Posted in Book Memes

WWW Wednesday – December 4th

“By the time Alex managed to get the blood out of her good wool coat, it was too warm to wear it.”

First line in Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

Hi, guys. Wednesday means that my weekly update is coming right at you through WWW Wednesday. It’s a weekly meme hosted by Sam @ Taking on a World of Words, and it’s meant to give you all a little insight into my reading this week. I’ll answer the 3 questions:

  • What are you currently reading?
  • What did you recently finish?
  • What do you think you’ll read next?

What did you recently finish?

I just finished Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo and that was so not my kind of book. I think my rating will end on a 2.5. It’s still a book I will recommend though if you think the synopsis of it sounds amazing. It just had so many of my least favorite tropes and so it didn’t matter to me how well they were executed. Instead I was bored and annoyed with the main character.

What are you currently reading?

Now that I finished Ninth House, I’m down to 2 books. Still taking my time and savoring The Toll by Neal Shusterman. That man continues to amaze me with every page. I only have about 130 pages left and I feel ready to find out how it all ends.

I’m also still reading The Fever King by Victoria Lee. I have so many questions and I need answers. I’m hoping to read a good chunk of it this weekend because I’m going to be on a train for 6 hours to go to Copenhagen. Really hoping to finish it.

What do you think you’ll read next?

As I finished Ninth House, The Bands of Mourning by Brandon Sanderson will be my next commute book.

That was it for my reading this week. I hope your week is great so far. Until next time,

Posted in Top 5 Tuesday

Top 5 Surprising Reads of 2019

“He was asleep, but woke at the sound of the key turning in the lock.”

First line in The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner

Hi, readers and welcome to another Top 5 Tuesday, which is so wonderfully hosted by Shanah from Bionic Bookworm. Head over to her blog to see the rest of the topics for December.

Today, we’re talking about our surprising reads of 2019. I’m notsome who reads books I expect to hate but there are still those books I taka chance knowing they might not be for me. This is a list of the books that proved that stepping out of my comfort zones can be the best decision.

The Binding by Bridget Collins

I saw this book at the bookstore and, honestly, I just bought it because it was pretty. Luckily, the story inside turned out to be just as beautiful. It’s set in an alternate 19th century England where people can get rid of their memories by binding them to books. The writing is atmospheric and the characters are easy to latch onto.

The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden

The second book in the adult historical fantasy series Winternight Trilogy was probably the biggest surprise of the year. I like the first alright, but it was only a 3-star book for me so I actually waited quite a long time before I picked up The Girl in the Tower. When I’d read it I would have given it more than 5 stars on Goodreads if only I could. That’s how much I loved it.

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

It’s been a minute since this one has made an apperance on my blog. If you’re new then I need to tell you that this is my favorite book of the year. That’s surprising because the book is literary fiction… which I don’t read. However, A Little Life grabbed hold of my heart and wouldn’t let go. It still hasn’t even though I read it 10 months ago.

Queen of Air and Darkness by Cassandra Clare

Even though I only gave this one 4 stars, it was still a pleasant surprise to me. I expected to feel more indifferent about this as I has been a while since I loved a book in this universe. I ended up flying through its almost 1,000 pages in less than a week. I didn’t care about the main characters but all the side characters gave me life. I really want more of those.

The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner

Again, we have a sequel where I didn’t love the first book in the series. Lucky that I’m so stubborn and refuse to quit series. The Queen of Attolia greatly expands the world in series of The Queen’s Thief. I also got even more of one of my all-time favorite characters, Eugenides, and I’m overall so greatful for this series.

This was very fun to put together. Some of these I’d completely forgotten that I read in 2019. I’d love to know some of your surprising reads of the year and why you were surprised by them. Have a great day!

Posted in Discussions

An Exploration of Middle Book Syndrome

“A secret is a strange thing.”

First line in The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater

You might have heard the term Middle Book Syndrome before as it is a quite common “disease” that befalls (mostly) the second book in a trilogy. In some cases, it’s also referred to as Second Book Syndrome, which goes to clarify that it also concerns series longer that 3 books.

So what is Middle Book Syndrome? Middle Book Syndrome is when the second book in a series doesn’t live up to the quality of its predecessor . It can be so for various different reasons. Often, the second book will include a lot of set-up for the third book, especially if it’s a trilogy. The second book then fails to have its own set-up and conclusion, but will instead give you a cliffhanger ending, because now we’re finally ready for the third book! The second book will drag and you’re left with that feeling of just waiting for the next book.

You can also run into second books that go in a totally different direction compared to the first book. It will explore a different plot that might only loosely be connected to the plot of the first (and future third) book. This thing about a different plot can be really effective though if the author manages to create interesting ties to the exsistent plot of the first book. Then the second book becomes a layer instead of a break.

Now I want to give some examples of books I think suffer from Middle Book Syndrome. I’ve tried very hard to keep it spoiler-free and only talk about the books in broad terms. However, if you’re someone who don’t want to know anything at all about these books, proceed with caution.

City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare – Book 2 in The Mortal Instruments

I don’t know how many of you remember that The Mortal Instruments was only meant to be a trilogy. Odd to think about because we now have a gazillion books in that universe.

City of Ashes however was not the best follow-up to City of Bones. The storyline went in a weird direction, and the things that needed resolving from the end of book one was dragged on into book 3. Very little in this book actually made a difference to what happened in book 3.

A Gathring of Shadows by V. E. Schwab – Book 2 in Shades of Magic

The case of Middle Book Syndrome isn’t too bad with this one but I still wanted to include it.

The first book can actually work as a standalone which is great but not very good for the second book here. It kind of have to build up the story again and therefore has a very slow beginning.

Then we have the big event that takes place in this book… I still don’t know why we needed that. I don’t think it had a major influence on the overall plot.

The Obelisk Gate by N. K. Jemisin – Book 2 in The Broken Earth

I will admit that this series in general wasn’t my favorite but I still enjoyed book 1 and 3 a lot more than The Obelisk Gate.

We follow two different storylines but it seemed like only one of them absolutely needed to be there. The other one was just a lot of info-dumping because we needed to know these things for the third book. On top of that, the interesting storyline also dragged a bit and could have been wrapped up faster in my opinion.

Now I don’t want this post to come off all negative so I also want to give you some examples where the author truly nailed the second book. For some reason, the second book in a series is often my favorite one which seems weird even to me. That means I have a lot of examples for this but I’ll try to contain myself.

Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman – Book 2 in Arc of a Scythe

Will there ever be a better sequel than Thunderhead? I highly doubt it.

This book portrays such an intelligent way of adding another layer to your story. Shusterman expands his world greatly in this one all while keeping the plot from the first book. It raises the stakes and introduces new characters that fit seamlessly with everything else in the book. Such a thing could easily come off as a divergence from “the important stuff”, but no. Shusterman is an expert at connecting everything.

The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden – Book 2 in Winternight Trilogy

The Girl in the Tower is a great example of the story going in a completely different direction compared to the first book. I think it works because the trilogy in general is very character-driven and a lot of the main character’s development happens in this book. The most important part of a character-driven novel in my book and so it doesn’t become boring. And yes, the plot takes a turn but it still manages to connect book 1 and 3 in a mindblowing way.

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins – Book 2 in The Hunger Games

Catching Fire did what I least expected of it, which was to do The Hunger Games once more. A competion with a lot of traditions could easily have given us a lot of repeat-scenes. Did that happen? Not at all. All the traditions were given a twist and the entire mood of the book was even more gloomy than in book 1.

It still works as a set-up for book 3, especially with that cliffhanger (!!), but that is not at all obvious when you’re reading it the first time. In that sense, it works so well on its own.

Honestly, I just wanted to talk about some sequels and this is what came out of it. I recently began to notice how my favorite books in trilogies tend to be the second one. I figured that was kind of weird and wanted to explore this Middle Book Syndrome and why it didn’t apply to those books.

Now I of course want to know about some books you think suffer from Middle Book Syndrome. OR maybe you’re like me and love so many second books in series. Let me know about those too. Have a great day!

Posted in Wrap up

November Reading Wrap Up

“Dusk at the end of winter, and two men crossed the dooryard of a palace scarred by fire.”

First line in Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden

Hello, friends. Welcome to my November Wrap where I give you some exicting mini-reviews for the books I read in the month of November. I read a total of 5 books which seems to be my number. 3 of those were perfect, one was okay and my last read of the month was a waste of time.

This was also the month I managed to reach my Goodreads goal of 55 books. Always great. I’m the kind of reader who set my Goodreads goal to something I’m absolutely sure I’ll achieve because I just want to feel acomplished. Silly, I know. Let me know what you consider when setting your reading goal for the year.

As something new in my wrap ups, I’m going to give you “buzzwords” for each book. Words to grab your attention and help you decide whether it is a book for you. I’m still figuring out how to do it properly, but I’m working on it.

Let’s talk about some books.

Thick as Thieves (Book 5 in The Queen’s Thief)

Author: Megan Whalen Turner

Published: May 16th 2017

Genre: YA fantasy

My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Buzzwords: Friendship, escaped slave, complex characters, political intrigue

Go to Goodreads to read the synopsis of the first book in the series, The Thief.

My thoughts

Honestly, I’m mindblown. Again. I’m so mesmerized with the way Turner writes her characters and their slow but steady development. For some reason, I’m always a bit wary before starting books in this series because they each have their own POV character. As a character-driven reader, I need to love that POV character to love the book so maybe you understand my hesitation. It took me 5 books to realize that I never need to worry about that when it’s Megan Whalen Turner who writes the characters.

Our main character in Thick As Thieves, Kamet, starts out with quite a few flaws. He’s stubborn and a bit of an annoying know-it-all, but I loved reading from his perspective anyway right from the start.

Besides her characters, Turner is also famous for her plot twists. I was so sure that by the fifth book, I’d figured her out and knew what to look out for. Did she trick me again? Yes. Several times.

Basically, I think Thick as Thieves might be my new favorite book in the series.

The Girl in the Tower (Book 2 in Winternight Trilogy)

Author: Katherine Arden

Published: December 5th 2017

Genre: Historical fantasy

My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Buzzwords: Russia, atmospheric, empowering female characters, winter

Go to Goodreads to read the synopsis of the first book in the series, The Bear and the Nightingale.

My thoughts

Let me tell you, I did not expect to love this. I gave the first book in the series 3 stars, and I mainly continued with the series because the writing was beautiful. The writing is still beautiful , but the book also gave me so much more!

Even though the story is very character-driven, The Girl in the Tower also had a really great plot which I was sort of missing in the first book. It wasn’t always at the forefront, but I was completely mesmerized by the revelations at the end.

My favorite part of the book is our main character Vasya. THAT is a strong female character if I ever saw one. Her motivations are so inspiring. She knows what she wants and won’t compromise even though people tell her again and again that she should. I can’t tell you how much I loved reading about her in this book.

Author: Laura Silverman

Published: March 5th 2019

Genre: YA contemporary

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Buzzwords: High school, living up to society’s expectations, diversity

Synopsis: Senior Ariel Stone is the perfect college applicant: first chair violin, dedicated community volunteer, and expected valedictorian. He works hard – really hard – to make his life look effortless. A failed Calculus quiz is not part of that plan. Not when he’s number one. Not when his peers can smell weakness like a freshman’s body spray.

Figuring a few all-nighters will preserve his class rank, Ariel throws himself into studying. His friends will understand if he skips a few plans, and he can sleep when he graduates. Except Ariel’s grade continues to slide. Reluctantly, he gets a tutor. Amir and Ariel have never gotten along, but Amir excels in Calculus, and Ariel is out of options.

Ariel may not like Calc, but he might like Amir. Except adding a new relationship to his long list of commitments may just push him past his limit.

Goodreads

My thoughts

3 star books are just the hardest to review. I liked the last half of the book quite a bit more than the first half. In the beginning, it felt a lot like the book needed to check some things off a list in terms of diversity. It was all very rushed so I didn’t have time to appreciate everything. In general, I think the book could have benefited from being longer. There were some time jumps that made me go: “Wait.. didn’t we skip something important?”.

It’s a book that also heavily feature Judaism, because our main character is Jewish. The author herself is also Jewish so I expect that the religious aspects are pretty accurate. Definitely a book I will recommend if you’re interested in that perspective. However, I don’t care for any religion in any book, so that brought my rating down a bit.

The themes of the book is what kept me reading. It deals a lot with the pressure of being good in school and have a functioning social life at the same time. That’s what the last half of the book really got into and I like the way it was handled. If you’ve read Radio Silence by Alice Oseman, you’ll definitely see the parallels. I still prefer Radio Silence over You Asked for Perfect, but if you crave more Radio Silence, I think this is a good choice.

The Winter of the Witch (Book 3 in Winternight Trilogy)

Author: Katherine Arden

Published: January 8th 2019

Genre: Historical fantasy

My rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Buzzwords: Russia, atmospheric, empowering female characters, winter

Go to Goodreads to read the synopsis of the first book in the series, The Bear and the Nightingale.

My thoughts

First of all: I finished a series! And completed my Goodreads goal of 55 with this book. Second of all: I already praised the second book in the series further up in this wrap up. I could copy-paste all of that here because the third book was just as amazing.

However, I want to add that I especially appreciate this book a lot for its overall fairy tale feeling. Yes, it’s magical but also a bit sinister like those original fairy tales. I really think it’s amazing how Arden balanced that. Also, that I was able to get this feeling without knowing anything about Russian fairy tales. I could tell that parts of the story was probably based on fairy tales but I didn’t know what and how much. I loved that.

It’s not a full 5 stars, however, because there were parts of the book that dragged a little. Especially around the middle I was a little impatient to get the story moving.

The Nickel Boys

Author: Colson Whitehead

Published: July 16th 2019

Genre: Historical fiction

My rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Buzzwords: Civil Rights movement, POC main character, reform school

Synopsis:

As the Civil Rights movement begins to reach the black enclave of Frenchtown in segregated Tallahassee, Elwood Curtis takes the words of Dr. Martin Luther King to heart: He is “as good as anyone.” Abandoned by his parents, but kept on the straight and narrow by his grandmother, Elwood is about to enroll in the local black college. But for a black boy in the Jim Crow South in the early 1960s, one innocent mistake is enough to destroy the future. Elwood is sentenced to a juvenile reformatory called The Nickel Academy, whose mission statement says it provides “physical, intellectual and moral training” so the delinquent boys in their charge can become “honorable and honest men.”

In reality, The Nickel Academy is a grotesque chamber of horrors, where the sadistic staff beats and sexually abuses the students, corrupt officials and locals steal food and supplies, and any boy who resists is likely to disappear “out back.” Stunned to find himself in such a vicious environment, Elwood tries to hold on to Dr. King’s ringing assertion “Throw us in jail and we will still love you.” His friend Turner thinks Elwood is worse than naive, that the world is crooked and the only way to survive is to scheme and avoid trouble.

The tension between Elwood’s ideals and Turner’s skepticism leads to a decision whose repercussions will echo down the decades. Formed in the crucible of the evils Jim Crow wrought, the boys’ fates will be determined by what they endured at The Nickel Academy.

Based on the real story of a reform school in Florida that operated for one hundred and eleven years and warped the lives of thousands of children, The Nickel Boys is a devastating, driven narrative.

Goodreads

My thoughts

Of course I end up disliking a book that is a National Book Award Nominee *sigh*. I’m sorry but I was so bored all the way through, and it wasn’t until the last 15 pages that I got a little exicted. The ending is basically the only thing I really liked about this as the plot twist was quite clever. It wasn’t good enough the redeem the entire book though, but it made me glad I pushed through.

I think the writing put me off because it felt quite detached from the events in the book. I kept being told that these awful things were happening but I wouldn’t see it. More importantly, I wouldn’t feel it either. Whitehead doesn’t go much into the character’s emotions about these horrible things and that just made it hard for me to connect to it all.

I also couldn’t help thinking that I’d heard this story before. These stories about the so-called reform schools where the students were abused have been told before. Both in books and movies, and I don’t think The Nickel Boys did anything special to differentiate itself from the others.

This is it for my reading month. I’m really happy that I was able to finish/get caught up with two series! That’s kind of a big deal. So, now I can start some new ones right? Oh, don’t worry. I’ve already done that.

My favorite read of the month ended up being The Girl in the Tower. I’d love to know what your favorite of the month was.

Posted in Book Memes

WWW Wednesday – November 27th

“Lief, Barda and Jasmine walked through the crisp, bright morning.”

First line in The Lake of Tears by Emily Rodda

Hi, guys. Wednesday means that my weekly update is coming right at you through WWW Wednesday. It’s a weekly meme hosted by Sam @ Taking on a World of Words, and it’s meant to give you all a little insight into my reading this week. I’ll answer the 3 questions:

  • What are you currently reading?
  • What did you recently finish?
  • What do you think you’ll read next?

What did you recently finish?

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead. If you’ve been reading my latest WWW Wednesday posts, you know that this book hasn’t been a great reading experience. I ended up giving it 2 stars, because I never connected to the story or the writing style at all.

What are you currently reading?

All of 3 books! And I’m totally in love with two of them. First the one I’m not really into which is my current commute book: Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo. I had an inkling that I wouldn’t like it and it has sadly proven true so far. I’m half way through at the moment, and it actually keeps reminding me of Six of Crows in the way that it’s organized. We get a lot of backstory on the characters while the rest of the story is still going on. However, my problem is that these characters and this world… aren’t very interesting.

I’m still reading The Fever King by Victoria Lee which I’m just loving more and more. I wish I had more time to read it but I have to prioritize library books.

The most important book is saved for last: I’M READING THE TOLL! I’ve waited for The Toll by Neal Shusterman for so long, and it’s surreal to actually be reading it. I’m 250 pages in and you shouldn’t doubt the fact that I’m loving it!

What do you think you’ll read next?

If I finish anything within the next week, I’m going to pick up The Bands of Mourning by Brandon Sanderson.

That’s it for the week. I haven’t been a very active blogger this week and I’m sorry but I’m totally blaming The Toll. It has taken over my life but I don’t mind. Have a great week!

Posted in Book Memes

WWW Wednesday – November 20th

“Even in death the boys were trouble.”

First line in The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead

Hi, guys. Wednesday means that my weekly update is coming right at you through WWW Wednesday. It’s a weekly meme hosted by Sam @ Taking on a World of Words, and it’s meant to give you all a little insight into my reading this week. I’ll answer the 3 questions:

  • What are you currently reading?
  • What did you recently finish?
  • What do you think you’ll read next?

What did you recently finish?

20 minutes before writing this I finished The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden, the final book in the Winternight Trilogy. I think my rating will end on 4.5 because the only negative thing I have to say about it is that it dragged a little at some points. Overall, I’ve been so plesantly surprised by the last two books in this trilogy, which both were read this month. They are the kind of books that I keep thinking about even when I’m not reading them. Vasya and her bravery is defenitely something I will return to when I’ve convinced myself that I’m afraid to do something. How she overcomes her fears and insecurities is truly inspiring.

What are you currently reading?

I’m in the middle of 2 books at the moment. I’m still reading The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead but I only have 30 pages left. Somehow it feels like an impossible task to just read those few pages. I find it so boring and can barely read more than 10 pages at the time. It’s not a book that focuses a whole on the feelings of the characters. Instead it’s mainly just describing events in a sort of detached manner. I need more of an emotional connection to characters to be invested.

I’m also reading The Fever King by Victoria Lee, which I really didn’t intend to start this week. I was forced to start an ebook for the stupidest reason: there were no lights on the bus on my Friday morning commute. It’s not possible to read a physical book in pitch black darkness, so it was lucky enough that I had The Fever King on my phone. I’m only 11% into it but actually really loving it. It’s kind of dystopian and fantasy all mixed in one, so consider me intrigued.

(also that cover!)

What do you think you’ll read next?

I actually know the answer this week! I have Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo ready as my new commute book now that I finished The Winter of the Witch. I’m so scared to read it, but my expectations are so low that it has all the opportunities to surprise me.

That’s how my week is looking. What are you reading right now?

Until next time,

Posted in Book Tags

Quick Fire Fantasy Book Tag

“My father was a king and the son of kings.”

First line in The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

Hi, guys. I wanted to do a tag and happened to stumble upon this Quick Fire Fantasy Book Tag. It’s all about fantasy books so of course I’m doing it.

Rules:

  • Thank the person who tagged you and link back to their post
  • Link to the creator’s blog (The Bookworm Dreamer) in your post
  • Answer the prompts below – all fantasy books!
  • Tag 5 others to take part
  • Enjoy!

5 Star Book

A book I didn’t expect to like but ended up giving 5 stars. An Ember in the Ashes takes place in a Roman inspired fantasy world where we follow Laia who’s trying to save her brother from the Empire. To do that she needs help from the Resistance and one of the Empire’s own elite soldiers in training.

Always going to recommend

I’m recommending an author here instead because Madeline Miller only has two books anyway and I couldn’t pick one. The Song of Achilles and Circe are both mythology retellings, but you don’t need to know the original stories before reading these. Miller’s writing is gorgeous, and I would die for every single one of these main characters.

Own it but haven’t read it yet

I’m someone who don’t usually buy books before I’ve read them, so I don’t own any fantasy books that I haven’t read yet. Instead, There Will Come a Darkness is just a book I really want to read. It sounds like it contains an exciting twist to my favorite trope: the chosen one trope. Even though it has gotten some mixed reviews, I still really want to see how it unfolds.

Would read again

There are so many options to choose from for this question, because I’m quite big on rereading. Shades of Magic by V. E. Schwab is a trilogy that I read very quickly, so I would like to reread it to take my time with it. I plan on doing that in 2020.

In another world

Eragon and The Inheritance Cycle in its entirety takes place in Alagaësia. It’s a vast and highly detailed world created by Christopher Paolini.

Back on Earth

Half Bad was once my favorite series and I still think it’s a very good series. It’s all about witches who live in our own world. There’s a war going on between the good and evil witches (and those in between), and it all gets very dark.

That was it for the Quick Fire Fantasy Book Tag, which was quite fun to do. I’m always up for talking about fantasy. I tag you if you want to do it. I’d love to see other people’s answers for these prompts.