#WWWWednesday: 12 February

Hello, hello and welcome back to another episode of WWW Wednesday, a weekly meme hosted by Sam @ Taking On A World of Words, which means I’ll be answering these questions:

  1. What did you read last?
  2. What are you currently reading?
  3. What will you read next?

Since last Wednesday I’ve managed to finish five books and that’s mostly thanks to my binge reading the rest of the Texting series by Teagan Hunter over the weekend. I may just have discovered a new favourite romance author!

To Kill A Mocking Girl (Bookbinding Mystery #1) by Harper Kincaid ★★★★★
This was my first ever cosy mystery and it had me strongly questioning WHY I hadn’t picked up these types of books before. It had so many things that I love in a book–supportive close-knit communities, a loveable family dynamics, entertaining MCs, a budding swoon-worthy romance, doggos, and an intriguing mystery! I adored this book and I’m gutted it’s not even out yet (and won’t be until May 2020) because I’m already looking forward to the rest of this series. This was Kincaid’s debut mystery too, although she does write romances so I’m tempted to check them out. My full review will be out closer to the pub date!

Nils: The Tree of Life by Jerome Hamon ★★★☆☆
While the illustrations blew me away (seriously gorgeous art work!) the storyline of Nils was weak and I often found myself confused with what was happening, especially towards the climax. The story felt disjointed at times, jumping too quickly from one fast-paced scene to another, without proper explanations and that was a bit of a let down. Can’t recommend the illustrations more though! If this illustrator put out a book of just their drawings I’d so be down to read it. Check out my full review.

Texting Series by Teagan Hunter ★★★★☆ (average)
I was looking for a lighthearted romcom and this series ticked all the boxes! It’s been a while since I’ve laughed so much reading a romance and I loved every minute of it. The titles are pun-tastic and the cheese is strong in pretty much all of the books but the geeky humor, swoon worthy heros and super sassy heroines make for some deliciously fun (not to mention steamy) times! Check out my full series review.

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Monthly Reading Challenge Updates

Yes, I know I’m late to update. Life has been happening and in typical panda fashion, I also started to slack off a little with recording my reads on my challenge spreadsheet! Oops? Thankfully there’s the Goodreads Reading Challenge which has helped me to recall what books I’ve read over the last month and what challenges they’d fit under! So let’s take a look at how I’ve been doing for the *many* challenges that I decided to participate in this year…

I’ve been using many of the same books I’ve read to fulfil the prompts in different challenges and I think that’s OK although sometimes it feels like “I’m cheating” although I know that’s just the nay-sayers I’ve encountered whose voices are ringing in my ears 😂

ARC Apocalypse

I managed to read four ARCs in January and while that’s not a whole lot (at least compared to others) it’s more than I thought I’d read last month, so I’m happy there’s some progress, no matter how small!

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Nils: The Tree of Life by Jerome Hamon – #eARC #GraphicNovelReview

Goodreads: Nils: The Tree of Life
Publish date: 11 February 2020
Publisher: Magnetic Press/Diamond Book Distributors
Genre: Graphic Novel, Young Adult, Sci-Fi & Fantasy
Panda Rating:

A dystopic Nordic fantasy world, where spirits of light are the key to life, but seemingly have abandoned the world. Young Nils and his father set out to discover why the ground has grown infertile, heading north where the drought seems worse to find the cause. Far along the way, they find signs of fresh and vibrant life, caretaken by these little light spirits. But before they know it, a large metal creature arrives and attacks the creatures, apparently hunting and gathering them.

From out of the woods, a woman attacks the creature, bringing it to its knees… apparently the plant was bait for the spirits, which in turn were bait for the metal creature, which serves the high-tech Cyan Nation. This huntress, named Alba, takes Nils and his father into their tribe, where the battle between the shamanistic people and the Cyan Nation is paramount, a battle over the protection vs exploitation of the light spirits power…

Meanwhile, three goddesses watch these events, lamenting the fact that man had abandoned all belief in their power long ago. They watch but do not intervene, despite the fact that the spirits are being harvested en masse by the Cyan Nation, wreaking ruin on the world outside their city. Realizing that this conflict will in one way or another change the very fabric of this world, they slowly begin to intervene…

As they continue their travels, Nils has a dream (seeded by one of the goddesses) about the World Tree, Yggdrasil, which is being consumed by a metal plague. He knows he must now find and save the tree, and in the process, save the world. But the high council of the Cyan Nation would have otherwise…

Having been separated in their quest, Nils’s father finds himself a guest of the Cyan Prince, where he learns that they do indeed understand the power of the spirits, which they call Ethernum, serving as the power source for their technological advancement. More sinister than that, however, is the fact that they’ve used the Ethernum as a means of near-eternal longevity, having wiped out all competitors to their power and resource long ago. And now, they believe they have unlocked the secrets for using the Ethernum to revive the dead…

And for the goddesses, that is a step too far. They intervene, but in the process find one of themselves surprisingly captured by the Cyan royalty… and then killed. The remaining two goddesses are torn by this affront. One vows to wipe mankind off the planet for good, while the other goes to help Nils save the Life Tree.

High fantasy adventure combining science-fiction with pseudo-spiritual magic, posing dramatic examinations of man vs nature, life vs death, fact vs faith, and man’s desire to play god.

This was an interesting graphic novel that had a fascinating mix of Nordic mythology and fantasy elements that shared a story about a dying earth due to corruption, exploitation of resources, and the troubled Goddesses that are affected by the effects of human greed and technological advancement.

I enjoyed how Nils started but as more elements of the story were introduced I became confused with the direction it was going but also the erratic flow of scenes towards the middle and end. There were many scene jumps that made the climax feel disjointed and since there was a lot of action in these parts, it only left me feeling confused with everything that was going on. I did go back to re-read scenes in case I missed anything but I still didn’t get the clarity I was looking for. I had plenty of questions about the whole world and the characters in it — Nils, the goddesses, the Cyan nation and how it came to be, and Alba’s tribe of women hunters and how they survived. I wish that these elements were better explained so that we could have a better understanding of the story. There was also some romantic notions that were hinted at between one of the goddesses towards Nils which seemed unnecessary and didn’t make me feel more sympathetic towards her fight to save him and human kind. It honestly creeped me out a little bit lol…

That said, the artwork is simply stunning and it’s what made me want to continue reading despite not fully understanding what was going on in the storyline. The color palette was well chosen and really reflected the ‘cold tundra’/Nordic feel alongside dying nature and technologically advanced city vibes that the story presented. The details were wonderful and I loved the distinctive look of all the different characters. There were some illustrations, particularly to do with nature and the spirits, that really gave me Princess Mononoke / Miyazaki vibes and I loved it!

While Nils had an interesting and promising premise it unfortunately didn’t follow through for me. The artwork was beautiful and I’d love to see more graphic novels illustrated by this artist however, I wish that the storyline had been more clear and easy to follow/understand!

Thanks to NetGalley and Magnetic Press/Diamond Books Distributor for the e-ARC in exchange for an honest review. This graphic novel is out 11 February 2020.
Have you read Nils: The Tree of Life or is it on your TBR?

January Monthly Wrap Up!

It’s been a hot minute since I’ve done a monthly wrap up (I didn’t do one for December) but here we are once again! The first month of a new year has come and gone already. If you’ve been following my blog (or Twitter!) this month you’ll know that my year hasn’t started off on a very high note. I’ve been facing a lot of health issues and it has impacted not only my work life but my every day activities such as reading/blogging. I didn’t think I was going to read more than 10 books this month but I finished off on an even 12 books and I’m quite happy with that progress 🙂

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#WWWWednesday: 29 January

Welcome back to another episode of WWW Wednesday, a weekly meme hosted by Sam @ Taking On A World of Words, which means I’ll be answering these questions:

  1. What did you read last?
  2. What are you currently reading?
  3. What will you read next?

Well, finally my “just finished reading” pile is looking a little bit more lively than earlier on in the month and lookie! That’s three e-ARCs done and dusted 🥳 I’ve been whining a lot about how sick I’ve been lately but being cooped up in the hotel room meant I was able to read more than I expected to!

The Toll (Arc of a Scythe #3) by Neal Shusterman ★★★★☆
This conclusion went in a direction that I didn’t expect but it was wholly satisfying! I wish that the original characters, Citra and Rowan, got way more face-time than they did in this conclusion, but I did appreciate the new POVs that we’re introduced to. I was particularly fond of Jericho! All the pressing questions were answered and Shusterman ends it in such a way that short spin-offs can be made in the future! Check out my full review here.

(e-ARC) Manga Classics: The Count of Monte Cristo by Stacy King, Crystal S. Chan ★★★★½
The Count of Monte Cristo is one heckuva intimidating tome but after reading this manga classic I’m very eager to pick up the original novel! King & Chan did an amazing job at condensing a complex story into a 400-page manga, while still retaining the essence of the story and presenting it in a clear and logical order. Would highly recommend reading this if you’re intimidated by the original! Check out my full review here.

(e-ARC) Bitter Falls (Stillhouse Lake #4) by Rachel Caine ★★★½
Bitter Falls was a fast-paced and action-packed story full of what we’ve come to expect from Caine in this series — there’s family drama, an intriguing mystery, lots of killing, explosions and near-death experiences, and a somewhat happy ending. This was an enjoyable continuation of the Stillhouse Lake series but after reading this, I think my time with Gwen and her familia has run its course. The continuing over-the-top drama seems just a little too unbelievable for me now. Check out my full review here.

Spin the Dawn (The Blood of Stars #1) by Elizabeth Lim ★★★★½
Why did I wait so long to read this one? I don’t know but I was definitely surprised by how much I enjoyed it! While it wasn’t perfect there was certainly a lot to love (imo). I didn’t think I would get so attached to Maia and Edan but I really did and I was a solid shipper! What I did want was a better understanding of the magic though. Also, I’m gutted that I didn’t double check the release date for book two because now I must suffer waiting until July?! Check out my full review here.

(e-ARC) How to Build A Heart by Maria Padian ★★★★☆
The more I let this book sink in I realise I enjoyed it more than I didn’t. Does that sound weird? Maybe. I had some issues with the MC, Izzy, and how one of the main friendships was treated and while I wasn’t 100% pleased with the resolution of that conflict I also recognise that her character experiences satisfying growth by the end. She made questionable decisions but she’s also a teenager and I know I wasn’t immune to making more than my fair share of those! I thought the cultural representation was well done and was the most enjoyable aspect of the story for me. Padian delivers a sincere and well-written coming of age story full of family, friendships, finding yourself and learning where your heart belongs. Review coming very soon!

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Manga Classics: The Count of Monte Cristo by Stacy King, Crystal S. Chan – #eARC #GraphicNovelReview

Goodreads: Manga Classics: The Count of Monte Cristo
Publish date: 11 April 2017
Publisher: UDON Entertainment
Genre: Graphic Novel, Classic Literature
Panda Rating:

A Conspiracy and a miscarriage of justice turn the gentle Edmond Dantès into an implacable agent of fate: The Count of Monte Cristo . Obsessed by vengeance and empowered by providence, the Count avenges himself on whose who have wronged him – but is this justice, or is this hubris? In the end, does even the Count know? Alexandre Dumas’ skillful narrative combines intrigue, betrayal, and triumphant revenge into a powerful conflict between good and evil. Now this exciting saga, rich and diverse, takes on an entirely new life in this Manga Classics adaptation!

The Count of Monte Cristo is a classic that I’ve been meaning to read but have always been too intimidated to actually pick up, so when I saw this manga I immediately jumped on it! Surprisingly I realised I knew very little of the story when I started reading it and since I haven’t read the novel I also can’t attest to how well the manga actually adopts the classic. I do however know that it’s a fairly chunky text and I have no doubt that it has some very complex plot lines and in-depth character studies. Based on that, I think that the adaptors did an amazing job in condensing everything into a more simplified text. It took me a couple of hours to read this 400 page manga while I’m sure it’d probably take me one month+ to finish the original!

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#WWWWednesday: 22 January

Welcome back to another episode of WWW Wednesday, a weekly meme hosted by Sam @ Taking On A World of Words, which means I’ll be answering these questions:

  1. What did you read last?
  2. What are you currently reading?
  3. What will you read next?

I’ve only finished ONE BOOK since last Wednesday! ONE BOOK! 🙈And it was a re-read too! To say that January is a slow reading month would be a gross understatement. I’m really hoping things pick up next month…

Thunderhead (Arc of a Scythe #2) by Neal Shusterman ★★★★☆
Now that I’m done with my re-read with Thunderhead I feel more than ready for The Toll. Thunderhead was (imo) a slow moving sequel but it was no less enjoyable. I loved learning more about The Thunderhead and the new important character we’re introduced to, Grayson Tolliver, really grew on me. We got to explore more areas of the world including Israebia, a neglected D.C., and Endura which is the heart of the Scythedom. Although the shock factor wasn’t as intense this second time, the plot twists still had me exclaiming my WTFs. Shusterman really knows how to throw you off! You can read my full review here.

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Doctor Mirage (2019) by Magdalene Visaggio, Nick Robles – #eARC #GraphicNovelReview

Goodreads: Doctor Mirage (2019)
Publish date: 18 February 2020
Publisher: Diamond Books Distributor/Valiant Entertainment
Genre: Graphic Novel, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Superhero
Panda Rating:

How do you solve the case of your own death?

Paranormal expert Doctor Shan Fong Mirage was born with the ability to see and speak to the dead—an ability that has mysteriously stopped working. Have her powers failed or is something far more sinister at work? Will she figure out her fate and the fate of the one she loves the most? Valiant’s gripping supernatural mystery starts here!

A brand-new DOCTOR MIRAGE series conjured by Eisner Award-nominated writer Magdalene “Mags” Visaggio (Eternity Girl), artist Nick Robles (Euthanauts), Eisner Award-nominated colorist Jordie Bellaire (The Vision), and letterer Dave Sharpe (Harley Quinn)!

I admit to requesting this book based solely on the cover alone. The name “Doctor Mirage” rang a small bell but I actually haven’t read superhero comics, so I can’t speak to how differently or how well her character is portrayed in this new comic compared to previous ones. I will say that I really enjoyed it though!

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#WWWWednesday: 15 January

Welcome back to another episode of WWW Wednesday, a weekly meme hosted by Sam @ Taking On A World of Words, which means I’ll be answering these questions:

  1. What did you read last?
  2. What are you currently reading?
  3. What will you read next?

I don’t know what’s going on so far this year but I’m not reading half as much as I’d normally do. Since last Wednesday I’ve only managed to finish two books and one was a eARC of a graphic novel that I read yesterday. I finally finished my re-read of Scythe and contrary to what my slow reading pace would indicate, I did enjoy it just as much as the first time I read it.

Scythe (Arc of a Scythe #1) by Neal Shusterman ★★★★½
Like I said, I loved this re-read. The world building blew me away and the characters really grew on me. I thought it would be difficult to imagine a world where mortality is a thing of the past but Shusterman builds it up nicely and we learn more about it through chapters split with journal entries and various POVs. My little twisted cinnamon roll, Rowan, is by far my favorite character but I loved Scythes Faraday and Curie almost as much! I loved that Shusterman makes you think about how maybe immortality isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Check out my full review!

(eARC) Doctor Mirage (2019) by Magdalene Visaggio, Nick Robles ★★★★☆
I’ve never actually read a superhero comic and maybe that’s why I enjoyed this one so much. The name Doctor Mirage rang a small bell in my head but I really went into it blind and not knowing what to expect. I loved the illustration style and colour combination of the story; much of our time in the other world felt a bit like what I’d imagine an acid trip would be like! 🤣 There was a slight cliffhanger of an ending to continue the series but this can also be read as a standalone as the main conflict and storyline was nicely resolved. Review coming soon!

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ARC Apocalypse Announcement & TBR

As I mentioned in my bookish and blogging goals, I’ve joined quite a few challenges this year! Last year I (very loosely) joined one year-long challenge outside from Goodreads and that was the 2019 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge. I was complete trash at keeping track of what I read and basically gave up before I even started. That was fun 🙄 I guess I must be feeling more optimistic in 2020 because I joined a whopping FIVE challenges, and first up is the ARC Apocalypse!

This challenge was created by Destiny @ Howling Libraries in an effort to tackle those ARCs! And what’s better than tackling these reads with a bunch of other book lovers with the same goal, right? There are fun chats and buddy reads if you don’t think you can go it alone. Head on over to Destiny’s page (linked above) to find out more and join the challenge! I’ve mentioned it before but as an international book blogger I unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) don’t get as much access to all the reads on NetGalley, Edelweiss and from publishers, so my overall list isn’t as long as everyone else’s. Still, there are a few 2020 titles I’d like to stay on top of . but most importantly there are quite a few overdue titles I want to finish this year! Here are my current stats:

  • 2020 eARCs: 12
  • Overdue eARCs: 10

Ten overdue titles doesn’t look so bad right? But overdue is overdue and there’s no making excuses! My game plan is to prioritise my 2020 deadlines (while I’m still ahead of the game!) and alternate with reading the overdue titles. Sounds doable. Seeing as these have deadlines this is going to be my actual TBR for the coming months (January-early March):

After some thought I think I’ll be sharing my progress at the end of every three months along with what’s next on my TBR for the following three months*. I hope that my progress will basically be me saying: I’VE READ THEM ALL! 😍

*After some more thinking I decided to share a monthly progress updates for all my challenges, so you’ll be getting an update from me soon! I still hope that I’ll have made some progress 😂

Are you also joining ARC Apocalypse?
How do you plan to tackle your ARCs?