Top Ten Tuesday #272

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

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

  1. Percy Jackson and The Olympians Series-Rick Riordan

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

2. Skulduggery Pleasant Series-Derek Landy

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

3. Heist Society-Ally Carter

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

4. The Gilded Wolves-Roshani Chokshi

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

5. The Roman Mysteries-Caroline Lawrence

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

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

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

7. Daughter of The Pirate King-Tricia Levenseller

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

8. The Exact Opposite of Okay-Laura Steven

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

9. A Darker Shade of Magic-VE Schwab

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

10. Six of Crows-Leigh Bardugo

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

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

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

Girl Serpent Thorn Review (e-ARC)

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Book: Girl Serpent Thorn

Author: Melissa Bashardoust

Published By: Hodder and Stoughton

Publication Date: 7th July

Format: e-book

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top Ten Tuesday #271

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

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

Best Series Enders

  1. A Conjuring of Light-VE Schwab

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

2. Undivided-Neal Shusterman

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

3. Firestarter-Tara Sim

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

4. The Last Olympian-Rick Riordan

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

5. The Raven King-Maggie Stiefvater

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

Most Disappointing Series Enders

6. Allegiant-Veronica Roth

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

7. Ruin and Rising-Leigh Bardugo

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

8. Finale-Stephanie Garber

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

9. Hero At The Fall-Alwyn Hamilton

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

10. Capturing The Devil-Keri Maniscalco

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

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

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

Mid Year Freak Out Tag (2020)

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

Best Book You’ve Read So Far This Year

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

Best Sequel You’ve Read So Far In 2020

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

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

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

Most anticipated release for the second half of the year

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

Biggest Disappointment

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

Biggest Surprise

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

Favourite new author (debut or new to you)

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

Newest Fictional Ship

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

Newest favourite character

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

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

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

Book That Made You Happy

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

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

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

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

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

Favourite Book Community Member

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

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

Mid Year Check In (2020)

Hi everyone! We’re halfway through the year, and honestly it feels like we should be so much further on by now? Am I the only one who feels like 2020 has been going on forever, January already feels like it was last year! Honestly aside from Cape Town, which was amazing, 2020 has kind of sucked and I’m already ready for it to be done? Sadly though, we still have another six months to go, so it’s that time of year when I like to check in on the goals I made at the start of the year to help keep myself accountable and see where I’m at. So here we go, here’s how I’ve been doing over the past six months:

  1. Complete Goodreads Challenge goal

This is one of my annual goals, I always start off with 24 at the beginning of the year and since the one upside of lockdown is that I’ve had basically unlimited time to read, I’m already at 25 and have upped my goal to 40. Ambitiously I’d quite like to get to 50 this year, but if I beat the 42 I managed last year, I’ll be happy.

2. Complete my #RockMyTBR Challenge

My other annual challenge, I have 12 books on the list and I’m right on track, having completed 6 books at this point in the year, with 6 more still to go.

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

Ha ha I had the best of intentions on this one I swear, but 2020 has kind of kicked my writing in the teeth and I’ve just not been in the place creatively where I’ve felt able to make any real progress on either of them. I’m hoping this might change before the end of the year, but I’m also not going to push myself because it’s been a tough year and pushing myself to get back into writing my novels when I’m not there yet is not going to make them any better.

4. Read more adult fiction

I still read majority YA, but I have read a few more adult books this year and I’m hoping to squeeze more in before the year is over.

5. Read more books by authors of colour

I’ve been doing okay with this one, though I could still definitely do better, and to be honest, I always want to feel like I can do better because there’s always more you can do and I definitely want to read more books by authors of colour in the rest of the year.

6. Catch up on 2019 releases

I’ve only read one and am in the progress of another one of the books on my list, but I’ve read several other 2019 releases that weren’t on my list as well, so I’m feeling pretty good about how I’ve been doing with this one.

7. Get Netgalley ratio up to 80%

So I’m not quite there on this one yet, but I’m getting there……slowly. I’m at 72% right now and I’m hoping that I can make it to 80% before the end of the year.

8. Buy less physical books/do another unhaul

I’m probably not going to be doing another unhaul, but I have been buying less physical books this year, mostly due to lockdown and not being able to go into bookshops. I do have a lot of books pre-ordered for September and October, but I’ve only bought about 4 physical books this year so far, so I think I’m actually doing pretty well.

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

I’m still kind of wary about longer books, but I have knocked a few of the longer ones off my TBR: The City of Brass, The Kingdom of Copper (and currently The Empire of Gold) and The King of Crows and I’m currently reading King of Scars and hopefully The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes later this month, so I’m working on it!

10. Read more new to me authors

I’m doing so well on this one, and it’s made me so happy because I love finding new authors. Of the 25 books I’ve read so far this year, 12 have been by new to me authors and I have another one in progress, which is so great and several of them are definitely ones that I want to come back to.

So that’s how my year has been going so far. I’m pretty pleased that even with all of the uncertainty that the lockdown has caused in other areas of my life, that my goals have still been mostly going well! I think I’m on track to complete most of them by the end of the year. How about you guys? Did you make reading/writing/blogging goals for the year? How are they going so far? Let me know in the comments!

I’ll be back with a new tag post on Monday, my first in a while, the Mid Year Freak Out Tag, so keep an eye out for that one on Monday!

#RockMyTBR June Update (2020)

Hi everyone! I hope you’ve all been doing well in the past month and staying safe as countries around the world start to open up more.

For those of you who don’t know, the #RockMyTBR Challenge is a challenge originated by Sarah K at The YA Book Traveler, which I’ve kind of adopted for myself over the past few years. The challenge is pretty simple, you pick a list of backlist books from your TBR (i.e. books not published in the year that you are reading them) and read them over the course of a year. I always choose 12, a book for each month and then each month I post an update of everything I’ve been reading. In June, I read another 5 books, a continued win for lockdown reading:

39863498The Gilded Wolves (The Gilded Wolves #1) by Roshani Chokshi:

This was my June #RockMyTBR read and is definitely one of my favourite reads of the year so far. It has such an amazing squad/found family dynamic, it’s wonderfully diverse and the story is just a lot of fun whilst also touching on really important topics like colonialism. I read this one from 26th May-9th June. Here is my review of it:

https://jjbookblog.wordpress.com/2020/06/11/the-gilded-wolves-the-gilded-wolves-1-review/

50401211. sy475 Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust:

One of my Netgalley reads for this month, unfortunately this one was kind of let down. The characters were quite flat and though I appreciated the different take on a stepmother/stepdaughter relationship in a fairytale retelling, the slow pace of the story made it very hard to get into. I read this one from 22nd April-13th June (on and off). Here is my review of it:

https://jjbookblog.wordpress.com/2020/06/15/girls-made-of-snow-and-glass-review/

36115268. sy475 Incendiary by Zoraida Cordova:

My other Netgalley read of the month. I enjoyed the magic system that the author created and I really liked her writing style but the plot was kind of slow paced and the characters were a little flat for me. I read this one from 7th May-18th June (again on and off). Here is my review of it:

https://jjbookblog.wordpress.com/2020/06/21/incendiary-hollow-crown-1-review-e-arc/

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My PIFM read from the YA Addicted Book Club on Goodreads. I had mixed feelings on this one, I thought it was a really interesting concept and had a very intense plot, but the characters felt kind of flat and I had a few issues with the toxic masculinity presented in the plot. I read this one from 9th-22nd June. Here is my review of it:

https://jjbookblog.wordpress.com/2020/06/26/dry-review/

51696345. sx318 sy475 The Kingdom of Copper by S.A. Chakraborty:

My audiobook read for June. I really enjoyed The City of Brass, but I found The Kingdom of Copper somewhat slower than I would have liked, though I still loved the characters and it did have some amazing plot twists toward the end. I read this one from 14th May-26th June. Here is my review of it:

https://jjbookblog.wordpress.com/2020/07/01/the-kingdom-of-copper-daevabad-trilogy-2-review-audiobook/

So that’s everything I read in June, here’s what I’ve got coming up in July:

King of Scars-Leigh Bardugo

My July #RockMyTBR read. I actually started it last week as there were only a few days left of June. I’m enjoying it so far, though it is a little slow and the chapters are slightly longer than I would like.

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes-Suzanne Collins

I’m hoping to finally get around to this one this month, as apparently July is my month of chunky reads! I’ve seen very polarising opinions on this one so I’ll be interested to see which side of the fence I fall on.

Girl Serpent Thorn-Melissa Bashardoust

One of my Netgalley reads for this month and I’m thankful that I’m enjoying this one much more than I enjoyed Girls Made of Snow & Glass, Melissa Bashardoust’s writing has definitely improved since her debut.

The Court of Miracles-Kester Grant

My other Netgalley read for this month, and to be honest, I’m struggling to get into it at the moment but I’m hoping things will improve soon.

The Empire of Gold-S.A. Chakraborty

Yes, I have the final book of this one on audio to read for this month. I’m really looking forward to seeing how everything turns out in the end for the characters, though the almost 29 hour length is making me a little nervous!

Another pretty ambitious TBR but since I’m not really doing much at the moment, I feel like it’s very achievable. What have you guys read this month? How is your Goodreads Challenge going? I’ve read 25 books so far and I’m still 5 books ahead of schedule so I’m feeling pretty good about it. Let me know in the comments!

The Kingdom of Copper (Daevabad Trilogy #2) Review (Audiobook)

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Book: The Kingdom of Copper (Daevabad #2)

Author: S.A. Chakraborty

Format: Audiobook

Narrator: Soneela Nankani

BECHDEL TEST: PASS-Razu teaches Nahri sleight of hand tricks.

Content Warnings: Violence, torture, death, murder, slavery, human trafficking, mentions of stillbirth, mentions of rape threats, war themes, racism (between fantasy races), alcoholism

I really enjoyed The City of Brass when I read it back in April and naturally was super excited to read the sequel as soon as I could. I did end up really enjoying it, though not as much as City of Brass, simply because it was slower and longer than I would have liked and it took me a bit to actually get into the story. Still I really loved the characters and the world, and the last few chapters…..WOAH. Here is a short synopsis of the book:

S. A. Chakraborty continues the sweeping adventure begun in  The City of Brass conjuring a world where djinn summon flames with the snap of a finger and waters run deep with old magic; where blood can be dangerous as any spell, and a clever con artist from Cairo will alter the fate of a kingdom.

Nahri’s life changed forever the moment she accidentally summoned Dara, a formidable, mysterious djinn, during one of her schemes. Whisked from her home in Cairo, she was thrust into the dazzling royal court of Daevabad—and quickly discovered she would need all her grifter instincts to survive there.

Now, with Daevabad entrenched in the dark aftermath of a devastating battle, Nahri must forge a new path for herself. But even as she embraces her heritage and the power it holds, she knows she’s been trapped in a gilded cage, watched by a king who rules from the throne that once belonged to her family—and one misstep will doom her tribe..

Meanwhile, Ali has been exiled for daring to defy his father. Hunted by assassins, adrift on the unforgiving copper sands of his ancestral land, he is forced to rely on the frightening abilities the marid—the unpredictable water spirits—have gifted him. But in doing so, he threatens to unearth a terrible secret his family has long kept buried.

And as a new century approaches and the djinn gather within Daevabad’s towering brass walls for celebrations, a threat brews unseen in the desolate north. It’s a force that would bring a storm of fire straight to the city’s gates . . . and one that seeks the aid of a warrior trapped between worlds, torn between a violent duty he can never escape and a peace he fears he will never deserve.

SPOILER ALERT: This review will contain some unavoidable spoilers from both The City of Brass & Kingdom of Copper. If you do not want to be spoiled, then stop reading now. 

So once again, my biggest issue with this book was the pacing, it’s an incredibly lengthy book (at 23 hours 14 minutes) and it doesn’t really pick up until the second half. I get that adult fantasy tends to be slower, but I just don’t want to wait till more than halfway through a book before the exciting stuff starts happening! Some of the chapters are also really overly long, I mean just the PROLOGUE was an hour!

Dara gets a POV in this book, and it just didn’t really fit with what was going on with Nahri and Ali’s storylines, it felt really disconnected. It wouldn’t really have impacted the storyline of this book one iota if he had stayed dead and Manizheh’s plan had gone ahead the same, though admittedly I may be biased because I still really hate him. But still, I did feel that Dara’s chapters contributed to my struggle to get into this as much as City of Brass, his chapters didn’t really push the story forward in the same way that Nahri and Ali’s did and I honestly think the book would have been better without them.

I loved that there was more focus on the women in this book, especially Nahri’s relationships with the different women in her life as that was one of my biggest problems with the last book. Here we get to see women play much more of a starring role, including getting to see more of Ali’s sister Zaynab which I loved. I particularly loved the inclusion of the shafit doctor, Subha, it was lovely to get to see Nahri have a female mentor who could teach her more about human methods of healing as well as Nisreen.

I wasn’t expecting the five year jump and it worked well in some respects, it was nice seeing the characters more settled in their lives but at the same time, I would have liked to see Nahri growing into her powers more. It also felt like there was no real reason for it, as I think the same storyline could have quite easily happened immediately following on from The City of Brass, though I understand that the author probably wanted Nahri and Ali to have spent a while away from each other.

I still really enjoyed S.A. Chakraborty’s writing style, she describes everything in such a beautiful way and the food descriptions made me feel so hungry, all the food sounded so delicious! Soneela Nankani did a great job with the narration as well.

The family dynamics in this are super interesting, particularly between Ali and Muntadhir, as the heir to the throne and his brother, there’s a lot of tension there and it was very interesting to see how that played out. It was also cool to see Ali and Zaynab’s mother in this book and how she changed things for them, and I liked how Nahri fitted into their whole family dynamic especially with Zaynab, after their rocky start in City of Brass. Familial relationships are at the forefront of this book which I loved as so often it is romance that is centred.

Speaking of romance, I was glad that took a backseat in this one, I’m even less on board with Dara and Nahri after the events of this book and to be honest, I don’t think Nahri is really in that place anymore either. I definitely think the swerve away from romance allowed all of the characters more space to develop individually, which I loved. It’s hinted that Ali has feelings for Nahri, but I really hope S.A. Chakraborty doesn’t go there, because I love their friendship and I really want to see a male/female friendship in a book that doesn’t end in romance!

Nahri and Jamshid’s newfound friendship was another highlight in this book, they had such a heartwarming friendship when it would have been easy for the author to go down the “you’re having sex with my husband so we’re enemies” route. It would have been nice if we’d got to see Nahri interact with Razu a bit more, as that seemed like it had the potential for a beautiful friendship.

I don’t love that S.A. Chakraborty keeps leaning very close to the “bury your gays” trope with Jamshid and Muntadhir, there have been a few too many fake outs there for my liking!

There are so many twists and turns towards the end of this book, which are very exciting but did feel a little rushed in places. Still they definitely set things up for a really exciting finish in the third book!

THE ENDING. S.A. Chakraborty seems to be really great at sticking the landing and once again this ended up in a place where I was really excited for the final book, and I can’t wait to see how things all end.

My Rating: 3.5/5

My next review will be of one of my current Netgalley reads, Girl Serpent Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust.

 

 

Top Ten Tuesday #270

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Hi all! I hope you’ve all had a good week since I last did one of these, I finally got to see both my friends together for the first time since January last Thursday and it was so lovely, it felt almost like pre-lockdown times!

Anyway, this week’s Top Ten Tuesday (my 270th!) is another annual topic, and this time we’re talking our Most Anticipated Releases For The Second Half of The Year. Weirdly, I actually struggled a bit more with this list than usual, normally the second half of the year is the one that is more packed with new releases for me, but for some reason this year, most of my anticipated releases were in the first half of the year. These will be in release date order, so it’s no indication for how excited I am for each book:

  1. The Notorious Virtues-Alwyn Hamilton-Releases 18th August

 

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I know this was on my first half of the year list as well, but its publication date got moved back to August so it’s making another appearance here. I’m really excited for Alwyn’s new book, heiresses in a 1920s inspired fantasy world based in the same universe as Rebel of The Sands, competing to be the family heir? Sounds amazing, plus that cover is gorgeous.

2. Where Dreams Descend-Janella Angeles-Releases 25th August

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AGH I’M SO EXCITED FOR THIS ONE! It’s meant to be Moulin Rouge (my favourite movie ever) meets Phantom of The Opera which sounds just perfect. Plus I’m a sucker for circus stories and a group of magical performers facing off against each other whilst avoiding being murdered sounds brilliant.

3. Queen of Volts (The Shadow Game #3)-Amanda Foody-Releases 1st September

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This is definitely up there with my most anticipated releases of the entire year! King of Fools was one of my favourite books from last year and I’m so excited to find out how Enne and Levi’s story ends. It’s also pretty perfect that this book comes out the week before my birthday, so a lovely early birthday present to myself!

4. The Silvered Serpents-Roshani Chokshi-Releases 22nd September

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How gorgeous is this cover? It kind of reminds me of Christmas actually with the red and the silver! Anyway, I really enjoyed The Gilded Wolves when I read it last month and I’m super excited to see what happens next when the sequel is released in September.

5. The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue-VE Schwab-Releases 6th October

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Probably my most anticipated release of the entire year, let alone just the next six months! I mean what about an epic story that takes place over centuries about a girl who is cursed to be forgotten by everyone she meets after making a deal with the devil to live forever doesn’t sound incredible? I love VE Schwab’s adult books so much and I can’t wait to finally get to read this one.

6. The Tower of Nero (Trials of Apollo #5)-Rick Riordan

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I haven’t read the fourth book yet, but I’m still excited/slightly sad for this one as it will probably be my last Rick Riordan book (at almost 24, I’m just feeling a little old for them now) but I have loved his books over the years and I’m really looking forward to seeing how this series ends.

7. The Book Of Two Ways-Jodi Picoult-Releases 20th October

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I always get very excited for new Jodi Picoult books, and I just got approved for this one on Netgalley! This one sounds just as interesting as always, a death doula (someone who helps people die) has a near death experience and subsequently has to choose between returning to her life and exploring a path she could have taken over a decade earlier.

8. Kingdom of The Wicked-Keri Mansicalco-Releases 27th October

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I really enjoyed Kerri’s Stalking Jack The Ripper series, so naturally I’m excited to see what she does next. This book sounds awesome as well, a murder mystery set in Italy following two witch sisters, one who is killed, the other who is searching for vengeance on her murderer.

9. These Violent Delights-Chloe Gong-Releases 17th December

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I am not usually a Romeo and Juliet girl as I hate how some people romanticise that story (it’s a tragedy guys, not the kind of romance we should be aspiring to) but this one sounds brilliant: it’s a retelling set in 1920s Shanghai where Juliette is heir to a criminal network and has to work with her greatest enemy in order to stop a monster from taking over the city.

10. The Nobleman’s Guide To Scandal and Shipwrecks-Mackenzi Lee-1st December

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This was meant to come out in August but has been pushed back to December. I’m so excited to see what the Goblin is like as a teenager and see what Monty and Felicity are getting up to as adults.

So there we go, my most anticipated books for the rest of 2020. What books are you looking forward to for the rest of this year? Do we share any? Let me know in the comments!

I’ll be back next week with another Top Ten Tuesday, this time I’m going to be going slightly off topic and talking about my Top Ten Series Enders, to go with my most recent discussion post about what makes a satisfying series finale.

 

 

Jo Talks Books: What Makes A Satisfying Series Finale

Hi everyone! I hope you’ve all been doing well since my last post, things are finally starting to head back to somewhat normal here and though I have still been largely staying at home, it has been really nice to finally get to see my friends in person in the last couple of weeks, it really does make a difference.

Anyway, it’s almost the end of June, and for my discussion post this month I’m going to be talking about final books in a series and what makes for a satisfying one. This is your advance warning that there may be spoilers ahead for several series finales so if you don’t like spoilers you may want to stop reading now.

I specifically didn’t want to say “good” because I think you can have a book that is technically well written that doesn’t necessarily feel satisfying, or you can have a book that might be good but doesn’t necessarily work out the way you would like it to. Satisfaction is a very objective thing and what is satisfying for one reader might not be satisfying to another.

The most important thing for any satisfying end to a series is that the characters achieve their overarching goal. Any series of books usually has characters working towards a specific aim which they have been building towards throughout, so obviously the most important thing for a series finale to be satisfying is that the characters reach their goal. If Harry Potter had ended with Voldemort taking over, that wouldn’t have been a satisfying finale after seven books of build up would it? No. This doesn’t mean that there can’t be obstacles to getting there, after all you don’t want things to be too easy for the characters, but ultimately, as readers, we do want to see the characters we’ve invested our time in to fail.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that every story needs to have a happy ending to be satisfying though. It depends on the story, not every story fits a happy ending and sometimes a sad ending might be more satisfying because it works better for the book. For an example of one that went wrong, the ending of Allegiant fitted the story because it worked for Tris’ character but it wasn’t a satisfying ending because it was done in a way that felt really anti-climactic and the story as a whole was pretty dull.

In contrast, A Conjuring of Light, the final Shades of Magic book, doesn’t have exactly a sad or a happy ending, it’s more of a bittersweet ending but it works perfectly: the characters all end up where they are meant to be, but that sends them all in different directions and it feels just as sad saying goodbye as the reader as it does for the characters.

I read a lot of fantasy so one thing I’m kind of expecting in a series finale is character deaths. It sounds strange to say that a book needs to have characters die to be satisfying and it’s not necessarily true for all series finales: if I read a contemporary series (which are pretty rare) I probably wouldn’t be expecting anyone to die. However, when reading fantasy, it’s pretty common that there is some kind of war or battle or bad guy to defeat and if no one dies then it kind of feels like a cop out.

That being said, it’s no use being like “well I have to kill off a character, so I’ll just go with this side character that no one cares about”. Readers have to have an emotional connection, feel attached, otherwise the character death will mean nothing and you’ll be left thinking “Well why should I care”?”.

For instance, one of my major problems in Hero At The Fall, the final book in the Rebel of The Sands trilogy, is that though there are many character deaths, none of them really hits you. Even when it happened to a character I really liked, it’s presented in such a detached way that I didn’t really feel anything.

On the other hand, you have Mockingjay, where the two biggest deaths in that book are two people that Katniss really cares for (I’m sure you guys probably know who I’m talking about but I am trying to keep this as spoiler free as possible) and those deaths really hit because we KNOW why we should care for those characters and we do, so we feel the emotional impact.

This depends on the person that you’re asking but for me, closure is vital for a series finale to feel satisfying. That doesn’t mean that you have to close all the threads in your story, if you want to leave room for sequels then that’s fine, but I think it needs to feel closed in a way that people will feel satisfied if there was no more. One of my favourites for this is the final book in the Percy Jackson series, The Last Olympian. The book ends with the characters fulfilling their goals and Percy and Annabeth becoming a couple, and had Rick Riordan decided not to do the spinoff series, then it would have still ended in a pretty great place. I am definitely all for authors writing more series in the worlds they have created, but I do think that each series should feel like it has a self-contained arc that provides closure for the readers.

Personally, finishing a series and feeling like there are massive loose ends, even if I know there is a spin off coming is one of the most frustrating things for me as a reader. I do not want to feel like I’ve been left with more questions than answers when I’m done with a series. I’m not saying an author has to answer absolutely every question I have, but I don’t want to be left with anything major hanging open because if the author doesn’t come back to the world then I don’t want to feel like I have burning questions.

For example, The Blood of Olympus kind of annoyed me in this respect, because it didn’t feel like there was much closure for the characters at all in the end of that one and at that point, I didn’t know that the Apollo series was going to happen, so if that had been the last I’d seen of those characters, I wouldn’t have been very happy (and yes, I realise I’ve used two Rick Riordan books in one post, but hey, sometimes authors stick the landing and sometimes they don’t).

To be satisfying a series finale also needs to honour the characters’ development. Characters change over the course of a series and if a character is ending a series in the same place that they started, then they’ve not gone anywhere and the series doesn’t feel worth it. The final book in the Unwind Dystology does a really good job of this, both Connor and Lev change so much over the course of the series, and the decisions they make in the final book show just how much they have changed from the people they were in the first book. The Artemis Fowl series also does a really great job of this, Artemis’s character arc is one of the best things about that series and the way the series ends really shows off that.

Most importantly of all, the ending of a series has to feel EARNED and it has to fit with what has come before. There’s nothing I hate more than a deus ex machina in the final book of a series to get the characters to where they’re meant to be. When reading a series, you’ll probably have spent several years  with a group of characters (depending on the gaps between the books and if you read them as they are coming out or if you binge) so you want to feel like the characters have earned the ending they get.

You don’t want to feel like the author has written their way into a plot hole and has had to magic their way out of it (Libba Bray and The King of Crows, I’m looking at you), it needs to make sense with what has come before.

For instance, and I know a lot of people won’t agree with me on this, but I think the ending of Mockingjay works well, it fits with the book because it’s not totally a happy ever after (Katniss still has trauma to deal with) but Katniss finally gets to live her life in peace and the promise of a better future which doesn’t involve anyone she loves ever being hurt by the Games again.

So there we go, those are my thoughts on what makes a satisfying series finale. What do you think, what do you need to make the last book in a series satisfying? What are your favourite series finales? Let me know in the comments (please attach spoiler warnings if you are going to use specific examples)!

I don’t know what my Jo Talks post for next month will be, so I guess you’ll find out when I post it! In the meantime, my regular Top Ten Tuesday post will going up tomorrow as usual, so keep an eye out for that.

 

 

 

 

Book Vs Movie: Artemis Fowl

Hi everyone! It’s almost the end of June, so I’ve just got time to fit in this month’s Book Vs Movie post. You’re all in luck this month as I’ll be filling you all in on my incredibly salty thoughts about THAT Artemis Fowl movie (yeah you guys thought the Percy Jackson movie was bad, just you wait).

Book Thoughts:

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I read Artemis Fowl way back when I was 14, borrowed from the school library and I really loved it. The whole idea of the main character in the series being the villain was brilliant and it was a really fun, slightly off-beat and exciting adventure. I loved all of the magical creatures as well, and completely devoured all of the subsequent books in the series.

Movie Thoughts:

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JUST WHAT THE HELL? It’s not even just that this is a bad adaptation of the book, it’s just a terrible movie altogether. They completely missed the point of Artemis’ character by making him seem like the good guy (he is categorically not and that’s THE WHOLE POINT OF THE BOOK) and added to that they completely change the plot?

It’s barely even recognisable from the book and it doesn’t even make sense? So it’s bad for people who have read and enjoyed the book and bad for new viewers as well. They also whitewashed Holly Short, which hello? HAVE WE LEARNED NOTHING? It was so disappointing especially given the extended wait we’ve had for this film.

Movie or Book judgement:

Unsurprisingly, the book was better here, honestly the movie is probably one of my least favourite adaptations.

That’s it for this month’s Book Vs Movie, I will be back next month, this time I’ll be talking about Divergent and it’s movie adaptation.