2018 Reading Challenge, Book 23 – King’s Cage

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This is how reading a series works, you just hit one after another. This was also the book where I hit a bit of a lull. This book was slow. And it was slow in a way that I wasn’t expecting. It made sense that it was slow because the setting had changed, but yeah. It was a total shift in pace and as such it just threw me into a borderline slump. Also it’s big. So when something is moving kind of slowly, and it’s kind of massive it kind of feels overwhelming.

But it got there in the end.

It took like 250 pages which is about half the book which was a bit annoying, but it did get there. And then it kind of died off again until the last 100 pages or so before it kicked in again.

I also kind of accidentally read the blurb to War Storm and so I had inkling of a betrayal from Cal was coming and I had kind of bigged it up massively in my head and it turned out to not be that bad…I mean from Cal’s perspective it made perfect sense but I can see why Mare would be pissed about. And why it would be considered a betrayal. I didn’t 100% see it is as one and so was glad that it was a lot tamer than I what I preparing myself for.

The things I liked about this book.

New perspectives.

Obviously, Mare was stuck with Maven for a lot of the book away from the Scarlet Guard and it was nice to get those bursts of knowledge as to what is going on in their lives and how they were dealing with the issue at hand. I also liked that it came from Cameron because she was always kind of an outsider to this whole thing, she didn’t want to be there. And then seeing her progression from her own perspective and then from Mare’s was a really interesting aspect of this book.

Also, I loved, loved, loved seeing things from Evangeline’s perspective. It is so easy to hate her and just write her off as a villain or whatever but to see the situation and the circumstances within which she was raised added so much depth to her as a character that it turns out I actually kind of really wanted in my life. I also found her part in the rescue of Mare interesting just because of the tension that has always been there between them and will continue to be there in the final instalment of this series. That final chapter from her POV was just killer.

Like I said, this book was slow. But it was building to something, there was no denying that. All that time in the first half of the book in Mare’s head while she basically did nothing but watch Maven from the sidelines and have her mind fucked with. While it felt like a total slog to read at the time revealed a whole bunch of cards that I am so hyped to see get played out in War Storm. Maven continues to prove himself to be a super complicated antagonist which I am loving more and more. Especially because he was so present for so much of the book and then when Mare left he just basically disappeared.

The not knowing about what the hell he is planning and the fact that he effectively went ghost is actually kind of low key super stressful.

The final line of this book confirmed what I kind of already knew, this last book is gonna hurt.

I can’t wait.

3/5 stars

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2018 Reading Challenge, Book 22 – Glass Sword

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I think at this point it is pretty obvious that I am reading this whole series straight through. This series occupied my May in terms of reading. It also means that I am one step closer to finish another series this year, which feels like an achievement.

The next book in question is:

2018 Reading Challenge, Book 22, Glass Sword
2018 Reading Challenge, Book 22, Glass Sword

I’m just gonna come straight out and say it. How fucking dare Aveyard kill Shade. And so quick. I had to read the same paragraph about 10 times before I could truly process what was going down before me. It was my morning commute, I then spent the rest of day in semi denial that it had happened and the pain I felt when I went back later that day was real.

Then also, while we are on people who I did not expect to die. Elara. As I mentioned yesterday, I was hyped to see what part Elara was going to play in this. I did not expect that part to be her being dead. And she went so quick. And again, I had to read through the pages several times to check that I hadn’t missed anything. But no, one moment she as alive and the next she was a corpse. I was kind of disappointed about it to be honest, but also, it does make for an interesting plot point. The Shade one I am going to need some more convincing about.

Anyway, onto other things not that I have got that out of the way.

The character development. I loved it.

Don’t get me wrong, Mare is still kind of the MOST annoying character because she is so selfish and yet somehow still so unaware of it and sometimes just sitting with her is a headache because you just want her to stop being so stupid. But she also came into her own in a lot of ways throughout this book.

Her having a purpose meant that she actually had something to work towards and in doing so a lot of her character was revealed. Which I liked. It showed growth. That’s always good. This in turn also affected the other relationships that she had with characters in this book, it meant that everything in that way moved forward.

I found her interactions with Kilorn particularly fascinating because it’s the only consistent one that she carried over from her previous life. The way it interplays with her new Scarlet Guard life and the intentions that she always had regarding his life. I also kind of liked the tension between Kilorn and Cal.

Cal and Mare’s relationship development was also something that I quite enjoyed reading unfold. It kind of didn’t move anywhere but also went so far. It’s like a weirdly slow burn (I think the pun is intended there) because nothing seems to be safe in this world. Because Cal is still fundamentally Silver and Mare is still fundamentally Red and Cal was made to be King and so I even I don’t trust him.

Which is kind of stressful to be honest. When you don’t trust one of the main characters and he’s the love interest. I mean at least with Maven at this point as a reader you kind of know he’s a dick and you’re just finding new layers to that. Which by the way are revealing new depths with each page he’s on. I would be impressed, but honestly I kind of saw it coming. Once the twist happens and you know he’s evil the world is his playground and that is exciting.

Finding the newbloods, while at times felt kind of arduous, was overall interesting and added a great element to the plot. I found myself very interested when they found a new one to see what they do and how they could potentially be of use. And also their attitude to the whole situation (I’m looking at you Cameron). How they are going to come into play in the last 2 books is an aspect of the series that I am really looking forward to see that unfold further.

Overall, this was a great second book. It had it’s lulls but it was great for character development and it introduced some really interesting plot points for future books. I mean it was also a kicker punch to the gut and I a many never be okay about Shade. And also that ending was a real slap. That final line. I loved it.

4/5 stars

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2018 Reading Challenge, Book 21 – Cruel Crown

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I had to double check where this came in the canon before I even thought about reading it, but when I did and realised that it included a Glass Sword preview I knew for sure that it would be safe to read after only reading one book. And so I did.

2018 Reading Challenge, Book 21, Cruel Crown
2018 Reading Challenge, Book 21, Cruel Crown

Now there are 2 stories in this, one about Coriana, Cal’s mother, and one about Farley.

Queen Song was the first story. First of all despite only reading one book by Aveyard, I had gotten used to the first person narrative and so to read this on in 3rd was a little bit of a shock. Not in a bad way, I was just used to first.

This story covers a lot of time and when I realised where the starting point was I was worried that the pacing might feel slightly rushed, and on the one hand at times it did for the most part it didn’t.

For some bizarre reason it didn’t occur to me that Elara would have been present at the court and that she would have some things to say about the whole situation and maybe actually have something to do with everything, even though that was kind of a key point of Red Queen. I guess I just didn’t think she would have been present the whole time. Also I forgot that the Queenstrial would not have happened with Coraina even though it was mentioned, but that was only because I was still reeling from the end of the damn book and at who mind twisty the whole thing was. In hindsight that should have been my damn warning.

My hear broke a little bit when it was moving through Coriana and her several miscarriages and how she slowly started to doubt everything because Tiberias wasn’t there and she felt like Elara was doing this. I didn’t really think that it was possible that that would have something to do with Elara and yeah, I really stupidly did believe her when she played dumb.

Because I am real dumb and Aveyard is a brilliant writer. Reading Coriana’s descent into madness was awful. It all seemed to happen so quickly even though it was also quite a slow burn because it was happening through a lot of the story.

And that final paragraph. My god. The true power of Elara really hit me in the face all over again and made me kind of fearful for what Glass Sword will hold when she slowly makes her way back into the plot.

Moving onto Steel Sword. It kind of took me a while to really get into this one. It was back in first person narrative, which felt weirdly comforting, but then also something about it felt a little disjointed.

I think it had something to do with the telegrams that were interjected into the narrative, which while obviously important did feel a little jarring every single time they came up. It also took me a while to figure out what the timeline of it was. Obviously it was pre Red Queen, but I’m still not really sure what the timescale was. Certain plot points got a little confusing.

They all came together in the end and all the pieces did eventually fall into place, which made the last 20 or so pages really quite an exciting read. But it did take a hot minute for me to get to that point.

I liked getting to know a bit more about Farley and the dynamics that she had with characters that we had already seen and ones that we hadn’t, and finding out a bit more about how wide the reach of the Guard was, it turns out that knowledge slowly plants seeds that come to bloom in Glass Sword and so that was interesting. Especially because it seems like something about the dynamics of it all might come to head at some point…

Altogether I enjoyed these stories. I felt like they added an extra layer to the main narrative, especially in the case of Farley and to a degree Elara. I am glad that I read them because I feel like the information I learned from them will come in useful with these upcoming books

3/5 stars

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2018 Reading Challenge, Book 20 – Red Queen

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If it wasn’t obvious from the title (and the fact that I’ve already mentioned it), I am now embarking on this series. What with the final book now being out in the world it felt like a good time to start and make May the month of this series.

2018 Reading Challenge, Book 20, Red Queen
2018 Reading Challenge, Book 20, Red Queen

The first thing this book taught me was that I am not actually on the brink of a reading slump like I had feared but I had hit a string (of two) of books that I couldn’t quite get on board with and so felt like a long hard slog to get through. Also for about 100 pages it gave me Rebel vibes. Just a bad ass heroine who doesn’t know she has powers who then falls in with a couple of princes and then we’re off. The similarities are there. I then forgot about them once shit got real with this plot (also I’m not mad at the similarities, I loved Rebel).

There were parts of this book that were hella predictable, like Cal being royalty. And the kinda love triangle that is also somehow a square. I mean they are like YA staples sometimes and so even though I knew they were coming I was not mad at them. Especially the love geometric shape and the way that it was handled. It was handled well, at no point did I feel like it was super annoying and at no point did I really hate and wonder why it was there. All the actions made sense and overall I liked it. The foundations for something that could be truly complicated were laid and I am interested to see where it may lead.

Let’s talk about Mare shall we, given that it’s her story?

There were times when I liked her and times when I thought that she was incredibly naive and a little bit stupid. However, having said that as it was written in a first person narrative, there was a lot of instances where the reader was finding out things as Mare was, which meant that in some ways the reader was kind of naive to things. I mean the reader both is and isn’t.

I didn’t think she should trust anybody really and yet she kept on doing that, but for some strange bizarre reason I did not see Maven coming. I mean it actually makes perfect sense when you think about it rationally. But in the moment of the narrative it really caught me off guard. I actually had to pause to process what was happening on the pages in front of me.

It all made perfect sense but it was such a twist that I did not see coming. And then it just got crazier. The last 100 pages (I think, I really was not paying any attention to this while it was happening) were just insane. They just took what I thought I knew and then threw it out the window and it felt like I had to start all over again. Which I wasn’t even mad about. I love it so much when a book surprises me. But back to Mare because this is who I was talking about, while I found it frustrating at times that she seemed to always be one step behind everything and was kind of a naive I did also have to continually appreciate that this was not her world. She had no reason to be even remotely good at dealing with this world. She was thrown into it due to a chance encounter and I guess in circumstances like that you are gonna make some bad choices.

Maven is proving to make out to be a delicious villain though, which I am greatly appreciating. Cal is also proving to be a great counterpoint to Maven and also in relation to Mare. Where he is currently positioned come the end of the book is something that I hella intrigued by because you can just tell that it is going to be a continued point of contention. Come the end of this book I am also curious to see what Mare grows into.

They both finish this book kind of stripped of everything they know and in a new domain that is new to both of them, but also with a mission. The ending of this book made me so excited for the rest of the series.

I really liked Aveyard’s style of writing. It read really well and it had a goo quality to it. There was the odd stumbling block with it for sure, but for the most part I really enjoyed it. It took me on a journey with it and managed to conceal vital information in plain sight that I completely missed until it was actually revealed to me.

I really enjoyed this book. It made me feel like I had my reading mojo back and it was a great book. I would definitely recommend it to people, if they were up for the commitment, which I clearly am as I am deep into book 2 as I write this already…

4/5 stars

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Bonus Book Review – Children of Blood and Bone

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In a similar way to how I didn’t quite mean to read about men falling in love in back to back books, I didn’t mean to read a book that was so unapologetically black after reading a book that was about race. But it happened, because I was hyped for this book and the cover is all kinds of stunning.

I mean, just look at it:

Bonus Book Review - Children of Blood and Bone
Bonus Book Review – Children of Blood and Bone

This book had be hooked from the opening page. It wasn’t even a full page or anything, it was just a taste. But that was enough. I was in and I didn’t want to leave. Which was impressive to be honest as I was on the final leg of an afternoon that had been spent travelling and I felt so tired. But it was just that good of a book. It felt so grounded in reality from so early and when you have that you’re onto a winner.

Let’s however start with the drawbacks, of which there are actually very few. It felt a little bit like it dragged on in places. Mainly just because there were so many peaks. There were so many highlights and it was fairly action packed and with that it felt a little bit like a rollercoaster that kept just going up and down and there was a small part of me that felt like I just needed it to come to some kind of conclusion.

The conclusion that it came to was wild. I was exhausted by thinking about it and all the possibilities that it lead to. I’m actually kind of stressed about it. It both made the whole journey up until that point worth it but then also made me feel very impatient for the next one. So, yeah, an ending that I approved of.

Let’s move onto the characters now shall we, Zélie I loved. For the most part. There were times when it was glaringly obvious that she was a teenager and she was making some decisions that were…not wise. That made parts of it frustrating, but only because as the reader in this case you actually know more than whoever’s perspective you are reading. Not by much, but more than if it were just a first person narrative.

That was something else that I really enjoyed about this book. The fact that it was told from multiple perspectives. It meant that you could kind of see everything from all angles. For the most part. I am however a greedy little shit and there was a part of me that was craving a Tzain POV so damn hard. He seemed to be going through a lot in other people’s narratives and I wanted to know what the hell he thought about this whole shitstorm that his sister got him involved in with royalty.

I enjoyed reading Amari’s perspective so much. Mainly because I am obsessed with royalty being out of place in the world that they live in. I think that might be weird. But like, I realised as I was writing this that I have read a lot of books that involve royalty being out of place in some way and I have fucking devoured all of them. I liked the perspective that she offered on the whole thing as well because she was so willing to do what she thought was right by these people that she had limited knowledge of tbh. It went on a full arc as she revealed herself to be totally badass despite her upbringing and the position she was raised to have on things.

I also really enjoyed the interplay between Amari and Zélie. It really morphs into something kind of amazing considering the contentious start that it takes. It is one of those perfectly formed female friendships that is never catty for the sake of being catty and progresses the exact way that you think it would when two people are thrown together and then learn where the other is coming from and then things progress naturally. They didn’t remain enemies just for the sake of it. I love me a female friendship.

Inan is a delightfully complex character, I mean he was somehow my least favourite character because the others were just so great. But the conflict that he creates is just so great. I am interested to see where he goes as a character and how he comes to terms with himself and what it means for his life. He was a dick for the most part, but I felt bad for him and also could understand where he was coming from and so it made writing him off completely as a dick a little difficult. However he totally was. But it’s complicated. I loved that it was complicated.

That was a massive plus point for the whole thing. The way it was written was just outstanding. The world building was just incredible. I am always a little bit wary of high fantasy because it can be a bit difficult to get your head around, but this made it so easy. It felt so real. From the moment it started up until it finished. Even though it was so fantastical, it felt so real. Another thing that I loved was how unapologetically black it was. It made me really take note of how little the representation for African literature/characters is in my everyday reading life. It really made me want to read more of it. I need better representation in my literature and am so going to try and make that the case in the future.

I would totally recommend this book to anyone. It’s great. It’s a rich world with great characters and high stakes. And the fantasy element of it is flawless.

4/5 stars

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2018 Reading Challenge, Book 19 – The Handmaid’s Tale

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The reading of this book has been a long time coming to be honest with you. I have been meaning to read this book for about 4/5 years, if not longer, but definitely since my 2nd year at uni. Then the urge to read it came back with a vengeance last year what with the TV adaptation and as the second season is due out imminently here and so it’s time finally came.

2018 Reading Challenge, Book 19 - The Handmaid's Tale
2018 Reading Challenge, Book 19 – The Handmaid’s Tale

This book stressed me all the way out. For most of it.

First of all I did not realise that it took place in a time that was not all that far from modern day society. When I thought about this book I thought it was a dystopia set in a not so distant future but still kinda distant. But no Offred is just out there knowing what her life was like before and looking on with sadness as she watches new girls be born into the world knowing what the future holds for them.

The flashbacks dotted throughout were heartbreaking because you could tell the way that they were still raw.  They came from a place that was still no fresh to Offred and that hurt. Especially when she was talking about her daughter. The whole unknown aspect of it for her bled through into the whole narrative really.

I loved the way that the story is told. Obviously it is told by Offred but it is told from a perspective that suggests that she is beyond the incidents of the events of the story. And that means that the perspective and the narrative is hella interesting. It also means that I finished the book with a whole lot more questions. None of which will ever truly be resolved.

The way that it is told also adds a really chilling aspect to everything. At points you can feel Offred’s pain as she has go through the tale of it again. It also adds this quality where you wonder just how many times she has tried to tell this tale, and also why she has chosen to tell it. Maybe it was in a quest to get the word out there to people and as a cautionary tale for what could happen if they, the government I guess, are allowed to go through with whatever the hell happened to women in America.

What I also found fascinating was that this whole women problem only seemed to be happening in America. Like the rest of the world just let them do that crazy shit for some reason as long as it didn’t effect them, which I guess makes sense on some level, but also really makes you wonder how it got to that stage. The whole situation makes you wonder really. How enough women thought that the state of the world was so bad that the society that they created was the only way to fix it. And there were those that were willing to teach other, younger, women how to ‘behave’ now.

The sections where all these women were together in the parts to do with childbirth and all that were so jarring. And that was made the case even further because I mean the book opened with these women learning all this new shit and having their old identities stripped from them. The way they were all falling in line, despite it all being relatively new was so fascinating. And kind of horrifying.

That was my main takeaway from this book.

It was kind of horrifying.

The reversion back to a time where women were subservient but it going to an even greater extreme and them just accepting it for some reason. It was weirdly refreshing to know that there were women who didn’t abide by that and who ‘rebelled’. Even though all they were really doing was live their life semi how they used to. Also the actual act of having sex for these women now if they were fortunate enough to be a Handmaid (is fortunate the correct word?) was so bizarre. I mean on one level it made sense, but on another it was just strange. Really strange.

Everything was horrifying and strange. It felt like it cut weirdly close to home. It was beautifully written and I’m kind of annoyed that it took me so long to read it because it has now just  opened my eyes to how great Margret Atwood is and now I have soooo many more books on my to-read list.

I would for sure recommend this book in the same way that it was recommended to me. It’s really good. Horrifying (how many times am I gonna say that in relation to this book?), but good.

4/5 stars

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Summer Reading List

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I went from like 0 to 100 real quick. I typically just break my reading lists down into 6-8 week chunks, but for some reason I’ve decided to go from here in May all the way through to August, which is over a quarter of the year.

The reason for this? I could not think of a title for this one and then another one at a later date and so I bunged them all into one. I don’t even know how my logic is going to work for this one. I average at a book a week and so there are 18 weeks I am playing with here. So I’m gonna take 18 and then tack on an extra 7 and make it 25 for no actual reason to be perfectly honest. Like I said logic has gone all the way out of the window.

I don’t know how this going to make the overall goal seem less daunting given how many books I’m going for here, but hey. We’re doing this. So let’s do this.

Also, I feel like I should mention that although these are all listed apparently I am prone to doing shit on a whim and could just throw in a book that I didn’t even list in the original post. Also, I only read 6 books on my last one of these so those are being rolled over to some other time, that is apparently not during this period of time…

1-5) The Red Queen Series – Victoria Aveyard

There are 5 books in this series, I’m gonna try and read it straight through, but that might not happen and there might be a couple of books thrown in the mix, depending on how I mesh with the series. I do know that when I was moving through Rebel earlier in the year, it felt great to read them all straight through, but it did feel kind of exhausting only being in that world for like a month. It’s the same reason I couldn’t read The Mortal Instruments straight through as 6 books and had to break it into two trilogies. So currently I plan to go straight through, but yeah, that might not happen. They will however all be read.

6) Fight Club – Chuck Palahniuk

I just wanna read this book. I wanna watch the film and I’m doing this thing where my brain won’t let me do that without having read the book first. Why I don’t know, it’s just a thing that my brain does to me sometimes.

7) the witch doesn’t burn herself in this one – amanda lovelace

I enjoyed her first collection, I’m excited to see what her second will bring.

8) The Shadow of the Wind, Carlos Ruiz Zafron

This book was given to me by someone at work and although they haven’t asked me about what I thought of it again yet (because they have done a couple of times already now) I don’t trust that they won’t ask again and so I wanna be able to finally be like ‘oh I thought this…’

9-10) The Conquerer’s Saga – Kiersten White

I dropped Now I Rise earlier this year so that I could finish the series straight through and well the final book is due out during this period of time and so the time has now come.

11) The Hate U Give – Angie Thomas

This won an award in Waterstones, and I’m hoping that I will mesh with it a bit better than I did Ink and Stars which won the same award and left me feeling confused.

12) Everless – Sara Holland

The concept of this book remains the most fascinating to me and so I need to get it in my life. My edition of this book is due to be with me during this time so I can just slot it in when I get it in my clutches.

13)  The Belles – Dohnielle Clayton

This is another book that is just mocking me on my bedroom floor looking all pretty and shit and so I am going to read it. Again, this is a book that intrigues me.

14) Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen

Look, let’s just get this over with shall we. Maybe not the correct attitude to take when trying to read a book, but the one I have nonetheless. Something about me and this book do not mesh well. Or at least we haven’t in the past.

15) Seriously…I’m Kidding – Ellen Degeneres

There has been no non-fiction on this list thus far which is a total contrast to the last one and so I am here to remedy that with this.

16) Thirteen Reasons Why – Jay Asher

I don’t really know how I feel about reading this book anymore, but nevertheless it feels like something that I am feeling compelled to read. So I’m gonna do in prep for the second season of the show coming out.

17) Why Not Me? – Mindy Kaling

And here is another autobiography from someone who’s first one I very much enjoyed. I just enjoy Mindy Kaling.

18) The Defining Decade – Meg Jay

I’m reaching the middle point of being in my 20’s in every sense during the summer (like I’m going to reach being halfway through being 25 come July) so it feels like a fitting book to read for the time.

19) Lost Boy – Christina Henry

I remain optimistic about this book despite how I felt with the last book of hers that I read. And I’m interested as to how the story is going to be flipped and made super dark.

20) The Crucible – Arthur Miller

I’m gonna go in with this. I may regret it, but I’m gonna do it anyway.

21-23) Roxane Gay

I’m gonna treat this like a trilogy of sorts and read all 3 books that I have by Gay slated to read this year in one go. Maybe it will work, maybe it won’t. But they will all be read.

24) The Sun and Her Flowers – Rupi Kaur

And just like that, I’ve run out of poetry collections to read for the year (not strictly true, I have one on pre-order, but that’s not due until the last quarter of the year)

25) Runaways – Rainbow Rowell

And so we come to the last book on this long ass list. It’s a comic book. It’s Rainbow Rowell, I can’t see what’s not to like there.

And there it is. A somewhat lengthy breakdown of my reading list for this year and what shall be getting me through the summer months.

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