A Spark of Light Review (e-ARC)

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Book: A Spark of Light

Author: Jodi Picoult

Published By: Hodder & Stoughton

Expected Publication: 30th October (Sorry!)

Format: e-book

Thank you to Hodder & Stoughton and Netgalley for allowing me to read this book early, this was one of my most anticipated releases of 2018 since I have been waiting for Jodi Picoult to do a book about abortion for a long time and I was not disappointed with the results, A Spark of Light is an emotional, nuanced look at a very difficult topic and allows the reader to explore all the different angles of the debate in a very personal way as we follow the characters at the clinic through a very traumatic day, from end to beginning. Here is a short synopsis of the book:

The warm fall day starts like any other at the Center—a women’s reproductive health services clinic—its staff offering care to anyone who passes through its doors. Then, in late morning, a desperate and distraught gunman bursts in and opens fire, taking all inside hostage.

After rushing to the scene, Hugh McElroy, a police hostage negotiator, sets up a perimeter and begins making a plan to communicate with the gunman. As his phone vibrates with incoming text messages he glances at it and, to his horror, finds out that his fifteen-year-old daughter, Wren, is inside the clinic.

But Wren is not alone. She will share the next and tensest few hours of her young life with a cast of unforgettable characters: A nurse who calms her own panic in order save the life of a wounded woman. A doctor who does his work not in spite of his faith but because of it, and who will find that faith tested as never before. A pro-life protester disguised as a patient, who now stands in the cross hairs of the same rage she herself has felt. A young woman who has come to terminate her pregnancy. And the disturbed individual himself, vowing to be heard.

Told in a daring and enthralling narrative structure that counts backward through the hours of the standoff, this is a story that traces its way back to what brought each of these very different individuals to the same place on this fateful day.

Jodi Picoult—one of the most fearless writers of our time—tackles a complicated issue in this gripping and nuanced novel. How do we balance the rights of pregnant women with the rights of the unborn they carry? What does it mean to be a good parent? A Spark of Light will inspire debate, conversation . . . and, hopefully, understanding.

Jodi Picoult’s writing is always great, emotional and powerful and that was true of A Spark of Light as well, but I wanted to draw particular attention to the opening of this book in my review because I thought it was really great-we come in at the end of the hostage situation, so I found it very impressive that within the opening paragraph, I was already feeling for the characters and the situation they had found themselves in and wanted to know more about how they got there.

There’s quite a large cast of characters and the perspective shifting did take a little time for me to get used to, but I appreciated that there were so many different characters, because you get to see such a wide range of perspectives. My personal favourite was Dr Louie Ward, the Catholic abortion doctor, who rather than his faith preventing him from performing abortions, it reinforced his belief in choice. It was a perspective that I can’t say I’ve really seen before, and it was nice to see a religious person also believe in choice as so often it is presented as an either/or scenario in media, so it was nice to have a book that didn’t show the two as mutually exclusive. The fact that this character is based on a real abortion doctor, made me love him even more.

We also have Wren, a fifteen year old girl, her father Hugh and her aunt Bex. Wren and Bex are caught in the shooting, Hugh is the hostage negotiator. I loved how Hugh and Wren’s bond was shown throughout the story, their father/daughter bond was very heartwarming and seeing how his bond with his daughter affected how Hugh negotiated with the hostage taker was very interesting. I liked how father/daughter relationships were central to this book, as the hostage taker’s motives are very much tied to his own daughter and it was interesting to see how the two relationships contrasted. I also liked that through Olive (an older woman at the clinic) and Wren, Picoult explored the other services offered by women’s health clinics as abortion is so often the focus that people forget these places provide other vital services as well.

Janine was a particularly interesting character for me, she is a pro-life advocate who comes to the clinic as a spy, trying to find evidence that the clinic was coercing women into having an abortion. I’m pro-choice, so my initial instinct towards her was slightly sceptical as I often feel that pro-lifers are kind of hypocritical, but I did come to feel for her as more of her backstory was revealed through the book, even if I don’t necessarily agree with her ideas.

I really loved Izzy, she had such gumption, she wasn’t afraid to stand up and do what was right in order to help people, even if doing so would get her killed and she stayed impressively level headed through the crisis. Her conflict between her own poor upbringing and her boyfriend coming from a wealthy family felt incredibly realistic and it was interesting to see how this conflict contributed to why she ended up at the clinic-one of my favourite twists of the novel, because I really didn’t see it coming. I also felt incredibly for Joy and Olive, as their journeys to the clinic were quite emotional.

Interspersed with the clinic story, is the story of a young girl who performed an illegal abortion by taking pills at home (in Mississippi, it is illegal to have an abortion without the presence of a doctor). At first, I was kind of confused as to why this story was included but it becomes clearer the further through the book you get and is actually vital to what is happening at the clinic. Beth’s story actually made me really mad, it’s these kinds of things that make it really hard for me to understand pro-lifers, because without the option of choice, women resort to desperate and often unsafe ways to end pregnancy. I felt really sorry for Beth, especially that she felt she had no other option than to risk her own life in order to exercise her right to choose, which should have been freely available to her.

I think Picoult did very well at explaining the shooter’s motivations, though he was easily my least favourite character in the book (obviously), it is clear why he did what he did and his love for his daughter was endearing, even if he did not really show it in the right way.

As much as Picoult obviously attempts to balance both sides of the issue, it is quite clear which side of the debate she lands on, and the pro-life characters, with the exception of Janine and George, do come across as more caricaturish than the pro-choice ones. However, I did like that the book never felt preachy, all characters are given the chance to show their viewpoints and it’s up to the reader to decide which they agree with.

The reverse chronology, I know will be hit or miss with most people. I did find it confusing initially, particularly at the points in each chapter when the timelines intersect going into the next hour (which you have already read) but I actually ended up enjoying it-telling the story this way means you get to learn about the characters and their situations as you go through and by the end I had real empathy for all of them. You get little tidbits in each section about something that happened earlier in the day that you will then learn about, and far from decreasing the tension, I found that knowing the ending first actually increased the tension for me because I really wanted to know what had happened to the women in the clinic to bring them to that point.

I did feel like the chapters were a little overly long, most of the sections were 20+ pages long and as someone who likes to read before I go to bed, that’s a bit long for me. It might have been better if each section was broken up a little more, so that you weren’t facing such a huge chunk of text in each section but that could just be me!

Jodi obviously meticulously researches her books, and I definitely feel like I know a lot more about Mississippi abortion laws after this book, I love that I always come out of her books knowing things that I didn’t know before-although a lot of the real life information she used in this book made me very angry considering it shows how little respect lawmakers have for women’s right to choose. I also particularly loved the author’s note of this book, where she goes into her research process a little and talks about what motivated her to write this book, it was incredibly powerful and I would advise anyone who doesn’t usually read the author’s note to definitely do so this time.

The section where an abortion is performed is rather graphic, I wasn’t expecting Jodi to go into so much detail and I did find it a little unsettling but that’s more because I’m slightly squeamish than anything else, and I’m quite glad she did include it because I have knowledge about the process now that I didn’t before.

Jodi Picoult’s books always come with a healthy dose of mind blowing twists, and this book was no exception, although I actually predicted one of the major twists myself this time, which made me very happy as I don’t usually do it! The end of the book in particular had me with my mouth hanging open, because I really wasn’t expecting that at all.

There were some uncorrected proof errors, but that was only to be expected and I’m sure these have been edited in the final version.

I will admit, I did find the epilogue a little frustrating-I would have liked to find out what happened to each of the women who survived the hostage situation, though I do appreciate that the cliffhanger from the first chapter was resolved, it didn’t leave me as satisfied as I would have liked. However, the story is about what brought the women to the clinic rather than what they do after, so I understand why Picoult chose not to go down this route, I just prefer to have everything all wrapped up and the ending was a little too open for me.

My Rating: 4/5

BECHDEL TEST: PASS-It would have been very surprising if this book hadn’t passed, considering the subject matter, many named women in this book speak to each other about topics which weren’t about men.

My next review will be of my final #RockMyTBR book of the year, though I have changed it from Wonder Woman: Warbringer to Our Dark Duet as I wasn’t feeling too engaged with the former a and am enjoying the latter far more.

 

 

 

 

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Jo Talks Books: A Bookworm Christmas Shopping Guide For Non Bookworms

Hi everyone! I am so sorry that I had no discussion posts for you guys in November, I had so many deadlines and it just wasn’t possible to write a lengthy post-but, I’m planning on making it up with not one but two posts this month-that hasn’t happened since May! Anyway, with Christmas coming up, I thought it might be a quite nice idea to do a Christmas shopping guide, but with a bit of a twist. As bookworms, we all know the sorts of things that we like to receive for Christmas, but for our non-bookish inclined friends and family, shopping for us can be a little more difficult, so I thought I would create a handy little guide that can be shared with any non readers amongst our friends and relatives, to make Christmas shopping season that little bit easier. So here we go:

  1. Listen to our interests

If you aren’t a bookworm, it can be easy enough to think, “well this a book…insert friend here likes books….I’ll just get this for them” but alas, things aren’t as simple as that. Bookworms are complex creatures, with a myriad of different interests, and you cannot guarantee that any book you put in front of them will be one they’ll like (I mean there’s a high chance but it’s not 100% certain). My favourite book presents have always been the ones that show the person who bought them for me has really tailored their present to something they know I like-for instance my mum got me a book called Modern Women: 52 Pioneers, because she knows how much I like reading about historical women and it meant a lot to me because it shows that she listens to the things I like.

2. If you don’t know what books we own, ask!

Often times, the less avid readers in my life (and to an extent my friends who do love books) don’t get me books because they’re worried about getting me something I already own-I mean fair enough, I do have a lot of books, and sometimes even I lose track of what I own. But I do have a Goodreads shelf with them, and quite a lot of bookworms will, so if you don’t know what we already have, just ask us!

3. Gift cards are not a cop out! Giving us the opportunity to buy more books is just as much of a gift as buying them for us

I can’t speak for anyone else here, but I love getting gift cards, and it’s not even a book specific thing, although in this case, I am of course speaking about gift cards for book shops. It seems like often people think that gift cards are less of a present, because you can’t exactly unwrap them, but personally I love the chance to get to choose what I want myself at a later date. A book gift card for Christmas inevitably leads to a trip to Waterstones (or elsewhere, if it’s a National Book Token since those are non specific) and that is a gift in itself!

4. Etsy is a great starting point for bookish related goods

Gifts for bookworms don’t always need to be books! We love merchandise as much as the next fan, and Etsy is an amazing starting place for fandom merch. I have bought so much great stuff for both myself and friends over the years, so if you know the books that your friend is into, then searching on Etsy for related merchandise is a great way to get your bookworm friend something book related that’s not an actual book.

5. Book subscription boxes make brilliant presents

Not that this is something I have ever personally received, but I know it’s something that I would love to get. With a book subscription box, you can either get your bookworm friend a continuing subscription, so a gift that keeps on giving, or a single box, and they get the joy of both books and book related gifts. Plus, there is such a wide variety of book subscription boxes out there, you can tailor your gift to your friend’s personal interests.

6. Get a special edition/foreign language edition of one of their favourite books

If you know what their favourite book is, then a special edition of your bookworm friends favourite book, especially if they are a collector, would be a very well received Christmas present, though obviously this is not possible for every single book. If they speak another language though, or are trying to learn, then a foreign language edition of one of their favourite books might be a good idea. Penguin Classics is a great idea if your resident bookworm has a favourite classic book, as they’re so pretty (though sadly don’t have a pretty hardcover copy of my own favourite classic, Black Beauty).

7. Look out for events with your friend’s favourite authors

If your friend has a favourite author whose event they can’t make it to, because they don’t live near the event or have a clash or whatever, then you could surprise them with a signed, personalised copy of a book of theirs for Christmas. If their favourite author isn’t doing an event near you, but they’ve had a book recently out then you could always check the Waterstones/B&N/wherever you get your books from website to see if a signed copy is available.

8. Bookish Christmas ornaments

If you’re wanting to get your bookworm friend something a little quirky, then how about getting them a bookish themed Christmas ornament? Harry Potter baubles are quite common, you can get House themed ones at Primark. You can also get baubles filled with strips of paper with text from books, so if you can find one from your bookworm friends favourite book, that would be a good one. You could even make one, if you are particularly crafty.

9. Tickets to a book event

If you really want to make the resident bookworm in your life love you, then give them the opportunity to meet their favourite author/s. If you have a little more disposable cash, then tickets to a book convention like YALC or a Comic Con would be a great idea. If however you can’t afford that, then just have a look out for what events their favourite authors are doing in 2019 and if there are tickets available yet, as tickets for book events are usually relatively reasonable-the most I’ve ever paid is I think £20 and that usually includes the book.

10. Get the film version of their favourite book

Okay, okay hear me out because there is a caveat for this one. If they like the film version. Book lovers can be notoriously picky about adaptations of their favourite books (as they should be) and if they really hate the way their favourite book was adapted, it’s probably not a good idea to give them a permanent reminder of that. However, if they loved the film, or they haven’t seen it, then it might be a nice idea to buy them a copy, so they can relive their favourite book in a different way.

So there we go, my tips for shopping for bookworms at Christmas. Do you have any to add? Have you ever had difficulties with non bookworm friends/family members buying presents for you? Alternatively, have you had problems buying for non-bookworm friends? Let me know in the comments!

I am going to have another discussion post for you in December-I know, shocking! I’ve been analysing the books I’ve read this year to see whether they pass the Bechdel Test, and I want to discuss the results of my little experiment, so that will be coming around the end of the month. In the meantime, I’m going to have my latest review up for you guys, I think tomorrow!

 

Top Ten Tuesday #189

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Hi all! I am officially done! As of Friday, everything I needed to do for this semester is completed and so the Christmas break has officially begun. My friends and I spent yesterday shopping at the Christmas Market in Edinburgh, without a doubt my favourite part of Christmas, though I always come back with my purse inevitably lighter. I also have my friends Hannah and Zoe coming up on Saturday for their annual Christmas visit, which I’m super excited for, it’s going to be our last one whilst I am still at Uni, which is kind of sad, but I’m sure our Christmas traditions will continue, if not in exactly the same form that they are now!

Anyway, as it’s Tuesday, I’m back with another Top Ten Tuesday, courtesy of Jana over at That Artsy Reader Girl. This week is a freebie, so I’ve dug back into The Broke and The Bookish (the creators of this meme)’s archives and decided to bring you an old topic, Top Ten Characters That Remind Me of Me Or Someone I Know. So here we go:

  1. Hermione Granger-Harry Potter Series-JK Rowling

Let’s get the most obvious one out of the way first shall we? I’m pretty sure every bookworm who loves Harry Potter has seen at least something of themselves in Hermione, I mean, it’s natural that we would relate to the “know it all bookworm” but for me, the connection went somewhat further because the way Hermione is described is quite similar to how I look, so it was easy enough to picture myself as her.

2. Matilda-Matilda-Roald Dahl

Again, another kind of obvious one, I might not have been devouring Dickens when I was 4, but I could certainly see myself in Matilda’s voracious appetite for books, wanting to read anything and everything that I came across, because that’s exactly what I was like as a kid, my favourite part of the week was when my dad would take me to the library and I would get to pick out new books to read.

3. Amy Fleming-Heartland-Lauren Brooke

Now I’m not claiming I have ever been a horse whisperer, I wish I had half the skills with horses that Amy does. However, I could still see quite a lot of myself in her, her introversion, the fact that she’s much more comfortable around animals than people, her deep love of horses, if she was real, I reckon we would get along quite well.

4. Izzy O’Neill-The Exact Opposite of Okay-Laura Steven

Izzy is probably the fictional character who I would say most reminds me of me. Her quite dry, sarcastic sense of humour is very similar to mine and the fact that she used humour as a defence mechanism against the more painful things in her life…well let’s just say I have definitely been there. She ribs on her friends quite a lot but always in a good natured way and she’s totally obsessed with food-Izzy could definitely be my fictional doppelganger!

5. Lena Kaligaris-The Sisterhood of The Traveling Pants-Ann Brashares

Yes, I know, it seems a bit surprising that I see more of myself in Lena, the artist, rather than Carmen, the writer but personality wise, Lena is a lot closer to who I am. She’s the more introspective, quieter friend, doesn’t have quite as much self confidence as Carmen or Bridget or Tibby and I could definitely relate to that.

6. Evelyn-Things A Bright Girl Can Do-Sally Nicholls

I think if I was going to be a woman in the 1910s, Evelyn would probably be closest to who I would be, she gets involved in the suffragettes because she feels it is unfair that she is denied an education that her brother is allowed, simply because she is a young woman (definitely something that I would feel rather indignant about too) and she refuses to back down until she gets what she wants-definitely something that I have experience in also!

7. Magnus Chase-Magnus Chase series-Rick Riordan

I know you were probably all expecting me to say Percy here, and I do love Percy and we share a lot of the same traits, but I think Magnus is a little closer to who I am, if I only because I would be just as useless with a sword as he is, I’m ridiculously clumsy. Magnus has a slightly darker sense of humour than Percy, which definitely fits with my personality, but he’s equally snarky, and incredibly loyal to his family and friends, which I like to think is a trait that we share. He also loves reading, so of course I can relate to that and he mentions one of my favourite authors Neal Shusterman in the first book so you know….he clearly has good taste in books!

8. Rose Justice-Rose Under Fire-Elizabeth Wein

Much as I love Maddie and Julie, Rose is the character in Elizabeth Wein’s WWII novels that I relate to the most. She’s much more introspective than either Maddie or Julie, she writes poetry and she’s kind of a dreamer, but she can also be incredibly feisty and that’s quite similar to who I am as a person.

9. Flavia Gemina-The Roman Mysteries-Caroline Lawrence

Flavia definitely reminded me of me, though I’m obviously not a detective, I could definitely relate to her incredible level of nosiness, and her need to know everything about everyone, although I am definitely nowhere near as bossy as she is!

10. Liesel Meminger-The Book Thief-Markus Zusak

Liesel’s love of words and writing, is eerily similar to my own, as soon as she learns how to read, she is obsessed with words, and reading about her experiences learning to read and write and discovering the magic of words definitely brought me back to when I was a kid, discovering that I could not only read words, but create them as well.

So there we go, the characters who remind me the most of me! Do you have any book characters that you relate to on a deeply personal level? Do we share any? Let me know in the comments!

Next week’s topic, our penultimate one of 2018 (HOW?), is sharing our Winter 2018 TBR, so you’ll be getting a sneak peek of what reviews to expect over the next few months from me!

In the meantime, I will definitely have my review of A Spark of Light up before the end of the week, I’m sorry it’s taken me so long, and I’m also hoping to get a Jo Talks post up before my friends come up this weekend (if not, it will be going up after they leave!) so keep an eye out for those!

#RockMyTBR 2019 Challenge

Hi all! It’s that time of year again, with one book left to go in my 2018 challenge, I’m drawing up my 2019 list, and in a beautiful piece of symmetry, it’s exactly a year since I did the last one! For anyone who’s not aware, the #RockMyTBR challenge is a challenge created by Sarah K at the YA Book Traveler, where she challenges you to draw up a list of books to knock off your TBR over the course of a year. I don’t think Sarah is doing it anymore, but I’ve kind of borrowed it for myself, since it’s been so helpful to me in reducing my TBR, over the past three years, I’ve knocked 34 books of my TBR through doing this challenge, so I figured why not keep the momentum going into 2019? If you want to join me in unofficially doing this challenge, then you can find Sarah’s post here:

http://theyabooktraveler.com/rockmytbrpage/

I’ve stuck with my tradition of having 12 books, one for each month of the year, though for the past two years I’ve had to knock a book off my list/replace books on my list because I’ve not enjoyed some of the choices, so I’ve completed the challenge at 11, but hopefully this year I will manage all 12. It’s a nice low pressure challenge and allows me to read other books as well. As with last year, I allowed Twitter to choose my TBR list (well most of it), since it worked so well and takes the decision making process away from me, which is just a bonus as I am incredibly indecisive! Last year’s list was kind of  a mixed bag, there were some fantastic books and some kind of mediocre ones, hopefully this year’s will be more consistent:

  1. Siege and Storm-Leigh Bardugo-This was one I actually chose myself, since for January, I am planning to have a Grisha Trilogy catch up month, I want to read both Siege and Storm and Ruin and Rising before King of Scars comes out at the end of the month. I wasn’t overly keen on Shadow and Bone, but I’ve heard the rest of the series gets better and I really want to see what all the fuss about Nikolai is about, so hopefully I enjoy this more.
  2. Alex and Eliza-Melissa De La Cruz-I also chose this one myself, as in February, I’m planning to have a Hamilton month, reading the Hamilton themed YA that I have, in preparation for going to see the show at the end of the month. I would attempt to read the Chernow biography as well, but I’ve seen that thing and it’s a BEAST. Maybe on audio though? We’ll see.
  3. To Kill A Kingdom-Alexandra Christo-This was the quite decided winner of its poll, with over 60% of the vote, and one that I actually meant to read this year, I even had an e-ARC of it, but I never got around to it. I’m excited to finally get to it next year, as I heard a lot of good stuff about it this year, and after the disappointment of Sea Witch, I’m hoping my next dive into a Little Mermaid style story will be less of a disappointment!
  4. Catwoman: Soulstealer-Sarah J Maas-I was actually expecting this one to be a lot more popular, it only beat out Not Even Bones by a very narrow margin which is unusual for a Sarah J Maas book-ACOMAF won it’s poll by a landslide back in 2017. I struggled with Wonder Woman and had to put it down after only 4 chapters, so I’m hoping that I feel more enthralled by Catwoman.
  5. Uprooted-Naomi Novik-After missing out narrowly last year to Moxie, Uprooted stormed to victory this year with over half the vote in its poll. I have to admit, I’m a little nervous, since I wasn’t so keen on Spinning Silver when I tried it over the summer, but I’ve heard so much good stuff about this one that I’m willing to give it a shot.
  6. The Gentleman’s Guide To Vice and Virtue-Mackenzi Lee-My friend absolutely loved this one when I lent it to her this year and she’s been begging me to read it ever since. It seems that Twitter feels the same way as it won its poll by a landslide. I’m super excited for this one because it sounds like a lot of fun and I really want to know what all the hype is about, plus when my friend loves something, that’s usually a good sign that I will too.
  7. Strange The Dreamer-Laini Taylor-Another one my friend has been begging me to read, she loved it when she read it earlier in the year and I meant to read it this year but I just ran out of time, so I’m very happy that Twitter decided I should read it next year. It sounds great, I’m hoping it will be less of a let down than the second Daughter of Smoke and Bone book.
  8. An Ember In The Ashes-Sabaa Tahir-I honestly just need to know what the fuss is about for this one, it won it’s poll by over 50% and I see people constantly talking about Sabaa, plus my friend loved it, so it looks like 2019 is finally the year I’ll read this book.
  9. The Last Namsara-Kristen Ciccarelli-I’ve been wanting to read this one since I got it in the October FairyLoot last year, but I just never managed to squeeze it in. Now, thanks to Twitter, I will finally be reading this one next year and I’m so excited-DRAGONS PEOPLE. DRAGONS.
  10. Stalking Jack The Ripper-Keri Maniscalco-I’ve seen some really great things about this one and it sounds so up my street, a Victorian mystery based on the Jack The Ripper murders, yes please! Thanks Twitter, you picked the perfect book for me to read next Halloween!
  11. An Enchantment of Ravens-Margaret Rogerson-This one sounds so lovely, I’m excited to see a different kind of Fae, since the only type I’ve really had exposure to are the ultra masculine, overtly sexual ones in Sarah J Maas books, so it will be ncie to see a different kind of faerie. Plus it just sounds like a gorgeous story, so I’m super excited to read it.
  12. Reign of The Fallen-Sarah Glenn Marsh-AGH THIS ONE JUST SOUNDS SO GOOD, I’m so excited that it won its respective poll. Necromancy is something that I’ve always found fascinating so reading an entire book where that is the main character’s power? Yes please!

So that’s my list for 2018! If you’ve read any of these, then please, let me know what you thought! Once again, as with last year, every single book for my #RockMyTBR challenge was written by a woman, so I’m super excited for that-I mean I tend to read more female authors than men anyway, it’s kind of a given if you read YA, but I do love supporting other female writers!

Thank you to the lovely people of Book Twitter who helped choose my list for 2019, and I hope you all enjoy hearing my thoughts about the books you picked out for me through the next year. I know I said that I thought last year was going to be my best year yet, but I truly think you guys have outdone yourselves this year and I’m so ridiculously excited to dive into these books in a few weeks time, even though it feels like 2018 has practically disappeared (seriously how did January go on so long and the rest of the year passed in a poof? How?)!

I will have a book review of my latest read A Spark of Light for you guys, probably later this weekend, so look out for that.

#RockMyTBR November Update (2018)

Hi everyone! Can you believe it’s the last month of 2018? It feels like this year has both sped by and that’s it’s been 2018 for ages, I’m not really quite sure how that works, but it does! November was a ridiculously busy month for me, I had deadline on top of deadline, so it’s amazing that I managed to get any reading done at all, let alone 3 books!

For anyone who doesn’t know, #RockMyTBR is a reading challenge originally created by Sarah K at The YA Book Traveler, which I’ve sort of borrowed for myself as she isn’t officially running it anymore, because it’s quite a fun challenge, you basically just set yourself a list of books off your TBR to try and read over a year in order to cut your TBR down. These are the three books I read in November:

37864142Firestarter by Tara Sim:

Firestarter doesn’t actually come out until January of next year, but thanks to Edelweiss, I had the chance to read it a few months early. I absolutely loved it, it’s my favourite read of the year, such a thrilling conclusion to this series and I honestly wish this series got more love because it is so creative, has such a brilliant cast of characters and crushes your feelings SO HARD. I read this from 5th October-16th November. No review yet, but keep your eyes peeled for it closer to the release date at the end of January.

38733752Midnight (Skulduggery Pleasant #11) by Derek Landy:

Derek Landy’s 11th instalment of the Skulduggery Pleasant series, the 2nd in the new era of the series, was unfortunately a bit of a let down. The two halves didn’t really make a cohesive story and the plotline of the second half was stretched a bit thin. However, it is always fun to be back in Landy’s magical Ireland and it’s clear that there are plenty more exciting stories to come from this new phase of Skulduggery, so hopefully this book was just the new era finding its feet, rather than a sign of what’s to come. I read this from 19th October-22nd November. Here is my review of it:

https://jjbookblog.wordpress.com/2018/11/29/midnight-skulduggery-pleasant-11-review/

36162553Night of Cake and Puppets-Laini Taylor

Night of Cake and Puppets was my #RockMyTBR book for November, and it was just what I needed, something short, sweet and fun. The story of Zuzana and Mik’s first date may not be particularly substantial, but it was a nice little tale to end the month with and it was definitely hard not to be swept up by the romance of this pair. I read this book from 23rd-28th November. Here is my review of it:

https://jjbookblog.wordpress.com/2018/11/29/night-of-cake-and-puppets-daughter-of-smoke-and-bone-2-5-review/

I also read A Spark of Light, but since I finished it this month rather than last month and haven’t had the chance to write a review yet, I’m going to include it in my December post instead of this one.

So that’s what I read in November, this is what I’m planning to read this month:

Our Dark Duet-Victoria Schwab-I’m exchanging this for Wonder Woman: Warbringer as my #RockMyTBR read for December as I would still like to read 11 books for the challenge and I wasn’t really feeling Wonder Woman at the moment. I’m not very far through it yet, only two chapters, but it definitely started out well!

The Enchanted Sonata-Heather Dixon Wallwork-My Netgalley read for this month, I kind of requested it on a whim, but it sounds really fun, it’s basically a cross between the Nutcracker Ballet and The Pied Piper, so hopefully I enjoy it.

Enchantee-Gita Trelease-If I finish The Enchanted Sonata before the end of the month, which I should, since it’s quite short, then I’ll be moving on to this. I’m really excited for this one, it’s basically Revolutionary Paris with magic and if that doesn’t scream Jo, I don’t know what does.

Kingdom of Ash-Sarah J Maas-I’m not planning on finishing this one this month, but once my exam is over, I hope that I will be able to get further through this one before the year is out, with the hope that I will finish it properly early next year.

So there we go, that’s my December TBR, final TBR for 2018, can you believe it? I can’t. I’m back to being ahead on my Goodreads challenge and I’ve only got two books left to read to meet it, so I’m pretty sure that I’ll finish before the end of the month. How’s your reading gone so far this year? How close are you to meeting your Goodreads Challenge? Let me know in the comments!

Top Ten Tuesday #188

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Hi all! I hope you’ve had a good week since I last did one of these, my classes are over for the semester, I’ve finished all my assignments, so I’ve just got my one exam to go before I’m completely done for the autumn semester. I’ve spent today finishing off my Christmas shopping, and I actually got it all done-this is the most prepared I’ve ever been!

Anyway, since it’s Tuesday, I’m dipping out of exam revision and bringing you another Top Ten Tuesday courtesy of Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. This week, we’re talking Cozy/Wintry Reads, the sort of books that you can curl up with and enjoy on a cold winter’s night. I did a list of these for the National Student last year, so this one will probably be quite similar! Here we go, some books that are great cozy/wintry reads:

  1. Six of Crows-Leigh Bardugo

I mean honestly, I would recommend this one for any weather (I mean, I read it at the height of summer last year) but it definitely has a very wintry vibe, given that the Dreg’s mission is to the Fjerdan Ice Court, so curling up with this one as the nights are getting darker and colder would definitely be great.

2. The Crown’s Game-Evelyn Skye

The Crown’s Game takes place in the middle of Russian winter, so it’s a perfect book to curl up with on a winter night and be transported into a magical wintry setting without actually having to leave your warm bed.

3. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe-CS Lewis

There’s nothing more wonderfully wintry than being transported to Narnia, the land where it is perenially winter but never Christmas, and come on, we all tried to find Narnia in the backs of our own wardrobes when we were younger. There’s something wonderfully comforting about returning to an old childhood favourite at this time of year.

4. The Night Circus-Erin Morgenstern

The Night Circus doesn’t necessarily have a winter setting, but it feels very warm and comforting, with the magic, the circus, the hot apple cider and just the way it is written feels  like a warm hug.

5. Night of Cake and Puppets-Laini Taylor

I mean Daughter of Smoke and Bone could work for this as well, but Night of Cake and Puppets has a particularly wintry feeling given the entire book is set in the snow. It follows Zuzana and Mik’s first date, and is full of magic and snow, and Mozart and cake, so if you are wanting a book to give you the warm and fuzzies on a cold winter night and you’ve already read DoSaB then this is a great choice.

6. Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone-JK Rowling

There is nothing more warm and comforting than reading one of the early Harry Potter books on a cold winter’s night. The first book has always struck me as a very wintry read, perhaps because of the Christmas scenes, but I just think there’s something so comforting about returning to the place where Harry Potter started as the nights get darker and colder.

7. Between Shades of Gray-Ruta Sepetys

This book isn’t exactly cozy, in fact it’s really quite harrowing, but if you’re wanting an emotional read with a harsher winter setting that still very much has hope and the strength of and determination of humanity at the heart of it, then the story of Lina and her family’s deportation from Lithuania to Siberia under the Stalin regime during WWII is perfect for that.

8. The Language of Thorns-Leigh Bardugo

There’s always something so comforting about fairytales, which is why I think that Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha take on traditional fairytales is such a great read for the winter months, you can curl up with this book and read about stories which feel so familiar but each has its own Grisha inspired twist.

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

Ironically for a book with summer in the title, Magnus Chase actually takes place in the winter! A great book for bringing the joy and fun of summer into the dark, short days of winter, it’s completely hilarious, riotous fun as can always be expected of Rick Riordan.

10. 13 Minutes-Sarah Pinborough

Sarah Pinborough’s 13 Minutes has both a dark, wintry setting and is a very intriguing book, so is perfect to while away the winter nights as you try desperately to figure out exactly how Natasha ended up being pulled out of a freezing river and revived after being clinically dead for 13 minutes.

So there we go, my favourite cozy/wintry books! What books did you choose for this week’s topic? Have you read any of mine? What did you think of them? Let me know in the comments!

Next week’s topic is a freebie, so I’m taking one of the topics from The Broke and The Bookish’s archives and talking Top Ten Characters Who Remind Me of Me or Someone I Know.

I should be getting my November #RockMyTBR update up for you in a few days, plus my #RockMyTBR challenge list for 2019. I’m also hoping to get a Jo Talks post up as I know I left you guys without one last month (sorry! Work got the better of me!).

Night of Cake and Puppets (Daughter of Smoke and Bone #2.5) Review

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Book: Night of Cake and Puppets (Daughter of Smoke and Bone #2.5)

Author: Laini Taylor & Jim Di Bartolo (illustrator)

This was my November #RockMyTBR book and after being decidedly disappointed with the second instalment in the series, Days of Blood and Starlight, I was really hoping that I would enjoy this one more. Thankfully I did! I wasn’t expecting to, because as you all know by now, books filled with fluffy romance aren’t usually my thing, but every once in a while, the inner romantic does come out and she really did find this very cute. It’s no secret that I much prefer Zuzana and Mik’s romance to Karou and Akiva’s, so getting to spend a whole book with them was great. Here is a short synopsis of the book:

In this stand-alone companion to the New York Times bestselling Daughter of Smoke & Bone series comes the story of Mik and Zuzana’s fantastical first date—as a gorgeously illustrated gift edition with bonus content included.

Petite though she may be, Zuzana is not known for timidity. Her best friend, Karou, calls her “rabid fairy,” her “voodoo eyes” are said to freeze blood, and even her older brother fears her wrath. But when it comes to the simple matter of talking to Mik, or “Violin Boy,” her courage deserts her. Now, enough is enough. Zuzana is determined to make the first move, and she has a fistful of magic and a plan. It’s a wonderfully elaborate treasure hunt of a plan that will take Mik all over Prague on a cold winter’s night before leading him to the treasure: herself! Violin Boy is not going to know what hit him.

New York Times bestselling author Laini Taylor brings to life a night only hinted at in the Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy—the magical first date of fan-favorites Zuzana and Mik. Originally published as an ebook, this new print edition will include breathtaking black and white illustrations, plus bonus content in a gorgeous package perfect for new and current fans of the series.

First of all I have to talk about the illustrations because they really did make this book for me! I don’t really know if I’ve mentioned this before, but I’m not a particularly visual reader, I can’t picture scenes from books in my head as I am reading, I’m much more aural, I hear character conversations but as for picturing what they look like? No idea. So the illustrations actually really helped me here, because I had a visual reference for everything that was going on in the book. I honestly wish more books had illustrations because they would really help me out!

Some of the chapters I felt were a little long, but I didn’t mind as much because the illustrations really helped break them up and since it was quite a short book anyway, it was easy enough to get through.

I loved the chapter titles, they were so funny-seriously more books should have chapter titles, they really enhance the reading experience for me.

The plot itself is kind of light, it does what it says on the tin, it’s the story of Zuzana and Mik’s first date, so it’s nothing particularly earthshattering, but it is incredibly cute, it made the inner romantic in me swoon a little at how beautiful their date ended up being, I could only wish for something that gorgeous!

I liked the dual person POV, you get to see the night from both sides, although Zuzana’s chapters were somewhat more engaging than Mik’s but that was to be expected, given that out of the two of them, she has the more engaging personality and they were both first person POVs, so naturally Zuzana’s voice comes across stronger.

The atmosphere of the book was wonderful, the snowy Prague setting really added to the magic and romance of the night and I loved how all the disparate elements, the snow, the puppets, the cake, Mik’s violin, all came together to make a beautifully romantic night. The writing was also beautiful and really added to the romantic atmosphere of the book.

I have to admit, throughout the book, I kept thinking, it’s a good job that Mik likes Zuzana otherwise the whole treasure map with her as a prize thing would have come off incredibly creepy and stalkerish rather than sweet!

I loved all the text messages between Karou and Zuzana throughout the book, they were very relatable and added a measure of reality to an otherwise quite fantastical story.

It was really nice to finally have the details filled in about Zuzana and Mik’s relationship as it was kind of glossed over in Daughter of Smoke and Bone and I think I understand them better as a couple after reading this book.

There’s honestly not much more to say, it was a cute, romantic story that acted as a very nice filler for the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Hopefully the third book has the same level of enjoyment as this one rather than Days of Blood and Starlight, as I’d really like to finish this series on a high!

My Rating: 4/5

BECHDEL TEST: FAIL-By it’s nature, this book kind of has to fail as Zuzana and Mik are the only two characters who had dialogue and even Karou and Zuzana’s texts are of course about Mik, since the whole story is about their relationship.

My next review will be of my final #RockMyTBR book of the year, Leigh Bardugo’s Wonder Woman: Warbringer, which I’m super excited for because I loved the Wonder Woman film.