Top Ten Tuesday #194

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Hi everyone! I hope you’ve all had a good week since I last did one of these, I’m back at Uni now (as of Sunday)  and I’ve got to be honest, it’s a bit weird not having classes this semester, like I actually have to motivate myself to work now, what? Anyway, I’m not doing too badly, I’m still in the emailing phase of my project, but it feels like I’m getting stuff done and laying the groundwork for the actual writing, so I’m not panicking yet.

Anyway, since it’s Tuesday, I have another Top Ten Tuesday for you all, courtesy of Jana over at That Artsy Reader Girl. Today we’re talking about our favourite New To Me Authors We Read In 2018, which is always one of my favourite topics every year, because I love sharing all the amazing new authors that I get to read every year, it’s one of the best parts of being a reader, discovering new authors to love. Now obviously not every new author I read last year was one whose books I loved, so I’m going to stick to just sharing the authors that I’m likely to read more books from:

  1. Tomi Adeyemi-Author of Children of Blood and Bone

Tomi Adeyemi’s debut novel was one of my favourite books of last year, it just completely blew me away with the characters, the world-building, everything about it. I am so excited to see what she has in store next for Zelie and Amari when Children of Virtue and Vengeance comes out in March.

2. Nadine Brandes-Author of Fawkes

Nadine Brandes’ historical fantasy was another of my favourite books of last year, the magic system with different colours being controlled by masks and the way that she integrated that into a retelling of the Gunpowder Plot was so ingenious, I can’t wait to see what she does with the Romanovs in her next historical fantasy retelling Romanov.

3. Laura Steven-Author of The Exact Opposite of Okay

Laura Steven’s debut was yet another of my favourite books of last year (there seems to be a pattern here), it was hilarious and truthful and just wonderfully angry and feminist and my god I love Izzy O’Neill so much. I can’t wait to see what Izzy does next when A Girl Called Shameless comes out in March.

4. Sara Holland-Author of Everless

I loved Sara Holland’s fantasy debut, it was another of my favourite books of last year (I promise I will stop saying that eventually!), I loved the creativity of the magic system, with time being used as currency, I thought it was awesome. I’m looking forward to finding out what happens in the conclusion to this duology when I read Evermore.

5. Jaime Questell-Author of By A Charm and A Curse

Jaime Questell’s debut was another of my favourite books of 2018, it was such a unique take on the Circus themed story, being kind of a cross between Pinocchio and Disney princesses and it was super fun to read a standalone fantasy for a change, since I am nearly always reading fantasies as part of a series.

6. Amanda Foody-Author of Daughter of The Burning City and The Shadow Game series

I really loved getting the chance to dive into Amanda Foody’s weird little dark tales last year and I cannot wait to red more of them. Daughter of The Burning City was a super fun magical murder mystery set in a carnival and Ace of Shades was a great mobsters mixed with magic book. I can’t wait to see what happens next with Enne and Levi in King of Fools.

7. C.G. Drews-Author of A Thousand Perfect Notes

Yes, it’s Cait! I won’t say that A Thousand Perfect Notes was my favourite read of the year, but it was a really solid debut and of course, I love Cait’s blog and she’s been talking about becoming an author for so long, so I’m so happy that it finally happened for her. I’m looking forward to following her career for hopefully many years to come!

8. Jennifer Mathieu-Author of Moxie

I really enjoyed Moxie when I read it back in March, I thought it was a really fun, feminist book, even if probably aimed a little bit more at new feminists than at me, so I’m quite looking forward to seeing what else Jennifer Mathieu comes out with.

9. Sally Nicholls-Author of Things A Bright Girl Can Do

I thought Things A Bright Girl Can Do was a really cool take on the suffragettes, and though it could have been better, I enjoyed it enough that I’d quite like to check out some of Sally Nicholls back catalogue, and will be looking out for whatever she releases next.

10. Matt Killeen-Author of Orphan Monster Spy

I appreciated that Matt Killeen did something different with a WWII story, since the market for those is so saturated, it’s difficult to find a new and interesting take. I won’t say that Orphan Monster Spy is one of my favourite books, but it intrigued me enough that I will be quite happily picking up the sequel.

So there we go, the best New To Me Authors I Read In 2018! Did you read any of these authors in 2018? Did you enjoy their books? Let me know in the comments!

I will be back next week with a new TTT, this time we’ll be talking Books We Meant To Read In 2018 But Didn’t Get To (Ooh boy, list of shame time, I’m excited!), so yeah, be prepared for probably a quite lengthy list next week!

I finished my first book of 2019 on Sunday, so I will have a review of that book, Siege and Storm up for you guys pretty soon, stay tuned for that!

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Firestarter (Timekeeper #3) Review (e-ARC)

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Book: Firestarter (Timekeeper #3)

Author: Tara Sim

Published by: Sky Pony Press

Expected Publication: 15th January (TOMORROW!)

Format: e-book

Bechdel Test: FAIL-All female characters conversations revolve around Danny and the one conversation that would count is not with a named female character. A shame because there are so many amazing women in this book.

I received this book for free via Edelweiss, as always, this in no way affected my opinion of this book.

As always, thank you to Edelweiss and Sky Pony for allowing me to read this book early, the Timekeeper trilogy has become one of my favourites over the past three years, so it was amazing to be able to read Firestarter a few months before release date.

Chainbreaker was one of my favourite books of 2017, so of course I was highly anticipating Firestarter and leaped at the chance to get it from Edelweiss, as the series isn’t published in the UK (which it totally should be, get on it UK publishers!). There’s always an element of apprehension going into a series finale, because you’re terrified that the story will end in an unsatisfying way, but luckily this wasn’t the case here. Tara Sim created the most beautiful, heartwrenching, epic finale of a book and I am so pleased that Danny and Colton’s journey came to such a glorious conclusion in this book. Here is a short synopsis of the book:

The crew of the Prometheus is intent on taking down the world’s clock towers so that time can run freely. Now captives, Colton, Daphne, and the others have a stark choice: join the Prometheus’s cause or fight back in any small way they can and face the consequences. But Zavier, leader of the terrorists, has a bigger plan–to bring back the lost god of time.

As new threats emerge, loyalties must shift. No matter where the Prometheus goes–Prague, Austria, India–nowhere is safe, and every second ticks closer toward the eleventh hour. Walking the line between villainy and heroism, each will have to choose what’s most important: saving those you love at the expense of the many, or making impossible sacrifices for the sake of a better world.

The first thing I have to talk about when it comes to this book is the writing. Tara Sim has such a beautiful way with words, every word is wielded to yield maximum emotion from the reader and damn does she do that well. The opening to this book was just so incredibly beautiful and there were some places where I just wanted to cry because the language evoked such emotion. Tara Sim is truly a master of her craft and I wish I could write that well! I will say there was a chapter towards the end with some rather creative word presentation that I didn’t love but aside from that: AMAZING.

I have to say Tara Sim is an evil genius, because she leaves the cliffhanger from Chainbreaker hanging over our heads for several chapters of Firestarter, and I swear I was holding my breath until I found out that Danny was okay!

The characters are, as ever, completely amazing. Danny and Colton have both grown so much since the first book, and whilst their relationship suffers many, many obstacles in this book (as it should be), it is still wonderful to see them together, and seeing them face the possibility of losing each other was heartbreaking. It was nice to see them back together in this book after they spent most of Chainbreaker apart.

Daphne as well has had to go through such a journey over the course of the three books and I was so glad that she had a big part to play in this final book because she has become one of my favourite characters. I was glad that she didn’t immediately forgive Akash and that he really had to work for forgiveness after his actions in the last book, because it made their reconciliation so much more earned.

We get to see a lot more of Zavier in this book (after only really seeing him at the end of Chainbreaker), and I have to admit, he was a very intriguing villain/anti-hero. He comes off as very “getting in the way of the good guys” to start off with but as we find out more about him through the book, he has his own reasons for acting the way he does and he’s not as nefarious as first thought. He actually really reminded me a lot of Danny, something that Danny himself acknowledges in the book, so seeing the two of them interact was quite something and it was nice to see them go from hatred to grudging respect.

As always, the diversity in this series is AMAZING. We have several POC characters, Daphne, who is biracial, and Meena and Akash who are Indian, we have Danny and Colton who are gay and pansexual respectively, we have several other casual queers, we have disabled characters (Zavier and Danny at the end) it’s amazing to see diversity so naturally included in a book series.

There are a few sex scenes between Danny and Colton in this, which I usually don’t like, but Tara Sim writes them really well and they never feel awkward (unless that is the intention), unlike in some other YA books that I’ve read and it’s so great to see on page gay sex.

There were some uncorrected proof errors, but I’m sure these will have been sorted in the final copy of the book.

The pacing was so great throughout, there was tension when there needed to be, it was fast paced when it needed to be but we were also given room to breathe and I cared so much about the characters that it didn’t matter if the plot was moving slowly, I was super invested in the story.

Tara Sim is not afraid to pull punches with your emotions, and she did that many times in this book! Being a final book, obviously not everyone makes it out of the trilogy alive, but Sim is so good at make you feel for her characters that every death felt meaningful, everything had emotion and it was just so heartbreaking, yet also wonderful to read.

The chapters were a great length, a nice mix of long and short, which is just what I like!

Even being the final book in a trilogy, there were still several surprises I wasn’t expecting in this book, some pleasant and some not, but what I loved was that nothing in this story was predictable. I was on the edge of my seat till the very last page wanting to see what happened to the characters and the clock towers and even then, I could not have worked out how the book was going to end!

There are some trigger warnings for this book, including blood and self-harming, so just be aware of that before you go into it.

The ending was just…..WOW. I don’t want to go into too much detail as obviously that would be spoiling, but I will say that I think every character got their perfect ending, and that it was an incredibly emotional ending for me, I nearly cried. This was honestly a masterclass in how to do a series finale, the stakes were high, the emotions were higher and in the end, it all tied up in a super satisfactory way. I cannot wait to see what Tara Sim does next, because every book of hers I’ve read has just gone from strength to strength!

My Rating: 5/5

My next review will be of my first read of 2019 (since both reviews I’ve posted so far this year have been 2018 reads), Leigh Bardugo’s Siege and Storm.

Writing Corner: Guest Post-Madeline Dyer on Writing With Chronic Illness

Hi guys! I’m so excited about today’s post, because I actually didn’t write it (except this introduction)! As you can see from the title at the top, this is my first ever guest post for BookLoversBlog, a super exciting step for me and one that I hope can continue because I love getting to connect with other bloggers and writers and have them share their experiences, there is such a wide world of writers out there with different experiences to mine and I want to make sure that is reflected in this feature. 

Which brings me quite nicely onto today’s topic. Madeline Dyer is a YA writer, who has several chronic illnesses, so when she suggested writing a guest post about her experiences of writing with chronic illness, I thought it was a great idea. I hope that any of my followers who are also writers with chronic illness find her advice helpful! So here we go, I hope you enjoy Madeline’s post: 

Being a Writer When You’re Chronically Ill

Ask any writer, and he or she will tell you there are many articles and videos out there, advising us on what we need to do to be a writer. There are checklists you can tick off, schedules you can use to divide up your writing and editing time, and many top tips that other writers swear by. The most popular pieces of advice, in my experience, seem to be ‘write every day’ and ‘treat writing as a job’, as well as ‘don’t give up your day-job’—but when you’re also dealing with a chronic illness, a lot of these tips either don’t apply to your situation or they make you feel like you’re failing because you physically can’t meet the expectations that these articles put on you.

Reading all these articles and lists made me feel as if I could never be considered a proper writer because there were many things on them that I simply couldn’t do as I am chronically ill. The fact of the matter is much of the advice out there assumes that you’re able-bodied and in good health, and when you’re not, it can feel a little bit lonely and discouraging. And, so, I was inspired to write this post, for all the writers out there who are also managing a chronic illness.

Here are my top pieces of advice regarding how to be a writer when you’re chronically ill:

Don’t be hard on yourself if you can’t write every day.

 This is the big one, in my opinion. It’s so easy to think that you should be writing at every available opportunity and thus feel like a failure if you haven’t written that day (or week, or month, etc.). But if you’re having a bad time with your illness and you need to rest, then that’s what you need to do: rest. Don’t push yourself and use up that all-important energy. Your health has to come first, and there’s nothing for you to feel bad about for taking a rest-day instead of working on that manuscript. After all, if you push and push yourself, it’ll take longer to recover and you’ll end up writing less overall.

It’s okay not to write.

Similarly, if you’re not well enough to write at all for a period of time, that’s okay. It doesn’t make you any less of a writer. You are still a writer.

Set Manageable Goals.

On the days when you are well enough to write, set realistic goals that you know you can meet without making your health worse. Before I became chronically ill, I could easily write 5,000 words a day, and often it was closer to 7,000. That was the pace at which I wrote, and I’d feel like I hadn’t done enough if I’d only written 3,000 words.

When I developed chronic illnesses and was diagnosed with ‘invisible’ disabilities and auto-immune disorders, I simply could not keep up that pace without making my health suffer a lot. It was soul-crushing at first, as I could remember how easily I used to write so many words before. I felt like a failure in the one thing (writing) that I thought I could still do (I’d already had to give up many hobbies and activities). But the problem was that I was using my previous goals as a measure of my current success, even though before I was healthy and now I am not. Those word count goals were set before—before the fatigue and the fainting, the brain fog and chronic pain, the headaches and joint dislocations.

I struggle with maintaining an upright posture now, due to dysautonomia, and my fatigue and joint-pain from Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome make writing really difficult. Because of these factors, I’ve had to make my goals more manageable. On my good days, I now aim for around 500-1,000 words, and I know that realistically I’ll only manage this a couple of days a week—and that’s if the week is a good week. Many weeks, I’m unable to write at all, and even on my good days, I can’t go on writing for hours on end, like I used to.

The important thing here is acknowledging that your goals have to change to reflect your health. If you don’t change them, not only will you risk harming yourself by pushing yourself too far, but you’ll also feel terrible when you fail to meet your unreasonably-high expectations.

Physically, I’m not expected to do all the things I used to do—for example, doctors have said that horse-riding and athletics are too dangerous for me now—so it’s important to realise that we can’t be expected to write at the same speed as before too. Chronic illness isn’t something that only affects one part of your life; it affects everything, and adjustments have to be made everywhere.

Let others know what you’re dealing with, where possible. Especially those you work with, such as critique partners and editors.

If you’ve been given a tight deadline that you know is going to be difficult to make, then talk to the other people involved. Let them know you have a chronic illness. Don’t be afraid to talk about it. I’m a firm believer that it’s best to be upfront right from the start about having an illness or condition that could affect your work, so that others don’t place unreasonable expectations on you and so adjustments can be made if needed.

Don’t compare yourself to other writers

This applies to healthy writers too. It’s never wise to compare yourself or the state of your career to that of another. It’s just not a good idea. And it’s especially not a good idea to compare your career to that of an author who’s just completed four book tours, had two books launch this year, and is appearing at all the big cons, if you’re unable to do these things—either at all or at that pace—due to factors which are out of your control.

Whatever you’re managing to do for your writing career, whether it’s writing a paragraph or reading through an edit letter is a huge achievement when you’re managing chronic illness, and I feel like we need to celebrate these things more. So be proud of what you can do despite being chronically ill, and know that your worth isn’t dependent on your productivity.

Know that you’re not alone.

There are many other writers out there who are dealing with chronic illness too, and often just finding them and talking with them can help immensely. It’s certainly helped me feel less lonely, and I’ve been able to swap illness-specific tips with many writers who are also facing similar challenges.

 

Madeline Dyer lives on a farm in the southwest of England, where she hangs out with her Shetland ponies and writes young adult books—sometimes, at the same time. She holds a BA Honors degree in English from the University of Exeter, and several presses have published her fiction. Madeline has a strong love for anything dystopian, ghostly, or paranormal, and she can frequently be found exploring wild places. At least one notebook is known to follow her wherever she goes.

 Discover Madeline’s books at http://madelinedyer.co.uk/fiction/

Madeline’s books: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Untamed-Book-1-Madeline-Dyer-ebook/dp/B01MS5264O/

I hope you all enjoyed Madeline’s post, and if you are a writer, I am looking for more guest posts for this feature, so please get in touch with me via email, jo.ell.x@hotmail.com or Twitter, @iloveheartlandX, if you have an idea that you would like to write about, I want to hear it! The sky’s the limit, you can talk about your books/WIPs, your writing process, things that affect your writing life, basically anything you want. 

I’m going to have a new review up for you tomorrow, it’s finally time to share my review of Firestarter, the last book in the Timekeeper trilogy, as its release date is on Tuesday, so I’m super excited for that. I will also have a new Top Ten Tuesday up on Tuesday, so lots to look forward to in the coming week. As for this feature, I’m hoping to have a post up about how writing for different platforms helps improve my writing before the end of the month, so stay tuned for all of that!

Top Ten Tuesday #193

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Hi everyone! Hope the first week of 2019 treated you all well, mine has been relatively quiet, just preparing interview questions for my Journalism project so I can get a headstart before I get back to Uni. My mum and I also went to see Bohemian Rhapsody at the cinema on Sunday and that was great, so all in all not a bad start to 2019.

Anyway, since it’s Tuesday, I have another Top Ten Tuesday for you all, courtesy of Jana over at That Artsy Reader Girl. As last week’s topic was all about looking back, this week’s, it seems fitting, is all about looking forward. Today we’re talking all about our Most Anticipated Releases For The First Half of 2019 (so January to June, though I may slip a couple of July releases onto the list), which is awesome because there are so many great books coming out this year that I want to talk about. I’m going to be doing this in order of release date rather than order of excitement because otherwise this list would look really messy!:

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  1. King of Scars-Leigh Bardugo-29th January

I already have this preordered, despite the fact I’ve yet to finish the Grisha Trilogy and when I preordered it I hadn’t even met Nikolai yet, but it’s okay, I have now and I love him! I love the Grishaverse and the fact that Nina Zenik, one of my favourite Dregs characters is going to be in this too, makes it already perfection in my eyes.

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2. The Dead Queen’s Club-Hannah Capin-29th January

Surprise, surprise, Jo the Tudor nerd is incredibly excited about a Tudor retelling. There’s so much to be mined from this particular era and whilst I wish I could have a fantasy Tudor retelling, I will take what I can get!

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3. The Priory of The Orange Tree-Samantha Shannon-26th February

Possibly one of my most anticipated releases for the entire year, let alone the next six months. I’ve heard such amazing things already and everything about the book says that I’m going to love it, it’s feminist, it has dragons, part of the world is inspired by the Elizabethan court, not to mention that cover is just DAMN GORGEOUS. I’m still a little apprehensive of how huge it is, especially since I’m still working my way through Kingdom of Ash this year, but I’m looking forward to it anyway.

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4. An Affair of Poisons-Addie Thorley-Releases 26th February

Can I just say I am LIVING for how much historical fantasy is coming out this year? It’s making my little fantasy loving, history nerd heart so happy. This book is set during the reign of Louis XIV and follows seventeen year old alchemist Mira, who unwittingly helps her mother’s Shadow Society poison the king. I cannot wait for this one, it sounds like such a me book!

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5. A Girl Called Shameless-Laura Steven-Releases 7th March

Definitely one of my most anticipated reads for 2019, The Exact Opposite of Okay was one of my favourite books of 2018 and I can’t wait to see what happens next in Izzy’s story this year.

6. Children of Virtue and Vengeance-Tomi Adeyemi-Releases 7th March

Sadly no cover for this one yet, but it’s still one of my most anticipated books of 2019. Children of Blood and Bone was one of my favourite books of 2018 and I have been not so patiently waiting to find out what happens to Zelie and Amari after THAT ending ever since I finished the first book in July, so it’s safe to say that I will probably be devouring this book as soon as it arrives.

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7. Descendant of The Crane-Joan He-Releases 2nd April

Okay, so I have an e-ARC from Netgalley for this one, so I won’t be waiting all the way to release date to read it, but I’m still super excited for it. That cover is so beautiful and I’m looking forward to reading a Chinese inspired fantasy as it’s something that I’ve never read before.

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8. The Devouring Gray-Christine Lynn Herman-Releases 16th April

I’ll be honest, I do prefer the US cover for this one, but since it’s going to be hardback and more expensive than the UK paperback, I’ll probably still end up getting this one. Anyway, this book sounds incredibly good, The Raven Cycle meets Stranger Things and I love this sort of contemporary fantasy/horror mix, so I’m hoping I will enjoy this book just as much as I think I will.

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9. King of Fools-Amanda Foody-Releases 2nd May

I’m so excited for the second Shadow Game book! I really enjoyed the first book, Ace of Shades and I can’t wait to see what happens to Enne and Levi in the next part of their adventures, especially after how the last book ended.

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10. Romanov-Nadine Brandes-Releases 7th May

AGHHH! I loved Fawkes so much when I read it this year, it was another one of my favourite books of 2018 and I’m so glad that Nadine Brandes is coming out with another historical fantasy retelling this year, especially given that it’s about the Romanovs, because I LOVE the Romanovs. Anastasia Romanov + magic=yes please!

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11. Finale-Stephanie Garber-Releases 9th May

One of my most anticipated for the year! I loved Legendary so much last year, it was another of my favourite books of the year and I cannot wait to see how Tella and Scarlett’s story ends up. The stakes were so high at the end of Legendary that I’m sure Finale is going to be a thrilling and magical ride!

12. Crossfire-Malorie Blackman-Releases 4th July

So okay, this one would probably fit better with the second half of 2019’s releases, but I’m so excited for it, I really wanted it to be on this list. WE ARE GETTING A FIFTH NOUGHTS AND CROSSES BOOK. Noughts and Crosses was the series that first got me into YA, I doubt I would have ever become a YA book blogger without it, so I am seriously excited to see what happens in the newest instalment of the Noughts and Crosses series, it’s bound to be amazing-plus I haven’t read a Malorie Blackman book in a while, so I’m just excited to get back into her writing again.

So there we go, my most anticipated books of 2019! Are you looking forward to any of these? What are your most anticipated books of 2019? Let me know in the comments!

I will be back next week with a new TTT, this time we will be talking about the New To Me authors that we discovered in 2018, so that should be great, considering I read some great new authors last year.

I actually don’t have any real plans for the blog this week, since I’ve caught up on everything I meant to post in 2018 and did all of my start of 2019 posts last week, so you guys probably won’t hear from me again until next Tuesday. See you then!

#RockMyTBR December Update (2018) and Wrap-Up

Hi all! I know, I know, me posting 4 times in one week, what is this madness? I wouldn’t get too used to it, I’ll be back to Uni on the 14th and then it’s project, project, project till the beginning of April. I hope you’ve all been having a wonderful New Year so far. As far as years go, 2018 was…..well bad for the world would be an understatement. For me? Well it was actually pretty decent! I’ve started my final year of University and all things going well, will graduate in June. I completed the most of my goals for the year that I have since I started doing them. I’ve met even more amazing authors at YALC, and went to several other great book events, including one with three of my absolute favourite authors in the world back in March and of course the event for Kingdom of Ash in November. I’ve had my friends up to visit here again for our annual Christmas meetup. I’ve been to the Edinburgh Fringe for the first time, and to the European Championships. I’ve done one round of revisions on my novel and am in the middle of the second. I got my first ever byline in a newspaper, a massive step for my future career. I’ve turned 22. I discovered even more new music, TV, authors and movies. Yes there have been not so great parts as well, but overall 2018 was not a bad year at all for me.

Anyway, I’ve been having a great Christmas holiday with my parents and I’m trying to enjoy every minute of it before I go back to Uni and work for my final project really descends on me (I’ve already started it, but mostly the light work of organising interviews). This month went pretty well in terms of reading, I read 3 books, which brought my Goodreads total for the year to 35, meeting my challenge. Would I have liked to read more? Of course, but given how manic the end of the year was for me with fourth year deadlines, I’m pretty darn happy with 35! As with last year, this post will be a tad bit longer than usual, since I’ll be recapping what I read in December, doing a general wrap-up for this challenge for 2018 and looking forward to what I’ll be reading in January, so I hope you stick with me till the end!:

39080732A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult:

This was one of my Netgalley reads for the month (I’ll get to the other later) and one of my favourite reads of the year. I really enjoyed it, it’s definitely up there with my favourite of Jodi Picoult’s books, it handles a really difficult subject with her usual nuance and grace, and was a very powerful and entertaining story. I read this one from November 17th-December 4th. Here is my review of it:

https://jjbookblog.wordpress.com/2018/12/14/a-spark-of-light-review-e-arc/

34397653Our Dark Duet by V.E. Schwab:

This was my #RockMyTBR book for the month, replacing Wonder Woman: Warbringer as I wasn’t really getting into that one. I wasn’t so keen on the first book in this duology, but I enjoyed this one a lot more, the characters were developed better, the plot was more exciting and the ending kicked me in the gut. I read this from 5th-28th December. Here is my review of it:

https://jjbookblog.wordpress.com/2018/12/28/our-dark-duet-monsters-of-verity-2/

42279745The Enchanted Sonata by Heather Dixon Wallwork:

This was my other e-ARC from December and my last read of the year. I enjoyed the concept but felt like the writing style was far more suited for younger readers (and I mean younger than the book was aimed for) than for me. I read this from 5th-29th December. Here is my review of it:

https://jjbookblog.wordpress.com/2019/01/04/the-enchanted-sonata-review-e-arc/

So there we go, my final update of 2018, or first update of 2019 depending on how you look at it! I’ve already put together my list of reads for my 2019 challenge, which is the third post down on the #RockMyTBR Challenge tab, marked #RockMyTBR 2019 Challenge, if you’re interested in seeing what I’m going to be reading for the challenge this year. For the rest of this post, I’m going to recap what I read for this challenge in 2018 and look forward to what I’m going to be reading for the first month of 2019’s challenge.

What I Read This Year (Ranked In Star Order)

  1. Vicious-VE Schwab-4 stars

Honestly, all of my top five this year had a 4 star rating, so it was hard to decide which one to put first, but in the end, I had to go with this one, it was so clever and so wonderfully villainous and I just thoroughly enjoyed it. I can’t wait to hopefully read Vengeful this year!

2. The Language of Thorns-Leigh Bardugo-4 stars

I honestly didn’t think I would rank this one so highly at the beginning of last year, because I’m not a massive short story reader, but Leigh Bardugo’s short stories for the Grishaverse were so wonderfully wicked and dark, and so perfect as a short read that I could fly through just before my exams, that I couldn’t help but love them.

3. The Exact Opposite of Okay-Laura Steven-4 stars

Laura Steven’s debut was everything I wanted it to be, marvellously funny, incredibly feminist and just an all round joy to read, I think I will be babbling about how much I love Izzy O’Neill for a long time to come. I’m so excited for A Girl Called Shameless to come out in March!

4. Our Dark Duet-VE Schwab-4 stars

I wasn’t certain about this one to start off with because I wasn’t a massive fan of This Savage Song, but VE Schwab definitely upped the ante in Our Dark Duet, both with the characters, the world, the plot and that gut wrenching ending-the Dark in the title is certainly not wrong!

5. Night of Cake and Puppets-Laini Taylor-4 stars

This little novella from the Daughter of Smoke and Bone world certainly was enjoyable, it followed Mik and Zuzana on their first date, and I can without a doubt say that I have never had a date as romantic as theirs!

6. Crooked Kingdom-Leigh Bardugo-3.5 stars

I was actually a little disappointed with this one unfortunately. I still loved the Dregs and the whole world Bardugo has created within these books, but I found that this book was a little too convoluted for me, and the pacing was incredibly off.

7. Moxie-Jennifer Mathieu-3.5 stars

Moxie was a fun little read, in terms of feminist YA, I preferred The Exact Opposite of Okay as I felt it was slightly more for already established feminists whereas Moxie is more of a starter feminist book, but that’s okay, we absolutely need both. Moxie was pretty good for what I needed it to be, a nice, short, fun little read but it’s probably not one I’ll be remembering for years to come.

8. Rose Under Fire-Elizabeth Wein-3 stars

Rose was an incredibly hard hitting, emotional read. I really loved the characters and the plot but I did feel like the story was a little too slow paced and there were quite a few far fetched plot contrivances that prevented me from rating the book higher, even though I did really enjoy it and flew through it in about a week.

9. Radio Silence-Alice Oseman-3 stars

Radio Silence was a good story, I think I just read it at the wrong time in my life. Whilst I’m a firm believer that YA can be read by any age, there are some YA books that I find don’t really resonate with me as much now I’m 22 and this was one of them. Had I been 16/17 and going through everything Frances was, I probably would have really related to her but as it was, I found her kind of irritating. I did love the focus on friendship and the diversity of the cast, but the story itself was a little slow paced and repetitive for me.

10. Shadow and Bone-Leigh Bardugo-3 stars

It kills me to have ranked a Leigh Bardugo book so low, but here we are. I think had I read Shadow and Bone before Six of Crows, I might have been more impressed with it, but having seen what Leigh Bardugo can do, Shadow and Bone was a bit of a let down, I couldn’t really connect with Alina and I found the plot incredibly slow paced.

11. Days of Blood and Starlight-Laini Taylor-2.5 stars

This was probably my biggest disappointment of the year. There was none of the lovely whimsicality of the first book, it was all just dark and depressing and Karou and Akiva being incredibly angsty over each other and I couldn’t deal with the gratuitous violence against women and the incredibly slow pace of the story. I still want to read the final book in the trilogy to see how it all ends, but I don’t think I’ll be doing that this year.

So that’s a recap of everything I read for the challenge in 2018, this is what I’ll be reading for the first month of 2018:

Siege and Storm-Leigh Bardugo-My first #RockMyTBR book for 2019 (a nice symmetry here, since Shadow and Bone was my first #RockMyTBR book last year). As you can see, I wasn’t so keen on Shadow and Bone, but I have decided to continue the trilogy because I want to read King of Scars and thus far, I am enjoying Siege and Storm more.

Enchantee-Gita Trelease-My current Netgalley read and OMG, it’s so amazing! I’m really enjoying this one, and if it keeps going as it is at the moment, I’m sensing a possible first five star read for 2019.

Ruin and Rising-Leigh Bardugo-I’m wanting to read both of the final two Grisha books this January so I’m all caught up before King of Scars comes out at the end of the month.

A Curse So Dark and Lonely-Bridget Kemmerer

If I finish Enchantee before the end of the month, which I should, then I’ll be moving onto A Curse So Dark and Lonely, which I’m quite excited for, because it’s a contemporary fantasy version of Beauty and The Beast, which is one of my favourite fairytales, so I should enjoy it!

I’m really pleased with how much I read this year, 35 books, only one down from last year, which is some kind of miracle considering how busy I was towards the end of the year! I also knocked 11 books off my TBR list through doing this challenge, hopefully 2019 will be the year I break the block and manage to finish all 12 though! I’m hoping 2019 will be even better for me reading wise than 2018 was.

How did everyone else’s December reading go? What is your first read of 2019? What did you set your Goodreads Challenge at this year? Let me know in the comments!

The Enchanted Sonata Review (e-ARC)

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Book; The Enchanted Sonata

Author: Heather Dixon Wallwork

Published By: Smith Publicity

Expected Publication: 23rd October (I got approved after publication, I’m not just ridiculously late this time!)

Format: e-book

BECHDEL TEST: FAIL-Clara doesn’t have any direct conversations with other named women that aren’t about the Nutcracker.

Thank you to Smith Publicity and Netgalley for allowing me to read this book, it’s probably not one I would have come across without Netgalley, so I was very grateful to have to chance to read it.

The Enchanted Sonata was the perfect book for me to end my 2018 on, given that it was mostly set at Christmas, I’m not usually one for festive reads, but the timing just worked out really well on this one. It’s a unique little retelling of the Nutcracker Ballet, mixed with elements of The Pied Piper of Hamelin. It’s quite a short, and a relatively enjoyable story, though I would say better for readers perhaps a bit younger than me, the main character is 15, but the story and the writing style would probably be suited more to readers aged 9-12 than older teenagers. Here is a short synopsis of the book:

Clara Stahlbaum has her future perfectly planned: to marry the handsome pianist, Johann Kahler (ah!) and settle down to a life full of music. But all that changes on Christmas Eve, when Clara receives a mysterious and magical nutcracker. 

Whisked away to his world—an enchanted empire of beautiful palaces, fickle fairies, enormous rats, and a prince—Clara must face a magician who uses music as spells…and the future she thought she wanted.

The Enchanted Sonata, a retelling of The Nutcracker Ballet with a dash of The Pied Piper, will captivate readers of all ages.

The opening of the book really captured me, the author starts with a prologue about music and her writing was so lovely there, I couldn’t help but want to read on. Sadly, I didn’t find the writing as captivating all the way through, there were moments were it was just gorgeous but a lot of the time, I felt it was quite simplistic and read more like a children’s book than a YA book-having said that, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, we definitely need more lower YA novels and this book would fit there quite nicely.

I did find the characters quite bland, I didn’t feel like either Clara or the Nutcracker (Nikolai) had all that much personality, and so it was difficult to really understand, or root for them. In contrast, the main villain’s story was actually shaped quite well, and he was given more of a personality and a backstory, so I found that I could feel for him more than I could either of the main characters, which isn’t great when their main goal is to destroy him! I also wouldn’t say I felt that much chemistry between Clara and the Nutcracker, but I suppose that’s difficult to create when one is a human and one is a toy.

I loved the concept for the story, the idea of a Nutcracker retelling is not something that I’ve ever really seen done much before and mixing it with the Pied Piper of Hamelin is something that you wouldn’t think would work, but actually worked really well! All the musical aspects of the book were great as well, you can tell that the author really loves music, because passion just drips off the page when she writes about it.

I liked the whole story within a story idea, so you have Clara in the real world and then you have the world of the Nutcracker and the two sort of combine in this really lovely way, so Clara starts off reading the story of the Nutcracker and then she is transported into it herself, which I thought was really cool. I think the book should maybe not have been used after Clara got to Imperia though, because it kind of felt like a deux ex  machina that whenever she needed to know something, the book would tell her the next part of the story, it felt like nothing she really did was that earned.

There are so many beautiful aesthetics in this book, the sweet store, the trains, the nutcrackers, the snow, everything really does feel like you’ve stepped into the middle of a fairytale which was really lovely.

I did feel for such a short book that it was incredibly slow paced, the book only takes place over a matter of days, basically Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and yet it’s dragged out into 40+ chapters which it didn’t really need to be, because of a lot the chapters have not much happening in them and that just served to make the book feel even longer!

The side characters were also largely quite flat, with the exception of the Nuns from the Abbey of The Indomitable Sisters, I could have read a whole book about them illegally wiretapping and fighting off rats, they were so great!

The ending felt a little bit too neat for me, but it did fit with the story, since it’s a fairytale style story, “and they all lived happily ever after” is pretty much the only way to end it, even if happy ever afters are not my preferred kind of endings. It just felt like everything was all a bit too simple in the end and there wasn’t really enough struggle to make the ending feel deserved.

Overall, The Enchanted Sonata was a nice little Christmas story, and I think if I had found this book at 11 or 12, I would probably have been able to overlook it’s flaws and really get wrapped up in it. As it is, I did enjoy it and I think the concept was incredibly creative, but I don’t think it was executed as well as it might have been.

My Rating: 3/5

 

 

Jo Talks Books: 2019 Reading/Writing/Blogging Goals

Hi all! Happy 2019, I hope you all enjoyed bringing in the New Year, whether you did that curled up in bed at home, or out partying with your friends. I am super excited for a new year on the blog, this is a milestone year for my little blog, as I will have been blogging for 5 years in February, I honestly can’t believe how quickly the time has gone. As always at the beginning of a new year, I’d like to thank everyone who has supported my blog over the past year, and the previous ones, and I hope you all continue to enjoy reading my blog as much as I enjoy writing it!

Anyway, onto the topic of today’s post: since it is a new year, and Top Ten Tuesday doesn’t seem to be doing a goal related topic this year, I thought I would share my 2019 Reading/Writing/Blogging Goals as it’s always something I like to do at the start of a new year, it’s a nice way to set up the year and it gives me something to work towards throughout the year. I’ve done much better on these, since I started framing them as goals rather than resolutions, as I like having things to work towards throughout the year. As with last year, I have a nice mix of blogging, writing and reading goals, hopefully these will keep me busy through 2019:

  1. Complete my Goodreads Challenge

I’ll start off with one of my continuous annual goals, to complete my Goodreads Challenge. I’ve started at 24 books, the same as I did last year, and I ended up at 35 last year, so obviously I’m hoping that I will beat it, but since this year is my dissertation year, I wanted to try and be kind to myself, so if I’m reading more than expected I can put it up, but equally, if I find I have less time than I’d like I can put it down.

2. Complete my #RockMyTBR Challenge

Another annual one, I’ve once again set my #RockMyTBR Challenge at 12 books, and I’d quite like to actually complete all 12 this year, since I’ve finished at 11 for the past two years! Twitter put together another really great list for me this year, so I’m super excited to read all of them.

3. Become a 5 star writer for The National Student

I’ve been writing for The National Student for over a year now, and I’ve written over 70 articles and had nearly 68,000 views, which is amazing, but I’d like to hit that final, elusive milestone of becoming a 5 star writer before I graduate in June.

4. Continue working on revisions for This Is Not A Love Story in order to prepare it for querying

I had a pretty good year working on This Is Not A Love Story, I completed my first round of revisions on it, which was an achievement in itself since it was my first time editing a novel EVER, but this year I want to really try and make headway on my most recent round of revisions, send them back to my Critique Partner and maybe have more revisions underway by the end of the year. I’m determined to try and get this novel ready for querying in the next few years.

5. Read more non-fiction

This year, I’ve acquired quite a lot of non-fiction, specifically feminist non-fiction, and I’d quite like to try and read more of that this year, since obviously I read mostly fiction but I’m really excited for a lot of the non-fiction I got in 2018 and I’d like to try and read at least some of it this year.

6. Catch up on 2018 releases I missed

Another rolling one-it seems I spend every year trying to catch up with books from the previous year! I did manage to read quite a few of my most anticipated 2018 releases which was great, but there’s still quite a lot for me to catch up on, not least trying to finally finish Kingdom of Ash.

7. Unhaul some of my books in preparation for graduation

I’m graduating this year, so of course that means that I will be moving back home, and whilst I do have somewhere to store my books, I’m trying to take this as an opportunity to get rid of some of the books that I may have lost interest in since the time I bought them, and streamline my collection of unread books down to the ones I’m really excited for. This may be a totally ill fated goal since I’m terrible at getting rid of books, but at least the intention is there!

8. Start my Book/Movie comparison feature

Last year, I had an idea for a new feature for the blog, comparing books to their movie adaptations and the response on Twitter for it was pretty great, so I’m going to attempt to start that this year. I might not start it until after I graduate, but I definitely want to try and get it up and running before the year is out.

9. Focus on backlist books 3 years old or more

I’m very aware that I have a lot of books on my shelf from 2015/2016 that I still haven’t read yet and I really want to make a concerted effort to read some of those this year because I don’t want to leave them languishing on my shelves much longer whilst I read all of the shiny new books in existence!

10. Get my Netgalley ratio up to 80%

I ended 2018 with my Netgalley ratio at 71%, which is really great, but this year, I want to finally get my Netgalley ratio up to that all elusive 80%. It might not stay there very long, but I’d love to at least reach it!

11. Try more audiobooks

I used to love reading audiobooks when I was a kid, but for some reason I kind of went off them and I haven’t read any in years, but seeing so much excitement for audiobooks on Twitter has really made me want to get back into them. I am however going to need your help in finding good ones as I haven’t a clue, so if you have any recommendations for great audiobooks, then please leave them in the comments!

12. Have more guest posts on the blog

I really enjoyed doing a few guest posts and interviews for other people’s blogs this year, and I’d really like to get some guest posts on here, especially for my Writing Corner. So if you’re interested in doing a guest post for me, especially if you’re a writer, then please drop me a message on here, Twitter (@iloveheartlandX) or via email, jo.ell.x@hotmail.com and I’ll sort something out with you!

I think that’s plenty of goals to be getting on with for now! Do you set reading, writing, blogging or life goals for the year? If not, then why not? What are your goals for 2019? Do we share any? Let me know in the comments!

I haven’t planned my Jo Talks schedule for 2019 yet, so I don’t know what or when my next discussion post will be up but it will probably be at some point towards the end of the month. I will be doing at least one discussion post a month through the year, I’d love to do two a month if I have time, but I’m not going to promise that this year, since I’m going to be knee deep in dissertation work until April. If there are any specific topics you’d like to see me talk about this year, then please just let me know and I will do my best to accommodate them! Otherwise, I guess you’ll just have to wait and see what I discuss next. In the meantime, I’m going to have a review of my last read of 2018 up in the next few days and my 2018 #RockMyTBR Challenge wrap up, so stay tuned for those!