March 17, 2021

My 2020 End of the Year Reading Survey (for what it's worth...)

What a year 2020 was. Goodbye, and good riddance! Let's hope better things await us in 2021. In addition to 2020 being a horrible year all around, it was also an abysmal reading year for me. I don't think the two things are unrelated -- somehow the pandemic made me way less likely to stick with a book, despite the fact that for a good chunk of 2020 I had more time to potentially be reading! (I did do a lot of reading in terms of non-fiction articles online, between reading about COVID-related news and reading about US politics/current events.)

Anyway, I came nowhere near my Goodreads challenge goal, and I don't think I did very well at any of my other challenges either. 

This fabulous survey is hosted by Jamie from The Perpetual Page-Turner

Number Of Books You Read: 23

Number of Re-Reads: I think I skimmed some books to refresh my memory before reading a sequel, but not sure I had any true re-reads this year?

Genre You Read The Most From: speculative fiction 

1. Best Book You Read In 2020?

The Bridge Kingdom by Danielle L. Jensen -- I just remember having a really great reading experience with this one, and getting totally sucked into the world and characters.

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

Sorcerer to the Crown
by Zen Cho -- I usually really enjoy anything that's like Regency England + magic, but for some reason, this one fell flat for me. I doubt that I'm going to continue with the series.

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

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood -- it was a surprise that this book had such a positive tone (since The Handmaid's Tale is decidedly grim)!

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

I don't feel like I did a whole lot of "book pushing" this year, but my answers would probably still be the same as last year's answers: Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman, Illusion by Paula Volsky, and the Bone Season series by Samantha Shannon.

5. Best series you started in 2020? Best Sequel of 2020? Best Series Ender of 2020?

Best series started: The Bridge Kingdom 

Best sequel: do prequels count here? Because if so, I'll go with The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins. I very much enjoyed getting more of the history behind the world we first see in The Hunger Games, as well as seeing how Coriolanus develops into the man who later becomes President Snow. 

Best series ender: Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers. I identified with Annith, and this was the first book to really hold my attention since the beginning of the pandemic. 

6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2020?

Danielle L. Jensen

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

We Should All Be Feminists by Ngozi Chimamanda Adichie -- I don't tend to read much non-fiction.

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

The Bridge Kingdom, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, Mortal Heart

9. Book You Read In 2020 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year?

Since I'm posting this in March, I already re-read/skimmed The Dawn Chorus by Samantha Shannon again, in preparation for reading The Mask Falling (which I am currently in the middle of!).

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2020?

Mortal Heart

11. Most memorable character of 2020?

Coriolanus Snow from The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

12. Most beautifully written book read in 2020?

I'm not sure I read any books in 2020 whose prose really stood out as particularly beautiful/lyrical?

13. Most Thought-Provoking/ Life-Changing Book of 2020

Again, I don't think I have an answer for this one.

14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2020 to finally read? 

I can't believe it took me so long to finish up the Nevermore series by Kelly Creagh (I read the second and third books in 2020).

 15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2019?

From Mortal Heart:

"You always hold a piece of yourself back, Annith. For all your love and affection and kindness, there is always a part of yourself that you withhold from others.

And from the sublime to the ridiculous, this one from The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes:

"Did you tell your best friend his crush was a cannibal? Never a rule book when you needed one.

16. Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2019?

Shortest: We Should All Be Feminists by 
Ngozi Chimamanda Adichie (64 pages)

Longest: The Winter Rose by Jennifer Donnelly (736 pages)

 17. Book That Shocked You The Most

Maybe Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, or The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James?

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

Lara and Aren from The Bridge Kingdom

19. Favorite Non-Romantic Relationship Of The Year

The friendship between the heroines of the Dark Assassins series

20. Favorite Book You Read in 2020 From An Author You’ve Read Previously

Either The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes or Mortal Heart

21. Best Book You Read In 2020 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else/Peer Pressure:

The Chocolate Thief by Laura Florand and We Should All Be Feminists (which was actually a gift from a friend IRL!)

22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2020?

I don't feel like I have a very strong contender for this category... maybe Aren from The Bridge Kingdom or Balthazaar from Mortal Heart?

23. Best 2020 debut you read?

Didn't read any 2020 debuts.

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

Best worldbuilding: Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

Most vivid setting: The Bridge Kingdom (and honourable mention to Frenchman's Creek by Daphne du Maurier, which I was quite disappointed by, but its description of the setting was a strength)

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

First & Then by Emma Mills. This was a "cozy" sort of read. 

26. Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2017?

I don't think I really had one?

27. Hidden Gem Of The Year?

The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James

28. Book That Crushed Your Soul?

I don't know about "crushed my soul," but the ending of Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes did leave me frustrated, wanting to know what really happened with Lucy Gray.

29. Most Unique Book You Read In 2017?

In terms of format, probably
 the graphic novel version of Pride & Prejudice by Ian Edginton and Robert Deas, which I quite enjoyed.

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

Frenchman's Creek by Daphne du Maurier -- I just really didn't like either of the main characters!

1. One Book You Didn’t Get To In 2020 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2021?

I'll go with The Traitor Queen by Danielle Jensen. 

2. Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2021 (non-debut)? 

The Mask Falling (I mean, I'm already in the middle of it, but that would have been my answer). 
3. 2021 Debut You Are Most Anticipating? 

I'm pretty out of the loop when it comes to upcoming debuts, but Sisters of the Snake by Sarena and Sasha Nanua sounds awesome. I love swapping identity stories.

4. Series Ending/A Sequel You Are Most Anticipating in 2021?

Sounding like a broken record here, but The Mask Falling and The Traitor Queen

5. One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading/Blogging Life In 2021?

Right now, just read more and get out of this reading slump!

September 5, 2020

Mortal Heart: A Rambling Review

Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers

This has been the first book that I've become absorbed in since the pandemic hit, really. I've been in a reading slump of some variety, where nothing grabbed my attention enough to distract me from the news. While I did think Mortal Heart was a bit drawn out towards the end, and the introspective musings of Annith a tad repetitive, otherwise I was heartily glad to be whisked along on Annith's journey, as she discovers how to stand up for herself and those she loves. 

Of all three protagonists in the series, I think I found Annith to be the most relatable. She is not as assertive as Ismae or as wild as Sybella; rather, she is someone used to following the rules and not making waves. She has honed it as a defense mechanism, but as the walls of her cage tighten around her, she realizes she must break free of them before it's too late. That is what sets her off on an adventure that involves a very swoon-worthy (if a tad on the "emo" side) love interest, a reconnection with her old friends Ismae and Sybella, and a whole lot of secrets being revealed. (Which, I pretty much guessed at -- or they at least crossed my mind as possibilities -- way before they were revealed.) 

I did find the political plot line here rather boring, and the focus is far more on Annith's personal journey in terms of self-discovery and character development than the war going on between France and Brittany. Nevertheless, it does all come to a head eventually, and the resolution is not one I would have guessed. I do wonder if the Duchess will live to regret the decision she made...

Also, I remain confused about some questions of world-building. Spoilers, highlight to read: Are the hellequin already dead? I spent most of the book thinking they were -- and were stuck in the hunt as some sort of 'purgatory' before they earned their way to the afterlife -- but then a bunch of them actually died at the end, so... *blinks* 

Overall, I think my favourite in the trilogy remains the first, Grave Mercy, both for the introduction to the world and for the dynamic between Ismae and Duval. But this one is a close second, and probably had the protagonist I was most able to connect with.

4 shooting stars.

September 3, 2020

Mr. Rochester: A Rambling Review

Mr. Rochester by Sarah Shoemaker

I enjoyed this glimpse into Rochester's mindset and retelling of the classic from his perspective. We get a lot of backstory that makes his character more sympathetic, while not feeling out of place with what Charlotte Bronte gave her readers in the original. I do think that the first part of the story, detailing his childhood and young adulthood (before he meets Jane Eyre) was more interesting (if slow-moving), since we are already familiar with what happens once he and Jane cross paths. Perhaps because of this, the author doesn't go into that much detail about their interactions, which left their romance and Rochester's emotional development feeling like it lacked something; I didn't connect with it the same way I connected with the original.

While Sarah Shoemaker sticks quite closely to Bronte's story, there is one subplot that is new. I don't think it clashes with the original, although in the end I'm not sure how much it adds (spoilers, highlight to read: the storyline involving Gerald Rochester... in the end he dies along with Bertha, and all of his scheming comes to nothing). I do like, however, that it provides more explanation for events in the original story that were not accounted for (spoilers: it makes sense that Rowland might have taken advantage of Bertha and then refused to marry her, and that Edward would have been offered up to marry her instead).

For those people who don't understand the appeal of Mr. Rochester in Jane Eyre, I would highly recommend you pick this book up! And for those who love him already, you will probably enjoy getting to spend some time with this character during his most formative years.

4 shooting stars.

July 28, 2020

Short & Sweet: The Bridge Kingdom

The Bridge Kingdom by Danielle L. Jensen

An utterly absorbing, unputdownable read. It's been quite a while since I've been so completely sucked into a world and storyline, but these characters and the premise -- a princess marries a king, but is secretly a spy trying to bring down his kingdom -- just won me over. The kingdom politics and relationship dynamic between Lara and Aren really reminded me of The Winner's Curse series(in a good way). It looks like The Bridge Kingdom was released by an indie publisher, and you can tell that some more editing would have helped tighten some sections up and get rid of typos. I also found the modern slang jarring given the "traditional fantasy" sort of setting. But the characters, storyline, and world-building made up for these detractions in spades. I wish I could pick up the next book in the series right now!
4.5 shooting stars.


April 19, 2020

Short & Sweet: First & Then

First & Then by Emma Mills

I actually quite enjoyed this one, more than I thought I might. I do think that it's less a retelling of Pride and Prejudice than very loosely inspired by the story, as well as other Austen books. (I mean, for one thing, Devon doesn't have any sisters!) 

Nevertheless, I liked Devon's voice and I felt like her character and perspective were very relatable. It took me quite a while to warm up to Ezra -- his dynamic with Devon starts out as less open hostility than Darcy and Elizabeth's, and more just sort of lukewarm apathy, so there wasn't a whole lot of unresolved sexual tension between them initially -- but eventually I came around to him. I also liked seeing Devon become closer to her cousin Foster and really develop a sense of protectiveness for him. 

Overall, an easy, "warm fuzzy" sort of read that portrays high school in a rosier light than a lot of YA contemps do, and yet manages to still feel authentic.

4 shooting stars.


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