Sunday, November 30, 2014

November 2014 Recap

November has been a total blur—it's been crazy busy at work, which has translated into me falling asleep most weeknights while attempting to read. I've been in a bit of a reading/blogging slump lately, too. :/ I'd like to finish out the year strong, though, so I'm going to give reading my all next month, even amidst all the bustle of the holidays!

Reviews Posted:

Featured Posts:

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Harry Potter Moment of the Week (62): The HP Film Cast

Harry Potter Moment of the Week is a meme hosted by Uncorked Thoughts. The aim of this meme is to share with fellow bloggers a character, spell, chapter, object or quote from the books/films/J. K. Rowling herself or anything Potter related! A list of upcoming topics can be found here.

This week's topic is:
How do you feel about the HP film cast? Any that don't fit with the image you had?

I thought all of the HP movies were extremely well cast. The only thing I can really think of for this week's topic is the Dumbledore recasting. I really loved Richard Harris in the role, not that I didn't think Michael Gambon did a great job, too. But, I don't know, it took a little while to warm up to the latter, and I always wondered if Richard Harris's Dumbledore would have practically football tackled Harry after his name flew out of the Goblet of Fire. Also, in Order of the Phoenix, I know there was a reason why Dumbledore was avoiding Harry, but I thought he came off rather frosty in the movie, like Harry had the plague or something, lol. Like I said, though, I did warm up to Gambon's Dumbledore; he was brilliant dueling Voldemort at the Ministry of Magic in OotP and utterly spectacular in Half-Blood Prince in the cave when he made all. The. Fire.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Book Loot (9)

Two weeks ago, I went to the library for the first time in months. Months! The huge gap between visits has mostly been due to lack of time, but I've also been trying to get through some of the books on my shelves at home.

I ended up with a rather unexpected addition to my shelves this month. Ally and I were in Target one night checking out the book section, and we spotted Percy Jackson's Greek Gods. She loves the series and I enjoy it, too, even though—I've only read the first book. :/ Anyway, we started flipping through PJ's version of Greek mythology, and it was HILARIOUS! The book is also wonderfully illustrated, and, well, it was pretty much love at first sight for me with this one.


My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories edited by Stephanie Perkins


If I Stay Blu-Ray
The Bane Chronicles by Cassandra Clare, Sarah Rees Brennan, & Maureen Johnson
Percy Jackson's Greek Gods by Rick Riordan & John Rocco

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Bookish Stuff I'd Like to Accomplish Before 2014 Ends

I wrote a post like this a year ago, and being the detail-obsessed person I am, I thought I'd 1) report back on how I did with last year's goals and 2) list some goals for the end of this year. So first, a look back to one year ago:

  1. Read Divergent. Sort of done? I started reading it in December 2013 but didn't actually finish it until January 2014.
  2. Complete the Australian Women Writer's Challenge. Done!
  3. Read a Christmas-Themed Book. Also done, and at the moment, I'm in the middle of this year's Christmas read. :)
  4. Buy Some Bookshelves. Another "sort of done." I did get some new shelves, but not until this year.
  5. Go to the Library. This one was mostly a fail. Most of my reads this year have been books I already owned, which was actually a good thing because some of them had been sitting around for ages.

This year's goal list is really short, because I'm being realistic about what I think I can manage in a little over a month on top of the usual holiday insanity:

  1. Finish my Goodreads Reading Challenge. Man, this is the first year I'm in danger of not finishing, and the perfectionist in me is screaming, "Nooooooooo!!!" I think I'm about 5 books behind at this point, which is a little scary. I'm hoping to catch up on some reading this weekend, but whenever I say that, I end up doing everything but reading.
  2. Complete the Australian Women Writer's Challenge. I still have 2 books to go on this one, which is 1 more than where I was last year at this time, but I think it's still feasible.
  3. Read Soulless by Gail Carriger. This goal is dedicated to Ally, who's been begging me to read this for forever. I shall do my best.

How about you—any last minute bookish things you're trying to squeeze in before 2014 ends?

Monday, November 24, 2014

Review: Of Metal and Wishes by Sarah Fine

Of Metal and Wishes by Sarah Fine
Of Metal and Wishes (Of Metal and Wishes #1)
By Sarah Fine
Margaret K. McElderry Books
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased

To Sum It Up: Moving on with her life after the death of her mother isn’t easy for Wen Guiren, not when she often assists her father, a physician in a slaughterhouse. The place is also allegedly haunted by a ghost who grants wishes, and Wen discovers the truth of this firsthand when a young worker who publicly humiliated her is badly injured following Wen’s offering to the ghost. Wen seems to have the ghost’s attention, but that may not be in her best interest as the number of seemingly unexplained—and alarming—events around the slaughterhouse rises.

Review: Of Metal and Wishes is one of the most unique books I’ve read in a while, which may sound like a bit of an odd thing to say when you also consider that this novel is based on The Phantom of the Opera. I haven’t read the latter, and the extent of my knowledge of the story is limited to watching part of the 25th anniversary production of the musical version on TV. Not being entirely familiar with the original Phantom, in literary or musical form, didn’t keep me from appreciating the complexity of Sarah Fine’s Ghost, though. This character is simultaneously frightening and sympathetic, and I’ll return to gushing about how much I loved this plotline shortly.

Of Metal and Wishes is set in a refreshingly different world that draws on Asian culture for some of its elements. Fine cleverly keeps you guessing as to what time period you find yourself in. It’s not quite modern, yet it’s not that far in the past, plus there’s a hint of steampunk to it, AND all of this centers around a slaughterhouse. That last bit alone lends the book an eerie atmosphere, and that’s before you even factor in the rumors among the workers that it’s haunted.

Ah, the Ghost. Benevolent or malevolent? That’s the question you’ll keep asking yourself as his story unfolds. While he’s actually only a part of a larger mosaic, the Ghost was the character who drove the novel for me. I wanted to know everything about him, even when I suspected that the truth would be chilling.

Wen, the protagonist, was my main reason for feeling disconnected from the book at times. I just never clicked with her narrative voice, and I found her a little immature on occasion, too. She’s self-aware enough to realize that she has some growing up to do, though, which kept me from getting annoyed with her whenever I felt she sounded kind of whiny. I also have to say that I didn’t find Melik, a slaughterhouse worker from a social class that’s looked down upon by Wen’s fellow Itanyai, especially memorable, either. I liked how Melik spoke his mind and looked after his fellow Noor, but as with Wen, forming a connection with him eluded me. It’s not that both aren’t well written characters because they are; it’s just . . . me.

I loved Sarah Fine’s debut, Sanctum, and her prose continues to impress me with Of Metal and Wishes. She’s also created a world that you don’t come across every day in YA. Although Wen was an average main character, the Ghost’s compelling story still made this book very much worth a read for me.

All in All: If you’re looking for a very different YA read, give Of Metal and Wishes a try. I had an issue here and there with Wen, but the Ghost bits were delightfully creepy.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Anything Sunday!

For a while now, I've been trying to come up with some kind of post that I can do on a semi-regular basis that doesn't necessarily have to be book-related. I really enjoyed fangirling all about the Simpsons back in September and have wanted to try to add some more random topic-type posts into the mix since then. As usual, time has evilly conspired to prevent me from doing this, and it's also a big reason why I'd like to do this. I hate seeing the blog go stagnant when I'm too busy to finish a book and get it reviewed. Having the flexibility to still write a post, even though it might not focus on books, puts my mind at ease a little.

So today is basically a little introduction to this type of post, but I also wanted to take a moment to get in the spirit of Thanksgiving, since it's this Thursday. I can't thank you guys enough for sticking around with the blog. Reading your comments here and chatting with you on Twitter and Goodreads truly, truly make my day. On the days when I'm feeling blah about blogging because my time is so tied up with life outside of books, I think of how terribly I'd miss interacting with all of you if I gave up blogging. I've been talking to some of you for over 2 years now, and your friendship means the world to me. So thank you again, and if you celebrate Thanksgiving, I hope it's a very, very happy one!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Harry Potter Moment of the Week (61): HP Quotes in Everyday Life

Harry Potter Moment of the Week is a meme hosted by Uncorked Thoughts. The aim of this meme is to share with fellow bloggers a character, spell, chapter, object or quote from the books/films/J. K. Rowling herself or anything Potter related! A list of upcoming topics can be found here.

For this week's choose your own topic, I thought it'd be fun to talk about some of the HP quotes I use most often in everyday life. I'm sure I'm not the only HP fan who tries to incorporate as many lines from the books and the movies into as many situations as possible. Even when you know the other person you're conversing with isn't going to understand your cleverness.

Fortunately for me, I converse with my cousins Ally and Melissa a lot, so we totally get each other's geek-speak. For back to school time, I like to break out, "Harry Potter must not go back to Hogwarts." When we walk to the library, there's a little tunnel we have to pass through that reminds us of the scene in Order of the Phoenix when Harry saves Dudley from the dementors. We've been known to yell "EXPECTO PATRONUM!" while walking through our tunnel.

I say a lot of other spells, too, but for some reason, they don't work for me the way they do for Harry and his friends. ;-) I mean, I'll go, "Accio!" but nothing from the refrigerator ever flies into my hands. Same thing with Alohomora; my front door and car door locks refuse to budge.

The HP-related expression I use most, though, is Ron Weasley's "bloody hell." Sometimes I'll even use a full, "Bloody hell, Harry!" even though there's no one named Harry around. I find it to be an all-purpose exclamation, useful in a variety of scenarios. Bloody hell, it's hot today! Bloody hell, why is it not Friday yet?! Bloody hell, that was an awesome book! And so forth.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Review: Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater

Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater
Blue Lily, Lily Blue (The Raven Cycle #3)
By Maggie Stiefvater
Scholastic Press
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased

To Sum It Up: Blue and her Raven Boys are as close as they've ever been to finding Glendower, yet the sleeping Welsh king still seems out of reach. Blue also worries about what’s happening to her missing mother, as her family at 300 Fox Way has become inextricably tied to her friends’ quest, too. Everyone has invested too much in this search to back down now, even as Cabeswater continues to change Adam and another dangerous visitor has been drawn to Henrietta.

Review: I can’t even I can’t even. I. Can’t. Even. I’ve never felt more incapable of writing a review for a book than I do at this moment for Blue Lily, Lily Blue. Because when a book is so utterly flawless, me writing about it is just so lame.

We’ve still got a little bit of time left in 2014, but I can’t imagine another book overtaking Blue Lily, Lily Blue as my favorite book of the year. That’s not to say that I won’t love any other books until the end of December, but this book exists on its own plane of perfection. I’m not exaggerating about its perfection, either. Story progression: perfect. Character development: perfect. Prose: so perfect, it makes me wish it had a human form so I could be best friends with it.

I’d waited, for the most part most impatiently, for a year to hold this book in my hands, and once I started reading, being apart from it was almost unbearable. Squeezing in reading time on weeknights can be tough sometimes, but dammit, I found time for Blue Lily, Lily Blue, even at the expense of sleep. I hated putting the book down for the night; there was never a good place to stop because every single page was magnificent.

Blue, Gansey, Ronan, Adam, and Noah have all become permanent residents in my heart, and the bond between them has never been stronger. It’s beyond friendship now; they’re really their own family, and though like any family they have their occasional squabbles, there is nothing they wouldn’t do for one another. Nothing. I’ll never forget that moment in The Raven Boys when Ronan turns his car around to go back and help Adam, and there’s a scene in Blue Lily, Lily Blue that left me similarly awestruck (and nearly crying) by the magnitude of its emotional depth. These characters may be enveloped in myth and the paranormal, but oh my God, do they seem so real, especially when they take a wrecking ball to your heart. And you should steel yourself for heartbreak here.

I’ve loved Blue from the outset, but she’s phenomenal in Blue Lily, Lily Blue, which only seems fitting with that title. She knows she can rely on her Raven Boys for anything, but without sacrificing an ounce of her fiery independence. I love that she’s a badass who carries a pink switchblade, but I love her gentle side, too. I also need to mention her bravery in the face of the disappearance of her mother, Maura, and in having to deal with some things alone because she’s the only one who can do them.

I know I haven’t shut up about the characters yet, but they truly, truly do make this series. All four boys yanked at my heart in this book, so much so that I couldn’t even tell you who was the most responsible for all of the fissures it now has. Ronan is as acerbic as ever (and that’s why I love him), Adam is as complex as ever thanks to his bargain with Cabeswater, and Noah is as Noah as ever but even more poignantly so. My dear, dear Gansey is as Gansey as ever, determined to find his king, fiercely protective of his friends, and finding it more and more difficult to ignore the whisperings of his heart.

OK, still not done gushing about the characters. I have to mention Calla and Persephone, my two favorite psychics at 300 Fox Way. Calla’s abrasiveness, even when directed at my Gansey, is hilarious. I also just want to say how freaking awesome the Gray Man is. I love this guy!

I’ve read some amazing sequels this year, but returning to Henrietta with Blue and the Raven Boys was the sweetest reunion imaginable. Blue Lily, Lily Blue, like its predecessors, is genius in its purest form. I wish I could write like Maggie Stiefvater. I wish I were Blue Sargent. I wish I could meet the Raven Boys and help them with their quest. I wish I could go for a ride in the Pig. I wish I could pet the Dog. I get Gansey’s obsession with Glendower because I’m just as obsessed with Gansey’s obsession with Glendower and everything to do with Gansey and the gang. I have no clue how I’m going to survive the wait until the next, and final, book. *Sobs*

All in All: Read. This. NOW.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Harry Potter Moment of the Week (60): Which Weasley Character Would You Be?

Harry Potter Moment of the Week is a meme hosted by Uncorked Thoughts. The aim of this meme is to share with fellow bloggers a character, spell, chapter, object or quote from the books/films/J. K. Rowling herself or anything Potter related! A list of upcoming topics can be found here.

This week's topic is:
Which Weasley Character Would You Be?

Out of all the Weasley characters, I believe I would be Fred Weasley. I like to think that Fred and I share a lot of the same qualities: an appreciation for humor, practical jokes, rebellion, and family. Fred is close to his siblings, most especially George, and I have that in common with him. I would do anything for my brother and sister. Also like Fred, I turn to jokes and laughter in stressful situations. When George lost his ear in Deathly Hallows, Fred couldn’t help but make jokes about it; that is something I definitely would have done, lol. I also wouldn’t have been able to stand Umbridge and would have most certainly left Hogwarts to spite her. Although Fred and George are quite similar (they are twins and all), I do believe they have several differences, and that is why I think I resemble Fred significantly more.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Review: Unmade by Sarah Rees Brennan

* This review may contain spoilers for the previous books in The Lynburn Legacy series.

Unmade by Sarah Rees Brennan
Unmade (The Lynburn Legacy #3)
By Sarah Rees Brennan
Random House Children’s Books
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased

To Sum It Up: Despite Sorry-in-the-Vale appearing to be firmly in the grasp of Rob Lynburn, Kami isn’t ready to give up on saving her town—or Jared—just yet. A hidden piece of Lynburn family history may provide the hope Kami has been searching for, but she may not be the only one who has to pay a steep price to free the town from Rob. Without this sliver of a chance to defeat him, though, Sorry-in-the-Vale is certainly lost, and Kami can’t bear to watch that happen, either.

Review: I’ve finished reading The Lynburn Legacy series and survived to discuss it! As anyone else who’s also read the trilogy will probably agree, that’s no small feat. There’s been heartbreak galore throughout the series, and Unmade carries on that fine tradition. I hadn’t gotten very far into Unmade before I was already fearing for one of my favorite characters. All I could think was, for the love of God Sarah Rees Brennan, please don’t kill this character!

On top of worrying about the fates of certain characters, I was a tad anxious about what to expect from the book in general. Untold was a little lighter on plot advancement than I’d thought it would be, so I wasn’t sure if Unmade was going to be a rush to wrap up the series. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case; the action in Unmade was for the most part better paced than it was in Untold, although once in a while the quest to stop Rob Lynburn would take an extended backseat to a subplot.

From the beginning, this series’ greatest appeal to me has been how freaking hilarious it is amidst all of the evil sorcery enveloping Sorry-in-the-Vale. The series’ sense of humor is an exact match for mine, and that has contributed heavily to my enjoyment of all three books. Judge me as you will, but I’ve loved every minute of laughing out loud even as a town and its citizens stood on the brink of a takeover by a diabolical megalomaniac. If you’ve guffawed your way through the first two books like I have, you shan’t be let down by all of the witty dialogue in book three.

The other signature of this series has been its ability to seize the reader’s heart in its fist and pulverize it without mercy. I’m still looking for a few pieces of my heart, and not just because of some, er, stuff that happens that I don’t like to think about. My heart also forgot to beat a few times because it was too busy melting over the prose. There are some very prettily written lines (some of which may belong to Jared) that I needed to reread and reread again before I was ready to turn the page.

Despite having a few of the proverbial bad apples in their family tree, I’m really sad to bid adieu to the Lynburns: sweet Ash, brooding Jared (whom I loved because of said brooding), and even frosty Lillian. I actually grew quite fond of Lillian and was impressed by how protective she was of her two Lynburn boys. I’ll also miss Sorry-in-the-Vale, the quaint little English town with an epic tale to tell.

All in All: Unspoken is still my favorite installment because it’s simply spot-on in every way, but Unmade is a strong conclusion to the series.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Harry Potter Moment of the Week (59): Best Luna Moment

Harry Potter Moment of the Week is a meme hosted by Uncorked Thoughts. The aim of this meme is to share with fellow bloggers a character, spell, chapter, object or quote from the books/films/J. K. Rowling herself or anything Potter related! A list of upcoming topics can be found here.

This week's topic is:
Best Luna Moment

Luna Lovegood is such an awesome character. I love her for her quirkiness and how free-spirited she is. She's also extremely kind and an amazing friend. I think my favorite Luna moment is that scene toward the end of Order of the Phoenix, when Harry finds her looking for her missing possessions. He's been unable to talk to anyone about that horrible thing-that-must-not-be-named-that-happened-to-Sirius, but it's Luna who finds just the right words to say. It's such a poignant moment, and only one of the many demonstrations of Luna's enormous heart.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Review: Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas

* This review contains spoilers for the previous books in the Throne of Glass series.

Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas

Heir of Fire (Throne of Glass #3)
By Sarah J. Maas
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased

To Sum It Up: Celaena has departed Adarlan for Wendlyn, where her secret mission is to gain any knowledge that can help her stop Adarlan’s king from plunging the world into darkness. This information won’t be easy to obtain, of course, and Celaena is also battling her grief over her dear friend’s death as well as a shattered heart. She can no longer hide from the past that she’s been trying to bury, either, not if she hopes to save everyone from the evil that is on the brink of invasion.

Review: I could sit here for . . . forever, really, and still never cobble together the right words to capture the brilliance of Heir of Fire. Because how do you describe perfection? Five hundred plus pages of perfection that have left me unable to focus on anything but this book.

Everything about Sarah J. Maas’s writing in Heir of Fire is nothing short of phenomenal. From the breadth of the world-building to the seamless introduction of some amazing new characters to the awe-inspiring development of the series’ returning characters—all of it will blow you away, nuclear blast-like. Maas not only addresses the fallout from the earth-shaking ending of Crown of Midnight; she also lays a solid-as-granite foundation for the future direction of the series. That’s not to say that Heir of Fire is a bridge book that merely serves to set up the next one. No, no, no. Most certainly not. Rather, the world that we were first drawn into in Throne of Glass just explodes outward, and it’s a world filled with Fae, witches, wyverns, and magic. The fantasy elements here ascend to dizzying heights that I’m still trying to wrap my head around.

Celaena is utterly magnificent in this book, as is the way Maas has written her. Celaena is also utterly heartbreaking to behold in this book. A decade’s accumulation of anger and grief, freshly added to by Nehemia’s death and that business with Chaol that cut my heart like one of Celaena’s daggers, sends her to a breaking point of sorts. Compounding her anguish is the realization that she absolutely must confront her past and her true identity. Celaena has fought so many battles and emerged victorious, but the weight of her former life is as formidable as any opponent she’s ever faced. Do not, however, underestimate badass Celaena, because dear gods, whenever she appears, anyone or anything in her path of wrath had better run like hell or welcome certain death.

Back in Adarlan, my beloved Chaol is going through a pretty tough time, unable to even discuss his troubles with Dorian because of the growing distance between the two. That saddened me just as much, and probably more, than the Chaol/Celaena split. Believe me, I totally, totally, totally want Chaol and Celaena to get back together, but I also need Chaol and Dorian to be brothers again. Did I mention that this book killed me repeatedly? Because it did.

Adding multiple new characters with very prominent roles in the middle of a series is no small feat, but Maas pulls it off flawlessly. Rowan, Aedion, and Manon are all compelling, richly imagined characters with mesmerizing stories to tell. At first Manon seemed an unlikely character to warm up to. She herself says that she literally has no heart, but the fact that she’s such a unique, badass character makes it impossible not to love her. She makes the number thirteen the most badass number, too. The Game of Thrones fan in me knew that I was going to love Aedion when he was referred to as the Wolf of the North. That instinct proved to be resoundingly correct. And Rowan? Oh my God. That’s all I have to say because you have to meet him yourself to truly appreciate him. Obviously, Celaena, Chaol, and Dorian are first in my heart (especially Captain Westfall), but I am psyched to continue following the exploits of these three new characters as well.

It’s been a while since I struggled this much to write a review, and I’m feeling very, very meh about what I have managed to write. Sometimes a book is so thoroughly amazing that no words of mine will ever be adequate to convey the pure joy of reading it. That’s how I feel about Heir of Fire in a nutshell, and now I must attempt to resume the life I knew before reading this.

All in All: There are not enough stars in this universe or any others to give to this book.