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Monday, May 26, 2014

Top Ten Most Beautiful and Unique Bookshelves (AKA Bookshelf Porn)

It's Pick Your Own Topic week for Top Ten Tuesday and I've chosen to feature some of my favourite bookshelves that I've seen around the interwebs. Not all of these would be entirely practical for shelving, but all of them are works of art!

1. Infinity Bookshelf
(also featured in my favourite bookish items list)

2. Floating Bookshelf

3. Polar Bear Bookshelf

4. Rainbow Bookshelf
(I would love to arrange my books like this because it's so pretty, but most of my books' spines are black and it would drive me crazy having series out of order!)

5. Reading Nook Bookshelf

6. Circular Bookshelf

6. Organizational Bookshelf
(but I would need a much longer "Will Be Read" shelf...)

8. Staircase Bookshelf

9. Secret Passage Bookshelf

10. Rolling Ladder Bookshelf
(because don't we all want our Belle moment?)

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

In Which I Read Non-Fiction For The First Time And Find Out That It Can Actually Be Really Good

In a Top Ten Tuesday post almost a year ago, I explored topics that make me NOT want to pick up a book. Among them was non-fiction. I freely admitted that non-fiction was a genre that was way outside my comfort zone and one that I assumed I would find tedious. Well, a few commenters convinced me that maybe I ought to give the genre a try and see if anything catches my interest. And lo and behold, I found myself reading/listening to the following non-fiction reads and actually ENJOYING them. Who knew?

by Tina Fey

I listened to the audio of Bossypants as narrated by Tina Fey herself and as you can imagine, it was quite simply HILARIOUS. It was not only the stories as written by Tina Fey, but also the stories narrated in her OWN voice that sealed the deal. In Bossypants, she recounts various tales of her life, from theatre geek to SNL writer to 30 Rock creator. We all know that Tina Fey is one funny lady, but she is also an awesomely talented writer and actress with great comedic timing. And thus a book written and narrated by her is just made of awesome.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?
by Mindy Kaling

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) was another one that I listened to via audiobook and was narrated by Mindy Kaling herself (and was all the better for it!). Similar in style to Bossypants, Mindy Kaling recounts through a series of essays various events of her life and again, it was really freaking funny. If you are a non-fiction noob like I was, I would definitely recommend starting off with the audio for Tina Fey and Mindy Kaling's books because you are SURE to enjoy them.

Steve Jobs
by Walter Isaacson

I wouldn't consider myself a tech person by any means, nor would I have ever thought a biography could capture my interest, but boy, was this Steve Jobs biography ever fascinating! I am a fairly recent Apple convert and so was not aware of the backstory and history of the company, nor what Steve Jobs was like, so this book was enlightening indeed. This is the biography of the man who revolutionized the computer, the music industry, cell phones, and Pixar. He was quite the jerk-face personality-wise, but you can't argue with the fact that the man was a genius. I could go on and on recounting all the interesting tidbits that I learned in this biography and how this book actually changed the way I think about technology, design, and business, but instead I'll end it here and tell you to read Steve Jobs for yourself. I listened to the audiobook, which made the length considerably less daunting, and I recommend it.

Some Nerve
by Patty Chang Anker

Katie from Doing Dewey generously sent me this one when I mentioned in my comment of her review that I felt like I could probably really relate to the premise. Some Nerve: Lessons Learned While Becoming Brave is Patty Chang Anker's story of her quest to conquer her fears. After thirty-nine years of being afraid to try new things, she decided she wanted to be a better role model to her two young daughters and show them that it's okay to fail. I really love that Some Nerve never came across as a self-help book, which is one avenue of non-fiction that I'm still not keen on. By going outside her comfort zone and facing her fears head on she was finally able to live her life to the fullest.

So there you go, I can now say that not only is non-fiction a genre that I have read, but it's a genre that I can ENJOY - be it humorous or thought-provoking or enlightening. I now pronounce this sojourn outside my comfort zone a resounding success!!

So now I turn it over to you: have you read any non-fiction books that you would recommend to me? I would love to hear of them! As you may have gathered from my picks from above, I'm much more likely to get to your non-fiction recommendation quickly if I can get it in audio as I have many more openings for audiobooks at the moment than I have for physical books, but I'm still keen on any recs that you can give me!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Review: Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

Publisher: Tor
Published: 1985
Pages: 324
Source: Borrowed
Rating: 2 Stars

In order to develop a secure defense against a hostile alien race's next attack, government agencies breed child geniuses and train them as soldiers. A brilliant young boy, Andrew "Ender" Wiggin lives with his kind but distant parents, his sadistic brother Peter, and the person he loves more than anyone else, his sister Valentine. Peter and Valentine were candidates for the soldier-training program but didn't make the cut—young Ender is the Wiggin drafted to the orbiting Battle School for rigorous military training.
Ender's skills make him a leader in school and respected in the Battle Room, where children play at mock battles in zero gravity. Yet growing up in an artificial community of young soldiers Ender suffers greatly from isolation, rivalry from his peers, pressure from the adult teachers, and an unsettling fear of the alien invaders. His psychological battles include loneliness, fear that he is becoming like the cruel brother he remembers, and fanning the flames of devotion to his beloved sister.
Is Ender the general Earth needs? But Ender is not the only result of the genetic experiments. The war with the Buggers has been raging for a hundred years, and the quest for the perfect general has been underway for almost as long. Ender's two older siblings are every bit as unusual as he is, but in very different ways. Between the three of them lie the abilities to remake a world. If, that is, the world survives.

In short: Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card is WAY overrated.
What does it mean that I - a self-proclaimed sci fi fan - ended up disliking the classic of science fiction, Ender's Game? Can I call myself a sci fi fan anymore? Did I miss the mark on this one? I don't know, maybe I just didn't get it; I didn't get why Ender's Game is considered to be a classic and why it has such a cult following. Granted, it IS pretty cool that Orson Scott Card came up with all these technological advances in 1985 and that some of them ended up becoming true. And certainly, Ender's Game has a very neat and compelling premise, one that I was very excited for. But I couldn't help but feel that this book is WAY overrated.

For one, Ender's Game is poorly written and the pacing is very slow. Events at Battle School repeat ad nauseum and for a premise that promised to be riveting and interesting, it sure got tedious fast. In the last few pages we finally see the climax, but the ending struck me as very anti-climactic in the way in which Orson Scott Card chooses to tell it. Furthermore, the characterization was very shallow. Yes, the characters are children, but they're geniuses and act like adults and yet they come across as very two-dimensional.

I had expected to love Ender's Game because it is supposedly Sci Fi 101 and I LOVE modern sci fi, but this one missed the mark for me. To be honest, I can't rule out that I may have been predisposed to dislike Ender's Game because I am no fan of Orson Scott Card's values (made all the more disturbing by the fact that Ender's Game is laced with prepubescent homoerotic undertones - ICK!). So it's possible that I am biased in some way... but I also feel quite strongly that I would have disliked Ender's Game, even if I was unaware of Orson Scott Card's feelings on homosexuality, for the reasons stated above. Feeling very disappointed right now!

Author Links:

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Waiting On Wednesday: Simon & Schuster Summer 2014 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 Simon & Schuster Summer 2014 Catalog:

Dissonance by Erica O'Rourke
Date: July 22, 2014
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Delancy Sullivan has always known there’s more to reality than what people see. Every time someone makes a choice, a new, parallel world branches off from the existing one. Eating breakfast or skipping it, turning left instead of right, sneaking out instead of staying in bed ~ all of these choices create an alternate universe in which an echo self takes the road not travelled and makes the opposite decision. As a Walker, someone who can navigate between these worlds, Del’s job is to keep all of the dimensions in harmony.
Normally, Del can hear the dissonant frequency that each world emits as clear as a bell. But when a training session in an off-key world goes horribly wrong, she is forbidden from Walking by the Council. But Del’s not big on following the rules and she secretly starts to investigate these other worlds. Something strange is connecting them and it’s not just her random encounters with echo versions of the guy she likes, Simon Lane.
But Del’s decisions have unimaginable consequences and, as she begins to fall for the Echo Simons in each world, she draws closer to a truth that the Council of Walkers is trying to hide ~ a secret that threatens the fate of the entire multiverse.

Okay, so I'm tired of covers with girls in pretty dresses as much as the next blogger, but even I am taken in by the prettiness of Dissonance's cover. But more importantly, I love me a multiverse premise so this sounds good to me!

Of Metal and Wishes by Sarah Fine
Date: August 5, 2014
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There are whispers of a ghost in the slaughterhouse where sixteen-year-old Wen assists her father in his medical clinic—a ghost who grants wishes to those who need them most. When one of the Noor, men hired as cheap factory labor, humiliates Wen, she makes an impulsive wish of her own, and the Ghost grants it. Brutally.
Guilt-ridden, Wen befriends the Noor, including their outspoken leader, a young man named Melik. At the same time, she is lured by the mystery of the Ghost and learns he has been watching her … for a very long time.
As deadly accidents fuel tensions within the factory, Wen must confront her growing feelings for Melik, who is enraged at the sadistic factory bosses and the prejudice faced by his people at the hand of Wen’s, and her need to appease the Ghost, who is determined to protect her against any threat—real or imagined. She must decide whom she can trust, because as her heart is torn, the factory is exploding around her … and she might go down with it.

Is that an Asian girl I spy? Because that's awesome. Also awesome: the intriguing blurb. I'm super curious about the mystery of the ghost who grants wishes in a slaughterhouse. I can't wait to hear more about Of Metal and Wishes!

Servants of the Storm by Delilah S. Dawson
Date: August 5, 2014
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A year ago Hurricane Josephine swept through Savannah, Georgia, leaving behind nothing but death and destruction — and taking the life of Dovey's best friend, Carly. Since that night, Dovey has been in a medicated haze, numb to everything around her.
But recently she's started to believe she's seeing things that can't be real ... including Carly at their favorite cafe. Determined to learn the truth, Dovey stops taking her pills. And the world that opens up to her is unlike anything she could have imagined.
As Dovey slips deeper into the shadowy corners of Savannah — where the dark and horrifying secrets lurk — she learns that the storm that destroyed her city and stole her friend was much more than a force of nature. And now the sinister beings truly responsible are out to finish what they started.
Dovey's running out of time and torn between two paths. Will she trust her childhood friend Baker, who can't see the threatening darkness but promises to never give up on Dovey and Carly? Or will she plot with the sexy stranger, Isaac, who offers all the answers — for a price? Soon Dovey realizes that the danger closing in has little to do with Carly ... and everything to do with Dovey herself.

Totally creep-tastic cover and I love it! So much so that for the longest time, I didn't even bother to read the blurb for this one. But now that I have, I'm definitely keen on the eerie and sinister secrets that Servants of the Storm promises.

How about you? Are you waiting on any of these Simon & Schuster Summer 2014 reads? Are there any upcoming books from the Simon & Schuster Summer 2014 Catalog that I didn't include here that you feel I should add to my list?

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Review: Rebel Heart (Dust Lands #2) by Moira Young

Publisher: Random House Canada
Published: October 30, 2012
Pages: 432
Source: Bought
Rating: 4 Stars

Saba has rescued her kidnapped brother and defeated the fanatical Tonton. But the price to be paid for her violent victory is terrible. Jack has disappeared--and can no longer be trusted. A new and formidable enemy is on the rise in the dustlands. No one is safe. And Saba must confront the terrible secret hidden in the darkest depths of her soul.

In short: Though Rebel Heart was not quite as engrossing as its predecessor, it was still a solid and emotional sequel buoyed by Moira Young's most excellent writing.
You may recall how CRAZY IN LOVE I was with Blood Red Road; I was utterly engrossed through the entire read. I loved every aspect of it: the stubborn but FIERCE heroine, the totally swoony romance, the intense action scenes, and of course, the powerful and unique writing style. Well, I finally found the time to read the sequel - just in time for the third and final book to be released - and I am happy to say that the aforementioned elements were also present in Rebel Heart, if maybe not to the same extent and intensity as in Blood Red Road.

Moira Young's characteristic writing remains my favourite part of reading this series. It just brings the story to LIFE. The sparse prose and stream of consciousness writing style add so much personality and atmosphere to the novel. What's more, though I struggled initially with the dialect in Blood Red Road, I settled into it very quickly in Rebel Heart, which shows just how easy it is to become accustomed to it. Rebel Heart was, if possible, an even more emotional read than Blood Red Road and the writing did the story a credit here enabling the reader to truly FEEL what Saba is going through.

I will say that I wasn't quite as enamoured with the story in Rebel Heart as I was in Blood Red Road as the intensity was knocked down a few notches. Blood Red Road was one harrowing scene after the other: sandstorms, cage fighting, giant killer worms, gun fights - you name it! Rebel Heart tones down the action and replaces it with a healthy dose of angst, which is understandably not as gripping as cage fighting and giant killer worms. Saba has always been an incredibly flawed and realistic character, but in Rebel Heart she ended up frustrating me a bit more than she did in Blood Red Road. I think I definitely could have done with less emotional turmoil and more action.

Overall, Rebel Heart was a solid sequel to one of my favourite books, Blood Red Road. I do feel like Rebel Heart could have done with an injection of some of that engrossing action from Blood Red Road, but all in all I really enjoyed it. I love these memorable and flawed characters, I love the gang of animal companions that Saba has acquired, and most of all I love love LOVE Moira Young's writing! And hopefully I will get a chance to tell her so and not get too tongue-tied when I meet her on her upcoming tour! Eeek, can't wait!!

Previously, my review of Blood Red Road.

Other Reviews:
Escaping With Books
Realm of Fiction
Xpresso Reads

Author Links:

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Review: Dreams of Gods and Monsters (Daughter of Smoke and Bone #3) by Laini Taylor

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Published: April 8, 2014
Pages: 613
Source: Bought
Rating: 4.5 Stars

By way of a staggering deception, Karou has taken control of the chimaera rebellion and is intent on steering its course away from dead-end vengeance. The future rests on her, if there can even be a future for the chimaera in war-ravaged Eretz.
Common enemy, common cause.
When Jael's brutal seraph army trespasses into the human world, the unthinkable becomes essential, and Karou and Akiva must ally their enemy armies against the threat. It is a twisted version of their long-ago dream, and they begin to hope that it might forge a way forward for their people.
And, perhaps, for themselves. Toward a new way of living, and maybe even love.
But there are bigger threats than Jael in the offing. A vicious queen is hunting Akiva, and, in the skies of Eretz ... something is happening. Massive stains are spreading like bruises from horizon to horizon; the great winged stormhunters are gathering as if summoned, ceaselessly circling, and a deep sense of wrong pervades the world.
What power can bruise the sky?
From the streets of Rome to the caves of the Kirin and beyond, humans, chimaera and seraphim will fight, strive, love, and die in an epic theater that transcends good and evil, right and wrong, friend and enemy.
At the very barriers of space and time, what do gods and monsters dream of? And does anything else matter?

This review is spoiler-free

In short: Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor gave me the sense of closure that I craved for this series ending, but still left me wanting so much MORE.
Oh Laini. You insane genius, you. You inventive creator of bat-winged gazelles, fire-eyed boys, and rabid fairies. You architect of a world - nay, universe - more epic and fantastical than could possibly be imagined. You crafter of some of the most cherished and unforgettable characters of any series. You unbelievable author of the most beautiful sentences and passages. I LOVE YOU. And I thank you. AND PLEASE WRITE A SPINOFF.

It's always difficult to say goodbye to a beloved series of which you have become so attached. You don't want it to end, you don't want to say goodbye to the characters, and there's always the concern that the ending won't be as satisfying and as epic as the series deserves. And I say this fully knowing that from what I can tell, a lot of people were dissatisfied with the ending of Dreams of Gods and Monsters.

Not me though. Laini Taylor took the finale to an insanely strange new level. It was completely unexpected and totally bizarre. And I really dug it. Here I was thinking I knew where Laini Taylor needed to take the story in order to wrap up the chimaera-seraphim conflict, and then BAM! I end up getting so much more than I had been expecting. An origin story! An ominous new baddie. I really can't say more if I want this review to be spoiler-free. But feel free to hit me up anytime you want to discuss the ending!

I guess my one small complaint is that this crazy new ending kind of undermined the original conflict of the series, the chimaera-seraphim conflict, which instead was resolved in a kind of anti-climactic fashion off-screen. I would have much rather seen the trilogy end with the solution to the original conflict and then extend the series to another book to deal with the new conflict instead of squishing it into the end of Dreams of Gods and Monsters. This seems to be the main complaint of a lot of readers, but for me, the excellence of the book largely overpowered my disappointment with this fault.

Overall, Dreams of Gods and Monsters gave me the sense of closure that I craved for this series ending, but still left wanting so much MORE. And thankfully, I've heard Laini Taylor mention a few times now that she definitely has possibilities and plans for a spinoff or continuation of the story and THANK GOODNESS for that! I just ain't ready to let go. And after that ending, it would be cruel to leave us hanging! No pressure or anything, Laini - you insane genius, you.

Previously, my reviews of Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Days of Blood and Starlight, and Night of Cake and Puppets.

Other Reviews:
Alice Marvels
Courtney Reads A Lot
Musings of a YA Reader

Author Links:

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Waiting On Wednesday: Penguin Summer 2014 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 Penguin Summer 2014 Catalog:

Conversion by Katherine Howe
Date: July 1, 2014
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It’s senior year at St. Joan’s Academy, and school is a pressure cooker. College applications, the battle for valedictorian, deciphering boys’ texts: Through it all, Colleen Rowley and her friends are expected to keep it together. Until they can’t.
First it’s the school’s queen bee, Clara Rutherford, who suddenly falls into uncontrollable tics in the middle of class. Her mystery illness quickly spreads to her closest clique of friends, then more students and symptoms follow: seizures, hair loss, violent coughing fits. St. Joan’s buzzes with rumor; rumor blossoms into full-blown panic.
Soon the media descends on Danvers, Massachusetts, as everyone scrambles to find something, or someone, to blame. Pollution? Stress? Or are the girls faking? Only Colleen—who’s been reading The Crucible for extra credit—comes to realize what nobody else has: Danvers was once Salem Village, where another group of girls suffered from a similarly bizarre epidemic three centuries ago . . .
Inspired by true events—from seventeenth-century colonial life to the halls of a modern-day high school—Conversion casts a spell. With her signature wit and passion, New York Times bestselling author Katherine Howe delivers an exciting and suspenseful novel, a chilling mystery that raises the question, what’s really happening to the girls at St. Joan’s?

I'm very intrigued by the premise of Conversion. The mystery seems to revolve around a modern day Salem witch epidemic and that's pretty cool as I've always loved learning about that time in history. I really hope this one is as good as it sounds!

Dove Arising by Karen Bao
Date: August 1, 2014
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Phaet Theta has lived her whole life in a colony on the Moon. She’s barely spoken since her father died in an accident nine years ago. She cultivates the plants in Greenhouse 22, lets her best friend talk for her, and stays off the government’s radar.
Then her mother is arrested.
The only way to save her younger siblings from the degrading Shelter is by enlisting in the Militia, the faceless army that polices the Lunar bases and protects them from attacks by desperate Earth-dwellers. Training is brutal, but it’s where Phaet forms an uneasy but meaningful alliance with the preternaturally accomplished Wes, a fellow outsider.
Rank high, save her siblings, free her mom:  that’s the plan. Until Phaet’s logically ordered world begins to crumble...

I'm always keen on new sci fi reads, but when I saw the cover for Dove Arising, I was completely captivated! That, and this one has one intense premise so it should be good!

Fiendish by Brenna Yovanoff
Date: August 14, 2014
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Clementine DeVore spent ten years trapped in a cellar, pinned down by willow roots, silenced and forgotten.
Now she’s out and determined to uncover who put her in that cellar and why.
When Clementine was a child, dangerous and inexplicable things started happening in New South Bend. The townsfolk blamed the fiendish people out in the Willows and burned their homes to the ground. But magic kept Clementine alive, walled up in the cellar for ten years, until a boy named Fisher sets her free. Back in the world, Clementine sets out to discover what happened all those years ago. But the truth gets muddled in her dangerous attraction to Fisher, the politics of New South Bend, and the Hollow, a fickle and terrifying place that seems increasingly temperamental ever since Clementine reemerged.

I have yet to read any of Brenna Yovanoff's books, but they always sound and look so exquisitely creepy that I'm thinking I need to try out her stuff. Fiendish sounds most eerie so maybe I'll start there!

Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas
Date: September 2, 2014
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Lost and broken, Celaena Sardothien’s only thought is to avenge the savage death of her dearest friend: as the King of Adarlan’s Assassin, she is bound to serve this tyrant, but he will pay for what he did. Any hope Celaena has of destroying the king lies in answers to be found in Wendlyn. Sacrificing his future, Chaol, the Captain of the King’s Guard, has sent Celaena there to protect her, but her darkest demons lay in that same place. If she can overcome them, she will be Adarlan’s biggest threat – and his own toughest enemy.
While Celaena learns of her true destiny, and the eyes of Erilea are on Wendlyn, a brutal and beastly force is preparing to take to the skies. Will Celaena find the strength not only to win her own battles, but to fight a war that could pit her loyalties to her own people against those she has grown to love?

Want. BADLY! I really need more Celaena and Chaol PLEASE! And now some early reviews for Heir of Fire are coming out and it sounds like the best thing ever. Can't wait for September!! (Note: in Canada, Bloomsbury books are distributed by Penguin Canada).

How about you? Are you waiting on any of these Penguin Summer 2014 reads? Are there any upcoming books from the Penguin Summer 2014 Catalog that I didn't include here that you feel I should add to my list?