End of Year Survey for 2016

Thank you so much to Jamie of the Perpetual Page Turner for coming up with this end of year survey.  I had planned to write a Best Books of 2016 post – and I probably will still write one to highlight my favourites – but there are some great questions here to review my reading year.

Reading Stats

Number Of Books You Read: 87 books
Number of Re-Reads:   Mmmm not sure.  Four or five maybe?
Genre You Read The Most From: YA fantasy

Best in Books

1. Best Book You Read In 2016?

This honour will go to Caraval by Stephanie Garber.  This hasn’t actually been released yet, but I was lucky enough to get a copy at Book Expo of America.  The world of Caraval is just so fantastic and beautifully described and the plot has so many twists and turns.  I can’t wait for you guys to read it in January.

2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?

Gemina.  I absolutely adored Illuminae, especially in audiobook format, but two months after picking up the audiobook (I got an ARC at Book Expo of America) I’m still struggling to finish it.  I think it’s because of one particular image early on in the book that really disturbed me and put me off.  I am still valiantly pushing ahead with this, because the audiobook production is top notch.

3. Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read? 

I was really surprised about how engaged I was by Robert Harris’s Conclave.  At first glance it could be hit or miss; the story of a fictional conclave to choose a new Pope.  In the end it was just so fascinating and gripping I couldn’t put it down.

4. Book You “Pushed” The Most People To Read (And They Did)

This one probably goes to Blood for Blood by Ryan Graudin.  This is an alternate history in which the Nazis won World War II and a young death camp survivor with unique skills must compete for the chance to get close to the Fuhrer.  I ADORED this – it was so beautifully written – and I have regularly mentioned it and its sequel Iron to Iron in my blog and other social media.

5. Best series you started in 2016? Best Sequel of 2016? Best Series Ender of 2016?

I really really loved Lady Midnight, the first in Cassandra Clare’s new Dark Artifices series set in her Shadowhunters world.  I loved the new characters, the new setting and the new challenges facing our heroes.  I can’t wait for book two.  

Best sequel:  Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas.  This is the penultimate in Maas’ Throne of Glass series and things are definitely gearing up for the finale.  It promises to be one heck of a series ender.

Best series ender: Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo.  The second and final part in Bardugo’s Six of Crows duology.  This was excellent, fast paced and was a very satisfying ending to the duology.

6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2016?

If we’re talking debut author this would be Stephanie Garber for Caraval.  This isn’t out yet; it comes out in January. I picked up a copy of Caraval at BEA and loved, loved loved it.  The world, the characters and writing are all superb. You guys have a treat come next month.

With new to me, I’d probably say Claudia Gray.  I read several books of hers in 2016, some Star Wars novels and her Firebird trilogy, and she has quickly become an auto buy author.  Her writing is immediate and engaging, she has a wonderful grasp of pacing and character and all in all is a really solid writer.  She has a new series coming out next year which I definitely intend to pick up.

7. Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone?

This would be The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson.  This is a novel focussing on the inhabitants of a small village in the south of England in the summer of 1914 and how the start of the first World War affected them.  I don’t read much social historical fiction and this one was excellent.  This was a turning point in British society and it was captured wonderfully. I really was rooting for these characters.  

8. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?

Here, I can’t decide between two books.  The first is Leigh Bardugo’s Crooked Kingdom, the second and final book in her Six of Crows duology.  I was completely invested in these characters and the pacing was relentless.  Unputdownable indeed.

The second was Robert Harris’s Conclave. I’m really not sure how you’d describe it.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with this, it’s a novel following a fictitious Conclave to choose the next Pope.  Again this is not my usual reading genre.  It’s not really a thriller in the sense that characters are not in mortal danger, but the twists and turns, secrets and revelations of the Conclave, as well an insight into a most secretive process, kept me on the edge of my seat.  

9. Book You Read In 2016 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year?

I will definitely re-read Caraval – see above.  To be more specific, I will pick it up in audiobook format – I recently learned that the awesome Rebecca Soler will be narrating this.  The combination of Garber’s writing and Soler’s narration will make for a wonderful listen.

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2016?

I love the cover for Marissa Meyer’s Heartless and also that of Marie Brennan’s The Tropic of Serpents.  Both are gorgeous.

11. Most memorable character of 2016?

I really enjoyed reading about young Scorpius Malfoy in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.  It was really nice to see a Slytherin who is funny, smart and not particularly interested in the pureblood claptrap spouted by his seniors.  His friendship with Albus was excellent.

12. Most beautifully written book read in 2016?

Furthermore by Tahereh Mafi.  Now, while I can’t say I loved this book (it really wasn’t my cup of tea) I cannot deny that Mafi’s writing was simply beautiful  Her turns of phrase were exquisite.

13. Most Thought-Provoking/ Life-Changing Book of 2016?


14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2016 to finally read? 

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline.  I loved this book – why did I wait so long to read it?!?

15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2016?

Sorry, I’m blanking here.  Honorable mention though from A Memory of Light by Robert Jordan/Brandon Sanderson:

“Suddenly, Olver felt a deep warmth.  He had lost so many people, but one of them… one… had come back from him.”  Even now, years later that brings tears to my eyes.

16.Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2016?

Longest book: Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon at 880 pages
Shorted book: Watson meets Sherlock (the Cat Chronicles) by Keith Whiting at 36 pages 

17. Book That Shocked You The Most

There were points in Brent Weeks’ Blood Mirror where I really felt, “oh crap, he’s really going to go there.”  However, we’ll need to wait until book five to know how things play out.  If it does go as I suspect it will be a real shocker.  Weeks is known for pulling the rug out from under his readers.

18. OTP OF THE YEAR (you will go down with this ship!)

Without a shadow of a doubt this is Kip and Tisis from Brent Weeks’ The Blood Mirror.  Some context for those unfamiliar with Weeks’ epic fantasy Lightbringer series; Kip and Tisis are two older teens who due to political expediency must marry and more importantly, consummate that marriage, in order to prevent war.  Despite the fantastical context, Weeks has written a beautiful description of that first serious relationship where you must move on from having a crush on someone to living with them, supporting them and loving them on a day to day basis, getting to know their quirks and the reality of being in a long term relationship.  Both Kip and Tisis make mistakes and learn from them and their relationship is the stronger for it.  It is a thing of beauty.  

19. Favorite Non-Romantic Relationship Of The Year

Here I think I’ll go with Scorpius and Albus in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. I really enjoyed their banter.

20. Favorite Book You Read in 2016 From An Author You’ve Read Previously

For me this is Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare.  I love her Shadowhunters world, and her newest series got off to a great start with this one.  I especially enjoyed seeing a post Dark War world with the Shadowhunters.

21. Best Book You Read In 2016 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else/Peer Pressure:


22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2016?

Actually, there were no characters who leapt out at me this year.  Pity.

23. Best 2016 debut you read?

Caraval – see above

24. Best Worldbuilding/Most Vivid Setting You Read This Year?

Caraval – see above

25. Book That Put A Smile On Your Face/Was The Most FUN To Read?

The Purloined Poodle by Kevin Hearne.  This is a short story in Hearne’s Iron Druid series told from the perspective of Oberon, the Irish Wolfhound.  it was very amusing, especially in audiobook format.  HOWEVER.  I will say that I don’t think I would have liked a full novel like this.  Oberon is great, but in smaller doses.

26. Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2016?

The Summer Before the War.  I listened to this in audiobook format and there was one particular scene in this book where I had to move to the side of the street to catch my breath it hit me so hard.

27. Hidden Gem Of The Year?

Hmmmm.  Most of the books I’ve read have been pretty well published so this is quite a tough one.  I will go with On the Merits of Unnaturalness by Samantha Shannon.  This is a companion volume to her Bone Season series and provides some excellent background and context for the events of the series.  I would have liked to have seen this published much earlier as it really enhanced my enjoyment of the series and increased my anticipation for book three.

28. Book That Crushed Your Soul?

The Summer Before the War.  Damn.

29. Most Unique Book You Read In 2016?

For this category I will go with Replica by Lauren Oliver. The format makes this somewhat unique, even if the content is your average YA story.  Replica is the story of Gemma and Lyra.  The novel part of this is that you can either read Lyra’s story through then Gamma’s or read alternating chapters in their storylines which dovetail beautifully.  Oliver put a great deal of work into aligning the storylines.

30. Book That Made You The Most Mad (doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t like it)?

Yeah, here I have to go with Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld, the reimagining of Austen’s Pride and Prejudice as part of the Austen Project.  I love Pride and Prejudice, so it hurt my soul to see these beloved characters treated in such a fashion. 

Your Blogging Life

1. New favorite book blog you discovered in 2016?

Caraval yadda yadda yadda

2. Favorite review that you wrote in 2016?

I am particularly fond of my review of Lady Midnight – I felt I made some interesting points.

3. Best discussion/non-review post you had on your blog?

In August, I wrote a long blog post on my dealings with my lymphedema, the condition which causes my legs to swell like sausages and carries a high risk of serious infection.  I wrote the post after a stay in hospital and it was one of my most personal posts.

4. Best event that you participated in (author signings, festivals, virtual events, memes, etc.)?

This year for the first time I attended Book Expo of America in Chicago.  That was the most amazing experience, getting to mix with my favourite authors and other bookworms.  I wish I could do it every year.

5. Best moment of bookish/blogging life in 2016?

BEA – see above.

6. Most challenging thing about blogging or your reading life this year?

In September I moved to a new role at work, one which takes a lot of time and energy.  It has left me with much less time and energy for reading which is a real shame.  My blogging has been very sporadic of late due to this.  Also, I’ve not been able to take as much pleasure in it as I would like.

7. Most Popular Post This Year On Your Blog (whether it be by comments or views)?

My review of Helen Fielding’s Mad About the Boy still gets a significant amount of hits even though I wrote it a few years ago!  Of posts I wrote this year, my post on my most anticipated reads for 2016 is the most popular.

8. Post You Wished Got A Little More Love?

I’m happy if my readers enjoy any of my posts!

9. Best bookish discovery (book related sites, book stores, etc.)?


10.  Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of this year?

Yes!  I completed my GoodReads challenge and read 87 (probably 88 or 89 by year’s end) books for a challenge of 80.

Looking ahead

1. One Book You Didn’t Get To In 2016 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2017?

As I said, I’m still struggling with Gemina.  I will try to finish it in 2017.

2. Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2017 (non-debut)?

This is probably Lord of Shadows by Cassandra Clare, the next in her Dark Artifices series.

An honorary mention to George R.R. Martin’s The Winds of Winter, which doesn’t yet have a release date.  I suppose there’s a chance it will be released in 2017…

3. 2017 Debut You Are Most Anticipating?

Claudia Gray has a new book out in 2017 called Defy the Stars.  I don’t know a great deal about this except that it’s a sci-fi novel in which a young woman and an AI have to work together reluctantly.  It sounds intriguing and in Gray’s hands very promising.

4. Series Ending/A Sequel You Are Most Anticipating in 2017?

Assassin’s Fate by Robin Hobb, which has a May 2017 release date.  In all honesty, I’m both anticipating and dreading this.  This is the final book in the trilogy and I fear for our assassin’s fate.  Fitz and the Fool have one of my top three fictional relationships and I want to know if they can work things out.

5. One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading/Blogging Life In 2017?

I hope to get my new role at work under control and to get back to a regular blogging schedule.  

6. A 2017 Release You’ve Already Read & Recommend To Everyone:

Do I really need to say Caraval?

Thanks for reading – let me know in the comments what your favourite books of 2016 were and which ones you’re most anticipating for 2017.

Reading roundup – December 4th 2016

Hello and here I am again with another reading roundup.

Since my last reading roundup, I’ve read five books and COMPLETED MY GOODREADS CHALLENGE!  Go me!  This year so far I have read/listened to 83 books to beat my goal  of 80.  I was wondering if I’d make the challenge this year given how busy my new role has kept me.

Of the books I’ve read since the last roundup the one I enjoyed most was probably Catalyst: A Rogue One Story by James Luceno, which I listened to in audiobook format.  I almost always listen to Star Wars in audiobook format because the narrators, production and sound effects are invariably excellent.  This really brings something special to the story.  Catalyst: A Rogue One Story is a prequel to Star Wars: Rogue One and tells the story of the construction of the first Death Star.  

I really loved this story despite it being somewhat slow and lacking in action.  The characters were beautifully written and the cat and mouse games between Erso, Krennic and Tarkin were excellent.  Galen Erso is a fascinating character with his passion for knowledge blinding him to political issues.  While I don’t believe it spoils the Rogue One movie, it does certainly give some fascinating background information on it.  I gave Catalyst: A Rogue One Story four and half stars out of five.

A close second in terms of enjoyment was A Million Worlds with You by Claudia Gray.  This is the third and final entry in Gray’s Firebird trilogy, a young adult time travel adventure. A Million Worlds with You was a fitting finale to the series, and solidifies my impression of Gray as an extremely solid and gifted storyteller.  This series is well worth checking out if you’ve an interest in time travel.  I gave A Million Worlds with You four stars out of five.

Another solid series entry I listened to recently was Dead Beat by Jim Butcher, book seven of The Dresden Files.  This is another series I invariably listen to in audiobook format due to the excellence of James Marsters’ narration.  He IS Harry Dresden.  Dead Beat has a fun, fast paced mystery and sets up some interesting developments for future books.  I gave Dead Beat four stars out of five.

After some hesitation I did eventually purchase and read The Morning Star by Marie Lu.  I’d enjoyed The Young Elites, but not necessarily enough to want to continue with the series.  I’d heard good things about the finale, so I did pick it up.  I enjoyed it but didn’t love it.  The theme of mortal enemies having to work together for the greater good and Adelina’s journey were interesting and well done.  I gave The Morning Star three and a half stars out of five.

One book I consigned to my did not finish pile was Carrie Fisher’s The Princess Diarist, written and narrated by Fisher herself.  I bought it somewhat on an impulse because the Audible sample was funny and engaging.  Fisher’s narration was especially on point.  I think my issue with this audiobook was that the focus was not what I anticipated, despite the recent publicity about certain revelations.  I was looking more for behind the scenes insight into the making of Star Wars.  This is the first of Fisher’s autobiographies I have read and perhaps one of the others may have the focus I was hoping for.

Currently, I’m reading and enjoying:  

Scythe by Neal Schusterman.  This is the first in a YA series set in a world in which humanity has conquered death and humans are basically immortal.  In order to prevent overpopulation, a group of people known as scythes are tasked with killing a certain quota of people.  We follow two apprentice scythes, Citra and Rowan as they struggle to learn their trade and navigate the murky waters of scythe politics.  I’m about 70% of the way through it and am really fascinated by the world Shusterman has created.  It’s definitely worth picking up.

I’m also reading/listening to The Fate of the Tearling by Erika Johansen, the final entry in her YA Tearling series.  I had issues with book one, The Queen of the Tearling, and indeed hadn’t planned to continue with the series.  Some positive reviews of book two, The Invasion of the Tearling, convinced me to give it another go.  I still had issues, but it was a significant improvement for me.  I am now about a third of the way through book three, The Fate of the Tearling and heavily invested.

Upcoming releases

In the month of December there are two releases about which I am super excited.

The Pale Dreamer by Samantha Shannon.  This is a prequel to Shannon’s Bone Season series, a series which has grown on me more and more.  By the time On the Merits of Unnaturalness was released I was completely hooked.  I’m very much looking forward to listening to the beginnings of Paige Mahoney’s story before The Song Rising is released in March.

Finally of course on December 16th we have the audiobook of Star Wars Rogue One.  That is an auto buy for me.

That’s all I have for today.  Back soon with my yearly roundup.

My weekend with the Fantastic Beasts (spoilers)

As some of you who have been following my blog may know, the last couple of weeks I’ve been obsessed with the new film Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.  This is the latest from Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling and follows the adventures of Newt Scamander, a British magizoologist (student of magical creatures) who encounters some issues when visiting 1920s New York.  As well as following Newt’s attempts to recapture his fantastic beasts, the movie also explores the challenges facing the American wizarding community of that era.

As well as seeing the film on release day, I also purchased the screenplay (available on Amazon) and the LEGO Dimensions story pack for Fantastic Beasts.  As well a six levels of gameplay taking you through the entire movie, the pack gives you LEGO bricks to build the MACUSA building.

For those who have not yet seen the movie, I’ll continue after the cut as I will be discussing spoilers.  Warning;  complete nerdout follows.


Reading roundup – November 12th 2016

Hello and welcome to another reading roundup.  Since my last roundup I have read two pretty good books which I’d like to share with you.

Reading roundup – November 12th 2016The Poisoned Blade by Kate Elliott
Series: Court of Fives #2
Also in this series: Court of Fives
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Georgia Dolenz
Length: 13 hours and 2 minutes
Genres: Epic Fantasy
Buy from AmazonKoboiTunesAudible
Evelynne's rating: four-stars

I received an Advance Reader Copy of The Poisoned Blade by Kate Elliott at BEA.  It’s been on my TBR for a while, but it’s only recently I read it.  The Poisoned Blade is the second book in a planned trilogy (I believe) and continues the story of Jessamy, a young woman caught between two cultures whose passion in life is playing the game of Fives.  In this second book, Jes is drawn into court politics and has to deal with the fallout of her decisions in book one.  I listened to The Poisoned Blade in audiobook format and very much enjoyed Georgia Dolenz’s narration.

What I liked

The characters.  I really liked our protagonist, Jessamy.  Her conflicts between her love for the Fives, her need to protect her family, the limitations placed on her by her heritage and her affection for Kal were expertly written.  

The pacing.  The Poisoned Blade didn’t suffer from middle book syndrome at all.  There were enough conficts and resolutions to keep me well satisfied.  I will certainly be picking up the final book in the trilogy.  Personally, I’ve found Elliott’s series lose steam as they go on and for that reason I’ve not finished many of them.  This one I do intend to finish.

The worldbuilding.  Continuing on from Court of Fives, Elliott has created a wonderful world for our characters to live in.  

What I didn’t like

There was little I didn’t enjoy about The Poisoned Blade.  It is my favourite of Elliott’s series.  

I gave it four stars out of five.

My review of Heartless Reading roundup – November 12th 2016Heartless by Marissa Meyer
Format: eBook
Pages: 464 pages
Genres: Contemporary Fantasy
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Evelynne's rating: four-stars

Probably my most anticipated release of the year, Heartless is Lunar Chronicles author Marissa Meyer’s origin story of Lewis Carroll’s Queen of Hearts.  I really wanted to listen to this in audiobook format, however technical issues meant that it wasn’t available to Canadians on Audible.com for several days after release.  This was rather disappointing as i loved Rebecca Soler’s narration of the Lunar Chronicles.  I ended up reading it on my Kindle.

What I liked

The writing style.  I really loved Meyer’s, fresh, immediate writing style from the Lunar Chronicles and Heartless is no different.  This time it’s spiced with Lewis Caroll whimsy and the blend is magical. As a note, it probably does help if you’re familiar with both Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass.

What I didn’t like

Somewhat predictable.  Of course, as an origin story, it’s tricky to be completely unpredictable.  There’s no escaping the fact that Catherine becomes the cold hearted Queen of Hearts.  However, certain other plot points were more easily guessed than I would have liked them to be.

Character development.  I felt this was better done in Fairest.  There was a more logical progression in Levana’s transformation to the wicked Queen than Cath’s becoming the Queen of Hearts.  Cath is much more of a positive character at the beginning, so her transformation was always going to be more difficult to plot.  At times I felt each step in Cath’s journey was a little unexpected, unearned or not wholly justified by the steps before.

In summary, I did enjoy Heartless, but I prefer the Lunar Chronicles.  I gave Heartless four stars out of five.

In other news:

I am currently obsessed with Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.  Yes, I know, it’s not released until next week, but everything I’ve seen and heard about it indicates it’s going to be absolutely magical.  Rowling’s Wizarding World in 1920s New York?  Sign me up!  I’m especially loving all the hints about Grindelwald and his rise to power in Europe.  There must be some wonderful stories to tell there. I can’t be the only bookworm who has planned a day off work around a book release, surely?  Not only is the movie released on November 18th, but we also get a book of the script and a LEGO Dimensions Story Pack!  I can’t wait!

Also this week I have been watching Netflix The Crown, the story of Queen Elizabeth II’s accession to the throne and the first few years of her reign.  I’m enjoying it very much; Clare Foy has taken the role of the Queen, with former Doctor Who Matt Smith as Prince Philip,  Both are giving excellent portrayals and I recommend this series.

That’s all for now folks.  Back soon!


The Blood Mirror by Brent Weeks – Review

The Blood Mirror by Brent Weeks – ReviewThe Blood Mirror by Brent Weeks
Series: The Lightbringer #4
Also in this series: The Broken Eye
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Simon Vance
Length: 20 hrs and 30 mins
Genres: Epic Fantasy
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Evelynne's rating: five-stars

The Blood Mirror by Brent Weeks is the fourth in a planned series of five epic fantasy books.  The series has a wonderfully imaginative magic system in which magic users can turn light into a physical substance. luxin.  Each spectrum of light (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet) produces luxin with different properties and uses.  If you’ve not yet started this series, I heartily recommend it.  Go start with The Black Prism.  I strongly suggest experiencing this series in audiobook format due to the excellence of the narrator, Simon Vance.

Initially, the series was planned to be a trilogy; then four books and recently Weeks announced he would need five books to tie up his series.  The Blood Mirror is the penultimate entry and sets up things for the finale.

What I liked

The romance.  While it is not a focal point of the series or book, there is a love story in The Blood Mirror and it is beautiful.  It focusses on that very first serious/sexual relationship in which a character must learn to love another real life person, warts and all, and not just a fantasy crush.  Our protagonist’s learning to accept his partner, emotions, needs, strengths and all was so perfectly written it was a joy to read. This was one of the real highlights of the book for me. Of course it helped that the partner concerned is a pretty awesome, kick ass new character in her own right.  I am 100% on board this new ship.

Gavin’s storyline.  One of Weeks’ strengths as a writer is an ability to pull the rug out from under his reader’s feet, and Gavin’s story arc in this book is no exception.  This particular storyline is intended to leave the reader wondering what is truth, what is madness and what is manipulation and it succeeds perfectly.  This was also the storyline where I found myself thinking “ah, crap he’s really going to to go there, isn’t he?”  While it’s not confirmed in this book, it definitely looks like he will go there in the final book.  Darn.

Strong female characters.  The Blood Mirror gives us some amazing, strong female characters.   I loved reading about Tisis, Karris and Teia and look forward to reading (or listening) how their characters progress in the final book.

 What I didn’t like

Some characters merely treading water.  In certain ways some key characters in The Blood Mirror suffer from Daenerys Targaryen syndrome in that their storylines aren’t ready to progress yet until other characters have progressed.  This means that they do very little in this book other than pop up to remind us of their existence from time to time.

Kip’s character arc.  One of my pet peeves in YA literature is when the protagonist becomes an expert at something just because he or she is the protagonist, it suits the story and without doing the necessary groundwork.  For me Kip’s development wasn’t setup satisfactorily enough.  

Despite these minor flaws, I gave The Blood Mirror five stars out of five.  I am highly anticipating the conclusion of the story, although I confess to some anxiety that it’s going to be a traumatic read, having seen what Weeks has set up.


Reading roundup – October 23 2016

Hello, once again, welcome to my belated reading roundup.  My new role at work has kept me extremely busy, we had guests and I’ve been dealing with a sick, unhappy kitty.  I swear cats can smell one grain of crushed up medication in a spoonful of delicious, tasty food. I’m really sorry for the forced pill popping Lushka, but I did try it the easy way first. Fortunately, she seems to be on the mend.  Anyway, enough of the excuses.  Since my last roundup I’ve read three books and I’m part way through three others.

What I read

The first book I read was The Young Elites by Marie Lu.  This is the first book in a YA fantasy trilogy telling the story of Adelina, who, like some other young people, has been left with special powers after an illness.  Marie Lu has said her inspiration for Adelina was Darth Vader, and being aware of this helped me a lot – Adelina is a rather dark character.  While I enjoyed the book – I loved the Renaissance style setting – a lot, it didn’t leave me with any desire at all to pick up the sequels.  Strangely, I had the same reaction to Lu’s earlier trilogy Legend.  I really enjoyed Legend, but I have never had a strong motivation to read Prodigy and Champion.  While I am interested to hear if Adelina gets an Anakin Skywalker type redemption, I’m not certain that I am invested enough to want to spend my precious time reading two more books to find out.  Perhaps those of you who have read The Rose Society and The Midnight Star could let me know your thoughts in the comments.  I gave The Young Elites three stars out of five.

The second book I started was one I consigned to the Did Not Finish pile, The Jewel by Amy Ewing.  This is a young adult dystopian novel I borrowed from the library after reading the first five chapters via Epic Reads Firsts,   Further reading confirmed for what I suspected; it was an attempt to cover similar themes to Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, and when I hit the point where the instalove was introduced I decided The Jewel was not for me.  If the themes of female agency and ownership of one’s reproductive system are of interest to you, I’d direct you to The Handmaid’s Tale rather than The Jewel, in particular, Claire Danes’ audiobook version.  

This week I finished Rae Carson’s Like a River Glorious, her sequel to Walk on Earth a Stranger.  This is a YA historical fantasy trilogy set in the time of the California Gold Rush.  I very much enjoyed the first book and loved the second one.  Carson has done extensive research into the time period in which the novels are set, and it shows.  The books are so atmospheric and really gave me the impression I was there.  The fantasy element is very subtle, but it does add to the story.  My one comment would be that this is the second book in a trilogy, yet it felt everything was wrapped up quite well.  Hints dropped suggest the third book may well deal with California’s upcoming statehood and what that implies for Leah and her friends.  That would be interesting and I’d certainly read it.  I gave Like a River Glorious four stars out of five.

What I’m reading

Currently, I’m reading/listening to three books.  The first of these is Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff.  This is the sequel to Illuminae which I adored.  I received an Advance Reader Copy of Gemina at BEA, but I chose to wait for the audiobook which was released on October 18th.  The audiobook for Illuminae was a wonderful multi-voice creation which won an Audie award and the Gemina audiobook is equally as excellent so far.  I’m reading my ARC while listening to the audiobook, so I’m only able to read this when I can sit down and focus on it.

For commuting/short breaks I have And I Darken by Kiersten White.  This is an adaptation of the Vlad the Impaler storyline, except casting Vlad as a young teenage girl.  I seem to be reading books with dark characters these days!  So far I’m enjoying it.

Finally, in bed at night I’m listening to the Graphic Audio production of Brent Weeks’ The Broken Eye, the third in his Lightbringer series.  This is in preparation for the release of Blood Mirror next week.  For those of you unfamiliar with Graphic Audio these are radio play like adaptations of novels complete with a full voice cast, original music and sound effects.  Generally these are very good, although I often wish the music would be toned down somewhat.  These Graphic Audio productions do provide an interesting viewpoint on Brent Weeks’ books and I would recommend them.  However, we have the inimitable Simon Vance narrating the audiobooks which is nearly as good!

What I want to read

There are some excellent books coming out in the next month, including The Blood Mirror.  Need I say I’ll be picking up The Blood Mirror in audiobook format to hear Simon Vance’s narration?  Other books I’m highly anticipating are:

A Million Worlds with You by Claudia Gray.  This is the third and final book in the Firebird series which follows protagonist Marguerite as she tries to prevent the evil Triad from causing chaos across the multiple dimensions.  I’ve loved the first two books in the series and I’m looking forward to seeing how Gray ties up the story.  A Million Worlds with You is released on November 1st, and I will be picking it up in audiobook form due to Tavia Gilbert’s excellent narration.

On November 8th we have the release of one of my most anticipated releases of the year, Heartless by Marissa Meyer.  This is a standalone retelling of the origin of the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland.  I adored Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles and I’m excited to read this one.

J.K Rowling is releasing the script for Fantastic Beasts and Where to find Them on November 18th, the same day as the film.  Words can’t describe how much I am anticipating this movie.  The Wizarding World in 1920s New York?  Yes please!  I am especially intrigued by the mentions of Grindelwald in the trailer and the Deathly Hallows/Grindelwald symbol on Percival Graves’ character poster.  This sounds as if it’s a fascinating time in wizarding history and I can’t wait to find out more.

That’s all I have for today.  Have a good week and speak soon.

Reading roundup – October 10th 2016

Hello and here I am again with a reading roundup.  Yes, I know it’s been ages since I rounded up my reading.  My new role has been keeping me very, very busy, which is good, I guess.  I’d still rather be reading though!

Despite being so busy, there are seven books I’d like to discuss with you which I’ve read since my last roundup.  I’m not sure if it was just because I was tired, but sadly very few of them really rang my bell.  More of them were good, but no cigar.  

The first book I read was Furthermore by Shatter Me author Tahereh Mafi.  This is Mafi’s first foray into middle grade and tells the story of young Alice who must venture into the world of Furthermore to rescue her father.  I really loved the writing style in Furthermore – Mafi’s descriptions were lyrical and gorgeous.  Unusually, Mafi regularly breaks the fourth wall in this novel to give the author’s viewpoint on Alice’s reactions, which I adored.  It reminded me of Noel Langley’s Land of Green Ginger which was one of my favourite books as a child because of a similar technique.  It’s worth reading this book simply for the chapter titles as well – they were a real treat.  In the end though I gave Furthermore only three and a half stars out of five for one reason alone.  The style of whimsy in this book, reminiscent of Lewis Carroll, is one that I personally really don’t enjoy.  I prefer my fantasy to have more rules.  That is a purely personal opinion and one you may not share.

One of the books that I did very much enjoy was Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One.  I really should have picked up that one sooner.  This was one I picked up the sample from Amazon and was immediately hooked.  Don’t you just love when that happens?  I listened to the audiobook version narrated by Wil Wheaton.  I loved everything about this book.  The plot, the pacing, the characters and the narration were all excellent, and I’m a sucker for a treasure hunt across virtual reality.  Some of the Eighties’ pop culture references passed me by, but it didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the book.  I gave Ready Player One five stars out of five.

Replica by Lauren Oliver is a book I picked up at BEA earlier this year and it was moved up my TBR by the Epic Reads Firsts which gives a preview of the first five chapters.  The formatting of this book is the most interesting thing about it.  The story is told from two perspectives; Gemma’s and Lyra’s.  The hard copy is flippable with each girl’s story making one half of the novel.  You can either read each perspective straight through before swapping to the other or you can alternate, reading one chapter from each girl’s point of view.  I chose to alternate, and was very impressed by the way the two stories dovetail together.  Oliver has clearly put a lot of work into the timeline and the way the information is put across.  I understand the audiobook has a similar feature where you can choose how to listen.  I’m still considering buying it to check it out.

However, while the format was novel and well done, neither the characters nor the storyline really gripped me.  I understand a sequel is in the works and the ending is certainly open ended, but I’ve not yet decided if I’ll continue the series.  I gave Replica three and a half stars out of five.

Next up was The Swan Riders by Erin Bow, the sequel to The Scorpion Rules.  The Scorpion Rules had a kick ass ending and I was excited to find out what was going to happen next to Greta, Talis and their companions.  The complexity really ramps up in this book and it requires a fair amount of concentration to keep up with who is who, who’s in love with whom, who’s human, who’s AI and who’s a bit of both, and what a particular character’s motivation is at any given point in the story.  For this reason, I think if I’d been less busy at work and more able to concentrate on it, I’d have enjoyed it more.  This is a case where the audiobook might have helped a lot as well as I’m sure the narrator Madeleine Maby would have helped clarify what personality any given character is portraying at the time.  I gave The Swan Riders four stars out of five.

Leigh Bardugo’s Crooked Kingdom was the second book I absolutely devoured this month.  This is the second and final book in the Six of Crows duology.  I’d been looking forward to it, but not quite counting down the hours until it hit my Audible download queue, even after a quick review of Six of Crows.  That changed when I got into it.  I found myself super invested in all Bardugo’s wonderful characters and rooting for them.  Bardugo is a master of show, don’t tell when it comes to her characters.  The reader must often read between the lines for what’s really going on with them and what their feelings and motivations are.  That significantly increased my investment in their stories.  As the conclusion to the duology Crooked Kingdom was a wonderful ending.  I listened to Crooked Kingdom in audiobook format – the narrator list reads like a who’s who of YA narration and every single PoV was fantastically narrated.  I gave Cooked Kingdom five stars out of five.

Those of you who have followed my reviews know that I do enjoy Rick Riordan’s writing so I was very much looking forward to The Hammer of Thor, the second in the Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard series.  While I enjoyed it, I didn’t love it as much as I’d hoped.  Again, maybe it’s because I was tired from work, and I’m also very familiar with Riordan’s humour now.  While I found the character of Alex very interesting and nicely written, and I admire Riordan for tackling transgender issues, at times I felt I was reading A Very Special Episode of Magnus Chase.  I felt he could have got the point across in a more subtle manner.  I also didn’t feel particularly invested in the story this time around.  I gave The Hammer of Thor three stars out of five.

The final book I listened to in the last few weeks was The Purloined Poodle by Kevin Hearne.  This is a short novella in his Iron Druid series this time told from the perspective of the druid’s Irish wolfhound, Oberon.  Now, Oberon is one of my favourite characters in the series and I was especially excited to have a novella from his perspective.  I chose to listen to this in audiobook because of Luke Daniels’s wonderful narration.  I really enjoy his Oberon voice, however I was distracted by concern that using that voice for such an extended period of time would be painful for him!  I also found that Oberon is best used as seasoning – a little of him is wonderful, but I’m not certain I’d want to hear a whole novel from his perspective again.  I gave The Purloined Poodle four stars out of five.

So here you have it, what I’ve been reading/listening to over the last few weeks.  Have you read any of these?  Let me know in the comments.

Reading roundup – September 17th 2016

Hello and my apologies for the lateness of this reading roundup.  I started a new role at work this week so it’s been a very busy week.  I’m switching from shiftwork to a more regular Mon-Fri job, so my blog posts may be somewhat irregular until I get myself into a new routine.  Please bear with me.

I did read some great books over the last little while.  I read and finished Furthermore, Shatter Me author Tahereh Mafi’s foray into middle grade.  While it wasn’t really my cup of tea, the writing was beautiful.  I will be writing a full review of Furthermore shortly, so keep an eye out for it.  I hadn’t intended to pick up Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One, but I started reading/listening to the sample and I was hooked.  I’m about four fifths of the way through it, so again expect a review at some point in the future.  

This week I finally started to read another of the ARCs I received from BEA, Replica by Lauren Oliver.  It moved up my TBR because of the EpicReads First 5 newsletter to which I am subscribed.  This is a email where they send you the first five chapters, one a day, by email of upcoming books.  It’s a really great way to preview upcoming releases.  Anyway, back to Replica.  This was one of the books recently previewed and the preview was interesting enough to get me to pick up my ARC.  While I’m not yet 100% sold on the characters or plot, I am intrigued by the format.  The book is in two parts, one part told from Lyra’s perspective, the other from Gemma’s.  it can be read either as two separate sections or as alternating chapters from the two storylines.  I’m choosing to go the alternete chapters route and so far I’m really appreciating how the plotlines are tightly woven together and each enhances the other.  Again, I will write a longer review when I’m finished.

Today I went to see the movie Bridget Jones’s Baby, which I loved.  The script is funny and the performances are excellent, especially Zellwegger and Firth.  They really GET their characters now, and they both bring their Oscar cailbre acting chops when required.  I also enjoyed Emma Thompson’s performance as Bridget’s doctor.  I understand Thompson collaborated on the script – she clearly took the opportunity to give herself some of the best lines! Patrick Dempsey did well as the new guy on the block, but I really regretted that Hugh Grant chose not to reprise his role as Daniel Cleaver.  The script and actors have to work that much harder to make brief fling Jack Quant a believable rival to Firth’s Mark Darcy given Darcy’s long term love of and relationship with Bridget.  Cleaver’s history with Bridget and their sustained sexual chemistry would have made him a more believable alternative.  Ah well.  Still, we can hope for an adaptation of Mad About the Boy with Daniel Craig as the love interest please.

That’s all I have to share this week.  Did you see Bridget Jones’s Baby?  If so, let me know what you thought in the comments!

Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas – Review

Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas – ReviewEmpire of Storms Series: The Throne of Glass #5
Also in this series: Throne of Glass, Heir of Fire
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Elizabeth Evans
Length: 25 hrs and 23 mins
Genres: Epic Fantasy
Buy from AmazonKoboiTunesAudible
Evelynne's rating: five-stars

Empire of Storms is the fifth and penultimate book in Sarah J. Maas’s Throne of Glass in which a former assassin uses her skills and her magic to save her kingdom.  Being the second to last book in the series, it focusses very much on getting our protagonists into the right place for the finale.

What I liked

The pacing.  Despite the fact that Empire of Storms is primarily focussed on getting the team into place for the final confrontation, Maas managed to keep the pacing brisk and the tension high.  There were several points where I feared for our characters’ lives.  There are several confrontations adding to the tension, even if the end result is moving the pieces across the chessboard.

The characters and their group dynamics.  This is clearly one of Maas’s real strengths as a writer.  I loved the relationships between the characters and their journeys.  It was wonderful that each of our characters has a unique skill set, developed over the course of the series, which will be vital in the cause to defeat Erawan.  If even one person fails to play his or her part, the world is doomed.  I personally have not read the novellas, but I enjoyed the “new” characters who made an appearance and who also must do their part.

Manon’s story.  Once again, as in Queen of Shadows I found myself more engaged with Manon’s chapters than with Aelin’s, at least until the ending.  It is noticeable that Manon’s arc mirrors Aelin’s.  Both start the series as cocksure employees of a leader whose moral bankruptcy does not sit well with our heroines.  A crisis ensues causing a break with said leader, a confrontation which leaves our heroines in a pretty dark place.  Both must now accept their heritage in order to claim their birthrights to aid the cause of freedom.  I really look forward to where Manon’s journey takes her, although I can’t help wishing she’d had as much page space to develop her character as Aelin.

The increase in scope.  In Empire of Storms we learn just how long the confrontation between Team Terrasen and Erawan has been brewing and how much has already been sacrificed.  The potential cost of the war is also laid out, and I have even more love for Aelin now.  I can’t wait to see how it plays out in the final book.

Setup for final book.  I really liked loved Maas has set the pieces for the final book.  Each character is faced with a task or a role to play and each must perform to have a hope of defeating Erawan.  It’s clear that the cost will be high.  She has achieved a wonderful balance between bringing existing plotlines to fruition while leaving a great deal of possibilities.

The narration.  I picked up Empire of Storms in audiobook format specifically for Elizabeth Evans’ narration.  She brings exactly the right amount of sass to Aelin, and her Manon voice is pitch perfect, too.  I would recommend this format.

What I didn’t like

Some modern phrasings.  Occasionally, Maas will use some modern phrases in her writing, such as “haul ass.”  While this probably fits in well with our sassy, modern heroine, the style of the novel is still epic fantasy and such expressions really, really bugged me.  Each time they threw me out of the story.  You may not have the same experience.

The number of romantic pairings.  Please don’t misunderstand me.  I LOVED the individual pairings in the series.  They were beautifully developed, with each partner both giving and gaining something from the relationship.  What did frustrate me though was that almost every character seemed to be paired off in some way.  It came across as a little too neat for me.  Of course maybe the gods have put a perfect partner in each of their paths to make up for the hardships and pain they must endure!

Despite these minor quibbles I loved Empire of Storms and gave it five stars out of five.

Speculation on the sixth book

I liked that the story could still go in many different ways in this last book.  Maas could opt for a happy ending or it could be bittersweet.  In any case, I’m calling it now; Lysandra and Dorian won’t make it out alive :o(  The tasks ahead of them are simply too dangerous.  That is only my speculation though and I would be happy to be proven wrong. Let me know what you think in the comments.


Reading roundup – September 9th 2016

Good morning.  This is going to be a fairly brief roundup this week – I don’t have a great deal to talk about!

One book I finished this week was The Bronze Key, the third in Holly Black and Cassandra Clare’s Magisterium series.   The Magisterium series owes a lot to Harry Potter, set as it is in a magic school, following a protagonist linked to the Enemy of Death.  This third outing sees our heroes trying to identify a spy in their midst all while keeping secret Cal’s connection to Constantine Madden.  The Bronze Key is another solid outing in the series and I enjoyed it very much.  While it doesn’t have Rowling’s wit, charm or gorgeous worldbuilding, I do like the depth that Black and Clare have given to their characters.  It’s  series I will certainly follow to the end.

I gave The Bronze Key four stars out of five.

I’m currently reading Sarah J. Maas’ Empire of Storms, the fifth book in the Throne of Glass series and am loving it so far.  It’s funny to see on my GoodReads news feed how many of my GoodReads friends are currently reading this book!  Expect more thoughts when I finish it.

This week saw rumours that the great Dame Angela Lansbury (she of Murder, She Wrote and Mrs Potts in Beauty and the Beast) had joined the cast of Game of Thrones for season 7.  That could have been great – I could imagine some really wonderful scenes between her and Dame Diana Rigg.  However, the rumour was recently debunked.  Ah well.  Jim Broadbent does seem to be confirmed though – maybe someone from the Citadel?

Today was the unveiling of the latest iPhone and Apple Watch.  Other than watching Tim Cook do Carpool Karaoke, I wasn’t particularly excited about any of the news.  I’m perfectly happy with my iPhone 6.  The new wireless AirPods could have been cool until I saw they were priced at $219 CAD.  I’ll stick with my Bluetooth streamer for my hearing aids and my EarPods for when I’m in bed!

That’s all I have for today!   Have a good weekend.



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