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Monday, December 5, 2016

Top Ten Authors I Read For The First Time In 2016

Top Ten Authors I Read For The First Time In 2016

1. Jojo Moyes (Me Before You): This year I finally read the much hyped Me Before You (still have to see the movie adaptation though), and it was every bit as depressing as I was told it would be. Heh. It was a good story though and I would like to read more from Jojo Moyes.

2. Charles Darwin (Voyage of the Beagle, Origin of Species): Of course I studied Darwin's ideas ad nauseam in school, but I'd never actually read his books until this year. Origin of Species was a bit dry, but Voyage of the Beagle - in which Darwin recounts his thoughts from his 5 year trip exploring the Southern Hemisphere and developing his theory of evolution - was honestly FASCINATING.

3. Barack Obama (Dreams From My Father): Turns out this guy can WRITE! I listened to the audiobook of Dreams From My Father - narrated by Obama himself - and it was interesting to learn so much about his backstory. Slightly off topic: PLEASE DON'T LEAVE US BARACK!

4. Colleen Hoover (Confess): I finally read my first Colleen Hoover book this year and experienced the full extent of her trademark emotional drama in Confess. I would definitely like to read more from Colleen!

5. Rae Carson (Fire and Thorns Trilogy): I was blown away by Rae Carson's Fire and Thorns Trilogy this year (read my full review here). Queen Elisa is for sure one of my all-time favourite fictional rulers!

6. Laura Ingalls Wilder (Little House Series): Looooved this autobiographical telling of tomboy Laura Ingalls growing up as a pioneer of the northern midwest US in the 1800s!

7. Brian K. Vaughan (Y: The Last Man, Saga): 2016 was also the year that I started to explore graphic novels and Brian Vaughan was easily my favourite graphic novel author I read this year. Completed series Y: The Last Man and ongoing series Saga are both excellent!

8. Catherynne M. Valente (Fairyland Series): Catherynne M. Valente is an author unlike no other... though it initially took a while to get into her writing in her Fairyland Series, I came to really love it for its uniqueness!

9. Douglas Adams (Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Series): I was inspired by Micheline to finally dig into the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Series by Douglas Adams on audiobook this year and while my interest definitely waned as the series went on, I loved my hilarious Douglas Adams experience!

10. Roald Dahl (The BFG, Esio Trot, Matilda, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Fantastic Mr. Fox): Okay, okay, Roald Dahl isn't a new author for me. BUT in some ways it felt like a new experience as I haven't read any of his books since devouring most of them as a wee child many, many years ago. I am about halfway through my Roald Dahl boxset that I got for Christmas last year and thoroughly enjoying every whimsical moment!

Friday, December 2, 2016

November Recap: Rest in Peace, Stela

November was a bit rough for me and as a result I wasn't up for much blogging. At the beginning of the month, I lost my dear ferret, Stela:

Super Stela
It was about 3 years ago that I adopted my ferret girls, Mü and Stela (whose names together create Mustela, their scientific genus) and they quickly became a big part of my life and my heart.

Mü and Stela
Stela is maybe about 2 years older than Mü and has had a number of health problems over the past few years. And yet despite that, her passing still felt very abrupt. Just that day she was scampering about as per usual and hiding her toys around the house as always. She was totally fine, and then all of a sudden she wasn't.

One of the many nests Stela found for herself to sleep: my sock drawer
Mü for her part is doing okay. They were a bonded pair so I was quite concerned how Mü would handle Stela's passing considering they were always together. We brought the body home from the vet to show to Mü and she seemed to sort of process things in her own way. It was very sad.

Mü and Stela
I've had a few weeks to mourn and adjust now, but damn I miss her. She was such a sweetheart, such a character. She brought a smile to my face every single day.

Silly Stela
It was actually the day before the US Election that Stela passed away and I like to think her little heart was so pure, so virtuous, that she knew she couldn't live in such a world with such a repulsive world leader. Heh.

Rest in peace, dearest Stela.

Favourite TV Show of November:
Now here is a definite bright spot of the month: Gravity Falls. I couldn't help it, when I was watching this show, it just made me feel happy! I can't remember the last time I so thoroughly enjoyed a TV show by Disney, but whenever it was I don't think I was an adult. Gravity Falls is just one of those shows that transcends age though. It's super silly and light hearted and yet it has a great mystery as well. Highly recommended to all!

Favourite Book of November: 
I technically started this one in October, but I wasn't up to reading for a good while there... Thank goodness that this chapter in the Throne of Glass series was able to save me from a potential reading slump! Sarah Maas never fails to impress and Queen of Shadows was another superb instalment. I am so impressed at the growth of all the characters since book one and I am both excited and terrified to see what is yet to come for them in books five and six. I should hopefully get to Empire of Storms soon!

Monday, November 28, 2016

Muggle Monday: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Review

It's time for Muggle Monday, in which I highlight something from the Harry Potter world. This is somewhat inspired by the Mundane Monday posts by The Mundie Moms.

But let's be real as to why I made up this feature: I just want the opportunity to post something about Harry Potter.

This week, my thoughts on the movie adaptation of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them:

Directed by: David Yates
Screenplay by: J.K. Rowling
Produced by: Heyday Films, Warner Brothers
In Theatres: November 18, 2016
Length: 2 hrs. 13 min.
Rated: PG

The adventures of writer Newt Scamander in New York's secret community of witches and wizards seventy years before Harry Potter reads his book in school.

I'm sure I wasn't the only one who was both very excited to get another story set in J.K. Rowling's Wizarding World and kind of nervous that this movie adaptation (based on the textbook Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by Newt Scamander that was written for Comic Relief 15 years ago) wouldn't live up to expectations after the success of the Harry Potter franchise.

But there was no need to worry after all. I am happy to report that I (and it seems like the vast majority of people) thoroughly enjoyed this latest Wizarding World addition - no doubt thanks to the fact that the screenplay was written by J.K. Rowling herself (and not just written by another person and signed off by Jo...). It helps too to have David Heyman and David Yates (and heaps more crew members) return from the Harry Potter films.

What kind of plot can really come out of a little 42-page textbook listing magical creatures that J.K. Rowling wrote for charity? Turns out quite a lot, which should be no surprise for those acquainted with Jo's bountiful imagination. Fantastic Beasts follows a young Newt Scamander who has been travelling the world studying magical beasts, only to run into trouble upon landing in 1920s New York City as some magical entity has been terrorizing people, both magic and non-magic alike.

I know there was a lot of muttering about how the initial trilogy of Fantastic Beasts that is now expanded to five movies is all a ploy on Warner Brothers' part to get more money. But I truly believe J.K. Rowling needed to expand the movie series for legit reasons. The five movies will cover the rise and defeat of the dark wizard Grindelwald and begins in 1926 and will end in 1945. So. This first movie is really only the tip of the iceberg of loads more story to uncover.

For me, the highlights of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them was the myriad of magical creatures we were introduced to (and excellent CG effects), as well as the new characters we meet
(and the actors that play them). There is a new "trio" in these movies that is actually a quartet (pictured in the movie poster above) and I quickly became attached to them and their friendship.

I love Newt especially. He is essentially the wizarding world equivalent of Charles Darwin: just as a young Darwin travelled the world discovering new creatures and developing ideas to write his book Origin of Species, so is Newt planning to apply all that he has learned into the book that becomes Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. I find Newt/Darwin's curiosity for animals and nature, as well as their preference for beasts over humans, so dang charming and relatable. Eddie Redmayne plays the perfect Newt: very shy and unassuming around most human beings, very open-hearted and generous with all magical creatures.

The only - ONLY - negative that I have to say about this movie is simply this: I would have rather have had a book first. I'm not talking about the movie script that was published alongside the movie, I mean a proper descriptive book written by J.K. Rowling. There were many moments while I was watching the movie in which I wished I could get more insight into a magical creature or into the mind of what a particular character was thinking, like we were able to with Jo's written books. I realize that is a selfish wish to have considering we were lucky to receive any tidbit of wizarding world lore after Harry Potter ended, but that's just how I feel.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and I can't wait for the following four movies to come! If you have seen the movie, I would love to know your thoughts!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Waiting On Wednesday: HarperCollins Winter 2017 Catalog

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill of Breaking The Spine in which upcoming, eagerly anticipated releases are highlighted on the blog.

This week, I've chosen to feature a few picks from the HarperCollins Winter 2017 Catalog. And also, one from HarperCollins' Fall 2016 Catalog because I haven't gotten to feature it yet:

The Fate of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
Date: November 29, 2016
Add to Goodreads

In less than a year, Kelsea Glynn has transformed from a gawky teenager into a powerful monarch. As she has come into her own as the Queen of the Tearling, the headstrong, visionary leader has also transformed her realm. In her quest to end corruption and restore justice, she has made many enemies—including the evil Red Queen, her fiercest rival, who has set her armies against the Tear.
To protect her people from a devastating invasion, Kelsea did the unthinkable—she gave herself and her magical sapphires to her enemy—and named the Mace, the trusted head of her personal guards, Regent in her place. But the Mace will not rest until he and his men rescue their sovereign, imprisoned in Mortmesne.
Now, as the suspenseful endgame begins, the fate of Queen Kelsea—and the Tearling itself—will finally be revealed.

The Fate of the Tearling is the third and final book in The Queen of the Tearling trilogy - a trilogy that I have for the most part enjoyed for its headstrong protagonist and intriguing alternate world. I'm interested in seeing how this finale pans out...

Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth
Date: January 17, 2017
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On a planet where violence and vengeance rule, in a galaxy where some are favored by fate, everyone develops a currentgift, a unique power meant to shape the future. While most benefit from their currentgifts, Akos and Cyra do not — their gifts make them vulnerable to others’ control. Can they reclaim their gifts, their fates, and their lives, and reset the balance of power in this world?
Cyra is the sister of the brutal tyrant who rules the Shotet people. Cyra’s currentgift gives her pain and power — something her brother exploits, using her to torture his enemies. But Cyra is much more than just a blade in her brother’s hand: she is resilient, quick on her feet, and smarter than he knows.
Akos is from the peace-loving nation of Thuve, and his loyalty to his family is limitless. Though protected by his unusual currentgift, once Akos and his brother are captured by enemy Shotet soldiers, Akos is desperate to get his brother out alive — no matter what the cost. When Akos is thrust into Cyra’s world, the enmity between their countries and families seems insurmountable. They must decide to help each other to survive — or to destroy one another.

At times I have loved the Divergent series and at times I have... less than loved the Divergent series. But I do think Veronica Roth is a talented writer with great ideas so I'm excited to see what she has planned for us next with Carve the Mark!

Hunted by Meagan Spooner
Date: March 14, 2017
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Beauty knows the Beast’s forest in her bones—and in her blood. Though she grew up with the city’s highest aristocrats, far from her father’s old lodge, she knows that the forest holds secrets and that her father is the only hunter who’s ever come close to discovering them.
So when her father loses his fortune and moves Yeva and her sisters back to the outskirts of town, Yeva is secretly relieved. Out in the wilderness, there’s no pressure to make idle chatter with vapid baronessas…or to submit to marrying a wealthy gentleman. But Yeva’s father’s misfortune may have cost him his mind, and when he goes missing in the woods, Yeva sets her sights on one prey: the creature he’d been obsessively tracking just before his disappearance.
Deaf to her sisters’ protests, Yeva hunts this strange Beast back into his own territory—a cursed valley, a ruined castle, and a world of creatures that Yeva’s only heard about in fairy tales. A world that can bring her ruin or salvation. Who will survive: the Beauty, or the Beast?

Bring on the Beauty and the Beast retellings! Beauty and the Beast is one of my all-time favourite classics, a story that never gets old for me. And in Hunted, it sounds like Meagan Spooner has added a bit of a twist to it that should be interesting!

How about you? Are you waiting on any of these HarperCollins Winter 2017 reads? Are there any upcoming books from the HarperCollins Winter 2017 Catalog that I didn't include here that you feel I should add to my list?

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Review: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Publisher: Random House
Published: August 16, 2011
Pages: 374
Source: Borrowed
Rating: 4.5 Stars

In the year 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he's jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade's devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world's digital confines, puzzles that are based on their creator's obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them. When Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade's going to survive, he'll have to win—and confront the real world he's always been so desperate to escape.

In short: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline is nerd-topia incarnate, with lots of heart.
Listen, I don't know a whole lot about 80's pop culture (I'm a 90's kid), but I do know an insanely imaginative and cool concept when I see one and this is what Ready Player One delivers. Imagine being able to live your life in a virtual universe, travel from one RPG world to another, equip and level up your character, and solve puzzles in a competition to win billions of dollars. Sound like every gamers wet dream? It is. It was beyond fun to imagine myself in Ernest Cline's richly imagined virtual universe.

Second to being able to gallivant in this nerd-topia myself was following protagonist's Wade Watts' progression through the egg hunt. While Wade initially reads as just your typical teenage loser trope, his learning curve and genuine good heart make him the underdog to root for. Along the way he meets an intriguing cast of characters and takes on the Big Bad using his impressive wits. I'm kind of surprised there hasn't been a sequel to this book yet (which should totes be called "Ready Player Two"); was I the only one who felt that ending left endless possibilities?

While I do wish I had been able to understand more of the 80's pop culture references to experience that sweet, sweet nostalgia, I was still able to enjoy myself immensely while reading this exciting and creative adventure book. Ready Player One has an insanely fun premise, a compelling edge-of-your-seat storyline, and a protagonist with a good heart - definitely recommended to all.

Other Reviews:
Happy Indulgence
Just Another Story
Lunar Rainbows

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