wasn’t clued up on upcoming releases. I simply went into the shop and browsed and shelves and the tables and picked up whatever I fancied. In some ways, I miss that, because I liked not knowing what I might discover.

Whereas now, I’m so aware of what’s out there and upcoming releases, that when I go in a bookshop and look at the shelves, I recognise all (well, a lot of anyway) of the books, so there’s less surprises. But at the same time, I like the anticipation of waiting for a new book to be released, of being able to get excited for a book to come out. It’s also easier to find books I think I’ll enjoy when I’m more aware of what’s out there, and if I’ve read reviews before buying a book, I’m less likely to end up with books that aren’t for me.

Blogging and reading more about upcoming books, reading more reviews and posts, has meant I’ve discovered some amazing books that I wouldn’t have come across in Waterstones. They don’t stock everything on their shelves. Being part of the blogging community has also made me seek out diverse reads a lot more, and that is definitely a very good thing.

But it’s also very easy to get sucked into the hype around a book, even if you’re not sure it’s for you. Sometimes that means discovering a new favourite, and sometimes it means being disappointed. It can be tempting to always get drawn towards the books that get shouted about the most, when there are other amazing books out there that haven’t had so much attention.

Blogging makes me excited for reading, and so I do feel like I’ve been reading more since I’ve been more actively blogging.

Do you think the pressures to produce content can result in a bad relationship with books?

I love blogging and talking about books. But I do sometimes feel pressured to post consistently. Taking breaks when you need to is important. If you’re in a reading slump, that’s okay, you don’t have to force yourself to blog. Blogging should be fun. So I’m careful to try and avoid it becoming something that’s stressful. But sometimes that’s easier said than done.

How do you balance blogging and reading?

Balancing hobbies can be so hard. I’m currently balancing my day job, reading, blogging and writing, all along with being chronically ill. I feel frustrated when I’m struggling with my energy levels, because I have so many things I want to do. For me, writing always has to come first, because it’s my dream to become an author and I have to prioritise it if I want to reach that dream one day. I read and blog when I can, but I do sometimes wish I had more time and energy for reading, because I really do love it. 

Do you think you would have started blogging if it weren’t for books or vice versa?

As I’ve always loved writing, I think I would have ended up with a blog of some kind. Writing fiction is my passion, but I enjoy writing of all kinds, including writing blog posts. As I love books, whether it be reading them or writing them, it made sense to have a blog dedicated to them.

Has blogging changed your reading habits? Do you read more? Do you read different kinds of books to before you started blogging? Chat with me in the comments!