2020 Reading Challenge | Third & Fourth Quarter Update

What I read in the Fourth quarter of this year:

2020 Reading Challenge | Third and Fourth Quarter Update | life of Dahlia
A Court of Thorns And Roses by Sarah J. Mass, Photo by Erin Applebee.

A Court Of Thorns And Roses Series By Sarah J. Maas

I guess this one could technically be both third and fourth because I started it in the third quarter and finished in November, but this was really the one to get me out of that reading slump I had in the middle of this year. I’ve had Sarah J. Maas’s books on my to read list for a few years now and earlier this year in March, around the time all this pandemic stuff started, I picked up both of her ‘Throne of Glass’ and ‘A Court of Thorns and Roses’ series.  I also added both to my reading list after bringing them in to my collection so that I could read them. I probably won’t get around to reading ‘Throne of Glass’ this year but I decided to start reading her ‘A Court of Thorns and Roses’ series a few of months ago and I loved it, it had me captivated and left me with many feels.

‘A Court of Thorns and Roses’ is a sort of beauty and the beast retelling but with a few twists, it is based in a world populated by both humans and Fae (of many different kinds,) The story takes place on an Island called ‘Prythian’ which is made up of several faerie courts and the human lands which is separated by a magical barrier called ‘The Wall’.

It is told from the perspective of a young human called ‘Feyre’ of which the story is centered around, Feyre is the youngest of three sisters but she is the rock of the family, she takes care of her two sisters and her injured father, they all live in a dilapidated cottage on the outskirts of their village. Her father is unable to work and therefore she has taken on the responsibility to put food on their table each night. So she hunts for food in the woods surrounding their village.

But one day when she is out hunting for food, she kills a faerie disguised as a wolf and this is where things start to go wrong for Feyre. A day or so later she is tracked down by another fae who is in the form of a beast. As her punishment for killing his friend she is forced to go live with him in the faerie lands above the wall.

At first, she is determined to find a way out, but because of a treaty that was made long ago she seemingly has no choice but to stay. Over time she falls in love with the Faerie Lord whom she is forced to live with. But all isn’t what it seems and most of the things she has been told are a lie.

There is a spell that has to be broken and she has to endure multiple tribulations in which to break said spell, which will free all fae from a spell made 49 years ago by an evil faerie Queen.

This is of course the premise of only the first book, the other two and the novella follow the aftermath of this. While I enjoyed the first book, I feel like the second and third book were my favourites. This series is obviously high fantasy but I felt like you could really feel for the characters and it also touched on topics like mental health and domestic violence (in the later books.) This I think made the characters more relatable and real.

This book is YA, but it is defiantly for more mature readers because it includes more mature content, like that mentioned above but also has some racy romance scenes, so defiantly for more mature readers.

I loved this series and I can certainly see why so many people love Sarah J. Mass’s work, I read the first three books in this series as well as the Novella ‘A Court of Frost and Starlight’ and I can defiantly say this will be defiantly something I will re-read again at some point. I’m also really looking forward to the next book that will be coming out in February, 2021, which follows two of the other characters in the book Nesta (Feyre’s Oldest Sister) and Cassian who is a character that we see more of in the later books. I totally shipped them from when they first met, so it will be interesting to see where the story goes.

Who would I recommend this for, well if you love high fantasy books then you’ll probably like this, if you don’t mind some romance then this defiantly has some of that but I felt also like it wasn’t to overpowering, I’m not usually one for too much romance so if I liked it, then you might to. Just keep in mind though that this does contain some mature content so If you’re okay with that then no problem but I wouldn’t recommend this for younger readers.

2020 Reading Challenge | Third and Fourth Quarter Update | life of Dahlia
The Art of Self-kindness by Rebecca Ray , Photo by Erin Applebee.

The Art of Self-Kindness by Rebecca Ray

I’m including a review on this book even though I haven’t yet finished it, I feel like ‘The Art of Self-kindness’ is a book that many people need, it’s a book that gives you permission to work your way to self-love and self-kindness. This is definitely a book that I needed and its one I will pick up from time to time to give myself a reminder that I need to be nicer to myself, like most of you I’m sure, I often don’t give myself the kindness that I try to give others, I mean I’m by no means perfect even I slip up from time to time but I try to give people the kindness I hope to receive in return. But when it comes to giving that same kindness to myself, I often find that hard, but it is something that I am trying to work on.

‘The Art of Self-kindness’ by Rebecca Ray, is a book you can read from start to finish or you can just pick a chapter about an area you would like to work on, whatever works for you. Each chapter contains some words by the author as well as an exercise related to that particular chapter’s topic, they also have a few inspirational quotes which are also related to that subject.

I’ve been slowly working my way through the book and even though I haven’t done all of the exercises yet (it is something I would like to do at some point), I have still found this book helpful.

The book its self isn’t hugely long but I feel that it gives the reader a lot to think about and hopefully enough to get you started on your own journey to self-kindness. So, I would recommend this book, whether you find yourself needing a bit of self-kindness and love or if you know someone who does I think this would make a nice gift to give someone.

Bonus Books (aka not from my reading list)

2020 Reading Challenge | Third and Fourth Quarter Update | life of Dahlia
Leven Thumps and the Gateway to Foo by Obert Skye, Photo by Erin Applebee.

Leven Thumps and the Gateway to Foo

Remember how I mentioned at the start of this post that I moved away from my reading list well this was the first book I picked off of my bookshelf to read. I also read this as part of the Australia Reads Challenge in November, which was basically just to encourage people to read, all you had to do was pick up a book and read for an hour on November 12th, though I wanted to aim to read most days between the 3rd to the 12th and then of course read for that hour on the 12th, I hope that makes sense. Anyway, it was a fun challenge and I am all for doing something that encourages people to read.

But let me actually get to telling you about this book. I can’t remember when I purchased this book but It’s been on my shelf for quite a few years and was probably what I would consider a cover buy meaning the cover was aesthetically pleasing so I purchased it. This book is aimed more for kids, but that doesn’t really mean anything to me, I’m happy to read books from this category if the story sounds interesting. Anyway, the cover of this book is absolutely stunning, pictures could never do it justice, it has this almost metallic finish to the paper which makes the colours and highlights of the illustration on the cover really pop when you move it around in the light.

But as for the story, ‘Leven Thumps and the Gateway to Foo’ is centered around a 14-year-old boy name you guessed it ‘Leven Thumps’ and a girl called ‘Winter’, Leven and Winter live very lackluster lives, Leven lives with his mother’s half sister and her horrible husband, he is forced to sleep on the porch, he wears second hand clothes and needs glasses but his aunt won’t buy him any. Winter lives with her mother Janet who is a horrible woman that gives her her left-overs for dinner and is constantly putting her down.

One day things change for both of the main characters, Leven notices something creeping through the fly screen of the porch his forced to sleep on which scares the hell out of him and in the moments after discovers that a furry little creature has been living under his bed and following him around for his whole live without him noticing. In different circumstances Winter discovers she has the ability to turn things to Ice.

Both discover in this book that they aren’t exactly who they know themselves to be, Leven discovers that he could be the world’s savior and Winter discovers she is from Foo or at least lived there for a time.

Foo is the place of dreams, its inhabitance sort of process and guide people’s dreams, but occasionally people will enter Foo from reality and end up stuck there, including Sabine, who wants to escape Foo and rule over both Foo and reality by finding the gateway between the worlds and allowing Foo’s inhabitance to freely move between the two. But his plans could have dire consequences for Foo and possibly reality too.

Leven and Winter have to get to Foo and close the gateway before this happens but Sabine is forting them all along the way because even though he is stuck in Foo, he can work his shadow in to reality and puts up many obstacles to prevent them from getting to the gateway to stop him from carrying out his plans. With the help of Clover (the little furry creature I mentioned earlier, his a sycophant*) and Geth the former king of Foo who is currently living as a tree and later a toothpick, they try to find their way to Foo to stop Sabine from finding the Gateway and carrying out his plans.

 *Sycophants are usually assigned to people who accidently enter Foo by mistake, their role is to spend their entire lives in service to those people, which they usually call their burns. However Clovers last burn a man named Antsel, assigned him to protect Leven.

I didn’t mind this book but I found it a little bit long winded so to speak there was a lot of back and forth for most of the book, with a small part being the actual journey and then a couple of chapters or maybe a chapter actually confronting Sabine (the villain). While there were some funny moments that had me in stitches from laughing so hard, I’m not sure I would pick up the other books in this series to keep reading. This is aimed at younger readers so I can understand wanting to keep things more mundane but the story while it was funny at times wasn’t captivating enough to keep me interested.

Though if you are a younger reader or are a parent looking for book recommendations for your children, I believe this may be aimed at children 9+ and it could be something that I can see kids enjoying, it has some fun characters, a few interesting plot twists and lots of funny moments so they might enjoy it. I would encourage going to read the official book description before purchasing, to see if it’s something that might interest you also hopefully there might be a few more reviews to help you decide.

2020 Reading Challenge | Third and Fourth Quarter Update | life of Dahlia
Aurora Cycle 01 & 02 (Aurora Rising & Aurora Burning) by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, Photo by Erin Applebee.

Aurora Cycle 01 & 02 (Aurora Rising & Aurora Burning) by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

I purchased these two novels around my birthday in October and I have to admit at the time I was unsure about the story but the covers where what really made me buy them, because the cover illustrations are stunning, but once I actually picked up ‘Aurora Rising (book 1)’ to start reading it, which was around the middle of November, I was hooked with in the first few chapters and couldn’t put it down.

While I love Science Fiction (most of my favourite tv shows are sci-fi) I actually don’t own many books in this genre, these books however, have made me want to purchase more in this genre. Something I was also surprised to find out about was that the co-Authors of this series (Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff) are actually Australian and that also made me realize that I have very few books in my collection by Australian Authors, one of my 2021 goals (of sorts) is to purchase/read more books by Australian Authors.

There are so many aspects of these books that I loved so I’ll try to give you an overview without delving in too much and ruining it for you. First off, the blurb on the back of these books doesn’t adequately tell you what you are in for when you read this series, but when you get into it, you’ll know what I mean. This series follows seven characters, including, ‘Tyler Jones’, a Star pupil who has just graduated from Aurora Academy, as an ‘Alpha’ which means he will lead a squad for the Aurora Legion, joining him on his team will be his twin sister ‘Scarlett’ as a ‘Face’ (diplomatic relations) and their bestie ‘Cat’ who is a kick-ass Pilot or ‘Ace’.

However, ‘Tyler Jones’ doesn’t end-up getting to pick all of his squad members in ‘The Draft’ and ends up with a team of members that no-one else wants on their team. But there’s a pretty good reason why and these characters whom I’ll talk a bit more about later give this book a lot of life and help keep the story interesting so why they may not have been the ones he or others wanted, you end up with a collection of very diverse and loveable characters.

The night before ‘The Draft’ Tyler goes for a flight through ‘The Fold’ (interdimensional space) and comes across a vessel that’s been lost for over 200 years (The Hadfield), after a warning on his screen, he decides to board the ship while a fold storm is in its wake and discovers one survivor out of thousands, a girl who has black hair with a white streak in the front and with little time to spare and a malfunctioning suit he rescues her. Somehow, they manage to get back to Tyler’s ship and he takes the girl back to Aurora Academy.

His little flight through the fold leaves him in a sort of quarantine and thus misses ‘The Draft’. This part of the story is really integral to starting off the whole journey. Next, we meet ‘Aurora’ the girl ‘Tyler’ recused from the ship, a girl out of time, ‘Aurora’ is a very important character in the story and her existence creates a lot of chaos and uncertainty for the character from ‘Tyler’s’ squad.

After missing ‘The Draft’, we learn who ‘Tyler’s’ other new squad mates are, ‘Finian’ a ‘Betraskian’ (an Alien Race from the planet ‘Trask’) who has to wear an exo-suit to help give him the ability to walk, he is also the teams ‘Gearhead’(responsible for the ships repairs, maintenance, etc); ‘Kal’ a ‘Syldrathi’ (another Alien race but from the planet Syldra, they have an elfish appearance to them) and is the teams ‘Tank’(responsible for tactical combat, battle strategy, etc) and ‘Zila’ a fellow ‘Terran’ who is a little bit trigger happy with her sidearm, but she is also the teams ‘Brains’(responsible for any scientific or medical needs.)

The story really starts to take off when Tyler’s squad go on their first ‘Aurora Legion’ mission, they are sent on a seemingly bland mission to help some displaced ‘Syldrathi’, but it doesn’t take long for things to go awry, they discover a stow away ‘Aurora’ on their ship, encounter rebel ‘Sydrathi’ warriors and their own people (terran’s) seem to be out to get them.

In this story the team and their stowaway experience a lot together, from conspiracy theories and urban legends, ancient alien races, plagues, a potential intergalactic war and romances amongst the crew, there may also be a couple of heists in there too.

So far there are only two books in the Aurora Cycle series ‘Aurora Rising’ as well as ‘Aurora Burning’, but there should be a third book to round out this series, at this time I’m unsure when that will be but whenever that does happen, I’ll be first in line so to speak to pick it up so that I can continue reading about this team’s adventures.

I really loved the way the authors set out these books, each chapter is from a different character’s perspective which I feel that really helps you get to know each character, but I also really enjoyed the extra information included about the universe and its history in the form of Aurora’s tablet like device I thought that was a really interesting thing to add and again I felt like it helped you really get into the story.

I would totally recommend this series, if you love Sci-fi and YA fiction, it’s a great story and it has definitely left me with wanting to read more from both this series but also wanting to read more of the Author’s works, I may have already picked up some of the books from their ‘Illuminae Files’ series, which I can’t wait to read in the new year.

Conclusion to my 2020 Reading Challenge

So, in Conclusion, I am quite proud of the reading progress I made this year, as I said at the start of this post, I managed to read around 20/21 books from my reading list and 6/7 other books not included on my list, so all up that’s around 27/28 books, which is pretty good if you ask me. Like I also said at the start of this post, I had struggled with reading for leisure for quite some time and I think that was because I was studying and so I read a lot for that reason so I struggled to read for my own enjoyment.

This year has been great for me in terms of reading and while there was a slump in the middle of the year, I have found enjoyment out of reading for leisure again and it has really sparked something inside me not only to continue reading (which I’ll have to keep doing because I purchased too many new books, opps) but also makes me want to get back into creative writing which was something I enjoyed a lot when I was younger. Though don’t expect me to start publishing books anytime soon that’s not really my goal I just want use it as another creative outlet.

So, in conclusion, I am really happy with how my reading challenge went and though I didn’t stick to the list the whole year I’m proud of the progress I made and I can’t wait to do another challenge next year, though that one I have something a bit different in mind for.

Did you do a reading challenge in 2020? how did you go let me know in the comments.

Until next time I hope you all have had a safe holiday season.

Disclaimer – This post is not sponsored and doesn’t contain any affiliate links, links included are for reference only in case your interest in checking out anything mentioned in this post. Read full Disclaimer here.

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