April wrap up

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Books read: 6
Compared to usual, I haven’t had a great month for reading. Of the books I did read, my favourite was probably Flame in the Mist, followed by Magpie Murders and How to Stop Time.

Books acquired: 5
I spent less on books this month than usual. Three of these books were reduced on Amazon and I got a couple of ARCs from Netgalley. I also put in a couple of pre-orders for May but I haven’t received them yet.

  • Flame in the Mist – Renee Ahdieh
  • How to Stop Time – Matt Haig
  • The Roanoke Girls – Amy Engel
  • Six of Crows – Leigh Bardugo
  • Ready Player One – Ernest Cline

Blog posts published: 9
April was actually my second best month for blogging in terms of visitor stats since I first began blogging in January 2013 – so thanks everyone for reading my posts and chatting to me! Unsurprisingly, my giveaway of A Court of Wings and Ruin was the most popular post. Other top posts were my discussion post looking at what makes fan fiction and a review of Hannah Tinti’s The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley.

 TBR for May:
Realistically I don’t think I’ll get around to reading the last one on this list, as it’s been on my TBR list since January. But you never know, May might be the month I finally get to it. I’m already part way through The Green Road, so hopefully should finish this one off quite quickly.

  • A Court of Wings and Ruin – Sarah J Maas
  • The Green Road – Anne Enright
  • House of Names – Colm Tobin
  • The Ice – Laline Paull
  • Into the Water – Paula Hawkins
  • The Wise Man’s Fear – Patrick Rothfuss

Challenge progress:

Goodreads Challenge: My Goodreads reading goal is to read 50 books this year. I’ve now completed 27 books – meaning that I’m currently ahead of schedule by 11 books. (27/50)

Beat the Backlist Challenge: The Beat the Backlist challenge is all about knocking off titles that have been on your TBR for a while. Books need to have been published prior to 2017, and I’m only including books that I actually bought before 2017 and that have been sitting around waiting for me to read them – so no new purchases or library reads.

This month, none of my reads qualified, so my total remains at just two books towards a goal of twelve. (2/12)


How was your April? Did you read anything great?
What do you have planned to read in May?

The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley – Hannah Tinti

The Twelve Lives of Samuel HawleyThe story: Loo has spent her life travelling the country with her father, never staying in one place for too long and always ready to pack up and go at a moment’s notice. Samuel Hawley, her father, has a dangerous past – one that’s written across his body in scars. When they attempt to settle down in the hometown of Loo’s mother, resistance from the local community causes problems for them both. As Loo grows up and struggles to fit in and become her own person, she also has to reconcile her idealistic childhood views of her father with the man that he used to be, and the man that he’s become.

My views: I really enjoyed this book. The format – which is made up of stories of Samuel’s past and how he came to get each of his twelve bullet scars, interspersed with the story of Loo’s present as she attempts to deal with bullying, boys and an absent mother – worked really well and kept me gripped.

Samuel is unapologetic about his past. He knows that he’s made some bad decisions and chosen a dubious path on numerous occasions, with repercussions that have affected not just himself but also his daughter. He may not have been the model father, but he’s fiercely protective of Loo, and has turned his life around to raise her as best he can. As she grows up and starts to question him, he’s forced to deal with the fact that she’s no longer a child but a young woman capable of making her own decisions and her own mistakes. Continue reading

Caraval – Stephanie Garber

CaravalThe story: Scarlett and her sister, Tella, live with their abusive father on a tiny island, and Scarlett’s father has arranged an imminent marriage for her. The girls receive invitations in the post to Caraval, a far-away, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show. With the help of a mysterious sailor, the sisters end up at Caraval, where Tella is immediately kidnapped as part of the game. Scarlett must find her sister before the show ends, and although she’s been warned in advance that nothing that happens in Caraval is real, the lines between reality and the game soon blur.

My thoughts: It’s been a while since I read a book with so much hype surrounding it – literally everywhere on the internet there are glowing reviews. Because everyone else seemed to love this book, I was expecting great things – which made it even more disappointing that I really disliked this book! I know lots of people will disagree with me, so I’ve tried to break down my reasoning below. There are some spoilers (sorry) and unpopular opinions below – so please don’t read ahead if you don’t want to know things that happen!

  1. The main character: Scarlett seems to have the personality of a goldfish. She keeps repeating that she needs to find her sister so that she can get back home and marry a man that she’s never met. She fails to work out the clues left for her and just seems to stumble across the right answers by accident. She spends a lot of time saying how much she doesn’t like Julian, but then swoons over him every chance she gets and falls in love with him within a week.

    The bond between the two sisters is talked about a lot, but we see very little evidence that they really care for each other. Tella comes across as impulsive and selfish, and Scarlett only seems to want to find her so she can drag her back home to her abusive father – even though Tella has repeatedly said how much she wants to escape.

  2. The plot: There are lots of things that just didn’t make sense and weren’t explained, even after the big reveal. I’ll pick just one as an example. There are supposed to be many people playing the same game with the same set of clues. These clues are not that hard to follow – but Scarlett, who wastes loads of time bumbling around doing stupid things, is still the only one to work them out. I felt there was too much focus on Scarlett and her story and not enough on world building.
  3. The supporting characters: All of the characters in this book are flat and one-dimensional and their motives are never explained. The count for example has zero character development, closely followed by the girls’ father. Also almost everyone we meet is described in terms of how physically attractive they are, which I really wasn’t keen on.
  4. The language: I understand that Caraval is supposed to be magical and mysterious, but the flowery language used throughout the book got really repetitive, and sometimes felt like random pretty words had just been picked out of thin air and strung together. For example – “He tasted like midnight and wind, and shades of rich brown and light blue.” What does midnight taste like? What do shades of light blue taste like? I have no idea.

I think I’m maybe just far too old for this book. I also feel quite strongly that it shouldn’t be billed as being similar to other books like The Night Circus, which I really enjoyed. Unfortunately the thing I liked most about this book has to be the cover – which really is beautiful.

I appreciate that others will have different opinions on this and I’m glad that so many people enjoyed it – these are just my personal feelings!

What is ‘fan fiction’?

Discussion - fan fiction

I’ve never really read any ‘fan fiction’ – as I’d define it – until a few weeks ago I saw a Buzzfeed article recommending their top pieces of Harry Potter fan fiction. I thought I’d check one out actually quite enjoyed it!

Generally, fan fiction still has a questionable rep. Some people see it as ‘ripping off’ other people’s characters and ideas. Also, it seems to me that there’s an awful lot of bad, mad and downright weird fan fiction out there on the internet, and that to find something good you have to get lucky or follow recommendations from others. The result is that most people don’t consider fan fiction to be ‘real’ writing.

But essentially, fan fiction is taking the universe or characters that someone has created and using them to tell a new story. This got me thinking about just how many popular books that could essentially be classed as fan fiction.

For instance, sequels to a whole range of books have been taken on and written by new, different authors, from ‘Scarlett’, the follow up to Margaret Mitchell’s epic ‘Gone with the Wind’ to the recent continuation of the late Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy by David Lagercrantz. Many recent authors have also taken inspiration from secondary characters in timeless classics and given them their own imagined storyline, such as in Jo Baker’s ‘Longbourn’ (Pride and Prejudice taken below stairs) or in Gregory Maguire’s ‘Wicked’ series (looking at the other side of the wicked witch of the west).

These are just a few examples. When you start thinking about it properly you can come up with hundreds.

I think for me the main definition of ‘fan fiction’, as I understand it, is that it can be written by anyone and posted online for everyone else to read for free if they can find it. Expansions or continuations indeed are a version of fan fiction, but have been selected by publishers as an officially recognised original piece of work. However, these lines may blur as more and more people self-publish their work.

To me, it feels like books picked up by a publisher carry more weight, and that they’ve been selected because they’re the best that this genre has to offer. Plus my TBR is already longer then I can ever hope to handle, so I just don’t have time to dedicate to wading through the vast expanse of fan fiction available on the internet.

I do recognise that I might well be biased in my views though, as I haven’t had much exposure to good fan fiction. I’m more than willing to try reading more though, so if you have any suggestions, please do comment and let me know!

What does everyone think about fan fiction? Do you read it?

ACOTAR/ACOMAF re-read (and giveaway)

With the release of A Court of Wings and Ruin just a couple of weeks away, here’s a brief recap of the first two books in the series – as I haven’t reviewed these books on here before. I’m also currently running a giveaway for a pre-order of the next book from the Book Depository. It’s open until midnight BST on Thursday 21 April, so if you’d like to enter you still have time. You can view the original post and how to enter here.

As I’m reviewing the two books in one post here – there will definitely be spoilers – so please don’t read ahead if you don’t want to know what happens! Continue reading

The Hangman’s Daughter – Gavin G Smith

The hangman's daughterThe story:
Miska and her father have commandeered a prison ship, The Hangman’s Daughter, and forcibly recruited the inmates into their own private army of mercenaries. As their first job, Miska and her unwilling legion of convicts are hired to put down a rebellion on a mining planet, but things don’t go as planned.

My thoughts:
I’m torn with this book. There were lots of aspects that I really enjoyed, but some that I struggled with. On the plus side, the majority of the characters are really well developed and the author does a great job of building up an entirely believable and complex world in a short period of time.

The prisoners Miska forces into her employ are not are soldiers, they are dangerous criminals with their own agendas, and they hate her for making them risk their lives on seemingly pointless missions. She’s well aware that she has to be feared to stay in control. The result is that Miska is a fascinating character to read about – at times she comes across as almost as deranged as the criminals in her employ. She’s ruthless, cunning and not scared to make tough decisions.

However, we don’t find out anything about Miska’s true motivations behind taking over The Hangman’s Daughter, or why she makes certain decisions, until about halfway through the book, which is when it starts to get interesting. For me, if this had come a bit earlier in the book it would have kept me more engaged. As it was, I struggled through the first 25% of the book. It does pick up after that though.

I enjoy some aspects of science fiction, however, for me there was just too much science in this book. The descriptions of advanced technology, types of guns and spaceship parts were too lengthy for me and I had to force myself to keep reading on several occasions. I really enjoyed the scenes with character interaction, but felt like there was too much time spent in Miska’s head or bogged down in minute details.

As I said, I’m on the fence with this one. If you’re into science fiction though, this would probably be a great book for you.

The Miniaturist – Jessie Burton

The miniaturistThe story:
Nella Oortman moves to Amsterdam to begin a new life as the wife of successful merchant trader Johannes Brandt. But when she arrives, Johannes is absent while his sharp-tongued sister Marin rules the house with an iron fist. Johannes presents Nella with a miniature version of her new home as a wedding gift, which she proceeds to fill with tiny replicas of objects and people – created by a mysterious miniaturist who seems to know far too much about inner workings of the Brant household. It soon becomes clear to Nella that the house has many secrets. Determined to get to the bottom of things, she uncovers far more than she expected and sets off a dangerous chain of events.

My thoughts:
I know that there are a lot of people who absolutely loved this book, but while I enjoyed the story and thought it was well written, I just didn’t connect with the characters. To me, it felt like I was being told, rather than shown, how the characters felt about unfolding events. As a result it all felt a bit detached, and I never felt any real emotion on their behalf.

The interactions between Nella, her husband and the other members of the household seemed limited and stilted – so much so that I really didn’t believe in the relationships that developed between over the course of the book either.

The story started well and I was intrigued by the situation and the mysterious miniaturist. The middle part meandered on quite slowly, and while it did pick up towards the end I just wasn’t that interested in the outcome. The story line about the miniaturist feels unfinished and isn’t fully explained, which was frustrating and left me feeling like I was missing something.

That said, I really liked the setting of seventeenth century Amsterdam, the descriptions of the city and the historical insight into Nella’s daily life. It was really interesting to get a glimpse of the difficulties faced by women and by anyone else who didn’t fit into the strict rules of society, and how this impacted on their lives and experiences.

This feels like a short review but I just didn’t really have any strong feelings about this book either way, which in itself is a bit of a disappointment given all the hype that surrounded it on its release.