My Favourite Books This Year (so far)

This has been a good book year. I am a little behind on my goal (14/37), but I’m not feeling too discouraged. Aside from reading lots of good books, I have a bunch of books that I’m excited to read.

In no particular order, here are five of my favourites that I’ve read this year.

You by Caroline Kepnes

Amazon | Goodreads | Chapters

I watched the show on Netflix before I read the book, but I really enjoyed both. Joe Goldberg is the character you love to hate (or hate to love). The book is the prefect combination of creepiness and flawed characters. It almost reminded me of Gone Girl.

I look forward to reading the sequel!

Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden

Amazon | Goodreads | Chapters

I’m pretty sure I included The Girl in the Tower in last year’s favourite book list, and I could not NOT include Winter of the Witch in this year’s list. Basically the whole series is my favourite. It’s a fantastic final novel in the series. Of course I’m sad it’s over, but it left me perfectly satisfied and ready to see what Katherine Arden is going to do next.

The Changeling by Victor LaValle

Amazon | Goodreads | Chapters

I wanted to read this book because Maggie Stiefvater was reading it and if you can’t copy your favourite authors, who can you copy? I’m glad I did, though, because the Changeling is very good. It went in unexpected and deliciously dark directions. It’s one of those books I probably wouldn’t have heard of if it hadn’t been recommended by an outside party. A secret gem!

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

Amazon | Goodreads | Chapters

Okay, I actually haven’t finished this one yet. But, I’m within 100 pages of finishing so I’m going to count it. It’s a funny novel with an interesting premise. It feels like a lot has happened but at the same time not a lot. But I’m very excited to finish it, because it’s taken a turn I wasn’t really expecting.

The Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell

Amazon | Goodreads | Chapters

This book is what it says. Shaun Bythell kept a diary for a year of life as the owner of a used bookstore in Scotland. It was a fun sneak peak into what actually happens in a bookstore, and as someone who dreams of working in a bookstore, it was a delight and a terror at the same time. Nothing is sugar coated, but at the same time it felt like I was actually working in a bookstore. A good read for anyone who loves books and bookstores.


If you want to see all the books I’ve read this year, you can go here to find them!

Book Review: Shadows of Lela

Feeling a presence beside me, I lifted my head saw the white unicorn. My heart softened, my shoulders relaxed. The unicorn was so close, I knew I could touch him. I reached out a tentative hand and placed it on his mud-splattered, white coat. A calm warmth flooded me.”

Sixteen-year-old Princess Cora has a dark past she’d rather forget. She’s found peace living in exile, far from the sorcerer who murdered her family. But her safety is compromised when she discovers a deadly threat. Unicorns are being annihilated. Her kingdom could be next…

To win the affection of his heartless bride-to-be, Prince Teryn must complete a dangerous quest. Instead, he finds himself at the end of Cora’s dagger. But when he learns Cora’s secret, he’s determined to help her, whatever the cost.

Trusting Teryn might be Cora’s only hope. But doing so could risk her heart… and Teryn’s life.

Goodreads | Amazon | Website


Last month was Indie April, a month for supporting independent authors and bookstores. About half-way through I made a promise on Twitter that if I reached 500 followers (I was just above 400) by the end of April, I’d buy an indie book and write a review. Well Twitter came through and then I was left with the daunting task of selecting a book from a slew of WONDERFUL suggestions.

What really drew me to Shadows of Lela was the cover art. Shout out to Merilliza Chan for the beautiful artwork. Sometimes I’d just stop reading and gaze lovingly at the cover! Haha! I also really love unicorns.

Disclaimer: I usually try not to get too spoilery in my reviews, and I don’t want to pick apart the novel, but beware there are some spoilers ahead!

Right off the bat, this book gave me Graceling and Red Queen vibes. It’s a high fantasy novel without the pretentiousness that can sometimes come with it. The book also deals with royal families and the complicated relations between them. Tessonja Odette has created a vast fantastical land full of ancient magic, lost lore, and many kingdoms.

The world building has been done really well. I found the part describing the Ancient Ones quite interesting and I would’ve loved to delve into the lore even more. I also would’ve loved more scenery descriptions. As a reader, I’ve been given this wide new world, and sometimes I felt like I couldn’t see where I was. Cora and Teryn are journeying across the land, but I wanted more descriptions of how the landscape changed as they moved into the different kingdoms. I wanted to be fully immersed.

Also, a map at the beginning of the book would’ve been a huge bonus! They’re always helpful when reading a fantasy with many different locations.

The book is written in first person POV and switches mainly between Cora and Teryn, with the occasional appearance of Teryn’s brother, Larylis, and the princess Mareleau. The characters are well-written and the separations between their points of view are distinct. So no confusion, which is great!

Reading Larylis’ and Mareleau’s POV, at least in the first half of the novel, seemed a little unnecessary, as it didn’t add much to the story. In the second half, I liked Larylis a lot more as a character and seeing his POV was much more important. Mareleau’s probably could’ve been left out completely.

Character motivations also seemed to shift very quickly, especially with Cora and Teryn. We get a first person look into their thoughts, but there isn’t much introspection when the characters are making decisions. Cora suddenly decides to leave her adoptive family of the Forest People to help the unicorns quite suddenly it seems. As well with Teryn, he leaves his quest to win Mareleau’s heart almost instantly to help Cora. These decisions make sense for the characters, but we don’t see the change of motivation in an organic way. A little more inner monologue would’ve been the key in these big moments of motivational change.

In the first half of the novel, the pacing seems a little off. We are rushed through the introduction of Cora as a princess and the introduction of the main villain. For example, we don’t get to see much of what Cora is like before she’s exiled or who the villain is before she’s exiled. And again, just as we start to see Cora’s life with the Forest People, she’s off on her quest to save the unicorns. The plot did need to keep moving, but I would’ve loved more establishment of Cora before and after her exile.

The same happened with the beginning of Teryn’s quest. It felt a little rushed, as we were trying to get to the point where Teryn and Cora meet.

The second half of the novel was better for me, pacing wise. I quite liked when we finally got down to the big conflict between Morkai, the sorcerer, and the royal families. The characters lived up to their potential, though I wanted to see Cora do a little more with her powers, especially against Morkai. But, all in all, the climax was satisfying.

I wanted the ending to be left a little more open for a little more incentive to get into the second book. It felt a little rushed as well into the conclusion that wasn’t as surprising as I was hoping.

But, it was a solid first book, with plenty to offer readers, especially those who liked Graceling and Red Queen. When I get through a few more of the books on my TBR list, I’ll probably pick up the next one.

Book Review: A Discovery of Witches

Disclaimer: I don’t write these fancy long book reviews for books that I didn’t love or had a big impact on me, but this book did have an impact on me. This book was the pinnacle of untapped potential. It had a great premise, but so much was left untouched. Anyway, I’ll get to that in a moment.

Before we get started, I wanted to pose a question. Does Deborah Harkness even drink tea?

Pushing one of the mugs toward him, I fixed my eyes on the sugar. He handed it to me. I put precisely half a teaspoon of sugar and half a cup of milk into my tea. This is just how I liked it–black as tar, a hint of sugar to cut the edge off the bitterness, then enough milk to make it look less like stew.

Deep in the stacks of Oxford’s Bodleian Library, young scholar Diana Bishop unwittingly calls up a bewitched alchemical manuscript in the course of her research. Descended from an old and distinguished line of witches, Diana wants nothing to do with sorcery; so after a furtive glance and a few notes, she banishes the book to the stacks. But her discovery sets a fantastical underworld stirring, and a horde of daemons, witches, and vampires soon descends upon the library. Diana has stumbled upon a coveted treasure lost for centuries-and she is the only creature who can break its spell.

Goodreads | Amazon | Chapters

I want to be honest up front and admit that I’m writing this review after not finishing the book. I made it just over halfway and finally decided I couldn’t take it anymore.

Now take a moment, dear reader, and reread the synopsis. I’ll wait…

Done?

Doesn’t that book sound interesting? Too bad that’s not the book I read.

The opening of the book starts with great promise. Diana is in the library and stumbles on a mysterious enchanted book. In general, I love books about books and libraries and witches. But the potentially great plot got thrown out the window and was replaced by repetitive descriptions of Diana’s clothing, Diana’s weird obsession with rowing and running, Diana’s weird way of drinking tea.

When we aren’t being told about Diana’s exercise routine, we are overwhelmed with scientific, alchemical, and historical information of questionable importance.

Part of me wonders if Deborah Harkness put so much effort into researching that she had to include every little bit of information she could.

When Matthew shows up as the brooding vampire love interest, the plot is still not the focus. We get more promises of plot: the possible extinction of witches, vampires, and daemons; the mystery surrounding Diana’s DNA; the looming threat of the Congregation. Instead, we get more descriptions of clothing, food, and now the addition of wine. We don’t even get any steamy love scenes! (At least not in the first half of the novel)

The book started to feel very much like Twilight, in a sense that we have a somewhat helpless female and a strong, overprotective and angry vampire. But what is worse, is that Diana doesn’t have to be helpless.

We are told in the beginning that Diana is the daughter of two very powerful witches and thus has a great amount of power. (Spoiler)  It is shown in her DNA for godsakes! She has every power known to man, but she refuses to use her magic. In the beginning, it seems like an interesting twist to the traditional “witch” novel, but as the “plot” thickens and Diana’s safety becomes more threatened, she still refuses to use her magic.

She’s the ultimate Mary-Sue! The audience is told that Diana holds all this power and she’s the only one who can break the spell on the mysterious enchanted manuscript, but god forbid she do anything other than allow her vampire love interest to sweep in and do everything for her. I kept waiting for her to decide to use her power to protect herself, or pretty much do anything, but no. Diana continues to be a stubborn helpless shell of a person.

Matthew the vampire is no different. He’s basically a better educated Edward Cullen. He acts as both knight-in-shining-armor and borderline abusive boyfriend. Everything he does is to protect her–he gives up on whatever he was doing with his life before he met Diana–and constantly reminds her how helpless and in need of his help she is. He’s at one point doing yoga and talking about New-Age DNA mumbo-jumbo, then he turns around and bares his teeth to show Diana how “scary” he is. I don’t buy it.

I could forgive this novel if the characters actually did anything than hang out, go to yoga class, and drink wine. The book could be half the length if Harkness took out all the superfluous stuff. Reading it, I felt like I’d been watching Diana from a security camera, seeing her every move. What would’ve been more effective, would’ve been to get to the goddamn plot!

Even the fact that a good chunk of what I read took place in a library at Oxford couldn’t save this for me. I had such high hopes for this novel, as I do enjoy witchy books, but this was just a dud.

If you like Twilight, but the protagonist doesn’t have the excuse of being a human in order to be helpless, then you’ll probably like this book. I’m sorry this became more of a rant than a review.

Top 5 Amazing Bookworms (Fictional & Real)

You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.
– C.S. Lewis

I am a self-proclaimed bookworm. Real life prevents me from reading as much as I want to. Recently, I wrote a post about how reading is my escape from reality and I know I’m not alone.

Here are my top 5 favourite bookworms from fiction and real life:

Hermione Granger (Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling)

hermioneThis Harry Potter character has been a kindred spirit since I first discovered J.K. Rowling’s world. We’re both a little intense, want to follow the rules but willing to break them for good reason, and we both love reading. I just wish I could have her work ethic.

 

Belle (Beauty and the Beast)

Belle is also my favourite Disney princess (brunette power!) She uses reading to escape her provincial life (especially so in the 2017 version). Girl, same. Her love of reading allows her to have more empathy. And when she sings: I want adventure in the great wide somewhere. I just feel it to my core.

 

L.M. Montgomery

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As a Canadian (especially a female), Anne of Green Gables is written into my DNA. As much as I always felt Anne Shirley is a kindred spirit, her author is also someone I relate to greatly. Her early life was tough (losing her mother and her father basically abandoning her), and sometimes she was the only child in her home. She found solace in her imagination and books. As someone who’s had more than enough time alone, books are friends that will never leave you.

 

Matilda (Matilda by Roald Dahl)

To me, Mara Wilson will always be Matilda. I will admit I watched the movie before reading the book. Matilda’s gumption and desire to learn is so inspiring. I was lucky to have a mother who took me and my little sister to the library when we were children. If only reading books gave one the power to move things with one’s mind.

 

Queen Elizabeth I

queen-elizabeth-1

Queen Elizabeth I has been a favourite historical figure of mine for a long time. As a royal, she had access to an amazing education (especially for women of that time). She was very well-read (in multiple languages) and translated Classic works into English. She also slayed as a monarch!

 

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