December Summary

I got so caught up in the New Year that I totally forgot to do my monthly summary for December! I’m not sure if I will continue these into 2019 or not, but I wanted to do the last one to finish off for 2018. Here’s what I read:

Books read: 8
Pages read: 2,736
Main genres: Historical Fiction, Mystery
Favourite book: The Feather Thief

December is always a bit of a slower month because I go home for Christmas to visit my family. But I still managed to read 8 books. I started off with my favourite read of the month, The Feather Thief by Kirk Wallace Johnson. This was a huge surprise to me seeing as The Feather Thief is about a guy who steals 300 bird carcasses from the Natural History Museum in order to sell the feathers to fly-tiers, but it was strangely compelling. I read it on Audible and I thought the narrator did a great job and I was totally enthralled with this little known heist for the entirety of the novel. Definitely recommend for history buffs.

I finally read Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, which has been on my TBR for ages. It’s historical fiction about female pilots in WW2 that is widely loved in the YA community. I didn’t love it quite as much as I expected, but I followed it up with the companion novel, Rose Under Fire, which I actually ended up liking a lot more. The second book is about notorious women’s concentration camp, Ravensbruck, and while it’s very upsetting, I thought it was really well written.

I read two mystery novels, Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson, and Murder in Mesopotamia by Agatha Christie. Truly Devious has been lauded all over Booktube and I was totally blown away by how much I DISLIKED it. I’m actually shocked by how many people love this book because I thought it was poorly written, poorly plotted, and extremely juvenille. I really wanted to love it, but it was a huge disappointment. I didn’t have too many thoughts on Murder in Mesopotamia. It wasn’t my favourite Agatha Christie, but still a fun 3-star read.

About a week before I was due to head home for the holidays, I received an early copy of The Wicked King by Holly Black from Hatchette. I was really excited to read this one because I’ve heard a lot of good things about it and as someone who liked, but didn’t love, The Cruel Prince, I was interested to see if the sequel was any better. I still didn’t love it quite as much as everyone else, but I did like it better than the first book and I am now pretty desperate for the final book!

Finally, I read two books while I was home for Christmas. I finally picked up Wildcard by Marie Lu, the sequel to Warcross, and read pretty much the entire book on the plane on the way home. Unfortunately, this was another disappointing book. I LOVED Warcross last year and while I still liked parts of Wildcard, I thought it was overwritten, with the plot being overly complicated and action for the sake of action. I finished off the year with the final book in the To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before trilogy, Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han. I didn’t love the conclusion as much as the first book, but overall I think this is a really strong contemporary series and I can’t wait to watch the sequel on Netflix this year!

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Wildcard

Rating: .5
Author: Marie Lu
Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult
Pub date: Sep. 2018 (read Dec. 2018)
Series: Warcross #2

I read this book on my way home for the holidays and I fear I may have waited too long to review it. I’m already starting to forget parts of this, but I will do my best to review.

Warcross really surprised me last year and ended up being one of my favourite books of the year. Sci-fi is not my favourite genre and I did not like Marie Lu’s Young Elites trilogy, so I didn’t expect to like Warcross, but ended up falling in love with this vibrant and futuristic version of Japan. Sadly I hadn’t heard great things about Wildcard, but I tried to go into it with an open mind.

I thought Wildcard had a pretty strong start. It jumps right back into the action and I was really excited to be re-introduced to the Phoenix Riders and Emika’s world. There is a strong mystery element in Wildcard and you really don’t know who you can trust, so I was definitely intrigued.

Sadly though, Wildcard was not able to live up to the world Marie Lu created in Warcross and I felt it started to buckle under the weight of the plot and the lack of character development. I love a good fast paced plot – and despite everything else, this plot remained fast paced throughout the entirety of the book – but I felt that Lu abandoned a lot of the characters and character development from the first book in favour of new characters and it caused this one to just fall flat.

In Warcross, Emika struggles in trusting her teammates. She is used to working as a lone wolf and takes a lot of pressure and responsibility upon herself. Her teammates want to help and she eventually learns to trust them and realizes that being part of a team is better than operating alone. While the Phoenix Riders are still present in this book, I felt they weren’t integral to the plot and much of the book focuses on Emika and Zero. I liked that Emika made a new girlfriend in this book (I’m sorry you guys, I literally can’t remember her name!! Zero’s second, can anyone help me out here?!), but I really wanted to see more development of the characters we were introduced to in the first book and the Warcross world, but this was really Hideo and Zero’s party and I thought Emika struggle to carry the story.

Where Wildcard lost me was in the plot. I think Marie Lu made this too technical and tried to throw in way too many plot twists. I’ll admit, she got me on a lot of them, but I felt the plot got way too convoluted towards the end that I just kind of tapped out on the book. Warcross introduced this really interesting VR world that I could totally see happening within my lifetime. Lu introduced a lot of thought-provoking moral issues like is it justified to remove people’s freewill in order to completely eliminate crime? I thought there were a lot of interesting ethical questions to explore in this book, but I think Lu sacrificed this development in the interest of writing more action, which really did a disservice to the world she created. It’s a resounding YES that Hideo’s technology to eliminate crime was a bad idea, but we never really explored the benefits and consequences of his algorithm and jumped right to the need to destroy it.

There was so much action in this book, and yet, I was kind of bored. The entire last 30% of the book is just one extended action scene with very limited character development. I stopped caring about the Phoenix Riders and I thought Emika added very little to the development of the story. This really became more about Zero and Hideo and even though there was a lot of action, things started to feel a bit repetitive. I like a good plot, but for me, stories are always first and foremost about the characters. A book needs a good plot to move the characters forward, but I would never sacrifice development for action. I wanted to think about the ethics of a VR world and how to integrate morality with technology, but I guess Lu just wanted to deliver a fast-paced action novel. She delivered on the action, but I’m not sure why I should care about it.

Fall 2018 New Releases

Okay, the number of new releases that I can’t wait to read coming out this Fall is A LOT! There are so many new sequels coming out, I can’t wait to read them all!!

September 18th

Lethal White by Robert Galbraith (JK Rowling) – I have been waiting for this one for YEARS and it recently has a release date in September, which is pretty much the most exciting news ever! I need to know what Robin and Strike will get up to next!

Wildcard by Marie Lu – I read and loved Warcross last year, so I’m thrilled this series is getting a sequel so soon!

Check Please! #Hockey by Ngozi Ukazu – Okay, I admit I only recently discovered this one, it’s a graphic novel, coming of age story about (gay?) hockey players. It has wonderful reviews already and I am super intrigued to read it!

October 2nd

The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee – If this is anything like The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, it will be a hoot! Can’t wait to read more about Felicity! (I don’t think the first book is required reading for this one)

Saga, Volume 9 by Brian K Vaughan and Fiona Staples – I’m literally always ready for a new Saga installment.

October 9th

Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak – That’s right, the author of The Book Thief is finally publishing a new book!

October 23rd

Kingdom of Ash by Sarah J Maas – Sarah is finally publishing the final book in the Throne of Glass series. Empire of Storms ended on the most outrageous cliffhanger and then I got a whole book about Chaol forced on me that I didn’t need, so I can’t wait to finally read this last installment.

Wundersmith: The Calling of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend – I only just read Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow a few weeks ago and I am totally obsessed with it! So glad I only have to wait until October for the sequel.

November 6th

Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix by Julie C Dao – The second (and I believe final) installment in the Forest of a Thousand Lanterns series. The first book was surprisingly dark and juicy and I’m really interested in this follow up retelling of snow white and the evil queen.

Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan – I’m not sure why this new fantasy caught my eye over the million other new fantasy’s coming out, but I heard it has mature themes and a strong protagonist, so I really want to read it.

December 4th

All the Wandering Light by Heather Fawcett – I haven’t been seeing too much hype about this series, but I really liked the first book, Even the Darkest Stars, and I was really sad when the release date on this one got pushed back a few months, but this is set in the frigid, snowy mountains, so it’ll be the perfect atmospheric read for December!

 

Sequels I can’t wait to read in 2018!

I love and hate series. I love them because there’s nothing quite like returning to a set of characters that you already know and love – but I hate them because there’s always so much waiting! Here’s the new books I’m looking forward to reading this year:

Throne of Glass Book 7 by Sarah J Maas
Release Date: September 4

This one isn’t titled yet, but nothing could steal the top spot away from this book! I thought I would be getting this book last year, but Maas postponed it to instead release a full standalone novel about Chaol, so I was forced to wait another year for this one. Throne of Glass is my favourite of all the YA fantasy series out there (except HP duh) and the last novel (Empire of Storms) ended on the most outrageous cliffhanger! So I am desperate for what Sarah has said will be the conclusion of the series!

My Plain Jane by Cynthia Hand, Jodi Meadows, and Brodi Ashton (The Lady Janies #2)
Release Date: June 26

The second book in the Lady Janies series, but I’m pretty sure this one could also be a standalone. Three YA authors are releasing 3 books about historical Janes. The first book, My Lady Jane, was about Jane Grey who was queen for 9 days in the 15th century. It was pretty much the funniest book I’ve ever read and I’m anxiously awaiting My Plain Jane, which will focus on Jane Eyre and the Bronte sisters.

Saga, Volume 8 by Brian K. Vaughan
Release Date: December 27, 2017

Okay this one was actually released at the end of last year, but close enough. Saga is the weirdest graphic novel series, but I can’t help but love it and I love getting a new volume every year! I love this little ill-fated inter-galactic family and the artwork is fantastic (although a little graphic, made the mistake of reading the first one on public transit, LOL)!

The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee
Release Date: October 2

This is another sequel/standalone novel. Similar to My Lady Jane, the first novel in this series, The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue was hilarious! My favourite character was easily Felicity and I was so thrilled to see that she would be getting her own spin-off novel! Lee said that some of the same characters would be present in this book, but I’m not sure if you need to read the first one or not. But you should read it either way because it’s hilarious!

Bright We Burn by Kiersten White (The Conqueror’s Saga #3)
Release Date: July 1

I’m am obsessed with this series! I totally thought it was a fantasy series when I picked it up, but it actually doesn’t have any magical elements and it’s more historical fiction than anything else. Like My Lady Jane, I would again place this in the “re-imagined” history category. Kiersten White has re-imagined Vlad the Impaler as a teenage girl in this series and it’s all about Romania and the Ottoman Empire in the 1400’s. It is dark and intense and so so good!

What You Want to See by Kristen Lepionka (Roxane Weary #2)
Release Date: May 1

I don’t read mystery/thrillers all that often, but I picked up the first one in this series, The Last Place You Looked, last year and thought the main character, Private Investigator Roxane Weary, was fantastic! She’s a classically flawed PI, but I really enjoyed how the book goes just as in depth to the PI as it does to the case she’s trying to solve.

All The Wandering Light by Heather Fawcett (Even the Darkest Stars #2)
Release Date: September 4

The first book in this series definitely had some flaws, but I LOVED the setting and I definitely want more. It’s set in a Himalayas-type fantasy world and involves lots of hiking, camping, and exploring mountains. Pretty much all my favourite past-times, so I’m very excited to continue on with this story.

Other Notable Sequels:

A Court of Frost and Starlight by Sarah J Maas (A Court of Thorns and Roses #3.5)
Release Date: May 1
I can’t decide if I’m over this series or if I want more….

A Reaper at the Gates by Sabaa Tahir (An Ember in the Ashes #3)
Release Date: June 12
It’s been so long since the last one that I’m not as excited about this one anymore, but I’ll probably still read it.

Only Human by Sylvain Neuvel (Themis Files #3)
Release Date: May 1
Not my favourite series, but I suspect this will be the last book and I want to see it through.

Sequels I’m dying for but don’t have a release date yet:

Warcross Book 2 by Marie Lu
I NEED THIS ONE SO MUCH!!

Lethal White by JK Rowling/Robert Galbraith (Cormoran Strike #4)
Seriously, when is this book finally going to be released? Enough with Fantastic Beasts, she left the last one on the biggest cliffhanger and I need it. I need it now!

Top 10 Books of 2017

I read so many fantastic books this year, it is impossible to choose only 10! Honestly, I really couldn’t narrow it down, so I decided to do two posts. I read a lot of new publications this year, so this is my top 10 books of 2017 that were actually published in 2017, and I’m planning to follow up with another 5 of my favourite non-2017 publications that I read this year. So without further ado, here we go:

Beartown by Fredrik Backman (Fiction)

Hands down, Beartown tops my list this year. I get most of my books from the library, but I went out and bought this one because I just HAD to own it! Fredrik Backman is a Swedish writer best known for A Man Called Ove, which I read last year along with Britt-Marie was here. Both novels were touching stories centred around ornery old people who you grow to love, so I was surprised to read the synopsis for Beartown, which sounded like something totally different from what Backman usually writes. In retrospect, it did have a lot of the same elements and examines the impact individuals can have on their community, but it tackled a lot of different issues.

Beartown is obsessed with hockey, namely the high school boys hockey team. This is supposed to be their year to finally win the championship and the community will do whatever it takes to help get them there, until a shocking event occurs that polarizes the community and threatens their chance to finally put Beartown on the map. It’s a fantastic story and study in character development. The novel has a huge cast of characters and somehow Backman made me care about each and every one of them. But holy smokes, this book was all about the writing for me. I thought it was just the most beautiful style of writing and had such insight into individual and community dynamics. Highly recommend to everyone – READ THIS BOOK!

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng (Fiction)

This is Celeste Ng’s second book – I read her debut novel, Everything I Never Told You, in 2015, which was a slow-build family drama about a mixed-race family in the 1970’s. Even though it wasn’t very fast-paced, I loved Everything I Never Told You and Little Fires Everywhere proved to have the same magic. It’s also a slow-build family drama and takes place in the community of Shaker Heights in the 1990’s (Ng’s real-life hometown). The story looks at the “perfect” Richardson family and their 4 kids and how they are impacted by the arrival of single mother/artist Mia and her teenage daughter Pearl. Mia and Pearl live in the Richardson’s rental property and unintentionally find themselves wrapped up in the Richardson’s family secrets.

Everyone seems to get along until a local scandal makes headlines when a young Chinese women contests the legitimacy of the adoption of her baby by the Richardson’s neighbours. Pearl begins to suspect her mother has been keeping her own secrets and friendships and relationships are challenged. Similar to Beartown, the writing is what made this a win for me. Ng is so perceptive and I love how she explores familial, platonic, and romantic relationships throughout the novel. I can see how this book might not be for everyone, but I absolutely loved it.

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See (Historical Fiction)

I know Lisa See has a huge fan base out there, but this was the first time I had heard of her. The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane had so many good reviews that I begrudgingly picked it up. For some reason I had it in my mind that this one was over-hyped and I wasn’t going to like it, but I’m a sucker for historical fiction and this book had so much to love!

This is the story of a poor, indigenous (Akha) Chinese girl, Li-yan, who grows up picking tea leaves in a small village in Yunnan province. The novel takes place at the height of the one-child policy and when Li-yan becomes pregnant out of wedlock, she feels forced to give up her daughter in order to maintain her place in the community and chase after an education. The book flashes back and forth between Li-yan’s daughter as she grows up in American and Li-yan as she tries to make a life for herself and escape the poverty she was born into. Lisa See explores so many different issues and did a beautiful job writing Li-yan’s character. I’ve never found tea more interesting than I did in this book!

The Radium Girls by Kate Moore (Non-Fiction)

The Radium Girls is a non-fiction book that reads like fiction, and damn is it ever devastating. Kate Moore tells the true story of hundreds of girls and women that worked as dial painters in American factories in the 1920’s that died of radium poisoning. Radium-based paint was used to paint everything from watch faces, to airplane dials, to military equipment because it was luminous. While the extent of the harmful effects of radium was not totally known, their employers definitely knew the paint was dangerous and in many cases, purposefully hid it from their female employees.

The girls eventually starting getting sick and many of them died horrible deaths. When their illnesses were finally attributed to radium poisoning, many of the girls began to sue and fight back against the Radium Corporation. This is the story of their struggle and how they changed the laws surrounding workers rights and subsequently likely saved the lives of thousands of future workers. It is very well researched and written. It’s a tough read as it is infused with a lot of emotion, but so important to women’s history.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (Young Adult)

This is such an important book for teenagers (and probably even more so for adults). Black men and women are routinely stopped, questioned, and made to feel unsafe by law enforcement. As was the case in The Hate U Give (and Dear Martin, which I also read this year), black men are often (unjustly) the victims of police violence. Starr Carter’s world is turned upside down when her best friend, Khalil is shot and killed in front of her because the officer thought his hairbrush was a gun.

Starr is traumatized by the event and fears that it may have catalyzed her community. She wants to speak out, but is frustrated by the way her words are twisted and how her best friend is villainized by the media and her white friends. I do think Angie Thomas wrote this book with white people in mind, which is why I think every teenager should read it. It’s a good introduction to police brutality and the Black Lives Matter movement. It’s important for white people to realize the ways in which our privilege protects and blinds us, and it’s important for people of colour to have stories, characters, and authors they can relate to and look up to.

What Happened by Hillary Clinton (Memoir)

Look, I know Hillary is polarizing for people. Some of you hate her or think she’s a corrupt politician, but you can’t deny she is persistent. I’m Canadian, so I never could have voted for her, but we’re still waiting for our first elected female Prime Minister in Canada too and we are largely impacted by American politics (as is most of the world), so it matters to me that Trump is President. I know a lot of people aren’t interested in hearing about Hillary’s “losing” story and think she blames everyone and anyone but herself for her loss, but that is not true and if you read this book, you’ll see how much harder she had to work to be taken seriously and how much harsher she is judged (and judges herself).

I listened to this as an audiobook. I usually only listen to audiobooks when I run, but I found myself carrying my phone around with me everywhere so that I could listen to this non-stop. Is Hillary perfect? no, but she still inspires me. I loved getting the opportunity to actually learn about her policies, which got virtually no airtime during the election, and learn about her experiences as a female politician. This book with fill you rage, but it will also fill you with hope. I found parts of it very upsetting, and I imagine it would be even harder to read as an American directly impacted by Trump’s policies. But whether or not you read this book, start engaging in politics and supporting the amazing women in your community, because Hillary has at the very least built a stepping stool to get us that much closer to smashing the damn glass ceiling.

Warcross by Marie Lu (Science Fiction)

In the past I’ve been pretty rough on Science Fiction and Marie Lu, but I might have to start changing my tune because Warcross was fantastic! It’s set in a futuristic Japan, where a virtual reality game called Warcross has enveloped the globe. Emika Chen is living in New York and is down on her luck when she decides to hack into the Warcross opening games to make a quick dollar. She is caught and quickly whisked off to Japan to try and track down other hackers that are wreaking havoc in the game.

This book was so vibrant and fast paced! It was so easy to believe that our world could evolve in the same way as the world Marie Lu has created and I loved reading all about this futuristic version of Tokyo. The characters were really well written, although some could be more developed. However, this is only the first book in the series and I’m fully expecting to see some wonderful character growth in the next one!

The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui (Graphic Novel)

The Best We Could Do is a graphic memoir of Thi Bui’s family, their escape from war-torn Vietnam in the 1970’s, and their eventual relocation to America. I think it’s definitely comparable to Maus and Perspepolis (which are both great), but I think this might be my favourite of the three. The opening scene in the book is Bui giving birth to her first child with the support of her mother, and the scene was just so gritty and honest that I felt like I was in the delivery room with them.

Bui goes on to reflect on her journey from Vietnam to America and the struggles she’s faced with both of her parents. The graphics are great and she was just so honest in the telling of her history that I really empathized with her family.

Far From the Tree by Robin Benway (Young Adult)

I used to love Robin Benway as a teenager, so when I saw this one had won the National Book Award, I had to give it a read! In my opinion it was very deserving of its win. Far From the Tree switches between 3 different teenage narrators – Joaquin, Grace, and Maya. Joaquin has been in the foster child system since he was very young and Grace and Maya were both adopted at birth. When Grace becomes pregnant at 16 and decides to give her daughter up for adoption, she goes in search of her own birth mother and along the way discovers the existence of her 2 siblings.

Joaquin, Maya, and Grace are all struggling with their own challenges and begin to lean on each other for support. There’s a lot of stuff going on in this novel, but the writing was so wonderful and the stories so moving. I was hooked from the first chapter and even though I have almost nothing in common with Joaquin, Grace, or Maya, their characters and pain were so well written that I had no problem relating with any of them. I loved every minute of this novel and I would highly recommend to anyone who loves a good well written, emotional story.

A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab (Fantasy)

I read 4 full trilogies this year and started several other series that are only 1 or 2 books in. So even though I’ve only listed one fantasy novel on my top 10, it was actually my most-read genre. It was hard to pick a favourite. Actually, it was easy, but my favourite fantasy series of the year wasn’t published in 2017, so I’m saving it for my follow-up post. Even though I didn’t like the first two novels in this series as much as some of the other books I read, I settled on A Conjuring of Light as my top fantasy novel of 2017. It was such an epic conclusion to the Shades of Magic trilogy.

I absolutely love the characters in this series. In a nutshell, the plot of the series is about these 4 parallel versions of London, the dark magic that is slowly escaping between them, and our protagonist’s (Kell) attempt to stop the spread of evil. But the plot was really secondary to the character development for me. The series had some truly kick-ass characters, my favourite of which was Lila, a cross-dressing pirate. Every character is fully realized, even the villains, and the relationships they developed were so real and beautiful. I did struggle a little with the first novel, but this one definitely got me!

Shout-out to Now I Rise, from the Conqueror’s Saga, which was a close second for the final spot.