Monthly Roundup

Monthly Roundup: March 2017

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Every first Wednesday of the month, Iโ€™ll be posting a roundup of the month just gone, including discussing books read that month, challenge progress, and a summary of all posts for the month.

Last month I read a total of fifteen books: Red Sister (Book of the Ancestor #1) by Mark Lawrence, How To Be Bad by E. Lockhart, Lauren Myracle & Sarah Miynowski,
Life and Death by Stephanie Meyer, Glass Sword (Red Queen #2) by Victoria Aveyard, Drakenfeld (Drakenfeld #1) by Mark Charan Newton, The Named (Guardians of Time #1) by Marianne Curley, The Dark (Guardians of Time #2) by Marianne Curley, The Key (Guardians of Time #3) by Marianne Curley, The Strain (The Strain #1) by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan, A History of the World in 100 Objects by Neil MacGregor, Galactic Pot Healer by Philip K. Dick, A Man Lies Dreaming by Lavie Tidhar, Bastard Prince by Beverley A. Murphy,
Magus of Stonewylde (Stonewylde #1) by Kit Berry and The Still Point by Amy Sackville.

March was an odd month for reading. Before I moved, I wanted to read a load of books from my pile of ‘read then donate’ books – these are ones that I’ve probably bought second-hand and don’t reckon I’ll love enough to keep. I was definitely right, and found myself with quite a few disappointing reads. However, this did mean that I got quite a lot of reading done, and managed to squeeze fifteen books into the month!

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve now moved and started a new job. This is one of my first posts in two weeks or so, and posts might be slow for a bit, just while I’m getting used to everything. However I’ve got some recently read review copies, so hopefully I’ll be sharing my thoughts on those soon. ๐Ÿ™‚

Challenge progress:

  • I have currently read 44 books towards my Goodreads goal of 52. Still unsure whether to raise this when I hit it, or not…

 

Currently reading:

How was March for you?

Review

Review: Red Sister (Book of the Ancestor #1) by Mark Lawrence

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5 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

I received a copy of this book for free from the author, in exchange for an honest review.

Red Sister is the third of Mark Lawrence’s books that I’ve read – and you know what they say, third time lucky. That was definitely the case here, as I completely fell in love with the book. I wasn’t the biggest fan of Prince of Thorns, which I read with my online book group, but I enjoyed Prince of Fools a lot more. However, Red Sister just completely blew me away.

I can’t resist a good origin story, nor stories containing assassins, and Red Sister is both of these. It follows a young girl called Nona, who ends up at the Convent of Sweet Mercy after several unfortunate events. However, this is not any old convent, and the Sisters are not normal nuns. Many are ‘Red Sisters’, trained in the arts of fighting, and this is what Nona is on the path to become. Just look at this opening line:

It is important, when killing a nun, to ensure that you bring an army of sufficient size.

Doesn’t that just intrigue you? I read the first 170 pages of the book in one sitting, absolutely enthralled by the world Lawrence had created, and what Nona was going through. Nona as a character is quite mysterious for much of the novel, she is perhaps almost as unfamiliar to the reader as she is to her classmates, but that certainly kept me reading. One of the things that made me eager to read this book was that it was centered around female characters, rather than a largely male cast. And within this cast of women and girls, there are some fantastic characters. Nona’s friends and their relationships are great, with rivalries soon becoming friendships. The Nuns are an interesting bunch – some kind, others cruel – so basically just like real teachers!

I have to admit that when I first started reading the book, I hadn’t realised that the protagonist was so young. However, this was not an issue – she therefore has plenty of room to develop, and due to the conditions in which she has grown up, she is very headstrong and mature for her age. I suppose in the sort of world that many of them have grown up in, childhood ends very early. The book is quite slow, and not much really happened in terms of ‘big’ events during the first half. This, to me, was actually pretty perfect. It meant I really got to explore the world Lawrence had created, learn along with Nona and her friends, and I got to see more of the ‘school’ setting (another story element I love!). There were flashes of the future in between, showing a huge and possibly catastrophic event, which only made me want to read even faster, even more in one setting to find out how this could happen.

Overall, Red Sister was an absolutely fantastic read, definitely one of the best series openers I have read in a while, and one of my top reads of 2017 thus far. Mark Lawrence has created something completely different from his other books with this series, so even if you did not get along with his other work I would absolutely recommend that you try Red Sister. If it’s already on your ‘to read’ list, then hurry up and grab a copy! I’m already anticipating book two, but looks like I’ll be waiting a while – so maybe I’ll continue on with Lawrence’s The Red Queen’s War series, to tide me over.

I also just want to extend my thanks to Mark Lawrence himself, who got in touch with me via Facebook to offer me a (signed!) ARC. I was ecstatic to receive this message, and so glad for the opportunity to read this book. I also need to thank Mark for being responsible for quite a bit of my blog traffic – a while ago he linked to my review of Prince of Fools on Reddit, as a review by someone who enjoyed the book but did not like Prince of Thorns. I’m still receiving blog traffic from that Reddit post, so thank you, Mark! ๐Ÿ™‚

Monthly Roundup

Monthly Roundup: February 2017

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Every first Wednesday of the month, Iโ€™ll be posting a roundup of the month just gone, including discussing books read that month, challenge progress, and a summary of all posts for the month.

Last month I read a total of eight books: The Left Hand of God (The Left Hand of God #1) by Paul Hoffman, Drums of Autumn (Outlander #4) by Diana Gabaldon, Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly, Red Queen (Red Queen #1) by Victoria Aveyard, Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne, The 5th Wave (The 5th Wave #1) by Rick Yancey, Moranthology by Caitlin Moran and The Humans by Matt Haig.

I continued the Outlander series of books with Drums of Autumn, which was excellent, even if it felt very different to the first two. Revolution was a nice surprise, and I enjoyed it a lot more than expected. Disappointments included Red Queen, which felt very generic and unoriginal, and The Left Hand of God, which just felt like an utter mess.

I start my new job this month (yes I finally got one after two months of dull dull unemployment!), and will finally be moving into a place of my very own – I can’t wait! It’s going to be fun trying to fit my books into a studio flat, but I will try ๐Ÿ˜‰ It also means I’ll be internetless for a few weeks whilst it’s all set up, so I expect I’ll get a lot of reading (and TV watching) done during that time.

 

Challenge progress:

  • I have currently read 23 books towards my Goodreads goal.

 

Currently reading:

How was February for you?

Misc.

A Guide to 2017 Releases

When it comes to listing my most anticipated books for the year, I find it pretty difficult. How am I supposed to restrict my choice to just five or ten books, when thousands are published every year? Instead, I’ve decided to create a comprehensive little guide to the ones I’m most excited about, sorted by genre – with the main focus on science fiction and fantasy, but what else would you expect? ๐Ÿ˜‰ As this post was written in mid-December, by the time it goes live I’ll probably have another 50 or so books I want to add…

Science Fiction

The Massacre of Mankind (War of the Worlds #2) by Stephen Baxter, Empire Games (Empire Games #1) by Charles Stross,
Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty,
The Moon and the Other by John Kessel, The Stars Are Legion by Kameron Hurley, The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi, Pitch Dark by Courtney Alameda, The Refrigerator Monologues by Catherynne M. Valente and Annie Wu, The Wanderers by Meg Howey, All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai, Empress of a Thousand Skies by Rhoda Belleza, Blight by Alexandra Duncan, Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth, A Perfect Machine by Brett Savory, Proof of Concept by Gwyneth Jones, Ball Lightning by Liu Cixin, Change Agent by Daniel Suarez, New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson.

Fantasy

The Winds of Winter (A Song of Ice and Fire #6) by George R.R. Martin, A Conjuring of Light (Shades of Magic #3) by V.E. Schwab, The Bone Witch (The Bone Witch #1) by Rin Chupeco, Crossroads of Canopy (Titan’s Forest #1) by Thoriya Dyer, The People’s Police by Norman Spinrad, Our Dark Duet (Monsters of Verity #2) by V.E. Schwab, Strange the Dreamer (Strange the Dreamer #1) by Laini Taylor, Caraval by Stephanie Garber, Royal Bastards by Andrew Shvarts, Tyrant’s Throne (Greatcoats #4) by Sebastien de Castell, The Heart Of What Was Lost (The Last King of Osten Ard #0.5) by Tad Williams, Red Sister (Book of the Ancestor #1) by Mark Lawrence.

Horror/Thriller

The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel, Dreamfall (Dreamfall #1) by Amy Plum.

Historical Fiction

The Dark Days Pact (Lady Helen #2) by Alison Goodman, The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden, Now I Rise (The Conqueror’s Saga #2) by Kiersten White.

Contemporary

American Street by Ibi Zoboi, The Gallery of Unfinished Girls by Lauren Karcz, City of Saints and Thieves by Natalie C. Anderson.

Which 2017 releases are you most looking forward to? ๐Ÿ™‚

Top Lists

Anticipated Releases 2015

Anticipated Releases 2015

It’s a new year, and with it comes new books and release dates! 2015 looks like it will be a fantastic year for new releases, and I just wanted to share a few (or maybe more than a few…) that I’m really looking forward to. I’m sure I’ll find plenty more between writing and posting this, and then even more during the course of 2015. I’d also love to hear which new books you’re looking forward to the most.

Shadow Scale The Liar's Key The Skull Throne

Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman is the second book in the Seraphina series, the first of which I read last month and really, really enjoyed. Despite not liking Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence as much as I’d hoped, I gave his second series a try and found Prince of Fools much more enjoyable – so I’m looking forward to the sequel, The Liar’s Key. You may have seen me talk about a series called The Demon Cycle, written by Peter V. Brett, a lot – and the fourth book, The Skull Throne is set for release in 2015!

A Darker Shade of Magic Shutter Cannonbridge

I still haven’t managed to get my hands on a copy of Vicious yet so I’ve not sampled Victoria Schwab‘s writing, but A Darker Shade Of Magic sounds amazing nonetheless. I came across Shutter by Courtney Alameda when searching for books to fit the DC vs. Marvel Challenge. It sounds amazing, and reminds me a little of the video game Fatal Frame. I have a copy of Cannonbridge by Jonathan Barnes from Netgalley, and it sounds pretty unique – an infamous 19th century writer who never should have existed, but seems to have influenced the lives of just about everyone.

Those Above No Cover Reawakened

Hodder kindly sent a copy of Those Above by Daniel Polansky to my address in the UK, and I am DEFINITELY taking it back to Leiden with me. It looks like the start of another wonderful epic fantasy series. I may only have read the first book in the series, and will be reading number two soon, but I am still excited for the fifth book in the Mistborn series (which currently has no cover), Shadows Of Self by Brandon Sanderson – although there is no exact date within 2015 as of the current moment. Reawakened by Colleen Houck looks like it could either be really great or absolutely awful… but it’s about Egyptian mythology so yes, I will be reading it!

See How Small A Court of Thorns and Roses The Galaxy Game

Another one that I have from Netgalley, See How Small by Scott Blackwood sounds like it might be along the lines of something like The Lovely Bones. I really should have listed A Court Of Thorns And Roses by Sarah J. Maas first, because I am SO EXCITED FOR THIS ONE! I am completely in love with her writing, and I’m ecstatic that she has written another series. And finally, last but not least, The Galaxy Game by Karen Lord looks to be an epic science fiction novel. It’s a standalone, but is set in the same universe as her previous work.

What releases are you looking forward to during 2015?

Monthly Roundup

Monthly Roundup: June 2014

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Every first Wednesday of the month, Iโ€™ll be posting a roundup of the month just gone, and writing about whatโ€™s to come in the next few weeks.

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Last month I read a total of thirteen books: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, X-Force Vol 2: Old Ghosts by Craig Kyle, Ultimate X-Men: Ultimate Collection Vol 1 by Mark Millar, The Quick by Lauren Owen, Marvel 70th Anniversary by Stan Lee, Prince of Fools (The Red Queen’s War #1) by Mark Lawrence, Uncanny X-Men: Divided We Stand by Ed Brubaker, Dangerous Days in the Roman Empire by Terry Deary, Blood and Beauty by Sarah Dunant, Mother Tongue by Bill Bryson, The Three by Sarah Lotz, Boy21 by Matthew Quick and Brave New World by Aldous Huxley.

I’m still reading Marvel comics! There are suddenly a lot more available on the county library system, so I’m making use of it while I still can. My standout book of the month was definitely Blood and Beauty by Sarah Dunant, about the Borgia family. I find them fascinating, and this account of their lives (albeit partly fictionalised) was just brilliant. Brave New World was my book group’s Sci-Fi Book of the Month – unfortunately I didn’t get round to our fantasy choice, but I’m hoping to read it this month.

 

Challenge progress:

  • I read four books towards the Avengers vs. X-Men Challenge and fully recruited Storm, contributing three bonus points to my team. I also managed to defeat Loki for an extra three bonus points! July’s villain is no other than the notorious Dr. Doom, and I already have my books planned to defeat him. They’re all ARCs waiting for review – even better!
  • I raised my Goodreads goal to one hundred books, and have currently read eighty-four towards that goal.

 

Currently reading:

Alias Hook by Lisa Jensen

Off the blog:

June has been STRESSFUL – hence a lack of posts towards the end, as well as lack of commenting on other blogs. If you saw my post on accommodation last week – well I think it’s sorted. I’ve finally been able to reserve a room. But the email says they’ll let you know at the latest five days before the move in date whether it’s approved. FIVE DAYS?? What if you get rejected? I expect they rarely reject anyone unless they’re not a student and have somehow got through the system – but WHAT? What if you’re rejected, how do they think you’ll find somewhere else in five days, because all other student accommodation will have gone by then. Ugh. Well… if all goes to plan, I have myself my own little apartment in Leiden. A little further than I thought from the faculty, about a 10-15 min bike ride/25 minute walk to the centre, but it’s somewhere to live! And an actual apartment to myself. And of course I’ve nosed around the area on Google Maps, and it looks lovely ๐Ÿ™‚ Now that it’s sorted, I feel like I can get on with making other arrangements for Leiden.

Oh, and I also discovered a new love for Jane Eyre, which I re-read for the first time in seven years after reading it at school. I watched the newer film version with Michael Fassbender and Mia Wakowski, and the soundtrack is just GORGEOUS.

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How was June for you? Hopefully less stressful than mine!

Review

Review: Prince of Fools (The Red Queen’s War #1) by Mark Lawrence

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4 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

When Prince of Thorns was chosen as my book group’s Fantasy Book of the Month, I read it with great excitement, only to be rather, well… disappointed. I’d heard so much about the series and Lawrence’s writing, and I was sad that it just didn’t work for me. The main issue was Jorg himself – so when I heard about a new series from the author, based around a completely different character, I jumped at the chance to sample some more of his writing. And this time? I understood what all those other bloggers and readers had been talking about!

Whilst Jal is not your ‘typical’ hero, that’s kind of the whole point. He’s a spoilt brat of a prince, a womaniser, selfish and thoughtless and honestly a bit of a coward. But that’s what makes this book so fun – Jal manages to get himself into all sorts of trouble, with his mischievous personality and witty, dry sense of humour. It was so refreshing to have a hero who wasn’t the ‘chosen one’ or ‘pure’. Although he has his flaws, he is a good person deep down and visibly develops along his journey. Snorri as a companion of Jal worked really well: the two juxtaposed in terms of size and morals – Jal as a manipulative young man who is just living for the day, and Snorri as a loyal and protective father and husband despite his burly and sometimes terrifying appearance. Snorri’s back story was really heartbreaking. He was built up to be this threatening, violent Viking and then we saw his true side and the whole reason he was on a journey.

As for the setting, I always found the sudden contrast between the medieval feel of the culture and the sudden modern elements that were introduced towards the end of Prince of Thorns to be a bit… well, odd. But this time round I enjoyed it much more, particularly because there was a major concentration on mythology and legend.

I feel like Prince of Fools contains some of the funniest, most self-deprecating lines in fantasy fiction (apart from perhaps the work of Terry Pratchett!), with Jal’s frequent quips and fast wit. It had me laughing out loud, which I have to say, fantasy fiction does not often manage. Some of this was achieved from the post-apocalyptic world itself, e.g. as Jal and Snorri make their way along a train track towards a tunnel, Jal thinks to himself that a train must have been a fearsome beast to have had the strength to plough a hole through the mountain.

I’m so glad I got a review copy of this one, as it gave me another chance to try out Mark Lawrence’s writing – which I enjoyed a whole lot more this time. I’m definitely up for reading the rest of the book in the series, although I hope the ending of Prince of Fools doesn’t open up an opportunity for Jal to become more like Jorg…