Mid Year Book Freak Out Tag 2019

It has become a tradition among book bloggers to do the Mid Year Book Freak Out Tag every June or July. It’s a great way to give an update of the books I read so far. This year I already managed to read a lot of books. So it will be hard to choose!

Best book(s) you read so far in 2019?
Best books I read so far in 2019
And this was the first hard choice to make. Just like last year I can’t limit myself to one book. I have three favourites so far:
Between Shades of Grey by Ruta Sepetys
Tilly and the Bookwanderers by Anna James
The Boy Who Steals Houses by C.G. Drews

GodsgraveBest sequel of 2019 so far?
I enjoyed reading Nevernight by Jay Kristoff, and I loved Godsgrave even more. There were some plot twists I really didn’t expect! The mysterious, sarcarstic narator and the characters are still amazing.

New releases you haven’t read yet, but want to?
It was published last year, but I haven’t read Summer of Salt by Katrina Leno yet.  This book is about a witchy family on an island.

Most anticipated release for the second half of the year?
Most anticipated releases for the second half of the year
I am looking forward to reading Children of Virtue and Vengeance by Tomi Adeyemi. After reading the first part I am curious how the story will continue. I also can’t wait for Darkdawn, the last part of the The Nevernight Chronicles. Godsgrave ended with a huge cliffhanger!

Biggest disappointment?
I happened to find The Loneliness of Distant Beings by Kate Ling at my library. I had no high expectations for this book, but it was still disappointing. The main character was so  annoying and I also didn’t like any of the other characters. There was a very bad case of insta-love too.

The TestingBiggest surprise?
The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau was a book I thought I would enjoy. I didn’t expect a lot from it. In the end I loved the book and read the whole trilogy! The main character, Cia, is chosen as Testing candidate. If she’s able to pass the Testing, she can become a University student. But she is not sure who she can trust. And what happened to the people who failed? The story is fast-paced, set in an interesting world and has good characters. Especially Cia became a new favourite.

Favourite new author? (debut or new to you)
Between Shades of Grey impressed me. It may be a fictional story, but it’s about crimes that were actually committed during the Second World War. This sounds like a heavy topic, but the book was easy to read. I definitively want to read more from Ruta Septys! I think I’m also going to like Salt to the Sea.

Newest favourite character?
Cia from The Testing was a character I could easily identify with. She is sympathetic, intelligent and her decisions are well-thought out.

The Dollmaker of KrakowBook that made you cry?
I seldom cry when reading books. But the ending of The Dollmaker of Krakow by R.M. Romero really touched me. It’s a book set in the Second World War with a dollmaker and a living doll called Karolina as main characters. The dollmaker is a kind-hearted, but shy man. Karolina, helps him to make friends. Everything changes when the Nazis invade Poland.

Book that made you happy?
I love books about books and Tilly and the Bookwanderers was amazing! Main character of this story is the eleven year-old Tilly who lives above her grandparents’ bookshop. One day a character from the book she’s reading appears in the shop. Due to the characters, the references to other books and of course the bookwandering, this book was fun to read!

Favourite book to film adaptation you saw this year?
When I spend so much time reading, I don’t watch a lot of movies. I did see the movie Esio Trot, based on the book with the same title written by Roald Dahl. I haven’t read the book (yet), but the movie was hiliarious and also had a beautiful story.

What book(s) do you need to read by the end of the year?
Books I need to read by the end of the year
The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco
Assassin’s Quest (Farseer Trilogy, #3) by Robin Hobb
Want by Cindy Pon

Consider yourself tagged if you want to do this tag! And share your link in the comments. I love to read your answers on the questions!

Aurora Rising: sarcasm in space

Aurora RisingIt took some time before my copy of Aurora Rising arrived. So I already saw a couple of reviews on blogs I follow. They weren’t negative, but also not very enthusiastic. That’s why I lowered my expectations a little. The Illuminae Files, also written by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff is one of my favourite trilogies. If I expected Aurora Rising to be that great, I probably would have been disappointed. Yet I really enjoyed reading it!

Summary
On a crucial point in his life Tyler Jones is busy rescuing a girl in space. That’s why he misses his Draft, the moment squad leaders can recruit their members. Now Tyler is left with the ones no else wanted to choose. Then there is Auri, the girl he saved. She has become conscious after trapped in cryosleep for two hundred years.

My thoughts
From the first page onward this is a book full of action. The story is told from seven different points of view: the six members from the squad and Auri. I always like multiple POVs. It’s interesting to see a story through different eyes. Only in the beginning the narrators sounded a bit too much alike to me. When I got to know them better though, it also became easier to tell the characters apart. They are different than I expected. On the cover these characters are advertised as ‘they’re not the heroes we wanted, they’re just the ones we could find.’ The squad members are actually all pretty handsome, smart and good at their job. And every one of them is so sarcastic. This regularly made me smile, but I do think the sarcasm was a bit overdone. However, the more I read about the characters, the more I came to love them! It was also amazing to read how this squad of mostly strangers becomes a team.

There’s enough space for world building too. A big part is interwoven in the story. In 2380 we have contacted several alien species. Because some of the squad members are not human, we learn about these other species. I loved to read how their culture is different from ours! We also get some background information on black pages between the chapters. This reminded me of the Illuminae Files and it’s a nice bonus.

Conclusion
So I loved Aurora Rising! It has an interesting world and characters that really grew on me. Although the ending was excellent, the plot could be stronger. It was hard to rate this book. I hesitated between 4 and 5 stars. In the end I decided to give Aurora Rising 4 stars. Despite this, I cannot wait to read the sequel!

Three books I struggled to finish

The time I take to read a book varies widely. I have finished books with more than 500 pages in a few days. There are thinner books that took me weeks. While I sometimes DNF books, I prefer to finish them. Today I want to talk about some books I struggled to finish.

This blog post is slightly inspired by Top Ten Tuesday, a weekly meme managed by That Artsy Reader Girl. The topic of this week is ‘Unpopular Bookish Opinions’.

Three books I struggled to finish

1. Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami
The Dutch edition of Norwegian Wood only has 317 pages, but finishing this book still took me some time. The main reason is probably how gloomy I felt while reading this story. The writer did a great job in creating the depressing atmosphere. However, it made the book quite hard to read. I also didn’t really like the characters.

2. The Heart Has Its Reasons by María Dueñas
The first book I read from this writer was The Time in Between, a beautiful book. When I found another book from María Dueñas at my library, I immediately borrowed it. The Heart Has Its Reasons is about a linguistic professor from Spain who gets a fellowship in California. Her job is to sort out the papers of a deceased Spanish writer. For the most part the story bored me. Multiple times I thought about DNF-ing it. In the last 100 pages the story finally becomes interesting. Yet I’m not sure they are worth the struggle. The first novel by María Dueñas is definitively far better!

3. Cold Magic by Kate Elliott
I finished this book only the second time I read it. The first time I wasn’t in the mood for a big book with a slow pacing. When I read it again I also struggled with this. The world in Cold Magic is interesting; it’s an alternative Europe with steampunk elements. But at the start the world-building interferes with the plot. There are a lot of info dumps about the history and politics of the world. When I was past the first half, the book became easier to read. There was more action and I started to like the characters. In the end I did enjoy the story, but I won’t read the rest of the trilogy.

Wyrd & Wonder – Wrap-up

I loved participating in Wyrd & Wonder! Thank you for organizing it, Imryl, Lisa and Jorie. I enjoyed reading all the fantasy-themed blog posts. Some of my favourites were this love letter to maps in books on Realms of my Mind, this post about Victorian era fantasy on Jessticulates and ten books featuring dragons on Zezee with books. I managed to read five fantasy books this May. Here are the books and my thoughts about them.

The Girl at MidnightThe Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey – 3 stars
This book was a reread to decide if I want to continue the trilogy. Four years after I first read it, I didn’t remember much. I do know I gave the book 4 stars. The second time I didn’t enjoy it as much as the first time. I loved the fact that Echo lives in a library and loves books. The regular references to other books were so nice! The world as well as the characters were okay, but nothing was especially noteworthy. Since there are so many other books to read, and never enough time, I won’t continue this trilogy.

The Dollmaker of KrakowThe Dollmaker of Krakow by R.M. Romero – 5 stars
My favourite book of this month! The story is just as beautiful as the cover. I think it’s a great book to learn children about the Second World War. Adults will enjoy it too, though.  It’s about a living doll whose name is Karolina. A magical wind brought her from the Land of Dolls in the hands of a dollmaker in Krakow. The dollmaker is a kind-hearted, but shy man. He is a wonderful character and I immediately loved him. Karolina helps him to make friends. But everything changes when the Nazis invade Poland. The friends of Karolina and the Dollmaker are Jewish and their lives are in danger.

The Crimson Skew (Mapmakers Trilogy, #3) by S.E. Grove – 4 stars
A good conclusion to a great trilogy! I can’t tell anything about the plot without spoiling the other books. But all the characters from the previous books play a (small) roll. I also liked how we keep learning new things about the world.

Assassin’s Apprentice (Farseer Trilogy, #1) by Robin Hobb 4 stars
Assassin's ApprenticeTypical for Robin Hobb’s books are amazing characters and a slow pacing. This was also true for Assassin’s Apprentice. Because the book takes its time,  you really get to know the characters. The story is told from the perspective of Fitz. Because he is a royal bastard, his life at the royal household is harsh and lonely.  Some people hate him for what he is. But for the royal family Fitz is in the perfect position to become their personal assassin.

Royal Assassin (Farseer Trilogy, #2) by Robin Hobb – 4 stars
This book is twice as big as the first part, and that isn’t a bad thing. It means there’s a lot of space for character development. Not only Fitz, but also most of the side characters change throughout the story. Tensions in Buckkeep slowly keep rising too. It’s was interesting to read how small things that happen add up until everything explodes…

Literary Dinner Party tag

I love the idea of a dinner party with book characters! I wasn’t tagged, but I found this tag on youtube. It’s created years ago by NEHOMAS2. In celebration of Wyrd & Wonder I have chosen only characters from fantasy books.

The rules: you must invite 11 guests, and there must be one from each category.

1. One character who can cook/likes to cook
Some fantasy books feature delicious food, but it isn’t always clear who made it. That’s why I couldn’t think of a character… But I do know that hobbits love to eat. So I guess they are also good cooks. I would like to invite Samwise. I’m sure he will do his best to make a delicious meal for us.

2. One character who has money to fund the party
Most of my favourite characters in fantasy books aren’t very rich. But I just read Royal Assassin and I loved Kettricken. She is a tough princess who would do anything for her people. As part of the royal family she has the money to fund this party.

3. One character who might cause a scene
As a thief and professional trouble-maker Locke Lamora will probably shake things up.

4. One character who is funny/amusing
A character that made me laugh multiple times while reading The Lunar Chronicles is Thorne. Initially some of the other guests may not like him. But he is so hilarious that he could make them laugh anyway.

5. One character who is super social/popular
I wouldn’t call him super social, but Lazlo from Strange the Dreamer is so kind that everyone likes him. He can also tell great stories.

6. One villain
This twelve year-old criminal mastermind kidnapped a fairy to hold for ransom. So I can invite Artemis Fowl in the category villain, right?

7. One couple – doesn’t have to be romantic
I want to invite my favourite couple: Zuzana & Mik. They brought light in Karou’s dark life in Days of Blood and Starlight. I’m sure they will brighten up the party too.

8. One hero/heroine
So many to choose from! I’ll go for Lyra from His Dark Materials.

9. One underappreciated character
Almost no one in Whichwood appreciates Laylee. She is the only mordeshoor left. Her job is to wash dead bodies and prepare them for the afterlife. That’s important work. She’s also just thirteen. But she barely gets paid and no one in town wants to help her. Laylee definitively deserves an invitation to this party.

10. One character of your own choosing
I would love to meet Luna Lovegood! She so nice and quirky. I admire the fact that she doesn’t care what everyone thinks of her.

One character of your own choosing - Luna

Consider youself tagged if you like to organise your own literary dinner party!

Wyrd & Wonder – Top five unusual fantasy creatures

Inspired by these Fantasy Top Tens, this Wyrd & Wonder post is about unusual magical creatures. You could argue that every fantasy creature is unusual… But dragons can be found in a lot of books and movies. So they are clearly more common. In this post I will talk about the rarer creatures.

1. Thestrals in Harry Potter
Classification: XXX (competent wizard could cope)*

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

When writing this post, the first book series I thought of was Harry Potter. There are many amazing fantasy creatures in the series. One of my favourites is the thestral (but I also really like nifflers). These creatures are a type of black horses with bat wings. Thestrals are only visible for people who are “truly touched by death”. They may look frightening, but they are harmless and even gentle creatures. This contradiction and their connection with death make them fascinating creatures.

*the Ministry of Magic has classified them as dangerous, but I don’t agree

2. Mr. Kindly from Nevernight
Classification: XXXX (Dangerous / requires specialist knowledge / skilled wizard may handle)

Nevernight

As far as I know, Mr. Kindly is the only one of its kind. I would describe him as a shadow shaped like a cat. What this creature exactly is or where it came from is yet unknown. Mr. Kindly became Mia’s companion after her father was executed. He saved her life as a child and drinks away her fear when she is afraid.

3. The Panserbjørne in His Dark Materials
Classification: XXXX (Dangerous / requires specialist knowledge / skilled wizard may handle)

Northern Lights (His Dark Materials #1)

These creatures are a species of polar bears that are able to speak and have human intelligence. Their name is Norwegian and Danish for ‘armoured bears’. Every panserbjørn makes their own armour from sky-metal. They see this armour as their soul. The panserbjørne live together on Svalbard governed by a king.

4. Liveships in The Liveship Traders trilogy
Classification: Depends on the ship

Ship op Magic (Liveship Traders, #1)

Liveships are, as the name indicates, living ships. After three generations from the family who owns the ship have died, the ship quickens. From that moment on a liveship can navigate by itself and talk through its figurehead. They are unique creatures that make an interesting story!

5. Alebrijes from Coco
Classification: n/a

Alebrijes - Pepita

These animals are not from a book, but appear in one of my favourite Disney movies. In reality, alebrijes are a type of Mexican folk art. Pedro Linares first made them from paper after he dreamed about these colourful animals. Later people started to make them from wood. In Coco, alebrijes are spirit animals in the World of Death. The most well-known is Pepita, a jaguar with eagle feet and wings, ram horns and a lizard tale. Read more about alebrijes in this article.

Wyrd & Wonder – MapMonday

We’re almost halfway through Wyrd & Wonder. The fourth book I am reading this month is Assassin’s Apprentice, the first part of The Farseer Trilogy. At the beginning of the book you can find a nice map of the Six Duchies. I have used it a few times to look up some places mentioned in the story. I also love to just look at these kinds of fantasy maps!

For #MapMonday I present my four favourite fantasy maps. My pet dragon is usually content with just marking the page, but today he insisted on being in the pictures!

1. Eretz from the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy by Laini Taylor
Eretz - Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy

Not only is this the world from my favourite fantasy trilogy, the map is also beautiful! I like the logo too. It illustrates that Eretz is the world of the chimaera and the seraphim, and that they are at war.

2. The world of Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld
The Great War 1914 - Leviathan

This map made by Keith Thompson is truly a work of art! Leviathan is about an alternative version of the First World War. This war is between two parties: the Clankers (Austria-Hungary and Germany) and the Darwinists (the United Kingdom, France and Russia). As you can see on the map, the Clankers have steam-powered war machines and the Darwinists use fabricated beasts.

3. Orïsha from Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
Orïsha - Children of Blood and Bone

The magic in Orïsha disappeared eleven years ago. In her attempt to bring back magic, Zélie travels a big part of this map. The design is beautiful, and really urged me to learn more about this world. The map of Orïsha is made by Keith Thompson, the same person who made the map in Leviathan. That guy is clearly talented!

4. The world of The Mapmakers Trilogy

Map of the New and Unknown World - The Mapmakers Trilogy
As you may expect from a trilogy about maps, multiple maps can be found in the books. Every part has a map of the whole world. Next to that, in each books maps of smaller areas relevant to the story are included. I love that these maps made by Dave A. Stevenson are supposed to be drawn by Shadrack Elli, one of the characters in the book.

Wyrd & Wonder – Three interesting magic systems

The Crimson SkewI already read two fantasy books this month! About those books I will write in another post. I am currently reading The Crimson Skew, the last part of the Mapmakers trilogy. This trilogy is so unique! In the first book, The Glass Sentence, we read that some parts of the world are flung in different time periods. That’s why maps are crucial to navigate. Not only paper maps. Mapmakers can use all kinds of materials to make maps, for example glass. Before a map can be read, it has to be activated. This means that people can hide maps. A glass map that isn’t activated looks like a regular piece of glass. How a map is activated also depends on the material of the map. S.E. Grove did a great job when creating this magic system!

Akata WitchAnother book with an interesting magic system is Akata Witch. The main character is the twelve year-old Sunny who lives in Nigeria. When Sunny discovers that she is one of the Leopard people, she is also introduced to a secret society. Akata Witch is clearly inspired by Harry Potter. But there are differences. Every Leopard has other powers, based on their personality. Interesting enough it is someone’s weakness that becomes their greatest power. So Sunny’s power has something to do with the fact that she is albino. Knowledge is highly valued. Learning new things as a Leopard will grant you magical money. I also loved that Nnedi Okorafor based the vivid magical world on Nigerian myths.

Northern Lights (His Dark Materials #1)Finally, I want to talk about His Dark Materials. The idea of everyone in Lyra’s world having a daemon is wonderful! This is a manifestation of the soul in the form of an animal. Daemons from children can shapeshift. The form depends on emotion or convenience. At a certain age the daemon will take a permanent form. This animal represents the personality of their human. How Philip Pullman describes daemons is amazing. I would almost believe it. I’m certainly dying to know what mine would be! Another thing I love about this trilogy is that we are introduced to more new worlds in the second and third book.

What is your favourite magic system? Tell me in the comments!

Wyrd & Wonder – Introduction

I just found out about Wyrd & Wonder, a celebration of fantasy books. This challenge is hosted by Imryl from One More, Lisa of Dear Geek Place and Jorie from Jorie Loves A Story. Wyrd & Wonder started yesterday and will continue the whole month of May. Even though I am a bit late, I want to join the party! I am quite an eclectic reader, but fantasy is my favourite genre after all.

Most bloggers that participate made a TBR-list for the month. But I am not very good at sticking to it… That’s why I decided to do something else. Wyrd & Wonder has a list of prompts we can use as inspiration. I have chosen five prompts to tell something about my favourite fantasy books.

The Neverending Story1. Glorious stand-alone
My all-time favourite stand-alone is The Neverending Story. It’s about Bastian, who becomes a part of the story he is reading. As a book worm that is a dream coming true! Bastian needs to save Fantastica. This land can only be saved by a human, who has to give the emperor a new name. On his journey, Bastian meets lots of magical creatures, but most of all learns about himself.

Strange the Dreamer2. Dazzling duology
I loved Strange the Dreamer, but the Muse of Nightmares exceeded every expectation I had! The duology is about Lazlo Strange. This kind-hearted librarian is obsessed with a mythic city. Even the name of the city is lost, that’s why it’s called Weep. Then the Godslayer and a group of warriors appear to seek help for a problem in Weep. This is the only chance Lazlo may have to fulfil his dream.

Phase 9 - Thinking about the future: A book or series you know you will re-read many times in the future?3. The best things come in threes
As some followers may know, my favourite fantasy trilogy is also written by Laini Taylor: the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy. I can’t stop talking about those books on my blog! One reason is that Laini Taylor has a beautiful writing style. Another reason is the amazing characters. Karou is an art student living in Prague. She has to hide a secret life in which she regularly meets monsters, is able to fulfil small wishes with her necklace and goes on mysterious errands.

Tilly and the Bookwanderers4. Stunning debut
Recently I read Tilly and the Bookwanderers. It’s a Middle Grade book, but I am sure book worms of all ages will enjoy it! Tilly lives with her grandparents above their bookstore. One day a book character from one of Tilly’s favourite books appears in the shop. This is the start of an amazing bookish adventure.

Children of Virtue and Vengeance5. Can’t wait to read
I am eager to read Children of Virtue and Vengeance, the sequel to Childeren of Blood and Bone. It was supposed to come out in spring, but the release date changed to the 3th of December. There’s probably a good reason for this, but I don’t want to wait so many months!

Woods in books on Earth Day

Today is Earth Day. This is an international event on which many people take action to help our planet. They march, plant trees or join clean ups. Everyone can do something to protect the Earth! Even small things can help. For example using a reusable bottle instead of plastic ones and eating less meat. Here is a list with more tips. Every year Earth Day has a different theme. The theme of 2019 is ‘Protect Our Species‘. Due to human activities like deforestation, pollution and unsustainable agriculture lots of animals are endangered. Think about bees, black rhinos and elephants.

In celebration of Earth Day I made a list with four books in which forests play an important role. May the books inspire you to protect real forests! 😊

Woods in books on Earth Day

1. Uprooted by Naomi Novik
The forest in this book is evil and powerful. It takes people who enter it. The ones who survive, come out different and just as dangerous as the forest itself. Agnieszka lives in a village close to this forest. Her people rely on a wizard known as the Dragon to protect them. Once every ten years the Dragon demands a young woman to serve him.

2. The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert
This book is clearly inspired by Alice in Wonderland. It has the same aesthetics and the main character even has the same name. One day Alice’s mother is kidnapped. She left behind a message: ‘Stay away from the Hazel Wood’. This the secret estate of Alice’s grandmother, a woman Alice has never met. The Hazel Wood is of course the place Alice has to find.

3. City of the Beasts by Isabel Allende
The forest in this story is one that actually exists: the Amazon. Alexander joins his grandmother on an International Geographic expedition to this rain forest. Their mission is to find the Beasts, legendary ancient animals.

4. Wildwood by Colin Meloy
This is a children’s story about Prue and Collin. Prue’s baby brother is kidnapped by crows and brought to Wildwood. The two children go to the forest to save him. Wildwood is a magical forest in the middle of Portland. It is inhabited by all kinds of talking animals. I loved the world building and the illustrations in this book. But the plot didn’t always make sense to me.