Saturday, January 31, 2015

January 2015 Recap

Whoa—is one month of 2015 already gone?! Yikes.

I looked back at the recap for last January, and I feel I'm off to a much better start this year. I read some really great books this month and have been sticking to a pretty steady blogging schedule. I can't say how long both of those things are going to last, lol, but I hope to keep the momentum rolling.

Reviews Posted:

Featured Posts:

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Harry Potter Moment of the Week (70): Best Joke from the Series

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 Joke from the Series

The Harry Potter series is filled with many funny jokes and moments. My favorite joke, although I’m not sure if it is necessarily considered a joke or if it’s more of a funny moment, is during Prisoner of Azkaban when Snape catches Harry with the Marauder’s Map and attempts to read it. Obviously, the map is warded against Snape, seeing that the creators and original owners were the Four Maruaders, and instead of the map itself being revealed, mean comments from “Prongs, Padfoot, Moony, and Wormtail” are directed at Snape instead, lol. I was quite young when I first read PoA, but I vividly remember the moment when I read this scene; I could not stop laughing. For some reason, I just found the whole situation hilarious. I don’t think I’ve ever laughed harder at any other moment in the series.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Review: Heartless by Gail Carriger

Heartless by Gail Carriger
Heartless (The Parasol Protectorate #4)
By Gail Carriger
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased

To Sum It Up: Just when Alexia may finally be getting a break from all of the attempts on her life, a ghost warns her of a threat against Queen Victoria. Naturally, Alexia must look into the matter, even if she finds her mobility quite limited at the moment. The course of the investigation turns up some rather surprising information, as well as the alarming realization that the would-be assassin may be an all too familiar figure.

Review: I’m running out of words to laud the Parasol Protectorate series with—and I still have one book to go. So that review may consist of a sentence or two because I’ve spent everything in my vocabulary bank on Heartless. But we’ll worry about that at a later date.

While the second and third books in the series, Changeless and Blameless, respectively, were both highly enjoyable reads, they were a notch off from the spectacular series opener, Soulless. Heartless, I feel, is a return to what made the first book perfect—plenty of shared scenes between Lady and Lord Maccon.

Alexia and Conall didn’t have all that much page time together in Changeless and especially in Blameless, and that was the missing element. Those two kids—I love them individually, but together, they’re phenomenal and just ignite the page. They squabble constantly, but that’s been the foundation of their relationship since Soulless. Without that tension, which produces so many hilarious quotes, they wouldn’t be Alexia and Conall. Even though the earl behaved like a certifiable dunderhead at the very end of Changless and throughout most of Blameless, my resolve to stay mad at him was weak. He makes me swoon too much. Everything about Lord and Lady Maccon’s relationship makes me swoon, even when the romance is teeming with sarcasm. In fact, I couldn’t envision it any other way.

I was also happy to see Lord Akeldama (and his drones) put in plenty of appearances. The series would not be the same without his lordship’s italics. Professor Lyall and Floote are their usual reliable selves, trying to keep life from becoming too insane for Lord and Lady Maccon. Ivy gets a chance to prove herself as a secret agent of sorts when Alexia formally inducts her into the Parasol Protectorate and dispatches her on her first official mission (sensible hat choices apparently not being a requirement for membership in the organization). As intriguing an addition as Madame Lefoux has been to the series, I can’t help feeling extra fond of the original core group of characters. They all shine in Heartless, which was yet another reason why I loved this book so much.

Quite a lot of craziness takes place toward the end of Heartless, setting up some extremely interesting story lines for the series finale. Alexia and her logic can always be counted on to solve the most difficult problems, though, so I have complete confidence that she’ll handle anything that heads her way, especially if that something is trouble.

All in All: Nothing but love for this one!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Anything Sunday (3): Pen and Paper Rock!

You have no idea how much I wanted to make a rock, paper, scissors joke out of the post title. I thought better of it, however, and spared you all from the wrath of my horrible humor.

This past Friday was National Handwriting Day, which I think is really neat. I still love writing with good old-fashioned pen and paper. There's just something gratifying about writing things out by hand that can't be replaced by typing on a keyboard, at least for me. Even back in school, penmanship lessons were never tedious.

Most of the time, I hand write blog posts first. It started back when I sometimes picked up Ally and Melissa from school or band practice. For those of you who've experienced the (non) joy of waiting in the student car rider line, you're familiar with having time to kill. Lots of time to kill. So I'd whip out a notebook and pencil and work on writing reviews and other posts in the car until the line began moving. And I'm really glad that I did. Writing everything down first does create double work of sorts, in that I still have to type a post up. That doesn't bother me, though, and I get a much needed break from staring at the screen of an electronic device. I would miss writing everything by hand first, too, because it's become an integral part of my blogging routine.

In addition to my notebook of blog posts, I keep a separate notebook of my favorite book quotes. I know a lot of other bloggers do as well. For me, a quote book is like a scrapbook; it reminds me of the books I've read, the awesome characters I've met, and the fantastic fictional worlds I've visited.

As much as I enjoy putting pen/pencil to paper, something that I've never been very good at is keeping a journal. I've started and stopped a number of times through the years and have failed at maintaining a journal on a consistent basis. Often I'd sit down to write . . . and find I had nothing to say. I know the point of journals is to be able to write about whatever you feel like writing about, but I guess I fare better with structure, like when I set out to write a book review. I think I'd like to give journaling another go in the future, this time without putting so much pressure on myself to make it perfect.

I feel especially old school with hand writing because I write in cursive/script almost exclusively. Scripting has always just been a lot faster for me than printing, plus I've always found script cool. When I was a kid and could just about manage printing my name, I begged my mom to teach me how to write in script like she did because I thought script looked way better than print. When I started third grade and we were expected to use cursive all the time, well, I couldn't have been happier!

Are any of you old school pen and paper peeps like me? Do you ever use cursive/script?

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Harry Potter Moment of the Week (69): Best Spot to Chill at Hogwarts

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 Spot to Chill at Hogwarts

Ooh, this is a bit of a toughie. I think I'd be extremely happy just hanging out in the Hogwarts library for the rest of my life. I mean, all those magical books! I'd also love spending time in the Gryffindor Common Room. It just always sounded so cozy in the books.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Series Slacking

In a prime example of slack-itude, I actually wrote a draft of this post about a year ago—but never finished it. Lame. Then the other day, Ally and I were talking about series we need to finish, and I remembered that I'd started this post. Um, better late than never?

When I first joined Goodreads and discovered those magical things called recommendations, I wanted to read. All. The. Books. My library was only happy to indulge me in this endeavor, offering an endless supply of reading riches from which to choose. And I took advantage of this bounty, checking out a host of series openers.

In my efforts to catch up on all the awesome titles I'd missed during the long stretch when reading was pretty much absent from my life, I started a bunch of new series, only occasionally following through with the sequels, even if they were already available. With less reading time at hand nowadays, I've been trying to focus on getting caught up on some of the series I've started. I have about 25 in progress that I'd like to continue and want to work on. I don't have a set deadline, but I am going to take my best shot at not series hopping as much as I used to do.

I totally get why some readers prefer to wait for all of the books in a series to be released so they can binge read the whole thing. I don't know what I would have done if all of the Parasol Protectorate books hadn't been available because that was a series I absolutely needed to read straight through—so good! That being said, there are still some series that I have to read as soon as a new book is released, like The Raven Cycle.

I'm curious to hear how other readers approach series reading. Do you like waiting until you can read a series in its entirety, or are you okay with starting and returning to it later? Are there any particular series that you've been meaning to continue but haven't gotten around to picking up again?

Monday, January 19, 2015

Review: Blameless by Gail Carriger

Blameless by Gail Carriger
Blameless (The Parasol Protectorate #3)
By Gail Carriger
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased

To Sum It Up: Poor Alexia never expected to find herself embroiled in a scandal that’s the subject of all of the London gossip columns, but that’s exactly what has happened to her. There’s also the slightly more pressing matter of some vampires who want to kill her. No longer safe in England, Alexia heads to Italy, but the danger that awaits her there may be even worse than the one she’s fleeing from.

Review: Well, I've reached the midway point in this simply wonderful series, and it continues to be a most addictive read. Book #1, Soulless, still reigns as my favorite thanks to all of the verbal sparks between Alexia and Lord Maccon, but there's still so, so much to love about Blameless.

Alexia can't seem to go anywhere without someone trying to kill her, not even when she makes a thrill-packed flight from England that takes her and her companions, Madame Lefoux and Floote, through France and on to Italy. There's hardly ever a lull in the action in Blameless, and although the danger that Alexia is in is very grave indeed, she handles it with her usual logic and aplomb. As long as there's tea available.

I really, really felt for Alexia in this one because she's not only dealing with murderers highly intent on their mission, but she's also trying to put on a brave face despite a broken heart. I love Lord Maccon lots, but I went into Blameless pretty steamed at the Earl of Woolsey because of some things that happened in Changeless. He has some serious remorse in Blameless, and the way he expresses it—well, in keeping with the humor of the series, I wanted to laugh.

With Lord Maccon, ahem, indisposed, Professor Lyall gets a significant turn in the spotlight, stepping in to attempt to keep the increasingly restless Woolsey pack in line. The good professor has been a favorite character from the beginning of the series, and he's utterly brilliant, and not just in mind, in Blameless. It's thanks to him that the earl continues to have a pack to lead, and while Lyall always treats his Alpha with all due respect, he also isn't afraid to stand up to Lord Maccon's bluster when necessary.

Blameless also gives Floote a few opportunities to shine, showing off what a badass he can be. Yes, I just used "Floote" and "badass" in the same sentence. Believe me, there's so much more lurking beneath that stoic exterior. And I love how Gail Carriger makes the most of his dialogue; Floote is a man of few words, but they never fail to be wit-tastic.

As much as I chuckled out loud while reading Blameless, I think this one was just a tad more serious in places than its predecessors. I was particularly struck by what happens to one of my favorite secondary characters. Don't fear that the series has departed too far from its signature humor, however, because it's still present in droves. Just try not to snicker at the thought of Ivy, with her atrocious taste in hats, being charged with running Madame Lefoux's millinery shop in the latter's absence!

All in All: I am well and truly addicted to this series. On to Alexia's next adventure!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Harry Potter Moment of the Week (68): Scariest Moment in the Series

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:
Scariest Moment in the Series

I know I've mentioned one of these moments before, but I couldn't leave it out of this week's post because it truly did scare the sh*t out of me, both in the Half-Blood Prince book and in the movie. That scene in the cave where Dumbledore and Harry go in search of the locket Horcrux and the Inferi emerge from the water just gives me the creeps to end all creeps. I'm shuddering just thinking about it.

I also have to include the Aragog scene in Chamber of Secrets, specifically the part when all of his icky, hungry kids chase Harry, Ron, and Fang. I even hate playing that level in the Lego HP video game, lol.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Review: Changeless by Gail Carriger

* This review contains spoilers for the previous book, Soulless.

Changeless (The Parasol Protectorate #2)
By Gail Carriger
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased

To Sum It Up: Lady Alexia Maccon, recently appointed to the Shadow Council by Queen Victoria, has a new mystery on her hands. Something with the power to cancel out the abilities of the supernatural, the very thing that Alexia herself is capable of, has swept through London. Even more concerning for Alexia, this unknown threat seems to be headed in the same direction as Lord Maccon, who has suddenly taken off for Scotland on pack business. So Alexia is off to Scotland, too, most reluctantly accompanied by her lovelorn best friend and petulant half-sister.

Review: With all of its acerbic wit, lovably quirky characters, Victorian England setting, and explosive chemistry between preternatural Alexia and werewolf Lord Maccon, Soulless became an instant favorite of mine. I was desperate to get my hands on Changeless, but fate was a bit cruel and made me wait five days for a copy to arrive. In the meantime, I tried to retain my sanity because I needed to read this so badly.

I love the writing style of this series so. Much. I’d be perfectly happy talking all proper-like all the time if only everybody else wouldn’t think I’d gone completely batty. The prose certainly give the books an irresistible charm but without coming off as gimmicky. Seriously, I can’t read enough of it.

Our indomitable heroine Alexia, now Lady Woolsey, acquits herself splendidly once again. She’s armed with an upgraded parasol that’s more lethal than any parasol she’s carried in the past, which is a necessity for someone who flirts with danger as often as Alexia does. In this installment, she can’t even enjoy a nice dirigible ride to the Highlands of Scotland without running into trouble. Of course, so much of the fun in reading about Alexia’s adventures is waiting to see how she’ll manage to escape her latest scrape.

The steampunk gets turned up a few notches in Changeless, especially with the introduction of Madame Lefoux, inventor extraordinaire. It’s Madame Lefoux who, at Lord Maccon’s request, outfits Alexia’s new parasol with all sorts of ingenious weaponry. There’s also quite a lot of intricate detail, and maybe just a mite too much, about the aethographor, kind of the steampunk version of the telegraph. Overall, though, the technology of this world is fascinating and only one of the many reasons why I wish I could live in it.

One nitpick that I have about Changeless is how minimally some of my favorite characters from the first book appear in it, like Professor Lyall, Lord Akeldama, Biffy, and Floote. Even Lord Maccon is off-page for a while, much to my dismay. I also must vent my feelings over the ending of Changeless: NOOOOOOOO!!!! I’m rather peeved at a certain character right now. I shall, however, put all my faith in Gail Carriger to set all to rights with the next book, which I am very happy to report I have on hand so as to avoid another horrible delay in continuing this wonderful series.

All in All: Changeless is a very good sequel and earns bonus points for traveling to the Scottish Highlands amidst my current Outlander obsession. I confess to enjoying Soulless a tad more, but I am still wholly in love with the Parasol Protectorate series as a whole.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Harry Potter Moment of the Week (67): Biggest Betrayal in the Series

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:
Biggest Betrayal in the Series

I thought this one was pretty straightforward. Of course it had to be Wormtail betraying Prongs and Lily to Voldemort. Some Gryffindor kid he turned out to be. They were his friends for crying out loud! And they had a baby! Just plain horrible. But, as usual, I tend to overthink things. Anyway, I then decided that the worst betrayal was actually Ron ditching Harry and Hermione in Deathly Hallows on their journey to find the Horcruxes. Let's just say, I had to reread that part to make sure it was actually happening. Not once until that moment had I ever questioned Ron or Hermione's loyalty to Harry. For sure, one of the most horrifying moments in the whole book.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Book Loot (12)

I am madly in love with Gail Carriger's Parasol Protectorate series. I finished the first book, Soulless, the day after Christmas and ran to Barnes & Noble later that day to try and find a copy of the second book. Alas, I should have snatched up the entire series back when I bought Soulless because the store no longer had a copy of the sequel. I was a tad dismayed to go home empty-handed, by which I mean I wanted to bang my head against the display of George R. R. Martin books. Not to be deterred, I just went home, booted up the computer, and ordered the rest of the series from Amazon.

I've also got a few lovelies that I received for Christmas: a Jon Snoooowwww keychain, Funko figurines of Jon Snow's direwolf, Ghost, and The Little Mermaid herself, Ariel, and finally, a bobblehead of Drax from Guardians of the Galaxy:


Changeless by Gail Carriger
Blameless by Gail Carriger
Heartless by Gail Carriger
Timeless by Gail Carriger

eBooks Bought:

Captive by Sarah Fine
Vigilante by Sarah Fine
The Pact by Karina Halle

Monday, January 5, 2015

Review: Soulless by Gail Carriger

Soulless by Gail Carriger
Soulless (The Parasol Protectorate #1)
By Gail Carriger
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased

To Sum It Up: Alexia Tarabotti is a spinster with no soul. Her touch cancels out the supernatural abilities of both vampires and werewolves, who normally recognize Alexia for what she is—preternatural. One unfortunate vampire, however, is unaware whom he’s dealing with when he tries to bite Miss Tarabotti, and she has no choice but to defend herself with her trusty parasol. The mystery vampire’s death leads to an investigation that uncovers some disturbing happenings among Victorian London’s supernatural population. Never one to shy away from danger, soon Alexia is in the midst of it, as her preternatural gift seems to have garnered the attention of some shadowy individuals.

Review: I. Absolutely. Loved. This.

I ended up reading the bulk of Soulless on Christmas, which could not have been more fitting because encountering so many of my favorite bookish elements in a single novel was like unwrapping one Christmas present after another after another. Victorian London setting. Sassy heroine. Swoon-inducing male character. Lively, witty banter. Copious humor. Paranormal creatures. Cool steampunk. And these are just the things I can think of off the top of my head!

I love everything Jane Austen, and Soulless definitely evokes her works, from the writing style to the comedy. I laughed heartily and frequently while reading this, especially at how embarrassing our dear heroine Alexia’s family could be. Think Mrs. Bennet from Pride and Prejudice. Alexia, obviously, is the most sensible of the lot—smart, into books, and completely unafraid to speak her mind, even at the expense of propriety.

I adored Alexia. She’s neither a shrinking violet nor your typical Victorian era lady. She walks around with a parasol that can double as a weapon in a jiffy if necessary. Her sharpest weapon by far, though, is her words. Rare is the occasion when Miss Tarabotti is at a loss for them. Not many can go up against her razor sharp wit except perhaps Lord Conall Maccon, Earl of Woolsey and Alpha of the Woolsey Castle werewolf pack. For whatever reason, the werewolves I’d read about in the past never left that much of an impression on me. Until now. Lord Maccon is an Alpha male in every sense of the word. Mmm . . . oh, right, I was writing a review. And oh my God—the verbal sparring that goes on between Alexia and Lord Maccon is priceless. They certainly have an Elizabeth Bennet/Mr. Darcy type of dynamic, albeit with much more rudeness and, uh, shenanigans that you won’t find in an Austen novel.

I am so, so, so, so happy that I finally got around to beginning this series. Soulless is just perfect, even more so for its high-spirited heroine admittedly not being so. The secondary characters are just as wonderfully infused with life and poised to capture your heart. I’m thinking especially of Lord Akeldama, Alexia’s vivacious vampire friend, Professor Lyall, Beta to Lord Maccon, and Floote, butler to Alexia’s family and a bit of an unsung hero, if only for tolerating Alexia’s mother and half sisters. I could never fit all of the gushing I want to do over this book in a single review because Soulless deserves every superlative in existence.

All in All: Winning in every way! I am officially obsessed with The Parasol Protectorate (and Lord Maccon). Soulless is the ultimate mix of everything I could possibly want in one book.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Reading and Blogging Resolutions for 2015

I'm not the greatest keeper of resolutions and sometimes debate the point of even making any, but I think challenging myself a bit would be good for me. For the past few years, I've felt like I've been misplacing more and more of my motivation, and I want to put an end to that. If I learned anything last year, it was that I need to be more receptive to change. I'm a creature of habit and too reliant on what's familiar. If I go and try to make a ton of life changes all at once, though, I'm setting myself up for failure. As far as reading and blogging are concerned, I think that if I set a few, manageable goals instead of making a ginormous list of everything that I'd like to accomplish ever, I won't get overwhelmed and stress out (two things that I did in unhealthy excess in 2014). So, here goes short, sweet, and simple:

  • Read. Yup. I need to remind myself to do this. I came up with a lot of lame excuses why I couldn't read last year, and, looking back, what was I thinking? I only made myself very unhappy trying to spend every waking minute "being productive." So here's to more slacking off in favor of reading in 2015!
  • Complete Goodreads reading challenge. I'm leaving the number of books (50) the same as last year. I think it's totally reachable as long as I stay consistent with #1 above.
  • Continue reading books I already own. I actually did quite a bit of this last year and want to keep working through the unread books I have at home.
  • Reread Persuasion by Jane Austen. It's only my favorite book ever, and it's been too, too long since I last read it.
  • Reread Maria V. Snyder's Study series. It's hard to believe that it's already been 3 years since I first read the original trilogy. I need a refresher because . . . the NEW Study book, Shadow Study, is coming out NEXT. MONTH!

Of course I'd still like to move to WordPress. I've been saying that for like the last two years, though, and I feel that if I officially put it on the goal list and fail once again, the blow to my self-esteem will be too much. So, let's consider that a wishlist item, as in it'll be a nice surprise when it does happen, but my soul won't be crushed beyond repair if I don't manage it within a specified time frame.

I have two small things planned for the blog. I loved reading Gail Carriger's Soulless so much last month that I wrote a review for it even though I normally only review YA. I'd been thinking of adding the occasional non-YA review to the mix, and Soulless made up my mind for me. I also plan to re-watch the first two seasons of Game of Thrones and write recaps for each episode so that there will be a complete episode archive for all four seasons.

Here's to an awesome 2015, my friends. Best wishes to all of you in this new year!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Harry Potter Moment of the Week (66): Favorite Death Eater

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:
Favorite Death Eater (or one you most love to hate!)

My favorite Death Eater is hands down Regulus Black! Not only do I love him because of his association with Sirius Black, who happens to be his big brother, but mostly because of the fact that he redeemed himself. I believe he is the only Death Eater, besides Snape, who came to his senses about following Voldemort. He realized Voldemort was evil and ended up sacrificing himself to thwart the man he once served by replacing the locket Horcrux with a fraud. I also admire and respect Regulus for his treatment of Kreacher. Regulus truly cared about his house-elf and the feeling was obviously mutual.