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Top 10 Books of 2018

So here we are at the end of 2018. I have read somewhere in the vicinity of 120 books over the last 12 months, and I’m pretty pleased with that. I’ve taken chances on books I normally wouldn’t pick up and have discovered new favourites. Equally,  I’ve learned to quit on books that I’m really not enjoying, rather than waste my time. (If you’re interested in my most disappointing books of 2018, click here.) So without further ado, I present to you the top 10 books I read this year and what I loved about them. (Synopses from Goodreads)

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An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir ( & A Torch Against the Night)

YA Fantasy

#1 of 4

What it’s about: Inspired by Islamic mythology and the Roman Empire, An Ember in the Ashes follows Laia and Elias. When Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.

There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

What I loved: This book manages to pull off the trifecta – phenomenal world building, complex and sympathetic characters, and an action packed plot. This book is so solid I can’t poke holes in it at all. The sequel was also a 5 star read! I’m looking forward to reading the third and fourth instalments (latest coming this April!).

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An Unkindness of Magicians by Kat Howard

Urban Fantasy

Standalone

What it’s about: In New York City, magic controls everything. But the power of magic is fading. No one knows what is happening, except for Sydney—a new, rare magician with incredible power that has been unmatched in decades, and she may be the only person who is able to stop the darkness that is weakening the magic. But Sydney doesn’t want to help the system, she wants to destroy it.

What I loved: An Unkindness of Magicians was full of complex characters and really interesting magic. I enjoyed the multiple points of view, and the intricate plot. I also appreciated that it was light on romance.

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Circe by Madeline Miller

Historical Fantasy (Greek Mythology Retelling)

Standalone

What it’s about: In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe is a strange child—not powerful, like her father, nor viciously alluring like her mother. Turning to the world of mortals for companionship, she discovers that she does possess power—the power of witchcraft, which can transform rivals into monsters and menace the gods themselves.

Threatened, Zeus banishes her to a deserted island, where she hones her occult craft, tames wild beasts and crosses paths with many of the most famous figures in all of mythology, including the Minotaur, Daedalus and his doomed son Icarus, the murderous Medea, and, of course, wily Odysseus.

But there is danger, too, for a woman who stands alone, and Circe unwittingly draws the wrath of both men and gods, ultimately finding herself pitted against one of the most terrifying and vengeful of the Olympians. To protect what she loves most, Circe must summon all her strength and choose, once and for all, whether she belongs with the gods she is born from, or the mortals she has come to love.

What I loved: This book had me at ‘the world’s first witch’. I enjoyed following Circe’s personal growth throughout the novel. She is a powerful woman who is constrained by societal rules, and watching her come into her own was deeply satisfying. She is complex and flawed and trying to find her place in the world. I also loved the expansive world building, and all the little nods to other famous characters from Greek legend.

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Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant

Sci Fi/Horror

#1 in series (but reads almost like a standalone)

What it’s about: Seven years ago, the Atargatis set off on a voyage to the Mariana Trench to film a “mockumentary” bringing to life ancient sea creatures of legend. It was lost at sea with all hands. Some have called it a hoax; others have called it a maritime tragedy.

Now, a new crew has been assembled. But this time they’re not out to entertain. Some seek to validate their life’s work. Some seek the greatest hunt of all. Some seek the truth. But for the ambitious young scientist Victoria Stewart this is a voyage to uncover the fate of the sister she lost.

Whatever the truth may be, it will only be found below the waves. But the secrets of the deep come with a price.

What I loved: To be sure this book was not perfect. I had some small issues with the editing, and didn’t feel it was as polished as it could have been. But what Mira Grant did well, she did VERY well. I loved the suspenseful atmosphere and the super creepy plot. It made me so glad that I live on a mountain, far, far, far away from the water. The cast of characters was diverse and it had LGBTQI and disability representation, but it wasn’t an advertising ploy. It was part of the characters, and it was important, but it wasn’t the ONLY dimension to them, and I appreciated that. It was also high on action, and the science (which I’m a sucker for) seemed pretty well grounded and believable.

To be candid, I will not be continuing the series. I felt satisfied with the conclusion, and frankly, I’m afraid my expectations would be so high for a second book that I am doomed to be disappointed. I will however continue to read Mira Grant’s (aka Seanan MacGuire) other works.

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Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand

YA Horror/Fantasy

Standalone

What it’s about: 

Marion: the new girl. Awkward and plain, steady and dependable. Weighed down by tragedy and hungry for love she’s sure she’ll never find.

Zoey: the pariah. Luckless and lonely, hurting but hiding it. Aching with grief and dreaming of vanished girls. Maybe she’s broken—or maybe everyone else is.

Val: the queen bee. Gorgeous and privileged, ruthless and regal. Words like silk and eyes like knives, a heart made of secrets and a mouth full of lies.

Their stories come together on the island of Sawkill Rock, where gleaming horses graze in rolling pastures and cold waves crash against black cliffs. Where kids whisper the legend of an insidious monster at parties and around campfires.

Where girls have been disappearing for decades, stolen away by a ravenous evil no one has dared to fight… until now.

What I loved: I will admit that the main reason I was attracted to Sawkill Girls in the first place was the diversity of the characters. I loved it for that. Claire Legrand managed to weave it so seamlessly into the fabric of her story that it didn’t feel contrived in any way. Zoey is black and asexual, Marion is overweight and bisexual. Like, it’s there, but these girls are so much more than those things. I loved the creepy atmosphere and horror elements of the plot (surprisingly, because I dislike horror in general). I loved the female friendships and relationships. I loved the exploration of grief, friendship, and family. I loved the inclusion of Sawkill Rock as a sentient place with its own voice. And finally I loved the whole feminist girl power vibe. There was really so much to love. Which is why I was super disappointed that I couldn’t get a physical copy of the book anywhere here in Australia for Christmas. (Something about the publisher not having stock or being able to print it, or something?) Never mind. I went to trusty BookDepository and my copy is finally winging its way to me.

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Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel

Sci Fi/Fantasy

#1 of 3

What it’s about: A girl named Rose is riding her new bike near home in Deadwood, South Dakota, when she falls through the earth. She wakes up at the bottom of a square-shaped hole, its walls glowing with intricate carvings. But the firemen who come to save her peer down upon something even stranger: a little girl in the palm of a giant metal hand.

Seventeen years later, the mystery of the bizarre artifact remains unsolved – the object’s origins, architects, and purpose unknown.

But some can never stop searching for answers.

Rose Franklin is now a highly trained physicist leading a top-secret team to crack the hand’s code. And along with her colleagues, she is being interviewed by a nameless interrogator whose power and purview are as enigmatic as the relic they seek. What’s clear is that Rose and her compatriots are on the edge of unravelling history’s most perplexing discovery-and finally figuring out what it portends for humanity. But once the pieces of the puzzle are in place, will the result be an instrument of lasting peace or a weapon of mass destruction?

What I loved: Sleeping Giants was yet another wildcard for me this year. I didn’t know if I would like it or not. But I loved it to pieces. It has a really interesting narrative structure – the whole story is told in interviews, reports etc. I’ll admit by the end it felt like it was a bit of a stretch, but suspension of disbelief is pretty much a given in SFF. I enjoyed the scientific mystery, and the giant robots as well. It had serious mecha anime vibes, which pretty much describes my teenage tv watching. It feels a bit like Neon Genesis Evangelion, or The Vision of Escaflowne, or Gunbuster (the last two are excellent series if you’re interested). Again, this is not going to be the book for everyone, but it was definitely the book for me. I also gave five stars to Waking Gods, the second book in the trilogy. Sadly, the third book only reached an average 3 stars.

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Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

YA Fantasy

#1 of 2

What it’s about: The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around—and Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has always feared that his dream chose poorly. Since he was five years old he’s been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, but it would take someone bolder than he to cross half the world in search of it. Then a stunning opportunity presents itself, in the person of a hero called the Godslayer and a band of legendary warriors, and he has to seize his chance or lose his dream forever.

What happened in Weep two hundred years ago to cut it off from the rest of the world? What exactly did the Godslayer slay that went by the name of god? And what is the mysterious problem he now seeks help in solving?

The answers await in Weep, but so do more mysteries—including the blue-skinned goddess who appears in Lazlo’s dreams. How did he dream her before he knew she existed? And if all the gods are dead, why does she seem so real?

What I loved: Strange the Dreamer was not the best book I’ve read this year. But it’s probably the book I love the most. It swept me away to a world where librarian dreamers can have adventures, and solve the mysteries of forgotten cities and dead gods. Plus the prose was so lyrical and beautiful, I just wanted to stay lost in that world forever. I also gave 5 stars to Muse of Nightmares, the final book in the duology as well. It went in a different direction to the first book, but I still loved it. Plus the characters got a lot more depth and growth in book two, which I endlessly appreciated. Who knew I would develop soft spots for my two least favourite characters?

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The Girl With All the Gifts by M. R. Carey

Sci Fi/Thriller/Dystopia

# 1 of 2

What it’s about: Melanie is a very special girl. Dr. Caldwell calls her “our little genius.”

Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class. When they come for her, Sergeant Parks keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don’t like her. She jokes that she won’t bite, but they don’t laugh.

Melanie loves school. She loves learning about spelling and sums and the world outside the classroom and the children’s cells. She tells her favorite teacher all the things she’ll do when she grows up. Melanie doesn’t know why this makes Miss Justineau look sad.

What I loved: The Girl with All the Gifts was a wild ride for me. I had no idea what it was about when I started it, and it was so so good. Firstly, I’m a sucker for believable science, which this has woven throughout the plot. There was action, there was a scientific mystery, and then there was a remarkable little girl called Melanie. While the three of the other main characters were pretty stock standard, Miss Justineau was complex enough that I liked her. And Melanie just shined her way through the whole story. It’s unusual to find a main character with the depth and innocence of Melanie. She is probably my favourite heroine of the year.

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The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Historical Fantasy

Standalone

What it’s about:

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.

True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus performers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.

What I loved: The Night Circus was a huge surprise for me. I knew next to nothing, and I feel like this is the best way to go into it. It is certainly the sort of book that  is quite divisive – you either adore it, or you despise it. There doesn’t seem to be much in the way of a middle ground.

I loved it for its rich atmosphere, subtle but intricate plot, lush world building, and gorgeous writing. If I had to describe it, I’d say it is more of an experience than anything else. I think this partly derives from the present tense narration, which Erin Morgenstern actually manages to pull off.

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Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone

Sci Fi/Fantasy

#1 of 6

What it’s about: 

A god has died, and it’s up to Tara, first-year associate in the international necromantic firm of Kelethres, Albrecht, and Ao, to bring Him back to life before His city falls apart.

Her client is Kos, recently deceased fire god of the city of Alt Coulumb. Without Him, the metropolis’s steam generators will shut down, its trains will cease running, and its four million citizens will riot.

Tara’s job: resurrect Kos before chaos sets in. Her only help: Abelard, a chain-smoking priest of the dead god, who’s having an understandable crisis of faith.

When Tara and Abelard discover that Kos was murdered, they have to make a case in Alt Coulumb’s courts—and their quest for the truth endangers their partnership, their lives, and Alt Coulumb’s slim hope of survival.

What I loved: Three Parts Dead has, hands down, one of the most unique and fascinating magic systems I’ve come across. It’s sort of like contract law meets necromancy. Plus there are dead gods. I appreciate when an author puts so much into the world building that they create their own pantheon. The intricate plot (what? I like intricate plots and minds more devious than my own) is equal parts action and murder mystery, which is a brilliant mix.

 

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A Curse So Dark and Lonely || Brigid Kemmerer

A Curse so Dark and Lonely

YA Fantasy

496 pages

Release date: January 2019

# 1 in series

4/5 stars

Synopsis from GoodReads

Fall in love, break the curse.

It once seemed so easy to Prince Rhen, the heir to Emberfall. Cursed by a powerful enchantress to repeat the autumn of his eighteenth year over and over, he knew he could be saved if a girl fell for him. But that was before he learned that at the end of each autumn, he would turn into a vicious beast hell-bent on destruction. That was before he destroyed his castle, his family, and every last shred of hope.

Nothing has ever been easy for Harper Lacy. With her father long gone, her mother dying, and her brother barely holding their family together while constantly underestimating her because of her cerebral palsy, she learned to be tough enough to survive. But when she tries to save someone else on the streets of Washington, DC, she’s instead somehow sucked into Rhen’s cursed world.

Break the curse, save the kingdom.

A prince? A monster? A curse? Harper doesn’t know where she is or what to believe. But as she spends time with Rhen in this enchanted land, she begins to understand what’s at stake. And as Rhen realizes Harper is not just another girl to charm, his hope comes flooding back. But powerful forces are standing against Emberfall . . . and it will take more than a broken curse to save Harper, Rhen, and his people from utter ruin.

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Why I was interested: 

It’s a retelling of Beauty and the Beast!

What I Liked:

First up, I really liked the disability representation in this book. Harper, our female lead,  has cerebral palsy, and a side character, Jamison, is an amputee. I really felt that Brigid Kemmerer portrayed disabilities in general both realistically and sensitively. Harper’s cerebral palsy obviously affects her, and she’s aware of her limitations, but she doesn’t let it stop her from living. As a person with disabilities myself, I really appreciated that Harper’s cerebral palsy was a part of her, but wasn’t her defining feature. I think this message is really important, and sadly is not something I come across a lot in literature.

I liked the twist on original story which meant that Rhen was human most of the time, and only became a beast at the end of each season. Rhen and Harper also weren’t confined to living alone in the castle together. I think it was quite a smart decision, because it allowed Rhen and Harper to develop through their interactions with a whole cast of side characters, not just each other. These two points also completely sidestepped the issues of bestiality and Stockholm Syndrome that people often find disturbing or uncomfortable in Beauty and the Beast.

I liked the development of the romantic relationship between Rhen and Harper. They built their relationship slowly on foundations of respect and understanding. I also appreciated that while their characters experienced growth over the course of the book, they really stayed true to their personalities. I love consistent characters, and Kemmerer really pulled through for me.

To sum up, I thought the writing was lovely, the plot was solid, and the characters were great.

What I disliked:

I really think this would have been more successful as a standalone novel. I wasn’t that impressed with the twist that is used to lead on to the next book. As soon as it was hinted at, I picked it, and I just groaned. In my head I’m saying ‘Nooo, don’t do it. Don’t go there!’ But it went there. Honestly, the end is really what bumped down the star rating, and I probably won’t pick up the next book, because I just don’t care enough to find out what happens. Most of the story wrapped up, so I’m happy to leave it at that.

I also felt that the worldbuilding as a whole was a bit lacking. Emberfall could have been really contrasted with Washington D.C., where Harper is from, but a few days after reading A Curse so Dark and Lonely, I can’t picture the setting at all. Besides the curse, nothing about the world and the history of Emberfall has stuck with me.

My only other slight disappointment was with the main villain, Lillith. She was the stereotypical crazy witch character. I just sort of wanted a bit more from her than sadism and a bad temper. I guess I just like my villains to have more substance these days.

 

The Goose Girl || Shannon Hale

The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale

YA Fantasy

383 pages

Release date: 2005

# 1 in series (standalone)

4/ 5 stars

CW: Violence, animal death

Synopsis (from GoodReads)

Anidora-Kiladra Talianna Isilee, Crown Princess of Kildenree spent the first years of her life listening to her aunt’s incredible stories, and learning the language of the birds. Little knowing how valuable her aunt’s strange knowledge would prove to be when she grew older. From the Grimm’s fairy tale of the princess who became a goose girl before she could become a queen, Shannon Hale has woven an incredible, original and magical tale of a girl who must understand her own incredible talents before she can overcome those who wish her harm.

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Why I was interested:

It’s a retelling of The Goose Girl, and I love retellings.

What I liked:

I liked the magic system. It was simple, and the basic premise was that certain people have the ability to ‘speak.’ Some possess a gift for speaking to people, persuading them, guiding them, that sort of thing. Others can speak to animals, and our princess is one of these, learning to speak to birds from her aunt. The final ability is rare and allows a person to ‘speak’ to inanimate things, such as wind, or fire.

I liked that while magic was a useful tool, it was not the solution to Ani’s problems. I also liked that it was like any other skill – you had to learn and practice and hone it over time. It wasn’t instant. All that was inherent was the ability to be able to learn. So in Ani’s case, she spent years practicing her ability to speak to swans and other types of birds. She didn’t magically work it all out over night.

I enjoyed the romance in the Goose Girl, mainly because it was subtle and sweet, and didn’t take centre stage. The emphasis in The Goose Girl was really on friendship, ‘found family,’ and developing self confidence in the face of adversity. I really adored Ani’s friendships with a number of side characters, and overall I felt that Ani’s growth was really organic and believable.

What I didn’t like: 

As you can see above I’ve given a content warning for animal death. I found it rather distressing personally, and I don’t know if I can even say it was justified, or that it really contributed to the story. Either way, I don’t think the on page gore was necessary at all.

My only other comment regards that depth and complexity of the secondary characters (which was pretty much every character apart from Ani). The bad guys are pretty stereotypical and 2D, and any complexity in the other side characters is only really hinted at and not much explored in this novel (but there are other novels in the series!). So if you like all of your characters deep, and morally grey, this is not the book for you. It’s probably going a bit far to say this was something I really disliked. I just wish I had got a bit more from the side characters.

Three Books I’ll Give a Second Chance & Why

Usually I won’t go back to a book that I’ve DNF’d. In fact, I don’t think I ever have. But there are three books I DNF’d last year that I’m reconsidering, and these are the reasons why.

The Poppy War by R. F. Kuang

My issues with The Poppy War related to pacing and plot. It was slow and nothing much was happening, and there was a ton of info dumping in the form of ‘school lessons’. I was also a bit leery because Asian Studies was my major and I was having trouble disconnecting from the ‘facts’ and getting emotionally invested in the story. It’s based on the Sino-Japanese wars, the annexation of Manchuria and The Nanjing Massacre. Part of it is because I know how horrific it all was in reality, and I’m worried about how it’s going to affect me if I actually care about the characters. It has fantastic reviews, but what really encouraged me to try again was reading a blog post by the author talking about the necessity of violence and brutality in the story, which I really respected. You can find it here.

Nevernight by Jay Kristoff

I can’t stand the purple prose in this, mostly because it seems so at odds with the dark gritty atmosphere. I didn’t really feel connected to the characters either, and the endless footnotes were super distracting. But the worldbuilding and plot were so interesting that I really just want to know what happens. I put it down months ago and I still think about it, so I am going to grit my teeth and just dive back in. Whether I continue the series or not is a completely different matter.

The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco

I had so many problems with this book. The pacing was slow, the descriptions were overdone, and the characters in the main storyline (in the past) were boooring. I also felt like I was reading Memoirs of a Geisha with magic. But the magic system was cool, and had a lot of potential. Plus present day Tea was dark and mysterious, and I kind of want to know how she gets from boring to badass. Also, people have promised that book 2 is better. If I just think of it as a retelling, maybe I can get through it?

Have you ever returned to a book you previously DNF’d? If so what was it?

Fairytaleathon Wrap Up

I had really hoped to have read a lot more during Fairytaleathon, but I only ended up finishing two books. Still, they were both 4 star reads, so I guess I can’t complain too much. So without further ado, these are the books I read.

Challenge 4: Winterglass by Benjanun Sriduangkaew

Fantasy Novella

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

What I liked:

  • The magic system and world building was dark and enthralling – you can injure a person’s shadow or spirit, ghosts are used as energy to power cities etc.
  • There was huge gender diversity, and it was portrayed as normal, which was awesome (and confusing for me to start with, but I was so there for this)
  • Our two main characters, Nuawa and Lussadh, were both quite reserved, cold, strategic, and blunt, but I really quite liked both of them, and I felt they were complex and consistent. I understood their motivations, and was able to sympathise with them.

What I (sort of) disliked:

  • I did balk at the use of the term Occidental to begin with, because of the associations with Orientalism. I think perhaps it is a case of the author taking back power and agency by re-appropriating terms that were traditionally used to ‘Other’ Middle Eastern and Asian peoples, and thus oppress and dehumanise them. But that is just a guess, and I still felt a bit uncomfortable with the use of the term. I just feel that any kind of term that raises those connotations and divisions between people just perpetuates the same kind of thinking.

Challenge 3, 6, & 8: A Curse so Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer

YA Fantasy

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

What I liked:

  • It’s a retelling of Beauty and the Beast!
  • Great disability representation! The main character, Harper, has cerebral palsy, and I thought it was handled realistically and sensitively.
  • The twist on the original allowed Rhen and Harper to interact with a range of people, as well as avoiding some of the more disturbing connotations that people dislike in Beauty and the Beast, like bestiality and Stockholm syndrome.
  • The side characters were awesome!
  • Rhen and Harper’s growth was well handled, and their relationship was built on respect and trust.

What I disliked: 

  • I felt it would have been better as a standalone, and wasn’t that impressed with the twist to keep the series going.
  • The main villain, Lillith, was really flat and stereotypical. I wanted a bit more than a sadistic witch with a bad temper.
  • I felt that the worldbuilding as a whole wasn’t that strong. Days later, I can’t remember much of the setting at all.

SALE! $5 or less on Kindle Australia

Hey all, so at the moment there seems to be a bit of a sale on some pretty popular YA books (and some adult ones too) on Kindle Australia, so I thought I’d provide some links if you’re interested. I have no idea how long they’ll be this cheap, so get them while they’re hot! (There are also a few new releases that seem to be cheaper as well, including The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi)

0- $1

The Djinn Falls in Love and Other Stories ed. Mahvesh Murad $0.99

A Touch of Gold by Annie Sullivan $0.99

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang $0.99

$1 – $2

The Jewel by Amy Ewing $1.67

Howl’s Moving Castle by Dianna Wynne Jones $1.99

The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee $1.99

The Queen’s Rising by Rebecca Ross $1.99

Lord of the Fading Lands by C.L. Wilson $1.99

Daughter of the Blood by Anne Bishop $1.99

$2- $3

The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken $2.99

Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone $2.84

The Iron King by Julie Kagawa$2.99

Angelfall by Susan Ee $2.99

$3- $4

The City of Bones by Martha Wells $3.99

The Psychology of Time Travel by Kate Mascarenhas $3.25

Winterglass by Benjanun Sriduangkaew $3.71

The Queen of All That Dies by Laura Thalassa $3.99

Illuminae by Amy Kaufman & Jay Kristoff $3.99

Dragon Keeper by Robin Hobb $3.99

To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo $3.99

Sabriel by Garth Nix $3.99

Garden of Thorns by Amber Mitchell $3.79

$4 – $5

The Archived by V.E. Schwab $4.39

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas $4.99

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo $4.99

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab $4.39

Delirium by Lauren Oliver $4.99

This Savage Song by V. E. Schwab $4.39

Vicious by V.E. Schwab $4.39

Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova $4.42

Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carrier $4.99

$5 – $6

The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon $5.41

The Mermaid by Christina Henry $5.83

Red Queen by Christina Henry $5.83

Alice by Christina Henry $5.61

Lost Boy by Christina Henry $5.83

Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones $5.83

 

 

 

January Book Haul # 5 || Other Books

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White Lotus by Libbie Hawker

Genre: Historical Fiction

Release Date: 2016

Series: Yes (trilogy)

Why I’m interested: It’s set in Ancient Egypt with the traditional story of Cinderella woven in.

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Daughter of Sand and Stone by Libbie Hawker

Genre: Historical Fiction

Release Date: 2015

Series: No

Why I’m interested: It’s about Zenobia, rebel queen of Syria.

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House of Rejoicing by Libbie Hawker

Genre: Historical Fiction

Release Date: 2015

Series: Yes, trilogy

Why I’m interested: It’s set in Ancient Egypt during the time of Akhenaten from the points of view of various women in his life

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The Royal Art of Poison: Filthy Palaces, Fatal Cosmetics, Deadly Medicine, and Murder Most Foul by Eleanor Herman

Genre: Non-Fiction History

Release Date: 2018

Series: No

Why I’m Interested: Poisons. What else is there to say?

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Sky Song by Abi Elphinstone

Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy

Release Date: 2018

Series: No

Why I’m interested: Magical and wintry, with an eagle huntress, and inventor and an organ made of icicles.

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Odd and True by Cat Winters

Genre: YA Historical Fantasy

Release Date: 2017

Series: No

Why I’m interested: Monster slaying girls and disability representation.

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A Shiver of Snow and Sky by Lisa Leudecke

Genre: YA Fantasy

Release Date: 2017

Series: Yes

Why I’m interested: Magical and wintry.

I Started a Bullet Journal! || January Flip Through

I’ve been watching tons of bullet journal videos on YouTube lately, and it’s kind of my new obsession. I love watching other people’s monthly spreads, and how creative they are. There’s something really calming and satisfying about it. I especially love Amanda Rach Lee and Inprint.

Anyway, I decided to start my own. It’s a bit of a mish mash at the moment, and I’ve taken inspiration from a lot of other videos (I’m estimating at least a hundred, but I could be grossly overestimating) and some pictures on instagram, of which there are way too many to name. Sadly, I am not the most creative/artistic person myself, so I don’t feel like it’s terribly original. If I have copied any ideas and you want me to give credit, let me know and I am more than happy to do so.

Anyway, on to the pictures!

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Firstly, here’s my cover page. I wanted to go for fireworks and lanterns for the new year. I took a lot of inspiration from Amanda Rach Lee’s January spread, which you can find here.

Next I’ve jotted down by monthly goals, my monthly TBR, and new releases I’m interested in coming out in January. If I’ve completed a goal, or purchased a book, I’ve marked it.

Next up is my Calendar. I didn’t decorate it much because I was terrified of going overboard and making it messy. I’m a bit of a perfectionist… I’ve tracked each book I read during January, and I’ve planned my blog posts. I changed them a lot, so there’s quite a bit of white-out tape… as you can probably tell…

Next up – my ridiculously long book haul, followed by my January wrap up. I had a pretty good reading month.

Next I wrote some recommendation lists, continued my book haul (because I went nuts in January), and some blog discussion ideas. I’ve been really hesitant to post my genocide in SciFi/Fantasy books because I’m worried it’s too morbid and triggering. (Apparently I didn’t even finish writing it in my journal. Whoops. The Fever King is by Victoria Lee in case you’re wondering, and it will be released 1 March.)

Overall I’m pretty pleased. My writing is all over the place, but it is what it is. I plan to practice hand lettering and calligraphy over the coming months. So hopefully my journal will look better as time goes on.

Do you also have a bullet journal? If not, how do you like to keep track of your reading?

January Book Haul #4 || Fairytale Retellings

So here I am with part four of my January book haul. This one is devoted to fairytale retellings. Check it out.

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Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Genre: YA Fantasy

Release Date: 2015

Series: No

Why I’m interested: It’s a Beauty and the Beast retelling. Enough said.

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Ash by Malinda Lo

Genre: YA Fantasy

Release Date: 2009

Series: Yes

Why I’m interested: It’s an LGBT retelling of Cinderella

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Sea Witch by Sarah Henning

Genre: YA Fantasy

Release Date: 2018

Series: Yes

Why I’m interested: It’s a retelling of The Little Mermaid charting the rise of Ursula, the sea witch.

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Kingdom of Ash and Briars by Hannah West

Genre: YA Fantasy

Release Date: 2016

Series: Yes

Why I’m interested: A retelling of Sleeping Beauty, Mulan and Snow White.

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Mechanica by Betsy Cornwell

Genre: YA Sci-Fi Fantasy

Release Date: 2015

Series: Yes

Why I’m interested: It’s a steampunk retelling of Cinderella.

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Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao

Genre: YA Fantasy

Release Date: 2017

Series: Yes

Why I’m interested: It’s an East Asian reimagining of the Evil Queen’s story from Snow White

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Gilded Ashes by Rosamund Hodge

Genre: YA Fantasy Novella

Release Date: 2014

Series: Yes

Why I’m interested: It’s a retelling of Cinderella

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The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale

Genre: YA Fantasy

Release Date: 2003

Series: Yes

Why I’m interested: It’s a retelling of The Goose Girl.

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Hunted by Meagan Spooner

Genre: YA Fantasy

Release Date: 2017

Series: No

Why I’m Interested: It’s a Beauty and the Beast retelling

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Blanca & Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore

Genre: YA LGBT Fantasy

Release Date: 2018

Series: No

Why I’m interested: A Latinx inspired retelling of Snow White and Rose Red

January Wrap Up

Welcome to my first wrap up of the year! I’m trying a new format where I link to some of my favourite blog posts and YouTube videos I watched this month, as well as talking about the books I read. I might start including tv shows and movies next month as well. Who knows?

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Books I read

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In Search of the Trojan War by Michael Wood (1998) DNF

I was really interested to get my hands on a non-fiction book that explored the Trojan War, but I just couldn’t get myself engaged with the text.

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (2011) ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I love Madeline Miller’s writing so much, and she truly excels at character driven novels. The Song of Achilles is an LGBT retelling of Homer’s The Iliad from Patroclus’ perspective. It follows him from childhood and centres around his relationship with Achilles. It also explores the valorisation of war, violence and hyper masculinity in society, with Patroclus acting as a sort of foil. He is the antithesis of Greek society at the time, being a kind, gentle, pacifist. CW: Violence.

Here, The World Entire by Anwen Kya Hayward (2016) ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

This is 83 pages of pure pathos. It’s a first person recollection of Medusa’s life, focusing on three key scenes, moving from present to past. The writing was beautiful and I was completely invested in Medusa’s story. CW: Sexual violence.

Beasts Made of Night by Tochi Onyebuchi (2017) DNF 28%

This Nigerian inspired fantasy had fantastic worldbuilding and an interesting magic system. Unfortunately the pace was quite slow, and I didn’t like the first person narration. The main character just seemed really flippant, and I was sort of like ‘if he doesn’t care, why should I?’

Binti: The Night Masquerade by Nnedi Okorafor (2018) ⭐️⭐️⭐️

This is the third and final novella in the Binti series. It explores family, grief, anxiety, self-identity and culture. Plot-wise, there was a lot happening here, and some parts felt quite disconnected from the rest of the story. The narration changed mid-book which was disconcerting, and I wasn’t much of a fan of the romantic elements that ‘developed’ in this volume. CW: Violence.

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For the Immortal by Emily Hauser (2018) ⭐️⭐️⭐️

This is the third in a series of companion novels. I wish I had read the others first because some elements followed on from the previous books. It’s a retelling of a few different Greek myths revolving around Hercules, Theseus and The Iliad told from Admete and Hippolyta’s points of view. The world building was great, and the plot and main characters were engaging. CW: Violence, sexual violence.

In an Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire (2019) ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The fourth in The Wayward Children series, this companion novella tells the story of Katherine Lundy and her adventures in The Goblin Market. I really love this series and how the magic system is evolving with each story. The premise of The Goblin Market is the concept of fair trade, and it was fascinating to see how McGuire wove it through the story.

The Children of Jocasta by Natalie Haynes (2017) ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I am obsessed with Greek mythology retellings, and this one is phenomenal. It’s a realistic historical retelling of the Oedipus and Antigone myths from Jocasta and Ismene’s perspectives. The writing was excellent, and the world building and setting were thoroughly researched. I was completely immersed in this world, and so invested in the characters. I loved Haynes’ take on the myth, and she definitely made it her own. The novel alternated between Jocasta’s story, told in third person narration; and her daughter Ismene’s story, which was told in first person. I cannot wait to write a full review of this book, and I’m looking forward to Haynes’ forthcoming novel, A Thousand Ships, which is a retelling of The Iliad, and is set for release on 2 May.

Echo North by Joanna Ruth Meyer (2019) ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

A standalone retelling of East of the Sun, West of the Moon, Echo North is a gorgeous, atmospheric novel. The world was magical and whimsical, and there was a library of book-mirrors! I loved how the author incorporated other influences such as the Cupid & Psyche myth, Tam Lin, and Peter & the Wolf, to make the story unique. The writing was flawless. And I loved the relationships in this novel, especially between Echo and her friend Mokosh, which surprised me.

The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale (2005) ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

As the title suggests, this is a retelling of The Goose Girl. It’s a gem of a story. I really loved the Ani’s growth throughout the story, changing from a shy, cloistered princess, to a confident young woman. It explores themes of friendship, self-confident, and identity. It was low on romance, and high on friendship, which I appreciate. I also thought the magic system was interesting – some people have the ability to speak to animals, some can influence other people, and some can speak to inanimate things, like fire. I liked that the magic was a useful tool, but not a solution to every problem. I also liked that it was like any other skill, something to be practiced and honed over time. CW: Violence, animal death.

Catch up on my Blog Posts

Top 10 Books of 2018

11 Most Disappointing Reads of 2018

The Song of Achilles review

Strange Grace review

African inspired book recommendations

Are audiobooks ‘real’ reading? 

Favourite Blog Posts

The Fever King review by Lily @ Sprinkles of Dreams

Sawkill Girls review by Elise @ The Bookish Actress

The Cold is in her Bones review by JenAcideByBibliophile

Literary Blogging 101: Why your blogging voice and style matters by Lara @Naiji Book Bae

Favourite YouTube Videos

2019 New Bullet Journal/Planner Setup by Inprint

30 Lessons about life with a chronic illness… by Jessica

PLAN WITH ME| January 2019 Bullet Journal Setup by AmandaRachLee

PLAN WITH ME| February 2019 Bullet Journal Setup by AmandaRachLee

A Portrait of Womanhood & Patriarchy: Circe by Madeline Miller Book Discussion by Beautifully Bookish Bethany

UNPOPULAR BOOK OPINIONS (& that time an entire fandom came for me) by ivymuse

Turning myself normal for the first time in 11 years by emilia fart

Best books of 2018 by Tome Riddle

10 TIPS TO GET INTO ADULT SF & FANTASY by Elliot Brooks

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Most Anticipated February Releases

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Enchantee by Gita Trelease

An Affair of Poisons by Addie Thorley

The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon

The Cerulean by Amy Ewing

Black Leopard Red Wolf by Marlon James

What did you read this month? What were your favourite blog posts/ YouTube videos? Any recommendations? Should I start including more varied content? 

How to Read More || Some Ideas

People don’t read for a variety of reasons. Sometimes they don’t have time, or money, or they have medical problems that make things difficult (I know plenty about all of those). So I thought I’d share some tips to help you read more, whether it’s for a specific goal or just for personal enjoyment. These ideas are not going to work for everyone, but it can’t hurt to give them a go. They’re mostly to help you read more novels. But remember, newspapers, magazines, audiobooks, ebooks, Braille books, manga, graphic novels, anthologies, short stories, serials, novellas and foreign language material all count as reading too!

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Create a To-Be-Read (TBR) List and Prioritise Books You Want to Read

Firstly, work out what kind of reader you are. Do you prefer to read books on a schedule, or do you prefer to choose a book based on your mood?

I’m a little bit of both, so I usually make my TBR between 10 – 15 books a month. I know I’m only likely to read about 8 of those, but it gives me more options as a mood reader to pick what I feel like reading.

If you don’t meet your goals by the end of the month, or if the idea of a long TBR is completely overwhelming, consider shortening your TBR to a couple of books you really want to finish, or make your TBR seasonal rather than monthly.

It’s also important to prioritise the books you actually want to read. Don’t put books on your TBR that you’re not that interested in.

Know What You Like

It seems obvious, but a lot of people read things because they’re popular, or because they’ve won awards, and not because it’s the kind of book they are really going to enjoy. If you like romances, read romances. That’s not to say you shouldn’t take chances on other genres because you may find some hidden gems. Last year every book on my Top 10 list was a book I wouldn’t normally read, or had decided not to try. But generally, if you’re trying to read more, read genres or authors you already know you adore.

Do Your Research

My advice here is to do your research when choosing a book. This relates somewhat to the point above, in that you are giving yourself the best possible chance of choosing a book that you are going to love. The more you like a book, the faster you’re going to read it. Simple as that.

Check out Amazon or GoodReads or whatever site is your go to. Read the reviews, check out the average ratings, and read the samples. If you don’t love it in that first chapter or so, you probably aren’t going to enjoy it. Another great way to find books is to check out recommendations and reviews of books from BookTubers or bloggers who have similar tastes to you. You won’t like every book they like, but there’s a much better chance you’ll choose stories that you’re going to enjoy.

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Variety is the Spice of Life

If you are reading the same type of book over and over again, you’re bound to get bored, or to find the whole idea of reading tedious. So variety is your best friend. So here are some ideas to help change things up.

Vary the length of the books you read

If you’ve just read a huge tome, maybe try a novella next. Everyone reads at different rates, and different genres sometimes take more or less time than other genres (mostly between non-fiction and fiction). If you read Kindle books, the ‘About Book’ section will give you an average reading time. Generally it sits around 50 pages per hour. That gives you a rough idea of how long you’ll actually spend on any given book. 400 page book? 8 hours.

Vary the genres you read

If you read a fantasy, follow it up with a non-fiction or a contemporary novel. This not only gives you a break from one kind of book, but broadens your reading horizons.

Vary the subject and themes

If you’ve just read a story about a heist, or a book that explored themes of grief, you may want to follow it up with something completely different. Like a novel about people with superpowers, or a novel that focuses on friendship. That kind of thing.

Vary the narrative style

Change things up by reading books written in first person narration, third person narration, epistolary narration, or perhaps a novel in verse.

Vary the setting/inspiration

Read a book that is set in Japan, then try a novel that is inspired by Russian folklore. You could also try novels that have been translated into English (or whatever other language you speak) for a completely different perspective.

Consume stories in different ways

Stories are everywhere. They come in the form of novels, ebooks, audiobooks, serials, manga, graphic novels, magazines, poetry, and newspapers, just to name a few. If you’re getting tired of reading physical books, try something completely different. It may not count towards GoodReads goal, but it still counts as reading.

Read Multiple Things at Once

The same advice above applies to this one. Variety is the key to successfully achieving this juggling act. Use different formats for each text to help differentiate between them – listen to an audiobook, have a physical book, and an ebook. Make sure they’re completely different genres and don’t share too many other similarities, or you’ll just end up confused.

Reading multiple books at once is not for everyone. Some people prefer to focus solely on a single book, and that is fine. You can still achieve this option by reading newspapers, magazines, or poetry.

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DNF That Book

If you really aren’t enjoying a book, Do Not Finish (DNF) it. Put it down. Return it to the library. Donate it. Remove it from your ebook reading device. Whatever you have to do to get it out of your life.

Persisting with a book you really hate is emotionally draining. And you aren’t going to want to pick it up again. All the time you waste wading through a book you dislike, you could be spending reading a book you do like.

I know how it feels. I know that you’ve spent time, energy, and possibly money on this book. I know it feels like a waste.

So here’s my advice if you’re having trouble letting go of that novel: Pick a percentage of the book where it feels like you’ve given it a good chance to win you over, say 25 per cent. If you’ve reached a quarter of the way through a book and it still has not captured your heart, put it down. It’s not going to get better.

Stop Reading

If you’re really having trouble getting into any book, and you find yourself in the dreaded ‘Reading Slump’, then stop reading. Again, it seems obvious, but pushing yourself to read when you’re really just not into it is not going to help you read more. In the end, you’ll probably just put down a bunch of books that you might actually love, and you’ll never touch them again because you weren’t in the right state of mind when you first picked them up. Take a break. Do something else. Watch hours of reality tv, or do some colouring, or whatever it is that you’re into. The books will still be there when you’re ready for them.