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Sunday, November 8, 2015

Life Update: I'm Still Alive, Just Busy

Just your typical "I'm Still Alive, Just Busy" life update blog post. My last post was on September 1st and there have been many things that have happened in my life since, including a potential MAJOR life change coming soon... I think I'll try to keep it brief though.

After the horror that was my $6,000 mistake, I began my new job as a university prof trying to get students interested in palaeontology! It is loads of work, but it honestly hasn't felt too overwhelming because I've been genuinely enjoying preparing and giving lectures. Teaching can be frustrating if the students are unwilling to be taught, but very rewarding with enthusiastic participants!

My (empty) view of my lecture room from the podium

I've also been diligently working on my thesis and am hoping to defend at the beginning of December. In mid-October, I presented the research that comprises the third chapter of my thesis at a palaeontology conference in Dallas. I think my presentation went pretty well! It's pretty crazy how far I've come with public speaking to large audiences... from utterly terrified to nearly comfortable!

Conference room where I gave my talk
X marks the spot: my hotel was only a brief walk from the site where JFK was assassinated, noted by an "X" on the road

In between my work, I've had some inkling of a social life: going out to dinner with friends, attending a Paint Nite meeting with Ambur (which was fun!), and even having my dad come visit so that he could attend one of my lectures (which was nice!).

Paint Nite with Ambur: fun times! Just don't look at our "birds" too closely...

As for reading, well that's unfortunately fallen by the wayside quite a bit. I have been trying to keep up with my reading goal for the year by listening to more audiobooks whilst doing other tasks, but the reading of physical books has been lacking for some time. I keep telling myself that I just need to push for a few weeks longer, get my thesis and teaching work done, then hopefully I'll have much more free time to read to my heart's content!

During my morning commute, I've been catching up on everyone's blog posts with my feed reader, but I admit it's not quite the same as getting to really interact with you guys. I hope I can get back to a regular blogging schedule soon. After all, I need to fangirl over the new Fantastic Beasts set pics and my thoughts on the new Cormoran Strike novel (which was excellent, btw!).

Anyways, that's me. I'd love to know what you guys have been up to lately!

Monday, August 31, 2015

August Recap: The Biggest Mistake

As I mentioned in my last recap, I didn't think I was going to have a lot of time to blog in August. Well, it turned out even worse than I expected because I ended up having no time at ALL to blog this month. And unfortunately, I'm only going be busier in the month of September (more on that later).

A major factor keeping me down this month was due to a most unfortunate incident and what may be THE biggest and most expensive mistake of my life... I spilled coffee all over my laptop in which all my thesis files are stored (and which I haven't backed up in some time)! F.M.L.
My set-up for drying out my laptop
So yeah. My laptop is currently in the hands of a skilled repairman and I have been without it for over three weeks now. What I consider even more important than my laptop is all of my thesis files, however, and after being scared sh*tless that I had potentially lost all the progress I had made on my thesis these past few months, I am happy to report that the repair guy was recently able to retrieve all the files stored on my laptop's hard-drive.

Unfortunately, this good news comes too late for me and I will no longer be able to defend my thesis and complete my master's degree in the next month as I had hoped. As a result, I will now have to pay another full semester's tuition, in addition to having to buy another laptop, thus making this incident possibly the biggest and most expensive mistake of my life... Life sucks sometimes.

So if you'll excuse me, I'd like to take this moment to preach at all of you: BACK UP YOUR COMPUTER. DO IT NOW. I literally thought about doing it just the day prior to the incident and then I got distracted. Don't let this happen! Think about the consequences of my own stupidity and do it NOW and do it regularly. Because you just never know...

Anyways, I did have some brief periods of fun this month between all this stress. Starting on the 1st of August, it was my birthday! My mum made the last minute decision to fly out east to visit me so I wouldn't be alone on my birthday and we ended up making the best of the long weekend. For my birthday we went to see a production of Kinky Boots in the theatre district and it should go without saying that it was a hella entertaining show:
Kinky Boots!

Also in August, my friend Ambur of Burning Impossibly Bright moved to Toronto to pursue her publishing dreams and I was thrilled to get to hang out with her a few times this month:
Freezie excitement
Happiness! Ambur is so lovely and so easy to talk to. I loved showing her around downtown Toronto and shopping for "grownup" clothes for my new job, and I look forward to more fun times with her in Toronto!

I did have some time to read in August (honestly I needed to read to escape from the stress so I made time for it), but I can't think of one book that stood out as the BEST of the month for me. So here are a few books that I equally enjoyed from August, all solid 4 Star reads, and that I will hopefully be able to review sometime... eventually:

So yes, as I said I don't expect to be super active on the blog for September as I will be trying to make up the time lost not working on my thesis due to my computer issues. And then there's my new job...

I haven't shared much about it because it's still so surreal to me that I've been given this opportunity: this fall I will be a course instructor at the university, lecturing 3 hours a week to 150 students. I'm obviously hugely under-qualified for this job (they wanted someone with a PhD and a teaching degree and instead they're getting some schlub who hasn't even finished her master's degree), so I was clearly the only one who applied for the job. It's going to be a lot of work for very little pay (the university doesn't have to pay grad students very much - see my post about the grad student strike from earlier on this year), but I am prepared to put my everything into this position. So in addition to completing my thesis and working on a conference talk, I have been preparing lectures, exams, and assignments for the semester. I am both extremely excited and extremely terrified by the responsibility I have been given for this job! But it will likely result in less blog posting for the remainder of the year. I will be doing my best to catch up with all my blog friends in the months to come though! Miss you guys, lots and lots!!

Previously, my July Recap: The Long Overdue Harry Potter Reread

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

July Recap: The Long Overdue Harry Potter Reread

July was a very quiet month for me, mainly owing to the fact that the bf was away doing field work on the other side of the country, leaving me to spend most of my time on my own. It was thus a bit of a lonely month for me, but it was thankfully made a bit more endurable by my reread of the Harry Potter Series:

This was the first time I've reread the series in its entirety since before I started blogging! In other words, I was WAY overdue for this reread. July seemed like the ideal month to delve back into the series as it is Harry and Jo's birthday month and it coincides with the Harry Potter Month event. I would really love to make this series reread an annual event itself in my reading schedule because I was basically LIVING for HP for significant portions of this month. Of course my love for Harry has never wavered in the time since I last reread the series, but it felt more amazing than I could possibly say to be able to reacquaint myself with this world I adore so much and would die to see for myself, these characters whom I love to the moon and back, and those words that had such an positive impact on my reading habits when I first read them and continue to do so to this very day.

Yes, this reread of the HP series somehow solidified my love for all things Harry Potter even more... and also really brought into sharper focus for me how lacklustre the movie adaptations are in comparison. Of course I've always been of the opinion that the books are superior, but rereading them back to back in conjunction with watching the movies really showed all the many, many failings of the movies in comparison to the books. I won't go into detail on this topic here as that could be a post on its own, but I will just say that in the end I think I could still objectively view the movies in a somewhat positive light... but ultimately they will never even be in the same realm of the boundless love I feel for the books.

In other news, I have been extremely fortunate to have been appointed a job for the fall semester that will involve much more responsibility and many more hours work than any other teaching job I've had at the university thus far. As a result, I'm thinking I will not be around in the blogosphere as much for the month of August as I prepare for this, the highest ranking position I've had in my lifetime (oh, and there's also that 200-page-long thesis that I've been writing and hoping to finish soon...). I'll have to see how it goes!

Blog Posts in July

Drowning In Series
Waiting On Wednesday: HarperCollins Fall 2015 Catalog
Waiting On Wednesday: Hachette Fall 2015 Catalog
Review: Fairest (The Lunar Chronicles #3.5) by Marissa Meyer - 3.5 Stars
Review: Hold Me Closer: The Tiny Cooper Story by David Levithan - 3.5 Stars
Review: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell - 4 Stars
Series Review: Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead - 3 Stars
My Life in June: Mad Max, Jurassic World, and Serial Podcast

Best Book Read in July

First off, let's just pretend I didn't reread the Harry Potter Series this month. The following was my favourite read of the month OUTSIDE of HP:

This Song Will Save Your Life really resonated with me so deeply that it was both uncomfortable and supremely meaningful. I just really connected with the main character, her life struggles, and her earnest perspective. There were times that the story became so depressing that it was hard to read... but the uplifting ending made the experience totally worth it. Highly recommended.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Review: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Published: January 1, 2012
Pages: 336
Source: Bought
Rating: 4 Stars

Two misfits.
One extraordinary love.
Eleanor... Red hair, wrong clothes. Standing behind him until he turns his head. Lying beside him until he wakes up. Making everyone else seem drabber and flatter and never good enough...Eleanor.
Park... He knows she'll love a song before he plays it for her. He laughs at her jokes before she ever gets to the punch line. There's a place on his chest, just below his throat, that makes her want to keep promises...Park.
Set over the course of one school year, this is the story of two star-crossed sixteen-year-olds—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try.

In short: Eleanor & Park is unlike any YA Contemporary Romance out there and it is that, combined with Rainbow Rowell's talent at crafting genuine characters who experience earnest love, which makes it so special.
Eleanor & Park is not the kind of book I think of when I think of YA Contemporary Romance. And that's absolutely a good thing. Neither Eleanor nor Park are described as being model- or movie-star-good-looking as are most star-crossed lovers of YA fiction. There's nothing remotely exceptional about them, actually. And their relationship isn't punctured with the over-dramatic cliched conflicts or the nonsensical hurdles that pepper the contemporary romance genre. Eleanor & Park is an unabashedly real, uncliched tale of love between two average people and it is that which makes it so remarkable.

Admittedly, I wasn't immediately swept up in their relationship. There was a bit of a disconnect for me between the moment when Eleanor and Park were impassive towards each other on the bus and the moment when they were sweetly holding hands with each other on the bus. But thankfully Rainbow Rowell soon convinced me that theirs was a love so earnest that it was worth cherishing. Rainbow is also a master crafter of genuine characters and thus it was not long until both Eleanor and Park seemed as real to me as actual people, both endowed with plenty of teenage angst, but both sincere and very dear to me.

Eleanor & Park is unlike any YA Contemporary Romance out there and it is this uniqueness in the genre, combined with Rainbow Rowell's talent at crafting genuine characters who experience earnest love, that makes it such a stand-out and special read. Eleanor & Park is only the second book by Rainbow Rowell I have read and, though I didn't love it as much as Fangirl, my special experience with it has solidified my love for all things Rainbow. I can't wait to follow up this experience with her adult books!

Other Reviews:
Alison Can Read
Books in the Spotlight
A Girl, Books and Other Things

Author Links:

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Waiting On Wednesday: Hachette Fall 2015 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 Hachette Fall 2015 Catalog:

Career of Evil (Cormoran Strike #3) by Robert Galbraith
Date: October 20, 2015
Add to Goodreads

When a mysterious package is delivered to Robin Ellacott, she is horrified to discover that it contains a woman’s severed leg.
Her boss, private detective Cormoran Strike, is less surprised but no less alarmed. There are four people from his past who he thinks could be responsible – and Strike knows that any one of them is capable of sustained and unspeakable brutality.
With the police focusing on the one suspect Strike is increasingly sure is not the perpetrator, he and Robin take matters into their own hands, and delve into the dark and twisted worlds of the other three men. But as more horrendous acts occur, time is running out for the two of them…
Career of Evil is the third in the highly acclaimed series featuring private detective Cormoran Strike and his assistant Robin Ellacott. A fiendishly clever mystery with unexpected twists around every corner, it is also a gripping story of a man and a woman at a crossroads in their personal and professional lives.
Cormoran Strike is back, with his assistant Robin Ellacott, in a mystery based around soldiers returning from war.

New Cormoran Strike coming our way from Queen Jo!! I'm SO excited for Career of Evil because the first two mysteries in the Cormoran Strike Series were fantastic. Plus, I'm really curious where Cormoran and Robin's story will go next!

Wolf By Wolf by Ryan Graudin
Date: October 20, 2015
Add to Goodreads

The year is 1956, and the Axis powers of the Third Reich and Imperial Japan rule the world. To commemorate their Great Victory over Britain and Russia, Hitler and Emperor Hirohito host the Axis Tour: an annual motorcycle race across their conjoined continents. The victor is awarded an audience with the highly reclusive Adolf Hitler at the Victor's ball.
Yael, who escaped from a death camp, has one goal: Win the race and kill Hitler. A survivor of painful human experimentation, Yael has the power to skinshift and must complete her mission by impersonating last year's only female victor, Adele Wolfe. This deception becomes more difficult when Felix, Adele twin's brother, and Luka, her former love interest, enter the race and watch Yael's every move. But as Yael begins to get closer to the other competitors, can she bring herself to be as ruthless as she needs to be to avoid discovery and complete her mission?

An alternate universe in which the Axis won World War II instead of the Allies? Colour me intrigued. Wolf By Wolf has been getting some great buzz and has been compared to Code Name Verity and Inglourious Basterds (two of my faves) so I'm definitely looking forward to this one!

Manners & Mutiny (Finishing School #4) by Gail Carriger
Date: November 3, 2015
Add to Goodreads

When a dastardly Pickleman plot comes to fruition, only Sophronia can save her friends, her school, and all of London...but at what cost? Our proper young heroine puts her training and skills to the test in this highly anticipated conclusion of the rousing, intriguing, and always polished New York Times bestselling Finishing School series!

That's a very short synopsis for Manners & Mutiny - maybe the publisher doesn't want to reveal too much about the finale to the beloved Finishing School Series? Whatever the reason, I'm looking forward to getting back to Sophronia and the gang for one last round of espionage!

How about you? Are you waiting on any of these Hachette Fall 2015 reads? Are there any upcoming books from the Hachette Fall 2015 Catalog that I didn't include here that you feel I should add to my list?

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Series Review: Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead

Publisher: Razorbill
Published: 2007-2010
Pages: 2,692
Source: Gifted
Rating: 3 Stars

Synopsis for Vampire Academy, Book 1:
Lissa Dragomir is a Moroi princess: a mortal vampire with a rare gift for harnessing the earth's magic. She must be protected at all times from Strigoi; the fiercest vampires - the ones who never die. The powerful blend of human and vampire blood that flows through Rose Hathaway, Lissa's best friend, makes her a dhampir. Rose is dedicated to a dangerous life of protecting Lissa from the Strigoi, who are hell-bent on making Lissa one of them.
After two years of freedom, Rose and Lissa are caught and dragged back to St. Vladimir's Academy, a school for vampire royalty and their guardians-to-be, hidden in the deep forests of Montana. But inside the iron gates, life is even more fraught with danger... and the Strigoi are always close by.
Rose and Lissa must navigate their dangerous world, confront the temptations of forbidden love, and never once let their guard down, lest the evil undead make Lissa one of them forever...

In short: The Vampire Academy Series by Richelle Mead was an easy and entertaining read, though I would have preferred it to be much higher stakes (no pun intended).
Despite not loving the first Vampire Academy book when I read it two years ago, there was a definite addicting feeling to the story and the promise of more exciting plot-wise action to come, and so I kept reading and have now finished the entire series two years later. I had been hopefully expecting the subsequent books in the series to move away from the largely trivial plot of the first book and delve into a deeper, higher stakes storyline for the rest of the series. And thankfully, it does. Though not to the extent that I had hoped.

I guess what I expect from long over-reaching speculative fiction series like this one, is an epic high stakes plot in which the safety and lives of many are threatened and the hero/heroine has to find a way to vanquish the bad guy despite bad odds. Instead, what I got with the Vampire Academy Series was conflicts that revolve around a very small community of people involving royal vampires and their guardians. The conflicts always seemed so minor to hinge an entire six-book series on and a lot of the time I found myself wondering, "And I should care about this why?"

Thankfully, Richelle Mead did manage to make me care enough about the characters for me to care about where the story was going, at least somewhat. The major conflict of the series revolved around the fate of Rose and Dimitri's relationship and though I much prefer non-romance-centric plots, I did like these characters enough to feel invested in their romance. I do think that perhaps this plot line could have been handled better though, as it was largely played out come the fifth book, Spirit Bound, leaving the final book, Last Sacrifice, rather anti-climactic.

I have no regrets for seeing the series through to the end, however. Overall, despite the often trivial nature of the plot and the poor execution of the storyline, the Vampire Academy Series is a pretty entertaining read. Richelle Mead's writing often comes off as very amateurish and unimpressive to me, and yet at the same time it is this simplistic writing style that makes the series so easily readable. I would have preferred a much higher stakes version of the series, like the other speculative fiction series that I love, but at least it made for an easy and entertaining read.

Author Links:

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Drowning In Series

I've been drowning in series for a long time now. I have so many series on-the-go that it's a little hard to keep track of them and remember where I'm at it the story, and I really hate feeling overwhelmed when it comes to a hobby that gives me such joy. So I have decided that I need to take control of the situation. I need to keep tabs on which series I'm in the middle of, which series I still have yet to read, and which series I need to DNF if they aren't priorities. This is inspired by Mel of The Daily Prophecy, who challenged herself to cut down on the huge number of series she was reading.

WIP Series - TOTAL: 15
I have 15 series that are currently "Work In Progress." Now, this may sound like a big number to some people, but I'm actually quite proud of myself because I've gotten it down from what was originally a hugely embarrassing number that I'd rather not share. My goal is to keep my WIP Series at fifteen series, so if I want to start a new TBR Series, I would like to finish up a series on this list first. Ideally, I could get this number down to 10 someday...

The Archived by Victoria Schwab – 1 book left
Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer – 5 books left
Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis – 6 books left
Cormoran Strike by Robert Galbraith – nth books left
Darkest Powers by Kelley Armstrong – 2 books left
Every Day by David Levithan – 1 book left
The Fifth Wave by Rick Yancey – 2 books left
Finishing School by Gail Carriger – 1 book left
His Fair Assassin by Robin LaFevers – 1 book left
The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer – 2 books left
Micah Grey by Laura Lam – 1 book left
The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani – 1 book left
Starbound by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner – 2 books left
Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas – 3 books left
Veronica Mars by Rob Thomas – nth books left

TBR Series - TOTAL: 52
So as you can see, I have a huge number of series that I would like to read someday (and I'm willing to bet you do too!). And I'm sure this list isn't even comprehensive, as I'm confident I'll be adding to it always (SO many series, SO little time!). A lot of these TBR Series have been on my TBR for a long time and I'm honestly SO excited to get to them... With that said, if ever I decide that I NEED to start one of these right away even if my number of WIP Series is too high, then I'm going to do so because ultimately I want reading to remain my favourite happy past-time.

Abhorsen by Garth Nix
The Agency by Y.S. Lee
Anna by Kendare Blake
The Ascendance by Jennifer A. Nielsen
Bartimaeus by Jonathon Stroud
A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
The Demon’s Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan
The Diviners by Libba Bray
Elemental by Brigid Kemmerer
Fairyland by Catherynne M. Valente
Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson
Flavia de Luce by Alan Bradley
Gemma Doyle by Libba Bray
Graceling Realm by Kristen Cashore
Half Life by Sally Green
Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins
Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini
Kane Chronicles by Rick Riordan
Kat, Incorrible by Stephanie Burgis
Keeper of the Lost Cities by Shannon Messenger
Killer Unicorns by Diana Peterfreund
The Kingkiller Chronicle by Patrick Rothfuss
The League of Princes by Christopher Healy
Legend by Marie Lu
Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld
Lumatere Chronicles by Melina Marchetta
The Malediction Trilogy by Danielle L. Jensen
The Mediator by Meg Cabot
Memoir by Lady Trent by Marie Brennan
Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson
Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis
Penryn & the End of Days by Susan Ee
Pivot Point by Kasie West
The Queen’s Thief by Megan Whalen Turner
The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater
Red Rising by Pierce Brown
The Remnant Chronicles by Mary E. Pearson
Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen
Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket
Sevenwaters by Juliet Marillier
Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi
Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard
Song of the Lioness by Tamora Pierce
Study by Maria V. Snyder
Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
Unearthly by Cynthia Hand
The Winner’s Trilogy by Marie Rutkoski
The Wolves of Mercy Falls by Maggie Stiefvater
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

Are there any series that I've forgotten here that you feel I MUST add to my list? Let me know!

DNF Series - TOTAL: 41
For the life of me, I absolutely cannot DNF a book if I'm in the middle of reading it, no matter how much I'm not enjoying it... The same cannot be said when it comes to series. I guess I feel like life is too short to continue on with a series I'm not enjoying when there are SO many TBR Series that I'm dying to get to! Note that the following DNF Series may not necessarily be on this list because I did not enjoy the first book; I may simply feel no need to continue on with the series despite liking the first book. Priorities!

13 To Life by Shannon Delany
The 100 by Kass Morgan
Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick
Ashes, Ashes by Jo Treggiari
Black City by Elizabeth Richards
Blackthorn and Grim by Juliet Marillier
The Blessed by Tonya Hurley
The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon
Confessions of a Murder Suspect by James Patterson
Dark Inside by Jeyn Roberts
Dark Mirror by M.J. Putney
Death Sworn by Leah Cypress
Defiance by C.J. Redwine
Dualed by Elsie Chapman
The Elemental by Sherry Thomas
The Ender Quartet by Orson Scott Card
Fury by Elizabeth Miles
The Giver by Lois Lowry
Holders by Julianna Scott
Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick
The Hybrid Chronicles by Kat Zhang
Icons by Margaret Stohl
The Lynburn Legacy by Sarah Rees Brennan
Magisterium by Cassandra Clare and Holly Black
Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin
Midnight Thief by Livia Blackburne
Mind Games by Kiersten White
Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
Order of Darkness by Philippa Gregory
Possession by Elana Johnson
Pretty Little Liars by Sara Shepard
Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry
The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
Robert Langdon by Dan Brown
Shadowfell by Juliet Marillier
Splintered by A.G. Howard
Summer by Jenny Han
The Syrena Legacy by Anna Banks
Talon by Julie Kagawa
The Wizard’s Promise by Cassandra Rose Clarke
XVI by Julia Karr

Are there any series here that you feel I should give a second chance and not DNF yet? Let me know!

Completed Series - TOTAL: 40
And to finish off with a list that makes me feel good: there are 40 book series that I have completed and I feel quite satisfied to have done so! Of course, in many cases I was sad to see them end, but in another sense I'm happy to have completed 40 series that I have enjoyed from beginning to end (in most cases... some of these series had disappointing finales).

Across the Universe by Beth Revis
Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
Ashfall by Mike Mullin
The Assassin’s Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke
Blood of Eden by Julie Kagawa
Carter Finally Gets It by Brent Crawford
Caster Chronicles by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
Chaos Walking by Patrick Ness
The Chemical Garden by Lauren DeStefano
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
Curse Workers by Holly Black
Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
Delirium by Lauren Oliver
Divergent by Veronica Roth
Dust Lands by Moira Young
For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund
The Grisha by Leigh Bardugo
Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
The Heroes of Olympus by Rick Riordan
His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
If I Stay by Gayle Forman
The Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare
Insignia by S.J. Kincaid
Just One Day by Gayle Forman
Little Brother by Cory Doctorow
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
Matched by Ally Condie
Maze Runner by James Dashner
Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin
Millennium by Stieg Larsson
The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey
The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare
Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan
River of Time by Lisa Bergren
Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
Unraveling by Elizabeth Norris
Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead
Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr

I'm feeling quite good that I have taken the steps to get organized about my series reading, made goals to cut down on the number that are WIP Series, and DNF'd series that I feel no especial need to continue. As I said, I dislike feeling overwhelmed when it comes to my most cherished past-time and making these lists is my version of coping with that. If you've ever felt like you are drowning in series too, I definitely encourage/challenge you to do the same!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Review: Hold Me Closer: The Tiny Cooper Story by David Levithan

Publisher: Penguin
Published: March 17, 2015
Pages: 208
Source: Gifted from Penguin Canada
Rating: 3.5 Stars

It’s Tiny Cooper’s turn in the spotlight in this companion novel to New York Times bestseller Will Grayson, Will Grayson.
Jazz hands at the ready! Tiny Cooper (“the world’s largest person who is also really, really gay”) stole readers’ hearts when he was introduced to the world in the New York Times bestselling book Will Grayson, Will Grayson, co-authored by John Green and David Levithan. Now Tiny finally gets to tell his story—from his fabulous birth and childhood to his quest for true love and his infamous parade of ex-boyfriends—the way he always intended: as a musical! Filled with honesty, humor, and “big, lively, belty” musical numbers, the novel is told through the full script of the musical first introduced in Will Grayson, Will Grayson.

In short: Hold Me Closer: The Tiny Cooper Story by David Levithan is a brilliant musical script that would be highly entertaining as a musical theatre performance.
If you've read Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan then odds are, you fell in love with Tiny Cooper. The not-so-tiny Tiny Cooper is the link between the two Will Graysons of the novel and acts as a bit of a life coach for the two Wills as they struggle to find their truths and gain the confidence in their selves that Tiny already has in leaps and bounds. Unlike most LGBT teen characters, Tiny already knows who he is and is happy and proud to be big and gay. Hold Me Closer is Tiny's life story in musical form.

I'm kind of in awe that the musical that we only saw glimpses of in Will Grayson, Will Grayson has been completely fleshed out here in Hold Me Closer in multiple acts and scenes, and full musical numbers and soliloquies by David Levithan. I mean, of course I knew he was a very talented and prolific novelist who writes great characters and very quotable prose, but who knew that he had the ability to write a consummate musical production, complete with music index and stage directions in his wheelhouse? I should have known better because David Levithan has yet to disappoint me.

Impressive as this complete musical theatre script is, musicals are meant to be seen as a performance, not read without any melody. Perhaps someone with more musical talent than I could fill in the gaps and add tunes to the lyrics of the songs, but I was left simply to read it. I have no doubt however, that Hold Me Closer would make for a brilliant audiobook or a highly entertaining musical theatre performance! Hold Me Closer: The Tiny Cooper Story is not only amusing, but I think also very inspiring. I recommend it, but I also highly recommend reading Will Grayson, Will Grayson first!

Other Reviews:
52 Book Minimum
So Many Books, So Little Time
Where the writer comes to write

Author Links:

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Waiting On Wednesday: HarperCollins Fall 2015 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 Fall 2015 Catalog:

Walk On Earth A Stranger by Rae Carson
Date: September 22, 2015
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Lee Westfall has a secret. She can sense the presence of gold in the world around her. Veins deep beneath the earth, pebbles in the river, nuggets dug up from the forest floor. The buzz of gold means warmth and life and home—until everything is ripped away by a man who wants to control her. Left with nothing, Lee disguises herself as a boy and takes to the trail across the country. Gold was discovered in California, and where else could such a magical girl find herself, find safety? Rae Carson, author of the acclaimed Girl of Fire and Thorns trilogy, dazzles with this new fantasy that subverts both our own history and familiar fantasy tropes.
Walk on Earth a Stranger, the first book in this new trilogy, introduces—as only Rae Carson can—a strong heroine, a perilous road, a fantastical twist, and a slow-burning romance. Includes a map and author’s note on historical research.

Okay, so. I haven't actually read Rae Carson's Fire and Thorns Trilogy yet, please forgive me!! BUT it's because I'm currently working to finish off some other series first before I start in on a new one. From what I can tell though, I KNOW I'm going to love the Fire and Thorns Trilogy and I have a pretty good feeling about Walk on Earth a Stranger, too!

The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness
Date: October 6, 2015
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What if you aren’t the Chosen One?

The one who’s supposed to fight the zombies, or the soul-eating ghosts, or whatever the heck this new thing is, with the blue lights and the death?

What if you’re like Mikey? Who just wants to graduate and go to prom and maybe finally work up the courage to ask Henna out before someone goes and blows up the high school. Again.

Because sometimes there are problems bigger than this week’s end of the world, and sometimes you just have to find the extraordinary in your ordinary life.

Even if your best friend is worshiped by mountain lions.

Woohoo, new Patrick Ness!! I will read anything that man writes, he is just so brilliant! And his new book, The Rest of Us Just Live Here sounds super interesting. AND apparently its cover GLOWS IN THE DARK!!

A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis
Date: October 6, 2015
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Grace Mae knows madness.
She keeps it locked away, along with her voice, trapped deep inside a brilliant mind that cannot forget horrific family secrets. Those secrets, along with the bulge in her belly, land her in a Boston insane asylum.
When her voice returns in a burst of violence, Grace is banished to the dark cellars, where her mind is discovered by a visiting doctor who dabbles in the new study of criminal psychology. With her keen eyes and sharp memory, Grace will make the perfect assistant at crime scenes. Escaping from Boston to the safety of an ethical Ohio asylum, Grace finds friendship and hope, hints of a life she should have had. But gruesome nights bring Grace and the doctor into the circle of a killer who stalks young women. Grace, continuing to operate under the cloak of madness, must hunt a murderer while she confronts the demons in her own past.

SO obsessed with this cover! I mean, what the heck is going on there?! I'm intrigued to say the least. A Madness So Discreet seems like it would make a great Hallowe'en read!

How about you? Are you waiting on any of these HarperCollins Fall 2015 reads? Are there any upcoming books from the HarperCollins Fall 2015 Catalog that I didn't include here that you feel I should add to my list?

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Review: Fairest (The Lunar Chronicles #3.5) by Marissa Meyer

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Published: January 27, 2015
Pages: 220
Source: Gifted
Rating: 3.5 Stars

In this stunning bridge book between Cress and Winter in the bestselling Lunar Chronicles, Queen Levana’s story is finally told.

Mirror, mirror on the wall, Who is the fairest of them all?

Fans of the Lunar Chronicles know Queen Levana as a ruler who uses her “glamour” to gain power. But long before she crossed paths with Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress, Levana lived a very different story – a story that has never been told . . . until now.

Marissa Meyer spins yet another unforgettable tale about love and war, deceit and death. This extraordinary book includes full-color art and an excerpt from Winter, the next book in the Lunar Chronicles series.

In short: Fairest by Marissa Meyer is a fascinating - and tragic - look into Levana's backstory.
The best villains are the complex ones. And thanks to this in-depth view into the backstory, thought processes, and insecurities of Queen Levana, the villain of The Lunar Chronicles, we get to see this villain as much more than just a two-dimensional evil Queen who wants to take over the Earth. Ideally, the author could relay this complexity about the villain directly into the storyline itself, but I'm okay that it took separate book to do it in this case.

It did make for a pretty fascinating read, after all. Fairest tells a pretty tragic story about Levana, everything from her disfigurement and self-esteem issues to an especially bitter tale of unrequited love. It's pretty disquieting to read about such awful turmoil and the heartbreak that Levana faces as part of her origin story and it almost makes you feel sympathetic to her plight. Almost. She's still an altogether terrible person. And a disempathetic-type sociopath.

Fairest is largely about Levana and her backstory, but we also get a look into the foundation of the virus, beasts, shells, etc., that make up the groundwork for the premise and conflict in the series, so that was pretty interesting, albeit perhaps a little lacking in nuance in the way it was communicated. Overall, though I don't think Fairest was mind-blowing in any significant way, I did really like getting some insight into Levana's mind and Luna's motive.

Previously, my reviews of Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress.

Other Reviews:
Carina's Books
Megan Likes Books
Time Turning Reads

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Monday, June 29, 2015

My Life in June: Mad Max, Jurassic World, and Serial Podcast

Well, I suppose it was going to be pretty hard to beat the month I had in May, but I guess June was good too, all things considered. June was more laid back for me compared to May, but that's not a bad thing. Socially, I got to celebrate the successful PhD defense of one of my cohorts, visit with my in-laws-to-be for a weekend and celebrate my engagement, and hang out with Zahida for some long-overdue catch-up time, all before saying goodbye to my boyfriend (fiancé sounds way too weird to me) as he is off for two months of field work, digging up dinosaurs. And the rest of June? I was on my own with my ferrets, my books, and a few new obsessions that I thought I would share here:

First obsession of the month: Mad Max! Or maybe more accurately: Furiosa!
I had never seen the original Mad Max movies so I watched those first before Mad Max: Fury Road and - no disrespect to the originals, which are clearly very influential, but - this new movie took the franchise to a WHOLE new level of crazy and awesome. I swear it was the best movie I've seen in YEARS, I just loved it so much! And Tom Hardy was pretty amazing as Max, but Charlize Theron was a REVELATION to me as Furiosa, feminist hero. Damn, I loved her! If you've seen the movie, then you know what I mean. And if you haven't yet, it's an absolute must!

Next up, Jurassic World:
If you've been following me for a while, you may have gathered that I have a SLIGHT obsession with palaeontology. So of course I needed to go see Jurassic World. And here's the part where I could rant on and on about all the things this movie got wrong about dinosaurs (and other Mesozoic reptiles), but I guess I will spare you. Why? Well, primarily I don't want to bore anyone, but also because I have decided to view the movie exactly as it was intended to be: a fun action-adventure monster movie. Yes, the science was pretty wacky. But what can I say? I enjoyed it. And how much do I wish I were able to get up close to dinosaurs and train them? I would be lying if I said I hadn't daydreamed about that very thing for much of my life. SO COOL.

And last, but certainly not least, my third obsession of the month: Serial Podcast.
Alright, I know I'm late to the party on this one because I remember everyone talking about this podcast when it was released last year, but I just listened to it this month. And then promptly listened to the entire series a SECOND time because it was so damn good! I never would have thought I could become so gripped by a murder case from 1999 and all the inconsistencies surrounding it, but the podcast is just so well edited and put together. And it really gave me a lot to think about regarding supposedly solved mysteries, interrogation methods, the justice system, etc. It's a fantastic production and it's FREE. I highly recommend checking it out if you haven't yet!

Blog Posts in June

Top Ten Books On My Summer TBR (Help Me Prioritize!)
Waiting On Wednesday: HarperCollins Summer 2015 Catalog
Waiting On Wednesday: Macmillan Fall 2015 Catalog
Review: The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth - 4 Stars
Review: The Grisha Novellas by Leigh Bardugo - 4 Stars
Review: Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas - 5 Stars
My Life in May: London and Edinburgh and Paris, Oh My!

Best Book Read in June

Eleanor & Park received the most votes in my Summer TBR Poll. Figures that it would be the only contemporary on the list that ended up winning. I'm glad it was chosen as my first read of my summer though. Even though I didn't like it as much as I loved Fangirl, it was still a definite winner and I can see why this book is so special to so many people. Reading Eleanor & Park also really solidified my love for Rainbow Rowell, though I still haven't read her adult books yet - I have a feeling I'm going to love Attachments and Landline a whole lot, too!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Waiting On Wednesday: Macmillan Fall 2015 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 Macmillan Fall 2015 Catalog:

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
Date: September 29, 2015
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Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price—and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can't pull it off alone...
A convict with a thirst for revenge.
A sharpshooter who can't walk away from a wager.
A runaway with a privileged past.
A spy known as the Wraith.
A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums.
A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes.
Six dangerous outcasts. One impossible heist. Kaz's crew is the only thing that might stand between the world and destruction—if they don't kill each other first.

New series from Leigh Bardugo set in the same world as The Grisha!! This is basically some of the best bookish news ever because I was SO not ready to be done with that world, considering all the fantastic work Leigh put into Grisha and Ravkan lore. Cannot wait for Six of Crows!

Dreamstrider by Lindsay Smith
Date: October 6, 2015
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A high-concept, fantastical espionage novel set in a world where dreams are the ultimate form of political intelligence.
Livia is a dreamstrider. She can inhabit a subject's body while they are sleeping and, for a short time, move around in their skin. She uses her talent to work as a spy for the Barstadt Empire. But her partner, Brandt, has lately become distant, and when Marez comes to join their team from a neighboring kingdom, he offers Livia the option of a life she had never dared to imagine. Livia knows of no other dreamstriders who have survived the pull of Nightmare. So only she understands the stakes when a plot against the Empire emerges that threatens to consume both the dreaming world and the waking one with misery and rage.
A richly conceived world full of political intrigue and fantastical dream sequences, at its heart Dreamstrider is about a girl who is struggling to live up to the potential before her.

Damn, this cover and blurb just scream originality! I love it. It's pretty rare that I come across a book these days that doesn't seem reminiscent or derivative of a dozen other books. So I'm definitely looking forward to Dreamstrider!

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
Date: October 6, 2015
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Simon Snow just wants to relax and savor his last year at the Watford School of Magicks, but no one will let him. His girlfriend broke up with him, his best friend is a pest, and his mentor keeps trying to hide him away in the mountains where maybe he’ll be safe. Simon can’t even enjoy the fact that his roommate and longtime nemesis is missing, because he can’t stop worrying about the evil git. Plus there are ghosts. And vampires. And actual evil things trying to shut Simon down. When you’re the most powerful magician the world has ever known, you never get to relax and savor anything.
Carry On is a ghost story, a love story, a mystery and a melodrama. It has just as much kissing and talking as you’d expect from a Rainbow Rowell story — but far, far more monsters.

Woohoo, new Rainbow Rowell! And even better: a return of some Simon and Baz action from Cath's fanfic from Fangirl! I had a ton of fun reading that fanfic - which is a play on Harry Potter H/D slash fanfiction - so I already know I'm going to have a ton of fun with Carry On!

Winter (The Lunar Chronicles #4) by Marissa Meyer
Date: November 10, 2015
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Princess Winter is admired by the Lunar people for her grace and kindness, and despite the scars that mar her face, her beauty is said to be even more breathtaking than that of her stepmother, Queen Levana.
Winter despises her stepmother, and knows Levana won’t approve of her feelings for her childhood friend–the handsome palace guard, Jacin. But Winter isn’t as weak as Levana believes her to be and she’s been undermining her stepmother’s wishes for years. Together with the cyborg mechanic, Cinder, and her allies, Winter might even have the power to launch a revolution and win a war that’s been raging for far too long.
Can Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter defeat Levana and find their happily ever afters?

824 pages of glorious reading and spending time with my faves Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress, and who I am sure will be a new fave girl, Winter. I have no doubt that Marissa Meyer will do a fantastic job with this series ender, considering her books somehow seem to get even more intense and epic than the one before. Winter is coming!

How about you? Are you waiting on any of these Macmillan Fall 2015 reads? Are there any upcoming books from the Macmillan Fall 2015 Catalog that I didn't include here that you feel I should add to my list?

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Review: Heir of Fire (Throne of Glass #3) by Sarah J. Maas

Publisher: Bloomsbury
Published: September 2, 2014
Pages: 562
Source: Bought
Rating: 5 Stars

She was the heir of ash and fire, and she would bow to no one.

Celaena Sardothien has survived deadly contests and shattering heartbreak—but at an unspeakable cost. Now she must travel to a new land to confront her darkest truth...a truth about her heritage that could change her life—and her future—forever.

Meanwhile, brutal and monstrous forces are gathering on the horizon, intent on enslaving her world. To defeat them, Celaena must find the strength to not only fight her inner demons but to battle the evil that is about to be unleashed.

In short: I loved every piece of Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas, just like I KNEW I would.
At this point, anything I say about the Throne of Glass Series is just going to be incredibly repetitive, I think. Because how many different ways can I write about how much I love fierce-yet-vulnerable Celaena and Sarah J. Maas' knack for writing intense heart-pounding action scenes and prose that puts me through an insane roller coaster of emotions? That's how it's been for all the previous books, that's how it was for Heir of Fire, and that's how it's going to be for every sequel to come, I'm sure.

So this review is going to be short. But I still feel the need to make it known: I loved every piece of Heir of Fire and Sarah J. Maas is a downright genius in my mind for continuing to pump out such completely engaging stories with some of the most memorable characters and the ability to evoke such a wide array of passionate feelings. What's more is, at no point will this ever feel repetitious because Sarah also brings MORE new mythology and heightened intensity and enigmatic characters to every subsequent book. Case in point: Rowan Whitethorn and Manon Blackbeak, as first introduced in Heir of Fire, are two of my most favourite characters of the series now (don't worry though, no one will ever replace Celaena).

So yes, I mean OF COURSE I loved Heir of Fire. There was never any doubt in my mind that I wouldn't love it as I've now reached the point where I really don't think Sarah J. Maas could do wrong in my mind. I am a Forever Fan of hers and the Throne of Glass Series now. And I'm so excited that I only have a few more months until I get to read Queen of Shadows!!

Previously, my reviews of The Assassin's Blade, Throne of Glass, and Crown of Midnight.

Other Reviews:
Lunar Rainbows
My Precious
Where the Writer Comes to Write

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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Review: The Grisha Novellas by Leigh Bardugo

Publisher: Macmillan
Published: June 2012-April 2014
Pages: 107
Source: Bought
Rating: 4 Stars

The Witch of Duva:
There was a time when the woods near Duva ate girls...or so the story goes. But it’s just possible that the danger may be a little bit closer to home.

The Too-Clever Fox:
In Ravka, just because you avoid one trap, it doesn't mean you'll escape the next.

Little Knife:
In this third Ravkan folk tale from Leigh Bardugo, a beautiful girl finds that what her father wants for her and what she wants for herself are two different things.

When I reviewed The Assassin's Blade, a series of novellas from the Throne of Glass Series by Sarah J. Maas, I talked about how THIS was how a novella should be done. Because more often than not, novellas just strike me as being so superfluous and inessential to the series at large, and the reason that the Throne of Glass novellas resonated with me was because they are completely relevant and significant to the overall series story.

Well, I may need to eat my own words here because there are other instances in which I feel like novellas are worthwhile besides just being an essential part of the series story. Case in point: these Ravkan folktales that Leigh Bardugo published that have nothing to do with Alina Starkov's story in Shadow and Bone, but are all relevant to the Grishaverse and the Ravkan culture that we got to experience in Shadow and Bone.

The little hints of Ravkan and Grisha culture that we got to see in Shadow and Bone were my favourite parts of Leigh Bardugo's skilled world building. The best high fantasy stories to me are the ones that seem like they really could be legitimate worlds with an added magical flair, and having an author go that extra mile to think of unique folktales for that world is really special.

And as with folktales in our own world, they all come with their own morals, which is always interesting to decipher. So if you are a fan of The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo and if you enjoyed similar pretend-folktales like The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling, then be sure to check out these Grisha novellas by Leigh Bardugo.

Previously, my reviews of Shadow and Bone, Siege and Storm, and Ruin and Rising.

Author Links: