#TheReadingQuest Week 3 Update!

Hello! I was meant to post this on Sunday but was too busy reading. I am literally a caricature of myself. Anyway, three weeks of The Reading Quest have passed and I’ve only got one to go. If you read my previous post, you’ll know that I have finished my Mage character’s pathway and am now a Knight. There’s only four books for this quest, as I’ve already read the first one as part of the Mage quest (they share the “First Book Of A Series” prompt). I’m already one down, so I’m fairly confident that I’m going to be able to manage to finish up this quest as well. If you want more detail on my provisional TBR for the Knight’s quest, it’s in my previous post – although I’ve already changed one of them. Continue reading “#TheReadingQuest Week 3 Update!”

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#TheReadingQuest Week 2 Update!

Hello there! So it’s officially the halfway point of #TheReadingQuest hosted by Aentee at readatmidnight. The time has absolutely flown and while I haven’t been able to keep up with my ambitions by a long stretch, I’ve had a bit more time to dedicate to it this week and am now quite a bit further on in the quest with a few more completed books under my belt. I’ve also been working on some of the side challenges at the same time, which has slowed down my main quest a little but has been thoroughly worth it. Continue reading “#TheReadingQuest Week 2 Update!”

#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! 

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”

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”

Double Book Review: Truth or Dare by Non Pratt & I Have No Secrets by Penny Joelson

The YA genre can be a bit hit-and-miss for me. I’m now 25 and some YA novels that I might have obsessed about 10 years ago now seem twee, slushy and/or overly predictable. However, recently I read two British YA contemporaries that were hard-hitting, completely unpatronising and that dealt with serious issues in a mature and thoroughly compelling way. Continue reading “Double Book Review: Truth or Dare by Non Pratt & I Have No Secrets by Penny Joelson”

Book Review: The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry

Essex Serpent Blue
Beautiful blue Waterstone’s exclusive hardcover – you can’t see from this picture but some of the detail is stunningly picked out in gold foil.

One of our titles for May book club, I have wanted to get round to The Essex Serpent for an embarrassingly long time. Waterstones Book of the Year, Overall Book of the Year and Fiction Book of the Year at the British Book Awards, longlisted for the Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction… I could go on with its various accolades but let’s just say it’s one of the most critically acclaimed books of the moment. Continue reading “Book Review: The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry”