Wrap-up: April 2018

April was such a stressful month for me, I literally have no idea what happened during these 30 days. Since I had so much work to do for uni, I didn’t get to read as much as I wanted to but those books that I did manage to read, were absolutely wonderful, I think I gave five start to all of them. So these are the books I managed to read in April:

  • The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden (Winternight Trilogy #1)
  • The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
  • The Curse by Jina S. Bazaar (Roxanne Fosch #0.5)
  • Heir of Ashes by Jina S. Bazaar (Roxanne Fosch #1)
  • The Whispering Skull by Jonathan Stroud (Lockwood & Co. #2)

I also managed to reread some of my feel-good novels from the lovely Joss Stirling and these two were the ones I picked:

  • Angel Dares by Joss Stirling (Benedicts #5)
  • Summer Shadows by Joss Stirling (Benedicts #6)

Since I wrote full reviews on most of these books, I won’t get into too much details. Besides all of the books listed above I also read some short stories from Unexpected Magic: Collected Stories by Diana Wynne Jones. Now, I started reading this collection at the beginning of the year but something just seems off about it, I honestly have to struggle to finish a story. I adored the Crestomanci short stories but these are just weird and not my cup of tea. I only have one left, but it’s a pretty long novella, so it will take me some time to finish.

My lovely Benedict brothers brightened my too-dark days and I’m really glad I bought the entire series. I just keep going back to them and when there’s nothing left, I read fanfiction. I normally don’t read fanfiction but this series is the exception and I even wrote two stories myself, about my favourite Benedict brother, Victor. Honestly I have no idea why I’m so obsessed with this series. *sigh*

May is going to be even busier than April so I probably won’t have time to read as much. That’s okay, though, I will catch up during the summer. Now if I had to pick my favourite book of last month, I’d probably pick Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society though I also adored The Bear and the Nightingale. But Guernsey just broke my heart and I know this book will always have a bit of my soul.

Speaking of this absolutely stunning novel, my bookish friend Samanta and I (https://samyinbookworld.wordpress.com/) started our very own book club! And this was the first book we read together. We’ll write a joined post on it somewhere in the (hopefully near) future. And we already decided on what our next read will be. Now we just need to find the time to start reading it.

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Best reading week ever

It’s Saturday morning and I managed to read 2 whole books this week plus finish 2 from last week and I’m planning on reading the fifth one in one sitting today so I start on my number six tomorrow. Did I lock myself in my room or something? Did I move to the middle of the forest or somewhere likewise remote? Nope. I decided to blow off uni for the rest of the week and so I had plenty of time to read.

Funny thing about reading this much – it makes me even more anxious and willing to read. I keep thinking about books (even more than normally) and if I don’t have a book in my hands I literally get nervous. But it’s the good kind of excitement (so far at least). I’m also cat-sitting my sister’s cats Zoya and Oscar this weekend and yesterday little Oscar slept in my lap while I was reading. It was so adorable.

Which books am I binge reading, you ask? The Giver series. I read the first part on Thursday, the second part yesterday and I’m planning on reading the third book today (I haven’t started yet by the way) and so tomorrow I can get to the fourth book. It’s really, really good. They’re not my favourite books and so I don’t adore them (probably because they’re not fantasy novels), but they are still insanely good and the plot twists make my head spin. The only thing that bothers me is the lenght, they are about 200-250 pages long and even though that makes them a quick read, I wish they were a bit longer and more descriptive.

Earlier this week I finished listening to Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets on audio and I started missing Hogwarts terribly but since I have so many books on my physical TBR pile I decided to stop there and not pick up the third book. I’m saving it for tough times. Then I finished reading Power of Three by Diana Wynne Jones and again I really liked it but didn’t love it as much as I expected it. I’m afraid I already read all the best of her work and now I’ll only be disappointed by her other novels. I hate this feeling.

Besides reading I went to the cinema twice this past week. Black Panther was totally amazing because the story was a bit different than your usual superhero plot twist. It instantly became my favourite Marvel film although Iron Man still is my sweetheart because I just love Robert Downey Jr. I also watched The Post which was totally different but likewise amazing. Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks are such talented actors, the only thing that bothered me was the fact that I didn’t quite understand all the background of the story, the politics, but I was still able to follow the story.

Since I’m getting anxious again (no book in my hands) I’ll finish here and start reading. Later in the day I’ll visit the cats again and hopefully they’ll be in a petting mood. I might actually manage to read 10 books this month. That would be a first!

Wrap-up: January 2018

January wasn’t a good reading month for me but I did read some of the books I received for Christmas. I told myself I won’t buy any more books till I read the ones I have at home and I’m sort of sticking to it (for now). So despite being totally stressed out because of uni and exams, I managed to read five books this months and here is the list:

  • Until by Anna B. Doe
  • La Belle Sauvage (The Book of Dust 1) by Philip Pullman
  • Goth Girl and the Ghost of a Mouse by Chris Riddell
  • A Tale of Time City by Diana Wynne Jones
  • All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater

The best book I read this month was without a doubt La Belle Sauvage and you can read my full review here. It was such a great book and I loved going back to Pullman’s worlds and exploring them even further. Pullman is one of those authors who write fantasy as easily as if the magical worlds actually existed and as a reader you dive into their books and wish you could drown in them (well not drown but swim around for as long as possible).  I plan on reading two more books of his this year and of course I am patiently awaiting for the next book in this series.

Until was a romance novel, an easy and entertaining start to the year. The author sent me an ARC of her book and although I read it super fast, it didn’t deliver. I was annoyed with the main character and I hated reading the chapters that were the same as in the first book of this series, because we literally read the exact same conversation just told from a different POV. I found the story to be very typical and filled with cheesy dialogue.

Since I was so stressed out because of school, I picked up a children’s book called Goth Girl and the Ghost of a Mouse which was really funny and hilarious! The illustrations were beautiful and the story far from ordinary. I’ve only known Chris Riddell as the illustrator who works closely with Neil Gaiman so this was the first original story of his that I read. I’ll definitely be picking up more of his books because I am really excited to read about Goth Girl and her future adventures.

As you all probably already know (I do repeat this A LOT) Diana Wynne Jones is one of my favourite fantasy writers and this month I read her novel A Tale of Time City. This book wasn’t as good as some of her other work but nevertheless I enjoyed myself immensely. I love reading children’s literature, especially fantasy stories because the main focus is on magic and happy endings are a must.

The last book I read this month was All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater. Although I am a huge fan of hers, I didn’t like this book as much as I thought I would. Perhaps the timing was off, because when I was reading it my anxiety was all over the place and I couldn’t really relax enough to just enjoy the book. Or maybe it was because I loved The Scorpio Races so much that I set the bar too high. Anyhow, I liked this book (I highlighted a lot of paragraphs) but I didn’t love it as much as Stiefvater’s other books.

I’m currently reading Sherlock Holmes’ Best Cases or something like that (still, I know) and Uprooted by Naomi Novik which is so great, I read like half of the book yesterday evening because I just couldn’t stop. It reminds me a little of Howl’s Moving Castle, at least the main story, the frame of it, but it’s really good and I love the magical elements in it.

Hopefully February will be a better reading month for me but I’m definitely sticking to fantasy because I’m in that kind of mood. One cup of magic for me, please!

A Tale of Time City by Diana Wynne Jones

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As a huge DWJ fan I wasn’t all that impressed by this book. I’m not saying that it wasn’t good because it was, it was really good but it wasn’t absolutely amazing like Howl’s Moving Castle or Fire and Hemlock. Since I know what the author is capable of, I was sort of let down by the story. It is still excellent and by far better than most fantasy novels written today but I know what Diana Wynne Jones looks like at her best and this just wasn’t it. It lacked something, just a little something that would make me fall instantly in love with the story.

The novel takes place at the beginning of WWII when children were evacuated to the countryside. One of them was a girl called Vivian Smith who finds herself kidnapped by a boy called Jonathan and taken to Time City which exists outside of history. She is literally taken from the train station where she was supposed to meet her aunt and then she enters Time City by walking through a brick wall (ses, this book was written before Harry Potter). There she teams up with Jonathan and Sam, who is boy genius, and together they try to save the city from ruin. The story cointans lots of time travel, funny dialogues and intriguing characters. Once again the children try to save the world and they end up doing quite the opposite.

Sam was probably my favourite character because he is such a lazy genius; he can invent and do so much yet he craves butter pies and ends up eating so many of them that he gets sick for days (then again he is only eight years old). The plot twist was rather unexpected and so were the villains, I kept wondering who could be at fault but I didn’t guess right, not once! Diana Wynne Jones always surprises me like that. I didn’t love the characters as much as I did in her other novels though and I thinks that is why I didn’t give 5 stars to this book.

The second part of the story which contains visits of different time periods (all of them in the far future) was a bit boring, I wasn’t really interested in the variety of scenarios but the ending was fast paced (perhaps a bit too much) and it kept me on my toes at all times. I would’ve liked to have seen more of that before the final 50 pages which were filled with action and revelations.

The introduction to this edition was written by Ursula Le Guin who passed away two day ago. Like Diana Wynne Jones she was also a queen of fantasy and science fiction and in my opinion both of them deserved more appraisal and recognition. Le Guin herself stated in her articles that being a woman fantasy/science fiction writer meant that you were overlooked and underappreciated in literary circles. I think that is a terrible shame because both of these authors were so talented, prolific and inventive.

 

Best books of 2017

I can’t believe it’s 2018 already! My birthday is slowly approaching and I’m freaking out because I don’t want to be old and gray. I’m exaggerating, I know, but still. There’s just something about birthdays that I strongly dislike. Anyway, I decide to talk about the books I read last year and I picked my top five favourites and here is the list:

  • Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones
  • The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton
  • The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater
  • Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor
  • The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

I just noticed that all these books were written by female authors so hurray for them! Maggie Stiefvater is obviously the winner since the Raven Cycle consists of four books (and they are all amazing). The thing is I really didn’t expect to like the books as much as I did. I thought it would be entertaining but sort of easy going but then I was blown away with the constant plot twists and the beautiful writing from different POV’s. The story grabbed me with both hands and pulled me in, it was so amazing!

Over the past few years I got tired of YA literature because a lot of it is so similar and I almost skipped this series but since I really liked the Shiver trilogy I decided to give it a go.  What really surprised me was the fact that the last book was the best. In so many series the last book was such a disappointment (Delirium, Twilight, Vampire Academy) but this book, THIS BOOK made me scream and cry (usually at the same time) and sigh and just go OMG every couple of pages. It was a great ending of a fantastic journey. It took me a whole month to finish the series and thinking back that was probably wise because if I read all the books in like two weeks I’d probably end up lying on the floor of my bedroom refusing to leave and re-enter the real world.

For Christmas my sister bought me The Scorpio Races and I really liked that book as well. The focus was mainly on the atmosphere that the author created and she did a really good job at it because I felt like I was right there on Thisby riding a water horse. I also took my time with this book (I guess it’s a Maggie Stiefvater thing) and I marvelled at each and every sentence. The characters were so well-written, I loved the slow romance that developed between Sean and Puck and I wished Finn was my little brother. The island life was portrayed very realistically and I loved the blending of magic and reality, I think that Stiefvater is a true master of that because I’ve seen it in the Raven Cycle as well.

The next favourite of the year was Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor. Unlike Maggie Stiefvater, Laini Taylor’s writing is more epic fantasy and I adore her for that because her books read as complex fairytales and they are SO GOOD. I adored Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy and I was worried that I wouldn’t like this book as much but I was wrong. The story was beautiful and complex (the final plot twist blew my mind away, I literally started to pull at my hair), the ending broke my heart (I kept shaking my head) and the writing was again so beautiful that at times I just couldn’t continue with the story because I was rereading the sentences that I liked best. The second part is called Muse of Nightmares and I can’t wait for the release day, I’ll probably pre-order the book as soon as possible.

The last fantasy favourite was Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones. I actually started reading this book like a year ago but gave up after the first few pages and then I picked it up again in spring and I was so glad that I did because the story kept surprising me and it never got boring. Jones is one of my favourite authors (I also wrote a blog post about her, you can read it here) and Fire and Hemlock is one of her best works. Howl’s Moving Castle was great but so was this book, perhaps even better, it’s really hard to say! The main protagonists Polly and Tom were such good friends and their relationship slowly grew to become something more. They invented a story together and that appealed to my writer side and when Tom started to sent Polly stacks of books via mail I got so jealous I started complaining about it during class when the professor wasn’t looking at me. I never knew what the story would bring and that is hard to do because I’ve read a lot of fantasy books and they tend to repeat. But then again I never know what to expect with Diana Wynne Jones – she is full of surprises.

Now it’s time to move from fantasy novels to history literature because the last favourite book of the year is The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton. She is also one of my favourite authors because her stories are always so well planned, complex and intriguing, but what I actually love the best is her writing style. It’s very poetic and the way she paints the world is very special – seen through her eyes it gets an almost magical feeling about it. Even the bad things seem manageable and everything has its own purpose. Her books always consist of two or three stories and the focus then jumps from one to the next but this shift is so smooth that you just glide through the story to the end. The Secret Keeper is one of her best works because the plot twist is OUT OF THIS WORLD. I actually sort of guessed it because my friend told me it’s a huge one and so I payed attention to all the little hints in the book and formed several possible theories – one of them turned out to be the one.

So these are the best books that I read last year. The initial list was way longer but I decided to limit it because then this post would never end (it’s still quite long). In case I inspired you to read one of them, I hope you’ll like them half as much as I did.