Home       About Me       Review Archive

Thursday, March 31, 2016

March Recap: Little House, Raven Cycle, and Easter Weekend

Oi, I haven't posted in a few weeks, sorry! I fell into a bit of a slump in which I just really did not feel like writing reviews and so my blogging suffered. But thankfully, the same could not be said for my reading habits, which were strong all month long! There were two series in particular that I read and LOVED in March.

First, the Little House Series by Laura Ingalls Wilder:
When I posted about my Anne of Green Gables obsession some years ago, some folks had asked me if I had ever read the American equivalent, the Little House books, which follow Laura and the rest of the Ingalls family growing up as pioneers of the northern midwest US in the 1800s. Well, I finally read the series this month and though nothing could replace my love of Anne Shirley, I adored spunky tomboy Laura Ingalls all the same! I think one of the best parts of the series is that it is autobiographical - all of the successes and hardships faced by the Ingalls family in the books really did happen. And in that way, I really felt that the series was a fascinating history lesson of a sort! I listened to the entire series on audiobook narrated by Cherry Jones and it was wonderful. Highly recommended!

Second series, the first three books in The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater:

This has been a LONG time coming. Since The Raven Boys was first published, really. I knew already from the blurb and reviews and previous works by Maggie that this series was for ME, but I put off the actual reading of it for years because I was so terrified that the prevailing stress of my life at the time would taint my reading experience of what I was sure would be a favourite of mine (does anyone else do this?). So I waited and waited and waited until I knew I was at a time in my life when I was at leisure to enjoy the books in my own time and own way. And that time was this month, FINALLY (and just in time for The Raven King in a few weeks!). I suppose I will save the bulk of my thoughts for a full review at a later date, but suffice it to say that it definitely IS the favourite I thought it would be. The characters, the magic, the writing - so much love!

And lastly of significance this month, the Easter Long Weekend:
Easter for me means three things: painting Easter Eggs (a tradition every year since I can remember), eating loads of chocolate, and spending time with family. And thankfully, one of the benefits of now living close to home is that I was able to make the trip up to Edmonton to be with my family! And so I had a nice weekend, indeed :)

That's it for me and March! I hope everyone else had a good March as well, and I hope to get back to regular blogging for April!

Blog Posts in March

Waiting On Wednesday: Macmillan Spring 2016 Catalog
Waiting On Wednesday: Simon & Schuster Spring 2016 Catalog
Muggle Monday: 7 New Facts About the History of Magic in North America
Review: Winter (The Lunar Chronicles #4) by Marissa Meyer - 4 Stars
Review: The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord - 4.5 Stars
February Recap: Blogilates, Sleepovers, and Graphic Novels

Monday, March 14, 2016

Muggle Monday: 7 New Facts About the History of Magic in North America

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 past week, J.K. Rowling revealed new information about the history of magic in North America in a series of writings on Pottermore. Here are 7 things we learned on the subject:

1. The legend of the Native American "skin walker" is based around Native American Animagi. The Native American wizarding community were particularly gifted in wandless magic as the wand is a European invention.

2. When No-Maj (short for "No Magic") Europeans began to settle in North America, their magical counterparts did too. A corrupt and brutal taskforce known as the Scourers rose up in the late seventeenth century.

3. The Salem Witch Trials of 1692-93 caused many witches and wizards to flee America. This led to a far higher percentage of No-Maj-born witches and wizards in the New World than elsewhere.

4. The Salem Trials also led to the creation of the Magical Congress of the United States of America (MACUSA) in 1693. At this point, the Scourers - some of whom had acted as Puritan judges during the Salem Trials - were put on trial and executed.

5. After a serious breach of the International Statute of Secrecy in 1790, Rappaport's Law was passed in which strict segregation of No-Maj and wizarding communities were enforced. Fraternization of any kind with No-Majs was penalized severely.

6. MACUSA is also more intolerant of magical spirits and fantastic beasts as a result. Such magical creatures present a serious risk of alerting No-Majs to the existence of magic.

7. Whereas Ollivander is the one great wandmaker of Britain, North America has four great wandmakers. These wand makers are (along with their respective magical material): Shikoba Wolfe (Thunderbird tail feathers), Johannes Jonker (hair of the Wampus cat), Thiago Quintana (White River Monster spines), and Violetta Beauvais (hair of the dog-headed Rougarou).

Very intriguing, no?? These new pieces of information are obviously going to play a big part of the lore in the upcoming Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them movies. Head over to Pottermore to read more about each of these factoids in detail.

The haunting teaser trailer for this new Fantastic Beasts promo:

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Review: The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord

Publisher: Bloomsbury
Published: March 31, 2015
Pages: 384
Source: Won from Goodreads
Rating: 4.5 Stars

Brimming with heartfelt relationships and authentic high-school dynamics The Start of Me and You proves that it’s never too late for second chances.
It’s been a year since it happened—when Paige Hancock’s first boyfriend died in an accident. After shutting out the world for two years, Paige is finally ready for a second chance at high school . . . and she has a plan. First: Get her old crush, Ryan Chase, to date her—the perfect way to convince everyone she’s back to normal. Next: Join a club—simple, it’s high school after all. But when Ryan’s sweet, nerdy cousin, Max, moves to town and recruits Paige for the Quiz Bowl team (of all things!) her perfect plan is thrown for a serious loop. Will Paige be able to face her fears and finally open herself up to the life she was meant to live?

In short: The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord is a lovely read with relatable characters and relationships.
Let's back up a second: I actually read Emery Lord's debut, Open Road Summer, before delving into The Start of Me and You. I never reviewed Open Road Summer, but here's the short version: I really could not get past the protagonist's predilection for calling all girls "sluts." I'm normally all for flawed characters in books, but this one - albeit small - negative characteristic of the main character just turned me off of her completely for some reason, and I found I couldn't get past that.

So now here's the major difference in my feelings for Emery Lord's sophomore novel: I really liked Paige Hancock, the protagonist of The Start of Me and You. She was super relatable and even though she was still flawed - Emery Lord's characters tend to be nicely layered - she was still likeable. And it wasn't just Paige: I really appreciated the characterization of all members of Paige's friend group. Something else that Emery Lord seems to be able to do very well is to showcase really great friendships in addition to romance.

Those who know me know that romance is not my specialty and I tend to shy away from very romance-heavy novels. But for what it's worth: I thought the romance in The Start of Me and You was very well done. It was exactly the kind of romance I go for when I'm in the mood for a romance at all: a slow building relationship that sneaks up on you unexpectedly, but just FITS so perfectly that you wonder why you never saw it before.

Overall, I'm pleased I gave Emery Lord another shot despite not digging the protagonist from her debut novel. And honestly, it really was that one little thing that got stuck in my craw and I couldn't seem to get over; otherwise I'm sure I would have loved Open Road Summer as much as The Start of Me and You. Emery Lord really does have a fantastic talent at creating genuine and relatable characters, relationships, and stories.

Other Reviews:
Alexa Loves Books
Books in the Spotlight
Brandi Breathes Books

Author Links:

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Waiting On Wednesday: Simon & Schuster Spring 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 Simon & Schuster Spring 2016 Catalog:

Daughters of Ruin by K.D. Castner
Date: April 5, 2016
Add to Goodreads

Rhea, Cadis, Suki, and Iren have lived together since they were children. They are called sisters. They are not. They are called equals. They are not. They are princesses…and they are enemies.
Not long ago, a brutal war ravaged their kingdoms, and Rhea’s father was the victor. As a gesture of peace, King Declan brought the daughters of his rivals to live under his protection—and his ever-watchful eye. For ten years the girls have trained together as diplomats and warriors, raised to accept their thrones and unite their kingdoms in peace.
But there is rarely peace among sisters. Sheltered Rhea was raised to rule everyone—including her “sisters”—but she’s cracking under pressure. The charismatic Cadis is desperately trying to redeem her people from their actions during the war. Suki guards deep family secrets that isolate her, and quiet Iren’s meekness is not what it seems.
All plans for peace are shattered when the palace is attacked. As their intended futures lie in ashes, Rhea, Cadis, Suki, and Iren must decide where their loyalties lie: to their nations, or to each other.

Daughters of Ruin features four heroines of four different enemy kingdoms in a Game of Thrones-like bid for power. I'm sure we can all agree that that premise has plenty of potential!

The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu by Joshua Hammer
Date: April 19, 2016
Add to Goodreads

To save precious centuries-old Arabic texts from Al Qaeda, a band of librarians in Timbuktu pulls off a brazen heist worthy of Ocean’s Eleven.
In the 1980s, a young adventurer and collector for a government library, Abdel Kader Haidara, journeyed across the Sahara Desert and along the Niger River, tracking down and salvaging tens of thousands of ancient Islamic and secular manuscripts that had fallen into obscurity. The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu tells the incredible story of how Haidara, a mild-mannered archivist and historian from the legendary city of Timbuktu, later became one of the world’s greatest and most brazen smugglers.
In 2012, thousands of Al Qaeda militants from northwest Africa seized control of most of Mali, including Timbuktu. They imposed Sharia law, chopped off the hands of accused thieves, stoned to death unmarried couples, and threatened to destroy the great manuscripts. As the militants tightened their control over Timbuktu, Haidara organized a dangerous operation to sneak all 350,000 volumes out of the city to the safety of southern Mali.
Over the past twenty years, journalist Joshua Hammer visited Timbuktu numerous times and is uniquely qualified to tell the story of Haidara’s heroic and ultimately successful effort to outwit Al Qaeda and preserve Mali’s—and the world’s—literary patrimony. Hammer explores the city’s manuscript heritage and offers never-before-reported details about the militants’ march into northwest Africa. But above all, The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu is an inspiring account of the victory of art and literature over extremism.

Oh yeah, bad-ass librarians!! And this story is based off of actual true events in which these librarians banded together to protect and rescue precious and irreplaceable centuries-old Arabic texts! The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu: saving precious literature from extremists since the 1980s.

Some Kind of Happiness by Claire Legrand
Date: May 17, 2016
Add to Goodreads

• Her parents, who are having problems. (But they pretend like they’re not.)
• Being sent to her grandparents’ house for the summer.
• Never having met said grandparents.
• Her blue days—when life feels overwhelming, and it’s hard to keep her head up. (This happens a lot.)

Finley’s only retreat is the Everwood, a forest kingdom that exists in the pages of her notebook. Until she discovers the endless woods behind her grandparents’ house and realizes the Everwood is real--and holds more mysteries than she'd ever imagined, including a family of pirates that she isn’t allowed to talk to, trees covered in ash, and a strange old wizard living in a house made of bones.
With the help of her cousins, Finley sets out on a mission to save the dying Everwood and uncover its secrets. But as the mysteries pile up and the frightening sadness inside her grows, Finley realizes that if she wants to save the Everwood, she’ll first have to save herself.
Reality and fantasy collide in this powerful, heartfelt novel about family, depression, and the power of imagination.

Now, usually these kinds of "issue" books aren't typically my kind of read, but I can get behind them when there is magical realism involved (plus, I always hear amazing things about Claire Legrand's writing). So I'm definitely curious about Some Kind of Happiness!

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

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Review: Winter (The Lunar Chronicles #4) by Marissa Meyer

Publisher: Feiwel and Friends
Published: November 10, 2015
Pages: 824
Source: Gifted
Rating: 4 Stars

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?

This review is spoiler-free

In short: While I would have liked to have seen more from the titular heroine, Winter satisfied by being everything that a finale should be.
Marissa Meyer, how do you do it? It's not every author that can balance many POVs and maneuver varied storylines, all while without the story seeming convoluted. Of course, this isn't something new in Winter as we've seen Marissa Meyer accomplish this in the previous novels of The Lunar Chronicles. But still: her ability to keep the series consistently strong and fast paced while balancing multi-layered plots just never ceases to amaze and impress me.

I was excited to meet the titular heroine of Winter, especially knowing how strong the characterization was for the three previous heroines (Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress) and how quickly I grew an attachment to each of them. Somewhat disappointedly however, we don't get to see as much of Winter, Queen Levana's stepdaughter, as I was hoping. Whereas the previous three books mainly featured the eponymous Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress, respectively, Winter didn't seem like the primary protagonist of this finale at any point. She sort of seemed to fade into the background as others took to action.

So I would have liked to have spent more time getting to know Winter (and Jacin) than we were granted here. BUT that certainly didn't take away from the fact that this final and largest tome of The Lunar Chronicles was exciting and dramatic and satisfying (basically everything that a finale SHOULD be). It is sad to think that this series is officially over as I have grown so fond of the world and its characters. I am relieved at least that I still have the novella compilation, Stars Above, and the newly announced Lunar Chronicles graphic novels to delve into.

Previously, my reviews of CinderScarletCress, and Fairest.

Other Reviews:
Carina's Books
Lunar Rainbows
Musings of a YA Reader

Author Links:

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Waiting On Wednesday: Macmillan Spring 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 Macmillan Spring 2016 Catalog:

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi
Date: April 26, 2016
Add to Goodreads

Cursed with a horoscope that promises a marriage of Death and Destruction, sixteen-year-old Maya has only earned the scorn and fear of her father's kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her world is upheaved when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. But when her wedding takes a fatal turn, Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Yet neither roles are what she expected. As Akaran's queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar's wife, she finds friendship and warmth.
But Akaran has its own secrets - thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Beneath Akaran's magic, Maya begins to suspect her life is in danger. When she ignores Amar's plea for patience, her discoveries put more than new love at risk - it threatens the balance of all realms, human and Otherworldly.
Now, Maya must confront a secret that spans reincarnated lives and fight her way through the dangerous underbelly of the Otherworld if she wants to protect the people she loves.

I've always adored mythology, but my experiences have been almost entirely with Greek mythology. Now here's something new: The Star-Touched Queen is inspired by Indian mythology! So cool.

True Born by L.E. Sterling
Date: May 3, 2016
Add to Goodreads

Welcome to Dominion City.
After the great Plague descended, the world population was decimated...and their genetics damaged beyond repair.
The Lasters wait hopelessly for their genes to self-destruct. The Splicers pay for expensive treatments that might prolong their life. The plague-resistant True Borns are as mysterious as they are feared…
And then there's Lucy Fox and her identical twin sister, Margot. After endless tests, no one wants to reveal what they are.
When Margot disappears, a desperate Lucy has no choice but to put her faith in the True Borns, led by the charismatic Nolan Storm and the beautiful but deadly Jared Price. As Lucy and the True Borns set out to rescue her sister, they stumble upon a vast conspiracy stretching from Dominion’s street preachers to shady Russian tycoons. But why target the Fox sisters?
As they say in Dominion, it’s in the blood.

From what I understand, True Born gained a great many number of readers on Wattpad before getting a publishing deal. I have never been immune to the effects of buzz so of course I'm intrigued to read what all the fuss is about over this one!

False Hearts by Laura Lam
Date: June 16, 2016
Add to Goodreads

Raised in the closed cult of Mana’s Hearth and denied access to modern technology, conjoined sisters Taema and Tila dream of a life beyond the walls of the compound. When the heart they share begins to fail, the twins escape to San Francisco, where they are surgically separated and given new artificial hearts. From then on they pursue lives beyond anything they could have previously imagined.
Ten years later, Tila returns one night to the twins’ home in the city, terrified and covered in blood, just before the police arrive and arrest her for murder—the first homicide by a civilian in decades. Tila is suspected of involvement with the Ratel, a powerful crime syndicate that deals in the flow of Zeal, a drug that allows violent minds to enact their darkest desires in a terrifying dreamscape. Taema is given a proposition: go undercover as her sister and perhaps save her twin’s life. But during her investigation Taema discovers disturbing links between the twins’ past and their present. Once unable to keep anything from each other, the sisters now discover the true cost of secrets.

There's a lot going on in that synopsis: conjoined twins, a scary cult, a murder plot, and psychoactive drugs, to name a few. So how could I not be curious about False Hearts?!

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