Hello all! Welcome back to my monthly wrap-up. I can’t believe that four months had already gone by this year. One positive development so far in 2022 is that international borders are opening up and I’m looking forward to be able to travel again, one of my other favourite things to do besides reading.
April was another great month of reading, as we continued our Middle Grade series reads and started the epic reread of all the Mistborn books in preparation for the release of The Lost Metal in November this year.
NB. Books are rated within its genre. For avoidance of doubt, rereads are not considered for Book of the Month.
Book of the Month
Wundersmith: The Calling of Morrigan Crow (Nevermoor, #2) by Jessica Townsend
This sequel was even more fantastic and fun than the first book. The city of Nevermoor was one of the most magically intriguing and fascinating places I’ve ever read and an fantasy setting that I actually, truly want to visit. The school setting of the Wundrous Society was more apparent now that the trials were over and the education of the nine selected candidates begins. As far as school settings go, this one was just as wonderful as Hogwarts, in my opinion. The interaction between Morrigan and her cohorts were relatable, albeit frustrating at times when she continued to be ostracised. I did love how much Morrigan trusts Jupiter and more often than not was willing to tell her patron everything. The many times I’ve read Middle Grade or even Young Adult books where information was withheld by the youthful main characters from the adults made this a welcome change, as was the fact that the adults were not portrayed to be dense or idiotic. The Nevermoor series is shaping up to be a new favourite and it’s tempting to charge ahead to read the next book immediately.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Middle Grade / Young Adult Novels
Castle in the Air (Howl’s Moving Castle, #2) by Diana Wynne Jones
Well, yet another delightfully whimsical story from Diana Wynne Jones. I like Jones’ sense of humour as her books never failed to make me chuckle. Castle in the Air was set in a Arabian-like setting, with flying magic carpets, an Aladdin-type heroic character and a beautiful princess (whose name Flower-in-the-Night could allude to a certain Jasmine species that blooms at night). The honorific and incredible polite manner of speech was hilarious and more so especially when insults were hidden underneath all the flowery eloquence.
The book was highly enjoyable with characters which were just on the edge of being caricatures but it somehow seemed appropriate and made for a most amusing read. For a good part of the book, I couldn’t figure out how it could be connected to Howl’s Moving Castle at all. But connected it definitely was and when the reveals came during the last several chapters, I was absolutely delighted. No regrets picking up this series for sure, and looking forward to read the next and final book.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Mossflower (Redwall, #2) by Brian Jacques
Mossflower is a prequel story to Redwall, the first published book in the series, and it was a worthy one indeed. It told the story of Martin the Warrior and how he became the legendary hero of Redwall. This book started on a stronger note and I think I liked it even more than the first. There’s a good balance of tension and cosiness, and of humour and sad moments. The characters were even more delightful, with Gonff the Prince of Mousethief taking the crown as most memorable.
I learnt that Jacques first wrote Redwall for children of the Royal Wavertree School for the Blind which explained the writing style. However, the best part was that these descriptions are by no means tedious or long-winded. These were beautifully vivid, and made me long to head back into nature, as well as into the kitchen to bake scones and pies. One note of warning, do not read Redwall books when you’re hungry.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars.
Queenslayer (Spellslinger, #5) by Sebastien de Castell
This penultimate volume of the Spellslinger series saw Kellen being put under even more pressure and stress as he got himself embroiled in the politics of the great empire of the Daroman, and its (very) young queen. Throughout the series, Kellen’s family has never failed to be involved in some way or another in his trials and tribulations. However, even as we approach the concluding book, I have absolutely no clue how events will pan out between Kellen and his formidable father.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars.
The Black Cauldron (The Chronicles of Prydain, #2) by Lloyd Alexander
A marked improvement over the first book, The Black Cauldron was a great coming-of-age story of Taran the Assistant Pig-Keeper. Having known the characters from the previous book also helped. I found Eilonwy to be way less irritating, and even thought she’s a good companion for Taran. Gurgi, of course, was as cute and loyal as ever. Fflewddur Fflam (that’s really how his name was spelt), the bard whose harp strings break whenever he embellishes tales of his own prowess (hilarious), I’ve always liked and his presence was a welcome. All-in-all, a quick and enjoyable read which kept me interested to read the rest of series, especially given that the Disney animated movie ended here and the story from henceforth will be an unknown to me.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars.
Magpie Murders (Susan Ryeland, #1) by Anthony Horowitz
It was Anthony Horowitz’s Holmes pastiche, The House of Silk that initially caught my interest, but with Magpie Murders being adapted into a TV show I decided to read this title first. And wow, I was impressed with how Horowitz wrote this mystery novel. I’ve always been a fan of ‘a story within a story’ narratives, but this one took it another level. There really are literally two murder mysteries in contained this book. The first was an in-book manuscript of the final entry in a series of murder mystery novels starring Atticus Pund, a character who was a blend of Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot, and set in a small village that was undoubtedly Agatha Christie-inspired. The second mystery made up the frame story, with Susan Ryeland, the editor of a publishing company who owns the rights to the Atticus Punds books as the main character.
Horowitz was clearly quite a versatile writer given how he was able to provide two such distinctive styles of writing in one book; one being reminiscent of classic mystery novels while the other was notably modern. The way the two mysteries seemed to be connected in some way was also handled marvellously. One thing’s for sure, this was one of the most fascinating and engaging mystery novels I’ve read. It certainly kept me guessing right till the end, with all manner of misdirection. And nope, much like Agatha Christie’s books, the murderers were not whom I’ve expected. A great mystery novel, and very promising start into Horowitz’s body of works. I’m diving in.
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars.
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
I’ve finally moved on to the short story collections, and it somewhat surprised me that I found myself enjoying some of these shorter pieces a bit more than the longer ones. The most famous title in this collection has to be A Scandal in Bohemia which introduced the most well-known female character in the Holmes’ canon, Irene Adler. The other more notable ones included The Five Orange Pips as well as The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle. Notable in the sense that I’ve actually heard of these titles even before I’ve read them, unlike the rest.
It goes without saying (again) that Stephen Fry was utter perfection in his narration, which enhanced my overall enjoyment of these stories.
The Final Empire (Mistborn, #1) by Brandon Sanderson
Second reread in preparation for the release of The Lost Metal in Nov, and my first time listening to the Graphic Audio version. This was yet another amazing production which heightened by enjoyment of one of my favourite fantasy books, and which made me even more excited to continue on my journey through the rest of the Mistborn Graphic Audio I’ve lined up for this epic reread.
I know a lot of fans adored Elend, but admittedly I found him to be boring. In this GA production, he actually has a personality and so yes, a big and much welcomed improvement in this respect. Kelsier was just as charismatic as I remembered, and the camaraderie and interactions between the crew members were even better with the full cast voice acting.
The Final Empire was my introduction to Brandon Sanderson’s works and immediately earned a spot in my favourites shelf due to the innovative spin on fantasy and magic that I’ve yet to encounter until then. 2013 was the year that I got my first Kindle, and I was going through my backlog of classic fantasy-type titles which I’ve not read, finishing the entire Riftwar Cycle (the main series in any case) and The Sword of Truth (which got really awful towards the end).
While not exactly my first taste of modern fantasy as by then I’ve read the first three books of A Song of Ice and Fire as well as The Kingkiller Chronicles, I’ve yet to come across a story where I felt so utterly, completely and emotionally invested in a character in a single book. And what is there to say about Allomancy which hadn’t been said before – possibly one of the most, if not the most, fascinating and cool magic system right now.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars.
Alcatraz vs. The Evil Librarians (Alcatraz vs, The Evil Librarians, #1) by Brandon Sanderson
Another Sanderson reread, as the (actual) final book, Bastille vs The Evil Librarians, will be releasing in September 2022.
I started reading the Alcatraz series after I’ve run out of Sanderson’s adult and YA fantasy books to read, and these books quickly became bite-sized guilty pleasures on account of how hilarious and ridiculous they are. The real world as we know it is controlled by evil Librarians who keep the real deal/information away from the general population. Underneath the cover-up is a more fantastical existence where a certain lineage of people (i.e. the Smedry’s) have seemingly ordinary ‘abilities’ like breaking things, being late, spouting gibberish and tripping; abilities which are called Talents that can be controlled and utilised as an advantage. How this works was frankly quite brilliant and instead of explaining it, I will recommend that you just read it.
The main character, Alcatraz Smedry, was written using a first person, fourth-wall breaking, metafiction narrative, with each chapter containing snarky gems about writing such as:
It is a writer’s greatest pleasure to hear that someone was kept up until the unholy hours of the morning reading one of his books. Plus we get a kickback from the caffeine industry.
Hooks and cliffhangers belong only at the ends of chapters. That way, the reader moves on directly to the next page—where, thankfully, they can read more of the story without having to suffer some sort of mindless interruption. Honestly, authors can be so self-indulgent.
I’m well aware that Sanderson’s quirky humour is not for everyone. I’m just glad that it totally worked for me.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars.
What’s Next in May
Same as before, we’ll be continuing with the Middle Grade series that we’ve started, namely Howl’s Moving Castle, Redwall, Nevermoor and The Chronicles of Prydain. I’m also really excited to finally reach the concluding book of the Spellslinger series as I’ve absolutely no clue how it will end and hoped for a satisfactory ending. And of course, the Brandon Sanderson rereads will continue.
Signing off until next month, happy reading y’all…