Top Ten Tuesday #275

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Hi everyone! I hope you all had a good week since I last did one of these, I just got back from visiting a friend who’s dog has just had puppies and THEY WERE SO CUTE, so my week is already made!

Anyway, it’s Tuesday, so that means another Top Ten Tuesday courtesy of Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. This week we’re talking Books With Colours In Their Titles, so these will be a mix of books that I’ve read and books from my TBR with colourful titles!

  1. The Red Ribbon-Lucy Adlington

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This story about seamstresses at Auschwitz-Birkenau follows fictional characters, but it has a basis in real life: there really were women at Auschwitz who were required to make clothes for the wives of Nazi officers, and most of the women doing this work were Jewish. Lucy Adlington, the author of the book is actually a costume historian (she studies historical clothing), so I’m pretty interested to see how she tackled this book!

2. The Priory of The Orange Tree-Samantha Shannon

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Any excuse to share this book’s beautiful cover! I’m sure that most of you are probably familiar with this beast of a book by now, but if you’re not, then it’s basically a feminist retelling of the legend of George and The Dragon, set in a fantasy world.

3. Blue Lily, Lily, Blue-Maggie Stiefvater

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The third book of the series, and probably actually my least favourite just because it felt like kind of a filler book but it does fit with this prompt, as it is both the name of the main character in this book and a colour.

4. The Silvered Serpents-Roshani Chokshi

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The cover for this one is so beautiful and I know I’ve said it before, but so Christmassy! I might actual save this one for just before Christmas so I can enjoy it on a cold winter’s night as I feel that’s what this cover deserves. Anyway, I promise, I’m not just all for this book because of the cover, I really enjoyed The Gilded Wolves and am excited to see what the characters get up to next.

5. Feminists Don’t Wear Pink and Other Lies-Scarlett Curtis

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I still haven’t got around to reading this collection of feminist essays yet, but I definitely want to soon!

6. Scarlet-AC Gaughen

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If we’re being strictly technical, Scarlet is a shade not a colour in itself, but it’s my list so I’m going with it! I’m really looking forward to reading this one, I love Robin Hood and I’ve not actually read any retellings of it (though that will change once I read Sherwood next month). Scarlet is also the surname of the man character, Will Scarlet, who in this book is a girl.

7. A Blade So Black-L.L. McKinney

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I’ve had mixed luck with Alice in Wonderland retellings in the past, but both were actually origin stories for the Queen of Hearts so it will be interesting to read one where Alice is the main character and we love to see fantasy stories with Black girl leads!

8. Blanca & Roja-Anna-Marie McLemore

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Honestly, I’m not usually a massive magical realism person, but the cover for this one is so beautiful and I love the idea of a Snow White, Rose Red/Swan Lake retelling as it’s not something that you see very often.

9. Between Shades of Gray-Ruta Sepetys

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This is my favourite of Ruta Sepetys’ books (granted I have only actually read this one and Salt To The Sea), it’s such a beautiful, heartbreaking, yet ultimately hopeful book and the atrocities of Stalin’s rule of the Soviet Union, especially the Baltic deportations to Siberia do not get talked about in the mainstream anywhere near as much as they should.

10. Beyond The Black Door-A.M. Strickland

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This book sounds so cool, it’s all about a girl who can walk into other people’s souls whilst they sleep! The protagonist is also asexual which is not something I’ve really read about much before (and it’s #ownvoices as well).

So there we go, books with colourful titles! Have you read any of these? Did you enjoy them? Let me know in the comments!

I’ll be back next week for another Top Ten Tuesday, the topic is meant to be Books I Love But Never Reviewed, but I did that one a few years ago and it was a relatively extensive list, so I’m going to a different topic, I’m going to talk about Movies I’ve Enjoyed Where I Didn’t Read The Book (it has happened on occasion and no I’m not sorry about it, see my discussion post on this issue).

 

 

 

Jo Talks Books: Am I More Critical Of Books Than I Was Before Becoming A Blogger?

Hi everyone! I hope you’ve all had a good month since I last did one of these, honestly I meant to get this up earlier, but I’ve been struggling to come up with discussion post ideas since the lockdown quite honestly.

Anyway, since it’s almost the end of July, I do finally have another discussion post for you and it’s something that I’ve been thinking about for a while. I’ve been blogging for over six years now, and it’s definitely made me more of a critical reader than I was before.

Before I blogged, I wouldn’t say I wasn’t a critical reader, but since I didn’t have Goodreads, and I wasn’t reading books to review them, I wasn’t really aware of if I was a harsh reader or not. I’d know when I read a book if I enjoyed it or not and I’d generally know why, but there were no concrete numbers on it and I never directly compared any of the books I read to others.

The only purpose of reading I had before I blogged was enjoyment. Now obviously, that’s still the main reason I read, but once you start blogging, you find that you read in a different way. When I read now, in the back of my mind, I’m always aware of the things I’m enjoying, the things that I don’t and anything that I might want to take note of in a review. This doesn’t take away from the enjoyment, but it does mean that I read slightly more critically than I did before, I notice more when things aren’t working for me when I’m reading and I’m able to be more specific about what does and doesn’t work for me in any particular book.

I’m also more aware of problematic tropes and the need for diversity in books than I was before I became a blogger. It wasn’t something I necessarily thought about before I started blogging, As a cis, straight, white, ablebodied woman, seeing myself in books was definitely something I took for granted, and I’m so grateful to have discovered more diverse books through blogging, as well as being more aware of problematic tropes to look out for whilst I’m reading.

I think part of seeing myself as more critical now than I did before also has to do with being able to compare how you view books to how other people do. Before I started blogging, I’d had friends who liked books before, in fact my best friend and I bonded over our shared love of books. But obviously we mostly talked about books we both liked (still do) and we have far more books in common than we do not. Once I started blogging, and met more people in the book community, I could compare how I rated books to other people which definitely made me feel like I was a more critical reader because I seemed to have far less 5 star reads than most of the other bloggers I followed!

It’s also something that I think comes with age, not just with being a blogger. Obviously I’m more aware of being critical of books because I put a number rating on them now, but I think when you’ve spent most of your life reading, you get a pretty good handle on what you like and what you don’t like. I’ve read so many books now that I think it’s natural that I’m a little more picky with my favourites because I know what I really love, I know how I feel when I read a book that I really love and if I don’t feel that way when I’m reading then no matter how technically good a book is, I won’t rate it 5 stars.

I also think I might be a bit more critical as a reader now because I’m a writer too? When I’m reading a book, I like to try and pick up on the choices that authors make, what I feel works for me and what doesn’t because I want to write the kind of books that I like to read. Understanding that is really helpful for me to improve my own writing, because I then have good examples to draw from when I’m thinking about what I want to achieve in terms of world building, dialogue, pacing etc.

There is also a strange perception in the blogging community that 3 stars (which is what I tend to rate books a lot) is a bad rating and that you disliked the book? I’ve never meant it that way, honestly, 3 stars can mean a massive range of things for me: sometimes it means I found the book just okay (I refer to these as “meh” books) and there wasn’t anything I particularly loved or hated about it, sometimes I enjoyed it but I didn’t love it as much as I loved a book I rated 4 stars. I might have enjoyed the story but not loved the characters, or enjoyed the characters but not been a massive fan of the plot. What it never means is that I absolutely hated the book and I feel like there is often an assumption that reviewers who rate a lot of books 3 stars are harsh because people think that 3 stars is a bad rating when it isn’t.

I also have more expectations for books now? Because I’ve heard more about them going into them, it’s very rare that I will go into a book completely blind with no idea what other people have thought about it. I know when a book has been hyped up by the community, and obviously my expectations are different. Sometimes I do miss going into a book having no idea what to expect, but having expectations doesn’t always mean that I am disappointed. Sometimes I go in having read mixed reviews of a book, and end up really loving it. But it’s natural that if you’re going into a book with certain expectations, you’re going to be more critical if that book doesn’t meet the expectations you had.

Overall, yeah, I do think that blogging has made me a more critical reader, or at least more aware that I am a critical reader. However, I don’t think that’s a bad thing or that it takes away from my enjoyment of books in anyway: for me, it means that I know what I like and what I don’t, what works for me and what doesn’t and because of that I tend to rate books 5 stars less often than other bloggers. That’s not to say that I think bloggers who often rate 5 stars are dishonest, or that I’m somehow a better reviewer because I tend towards more critical. Part of book blogging is find the reviewing style that works for you, and this is what happens to work for me. Much like writing books, there’s no one right way to read them!

What do you think? Has book blogging made you a more critical reader? Do you tend to rate lots of books 5 stars? Has blogging changed the way you read in any way? Let me know in the comments!

Once again, I’m not really sure what my next Jo Talks post will be about, planning anything ahead of time during this pandemic has not been my strong suit! In the meantime, I should have a Book Vs Movie post up later, as it’s the last day of July.

 

Top Ten Tuesday #274

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Hi everyone, hope you all had a good week since I last did one of these, mine was as it always seems to be these days, very quiet!

Anyway, it’s Tuesday, and so that means another Top Ten Tuesday, courtesy of Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. This week we have free rein to do whatever topic we’d like, so I’m talking the Top Ten Longest Books On My TBR. I do have a tendency to feel quite intimidated by long books and avoid them because they take me such a long time to read, but these are all ones I want to get around to at some point!

  1. House of Earth and Blood-Sarah J Maas-803 pages

As always, Sarah J Maas’ newest book is a CHUNKY ONE. I’ve heard really good things about this one but obviously it’s a massive time comminment! I think I might check out the audiobook before the end of the year as I tend to find larger books slightly more palatable in that format.

2. A Court of Wings and Ruin-Sarah J Maas-699 pages

I’m not going to lie, I’m a little ashamed of how long this one has been on my shelf, I bought it at YALC in 2017 and for whatever reason have been putting off reading it ever since! Still, we now know that A Court of Silver Flames is coming out next year, so I plan on catching up before it comes out.

3. Dreams of Gods and Monsters-Laini Taylor-613 pages

I was so disappointed by Days of Blood and Starlight when I read it in 2018 that I haven’t got around to reading the final book in the trilogy. I will at some point but it’s not top of my list at the moment.

4. Seasons of War-Derek Landy-592 pages

The latest Skulduggery Pleasant book only came out in April, so I haven’t left it that long yet, but I’m hoping to fit it in before the end of the year, because Bedlam ended in such an exciting place and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

5. It’s Not Ok To Feel Blue-Scarlett Curtis and contributors-576 pages

This mental health anthology is a thick one! It’s made up of different essays though, so I think it will be one that I dip in and out of between reading other books.

6. The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue-VE Schwab-560 pages

VE Schwab’s latest release isn’t out till October but it’s definitely a chunky one! I can’t wait to finally get my hands on this one, it’s my most anticipated release of this year.

7. House Rules-Jodi Picoult-554 pages

One of the few books in Jodi Picoult’s back catalogue that I have yet to read, I wasn’t expecting this one to be as thick as it was when I got it! Murder mystery is not a type of story I’ve ever read from Jodi Picoult before so I’m interested to see what she did with it.

8. Inkheart-Cornelia Funke-544 pages

I feel like kind of a bad bookworm for not having read this one yet, since it seems to be one of those classic “books about books” and it definitely sounds like the sort of book that I would love.

9. The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle-Stuart Turton-528 pages

I’ll admit, crime is not my usual genre but I heard so much good stuff about this one that I just had to get it. I still haven’t got round to it yet but I’m hoping to soon, I really want to see what all the fuss was about.

10. Thunderhead-Neal Shusterman-515 pages

I meant to read the sequel to Scythe much earlier, but when it comes to narrowing down my reading choices when I have little time, the 500+ page books are the first to go. Now that the trilogy is complete, I definitely need to get around to reading this one soon.

So there we go, these are the longest books on my TBR at the moment! Have you read any of these? Did you enjoy them? Are you slightly intimidated by longer books? Let me know in the comments!

I’ll be back next week for another Top Ten Tuesday, this time we’ll be talking about Books With Colours In Their Titles, and honestly I don’t think I know many, at least not that are on my TBR, but I’ll give it a go!

The folklore book tag

Hi everyone! So if you’ve been on the internet in the past few days, you’re probably aware that Taylor Swift released a new, surprise album on Friday called folklore, and yes, I loved it. If like me, you prefer Taylor’s slower songs (not that I don’t love the more upbeat ones, they’re great for my running playlist) then this album is definitely for you! I’ve only actually listened to it once all the way through so far, but my favourites at this point are betty, the last great american dynasty, mad woman and my tears ricochet, though of course as I listen to the album more, that will probably change.

Anyway, this is an original tag created by Ilsa at A Whisper of Ink , who also tagged me, thanks Ilsa! (https://awhisperofink.wordpress.com/2020/07/24/the-folklore-book-tag-original/) and here are the rules for the tag:

  • Link to the original creator: Ilsa @ A Whisper Of Ink
  • Tag at least 3 people.
  • Declare the rules and list of prompts in your post
  • Thank whoever who tagged you and link to their post.

So here we go, the folklore book tag!:

The 1: a book with an ending that left you speechless

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I couldn’t go with anything other than this book for this one, the YA thriller to beat all other YA thrillers. Seriously, it kind of ruined (in the best way) all other thrillers for me because I was so blown away by that ending. It’s seriously messed up but in the most brilliant way possibly and you will not see it coming.

cardigan: a book that makes you feel happy and sad all at once

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Honestly this book was tailor made for this prompt, it’s devastating and heartbreaking of course (how could any book set in WWII not be?) but Maddie and Queenie’s friendship is one of my favourites I’ve ever read and Queenie is brilliantly witty so even among the heartbreak, there’s a lot of joy as well.

the last great american dynasty: a book with a fascinating and well told story

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The way VE Schwab crafted the beautifully intricate a-linear timeline in this and brought all of the disparate threads together into one brilliant story? I am both envious of the skill and also love it so much. VE Schwab is such a talented writer and I look forward to every new book of hers that comes out (so excited for Addie!).

exile: a book you wish you hadn’t read

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Ah Lord of The Flies, my old nemesis. If I hadn’t had to read this for my GCSEs at school then I never would have and it’s time that I cannot get back. It’s so boring and I’ve read contemporary dystopia that’s so much more creative and fun and quite frankly more interesting than this one.

my tears ricochet: a book that made you cry uncontrollably

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Honestly, I really don’t cry at books very often, I don’t know why, I think it’s because I’m not a visual reader. But this one really got to me, of course any book set in a concentration camp is harrowing, but I found the stories of the Rabbits so heartbreaking, the fact that real women had to go through what they went through, it definitely brought a few tears to my eyes thinking about it whilst I was reading.

mirrorball: a book that feels like it was written for you

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A Darker Shade of Magic is basically everything I love about fantasy, all rolled into one book. It has a brilliant female lead, several awesome magical worlds, fantastic villians and an engaging story.

seven: a childhood book that makes you feel nostalgic

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It’s kind of hard to do this one when so many of my favourite childhood authors keep turning out to be kind of terrible people, but I have super fond memories of this series, I would go to the library every week to get the next book when I was younger, though sadly I never finished the series as my library didn’t have all the books, I think I made it up to book 10!

august: a book that reminds you of summer

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These books are quintessential summer reads, when I was a teenager I loved diving into Tibby, Lena, Bridget and Carmen’s lives and seeing what each summer would bring for them and their friendship.

this is me trying: a book that deals with loneliness and sadness

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It’s very out of my usual wheelhouse of books, but P.S. I Love You deals with the lonelines and sadness that comes with Holly’s grief over the death of her husband and her attempts to move forward with her life after her loss very well.

illicit affairs: a book that gave you a book hangover

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The hangover I had after finishing this book, honestly I’ve never experienced anything like it! The end of this series was such perfection and it took me so long to move on from this world and these characters to find something that came anywhere close to living up to it.

invisible string: a book that came into your life at the exact right time

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I found Percy Jackson just when I moved to a new school and didn’t know anyone, and without it, I wouldn’t have met my best friend Hannah, Percy Jackson was a big bonding point for us and cemented a friendship based on a mutual love of books and fangirling.

mad woman: a book with a female character you adore

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I could have picked about ten thousand different books for this one, because I have so many female characters I adore but I decided to go with Izzy O’Neill, she’s just so funny and confident and stands up for what she believes in and I can relate so hard to her!

epiphany: a book that is haunting

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I dare you to read the line “That day my brother’s life was worth a pocket watch” and not be completely haunted for the rest of your life. I dare you.

betty: a book couple that fills you with yearning

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Sephy and Callum……..another time, another place, a different world and the two of them could have had an ending that didn’t shatter everyone’s hearts into a million pieces. Alas this is not that book.

peace: a book character you’d die for because you love them so much

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Okay, being serious, I’m not sure I’d be willing to die for any fictional character, but if I was going to, then Severin, Laila, Zofia, Enrique, Hypnos and Tristan would be the ones. Their group dynamic is just the absolute best and I can’t wait to read more of their adventures in The Silvered Serpents when it comes out.

hoax: a book you thought you were going to love but didn’t

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Okay I mean technically I’m not finished yet, but I’m far enough through to know that I’m not going to love this one. It should have been so good, the cover is gorgeous, the blurb sounded great but the actual book has not lived up to that promise.

So there we go, that’s the folklore book tag! Thanks to Ilsa for creating it, and if you would like to do it, then consider yourself tagged!

 

 

 

Top Ten Tuesday #273

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Hi all! I hope you’ve all had a good week, mine was very quiet once again. This weekend was meant to be YALC but of course it was yet another casualty of the pandemic. This is the first year that it’s not been on since I started going in 2015 and I’m not going to lie, whilst I of course understand why it’s not on this year, I’m still really disappointed. My friend Hannah and I go every year, it’s my favourite weekend of the year and it feels really strange not to be excitedly planning all the authors I want to see right now!

Anyway, it’s Tuesday, and so that means another Top Ten Tuesday courtesy of Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s topic actually works really well for the week that YALC should have been as we were meant to be talking Book Festivals I’d Like To Go To Someday. I’ve decided to twist it slightly and talk about Authors I’d Like To See At Next Year’s YALC:

  1. VE Schwab

VE Schwab is one of my favourite authors so I love getting to see her at YALC, even if her queues are always massive! She’s so lovely and it’s always a joy to get to see her and have my books signed.

2. Samantha Shannon

Another one of my favourite authors, she seems to be a pretty consistent YALC guest, so I’m hoping she’ll be back again next year where we can all tell her how much The Mask Falling broke us (because let’s face it, it will).

3. Derek Landy

Yet another of my perennial favourites, Derek is always so funny and I swear one of these days Hannah and I are going to meet him without being embarrassing. One day.

4. Alwyn Hamilton

Hannah and I have seen Alwyn at YALC every single year since we first started going, and in 2015, she hadn’t even published her debut yet so that’s a pretty cool thing to be able to say! She’s so lovely and she always remembers us as well, so I’m really looking forward to (hopefully) seeing her again next year.

5. Leigh Bardugo

Honestly having any US based authors at YALC next year is probably a pipe dream considering *gestures at current state of the US* but hey, it’s my list and no one said it had to be realistic! I’ve come really close to almost meeting Leigh Bardugo on a few occasions (still really regret not taking my friend up on her offer to go to an event with her a few years ago, but I hadn’t read her books then and didn’t know how much I’d love them). Anyway, I’d really love to finally be able to meet her, so it would be great if she was invited to YALC.

6. Alexandra Christo

I really enjoyed both of Alexandra Christo’s books last year, and I know that the second Into The Crooked Place book is scheduled to release next year (at least the last I checked) so it would be really great if she was at YALC next year as well!

7. Laura Bates

This is less from an author perspective as I’ve actually not yet read any of her books (I will get around to Everyday Sexism, I just haven’t yet) and more from a journalism perspective as I really love her columns in The Guardian!

8. Stephanie Garber

I’ve seen Stephanie express interest in coming to YALC on her Instagram before so it would be really cool if she did, even if it’s not next year! I have a signed Legendary and Finale, but it would be great to have the signed Caraval to complete the set.

9. Amanda Foody

I love Amanda’s books so much and she’s not done any events in the UK before, so it would be really great if she was invited to YALC and I was able to meet her!

10. Tomi Adeyemi

I missed getting to meet Tomi when she was at YALC in 2018, because her queue was too long and she had to leave, so it would be awesome if she came back to YALC again and I could finally tell her how much I loved Children of Blood and Bone.

So there we go, those are the authors that I’d love to see at YALC next year! Who would you like to see, if you’re based in the UK and go to YALC? Are there any authors that you would really love to meet? Let me know in the comments!

I’ll be back next week with another Top Ten Tuesday, this time we have a Freebie, so that’s free rein to do any topic that we like. The more topics we do, the more I find it tricky to come up with these freebies! Anyway, since one of my goals for this year is to read more of the long books on my TBR, I’m going to talk about Longest Books On My TBR That I Need To Read!

 

King of Scars (Nikolai Duology #1) Review

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Book: King of Scars (Nikolai Duology #1)

Author: Leigh Bardugo

BECHDEL TEST: Pass-Nina talks Hanne through her tailoring.

Content Warnings: Drug addiction, loss of a loved one, grief, captivity, slavery, implied past sexual assault, torture, bullying, fatphobic comments, mentions of previous stillbirths, attempted pedophilia, suicide and war themes, attempted child marriage

King of Scars was one of my most anticipated releases from last year but me being me, of course I didn’t get around to it, so I was really excited to finally read the first of Nikolai’s books this year. Sadly, I did find it kind of disappointing, it felt more like just set up for the second book in the duology rather than telling a great story in it’s own right, and Nina’s POV felt very disconnected from the other characters in the book, almost as if Leigh Bardugo had these two ideas for two different stories and had mashed them together because she really wanted Nina to be in this book. Here is a short synopsis of the book:

Nikolai Lantsov has always had a gift for the impossible. No one knows what he endured in his country’s bloody civil war—and he intends to keep it that way. Now, as enemies gather at his weakened borders, the young king must find a way to refill Ravka’s coffers, forge new alliances, and stop a rising threat to the once-great Grisha Army.

Yet with every day a dark magic within him grows stronger, threatening to destroy all he has built. With the help of a young monk and a legendary Grisha Squaller, Nikolai will journey to the places in Ravka where the deepest magic survives to vanquish the terrible legacy inside him. He will risk everything to save his country and himself. But some secrets aren’t meant to stay buried—and some wounds aren’t meant to heal. 

I just want to say at the top of this review that though Leigh Bardugo has said she wrote this to be accessible to new readers, so that you can enter the Grishaverse at any point, I would definitely advise reading both the original Grisha Trilogy and Six of Crows duology first as I think there’s a lot that probably won’t make sense if you haven’t.

So I already mentioned my biggest issue with this book at the top of the post, it’s SO DAMN SLOW. The entire book basically just feels like a book full of build up to the actually exciting stuff happening in the next book, and at 514 pages, it’s far longer than it probably needs to be. The often lengthy chapters also didn’t help matters.

The other main issue is Nina. Now I love Nina, she’s one of my favourite Grishaverse characters but she just doesn’t seem to really fit here. Zoya and Nikolai are both together in Ravka, working toward the same goal so it makes sense that they would both have a POV. Nina is in Fjerda doing something completely unrelated and as much as I enjoyed seeing her, her storyline doesn’t seem to fit here. I get the feeling Leigh had this idea of a story for Nina but there wasn’t really enough of it to make a whole book in its own right, so she attached it to Nikolai’s story, even though it seems kind of out of place.

Having said that, I did really enjoy Nina’s parts of this story. Her journey with grief after the end of Crooked Kingdom was really beautifully done, and I loved getting to see her use her new parem influenced powers more as she’s still really only just developing them in Crooked Kingdom. It’s also great to see her being confirmed as canonically bisexual!

I loved Zoya, we don’t really get to see her all that much in the original trilogy and after enjoying her in Ruin and Rising, I was really excited to see more of her in King of Scars. I’m happy to say that on this front, Bardugo really delivered, we get to learn so much more about Zoya in this book (her backstory is truly heartbreaking) and her character development was one of the standout aspects of this book.

I did find it kind of weird that all of the couples from Ruin and Rising were suddenly married here? I mean I know it’s been three years but they’re like 20 at the oldest!

For a book about Nikolai, Nikolai kind of……fades into the background here? I mean don’t get me wrong, I love that the girls in this are so awesome, but I was just expecting Nikolai to be a lot more prominent in his own book than he actually seemed to be.

I’m not sure how I feel about some of the big Grisha power developments in this book. I mean Leigh Bardugo seemed to have created a pretty solid magic system in the previous books, and basically everything that happened with the Saints in this book overturned what we already knew about the magic system and made the last few books of world-building seem kind of pointless? I do trust that Bardugo knows what she’s doing, but I’m just not really a fan of authors throwing out the established rules of their world, six books in!

Fjerda’s backwards views about women were really frustrating to read and honestly I’m kind of over it? Hanne’s whole thing is basically “girl rebelling against traditional societies values” which feels a little been there, done that.

I can’t say I felt massively interested in either potential romance? I did feel like Nikolai and Zoya was something I wanted to see explored in Ruin and Rising, but I don’t know, I kind of like them as friends and I’m not sure I really want them to go down the romance path. Nina and Hanne kind of just feel like a redo of Nina and Matthias, with Nina getting involved with another Fjerdan who feels like all Grisha are evil and it would be nice if for once, Nina could be romantically involved with someone who accepts and loves her for everything she is.

The dialogue and banter is still great in this one, especially between Nikolai and Zoya and there are a lot of little humourous moments, but the friendship dynamics that were so key in the Six of Crows duology did seem a little weak here.

Okay so I guess I have to end this with addressing the elephant in the room. The ending. Obviously I can’t say exactly what happened because MASSIVE SPOILERS but I’m not massively happy about it. It feels like the entirety of the original Grisha trilogy was rendered somewhat pointless by the end of this book, and there’s so much going on with Ravka already, what with the threat of invasion and its precarious political position, I really don’t feel like Leigh Bardugo needed to do what she did with the end of this book. I will reserve full judgement till I read the sequel, but I’m definitely proceeding with caution!

Overall, King of Scars was an okay addition to the Grishaverse, I enjoyed Zoya and Nina and there were some great moments, but it was somewhat more lacklustre than I was expecting and I’m not sure how to feel about the impact of some of the bigger curveballs on the series we already knew.

My Rating: 3/5

My next review will be of the much anticipated Hunger Games prequel, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins.

Top Ten Tuesday #272

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Hi everyone! I hope you’ve all had a good week since I last did one of these, mine has been relatively quiet, honestly I’m getting super bored of this whole being at home thing (and I know I said that months ago, but it’s still just as true now as it was then!). On the upside, I have my first riding lesson in months on Thursday so I’m really looking forward to that!

Anyway, it’s Tuesday, so I have another Top Ten Tuesday for you all, courtesy of Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s topic is Books That Make Me Smile, which should be a fun one to do, a lot of the books I read can be quite dark so today I’ll be sharing some of the more uplifting books on my shelf (though who am I kidding, there will still be some dark books on here, because I love some dark humour!).

  1. Percy Jackson and The Olympians Series-Rick Riordan

I love all of Rick Riordan’s books and they always make me smile but I decided to go specifically with the first Percy Jackson series here because nothing makes me smile more than Percy’s narration!

2. Skulduggery Pleasant Series-Derek Landy

The books get progressively darker as the series goes on, but always have a very healthy dose of humour to go along with it, the witty banter between Skulduggery and Valkyrie is always a highlight and never fails to make me smile.

3. Heist Society-Ally Carter

Heist Society is a super fun series, it’s basically a bunch of teenage criminals travelling around the world to pull off brilliant heists and they have such a fun dynamic within the group that it never failed to make me smile.

4. The Gilded Wolves-Roshani Chokshi

One of my favourite reads from this year, I spent most of the book with a huge grin on my face because I loved the group dynamic so much and they had so much fun banter. The balance between the serious issues explored and the humour was really well done as well.

5. The Roman Mysteries-Caroline Lawrence

This was one of my favourite series as a kid, and I guess is kind of the series that led me onto Percy Jackson when I was older? Anyway, it was so much fun, each book follows Flavia Gemina and her friends as they solve different mysteries in Ancient Rome.

6. The Gentleman’s Guide To Vice and Virtue-Mackenzi Lee

This book and author definitely have their issues, but I can’t deny that reading Gentleman’s Guide made me smile, the main character Monty is incredibly funny and he, along with Percy and Felicity get themselves into a lot of ridiculous situations throughout the book!

7. Daughter of The Pirate King-Tricia Levenseller

I had so much fun reading this one, the main character Alosa, is an absolute riot and who doesn’t love pirates? I still haven’t got around to reading the sequel, but I’m definitely planning to!

8. The Exact Opposite of Okay-Laura Steven

It feels kind of weird to say that a book about revenge porn made me smile, but that is the point of this book, the main character is an aspiring comedian and she uses humour to deal with a lot of the serious stuff that happens to her, so you can be both annoyed and smiling at the same time when reading this!

9. A Darker Shade of Magic-VE Schwab

The characters in this have so much fun banter and I was just so wrapped up in this world when I was reading this book that I couldn’t help but smile because I was having so much fun having adventures with Lila, Kell and Rhy.

10. Six of Crows-Leigh Bardugo

The group dynamic in this book is one of my favourites possibly ever. The characters have such a natural back and forth with each other that you can’t help but smile when reading their interactions (and the humour definitely helped to balance some of the darker aspects of the characters’ backstories).

So that’s it, the books that have made me smile over the years. Have you read any of these? Did you enjoy them? What books have made you smile? Let me know in the comments!

I’ll be back next week with another Top Ten Tuesday, we’re meant to be talking Book Events/Festivals I’d Like To Go To Someday, but I’m going to alter it slightly and talk about Authors I’d Love To See At YALC next year, since it would have been YALC weekend next weekend and I’m feeling sad that it’s not happening this year!

Girl Serpent Thorn Review (e-ARC)

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Book: Girl Serpent Thorn

Author: Melissa Bashardoust

Published By: Hodder and Stoughton

Publication Date: 7th July

Format: e-book

BECHDEL TEST: PASS-Parvaneh and Soraya talk about her curse

Content Warnings: Death, violence, murder, bodily harm, blood/gore, imprisonment, mentions of past torture, abduction

Thank you to Hodder and Stoughton and Netgalley for allowing me to read this book, this in no way affected my opinion of it.

I read Melissa Bashardoust’s debut novel Girls Made of Snow and Glass last month, and was quite underwhelmed by it, so I went into Girl Serpent Thorn with a fair deal of trepidation. Thankfully I did enjoy it more than her previous book, although it did have some of the same issues with pacing and lack of character development. Here is a short synopsis of the book:

A captivating and utterly original fairy tale about a girl cursed to be poisonous to the touch, and who discovers what power might lie in such a curse…

There was and there was not, as all stories begin, a princess cursed to be poisonous to the touch. But for Soraya, who has lived her life hidden away, apart from her family, safe only in her gardens, it’s not just a story.

As the day of her twin brother’s wedding approaches, Soraya must decide if she’s willing to step outside of the shadows for the first time. Below in the dungeon is a demon who holds knowledge that she craves, the answer to her freedom. And above is a young man who isn’t afraid of her, whose eyes linger not with fear, but with an understanding of who she is beneath the poison.

Soraya thought she knew her place in the world, but when her choices lead to consequences she never imagined, she begins to question who she is and who she is becoming…human or demon. Princess or monster.

So I’ll start again with my biggest issue from the book: pacing. I feel like that’s an issue I’ve been having with basically everything I’ve been reading for the past few months and I honestly don’t know if it’s me and I’m just perceiving everything as being slower paced or if I’ve just been reading a lot of slow books! But anyway, this story was definitely very slow to build and it was only really in the very end that anything particularly exciting happened in the plot (and then it felt somewhat of a rush to the end). This was also a big issue for me in Girls Made of Snow and Glass, so I guess maybe it’s the author’s style to have really slow building plots? Either way, it doesn’t work all that well for me.

I really liked the author’s writing style, where in the first book I found it kind of simplistic, I really enjoyed it here, I think she has improved a lot in the two years since that book was published. The writing was actually what hooked me to this book, the prologue is just so beautifully done.

I loved the Persian mythology influences, I’m not all that familiar with Persian mythology but the author’s note was really helpful in explaining all the different things she brought in and I just thought it was really cool to read a story inspired by a culture that I’m not as familiar with. It was a really unique and creative idea for a fairytale and I thought that was so cool.

I don’t really know how to feel about Soraya. On the one hand, I did feel sorry for her not being able to touch the people she loved (and that one really hit differently in the pandemic than I imagine it would have previously!) but on the other hand, there was nothing that really made me feel connected to her. I don’t know, I would describe my feelings as kind of lukewarm which is not how you really want to feel about the main character in a novel.

Once again, as with Bashardoust’s first novel, the supporting characters felt kind of flat. I mean Soraya did too to a lesser extent, but at least I felt like I knew her and her motivations whereas the other characters, I felt like I only really knew the bare minimum about them. This was a shame because I felt like a lot of the secondary characters, like Tahmineh (Soraya’s mother) and Parvaneh had the potential to be really interesting, they just weren’t explored all that much.

I can’t say I was massively interested in the romance elements, though that wasn’t particularly a surprise. I just didn’t feel that either of Soraya’s romantic interests felt particularly well developed and so I didn’t find myself particularly invested in either of their relationships with Soraya. I did however appreciate how casually bisexual Soraya was!

I was kind of expecting Soraya to be more of a villain? I mean don’t get me wrong, she definitely does some questionable things throughout the book but I was expecting so much more than what we ended up getting.

The dynamics between Soraya and her mother and brother were pretty interesting given that she’s been largely separated from them through her life and I thought there was maybe a little more room to explore those dynamics than was actually done on the page.

Overall, Girl Serpent Thorn was a decent fairytale and very original but suffered from a lack of character development and a slow paced plot with an ultimately rushed conclusion.

My Rating: 3/5

My next review will be of my July #RockMyTBR read, King of Scars, the next book in the Grishaverse by Leigh Bardugo.

Top Ten Tuesday #271

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Hi everyone! I hope you all had a good weekend, like many other people I watched Hamilton on Disney+ this weekend and of course I loved it, and I’m sure many rewatches will follow. It definitely reminded me how much I miss seeing live theatre and I hope to be able to get back to see the West End version again when theatres reopen!

Anyway, it’s Tuesday, so I have another Top Ten Tuesday for you all, courtesy of Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s topic was meant to be Authors I’ve Read The Most Books By but I did that topic a few years ago, and to be honest, though the numbers might have changed, the authors haven’t really, so I decided to do a different topic this week. Instead, I’m going to do Best/Most Disappointing Series Enders (I wanted to do just the best but it turns out I do not have ten of those!):

Best Series Enders

  1. A Conjuring of Light-VE Schwab

I had the biggest book hangover after finishing this book, it took months for me to read another book that lived up to this one. It was such a brilliant finale, brought all of the threads of the series together and wrapped it up in such a satisfying way. I’m so excited for Threads of Power (the sequel series) when it comes out!

2. Undivided-Neal Shusterman

Dystopian finales have a tendency to be a bit repetitive, you get the big violent uprising against the government, the rebels win, yay everything’s on it’s way to being good! So I appreciated that Undivided took a more understated approach in that sense, whilst still being action packed, a lot of fun and tying up all the characters stories really well.

3. Firestarter-Tara Sim

Again, I had a massive book hangover after reading this book because it was just so good! Incredibly high stakes, emotional, brilliantly written and again everything wrapped up for the characters in a really satisfying way.

4. The Last Olympian-Rick Riordan

Everything comes together so well in this last book, with the fulfilment of the prophecy, the battle against Kronos and the other Titans and the Percy/Annabeth arc has a really satisfying conclusion!

5. The Raven King-Maggie Stiefvater

Okay, so looking back, technically The Raven King is probably not the best written book, it does kind of wander all over the place and there’s a lot that doesn’t make sense. But weirdly I still loved it as a series finale, because it’s one of those books where I got so into it that I lost all sense of time and place when I was reading and that doesn’t happen to me all the time!

Most Disappointing Series Enders

6. Allegiant-Veronica Roth

Weirdly, the reason I hated this last book in the Divergent trilogy is not for the reason that everyone would think (if you’ve read the book then you know). That part was actually the only bit about it that I really liked? Mostly, it’s overly long, quite dull and I didn’t like the change to dual perspective.

7. Ruin and Rising-Leigh Bardugo

The original Grisha trilogy was quite uneven for me, I was kind of meh about the first book, loved the second one and then the third one was also kind of meh. The pacing was all over the place, and the final battle was kind of anti-climactic. I also didn’t find the conclusion all that satisfying.

8. Finale-Stephanie Garber

I loved Caraval and Legendary, so not loving Finale was a big disappointment to me. It lacked structure and focus, the book was lengthier than it needed to be and I didn’t love all the focus on the romantic drama.

9. Hero At The Fall-Alwyn Hamilton

Again, this one was such a massive disappointment because I really enjoyed the first book in the Rebel of The Sands trilogy and I liked the second one well enough but this final book was overly long, slow paced and the final battle was incredibly anti-climactic.

10. Capturing The Devil-Keri Maniscalco

The mystery in this one got lost beneath all of the romantic drama between Audrey Rose and Thomas, so it wasn’t as satisfying a conclusion as it could have been because I spent so much time frustrated at them!

So there we go, those are my favourite/most disappointing series enders! Have you read any of these? What did you think? What’s your favourite series ender? Most disappointing one? Let me know in the comments!

I’ll be back next week with another Top Ten Tuesday, this time we’re talking Books That Make Me Smile, which should be a fun one.

Mid Year Freak Out Tag (2020)

Hi everyone! It’s been a while since I’ve done a book tag here, in fact not since Christmas which feels like far longer than six months ago, and I’ve not done this particular tag since 2018, so thanks to my friend Hannah at Books, Life and Other Oddities for tagging me!

Best Book You’ve Read So Far This Year

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I’ve read a lot of books I’ve really enjoyed so far this year so it was tough to pick a favourite but I decided to go with this one. It’s wonderfully diverse (written by a WOC and featuring almost an entirely POC cast), it’s super fun with an incredible found family/squad dynamic and offers some really great discussions of colonialism and identity within a historical context, which I of course loved!

Best Sequel You’ve Read So Far In 2020

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I can’t say I’ve had the best luck with sequels this year, most of them have been kind of mediocre but I went with this one because I really enjoyed this historical murder mystery set on a cruise ship. The Stalking Jack The Ripper series is kind of uneven with its sequels, but this one was really great!

New release you haven’t read yet, but want to

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I’ve been meaning to read this since it came out back in May, but it’s a lot chunkier than I was anticipating and I just haven’t got around to it yet. It’s on my TBR for this month though, and I’m really looking forward to reading it, even if the reviews have been wildly mixed!

Most anticipated release for the second half of the year

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I mean is anyone at all surprised at this one? It’s the newest VE Schwab, everyone who has been lucky enough to get advanced copies has been raving about it and all of the snippets she’s released have just made me more excited. Roll on October!

Biggest Disappointment

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I so wanted to love this one as much as the first book and I was so excited for it, but sadly it just didn’t live up to my expectations at all. It was classic middle book syndrome unfortunately, the characters backslid a lot in their development and it felt like the plot was going around in circles most of the time. I’m hoping the third book will be back up to the same standard as the first one.

Biggest Surprise

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I’ve never read anything by Addie Thorley before and I’m not familiar with the original The Hunchback of Notre Dame so I wasn’t sure what to expect from this retelling, but I ended up really enjoying it! It was a super creative world, I loved the characters and I can’t wait for the sequel to come out next year.

Favourite new author (debut or new to you)

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I read The City of Brass back in April and since then I have devoured the second book and am currently reading the final book. SA Chakraborty is definitely a new favourite author I’ve discovered this year and I will be excitedly looking forward to seeing what she has coming next now that the Daevabad trilogy is done.

Newest Fictional Ship

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Enrique and Hypnos definitely seemed to have a spark going in this book and I look forward to seeing where that goes, if anywhere, in this next two books.

Newest favourite character

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Without meaning to be a broken record here, my newest favourite character(s) definitely came from The Gilded Wolves. I can’t really pick between Enrique, Laila and Zofia, I loved them all for very different reasons, so I’m going to say all three of them for my favourite characters of this year. Though honestly I could say pretty much everyone from the squad in The Gilded Wolves because I loved them all.

Favourite new audiobook narrator (this one I made up because I wasn’t feeling the Book That Made You Cry)

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Soneela Nankani who narrates the Daevabad audiobooks has a really relaxing voice and I love listening to her read, she really has a way of taking you out of whatever you are doing and transporting you into the world she’s reading about.

Book That Made You Happy

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I read so many long, quite dark fantasies that this one was a nice change of pace. It was a super fun little ghost story that I could just get easily immersed in and didn’t take very long to read. It reminded me why I enjoyed middle grade books in the first place, short, fun and focused more on friendship than romance.

Most Beautiful Book You’ve Pre-Ordered This Year (I changed this from bought or received as none of the books I’ve bought this year have had particularly “pretty” covers)

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I love this cover so much, it reminds me of Christmas, which is my favourite time of year, so I can’t wait to have this book on my shelf come September!

What Books Do You Need To Read By The End of The Year

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Aside from all the books on my #RockMyTBR Challenge list which I obviously intend to get finished by the end of the year, these are some of the others that I really want to get read by the end of the year.

Favourite Book Community Member

Hannah (who tagged me) from Books, Life and Other Oddities is my IRL best friend, we met at school almost ten years ago, bonded over a shared love of books (Percy Jackson in particular) and are still fangirling together now!

I don’t really know who to tag for this, so basically if you want to do it, then please go ahead!