#TheReadingQuest Week 1 Update!

So I’ve been doing #TheReadingQuest challenge for exactly one week now and thought it was high time for a little update on how I’m doing! It has been an incredibly busy week and I’ve been out of the house almost constantly, so I’m pretty surprised that I’ve actually managed to do any reading at all (although I’m definitely hoping to go at a much quicker pace in the weeks to come).

Completed Books

Only one complete book so far, I’m afraid to say, this being Gilded Cage by Vic James. This was my choice for the “A Book That Contains Magic” reading prompt. This book has earned me 10 EXP and, at 405 pages, 40 HP.

Books in Progress

I am very nearly finished with The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (audiobook) – I have 1 hour 20 minutes left to go. This is my choice for the “A Book Based on Mythology” prompt. Because I’ve listened to 10 hours and 11 minutes, this has so far earned me 30 HP.

I am 138 pages into Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, which is what I’ve now chosen for the “A Book With a One Word Title” quest (let’s face it, I was never going to get around to It, was I?). I’ve earned 13 HP with this title so far.

I’ve also shared two “relevant social media” posts, so I’ve netted 2 HP for that.

Progress Report 1
My final scores for the week!

So? What Did I Think?

Gilded Cage by Vic James

This was definitely a big (and very pleasant) surprise. If I had bothered to read the description on the back again before starting (I last looked at it four or five months ago when I actually bought the book), maybe I wouldn’t have been so surprised, but I feel like the cover gives you the impression of a rather gentle story involving posh Victorians doing magic (I felt like it had a kind of Night Circus vibe – see what I mean below). Anyway, couldn’t be further from what it actually was.

 

This is, in fact, a dystopian novel set in a modern Britain with a twist. Yes, there is a magical aristocracy, but there is nothing gentle about them. In this Britain, those gifted with Skill have risen up to be Britain’s ruling class. They are proud, entitled and extremely cruel. Ordinary people, or “Commoners”, are forced by law into 10 years of servitude, to be carried out at the time of their choosing. To avoid being sent to one of the country’s brutal slave towns, the Hadley family apply to do their “slavedays” on the estate of the powerful Jardine family. But when Luke Hadley is wrenched from the rest of his family and sent to Millmoor, a brutal slave town in Manchester, he is swept up in the resistance movement. Meanwhile, the rest of the Hadleys are caught in the thick of the politicking and scheming of the Skilled upper classes. Caught on different sides of the struggle, all of the characters must make choices and live with the consequences.

Apart from what I felt was a bit too much “worldsplaining” at the beginning (just having paragraphs explaining the history of the world and how everything worked, rather than taking the reader along for the ride and letting them work it all out for themselves), this was a really intriguing, enjoyable read. It was so distinctly British, which was like a breath of fresh air in the largely American-dominated fantasy/dystopia market; I felt like I identified with the places and the characters a lot more as a result. While the premise wasn’t anything particularly groundbreaking, the world was rich in detail and the plot was full of twists and turns. It was one of those reads that gathers pace as the plot progresses because you’re becoming more invested in the characters and their stories begin to intertwine.

While at the beginning I felt that this could be a crossover between teen and adult because of the age of the protagonists (Luke Hadley is 16 at the start of the novel and his sister Abi is 18), it quickly became significantly darker, with a fair amount of violence and some pretty unflinching descriptions of the cruelties of slavery. While I wouldn’t rule it out for teen readers, it is darker than the cover would suggest. The next one in the series comes out in early 2018 and there were certainly some ends that were very deliberately and cleverly left dangling after the rather explosive and shocking finale. I can’t wait to find out what happens next. I would recommend this to anyone looking for a fast-paced, exciting dystopian read.

Star Rating: 4/5

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

Song of AchillesI’ve heard quite a few bloggers and Booktubers talking about this book over the past couple of years, but I never had any plans to pick it up until I was searching for a book based on mythology. I’m really glad I did. This is a unique, beautifully written book with a wonderfully complex central relationship and I’ve been thoroughly enjoying every minute.

Set against a backdrop of rich Greek mythology, where gods, demigods and ordinary men all walk the earth together, a young prince named Patroclus is exiled to a far away kingdom after he is accidentally responsible for the death of another boy. There, he meets Achilles, the demigod son of King Peleus and the sea nymph Thetis. The two boys become fast friends despite the differences between them. As they grow up, their relationship blossoms and grows into something deeper and more intimate. But the two men are soon to be tested by the gravest of circumstances – the Trojan War approaches and Achilles cannot ignore the summons, despite the prophecy that haunts him: if he goes to war, he will not return alive. 

This is a stunning story of love, loss and war. Patroclus’ narrative spans decades and the burgeoning love of the two boys is at once beautiful and devastating. This novel is so rich, from the depth of the history and mythology it contains, to the strength of its relationships, to the stark depictions of warfare and its ability to change people, for better or for worse. I can’t wait to finish this story even though I already have a fair idea that I’ll be sitting bawling my eyes out in the final minutes.

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

The unique aspect of this book is its narrative style – it’s basically supposed to be a lluminaedossier of classified documents, compiled after the events of the book have unfolded, which tell the true and unvarnished facts. It’s a mix of interviews, instant messages, confidential reports, blueprints, journal entries and much more besides. It’s extremely cleverly put together and all the documents and chat messages look really genuine. I was very excited to start this one as everybody I have ever heard talking about it absolutely RAVES about it.

So from what I’ve read so far, this novel opens with a battle between two corporations, one of whom was running an illegal mining operation on a small planet. The other corporation wasn’t having any of that, so it attacked the planet, leaving the surviving personnel and civilians to flee for their lives. With the attacking corporation still hot on the survivors’ heels and with such damage sustained to the their three remaining spaceships that they are unable to teleport, the nearest refuge will take six months to reach. However, strange things are going on. Communications are down and nobody will explain why. Orders are being given to attack and destroy their own ships. There are rumours that a deadly pathogen is on the rampage. The two main characters, Kady Grant and her ex-boyfriend Ezra Mason, are slowly starting to realise that something is badly wrong and their investigations are leading to some extremely worrying conclusions.

Ugh. I’m going to sound so judgemental now. But basically, I’d just finished the very British Gilded Cage, and I picked up Illuminae straight after and was launched straight into interviews with two VERY American, smart-arsed teenagers with authority issues (that classic YA trope). The contrast between the two is probably why it jarred so much but it meant that I found it a little difficult to get into. Also, we’re immediately drawn into what is obviously going to be a central romance throughout the book, which I can be a bit iffy with. However, now I’m 138 pages in, I’ve got used to the characters a little more, it’s all kicking off and I’m really, really intrigued. 

So there we have it! Bit of a long update but on the whole I’m so happy with what I’ve been reading and the Quest has inspired me to pick up some things that I ordinarily may not have.

This week, in terms of print books, I’ll be working on finishing Illuminae before moving on to either one of my final two reading prompts:

The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin, for the “Book Set in a Different World” quest

The Fifth Season

OR

Nevernight by Jay Kristoff, for the “First Book of a Series” prompt.

Nevernight

I will be using my next audiobook to start moving into the side quests, starting off with We Are Legion: We Are Bob by Dennis E. Taylor.

We are Bob

There we have it! Like I said, I hope to be more successful next week and get a few more things completed. If you’ve liked or disliked any of the above books, I’d love to hear your thoughts! 

#TheReadingQuest Is On!

Hello everybody! So yesterday kicked off #TheReadingQuest, sorry for the late post! I was in Brighton, it was sunny, there might have been wine and my laptop got forgotten. Anyway, onto this quest thing that I’ve been wittering on about to my friends ever since I posted my sign-up post. I’ve even got a few of my colleagues joining in, which is most thrilling (I can witter on even more – “wonderful!”, I hear them cry).

Again, as I explained everything in my first post I won’t bore you with more details, you can see the original post by Aentee at readatmidnight here.

I’m going to be hopefully reading a book and listening to an audiobook simultaneously during the challenge to speed things up, and I’ve decided to start off with:

A Book Based on Mythology:

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (audiobook)

Song of Achilles

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Book That Contains Magic:

Gilded Cage by Vic James

Gilded Cage

I have also compiled a TBR for some of the most interesting side challenges (I’m holding off on a TBR for my next quest path, which would be the Knight if I managed to get round to it – there’s such a thing as too much ambition…).

Potions: A Book Concocted by 2+ Authors…

lluminae

…will be Illuminae by Amy Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. I was lazy and did a Twitter poll to decide on this one, and people seem to like Illuminae. To be honest, it’s one of those incredibly hyped books that I don’t think I’ve ever heard a single bad thing about. I like a good sci-fi, as well as books written as though made up of documents, interviews, emails etc., like Sleeping Giants and Waking Gods. I also get the impression that it’s super quick to read, which is all to the good.

Animal Companion: Book Referencing an Animal in the Title

Bear Nightingale…will The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden (audiobook). It seems like sci-fi/fantasy is the way I’m going with this TBR and also it’s got two animals in it (do I get double the points for that? Yes? Yes?). Again, I’ve heard great things about this and it’s based on Russian fairytales, which very much appeals to me. I took to Twitter again to see if I could shoehorn my book club book, Flowers for Algernon, into being my choice for this challenge because at the end of the day, Algernon is a mouse. Apparently this would just not do. So…

Open World: Read Whatever You Want

Flowers for Algernon

…will be Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes. This was a book that I vaguely knew existed somewhere in the back of my head, but then it got chosen for book club and it seems that everyone and their dog has read it. Emily at BookswithEmilyFox (who has quite similar tastes to me and whose judgement I quite trust) has said that she really loved it. I’m really, really excited about this one and hope it’ll live up to my expectations.

 

 

Time Warp: A Book Set Either in the Past or in the Future

We are Bob…will be We Are Legion: We Are Bob by Dennis E. Taylor (audiobook). This is one of those rare books that’s been a runaway success as an audiobook as opposed to being successful in print first. It’s about a man who pays to be cryogenically frozen, gets run over and wakes up 100 years in the future to find he’s been uploaded into a computer and is now some kind of Artificial Intelligence. Sounds suitably wacky.

 

Monstress

 

Mini-Game: Read a Graphic Novel, Novella or Poem Collection

…will be Monstress Volume 1 by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda. I was going to read Saga Volume 1 by Brian Vaughan and Fiona Staples, but then it was announced today that Monstress won the Hugo Award 2017 in the graphic novel category and it looks intriguing. I’ve never actually read a graphic novel before, so this should be interesting!

 

So there you have it! Notice that I said there’s such a thing as too much ambition and I seem to have gone ahead and put a pile of books as tall as myself (admittedly, not as difficult to achieve as for some people) on my list. I’ve changed my mind! Ambition is good, it takes you places!

I’ve created a Goodreads shelf just for my #TheReadingQuest books to help me stay on track and to help you find out what I’m reading and how I’m progressing.

Good luck, other questers – I’ll post my first weekly update on Sunday 20th April!

I’d also love to know what you’re going to be reading, if you’re joining in, if you’ve read any of the books on my list and what you think of my TBR!

 

 

I’m Signing Up To #TheReadingQuest!

So, for the first time on the old blog, I’ve decided to participate in a reading challenge and I’ve got myself thoroughly excited about it. The challenge, called The Reading Quest, is hosted by Australian book blogger Aentee (you can see her original post here) and is based on video games. You choose one of four avatars (Knight, Bard, Rogue or Mage) and complete each stage on their quest, earning experience points for books completed and accumulating health points for pages read (or minutes listened to in the case of audiobooks).

It’s set out like a bingo board, with the main quest reading prompts around the outside and “side quests” in the middle for if you get a bit of spare time. The quest starts on Sunday 13th August 2017 and runs until the 10th September. Seems like a while, but with five books and lots of fun other challenges I’d like to give a go, I’m sure it’ll feel like no time at all!

reading-quest-board1.png

Because my TBR consists almost entirely of fantasy and science fiction at the moment, I’ve decided to be a mage, who is described as follows:

“As wielders of spells and witchcraft, these players will conjure and summon their way through the First Down path on the quest. Their tomes contain magic and whispers of alternate lands.”

The reading prompts appealed to me more than any of the other avatars and also, he’s (she’s?) a pretty cute little thing. In fact, the artwork for the whole challenge is absolutely beautiful and is done by CW over at Read, Think, Ponder.

By the way, Aentee supplies everything for you to make your own character card, so here is mine:

My character card

Proudly knocked up on Microsoft Word by the way, the image editing choice of the thoroughly amateur.

So, onto the TBR! It will, of course, be subject to change (go spontaneity!), especially since I’ve decided to put a book on it that weighs in at over 1,300 pages…

The First Book of a Series…

…will be Nevernight by Jay Kristoff. I received this at the Harper NevernightCollins Big Book Bonanza event, although it had already been on my radar for a little while. I know almost nothing about the plot but Catriona, or the Little Book Owl on YouTube, raves about it constantly and I have heard really good things about it. It has assassins – I know that much! It is the first in his The Nevernight Chronicle series, so it fits the bill.

A Book Set in a Different World…

The Fifth Season… will be The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin. This is also the first in a series, The Broken Earth trilogy, but you’re not allowed to count a book twice and this one is set in a world called the Stillness. As far as I can gather, the world in question periodically undergoes devastating, climate-change type catastrophes (called Seasons), and the populations have to try to survive as they wreak havoc on the landscape. That’s about all I know. As far as I can gather, this novel will also count for double the points as it is written by a “marginalised” author.

A Book Based on Mythology…

Song of AchillesPercy Jackson…might be subject to change. It’s either going to be The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller or Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan. I’ve heard great things about both, but it will depend on whether I feel like something a bit more literary to counterbalance all the fantasy, or something middle-grade to lighten things up if I feel like my reading list is starting to get a bit heavy. This one also might be an audiobook, as I don’t currently own either of them.

A Book that Contains Magic…

Gilded Cage… will be Gilded Cage by Vic James. I’m actually really excited by this category because I’ve read a few fantasy books lately that have been disappointing because they have completely lacked a magic system. This one is set in an England where the magical aristocracy force non-magic people to serve them for 10 years. I just checked it out on Goodreads, and although I had been under the impression that it was some kind of Victorian setting, it is in fact modern day, which makes it all the more interesting, I think. Looking forward to checking this one out!

A Book with a One Word Title…

… will be (am I mad? I think I’m mad) It by Stephen King. Yes, I know, what am I doing? ItNumber 1, I only have a month of this reading challenge, not a year, and number 2, I’ll probably wet myself with terror and be some kind of gibbering wreck by the end of it. I am really desperate to read more Stephen King because I absolutely LOVE his novels, so I’ll try my hardest. Although if I run out of time or want to get on with some side quests as well as the main one, I’ll probably shelve it until after the quest and read another one-word title book, most likely Flawed by Cecelia Ahern. I can always use it for the 500+ page side quest.

So there we have it! I’m going to *try* to write a weekly update, but I will also be keeping my Goodreads updated and posting about it on Twitter too.

Wish me luck! Or – join me!

What do you think of my TBR? I’d love to hear if you’ve read any of them or if they’re on your TBR too?

Audiobook Review: Dawn of Wonder by Jonathan Renshaw

 

Dawn of Wonder

I have been on the search for something to replace the gap in my reading life left by The Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss during the interminable wait for the third book in the trilogy to come out. A tall order, considering that this series is not just my favourite fantasy series ever, but the books are probably up there among my favourites of all time. I’d had my eye on Dawn of Wonder, the first book in the Wakening series, for a little while and decided to get the audiobook after watching a review on YouTube by Kaitlin (her channel is called Kitty G and if you’re ever on the lookout for good SFF recommendations she’s the one to go to). Unfortunately, I didn’t like it as much as she did.

Continue reading “Audiobook Review: Dawn of Wonder by Jonathan Renshaw”

My Favourite Books of the Year so Far!

While I haven’t been strictly counting, according to my rough calculations I’ve read around 70 books this year so far. It’s been one of my most interesting reading years so far, which I can put down to two things.

1) The influence of my work colleagues, who are avid fantasy readers. Although I loved the fantasy genre well before becoming a bookseller, their interest in fantasy has piqued mine and their recommendations have led me to some truly stonking reads.

2) My decision to get an Audible membership. As you can see, three of the titles below are audiobooks, and it has completely changed my reading habits. I now always have two books on the go, one print and one audiobook. It’s definitely helped to speed up my reading and increase the number of books I’ve been able to get through.

So, below (in no particular order) are my favourite books for the first half of this year – do yourself a favour and read a couple. Continue reading “My Favourite Books of the Year so Far!”

Book Review – Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

I received my copy of Eleanor Oliphant at the Big Book Bonanza event held by HarperCollins in London (thank you very much!).  It was the first big publishing event I’d attended and it was something of a revelation to walk around tables piled high with all kinds of brand new hardbacks and paperbacks and proofs and just… take what you wanted. I was literally like a kid in a sweet shop. I may or may not have staggered back to the tube with a tote bag stuffed full of 10 books. Continue reading “Book Review – Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman”

This Bookseller Recommends: Title Recommendations for Fans of The Martian by Andy Weir

MartianEveryone has heard of The Martian, right? Andy Weir’s debut sci-fi novel has been made into a film starring Matt Damon (which, incidentally, I haven’t seen) and has just generally been raved about by everybody who has read it, myself included. It follows the story of astronaut Mark Wattney, who is left stranded on Mars after his crew depart the planet, convinced that he has died in a freak dust storm. Armed with a rapidly dwindling stash of supplies, his wits and a rather wicked sense of humour, Mark must survive completely alone on Mars until a plan can be formulated back on Earth to rescue him. Continue reading “This Bookseller Recommends: Title Recommendations for Fans of The Martian by Andy Weir”