Saturday, December 31, 2016

Wrap Up (The One Where I Announce the Giveaway Winners)

Now, I'm going to be a little cruel, and not announce the winners until the very end of this post. Sorry, friends, but that's the way it is :) Good news, though, this is a rather short post.

In fact, this is the last wrap up like this you'll see for a while. Wrap ups will be changing in the new year, but I'm not going to spoil the surprise completely until tomorrow, so make sure to check in and find out what I'm changing around on the blog. Sure, it's not huge news, but I'm excited.

Finished This Week
Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes
The Case Study of Vanitas, Vol. 1
Reindeer Boy
The Bear and the Nightingale

Currently Reading
I'm trying to stop reading multiple things at once now that school is starting up again, so these should be back to one or two books a week.
Showdown on Smuggler's Moon
But Then I Came Back
The Killing Joke

Last Week

Coming Soon
Sunday-- New Year Blog Plans
Monday-- Sandman Vol. 1 Review
Tuesday-- The Bear and the Nightingale Review
Wednesday-- Waiting on Wednesday
Friday-- Mini Manga Reviews
Next Saturday-- January Wrap Up 1

*hint hint one of the changes is what you're seeing above...*

drum roll please...

Congrats to _Sandra_ for winning the first place prize and Ashfa Anwer for winning the second place prize! I will be sending out an email to both of you later tonight (possibly even tomorrow morning) with all the information. After I send it out you'll have 48 hours to respond. But, again, I won't be sending out the emails for a little bit, maybe as late as tomorrow, so don't worry if you don't get the emails right away. Congrats again! And thank you to everyone who entered my giveaway to celebrate!

I hope everyone has a good last few hours of this awful year. See you all in 2017 ;)

Friday, December 30, 2016

Novella Review: The Jewel and Her Lapidary

Author: Fran Wilde
Edition: Paperback
Rating: 3 Stars
This is a little novella published by Tor that had me intrigued first because of the cover and second because of the description, which was cryptic but sounded like it boasted some serious girl-power and an interesting magic system. I went into this with higher expectations than I should have and was disappointed because of it.

The Jewel and Her Lapidary is about a jewel, which means she is part of the royal family in this valley, and her lapidary, which means she is a servant to the jewel but also a bodyguard and near-sister character. When her family is murdered, the Jewel, Lin, becomes the sudden heir and she devises a plan to get her lapidary, Sima, out of the trouble before the villains who concocted the whole thing arrive for Lin.

While the magic system was cool, it was confusing. It took me ages to figure out who actually had any power and what it did. This wasn't necessarily a bad thing, since it is a novella and only meant to be short and to the point. Explaining the magic system would have dragged out the whole thing in an unnecessary way and really wouldn't have mattered since it is clearly pretty understood by the author herself. However, because of this early confusion, I didn't really understand why the beginning is as important as it is meant to be. I think a second reading would increase my enjoyment of this part in general.

The plot, too, was slightly confusing as I tried to figure out who was who in the very start. Again, not a bad thing, per se, for a novella of this sort, but also not something I really enjoyed having to work so hard for. And when things did straighten out it was an overall good plot, with a few moments of me scratching my head and wondering why what the characters choose is what they choose. It was also predictable- but in a good way. It's not meant, I don't think, to surprise you with the way it ends, and the fact that see what is coming far before it comes makes the emotion an even harder punch to the gut. I did actually have tears and was seriously moved by the final choices the characters make.

Which brings me to the true jewels of this story: the characters. They were wonderfully fleshed out and so interesting. I loved that they would give themselves to each other and how they both understand this about the other. It makes everything about their situation more heartbreaking. Also, and I may have just been reading between the lines (which, ins't that what one is meant to do??), but I really do think they were in love romantically. It's not great representation because they don't come out and say it specifically, so I won't say it's a diverse book, but I do think there are at least seeds here of what, had it been a proper novel, would have been a beautiful relationship.

TL;DR? It's a pretty solid novella. I would recommend getting it discounted or from the library, rather than buying it full price for the few places where the plot and the world-building fall through.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

College Journey: Year Wrap Up & Look Ahead

I've been told that the best way to end any span of time, be it a week, a month, or a year, is to look back at what you've accomplished and ahead at what you want to do. I do this on a personal level in my planner every Sunday and it's one of the best habits I've gotten into because it allows me to really take stock of what the important tasks are and what the trivial things are and also helps me manage my time. Instead of doing a regular College Journey post, then, I'm doing something similar and I'm going to go back through all the posts from this year and give an outline of what posts I want to write in the new year. If there's anything you want me to write a post about, don't be shy! Leave a comment.

These first few posts come from what I consider "season one" of the college journey posts, meaning they were written when I was still a Freshman and they were, more or less, a test run of how these were going to go.

I wrote this one after my roommate left the school for her health and it had me really thinking about when college is or isn't right and what you can do instead.

Part one of the stress reduction posts (part two released just last week!).

A common theme here is time management because I'm slightly obsessed with it. I hate the stress that comes when important things start overlapping and do my best to prevent it from happening. I've been pretty good at that lately, though work has thrown me off the time management skills I've been developing I'm hoping next term will be better. I may write a follow up post to this next year, but not any time early in the year.

A challenge I set for myself that really didn't work out. Oh well.

One of my favorite posts because it's got some really solid advice in here. If you're about to go to college or still settling in I recommend checking this post out. I will do a similar post, probably collecting tips I picked up this year, at the end of the school year.

Now here are the posts from this school year and they're definitely a lot more professional than the previous ones, though don't think the previous ones are bad! They're just not as structured.

Something I recommend looking back on before you head back to school after winter break ends.

Another one that I recommend peeking in on every time you return after an extended stay at home.

Pretty self-explanatory title.

This is one of the few (actually, it may be the only) college journey posts this term where I actually touch base with everyone and show you a peek into my own life and how things are going at school. There will definitely be more of these in the new year because I think they're very helpful in their own way- rather than tell you what to do I show you how I'm doing and coping.

These are some things I learned the hard way and tips that help me read. Reading calms me down and helps get rid of stress and is also just something I love doing so making time is upmost importance.

A small post but a fun post.

Finals are hell! I'm only slightly kidding. They don't have to be, though. Here's what I do and it mostly helps me get through them. With these I don't, at least, feel like giving up every half hour or that I'm drowning. It's possible to get through them I promise!

You're probably home right now so don't forget some of these things. I will probably write another one of these right before summer break, adding in some final thoughts on cleaning your dorm and getting a job.

Part two of stress reduction during one of the bleakest times of the year. You can make it through this, I promise!

So what will I be doing next year? Well, I'll definitely be keeping the same schedule where I post twice a month on the final two Thursdays, but from this point forward I'll be posting information on the first of those two, and "documentary" on the second, meaning it will be a peek into how I'm doing.

For specific posts I will definitely be getting to a dorm tour sooner than later. I want to make sure everything is straightened up and that I have a camera that records sound well. It will take me a day to record and probably a week or two to edit so don't expect it until March most likely but it will absolutely be coming. As for a campus tour, I'm going to push that off a bit longer because I don't want to record in the snow and want everyone to see a really nice, spring version of the campus.

I also expect to wrap up this "season" of College Journey at the end of May and king a two month break until August. I won't be in school during that time anyways and the break will be nice.

Here's to the new year!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday: Iron Gold

Waiting on Wednesday was created by Breaking the Spine
When you break the chains, what do you unleash?
The new trilogy takes place after the end of Morning Star and will center on the consequences of the hero’s actions as well as on those folks now living and growing up in a landscape that’s had its ruling order shattered.
Why I'm Waiting
I love this series to death and can't wait to see where it goes!

Iron Gold is released August 22nd, 2017, and you can preorder it here.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Mini Media Reviews: The Crown & Assassin's Creed

I know this review is a bit late, but I pushed off due to both work and wanting to include my review for the new movie, Assassin's Creed.
If you know me you know I love the royal family. I'm not the sort of obsessed that some of my mother's friends are, but learning about them is one of my favorite past times. And Queen Elizabeth is one of my favorite people in the whole world! I think she's a fantastic pioneer for women in positions of power and seeing her story drawn out so beautifully in this series was like a dream come true.

It kind of snuck up on me, because I didn't realize this show was happening until a week or so after it dropped. I blame school. And then I forced myself to pace through it so that I didn't binge it all at once and miss it too soon. Like I nice piece of dark chocolate, this show was better in small doses where I could take the time to think about it after each episode, which felt like mini-movies, ended.

My favorite thing about this series, besides the cast, was the tone of the show. It was morally gray in the best ways. No one was a good guy or a bad guy because of the near-omniscient story-telling. And because it is a true story there weren't as many "clean" endings as fiction would have- which made it better and more unpredictable. It was a very human show and it made all of these people, who are now much older and wiser (or, sadly, passed away), seem relatable. In fact, I feel almost as if I had a long conversation with each of them and have come away a better person. If you're a fan of historical fiction, this is a MUST WATCH.

Assassin's Creed is a video game franchise I've always had every intention of playing and getting into but have yet to find the time or the money to pick up a game. I've watched walkthroughs, and for now that's the closest I think I will get. I love the lore of the games and was rather excited to see this come to the big screen. It wasn't my most anticipated in any way, but I had somewhat higher hopes than I should have. Video game movies do, after all, have a very, very bad record.

And this one stayed true to that record. The biggest problem was the script. The dialogue was, pardon my language, actual crap. I don't say this lightly but it was like watching the cut-scenes from a game rather than an actual story. The fight scenes were cool but rather poorly placed and they spent too much time in the present when they should have been capitalizing on the past, which was by far the most interesting. The characters were meant to come off as morally gray, but instead just felt confused about what they were doing and looked rather uncomfortable with the whole affair. Plot-wise I'll take a quote from my Dad, who was the one who really, really wanted to see it: "It was all building up to something that lasted three minutes". He's not wrong. And I'm still not all too sure what the ending was supposed to mean.

If I have to say something nice about this movie it's the cinematography and aesthetic. It really is a gorgeous film, and Fassbender sure does help make it easy on the eyes. But seriously, the lighting and the set up and the imagery of both the present and the past are beautiful. If it were an art book I would happily buy it and just flip through pages whilst stroking the images of the skylines and framing.

Basically, stay away from this one, even if you are a fan. It doesn't make sense to those who aren't into the series and even for those who know what's going on you'll feel cheated and offended by the awful script that somehow made it so far as to become a movie.

ARC Review: Maresi (The Red Abbey Chronicles, #1)

Author: Maria Turtschaninoff
Edition: eARC Courtesy of Netgalley
Release Date: January 3rd, 2017
Rating: 5 Stars
I received a copy of Maresi from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!

Maresi follows the title character's story of the time Jai came to the Abbey. At the abbey girls from all over the world are taken in and taught how to read, write, and do important chores. They all worship the goddess and her power is what protects their little island from the evil men. Jai, however, arrives under mysterious circumstances, which begin a chapter of life at the Red Abbey that none could have predicted.

This is one of the best fantasy books I've read all year! It's about women being strong because they are women, not because they are living up to the "male idea" of what a strong woman is. Maresi herself isn't anything particularly special, except that she's kind and inquisitive, and a voracious reader. Jai, also, isn't anything particularly special. And neither are any of the other girls. Except that, at the same time, every single character is special and compelling and someone that could have a whole novel written about them. It's their courage, their sisterhood, and their love that really makes them all compelling characters that leap off the page.

The writing itself is beautiful. I was sucked in immediately and was hard pressed to put it down. I did for a short time, and then picked it up and read the majority of it in one sitting. It's a quick read made quicker by the magic the words have over the reader. It's a novel translated from Swedish, which has me curious to read more Swedish translated novels and see whether there's a similar cadence to the writing in the genre.

Best of all was the plot. It was a short, tight plot, with thick strands meandering off to the sides to tell the stories of the other girls, the history of the Abbey, and the main character's life before the Abbey. It's all done from Maresi's perspective and her eyes seem to see everything. Even though you don't get to the "meat" of the plot until about halfway, you won't notice as you're too busy noticing everything else going on, as does our narrator, and you won't mind a single distraction since they're all too good to pass up.

TL;DR? A wonderfully feminist fantasy that meanders beautifully to the tight plot that explodes with action.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Wrap Up (The One Where It's Been Two Years & Also A Belated Merry Christmas)

Yesterday was both Christmas Day (Merry Christmas to everyone who celebrates and Happy Holidays to everyone else) and the two-year anniversary of this here blog. I'm so proud of where it's at and I love the community that I'm a part of because of this endeavor. Like, literally, when I think about how lucky I am to have the friends I've made and been introduced to the books I have been because of this community it brings a happy tear to my eye. Sure, it encourages me to spend more than I should on books, but really, that's not the worse vice one can have. The book community and this blog has, in many instances, been my safety net. If I'm not feeling good, or too depressed to pick up a book, I'll turn to twitter or tumblr and just interact quietly but it often does help me pick myself back up.

I still can't believe it's been two years! That's so crazy! The hope is that it lasts even longer, too, and I have no intention of slowing down any time soon.

Before I get into the regular wrap up part of this post I want to remind everyone about the giveaway I have running right now (original post here) which will also be down at the bottom of the post for your ease. The original goes more in depth into the rules but, basically, I don't want anyone to forget that international is okay and you can actually win multiple books if it works out that way for you. So, seriously, enter! I want to give back to the community! The giveaway ends the last day of the year, which is why I started it early last week.

Finished this Week
Nothing, unfortunately, I was a bit busy with work and getting ready for Christmas

Currently Reading
The same as last week

Last Week

Next Week
Monday-- The Crown Review
Tuesday-- Maresi Review
Wednesday-- Waiting on Wednesday
Thursday-- College Journey
Friday-- Jewel and the Lapidary Review
Saturday-- Wrap Up (The Last of the Year!)

In next week's wrap up I'm going to be talking about all the changes coming to the blog within the first week of the new year. Things around here won't look too blatantly different but the way things run will certainly be different. I'm looking forward to it, though, and I think it will only serve to make this blog better!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, December 23, 2016

5 Star Reaction: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe (The Chronicles of Narnia, #1)

A note on the title of this post: I know, chronologically, that this book takes place second within the series, but I prefer the publication order and think that's the proper way to read things, so that's why I labeled this as the first in the series.
Author: C.S. Lewis
Edition: UK Paperback
Rating: 5 Stars
Full disclosure- I've never read this book before but the movie is in my top five films of all time. I consider it both a nostalgic, childhood classic and a fine piece of cinema that shouldn't be overlooked. When I was really little I did read The Magicians Nephew and, surprisingly, I still remember that one really clearly.

This was one of the book club picks for winter break (my pick, actually, and I'm rather proud of it *puffs out chest*) and it only took me one day to read it. I basically sat down, opened it up, and got lost within. So much nostalgia and happy times were brought up while I was reading and it was a nice place to return to- a more innocent time. It's also a perfect Christmas read (and watch) and put me in the mood for the Holidays, which I was starting to slip away from.

What can I really say? I loved it and it's something all people should read. It's innocent and beautiful and dark and serious and life-lessony and classic. Definitely something I will always have a copy of from this point forward.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

College Journey: The Winter Stretch and Stress Reduction Part 2

In February of last school year I posted "part one" which was intended to be standalone, but I think it's a very important post to revisit. I may even do one every year at this time because the winter stretch is really a hard to time to be at school. There's not much to do outside, it's cold everywhere, and classes seem to bog you down with no hope since only spring break awaits you at the end of this long term and hard work. Stress levels are, unsurprisingly, at a high, and people who need to sun to thrive may even start to feel depressed. 

Last year I mentioned Music, Coloring, Reading and Writing, Friends, TV, and Taking a Break as some great stress relievers. I still believe all those things- particularly coloring. Even better than regular coloring is watercoloring which relaxes me more than colored pencils or markers. Art in general is a great way to destress.

Exercise is also something that I would recommend. I don't do it as much as I want to but when I do do it regularly and for long stretches (I like to run on the treadmill and elliptical) it both prevents too much stress from building up and relieves the stress that's already there. Sometimes I watch Netflix while I'm running, sometimes I listen to an audiobook. Whatever strikes my fancy. For whatever reason I can't run and listen to music, my mind just wanders too much.

Walking for pleasure is another thing that's great and something I've only just discovered. Some of my good friends do this regularly whenever they're feeling stressed or have a problem they want to deal with so I gave it a try. Unlike regular exercise which clear's my mind, walking forces me to confront the "problem" or stressor and think of ways around it. I've made great plans and had revelations that have panned out while walking. When you're in the middle of writing an essay or studying for a test a good walk is a great way to break things up and stop you from getting so weary as you're writing it.

Scheduling your day in advance is a great way to make time for the things that matter and stop stressors from getting in the way. I have a document on my desktop called "Dream Schedule" which is what my days would look like if everything goes according to plan, with time built in so that there's wiggle room for everything. Ideally each day has 7-8 hours of sleep built in, a skin care routine, three meals (and maybe a snack), exercise, and no more than four and a half hours a day dedicated to homework. I also don't schedule doing any work on Fridays and as minimal as I can for Mondays because who wants to be working those days? I also like to write down where I want to work on my homework because

You shouldn't work in the same place all the time and even if you only have a few options to choose from your main one shouldn't be your bedroom. I like to work in the library and I'm pretty productive in there, as long as I move around from place to place within the library. Sometimes it's just a matter of choosing a desk right next to one I used before, while other times I need to get up and move to a whole new floor of the building. I have four or five that I really like and that's enough for me. But working in the library isn't always feasible and sometimes I have chores I want to do while working, so I schedule times to work in my dorm as well, but never for as long as I work in the library because I want stress out of my bedroom as much as I can get.

Treat yourself every once in a while. I don't mean blow a bunch of money. In fact, the best way to treat yourself is to get food that reminds you of home and that doesn't have to cost much at all. When you've worked hard, but before you're too stressed out, treat yourself with a favorite meal and enjoy it in all it's glory- don't try to work while you eat it!

Those are some new pieces of advice I've picked up since last time. I recommend giving part one a read through, too. If you have any advice of your own I'd love to know!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday: The Hate U Give

Waiting on Wednesday was created by Breaking the Spine
Sixteen-year-old Starr lives in two worlds: the poor neighbourhood where she was born and raised and her posh high school in the suburbs. The uneasy balance between them is shattered when Starr is the only witness to the fatal shooting of her unarmed best friend, Khalil, by a police officer. Now what Starr says could destroy her community. It could also get her killed. Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, this is a powerful and gripping YA novel about one girl's struggle for justice. Movie rights have been sold to Fox, with Amandla Stenberg (The Hunger Games) to star.
Why I'm Waiting
This isn't my typical genre, but this book was making waves as soon as it was announced and I think it's going to be a very important book for multiple reasons.

The Hate U Give is released February 28th, 2017, and you can preorder it here.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Movie Review: Rogue One

This was easily the best movie of the year- don't argue with me because you can't change my mind on this. And I saw some very good movies this year. I'm a pretty large Star Wars fan, though I'm definitely of the newer breed. The first Star Wars movie I saw in theaters was Revenge of the Sith and I wasn't wowed at the time. It took me until last summer before I went off to college to actually sit down and watch the original trilogy... and completely fall in love. With everything! And then I saw the prequels and pretty much forgot they happened. And then Force Awakens came out and it is (in my opinion) in the top three Star Wars films. This one, alongside Episode 5, rounds out those top three. Don't fight me- I'm right.

Rogue One is darker than every other Star Wars film for a number of reasons, but most of those have to do with the final act of the film. It's not just the deaths that take place but the way the battle scenes and general cinematography work to mimic WW2 fighting and death. It's a surreal parallel that works incredibly well both because the Empire has always been based on Nazi Germany but because those are classic images for the Western audiences watching. It makes the War in Star Wars more real than all the previous films have really managed to.

A big reason it worked so well to seem like real war was the range of characters. First of all- the main cast featured a woman leading a group of POC men (and the best robot in the whole franchise- sorry R2, C3PO, and BB8) who didn't treat her any different for being a woman and was supported by a range of characters we've seen before and are only being introduced to now but they feel as if they could have been part of the original trilogy as well. I'm not a POC but I have seen so many reactions online from viewers and fans who are and some of their reactions- those of joy (seriously go read some you'll be touched to the heart and really understand what diversity means for people)- have made me cry (in happiness of course!). I'm so happy this was the direction this movie went because if there wasn't a more perfect time for this sort of representation I don't know when is. Second of all- there wasn't really anything extraordinary about any of the characters. Of course, they were all special and important, but none of them were a Jedi or a Sith. And that made all the difference. One of the reasons the prequel trilogy doesn't live up to the original is because the prequels only feature a bunch of "special snowflakes" basically. This one doesn't revolve around any and it makes them interesting for different reasons and also made everything they did- all their struggles and everything they achieved- mean so much more.

You don't need to be a Star Wars fan to enjoy this movie. In fact, if you've wanted to become a Star Wars fan this is the perfect place to start. I've seen the "proper" watching order swirl around the internet a bit, and if you're interested in jumping into the franchise this is the order I'd recommend: 
  1. Rogue One
  2. A New Hope
  3. The Empire Strikes Back
  4. The Phantom Menace
  5. The Clone Wars
  6. The Revenge of the Sith
  7. The Return of the Jedi
  8. The Force Awakens
As soon as Rogue One releases onto DVD I will be having the aforementioned movie marathon and I couldn't be more excited.

Have you seen it? What did you think? Were you a ball of emotions afterwards, constantly thinking about what you just witnessed, as I currently am? Most importantly- WHO WAS YOUR FAVORITE CHARACTER? Let me know in the comments!

Sunday, December 18, 2016

2-Year Anniversary Giveaway

It's been almost two years here on the blog and wow the time does fly! The anniversary isn't until next week, but I wanted to get this giveaway up and running so that everyone had time to enter.

The Rules
1. Must be 18 or older or have your parents/guardian's permission
2. Book Depository must ship to you

Which Means
Yes, international is okay. International is great, actually! I will be shipping from Book Depository wherever you live.

There are Two Prizes
The first prize is $25 worth of books from Book Depository. If this means squeezing into that $25 one book or three it works. The second prize is similar $15 worth of books from Book Depository. Same rules apply. When you win I'll send you an email and you'll have 48 hours to respond with your mailing address and what books you would like.

Please Note
I won't be able to send the prizes until January 5th for the grand prize and January 10th for the second prize because of pay check reasons. But as soon as those dates clear I will be sending you your things.

The Giveaway runs until the End of the Year
and you can stop by every day to enter by tweeting out that message. My goal is to retweet every time one is sent out to continue spreading the word. Good luck to everyone!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Wrap Up (The One Where I'm More Stressed Than I Should Be)

I think last week that I talked about starting to feel overwhelmed... well, consider me thoroughly overwhelmed. I have the weekend off, though, and Christmas is getting closer and closer. Once Christmas passes I'm hoping a lot of the stress will fade off, though I have a feeling a new stressor will probably take its place. *Sigh*. At least I'm seeing Rogue One in a few hours and my paycheck came. Two good things to cheer me up.

Finished This Week
Blue Exorcist Vol. 3
The Jewel and Her Lapidary (review to come)
and The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe

Currently Reading
I'm still in the middle of A Darkness Strange and Lovely
and plan to start But Then I Came Back, and ARC I received,
and I also plan to read Sandman
and The Bear and the Nightingale,
while continuing The Secret History
and The Lies of Locke Lamora

Last Week

This Week
Sunday-- Giveaway Announcement
Monday-- The Jewel and Her Lapidary Review
Tuesday-- Rogue One Review
Wednesday-- Waiting on Wednesday
Thursday-- College Journey
Friday-- The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe Review
Saturday-- Wrap Up
*can I just say how happy/proud I am to be having a full week coming up? it's going to be pretty great!*

So here's to all our days turning up! Have a great weekend and let me know if you're going to see/saw the new Star Wars movie!

Friday, December 16, 2016

ARC Review: The Continent (The Continent, #1)

Author: Keira Drake
Edition: ARC I borrowed
Rating: 4 Stars
I've already published a discussion about this book tackling the racism aspect. In the end of that discussion I do admit that I think there are veins of racism in the book and that's unacceptable, though I think the reaction of some people was over the top. I'm very glad the publisher is taking it back in to deal with these aspects, because they do need to be dealt with. However, I do believe books deserve to be taken on their own, as well, and looked at from a plot, character, and writing perspective. This is the same respect and honor we give to classics. I'm not saying this is a classic, but I think it should be given some respect in the same regard.

The Continent is about a girl from the privileged country called the Spire who ends up on the Continent, a land still caught in a deadly war. Unprepared for this tragedy she must carve a new life and find a way to survive.

First of all, the writing is beautiful. I was stunned by the language used and the elegant strokes used to define and describe that still let my mind wander and create them on my own. The dialogue in particular was some of my favorite. There was a specific cadence to the writing and language that was like music in my mind. This aspect of the book truly blew me away.

As for the plot, I was truly surprised by how much I enjoyed it. I expected this book to be much closer to dystopian than fantasy and so I was thoroughly surprised that it was straight up fantasy. I appreciated it, because I'm not a huge fan of dystopian. Because it is fantasy there was a great deal of world building, and while there was some very interesting world building, I wish more time had been spent exploring the world building aspects of it, especially since the main character was a map maker.

Character-wise I liked everyone, but I didn't love anyone, which is where the book falters a lot. I didn't feel particularly connected to anyone, nor did I swoon over anyone. They weren't flat, per se, but they weren't alive enough for me to really feel invested or worried about them or their fates.

Excluding discussion of racism; the writing itself is beautiful and it's a pretty good fantasy, minus the world building and characters, who I just couldn't connect with.


Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday: The Library of Fates

Waiting on Wednesday was created by Breaking the Spine
A romantic coming-of-age fantasy tale steeped in Indian folklore, perfect for fans of The Star-Touched Queen and The Wrath and the Dawn
No one is entirely certain what brings the Emperor Sikander to Shalingar. Until now, the idyllic kingdom has been immune to his many violent conquests. To keep the visit friendly, Princess Amrita has offered herself as his bride, sacrificing everything—family, her childhood love, and her freedom—to save her people. But her offer isn't enough.
The unthinkable happens, and Amrita finds herself a fugitive, utterly alone but for an oracle named Thala, who was kept by Sikander as a slave and managed to escape amid the chaos of a palace under siege. With nothing and no one else to turn to, Amrita and Thala are forced to rely on each other. But while Amrita feels responsible for her kingdom and sets out to warn her people, the newly free Thala has no such ties. She encourages Amrita to go on a quest to find the fabled Library of All Things, where it is possible for each of them to reverse their fates. To go back to before Sikander took everything from them.
Stripped of all that she loves, caught between her rosy past and an unknown future, will Amrita be able to restore what was lost, or does another life—and another love—await?
Why I'm Waiting
First, the cover was what caught my interest, but honestly the synopsis sounds pretty good! I still haven't read either Star-Touched Queen of Wrath and the Dawn, but I think I'll be fans of all three of these.

 The Library of Fates is released July 18th, 2017, and you can preorder it here.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Graphic Novel Review: The Dark Knight Returns

This is a continuation of my DC Read-through where I try to figure out where the best places to start with DC comics are. I previously reviewed Watchmen, which I determined wasn't the best place to start but definitely something you must read. Today I'll be reviewing Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns under the same lens. The next entrance into this review series will be the first volume of Sand Man, and I'm so excited to get that one started!

I've read Batman graphic novels before, but I haven't really enjoyed any of them. I try in vain to find what people claim are the best, but still they ran dry for me. The Dark Knight returns swept that worry away almost immediately, and I can easily say this is the first Batman graphic novel or comic that I've actually liked. 

A large part of that was the setting. It was just alternate-universe enough that it could play by its own rules, but not so much that it felt strange to the reader, nor did it try to cram itself into our universe like I feel many comics attempt to make it seem. The way hero's are regarded in this book mimic that of Watchmen, which isn't particularly surprising, but not in such a dark tone that it could be unbearable. The characters, too, all functioned in a gray zone so that morality was debatable and realistic without the hero's losing the title of hero's. Batman's characterization in particular was interesting, and had me wondering how stable he was and reveling at the idea of a Batman gone insane, while at the same time hoping he was stable enough to do what needed to be done.

The art, too, was spectacular. It was a cross somewhere between sketches, classic comic style, and something a little more abstract and comedic. I loved it! I didn't think I would become so taken in with it, particularly because of that abstract aspect to it, but soon found it was the perfect balance to the story and that they kept each other grounded.

Now, should this be where you start? I would say, yes, it's a good place, actually. Batman, and Superman, (and Green Arrow, who has a small role), are all rather well-known characters at this point that even someone completely new to comics would know who they're reading about and the plot doesn't rely on your knowledge of other characters or storylines in the least, which lends itself to the reader. It also wraps up the story within the graphic novel, and while more is hinted to happen beyond, it's not something that you would have to read immediately. It's not the best place to start with the wider DC universe, but it's also not a bad place to start in general.

TL;DR? A pretty good jumping off point for either comics in general or Batman comics; even veteran readers should give this tamer version of Watchmen a go if not for the great story than for the art.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Discussion: On Pen Names

Nom de plume
noun | \-'plüm\
A name used by a writer instead of a writer's real name.

Since I was little I liked playing around with the idea of a pen name for my work. I toggled between using just my initials, my initials and a new last name, or my real first name with a new last name. I eventually settled on the latter. I started to look on that name as my sort of "professional" name and only took it out and used it when I thought a professional name was needed.

Why am I bringing this up? I've talked about using that pen name here on my blog instead of my real name. So, yes, Sam Frost isn't my real name, per se, but it's a name I'm very comfortable with. As comfortable as I am my real name. My first name really is Sam, short for Samantha, though my last name is actually something different, but the original last name (which I won't be sharing, though it isn't hard to find if you look) is a polish word that roughly translates into Frost, which is why I chose it. Recently my "real life" (what I refer to as outside of the computer and book community) and "book life" (the book community, including the blog and all connected social media) are starting to bleed together. Originally I kept them apart, and I still like them being mostly separate. Sometimes I write about things happening to me in real life, and sometimes I talk about the blog in real life, but they don't cross as often as one might think.

When I created this blog it was actually my third or fourth attempt at doing so. Since I had been in middle school I had been enamored with the idea of book blogging, but for various reasons the blogs fell through before I got very far with any of them. Each of them, though, I had used a pen name (the same pen name, I think, though I have no idea where those lost blogs have gone and can't fact check). This blog was born on December 25th, 2014 with a review of the TV show Constantine. I was halfway through my senior year of high school and again had the intention of book blogging. As you can tell, this one has been much more successful than the last several. But I clung to the pen name, even though I was already 18, a legal adult. Here's why:

Safety. I grew up in a very internet-wary house. Safety was the number one rule, and so I was always uncomfortable putting too much of myself out there. This was part of the reason the pen name was born in the first place. It's not that I didn't trust the people I interacted with, it's that I don't trust the people I don't interact with- the scammers, the hackers, the freaks and trolls of the internet- and so I kept up the pen name for most social media.

Identity. With or without the pen name I'm the same person, but it is a sort of professional name for me, and when I sit down to write a post I'm doing something at least semi-professional. The pen name helps me keep this identity in tact and keeps me on track.

I like it. I like my pen name, it's why I ended up settling on this one among the many I could have chosen. And I use it so frequently it's not alien to me at all and feels closer to a real name than a pen name.

To those I know online who may be surprised, I don't want it to feel like I lied to you. I'm going to be keeping my real last name a secret, at least for now, because I don't see a reason to share it, honestly. I think I have shared it in past blog posts, though I don't know which, and I know it can still be found on some social media I still use with the book community. Look for it if you wish, I won't be offended, I just won't use it here.

To those I know IRL: You may have found this blog. I connected it to some personal social media, which was a poor decision since I did still want to keep the two lives separate in their own ways. I hope you enjoy the blog! I put a lot of time and effort into it pretty much every day and I want it to be the best it can be. But if I haven't brought it up in conversation, haven't specifically shared it with you, it's not because I'm trying to hide it or because I don't care. It's because I like them to be separate, and I like the two worlds to remain mostly private of each other. This is a very personal space, and when people IRL drop hints about it, almost like they know dirty secrets, it makes me uncomfortable. It makes me want to shut down the blog and stop. But I don't want to do that. So IRL people, please enjoy, but don't bring it up. Thanks!

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Weekly Wrap Up (The One Where I Am Drained)

Good afternoon! It's been a while since I've felt this drained. Like, worse than finals if I'm being honest. I think it's been because I've been working nearly every day since getting home, and if not working it's because I'm busy doing something else and needed to take off. I do have two days off this week, though one of them is because I have a doctor's appointment, and the other is on a weekend which means I'll probably spend it doing things with my family. I don't mean for that to sound like a bad thing, but it's not exactly the most recharging. Of course, I enjoy my work and the paycheck since that's how I'm able to get people gifts this year. Like a battery, though, I need time to recharge, which I haven't had yet.

On a similar note, I'm also excited to return to school! Like, excited to get back to learning and taking notes and feeling super productive. This always happens during break and it's such a strange feeling, since after I get back I probably won't be that excited anymore.

I have gotten back into the blogging spirit, though, and that means I've gotten back into the reading spirit, too! It's been great to actually be finishing things again and it does help with the hours I've been working and just relaxing me in general. I want to make sure that this reading bug stays with me when I go back to school. I have been reevaluating things here on the blog, though, and I think I've finally settled on some changes that I look forward to implementing in the new year. I hope it all goes over well!

Finished Last Week
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns
*reviews will be coming for all of them, but Bull and Maresi are ARCs and so those reviews won't be coming until closer to the publication date*

Currently Reading
I'm going to start A Darkness Strange and Lovely;
read Blue Exorcist vol. 3,
The Jewel and Her Lapidary,
and The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe next week;
I'm also going to start The Bear and the Nightingale;
and continue The Secret History
and The Lies of Locke Lamora
*I know I have a lot on my plate, but it's been keeping me really happy*

Last Week

Next Week
Sunday-- Discussion
Monday-- Dark Knight Returns review
Wednesday-- Waiting on Wednesday
Friday-- The Continent review
Saturday-- Wrap Up

Stay warm out there! I know snow is headed my way, so if it's headed yours, stay safe!

Friday, December 9, 2016

Book Review: A Thousand Splendid Suns

Author: Khaled Hosseini
Edition: Paperback
Rating: 5 Stars
This is a book of utmost importance and you should read it immediately. I mean, put down whatever your current read is and pick this up. Don't have it? Buy it, stop by your library, get the ebook. Get it and read it. Of course, you've probably read it and I'm the one who's late to the game.

A Thousand Splendid Suns is about two women in Afghanistan from the time of the Cold War through relatively modern day. Mariam is fifteen when she's married off by her wealthy father, and at first she doesn't hate it, or her husband. Decades later, Laila marries the same man Mariam is married to, which originally creates tension between the two women, but later comes to form a beautiful and strong bond, even during the trying time that their country is going through.

To get it out of the way: the writing was perfectly sparse enough to make me cry several times without causing me to actually tear my heart out of my chest, thus ending my life; the characters were incredibly real that I walked away from the book thinking, even though I knew better, that I should look into where they were "today" as if this were a biography; this book made me a better person for reading it. I wanted to get all that out of the way really fast so that I could talk about the importance of this book. It's not just a good read, it's an important one.

First of all, I had never before seen the events of the cold war from a non-western perspective. It wasn't even something I really thought about, and I hadn't actually known how much of an impact it had on Afghanistan and the Middle East. It's not just something that defined American and Russian history, but the history of the world, and I am quick to forget things like that.

Second of all, it made me think about culture and society in Afghanistan. I'm a pretty liberal person (I hate the term Democratic because that's not really what I am outside of election-time) and stand with religious freedom of everyone. From a western perspective a burqa or hijab can appear to be demeaning to the women who wear them. However, it's a choice many women make for themselves. I know this. I've always known this as long as I could think about these things on my own. In this book, though, it clearly shows the difference between when it can be demeaning (such as when the Taliban enforce it and the women have no choice and it works as a way to single them out in a negative manner) and where it can be liberating (such as the first time when Mariam wears a burqa, even though she didn't choose to on her own, but still realizes it is something she is very comfortable with and likes). It was just this moment of pure clarity for me, and I think it's a good example of a lot of moments this book holds. 

Drop everything and read one of the world's most important books that's even more relevant in such a time of discrimination.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Movie Review: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

As of writing this I've already made plans to go see it again, since I enjoyed it so much. It's one of those movies that very re-watchable, and, if there was any doubt, I will be purchasing it as soon as it releases.

Returning to the world of Harry Potter was marvelous. I don't even know where to begin in describing how my heart soared at the first few trills of music as they wash onto the screen with the clouds and Warner Bros. logo! Harry Potter taught us that magic existed and this was a continuation of that magic, with none other than one of my favorite actors portraying a Hufflepuff (my own Hogwarts house) who collects magical creatures (basically my dream job, if I'm being honest). Plus, it's set in America in the twenties, which is such a sparkly and interesting time. So, yeah, it was set up to be a huge hit (aside from that scumbag Depp's cameo).

While I really loved it on an emotional level, as a storyteller it did leave me wanting more. Maybe it was the buildup and high expectations that had been stewing since the announcement a few years back. Maybe it was the predictability of the plot. It might even have been that none of the characters seemed to really have any particular closure and the whole book felt very much like a set up for what was to come next. Whatever it was, the nostalgia factor wins out in the end and I can't help but buy all the merchandise, obsess over the physical copy of the screenplay, and fondly recall all of my favorite scenes.

Top nods to go to the casting director, who picked them perfectly. Every single actor was splendid! I didn't expect anything less seeing the lineup, but I was still blown away and taken into the movie so that I forgot they were indeed actors and I wasn't peeping into someone's life. I also think JK Rowling did a great job with the script. It's her first go, and while it would have been hard to mess something like this up, it was well done. As they say- you can make a bad movie out of a good script, but not a good movie out of a bad script; and this was a, dare I say, fantastic movie.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Discussion: The Continent

As of writing this post, The Continent has been taken down from Amazon and will be receiving a new publication date so that the problematic parts of it can be dealt with. A quick introduction for those who don't know what I'm talking about (though I am late to the game and the controversy has died down quite a bit): The Continent is a forthcoming fantasy novel from debut author Kiera Drake about a girl from the privileged land of the Spire getting lost on the "savage" land of the Continent. A few weeks ago people who were reading ARCs were reporting that the book was racist, painting Native Americans and Africans in a bad light by calling them savages, playing upon negative tropes, rehashed and boring stereotypes, and celebrating a white hero protagonist. I was quick to take out my preorder of the book, though I was a little wary of both sides of the argument. Some people were claiming that these plot devices were being used as a way to comment on society, or at least this fantasy society. A friend allowed me to borrow her copy of the ARC (for which I am eternally grateful, thank you!) so that I could get a feel for myself.

Now, before I address the racism, and how I perceived it to be there, I want to address something else that really bothered me, that was happening alongside this discussion. People were catching wind of what was going on and scrambling to read their own copies, or borrow copies, and those people, the ones who were curious for themselves, were getting yelled at and harassed by others. They were angrily questioned as to why they wouldn't believe the reviewers who were claiming it was racist. First of all, being curious doesn't mean you disbelieve a person, it means you want your own opinion on the matter. In this day and age, being informed is a good thing, and the best way to get informed is to get as close to the source as possible. Second of all, there were two sides of the argument going down, with some people saying it wasn't racist at all and siding with the author, who remained mostly silent. It was a confusing time for people who didn't have a side to pick, and they could stay quiet and on the sidelines, or they could use their resources and decide. Again, being informed is hugely important! That pissed me off a lot that people in a liberal community like the book community were seemingly advocating against information and spread of knowledge. What ticked me off all the way, though, was one specific tweet I saw. I don't know who posted it, and I don't know who it was posted to. It didn't matter so much as what it said, which was something along the lines of the person not having read the book but trusting a reviewer who had and was claiming it was racist. Their follow up tweet, though, was bashing someone who hadn't read the book but was trusting a reviewer who was saying it wasn't racist. I just stared at it stunned at the flaws in that very argument. It was then that I was really glad I had an opportunity to read the book and get my own take on it.

I read this book from a position of privilege. I'm not going to lie about that. I'm a white woman from middle class standing in America. That's a rather privileged position. Sure, being a woman is considered a minority, and there are still hurdles, but they aren't the same types of hurdles POC people face on a daily basis. I don't want to invalidate anyone, but for the sake of this post I'm going to push POC rights to the front as being more important in this context. I also want to let everyone know that I will be posting a proper review for this book in a week or so, and it will address the book outside of the context of racism and controversy.

Is this book racist? That's the big question. I'm going to say, sadly, yes. But I don't think it's as racist as some people have blown it up to be. The book strives to be a commentary on society, speaking specifically about the relationship between the privileged Spirians and native "savages". The first few chapters are done to drastically paint the difference between the life of Vaela, who has everything, even the ability to look down at the people fighting on the Continent and consider them lesser for their war and lack of technology. Her family, and the other people she travels with, can even be harsher than Vaela in what they think and say. And it's all seen as socially acceptable. After seeing war and bloodshed, though, Vaela starts to change her mind and wonder at the difference between the groups and the importance of human life. This changes even more drastically when she ends up having to live with the people on the Continent due to her situation. She begins to see that they really aren't that different.

But here's where the racism, which I think is completely unintentional, comes to play. Vaela never goes all the way with her thought process. It's never explicitly stated that the natives are actually the same, and there remains a feeling through the book that there is some sort of cultural divide. Particularly once the book leaves the narrative of social commentary in lieu of a more traditional romance and survival story. A lot of the casual thinking from the earliest scenes is never disrupted enough to make it a full on commentary, and the actions Vaela takes do lead to the white hero story archetype, which, while not directly racist, is harmful and can be a very negative trope. There's also the fact that while the Aven'ei, who are closer to being related to Asians than the Topi (who, I believe, are closer to being related to Africans), get the bill of approval by the Spire, and are actually seen as rather progressive both culturally and technologically, the Topi are still painted as villains without any hope of saving. Vaela almost addresses the issue, but again, never goes all the way.

In the end, I think that it's a good idea to take this book back and retool it. There's a lot of casual racism, that can be overlooked by someone who's not used to dealing with it. I don't think that it says anything bad about the author, though, since I do think, from the way the book is set up and the course of the story, that it's meant to be a commentary on race and war/peace, not a white savior story. I do want to say that I don't like the way it has been treated by the community, and all the vicious tweets that have flown back and forth. Discussion is what is needed, and telling someone what they should believe is not a way to discuss things.

Which leads me to: let's discuss this! I want to know what you think about the book, whether you've read it or just heard other people talk about it. I want to know what you think about this post. Comment below or hit me up on twitter to continue the conversation!

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Weekly Wrap Up (The One Where I'm In Colorado)

Hello to you from the great state of Colorado! I'm on vacation visiting a friend and it's been so much fun. I don't want to leave! But at the same time I do miss my bed and my bookshelves (though not work, necessarily), so I won't be sad to return. I'm from Illinois so being surrounded by mountains is pretty cool and definitely something I'll be stealing for a future novel/story. Since I am on vacation I'm going to keep this quite short.

Finished Last Week
The Continent
A Thousand Splendid Suns

Currently Reading
I'm still in the middle of The Lies of Locke Lamora, but I've gotten distracted by the Secret History, which is such a delicious novel! As soon as I get home I'm going to read The Dark Knight Returns, for my DC review series, and then I'm going to read both Bull and Maresi, two ARCs I need to get to sooner than later. So, sadly, pushing of Locke Lamora a tad bit longer.

Last Week

Next Week
Monday-- The Continent Discussion
Tuesday-- Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Movie Review
Friday-- A Thousand Splendid Suns Review
Saturday-- Weekly Wrap Up

Have a wonderful week!