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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
Add to Goodreads

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
Add to Goodreads

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!