Mid-Year Book Freakout Tag

1. Best book you’ve read so far in 2017.

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Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare — I just fell in love with this play while reading it for class. Even though this semester I read three Shakespeare plays, this was the only one where I was sobbing at end. My copy is all tabbed up and scribbled because of I read and reread even after the work for that class was done.

Honorable mentions: A Conjuring of Light and The Lies of Locke Lamora (the latter of which you’ll see mentioned a lot in this tag).

2. Best sequel you’ve read so far in 2017.

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A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab — Perfect finale. It also consolidated Shades of Magic as one of my favorite series of all time. I still get emotional thinking about these characters.

3. New release you haven’t read yet, but want to.

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A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas — I’ve been hearing mixed things about this one… okay mainly that it doesn’t live up to ACOMAF which I didn’t love all that much. Still, I must finish this trilogy because I really do like the characters. Also I feel like I’m the only person that hates the cover… why that color, why?

Honorable mention: Our Dark Duet which was released like a week ago and still hasn’t arrived at my house. I need it.

4. Most anticipated release for the second half of the year.

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In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan — I love this author a lot, but somehow I never got around reading Turn of the Story. Now I’m kind of glad I didn’t because I get to enjoy it in complete book form.

Honorable mention: The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo.

5. Biggest disappointment.

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A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle — I just couldn’t connect with the story. Like, I don’t want to rant about a beloved classic that clearly meant a lot to people, but it just never clicked for me. Maybe Middle Grade is just not my genre because the other contender for this spot is the Circle of Magic series by Tamora Pierce.

6. Biggest surprise.

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Night Sky with Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong — I was utterly swept away by this poetry collection. I sobbed my eyes out and read in one sitting without meaning to.

7. Favourite new author. (Debut or new to you)

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Laini Taylor — I had heard a lot about Taylor’s writing, but does it dazzle. I just fell in love with her style and sense of humor, and now I want to read everything else she has written. Daughter of Smoke & Bone also happened to be the first book I finished this year!

8. Newest fictional crush.

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Locke Lamora from the Gentleman Bastard series by Scott Lynch — I can actually pin point the precise moment when I started loving Locke (“Nice bird, asshole”). I have a thing for clever and cocky dudes; it’s a problem. The fact that I picture him as Richard Madden certainly helps.

Honorable mention: Akiva from Daughter of Smoke & Bones, my morally ambigous, lost angel.

9. Newest favourite character.

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Antoinette Conway from The Secret Place by Tana French — Even though she is not the main character, I love how unapologetic she is! I can’t wait to read from her point of view in The Trespasser. French excels at writing complex female characters.

Honorable mention: Locke, Jeanne, Sabetha and Ezri from the Gentleman Bastard books. Also the whole cast of characters from Julius Caesar.

10. Book that made you cry.

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Station Eleven by Emily St. Mendel — I bawled so hard when reading this book. It’s not just that what was happening was sad or whatever, but some details just caught me off guard and left me sobbing. It was one of those reading experience where you have to stop for a breath and because your eyes ache.

Honorable mention: The Sky is Everywhere which had me crying at regular intervals because, damn, Jandy Nelson and her gut-punching portrayal of grief..

11. Book that made you happy.

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The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch — Okay, so I promised myself I wouldn’t repeat books, but nothing has made me grin and laugh more than listening to the audiobooks of this series. The banter is so good, but also the style itself can be very humorous. I look like an idiot just laughing by myself while I listen to this. Also the first two books tore my heart out. #writinggoals

Honorable mention: The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde, which I read before but never ceases to be delightful.

12. Most beautiful book you’ve bought so far this year (or received)

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Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor — I actually refused to buy anything but the UK cover because it’s so gorgeous. The gold, the blue, the typography! I could stare at it all day. I swear it’s even prettier in real life.

13. What books do you need to read by the end of the year?

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The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood — Not counting all the series that I want to finish too, I really hope I get to this novel in the next few months. This book has been on my TBR since 2013. I’ve own it for over a year. I’ve read and loved other Atwood books enough that she’s probably among my favorite authors. I have no idea why I haven’t devoured this.

Honorable mention: Deathless by Catherynne Valente (this will be the year I read a Valente book I swear).

Bonus: Goodreads Challenge Update

I’m doing pretty well! I’ve read 44 book as of this late June, many of them are play I had to read for university, though. 9 books ahead from my goal of 75, but now I’m think I may try to do 100. To be on track for that, I need to finish six book before June ends… *nervous laughter*. I’m still going to try though.

Book Review: The Lies of Locke Lamora

127455Title: The Lies of Locke Lamora

Author: Scott Lynch

Series: Gentleman Bastard #1

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: ★★½

An orphan’s life is harsh — and often short — in the island city of Camorr, built on the ruins of a mysterious alien race. But born with a quick wit and a gift for thieving, Locke Lamora has dodged both death and slavery, only to fall into the hands of an eyeless priest known as Chains — a man who is neither blind nor a priest.

A con artist of extraordinary talent, Chains passes his skills on to his carefully selected “family” of orphans — a group known as the Gentlemen Bastards. Under his tutelage, Locke grows to lead the Bastards, delightedly pulling off one outrageous confidence game after another. Soon he is infamous as the Thorn of Camorr, and no wealthy noble is safe from his sting.

Passing themselves off as petty thieves, the brilliant Locke and his tightly knit band of light-fingered brothers have fooled even the criminal underworld’s most feared ruler, Capa Barsavi. But there is someone in the shadows more powerful — and more ambitious — than Locke has yet imagined.

Known as the Gray King, he is slowly killing Capa Barsavi’s most trusted men — and using Locke as a pawn in his plot to take control of Camorr’s underworld. With a bloody coup under way threatening to destroy everyone and everything that holds meaning in his mercenary life, Locke vows to beat the Gray King at his own brutal game — or die trying…

A part of me wants to key-smash through this whole book because this book is sooooo good, guys! Like bfoewbfoioafggfSGAAJHFIWSOFN-levels of good. It has been too long since I just fell in love with a new story, so I just want to gush and force everyone to read it. The worst part is that I don’t even like heists or all male cast that much!!! (Also, let me tell you that the audiobook narrated by Michael Page is phenomenal!)

My main criticism of this book is that the beginning is really slowed-paced. I listened to the first two hours of the audiobook in about two weeks because the plot hadn’t fully rolled in, and Lynch takes his sweet time with the worldbuilding. What I can say is that the characterizations are very strong from the start. Overall, I think it is kind of effective because, by the time the main villain arrives, the plot doesn’t get boggled down by the core worldbuilding. The remaining twenty hours of the audiobook I listened to in two days and a half. So if you’re finding it slow at first, I’d recommend that you power through it because it becomes incredibly addicting once it does get started.

My second main criticism regards the treatment of female characters. There were no leading women in this first book, even though there were important, competent secondary female characters. Honestly, I have a lot of hope for future books to fix this because I didn’t think its treatment of women was bad, just lacking. In this world, women are allowed to be fighters as much as men which is why I’m surprised that there wasn’t a female lead. (I do have to complain about that fridging though.)

Now onto the things I loved…

The heists and cons were very well crafted. Lynch mixes the mundane tropes with fantastical elements, so it never feels like a rehash. Some information is withheld from the reader at times which always kind of bothers me, especially given that the point of view is close third person. It’s kind of a convention in the heist genre, so I get why it was done. Watching the results was always a delight, because, damn, Locke is one of the cleverest characters I’ve ever read about. Lynch goes on and on about how Locke is great at what he does, and he actually shows you.

Conversely, one of the strongest aspects of the book is how the characters also mess up regularly. Yes, Locke is very clever, but not clever enough to outsmart everyone at all times. This makes the stakes feel real, the tension earned. The solutions don’t feel cheap because of how much they cost. Also, Locke is not a Mary Sue by any means; he’s not idealized but flawed in a hundred ways. He’s a terrible fighter, not that handsome, and sometimes quite rash, but you end up loving and rooting for him all the more.

The characters are just great. I got soooooo invested. Part of that is because Lynch is very good at characterization. He takes his time to show the characters and how they interact with each other. The repartee is very funny (though sometimes a bit vulgar) and gives the reader insight into who these people are. Jeanne, for example, work perfectly as a character in his own right that goes beyond the archetype. He’s the brawler, yes, but he’s also just as smart as Locke in a different way and probably the most sensitive character out of the bunch.

Also I have a thing for found families who’d do everything for each other and this is just soooooo that trope, and it’s executed beautifully. The loyalty… I cry. Everything still hurts so thank you, Scott Lynch.

The flashbacks, which could have easily bogged down the book, only add to it. There’s a lot of characterization and worldbuilding put into them, but they are interesting enough to stand on their own while also foreshadowing what is to come in interesting ways. Also Locke as kid is just adorable. Lynch knows how to use them. There was one particular solemn moment is a flashback which cuts the present timeline in the most hilarious way possible; I had to stop the audiobook because I was laughing so hard, and that was the moment where I realized I had fallen for this book, for these characters.

 

Top Ten Series I Haven’t Started Yet

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted at The Broke and the Bookish! This week’s topic is perfect for a lover of fantasy like me because oh, there’s a never ending list of series I want to get to. I’m worried/glad it will never end, but it’s also so easy to get intimidated by the amount of books in each series. Then there also years of wait for releases and I cry.

As of now, I have a rule for myself. I can only start a new series when I finish or catch up with one I’ve already started. A good rule which I have completely failed to adhere to, but hey let me hope. I’ve also written about all the series I’m hoping to finish this year. But hey, these are the ones I’m hoping will motivate me to get on with those…

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1. The Dark Tower series by Stephen King

Number of books total: 7 (all released)

We read an extract in one of my classes and these sounded so fun! Also there are seven books! That’s a lot…

2. The Mistborn Trilogy by Brandon Sanderson

Number of books total: 3 (all released)

So many people loooove this series. I’m kind of afraid because the hype is high, my friends. Please, don’t let them be a disappointment…

3. The Winner’s Trilogy by Marie Rutkoski

Number of books total: 3 (all released)

I actually own the first book already. I only haven’t started it because of my rule on starting new series which I’ve broken like five times for other books.

4. Wayfarers series by Becky Chambers

Number of books total: 2 (plus one to be released in 2018)

I was convincing myself starting this one wasn’t so bad because there are only two books out. Then they announced the next one…

5. Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

Number of books total: 1 (plus one to be released)

Another one I already own because the UK cover is to die for. I still have one book left on Laini Taylor’s other series, so I’m saving this one for the evitable craving I will have for her beautiful writing.

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6. Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon

Number of books total: 8 (plus novellas and other books to be released?)

I was pleasantly surprised by how much I loved the television adaptation (though I haven’t seen season 2 yet). The books seem like so much fun but also so dauntingly huge! The first book alone is 850 pages…

7. The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

Number of books total: 2 (one to be released at one point in time apparently)

So huuuuuge. Oh God, I have so much left to read.

8. The Diviners series by Libba Bray

Number of books total: 2 (plus one to be released later this year)

I love Bray’s writing and I’ve been meaning to start this since I finished the Gemma Doyle Trilogy. Why haven’t I started them, then? Because there was a five year gap between books one and three. I don’t want to get attached to these characters (and I’m sure I will) only to have to wait for another three years to know what happens. One GRRM in my life is enough.

9. The Demon’s Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan

Number of books total: 3 (all released)

She’s such an underrated writer! The humor, the characters, the general adorableness of it all. I want to read all she’s ever written, so these are up next.

10. His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman

Number of books total: 3 (plus a sequel series to be released)

I tried to read The Golden Compass when I was like ten and was traumatized to find out it was much more violent than the movie. At the first kid death, I was out. It’s a shame because I’ve heard so many good things about this trilogy! I know I could relate a lot to the themes now that I’m Not A Kid™.

Total books released: 34

(kill me now)

Summer Bookish Bingo

Hosted over at Pretty Deadly Reviews, this challenge is always a ton of fun.summer-17-bingo-1024x1024.jpg

Here’s my tentative TBR for some of the challenges!

 

Latinx MC — Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

A Book About Fandom — Eliza and her Monsters by Francesca Zapia

LGBT+ — The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee

Summer Release — Our Dark Duet by Victoria Schwab

White Cover — In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan

Blue Cover —  A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J Maas

On Your TBR Forever — Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson

Revolution and Rebellion — Richard II by William Shakespeare

Name in the Title — Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

Royalty — My Lady Jane 

A Book With a Map — Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor

Travel — The Magician’s Land by Lev Grossman (I’m judging by the blurb on the back)

 

Book Review: The Secret Place

20821043Title: The Secret Place

Author: Tana French

Series: Dublin Murder Squad #5

Genre: Mystery

Rating: ★★★¾

The photo on the card shows a boy who was found murdered, a year ago, on the grounds of a girls’ boarding school in the leafy suburbs of Dublin. The caption says, I KNOW WHO KILLED HIM.

Detective Stephen Moran has been waiting for his chance to get a foot in the door of Dublin’s Murder Squad—and one morning, sixteen-year-old Holly Mackey brings him this photo. The Secret Place, a board where the girls at St. Kilda’s School can pin up their secrets anonymously, is normally a mishmash of gossip and covert cruelty, but today someone has used it to reignite the stalled investigation into the murder of handsome, popular Chris Harper. Stephen joins forces with the abrasive Detective Antoinette Conway to find out who and why.

But everything they discover leads them back to Holly’s close-knit group of friends and their fierce enemies, a rival clique—and to the tangled web of relationships that bound all the girls to Chris Harper. Every step in their direction turns up the pressure. Antoinette Conway is already suspicious of Stephen’s links to the Mackey family. St. Kilda’s will go a long way to keep murder outside their walls. Holly’s father, Detective Frank Mackey, is circling, ready to pounce if any of the new evidence points toward his daughter. And the private underworld of teenage girls can be more mysterious and more dangerous than either of the detectives imagined.

Disclaimer: There will be no spoilers for other books in this series because they all stand on their own. You can totally pick this up without reading any of the others. If you are not in the mood for the others, I suggest that you jump right into this one even! That said, Faithful Place does provide some backstory but none that’s essential.

I think this might have surpassed The Likeness as my favorite Tana French book?? It was just sooooo gooooood. The sharp charecterization, the haunting atmospheres, the witty writing: it’s all there in its glorious Tana-French-ness. Add to that the tight plot with interwoven flashbacks and sharp observations about what it’s like to be a teenage girl and you get this book.

One thing that I loved about this (which applies to The Likeness as well) is that it focuses on friendships. Holly’s friendship with three other girls is at the front and center of this novel. They all fiercely love and care for each other, in their own, often misguided ways. French nails the dynamics, the intensity, the quiet moments, the funny ones too that make this type of groups tick. I never had a problem believing because they struck so close to my own group of friends, and I wish more books focused on this because this kinds of relationships are very formative and important. Each girl is clearly drawn and very vivid. They are all allowed a voice, so it makes the unravelling of it all even more heart-wrenching.

The writing is both lush and blunt, but I also felt it’s the tightest it’s ever been for French. The flashback chapters, narrated in third person, just let it shine all the more. There is also new found metaphorical richness that, in my opinion, works a lot better than in Broken Harbor. There’s a particular element of magic realism that I’m sure will not work for everyone, but I thought it was very fitting in a more symbolic sense. And the writing is never overwrought for its sake: it services the atmosphere and characters at all times. This is one of my favorite quotes:

They are forever, a brief and mortal forever, a forever that will grow into their bones and be held inside them after it ends, intact, indestructible.

The detectives are also great. Watching them interact and slowly start to trust one another was precious. I got more feels from them silently agreeing than from most romance plotlines I’ve read this year. Conway is such a great character. She is blunt, abrasive, and grumpy in a way that female characters seldom are allowed to be. That said, I loved that we got this male narrator for a story about teenage girls because Moran quickly learns not to ever underestimate them (“If I’ve learned one thing today, it’s that teenage girls make Moriarty look like a babe in the woods”). He also respects Conway at every turn which umm why aren’t more male characters like this. Like a book with this premise could have soooo easily fallen into so many sexist tropes and it never does.

That said, I do feel like we got to know the detectives better in previous books. Maybe it’s because half of the book follows the girls. However, Moran does have a very clear arc in this book and, as I said, his growing relationship with Conway is just a delight to see unfold. I hope that The Trespasser, which follows the two of them, delves deeper into their backstories.

The mystery is maybe one of the weaker points of the book. Just as with Faithful Place, I guessed who’d done it, like, halfway through the book, but I could not have cared less. By that point, I was so invested in the characters that the whodunit became secondary; I wanted to know why and how it was going to affect the characters. In my opinion, this is what makes a good mystery novel, or one that’s memorable at least. In these books, there isn’t random shock-value revelations which makes very satisfying to read.

I haven’t been this engrossed in the actual act of reading in such a long time. It truly is a page-turner for all the best reasons.