8 April 2016

February & March 2016 Reading Wrap Up

This is a combined reading wrap up for February and March of this year, mainly because I only read one book in February, and didn’t want to have to do a pathetic little wrap up only including it. Overall, I wouldn’t call these months greatly successful, but I am now a lot closer to my reading goal for the first half of the year. So here they are, books #4, #5, #6, #7, #8 and finally #9 of 2016:

4. Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson

This is a high fantasy novel focusing mainly on two sisters, one of whom has to marry the immensely powerful God King of the neighbouring kingdom but it also includes the story of one of the minor Gods of the same kingdom (who is one of the living deities holed up in the centre of the capital city) as well as some other guys.

This book took me an age to read, and to be honest part of me wishes I’d just given up on it. I’m not sure what it was, but I just couldn’t get into it.  The characters, world, and plot were all interesting, but there was nothing particularly special, nothing that stood out and really gripped me. There were a couple of good moments, but it still feels to me like a bit of a waste of time. But I read it, I mildly enjoyed it, but I don’t feel like it’s had any kind of effect on me at all.


5. Agatha H and the Airship City by Phil Foglio and Kaja Foglio

I think I realised pretty early on while reading this book that I wasn’t really going to like it, but its pretty short length, as well as the fact I’d bought it for under £2, kept encouraging me to just plough through and get it over with. I think I would class it as steampunk – it’s set in an alternate eighteenth century Europe, with mad genius scientists, hybrid soldiers, and the huge airship city from the title. Agatha, the main character, I actually really didn’t like; she was very inconsistent. At times she was portrayed as very prudish, but the next page she was being sexualised for the reader, and she was stubborn, but not in a compelling, interesting way, just a pig-headed and stupid way. She irritated me right from the start, and I much preferred the parts of the book that were about the other characters. The book itself didn’t really surprise me at all, I guessed pretty much every twist ages before it happened, and for all its trying to be quirky and exciting, it felt a bit too formulaic. The blurb made it sound really interesting and exciting, so the actual story was a huge disappointment.

Originally this book got three stars from me (which was already a little generous), but then I realised something – something so ridiculously annoying that I am actually getting more irritated just thinking about it – which severely affected my opinion of the book and made me lob off that original third star from the rating. The main character, Agatha, is called “Agatha Clay” on the blurb, and most of the book itself, and what I didn’t realise until after I’d finished that the very title of the book is a spoiler; “Agatha H and the Airship City”. I mean, I saw that particular twist coming a mile off, but why on earth would the author and publisher even try to call it a twist when it’s literally spoiled in the title. I thought it was so patronising and ridiculous and I’m really glad I didn’t cave and buy the other two books at the same time because trust me, I have no plans to ever continue with this series.


6. Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith

This is the third book in the Cormoran Strike detective series, and just like the others I really enjoyed it. The central mystery itself was really interesting – it was set up that the perpetrator was definitely one of four specific men, the puzzle being to work out which one – but the final reveal left a little something to be desired. In my opinion, it just wasn’t as surprising as I was hoping; I still think the first book of the series, The Cuckoo’s Calling had the best twist.

I still think this one was better than the second book; my main problem with that was that the murder didn’t take place until about two hundred pages in – the guy didn’t even go missing for a hundred and fifty! Career of Evil was pretty fast paced and exciting, and I don’t remember ever feeling bored while reading it. I especially loved the development of the main characters – both Cormoran Strike himself and also Robin Ellacott (his assistant/associate who I actually like much more than Strike). Now I’m just waiting for the fourth book.


7. A Company of Swans by Eva Ibbotson

This story is set in the early 1900s, when a girl called Harriet runs away from her cold and overbearing father and aunt to join a ballet troupe touring in Brazil, and overall I liked it. Harriet herself was a bit bland, but I enjoyed the descriptions of the other characters, who were mostly a bit eccentric and wonderful. However there was one moment in the book which really disappointed me, and made me actually say “Oh come on, really? I was rooting for you!” out loud indignantly. I noticed early on that the book had some nice feminist undercurrents; one of the reasons the “bad” characters were “bad” was because they were sexist towards Harriet, and kept trying to force her into the traditional role of young women at that time. And a lot of the “good” characters were “good” because they fought against such stereotypical roles, and didn’t try and box Harriet in. I was really liking this little feature of the book, until the love interest himself pissed me off.

There’s a brief section where he thinks Harriet is trying to seduce him, and so gets annoyed, because he expected her not to be so wanton and predictable or whatever, and then when he realises it’s just a huge misunderstanding and Harriet is indeed a virgin and plans to stay that way, he’s overjoyed. The exact quote is “She is good he thought exultantly. I was right to feel what I felt. She is innocent and virtuous and good!” And this whole bit irritated me because it was just the opposite of what I felt the book was trying to do! ie. not be sexist. Female virginity does not equal goodness/virtue, in case you missed that memo. And also he was already revealed to have slept with a tonne of people himself, but clearly viewed these women as “worse” than virginal little Harriet, but there was obviously nothing wrong with him – a man – having lots of sex in the same way. I couldn’t believe something so sexist could just pop up in a so-far pretty feminist book, and I’m annoyed the author thought it would be at all okay.


8. The Lake House by Kate Morton

There’s something about Kate Morton’s books that I just love. They’re the perfect mix of mystery, historical drama, and excitement. This book is centred around the disappearance of a little boy seventy years ago, and focuses on the stories of three different women; Alice, one of the missing boy’s older sisters, now a successful crime novelist; Eleanor, their mother; and Sadie, the police officer who stumbles across the abandoned house at the centre of the tragedy, and decides to investigate.

It was an absolute pleasure to read, the writing was exquisite, with wonderful turns of phrase, incredible descriptions, and interesting, complex, and truly compelling characters. Eleanor was probably my favourite, and hearing her story was both heart-warming and heart-breaking. The actual reveal to the mystery at the end was good and unexpected, but a further twist – even though I saw it coming – was simply lovely.


9. Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

I keep being surprised by how much I seem to like popular YA series, and this book was no exception. Just like with Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo, and The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski, this book was much better than I expected. The writing was slightly too poetic and metaphorical for me at points, but overall the style worked for me, and the pacing was also mostly great (aside from a few slow bits). The characters however were where I felt this book fell down slightly – Juliette, the protagonist, I just thought was annoying, and the love interest Adam was so bland I just had to look up his name because I’d forgotten it. However Warner was great, I loved how creepy and evil he was! But I think this series will get better as it goes on, so I’m pretty sure I’ll be getting to the second book sometime later this year.


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