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Tuesday, December 13, 2016

2016 End of Year Survey

The Annual End of Year Book Survey is hosted by The Perpetual Page-Turner

1. Best Book You Read In 2016?
In chronological order read: The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater, Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, Fire and Thorns Trilogy by Rae Carson, Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas, and Vicious by V.E. Schwab. I read lots of great books this year, but these are the ones that ended up sticking with me weeks, months later.

2. Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read?
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child had a ton of bizarre surprises in store and I'm still not really sure what to think of them...

3. Best series you started in 2016? Best Sequel of 2016? Best Series Ender of 2016?
Definitely The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater.

4. Favorite new author you discovered in 2016?
Rae Carson! I was blown away by her Fire and Thorns Trilogy.

5. Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone?
I usually avoid depressing contemporary books like the plague, but I must admit that Me Before You by Jojo Moyes was a great reading experience.

6. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?
The Fire and Thorns Trilogy by Rae Carson - these books are so fast-paced, they accomplish more plot-wise in a few chapters than the average book, which takes thrice as long.

7. Book You Read In 2016 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year?
I would love to do a series reread of The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater, probably via audiobook.

8. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2016?

9. Most memorable character of 2016?
Laura Ingalls from the Little House Series quickly won me over with her spunky tomboy spirit and I loved reading about her journey growing up as a pioneer in the Northwest US. Also: Marvin, the chronically depressed robot, from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

10. Most beautifully written book read in 2016?
The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater.

11. Most Thought-Provoking/ Life-Changing Book of 2016?
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. I wouldn't say this book was life-changing, but it definitely gave me a ton to think about.

13. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2016 to finally read?
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams! That book was originally published in 1979, is a classic, and is right up my alley so I don't know what took me so long.

14. Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2016?
Longest: Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas - 648 pages
Shortest: one of the numerous children's picture books I read to kids during my summer job

15. Book That Shocked You The Most
Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff had some insanely fun shocking moments!

16. OTP OF THE YEAR (you will go down with this ship!)
Yorick and Agent 355 from Y: The Last Man by Brian Vaughan.

17. Favorite Non-Romantic Relationship Of The Year
The Raven Boys + Blue, from the The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater.

18. Favorite Book You Read in 2016 From An Author You’ve Read Previously
The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater. I had previously read The Scorpio Races - an all-time favourite of mine - so it is no wonder The Raven Cycle was a WIN for me in 2016.

19. Best Book You Read In 2016 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else/Peer Pressure:
When I heard from Micheline of Lunar Rainbows that the audiobook of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy was read by the inimitable Stephen Fry, I KNEW I had to have it!

20. Best Worldbuilding/Most Vivid Setting You Read This Year?
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline.

21. Book That Put A Smile On Your Face/Was The Most FUN To Read?
For sure The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams!

22. Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2016?
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes.

23. Book That Crushed Your Soul?
The final volume of Y: The Last Man by Brian Vaughan.

24. Most Unique Book You Read In 2016?
Saga by Brian Vaughan and The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente. HELLO creativity!!

25. One Book You Didn’t Get To In 2016 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2017?
Empire of Storms (Throne of Glass #5) by Sarah J. Maas

26. Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2017 (non-debut)?
Throne of Glass #6 by Sarah J. Maas - the series ender!!

Monday, December 5, 2016

Top Ten Authors I Read For The First Time In 2016

Top Ten Authors I Read For The First Time In 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 2, 2016

November Recap: Rest in Peace, Stela

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rest in peace, dearest Stela.

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

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

Monday, November 28, 2016

Muggle Monday: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Waiting On Wednesday: HarperCollins Winter 2017 Catalog

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

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

The Fate of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
Date: November 29, 2016
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In less than a year, Kelsea Glynn has transformed from a gawky teenager into a powerful monarch. As she has come into her own as the Queen of the Tearling, the headstrong, visionary leader has also transformed her realm. In her quest to end corruption and restore justice, she has made many enemies—including the evil Red Queen, her fiercest rival, who has set her armies against the Tear.
To protect her people from a devastating invasion, Kelsea did the unthinkable—she gave herself and her magical sapphires to her enemy—and named the Mace, the trusted head of her personal guards, Regent in her place. But the Mace will not rest until he and his men rescue their sovereign, imprisoned in Mortmesne.
Now, as the suspenseful endgame begins, the fate of Queen Kelsea—and the Tearling itself—will finally be revealed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Review: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

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

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

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

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

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

Other Reviews:
Happy Indulgence
Just Another Story
Lunar Rainbows

Author Links:

Monday, October 24, 2016

Muggle Monday: Fantastic Beasts News Catch-Up

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

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

There is less than one month left until Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is released in theatres (November 18) so it seems like a good time to catch up on the major news from the last few months:

There Will Be Five Fantastic Beasts Films

You heard right: there will be a total of FIVE Fantastic Beasts movies written by J.K. Rowling. Originally slated to be a trilogy of movies, it was recently announced that two additional movies are needed to complete the story. I'm choosing to view this as a genuine attempt to tell the story well, and NOT just a complete cash-grab as some people are suggesting.

And I'm super excited for this because not only will we be seeing even more from Newt Scamander and co., but these movies will be exploring the rise of the dark wizard, Grindelwald. We learned some hints about Grindelwald in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, but now we will get to learn about his backstory in earnest as it seems he may be the main villain of the Fantastic Beasts movies.

New Pottermore Writing Reveals History of Ilvermorny and MACUSA

J.K. Rowling has posted some extensive writings on Pottermore revealing the fascinating histories of North American Wizarding School Ilvermorny and the U.S. Ministry of Magic MACUSA.

Not only do these writings provide important context for the Fantastic Beasts movies, they're also fascinating lore in their own right, written in Jo's typical style of storytelling. In them we learn of the saga of the beginning of Ilvermorny (which could be easily fleshed out into its own novel IMO), and we also learn that a Potter family member was one of the first 12 Aurors that made up the law enforcement of MACUSA.

Find Out Your Ilvermorny House On Pottermore

In addition to the oodles of background history to learn about Ilvermorny, Pottermore also has more information about the Ilvermorny houses and a sorting quiz.
The Ilvermorny Houses are Horned Serpent, Pukwudgie, Thunderbird, and Wampus:
It is sometimes said of the Ilvermorny Houses that they represent the whole witch or wizard: the mind is represented by Horned Serpent; the body, Wampus; the heart, Pukwudgie and the soul, Thunderbird. Others say that Horned Serpent favours scholars, Wampus, warriors, Pukwudgie, healers and Thunderbird, adventurers.
And as for me, I was sorted into Horned Serpent! What Ilvermorny House were you sorted into?

Final Fantastic Beasts Trailer Has Been Released

This final Fantastic Beasts trailer truly gives audiences a taste of what to expect in theatres come November 18. In addition to being introduced to a whole new cast of characters, I am also looking forward to seeing more from New York in the 1920s and all the fantastic new magical beasts. What are you most looking forward to seeing in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them?

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Waiting On Wednesday: Macmillan Winter 2017 Catalog

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

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

Heartless by Marissa Meyer
Date: November 8, 2016
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Long before she was the terror of Wonderland — the infamous Queen of Hearts — she was just a girl who wanted to fall in love.
Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland, and a favorite of the yet-unmarried King of Hearts, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, all she wants is to open a shop with her best friend and supply the Kingdom of Hearts with delectable pastries and confections. But according to her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for the young woman who could be the next Queen.
At a royal ball where Cath is expected to receive the king's marriage proposal, she meets Jest, the handsome and mysterious court joker. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the King and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into an intense, secret courtship.
Cath is determined to define her own destiny and fall in love on her terms. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.

I'm so excited for Heartless, Marissa Meyer's take on the Queen of Hearts. Marissa Meyer knows how to write good fairy tale retellings and she can do no wrong in my eyes. Plus, early reviews I've read for Heartless so far have all been positive!

The Book Jumper by Mechthild Glaser
Date: January 3, 2017
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Amy Lennox doesn't know quite what to expect when she and her mother pick up and leave Germany for Scotland, heading to her mother's childhood home of Lennox House on the island of Stormsay.
Amy's grandmother, Lady Mairead, insists that Amy must read while she resides at Lennox House—but not in the usual way. It turns out that Amy is a book jumper, able to leap into a story and interact with the world inside. As thrilling as Amy's new power is, it also brings danger: someone is stealing from the books she visits, and that person may be after her life. Teaming up with fellow book jumper Will, Amy vows to get to the bottom of the thefts—at whatever cost.

The Book Jumper was first released in 2015 in German, and is now being rereleased this winter in English. I think I speak for all book lovers in sometimes wishing to be able to jump into the pages of our favourite bookish worlds and frolic about!

Wires and Nerve by Marissa Meyer
Date: January 31, 2017
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In her first graphic novel, bestselling author Marissa Meyer extends the world of the Lunar Chronicles with a brand-new, action-packed story about Iko, the android with a heart of (mechanized) gold. When rogue packs of wolf-hybrid soldiers threaten the tenuous peace alliance between Earth and Luna, Iko takes it upon herself to hunt down the soldiers' leader. She is soon working with a handsome royal guard who forces her to question everything she knows about love, loyalty, and her own humanity. With appearances by Cinder and the rest of the Rampion crew, this is a must-have for fans of the bestselling series.

Another new release by Marissa Meyer and one I'm equally as excited for! I've finally become a graphic novel reader this year and it has led to some great reads. Wires and Nerve will take us back to the Lunar Chronicles universe, this time featuring fan favourite Iko, and I can't wait to catch up with the Rampion crew!

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

Monday, October 17, 2016

Series Review: Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Published: September 2011-August 2013
Pages: 1,266
Source: Gifted
Rating: 4.5 Stars

Once a century, one person is chosen for greatness.
Elisa is the chosen one.
But she is also the younger of two princesses, the one who has never done anything remarkable. She can't see how she ever will.
Now, on her sixteenth birthday, she has become the secret wife of a handsome and worldly king—a king whose country is in turmoil. A king who needs the chosen one, not a failure of a princess.
And he's not the only one who seeks her. Savage enemies seething with dark magic are hunting her. A daring, determined revolutionary thinks she could be his people's savior. And he looks at her in a way that no man has ever looked at her before. Soon it is not just her life, but her very heart that is at stake.
Elisa could be everything to those who need her most. If the prophecy is fulfilled. If she finds the power deep within herself. If she doesn’t die young.
Most of the chosen do.

In short: The Fire and Thorns Trilogy by Rae Carson is a memorable epic with a strong female lead.
Finally I can say that I've read the entire Fire and Thorns Trilogy - after YEARS of it sitting on my TBR list and after countless bloggers recommending it to me. Actually, I'm glad that I was able to read each book back-to-back so that I could truly immerse myself in the interesting lore and the engaging characters of the trilogy. This is my first foray into the writings of Rae Carson and it won't be my last.

Rae Carson's writing is of the sort that I would have claimed I did not enjoy prior to reading the Fire and Thorns Trilogy. Her pacing is so rapid fast that she is able to accomplish many events plot-wise within the space of a few chapters when it takes the average author thrice as long. And she is somehow able to manage this while still saving room for little character moments to progress their development, which I found hugely impressive. Of course, there is also very little in the way of description and flowery prose - which I personally really love to read - so I was a bit disappointed about that.

Perhaps the thing that shines above all in the Fire and Thorns Trilogy is its protagonist, Elisa (My Queen!). She is a rarity in YA fantasy as she is described as plump and dark-skinned (and thus NOT like the model on the covers). She also struck me as legit smart in every decision that she made. Like, sometimes so-called "smart" characters in books make lots of decidedly un-smart decisions. But not Queen Elisa. Her confidence in her abilities and in herself made her a protagonist that I admire greatly and an incredible ruler to her people.

I applaud Rae Carson for crafting such a memorable epic with exciting, forward-moving pacing and great character arcs. Elisa will go down as one of my all-time favourite fictional rulers. Here's to more amazing fantasies with strong female leads by Rae Carson!

Author Links:

Friday, October 7, 2016

Where Has The Time Gone?

Where has the time gone? One moment I'm busy scheduling regular blog posts and the next moment it seems, it's five months later and I've barely thought about blogging at all. Blogging breaks happen to all of us, but this one was especially lengthy and left completely unexplained on my part (sorry!).

The summer season started up in May at my museum and all of a sudden I was working extremely exhausting days for the rest of summer. These are the busy months at the museum wherein thousands of tourists visit every day from around the world and I was tasked with educating and entertaining them. As a self-described introverted couch potato, leading hikes into the badlands for hundreds of strangers to hunt for fossils took a lot out of me every day and led to me crashing in bed shortly after wolfing down my supper every night.

Leading a hike into the Canadian Badlands
I love my job though, don't get me wrong. Every day I am so happy when I think about the fact that I get to live and work in an environment that I used to LIVE for as a child on family trips, and I get to be surrounded by fellow dino nerds. I am in my element, the place I want to be long-term, and I am loving life.

Mixed up in all of this, I apparently went insane and decided that among all my exhaustion it would be a good time to buy my first home?! Listen, I have no explanation besides that I fell head-over-heels-in-love with the perfect home that was the right price and I needed to have it.

My "new" 1920s home
Since purchasing property, I have been adulting HARD. I'm finalizing budget plans one day, renovating a bathroom the next, and cleaning out my eavestroughs the day after that. It's a lot of work, but I can't put into words how much joy it brings me to finally have my own space to settle and make my own. Have I mentioned that I am loving life?

Of course in all of this, blogging was the hobby that fell by the wayside. I am tentatively hoping to pick it back up now that things have quieted down a bit. I've missed you guys!

And one more thing:

THIS happened. And honestly, I'm still sort of working through my feelings on it. I'm not used to reading plays and I will admit I felt a bit detached at times reading a bare-bones script instead of the writing that I am used to. Ideally, I could see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child as it was meant to be experienced: on the stage. But until then I'm not sure I will be posting a review for it unless I can find a way to sort through my thoughts... Overall though, it was so great catching up with my favourites and seeing what they had been up to all these years. I'd love to know your thoughts on it!

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Waiting On Wednesday: HarperCollins Summer 2016 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 2016 Catalog:

The Thousandth Floor by Katharine McGee
Date: August 30, 2016
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New York City as you’ve never seen it before. A thousand-story tower stretching into the sky. A glittering vision of the future, where anything is possible—if you want it enough.
Welcome to Manhattan, 2118.
A hundred years in the future, New York is a city of innovation and dreams. But people never change: everyone here wants something…and everyone has something to lose.
Leda Cole’s flawless exterior belies a secret addiction—to a drug she never should have tried and a boy she never should have touched.
Eris Dodd-Radson’s beautiful, carefree life falls to pieces when a heartbreaking betrayal tears her family apart.
Rylin Myers’s job on one of the highest floors sweeps her into a world—and a romance—she never imagined…but will her new life cost Rylin her old one?
Watt Bakradi is a tech genius with a secret: he knows everything about everyone. But when he’s hired to spy by an upper-floor girl, he finds himself caught up in a complicated web of lies.
And living above everyone else on the thousandth floor is Avery Fuller, the girl genetically designed to be perfect. The girl who seems to have it all—yet is tormented by the one thing she can never have.
Debut author Katharine McGee has created a breathtakingly original series filled with high-tech luxury and futuristic glamour, where the impossible feels just within reach. But in this world, the higher you go, the farther there is to fall….

Ooh, I love the premise of this one. While the multiple characters' POVs can be a tricky thing to pull off, if it is handled well then I can see The Thousandth Floor being quite the intriguing read!

The Queen of Blood by Sarah Beth Durst
Date: September 20, 2016
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An idealistic young student and a banished warrior become allies in a battle to save their realm in this first book of a mesmerizing epic fantasy series, filled with political intrigue, violent magic, malevolent spirits, and thrilling adventure.
Everything has a spirit: the willow tree with leaves that kiss the pond, the stream that feeds the river, the wind that exhales fresh snow . . .
But the spirits that reside within this land want to rid it of all humans. One woman stands between these malevolent spirits and the end of humankind: the queen. She alone has the magical power to prevent the spirits from destroying every man, woman, and child. But queens are still just human, and no matter how strong or good, the threat of danger always looms.
With the position so precarious, young women are chosen to train as heirs. Daleina, a seemingly quiet academy student, is under no illusions as to her claim to the throne, but simply wants to right the wrongs that have befallen the land. Ven, a disgraced champion, has spent his exile secretly fighting against the growing number of spirit attacks. Joining forces, these daring partners embark on a treacherous quest to find the source of the spirits’ restlessness—a journey that will test their courage and trust, and force them to stand against both enemies and friends to save their land . . . before it’s bathed in blood.

"Political intrigue, violent magic, malevolent spirits, and thrilling adventure" - yes YES to it all! The Queen of Blood is exactly the kind of book that I tend to gravitate towards. Plus I always hear good things about Sarah Beth Durst!

Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake
Date: September 20, 2016
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In every generation on the island of Fennbirn, a set of triplets is born: three queens, all equal heirs to the crown and each possessor of a coveted magic. Mirabella is a fierce elemental, able to spark hungry flames or vicious storms at the snap of her fingers. Katharine is a poisoner, one who can ingest the deadliest poisons without so much as a stomachache. Arsinoe, a naturalist, is said to have the ability to bloom the reddest rose and control the fiercest of lions.
But becoming the Queen Crowned isn’t solely a matter of royal birth. Each sister has to fight for it. And it’s not just a game of win or lose...it’s life or death. The night the sisters turn sixteen, the battle begins.
The last queen standing gets the crown.

And here's another dark political fantasy, Three Dark Crowns, published on the same day to boot! Hey, I'm not complaining - bring on the battling queens!

How about you? Are you waiting on any of these HarperCollins Summer 2016 reads? Are there any upcoming books from the HarperCollins Summer 2016 Catalog that I didn't include here that you feel I should add to my list?

Friday, May 6, 2016

April Recap: Shadowhunters and The Raven King

April was a quiet month for me which was nice, especially because the upcoming months will be more busy than quiet as I start a full-time position at the museum. I'm definitely excited to finally be employed full time at an institution that I love, but I know I will soon be missing these lazy April weeks of watching TV and reading.

This month, I finally took the time to watch Season 1 of Shadowhunters, based off of The Mortal Instruments Series by Cassandra Clare:

While a lot of people - myself included - were disappointed with the movie adaptation of the series that was released a few years back, I remained cautiously optimistic that they would do a better job with an episodic adaptation of the series. And thankfully, my optimism was not misplaced - the acting and writing still isn't great and I'm not sure what to make of all the changes that were made from the books... But it was still definitely more watchable than the movie. And is it weird that I was still kind of into it despite all its flaws? I don't know, it's easy entertainment (all episodes were made available on Netflix in Canada) and it's addictive once you get going. I will continue watching when they do a second season. Has anyone else watched Shadowhunters? I'm curious what the consensus is from fans.

Also in April, I was presented with the final instalment of The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater in all its glory:

Even though I only read the first three books last month, the series already has a special place in my heart and I was so sad to see it come to an end already. Nevertheless, I dug right into The Raven King as soon as I had a chance. I won't be posting my thoughts or a review anytime soon because a) I'm still processing it, and b) I'm worried that even my raw reaction might spoil the book for others in some way. But feel free to DM me if you've read it too and want to discuss!

Blog Posts in April

Waiting On Wednesday: Penguin Summer 2016 Catalog
Muggle Monday: Chamber of Secrets Illustrated Edition
Muggle Monday: Fantastic Beasts Teaser Trailer Released
Muggle Monday: Career of Evil (Cormoran Strike #3) Review - 5 Stars
Series Review: Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi - 2.5 Stars
Series Review: The Raven Cycle (#1-3) by Maggie Stiefvater - 5 Stars
March Recap: Little House, Raven Cycle, and Easter Weekend