Top Ten Tuesday #121

Hi all! I hope you’ve had a good weekend, mine was relatively quiet, but when you’re reading this I’ll be with my friend Nicola celebrating her birthday, so that should be pretty fun! Anyway, another Tuesday means another Top Ten, courtesy of the lovely ladies over at The Broke and The Bookish. This week’s prompt is a Back To School based freebie and since I’m going to be returning to Uni in a few weeks, I figured the perfect prompt to do for this week is Top Ten Best Books I’ve Read In My First Two Years of Uni. For this, I’m only counting books I’ve read in the Uni year, so only books from Sept 2015-May 2016 and Sept 2016-May 2017, basically nothing that I’ve read over the summer as that’s not part of the Uni year. So here we go, the best books I’ve read at Uni in the past two years:

  1. A Conjuring of Light-VE Schwab

My absolute favourite book of this year, this was such a perfect finale to the Shades of Magic series and definitely one of the best books I’ve read at Uni! Any book that can get me through a five hour train journey and make it seem like nothing at all is definitely something special.

2. The Raven King-Maggie Stiefvater

I have such fond memories of sitting out in the sun reading this book at the end of first year! I was utterly captivated by the magical conclusion to The Raven Cycle, I sat reading for hours and hours and lost all sense of time and place, only the very best books allow you to do that.

3. Rebel of The Sands-Alwyn Hamilton

Okay so I actually read most of this during the mid semester break from Uni, but it’s still part of the semester so it counts! It’s such an action packed, thrilling story, again it was perfect to read on the long journey back from Peterborough to Stirling.

4. A Court of Mist and Fury-Sarah J Maas

Diving into one of Sarah J Maas’ epic tomes was a great relief from the stress of exam week! I wasn’t expecting to love this one as much as I did as I was kind of ambivalent about the first book of the series, but this was a big step up.

5. Timekeeper-Tara Sim

I spent my mid semester break of second year in Tara Sim’s steampunk world, with my adorable boys Danny and Colton and I can’t wait to go back there in November when Chainbreaker releases!

6. The Assassin’s Blade-Sarah J Maas

I read this book in the autumn semester of my first year and it broke me but in all the best possible ways. If you haven’t read this collection of novellas yet, then do, it will give you a whole new insight into Celaena as a character.

7. Code Name Verity-Elizabeth Wein

This book is honestly one of the most beautiful and heartwrenching tales of friendship I’ve ever read. Yes it’s a book about WWII but at the heart of it is this friendship of these two amazing powerful women in a time when women were still considered to be very much secondary to men and it honestly gives me life reading about amazing women doing amazing things!

8. Daughter of The Pirate King-Tricia Levenseller

This was honestly just such a fun piratey romp, it was a great end of semester read for me this year.

9. Caraval-Stephanie Garber

It took me a while to get into, but once I was, I loved everything about this vivid, magical world, the writing was gorgeous, the game was mysterious, it was just so much fun to read.

10. The Crown’s Game

The Russian setting, the food, the characters, the world building, the writing, aside from the romance and the slow pace at the start, this book was awesome! Plus I can basically forgive anything if there’s a masquerade.

11. Empire of Storms-Sarah J Maas

Yet another Sarah J Maas book that completely crushed my feels! I can’t believe we won’t know if Aelin’s going to be okay until next year!

12. The Dark Prophecy-Rick Riordan

I loved The Hammer of Thor too and actually gave it a slightly higher rating, but I’m going with this one  as Apollo is completely hilarious and I love him so much, plus I flew through it in like a week.

13. Ink and Bone-Rachel Caine

The whole concept of this book is so awesome, and the world building was so fantastic, plus yay for older LGBTQ+ characters being together and happy!

14. Challenger Deep-Neal Shusterman

This heartbreaking, unflinching look at schizophrenia is such a beautiful story, it’s by no means an easy read but it’s definitely a necessary one.

15. Small Great Things-Jodi Picoult

In the current political climate, this book is definitely a must read. It’s not an easy one, but I definitely came out of it feeling like I’d learned something.

That’s all I have for this week! I have read so many amazing books since starting University, if I’d included books I’d read over my summer breaks, this list would have been twice as long. Any one out there also at Uni? What are the best books you’ve read since starting Uni? Or what were your favourite books when you were a late teen-young twenty something? Have you read any of these? What did you think of them? Let me know in the comments!

I will have another new TTT for you next week, the topic is another freebie of sorts, Ten Hidden Gem Books In X Genre, so I will of course be doing Hidden Gems In The Fantasy Genre. In the meantime, I have some discussion posts up my sleeve for the next week, so stay tuned for that!

Resurrection (Skulduggery Pleasant #10) Review

35299976

Book: Resurrection (Skulduggery Pleasant #10)

Author: Derek Landy

So I was naturally, super excited when I found out at last year’s YALC that Derek Landy was going to be writing a new book in the Skulduggery Pleasant series (he refers to it as Skulduggery Phase 2, which indicates that there might be more new books, so yay for that!), as it is one of my favourite fantasy series, and one of the staples of my teen years. But with that excitement, of course, comes no small amount of trepidation. It’s been three years since the last Skulduggery book and five years in the lives of the characters, you have to wonder if you can fall back in where you left off. Well the answer is yes…..and no. Some things remain the same, the dry, sarcastic humour is back and in full force, Skulduggery is as wonderful as ever. However the new book definitely feels more mature than the original series, understandably so as Valkyrie is older, and it took me a while longer to get into it than the original books, I’m not sure if the plot was as tight as some of the original books had been. Still it was an enjoyable reintroduction back into the world of Skulduggery Pleasant, and hopefully one of many more! Here is a short synopsis of it:

The skeleton detective is coming back to life…again! It’s the tenth, triumphant novel in the Skulduggery Pleasant series, and it will rearrange your world. Skulduggery and Valkyrie are back in the tenth instalment in the bestselling Skulduggery Pleasant series – an incredible and unexpected treat for the legions of fans around the world. We can’t say much but we can say this: Skulduggery and Valkyrie are going to team up with beloved characters from the first 9 books as well as an all-new cast, including new teen co-star Omen Darkly, for an adventure that takes the story to truly global proportions…while answering questions that go right back to the beginning. And Derek says this: “I was halfway through Last Stand of Dead Men, I think, when I realised that I had more stories to tell. I told myself that if Skulduggery and Valkyrie survived the series, I would leave the option open of returning to their world. There were still secrets I need to reveal, after all, and there were still horrors they had to face. They survived the first series. But they’re really going to wish they hadn’t.”

Firstly I would recommend going back and reading the last Skulduggery book before going into this, there are a lot of characters to remember and honestly there were some characters from the previous books that I couldn’t even remember who play a pretty major role in this book, so I would definitely recommend reading nine before this to give yourselves a bit of a refresher!

First off, the humour, as always was on point! It’s actually really hard to add humour into books, I have tried, but it’s so difficult for it not to seem forced. I am honestly in awe at the ease of which Derek Landy writes humour, it never seems forced, it’s always natural and is so much a part of the style of these books, so it was nice to see that continue in this book and helped a lot to balance some of the darker moments.

Skulduggery is still as amazing as ever and we even got another glimpse of Evil Skulduggery in this book, which I liked as we don’t really get to see his dark side particularly often. I would say though that the book focuses much more on Valkyrie and Skulduggery definitely takes more of a back seat. That was one of the things that I missed in this book, there wasn’t so much of them working together, which is obviously the main highlight of the books, so that was a shame.

I actually liked Valkyrie a lot more in these books? This new, mature, broken, reluctant hero Valkyrie was a lot easier for me to get on board with than the arrogant, I am the best hero Valkyrie of the previous books. Naturally everything that Darquesse did in Dying of The Light was going to have an effect on her and I was glad to see this explored throughout the book, especially because PTSD is not something you see very often. I didn’t love that Derek’s still trying to make her out to be the specialist special to special in the magical community, like okay she has this white lightning, that was pretty cool, but she has to be a Sensitive too?

The world has changed so much in the time that Val’s been away, and whilst I get that it’s showing Val’s sense of isolation, it does seem a little implausible that so much changed in the five years she was away as compared to the time she was part of the magical community. Still I did like all this extra world building, I liked getting to see how Roarhaven had expanded and changed, I liked the addition of the magic school, Corrival Academy, that felt like a natural thing to have, I liked getting to see some new magical disciplines. It was an awful lot to take in though, all at once!

The plot was for the most part quite slow paced and it did get a little confusing at times. I don’t know, the new villains just didn’t feel quite scary enough for me, there were chapters that didn’t seem to really contribute anything to the overall plot (like all the chapters with Sebastian and Bennet, what the hell were they about?) and I’m still not entirely sure of what exactly a Neoteric is! Still there were some decent fight scenes and once I actually got into the book, I did find myself enjoying it, I was just confused at times! There were a lot of things added that I felt like we should have heard about before, like if Abysinnia (the new Big Bad) is so evil, why haven’t we heard about her before? And the whole Neoteric thing, shouldn’t we have heard about that before? I get that this is the start of a new series, but the whole set up seemed a bit clunky.

I wasn’t sure if I was going to like Omen at first, after all, he’s not one of our old friends who we’ve grown to know and love, but I really enjoyed his arc. He’s not the chosen one, he’s not special, he’s the Chosen One’s brother and doesn’t really know his place in the world and it was great to see him explore this throughout Resurrection and come to see that he doesn’t need to be The Chosen One to be special, to make a contribution, he can do that as Omen Darkly.

I was so glad that the chapter numbering in this book was consistent, Derek Landy always used to do this really annoying thing in the original Skulduggery series where some of the chapters were named and some were numbered, and I was so happy that in this book it was consistent numbers! The chapter lengths were all pretty decent, although I suppose I will just have to accept that the one page, one paragraph, one line chapters are here to stay! I also loved the title, so accurate for this book, not only with it being the start of a new era of Skulduggery, but with the story itself as well.

I would have liked to have seen more of the old characters from the original series back in this book, it was great to see Val and Skulduggery again, but aside from China, everyone else seemed to be new. I missed the Dead Men, I missed Scapegrace and Thrasher, I missed Tanith, so I hope more of them will be back in future books, if Landy does in fact continue this as a series.

The representation in this book was definitely better than in the original Skulduggery Pleasant series, you have Never who is gender fluid, you have two new gay characters, and Val’s suffering from PTSD, I hope this trend continues into the next books.

There were a few digs at Donald Trump, in the form of Landy’s parody character Martin Flanery and whilst this was humourous, I didn’t quite see the point? Like this character added literally nothing to the plot.

I loved that Valkyrie has a dog, Xena seemed so cute and more books should have dogs!

It was nice to meet a good necromancer with Militsa, she was sweet and I hope to see her and Valkyrie’s friendship grow in the next books.

I wasn’t so keen about the whole remnant of Darquesse thing? I get that it’s meant to represent Valkyrie’s guilt and everything but there were a lot of hints throughout the book that Landy might be bringing her back and I hope that’s not true because her arc was pretty neatly tied up at the end of the original series.

It felt like the climax was somewhat rushed, but that could have been because of the slow pace of the start of the book. The last 10 or so chapters were definitely my favourites of the whole book, Val and Skulduggery get some great moments, some weird spoilery stuff goes down (I literally can’t say more than that, all I can say is that it’s some of the weirdest stuff Landy has ever written) and the action is thick and fast. There was a massive twist at the end which I did not see coming at all. Still everything resolved in a really satisfying way and the last chapter really felt like the start of a new era.

Overall, this was a decent start to a new era of Skulduggery, whilst the plot wasn’t the easiest to follow, I loved Valkyrie’s character arc, Skulduggery will never not be amazing and I enjoyed the new characters for the most part. I’m hoping that the plot will be more streamlined, in future books and we get to see more of our old favourites, assuming that there are more books, which it seems like there will be as the whole book feels like set up for more. I did feel like this book left me wanting more though? I seriously hope there is more to this new phase of Skulduggery because there are way too many loose ends not to be!

My Rating: 3/5

My next review will be of the latest book in Samantha Shannon’s Bone Season series, The Song Rising.

 

 

 

 

Jo Talks Books: On Mid Series Cover Changes

Hi everyone! I hope you’ve all had a good week, mine has been relatively quiet for the most part. I wasn’t really sure what to write about for this first discussion post of August, but then this week with all of the talk around the new covers for Sabaa Tahir’s Ember in The Ashes series, I figured that it was the perfect opportunity to talk about one of my biggest pet peeves: mid series cover changes.

I’d like to preface this by saying that Ember’s cover changes were merely an inspiration for this post, I think it’s great that Sabaa Tahir insisted on changing the covers so that POC could see themselves on book covers and I’m excited to collect the series with the new covers, I’m talking about mid series cover changes in a general sense here, it was just inspired by today’s announcement.

I’m sure we’ve all experienced this before, you start reading a series, you fall in love, but not all the books are out yet. You wait and you wait and you wait for the title and cover for the next book in the series to be released only to discover….the cover has been changed! The horror! What ever shall you do? Do you buy the series over again with the new covers? Do you collect the series with mismatching covers? Do you stop reading altogether? (Okay that last one is seriously over-dramatic and I would never do that, but you get it, mid series cover changes, big deal for me).

I’m sure publishers have perfectly good reasons for changing series covers, there could be a theme that better suits the book, they want to attract new readers with brand new covers, they want to refresh the series…..I don’t know the reasons could be endless. But for me and I’m sure plenty of other readers like me, I need my covers to match. I need my series with the same covers in the same format. And I wouldn’t be surprised if publishers were exploiting that, knowing that readers like their covers to match, so they release new ones in order to gain even more sales, knowing that die hard fans will buy the books over again so that their covers will match with the new ones. I don’t know, maybe that’s just me being cynical, but it would explain why so many series get multiple different covers!

But here’s the thing: I’m a student, I don’t have endless money to be spending on multiple copies of books when they suddenly redesign the covers mid series. The same goes for the teens who are the primary audience of these books, they’re not necessarily going to be able to afford multiple copies of the same book just because the cover has changed. Waiting until the series is over to publish copies with new covers? Cool, more choice for everyone! Changing the cover mid series, forcing those who really cannot manage having mismatched covers, who may not actually have the money to do so? Not so cool.

Also I tend to find that I don’t like the new covers as much as the original ones? Now of course there are exceptions to this (there are some really great Harry Potter covers out there, the Throne of Glass covers are way better than the original one) but for the most part, cover redesigns don’t usually improve on the original cover. We then end up with an ugly book, alongside our pretty ones, which not only doesn’t match, but is also not as good as the originals? Hell no.

You also get the much feared movie tie in cover, when a series book becomes a movie and suddenly that book’s cover needs to be changed to the movie poster. These covers are usually really ugly and when the movie tie in cover comes out, the original cover suddenly becomes scarce and you can’t get hold of it, meaning you either have to wait until all the movie tie in covers are released in order to have a matching set (which will likely not be as pretty as the original cover), or you have one book with the movie tie in cover and the rest without. Not ideal.

But Jo, you say, not all cover redesigns are bad. And I agree, not all cover redesigns are bad, I’m not saying that the principle itself is a bad thing. Redesigning the cover is basically like a book undergoing a regeneration for future readers and if it helps introduce new readers to the story, that isn’t a bad thing. Harry Potter for instance has undergone multiple cover changes. As have Cassandra Clare’s books, as have The Hunger Games. The difference here is that the series was complete when the redesigns occurred, so no possibility of mismatching covers.

It wouldn’t be a discussion about covers, without some examples, so for the rest of this post, I’m going to pick out some book series that underwent mid series cover change and talk about whether I liked them better before or after the redesign:

First off, the mid series cover changes I didn’t like:

  1. The Bone Season

20590667Before cover change

Image result for the bone seasonAfter

I just started reading The Bone Season series this year (have now read the first two released books and have only the third to read) and I got the first two covers pre cover change as I really liked them. Of course I then realised that those covers weren’t available for book three (I think she did some limited ones with the same covers as books 1 & 2) so I now have a hardback with a different cover (#bookwormnightmare). I actually liked the original cover so much better for this one, you have the Seven Dials, the poppy anemone and the anchor of Scion all represented, plus the blue background is so much more captivating. The new cover with the white background and the red flower is perfectly fine, and it’s not a bad cover redesign per se, but I do think the first one just pops a bit more.

2. Throne of Glass

So the Throne of Glass series has actually been pretty consistent so far, I think there was a cover change at the start of the series but all the UK covers have been the same thus far. Until now. So for some reason the publishers have decided to go with a different theme for the upcoming Chaol book. Now how hard would it be to have a guy in a wheelchair in a similar pose to the one Celaena does normally? No instead, the cover is a symbol on a blue background. Me thinks I smell a rat here……

Original TOG series cover

13519397

Tower of Dawn cover:

31450852

Not only does the Tower of Dawn cover not really have a cohesive connection with the other books (YOU WOULDN’T NEED THE WORDS A THRONE OF GLASS NOVEL, if it was in the same style as the rest of the TOG books) but the fact that the only book in the series not to have a person on the cover is the book that features a wheelchair-bound protagonist………yeah that’s not cool at all.

3. Young Sherlock Holmes

Image result for young sherlock holmes andrew laneBefore

Image result for young sherlock holmes andrew laneAfter

Okay this one really bugged me because by the time they did the cover change, there were already 6 books in the series out! So I have books 1-6 in the first cover style and books 7 & 8 in the second cover style and of course 7 & 8 haven’t been released in the original style, so yup, you guessed it, my covers don’t match! I wouldn’t say the original covers were my favourite series covers anyway, but I really hate the new covers. The stock model cover photo trend is just not something I like? I would say that both covers need to relate more to the book, as I wouldn’t say you can really tell much about the story from either cover, but I still think the first one is more engaging.

4. Unbound

So the first four books in the Unwind series have this theme:

Unwind (Unwind, #1)It’s cool, it’s creepy, the black, white and red work so well together and they look so cool together on the shelf.

25551332Okay so the unravelling string does kind of go with the theme of unwinding, but it doesn’t match the rest of my books, and I know it’s a short story collection in the universe rather than a continuation of the series, but I feel like it should still match? And the first cover was so much cooler and creepier!

Now, the ones I did:

  1. Throne Of Glass

Yup okay, so I have it on both sides of the list, I know, it’s weird, but TOG actually had a cover change early in the series as well. Luckily it never made it across this side of the pond, but it could have done if it hadn’t been changed!

Image result for mid series cover changes

(Before)                                                                    (After)

So I think we can agree the after is way better right? This is probably just me again not really liking the whole cover model trend, but I feel like the girl on the right is much fiercer than the girl on the left?

2. Shatter Me

Image result for shatter me cover change

(Before)                                 (After)

Now I haven’t read this series, so I can’t speak to which one represents the book better, but I much prefer the floating eye to the girl in the dress, I feel like it’s more striking? I don’t know, honestly neither is my favourite cover in the world, but I think the one on the right definitely has the edge.

3. Tales of The Peculiar

Okay so this is a bit of a weird one as like Unbound, Tales of The Peculiar isn’t really part of the Miss Peregrine’s Series, it’s a collection of short stories set in the same universe as the Miss Peregrine’s series (also one I haven’t read). But unlike with Unbound, I actually prefer the cover of Tales of The Peculiar to the original Miss Peregrine’s series, though I can’t speak to how either reflect the book as I am yet to read them!

So this is the original Miss Peregrines cover:

Image result for miss peregrines cover changeI mean it’s not a bad cover and I know that old photographs are a feature of the book, so it makes sense that this would be the cover, but little girls kind of freak me out so the idea of having this on my shelf……..not great.

And this is Tales of The Peculiar:

29358487This cover however, is gorgeous and doesn’t freak me out at all!

4. Red Queen

This is a slightly different case to the others as there is now a collectors edition of Red Queen as well as the original cover, so you don’t actually have to buy mismatched covers, (can I get a hallelujah?) but I actually like the collectors’ cover more than the original!

Image result for red queen cover changeOriginal Cover

I love the minimalism of this cover and from it, you can see the main theme of the series, the red blood dripping from the silver crown, symbolising the Reds Vs the Silvers.

Collector’s Edition

Image result for red queen collector's editionThe collector’s edition follows the same theme as the original cover, with the crown and the blood, but I think the red background just pops a bit more. Of course, I can’t be sure they’ll do collector’s editions of the entire series, so I won’t buy them, but if they were to do the other covers in this design too, I would be welcoming of the change!

So there we go, some hit and some miss mid series cover changes. It was much easier to come up with the ones I didn’t like than the ones I did! I don’t really consider myself to be obsessive about many things, but I definitely like my book covers to be matching, and books in the same format. It just makes for a more pleasing bookshelf! Having said that, I would never boycott an author’s work just because I didn’t like the cover. After all the contents are the most important thing are they not?

What do you think? Are matching covers important to you or do you not care? Can you think of series that have undergone mid series changes for the better? Or for the worst? Do you like the new Ember covers (if you’ve seen them)? Let me know in the comments!

I will have another August discussion post up, probably quite soon as I know what I’m going to be writing about, I’m going to be talking about fans expectations of authors and whether we’ve come to have a sense of entitlement about getting to interact with our favourite authors. In the meantime, I’m hoping to have a new review up by the end of the week, although I can’t promise anything, it’s dependent on me finishing my current read!

 

Top Ten Tuesday #120

80e8d-toptentuesday

Hi everyone! I hope you’ve all had a good weekend, mine was pretty cool, I got to go and see Mamma Mia with my friend Ellie on Saturday, it was so much fun! However this week I’ve had to start packing to go back to Uni, so not so much fun, as I loathe packing! Anyway, it’s Tuesday, which means another Top Ten Tuesday prompt and this week, the lovely ladies from the Broke and The Bookish have rejoined us, with official prompts once again, can I get a hooray? The first prompt of their return is Top Ten Recommendations For X. I’ll be honest, I was struggling to decide what to fill X with because I always do Fantasy and end up recommending the same ten books, I wanted to do something different this time, so I’ve decided to do Top Ten Recommendations For Those Who Like Books Without Romance. This might be a tricky one to do, but as a reader who frequently grows weary of the fact that every YA book has to have romance in it, I feel like I should share some of the gems I’ve found that show you don’t have to have romance to be a good YA book. So here we go:

  1. Code Name Verity-Elizabeth Wein

If you like female friendship and women generally being awesome, then Maddie and Verity’s story is definitely the one for you. It has female pilots, female spies, an unreliable narrator and absolutely not even a whiff of romance.

2. This Savage Song-Victoria Schwab

Whilst not my favourite of Schwab’s books, this story about humans and monsters and the blurred lines between the two is still pretty darn engaging, and the main characters are a boy and a girl with a platonic friendship. Platonic male/female friendships people! It can be done!

3. Challenger Deep-Neal Shusterman

This is a beautiful, heartbreaking story about mental illness, and the book is entirely focused on Caden and his journey, there’s no romance angle because the book simply doesn’t need it.

4. The Book Thief-Markus Zusak

Sure, there are inklings of first love between Liesel and Rudy, but they’re pretty tame and honestly the book is more about family and war and friendship and death than it is about romance!

5. Magnus Chase and The Sword of Summer-Rick Riordan

The second book dives a little bit more into the romance plotline, but this book is all about the action, there is no love interest for Magnus, he is simply trying to stop the end of the world with his best friends, one of whom is a girl and they have a totally platonic relationship and it’s awesome and can we have more of this please?

6. A Darker Shade of Magic-VE Schwab

The second and third books in the trilogy do delve deeper into the romantic storyline (which I actually liked because it was done well and the characters have a real connection. I feel like I rant about romance so much that people don’t know that I actually do like it when it’s done well, I just don’t think it’s always necessary), but this first book, has no real discernible romance to speak of, Kell and Lila are just friends, there is the occasional kiss but it doesn’t go further than that, it’s all about the action!

7. Skulduggery Pleasant-Derek Landy

There is romance later on in the series (isn’t that always the way?) but in this first book, Valkyrie is 12, and just diving into the world of magic, so it’s all about her and Skulduggery’s friendship and her discovering magic and learning to be a detective and no romance to be seen! In fact the entire series is pretty light on the romance in general, it’s only really in the later books that there is any kind of romance and even then it’s pretty light, so if you’re someone who prefers action and magic and friendship to romance, I would definitely recommend this series.

8. Artemis Fowl-Eoin Colfer

I think there might be a smidge of romance or at least hints towards it in the later books, but that was around books 6-8 in the series and really isn’t that prominent at all, in the first book and for most of the series, there is no romance whatsoever, it’s all about Artemis being a criminal mastermind and him and Holly Short working together to bring down the bad guys, in a platonic relationship, she actually kind of hates him at first (which is fair enough since he kidnaps her in the first book). If you like books with criminal masterminds, antiheroes who redeem themselves, and all variety of magical creatures and basically no romance, then this series is definitely one for you.

9. Asking For It-Louise O’Neill

No romance whatsoever in this one cause you know, RAPE IS NOT ROMANTIC PEOPLE (I get very tired of non consensual sex being portrayed as romantic as you can probably tell). It’s a very important story about consent and slut shaming and sexism and rape culture and I think it’s a book that all teenage girls (and boys too) should read.

10. A Series of Unfortunate Events-Lemony Snicket

It’s been a long time since I’ve read these books, so I can’t remember if there might have been some hints of romance towards the end of the series, but for the most part, the Baudelaire kids are far too busy evading Count Olaf, trying not to die and getting into one scrape after another to have any degree of romance.

That’s all I have for this week, it was hard to even come up with ten books that had little or no romance in them! Have you read any of these books? What are your favourite books with little to no romance in them? Let me know in the comments!

I will have a new TTT for you guys next week, as Broke and The Bookish are back to their regularly scheduled topics, no more scrambling to come up with topics, yay! Next week is a Back To School Freebie, so you’ll have to wait and see what Back To School related topic I choose! In the meantime, I have a discussion post that I’m hoping to get up at some point this week, so stay tuned for that.

 

 

Hogwarts Tag

Hi everyone! I hope you’ve all had a fun week, mine has been relatively quiet so far, but I’m going to see Mamma Mia with my friend Ellie tomorrow as an early 21st birthday present (in a happy coincidence tomorrow will be exactly one month till my birthday!), which should be awesome! Anyway I was tagged for this by Never Not Reading and I’m super excited to do it because I’m sure it’s no secret by now how much I love Harry Potter (if it ever was), so this tag is right up my alley (I would make a bad joke about Diagon Alley here, but I’ll spare you). So here we go, the Hogwarts tag:

Are you a pure blood, a half blood or a muggle born?

Neither of my parents are particularly into Harry Potter so I guess I’m a muggle born? Just like Hermione!

Which wand chose me?

Picture of wand

My wand is a 12 1/2 inch, spruce wood with a phoenix feather core. It has surprisingly swishy flexibility. Apparently spruce is a difficult wood and requires a firm hand (so basically, it’s stubborn, just like me!). Pottermore describes the ideal user of a spruce wood as a bold spellcaster with a good sense of humour. Phoenix feathers are the rarest core types and are often very picky when it comes to potential owners and are hard to win over but have the most versatility when you do-that’s good, I wouldn’t want an easy wand, I prefer a challenge! I’m surprised I got such a flexible wand, I’m not the most flexible of people!

Did I take an owl. cat or a toad with me?

I took an owl, obviously! I’m not big on cats and there’s no way I’d want a toad. This is only of the options though, if I had a choice of any animal I could bring to Hogwarts with me, I’d want a puppy!

Where did the sorting hat put me?

Hufflepuff!

What house did I want to be in?

Well when I was a kid I wanted to be a Gryffindor, but I think now I’d rather be a Ravenclaw.

What lessons are my favourites and least favourites?:

Favourites:

-History of Magic-Okay so Binns is supposed to be really boring, but imagine you get taught by someone else, I think this class would be fascinating! I’m a total history geek, so of course I’d love learning about the history of magic.

-Charms-This seems like one of the classes you learn the most magic in? So I think I’d like it.

-Transfiguration-Turning random objects into other things? Sign me up! Plus I love McGonagall 🙂

-Quidditch-Does this count? I just really want to do Quidditch and the real kind, not the muggle version that involves running around with a broom between your legs.

-Defence Against The Dark Arts-If you had a good teacher like Lupin, this class actually sounds really cool!

Least Favourites:

-Herbology-I am so not a gardener! I’d probably kill anything I tried to grow in this class.

-Muggle Studies-Okay so I’m sure this is seriously interesting if you’re a pureblood (and not an ass who believes muggles are beneath you) but if you’re a half blood or a muggle born you’ll have experience of the muggle world, so I doubt it would be as fun.

-Ancient Runes-I’m sure this class would be interesting, but it sounds really hard!

-Divination-Sorry, I don’t believe anyone has the ability to tell the future!

The form my patronus takes

According to Pottermore, it’s a Manx cat, which uhhh…..no? I don’t even really like cats much. I’ve always thought my patronus would be a horse, like Ginny.

What does a boggart look like to me?

My boggart would be the same as Ron’s, I’m absolutely terrified of spiders!

Do I partake in any magical hobbies or school sports?

Like I said, I’d love to play Quidditch! I’m terrible at ball sports and don’t have great aim so I probably wouldn’t make the team, but I’d love to give it a try!

Where would I find myself hanging in my free time?

I reckon I would probably spend a lot of time at Honeydukes’ since I have a bit of a sweet tooth!

What would I most likely get detention for?

Probably being late! I wasn’t always the best at making it to class on time so that would be likely.

What career do I want after leaving Hogwarts?

I don’t really know! I’m a journalist, but I wouldn’t want to work for the Daily Prophet. Being an Auror sounds way too dangerous. I wouldn’t want to be a teacher, not even at Hogwarts. I don’t know, I might just have a muggle job!

Any Harry Potter fans out there, considered yourself tagged!

Six of Crows (Six of Crows #1) Review

23006119Book: Six of Crows

Author: Leigh Bardugo

This book was my #RockMyTBR read for August. It was one of the books I was most excited for on the list that Twitter chose for me at the end of last year and probably one of the most hyped books on the list. My friend absolutely loves this book as well, and we have very similar tastes in books, so usually if she loves a book, I will too. Still, it’s always a bit nerve wracking when you read a book that’s so well loved, as you always have it in the back of your mind that you might be the black sheep who doesn’t like the book as much as everyone else. Luckily this wasn’t the case with Six of Crows, I really enjoyed it! It did take a while to get into it, as a lot of the book is purely set up for the heist-which I suppose is to be expected in a heist book, but once the action started, it was very hard to put the book down. I also loved the cast of characters Leigh Bardugo put together and their development over the course of the book. Here is a short synopsis of it:

Criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker has been offered wealth beyond his wildest dreams. But to claim it, he’ll have to pull off a seemingly impossible heist:

Break into the notorious Ice Court
(a military stronghold that has never been breached)

Retrieve a hostage
(who could unleash magical havoc on the world)

Survive long enough to collect his reward
(and spend it)

Kaz needs a crew desperate enough to take on this suicide mission and dangerous enough to get the job done – and he knows exactly who: six of the deadliest outcasts the city has to offer. Together, they just might be unstoppable – if they don’t kill each other first.

The opening was pretty engaging, but it did bother me that the opening chapter came from a character that you never hear from again in the rest of the book. I get that it sets up the whole thing with the Grisha, which is an important part of the rest of the book, but when the opening chapter feels completely separate from the rest of the story, that’s a bit of a problem for me. I mean, it didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the story, but I feel like the opening would have made more sense if it had come from a member of Kaz’s crew rather than this weird outsider who we never hear from again.

This book is a spinoff from the author’s original Grisha series but I don’t think it’s necessary to have read them before you read this? I don’t know, for me personally, I found it easy enough to follow and the Grishas sufficiently explained that I could follow everything without having read the original trilogy, but I have heard that some people have found it confusing and it did seem as if the world building expected a certain level of prior knowledge about Grisha, so it’s up to you whether you want to read that first or this, it would probably give you a better understanding of the Grisha war (mentioned a few times) & why the Grisha are considered slaves, but I don’t think it’s necessary (although I did find that the difference between Heartrender and Healer wasn’t explained, is that something you know from the original Grisha books?).

I’d heard so much about Kaz before I read this and I was expecting to really like him, extremely clever anti-hero with a talent for thievery, he sounded a lot like an older version of Artemis Fowl, whom I loved. However I didn’t find myself loving Kaz quite as much as I hoped I would. I’m not really sure what it was, it’s not that he’s completely immoral or a bit of an ass, I’ve loved characters like that before, maybe it’s that he’s quite distant and that makes it hard to connect to him? I don’t know but I didn’t feel the same rush of love as everyone else. I did feel sorry for everything he went through and I really appreciated seeing his touch phobia represented as I can relate to that? I don’t have a phobia, but I do find close contact uncomfortable so it was nice to see that in a character.

I loved most of the rest of the characters though. Nina and Inej were without a doubt my favourites of the cast, Inej was so strong, both physically and emotionally and Nina was hilarious but also fierce (and she loved . I loved that they would put the boys in their places whenever they said or did something remotely assholey! I also loved their friendship, they’re so supportive of each other, there’s no jealousy there, no girl on girl fighting, just wonderful, supportive female friendship. We need more of this in books people! Inej is a former brothel worker but she’s never slut shamed for it. Nina is an unapologetic flirt but she’s also never shamed for it. I love this, women with agency people! This is how you do it!

Jesper was adorable, he’s kind of the comic relief of the group, and I do love the funny guy, so he had my heart instantly, but don’t let the comic facade fool you, he could kill you pretty quick with his sharpshooting skills. I loved his flirting/banter with Wylan and actually wished we could have seen more of the two of them, him and Wylan kind of get pushed to the side for Kaz/Inej and Nina/Matthias, which was a shame. Wylan was definitely my cinnamon roll for this book, he’s too precious for this world and must be protected.

I hated Matthias to begin with. He was all holier than thou and ooh I can’t love a Grisha and what you’re doing is totally wrong and was generally kind of an asshole but he undergoes some great character development through the book and by the end I actually quite liked him. Not as much as Inej or Nina but I didn’t want to hit him anymore, so I’m calling that progress!

All the characters are quite different which I loved (and the voices were distinct enough that you didn’t always have to look at the chapter heading to know who was talking), it made for a good group dynamic, although I will say that during the heist, the group is very much split into their respective pairs, so you don’t get to see them work together as much as I might have liked.

There’s great diversity in this book, you have two main POC characters (Inej and Jesper), a disabled character (Kaz), who also has PTSD, so there’s mental illness rep there too and a confirmed bisexual character (Jesper), Wylan who is strongly hinted to be gay but there’s no on page confirmation, so I’m not sure if that counts?  and a fat character (Nina). They were all treated well as well, no fat-phobia, racism, ableism or homophobia as far as I could tell, so that was great. I also liked that both Matthias and Inej are religious (though obviously their Gods are different to ours) as you don’t tend to see that very often.

I didn’t love that conveniently there were six main characters, who all got paired off with each other. Must we have romance in every YA book people? Can’t we have a group of six friends doing a heist without them all being paired? The romance wasn’t a huge part of the book which I felt glad of, as the only pairing I was really rooting for was Wylan and Jesper, they were so cute and their flirty banter so great. Nina/Matthias started as a captor/captive romance, which I didn’t love, although I did like how Nina made Matthias loosen up a bit more and I think this is a ship I could get on board with given more time. Kaz/Inej, I know I was supposed to love but I didn’t really see anything there? I don’t know maybe I will in the next book. It felt like I was constantly being told that Kaz and Inej felt things for each other, but I didn’t really see it. Nina and Matthias I saw it, I didn’t always love it, but I saw it (and I loved that there was a scene with them spending the night together but it was all about survival not sex! When you’re freezing to death, nah you will not be thinking about sex!). Jesper/Wylan aren’t even an official couple but I saw it. Kaz and Inej? I didn’t really see it. And it was kind of selfish of Inej to insist she must have Kaz “without armour” when she knows about his issues with physical contact? So that was a little offputting, much as I loved Inej.

There were some really great action sequences particularly in the latter half of the book, when the pace really picks up, somewhat making up for the lag at the beginning of the book where it is mostly set up. I mean I understand set up is necessary for heist stories, I just don’t necessarily want to read several hundred pages of it!

The characters all have quite complicated backstories, which I thought was good, as it fleshed them out, but I can understand that keeping track of all these characters and their backstories could be a problem for some people! I would have liked it if Wylan and Jesper had been a little more fleshed out, we tended to only get the flashbacks from Inej, Kaz, Nina or Matthias, which meant we didn’t really get to see Wylan or Jesper’s pasts, only hear snippets of it which was a shame. The lengthy flashbacks were interesting but they did also take you out of the main story and not always at the best times.

Some of the chapters were a little overlong at the start, which contributed to the pacing problems, but this got much better once we got into the heist proper.

I wasn’t expecting how much humour there was in this book, Leigh Bardugo writes great dialogue and some awesome witty banter and I found myself laughing out loud several times during the story.

There were a lot of twists throughout the book that I didn’t see coming, which made it more entertaining. Even though it’s a foregone conclusion that they will make it out of the Ice Court (there’s a sequel so you know things will go okay), there’s still a lot of obstacles on the way to achieving their goal. On occasion, I did feel like the story was trying to be a bit too clever though and I got a little confused? I don’t know, there are just some things that weren’t really explained as much as I would have liked. I also felt that there were times when everything was a little too neat? Saying exactly where would be a spoiler but there were definitely things that worked out just a little too well for the characters that it wasn’t quite believable.

The world building was pretty good, with the Grisha and the parem and all the different cultures of the world and everything, but I still felt like there could have been more? I don’t know, it’s probably just me, I love world building so I want to know everything! The setting was really cool, all dark and gritty, I hope we see more of Ketterdam in the next book.

Leigh Bardugo’s writing was really good, but I definitely preferred her dialogue to her description, I couldn’t really put a reason on it, I think it’s probably just my personal preference for dialogue.

The characters read as much older than they were, aside from Wylan and Jesper, I had trouble believing they were all teenagers, it felt like I was reading about a bunch of 20+ adults.

Van Eck was totally awful, I wanted to punch him!

The book tackles a lot of difficult issues, gambling problems, prostitution, death, drugs, PTSD etc and I thought Bardugo did this well and with sensitivity.

The end I had problems with. Not only was it anti-climactic, but the fact that it was only the girls in trouble at the end smacked of a little subtle sexism to me, which rubbed me the wrong way, the author had been doing so well for most of the book, so it made me a bit made that even a book that has really good rep and all of the sexism is countered, had some subtle sexism in it’s ending. I’m not sure if the author was meaning to, but it just rubbed me the wrong way.

I really enjoyed this book, it had it’s problems, but even with the pacing problems, it was an engaging read with a great cast of characters, good diversity, some awesome twists and turns and an interesting magical system, I look forward to seeing more of these characters in the next book!

My Rating: 4/5

My next review will be of the latest Skulduggery Pleasant book, Resurrection.

 

Top Ten Tuesday #119

80e8d-toptentuesday

Hi everyone! I hope you all had a good week last week, mine was quiet for the most part, but I did get to spend the weekend in Amsterdam celebrating my sister’s birthday which was nice. I’m also going to see Mamma Mia in London on Saturday as an early 21st birthday celebration (my birthday is in about a month’s time), with one of my best friends, so I’m really excited about that! I’m back with my final makeshift TTT topic before the official Broke and Bookish prompts return next week (is it just me or did that six weeks go really quickly?). Anyway, this week I’ve decided to do Top Ten Older Books I Don’t Want People To Forget About, as I think as bloggers we do have a tendency to focus more on the shiny new pretties and forget about some of the amazing older books there are out there, so I’m going to talk about some of my favourites today! Here we go (these will all be books published more than 5 years ago):

  1. Noughts and Crosses-Malorie Blackman-First published 2001

Malorie Blackman’s dystopia about an alternate society where the dark skinned Crosses are in charge and treat the pale skinned Noughts as second class citizens, is even more important now in the current political climate. It’s such a powerful story about love and race and prejudice and it was one of my favourites when I was an actual YA (I first read it when I was about 13 and have devoured it again several times since).

2. Ballet Shoes-Noel Streatfeild-First published 1936

Yup a really old one! This was one of my favourite books as a child, it’s such a lovely story, not just about dance, but also choosing your own family and discovering who you are. Years later and I still really love the Fossil sisters!

3. Unwind-Neal Shusterman-First published 2007

I feel like a lot of people wouldn’t necessarily know about this one or remember it because it was published before The Hunger Games started the massive craze of YA dystopias. It’s an amazing, thought provoking, kind of creepy book set in a dystopian world the likes of which I’ve never read before, it’s such a unique concept, the whole kids being taken apart whilst alive in order to provide organs thing. Definitely read this one, you won’t regret it!

4. Blind Beauty-KM Peyton-First published 2001

No, it’s not like Black Beauty. It’s the story of Tessa, a troubled young girl and her horse Buffoon and the love they have for each other and the obstacles they overcome together. It’s such a beautiful story and again was one of my favourite books when I was an actual YA.

5. Pure-Julianna Baggott-First published 2012

This is a book that I feel may have been lost in the haze of YA dystopias, but it’s a very dark and gritty dystopian, set in this post-apocalyptic world after a nuclear apocalypse that has left most people with strange fusings and only the lucky few who were taken into “The Dome” are Pure, ie have no fusings. It’s a really cool world and a great concept and I feel like it’s often overlooked or not really heard about.

6. Sisterhood of The Traveling Pants-Ann Brashares-First published 2001

This was another of my favourite YAs when I was a teen, and if teens today aren’t reading this beautiful story of female friendship then they are definitely missing out on something.

7. The Heartland Series-Lauren Brooke-First Published from 2000-2003

These books were among my favourites when I was a pre-teen/in my early teens, I completely devoured any and all stories about horses and these books about Amy and her family and how she healed troubled horses were definitely ones I loved to read. I now love the TV series even more than I loved the books.

8. Artemis Fowl Series-Eoin Colfer-First Published from 2003-2012

I never hear anyone talking about these awesome middle grade fantasies which is such a shame! They’re so much fun and have one of the best anti-heroes I’ve ever read. It’s all fairies and pixies and centaurs and elves, it’s a classic type of fantasy story, which I just love and don’t think there’s enough of nowadays!

9. Between Shades of Grey-Ruta Sepetys-First Published 2011

I know Salt To The Sea was a big hit last year but I don’t want people to forget about her first book, Between Shades of Grey, it’s a beautiful, harrowing story about a family under Stalin’s deportations, and the sorrow but also the amazing strength and hope of people in that time.

10. The Roman Mysteries Series-Caroline Lawrence-First published 2001-2009

I never actually read the entirety of this series, I think I got to about 10 of 17, it just got impossible to find them after about the 10th book. I used to love them though, I would get them from the library every week when I went there and own a couple of my favourites from the series. I’m probably a little old to finish the series now, but I did love these when I was younger and would encourage any young reader interested in History to give them a try.

That’s all I have for this week, I’m going to be good and just stick to ten! Have you read any of these books? What are your favourite older books? Let me know in the comments!

I will have a new TTT for you guys next week, when the Broke and the Bookish girls return officially with new topics! The first topic back is Ten Recommendations for……..X, I’m not entirely sure what I’m going to use in place of the X, so you’ll just have to wait until next week to see. In the meantime, I have lots more planned for this week, so stay tuned!