Top Ten Tuesday #286

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Hi everyone! I hope you’ve all had a good week since I last did one of these. I had a great time at The Last Five Years last week, it was so lovely to be back in a theatre, the show was amazing and it all felt really safe. It was so nice to just forget about everything going on for a few hours and be absorbed in a really amazing show (the music has been stuck in my head for the past week!). I’m up in Stirling now for a couple of weeks, just for a break from home, obviously haven’t got any real plans whilst I’m here!

Anyway, as it’s Tuesday, I have another Top Ten Tuesday for you all, courtesy of Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. This week we’re talking Books I Read Because Someone Recommended Them To Me. I’ll be honest, I’m usually the one doing the recommending rather than getting them, but I did manage to come up with a list of ten books that were recommended to me, so I guess I get them more than I thought! So here we go:

  1. Percy Jackson and The Olympians-Rick Riordan

I was recommended the Percy Jackson series by a girl I made friends with after I moved schools in Year 9. I borrowed the first book from the library and then she lent me the rest (honestly I’m pretty sure I ran through them quicker than she could get them to me). That friendship didn’t last past school, but it did form the basis of my friendship with Hannah (who was also new in the same year) and we’re still friends ten years later!

2. Children of Blood and Bone-Tomi Adeyemi

This one was actually a bookseller recommendation, not something I get very often because I generally go in knowing what I want, but this one was definitely a success as I ended up really enjoying the book.

3. The Magician’s Guild-Trudi Canavan

This one was recommended to me by my friend Nicola, and to my shame, I haven’t actually read it yet! It’s on the list, the list is just very, very, long!

4. A Darker Shade of Magic-VE Schwab

I didn’t really get one specific recommendation, this one was just around the blogosphere a lot back in 2015 when I really started to get more involved with the community and as it was one I was seeing around a lot I figured I really had to try it. Of course it ended up being one of my favourite books and I’m now completely obsessed with VE Schwab’s work, so congratulations guys: you created a monster!

5. Everyday Sexism-Laura Bates

My sister recommended this one to me, and got it for me for Christmas a couple of years ago. I actually still haven’t read this one, but since I’ve been really enjoying her latest release, Men Who Hate Women, it’s definitely one I want to get to soon.

6. The Diviners-Libba Bray

My friend Nicola recommended this one to me, and I sped through the first three audiobooks last year before reading the final one when it came out earlier this year. It’s safe to say this recommendation was definitely a success, if you’re wanting a spooky paranormal historical fantasy for your October reading this year, I definitely recommend this one (and do the audio if you can, the narrator is amazing!).

7. Cinderella Is Dead-Kalynn Bayron

Again, I don’t have a specific person that I got this recommendation from, it was on a lot of lists of Black author recommendations earlier in the year which led to me requesting it from Netgalley. I ended up really enjoying it, so another successful recommendation for the blogosphere!

8. The Hunger Games-Suzanne Collins

This was a recommendation from my sister (or at least I borrowed it from her, so I have to assume she recommended it to me, I don’t actually remember!) and of course I loved it, I read this one in like a week and proceeded to race through the other two books in the trilogy over my Easter holidays in 2012.

9. An Ember In The Ashes-Sabaa Tahir

Another recommendation from Nicola, I have to admit that I didn’t enjoy this one as much as The Diviners, it felt kind of flat and I didn’t really love any of the characters. Having said that, I didn’t fall in love with The Diviners till the second book in the series, so I’m hoping the same will be true for this series and I’ll enjoy future books more.

10. Unwind-Neal Shusterman

This was actually an Amazon recommendation, which is not somewhere I usually get my book recommendations! But anyway, it came up in the “Recommended For You” section, I thought it looked interesting and ended up buying it. I ended up really enjoying it and the rest of the other books in the series, so dare I say it? Amazon actually did something right here.

So there we go, those are some Books That Have Been Recommended To Me. Have you read any of these? Did you enjoy them? Where do you get most of your book recommendations? Let me know in the comments!

I’ll be back next week with our annual Halloween Freebie. I have to admit, it gets harder and harder for me to think of topics for this every year because I’m not a big Halloween fan and it seems like there are only so many things you can do! Since cover topics always seem to be a popular one though, I think I’ll do Top Ten Spooky Book Covers.

Top Ten Tuesday #285

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Hi all! I hope you’ve had a good week since I last did one of these, as usual mine was pretty quiet. I’m really excited because I’m going to see an actual show today, IN AN ACTUAL THEATRE. My mum and I are going to see The Last Five Years at The Southwark Playhouse, my plans to see it in Cape Town were scuppered by the pandemic and even if it’s not going to be the same as the “normal” theatre experience, who cares? It’s theatre!

Anyway, since it’s Tuesday, I have another Top Ten Tuesday for you, courtesy of Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. This week we’re talking Super Long Book Titles. I wasn’t sure quite what would constitute “Super Long” so I’ve defined it as book titles with six or more words (basically if it has or could have a Twitter acronym, it’s on this list). So here we go, some Super Long Book Titles For You:

  1. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes-Suzanne Collins

Considering how short the original Hunger Games series books titles are, I was not expecting the prequel’s title to be so long! It does fit the book, but I reckon they could have come up with a shorter title (basically everything about this book could be summed up as too long).

2. Hamilton and Peggy!: A Revolutionary Friendship-LM Elliott

Okay yes, this title can easily be shortened to Hamilton and Peggy! and probably should have been, but for the purposes of my criteria for this list, it still counts. Peggy Schuyler is so much more than And Peggy! from Hamilton and it was awesome to learn more about the amazing things she did.

3. The Curious Incident of The Dog In The Nighttime-Mark Haddon

I actually hate this book, it’s a very stereotypical portrayal of an autistic kid and the story itself isn’t great, but it does fit the prompt in having one of the longest titles I’ve ever seen, so it makes the list by virtue of that alone (seriously, do not read this book, there are much better representations of autism out there).

4. A Good Girl’s Guide To Murder-Holly Jackson

One of my favourite books of this year, A Good Girl’s Guide To Murder is a gripping mystery-thriller that managed something not many thrillers have actually managed over the past few years: it actually surprised me!

5. A Curse So Dark and Lonely-Brigid Kemmerer

A slight variation on the A Something of Something and Something titles. I know a lot of people love The Cursebreakers series but I actually wasn’t a massive fan of the first book in the series so I haven’t continued on.

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

Most often shorten to Gentleman’s Guide because who wants to use that whole title? I really enjoyed this book when I read it, I thought Monty, Percy and Felicity’s adventures were really fun, but I’ve become more aware of the problematic aspects of both the book and the author since reading it.

7. The Priory of The Orange Tree-Samantha Shannon

Not the longest title on this list, but still long enough that it is generally shortened to just Priory on Twitter. I suppose it fits quite well that a book this huge (over 800 pages) has a long title as well!

8. Because You Love To Hate Me: 13 Tales of Villainy by Amerie and various other authors

Again, the sub title bit generally isn’t used, but Because You Love To Hate Me is long enough to count on its own. I still haven’t read this one, but I’m looking forward to it, short stories of villains sound like a lot of fun.

9. The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding-Alexandra Bracken

I don’t usually read much middle grade, but I’ve found Victoria Schwab’s middle grade a nice break from the longer fantasy reads I’ve been reading this year, so I reckon Alexandra Bracken’s book will probably be the same. It also sounds wonderfully spooky, a kid possessed by a vengeful demon? Yes please.

10. Talking As Fast As I Can: From Gilmore Girls To Gilmore Girls and Everything In Between-Lauren Graham

Again, this book tends to just be referred to by the first part of the title but that’s still 6 words! I love Lauren Graham, Gilmore Girls is one of my favourite shows, so her autobiography is definitely one that I want to get to at some point.

So there we go, those are some Super Long Titles for you. What titles did you choose this week? What’s the longest titles you’ve ever heard of? Let me know in the comments.

I will be back next week, we’re talking about Books I Read Because Someone Recommended Them To Me. Honestly I’m usually the one doing the recommending rather than being given recommendations, but I’ll see what I can come up with.

#RockMyTBR September Update (2020)

Hi everyone! What a difference a month makes huh? I said in my last update that things were feeling semi-normal here, but a rise in coronavirus cases over the past month means that more restrictions are being announced tomorrow. I’m not expecting much to change where I live as I’m not in a hotspot area, but I’ve definitely been feeling more on edge and unsettled in the last few weeks. I hope that wherever you are in the world, that you’re doing okay and taking care of yourselves!

For anyone who is new to my blog over the past month, the #RockMyTBR Challenge is a challenge originated by Sarah K at The YA Book Traveler. The challenge is pretty simple, you pick a list of backlist books from your TBR (books not published in the year you’re reading them) and read them over the course of a year. I always do 12, one for each month, and then every month I post an update of all the books I’ve been reading (not just the challenge ones). In September I read 4 books, so slightly down on last month, but I still think it’s pretty good. Here’s what I read in September:

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A Good Girl’s Guide To Murder-Holly Jackson

This was the September Book of The Month read for the YA Addicted Book Club on Goodreads, and it’s one I’ve been wanting to read for a while, since I’ve heard such great things. I’m glad to say it didn’t disappoint, this tightly plotted, twisty thriller is definitely up there with my favourite books of this year! I read this one from 25th August-12th September (which I think is the first time in the entire time I’ve been doing Goodreads Challenges that I’ve finished a book on my birthday!). Here is my review of it:

https://jjbookblog.wordpress.com/2020/09/16/a-good-girls-guide-to-murder-a-good-girls-guide-to-murder-1/

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Queen of Volts (The Shadow Game #3)-Amanda Foody

My Netgalley read for the month and one of my most anticipated reads of the year. I do have to admit, it didn’t quite live up to my expectations, as it was a lot slower than I was expecting and it took me a while to get into, but it was an ultimately satisfying finale to the series. I read this one from 24th August-22nd September (SHE’S A CHUNKER). Here’s my review of it:

https://jjbookblog.wordpress.com/2020/09/24/queen-of-volts-the-shadow-game-3/

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Bloodwitch (Witchlands #3) by Susan Dennard:

This was my audiobook read for September. I was a little let down by Windwitch but I’m glad to say that Bloodwitch was much better (though I still find myself incredibly confused by all of the different POVs) and I’m looking forward to reading Witchshadow when it comes out in February. I read this one from 5th September-4th October. Here is my review of it:

https://jjbookblog.wordpress.com/2020/10/08/bloodwitch-witchlands-3-review-audiobook/

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Tunnel of Bones (Cassidy Blake #2) by Victoria Schwab:

My September #RockMyTBR read after a last minute swap when I wasn’t feeling my original choice. I definitely enjoyed City of Ghosts more, but Tunnel of Bones was still a fun romp through Paris and I’m looking forward to seeing where Cass’s adventures go in New Orleans in the next book. I read this one from 27th September-7th October. Here is my review of it:

https://jjbookblog.wordpress.com/2020/10/10/tunnel-of-bones-cassidy-blake-2-review/

So that’s what I read in September, here’s what I have coming up in October (or what’s left of it, since this is a little later than I would usually post my #RockMyTBR Update!):

The Devouring Gray-Christine Lynn Herman

My October #RockMyTBR read after a last minute swap! I’m not very far through it yet, the chapters are quite long so I get the sense it might take me a while to read despite being a relatively short book.

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue-VE Schwab

My Netgalley read for the month and my most anticipated read of the year. I’m LOVING IT so far, I’m a little over halfway through, up to Part Four and it’s so brilliant. Plus it’s possibly one of the most gorgeous books I’ve ever had the pleasure to own!

Men Who Hate Women-Laura Bates

My audiobook read for the month, I don’t usually read much non-fiction but I’ve been trying to read more over the past few years and Laura’s new book sounded really interesting. I’m a little over halfway through and I’ve definitely learned a lot!

Seasons of War (Skulduggery Pleasant #13)-Derek Landy

I’m not expecting to finish this one before the end of the month as it’s quite a long book, but I would like to start it before the end of October if I get the time as I can’t wait to see what Val and Skulduggery get up to in their next adventure.

The Book of Two Ways-Jodi Picoult

If I finish Addie before the end of the month, which I’m assuming I will, then my next Netgalley read is Jodi Picoult’s new release which comes out in the UK the week after next.

Another ambitious TBR but I definitely think I’ll be able to get through a good chunk of it this month. Are everyone’s Goodreads Challenges going well? I’m up to 38 books, so only 12 books to go before I make my challenge of 50. I’m glad that even if most of this year has been pretty awful (bar my time in Cape Town), it should be my best reading year yet. Let me know in the comments how you guys are getting on!

Tunnel Of Bones (Cassidy Blake #2) Review

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Book: Tunnel of Bones (Cassidy Blake #2)

Author: Victoria Schwab

BECHDEL TEST: PASS-Cassidy and Lara talk about ghosts.

Content warnings: Loss of a loved one, drowning, death of a child, mild violence

I wasn’t originally intending on reading this book this year, but I switched it out for City of Ghosts when that got chosen for me as a book club pick. I was also originally intending for it to be my October TBR read, but instead I’m counting it as my September read as I just could not get into my planned read Sherwood.

I have to admit, I didn’t enjoy this one as much as the first book, I love Paris but I don’t feel like Schwab captured it quite as well as Edinburgh and the story just wasn’t quite as creepy? Still it was a nice, fast paced short read and it was quite fun, so it wasn’t a total loss. Here is a short synopsis of the book:

Trouble is haunting Cassidy Blake . . . even more than usual.

She (plus her ghost best friend, Jacob, of course) are in Paris, where Cass’s parents are filming their TV show about the world’s most haunted cities. Sure, it’s fun eating croissants and seeing the Eiffel Tower, but there’s true ghostly danger lurking beneath Paris, in the creepy underground Catacombs.

When Cass accidentally awakens a frighteningly strong spirit, she must rely on her still-growing skills as a ghosthunter — and turn to friends both old and new to help her unravel a mystery. But time is running out, and the spirit is only growing stronger.

And if Cass fails, the force she’s unleashed could haunt the city forever. 

So like I said at the start, this book wasn’t as creepy as the first book was. I think because Schwab lives in Edinburgh, she was just able to capture the city better and it felt more like a character in that book whereas here, the fact that they were in Paris just felt kind of incidental.

I also thought the main ghost in City of Ghosts was just creepier than the one here, woman who steals children is just a scarier idea than child poltergeist. I know we were meant to feel scared at the poltergeist’s antics, but I didn’t really.

I also didn’t really feel like I needed the reminders at the beginning of the book of Cassidy’s backstory and the fact that she’s a ghost hunter, I mean obviously I forget things between books all the time, but usually I don’t need reminding of the general premise (though obviously this is a MG book, so perhaps that’s more of an audience thing than a real problem).

I did like Victoria’s writing as always, but I definitely preferred it in City of Ghosts, again, it just didn’t feel as atmospheric here.

I don’t really understand how they are able to take Grim everywhere without having to quarantine him, I’ll admit, I don’t really know what quarantine laws are on bringing animals in from the US to either the UK (in the first book) or France, but I’m sure it’s not as easy as just flying to the country and strolling straight on through!

I have to admit, though I’ve heard of most of the landmarks in the book, I’ve not been to all of them. I’ve been to the Eiffel Tower, and seen the Louvre and the Tuileries and Notre Dame but I’ve never been to the Catacombs and always wanted to go. Thankfully this book has not put me off!

Jacob and Cassidy’s friendship is still wonderful, Jacob injects some great humour into the book and I love seeing a platonic friendship between a boy and girl highlighted (okay yes, one is dead so there’s not exactly any chance of romance but still). It was also great to find out a little more of Jacob’s backstory here, his emerging human-ness definitely seems to be coming more to the fore in this book and probably in future ones as well.

I do love a good map and this book also has one!

The Harry Potter references definitely felt weird here after everything that’s happened this year with JK Rowling, though I know this book was written before all of that happened, it was still a little jarring. Also I feel like Cassidy must have some other reference points? Like Harry Potter cannot be the only thing you love.

The pacing was pretty decent, I will say that it lagged a little towards the end and the final battle with the ghost felt a little anti-climactic but it was for the most part a quick read.

Cass’s parents really are ridiculously oblivious, she disappears all the time and they barely even seem to notice till she’s back. I don’t understand why she doesn’t tell them what’s going on, they’re literally doing a show about ghosts and though she says they didn’t believe her when she tried to explain at the end of City of Ghosts, I don’t think she did a particularly good job. She clearly doesn’t mind other people knowing as she did tell some of the people she met in this book!

The ending definitely left me with a lot of very spoilery questions, so I can’t wait to find out what happens next in Bridge of Souls when it comes out next year.

Overall I did still enjoy this book, even if I didn’t enjoy it as much as City of Ghosts. These books are definitely a good palate cleanser between the longer books I read, but they’ll never be my favourite Schwab books, and that’s fine, I’m sure the target 9-12 year olds will love them and hopefully become lifelong Schwab fans!

My Rating: 3/5

My next review will be of my October #RockMyTBR book, The Devouring Gray by Christine Lynn Herman.

Bloodwitch (Witchlands #3) Review (Audiobook)

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Book: Bloodwitch (Witchlands #3)

Author: Susan Dennard

Format: Audiobook

Narrator: Cassandra Campbell

BECHDEL TEST: Uncertain, honestly found it hard to keep track!

Content Warnings: Violence, animal death, death of parents, mention of suicide, blood & blood magic

When I read Windwitch back in May, I was a little disappointed as I didn’t enjoy it as much as Truthwitch, there were a lot of pacing issues and it was difficult to follow in places. Thankfully I did enjoy Bloodwitch more and I definitely think it did more to drive the plot forward, though I still found some of the same problems from the other books in the series here. Here is a short synopsis of the book:

Loyalties will be tested as never before.

The Raider King’s plans to claim the Witchlands are under way. Now, his forces sow terror in the mountains, slaughtering innocents. After finding the slain, Aeduan and Iseult race for safety. And despite differing goals, they’ve grown to trust one another in the fight to survive. Yet the Bloodwitch keeps a secret that could change everything . . .

When Merik sacrifices himself to save his friends, he is captured by the Fury. However, Merik isn’t one to give up easily, and he’ll do whatever it takes to save those he loves. And in Marstok, Safi the Truthwitch agrees to help the empress uncover a rebellion. But those implicated are killed and Safi becomes desperate for freedom.

War has come once more to the Witchlands. Perhaps if Safi and Iseult were united, their powers could bring peace. But chaos is not easily tamed.

So I have to start again with my biggest problem in this book, which was again the multiple POVs. Don’t get me wrong, I do love multiple POV books, a lot of multiple POV books are my favourites, but the way Susan Dennard does it makes it really hard to follow. There are POV switches in the middle of chapters and there are about five different character threads to follow, all of whom have POVs which means that often by the time a character’s POV has come around again, I’ve forgotten where they were last! There’s such a sprawling cast I honestly found it quite difficult to remember who was fighting with who.

There’s also a lot of journeying in this book which isn’t my favourite, once again, it seemed to be a lot of buildup and then this kind of mad rush at the end where there were a lot of battles and it would have been nice if things had been a bit more even! I also think it was slightly overly long.

I did enjoy the narration here more than I did in Windwitch, though I still don’t love Cassandra Campbell’s accents for the characters!

Vivia was definitely a highlight for me in this book, she’s really coming into her own as a character and I loved seeing her taking charge and standing up to her father. Her newfound alliance with Vaness was an unexpected surprise and I’d like to see where that relationship goes.

In terms of worldbuilding, we get to see more of Marstok in this book which was pretty cool, though there are still some things that I found kind of confusing, like the doors in the mountains and the role of the Paladins in all this. I’m assuming this will be explained more in future books? It was also interesting to see Iseult’s powers develop more in this book but I’d like more explanation, because it felt a little like she was able to do some of the things she did in this book because she needed to for plot reasons rather than having any real basis in what we’ve learned about her magic so far.

Merik’s part in this story was honestly a little forgettable, I didn’t really feel like it added much the main plot and I’m so confused by what happened to him at the end!

Owl was a great new addition to the cast in this one and I found Isuelt’s frustration with her rather amusing!

There was an animal death scene in this that I didn’t feel was entirely necessary, Dennard could have told us that Aeduan killed his dog without going into any further detail!

I didn’t feel like any of the villains in this book were particularly well developed since we had no real clue as to what any of their motives actually were, which made it very hard to feel any real emotion towards any of them. I also really don’t understand what happened with Evrane at the monastery since the last we saw her she was supporting Safi and Iseult.

There’s also a plot twist with Safi that I didn’t feel made a massive amount of sense, although I suppose we will see the point of it in the next book. I did find Safi kind of frustrating in general in this book because she doesn’t like Vaness using her powers to see if her enemies are telling the truth, but that’s literally her power and she agreed to go to Marstok in the first place?

Once again, the storylines felt all quite separate in this book and I think that added to the confusion because you’re following five or six very different stories as opposed to the stories all tying in together, so although you’re following a lot of different people, it all fits into one big storyline (like say Six of Crows).

When it comes to the romance, there isn’t a massive amount (thankfully) but I did think that Aeduan and Iseult’s relationship was developed really well over the course of this book. I have to say, I’m not massively invested in Safi and Merik, they’ve been separated over the last couple of books and I wasn’t really all that bothered by them in Truthwitch anyway. If I liked Merik more then maybe I would, but honestly I think Safi deserves better!

The ending left me super confused. Honestly I have no idea where most of the characters even were at the end of the book, what had happened to them or what they were going to do next. I feel like this is the problem with having so many characters, it gets impossible to keep track of what has happened to everyone!

Overall, this book was an improvement on the second book, but still carried on a lot of the problems I’ve had throughout the series. Still, it does finally feel like things are actually happening in the Witchlands now, so I look forward to seeing where the story goes in the next book!

My Rating: 3.5/5

My next review will be of my September #RockMyTBR book, Tunnel of Bones (slightly late because of a last minute switch-around), which should be up before the end of the week as I have already finished the book, I just need to write up the review!

Top Ten Tuesday #284

TTT-Big2

Hi everyone! I hope you’ve all had a good week since I last did one of these, mine was pretty quiet really. I’m quite worried about the potential for more national restrictions here in the UK, I really struggled with the first lockdown, especially not being able to see my friends for so long, so I’m really hoping we don’t go back there!

Anyway, as it’s Tuesday, I have another Top Ten Tuesday for you all, courtesy of Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. This week we’re talking Book Covers With Autumn Colours/Vibes. Usually Autumn is my favourite season, but it’s been pretty wet here so far! Still I do love the colours of Autumn and I especially love being able to break out my cosy coats. Anyway, here we go, some lovely Autumnal covers for you:

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Burn by Julianna Baggott

The final book in this lesser known dystopian trilogy certainly has a real autumnal feel, with the brown and orange cover, it resembles autumn leaves! I really recommend this series, it’s basically the world after a nuclear apocalypse where some survivors are left with these awful “fusings” where they end up fused to some object that they were holding at the time. But some of the people, those known as “Pure” were sheltered inside the Dome and saved from the worst of the apocalypse. It’s a very different take on a dystopian world than a lot of other YA dystopia so if you’re looking for something that’s not an exact replica of The Hunger Games/Divergent etc, look no further.

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The King of Crows (The Diviners #4) by Libba Bray

I mean this entire series basically screams Autumn, and it’s set mostly in Autumn/Winter-time (I think the first book does start in the summer), with the ghosts and the creepy vibes, it’s a book series that pretty much demands to be read as the days get colder and shorter. But this final book in the series definitely has the most autumnal looking cover, with the orange background!

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Romanov-Nadine Brandes

I mean there could be an argument for this book looking kind of Christmassy with the illustrations, but I think it fits the autumn vibes just as well with the red and gold colouring. 

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Windwitch-Susan Dennard

With the autumn leaves and the forest as well as the browns and golds on the cover, this cover definitely screams Autumn! I could have gone for either of the book’s covers for this one, but I thought that this one looked slightly more autumnal.

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Hero At The Fall-Alwyn Hamilton

With it’s burnt orange/red cover, I definitely think the final book in Alwyn Hamilton’s trilogy leans into the autumnal colours, even if it is set in a desert!

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An Enchantment of Ravens-Margaret Rogerson

I mean everything about this book’s cover screams Autumn, which fits really well with the book as Rook is the Autumn prince. The browns, the slightly orangey/pinky/golds in the cover, all fit really well with that Autumn vibe. I wasn’t a massive fan of the book, but I have to admit, the cover is glorious.

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City of Ghosts-Victoria Schwab

Honestly, I think Victoria’s colour palette is basically just very autumnal, I don’t think I’ve ever seen any of her books and thought, yup, this looks super summery! Quite ironic really, as this book series is actually set during summer. Still, I think the deep red and the black, as well as just the general eerie vibe of the cover all gives off a very autumnal feel.

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Call Down The Hawk-Maggie Stiefvater

Maggie Stiefvater is another one of those authors who I generally feel just writes very Autumnal books! Anyway, the colours on this one also feel very autumnal, with the browns and the orange of the fire in the back as well as the way the hawk’s wings merge into the trees. I know the actual background is kind of pinky, which isn’t usually an autumnal colour but the way it combines with the rest of the cover definitely screams Autumn to me.

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The Devouring Gray-Christine Lynn Herman

I have to admit, I do prefer the US cover for this one, but I definitely think the UK one does get the Autumnal vibes, with the dark, misty tree lined background giving off the air of a cold autumn night!

10. The Language of Thorns-Leigh Bardugo

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Leigh Bardugo is another of those authors who definitely leans hard into the autumnal vibes (apparently a lot of my favourite authors are!), and this cover I think really exemplifies that, the gold lettering along with the thorn illustrations definitely give off a real autumnal feel for me.

So there we go, those are some Book Covers With Autumn Colours/Vibes for you. Did we share any covers this week? What books did you choose for you lists? Let me know in the comments!

I’ll be back next week with another Top Ten Tuesday, this time talking Super Long Book Titles which should hopefully be a fun one.

Book Vs Movie: A Series of Unfortunate Events

Hi everyone! It’s the last day of September, so I just have time to get in a Book Vs Movie post for this month before we head into OCTOBER (HOW? Time this year has been a real trip!). This month, I’m actually doing a Book Vs Movie Vs TV as the books I’m talking about have more than one adaptation. The series I’m talking about is of course, A Series of Unfortunate Events:

A Series of Unfortunate Events Collection Lemony Snicket 13 Books Set BRAND  NEW 9780603570933 | eBay

Book Thoughts:

A Series Of Unfortunate Events was a childhood staple for me, I used to go to the library every single week to get the newest book and I absolutely loved them, they’re dark and strange and witty and basically very Jo. Did they get a bit repetitive? Sure, especially in the first nine books where they’re largely just trying to avoid being caught by Olaf, but they were definitely very engaging reads.

Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events - Wikipedia

Movie Thoughts:

AGH NO. Basically this movie tried to do way too much, they combined the first three books into one film and it didn’t feel like they really did any of them justice. I also didn’t really feel like Jim Carrey got the balance between sinister and funny for Count Olaf very well, but to be honest, whatever I see Jim Carrey in, he always just seems to be himself in whatever he’s in.

A Series of Unfortunate Events (TV Series 2017–2019) - IMDb

TV Thoughts:

I thought Netflix did a really good job with the series! They were a lot more faithful to the books than the film, and I loved how they included direct passages of Lemony Snicket’s monologues from the books. The TV series allowed for more time to fully explore the books’ events with two episodes per book, and they really kept to the tone of the books very well. The actors were really great, Neil Patrick Harris did a great job with Olaf, Patrick Warburton was brilliant as Lemony Snicket and Malina Weissman and Louis Hynes were great as Violet and Klaus as well.

Movie, Book or TV judgement:

Ah it’s quite difficult because I love the books and I love the TV show (and also it’s been a lot longer since I read books than when I saw the TV show). I think the books potentially just edge it, but honestly they’re both pretty equal!

That’s all for this month’s Book Vs Movie, I’ll be back next month with another Book Vs Movie, since it’s October and Halloween month, I’m going to go with a spooky book and adaptation, and talk about Coraline, and it’s movie adaptation.

 

Jo Talks Books: On Pacing In Books

Hello everyone! I hope you’ve all had a good month since I last did one of these, this year seems to both be flying by and yet also 1000% feels like it should be over already, am I right? I swear January definitely feels like it was a different year!

Anyway, this month I wanted to talk about something that I bring up a lot in my reviews, but I don’t think I’ve really spoken much in depth about what I’m looking for when it comes to this particular aspect of a book, so I wanted to do that today. That issue is of course pacing.

So what exactly do I mean when I talk about a book’s pace? I’m talking about the speed at which a story unfolds: this doesn’t mean the time over which a story takes place, a story can take place over a matter of days and still be quite slow paced, or a matter of weeks/months and yet be quite fast paced, it’s more to do with how the action unfolds on the page. It is probably one of the biggest issues for me when reading a book, alongside obviously connection with the characters, because if the events of a book are unfolding very slowly, an author is almost guaranteed to lose my interest.

I say almost; obviously there are exceptions to that, I have read quite slow paced novels that I’ve really enjoyed: The Book Thief being an obvious example that springs to mind. That story definitely has a very slow unravelling and yet I was kept hooked because of the emotional beats in the story and the fact that I loved the characters. I’m currently reading The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue and it’s definitely a slowly unravelling tale, yet again, I’m really enjoying it because that style really works for the story that’s being told. So slow pacing doesn’t always have to be a bad thing, there are some stories that demand to be unspooled slowly and savoured.

However, in general I do lean towards wanting a faster paced narrative. One of the main things I tend to find an issue with a lot of authors’ books is that they spend far TOO LONG on the build-up to the main event, that by the time you actually get there, you’ve had to wade through 200 odd pages of generally quite boring stuff and instead of feeling super invested, I’m usually like, “Okay so are we going to get to the GOOD STUFF YET?”. I understand needing some buildup, because being thrown straight into the action can be disorienting, but there’s a line between establishing a world so that readers understand what’s going on and spending all your time on buildup and not enough time on the payoff.

A good example of this for me is the Daevabad trilogy by SA Chakraborty. They’re quite chunky books and an awful lot of time is spent on buildup in each book before any of the real action happens. This is fine in the first book as it’s quite a complicated world and there’s a lot that needs to be established, but in the second and third books, the long buildup feels more like filler than anything else, and when the action does happen it feels rushed because Chakraborty has spent so long on the buildup, that there’s not enough time to fully explore the payoff.

It’s all about finding a balance between the two. Just as a long buildup with little time for payoff can be frustrating, so too can constant action. In order for the action to actually have an impact, there needs to be some slower moments, because the excitement will get lost if its happening all the time. A good balance between slower moments and faster moments will help to keep things even. I tend to find a lot of books give me whiplash with the change in pace from a slow beginning to a super speedy end, if you establish a balance early on, then I’ll be more likely to remain engaged the whole way through and your ending won’t feel massively rushed compared to your beginning.

I do find that pacing tends to be more of an issue over longer books, though this is not always the case. VE Schwab is an author that I find generally (there are some exceptions) always paces her books really well. The latter two Shades of Magic books are over 500 and over 600 pages respectively, and though they have their slower moments, I was kept engaged and interested the whole way through. Part of this is obviously loving the characters, but one of the things Schwab does quite well is balancing the slower moments with action, as well as keeping her chapters quite short so the book keeps ticking along. The same goes for Vengeful, the second Villains book, it’s almost 600 pages long, but it never feels like it’s dragging and actually was better paced than the previous instalment Vicious, which was over 200 pages shorter. If chapters are too long, I tend to get bogged down, even if the book itself is actually quite short.

The issue I tend to find with longer books is that there tends to be a lot more filler which mostly just feels like its there to fill the pages as opposed to actually serving a purpose for the plot. A recent example of this would be Queen of Volts, the final book in the Shadow Game trilogy. There’s a lot of talking and plotting and planning in the first section of the book and none of the characters really take any action, they’re not trying to beat the game, nor really actively participating in the game. I reckon that had the characters been more active in the first half of the book, and some of the plotting had been trimmed a little, then the pacing would have overall been better.

An older example of a similar thing is Queen of Shadows, the fourth book in the Throne of Glass series. The characters in that book have two main goals, it’s a fairly simple plot for what is essentially the bridge that gets everyone to start properly prepping for the war and yet a good portion of the book is stuffed with filler. Had some of the filler been cut and Sarah J Maas had just focused down on the two main goals of the book, I reckon we could have ended up with something that was more Crown of Midnight length and the pacing would definitely have been improved. Everything needs to have a purpose. If a scene is not adding anything to a book, if it doesn’t push the characters or the plot forward, then it’s NOT NEEDED. I have definitely found that authors who do this, who always keep their focus on exactly what is needed to keep the plot moving forward, have better paced books than those who don’t.

I’ve been talking mostly about slow pacing in this post because I tend to have an issue with that more than overly fast pacing, but that can obviously be an issue too. When an author almost rushes through the plot, so the reader barely has time to comprehend what is going on, that is just as bad as authors taking too long to build up to the action. I actually rarely have this issue, but I do have one example of a book I read this year that fell into that category and that’s The Court of Miracles by Kester Grant. She almost rushed through every event that happened in the book, and there were many confusing skips forward in time which actually made it really hard to follow the book.

Children of Virtue and Vengeance actually had a similar issue to The Court of Miracles, the chapters were very short (which I do usually like but didn’t work well here) and we kept jumping from different POV to different POV but you barely get time to settle before you’re moved to the next one. Again, it comes back to that balance, readers want the excitement but we also need the payoff, otherwise it has no impact!

A balance between dialogue and description is also key. Dialogue is a really great tool for shaping character relationships and keeping the pace of a story ticking over. I’ve definitely found in books that I’ve found lagging, a common trait is that there are huge chunks of text focused on description and not enough dialogue. Dialogue helps break that up so you don’t constantly feel like you’re facing a massive wall of uninterrupted text! Leigh Bardugo’s Ninth House is a good example of a book that struggles with this, there’s a lot of dense descriptions but very little dialogue, which I felt bogged down the book and left a lot of the character dynamics unclear. I will say that I always tend to prefer books that focus on dialogue over description, but there is definitely a need of balance between the two!

Pacing is actually a huge reason why I tend to prefer YA over Adult books (still, even though I do feel myself naturally relating less to teenage narrators), because generally, YA books tend to be much more tightly plotted and faster paced than a lot of adult books.

Obviously good pacing will mean different things to different readers because we want different things out of books. For instance, I know that I like snappy dialogue and lots of action because that’s what tends to keep me engaged (though I don’t like to make generalisations as there are always exceptions) and so that means I lean towards enjoying faster paced books more. Other readers may prefer books that are heavy on description and character introspection that benefit from a slower paced narrative. I actually don’t envy authors trying to get this right because you’re never going to be able to please everyone!

What do you think? Is pacing an important thing for you/something that you notice when you’re reading? What makes a well paced book for you? I would love to hear your thoughts on this one as I know that pacing can be a very subjective thing!

So once again, I’m not really sure what I want to cover next month, honestly I quite like not feeling like I have to hold myself to the topics I have on my list if I get inspired to write something else closer to the time of writing up the post, so you’ll just have to see what I come up with for next month. In the meantime, I’m actually going to have another post up today, this month’s Book Vs Movie post, so keep an eye out for that in the next hour!

 

Top Ten Tuesday #283

TTT-Big2

Hi everyone! I hope you’ve all had a good week since I last did one of these, mine has been pretty quiet, but I did have a really lovely ride on Wednesday, getting back to riding has definitely helped so much since the lockdown eased, it’s lovely to have something to look forward to!

Anyway, since it’s Tuesday, I have another Top Ten Tuesday for all of you, courtesy of Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. This week, we’re talking Favourite Book Quotes, so I’m going to share my Favourite Book Quotes From Books I Read This Year, as that narrows it down a bit and I won’t be sharing the same quotes I always do! Here we go:

  1. “Most women suffer thorns for the sake of flowers, but we who wield power adorn ourselves with flowers to hide the sting of our thorns” -King of Scars, Leigh Bardugo

I shared this one in my most recent Quarterly Rewind but I wanted to share it again here because it’s one that I really liked from King of Scars.

2. “This is the true core of human nature, when we’ve lost the strength to save ourselves, we somehow find the strength to save each other” -Dry, Neal and Jarrod Shusterman

Most of this book is pretty despairing as the characters struggle to survive with the lack of water, but it does still manage to be somewhat hopeful!

3. “Nothing but a symbol? People die for symbols. People have hope because of symbols. They’re not just lines, they’re histories, cultures, traditions given shape” -The Gilded Wolves, Roshani Chokshi

Honestly, I could have chosen any one of many lines from The Gilded Wolves because Roshani’s writing is gorgeous but as a history nerd and a big lover of Enrique, I had to go with this one!

4. “The living may take strength from hope and love but the dead grow stronger on darker things. On pain and anger and regret” -City of Ghosts, Victoria Schwab

I’m currently reading the second book in this series and it’s definitely one I wish I’d had when I was 11 or 12, they’re so much fun!

5. “Everyone has heard stories of women like us-cautionary tales, morality plays, warnings of what will befall you if you are a girl too wild for the world, a girl who asks too many questions or wants too much. If you set off into the world alone. Everyone has heard stories of women like us and now we will make more of them” -The Lady’s Guide To Petticoats and Piracy, Mackenzi Lee

Can this book be a little on the nose in terms of feminist messaging? Yes. Did I love it anyway? Yes.

6. “Fairytales are more than true, not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten” -Coraline, Neil Gaiman

I finally read Coraline this year, and I definitely now see why Neil Gaiman is such a beloved writer! Definitely looking forward to reading more of his stuff.

7. “Stories were power. And whoever controlled the story controlled everything. A story could bring people together, or it could tear them apart. It could spread like a sickness, infecting people. It could lead them into battle or shake them into seeing what they had refused to see before” -The King of Crows, Libba Bray

Honestly, I wish I’d written down more of the quotes from The King of Crows, because there were so many great ones, Libba Bray really is a beautiful writer!

8. “But in a solitary life, there are rare moments when another soul dips near yours, as stars once a year brush the earth. Such a constellation was he to me” -Circe, Madeline Miller

This line definitely took on a new meaning for me after everything that happened in the world this Spring!

9. “There is no greater show of power than continuing to live when you’d like nothing more than to lie down and let the world fade” -Escaping From Houdini, Kerri Maniscalco

Another line from a book that I read in January that’s taken on new meaning since the global pandemic!

10. “The City of Sin was a game and the only way to win was to stack the cards in your favour” -Queen of Volts, Amanda Foody

This quote from the final book in the Shadow Game trilogy very neatly encapsulates what the whole trilogy is about!

So there we go, those are just some of my favourite quotes from books I’ve read this year. Have you read any of these books? Did you enjoy them? Let me know in the comments!

I’ll be back next week with another Top Ten Tuesday, this time we’ve got another Cover Freebie, we’re talking about Book Covers With Autumn Colours/Vibes.

Queen of Volts (The Shadow Game #3)

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Book: Queen of Volts (The Shadow Game #3)

Author: Amanda Foody

Published By: HQ Young Adult

Publication Date: 1st September (okay, but the UK paperback doesn’t actually release till next Thursday, so technically it’s still coming out before a version of the book does!).

BECHDEL TEST: PASS-Lola and Arabella (The Bargainer) talk about Enne.

Content Warnings: Extreme violence, death, grief, attempted suicide/suicidal ideation, PTSD, toxic and abusive relationships (with a parent and a romantic partner), addiction, emetophobia (Can I just thank Amanda Foody for having these easily accessible on her website? Made my job SO MUCH EASIER).

Thank you to Netgalley and HQ Young Adult for allowing me to read this book early, this in no way affected my opinion of it.

King of Fools, the second book in The Shadow Game trilogy was one of my favourite books of last year, so naturally Queen of Volts was one of my most anticipated releases of this year. I don’t want to say I was disappointed, because there was a lot to love in this book, and I did ultimately find it a satisfying finale but it didn’t quite live up to the heights of King of Fools for me.

SPOILER ALERT: This review will contain unavoidable spoilers from the previous Shadow Game books. If you have not read Ace of Shades, or King of Fools, stop reading now.

Return to the City of Sin, where the final game is about to begin…and winning will demand the ultimate sacrifice.

Only days after a corrupt election and brutal street war, one last bloodthirsty game has begun. The players? The twenty-two most powerful, notorious people in New Reynes.

After realizing they have no choice but to play, Enne Scordata and Levi Glaisyer are desperate to forge new alliances and bargain for their safety. But while Levi offers false smiles and an even falser peace to the city’s politicians, Enne must face a world where her true Mizer identity has been revealed…and any misstep could turn deadly.

Meanwhile, a far more dangerous opponent has appeared on the board, one plucked right from the most gruesome legends of New Reynes. As the game takes its final, vicious turn, Levi and Enne must decide once and for all whether to be partners or enemies.

Because in a game for survival, there are only losers…

And monsters. 

I’m going to start with my biggest bugbears from this book, because though there was definitely a lot to love about this book, the two big issues were the things that brought the book’s rating down for me.

First off, SO MANY POVS. TOO MANY POVS. There are five different POV characters in this book, and whilst I do understand why Foody did it this way, it makes the story somewhat difficult to follow. It did get easier as the book went along, but I still found myself having to flick back and forth because it had been so long since a particular character’s POV, I’d forgotten what they were doing. I did really like having Sophia and Lola’s POVs, because I love the characters, but I think having five POVs made things more confusing than they needed to be. The final book is also very late in the game (bad pun, sorry) to be adding a lot of new POVs.

And then we have the pacing…..ah the pacing. Pacing seems to be my old nemesis (I’m actually going to be doing a discussion post about it soon) and this book was definitely lacking. I was expecting a high speed, action packed finale, and we do get there, but it takes A WHILE. There’s a lot of talking and plotting and planning and not all that much doing for the first few hundred pages of the book and I definitely feel like some of that could have been trimmed because it did take a while for me to really get into the story. I was expecting the Game to be a lot more violent than it ended up being (even though there are some rather gruesome death) but the main characters are so unwilling to kill each other that everything remains at a standstill for longer than I’d like! (clearly I’m too used to reading violent fantasy books when I complain about not enough violence).

I did really enjoy the writing style, Amanda Foody has a great way of making you feel like you’re in the setting without ever getting into purple prose territory, which I love.

I also really appreciated that Foody showed her characters struggling to deal with the trauma that they’d faced in the previous books. A certain death in King of Fools has a big impact on all of the main characters and I’m glad she didn’t just brush past it and actually explored the fallout from it because so often books don’t. Enne’s PTSD and her issues with guns after the last book was particularly well done.

I was a little confused by the omerta logic in this book, Foody is usually pretty good at her worldbuilding but there are definitely some holes here, as a big plot point is that Harrison’s omertas will die if he does, but there are characters in the book that should have died in the previous book if that logic was true.

The Bargainer is a big part of this final book and she was definitely very interesting, though I kind of wish we’d learned more about the awful things she’d done in the past!

So Enne and Levi continue being their extremely frustrating selves in this book, and though their issues do make sense considering what happened at the end of the last book, there’s only so much back and forth I can take before it feels stale. They don’t really work through any of their issues really and it’s hard to believe they’ll ever be completely happy together when they spend a decent proportion of this book barely trusting each other. Honestly my feelings on them haven’t really changed from the last book, they have great chemistry but the angst makes them hard to root for as a couple.

I really liked Sophia’s arc, a lot of her arc in this book is about uncovering her lost memories and finding out about her past and that definitely had a really satisfying conclusion.

There’s a LOT of great reveals in this book for things that have been hinted at since the start of the series (Enne’s heritage, the origin of the Shadow Game, Lourdes, Enne and Levi’s hallway dream etc) and there’s a lot of stuff that really ties back to the first book in the series which I loved (despite being a terrible planner when it comes to my own books!).

I love the chapter separators in this book, it’s split into twenty two parts, and each one is named after a card in Bryce’s game, that little attention detail is great. The little quotes from New Reynes’ papers as well were a lovely touch. It also has a map (and I do love a map!).

Levi and Tock’s little heart to hearts were a real highlight of this book, as I felt the friendship moments kind of went by the wayside as there’s a lot of focus on the romances? Grace and Enne also have some lovely moments together, which makes up for the fact that Enne and Lola are at each other’s throats for most of the book. I kind of wish Grace had got a POV at some point in the series (though there were already enough in this book and I do understand why she didn’t get one) as I really loved her! She’s definitely the voice of reason that Enne desperately needs!

Speaking of Lola, her arc in this book I imagine will probably be one of the most polarising, because she definitely makes a lot of questionable decisions, but I think her arc made a lot of sense as she’s always been trying to find her place in the Game when she doesn’t really consider herself a player and a lot of her story is reconciling that and trying to work out her place in the world. I do wish she and Enne hadn’t been on the outs for so long, but it definitely make sense why they would be.

I will be honest, there were a few players, like Delaney, who I’d actually forgotten who they were because there are SO MANY CHARACTERS IN THIS SERIES.

The treatment of Enne by the Chancellor (Fenice sucks) and the other politicians vs Levi was a little jarring, though I don’t know if Foody intended on making a comparison with how powerful men and women are treated. Still, Enne seems to bear the brunt of the punishment, even though orb-makers are almost as feared as Mizers and Levi is just as much of a criminal as she is which didn’t seem very fair to me!

As with the other books in the series, this book continues to have a diverse cast of characters with POC rep, LGBTQ+ rep (most of the main cast is LGBTQ+) and some disability rep (Lola loses her hearing in one ear after an injury).

Harvey, who was barely featured in King of Fools becomes a major player here as his relationship with Bryce. I have to admit, I didn’t think Bryce as a villain was as well drawn as Vianca Augustine, but I did appreciate how Foody showed the toxic relationship between Bryce and Harvey in this book and how Harvey grew throughout the book to realise that he deserved better than Bryce. I was never really sure what side Harvey was on throughout the book, but that kept things interesting! It was also a really nice surprise to see Harvey and Narinder growing close in this book as that was something I wasn’t expecting.

There’s quite a few time skips throughout this book and as with King of Fools, I still found them slightly jarring and it wasn’t always immediately clear when they’d happened.

There’s one very brief sex scene between Enne and Levi, and between Harvey and Bryce. I was really glad that Foody emphasised consent in the scene between Enne and Levi (though there is a moment earlier in the book when Enne kisses Levi without his consent, not great). The fact that Levi mentioned he hadn’t been with a woman before so casually and that in no way negated his bisexuality and wasn’t at all judged was really great.

There’s a really great scene in The House of Shadows later in the book, I can’t say too much about it because it would be spoilery, but I loved how important Enne and Levi’s hallway ended up being!

The ending was very full circle, I thought Foody did a pretty good job of concluding everyone’s story and I loved how everything in the end circled back to the first book, it felt like a very completed arc (though obviously I hope that Amanda Foody does more books in this world at some point!).

Overall, this was a decent series finale but failed to live up to the heights of the second book, for me at least!

My Rating: 3.5/5

My next review will either be of Meagan Spooner’s Sherwood, or Susan Dennard’s Bloodwitch, depending on which one I finish first.