March Wrap-Up (2014)

In March I had a couple of books that I finished really quickly, and then a couple of books that I struggled with longer. I also finally managed to write some separate reviews during the month itself (I’m not that experienced a review writer yet), and those are linked below for the books in question.

Rating system
1 out of 5 – I didn’t like it: badly written or just got on my nerves
2 out of 5 – It was okay: other people might enjoy it more
3 out of 5 – I liked it: a fun/enjoyable read
4 out of 5 – I really liked it: good characters & plot, maybe some theme that spoke to me
5 out of 5 – It was amazing: I consider it a favorite and will probably re-read at some point

This post is linked at “Best of the Bunch”, a monthly recap meme hosted by Always Lost in Stories.


High Fantasy of the Month

The Wise Man's Fear
The Wise-Man’s Fear

(The Kingkiller Chronicle #2)
By: Patrick Rothfuss
First published in 2011

Kvothe continues his story on the truth behind his legendary history.

I continued reading the second book of The Kingkiller Chronicle right after finishing the first one. It might have been a mistake – I hit a bit of a slump in the middle of reading it, and it took me about a month to finish. Rothfuss still writes very well; his style draws you into the story and has you turning pages, but I don’t think the story was as good as in the first book.

A lot of the book was just Kvothe learning new skills. Training to be an awesome lover, training to be a kick-ass fighter. I understand that the books are about the truth behind the legend of Kvothe, and he would have to have some real-life legendary skills for the legends to be born in the first place. But in the end, not much movement further in the plot was made in this book – it was mostly just training.

Once again, Elodin and Bast were the best parts, and I’m still left intrigued by Bast. I had hoped that this book had included his and Kvothe’s first meeting, but sadly it didn’t.
4 out of 5 stars


Speculative Fiction

All These Things I've Done Best of the Month sticker
All These Things I’ve Done
(Birthright #1)
By: Gabrielle Zevin
First published in 2011
Genre: Futuristic YA crime thriller

After the murder of her Mafia boss father, Anya’s life consists of going to school, taking care of her siblings and her dying grandmother, trying to avoid falling in love with the new assistant D.A.’s son, and avoiding her loser ex-boyfriend.

Review here. 4 out of 5 stars

City of Glass
City of Glass

(The Mortal Instruments #3)
By: Cassanda Clare
First published in 2009
Genre: YA modern fantasy

Amid the chaos of war, the Shadowhunters must decide to fight with the vampires, werewolves and other Downworlders – or against them. Meanwhile, Jace and Clary have their own decision to make: should they pursue the love they know is forbidden?

Review here. 3 out of 5 stars


Other genres

Valkea kuin lumi
Valkea kuin lumi

(Lumikki Andersson #2)
By: Salla Simukka
First published in
Genre: Ya Crime Thriller (Finnish)

Lumikki travels to Prague where a woman who claims to be her sister gets her mixed up in a religious cult.

I continued with the Finnish Lumikki Andersson YA trilogy (you can read my thoughts on the first book in my February Wrap-Up). This book was definitely weaker than the first one. The plot isn’t as interesting; the whole religious cult thing feels pretty far-fetched. For some reason Lumikki running around in Prague wasn’t as interesting as Lumikki running around in Tampere!

The aspect of the book I was the most interested in were the flashbacks to Lumikki’s first love a couple of summers back, a relationship that was handled briefly in the first book as well. I like how the Finnish language makes it possible to not know whether Lumikki is talking about a boy- or a girlfriend in these flashbacks – although we do find that out in this second book, in the first one it was left a mystery. I will definitely be reading the third and final book, since it might focus more on Lumikki’s life, with her flashbacks being the most interesting parts of both of these previous books.
3 out of 5 stars

Mr Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore

By: Robin Sloane
First published in 2012
Genre: Literary fiction, books about books

An unemployed graphic designer gets a job in a mysterious bookstore which leads him to a secret society.

This book sounded like something right up my alley. Everything was great in the beginning – the setting of the bookstore with its dangerously high shelves and mysterious rules drew me in, and I liked the added aspect of technology with the main character being a web designer and his girlfriend working at Google. The writing flowed well, and promised a fun, easy read. Also, I could relate to the unemployed graphic designer scenario, and wouldn’t say no to a job in a mysterious bookstore, myself!

At first I was pretty into it. But something happened in the middle of the book, and I got stuck. The story left the bookstore and focused on the secret society side of things, which I was disappointed to find not the least bit interesting. Everything just fell flat to me about the moment we got to New York. After that, I found it a struggle to finish the book. I would read a chapter here, a chapter there, but I never got back the interest I had in the beginning. I heard later that this book was originally a short story, and I might look it up and read it – the story might work better that way, the focus not being able to shift that much in shorter form
2 out of 5 stars

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Review: All These Things I’ve Done

All These Things I've Done
All These Things I’ve Done

(Birthright #1)
By: Gabrielle Zevin
Genre: Futuristic YA crime thriller
First published in 2011

In 2083, chocolate and coffee are illegal, paper is hard to find, water is carefully rationed, and New York City is rife with crime and poverty. And yet, for Anya Balanchine, the sixteen-year-old daughter of the city’s most notorious (and dead) crime boss, life is fairly routine. It consists of going to school, taking care of her siblings and her dying grandmother, trying to avoid falling in love with the new assistant D.A.’s son, and avoiding her loser ex-boyfriend. That is until her ex is accidentally poisoned by the chocolate her family manufactures and the police think she’s to blame. Suddenly, Anya finds herself thrust unwillingly into the spotlight – at school, in the news, and most importantly, within her mafia family.
– Description from Amazon.com

I had a lot of fun reading All These Things I’ve Done, and I actually finished it in a day! It just completely caught me along for the ride. The book had its faults, but they didn’t dilute my enjoyment, and it’s definitely a quick read. Yes, the story is set in a future where chocolate is illegal, and that is a bit silly. But I found out I didn’t care! I just went with it.

One thing I have to say right off the bat, though: this book is not a dystopian novel. It is set in a future world where crime is rife, but the focus isn’t on the worldbuilding. Instead the book is very strictly focused on Anya’s family and school life, and on Anya trying to balance her responsibilities between the two. I think if someone picked this up expecting a dystopian novel, they would be disappointed. This is more of a crime thriller that happens to be set in the future.

Anya herself was the main reason I liked the book. She is someone who has had to grow up fast in order to take care of her siblings. Because of that, she has her issues – she is pretty cold and guarded, but I liked that about her. I know she will rub some people the wrong way, but I like the cold fish, tough cookie types. Anya hasn’t had a lot of time to focus on herself what with taking care of her siblings, and she has some trust issues, which is understandable when you take into account that both of her parents were murdered. I also found it interesting that she had embraced her mother’s Catholic faith, when the rest of her family wasn’t that religious. I’m not religious at all, but I found her being Catholic an interesting character trait.

Apart from the protagonist, I liked the main theme of the book. In a way they reminded me of Holly Black’s White Cat. There’s the teenager who has to deal with a history of crime in the family as well as family members who are still in the business, all the while juggling school life. Of these two, I prefer White Cat, because it is a bit more polished, but I did enjoy All These Things I’ve Done, as well.

Let’s move on to the weaknesses of the book. In the middle the story slowed down a bit when too much time was spent on Anya’s relationship with Win, the new boy in school. I wanted the focus to stay on her family (both the immediate one and the extended mafia one) instead of her love life. The beginning and the end of the book were a lot more interesting. But since I read the book so fast, the middle part went by quickly enough, and didn’t bother me as much as it could have.

There were also some weird glitches that could have been ironed out – for example, there is a lot of discussion of the school play, a production of Macbeth, but it never goes anywhere. We see Anya and her friend practice for it, but then the play is dismissed in a few sentences. It had no bearing on the plot and could have been left out entirely.

Despite some weaknesses, the story caught me enough to make me read through it in one day, and the protagonist was great. The middle of the book could be restructured a bit to maintain the mafia angle stronger all the way through. Everything said, I will definitely be reading the sequel.

I give All These Things I’ve Done 4 out of 5 stars.

End of the Year Book Haul (2013)

I have so many unread books on my shelves that I was trying to curb my book buying during the end of the year. This haul post is for the past three months put together. In October and December I only bought one physical book, as well as some ebooks from winter sales. In November, though, I went to London and picked up quite a few books… ’cause, you know, London.

London Haul

December Book Haul 1
Antigoddess (Goddess War #1) by Kendare Blake
Prince of Thorns (The Broken Empire #1) by Mark Lawrence
Courtney Crumrin’s Monstrous Holiday (Courtney Crumrin #4) by Ted Naifeh
Sorcery & Cecelia, or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot (Cecelia & Kate #1) by Patricia C. Wrede & Caroline Stevermer
William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope by Ian Doescher

Yeah, I went a bit overboard in London. That’s what comes from visiting both Forbidden Planet and Waterstones. I ended up spending most of my trip budget on these books, but honestly, I didn’t have anything else in mind to spend the money on. Sorcery & Cecelia is a book I’ve read a couple of times and loved, so I wanted my own copy. And I already own one copy of the fourth Courtney Crumrin graphic novel collection, but that didn’t stop me from buying the hardcover, coloured special edition. The other books I haven’t read yet, though I glanced at the Shakespearean Star Wars book and found it awesome & hilarious! (I also bought and instantly read the first issue of the new Sandman series, not pictured here.)

Other Bought Books

December Book Haul 2
The Red Tree by Caitlín R. Kiernan
All These Things I’ve Done (Birthright #1) by Gabrielle Zevin
Snuff (Discworld #39) by Terry Pratchett

In October I grew my Kiernan collection by ordering a used copy of The Red Tree from Better World Books. It is in wonderful condition, just like new. In November, I was going to travel by train, and realized at the station that I had brought nothing to read for the journey! That’s when I picked up Snuff from a little pocket book shop at the station. :) Disaster averted! And in December I bought All These Things I’ve Done on sale from Bookdepository, since I’d heard Misty from The Book Rat say good things about it in her videos.

E-books

December Book Haul 3
The Mislaid Magician, or Ten Years After (Cecelia & Kate #3) by Patricia C. Wrede & Caroline Stevermer
Engraved on the Eye by Saladin Ahmed
Seed to Harvest (Patternmaster #1-4 omnibus) by Octavia E. Butler

Then were the Amazon Christmas sales, and I bought a couple of Kindle books. Despite disliking the second novel, I bought The Mislaid Magician to finish reading the Cecelia & Kate series. And since I’ve never read Octavia E. Butler, and I got the whole series for $2.99, I bought the Patternmaster omnibus to try her out. I also picked up a collection of Saladin Ahmed’s short stories for free.

This haul is linked at the weekly haul memes Stacking the Shelves, hosted by Tynga’s Reviews, and Showcase Sunday, hosted by Books, Biscuits, and Tea.