Review | A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir

torch.jpgTitle: A Torch Against the Night (2016)
Author: Sabaa Tahir
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Read: 24th – 30th June 2018
Genre: young-adult; fantasy
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

“After the events of the Fourth Trial, Martial soldiers hunt Elias and Laia as they flee the city of Serra. Laia and Elias are determined to break into the Empire’s most secure and dangerous prison to save Laia’s brother, even if for Elias it means giving up his last chance at freedom. They will have to fight every step of the way to outsmart their enemies: the bloodthirsty Emperor Marcus, the merciless Commandant, the sadistic Warden of Kauf, and, most heartbreaking of all, Helene, Elias’s former friend and the Empire’s newest Blood Shrike. Bound to Marcus’s will, Helene faces a torturous mission of her own, one that might destroy her: find the traitor Elias Veturius and the Scholar slave who helped him escape … and kill them both.” (Synopsis from the publisher)

* It goes without saying but, as this is a sequel to the first novel An Ember in the Ashes, there will be spoilers for the events/ending of the first book within this review. However, there will not be specific spoilers for the events, or ending, of A Torch Against the Night. *

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Discussion | The Struggle of Reviewing Favourite Books

Well, well, well, what have we here, a post we haven’t had in a while – that’s right, let’s discuss some things. Specifically, let’s discuss the struggle that is reviewing favourite books. Maybe not everyone has this struggle but, in an Internet full of book bloggers, I highly doubt that I am the only one who genuinely finds this such a difficult thing.

Here’s the thing: if I LOVE a book, I have no problem telling everyone I love the book. I’ll post updates about it on Goodreads and Twitter as I read. I’ll rave about it how good it was on Twitter using gifs whilst recommending it to friends and family offline too. I’ll mention it very enthusiastically numerous times on my blog in response to tag posts. I’ll wholeheartedly rate it 5 out of 5 stars and include it in ‘best books of the year’ lists. But, I sometimes struggle to write a review for it.

Case-in-point: one of my favourite books in recent years has been The Secret History by Donna Tartt. It’s not exactly an obscure book and quite a few people very much enjoy the book in the online book community. But I struggle deeply to articulate WHY I love this book so much, I just know that I do. It’s the same with Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo – in fact, I still haven’t been able to write a coherent review after recently re-reading it for the very purpose of writing a review. I can flail about it until the cows come home but, apparently, I struggle to just articulate why I love it in an actual review post. It’s still in the works, months/years late by this point.

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The Full Monte Readalong | Week Two

Bonsoir mes amis et bienvenue sur le blog pour la deuxième semaine du ‘Le Comte de Monte Cristo’.

Ok, that officially exhausts all my French language knowledge. For those unaware of the reason for my (frankly shoddy) French, I am currently taking part in Laura from Reading In Bed‘s 2018 summer readalong for Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo. We’ve reached Week Two which meant joining the Count in chapters 21 through to 40, and boy what a ride it was – we had sailors, bandits, hash (not kidding), carnivals, public execution, and some important conversations too.

To catch up, check out my sign-up post and my week one update which contained a “summary” of the first twenty chapters of the book. You can also see how I’m doing (or not doing) every single day, by checking out my reading progress spreadsheet and I’m also updating periodically in a Twitter thread, using the hashtag #TheFullMonte.

At the end of Week One, we left Dantès in a rather precarious situation as he was sinking in the sea with a cannonball strapped to him. Suffice it to say, he survived, and the last section has been something of a transformation, along with a spot of cultural appropriation for good measure because why not. Would it really be a 19th century novel if it didn’t? But let’s take a peek at what happened in my usual overly long and slapdash (but not at all comprehensive) manner…

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Review | An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

emberTitle: An Ember in the Ashes (2015)
Author: Sabaa Tahir
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Read: 22nd – 24th June 2018
Genre: young-adult; fantasy
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

“Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. When Laia’s grandparents are brutally murdered and her brother arrested for treason by the empire, the only people she has left to turn to are the rebels. But in exchange for their help in saving her brother, they demand that Laia spy on the ruthless Commandant of Blackcliff, the Empire’s greatest military academy. Should she fail it’s more than her brother’s freedom at risk… Laia’s very life is at stake. There, she meets Elias, the academy’s finest soldier. But Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.”
(Synopsis from the publisher)

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My 2018 Resolutions | Quarterly Check-in #2

As you may have seen if you’re been around the blog for a while, I do check-ins for my yearly resolutions as a way of keeping me accountable to more people than just myself. At the end of the first quarter of 2018, I posted my first check-in, and here we are today with my second quarterly check-in for the months of April, May, and June.

For those who care to have an in-depth reminder of my 2018 Resolutions you can find that post here. Now let us examine how I’m doing now we’re halfway through the year…

READING GOALS

1. Complete Goodreads 52 Books goal

Verdict: On Track
I stand at 45 out of 52 books read for 2018 so, unless something major happens, I should comfortably make my goal to read 52 books. Depending how industrious I’m feeling I may even up the challenge goal/resolution once I get to 52.

2. Complete Around the Year in 52 Books

Verdict: On Track
At my last check-in, every single book I’d read at that point in 2018 had also completed one of the Around the Year challenges. That isn’t the case now since I’ve been doing some readalongs and readathons that don’t necessarily tally with the challenges. However, I’ve also had a pretty good quarter in terms of the number of books I’ve read so I’ve made good progress nevertheless with the Around the Year challenges. I’ve now ticked off most of the easy ones and have 18 challenges remaining so, with some forward planning, I should be able to complete this goal too.

3. Finish off the books in a series I have yet to read

Verdict: On Track
Although I haven’t actively been participating in Anna’s #SeriestoFinish2018 challenge (I feel so guilty about this), I have subconsciously been trying to force myself to get to sequels and finish off series, or at least get as up-to-date with them as I can. Case in point: I recently finally read the sequel to An Ember in the Ashes and am planning to pick up the newest book A Reaper at the Gates this month. I also only have one Winner’s trilogy book left, which is progress so… I’d consider this kind of a win?

4. Finish War and Peace and read another Russian classic

Verdict: Failing
Well I still haven’t finished War and Peace. Believe me, I know… I know it’s getting ridiculous now. However, in this quarter I have re-read all my weekly posts from during the War and Peace Newbies Readalong, so I’ve refreshed my memory of the plot and am ready to tackle the last 200 or so pages of Tolstoy’s tome this month in fact. After that I think I might try to finally make it through all the pages of Anna Karenina, again, I’ve tried multiple times but I always stall for some unknown reason, but that likely won’t be until near the end of 2018 since I have other readalongs and readathons planned over the summer/autumn.

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The Full Monte Readalong | Week One

If you’ve been around these parts for some time, you may remember my participation in the War and Peace Newbies Readalong last year. I didn’t actually finish the book (I still haven’t, ok?) but I enjoyed the hell out of myself reading War and Peace and doing weekly summary posts of what had went down in Russia in the chapters I’d read that week. This summer brings Laura from Reading In Bed‘s 2018 readalong pick which is Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo – you may have seen my sign-up post last week – which is the book I am officially reading over the next six weeks.

I have a fancy reading progress spreadsheet with which you can track my progress down to the very page, and I’m also updating periodically on Goodreads and via Twitter, using the hashtag #TheFullMonte. However, I will also be continuing the tradition and doing weekly summary posts in which I recap how what has happened in the book in the past week’s chapters and how I feel about the story so far.

Week One brought with it the first 20 chapters of The Count of Monte Cristo, starting with the oh so excitingly titled ‘Marseille – Arrival’ and ending with ‘The Graveyard of Château d’If’ which, I think we can all agree, is something of a morbid downer. Let’s take a peek at what happened in my usual overly long and slapdash (but not at all comprehensive) manner…

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Review | The Queens of Innis Lear by Tessa Gratton

innislearTitle: The Queens of Innis Lear (2018)
Author: Tessa Gratton
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Read: 7th – 17th June 2018
Genre: fantasy; retellings
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

“The erratic decisions of a prophecy-obsessed king have drained Innis Lear of its wild magic, leaving behind a trail of barren crops and despondent subjects. Enemy nations circle the once-bountiful isle, sensing its growing vulnerability, hungry to control the ideal port for all trade routes. The king’s three daughters – battle-hungry Gaela, master manipulator Reagan, and restrained, starblessed Elia – know the realm’s only chance of resurrection is to crown a new sovereign, proving a strong hand can resurrect magic and defend itself. But their father will not choose an heir until the longest night of the year, when prophecies align and a poison ritual can be enacted. Refusing to leave their future in the hands of blind faith, the daughters of Innis Lear prepare for war – but regardless of who wins the crown, the shores of Innis will weep the blood of a house divided.” (Synopsis from the publisher)

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Wrap Up | June 2018

Welcome one, welcome all, to my June Wrap Up. Let us all ignore the fact that we’re 6 days into the month and I’m only just posting my Wrap Up, ok? Cool cool cool cool no doubt cool cool. (Can you tell I’ve been watching Brooklyn 99 lately?)

In terms of life, June was pretty damn ok. Work’s being a little bit busy and generally stress inducing, a fact I only realised when my eczema flared up on my hands). For some reason, the UK at the moment is enjoying actual summer, as in it’s summery and sunny and not just a sun peeking out from behind grey cloud every once in a while. It is properly summer which is… novel. And kind of teasing when you’re mostly stuck in work 9-5 Monday-Friday. It turns out that this is what being an adult is like – watching university students outside your office window enjoying themselves chilling out with a nice cold pint outside a pub whilst you’re squinting at data at your job. I used to be on the other side of that equation (mostly, anyway), so now I’m getting major envy of anyone able to enjoy the sunshine. Yes, I am actually enjoying it being warm – it’s something of a revelation this year and I have to say I’m glad for it, after being a winter person for so many years of my life. Turns out summer isn’t as unbearable as I thought it was!

Aside from the weather, I have very little to report in June. Liz and I went to Chester Zoo finally and it was a very nice day and a fun day out for all involved. We also went for a walk at Croxteth Hall which, again, was very nice and I should have visited it sooner considering I’ve lived here for almost 2 years now and I’m quite the sucker for period houses. I also visited Wagamama’s for the first time ever and discovered I probably quite like it and ought to go back soon and explore more of their menu. We went there for tea before going to the cinema to see Ocean’s 8 and I have to say I thought it was a bloody great film. I don’t think it deserves anything like the criticism it’s getting, it was a completely necessary film, and fucking refreshing, let me tell you. It helps that Sandra Bullock and Cate Blanchett are some of my favourite people ever and seeing them concoct a heist plan whilst dressed in leather pants and/or in suits is (apparently) my jam. I’m not mad about it.

But, enough about my rather mundane life, how was my reading during the month? Once I discovered it existed, most of my reading month was wholly dedicated to Jami’s Marvel-A-Thon so my reading was dictated by the challenges there. Let me tell you, it worked, I’ve read the most I’ve ever read in a month (I think?), and I had a great time doing it too. I think I like longer readathons like this that have a lot of prompts/challenges, because it’s super challenging, but also very rewarding. And, let’s face it, the fact it was MCU themed really helped keep up my motivation. The downside was that the TBR I wrote for June was concocted before I knew about the readathon so I only managed to complete 2 out of the 8 books on there – I still don’t think that’s too bad though?


So without further ado, let’s take a look at the books I read in the month of June:

In June, I read a total of 13 books 12 fiction and non-fiction – and were re-reads (marked by *). This amounted to 4303 pages in total.

In terms of format: 4 were paperbackwere hardback, was an eARC, and 3 were audiobooks (marked by ^).

And as for genre, very broadly speaking, 4 were YA fantasywere children’s fantasywas YA mysterywere fantasywere graphic novelswas non-fiction, and was YA contemporary.

Onto the books themselves…

june2018

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Review | The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

Title: The Cruel Prince (2018)
Author: Holly Black
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Read: 19th – 22nd June 2018
Genre: young-adult; fantasy
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

“One terrible morning, Jude and her sisters see their parents murdered in front of them. The terrifying assassin abducts all three girls to the world of Faerie, where Jude is installed in the royal court but mocked and tormented by the Faerie royalty for being mortal. As Jude grows older, she realises that she will need to take part in the dangerous deceptions of the fey to ever truly belong. But the stairway to power is fraught with shadows and betrayal. And looming over all is the infuriating, arrogant and charismatic Prince Cardan…” (Synopsis from the publisher)

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Review | The Summer of Us by Cecilia Vinesse

summerofusTitle: The Summer of Us (2018)
Author: Cecilia Vinesse
Publisher: Hachette Children’s Group/Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Release Date: 14th June
Read: 30th June 2018
Genre: young-adult; contemporary
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Five friends. Five cities. Two complicated love stories… Aubrey and Rae have been planning their European tour since the moment they met. It was meant to be the perfect way to spend their last summer together before university, but now it’s not just the two of them… There’s Jonah, Aubrey’s seemingly perfect boyfriend, and Gabe, who Aubrey may have accidentally kissed. Then there’s Clara, the friend Rae is crushing on, hard, even though there’s no hope because Clara is into guys, not girls. And on top of all that Aubrey and Rae’s friendship appears to be falling apart. Things are more complicated at eighteen than they were at ten. Set off on a romantic adventure that embraces warm summer nights, the thrill of first kisses and the bittersweet ache of saying goodbye to the past.” (Synopsis from the publisher)

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