Author's Note

April Reading Challenge: Spring Cleaning Mid-Month Check In

It’s the 15th already, so time to see how I’ve been getting on with my April TBR challenge! If you need a refresher on the books I’m trying to read this month, you can check out my original post here – otherwise, let’s get into the mini-reviews!

My first spring cleaning read of the month was A Winter’s Promise by Christelle Dabos. I didn’t find it anywhere near as misogynistic as I had been expecting from the reviews I’d seen, so I had a better time with this than I was expecting. I didn’t love it though – my main issue was that it was very long, and not a lot actually happened to justify that length. There’s a really interesting world here, with flying arks that seem to function somewhere between countries and courts, but our main character is such a quiet person, content to let herself be ordered around by other people, that we don’t get to experience very much plot other than her being on the edges of the drama. I think I’d read the sequels if I saw them in the library, but I won’t hang onto my hardback of this.

Next up was The Wild Folk by Sylvia V Linsteadt, which again I ended up liking but not loving. It wasn’t preachy about nature, despite its postapocalyptic city/country divide and its natural themes, so that was a real relief, and it was an entertaining quest, but I’m getting pickier and pickier about middle grade books recently, and this didn’t wow me enough to keep. It’s very sweet, and I think I would have enjoyed it a lot more if I’d read it as a child! It has a very classic feel to it that’s really nice.

Then I had my first DNF of the list, Ink, Iron and Glass by Gwendolyn Clare. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this book – it’s a fun historical-ish fantasy that has some fab steampunky concepts and feels like it sits at the younger end of YA, but I just realised about 150 pages in that I really wasn’t that engaged with it. I thought about pressing on just to see how things ended, but in the spirit of spring cleaning, I decided that half the book was more than enough for me to decide it just wasn’t doing it for me.

I think A Deal with the Elf King by Elise Kova is the only Kindle book on this list! It was thoroughly okay – not mind-blowing, but pretty much fine – it definitely cemented for me that this kind of fantasy romance is not my favourite though. I much prefer it when it’s either got a historical/fantasy of manners element, or a lot more plot, because I thought that the actual story of this was kind of weak. The herbalist heroine was likeable, but a bit bland, and the Elf King in question did such a massive 180 with his personality mid-way through that it was like a different book altogether. This would be perfect for fans of The Cruel Prince, though. I’d read another in the series if I saw it in the library, but I wouldn’t seek them out.

My next DNF was Finnikin of the Rock, which I gave 100 pages before deciding that I just wasn’t clicking with the writing style, which is very terse. It’s a chunky book, with an even chunkier sequel, so DNFing the first one will save me a lot of shelf space! I do own the ebook of it, though, so if I ever want to come back to it, I can.

After that I started Gideon the Ninth, bolstered by a recommendation from a friend, and it was a surprise hit for me! I really wasn’t expecting to click with sarky, modern-voiced Gideon but I found the narration compulsively readable. It wasn’t at all confusing to read, so I’m mostly just baffled where those comments came from, and despite the somewhat meandering story it felt very pacey. Overall, I don’t think it was quite perfect for me – I think I’d give it four cats out of five, because I feel like the ending should have been a gut punch but I was fairly non-plussed, but I’m really happy it was such an enjoyable read on the whole!

After that I read Entwined, which was a little bit disappointing, but I’m glad I’ve read it. Twelve princesses is a lot to keep on screen, and I felt that the character work suffered a little bit as each girl needed to be reduced to a single trait to be memorable, which made for some really weird decisions (like having the second oldest princess speak in a sort of cant that felt totally at odds with her sisters). It also didn’t make use of my favourite part of the fairytale, the descent through the gemstone forests and across the lake! Still, there was a sweet, low key romance, and the way it brought the princesses’ relationship with their father into the focus was nice. I won’t be hanging onto this but I’d recommend it to those looking for gentle fairy tale YA.

Fearsome Dreamer was a fairly easy DNF for me – it’s a great example of a YA almost-dystopian novel, with a central tension between high-tech and low-tech worlds, but I just didn’t click with the characters. I’ve read a few too many books in this this tech-vs-magic vein, and I think I can give this one a miss.

And finally I braved House of Salt and Sorrows – at lunchtime on a bright day, so I wouldn’t get too spooked. And I’m glad I did, because it was a really enjoyable read. I think I was actually expecting it to be much darker and creepier in atmosphere, but it was actually pretty fast-paced and the horror was more upfront than insidious. The ending got a little bit too melodramatic for me, but on the whole I loved how original this was and how well the characters came across. Of the two Twelve Dancing Princesses retellings on this list, this is by far the more compelling – still didn’t quite hit what I love about the original, though. I’m in two minds as to whether to hang on to this – it was great, but I’m not sure if I’ll reread now I know the twists.

That actually only leaves me with three books on the TBR for the second half of the month: The Dark Vault, A Darkness of Dragons and Grounded. I’m delighted with my progress so far, and my TBR is already looking a bit healthier for the pruning. Since I’m on a roll with YA retellings so far, I think I’ll add two additional titles to my spring clean: Sherwood by Meagan Spooner (a Robin Hood retelling – I loved the author’s Beauty and the Beast retelling, but that was several years ago and I’m picky about Robin Hood), and Dark Breaks the Dawn by Sarah B Larson (a Swan Lake retelling that’s the first in a duology, so I should decide if I need to track down the second or not).

I’ll check in again at the end of the month!

11 thoughts on “April Reading Challenge: Spring Cleaning Mid-Month Check In

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