September Summary

I was on vacation for 2 weeks in September, so I’m pretty satisfied with what I read this month. My monthly challenge was to start re-reading the Throne of Glass series in anticipation of the series finale coming out at the end of October. My monthly summary is:

Books read: 8
Pages read: 3,312
Main genres: Fantasy
Favourite book: Wuthering Heights
Favourite Re-read: Crown of Midnight

Like I said, I started off the month with the first 3 books in the Throne of Glass series: Throne of Glass, Crown of Midnight, and Heir of Fire. I’ve been dying to re-read this series for a while now, but I made myself wait until closer to the release of the last book so that it would all be fresh in my mind. Throne of Glass was one of my first major fantasy series, so I was curious if I’d like it as much the second time around, and I absolutely did! I’d forgotten just how epic Crown of Midnight was and I even upped my rating of Heir of Fire from 3 stars to 4 stars the second time around. I enjoyed it a lot more this time.

I read two audiobooks this month as well. I bought a copy of Wuthering Heights on Audible on impulse when they had it on sale for $5. I listened to Emma earlier this year and was keen to try out another classic. What I was not expecting was how much I absolutely adored Wuthering Heights! I know it’s a polarizing book and I know a lot of people who hate it. I kind of anticipated I wouldn’t like it as I don’t love a lot of classics, but I was so very wrong. I won’t go into detail what I loved about it though as I wrote a very detailed review about my thoughts.

The second audiobook was Neverworld Wake, a young adult/sci-fi/mystery thriller novel about a group of teenagers forced to live the same day over and over again. It had an interesting enough plot, but I didn’t love it because I thought it could have been better executed.

I also read two ARC’s this month, although I was a bit late reading the first one as it’s already been published. I read The Lost Queen, which is the first book in a new historical trilogy about 6th century Scotland, and Girls of Paper and Fire, a new YA fantasy book that I’d been hearing lots of good things about. The Lost Queen fell into the trap I’ve been having with a lot of my books lately in that I liked it at the end (appreciated the story), but found it kind of boring to read. In contrast, Girls of Paper and Fire was wonderful and kept me on the edge of my seat with the most wonderful queer relationship at the center of the story.

Finally, I read a short graphic novel/web series that’s set in Vancouver called Always Raining Here. This one was a quick read to boost my numbers, but I keep seeing it at my local bookstore and was intrigued about it. It’s about two gay high school students and the pressures of succeeding in high school and the struggles of being a gay teenager. I had mixed feelings because I liked parts of the story, but found other parts extremely problematic.

Anyways, I read some pretty large books this month, several were over 500 pages, so I’m quite happy with what I read and thrilled to be heading into October and November, which are easily my favourite reading months!

Advertisements

Heir of Fire

Rating: 
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pub Date: Sep. 2014 (first read June 2016)
Series: Throne of Glass Book #3

I flew through this 600 page book in a whopping 3 days! I remembered Heir of Fire as my least favourite Throne of Glass book, but it was sooo much better the second time around. I remembered this being so slow moving, and it was for about the first 100 pages, but I was so much more enthralled in the characters.

The first time I read this I gave it 3 stars, I think I was disappointed that our 3 main characters were no longer together and I struggled to get invested in Manon’s storyline and I wasn’t really interested in Rowan. But since I already know these characters now and I know that Celaena is going to be in Wendlyn for the whole book, it was easier to settle in and just enjoy the story.

I loved Rowan at the beginning of this book for being so mean and not taking any of Celaena’s shit. She makes some of the stupidest decisions and no one ever calls her out on it, so I loved Rowan for not coddling her. But I also loved how their relationship changed and it even made me appreciate Celaena a little more. She is so broken in this book. She has always been broken in this series, but Nehemia’s death really did a number on her and she can only see herself now as a coward and nothing else. She never makes any excuses for herself when training with Rowan, but when Rowan realizes how shitty he’s been to Celaena and why some of the things he said to her may have triggered her, I felt empathy for her in a new way. This book has a very different pacing from it’s predecessors, but I feel like we got some more depth to Celaena’s character. It’s easy to be mad at her for running from her birthright, but when you get her full backstory towards the end of the book, it helped me to understand her character a little more. Plus I loved FINALLY seeing her embrace who she is and actively make a decision to do something good.

With each passing novel I love Dorian more and more, and I was sooo dreading the ending of the book throughout the entire thing. Dorian finally moves on from Celaena with one of the castle healers, Sorsha, and while I didn’t really care for Sorsha – I found her personality pretty lacking – I loved watching Dorian become a man and a king. Chaol is so caught up by the notion of honour that it’s almost paralyzing for him. He has no idea what side of the war he is on and his opinions of honour and duty prevent him from listening to his heart. I love how simple it is for Dorian though and I love when he called Chaol out on touting his love for both Dorian and Celaena, but not really being able to accept either of them. Dorian knows what his father is doing is wrong. He values his friendship with Celaena and accepts her for who she is because they were friends and that is what friends do. He is not threatened by her power or the ‘what if’ of the future. He believes in the love that Celaena had for him and that they will work things out between them when the time comes. Dorian is absolutely the king that Adarlan needs and it has been so wonderful to watch him become that person.

Poor Chaol is just trapped in this novel. My love for Chaol diminished with each book in my first read through because I was so enamoured with him in the first two books that I thought Sarah J Maas had forgotten who his character really was. But on the second read through, I think it was really me who didn’t see Chaol for who he is. Chaol wants the world to be simple. He wants to just be able to live his life serving the King and Dorian, he doesn’t want to have to deal with all the blurred lines of right and wrong, duty and honour. He made an oath to protect the King, which he wants to honour, but he struggles to realize that honour isn’t always about keeping promises. If you made a promise to serve a bad person, sometimes the honour comes from recognizing that mistake and taking action to make things better. He knows the King is a monster, but he can’t admit it to himself because then what does that make him. He keeps making decisions based on what he thinks is best for other people, and never on what is best for himself. I would say that one of his flaws is in that selflessness. Was it a good thing that Celaena went to Wendlyn? Yes, but I would be pissed if I was her and Chaol had made that decision for me. Chaol has a need to always be in control and that just keeps getting harder and harder for him.

I was definitely more into Manon’s storyline this time around, but it’s still probably my least favourite of the book. I was super invested in Celaena’s storyline in this book and I got frustrated whenever it would switch. I don’t really have a whole lot to say about the witches. There are some interesting dynamics with the different covens; I liked Asterin and I’m interested to see what happens between the Blackbeak and Yellowlegs covens (I honestly don’t remember). But I really didn’t care for the extended scenes about wyvern training. I personally didn’t care about all the drama with Manon and Abraxos, but I guess it serves to help us get to know Manon’s character. Everything that happens to the witches in this book is really just about setting the scene for the next book.

Overall there are so many new characters in this book. Honestly I’m even more excited for Queen of Shadows when the cast will grow further. I liked getting introduced to Aedion and getting to understand his character, but I am so excited for Arobynn to finally re-enter the story in the next book. It never really bothered me in my first read through that he’s not in any of the books, because he’s only every mentioned in relation to Celaena’s history, but now that I’ve read The Assassin’s Blade, I’ve been dying for him to re-enter the story. He and Celaena have so much unfinished business and it’s been killing me to read 3 whole books with no resolution on how they left things at the end of TAB. I’m also dying for Lysandra to enter the story again for all the DRAMA.

We get a brief intro to Rowan’s cadre in this book and we meet Maeve for the first time, who we all know is freaking Undesirable No. 1. Maeve is like the Umbridge of this series. She’s not the main villain and she’s not as classically evil as the main villain, but you hate her SO MUCH MORE. She’s barely even in this book and she still made me feel so much rage at the end.

So in conclusion, I am definitely knocking my 3 star rating up to at least 4 stars. My main criticisms would be that it was too slow at the beginning and that overall, a lot of what happened with the witches just wasn’t really that important to the rest of the story. But I know there are some pretty die-hard witch fans out there, so many this storyline was a highlight for other people, it just didn’t really do it for me.

I did not find this book boring this time and I was totally on the edge of my seat for the last 200 pages. It’s crazy that I’m 4 books in and yet, I feel like this story is just about to get started. I can’t wait for Celaena to get back to Adarlan and wreak all kind of havoc! I’m heading on vacation now in a few days though for the rest of the month, so I’m going to have to wait a few weeks before I read the last 3 books. I’m debating reading QoS, followed by ToD, and then EoS… anyone have opinions on this order? It’s not the publishing order, but since ToD and EoS take place simultaneously, I kind of want to finish with that killer cliffhanger from Empire of Storms. Would love to hear your thoughts!

September Monthly Challenge

I am feeling so re-energized after my August Monthly Challenge! I kind of flaked out a little bit on a real challenge in August and just challenged myself to read as many of my existing books as possible, but this was so successful in getting me out of my book slump and making a dent on my TBR!

I feel like my September Challenge is a bit half-assed too, but necessary. This month I am challenging myself to:

Re-read the Throne of Glass series

Yes, I have already read all the books in this series, but I’ve been dying for a re-read and I’ve been forcing myself to wait until just before the final book in the series, Kingdom of Ash, is released. I’ve been waiting for this book for what feels like FOREVER and I’m really excited to jump back into the Throne of Glass series and see what I think of it the second time around. I re-read The Assassin’s Blade in August so that I could start right with Throne of Glass in September. The Assassin’s Blade is the prequel to the books and I actually never read it until after I’d finished Empire of Storms, and I think the series is going to make so much more sense now that I’ve actually read this book. I would definitely recommend reading this one first if you’re just starting the series.

For those of you who are living under a rock and haven’t heard of Throne of Glass, it’s an 8 book series by Sarah J Maas, with the 8th and final book coming out on October 23rd. It’s set on the continent of Erilea, which has pretty much been conquered and taken over by the King of Adarlan. Celaena is from Terrasen, which was pillaged by Adarlan when she was 8 and magic suddenly disappeared from the land. She was found by Arobynn Hamel, the king of Assassin’s and trained to be the greatest assassin in all of Adarlan. The series follows Celaena and a huge cast of characters and as far as epic fantasies go, I do really love this one.

I am going to be on vacation for the second half of September, so I’m aiming to get through Throne of Glass, Crown of Midnight, and Heir of Fire in the next two weeks. Then I’ll continue with Queen of Shadows and Empire of Storms in October. I haven’t decided yet if I’m going to re-read Tower of Dawn or not. I don’t really want to because I didn’t really like it and it is SO LONG. But honestly, I probably will because I want to be totally up to speed when I start Kingdom of Ash and I can’t really remember the important plot points at the end of Tower of Dawn… I just remember they were important to the greater story.

Forest of a Thousand Lanterns

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Author: Julie C. Dao
Genres: Fantasy, Fairytale retelling
Pub date: Oct. 2017 (read Jul. 2017)

Forest of a Thousand Lanterns seems to have some pretty mixed reviews. Some people seem to love it, while others are not enjoying it at all. To be honest, I thought I would probably be in the latter category since I listened to it as an audiobook (and I find audiobooks pretty hit or miss) and fairytale retellings aren’t really my favourite.

But damn, I did actually really like this, even as an audiobook. I didn’t properly read the synopsis and I went into this thinking it was a snow white retelling, but it’s actually an origin story of the evil queen, set in an East Asian fantasy world! A much more enthralling concept in my opinion!

I admit that I didn’t love this at first – the first few chapters nearly put me and my friend to sleep on a road trip, but it picks up pretty quickly and there is some really engaging nastiness later in the plot and I loved watching Xifeng navigate down an increasingly dubious path.

To give a bit of background, Xifeng has grown up in a tiny village in the empire of Feng Lu. For the first 18 years of her life she has been under the tyranny of her Aunt Guma. Guma reads in the cards that Xifeng’s destiny is to become the Empress of Feng Lu, so she educates her and teaches her the ways of blood magic in order to toughen her up. At the hands of her aunt’s abuse, Xifeng learns that her beauty is her most important asset and that it must be protected at all times.

Guma wants to help Xifeng succeed, but after a disturbing vision, Xifeng decides its time to leave her aunt and her village behind in order to seek her fortune. She escapes the village with her childhood friend and lover, Wei. Wei wants nothing more than to marry and protect Xifeng, but she believes in a different destiny for herself, and though she loves Wei, she keeps him at an arms length as they make their way towards the imperial city.

Like I said, this book has a lot of blood and nastiness in it, but I loved it. Xifeng makes some questionable decisions to protect her beauty and find her way into the imperial palace. But she is super determined and I admired her for continuing to chase after her fortune, even though it meant many sacrifices along the way and a blind faith that her circumstances would improve. The drama within the palace walls was thrilling and I’m really interested to see where Dao takes this in the next book.

Allied

Rating: 
Author: Amy Tintera
Series: Ruined (Book 3)
Genres: Fantasy
Pub Date: May 2018 (read May 2018)

I’m between 3 and 4 stars on this book, but after writing this review I’ve settled on 3 stars. Allied is the final book in the Ruined Trilogy. I won’t give a whole lot of a plot synopsis because I don’t want to spoil the first two books, but if you haven’t read the first 2 you should probably skip this post. I’ll keep this review spoiler free for Allied though if you have read the first 2.

I was pretty much trash for the first book in this series. I didn’t expect to love Ruined, but it was so fun and fast-paced that I just got totally pulled into the world. I loved Cas and Em in the first books and Olivia is straight up crazy and I was just totally flabbergasted by her character in the first 2 books. I didn’t love Avenged as much as Ruined and while I liked Allied and was excited to return to these characters, it’s not quite the series finale I was hoping for.

Let’s start with what I liked. This was still super fast-paced and enthralling. We get perspectives from a larger cast of characters and I enjoyed the addition of Gallo and Mateo to the story. What I liked so much about Ruined was that it’s not a traditional good vs. evil narrative and the idea is that there’s not really a right and wrong side. Both parties have made mistakes and harmed other people and at some point you have to start working at forgiveness and reparations instead of continually chasing after revenge and violence. I really liked Cas in this novel and I thought that his character had some really great insights.

I loved when he was reflecting on how easy and good things used to be for him, but how he had to acknowledge that while things were good then for him, they were not good for Em, and so you can’t romanticize the past because the past is painful for some people. I thought this was so relevant to America (and Canada too!) and Trump’s whole “Make America Great Again” approach to politics. Sure, America was great for rural white folks 30 years ago, but that success was also built on racism and oppression and you can’t romanticize it just because things were good for you.

I also liked that Cas and Em arrived at a point where they were able to talk about their families again. Even though their parents both did bad things, they were still loving parents in their own ways and I loved that they were able to look fondly on the memories that were positive, while acknowledging that their parents still did bad and inexcusable things.

There are things I didn’t like that much about this novel though. While it was still a fast-paced book overall, I thought the pacing was a little off in the middle. We go from battle to battle and then all of a sudden there are all these political negotiations in the middle. I thought it was super cool that Tintera basically disbanded a monarchy in favour of democratic government in this book, but I thought the location within the plot was so odd. She ramps up the reader with all these battles and escape scenes and then suddenly there’s just all this boring negotiation. It brought the plot down a little and I thought it was overdone and a bit unneccesary.

I was also a little over the romance in this novel. I’m sorry, but Cas and Em have pretty much already decided to be together before this novel and the chemistry just wasn’t really there anymore. I don’t want to be super critical because I still liked reading about them and having just read A Court of Frost & Starlight (which was way worse and a lesson in how to totally kill a romance dead), this wasn’t actually that bad. I do think the author tried to re-focus the romantic emphasis on several other characters, but they just didn’t work that well for me either. I really liked Aren and Iria, but they both just fell a little flat for me in this novel. Aren just doesn’t make mistakes anymore apparently and Iria wasn’t as moving for me in this book.

My biggest criticism is just that I didn’t think this book was clever. Characters always find themselves in these crazy situations that you have no idea how they’re going to get themselves out of and then the author writes this crazy sequence to resolve things, but that didn’t really happen in Allied. I was waiting for this epic showdown with Olivia and her cronies and things just kind of fizzle out. I feel like Tintera wrote herself into a situation that she couldn’t elegantly write herself out of and the action towards the end of the novel felt forced. I had also anticipated some plot twists and surprises from some of the secondary characters that just never materialized and left me feeling disappointed that the plot was so simple. I kept waiting for more.

Anyway, I did really like this series overall. I liked the writing and the fast-paced nature of the story. Was it perfect? no, but I did get a lot of enjoyment out of reading this series and I totally flew through each of the books.