Sunday, January 31, 2016

Totally Should Have Book Tag!

Hello hello!

I kinda love tag posts. Now, I wasn't tagged for this, but I just love the idea of them - when bloggers/booktubers are all talking about the same things, or discussing the same concepts, etc. It's kinda fun!

So today I have the 'Totally Should Have' book tag. This is inspired by Emma over at Emma's Books, which I came across because Sasha from Book Utopia happened to do the tag the other day.

So without further ado, here we go!

1. Totally should've gotten a sequel
    
Ordinary Magic by Colleen Rubino-Bradway was the first book that came to mind for this question. This was just such an adorable book, kind of the reverse of Harry Potter - instead of a character finding out that she has magic, she finds out that she doesn't, and the book goes from there. It came out in 2012 and I thought that it should have a sequel at the time, but sadly that still hasn't happened.















2. Totally should've had a spin off series


Ugh, I just had a moment of sadness where I realized that once I would have said Divergent, before that series crashed and burned.

But honestly, with that out of the way, can there be any other answer? Harry Potter, of course!

Now, I'm going to be honest here for a moment - I'm really not a fan of the idea of the play that JKR is doing.And I suppose the Fantastic Beasts might sort of be considered a spin-off, but the book is completely different so I'm not counting it.

I loved this series so much. I know - wildly popular, of course people love it, you're thinking. But this one is truly special for me. It got me through university, it's how I met so many people, including one of my best friends, it basically was my introduction to the internet in general! So, yes - I would be ecstatic if JKR eventually decided to write a spin-off.

3. An author who totally should write more books

For this my go-to thought would be Peg Kerr. She's best known for The Wild Swans, an absolutely gorgeous book that I adore. It's a mixture of fantasy and contemporary fiction, and it's heartbreaking and beautiful. If she ever writes another book I would definitely pick it up just because this book was so amazing.

4. A character who totally should've ended up with someone else


Going to have to go with Nymphadora Tonks for this one! Ugh, don't get me wrong, I adore Tonks and I adore Remus, too. But I don't think that they were a good fit in canon - it wasn't fleshed out enough for me to buy it, and honestly I think Charlie would have been a better fit for her! As for Remus... well, I have to admit that I love him with Sirius, even if I knew that was never going to happen in the books.












5. Totally should've ended differently


 This book was such a gigantic disappointment. It's not just about the events of the book, which admittedly did not make me happy. It's about how poorly they were written, and how I ended the book feeling pissed off and confused instead of dazed and breathless like I'd thought I would be.

I probably should have taken a hint from how my opinion went throughout the book - I loved the first one, liked the second one, and, well, you guessed it - hated the third one. I actively regret reading this series and giving Roth any of my money, though I will tentatively give her another chance if she ever writes another series.








6. Totally should've had a movie franchise


 Okay, okay, so this question says 'franchise' which means that I should be thinking of a series, probably. However I'm going to be going with this book anyway since it was my first thought!

This book was awesome - action and an intriguing premise, a hint of dystopia and incredibly well written. I loved it, and I would watch the hell out of a movie based on this book.












7. Totally should've had a TV show

I'm actually blanking on this one because it takes a special sort of book series to lend itself well to a tv show, imo. Buuut probably this one:

C'mon, you just KNOW that this would be an awesome TV series. Even the first book, which is arguably the weakest, would translate well to the small screen. I'd probably want HBO to take it on, since they'd give it the budget it deserves.

















8. Totally should've had only one point of view

Hmm, honestly, my first thought? Game of Thrones. People will probably want to yell at me for this one but the different point of views and meandering storylines just bore the hell out of me. If I could just read everything from Dany's point of view I would be all over that. :D

9. Totally should have a cover change


 I haven't even read this yet, but the cover makes me head-tilt everytime I see it. It's just kind of confusing and distracting, and I don't think it really does the book any favours. So yeah, I'd definitely vote for this one to get a different cover. (Oh, and any cover that whitewashes its characters, which is sadly far more common than it should be.)















10. Totally should've kept the original covers

I can't really think of anything for this one, to be honest. Although I hate it when books are republished with the actors from the TV show/movie slapped on them, usually the original covers are much much better.

11. Totally should've stopped at book one

 I should probably more correctly say 'series one' for this one, but I'm going to use it anyway.

Funnily enough, I used to be a huge, huge fan of Cassie. That was back in her HP fandom days, and sadly, City of Bones is far too much like her fanfic for my tastes. I gave this a try and didn't really care for it because I'd basically already read it, and I've seen that even a lot of people who adored her earlier books feel as though her later books are just rehashing the same plot she wrote earlier. I can sympathise with that feeling!

I guess I just wish that Cassie would write a new world and new characters. Maybe I'd actually give her books a try again. It's not that she's not talented - she is! It just seems that she has certain plots/tropes/characters that she goes to over and over, and that doesn't work for me.



So there we go! That was actually pretty fun. Anyone reading this can feel free to do it themselves - or not! I don't like making people feel as though they have to do anything. :D

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Review: Passenger by Alexandra Bracken

Passenger Passenger by Alexandra Bracken
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Summary: In one devastating night, violin prodigy Etta Spencer loses everything she knows and loves. Thrust into an unfamiliar world by a stranger with a dangerous agenda, Etta is certain of only one thing: she has traveled not just miles but years from home. And she’s inherited a legacy she knows nothing about from a family whose existence she’s never heard of. Until now.

Nicholas Carter is content with his life at sea, free from the Ironwoods—a powerful family in the colonies—and the servitude he’s known at their hands. But with the arrival of an unusual passenger on his ship comes the insistent pull of the past that he can’t escape and the family that won’t let him go so easily. Now the Ironwoods are searching for a stolen object of untold value, one they believe only Etta, Nicholas’ passenger, can find. In order to protect her, he must ensure she brings it back to them— whether she wants to or not.

Together, Etta and Nicholas embark on a perilous journey across centuries and continents, piecing together clues left behind by the traveler who will do anything to keep the object out of the Ironwoods’ grasp. But as they get closer to the truth of their search, and the deadly game the Ironwoods are play­ing, treacherous forces threaten to sep­arate Etta not only from Nicholas but from her path home . . . forever
.


Review: 

Well, unfortunately this was a bit of a 'blah' book for me.

I really wanted to love this book, I really did. The concept sounds absolutely fascinating - I've always wanted to travel through time, and shows like Road To Avonlea and books like The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle just helped to fuel that fascination with past eras and what it would be like to live in them.

Unfortunately this book just didn't really have much of a spark for me. It didn't hold my attention. I found myself skimming much of the book because I just wanted it to get *on* with it already, which unfortunately is not so good in a book that is the start of a series.

It felt like much of this book was spent moving towards one goal, and that can get a bit tiresome unless you're reading a book that is well plotted and has rich characterization. In theory I should have been very interested in what was going on, because there was a lot of time spent on the run, escaping from other people, going into other times. Yet I just found it a bit lackluster.

The book also suffers from a rather heavy info-dump towards the beginning of the novel. This is trouble that a lot of authors run into when introducing a new world or a new concept - trying to convey all of the details without sort of dumping it all on you. Too little information and readers will be confused, too much information and you get an info-dump where it's pretty obvious that the author is just trying to give you the low-down on this world they're trying to immerse you in.

Unfortunately, the latter is what happened in this book and I found it a bit tiresome. I think with some further drafts and tweaking of the plot this could have been avoided, so it stood out to me as evidence of the writing not being quite as polished as it could have been.

I actually found the main male character - Nicholas - to be far more interesting than Etta. His past is interesting, his motivations are conflicted, he's obviously had to get used to thinking on his feet and taking care of himself. It's just too bad that he ended up overshadowing the main character we're supposed to be rooting for.

In addition to him overshadowing Etta, I also didn't really care all that much for the burgeoning romance between the two of them. I knew it was going to be there, it proceeded as expected, and that was about it, really. There was nothing that moved me, nothing that made my heart surge or even lift a little. It was just your standard YA romance, to be honest.

Now, that's not to say that this book is all bad - it's definitely not. It has a lot of fascinating settings, and the concept is unique and quite engaging. There is a lot of potential here for future books, so I think I'd probably check out a sequel to see if there's been some improvement. This one is just solidly in the 'okay' category, however.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Waiting On Wednesday #3!

Welcome to another week of Waiting On Wednesday! (Okay, it's an hour early, but I'm sleepy and want to drop the link off at the round-up!)

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted over at Breaking The Spine, and is a chance for people to share those books that we're most looking forward to.

Today I have something from one of my absolute favourite authors ever, Seanan McGuire:


 Every Heart A Doorway is due out on April the 5th, 2016, and here is the summary:

Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children
No Solicitations
No Visitors
No Quests

Children have always disappeared under the right conditions; slipping through the shadows under a bed or at the back of a wardrobe, tumbling down rabbit holes and into old wells, and emerging somewhere... else.

But magical lands have little need for used-up miracle children.

Nancy tumbled once, but now she’s back. The things she’s experienced... they change a person. The children under Miss West’s care understand all too well. And each of them is seeking a way back to their own fantasy world.

But Nancy’s arrival marks a change at the Home. There’s a darkness just around each corner, and when tragedy strikes, it’s up to Nancy and her new-found schoolmates to get to the heart of the matter.

No matter the cost.

UGH, it sounds so good!! I put in an ARC request for this on Netgalley and I'm crossing my fingers so hard, but regardless, I am going to be reading this book as soon as it comes out!

Seanan is one of those authors where you wonder how on earth she does it. First, she is amazing versatile - she writes contemporary fantasy under Seanan McGuire, but then she also writes zombies and science-fictiony stuff under the name Mira Grant. She currently has...three series on the go, last count, and she usually has 1-2 books release a year.

She is amazingly talented and all around awesome, and I highly suggest all of you check out her October Daye series as well as her Newsflesh series under Mira Grant. I'm super excited for this book to come out!!

Monday, January 25, 2016

It's Monday - What Are You Reading?

Hello hello!

I was looking back over my blog recently and found that it was mostly reviews. Which is fine, because I think reviews are great and a way to share thoughts and think critically about books. I want to lighten things up a bit, though, and also *share* more, if that makes sense - so another weekly meme that caught my eye is the What Are You Reading meme. It's hosted by Kathryn over at The Book Date - feel free to shimmy on over there to check out what other people are reading!

So, this is what I'm reading right now!


First up is Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon! I'm actually quite liking this, it's not as fluffy and dramatic as I was expecting. Starts off a bit slow but I can appreciate the effort to immerse us in the world!


Also on the go is All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. This one is interesting. The writing is very...lyrical, I guess you could say? I have a feeling it's one of those books that is slowly building up to the pay-off at the end. It completely draws you into the world that's been created, which I like.


And this is the one other book I'm starting - The Book Thief, by Marcus Zusak. The way that this is written is so far not at all what I was expecting, but I'm hoping that I will like it! Also, I literally *just* realized what was going on on the cover - for some reason I completely missed that those were dice lined up.

Recently Read:

     Passenger, by Alexandra Bracken. Unfortunately this one disappointed me. I have my review already up on GR, but I'll have it up over here in the next little while.

     The Book Of Negroes by Lawrence Hill. This book hits home - a very difficult read, but an important one all the same, I think. I don't have my reviews up anywhere but I'll be posting something on GR and over here in the next week or so.

Up Next:

 The 5th Wave, by Rick Yancey. I know, I know... I somehow haven't read this yet! I actually bought it about a year ago and just haven't picked it up. I have it sitting out at home so that I won't forget to read it.

I'll See You In Paris, by Michelle Gable. This one is actually an ARC, due out on February 6th - I need to get on this to have it read in time!
 

 

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Review: A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

A Thousand Splendid Suns A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Summary:  Propelled by the same superb instinct for storytelling that made The Kite Runner a beloved classic, A Thousand Splendid Suns is at once an incredible chronicle of thirty years of Afghan history and a deeply moving story of family, friendship, faith, and the salvation to be found in love.

Born a generation apart and with very different ideas about love and family, Mariam and Laila are two women brought jarringly together by war, by loss and by fate. As they endure the ever escalating dangers around them—in their home as well as in the streets of Kabul—they come to form a bond that makes them both sisters and mother-daughter to each other, and that will ultimately alter the course not just of their own lives but of the next generation. With heart-wrenching power and suspense, Hosseini shows how a woman’s love for her family can move her to shocking and heroic acts of self-sacrifice, and that in the end it is love, or even the memory of love, that is often the key to survival.

A stunning accomplishment, A Thousand Splendid Suns is a haunting, heartbreaking, compelling story of an unforgiving time, an unlikely friendship, and an indestructible love.


Review: 
 
3.5 to this one, I think. I actually finished this book a couple of days ago but decided to let it sit while I decided what I wanted to write about it.

I also wanted to see if my opinion would shift on it, since the reviews from people on my friends list have been a bit mixed.

I found this to be a solid book, very lyrical and moving. It tells the story of two women in Afghanistan, a generation apart, and how their lives are brought together - whether you regard it by chance or by fate, they change each other's lives and this is their story.

This isn't what I would call a happy book, though I found it to be tinged with hope, infused with the strength of the human spirit. It's a book you read to learn more about the world and the cultures that fill it, and perhaps do some reflecting on how different our lives would be if we'd happened to be born into a different family, a different culture. This was another reminder for myself of just how lucky I was to be born in Canada. The experiences in this book are far removed from what most of us on here have ever gone through ourselves, and surpass our understanding - the grief, the oppression, the poverty, the struggle to survive. It's something to sit with and reflect on, and consider all the ways that we could and should be trying to change it.

One thing I really enjoyed about this book was the cast of characters in it, and the spectrum that they covered. For all that we sympathise with certain characters, their flaws are also readily apparent - from the selfishness of Mariam's mother and her choices and her father's cowardice, to the cruelty of women who had the chance to give her a different life, to the home life of Laila's mother, a woman we first see through Mariam's eyes.

I've seen some criticism of how men are portrayed in this book, and while I understand where those criticisms are coming from, I think they were offset by certain characters within the book. It's not that all of the men are evil or bad, merely that the story that's being told is very much shaped by men and the poor or perhaps misguided decisions they make, and the actions they consider 'right' which very clearly are not. I think there needs to be room for that kind of story. I also think it's important to remember that every story has a point of view or a perspective that it is trying to show, and that not all books can show all perspectives - and that's okay. I think the story that this book is trying to convey is extremely important and that certain changes would have taken away from what it was.

This book also delves into Afghan history, and for that I think I'll have to reread it at some point - on this read I was more focused on the plot and the characters, and on a second read I think I'd have more awareness of the political backdrop, and absorbing the events that are happening and connecting them to research. I enjoy when a book makes that possible, since this isn't a country that I know much about.

This isn't a book that is an easy or a fun read, as fair warning. It's not the sort of book that you'll want to pick up to read for a bit of fun distraction or 'light reading. It's definitely worthwhile, however, and one I'm glad I picked up. I'm also going to add it to my list of diverse books!

View all my reviews

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Waiting On Wednesday #2:

Welcome to another week of Waiting On Wednesday!

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted over at Breaking The Spine, and is a chance for people to share those books that we're most looking forward to.



This week I have something a little different, and I'm very intrigued... 


Blackhearts, written by Nicole Castroman, is due out on February 9th, 2016, and here's a taste of what it's about: 


Blackbeard the pirate was known for striking fear in the hearts of the bravest of sailors. But once he was just a young man who dreamed of leaving his rigid life behind to chase adventure in faraway lands. Nothing could stop him—until he met the one girl who would change everything.

Edward "Teach" Drummond, son of one of Bristol's richest merchants, has just returned from a year-long journey on the high seas to find his life in shambles. Betrothed to a girl he doesn’t love and sick of the high society he was born into, Teach dreams only of returning to the vast ocean he’d begun to call home. There's just one problem: convincing his father to let him leave and never come back.

Following her parents' deaths, Anne Barrett is left penniless and soon to be homeless. Though she’s barely worked a day in her life, Anne is forced to take a job as a maid in the home of Master Drummond. Lonely days stretch into weeks, and Anne longs for escape. How will she ever realize her dream of sailing to CuraƧao—where her mother was born—when she's stuck in England?

From the moment Teach and Anne meet, they set the world ablaze. Drawn to each other, they’re trapped by society and their own circumstances. Faced with an impossible choice, they must decide to chase their dreams and go, or follow their hearts and stay.

I love books like this, so I really hope that this one is awesome! I love it when people take the time to think about what a famous character or person could have been like before they were famous... It reminds me of this amazing fic I once read about Voldemort back when he was Tom Riddle, and it was amazing. Love stuff like that.

So that's it for another week! I'm enjoying this - I might not post every week, but I think it's something I'm going to keep in mind from week to week.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Review: Counterfeit Conspiracies by Ritter Ames

Counterfeit Conspiracies Counterfeit Conspiracies by Ritter Ames
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Genres: Mysteries, action, suspense

Summary: Laurel Beacham may have been born with a silver spoon in her mouth, but she has long since lost it digging herself out of trouble. Her father gambled and womanized his way through the family fortune before skiing off an Alp, leaving her with more tarnish than trust fund. Quick wits and connections have gained her a reputation as one of the world’s premier art recovery experts. The police may catch the thief, but she reclaims the missing masterpieces.

The latest assignment, however, may be her undoing. Using every ounce of luck and larceny she possesses, Laurel must locate a priceless art icon and rescue a co-worker (and ex-lover) from a master criminal, all the while matching wits with a charming new nemesis. Unfortunately, he seems to know where the bodies are buried—and she prefers hers isn’t next.


Review: Oh, this was fun!

If you like mysteries mixed with action and a hint of James Bond glamour, then this book is for you.

Mysteries are touch and go, with me. Too slow, and I lose interest or end up flipping to the end to try and figure out what's going on. But action scenes also need to be well written, or else you're just left trying to figure out what's going on. Plus you need a bit of lightness and humour to balance everything out, otherwise things can get a bit heavy and bogged down.

Counterfeit Conspiracies is a book that manages balance these things pretty well. Our main heroine is stubborn, quick thinking and independent - but she's also very real, with vulnerabilities, mistakes and emotions that shine throughout the course of the novel.

Now, our main male character - he's an interesting one. Utterly infuriating at times, and pretty much the main reason I ended up lowering the star count a little bit. I get the urge to have a hero who is charming but prickly, a mystery and a bit infuriating - but he crossed the line into being a bit too controlling a couple of times, which rubbed me the wrong way.

Still, this book is fast paced and flew by, and the banter and balance between Laurel and Jack mostly offset the moments where I had to grit my teeth a bit. This is the sort of book that is perfect to pick up on a weekend when you want to be spirited away and imagine yourself living a wild and intriguing life - minus the danger, of course!

A copy of this book was provided for free through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

View all my reviews

Monday, January 18, 2016

Book Haul!

Before Christmas my work had a Christmas party and something miraculous happened - I won something!!

That something was a $50 gift card for the local mall. So of course I was stoked - though makeup and clothes were my first thoughts, I had to admit. But deciding to spend some of my Shoppers Optimum points took care of the makeup, and then going to Walmart + iGigi screwing up and having to give me a $40 gift card took care of the second...

So of course, I did what any reasonable book lover in my position would do - I considered it fate, and decided to spend the gift card on books.

In total I came home with five, and I'm pretty happy with my choices, honestly.

I don't have pictures of all of them, unfortunately - I would love to do a pretty little picture with them all stacked or whatever, to show you them. However two of them are now at home with me and the rest are at work, so a mixture of pictures and book covers from Goodreads will have to do!

So, here are the books I got today!


First up are The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro and The Danish Girl by David Ebershoff.

I actually went into this trip hoping to pick up The Buried Giant, and I'm really happy with this purchase. First, it was on sale - score! Second, the cover is absolutely beautiful, and I like it much better than the other one that's available for this. The second book just happened to catch my eye and was also on sale, so I decided to pick it up - it sounds intriguing, so I hope I like it!

Next is All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. This one caught my eye on a shelf, and I was debating whether or not to purchase it when I took a look at the Goodreads ratings, which made up my mind for me. I know, it says Winner Of The Pulitzer Prize right on the front.. But awards aren't everything! I trust the overall view of the people I have on GR.

Next up is an epic fantasy that I've been contemplating for awhile, though I must admit that I haven't finished the last epic fantasy book that I picked up by this author... Nevertheless, I present:

Gardens Of The Moon, by Steven Erikson. This baby is 700+ pages and is part of a series that seems to currently have...nine books? Ohgod, what did I get myself into. Anyway! We'll see - I've had this recommended to me by a couple of people, and I keep trying my hand at epic fantasy to see if I'll ever find a series that I can finish.

And lastly, for something completely different we have a book that I've heard a lot about, for which the hype never quite drew me in... I just finally decided to take the plunge and finally find out what the fuss is about:







I'm kind of annoyed that I had to choose between this cover or a big clunky hardcover for this one, but ah well, that's the way it goes. I'm interested to see if this lives up to the reputation and good reviews for me, or whether I'm turned off.

So there we go, five books for today's book haul! I'm excited, I've already started in on one of them and might start in on a second since I left All The Light We Cannot See at work to be the one I read there.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Review: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

An Ember in the Ashes An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Summary: Laia is a slave.

Elias is a soldier.

Neither is free.


Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.

It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.

But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.

There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.


Review: 

  I don't usually do this, but.... This book is totally worth five stars, for me.

Every once in awhile that book comes along that's just perfect. It's not too cheesy, it doesn't have any slut-shaming issues, the world building is awesome, the plot is interesting, the characters are interesting. This is one of those books.

I'm actually so glad that I held off reading this last year when I thought that there wasn't going to be a sequel. Knowing that there was, I decided to take the plunge, and the book is immensely satisfying when you know that a sequel is coming.

I'm fascinated by the world that Sabaa Tahir has built, here, and the people she's placed in it. We have strong lead characters of both genders, antagonists or outright *evil* characters of both genders, and friendships that are beautifully developed throughout the course of the book. I actually quite enjoyed the fact that one of our 'darker' and 'evil' characters was a woman, here - I'm hoping that we learn more about her in the future to give some background to her actions, because I'm so curious about her.

We also have magic, action, friendship and loyalty put to the test, characters facing their deepest fears. We have people with nuance! The dual perspectives is amazing, too, because it avoids that horrible 'evil villains who exist to be evil' trope that so many books run into. In my experience most people have at least a seed of a reason for why they do the things they do, and overlooking that saps a book's complexity, imo. Thankfully that is not the case here!

The *one* area where I might have been tempted to dock a half star is the love quadrangle that's going on, but honestly, everything else in the book is so awesome that it kind of outweighs that.

So, yes. Awesome book, and I can wait for the sequel. I'm SO glad that I picked this book as part of my Diverse Books Reading challenge for 2016!

View all my reviews

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Beauty Post!!

Okay, so normally I just talk about books on here, but one thing I love about blogs is their versatility. It's a space where we can share all sorts of things. Before I ever had this blog I had a Livejournal, and on there I wrote about just about anything that you can imagine. This spot isn't quite the same, but I still don't consider this blog to fall neatly within boundaries that I won't stray from.

Anyway! So on to why I'm posting...

I've had such fun with makeup the last couple of weeks because of an awesome gift I was given by my best friend... The Urban Decay Naked 2 Palette!

This picture honestly does not do it justice, though I'm sure that anyone who knows anything about makeup will know enough about this palette that I don't need to go into great detail. It's just awesome to have this because it's one of those things that I probably wouldn't have bought for myself, if I'm honest. I never wore makeup much when I was younger, and it's still something that I'm very much learning about, as pathetic as that might be at my age.

So I've been enjoying experimenting with this the last couple of weeks, and that actually nudged me to make a couple of purchases.

First up is Benefit's They're Real mascara. I am absolutely loving this mascara. It's not chunky or hard to apply, it comes off pretty easily, and the length it gives my lashes is incredible. I've seen some complaints that it looks 'spidery' but it seems to layer pretty well so I haven't really had that problem. At $30 a pop it's a bit more than what some people will be looking for in their budget, but I think it's well worth it.

I actually really like the packaging, too - it's a pretty, glossy little container that sits upright (I hate mascaras that don't do this) and I actually really like the brown colour that I picked up. Sometimes I feel like black mascaras are too 'bold' for me, if that makes sense, and the brown adds the length but it doesn't feel like it's popping with 'wow, black' that some mascaras do.


This last one is something that I'd heard rumblings about over on Reddit (Makeup Addiction if you're interested) and I happened to spot it last night when I was in Walmart. This is the Covergirl TruNaked Roses palette and it's supposed to be a pretty close dupe of the Urban Decay Naked 3 Palette - except much cheaper, of course. I actually got the last one on the shelf and I'm really excited to try it out. I don't think I could justify the cost of a $50 palette of colours I wouldn't wear as often, but this was about $12, much more reasonable!

This palette is actually supposed to be quite good, too - very good texture, good application, and the colours are supposed to be awesome as well.

So that's my beauty post for the week! Not sure how often I'll be doing these but I wanted to share. :)


Friday, January 15, 2016

Favourite Books Of 2015!


So I've been doing a lot of thinking over the last week or so. It was probably about November when I took a look at my Goodreads challenge and realized how pitifully short I was falling from attaining my reading goal - initially it was 125 books, then it was 100... In the end I had to settle for 50. 

The biggest reason for this is just a lack of focus, if I'm honest. I had the time to read, I just was busy doing other things! I think a small part of it might have been that I lost sight a bit of reading for myself - I was very focused on doing ARC reviews, and trying to keep up with all of the hype and the latest trend, so to speak. This year I've decided to do things a bit differently, and that includes changing up the stuff that I post here - not just review posts, but other things too. After all, this is a *blog*, not a review site! 

So what better way to start off than briefly touching on the books that I really enjoyed in 2015? It's a bit late in the month, I suppose, but better late than never, right?

First up is Shutter, by Courtney Alameda! If you have a thing for YA and ghosts and kick-ass heroines, you're sure to love this book. I often find that horrorish books kind of drag for me, but this was a definite exception!









Next is The Queen Of The Tearling, by Erika Johansen! This book was fantastic - a beautiful, magical world, a heroine who stumbles along but has strength in spite of that, a cast of characters that is fascinating and intriguing. The sequel The Invasion Of The Tearling is also out, so I definitely suggest readers check out this series!







Anna Dressed In Blood by Kendare Blake was another one of my favourites. If you love the TV show Supernatural I can pretty much guarantee that you will adore this. It's so much fun, with a character who is easy to empathise with, interesting mythology and a ghost who isn't quite what you might expect her to be! This also has a sequel in case you're wanting more. :D







To change things up a bit, next up is Flowers For Algernon, by Daniel Keyes. This book is just... amazing. It moved me, it made me think, it is fascinating. Many of you probably had to read this or the short story it's based on for school, but imo it's definitely worth a reread if you have the time.








Next we have The Last Days Of Ptolemy Grey, by Walter Mosley. This book was just... Oh, it was so much fun. It's about life and aging and family, and also about racism and violence and betrayal. The main character has an incredibly strong voice that drew me in, and I highly recommend this book.








Lastly we have Sculptor, a graphic novel by Scott McCloud. This is one of the first graphic novels I've ever read, and I freaking loved it. It's moving, it's intricate, it's about love and life, and it's incredibly well done. A wonderful start into graphic novels, for me.








And there we have it! Since I only read 50 books, I think 6 top favourites is a good start. Hopefully I'll be able to bump that up a bit next year if I read more books!

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Review: Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Never Let Me Go Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'm going to start off by saying that I think going into this book fairly blind to what it is about is pretty key. That's what I did, and I think that went better than if I had known the premise and kept looking for it, so to speak.

What to say about this book. Honestly, in ways I was kind of disappointed. I'm still going to give other books by this author a shot, because I'm trying to expand my intake of literary fiction, but suffice to say this wasn't quite what I had expected.

This is one of those books where it's not about the destination, but about the journey. As the book progresses we slowly learn about the truth of the world that our narrator, Kathy, lives in - but it's a gradual process, and the key point is how normal it all seems. We explore Kathy's childhood and school days and friendships and learn more about the others around them, and this is all against a backdrop that was the essence of what kept me turning the page - waiting for the other shoe to drop, so to speak, and for the focus to shift.

The focus never does shift, though, and that is where the true impact of the book comes through. It's almost surreal in nature, because you're expecting one thing, and get another - a world in which something that most of us would find abhorrent and awful is completely normalized, so much so that it's just the backdrop that the characters move against. While they may not be completely at ease with it, it is certainly something that they have definitely accepted.

This both did and didn't work for me. It ended up being a strange sort of contrast, if I'm honest - my emotional intensity was increased, but when the characters were so matter of fact about their world and their fate, it muted my own response somewhat. The lack of action directly tied into this, of course - this isn't a book that's about a grand battle, or a fight for what's right. It's simply a depiction of a world in which things are the way they are, and we get a glimpse into people living their lives in this reality.

Here I'm going to delve a bit into a more spoilery reaction. Stop reading here if you don't want any spoilers!

Honestly, I struggled a bit with how normalized everything was, as I said before. While I get that the author is trying to show a world in which cloning is just completely accepted, I found it a bit difficult to accept that the clones themselves would have no objection or fear regarding what they were going to go through. The whole point is to highlight that they're people, and this is what's happening to them - so where is their fear, their confusion, even a hint that they might not want to donate all of their vital organs to save others? The 'tralala, here's the part where we start donating and everything's fine' attitude was just difficult to grasp, for me, in part because it didn't even seem like the author was trying to show resignation - it seemed more like we were just supposed to accept that for them, this is just how life is.

The reason this didn't work for me is because of the tenacity of the human spirit. I can remind myself that characterization is the focus until I'm blue in the face, but that doesn't take away all of my questions - where was the human drive to survive? What controls were in place to make sure that the clones actually fulfill their purpose? They seem to live rather free lives, going about their business as carers and then as donators, but what's stopping them from running away? Not only are there seemingly no physical controls, it also seems as though they're not tracked or anything like that, either. The one small effort they make it simply to try and postpone things a bit, but there's never a group effort to escape or run away, or even fight back at all. It was odd.

In essence, by making the characterization the focus, the impact is actually lessened because so many of my questions were left unanswered. Instead of the backdrop being muted, it seemed as though it had holes in it that I wanted to poke at, basically.

Despite the flaws that I've just gone into, the writing is very good, and the building of friendships and all the little squabbles and tensions that teenage relationships are so fraught with was well executed too. If I simply focus on the friendships and characterizations, and what it means to face the loss of someone, then I would rate this book probably a four. However the issues that I've mentioned above have lowered it to a three.

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Waiting On Wednesday #1

Hello hello!

I thought that I would do something new today, and that's posting my own Waiting On Wednesday. Waiting on Wednesday is hosted over at Breaking The Spine, and is a chance for people to share those books that we're breathlessly anticipating!

This week I have a book for you that is actually a sequel to a book that I read as a part of my 2016 Diverse Books Reading Challenge - you can follow the link if you want to read more about that!


As the image says, this is not the final cover! A Torch Against The Night by Sabaa Tahir is due out in August of 2016, and it is the sequel to An Ember In The Ashes, a fantasy set in a Roman-esque world. I don't want to paste the summary here because I don't want to spoil anyone on the first book, but I loved the first one and will have a review posted in the next week or so.

Set against a backdrop that is both brutal and fascinating, the series tells the story of Leia and Elias. Leia is a Scholar, a downtrodden and oppressed group of people who were conquered by the Martials. Desperate to save her brother from the clutches of the Martials, she will do just about anything even though she's terrified. Elias is one of the Martials and also one of their elite soldiers - but he wants more than the life he's expected to lead.

There's also a cast of supporting characters who are in their own ways awesome, terrifying and compelling, and the world building is fantastic. There's also friendship and romance and rivalry and action.  I couldn't be more excited to get my hands on this next book!


Monday, January 11, 2016

2016 Diverse Books Reading Challenge

I meant to do a post about this earlier this week, but better late than never, right?

2016 Diverse Books Reading Challenge
This challenge is hosted by Mishma over at Chasing Faerytales (you can click the picture above for a link) and I thought it looked awesome.

Diversity is something that I consider very important, but I know that it's tended to fall by the wayside when it comes to my own reading habits. So, hence this challenge!

So, the goal:

Read books that are diverse.  In other words, the main character must be a member of a diverse group!

Defined by We Need Diverse Books:  We recognize all diverse experiences, including (but not limited to) LGBTQIApeople of colorgender diversitypeople with disabilities*, and ethnic, cultural, and religious minorities.     

Themes throughout the year:

January to March: Ethnic diversity
April to June: LGBTQIA+ diversity
July to September: Religious diversity
October to December: Mental and physical health and disabilities. 

Personally, I think my big focuses are probably going to be ethnic diversity and mental & physical health and disabilities. Mostly because I think these are the books that I lack the most of in my reading repertoire, though the LGBTQIA is also one that is near and dear to my heart considering that I'm bisexual.

So far this is the TBR I've settled on:

1. An Ember In The Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
2. Aristotle and Dante Discover The Secrets Of The Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz
3. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

I think that's a good way to start off - basically a book a month, maybe more. Wish me luck!

 

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Review: Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas

Crown of Midnight Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Summary: An assassin’s loyalties are always in doubt.
But her heart never wavers.

After a year of hard labor in the Salt Mines of Endovier, eighteen-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien has won the king's contest to become the new royal assassin. Yet Celaena is far from loyal to the crown – a secret she hides from even her most intimate confidantes.

Keeping up the deadly charade—while pretending to do the king's bidding—will test her in frightening new ways, especially when she's given a task that could jeopardize everything she's come to care for. And there are far more dangerous forces gathering on the horizon -- forces that threaten to destroy her entire world, and will surely force Celaena to make a choice.

Where do the assassin’s loyalties lie, and who is she most willing to fight for?
  


Review: 


Oh man, I am SO glad that I read this book!! What started off as a rather tame, yawn-worthy series has really expanded gloriously in this book, and I loved it. I ended up zooming through it in every spare minute that I had at work today, finishing it in a few short hours because I was sucked in from the very first page.

I had so many issues when it came to the first book. Our heroine was too bloody perfect, there was a love-triangle, I didn't find much about Celaena believable, and it seemed to drag on and on when the conclusion was already pretty clear.

This book is pretty much the opposite of the first one.

I really loved what Sarah J. Maas did with her characters in this book. The ones in the first book were kind of flat and one-dimensional, the types that you can find in almost any fantasy or YA novel out there. It frustrated me a lot, especially Celaena - I almost stopped reading more than once, because I was just so disappointed with the characterization.

In this book we get into our character's heads, and it doesn't feel as though we're wrapped up in a romance with main characters who just happen to be an assassin, a prince and a captain of the guard. No, in this book shit gets real, to put it bluntly, and it was a breath of fresh air to see Chaol, Dorian and Celaena learn and grow - not necessarily together, unfortunately, but the process still wonderful to watch nonetheless.

Beyond the characterization, the writing is just fantastic. In contrast to the meandering snooze-fest that the first book was at times, this book is tightly-plotted. Not only that, it's filled with action and betrayal and magic and a hint of romance, with intrigues and plots that will make your head spin, and more than a few secrets to be discovered throughout the course of the novel. It keeps you guessing and gets your stomach churning, and it doesn't pull its punches, either.

And that ending... If you don't immediately want to pick up the next book, I will be surprised.

In essence, it was awesome. Highly recommend that anyone who is hesitating over this series because of the first book at least give it a try for this one!

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Thursday, January 7, 2016

Review: The Assassin's Curse

The Assassin's Curse The Assassin's Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Summary: Ananna of the Tanarau abandons ship when her parents try to marry her off to another pirate clan. But that only prompts the scorned clan to send an assassin after her. When Ananna faces him down one night, armed with magic she doesn't really know how to use, she accidentally activates a curse binding them together.
 

Review: 
 
Oh, this book was fun!

Okay, so the heroine was a little prone to being incredibly stupid, but a heroine or hero isn't quite the same if they aren't a bit foolhardy, now are they?

The world is interesting, and it's easy to sympathise with Ananna's desire to seize her own destiny in her hands and be in control for once. In doing so she insults the family of her intended betrothed, and that in turn leads her fate to be entwined with that of the assassin sent to kill her for said insult.

The book is very character focused, in a lot of ways - the world is there and intriguing, but the people in it take the focus, from Ananna and the pirates she grew up with, to Naji and the mysterious Jadorr'a that he is a member of, and all the people they meet along the way. It's a tad bit light on the development side now that I've let it sit in my brain for a few days, but it was still an enjoyable read.

I don't know about everyone else, but that's the sort of story that I enjoy. While I said above that Ananna had moments of being stupid, I still liked the character that the author has built, here - someone independent but caring, a little afraid but brave in spite of it, and stronger than she realizes it. I'll be checking out the second book in this series :)

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Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Review: Fearless Love by Meg Benjamin

Fearless Love Fearless Love by Meg Benjamin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Summary: MG Carmody never figured her musical dreams would crash against the reality of Nashville. Now the only thing she has going for her is her late grandfather’s chicken farm, which comes with molting hens that won’t lay, one irascible rooster, and a huge mortgage held by a ruthless opponent—her Great Aunt Nedda.

With fewer eggs to sell, MG needs extra money, fast. Even if it means carving out time for a job as a prep cook at The Rose—and resisting her attraction to its sexy head chef.

Joe LeBlanc has problems of his own. He’s got a kitchen full of temperamental cooks—one of whom is a sneak thief—a demanding cooking competition to prepare for, and an attraction to MG that could easily boil over into something tasty. If he could figure out the cause of the shy beauty’s lack of self-confidence.  

In Joe’s arms, MG’s heart begins to find its voice. But between kitchen thieves, performance anxiety, saucy saboteurs, greedy relatives, and one very pissed-off rooster, the chances of them ever making sweet music are looking slimmer by the day.
 


Review: 
 
This was such a nice, feel-good book to read to start off the year. :)

Over my years of reading various romances I've come to the conclusion that it's fairly easy to throw two characters together, add a bit of chemistry and then pronounce them in love. It's more difficult, however, to build a story around the romance that's an actual plot (and not just events masquerading as a distraction for the love story).

This book succeeds in doing just that, though, and that's what made this so enjoyable to read.

The main focus of our story is MG, a vulnerable singer who has seen her dreams crash and burn and now faces the fear that she might be unsuccessful again when it comes to keeping her grandfather's farm. Into this comes Joe LeBlanc, head chef of a local restaurant - generous, with his offer of a job for her, and all too distracting with how sexy he is.

The two main characters alone probably could have carried the story, but I love that they didn't. Instead we have a fascinating community as a backdrop, and a cast of characters who are interesting in their own right - I wasn't surprised when I came to the book page and saw that the author has written a whole series of books in this community. It's a wonderful way to write romances, in my opinion, and it really makes the people come to life, and their stories really appeal to the reader.

In addition to that we have a lot going on in the background to keep us interested - kitchen hijinks, a thief on the loose, cooking contests - and of course there's Aunt Nedda in the background, and what she's up to. Add that to the chemistry and sweet romance building between Joe and MG, and we have the perfect recipe that makes me want to check out the other books in this series.

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Review: The Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

The Invasion of the Tearling The Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Summary: With each passing day, Kelsea Glynn is growing into her new responsibilities as Queen of the Tearling. By stopping the shipments of slaves to the neighboring kingdom of Mortmesne, she crossed the Red Queen, a brutal ruler whose power derives from dark magic, who is sending her fearsome army into the Tearling to take what is hers. And nothing can stop the invasion.

But as the Mort army draws ever closer, Kelsea develops a mysterious connection to a time before the Crossing, and she finds herself relying on a strange and possibly dangerous ally: a woman named Lily, fighting for her life in a world where being female can feel like a crime. The fate of the Tearling —and that of Kelsea’s own soul—may rest with Lily and her story, but Kelsea may not have enough time to find out.



Review: 

 DAWN CAME QUICKLY on the Mort border. One minute there was nothing but a hazy line of blue against the horizon, and the next, bright streaks stretched upward from eastern Mortmesne, drenching the sky. The luminous reflection spread across Lake Karczmar until the surface was nothing but a glowing sheet of fire, an effect only broken when a light breeze lapped at the shores and the smooth surface divided into waves.

Starting paragraph of the book and I was hooked already... :D

I need to start off this review with an apology to the publisher and the author!! I got this book *months* ago, right as I got busy with work and traveling and a reading slump, which equated to me not getting around to reviewing it. I feel horrible because this was one of the books that I was so excited to read in 2015, and I got an ARC of it, too. Not how I wanted to handle it!

But on to the review, since I know that's actually what people are here for!

I really enjoyed this book. It picks up right where the other one left off and we're plunged into a story of war and self discovery, twining together the Tearling's past and present and future in a way that I found completely fascinating.

This book surprised me when I hit Chapter Two, mostly because that was when I suddenly realized something about this book: it's not completely fantasy. Nope! It's actually a combination of fantasy and science fiction, and I just want to take a moment to tell you guys how incredibly stoked I was at this revelation!

For the record, I'm the sort that loved the show Battlestar Galactica, the Stargate series, etc. Basically anything that combines our reality with science and magic and I am *so* there. There's just something so incredible and fascinating about it - maybe because it leaves open the door to it being possible in our world... :)

At any rate, as soon as I realized that this was what was going on I was, if possible, even more fascinated than I already was. From Chapter Two onwards throughout the book we learn more about the Tearling's history and Kelsea's ancestral past, and how that's wrapped up with her present and the future. There's also war going on, bargaining, a good dose of religious abuse of power, a hint of romance - this book kinda has it all.

I really enjoyed watching Kelsea learn and grow throughout this book. Not all of it is good, no - she makes mistakes, and there's a dangerous side to her, too. She's twisted and insecure, powerful and vulnerable, brave and selfish, and every inch a Queen. I think that's why I love her as a character so, so much - she's not perfect, she screws up and makes mistakes, but she loves her queendom and she's prepared to do what it takes to save it. That, my friends, is a kick-ass heroine.

Now, that's not to say that there weren't pitfalls in this book - sometimes the jumps back and forth seemed a bit too much, and the characterization of certain people - namely Pen and Mace - is still lacking. Something I really hope the author works on in the next book. I know that Kelsea is understandably the focus, but it felt like we learned a lot about some people who weren't necessarily essential to the story in the same way - but I'm divided there, since I loved the way the author chose to show us what was going on in other areas of the Tearling. You decide for yourself, I guess!

All in all, I thought that while this had its weaknesses, it was still enjoyable and I can't wait for the third part of the trilogy to come out later this year.

I'll leave you with this:


“Forced to it,” Kelsea repeated, grimacing. “I know how you conduct yourself in wartime, Lady Andrews. You’ll probably greet General Genot himself with a glass of whisky and a free fuck.”

Doesn't mince words, does she? :D A lady after my own heart.


Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book through Edelweiss in return for an honest review.

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Sunday, January 3, 2016

Review: Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt

Tell the Wolves I'm Home Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Summary: 1987. There’s only one person who has ever truly understood fourteen-year-old June Elbus, and that’s her uncle, the renowned painter Finn Weiss. Shy at school and distant from her older sister, June can only be herself in Finn’s company; he is her godfather, confidant, and best friend. So when he dies, far too young, of a mysterious illness her mother can barely speak about, June’s world is turned upside down. But Finn’s death brings a surprise acquaintance into June’s life—someone who will help her to heal, and to question what she thinks she knows about Finn, her family, and even her own heart.

At Finn’s funeral, June notices a strange man lingering just beyond the crowd. A few days later, she receives a package in the mail. Inside is a beautiful teapot she recognizes from Finn’s apartment, and a note from Toby, the stranger, asking for an opportunity to meet. As the two begin to spend time together, June realizes she’s not the only one who misses Finn, and if she can bring herself to trust this unexpected friend, he just might be the one she needs the most.
 


Review: Ehhhhhhhhhhhh.

^ That is the sound that I make when I really, really, really wanted to like a book, but unfortunately did not like it quite as much as I had hoped.

As I get older I sometimes have a feeling that the reality of the AIDS crisis and living through the 80's is something that we are still coming to grasp with. The reality is, it had been a long time since humans had had to deal with a disease that was so vicious, so lethal, and that spread so quickly and intimately. It hit the young and vital and destroyed them - literally wiping out whole groups of friends and communities, with only a few surviving by some small miracle.

It's something that I think that we could all stand to learn a little more about, and so when I saw a review that mentioned this book I was thrilled to give it a shot. A book about a young girl who had lost someone to AIDS? A book set in the 80's, the decade when I was born? Ohhh yes, I was definitely interested.

This review has been percolating in my head since yesterday afternoon when I finished this book, mostly because I knew that it wasn't that I hated it. But there was so much that I was uncomfortable with and that I disliked, even though there was much about the book that I found lyrical and beautiful, and extremely well written.

The main character of June and all her quirks is exquisitely realized. She's one of those characters that definitely seems real - we're there, inside her head, experiencing all her joys and moments of white-hot embarrassment, all the tribulations of being a teenager who has lost someone dear to her, has a rocky relationship with her sister, who is struggling with growing up and being different. I can see bits of myself in June, and her moments of grief and embarrassment tugged at my heart, because I could definitely empathise with her situation.

Other characters are well written as well. June's uncle, Finn, and Toby, the stranger - they come alive as well, through June's memories and experiences. June's sister Greta is there as well - almost as vivid as June herself, given that the two of them are sisters.

In essence, this is a very character, description driven book, and much of that is just perfect.

Here is where I have to get into what bothered me about this book, though - which is difficult to do, without going into spoilers.

To say it in a non-spoilery fashion, I am disappointed with the way the relationships were presented in this book. It felt like much of the book was spent going over the same things - the same issue with Greta, the same weight on June's shoulders in regards to her relationship with her uncle. Sometimes a book is more about the journey than the destination, but it is very difficult to write this balance well, and this book went off track a bit too often for my tastes. There were also more than few moments that just seemed downright creepy and 'off', and while a part of me understood the beauty of love and friendship and relationships that the author was trying to get at, I couldn't help thinking that there were other, better ways that it could have been accomplished.

I also didn't feel that the reality of the AIDS crisis was dealt with in a satisfactory manner. Some of it can be excused with the age of the narrator, but there were still aspects that disappointed me, where I thought that the author could have done more. Perhaps that's just not the story that she was trying to write, but it felt more like she was trying to get at something but didn't quite make it there. There was one particular relationship that June's uncle had had (not romantic) that had its issues, and it didn't feel as though those issues were resolved satisfactorily, at the end of the book. There was a brief touch on it, but then we were apparently supposed to regard the problem as solved, it felt like.

If you'd like to read a spoilery review, you can find it over here on Goodreads. 

I didn't quite plan on this review being so long. I guess it's because I was so hoping to enjoy this book but didn't, and the disappointment of that is weighing on me. There were parts of this book that were so lovely, if the rest of it had been that way as well it truly would have been amazing. I'm sure that some will love this book - it's clear from the overall rating that many do - but it just feel short for me.

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Saturday, January 2, 2016

Netgalley 2016 Reading Challenge

2016netgalleychallenge
Ooh, now this is interesting.

I don't think that I'll sign up, mostly because I think that for me, doing galleys should be more about inspiration and a desire to read a book than about meeting a goal. That being said, for people who have galleys to read and review already, this might be a great motivator.

Personally, I love Netgalley - I've had so many great experiences through it, and I've even had a few authors approach me outside of it to ask for reviews, now. I've had a few great surprises, too - there's nothing quite like that moment when you open your inbox and see that approval for one of the most desired ARCs out there!

I have had a few where I haven't been able to finish them, or just didn't like them, and I feel bad when that happens. I think this is the one pitfall of requesting ARCs, that feeling of expectation or guilt in regards to what sort of response you're going to give.

I just thought I'd link this so that people can take a look and see the different types of blogs and reviewers that are connected through Netgalley - I think this challenge is great for people who are looking to get their ration up to that desired 80%, too. (I'm actually hovering at about 82% at the moment, and I'm quite pleased with myself!)

Friday, January 1, 2016

2015: A Year In Review


Happy New Year, everyone!!

It's hard to believe that another year has gone by, to be honest. In a lot of ways it was a great year, in other ways there are things that I want to improve for 2016, but overall I feel pretty positive about it.

First of all, let's get the things that bothered me out of the way:

1. I didn't meet my intial reading goal for this year. I wanted to read 100 books, but in the end I only read 50, and I just squeaked by that last night. I know that that's not all that bad, but still - reading is something that I consider very important, and it's a reminder that I need to make it a priority.

2. I had a huge reading slump again this year. This one lasted from May until October, and then I had another mini one from October until December. I don't know what it is, and I know that ebbs and flows in reading are normal. This is proof positive of a trend I've noticed in other areas of my life, though - I get very passionate about something and do it a lot, and then it dies off completely to be replaced by something else, and it goes in cycles. I think one of my goals for 2016 is to try and find more of a balance.

3. I neglected my blog, too! As goes my reading, so goes my blog, too. It's something that I'm aware of and that I'm going to work on in 2016 - wish me luck!

Still, I'm pretty happy with 2015. I think I covered a pretty good variety of books, from romance to science fiction to horror to fantasy. I want to continue this in 2016. You can find my 2015 Year In Books here.

I mentioned way back in May that I wanted to keep up my tea drinking rather than coffee, and I'm pleased to say that I've mostly been successful! Now, I've spent probably more than I should on various tea related things, but now that I'm mostly settled it's going to save me a lot of money (and calories!) in comparison to my Starbucks habit. Plus, there are a crazy amount of interesting teas to try! One of my favourites is Santa's Secret from David's tea. Chocolate peppermint tea, so delicious and warming.

Goals for 2016:

1. I've set my reading goal for 2016 at 75 books, and I hope to meet this or even surpass it.

2. I also want to include more variety in my reading - I'm currently working on a fascinating non-fiction book that I hope to have a review for in the next little while, and I want to read more classics, and adult books.

And that's about it, really! Let's keep it simple :)

I hope that everyone is having a great first day of 2016, and happy reading! 


Review: A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

A Monster Calls A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Summary: The monster showed up after midnight. As they do.

But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting. He’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the one he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming…

This monster is something different, though. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor.

It wants the truth.
 

 
Review:
 
Wow. This is the first time that I've been able to tag something as being rated five stars since I started this blog. That's kind of an awesome way to start the year! And it's okay, really... I wanted to start the year by reading a book that would make me cry, honest!

This is a quick read, but that doesn't lessen its impact. Part magic, part contemporary, this book surprised me with the intense emotions it evoked, and I was pretty much engrossed from the moment that I started reading.

On the surface this book seems like it would be simplistic, the kind of story that explains a certain moral in an easy to understand way, a book to read and then set aside and not think about much after that point. I picked this up on a whim and wasn't quite sure what I was expecting from it, other than a quick read and what I assumed would be a sweet story given the recommendation that I'd seen for it over on Youtube.

In reality it was so much more than that. This is an extremely well written book, one that takes us into the head of a thirteen year old struggling with a world that suddenly isn't fair any more. His mother is sick, everyone at school is treating him differently including his best friend and all his teachers, his grandmother is barging in where she's not needed, and his father lives across the ocean instead of being there with him.

Into all of this comes the monster, shaped from bark and leaves, a figure that should frighten Conor, but doesn't. He has bigger things on his mind, and no time to be frightened. The only thing he's interested in is if the monster can help his mother get better. That has to be why it's there, right?

And so the story unfolds, a story that turns out to be moving, somewhat eerie but lyrical, probably one of the best explorations I've read of what it means to be young and dealing with grief and love and fear and healing. It touches on friendship and family and right and wrong and fairness, and how stupid and simple those ideas can seem when you're struggling to deal with the reality of the world we live in, and the frailty of the human body.

The writing is simple enough that it will appeal and work for younger readers, but also deep enough that it was very moving for me as an adult, and the concepts here are far more complex than what you might expect going into it. It is extremely difficult to take on a topic like this without being too preachy or too edgy or even too smarmy, but this book finds the right balance and keeps it throughout, weaving a tale that will squeeze your heart and leave you thinking once you reach the end.

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