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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The Wicked King

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐.5
Author: Holly Black
Genres: Fantasy
Pub date: Jan. 8, 2019 (read Dec. 2018)
Series: The Folk of the Air #2

Thank you to Hachette Book Group Canada for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

Unpopular opinion: I liked The Cruel Prince (3 stars), but I definitely didn’t love it and it was so hyped up it kind of left me wondering if maybe there was something I was missing not loving it as much as everyone else. The Wicked King started off much the same, with me wondering what the big deal was. I still kind of don’t understand the insane level of fandom that some readers have over this series, but I think I did like this book more than the first one.

So I was not really feeling this in the beginning, but then once I got about a third of the way through I thought it picked up a lot and I pretty much speed read through the rest of the book in 2 days. I think my biggest issue that I don’t particularly love Holly Black’s style of writing, but I may be the odd one out here. I said this about The Cruel Prince, and I had the same thought with this book, that I felt like I was reading a middle grade novel. The plot is so obviously NOT middle grade (it’s brutal), but something about the writing strikes me as a little immature. I’m not really looking for flowery writing in my fantasy books, but something about Black’s style is just a little to simplistic for me. That said, I have a feeling the writing may be one of the reasons other readers like this so much – it is definitely a different style of writing from most other fantasy books and the characters and plot read a lot different.

The middle grade feel ends there though because the plot is anything but middle grade. My favourite part of the first book was how unpredictable the plot was and Black definitely continued that theme in this book. I didn’t see any of the plot twists coming and I was continually surprised by where she took the story. It reminds me a little of Game of Thrones in that you really don’t trust that any of the characters are safe and that really anything could happen to them.

It’s definitely a political book and it does get a little confusing at times. I may have benefited from a re-read of The Cruel Prince before jumping into this book because I forgot some of the details about Faerieland and who was good and who was bad (although do we ever really even know? Everyone flipflops so much). I thought it got really interesting in part 2 of the book when we learned more about the sea kingdom and Cardan finally stopped being a little puppet king. I like that you never know which characters you can trust, even though it makes you want to pull your hair out sometimes. Plus I thought Jude was really clever when she was in the sea kingdom. You can tell she’s really struggling in the first half of the book to maintain any kind of power and it was kind of fun to see it all stripped away from her and see her still use her wits to succeed.

I liked that Jude and Cardan both grew a lot in this book. I’m still not entirely sure what the source of attraction is between them, but I was feeling it in the second half of the book. I think I liked Cardan’s development the most. He really came into his own in the second half of the book as well and I wanted to love him, but at the same time you can’t help but be weary of trusting anyone in this book. I still don’t really know what to think about him, even after that brutal ending. WHAT IS REAL?! It’s the perfect kind of ending though in that it’s not really a cliffhanger, but it makes you desperate for the next book. It reminded me a little of the ending of ACOMAF, which also has that perfect hook to draw you back to the next book without really being a cliffhanger.

On a side note, I don’t really get Taryn and Locke. They’re a mystery to me and I really don’t know what the hell Taryn is playing at (and Locke is like the world’s biggest ass). I think I may have to read the novella because I think that gives us some more insight into Taryn’s character.

I really wanted this book back in the summer when everyone was getting arcs, but I’m kind of glad that I didn’t get it until now because otherwise it would be a SUPER long wait to the next book. Plus Hatchette Canada was so kind as to send me a finished copy, which I really appreciate. It’s still not one of my favourite fantasy series, but it is fun and I will definitely be anxiously awaiting the final book.

The Wicked King will be available in stores on Jan. 8th, 2019

January Summary

I can’t believe January is over already! Seriously, where did the time go?!

It was a bit of a mixed bag for books this month. I got off to a bit of a rough start to the year with several book duds, but things definitely picked up later in the month and I loved all three of the books that I read for my January reading challenge. Here’s my summary:

Books read: 10
Pages read: 3,797
Main genres: Young adult, historical fiction, fantasy
Favourite (new) book: Girl in Translation
Favourite re-read: On the Jellicoe Road

I started off the month with Thunderhead, the sequel to Neal Shusterman’s new series Scythe. I did like this one, but overall I don’t think Shusterman is quite my cup of tea and I found it a bit boring. He explores a lot of really interesting concepts in Scythe and in comparison, Thunderhead seemed a bit lacking.

Things only got worse though because I followed up Thunderhead with The Life She Was Given and The Star-Touched Queen, both of which I did not like at all. The Life She was Given was my book club read of the month and it ended up being our lowest rated book to date, and we’ve read over 50 books! I found the book totally lacking in depth, development, and meaning. Likewise, I thought the writing in the Star-Touched Queen was so over-the-top flowery that it completely took away from the story. I can see why some people might be into this type of writing, but it really did nothing for me and I didn’t find the story meaningful.

Things picked up after that with the first book in my January Challenge to read 3 books about immigration – Girl in Translation. This is a fantastic book about a Chinese mother and daughter who immigrate to America and the terrible conditions they put up with just to survive. It was so well written; I loved the main character Kim and her aspirations to get the very best education so that her and her mother could rise above their circumstances. it was a very moving story.

Next I read Looking for Alibrandi, which is one of the few Melina Marchetta books I hadn’t already read. It was a solid 3-star read and I thought the main character Josie had a lot of spunk, but I didn’t think it was anything that special. However, it inspired me to give On the Jellicoe Road a re-read, which is one of my favourite books of all time and still moves me to tears, even after several re-reads over the last few years. These are both relatively older YA contemporary books, but I honestly think On the Jellicoe Road is timeless and that everyone should read it!

My second January Challenge read was Pachinko, which is a slow-moving historical epic that spans 80 years of history about a Korean family that immigrates to Japan during its colonial rule over Korea and struggle to build a life for themselves and escape the stigma of being Korean. It examines the challenges of being emancipated from your homeland and finding where you fit in in a new culture. Also a wonderful read, although quite long.

I needed something light and fast-paced before I tackled my last Challenge book, so I read The Cruel Prince which has been getting an insane amount of good reviews. I liked it, but was definitely disappointed with it because I think it’s gotten a little over-hyped and the book wasn’t able to deliver on my expectations. That said, I still gave it 3 stars and I will definitely be continuing on with this series. I’m hopeful about the next book!

My last book on immigration was American Street, which was refreshing in that it was totally unlike the first two books I read. American Street focuses on 16-year old Fabiola, whose mother is detained when they try to enter America from Haiti. She is forced to go on to Detroit without her mother and struggles to navigate her new life with her 3 larger than life cousins and her sick aunt. This was my least favourite of the 3, but I still really enjoyed it and gave it 4 stars.

I thought American Street would be the last book of the month, but I managed to fit in one more with Ruined. Based on other reviews I figured I would either love or hate Ruined and I’m pleased to say I LOVED IT! It’s a fast-paced YA fantasy novel that has a lot of action and a fair bit of romance. Sometimes I dislike too much romance in my fantasy novels, but I loved it in this one. Can’t wait to get my hands on a copy of the sequel!

The Cruel Prince

 

 

 

 

 

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐
Author: Holly Black
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Read: Jan. 2018

First off, I definitely liked this. It was an intriguing story with some pretty interesting characters. But I didn’t love it quite as much as I was hoping. This may be a good example of a book where the hype gave me unrealistic expectations. The Cruel Prince only came out the first week of January, but I’ve been seeing so much buzz about it everywhere and pretty much everyone seems to have totally loved it. Like I said, I did actually quite enjoy this book and I will definitely be reading the next one, but it’s one of those 3 stars reads that I liked not loved.

This was my first Holly Black book. I know she’s written a ton of stuff and that she’s quite popular, which surprised me because I didn’t love her writing style. Her writing is very simple and I honestly had to go back to goodreads to check what genres this was listed under because, with the exception of the opening scene (which is gruesome), I felt like I was reading a middle grade novel for the first half of this book. Between Jude’s bullying at school, her boy woes, and the simple writing, I didn’t feel like I was reading a YA fantasy novel.

Anyways, to give you a quick summary, The Cruel Prince is set in the world of the high fae, which is closely linked with the mortal world. The first chapter is stellar and starts off with a brutal double murder and the faerie general, Madoc, dragging Jude and her two sisters back to Faerie to be their surrogate father. Jude and her sister Taryn are both humans and suffer a lot at the hands of the fae. Humans are often enchanted and used as servants by the fae and it’s only Madoc’s status as the general that protects them. They are bullied at school, but Faerie is really all they’ve ever known and they are both desperate to fit in.

Jude wants to prove herself by besting the fae and becoming a knight to the royal family. But she is at odds with the young prince Cardan, who’s in her class at school and it unbelievably cruel. When rumours fly that the high king is going to be abdicating his position to one of his 6 children, Jude gets caught up in the drama and the secret scheming for the crown.

Okay, what did I like about this book? I liked Jude as the narrator. She had spunk and she was quite stubborn, but also ballsy. I also liked Cardan – the book is called ‘the cruel prince’ so you know there’s going to be more to Cardan than meets the eye and I was really intrigued as to what his deal is. I also thought Madoc was a fascinating character, even though I HATED him. I liked Vivi too, so I guess the strongest part of this novel for me was the characters, which is a pretty good because in my opinion, characterization is key.

Things I didn’t like – apparently there’s a few of them. Firstly, I did not like the pacing, which I thought was all over the place. The novel starts off strong with the double murder and then gets ridiculously boring for the first third. Things get super intense again two thirds in with the coronation scene, but then they inexplicably slow down during the last third when the novel should be at its climax! I like a good planner, but I didn’t really like having to read about all the planning in lieu of just reading about the action.

I also thought this book was king of predictable. There was a side mystery going on throughout the course of the book, but I didn’t find it particularly compelling and I found it kind of hard to follow, so I was never really that intrigued in trying to solve the mystery because I never felt like I even really knew what the point was. There were definitely some surprising scenes in the book, but overall I could kind of guess where things were going and I was never really surprised by betrayals because I never trusted any of the characters to begin with.

I can’t decide if I liked the relationship between Jude and Taryn or not. They were really all each other had in the world and I found it hard to believe they would be so at odds with one another.

I’ll give Black props though, this book had a lot of characters and I never had any trouble following along with them all (with the exception of the side mystery element). I love when minor characters matter and I love when they have depth, and Holly Black had both in this novel. The Cruel Prince has the perfect kind of cliffhanger. Black has closed off all her loose ends, but she’s still left a wide up open space for the story to move into. I am genuinely excited to see what’s going to happen with Jude and Cardan in the next book and I really like the dynamic between the two of them. The most disappointing part is that I’m going to have to wait a whole year for the next installment!