And That’s a Wrap: Jan and Feb 2021 Edition

As hard as it is to believe, we’re already two months down on 2021. Summer is over and I am so ready for Autumn to hit me up. I’ve been watching less TV over the last few months and reading more than normal, which is why I’m around 6 books ahead of where I was this time last year. Who would have thought, in order to make reading goal progress you just have to…read more? I know, I’m shocked too. Now, before you scroll down and see for yourself, let’s just get it out of the way early: yes, there’s a lot of ACOTAR going on in this wrap up.

In January I read a total of 9 books. *blinks* I’m still confused as to how I did this, especially since several of them were pretty chunky.

The Duke and I (Bridgertons 1#) – Julia Quinn ★★ | Review

As you can already tell, I liked the adaptation better than the book here. I didn’t mind the first half. Sure, there’s A LOT of dialogue and we’re reminded that Daphne knows about men because of her brothers 50 million times, but the banter is good and the friends to lovers shift is nice. The second half, however, is.. icky. Simon telling Daphne that he “owns” her, NO. Daphne taking advantage of drunken Simon to get pregnant against his wishes, MILLION TIMES NO. Also my god, the last couple of pages are so sappy I was inwardly cringing. Not what I was hoping for.

The Last Time I Lied – Riley Sager ★★★★

I enjoyed this a lot more than I thought I would. The story revolves around the reopening of a summer camp that three girls went missing at 15 years before. The camp setting was a great choice and provided some quality, creepy atmosphere and tension. I really liked the way the book utilised past and present timelines and how these wove together. The idea of an unreliable narrator was good but I do think it could have been used to better effect. There are parts of the climax that feel unbelievable and lazy, although the epilogue is great. I only wish that the reveals presented in it had been integrated into the main story rather than just the last couple of pages. I’ll definitely be checking out Sager’s other books.

The Burning God (The Poppy War 3#) – R. F. Kuang ★★★★.5

This series is officially one of my favourites. I finished TBG and stared at the wall for ten minutes trying to process the emotional roller-coaster of it all. There were a couple of plot threads I wish had been handled more satisfyingly or with greater purpose (e.g. The Trifecta) but overall, this was great and I wasn’t disappointed. The writing and world building is still fantastic, and I continue to remain in awe over how complex Kuang’s characters, relationships and plotlines are. Nothing is ever easy or what it seems, characters always exist in shades of grey, and despite what the victors lead you to believe, there are no true winners in war. The Burning God is grim, compelling, bloody, and memorable right til the end.

A Court of Thorns and Roses (ACOTAR 1#) – Sarah J. Maas (REREAD) ★★★

This is the third time I’ve read this book and my thoughts haven’t changed much. It’s still a solid three star read for me – enjoyable but nothing mind-blowing. I think that’s mainly because most of the action doesn’t start until well into the book, many of my favourite characters aren’t introduced until book two and Feyre as a lead is on the boring side until later.

A Court of Mist and Fury (ACOTAR 2#) – Sarah J. Maas (REREAD) ★★★★.5 | Review

ACOMAF is my favourite of the original series, but I think that’s the general consensus. I still loved it but while my original review was 5 stars, on re-read I’m knocking it down to 4.5. The second time around I definitely felt the length of the book. As much as I adore the slow-burn of Feyre and Rhys, overall it’s a bit slow at times and probably could have been cut down somewhat. Also, the storyline outside the romance could be better handled and I still agree with myself that the climax is rushed and kind of convenient.

A Court of Wings and Ruin (ACOTAR 3#) – Sarah J. Maas (REREAD) ★★★.5 | Review

ACOWAR was also noticeably less enjoyable on re-read. Not hugely so, but enough to push it down from 4 stars to 3.5. I still had fun and love the characters but a couple of things impacted the enjoyment factor. First, the constant uses of ‘mate’, ‘female’ and ‘male’ bugged me more this time and were pretty uncomfortable. Second, there’s a few too many Feysand sex scenes. I love a bit of steam but there comes a point where it becomes repetitive and boring. Third, having just binge-read the previous two books, I found that the 700 page run dragged a lot more this time. And lastly, there are some major plot conveniences, especially when it comes to the death count of characters we know the names of.

From Blood and Ash (Blood and Ash 1#) – Jennifer L. Armentrout ★★.5 | Review

Blame Goodreads. The hype made me do it. While it may not have lived up to it, I had an alright time just the same. This book is a trope mine-field and very predictable because of it. The pacing is messy at times and the world building is questionable, too. There’s also a couple of noticeable and repetitive issues with the writing itself. Regardless, it’s a pretty addictive read with decent characters and an engaging enough romance. Not the best fantasy-romance I’ve read by a long shot, but fun enough for me to want to read the sequel.

A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire (Blood and Ash 2#) – Jennifer L. Armentrout ★.5 | Review

I’d heard that the sequel was better than the first book. Um, no. Definitely, no. My main issue with AKoFaF was the lack of plot. Almost nothing happens and for a 600+ page book, that’s saying a lot. The Poppy-Hawke angst was really frustrating and repetitive, and I will never understand why JLA decided that the fake dating trope route was the way to go. This felt a lot more romance based than book one and the vampire aspect was definitely played up more too (which I did like). I’m kind of annoyed because I wasn’t planning on reading the next book but then I got to the last few chapters and they were actually interesting so now…ugh. I think I’m in for more suffering.

If We Were Villains – M. L. Rio ★★★★★

To my surprise, I loved this book! There are a lot of similarities to Donna Tartt’s The Secret History but as blasphemous as it sounds, I liked this slightly more. The story follows a group of Shakespeare players/friends who slowly implode after they let one of their number die. Watching the lies, secrets and guilt slowly tear everything apart was enthralling and I was hooked. I love how Shakespeare’s plays were incorporated into the story (life imitates art) and the way the book was structured like a Shakespearean tragedy. The characters are designed to feel like stereotypes but Rio tries to get underneath the surface to explore their strengths, insecurities, and relationships. James and Oliver’s bond in particular was so good and their scenes were magnetic. Honestly, I’m shocked this was a debut and I’m positive I’ll re-read it in the future.


February was closer to my usual reading pace, still slightly ahead of normal though, and included two of my most anticipated 2021 releases. Unfortunately, I didn’t end up with as many high rated books as I did in January (then again, part of January was taken up by re-reads) and I finished up on 6 books.

Lore – Alexandra Bracken ★★★

I really thought I’d love this book considering it was pitched as The Hunger Games meets Percy Jackson but, in the end, I couldn’t get past a 3 star rating. I really liked the use of Greek mythology and world building (the NYC setting gave me serious Mortal Instruments vibes) but I found myself disinterested in the plot and characters for large stretches. My engagement picked up after the halfway mark but not as much as I wanted it to. One of the other problems I had was that the main villain of the story felt very flat in that there was barely anything to him aside from wanting power for power’s sake, which is super boring. Still, a fairly well-done YA urban fantasy.

The Project – Courtney Summers ★★★.5 | Review

I’d been really looking forward to reading The Project ever since it was announced because I loved Sadie. While this didn’t reach the highs of Sadie in terms of emotional intensity and immersion for me, I still enjoyed it. Well, as much as you can “enjoy” a book about a cult with such dark themes and content. It’s a slow read which takes time to really showcase what it’s trying to say but it’s also very clever, subtle and insidious in how it goes about it. I like that Summers isn’t afraid to use typically unlikeable heroines and that the heart of the book was another complex sisterly relationship. The ending may have let me down in some ways but overall, a strong and emotionally grounded story.

The Heart’s Invisible Furies – John Boyne ★★★★.5

I’m so glad I finally got around to reading this. It follows the life of an adopted, gay man named Cyril living in Ireland in the decades before homosexuality became legalised. The writing in this is so darn good! I don’t think I’ve ever read anything that’s managed to blend comedy and tragedy together as well as this book does. The dialogue is perfection – it’s so quick-witted and flows beautifully. It’s a quirky read and feels a little absurdist at times with the events that occur and coincidences that pop up, but it works. I only wish that I’d gotten to know certain characters better to properly feel the emotional moments surrounding them. I’ve already added two of Boyne’s other books to my to-read shelf.

A Court of Frost and Starlight (ACOTAR 3.1#) – Sarah J. Maas (REREAD) ★★★ | Review

Like the other ACOTAR books, ACOFAS has also gone down rating wise on re-read. I like that the novella tries to show the impact of the war, but it does feel a lot like fan-fiction-ish fluff. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing and as a lover of these characters it’s fun seeing them get drunk, have snowball fights and hang out. However, there’s a lot of shopping, talking about gifts for solstice and SO MUCH Feysand acting like sex-crazed teens for such a short read. Can you not for just two seconds? Feyre’s sections also felt more tedious this time through. I do appreciate the way it sets up Cassian and Nesta’s story in ACOSF though.

A Court of Silver Flames (ACOTAR 4#) – Sarah J. Maas ★★★.5 | Review to Come

What a ride. There were certain parts of ACOSF that I really liked and others that were a let down or just frustrating. In the good column was Nesta’s journey. I would have liked a teensy bit more gradual mental/emotional development to go with the physical, but overall I was really happy. Also in that category was the friendship element which I adored. Super sweet and so much female empowerment. In the ‘not so good’ column was the human queen/magician/Eris plot, which I honestly did not care about except for cool magical objects, and the over reliance on sex scenes to build the Cassian-Nesta relationship. Finally, in the GTFO column, we have the Feysand storyline. Like, why? Why are you trying to steal my babies’ limelight? And Rhys, you’re massively on my shit list after this book.

Piranesi – Susanna Clarke ★★.5

This is one of those ‘It’s not you, it’s me’ experiences. For the first 70 pages or so I was bored, confused and considered DNF. Yet, I decided to stick it out to page 100 and shortly after that it started to grow on me. There were definitely stretches of this that I enjoyed but l feel in the end that I wanted so much more from it. Viewed broadly, I like the basic concepts of Piranesi‘s tale (a labyrinth classical mansion in another universe, scholars with crazy theories, an unreliable narrator who has to unravel a mystery of sorts, etc.) but I feel like it either should have been shorter, to cut down the empty beginning, or longer to properly develop the background events, characters, and dramatic reveals. On the whole, different, weird, and something I see other people really liking but not for me.


So, I actually bought a couple more books over the last two months but since I managed to read them during this period as well, I’d rather not list them here again and double up. Besides, it makes me feel better about how much money I spent. Living in a state of denial works for me, thank you very much. A few very different types of books here and I’m looking forward to each of them. I’m so excited I got approved for an ARC of She Who Became the Sun. It’s due out in July which makes me want to hold off on reading it for a while but that may be difficult as it’s being promoted as Mulan meets The Song of Achilles which, as you can imagine, makes me do love heart eyes.


Just in case you missed them, other than my book reviews which are linked above, here are the posts I published over the last two months:


Not much to report so far. Lately I’ve been trying to get some online courses done which relate to qualifications I need to stay in my job. It’s been pretty time consuming and painful, and motivation is low. This month I also started posting the occasional photo to my bookstagram again. The effect my long absence has had on how the algorithm shows my posts to people now compared to how it did a year ago has been disheartening and frustrating but I guess the only thing to do is keep at it, I guess.

On the social side, I finally got to see one of my closest friends recently after not having seen her in over a year. I’m sure you can all relate to this – the struggles of Covid-19. We’re extremely lucky that we live in Australia where our government has managed the virus so well but border restrictions and closures since things first started have made it very hard to see people in different states. My friend and I had a good catch up and went to see Frozen The Musical which was a lot of fun but definitely an experience in having so few people in the audience.


I hope 2021 is treating you all well so far and that good things are in store for March. Let me know what your favourite reads from the last two months were and what you’re most looking forward to next month!

And That’s a Wrap: February ’19 Edition

Two down, ten months to go. As usual, this year feels like it’s going very fast but luckily enough, I feel good about where I am with my reading progress. I’m balancing backlisted books with new releases, tackling some bigger reads, and still fitting in a couple of re-reads. All in all, things are well in Ashley’s book world. Let’s break February down:

I managed to read a total of 7 books this month. In order to reach my 2019 reading goal, I need to read 6.6 books a month which means things are so far so good, especially considering Feb is a short month. As usual, there was a mix of star ratings, but also a new favourite!

King of Scars – Leigh Bardugo ★★★

KoS was one of my big 2019 anticipated releases and I had high expectations for it. But unfortunately, it ended up a three-star read for me. I still adore the characters, Zoya and Nina are my queens, but the plot wasn’t engaging enough for me in large parts. There was a lot of nothing for a long time and once the point of the main plot was finally revealed, I just don’t think I was that keen on it? Still, the dialogue remains on point.

99 Percent Mine – Sally Thorne ★★★.5

This was a cute, fluffy read. I enjoyed myself, but it did suffer from a lot of the same problems I had with Sally’s first book, The Hating Game. There isn’t a whole lot of plot, the male lead has a couple of annoying alpha male moments that don’t go with the rest of his personality, and the climax of the story is melodramatic for what it is. This aside, it was an enjoyable read with some amusing and sweet moments and a couple of hot scenes.

City of Glass (The Mortal Instruments 3#) – Cassandra Clare ★★★★

While CoB and CoA haven’t held up as well on rereads ten years later, City of Glass surprisingly did. I’m shocked! I had a great time rereading this. It’s definitely my favourite book of the series, easy. It’s got great tension, twists, high stakes, and the dialogue is good too. I also enjoyed the fact that it featured more Alec, Simon, Izzy and Magnus. I think I must just have a thing for books featuring potential-end-of-the-world battles.

City of Fallen Angels (The Mortal Instruments 4#) – Cassandra Clare ★★

Okay, so this book isn’t absolutely awful like I remember but it’s not close to good either. If you completely ignore the nonsensical, eye-roll worthy, and stupid Clary-Jace storyline as well as the climax (gosh, they’re bad). The rest of the book is passable but of course, we can’t factor out those things. So two stars it is.

American Panda – Gloria Chao ★★★

I’m conflicted over this one. It’s a pretty adorable book and it was great to read something dealing with Chinese characters and culture (Woo, diversity!). However, it’s weird, but I couldn’t help feeling extremely frustrated and suffocated by the behaviour of Mei’s family. While I get that’s the point in order to empathise with her, it kind of put me off and dampened my enjoyment. Otherwise, I liked that the romance didn’t dominate the plot and Mei, herself, was a very likeable MC.

Normal People – Sally Rooney ★★.5

I normally enjoy books with this kind of subject matter but with Normal People, while I thought the characters were okay and I was able to sympathise, I just never fully bonded with them. At times, the writing can be great, and others it’s clunky and full of monotonous details. The novel touches on a lot of important themes – class, sexuality, abusive relationships, mental health, suicide, but in the end, I just felt as though many things had been introduced and not fully developed or handled satisfyingly. I wish more had happened to the characters & changed in their lives. I was constantly waiting for the shoe to drop, and while something did happen, I finished the book on a feeling of…flatness. Overall, a disappointing read for something so talked about, but somehow, still something I’ll think about for a while after.

Skyward – Brandon Sanderson ★★★★★

Gosh, this was GOOD. I now fully understand the Sanderson magic. The pacing in this novel is perfect – a balance between exciting action and hit you in the feels emotion. The characters are well written and wonderfully developed over time, the dialogue is excellent and often very funny, and the world-building once again shows off just how great Sanderson is at fantasy/sci-fi writing. Amazing. I cannot wait for the sequel!


Yeah, yeah, I bought too many books again. What else is new? I just want to read everything, okay! But I need more hours in the day (preferably less of them at work, but a girl can dream, right?). All in all, nine purchases (of which one is still on its way from the UK – Priory). I was also lucky enough to get approved to read a copy of Christine Riccio’s debut novel, Again, but Better. I know a big chunk of the online bookish community is super hyped for this one so I was massively surprised to get access to it.

It was a lazy girl month blogging-wise. Here is my very sad list of posts from February. Here’s hoping I’ll do better in March.

As I mentioned above, I tend to get through around 6 books a month at the moment, but as I like to maintain a little flexibility, here are just three books I plan to tackle in March (two of which I’ve already started):


And that’s a wrap on February! I hope you’ve all had a wonderful month in books.

Tell me what your favourite and least favourite reads of the last month were. My favourite was Skyward and least fave was City of Fallen Angels.

And That’s a Wrap: February Edition

It’s March already. Like what the actual, flipping hell. How. When. Where did the first two months of 2018 GO?? And what was I doing while they were happening?!

Personal wise, no bloody clue. But in case you were interested (and you clearly are cause you clicked on the link *winks*)  here’s what happened book wise:

Books I Read

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I had a fantastic month of reads in February. Four stars or higher for everything. Like, WHAT? That never happens!!! Ever. I even managed to read three adult books and one I could label literature. Look at me branching out. Here’s hoping it continues on into March. I definitely need to catch up on my book reviews though. I’m beginning to understand why people do this whole mini review thing but considering I have a hard time just keeping my normal reviews under 1000 words, my faith in my own ability to manage that is VERRRRY low.

Call Me By Your Name – Andre Aciman: ★★★★

Golden Son (Red Rising 2#)  – Pierce Brown: ★★★★★

The Cruel Prince – Holly Black: ★★★★

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue – Mackenzi Lee: ★★★★

Red Rising (Red Rising 1#) – Pierce Brown ★★★★.5

Books I Bought

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I have tried not to go overboard guys. Really, I have. But it just doesn’t work. So I’m embracing it. Will I ever get to the end of my TBR? Nope. Will I continue to buy copious amounts of books until I have no more room for them and actually start to disappear underneath them all, never to be seen again. Probably.

blog posts

I was a bit slack with my posting at the start of this month but I promise to be on top of it for all of March (I’ll believe it when I see it, I hear you saying). I’m starting to find a bit of a rhythm and sense of relaxation in my writing nowadays, particularly my book reviews, which is helping a lot. Just in case you missed them and are interested:

Top 10 Tuesday

Reviews

Miscellaneous

Yes, a pitiful effort. I know.

Personal Life

  • After taking an enormous five month break, I’m now back bookstagramming! It’s a very time consuming hobby but I’m hoping to manage it a lot better this time around. Plus, new theme.
  • At the beginning of the month we put a deposit down on a kitten! It’ll be a British shorthair from a registered breeder and we’re going to call him Archie. Kittens need to be 10-12 weeks before you can take them home so we won’t get ours until late April which feels like AGES away right now, but I’m so excited!!  I mean look at this gorgeousness…

*DIES*

Overall though, it’s been a bit of a laid back month with not much to report. So here’s to a fabulous March and happy reading every one!

Love Ashley