Sunday, 31 December 2017

Ivyclad Bingo 2017 Wrap-Up and 2018 Reading Challenge Sign-Ups

Read a Classic: Persuasion by Jane Austen
Read a Book with a Male Protagonist: The 39 Steps by John Buchan
Read a Book with a Female Protagonist: Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier (Twice.)
Read a Book with a Typo: Shaman King Volume Twenty Four by Hiroyuki Takei
Read a Retelling: Cinder by Marissa Meyer
Read a 1st Person Narrative: The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie
Read a 3rd Person Narrative: The Lost Plot by Genevieve Cogman
Read a Book with Aliens in it: Voltron Legendary Defender: Volume One by Tim Hendricks and Mitch Iverson
Read a Short Story: The Murders in the Rue Morgue by Edgar Allan Poe
Read a Book with No Romance: A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle
Read a Book with a Love Triangle: The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
Read a Book from the Dreaded Adult Section: Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Read a Play: Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
Read a Book Set in the UK: Charlotte Says by Alex Bell
Read a Book Set in a Fantasy Land: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo 
Read a Book Where Everyone Dies (at Least Four Deaths): His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet
Read a Book That is Also a Film: Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney
Read a Book with Less than 200 Pages: Trent's Last Case by E.C. Bentley
Read a Book with Over Five Hundred Pages: Bleak House by Charles Dickens
Read a Book with Pictures (Illustrated Book/Manga/Comic/Picture Book): Black Widow: The Sting of the Widow by Stan Lee


Thank you to Shar @ Virtually Read who, I believe, was the only other person to take part. If you want to sign up for the 2018 challenge, click here.  

I'm feeling adventurous as the witching hour approaches, so I'm going to sign-up for some 2018 challenges.
Hosted by Melissa @ Melissa's Ecelectic Bookshelf
I haven't read enough witchy books this year. To count, a book simply has to include a witch as a main character or major witchcraft elements. I'm aiming for the rank of Maiden (read six to ten books).
Hosted by Patchwork Bunny @ Curiosity Killed the Bookworm
I like bingo challenges, so I figure I'll crash someone else's. Science fiction, fantasy, horror, speculative and magical realism all count for this challenge. I'm aiming to read more science fiction next year and I read a lot of fantasy anyway, so this one is perfect for me.
Hosted by Ms Nose in a Book

I might be biting off more than I can chew here. 

(You're definitely biting off more than you can chew.)

Eh. That's 2018 me's problem.

The 20 challenges are as follows...
  1. Read a book with Dragons in it
  2.  Read a book over 500 pages
  3. Read an SFF novella
  4. Read a first book in a series
  5. Read a Science Fiction classic
  6. Read a Fantasy classic
  7. Read a book whose title matches the first letter of your last name
  8. Read a book that has a weapon on the cover
  9. Read a book that has a Spaceship on the cover
  10. Read a book that has been adapted
  11. Read a book with time travel in it
  12. Read a book that has been on your TBR shelf for over 2 years
  13. Read a book whose cover has stars in it or whose title has any variation of the word star in it
  14. Read a book with magical realism in it
  15. Read an SFF graphic novel
  16. Read a Sequel
  17. Read a diverse SFF book
  18. Read a Random SFF book – your pick!
  19. Read a fantasy book inspired by another story, fairytale, myth etc.
  20. Read a book with a map
Hosted by Karen @ Books and Chocolate
Note to self: Books started before the 1st of January 2018 are ineligible for this one. That means Middlemarch, which sucks because it's 900 pages long.

The categories are as follows...
  1. A 19th century classic
  2. A 20th century classic
  3. A classic by a woman author
  4. A classic in translation
  5. A children's classic
  6. A classic crime story, fiction or non-fiction
  7. A classic travel of journey narrative, fiction or non-fiction
  8. A classic with a single-word title
  9. A classic with a colour in the title
  10. A classic by an author that's new to you
  11. A classic that scares you
  12. Re-read a favourite classic
I'm signing up for this one purely because of my coursebooks.
Hosted by Whole Latte Ideas
You can set your own goal for this one, so I hope to read 12 YA books next year.
Hosted by Stormi @ Books, Movies, Reviews! Oh my! and Barb @ Booker T's Farm
This one is for mystery, suspense, thriller, and crime novels. I have a couple of crime novels to shift from my physical TBR so this one seems like a good idea. I'm aiming for the rank of Amateur Sleuth (5-15 books).

How did you do on your 2017 reading challenges? Will you be joining any for 2018?

Thursday, 28 December 2017

And All That Jazz (The Lost Plot by Genevieve Cogman)
(Warning: Contains major spoilers for the The Invisible Library, and minor spoilers for The Masked City and The Burning Page.)


"This was someone else's story. The library should never have been involved in it in the first place." - Genevieve Cogman, The Lost Plot, page 329

Never has the ending of a book taken me from "Oh my God, NO!" to "YES!" so fast. Thank God for loopholes.

The fourth book in The Invisible Library series takes us to an alternate version of Prohibition-era America where a pair of dragons are battling it out to find a book. The winner will be granted a new, better position in the court of Ya Yu, Queen of the Southern Lands. The loser will die. The Library is, of course, a neutral party in the dragon/fae feud, but there are rumours of a librarian helping one of the competitors. The Lost Plot is really an exercise in fictional politics. Irene's job is to deal with Evariste - the suspected rogue librarian - but the library makes no secret of the fact that they will scapegoat her the moment it looks like they're losing.  

There's a lot of character development here. Irene and Kai are both suffering from the events of the previous two novels. Irene is having nightmares and, at one point, mentions flashbacks. The trauma of what she had to do - something that goes entirely against not only her own nature but also the society she lives in - at the end of The Burning Page has seriously affected her mental health. And she won't tell anyone. Not even Kai. Speaking of Kai, he's still dealing with the events of The Masked City, though his claustrophobia is somewhat inconsistant. The lift is a problem, trapping himself in a crate is not. I suppose it could come down to the fact that he made the choice, but it would have been nice if the novel had addressed it rather than leave us to make assumptions.

A large number of old plot threads reappear in this novel. Most notably, with Vale absent until the final chapter and Silver missing completely, Irene and Kai's relationship comes to the forefront. They admitted there was a mutual attraction all the way back in The Invisible Library, but agreed to keep it professional. Like The Masked City, The Lost Plot is all about Irene's loyalties. She might be partnered with a dragon, but she's a librarian first and foremost...or is she? How much can an organisation conceal from someone? How much can it take advantage of their loyalties? How much can it force them to give up before they snap? At this point, if the Library isn't corrupt, if it isn't the real villain, I'll eat my hat. Irene again notes Kai's over-reliance on her to come up with the ideas and takes steps to address it, which gives us the most interesting plotline of the novel. Evariste, the new librarian, has plenty of reason to distrust dragons. The evolving trust between him and Kai after Irene sent them off together was brilliant to read. 

One thing I love about this series is the culture of the dragons and the fae. The fae are excellent fun with their weaponised tropes, and the dragons are fascinating. This novel is leans heavily towards the dragon-side of things and gives us some new insights into their culture, everything from the importance of family to the way they dress. If you ever thought this series saw order as the lesser of the two evils, you need to pick up this book as soon as possible. The dragons can be just as bad as the fae when given the right incentive.

I'm so sad that the next book in this series is the last. I love this world and I don't want to have to leave it. 

Are there any fictional worlds you love a ridiculous amount?

Sunday, 24 December 2017

A Few Things You Should Know About Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

(Note: In the UK, the novel known as Little Women is split into two parts: Little Women, which runs up until Meg gets engaged, and Good Wives. Typically both parts are adapted for screen under the title Little Women.)

In the summer of 2014, I read Little Women by Louisa May Alcott in the back of the car. We were heading down South at the peak of the holiday season. The roads were packed. The world was a cacophony of blaring horns and growling engines. But I was worlds away with the families left behind by American Revolutionary soldiers. 

On Boxing Day, the first part of a new three part drama based on the novel will air on BBC One at 8pm. 

 Here are a few things you should know about Little Women.

"Christmas Won't Be Christmas without Any Presents..."

The story begins at Christmastime. It's set during the American Civil War and the girls' father is away fighting. The family is not poor, but they have fallen on hard times.

It's About Four Sisters

 Meg, the oldest, is the pretty one. She likes nice clothes and expensive jewellry, but she's not shallow.

Jo, the second oldest, is the character the narrative tends to focus on. She dreams of being a writer and spends a lot of time hanging out with Laurie, the boy next door.

Beth is the shy one. She's sweet, and good, and innocent... If you're familiar with classic novels, you can work out where this is going.

Amy, the youngest, is the artistic one. She's also a bit of a brat at first.

(One time, she burnt Jo's manuscript. It was not awesome.)

Their Problems are Still Relatable Today

Sibling squabbles, sneaking sweets into school, sickness... These are things that every generation has to deal with. Then there are more serious societal issues, such as the social conventions that Jo does not fit and Meg's dilemma as to whether she should marry for love or hold out for money. It might not be as exciting as fighting monsters or flying dragons, but it's real. 

The Story is Sweeter Than a Bag of Pickled Limes

It's a bit sickly due to all the moralising and the aesops, but I think it works in context.

Louisa May Alcott Was Irritated by the Obsession with Who the Girls Would Marry

The author was inundated with letters asking about who the girls would marry. Although marriage does become important later on, Louisa May Alcott was irritated by the implication that who a girl would marry was the most important thing in her life. The idea of Jo and Laurie getting together was clearly brought up as she famously wrote in her diary, "I won't marry Jo to Laurie to please anyone."

I'm not going to lie, I was a bit disappointed, especially considering who Jo does end up with.

The man who is, and I quote, "satisfied, for though no words passed between them, he knew that she had given up writing." - Louisa May Alcott, Good Wives 

This Isn't the First Time it's Been Adapted

To date there have been film adaptations of Little Women in 1917 and 1918 (both silent films), 1933, 1949, and 1994. The most recent of these starred Winona Ryder as Jo. There have also been book adaptations, for example Family Fan Club by Jean Ure which brought the book into the modern day.

Little Women is a classic coming of age story. Does it have its problems? Sure. But I can't think of a story more fitting to curl up with on a cold winter's day.

Have you read Little Women?  

Monday, 18 December 2017

Reading Round-up 2017

2017 is almost over. This is a problem because I have accomplished nothing and I still need to read twelve books.

(I expect nothing and I'm still let down.)

But let's forget about that and instead focus on the 88 books I have read so far this year. 

My ratings round-up looks like this...

Roughly 50% of the books I've read this year have been manga or comics and I don't typically give them star ratings, hence the MASSIVE number of unrated books. 

Want more stats? According to Goodreads, my year in books looks like this.

The top three four books I've read this year are as follows...

Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

Greatest. Duology. Ever. The characters jump off the page, the world feels real, and it's so refreshing to have a revenge plotline that doesn't end in the hero realising that taking revenge will make him just as bad as his enemy. 

(I think that calling Kaz a hero is straining the definition of the term.)

Designated hero, then.

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

A sci-fi retelling of a number of fairytales, most obviously Cinderella. Cinder has an evil stepmother, a sick sister, and a prosthetic foot. Prince Kai has the weight of the world's expectations and the ability to pass unseen through crowds of his subjects.

This is honestly one of the best romance plotlines I've read all year.

(...You can turn off the music now.) 

Charlotte Says by Alex Bell

I didn't even know this was coming out! I saw it in the shop, bought it on impulse, and had finished reading it by the end of the day!

(For those of you who don't know, it's the prequel to Frozen Charlotte.)

And it's just as gloriously creepy! Jemima is a completely different heroine from Sophie. She's far more unpredictable and ambiguous. 

The biggest three let-downs were...

Considering how much I loved the previous two books in the series, the final installment was a massive disappointment. I saw bad reviews before I read it, but I didn't really pay them any attention as I'd disagreed with the people who were posting them on the first two books anyway. Unfortunately, this time they were right on the money. 

Bleak House by Charles Dickens

Esther Summerson was unbearable. She's one of those heroines who is held up in Victorian novels as a paragon of femininity and makes you wonder if the writer had ever actually met a woman. Neither Esther nor her friend, Ada, had any flaws.
And, you know, there's also the fact that it was over 700 pages of course-mandated reading.

The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

For no other reason than the fact that I'll Give You The Sun was SO good. 

(Her expectations were far too high going in.)

Far too high?

(Oh please. They were a skyscraper.)

All in all, I think this has been a pretty terrible year for reading. Here's to 2018, I guess?
If you want to sign up to my 2018 reading challenge, Ivyclad Bingo, you can find the details here.

What does your reading-round-up look like?