Saturday, 6 January 2018

[article] Another Year Bites The Dust, 2017

First read of the year! But let us look to the past

Another Year Bites The Dust, 2017

Or, I survive a busy year of reading and blogging & the rest of my life

Another year come and gone and it's time for the first yearly summary of my blog! Hurrah! I can't believe how many reviews I've written (almost a hundred) or how many books I've read (more than ever before), or how I've actually managed to post on this blog pretty much every three days! Well done me. What have I achieved?? Presenting a short bullet point list:

  • Despite reading more than ever, I've actually not spent too much money on books this year - massive shout out to Netgalley and my local library, you are lifesavers!
  • Tried to diversify my reading across genres just a liiitle bit
  • Hit my Goodreads goal of 100 books!
  • Rearranged my bookcase by book cover colour! It looks super nice :)
  • I took up running and kept at it (not a reading goal but man I'm so proud of myself ;) )

What have I failed at??

  • Keeping my Instagram regularly updated (@atlasrisingbooks) - nuh uh. Very sporadic
  • Reaching that coveted 80% books reviewed on Netgalley - I've been hovering at 70-75% since September - I'll review a few books then request a few and it just keeps fluctuating!! It's a shame because I love a good badge
As you can see, it's actually been quite a positive year! Hurrah!

The Stats

I really enjoy (sadly) keeping an eye on my Goodreads stats over the year (you can see your year in review here), and these are a couple that are interesting:

  • First up, I've read a whopping 177 books!
  • Across these books, I read an approximated 57500 pages 
  • The longest and highest rated book I read on Goodreads was Assassin's Fate, Robin Hobb at 853 pages (clearly I never got around to that Brandon Sanderson re-read!)
  • The oldest book I read was Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut, which was a very weird experience of a book!

Proportion of star rankings given

As you can see from the pie chart, I gave the highest proportion of books (48 books) 3*, followed swiftly by 4* at 40. I also left a lot of books unranked (32) - mostly these were Warrior Cats books  or other childhood favourites that I didn't really want to rank, or more technical non-fiction books. I gave the least amount of books (a mere 12!) only one star, which is great because who really wants to spend time reading books they don't love? 

The Questions

Rather than just writing out a boring list of my favourite books of the year, I've decided to answer a series of questions! I pinched most of these from this list here.

Favourite Book of 2017?

Always a toughie - how does one compare a YA sci-fi with an adult fantasy? - but my answer probably has to be Red Sister by Mark Lawrence. Red Sister is the amazing, heartwrenching, slow-paced, bloody story of ten year old (then twelve, then older) Nona Grey, first sold to a child-seller, then to a a gang of ring-fighters, then inducted into the Sweet Mercy convent of assassin-nuns to save her from the hangman's noose. It started with a bang and ended with my heart in pieces and my eyes yearning for more. It was, basically, Nevernight by Jay Kristoff but better (sorry Jay). 

Book I Thought I Was Going To Love But Didn't

I had a fair few disappointments this year, but Solitaire by Alice Oseman reigns queen among them (Three Dark Crowns was also a strong contender). Near the start of the year I read and massively enjoyed Radio Silence by the same author, which was a masterpiece of young adult writing, so thoughtfully capturing aspects of the "teenage experience". Solitaire, on the other hand, was cliche and painfully embarrassing.  

Favourite New Author Discovered in 2017?

Hmm. A toughie - I don't tend to find an author and read all of their books, and tend to have very few "favourite authors" as such. But a new favourite of mine is Melissa Brayden, who primarily writes lesbian romance novels - I've read a couple of hers this year, including the five star read Strawberry Summer which I simply adored!

Best Book From A Genre You Don't Typically Read?

I don't read a lot of adult novels, but I took a chance on the highly acclaimed Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine and it was an absolutely stunning (if horrifying/disturbing/strange) read. A young woman with poor social skills, a quiet life of small routines that is changed when she and Raymond, an awkward man from work, help an elderly man who had fallen on the pavement. It's a touching, thoughtful, and overall lovely work from a debut author. 

Most Unputdownable Book of the Year?

I'm going to go with Nyxia by Scott Reintgen. To quote a cliche: I laughed, I cried, I got my heart broken, and I flipped the pages like there was no tomorrow. Nyxia is sort of a mashup between Ender's Game (which is okay), The Hunger Games, Red Sister (wowowowow) and Red Rising by Pierce Brown (which was wow, wow, wow), and my god it really works. Reintgen crafted such excellent characters, there's so much emotion in this book, but also so much badassery, and I was even rooting for the romance!

Favourite Cover?

I would nominate the Tor Books cover of Schwab's A Darker Shade of Magic, which is simply beautiful. But it's also a re-read, so it doesn't really count! For new books, I think I'm going to cheat and have a few selections, because I had a lot of simply gorgeous covers:

Best Popular Book of the Year?

Without a shadow of a doubt, this one goes to Strange the Dreamer: poignant, lyrical, masterfully written. With Strange the Dreamer I was so enveloped by the prose, so wrapped into the world that Taylor has crafted, that I was barely aware of even turning any pages (and very lovely pages they were too, blue-edged and everything). It blends together myths, monsters, dreams and tragedies into it's beautiful prose. 

It's about a boy who is raised in a library, a librarian who has a dream about a city lost two hundred years ago. The city of Weep whose name is not Weep, whose name, fifteen years ago, was wiped from the name of every human. It's also about a girl with blue skin. Sarai: seventeen years old and a goddess and a girl and a demon all in one. This book blew my socks off

Hidden Gem of the Year?

There is no doubt in my mind that this award goes to Satellite by Nick Lake. This book was incredible and I have barely seen it at all on my dashboard, an absolute travesty! The plot is unlike anything I have ever read (three kids, born in space, yearning to see Earth) but what really makes this novel is the characters. Our three central characters are all distinct: Orion is a music-lover, a devourer of poetry; Libra is green-fingered, an aspiring botanist and a thoughtful girl; Leo is a dreamer, a thinker.  

I thought the writing itself was beautiful, philosophical, and deliciously quotable, the main characters and particularly Leo were delightful and felt like real people, and that the plot had the right mix of action, space-related things, wonder, suspense, conspiracies, and drama. All in all, an excellent novel.

Thanks for reading and I hope you had a fantastic year! Let me know what your favourite books of the year were so I can add them to my ever-growing TBR!

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Rosemarked (Rosemarked #1), Livia Blackburne

It's just the two of us this time; the rosemarked healer and the soldier with no fear of her disease. Together, somehow, we are to steal Ampara's secrets
When Zivah falls prey to the deadly rose plague, she knows it’s only a matter of time before she fully succumbs. Now she’s destined to live her last days in isolation, cut off from her people and unable to practice her art—until a threat to her village creates a need that only she can fill.

Broken by torture at the hands of the Amparan Empire, Dineas thirsts for revenge against his captors. Now escaped and reunited with his tribe, he’ll do anything to free them from Amparan rule—even if it means undertaking a plan that risks not only his life but his very self.

* * * *
4 / 5

Soft and almost melodic, Rosemarked is a lengthy, slow-burn YA fantasy novel. We follow two lovely characters: Zivah, a gentle healer who loves her people but must be quarantined due to a plague, and Dineas, a young warrior who serves his people, the Shidadi, in resisting the onslaught of the Empire. Rosemarked wasn't the most fast-paced, exciting, or even believable book I've read recently, but it was fun and enjoyable and eloquently written and made me feel things, which was all just what I needed.

Monday, 1 January 2018

[article] December Round-Up

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas/holidays!

December Round Up

I'll keep this one short and sweet because, as we all know, we are at the end of the year! And that means a yearly round up, featuring some questions asked and answered. I'm going to take a look at what I've done this year book-wise and hopefully feel quite good about myself, so keep your eyes out for a post like that in early January!

Saturday, 30 December 2017

Everless (#1), Sara Holland

I have a sense the whole world is coming to an end, collapsing into that single moment
In the kingdom of Sempera, time is currency—extracted from blood, bound to iron, and consumed to add time to one’s own lifespan. The rich aristocracy, like the Gerlings, tax the poor to the hilt, extending their own lives by centuries. No one resents the Gerlings more than Jules Ember. When Jules discovers that her father is dying, she knows that she must return to Everless to earn more time for him before she loses him forever.

But going back to Everless brings more danger—and temptation—than Jules could have ever imagined. Soon she’s caught in a tangle of violent secrets and finds her heart torn between two people she thought she’d never see again. Her decisions have the power to change her fate—and the fate of time itself. 
* * * 
3 / 5 

Everless is about a young teenage girl who loves her father with whom she lives in poverty, occasionally venturing into the woods to hunt to earn some extra money. Sound familiar? By changing a couple of words I could be describing The Hunger Games, Red Queen, A Court of Thorns and Roses, or many other books based on a similar premise. What makes Everless stand out is a really cool premise: time is currency, extracted and bleed from an individual to turn into a coin. To pay off one's debts, one flirts with death as they bleed away their future. Literally.

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

The Last Namsara (Iskari #1), Kristen Ciccarelli

"Asha wore her scar like a crown"
In the beginning, there was the Namsara: the child of sky and spirit. But where there is light, there must be darkness—and so there was also the Iskari. The child of blood and moonlight. The destroyer. The death-bringer. These are the legends that Asha, daughter of the king of Firgaard, has grown up learning in hushed whispers, drawn to the forbidden figures of the past. But it isn’t until she becomes the fiercest, most feared dragon slayer in the land that she takes on the role of the next Iskari—a lonely destiny that leaves her feeling more like a weapon than a girl.

Asha conquers each dragon and brings its head to the king, but no kill can free her from the shackles that await at home: her betrothal to the cruel commandant, a man who holds the truth about her nature in his palm. With the help of a secret friend—a slave boy from her betrothed’s household—Asha must shed the layers of her Iskari bondage and open her heart to love, light, and a truth that has been kept from her.

* * * * 
4 / 5

The Last Namsara grabbed me from the first scene: Asha calls a dragon forth with a forbidden story and slays it, bringing it's head home to her father, the king. Any good book could probably get better with the addition of dragons, but it's hard to get a fresh perspective on them, though a few have managed it - Seraphina springs to mind. The Last Namsara manages it. It has a couple of flaws, but is overall a stunning debut novel and I can't wait to snag the sequel. 

Sunday, 24 December 2017

Wolf By Wolf (Wolf By Wolf #1), Ryan Graudin

The wolves of war are gathering. They sing a song of rotten bones
The year is 1956, and the Axis powers of the Third Reich and Imperial Japan rule. To commemorate their Great Victory, Hitler and Emperor Hirohito host the Axis Tour: an annual motorcycle race across their conjoined continents. The victor is awarded an audience with the highly reclusive Adolf Hitler at the Victor’s Ball in Tokyo.

Yael, a former death camp prisoner, has witnessed too much suffering, and the five wolves tattooed on her arm are a constant reminder of the loved ones she lost. The resistance has given Yael one goal: Win the race and kill Hitler. A survivor of painful human experimentation, Yael has the power to skinshift and must complete her mission by impersonating last year’s only female racer, Adele Wolfe. 
* * * *
4 / 5 

Having devoured and thoroughly enjoyed Graudin's most recent masterpiece - Invictus - I finally got around to picking this one up. The synopsis is interesting: Hitler won the war, there's a motorcycle race, and a young shape-shifting Jewish girl who wants to kill Hitler. Once again, I'm reminded of a Doctor Who episode (perhaps this is where Graudin gets her inspiration?), but surprisingly all these weird elements combine really well into a cracker of a book.

Thursday, 21 December 2017

The Female of the Species, Mindy McGinnis

"I am vengeance"
Alex Craft knows how to kill someone. And she doesn’t feel bad about it.

Three years ago, when her older sister, Anna, was murdered and the killer walked free, Alex uncaged the language she knows best—the language of violence.  Alex knows she can’t be trusted among other people. Not with Jack, the star athlete who wants to really know her but still feels guilty over the role he played the night Anna’s body was discovered. And not with Peekay, the preacher’s kid with a defiant streak who befriends Alex while they volunteer at an animal shelter. Not anyone.

* * * *
4 / 5

I've never read anything quite like The Female of the Species. It's bold, it's dark, it's unafraid to explore themes like justice, vengeance, sexuality, power, and violence. Alex Craft killed a man and she doesn't regret it. When the murderer and rapist of her older sister walked free, Alex took vengeance into her own hands but now she's afraid that she'll never quite fit into society, that it's safer to remain in this small town with her alcoholic mother for the rest of her life.