April 2020 Reading Wrap Up – Part Two [Books]

April 2020 2

January  / February / March Part 1 / March Part 2 / April Part 1

Welcome to my April Reading Wrap Up, Part 2! Like March, I read a lot in April. 18 books in total. I’ve hit a little bit of a reading slump in May, so hopefully May’s Wrap Up won’t need 2 parts to go through. But anyway, here are the other 9 books read in the second month of lock down.

Bone Harvest – James Brogden

bone harvestMy Review

I really liked this book. Brogden’s novel spans decades, starting with World War I and coming right up to a now alternative 2020 where Covid-19 doesn’t exist. Instead, all these characters have to worry about are the VE Day Celebrations. Or at least they think so. This novel really hit a couple of sweet spots, and I really do recommend it.

The Twilight Zone Radio Dramas, Volume 1

twilight zone

My Review

This was a very enjoyable listening experience. These radio dramas are fully casted, and contain multiple stories, all of which had that strong Twilight Zone feel to them. I only came to this show fairly recently, but I absolutely love anything to do with it (Tower of Terror is a ride I refused to go on when we went to Florida, because I was five and terrified, and was my second favourite ride visiting Disney Paris) including this audio production.

The Seven Endless Forests – April Tucholke

seven endless

My Review

This had all the makings of a book I wanted to love. Female led fantasy based around the King Arthur legend, I was sold. Unfortunately, the book itself wasn’t that great. It rambled, a lot, and there was little to resemble King Arthur’s story found in the pages. This one definitely wasn’t for me.

Catalyst – Tracy Richardson

catalyst

Review Coming Soon

This was a book I read for one of the Write Reads blog tours. Unfortunately, I didn’t really enjoy this one. It took some really interesting ideas and felt like it simplified them too much. And presented simple ‘solutions’ to the main crises’ we’re facing today. Was a little disappointed, but keep an eye out for the blog tour, as I’m sure other bloggers felt differently from me.

Shades of Magic, Volume 1: The Steel Prince – V.E. Schwab

shades of magic steel prince

My Review

I don’t know which situation I would prefer: always having a few Schwab books to read, or being completely caught up and eagerly awaiting the next one. Either way, just like with Vicious, I knew picking up this graphic novel I would love it. I haven’t come across a Schwab book I didn’t like. If you’ve read the Shades of Magic trilogy, I highly recommend jumping into The Steel Prince.

Jeff Wayne’s The War of the Worlds: The Musical Drama – H.G. Wells

war of the worlds

My Review

Another great listening experience! Though sadly there is no singing in this one. It was still very enjoyable though, and the cast involved was excellent. I definitely recommend this one, as the soundtrack is amazing.

Tiger Queen – Annie Sullivan

tiger queen

My Review

I enjoyed this one. It was a fun, easy read that had be completely hooked. A good YA novel, that maybe leans a little too much on various tropes, and could have done with stronger female characters, but overall, like I said, it was enjoyable.

Dark Ends – Edited by Clayton Snyder

dark ends

Review coming soon on Dead Head Reviews

This is an absolutely brilliant dark fantasy anthology, and one I really suggest picking up. This anthology is made up of novelettes, many set in worlds already created by the writers. Which is great because with every story I definitely found myself wanting more.

The Deception of Kathryn Vask – Mark Steensland

the deception
My Review

My final book for this month. The Deception of Kathryn Vask is a fantastic, tight play that I can easily imagine on stage, and will hopefully one day get to see on stage, too. My review is nothing but glowing praise for Steensland, and recommendations to keep an eye out for this one.

And that is it for April! How did your month go? I seem to be going through books faster than I realise at the moment, though it has calmed down for May. I’m also reading slightly longer stuff this month, and listening to American Gods on Audible which is really long. I amended my Goodreads Goal to 75, after hitting the 50 mark, and I’m currently on 55 so I’m pretty happy with that.

Shades of Magic, Volume 1: The Steel Prince – V.E. Schwab [Books]

shades of magic steel princeI’ve mentioned it before, but I really am such a huge Schwab fan. I’m slowly making my way through her books, and have so far not been disappointed by a single one. The Shades of Magic series is definitely one of the best fantasy series’ I’ve read in a long time, and the ending of the second book made me so grateful I had the third to hand, to read instantly after.

The trilogy itself is very visual. It’s one thing I always love about Schwab’s work – she creates amazing locations and worlds and settings without it ever feeling like the description is weighing things down. In Shades of Magic, there is a clear picture created of the various Londons, which is probably why it was a good thing this graphic novel is set away from that.

Yet the raw visual power present in the books is here, too, brought to life by absolutely stunning art. This is a world where people have various magical abilities, and the effect of that on the page is amazing.

The young prince Maxim Maresh is sent away from London, to a brutal, violent port town in order to learn how to be a military leader. But there, Maxim faces more than he expected, when a pirate queen arrives and forces the town to bend to her every whim.

This graphic novel does a great job of reintroducing a couple of characters from the original series, who served more as background characters in Shades of Magic but take over as key players here. Maxim becomes more of an interesting character, as his backstory is revealed, and I’m really glad the decision was made to focus on him for the graphic novel, as I think his journey to becoming king is really interesting.

Here he is headstrong and perhaps a touch arrogant, much like his son, Rhy, who we meet in Shades of Magic. This is just a first volume, and it sets up the rest of the series really well, allowing us to get an idea of Maxim, what he can do, and the people around him.

As with all Schwab books, the characters are vivid and interesting. The storyline is intriguing and contains the sort of action that was done excellently in Shades of Magic. There’s plenty going on here. And the artwork is, again, stunning. This is definitely one to pick up if you read and enjoyed Shades of Magic, and I can’t wait until I can eventually get my hands on volume 2.

2019: What I’ve Read So Far

2019 books .pngSo,  we are well over halfway through 2019, and I thought I’d take a moment to look back at the books I’ve read so far this year. Currently, I’ve had a really good year when it comes to reading. I’ve read the second books for two authors I absolutely love (Elizabeth Lim and Angie Thomas), I read books by VE Schwab for the first time (City of Ghosts and the Shades of Magic series), and the debut novel from the very talented Elizabeth Macneal, who I also had the pleasure of meeting. Oh! And I meet VE Schwab, too. I started the year with 0 signed books, and now have 7. So far, so good. Out of the 38 books I’ve read, I’ve given 21 5-stars on Goodreads, 6 have had 4-stars and 3, and only 1 each for 2-star and 1-star books. Basically, I’ve read some really good books so far.

I’ve picked out one book from each month so far (January – July), and below you’ll find short reviews of the book, along with links to the full review, if there is one.

January

hill house.jpg

The Haunting of Hill House – Shirley Jackson

*****

After the death of her mother, Eleanor is at a loss. She answers an invitation to go the mysterious Hill House, and there she meets Dr Montague, Luke, and Theodora. The doctor searches for evidence of paranormal activity at the house. Luke is set to inherit the ugly building, and Theodora, like Eleanor, has attended out of curiosity. As events unfold, Eleanor struggles with external and internal forces, trying to find her place in the world.

With Hill House, Jackson creates an eerie atmosphere, masterfully painting an image of an uneasy house, but leaving it up to the reader to decide what is actually happening. Questions multiple throughout the novel, leaving us to wonder if there really is an entity targeting Eleanor, or if it is some manifestation of her own psyche. Jackson handles the genre really well, using the tropes to great effect, while making it completely her own.

February

Hex – Thomas Olde Heuvelt

*****

Another horror, but this one is much less subtle than Hill House. In Hex, we meet the hexresidents of Black Spring, a town with a very unique problem. A witch walks their streets, a woman with sewn-shut eyes and mouth, a woman who has been dead for hundreds of years. The elders use modern technology to track the witch, ensure tourists don’t come across her, and that their people are safe. But the town’s teenagers aren’t happy with the arrangement, or thier forced isolation.

Another 5 stars from me. I really enjoyed this. No character is clearly evil or clearly good, all are a mixture, depending on their circumstances, and the characters felt very real to me, trying to deal with this supernatural event and get on with their lives as best as possible. Hex does something all my favourite horror novels do – shows real reactions to extraordinary events, even when those reactions aren’t exactly morally right. I can’t wait for Heuvelt’s next English-translated novel.

a darker shadeMarch

Shades of Magic – A Darker Shade of Magic & A Gathering of Shadows

*****

Yeah, I know, I’m including two books here. But that’s because I read this trilogy one after another – A Conjuring of Light just slipped into April, so I’m focusing on these two instead. I did mean to write a review for the trilogy, but everytime I did it was hard to avoid spoilers.

In ADSOM, we meet Kell, one of the last Antari, users of magic that allow them to travel between worlds. Kell lives in Red London, but travels to White and Grey London delivering messages between royalty. He also smuggles items, and when a woman begs him to take a black stone from her, he does, setting off a chain of events that quickly spirals out of his control.

In Grey London, we are introduced to Lila Bard, a young thief who dreams of being a pirate queen. Initially, Lila steals the stone from Kell, but soon joins him as they attempta gathering of shadows to stop the magic spreading. The second book widens the scope of the world, as the elemental games approach and Kell finds himself roped into competing. Unknowingly to him, Lila has also found a way to compete, alongside her captain, Alucard, the former lover of Red London’s Prince Rhy.

The writing is beautiful, the settings are vivid, and the plot feels like travelling down a river on a kayak. Sometimes calm, allowing you look around and absorb everything, sometimes throwing you into rapids and occasionally throwing you off a waterfall, leaving you to hope you don’t hit the water head first. The characters are fully realised, enjoyable to hang out with, and drag you fully into rooting for them. If you haven’t read this series yet, I highly suggest you do.

April

On The Come Up – Angie Thomas

*****

on the come upIf you haven’t read either of Angie Thomas’ novels yet, I suggest you get them. Like, now. I was blown away by The Hate U Give, and I was majorly impressed by On the Come Up. If I had a tenth of Thomas’ writing talent, I’d be a happy woman.

On The Come Up follows Bri, a young woman scraping by, trying to look out for her family while all around her, people – including her aunt – are getting involved in gangs. Bri has a talent, the ability to rap, and it could be her ticket out of Garden Heights. Like The Hate U GiveOn The Come Up is about voice, and place, and racism. It tackles the issues young black teenagers face, the way society tries to keep them down, and how they combat it. Like her debut, Thomas gives us a strong, courageous young woman who needs to find her voice, and needs to decide how she’s going to use it. These books are amazing, and should be required reading for everyone.

May

The Queen of the Tearling – Erika Johansen

**

The first book on this particular list I wasn’t really impressed by.queen of the tearling

Kelsea is the heir to the Tearling throne, and on her 19th birthday, soldiers arrive to escort her to the castle so she can take her crown. There’s a lot of travelling, a lot of talk, a lot of…not much really happening.

For the most part, I found this book really frustrating, badly written in some parts, and quite forced in others. The world-building is weak, with implications this is perhaps another planet, maybe? I don’t know. But if that’s the case, apparently the only people they bothered to bring were white. So it’s the future, because there’s references to LOTR and HP and the like, but it’s got the technological advancements of medieval period. It was just an odd read for me, one I struggled with. Read my full review for, err, full Elle-rant mode.

June

The Wicker King – K. Ancrum

****

wicker kingNow, this book, I loved. I got through it in about a day. The Wicker King is the story of two young men, finding their place in the world, and working out if that place involves each other. On the face of it, the novel seems like it could be any coming-of-age fantasy YA, but this goes deeper. I loved the style, the characters, the constant questioning of what was real and what wasn’t, and the formatting. The book combines prose with snippets of letters, mix tape listings, notes, etc. There’s something to discover in all of them, and it’s worth spending a bit of extra time studying them and the way things are written, rather than skipping ahead. The book combines various factors really skillfully, and I was so glad I got to read this.I will definitely be picking up Ancrum’s other books in the future, and I am super excited for her Peter Pan retelling. (Not to mention I got to read her King Arthur short story and was blown away. So yeah. Check out her books!)

July

Spin The Dawn – Elizabeth Lim

*****

I cannot shut up about this book. And it’s my most recent review, so I’m not going recap everything here. But basically, Maia wants to be a master tailor, but, boo, sexism! Master spin the dawntailors can’t be women, because, well, they’d clearly be better at it than the men, like Maia is. She disguises herself as her brother to go to the palace, where a competition is held to find the new Imperial Tailor. Maia faces complications, jealous competitors, and the mysterious enchanter Edan in the palace.

This book is absolutely freaking beautiful. Including the cover. It’s amazing! And the writing? I couldn’t stop grinning throughout. It’s an enjoyable story, with great characters and plenty of twists, and at no point does it feel like it’s moving slowly. It just draws you along, dragging you completely and utterly into Maia’s world. There is nothing not to love about this book.

So there we are. A few of my reads for the year so far. I might do another one later in the year, maybe purposefully mix it up a bit more, but right now it’s hard. I’ve read a lot of great books.

Have you read any of these? What books this year stick out in your mind the most? And how is your reading year stacking up so far?