Top 5 Wednesday – SF&F TBR

As most will be aware, this feature is hosted weekly by Thoughts on Tomes.

I rather quite like this week as it gives me an opportunity to look through my Goodreads TBR and potentially work out what is going to be part of my next haul as my wallet is getting the itch to spend £s on books!

One. Strange The Dreamer by Laini Taylor

Strange the Dreamer (Strange the Dreamer, #1)

So this is one guaranteed to be in my next haul as it is now released into the world and I just so happen to be a massive Laini Taylor fan ever since the Daughter of Smoke and Bone Series. I wouldn’t even say that it was the stories, in particular, that I loved about Laini’s previous series, but moreso the telling of them and the beautiful way she weaves words! Plus, from the reviews I’ve seen so far on this, my expectations are going to continue to be met with this one!

Two. Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Illuminae (The Illuminae Files, #1)

This one is mostly on my TBR due to the hype surrounding, plus it has been recommended a number of times to me. I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with space. I find it so fascinating that there is this whole expansive universe outwith our little planet, but at the same time the thought completely terrifies me! So, when I get a chance to explore this universe, fictionally or otherwise, I always tend to uptake the opportunity. Also, the fact that it is told through e-mails, documents etc. is something that intrigues me.

Three. Because You Love to Hate Me by Various Authors & Booktubers

Because You Love to Hate Me: 13 Tales of Villainy

I am a huge fan of fairytales and fairytale retellings, so it only makes sense that this would make it on my list; particularly as this one is surrounding the VILLAINS! This combined with the fact that the lineup of authors who have contributed to this is EPIC! Samantha Shannon, Marissa Meyer, Victora Schwab!!!! Like, seriously!!! Plus, I love that this is a collaboration between authors and the book reviewing community.

Four. Anything by Neil Gaiman

American Gods (American Gods, #1)

This is one of my TBRs that I am slightly ashamed of. Neil Gaiman is one of those authors that I just know I will love, but I have yet to truly read anything he has done. So, I need to pull the finger out and get started on some of these! If you have read any of Gaiman’s works, recommendations on where to start would be most welcome! 🙂

Five. SF&F Series I Want to Finish

The Sword of Summer (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, #1) A Gathering of Shadows (Shades of Magic, #2) The Boy Who Lost Fairyland (Fairyland, #4)

So, this is a collective fifth (and I hope you will allow me) of series I have started and have yet to finish, not because I didn’t really enjoy them, just because the problem with being a reader is there is SO many worlds demanding our attention. I want to complete all of the Rick Riordan’s I haven’t started. I love all his series as I have an interest in mythology, and I love the easy way his series read whilst still being unashamedly enjoyable. I just finished a Darker Shade of Magic and lovvvveeeeed it, so it makes sense the rest of this series would be on here. Finally, this is one that has been on my TBR for a while. The Fairyland series by Catherynne Valente is a beautiful and magical series, and this is the fourth installment which I will definitely get round to eventually!

So, that wraps that up! Let me know your top 5 or link me to your post in the comments – would love to have a nosey and see if there is anything else I should be putting on my TBR!

-Lee

Twitter || Goodreads || Instagram

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E Schwab


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INFORMATION

Book: A Darker Shade of Magic

Author: V.E Schwab

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Titan Books (UK)

ISBN: 9781783295401

Buy: Amazon || Waterstones || Book Depository


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You can find a full synopsis of this book over at Goodreads here. Although I am so far behind with this that you all probably are well aware of what this book is about.


REVIEW (CONTAINS SPOILERS)

I want to start of this review by saying I can completely understand why the colour red is everywhere in this book… there is blood, and lots of it!

London is one of my favourite places to visit and I try to do so yearly, so when I  first heard that this book was set in not one but FOUR Londons, I was immediately sold. I think this choice of location(s) is rather smart as the London we are all familiar with (albeit of a different time) helps us feel connected with the story, whilst the other foreign Londons give us an exploration into completely different worlds which we all expect and love from fantasy books. The technique of colour categorisation is a smart one, and a technique that is successfully used elsewhere to help distinguish differences whilst maintaining a common link (eg. Hogwarts houses, power rangers etc.).

The characters Schwab has created reflect the beauty of her London’s as well. They have common traits with characters in other books, but Victoria perfectly morphs this baseline to create personalities that make them interesting and unique only to this story. I have to strongly commend her for her secondary characters as I was extremely attached to them despite maybe only getting a couple of chapters worth of content (my heart still aches for poor Barron, Gen and Parrish).

One thing that must be absolutely celebrated is the diversity of the characters as well. One of our main characters, Rhy, is disclosed as bisexual very early on and it is handled so well. I think this is the first time I’ve ever read a truly bisexual character, too! Lila’s cross-dressing tom-boyishness is a highlight for me also. Typically this is used with female characters to make them seem fierce and independent despite being girls, and then later in the books there usually is a ‘redeeming’ moment where they put on a dress or make up or something to remind us that they actually are a beautiful girl and not a boy (UGH! because we obviously can’t distinguish this). So, how delighted was I that when Lila was getting ready for the masquerade she still INSISTED on men’s clothing – YES, you do you gurl! Also, a good deal of the cast are people of colour – awesome!

Our villains were very villainous indeed, and for me, I love the concept of evil twins and by God were they evil! I don’t want to get too much into Holland as it will just upset me all over again, but what a poor sod! I think he was definitely the foundation of illustrating to us just how cruel the twins were, and without him they may have just seemed like little brats who had gotten a bit big for their boots. My heart still sinks thinking about the passage where Kell recognised relief on his face when he killed him.

The overarching story as a whole was well thought out. It was simple enough for us to truly understand the danger, whilst giving us enough freedom to explore these new worlds and characters without missing anything too integral to the story. Schwab successfully used something as menial as a stone to show us the true limitations of the magic within her worlds, as well as the characters which she created. I was actually surprised the story came to a neat conclusion at the end because I knew this was a series, so I am looking forward to seeing what the other two books are going to be about! I think the only thing I would change is Astrid’s death. I really wanted Lila to be the one to do this, but I do look forward to finding out more about Lila as there is a clear mystery there.

This review is probably all over the place as I just have a million thoughts in my head about how brilliant it was. To conclude: great location, great cast, great story, great diversity, great everything!!!!

The next two have secured their way onto my list for next month, most definitely!

-Lee

Twitter || Instagram || Goodreads

 

New Books for April

So today I have purchased five books which will hopefully be with me for April, and will likely make up the majority of my TBR for April. I have been trying to find a balance between buying new books and completing the ones I already have, and I am in a pretty okay balance (that isn’t to say my wishlist isn’t completely out of control).

For this month, I have been doing some investigating into various book bloggers and booktubers to see what books frequently cropped up in reviews/hauls/must reads so I can get a feel for what is ‘current’. Since I left my job in the bookshop, having a place to discuss recommendations has been somewhat lacking as I don’t know a huge amount of people who enjoy reading quite as much as me. I suppose this has been my motivation behind creating this blog in the first place, and joining a community where I can start getting involved in bookish discussions once again!

Anyway, onto the purchases!

Caravel by Stephanie Garber

So, I have been seeing this practically everywhere and I have to admit the cover grabs me straight away before I even delved into reading the synopsis to see if it would be something I would likely enjoy. I have seen a few people making comparisons between this and The Night Circus which I really enjoyed a fair few years ago. If this book is half as beautiful, mysterious and unique then I am sure it will be a winner!

 

Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

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This is a book that I have only seen mentioned by PeruseProject on the Booktube community. I have to admit that I may not have really considered this until that video as I shelved enough Anna Dressed in Blood in my bookselling days to have probably presumed Blake’s stuff wasn’t best suited to me. However, after Regan delved into the plot behind this book I was immediately hooked! The concept seems really interesting, and to be honest I will happily delve into anything that explores powers of an elemental nature. Has anyone else read this? I’d love to see some more non-spoilery reviews.

 

Heartless by Marissa Meyer

I am sure many will be familiar with Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles series, which to me, is one of the best YA fairytale retellings and sci-fi series around! I absolutely loved every single one of the four books and exploring how exactly all the characters were linked whilst retaining the basic elements of the stories they were inspired from. This particular book looks into the retelling of the Queen of Hearts of Wonderland from what I can gather, and to be honest this purchase is mostly my doing just because I am a humongous fan of Marissa Meyer, and I am sure this is unlikely to disappoint just as her other books didn’t.

 

Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon

So this one is slightly different than the rest in that it is a more contemporary fiction than fantasy. Again, this is one that seems to have done the rounds of every Booktuber and Book Blogger there is and it is very often met with really high praise. The concept to me is very interesting, and I am intrigued to find out how the author keeps this interesting whilst keeping the integrity of the plot – surely there are huge limitations to someone who is allergic to everything? Also, at first it made me think of that old movie Bubbleboy? (Although can barely remember it myself).

 

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

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So, this last one won out over Brent Weeks’ Lightbringer Series which I have also been dying to get started on. However, I again see this frequently praised within the book community and to be honest the concept of four different London’s each having their own varying levels of magic really appeals to me. London is one of my favourite places on the planet and I try to go down at least once a year, so it should be pretty exciting to see how the alternate-Londons shape up in comparison to the one I know and love.

So, that concludes this small haul of books that will be keeping me occupied in April. If you have any non-spoilery reviews of any of these, please feel free to link me as I would be keen to see them! If you have spoilery ones, link me anyway but warn me – I can then have a read and discuss with you once I have eventually finished that respective title. If anyone has any recommendations of which one to read first, comment below, or any future purchase recommendations would also be more than welcome!

-Lee

The Song Rising by Samantha Shannon

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Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆⋆

Follow the author: Samantha Shannon

SPOILERS AHEAD!

I learned that humans have a mechanism inside them: a mechanism called hatred, which can be activated with the slightest pull of a string.

I was extremely fortunate to get my hands on a limited edition signed copy of The Song Rising, despite being unable to attend any of the Scottish tour dates. In particular, I love that the limited edition dust jacket is similar to that of the first two novels (I have consistency OCD).

Onto the actual book itself, I was admittedly nervous going into The Song Rising, only because I loved The Mime Order SO MUCH! Thankfully, Samantha Shannon did not disappoint.

From the offset, I did find the tone to be extremely different in this book and it did take a while for me to get into it. Paige seemed to have matured quite drastically within a short space of time, and a lot of change had occurred to our familiar structure of the Syndicate which we aren’t privy to being implemented within the series itself. However, one can assume (having never been involved in a revolution myself), that fast-paced change is an unavoidable necessity when trying to overturn a corrupt governing force.

One of the things that I absolutely adored about this installment was the different locations Shannon took us to explore in this alternate world she has created. Whilst I adore following Paige through the London streets I have visited many a time, it doesn’t quite beat the feeling of reading chapters set in a city that I find myself in once a week. The description of the derelict Edinburgh Castle, to the thought of voyants hiding in the Edinburgh Vaults which used to be home to grave robbers and their like exemplified chills within me that made the story feel more real than it probably should. In particular, the final scenes within Edinburgh were extremely disturbing for me as I was able to visualise with great clarity, the riotous terror Vance was creating within one of MY cities.

Another undeniable strength within Samantha’s series are her characters. Not only are each and every one of them unique in their own way, she makes sure to explore both the good and the bad and none of them are infallible. Paige is often at the mercy of the limitations of her gift, and indeed, she fell multiple times for Vance’s tricks. She gives us enough insight to the supporting cast for us to care for them, whilst at the same time showing no loyalty to their existence within the story. This latter point is something extremely crucial for me when reading a series as I don’t want to feel safety for any of them. Shannon has admitted, at least, that Paige will always be the lead character, so in moments where death may seem inevitable, I find myself questioning how the heck she is going to get out of this one instead of whether or not she will survive, which in a way is more fun.

I want to briefly touch on Jaxon Hall, who was our twist at the end of The Mime Order. He doesn’t come back into the story until nearer the end and he truly is testament to Shannon’s brilliance as he is probably the biggest mystery of this entire series. Is he a goody? A baddy? Is he with the Sargas? Is he double bluffing? Within a piece of dialogue he can have both the reader and Paige utterly confused of his intentions and questioning any theories they may have developed. The only one true thing we can say about Jaxon is that he is self-serving and that is about it. WHAT ARE YOU UP TO JAXON!?

I think my most thought-provoking and impactful part of the entire book was when Nashira and Paige were alone in the Archon and Nashira is discussing the brutality of humankind. Most jarring, I think, due to the fact that she technically isn’t wrong. This whole scene was so well placed too as Paige had a decision to make: fight for survival, or sacrifice for the many.  And in ALL honesty I couldn’t say with certainty what Paige’s move was going to be, and again, this merely highlight’s Samantha’s genius in creating truly human characters.

Other small highlights I feel worth mentioning include:-

  • I appreciate romance very much being a sub-plot within this series and not a driver
  • We get introduced to a transgender character so nonchalantly that it made me smile
  • Lots. Of. Women. Kicking. Ass (for good or bad).
  • Plenty of twist-a-roos to make us gawp and question

Finally, there truly was only one thing I disliked about this installment: NO ZEKE AND NICK (I’m not sure if a ship name exists for these two). This Swedish-Mexican love affair truly is one of my favourite couples in a series and I need more of them in book 4! Although, with the way it ended I might be in for a disappointment here!

Overall, this was a spectacular addition to the series and whilst answered some questions, probably left us with more which makes the anticipation of Book 4 ever more unbearable! The way Samantha tweets about Book 4 would make us believe it could be the best one yet! Gimmie!!!

Happy reading 🙂