Top Ten Tuesday #246

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Hi all! I arrived in Cape Town a couple of days ago, and as I’m writing this ahead of schedule due to lack of WiFi, I hope that future me is enjoying it! As I’ve told you previously, all my posts from now until April will likely just be pre-scheduled Top Ten Tuesday posts, so if I am less active than normal in the next four months, don’t be worried, I’m having a great time, and taking my first proper break from the blog in six years!

Anyway, since it’s Tuesday, I have a Top Ten Tuesday for you all, courtesy of Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. This week we’re talking I’m talking Authors I Discovered In 2019, but since I didn’t have enough authors that I thought I’d want to read more from that I first read last year, I’ve split this list into two, New Authors I Discovered In 2019 & New Authors I’m Looking Forward To Reading In 2020.

New Authors I Discovered In 2019

  1. Libba Bray

My friend loved the Diviners books when she read them, I think in 2018, and so I tried them on audio last summer, and also completely fell in love. I’m really excited for the final Diviners book to come out next month, and definitely can’t wait to discover more of Libba Bray’s books.

2. Mackenzi Lee

I really loved The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue when I read it in 2019, though the author has exhibited some questionable behaviour since then, with regards to a trans character in an upcoming book of hers. Thankfully that book has been pulled, but I will still be keeping a wary eye on future behaviour of hers to decide if she is someone I want to support.

3. Alexandra Christo

I read both of Alexandra’s books last year, and absolutely loved them, she is definitely a talent that I’m looking forward to following in the future, and I can’t wait for the second Into The Crooked Place book to be released, hopefully this year!

4. Gita Trelease

Gita Trelease’s debut, Enchantee, was one of my favourite books of last year, and I can’t wait to see what happens next in the sequel Liberte! She definitely seems like she is going to be a strong new voice in YA historical fantasy, and I know I’m going to want to read whatever she puts out once the Enchantee duology is completed this year.

5. Keri Maniscalco

I really enjoyed Stalking Jack The Ripper last year, and luckily for me, Keri has three more books in that series for me to devour, which I will definitely be doing at the earliest possible opportunity. She also has a new book coming out this year, Kingdom of The Wicked, which sounds amazing, set in 19th century Italy and is all about a witch investigating the murder of her sister.

6. Sabaa Tahir

Her debut novel, An Ember In The Ashes, kind of disappointed me last year, but my friend has assured me that the later books in the series get better, so I’m hoping that’s true, as I definitely thought the concept was good, the execution was just lacking and I’m sure she has developed as a writer over the last few years.

New Authors I’m Looking Forward To Discovering In 2020

7. Adalyn Grace

I’m really looking forward to reading Adalyn’s debut novel, All The Stars and Teeth, I love pirates, and I really enjoyed Alexandra Christo’s dark take on sirens in To Kill a Kingdom, so I’m hoping Grace’s mermaids will be like that! Definitely one I’ll be looking out for on Audible.

8. Janella Angeles

I’ve been so excited for Angeles debut novel ever since it was announced. It honestly sounds like a book that was MADE for me, it’s Moulin Rouge meets Phantom of The Opera and all about showgirls and circuses and magic, and I CANNOT WAIT. June definitely can’t come quickly enough.

9. Christine Lynn Herman

I bought The Devouring Gray last year, but me being me, I of course, didn’t get around to reading it! I’m definitely hoping to rectify that this year, as it sounds like a wonderfully spooky read, and hopefully I can read it in time for Deck of Omens coming out!

10. Rebecca Schaeffer

I’ve had Not Even Bones staring at me from my shelf for well over a year now, and I really don’t know what I’m waiting for, it sounds AMAZING and we all know that I love dark books that focus on villains, so I’m pretty sure I’ll love this one.

So there we go, some new authors I discovered in 2019, and some that I hope I will get the chance to read this year! Have you read any of these authors books? Did you enjoy them? Whose books are you hoping to discover for the first time in 2020? Let me know in the comments!

I will be back next week with another TTT, this time talking about the Ten Most Recent Additions To My Bookshelf (though recent being a relative term as I will have had to schedule all these posts in advance).

#RockMyTBR December Update (2019) & Wrap-Up

Hi everyone! I know I said my last Top Ten Tuesday would probably be my last post before I went to South Africa, but I realised I had yet to post my wrap up for my 2019 #RockMyTBR Challenge, so I wanted to get that done before I left. 2019 has been kind of a weird transition year for me, I graduated Uni back in June which was an amazing achievement, but the whole period between graduating Uni and now has been a bit strange, going from being a student to working full time and now heading off to a whole new country for three months, it’s definitely been a whirlwind year! I mean I wrote my whole 10,000 word Journalism project in 3 months, I graduated, I’ve had two jobs, I went to YALC again, I’ve been to see not one, but three amazing West End shows, I’ve had a great holiday with my friends, who I’ve been able to see more since I’ve been back down south, I sent my book out to agents, I turned 23, it’s been a very full on year, but I did so much that I’m proud of in 2019 and I’m hoping that 2020 will be as good.

Anyway, I’ve been spending most of the last few days organising stuff for South Africa, I can’t believe I’ve only got two days left to go now! December went okay in terms of reading, I would have liked to have read more, but I did read two books, which took me over my Goodreads Challenge of 40, to end the year on 42, which is the best I’ve ever done since I started doing the Goodreads Challenge in 2015 so I’m massively pleased with that! As with last year, this post will be a tad longer than my usual ones, because I’ll be recapping what I read in December, rounding off this challenge for 2019 and looking forward to what I’ll be reading this month, so I hope you’ll stick with it till the end!

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Reign of The Fallen By Sarah Glenn Marsh:

My final #RockMyTBR book of the year! I liked this one but I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as I was hoping to! I liked the idea, but I didn’t really think that it was developed well enough and it just wasn’t quite as exciting as I was hoping for. I read this one from 13th-29th December. Here is my review of it:

https://jjbookblog.wordpress.com/2020/01/02/reign-of-the-fallen-reign-of-the-fallen-1-review/

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Hunting Prince Dracula by Keri Maniscalco:

My audiobook read of December and my final read of 2019. Again, I did like this one, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as the first one, and I’m definitely enjoying the third one more. I thought the mystery in this one was just a tad overcomplicated and hard to follow and that the story was quite slow paced, though I loved the setting and the new characters. I read this one from 17th-30th December. Here is my review of it:

https://jjbookblog.wordpress.com/2020/01/03/hunting-prince-dracula-stalking-jack-the-ripper-2-review-audiobook/

So that’s it, my final update of 2019, or first of 2020, I guess! I put together my list of reads for my 2020 Challenge at the beginning of December, which will be the third post down under the #RockMyTBRChallenge Tab, marked #RockMyTBR 2020 Challenge, if you want to see what I’m planning on reading for my challenge this year. For the rest of this post, I’m going to recap what I read for this challenge in 2019 & look forward to what I’m going to read for the first month of 2020:

What I Read This Year Ranked In Star Order:

  1. To Kill A Kingdom-Alexandra Christo-5 stars

I had two five star reads this year, but I decided to put this one first, because Alexandra Christo was definitely one of my favourite author finds of last year! I loved this book so much, it was so dark, and twisted, with so much fun banter, and Lira was just such a badass heroine and the enemies to lovers romance was done brilliantly.

2. The Gentleman’s Guide To Vice and Virtue-Mackenzi Lee-5 stars

This one was just so much fun! Monty was brilliantly funny, I loved his friendship turned romance with Percy and I loved watching their hijinks around Europe. I also really loved Monty’s sister Felicity, and I’m so excited to read her book this year.

3. Stalking Jack The Ripper-Keri Mansicalco-4 stars

I really enjoyed this one, I can’t say that murder mysteries are something that I read often, but the concept for this one really caught my eye and I have to say I really enjoyed it. The mystery was kind of simplistic yes, but I enjoyed the characters and the writing and have so far enjoyed the rest of the series as well.

4. Siege and Storm-Leigh Bardugo-4 stars

Whilst I definitely prefer the Six of Crows duology to the original Grisha trilogy, this book was definitely my favourite out of the three. I just love Nikolai, so, so much okay, the humour level in this book was much higher, and though the plot still felt largely padded, it was much more enjoyable than Shadow and Bone.

5. Catwoman: Soulstealer-Sarah J Maas-3.5 stars

I’m not a massive comics fan so I wasn’t expecting to enjoy this but it actually worked out a lot better than I was expecting. I really enjoyed the crew of Selina, Ivy and Harley, the plot was relatively fast paced and engaging and it was nice to read something by Sarah J Maas that wasn’t a massive tome! I think this was the first book of hers since Crown of Midnight to be less than 400 pages!

6. Reign of The Fallen-Sarah Glenn Marsh-3.5 stars

I definitely thought this book was underdeveloped in some areas, the character and world development could have been a lot better, but I loved the concept and I loved that there was so much LGBTQ+ representation. I’m hoping the world will be expanded more in the sequel.

7. An Ember In The Ashes-Sabaa Tahir-3 stars

I was expecting to really love this one, and whilst I didn’t hate it, I did feel like it was somewhat overhyped for me. It was definitely a decent debut novel, but I didn’t love the characters, they felt quite flat to me, as did the worldbuilding. I will probably read the sequel but I’m not really in a rush to get to it.

8. The Last Namsara-Kristen Ciccarelli-3 stars

I liked the stories and mythology for this one, but basically everything else fell kind of flat. Asha was pretty bland, as was Torwin and the other side characters were all kind of flat as well. I also didn’t really feel like the world was all that developed and there weren’t enough dragons. I don’t think I’ll read the companion novels for this one.

9. An Enchantment of Ravens-Margaret Rogerson-3 stars

This book was fine, but I just felt like nothing really happened? It was a whole 300 pages of basically just meandering journeying and the world and characters were hardly developed at all. I’m hoping that her second book, Sorcery of Thorns, which I have on my TBR for this year, will be better.

10. Uprooted-Naomi Novik-3 stars

I liked the idea of a fairytale type story that wasn’t a direct retelling, more inspired by Eastern European folktales, but I didn’t love Novik’s writing, I didn’t love the characters and I wasn’t a fan of yet another romance between a 17 year old girl and a man who is several hundred years old.

11. Alex and Eliza-Melissa De La Cruz-3 stars

To be honest I rated this 3 stars when I read it, and I probably would go more like 2.5 now, looking back. It wasn’t at all historically accurate really, the characters were flat and not well realised and I honestly didn’t think the writing was that great.

12. Strange The Dreamer-Laini Taylor-2.5 stars

I’m starting to think that perhaps Laini Taylor’s books might not be for me after quite a few disappointments! Strange The Dreamer for me was just confusing, I couldn’t follow the plot, I couldn’t connect to the characters and it felt like all the issues with the book were kind of glossed over by pretty writing.

So that’s a recap of everything I read in 2019, here’s what I’m planning on reading in the first month of 2020:

I’ve actually already read my first book, Crossfire by Malorie Blackman, so I’m not going to include it here, though it will be on my January update!

Circe-Madeline Miller

My #RockMyTBR book for January, which I just started reading today. I haven’t really got far enough in to make a judgement, I’ve only finished the first chapter, but I’ve heard good things, so I hope I enjoy it.

Escaping From Houdini-Keri Mansicalco

I’m reading the third Jack The Ripper book on audio right now, and I’m really enjoying it so far, the mystery is a little clearer than in Hunting Prince Dracula, but I still have no idea who is committing the murders!

Foul Is Fair-Hannah Capin

My Netgalley read for this month, I’ve only just started it and I’m enjoying it so far, though again, I’m not all that far through it yet.

Capturing The Devil-Keri Mansicalco

I’ve really loved reading the rest of the Stalking Jack The Ripper series on audio, Nicola Barber is a brilliant narrator and I can’t wait to see what happens to Audrey Rose and Thomas in the final book of the series.

I’m so pleased with how much I read this year, 42 books is so good, but I’m not going to be pushing myself to read even more this year, I want reading to be fun and if I get over 40 books again this year that would be great, but honestly, as long as I enjoy what I read, I’m happy! I also managed to read all 12 of the books on my challenge list last year, which made me so happy. Here’s to 2020 being another great reading year!

How did everyone else’s December reading go? What was your first read of 2020? What did you set your Goodreads Challenge at this year? Let me know in the comments!

 

Top Ten Tuesday #245

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Hi everyone! I hope you’ve all had a good start to 2020, and a good week since I last did one of these. I was visiting my friends over the weekend, and it was really nice to see them before I head off for South Africa, which oh yeah IS THIS SATURDAY. I’m so excited to go, but I’m also kind of nervous, I’ve never lived in a different country before, or been so far away from home, so that’s a little scary, but hopefully it’s going to be a great experience.

Anyway, since it’s Tuesday, it’s time for the first Top Ten Tuesday of 2020, courtesy of Jana over at That Artsy Reader Girl. Since it’s the first one of the year, we’re starting the year talking about our Most Anticipated Releases For The First Half of 2020. I’ll be honest, I don’t have a massive number of anticipated releases for 2020, though thankfully most of them do happen to be in the first half of the year. These will be in release date order, so no indication of how excited I am for each book:

  1. Scavenge The Stars-Tara Sim-Releases 7th January

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I’m not sure when or if this book is publishing in the UK, it probably isn’t, but I’m still super excited to read another Tara Sim, even if I do have to get it from Amazon. I’ve never read the Count of Monte Cristo, but this retelling which is gender swapped and sounds like it’s filled with pirates, sounds awesome!

2. The King of Crows (The Diviners #4)-Libba Bray-Releases 4th February

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I devoured the first three books of this series on Audible this year, and I’m so excited for the final book to come out. The last book was so great and seemed like it was promising for a really high stakes and exciting finale, so I can’t wait to see what happens to all the Diviners in this one…..and if they all make it out of the book alive.

3. All The Stars and Teeth-Adalyn Grace-Releases 4th February

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This book sounds like it has loads of things I love in it, vicious mermaids, pirates, ambitious princesses and dark magic. Plus that cover is really awesome, so I hope the book inside is just as great.

4. Night Spinner-Addie Thorley-Releases 11th February

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I haven’t read Addie Thorley’s debut novel yet, but there’s a good chance I will read this one first, as I have an ARC of it from Netgalley. It’s a retelling of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, which I haven’t read (though I did see the Disney version for the first time this year). Thorley’s version is gender swapped, the “Hunchback” of this story is Enebish, a girl who has been banished because of her powers, but is offered a second chance, if she is able to hunt down a notorious criminal. Sounds good right?

5. House of Earth and Blood (Crescent City #1)-Sarah J Maas-Releases 3rd March

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I’m not entirely convinced on this book, but I love Sarah J Maas, so of course I’m excited for it anyway. I do feel like she kind of just keeps repeating the same story over and over again, but I’m interested to see how she takes on an Adult Fantasy (which kind of feels like what she should have been writing in the first place). I will definitely be checking this out on audio though, as no way am I attempting to read an 816 page book in hardback. I made the mistake with Kingdom of Ash, it is not happening again.

6. Seasons of War (Skulduggery Pleasant #13)-Derek Landy-Releases 2nd April

This one doesn’t have a cover yet, but it’s already one of my most anticipated releases for next year. Skulduggery has been one of my favourite series since I was about 12, and though Phase 2 of the series got off to a shaky start, I really enjoyed the last book and I can’t wait to see where he takes things in this next one, especially with that title!

7. The Notorious Virtues-Alwyn Hamilton-Releases 5th May

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It’s been almost two years since I last read an Alwyn Hamilton book, and I’m really excited to see what she does after Rebel of The Sands. This book is set in the Rebel of The Sands universe, but it’s a completely different part of the world and completely different set of characters. It sounds really great, it’s 1920s inspired, and is basically a magical family competition to determine the heir of the Holtzfall family.

8. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes (The Hunger Games #0)-Suzanne Collins-Releases 19th May

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I’m not gonna lie, I hate the cover of this, but I really am excited for another book in the Hunger Games world. I kind of thought a prequel would probably be the story of the rebellions that caused the Hunger Games to start off with, but I’m excited to see what happened in the 10th Hunger Games, and see what Panem was like in its earlier days!

9. Where Dreams Descend-Janella Angeles-Releases 2nd June

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How gorgeous is that cover? I am so ridiculously excited for this book, it’s unreal. All I had to see were the words Moulin Rouge and I was SOLD. A fantasy partially inspired by my all time favourite film? Yes please! Anyway, it sounds brilliant, it’s set in a circus and is all about a magical competition to determine the next headliner of the circus, but as the competition goes on, competitors start to go missing!

10. The Court of Miracles-Kester Grant-Releases 2nd June

The Court of Miracles (Court of Miracles, #1)

This sounds like a very interesting retelling, it’s meant to be a cross between Les Mis and The Jungle Book, and I’d definitely be interested to see how that combination works, as it’s not one I’ve seen before. It stars Eponine (Nina) as she fights against the rulers of the city’s criminal underworld in order to save the life of her sister, Cosette (Ettie).

So there we go, those are my most anticipated books of 2020, at least up until June! What books are you looking forward to this year? Any of these on your list? Let me know in the comments!

I’ll be back next week with another Top Ten Tuesday, this time talking about New To Me Authors I Discovered In 2019. As I’m going to be in South Africa from next week though, all posts are pre-scheduled, so I apologise in advance if I don’t reply to all your comments!

This is probably it for posts before I go to South Africa, so keep an eye out for my Top Ten Tuesday posts each week, but aside from that, I’ll talk to you all again when I’m back in April!

 

 

 

Book Vs Movie: The Maze Runner

Hi everyone! I know I usually do these at the end of the month, but since I’m leaving for South Africa on Saturday (!!!), I figured I would treat you guys and put this one up a little bit earlier. This month, I’m going to be comparing the book, and the film adaptation of The Maze Runner.

Book Thoughts:

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My friend got me this book for my birthday when we were in Sixth Form, Lower Sixth I think, and I honestly hadn’t really heard anything about it and had no idea that there was going to be a film when I read it! Still I really enjoyed it (even if it turns out that James Dashner is a trash human being), I was still in the midst of my dystopia phase at this point and this was a really fun, fast paced read, though looking back, I’m not sure if the book was as good as I said in my review. Here are my thoughts from back in 2014 (yes my early reviewing style makes me cringe):

https://jjbookblog.wordpress.com/category/reviews/the-maze-runner-series/the-maze-runner/

Movie Thoughts:

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So this is actually the film that kind of cemented my friendship group, my friend Hannah and I have known each other since we were about 14, but I only met Zoe when we were in Sixth Form and the first thing we all did as a group was go to see this film. I really enjoyed it, the cast were great, (if a little old to be believable teenagers, though they’re definitely not the worst adult-teenagers I’ve ever seen and Thomas Brodie-Sangster has basically looked about 13 his entire life)  and I thought all the effects were really cool, seeing the Maze and the Grievers brought to life on screen was amazing.

Movie or Book Judgement:

I’d actually go with the movie here. The story in the book is great, and there were certain things I wish had translated over to the film, like Minho in the book being much more sarcastic, and Alby’s arc which was a lot more emotionally impactful in the book but overall, I felt like the movie was really faithful to the book. It was also just one of those books that I think came across better on screen, a lot of it is high action, high tech and those things I just find tend to come across better on screen than they do in books.

That’s it for this month’s Book Vs Movie, I’ll be back next month talking about one of my favourite childhood books Matilda. In the meantime, I will have another Top Ten Tuesday post up tomorrow, which will probably be my last non pre-scheduled post before I go to South Africa, so keep an eye out for that.

Hunting Prince Dracula (Stalking Jack The Ripper #2) Review (Audiobook)

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Book: Hunting Prince Dracula (Stalking Jack The Ripper #2)

Author: Keri Mansicalco

Narrator: Nicola Barber

Format: Audiobook

BECHDEL TEST: Honestly unsure, I find it hard to pick out Bechdel passing content in audiobooks because I get too engrossed in listening!

Content Warnings: PTSD, blood/gore/murder, spiders

I read Stalking Jack The Ripper back in September of last year, as part of my 2019 #RockMyTBR challenge and I really enjoyed it but as the books aren’t published in the UK (I found the first one in Foyles as they get some American releases), I tried the second one on audio and I’m glad I did because the narrator really made this book for me! I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as the first one as I found the mystery kind of convoluted, but it was still a pretty good book. Here is a short synopsis of it:

In this sequel to Kerri Maniscalco’s Stalking Jack the Ripper, bizarre murders are discovered in the castle of Prince Vlad the Impaler, otherwise known as Dracula. Could it be a copycat killer…or has the depraved prince been brought back to life?

Following the grief and horror of her discovery of Jack the Ripper’s true identity, Audrey Rose Wadsworth has no choice but to flee London and its memories. Together with the arrogant yet charming Thomas Cresswell, she journeys to the dark heart of Romania, home to one of Europe’s best schools of forensic medicine…and to another notorious killer, Vlad the Impaler, whose thirst for blood became legend.

But her life’s dream is soon tainted by blood-soaked discoveries in the halls of the school’s forbidding castle, and Audrey Rose is compelled to investigate the strangely familiar murders. What she finds brings all her terrifying fears to life once again.

As I said at the top of this review, I really enjoyed the narrator for the audiobook, Nicola Barber was brilliant, she was great at the accents (I’m pretty sure her accent for Thomas was half the reason why I liked him more here) and she was really good at conveying the atmosphere for the story. If you like audio, then I definitely recommend trying this series in that format, because the narration was great.

Thomas and Audrey kind of switched places for me in this book in terms of who irritated me more. I totally get why Audrey was stressing about losing her autonomy and wanting to be independent and do things on her own, but she takes a lot of stupid risks because of this and her constant whining about it kind of irritated me. Don’t get me wrong, I still had a lot of admiration for her and her refusal to put up with sexism, and obviously all I liked about her in the first book was still there, I just found that more about her irritated me this time around.

Thomas meanwhile, kind of grew on me this book. I don’t know how much of this was to do with me really liking the accent that the narrator did for him, but I felt like the charm that the author was trying to convey in the first book, came across way better for me in the audio. I don’t think he was in any way malicious by offering to take Audrey home when she looked like she was suffering though I can understand why Audrey was annoyed at him telling her professors that she was “delicate”. Still, I felt like he was less of a jerk in this book, and though I could see where Audrey was coming from, it did feel like she overreacted slightly (though his prank on Audrey Rose in the morgue was seriously messed up).

The setting in this was amazing, the creepy old castle with all the secret tunnels? It’s the perfect horror/mystery novel setting and Mansicalco describes it so well, it really adds to the atmosphere of the book.

I liked the writing in this book for the atmosphere it provided, but I did feel like Audrey’s inner monologue got somewhat repetitive and I hated every time she reminded us about her “virtue”. I get that this is a Victorian set book, and girls would genuinely be worried about that, I just kind of found myself rolling my eyes every time she mentioned that anything would scandalise her “reputation”.

I liked that there were more women in this book, I mean don’t get me wrong, it’s still overwhelmingly dominated by men, but here you have Anastasia, Ileana and Daciana as well as Audrey and they all play a major role in the plot. It was nice to see Audrey looking to other women for advice and forming bonds with them, as the first book definitely lacked this.

I found the angst between Audrey Rose and Thomas, kind of infuriating, most of the book, there’s this angsty back and forth between them, basically Audrey thinks Thomas doesn’t respect her independence, and Thomas, though well-intentioned and wanting to help, kind of puts his foot in it a lot. Honestly, so many of their problems could be solved by COMMUNICATION, which hurrah when they finally did, but it took far too long.

The story was a little slow paced, it took a long time for the mystery to unfold, it took a few chapters before it was even really introduced, and then it just unravels at such a slow pace through the book, some chapters don’t even seem to further anything. It definitely could have been a shorter book, I reckon had about a hundred or so pages of this been cut, it would have been a much tighter mystery.

I did feel like Audrey had slight “Not Like Other Girls” syndrome, she’s constantly reminding us how restricted she feels in corsets and how she likes wearing her breaches and how unusual it is for women to be doing forensics. Like we get it, you’re maybe slightly ahead of your time, but I don’t need to be reminded for the entire book!

I still can’t say I’m massively interested in Audrey and Thomas’ romance, other than my obvious issues with the angst in this book, I’m still not really feeling the connection between them though I don’t know how much of that is just my natural cynicism. I mean I don’t think they make a bad couple, I just wasn’t fully invested in their romance.

I thought the contest between the students for the places at the forensic academy was going to play more of a role in the book, like one of the students was taking out the rest of the competition, but it kind of seemed like more of an afterthought.

A lot of the side characters were really underdeveloped, I mean I get it because it’s in first person POV and the cast of side characters changes in each book, but I still would have liked some of the other students and staff at the school to be a bit more fleshed out.

I liked the inclusion of Romanian folklore and culture, I thought that was done really well, and seemed respectful to the culture, though I’m not Romanian, so I obviously can’t say that for sure!

The mystery itself was a bit convoluted to me, though the culprit wasn’t as obvious as in the last book, the resolution didn’t feel earned, like it didn’t feel like there were loads of clues pointing toward that particular character, but maybe that was just me not picking up on them! The motive was a bit messy for me and I also felt like the entire ending was kind of rushed? The last few chapters for me just felt really short and kind of choppy, so the ending was almost abrupt. I think had the pacing been better throughout the book, perhaps the ending would have felt quite so rushed. I did enjoy the epilogue though, I thought that was sweet.

Overall, I liked this book well enough, but I thought the central mystery this time was somewhat overcomplicated and all of the internal angst between Thomas and Audrey Rose was quite irritating, though I did really love the narration and will definitely be continuing this series in audio format.

My Rating: 3/5

My next review will be of Malorie Blackman’s Crossfire, but after today, I likely won’t have anymore reviews for you till I’m back from Cape Town in April, beware, there’s going to be a massive bombardment of everything I read whilst I’m out there after I come back!

Reign of The Fallen (Reign of The Fallen #1) Review

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Book: Reign of The Fallen (Reign of The Fallen #1)

Author: Sarah Glenn Marsh

BECHDEL TEST: PASS-Kasmira and Odessa have a conversation about the world outside Karthia.

Content Warnings: Grief, substance abuse, death

This was my #RockMyTBR book for December, and much like An Enchantment of Ravens, I didn’t really know much about it, I knew going in that it was about necromancers, and had an f/f romance, and that the cover was gorgeous but that was about it. I thought I would really love it, and I didn’t hate it, but it wasn’t quite what I expected it to be, I thought it was going to be a really fun, zombie adventure romp and it was a more quiet, introspective look at death and grief, which was fine but not really what I was reading it for. Here is a short synopsis of the book:

Odessa is one of Karthia’s master necromancers, catering to the kingdom’s ruling Dead. Whenever a noble dies, it’s Odessa’s job to raise them by retrieving their souls from a dreamy and dangerous shadow world called the Deadlands. But there is a cost to being raised–the Dead must remain shrouded, or risk transforming into zombie-like monsters known as Shades. If even a hint of flesh is exposed, the grotesque transformation will begin.

A dramatic uptick in Shade attacks raises suspicions and fears among Odessa’s necromancer community. Soon a crushing loss of one of their own reveals a disturbing conspiracy: someone is intentionally creating Shades by tearing shrouds from the Dead–and training them to attack. Odessa is faced with a terrifying question: What if her necromancer’s magic is the weapon that brings Karthia to its knees?

I loved the idea behind this book, it’s definitely one of the most unique fantasies that I’ve ever read, I mean necromancers that can bring the dead back, but if they don’t remain shrouded then they turn into killer zombies? It’s definitely a cool idea, and it’s not just necromancers, the people in this world all have different powers depending on what colour eyes they have, so there are lots of different types of powers, including people who can control animals and people who can control the weather.

I did think that the magic system was pretty underdeveloped, you have the basic concept of power corresponding with eye colour, but no one knows how the relationship between the two work, how exactly does having blue eyes, manifest itself as necromancer powers. No one in the world tries to explore it either, so you as the reader are just kind of left wondering as to why exactly this specific magic system came to be.

I also thought that the world was underdeveloped as well, I had so many questions! It hasn’t changed in 200 years and everyone is just fine with that, despite the fact that people are dying, and no one cares that the King isn’t doing anything about it? Also the monarch hasn’t changed in 200 years and there doesn’t seem to be any implications from that? Also the nobles constantly throw parties whilst the peasants are starving and there’s no rioting? And these people can all become super powerful mages by 17, meaning they start training to do this at 7? There were just a lot of little things like that which didn’t seem to have been thought through.

I loved that there was so much LGBTQ+ representation in this, a large part of the cast is LGBTQ+, you have a bisexual girl, a lesbian, and two gay guys, and the world is not homophobic in the slightest, which is brilliant. There’s also some POC rep, with Odessa and Danial, though there could have been a bit more. It was really great to have a fantasy world that didn’t reflect society’s prejudices, as well as no homophobia, it wasn’t a sexist or racist world either, which was brilliant.

Another sufferer in the not developed enough camp, was Odessa’s friendships. We’re told that she has this really tight knit friendship group, but we don’t really get to see any evidence of it, we’re just told, “Oh I’ve been friends with these people since I was a kid” but I never really felt any closeness between them? Same goes with Master Cymbre, we’re told by Odessa that they’re really close but we barely see them interact!

I thought the necromancy aspect was really cool, but I thought it was going to be explored more, and yet it seemed almost incidental in comparison to Odessa’s grief and her romances. I can’t really explain this too well without giving away spoilers, but the Shade attacks that much of the book revolves around are obviously related to necromancy and I didn’t really understand a certain aspect of how all the worked because the necromancers’ powers weren’t really explained all that well.

Odessa’s grief is obviously a key plot point in this novel, and whilst I thought it was explored well, it’s kind of dull to read about! I also felt that because we didn’t really get to know the people she was grieving for, I just didn’t really feel it. I think it’s also that Odessa as the POV character in the novel, does kind of keep you at arms length, I can’t really say I got to know her that well, so I think that also affected things.

The side characters, and there were a lot of them, weren’t really developed all that much either, unfortunately. I would have loved some of the characters, like Valoria, or Kasmira, to be expanded on more, because I really liked them, Valoria is an inventor which is pretty awesome and Kasmira is a pirate, such awesomeness and we did not get enough of it! The villain, I didn’t feel was developed all that well either, they actually didn’t really seem all that unreasonable, they go about things the wrong way sure, but I thought they had a point for what they were wanting to do.

The pacing wasn’t great, it’s pretty slow, takes about 100 odd pages for the real inciting incident to happen, and even then, it’s definitely a slow burn kind of a book, which is fine, it just wasn’t really what I thought it was going to be. The stakes never really felt particularly high either, they have a healer on side to attend to all their scrapes (there’s an ableist moment where Odessa temporarily goes blind and is magical healed by it).

I wasn’t massively keen on either of the romances in this book, Odessa’s first relationship, with Evander, just wasn’t really developed enough, we don’t get to see enough of him to root for it and her second relationship, I didn’t think was exactly healthy and they’re both grieving….plus wait for it….she’s Evander’s sister! Which is incredibly icky.

The writing style was decent, nothing monumental but it was easy enough to read and aside from some repetition in places, there was nothing glaringly annoying.

I did also just find it kind of miserable? There’s a lot of sadness and grief in this book, and whilst that’s fine, I find in sad or dark books, I need at least some levity otherwise I feel too despairing.

The ending was also kind of anti-climactic, everything is resolved, it all seems to have been tied up neatly and then we get thrown into a situation that is clearly setting up for a next book, which I obviously knew as the next book is already out, but it kind of felt like an afterthought rather than something that the book at had been working towards.

Overall, this was a decent enough book and I loved the concept, but I definitely felt as if some things could have been executed better and whilst I think I will read the sequel, I don’t think that my expectations will be that high.

My Rating: 3.5/5

My next review will be of my final read of 2019, Hunting Prince Dracula by Keri Maniscalco, the sequel to Stalking Jack The Ripper.

 

 

Jo Talks Books: 2020 Reading/Writing/Blogging Goals

Happy 2020 everyone! I hope you all had a great time, wherever you were and whatever you did to bring in the New Year. I had a lovely evening with my parents, we had a three course dinner at our local pub, which was delicious and then watched the fireworks and toasted the new decade at midnight.

I’m really excited to start a new year here, it’s hard to believe that I will have been doing this for six years in February! This year is going to be a little different as I’m going to South Africa from 11th January till the 24th April, so I’m taking my first break from blogging in six years. I won’t be abandoning you guys completely, I have Top Ten Tuesday posts planned, I’ll be planning some Book Vs Movie posts and I’ll be doing something for my sixth blogaversary obviously, but I probably won’t have lots of lengthy reviews, discussion posts or writing posts whilst I’m away.

But I’m still here now, and onto the topic of today’s post. As it’s a New Year, I wanted to share my Reading/Writing/Blogging goals for the year, I always like to start off the year by looking forward to the things I want to achieve throughout the year, it gives me things to spend the year working towards. I did pretty well on my 2019 goals, and I’m hoping that I can do even better on this year’s goals. As with last year, I have a mix of blogging, writing and reading goals, but I’ve gone down to 10 goals rather than 12 as I thought that was more achievable:

  1. Complete Goodreads Challenge

As always, I will be working towards my Goodreads Challenge goal throughout the year. I managed 42 books last year, which was amazing, and the best that I’ve done since I started doing the challenge. I’ve started at 24 again this year, I’d like to try and beat the 42 I managed this year, but honestly if I get more than 30, I will be happy.

2. Complete my #RockMyTBR Challenge

Another annual one, I’m doing my #RockMyTBR challenge again this year! I managed to read all 12 books last year, so I’m hoping I’ll do the same this year. I’m really excited about all the books that Twitter picked again this year, and I managed to find some new favourites from this challenge last year, so I hope I’ll do the same this year.

3. Finish a first draft of either the This Is Not A Love Story sequel or Underground Magicians

I’ve been working on the first drafts of both these novels for several years now, so I’d really like to get at least one of them to a complete stage this year. I just didn’t have a massive amount of time to work on them last year, especially with prepping This Is Not A Love Story for querying, but I’m hoping that this year I can get at least one of them to a stage where I can start editing.

4. Read more adult fiction

I’ve been, not necessarily veering away from YA in the past few years as it’s still most of what I read, but I have discovered a lot of adult books that I’ve really loved and have found myself actively seeking those stories more. So this year, I want to make a concerted effort to read more adult books, as I know I enjoy them, and I want to expand my reading even more.

5. Read more books by authors of colour

I always intend to read more diversely, but I know I could do so much better in this area, so this year I really want to actively seek out stories by authors of colour, especially women. I don’t want to set a number on it, like I’m going to read X amount, but I definitely want to try and read more.

6. Catch up on 2019 releases

This is another annual one, as there are so many new releases that I want to read every year and I never get to all of them, I still have some of my most anticipated 2019 releases, like Call Down The Hawk and King of Scars to get to, so that’s definitely going to be a priority this year.

7. Get Netgalley ratio up to 80%

I had this one as a goal for last year as well, but I didn’t manage to achieve it this year, in fact my ratio at the end of the year was exactly the same as it was at the beginning of the year! It did go up slightly, but then went back down when I requested a load of books…..

8. Buy less physical books/do another unhaul

These two are kind of connected, so I decided to put them as one. I want to only buy physical books that I’m really excited for this year, I have Netgalley, Kindle, Audible, so it’s not like I will go without books if I buy less physical copies, and I really need to slim down my book collection a little more before I move again, so unfortunately, I will probably have to do another unhaul this year.

9. Tackle some of the 500+ page books on my TBR

I have a tendency to leave the longer books on my TBR languishing on my shelves, I don’t have a massive number of them, only about 5 or 6 that I own, I think, but if I could knock a few of them off my TBR this year, that would be great!

10. Read more new to me authors

I know I’ve had this as a goal in previous years, but I wanted to bring it back this year because although I read about 16 new authors last year, I only found about five or six that I really loved, so I’m hoping that this year, not only can I read more new to me authors, but I can also find more that I want to keep coming back to.

So that’s my goals for the year! Do you set reading, blogging, writing or life goals for the year? If not, then why not? What are you goals for 2020? Do we share any? Let me know in the comments!

I’m not really sure what my Jo Talks schedule is going to be for this year yet, because obviously I’ll be in South Africa through till April, I’ll definitely have something in February for my six year blogaversary though I’m not sure what that will be, and then I’ll be back to my regularly scheduled one a month from April, so it shouldn’t be too disrupted. If there are any specific topics that you’d like to see this year, then let me know in comments. In the meantime, I will have reviews of my last two books of the year, plus my #RockMyTBR 2019 wrap up in the next few days, so look out for those!