Book Reviews

Kitten Corner: Gorgeous Gift Books

I have three books to show you today which don’t have a lot in common beyond the fact that I think each of them would make an amazing gift – they’re all beautiful hardbacks that feel really special, and slightly outside the ordinary for kids’ books. All three of these were sent to me free of charge by the publishers, but that doesn’t affect my opinions: I genuinely think they’re all lovely!

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April Reading Challenge: Spring Cleaning Wrap Up

This post is coming to you a little early this month, because I managed to fill up the last few days of the month with blog tour posts! If you would like a refresher of April’s challenge this month, you can check out my TBR post, and if you want to see the eight challenge books I read in the first half of April, that’s here. Two weeks ago I had five books left on the list – I didn’t manage to finish them all, but I did tick off three!

First up was Dark Breaks the Dawn by Sara B Larsen, which was a DNF for me. I think I probably would have enjoyed this much more if I’d read it as a teen; unfortunately it only came out in 2018, and I think even by then, its super-perfect lavender-haired, violet-eyed princess heroine and its learning-to-use-your-royal-magic themes would have been a bit dated. The first 100 pages of the book were mostly flirting, training sequences, and descriptions of how stunningly gorgeous everyone was, and I just really struggled to become interested. It’s a shame, because I think Swan Lake is under-used as inspiration generally!

After that I tackled A Darkness of Dragons by SA Patrick, which as I mentioned in my TBR post, I’d started before and not managed to get very far into. This time I persevered, and I really do think that the first 150 pages of this book are a slog, and not necessarily representative of the rest of it. The beginning is very slow and extremely dark – like mass murder, horrifying prison conditions, cruel punishments and insane prisoners screaming through the night dark – but the rest of it is a fairly standard upper middle grade fantasy adventure, with bandits, a girl cursed into the form of a rat, various odd magic users and a half-dragon, half-griffin. It’s a little bit dark, definitely 10+, but not nearly as violent or grim as the beginning – it’s a jarring switch and I honestly would have started the book with Patch’s escape from prison and hand-waved the backstory to get things moving earlier. Once the second part of the book was underway, though, this is a pretty fun fantasy adventure, if a little bit heavy on the ‘your princess is in another castle’ trope. I’d read the sequels if I saw them in the library!

My next read was The Archived by VE Schwab, the first book in The Dark Vault bind-up. I was surprised how much I liked it – I was only planning to read a few dozen pages to test the waters, but I ended up finding myself at 100 pages before I knew it. Like all of Schwab’s writing, it’s certainly very readable, and the concept is cool. I didn’t love the main character, who was a bit too much of a traditional punchy YA heroine for me, and the romance particularly felt very predictable by YA standards, but it’s an enjoyable time. There’s a lot of discussion of death, particularly child and sibling death, so it’s one to go carefully into if that’s not your favourite thing. I think I’ll try to read the sequel quite soon, so I can see if the duology overall is one I want to keep!

So I didn’t manage to get to Grounded or Sherwood, but given that I added two books halfway through, I suppose I did actually tick off the planned amount of spring cleaning books! Though I enjoyed most of them more than I thought I would, I ended up deciding to rehome 9 of those 12, so that’s a decent chunk of shelf space regained (though you wouldn’t be able to tell!). I’m definitely going to try this again at some point – it’s been a great exercise in recognising where my tastes have changed.