March 2020 Wrap Up

This has been a weird month hasn’t it? I’m now working from home. I’m lucky that I have that option and still have an income. A lot of people and businesses are struggling right now. I’m still kind of in this state of shock almost. It just doesn’t seem real. Things seemed to get bad really quickly. And it almost hasn’t sunk in that this is actually happening.

But on to more positive subject matter – reading!  

Reading

I finished reading The Assassin’s Blade by Sarah J. Maas at the beginning of March. It’s a collection of prequel novellas for the Throne of Glass series. I enjoyed it and I’m glad I read it, because it did fill in what happened before Throne of Glass. But I am looking forward to getting back to the main plot, the next book in that series for me to read will be the third book, Heir of Fire.

The Shadows Between Us by Tricia Levenseller was Fairyloot’s pick for their February box. As I was on holiday during the readalong, I actually had time to stick to the reading schedule and read the chapters on the scheduled days which was quite fun! Next I read A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer which I loved more than I was expecting to!

I decided I wanted a little break from reading YA, so I read Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express. This is the third Agatha Christie novel I’ve read and I liked it, but didn’t love it. I do want to read more of his books though, as I liked the other two books I’ve read better. Her books are quite short, easy reads, and I do love a good mystery!

Book Haul

So, yeah, I bought a few books this month… I ordered some online from Waterstones as I had filled up my stamp card and wanted to spend it while I still could…

King of Scars finally came out in paperback (the hardback was massive and heavy so I decided to wait for the paperback) and I managed to get a copy signed by Leigh Bardugo! Having only just finished A Curse So Dark and Lonely, I ordered A Heart So Fierce and Broken because I just knew I wanted to continue reading this series.

Since I didn’t have any more Agatha Christie on my shelf, I decided to order And Then There Were None so I have one lined up for the next time I fancy a mystery. I remember watching the adaptation BBC did a few years ago and thinking it was very good.

I also bought a book on Arthurian literature and legend as part of research for a new series I’m planning at the moment. It will be a retelling of the legends, so I also bought The Guinevere Deception by Kiersten White as I want to read a few retellings as part of that research (plus, you know, I’ve had my eye on this book since it came out…)

Writing

I finished the second draft of the YA fantasy book I finished writing last year. I’ve sent it to a couple of writer friends to read to get some feedback before I do another draft. I’ve also started planning the aforementioned Arthurian legend retelling which I’m really excited for! All the ideas have just grown in my mind over the last few weeks. I’ve got a rough idea for a trilogy in mind, but want to do some more research around the legends themselves before I start making more detailed plans.  

Books I Want to Read in 2020

I don’t set myself a monthly TBR as I’m more of a mood reader. I like to read what takes my fancy, but I do always have some books in mind at the beginning of the year that I want to read at some point in the coming months. This year I’m going to try and read a good mix of new releases, books waiting on my shelf, and books released a while ago that I haven’t read yet.

There are many series I’m midway through that I’d like to continue reading. I’ve been making my way through Sarah J Maas’s Throne of Glass and A Court of Thorns and Roses series. I’m looking forward to reading more of Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse as I still need to read Crooked Kingdom and King of Scars. A book I wanted to read last year was Fear by Michael Grant – the fifth book in the Gone series – but that’s one I didn’t get round to. I only have the last book in Marie Lu’s The Young Elites trilogy left to read – The Midnight Star – so I’d like to be able to finish that series this year. And of course I want to continue reading Cassandra Clare’s Shadowhunters books. Next on my radar is Lady Midnight.

I have on my shelf a few books released in 2019 that I haven’t read yet. Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim and A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer are two in particular I really want to read in 2020. Blood Heir by Amélie Wen Zao came out right at the end of 2019 and I’m planning on reading that this month for the Illumicrate monthly readalong.

The 2020 releases I definitely want to read this year are The Deck of Omens by Christine Lynn Herman and The Damned by Renée Ahdieh. Both are sequels to books I read in 2019. I’d also like to discover some new authors in 2020 too.  

Let’s see how many of these I actually end up reading! What books are you planning on reading this year?

Best Books of 2019

2019 has been a pretty good reading year for me. Although I’m glad I studied English Literature at uni, it did for a while dampen my love of reading. I didn’t have much time to read for pleasure, and when I finished the degree, I still couldn’t get back into loving reading in the same way I had before. In the last few months though I’ve really started loving reading again and I’m excited (having been two years since I finished my degree) to finally be really back into enjoying it again.

I reached my Goodreads reading goal of reading 20 books this year which I’m really happy with. Now that I’m enjoying reading more I’m probably going to up my target a bit for 2020. Most of my favourite books I’ve read this year happen to be fantasy. I’ve read a couple of disappointing contemporary books and haven’t read any amazing sci-fi either.  

The best book I read in 2019 has to be Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor. It’s the only book I’ve given 5 stars this year. I can’t even put my finger on why exactly, for some reason this book had a certain spark and I completely fell in love with it. When I finished reading it, all I could think was ‘wow’, because it was just so imaginative, vivid and brilliant.

I’m so glad I discovered Sarah J. Maas a couple of years ago because I’ve loved all her books I’ve read so far. A Court of Thorns and Roses really surprised me as it was slow to start but got really intense and suspenseful in about the last quarter. That ending section Under the Mountain was just so good that it made up for the slowness at the start. I’m currently reading the second book, A Court of Mist and Fury, and loving that too.

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Book Review: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy  

Publishing Info: June 2016 by Orion Children’s Books (first published 2015)

Pages: 494

Star Rating: 4/5

Back Cover Summary:

Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price–and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can’t pull it off alone…

A convict with a thirst for revenge.

A sharpshooter who can’t walk away from a wager.

A runaway with a privileged past.

A spy known as the Wraith.

A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums.

A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes.

Six dangerous outcasts. One impossible heist. Kaz’s crew is the only thing that might stand between the world and destruction—if they don’t kill each other first.

When I started reading this book, I wasn’t into it at all. It took me quite a few chapters to start enjoying it. Maybe I just wasn’t in the mood at the start, and perhaps I had ridiculously high expectations because of the insane amount of hype around Six of Crows. Also I loved Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone from the first chapter, which kind of added to the pressure on this book to be brilliant. Despite my reservations at the start, it is a brilliant book.

Each of the central characters are well developed with back stories that are slowly revealed over the course of the book. I got more into it as I gained more understanding of each character’s backgrounds and motivations. The characters are also neither ‘good’ nor ‘evil’ and I liked that they have different views on the world (for example attitudes towards the Grisha) depending on their backgrounds. The interactions and relationships between the characters is one of the strongest parts of the book. They drive the narrative and make it the great book it is.

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Book Review: Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo

14061957Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo   

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Publishing Info: Kindle edition, 2014 by Orion Children’s Books (first published 2014)

Pages: 369

Star Rating: 3/5

Back Cover Summary:

The capital has fallen. The Darkling rules Ravka from his shadow throne. Alina will have to forge new alliances and put aside old rivalries as she and Mal race to find the last of Morozova’s amplifiers. But as Alina begins to unravel the Darkling’s secrets, she reveals a past that will forever alter her understanding of the bond they share and the power she wields. The firebird is the one thing that stands between Ravka and destruction – but claiming it could cost Alina the very future she is fighting for.

The final book in the Grishaverse trilogy was, unfortunately, a little disappointing. While I liked the book, it didn’t pull me in, not in the same way the first two books did.

There were too many inner monologues for Alina that just felt repetitive. Her thoughts and emotions could have been written better in places. Elsewhere, the writing was good though, and I continued to enjoy the world building. I thought it was interesting how Alina was viewed as a Saint. It’s not something I’ve really seen in fantasy before, but totally makes sense for someone with ‘magic’ to be viewed that way by some people.

Bardugo is pretty mean to her characters in this book, things rarely go the ‘heroes’ way, which I liked. It showed how the characters had to keep getting back up and fight mentally to keep persevering. Though Bardugo seemed to be taking this book in a dark direction, it somehow ended up being too soft in the end, which I don’t mind, except the lead up led me to think it was going a different way. Like the author wanted to take it in a darker direction at the end, but dipped their toes in and decided to back out. Perhaps I’m wrong, maybe she wanted a touch of darkness, but was always going to end it in a less dark way. The fairy tale framing does suggest there would be a happy ending of sorts.

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Mini Review: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Publishing Info: Kindle Edition, 6th June 2013, Orion Children’s (first published June 2012)

Pages: 369

Star Rating: 4/5

Back Cover Summary:

Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.
Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.
Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha . . . and the secrets of her heart.
Shadow and Bone is the first installment in Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha Trilogy.

When I read this a few weeks ago I was unable to write a review. Since it is no longer fresh in my mind I don’t feel I can write a full review. However, I wanted to do a mini review to express just how much I loved this book. It had been on my TBR list for a long time, but I hadn’t got round to getting my hands on a copy. I wasn’t disappointed when I finally read it.

I found the plot fairly original and the setting was different, with some inspiration from Russia. The world building was good and I loved all the magic and mystery. The ending was also pretty good, which is often where books fall down for me.

It wasn’t perfect, and there were some elements which were pretty typically young adult, but I couldn’t help but love this book. I liked the characters and found that I couldn’t stop turning the pages. I took every opportunity to pick it up and read another few pages in down moments of my busy day.

I have the next two books in the series on my Kindle, and can’t wait to read them. I just hope they don’t flop and disappoint, since I enjoyed the first book so much.