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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

Author Links:

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:

Monday, June 15, 2015

Top Ten Books On My Summer TBR (Help Me Prioritize!)

I've set up polls exactly like this for the past two years (2013, 2014) so that I could get people's input on what I should be prioritizing in my reading schedule this summer (I wish I could read them all, but unfortunately I just don't have the time!). The response that I received these past two years was so great and helpful, so of course I knew I needed to do it again. The above ten books are all ones that I have been putting off reading for what seems like FOREVER. I'm so excited to read each and every one of them, but I need your help in deciding which ones should be at the top of my priority list. Any reasonings for your choice(s) can be left in the comments below. Thanks so much!!

survey services

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Review: The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth

Publisher: Balzer and Bray
Published: February 7, 2012
Pages: 470
Source: Borrowed
Rating: 4 Stars

When Cameron Post’s parents die suddenly in a car crash, her shocking first thought is relief. Relief they’ll never know that, hours earlier, she had been kissing a girl.
But that relief doesn’t last, and Cam is soon forced to move in with her conservative aunt Ruth and her well-intentioned but hopelessly old-fashioned grandmother. She knows that from this point on, her life will forever be different. Survival in Miles City, Montana, means blending in and leaving well enough alone (as her grandmother might say), and Cam becomes an expert at both.
Then Coley Taylor moves to town. Beautiful, pickup-driving Coley is a perfect cowgirl with the perfect boyfriend to match. She and Cam forge an unexpected and intense friendship — one that seems to leave room for something more to emerge. But just as that starts to seem like a real possibility, ultrareligious Aunt Ruth takes drastic action to ‘fix’ her niece, bringing Cam face-to-face with the cost of denying her true self — even if she’s not exactly sure who that is.

In short: The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth wasn't an easy read, but it was a worthwhile one and I feel enriched for having read it.
I will admit that the proportion of books I read that have LGBT protagonists is not super high. Not equivalent to the proportion of LGBT people in the population anyway. But it occurred to me as I was looking through the LGBT books I had read that the vast majority of them were G with the occasional B thrown in; none of them were L or T. Not exactly representative. (This is actually a pattern I've noticed among the book blogging community at large, not just myself. Why this is the case is perhaps a topic for another time though). Anyways, this is an easy fix.

Enter The Miseducation of Cameron Post. Set in the early 90's in Montana, it's not exactly the most open-minded time and place in which to be a young girl questioning her sexuality. To be a fly on the wall in Cameron's life from age 12 to 17 while she deals with discrimination from those around her and self-hatred from herself is not an easy thing to experience, but it is worthwhile. I like that Emily M. Danforth refrains from getting preachy in her novel. The focus is on Cameron and her personal growth, not on pushing a particular agenda.

The strength of The Miseducation of Cameron Post lies in the nuanced characterization. There's a lot to show in a book detailing a character's life from 12 to 17 years of age and I was pleasantly surprised with how Emily M. Danforth handled it as it would have been easy to gloss over character-building scenes. People who prefer plot-driven novels may find certain scenes pointless, but to me every scene truly felt like it was contributing to the character development. These characters were probably the most authentic of any LGBT-oriented novel I've read.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post is a truly realistic portrayal of growing up gay in the early 90's that I would recommend to upper-YA age readers, especially those who enjoy character-driven novels. Cam's story isn't an easy one to process, but it is an important one and I feel enriched for having read it. If anyone has any recommendations for other great L- or T-specific books (or any other letter in the sex or gender spectrum), then I'd love to hear them! (No hate is meant towards all the great gay male fiction out there! I would just like to diversify my reading a bit more).

Other Reviews:
Courtney Reads A Lot
Good Books and Good Wine

Author Links:

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Waiting On Wednesday: HarperCollins Summer 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 Summer 2015 Catalog:

Go Set A Watchman (To Kill a Mockingbird #2) by Harper Lee
Date: July 14, 2015
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Originally written in the mid-1950s, Go Set a Watchman was the novel Harper Lee first submitted to her publishers before To Kill a Mockingbird. Assumed to have been lost, the manuscript was discovered in late 2014.
Go Set a Watchman features many of the characters from To Kill a Mockingbird some twenty years later. Returning home to Maycomb to visit her father, Jean Louise Finch—Scout—struggles with issues both personal and political, involving Atticus, society, and the small Alabama town that shaped her.
Exploring how the characters from To Kill a Mockingbird are adjusting to the turbulent events transforming mid-1950s America, Go Set a Watchman casts a fascinating new light on Harper Lee’s enduring classic. Moving, funny and compelling, it stands as a magnificent novel in its own right.

I recently reread the beautiful To Kill A Mockingbird to prepare for this long lost sequel's release. And while I'm a bit unsure what to think about the issues surrounding Harper Lee's consent and while I'm sure there is no way that it could ever compare to the original, I'm still SO curious and excited to read Go Set A Watchman!

The Last Ever After (The School for Good and Evil #3) by Soman Chainani
Date: July 21, 2015
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In the epic conclusion to Soman Chainani’s New York Times bestselling series, The School for Good and Evil, everything old is new again as Sophie and Agatha fight the past as well as the present to find the perfect end to their story.
As A World Without Princes closed, the end was written and former best friends Sophie and Agatha went their separate ways. Agatha was whisked back to Gavaldon with Tedros and Sophie stayed behind with the beautiful young School Master.
But as they settle into their new lives, their story begs to be re-written, and this time, theirs isn’t the only one. With the girls apart, Evil has taken over and the villains of the past have come back to change their tales and turn the world of Good and Evil upside down.

The School for Good and Evil Trilogy isn't without its flaws in my opinion, but these books definitely make for a fun escape! I'm curious what The Last Ever After will have in store for the characters, especially with how A World Without Princes ended!

Ash & Bramble by Sarah Prineas
Date: September 15, 2015
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When the glass slipper just doesn’t fit…
The tale of Cinderella has been retold countless times. But what you know is not the true story.
Pin has no recollection of who she is or how she got to the Godmother’s fortress. She only knows that she is a Seamstress, working day in and out to make ball gowns fit for fairy tales. But she longs to forsake her backbreaking servitude and dares to escape with the brave young Shoemaker.
Pin isn’t free for long before she’s captured again and forced to live the new life the Godmother chooses for her—a fairy tale story, complete with a charming prince—instead of finding her own happily ever after.
Sarah Prineas’s bold fairy tale retelling is a dark and captivating world where swords are more fitting than slippers, young shoemakers are just as striking as princes, and a heroine is more than ready to rescue herself before the clock strikes midnight.

Ooh, don't you love twisted fairy tales?! I mean, because as classic as the story of Cinderella is, we've all heard it before. I love it when authors play with classic fairy tales and make it their own and that's why I'm looking forward to Ash & Bramble!

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