Thursday, September 21, 2017

The Broken Kingdoms

The Broken Kingdoms
NK Jemisin

I will do my best to avoid SPOILERS for book one, but there will be some small hints as to how book one ended, so read at your own risk. Because they're more companion novels than direct sequels it is easier to review this book without referencing the first one as much as might be necessary with other series.

I loved book one in this series, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. LOVED it. And while I liked this one very much I did not love it. Now, I will say the writing is still beautiful and gorgeous as in the first one, but it did lack some of that lyrical, non-traditionally linear, storytelling that THTK had. I suppose that's a reflection on the narrator as a character, and on the necessity of the plot, but I missed that aspect, which made it so unique. The world, too, was not as original as I had felt it was in book one, though I do think this may be do to the fact that I have spent quite a bit of time reading in that world and have become somewhat used to it.

Speaking of world building, though, immediately this world (it's the same place as book one except ten years later and from a completely different perspective) felt real. Shadow, the city featured in this book, reminded me instantly of all the cities I've ever been to, and while I've never lived in any of those cities, I've certainly dreamed of it, as had Oree, our protagonist. In that regard I really connected with her, and Shadow as a place. I also really appreciated all the new godlings, though I wish we could have spent more time with them. They were all so interesting that I wouldn't mind reading a novel dedicated to each of them individually, and also learning more about the cults and religions that formed around all these new gods that seemed to suddenly appear for these people. After finishing book one I hadn't put much thought into how this new development would play out, but I thought it was incredibly well done. There are a lot of smaller strands of plot carried over from the previous novel, but they're all done wonderfully and I think readers will be pleasantly surprised by more than a few things.

What I waxed on about for book one, though, were the characters. While I appreciated and liked and even connected with the protagonist, Oree Shoth, of this book, I couldn't love her as much as I loved Yeine. First of all, Oree is blind, BUT she's not really 100% blind because she can see magic. It's cool but I found that this distanced me from her character. It was a book without much visual element because of this, though, and that also worked to distance me from her narration. As for Shiny, well, I have thoughts about him and his character, but I certainly don't like him as much as I liked Nahadoth in THTK. Not to say that Oree and Shiny are romantically involved (I mean, read and find out if they are but I will tell you there isn't nearly as much kinky sex in this book as the first one had and I think that's a shame because those were good and tasteful scenes), but I would consider them the two protagonists. ALSO props to Jemisin for writing a book that, in part, tackles slut-shaming in such a subtle but profound way.

To touch on plot quickly- it's definitely not the plot I expected. I liked it, certainly, but I did feel like it had a tendency to wander more than the previous book did. However, I read this book in large chunks with larger breaks in between reading than I did the first one and I've found that when this happens I tend to have a harder time enjoying plot. Really, I had no problems with it, except that it was just a little lackluster. And that's it, that's really why this book didn't live up to the predecessor- coming of the high of THTK this one was a shade or two more colorless and I, as the reader, suffered for it.
TL;DR? Not as good as book one partly due to the characters and partly due to the plot but still an incredible, and unique from the rest of the market, epic fantasy. Not only does it feature another WOC in power but it tackles many social issues quietly and beautifully while introducing the reader to a magnificent world populated by even more magnificent gods, which were easily the highlight for me. 
In the city of Shadow, beneath the World Tree, alleyways shimmer with magic and godlings live hidden among mortalkind. Oree Shoth, a blind artist, takes in a homeless man who glows like a living sun to her strange sight. This act of kindness engulfs Oree in a nightmarish conspiracy. Someone, somehow, is murdering godlings, leaving their desecrated bodies all over the city.

Oree's peculiar guest is at the heart of it, his presence putting her in mortal danger -- but is it him the killers want, or Oree? And is the earthly power of the Arameri king their ultimate goal, or have they set their sights on the Lord of Night himself?
N. K. Jemisin lives and works in New York City.
Cover, description, and author bio taken from Goodreads.
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Saturday, September 16, 2017

September Wrap Up #2

Hello lovelies! How are you all? I, personally, have kinda been floating between being very happy and very lonely. Overall things are good, though, and I don't want to take that for granted and dwell on the bad. I actually just moved back to school last Saturday, so it's officially been one week here! So far I've been enjoying all my classes immensely and even though they've packed my schedule with homework it's all homework I'm capable of doing and not stressing me out unduly. This homework has, though, kept me from Instagram. Yes, you read that right, I'm back on Instagram! Link here. I'm trying to post every other day or so but I got out of the habit recently. Tonight I'll be posting something, though, so stay tuned. On a similar note I'm so excited to make a HUGE announcement...

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I'm officially studying abroad starting in January! That's right, in less than four months I'll be living in London. It's just shy of six months that I'll be there but I couldn't be more excited for the experience. I've talked about how I've been hoping for this to work out for a while but now it's real and let me tell you a huge weight has been lifted from my shoulders. I'll be talking more about the school, and the process for applying to study abroad and what I'm doing to prepare, in a post coming out later this month. These are going to be a monthly posts chronicling my journey towards London, and then once I'm there, I'll have a special monthly wrap up going over my time there. If you've been reading this blog for a while you probably remember College Journey posts (yes... sorry that those kinda disappeared...) and you can consider these study abroad posts a sort of companion posts to those.

Okay, enough about me, onto the regular programming:

Finished
13 Minutes (review coming September 26th)

Currently Reading
I'm in the midst of The Broken Kingdoms, book two in the Inheritance Trilogy by NK Jemisin. It's really, really good, I just haven't had the time to read that I'm used to. I plan to snuggle in tonight and devour as much as I can. After this I actually have a bit of a deviation before I pick up another novel: I'll be reading a writing magazine that I received and then catching up on some comics I've put off for too long. Then, hopefully before the next wrap up, I'll be reading Outlander. Yes, this seems like it came out of nowhere, but the past few days I've just been hit with a bug that is telling me I MUST read this book and watch the TV series.

Reviews

Can't Wait Wednesday

Discussions & Other Posts

Upcoming Posts
Music Monday
13 Minutes Review
Can't Wait Wednesday
Preparing to Study Abroad

So, yeah, it's been a bit of a light posting schedule but I have to balance my sanity. What have you been reading lately? Let me know in the comments!

Friday, September 15, 2017

Discussion: Do Bestselling Authors Keep Extending Their Series' Indefinitely & Is it a Bad Thing?

This has definitely been a hot button issue for years. Normally it's a complaint heard from people who aren't fans of a particular series or author and just want them to move on from whatever book/series/world that they hated in the first place. I first heard the complaint when Cassandra Clare announced she would be continuing her Shadowhunter books beyond Mortal Instruments and Infernal Devices. More recently, though, I've seen the same complaint attached to JK Rowling and Sarah J Maas, and to some extent, Rick Riordan. I'll be talking about all these authors and their books in this post.

In the case of Cassandra Clare there has always been a lot of hate and tension around her name alongside the adoration of her fanbase. Regarding the author herself I sit somewhere in the middle, mostly because some of the hate I've seen lobbed her way has been absolutely awful and no one deserves the bullshit she gets (similar to Sarah J Maas, but more on that in a bit). Also, a lot of the hate that isn't series related I've never seen actually backed up except for stories of stories. I didn't do extensive research but I have looked into it. I'm not calling anyone a liar but I'm not convinced she's an awful person. But beyond all that, people dislike her books. That's totally legit and absolutely fine! I get it; the Shadowhunter Chronicles are definitely not for everyone. I grew up reading them and I loved them since I turned the first page of City of Bones. They're one of those series that I can go back to and read whenever I like and feel better. Often times these readers, who didn't like the series, are the ones I see raising the call for Cassandra Clare to stop writing Shadowhunter books. She's a hack! She's doing it for the money! She doesn't care about [insert character name here]! I can go on. Let's take them in order: she's a hack. I don't think so; I really like the books still and I think they actually get better as time goes on. I'm still as attached to her characters as I always have been. She's doing it for the money: are you thick? Of course she fucking is, it's her job to be an author. Don't be daft asshats; as much as writing comes from the heart and soul it is a job and there are investments that must be made. If she likes writing Shadowhunter books and people like reading Shadowhunter books and they're making her money than she should continue writing them. She doesn't care about [insert character name here]: again, are you thick? She wrote the character, of course she cares about them. I write (I haven't published anything yet but I still consider myself an author) and let me tell you that you don't ever stop caring about your characters once you create them.

A lot of similar complaints (actually, some pretty identical complaints) have been lodged against Sarah J Maas. It's a bit of different horse because Sarah J Maas has also been the brunt of a lot of complaints saying she doesn't include enough diversity in her books (and yeah I do agree, but I think she's getting better, at least she's taking small steps). But recently it's become a pretty big thing with her where people have been complaining about her extending her series' on forever. Here's how: a Chaol novella she was writing turned into a full-fledged novel that came out before the penultimate novel did, and said final TOG book has been pushed back even further now. Also, her ACOTAR series is getting some novella's and novels set in the world, with the first novella coming out in Spring 2018 (I believe). Again, both of these series are huge money makers (but you see my argument for why that's FINE to write for money, above). Now, ACOTAR kinda wrapped up, so I am curious to see exactly where the next installments continue, but I'm excited. Just like I'm excited whenever a new Shadowhunter book comes out. Both of these authors and their series keep me engaged and I love reading them and I don't mind giving these authors my money. When the books stop being interesting I'll stop reading them, and that's that. I think that's a pretty understandable thing. But, is it a bad thing creatively? For not just the authors but also the landscape of genre books?

Let's look at JK Rowling here. I love her. I love Harry Potter. I think a lot of people will stand with me and those statements. But was Cursed Child really needed? I don't think so; I thought it was pretty bad and didn't even sort of live up to what I was expecting. And then there's Fantastic Beasts. I liked the movie well enough and I'm looking forward to the rest of the movies, but, again, I don't think they were super necessary. It's not as if JK hasn't been writing other things (I still haven't read those other things but I PLAN to) and it's not as if she isn't one of the wealthiest people (and most generous!) in the world, so I don't think she's doing more Harry Potter for a quick paycheck. I think it's more of the case that she wasn't quite ready to give up the world just yet. I get that, but I do think that's problematic. Sometimes there are stories left in worlds to tell and sometimes you have to force them to be there and sometimes you don't need to tell either type. 

I have a similar view of Rick Riordan's more recent books. I haven't read anything since finishing Heroes of Olympus and I had several issues with those books. I have heard really good things about the newer series' and plan to read those actually pretty soon because I do want to. But with HoO it just felt very forced and it didn't live up to PJO. For a long time I've wanted to see him write something different (but still MG because I don't really enjoy his adult books). HOWEVER I think in a brilliant move from the publishing industry, Rick is getting his own little imprint, Rick Riordan Presents. Next year they'll be publishing three books. The really great thing about this imprint? It's going to be POC authors writing about the mythologies from their own backgrounds. I CAN'T WAIT. I'm sure Rick will continue to write PJO-esque books but also, I feel like he could branch out now and write other things as the spirit of PJO will continue onward.

So the question I've been trying to get to; is it toxic for authors and the industry to just keep pushing out books from bestselling series? I think... yes. It is. Look at James Patterson: his books have gotten worse with time and while he has huge name recognition I don't think he's as big as he was even five years ago. The publishing industry has a hard time moving past certain books and thus has a hard time looking for new books that could be completely different but also brilliant! For authors I don't think it's as toxic because it is their world and their stories and they're still using their creative mind. As a writer myself, though, I've had times where I've pushed a story and it's come out shit and I've lost that creativity for a while. But that's definitely on an individual basis and I don't know any of these authors personally so how could I say?

For readers, though, I don't think it's a bad thing that authors continue to write great series long after they once thought they would end. Wouldn't you rather get more books in a series you love? Let me know what you think about this topic in the comments down below!

Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms
NK Jemisin

I originally picked this book up several years ago at the library and closed it after less than two chapters. It wasn't the kind of book I was ready to read when I grabbed it the first time, but I've been finding that a lot of the novels I didn't like before I'm liking now, so I thought I would give it a try. I'm so glad I trusted my judgement and didn't wait a moment longer because I think this may be one of my absolute favorite books.

First of all, the premise of this book is amazing. The world of this book revolves around the religion in that the gods take on physical bodies and are very active. There are three main gods- but one, Itempas, is in charge: he killed his sister-god and punished his brother-god, sending him to the earth and forcing him into a mortal shell to serve as a weapon along side three of their children. Let me tell you- that description does not even do this premise justice! Nor does it do the characters of the gods justice (more on that in a moment). While the world itself is not explored at large, and the lack of a map is definitely a negative (you know I love maps), but I didn't feel the need to see the wider world. It wasn't as relevant, or as interesting, as what was happening in the city of Sky and what was happening with Yeine. I will say that it did get confusing early on with all the gods (there aren't that many but introductions were a tad messy) and the countries/continents being named and many of the seemingly sounding the same in my head. I did sort all this out once I got into the plot proper but it was definitely something that came off as initially confusing. I didn't, however, think it took away from the book as a whole.

If you know me you know I value characters higher than any other aspect of a book. Characters are the heart and soul of any story and when I find a book with characters I can both connect to and obsess over then I know I've found a good book. And, yes, this is definitely one of those books. I loved everyone! Okay, not everyone, but Yeine, Nahadoth, Sieh, and T'vril were MVPs the whole time. All of them have made it into favorite character slots that I keep in my heart (does that make sense??). Besides raving about them for the rest of this review, though, I must go on. I want to touch lightly on the aspect of sex in this book- there's a bit of it, and it's fairly kinky, and I enjoyed it thoroughly. Now, it's not erotica, but it is erotic, and that's definitely something to warn readers of.

What really clinches this as a good book is the prose. It's very simple but also very beautiful. Certainly it's not everyone's taste, and the story itself feels a little jarring once you jump in (but that's on purpose I promise and it turns out to be a very neat trick in the end) but I was completely charmed by it. While it's definitely an epic fantasy book it also reads like some high-brow literary fiction (which is not a bad thing in my opinion). 
TL; DR? Simple but pretty prose, paired with amazing, multi-faceted characters, and a unique world, equals one of the best books I read this year and I wish I hadn't waited so long.
Yeine Darr is an outcast from the barbarian north. But when her mother dies under mysterious circumstances, she is summoned to the majestic city of Sky. There, to her shock, Yeine is named an heiress to the king. But the throne of the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is not easily won, and Yeine is thrust into a vicious power struggle.
N. K. Jemisin lives and works in New York City.










Cover linked to Goodreads; cover, book description, and author bio taken from Goodreads.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Can't Wait Wednesday: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Illustrated Edition

I'm switching over from Waiting on Wednesday's to Can't Wait Wednesday, a meme hosted by Wishful Endings. The idea is basically the same, but it looks like the official hosts of Breaking the Spine have shut down the meme so it's time to move on. Description and cover image taken from Goodreads.

An essential companion to the Harry Potter novels, now fully illustrated!
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Newt Scamander's classic compendium of magical creatures, has delighted generations of wizarding readers. With this beautiful, large-scale new edition illustrated in full color, Muggles too will have the chance to discover where the Runespoor lives, what the Puffskein eats, and why shiny objects should always be kept away from the Niffler.
Proceeds from the sale of this book will go to Comic Relief and J.K. Rowling's international charity, Lumos, which will do magic beyond the powers of any wizard. If you feel that this is insufficient reason to part with your money, one can only hope that passing wizards feel more charitable if they see you being attacked by a Manticore.
Why I'm Waiting
I mean how can I not be excited for this? Really words defy me at the moment. Yes, I will be collecting both editions of this book because they're both equally stunning.

The illustrated edition of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them releases November 7, 2017

Friday, September 8, 2017

Like This? Read That

The title of this post is pretty self explanatory, but basically I'll try to connect books I've read (and loved) lately with popular pop culture in an attempt to brainwash get more people to read books I've enjoyed.

First up is Truthwitch/Windwitch.
These books are perfect if you enjoy Game of Thrones- the TV show, not the books. I love A Song of Ice and Fire, and while I enjoy the show I do have some issues with it. HOWEVER now that you're probably waiting for the next season to (eventually) get here this is the perfect series for you to pick up. The Witchlands have a bunch of plot lines, with unique characters, and fantastic twists. I still feel like the series in the process of setting up a lot of even more major plot lines but I'm ready for the long haul with these fantastic reads.

Now I know another series people are patiently waiting on is Throne of Glass, and yeah I know Chaol's book is right around the corner but I know not everyone is satisfied with that and people really want to see the conclusion of Celaena's story (which was recently pushed back even more). If you're a fan of the first two books I recommend picking up the Graceling trilogy, but most specifically the third and final book Bitterblue.
You don't need to read this series in any particular order and can pick up this one first, last, or second (really it doesn't matter). There are a lot of similar plot devices used in this book as in Throne of Glass and Crown of Midnight. I also think Graceling main character, Katsa, reminds me quite a bit of Celaena. Fire, the middle book in the series, is much more like the ACOTAR books if you're interested in picking it up.

I've been a huge fan of Cassandra Clare for a while and my favorite series of hers is easily Infernal Devices. It's definitely got the only good love triangle I've ever read probably because Will, Jem, and Tessa are all completely in love with each other. If you're interested in a book that has a similar dynamic I recommend The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue.
Now, it doesn't have the steampunk element at all, but the time periods are similar and Monty and Percy remind me a bunch of Will and Jem. AND they're actually, canonically gay and bi in this book so I don't have to be over here fighting people saying Will and Jem aren't (seriously; fight me).

I just finished reading 13 Minutes and while it's not my normal genre I was swept away by this book. It was so good! It was dark and moody and had me both freaked out and unable to step away from the book.
I've seen it compared to Mean Girls but I would say this is nothing like that. Honestly it's more like Gone Girl, but I've never actually read that book or seen that movie, I've just read an in-depth synopsis. Really I would recommend this book if you enjoyed 13 Reasons Why (and not just because they both have the number 13 in the title). They're both dark dramas with a high school at their center, and they also both deal with very adult themes.

Those are my recommendations for now! Have you read any of these books? Any you would recommend if you enjoyed these? Are you now curious about picking any of these up? Let me know in the comments!

Saturday, September 2, 2017

September Wrap Up #1

I know it's a bit early in the month to really have a proper wrap up, but I haven't done one since early August so I think there's a fair bit to cover today. In my personal life, I'm finally done with work (for the summer) and I feel Free! It's great to not have to worry about setting an alarm, or planning my meals around my shifts, though this does mean I go into Mega Budget Mode (which isn't too bad but it's not always comfortable). Yeah this also means less books to buy, BUT I do have several preorders that will be sustaining my buying need I'm sure.

And by the way, happy September! I know it's not technically fall yet, but this is the month where I officially start treating it like it is- fall colors, clothing, candles, playlists, tea. All the great things I love about this season! I've currently got the Wood Wick Fireside candle burning from Yankee Candles and people it is my new favorite candle. It's heavenly! The leaves are also starting to change out here and the weather has in general been cool enough to wear sweaters.

Okay, enough about me, let's get onto the wrap up:

Finished
and a reread of Crown of Midnight

Currently Reading
Right now I'm in the middle of 13 Minutes, a book I was only passing excited for but can barely put down. This is an ARC for a book out in early October so the review won't be out until the end of the month but believe me I'll be hyping this one before that. Once I finish 13 Minutes I'm going to read The Inheritance Trilogy by NK Jemisin. I know this is three separate books but I bought the bind up so I'm thinking I may read them back to back.

 Reviews

Can't Wait Wednesday

Discussions & Tags

Music Monday

Posts

Upcoming Posts
Like This? Read That
Can't Wait Wednesday: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Discussion

I know it seems like posting looks a bit light these coming weeks... and it is. Partly because I just finished a reread (I'm not going to review it) and I'm currently reading an ARC (so the review will be schedule closer to its release) so there aren't any reviews to post and I don't want to pad down the blog with other things as much anymore. Also partly because I'll be going back to school in about a week which means my time is going to be getting shorter and I don't want to overload myself right off the bat.

I do want to point out that my Ready Player One review has a different look to it and this is the new reviewing format I'm going to be going with for now. I love how it looks! It feels more professional and it's more aesthetically the look I've been trying to go for lately. I hope you all like it as well.

Normally I end a wrap up here, but I was watching Youtube and someone did a video talking about the top five books they hope to get to this season. I thought I'd borrow that idea and share the next five books I hope to get to (not necessarily my top five). Because I've been trying hard not to restrict myself with a hard and fast reading schedule these very well may change.


Thanks for reading! I hope you all have a wonderful week(s) and enjoy the weather (if you can). 

Friday, September 1, 2017

Mystery Blogger Award


A huge thank you to Lauren @ Always Me for nominating me for this awesome award. She's definitely one of the best bloggers out there and I know I say this a lot, but what are you waiting for? Go follow her! This award was created by Okoto Enigmas Blog. Onward with the tag:

The Rules:
1. Put the award logo/image on your blog.
Which, by the way, if you click the About Me page above you'll find all the awards I've been nominated for (don't mind the shameless self-promotion).
2. Thank whoever nominated you and provide a link to their blog.
3. Mention the creator of the award and provide a link as well.
4. List the rules.
5. Tell your readers 3 things about yourself.
6. Share a link to your best post(s).
7. Answer the 5 questions set to you by the person who nominated you.
8. Nominated 10-20 people.
9. Ask your nominees any 5 questions of your choice; with at least one weird or funny question.
10. Notify your nominees by commenting on their blog.

3 Things About Myself:

(1) I wear glasses. This is one of those facts where I just kind of take it for granted that I always have my glasses on, but you guys never get to see my face so how would you know?

(2) I recently ate at Wahlburgers (they don't have any near me, sadly) and often think about how good their onion strings are. They seriously may be considered my new favorite food.

(3) Autumn is my favorite season and now that it's right around the corner I couldn't be more excited.

My Best Post:

While there are a lot of posts I've made that I really like I'm going to go with my recent review of Ready Player One because it's a new design for the way I'm doing reviews. Not only did it turn out as nicely as I hoped but it feels more professional.

My Answers to Lauren's Questions:

 1. What has been your favorite read of 2017 so far, and why?
A: The Kingkiller Chronicles! Both The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man's Fear have changed my life. I've talked a lot lately about how important these two books are to me but I can't express enough how wonderfully written they are, too. Even if you're not a huge fan of fantasy you should add these to your TBR.

2. Dream cast your answer to number 1.
A: Okay this is kind of impossible and, I'm sorry Lauren, but I don't think I can even attempt this. I honestly have no idea because, even though there's going to be a movie and tv series, I can't picture anyone in these roles. They're too real as it is. I will say that Lin Manuel-Miranda doing the music for this series is the best decision since Hamilton, though, and no fan could ask for anything better.

3. What upcoming book to movie or tv adaptation are you looking forward to the most?
A: Can I say Kingkiller Chronicles again? I'm gonna say Kingkiller Chronicles again. Not only a movie and tv series in the works, but also a video game!

4. If you could attend a dinner party with any five writers, actors, and/or musicians, living or dead, who would be on your guest list?
A: Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett, Benedict Cumberbatch, Charles Dickens, and David Tennant.

5. Would you prefer to bring your favorite fictional characters into the real world, or would you rather be fictional with them?
A: For some reason I hate the idea of being fictional so I'd take them out of their books and into the real world. (Thank goodness you didn't make me choose who I'd take out because that list is endless).

I Nominate:


My Questions For My Nominees:

1. What is your favorite candle (or, if you can't choose, the one you've burned most recently; or if you don't like candles, your favorite scent in general)?

2. Do you have a pet and are they named after a character? If yes, why; if no, what literary name would you give a pet?

3. If you had to be from any planet, real or imaginary, which planet and why?

4. What's your favorite season of the year and why? Bonus points: what things remind you of that season?

5. If you could adapt any one book or series perfectly (regardless of whether it's been adapted before) which would you choose?

This was a bunch of fun thank you so much for nominating me Lauren!

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Ready Player One

Ready Player One
Ernest Cline

This is the first book in a long time that I've listened to as an audiobook without ever having read the book originally. In the past I've had a particularly hard time getting into audiobooks, probably because I find it so easy to multitask while listening and thus get distracted. Lucky for me I found the perfect times to listen to audiobooks: when I'm working out, when I'm driving, and when I'm unloading freight at work. I was sucked into this audiobook and devoured it in a matter of two days. I only just recently got rid of my audible membership because I wasn't using it, but now, because I've found that I can really enjoy audio books again, I think I may resubscribe.

Overall I thought it was a really good book but there were two things that really bothered me about it. First, I thought this was a YA book, and specifically, one for the younger branch of YA audiences. That's why I was so shocked when some really adult scenes happened. Like, they were well written and well placed, but because I wasn't expecting them I disliked them. Had I gone into it thinking it was an adult or New Adult book I would have been prepared and fine with them. Second, I disliked Wade's courtship of Art3mis. Why? Because the language he was using when he was trying to convince her he loved her (especially at the end) was just so unromantic. It was, dare I say, very fuckboy kind of language and it made me both cringe and consider everything he said as insincere. Maybe that has just been my experience with boys who talk like this, but I really disliked it and it took both Wade and the book down a few notches in my mind.

Besides the cringyness I felt for Wade at the end, though, I rather liked him as a character. I thought he was well fleshed out and had a believable character arc. Actually, I loved his personal arc, because it felt very much like I, as a reader (or listener), was experiencing it with him. Nothing was directly spelled out to be like "And then I came to the realization that..." which can happen with similar character developments, but was rather a subtle, slowly realizing that the prior belief was wrong. As for the side characters, there wasn't a huge amount of interaction but that which did exist was enjoyable. I liked Art3mis well enough but she wasn't a favorite character by any means. I did adore Aich (I hope I spelled that right since I was listening to the audiobook) and thought he was easily the best character in the book. If Cline was interested in writing a spinoff I'd hope for one about Aich.

What most people talk about when they talk about this book, and what easily takes the cake as the best part, are all the references to the 80s (and such times). I loved this aspect so much, and I loved how well all these references were woven into both the plot and book itself. While there were a few info-dumpy moments nothing was done frustratingly and all information came only when it was relevant or important. I also liked the idea behind the book- that the one who finds the easter egg becomes the heir to the company and fortune. The quest for the egg led to so many interesting games within the Oasis and I must say that these managed to translate well onto the page (or into my ear as the case may be). In particular: there is the most intense game of Pac-man ever played in this book and I was actually sweating listening to it.

As good as it all was, there was no surprise with what happened. I called every twist well in advance (and I was also low-key spoiled about one of them because of the cast for the movie) but was still able to enjoy all of them. I do wish the climax had felt more momentous, though that may have been because I was at work at the time and that does kind of drain a lot of excitement out of a book. 
TL;DR? I wasn't quite prepared for some of the more adult moments in the book, nor did I like the romance aspect, but overall it was really well written and had a unique plot. I hope the movie manages to translate how epic some of the scenes are and that it doesn't overload with unnecessary references to 80s pop culture, which the book managed to nail at a perfect ratio.
In the year 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he's jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade's devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world's digital confines, puzzles that are based on their creator's obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them. When Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade's going to survive, he'll have to win—and confront the real world he's always been so desperate to escape.
ERNEST CLINE is a novelist, screenwriter, father, and full-time geek. His first novel, Ready Player One, was a New York Times and USA Today bestseller, appeared on numerous “best of the year” lists, and is set to be adapted into a motion picture by Warner Bros. and director Steven Spielberg. His second novel, ARMADA, debuted at #4 on the NYT Bestseller list and is being made into a film by Universal Pictures. Ernie lives in Austin, Texas, with his family, a time-traveling DeLorean, and a large collection of classic video games.
Cover linked to Goodreads; book description and author bio taken from Goodreads. 

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Can't Wait Wednesday: La Belle Sauvage

I'm switching over from Waiting on Wednesday's to Can't Wait Wednesday, a meme hosted by Wishful Endings. The idea is basically the same, but it looks like the official hosts of Breaking the Spine have shut down the meme so it's time to move on. Description and cover image taken from Goodreads.

Eleven-year-old Malcolm Polstead and his dæmon, Asta, live with his parents at the Trout Inn near Oxford. Across the River Thames (which Malcolm navigates often using his beloved canoe, a boat by the name of La Belle Sauvage) is the Godstow Priory where the nuns live. Malcolm learns they have a guest with them; a baby by the name of Lyra Belacqua . . .
Why I'm Waiting
It's been a long while since I read the Golden Compass, but I have plans to reread and finally finish the series before this one comes out. I couldn't pick just one cover I loved so I went with both the UK and US editions.

La Belle Sauvage releases October 19, 2017

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

July & August Book Haul

I haven't done a book haul in quite some time but I'm happy to jump back into them. My goal is to do one every three months or so, but I didn't start keeping track until July. For the sake of things we'll call this my Summer Book Haul, though. I'll include links to all of these books on Goodreads and if I've reviewed them I'll also link to that.

I picked up The Emperor's Knife on a whim while I was at Half Priced Books. It sounds like a pretty good epic fantasy, and it also appears like it will be a quick read. Funny enough, after I bought the book I was flipping through it and someone's original receipt for the book, and their boarding pass from several years ago, fell out. So, yeah, basically this book is brand new and came from California, so that's pretty cool. I also picked up The Dragonbone Chair that same trip to HPB. I've had my eye on this series for a while and this was such a reasonable price and great condition so I couldn't let it pass by. I've heard a lot of people call it a cornerstone of the genre so I'm excited to read it (though I probably won't get to it any time soon). The Inheritance Trilogy is a bind up of said series and it's something I've been eager to read for a few weeks now. A couple years ago I picked up the first book from the library but never gave it a fair chance before putting it down again. However, a lot of fantasy I wasn't a huge fan of back then I've been finding myself enjoying now, so I think it's more than a fair bet that I'll really enjoy this one. At the moment I plan to read this whole trilogy next.

Let Us Now Praise Famous Men is a book I picked up for school (ummm it's the only one I've picked up so far so I kinda need to get on top of that) with the full intention of reading ahead on and getting a bit of an early start on the year. Yeah, that never happened. Oops.

All four of these books I picked up for collection reasons (so, yeah, I have multiple copies of all these books now). I got The Lightning Thief because I plan to annotate this book and just have fun rereading it that way. I've never done that to a book before but some people make it look really beautiful and I'm hoping my own efforts turn out similarly. As for The Assassin's Blade (review), I needed it to complete my collection of UK Throne of Glass covers. I picked up both Shadow and Bone (review) and Siege and Storm (review) in hardcover because, with the new paperback redesigns, I need to make sure I collect them all. And yes, I will be picking up the new paperback redesigns very soon (because they're so lovely!).

I was so lucky and absolutely grateful to receive an early copy of The Girl in the Tower to review from Del Rey (thank you Del Rey!). They were also super kind and sent me a hardcover copy of The Bear and the Nightingale (review), which looks absolutely stunning on my shelf. I read and review Bear and the Nightingale earlier this year and didn't love it as much as I had hoped, but a large part of that was because I thought it was a standalone and felt unfinished by the ending. Well clearly it's part of a series so I'm hoping to go back and reread it and enjoy it more. I'm actually pretty excited about the sequel because of all the potential book one set up.

Both 13 Minutes and Frankie were also ARCs I received these last two months, both from Flatiron (thank you very much Flatiron!). I don't know too much about either of these but I prefer it that way so that I can go in with a complete fresh mind.

Okay here's the last batch of books I picked up these last two months. First up is Wicked Like a Wildfire one of my most anticipated reads of the year. Sadly, I don't know when I'll have the opportunity to pick this one up, but at least it's safe on my shelves for the time being. You may remember that I wasn't a huge fan of The Crown's Game back when I read it so I bet you're wondering why I picked up The Crown's Fate. Well, my dad bought it for me (it was super nice of him) because my name appears in the acknowledgements (as do many of those who preordered but still). Now that I have it I probably will read it, I just don't know when. I still haven't finished A Gathering of Shadows (but I will soon I promise!) but I wanted to complete my collection and so I grabbed A Conjuring of Light when it was slightly discounted online. And if I couldn't be excited enough, did you guys see VE Schwab's announcement today??? Freaking out! I don't know too much about The Traitor's Kiss but one of my close friends really enjoyed it so I picked it up. I still don't really know what it's about, nor have I seen it around too much. Last but not least: The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue has to be one of the best books I've read this year! Sadly I didn't write a review (I talked about that a few wrap ups ago but TLDR I was feeling pressured and it wasn't good) but that doesn't mean this wasn't a phenomenal book.

Whew! Okay that's it for now. That's a lot more books than I had planned to buy. I'm fairly certain the next few months will have fewer books, but I always say that and then find myself buying way too many for myself to handle. What books have you picked up lately? Have you read any of these? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!

Monday, August 28, 2017

Music Monday: It's About Time!

Music Monday is a meme hosted by my friend Lauren from Always Me and the rules are simple: share a few songs you've been enjoying lately (they don't have to be a specific genre or follow any theme) and they can be new or old songs. If possible share a music video or lyric video. And, of course, link up with Lauren.

This week I had so many wonderful songs to choose from but in the end it became a no brainer when Taylor Swift dropped her new single. So the theme for this week is: Artists I love who haven't made music in a long time and finally are!

Yes, I'm a Taylor Swift fan, and yes, I really loved this song. I probably played Look What You Made Me Do on repeat over a hundred times the other day. For me it's a powerful song about becoming a new person, and that new person is about to get her revenge. (Also, hella Arya Stark vibes going for it).

Even more than a Taylor Swift fan, I'm a P!nk fan. She got me through some of the hardest parts of high school and her music will always resonate with me. I've been waiting for what seems like forever for her to release a new album and now that's finally happening!
What About Us blew me away and the music video is even more stunning than the song itself. Waiting for her new album to drop is what's going to help keep me going through this next term of college.

So, I know that's only two songs this week, but these two literally made my life so much better that I didn't want to overshadow them with others. What songs have got you going? Do you like the Taylor Swift song? What about P!nk's song? Let me know in the comments!

Friday, August 25, 2017

Game Review: Bears vs Babies

I know this isn't directly related to any sort of book, but I wanted to share my love of this game with everyone.

First off, Exploding Kittens is an amazing game that I got over a year ago and have played about a billion times with friends and family alike. It's quick, doesn't get boring, and can be picked up by anyone within a turn or two. When I saw that they were creating a new game I immediately went and backed it on Kickstarter. Bears vs Babies fulfilled and surpassed my expectations, to say the least.

It's more complicated than Exploding Kittens, and the video they made only helps understand it slightly better than the written directions. It took three of us playing, and constantly rechecking the rules, to really understand how to do this at all. And even once we started it was easy to lose track of all the options we had when playing. Still, forgetting a rule here and there didn't negatively impact the game at all, as there are enough options when playing for it not to matter too deeply.

The cards are hilarious. I played with the regular and the NSFW decks combined and had a blast! Mixing and matching our monsters to defeat the colorful and chuckle-inducing babies (that half a baby card is absolutely the best) made everything ten times better than it already was. The variety of bear parts also means the game relies not just on luck but on skill and forethought, something Exploding Kittens doesn't need as much of.

Overall, this is a great game. Even more than that, it's a great ice breaker (which is low-key what I used it for). I strongly recommend it if you're looking for something new and unconventional.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Book Review: Peter and the Starcatchers

PETER AND THE STARCATCHERS, BOOK #1
AUTHOR: DAVE BARRY & RIDLEY PEARSON
RATING: 4.5 STARS
This is a middle grade origin story for Peter Pan, and while I've never read the original story I can tell that this relies heavily on the Disney animated version. If you've seen that version than you've probably noticed that it's not the most sensitive movie when it comes to Native characters and female characters (actually it's a pretty problematic movie in those regards, if you ask me) so, reading this, I was really hoping for something that might do better on those fronts. And it did!

First off, while there is only one female character relevant to the plot for the majority of it, the book did do a good job working towards including more female characters in the sequels and giving Molly the spotlight as the MVP of them all. She was definitely the smartest and most resourceful character of all the protagonists and also probably the most dimensional of the characters as well. She took no shit and she fought just as hard as all the boys. Secondly, with the Native characters I was at first worried that this would be going down a much different road, what with them being referred to as, and introduced as, "savages". But, BUT, this is a total misdirect on the part of the authors. I don't want to give away anything because it's SUCH a great moment when the characters realize "shit; they're not savages", but trust me, Barry and Pearson do such a good job with these characters and definitely don't allow them to stagnate in the racist role of "savage". I don't want to say it's a plot twist, but it's definitely meant to be a moment of surprise on the readers end so I'll stop talking about it right now.

That's not the only moment of surprise, and while it's not a book peppered with plot twists or anything, it's definitely got some pretty funny moments that seem to come out of nowhere. I wasn't laughing my ass off the whole time, but I was caught off guard several times with how funny some things were (the best scene? The Ladies.). It's also a pretty dark book, at least for middle grade. There's a lot of fighting and blood and even rape is threatened (not in those terms, but an older reader would definitely catch it). Sometimes with middle grade it can feel like the author is talking down to the reader, but this was one that celebrated how smart the readers definitely are and demanded full attention the whole time.

Seeing as it's an origin for Peter Pan it was definitely somewhat predictable in what had to happen. However, it takes its time and sets up all the threads that we see come together in the movies. It took its time with the plot and nothing was rushed. While I could have done with more magic, this is definitely based in reality as much as it can. The Starcatcher society and starstuff was such a fun and interesting idea and I liked what it brought to the story even though it's not fairy dust anymore.

Overall, this is a good read for both older readers and younger ones alike.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Can't Wait Wednesday: 10th Anniversary Editions

I'm switching over from Waiting on Wednesday's to Can't Wait Wednesday, a meme hosted by Wishful Endings. The idea is basically the same, but it looks like the official hosts of Breaking the Spine have shut down the meme so it's time to move on. Description and cover image taken from Goodreads.

This week's CWW is a little different since I'm combining two books into one. Both are books I've already read but are getting Tenth Anniversary Editions this year (and of course I have to collect those because they're gorgeous).
This deluxe, illustrated edition celebrates the New York Times-bestselling series, The Kingkiller Chronicle, a masterful epic fantasy saga that has inspired readers worldwide.
This anniversary hardcover includes more than 50 pages of extra content!
• Beautiful, iconic cover by artist Sam Weber and designer Paul Buckley
• Gorgeous, never-before-seen illustrations by artist Dan Dos Santos
• Detailed and updated world map by artist Nate Taylor
• Brand-new author’s note
• Appendix detailing calendar system and currencies
• Pronunciation guide of names and places
The Name of the Wind Anniversary Edition releases October 3, 2017

Celebrate the tenth anniversary of Cassandra Clare’s City of Bones with this gorgeous new edition, complete with special content and exclusive color illustrations.
The tenth anniversary of Cassandra Clare’s phenomenal City of Bones demands a luxe new edition. The pride of any fan’s collection, City of Bones now has new cover art, gilded edges, over thirty interior illustrations, and six new full-page color portraits of everyone’s favorite characters! This beautifully crafted collector’s item also includes four bonus stories that have previously only appeared in limited distribution, and—best of all—a new piece written by Cassandra Clare. A perfect gift for the Shadowhunter fan in your life.
This is the book where Clary Fray first discovered the Shadowhunters, a secret cadre of warriors dedicated to driving demons out of our world and back to their own. The book where she first met Jace Wayland, the best Shadowhunter of his generation. The book that started it all.
City of Bones Anniversary Edition releases November 7, 2017

Monday, August 21, 2017

Book Review: Bitten

WOMEN OF THE OTHERWORLD, #1
AUTHOR: KELLEY ARMSTRONG
RATING: 2 STARS
Before I dive into this review I need to give a heads up: there will be SPOILERS below. I'm giving this one a low star rating and I feel I need to pull example from the text to fully explain why. This is not a book I would recommend to anyone, but I also find myself having a complicated relationship with it, and I do plan to continue on with this series. Read at your own risk.

I get that this is an adult book and that a lot of adult paranormal romance tends to follow the same trends of alpha male romance. I also get that this is kinda a Twilight era book and that means that the kind of romances people reading this genre liked reading about are a bit different than they are today. HOWEVER that doesn't excuse the problematic relationship in this novel. Now, before I go all in depth here, let me tell you that it isn't as problematic as it could be. I think it gets as close to rape/rape play as a book like this can get without crossing the line. However, it doesn't cross that line, and there are a lot of points where, before anything happens, the characters will make sure the other is okay with it (to a degree; there are several moments where Clayton will tell Elena "just say no and I'll stop). Still, it's an uncomfortable relationship from both ends. Neither seems to be healthy for the other and if people I knew were in a relationship like this I would be seriously concerned. First off is the fact that Clay is the one who bit Elena and turned her into a werewolf. He took advantage of her, did this completely of his own volition (I don't care if he said he lost control; in the flashback scene it seems very much like he was a willing participant and she was an innocent victim here), and that made her mistrust him because of all the lies he had built up. And I totally get that! But he doesn't seem to. Even throughout the book she keeps reminding herself that she can't trust him after he did this to her, yet she always goes back to him. In fact, she has sex with him repeatedly even though she's in a relationship with a really good guy who would be (and is) heartbroken when he finds out. The first time she has sex with Clay (which is a really gross and rather disturbing scene if I'm being honest; more details in a moment) she leaves not feeling guilty. She even says that she should feel guilty but doesn't. While the next day that does change, a bit, and she promises herself never to cheat on Philip again, it only takes another opportunity for her to forget her guilt and sleep with Clay. Which continues throughout the whole novel. While I understand that she wasn't in love with Philip the way she felt about Clay it was still wrong that she did this, especially because she has full intention to go back and live with Philip and never tell him any of this happened. Specifically she mentions how it felt like a safety net that no matter what happens she could always go back to Stonehaven and have Clay waiting for her (because, NOPE, Clay will never move on from her for some reason, which is also super unhealthy for a relationship!). It's the first sex scene that really tipped me off to how problematic they really are together.
"Hold still," Clay said from behind me. "I'm helping."
"Helping? Helping what?"
I tries to pull my arms down, but he held them tight. Something soft slipped around my wrists. A sapling swayed overhead. Then Clay let go. I jerked my arms but only moved a couple of inches before the cloth around my wrists snapped tight. Once I was secured, he walked around and knelt over me, obviously far too pleased with what he was seeing.
"This isn't funny," I said. "Untie me. Now."
Still grinning he took hold of the top of my T-shirt and ripped it down the middle. Then he undid my bra.
And then a little further down the page (page 110 to be exact)...
"Is that better?" he whispered. "Since you can't fight me, you can't be expected to stop me. It's out of your control."
I had to reread this scene a few times before I determined it wasn't rape. She did, kinda, get into this position willingly, and when she goes outside with him, she's pretty certain of what's going to happen and totally fine with it. And he does tell her that if she wants him to stop he will stop, but she tells him to continue because she's enjoying their sex. But that doesn't mean this whole exchange isn't creepy as hell! Like, I was just blown away by how weird it all was. It does end up being consensual, but it toes the line so closely that I still worry about it. And on top of all this weirdness about their relationship, there wasn't even any romantic tension. They were impossible to ship and while their ending up together was supposed to seem romantic and as if they'll heal each other, I was just left thinking it was meh.

Another huge problem I had was the lack of women... in this series called Women of the Otherworld. I get that Elena is the only female werewolf (and, okay, it kinda makes sense in this world, but still) but she's still surrounded by only male characters. The only two other female characters who we're introduced to are Philip's mother and sister, and they're both busy planning a wedding shower or baby shower or something. They hold nearly no substance and have no role in the story except to help decorate it. They're barely characters. I was so let down because I was hoping for a lot more girl power in this book. I also took a lot of issue with Elena's characterization. In general I disliked her character (I thought she was a rather naive/dumb character and that she didn't grow at all) and I thought that her personal history was over done and not well thought out. We find out early on that as a child her parents died, and she was bounced around from foster home to foster home where she not only suffered PTSD that no one treated (but has somehow gotten better?) but that she was sexually abused and raped by many men. It's a heavy subject but isn't given the proper weight it deserves. Also, while she claims it affects her even in her present, I'm not shown anything on the page to really demonstrate this. It's very sad that it happened to her, but I couldn't sum up any emotion for this character. The "moral arc" of her story, too, bothered me. She's desperate to fit in as a human, and she sees this fitting in as being demure, always polite, the traditional woman role: never arguing, or losing her temper (or even getting mad and having a temper). It's ridiculous that she sees this as human. And she sees being angry and harder to control, and just generally having a will of her own, as the wolf in her, which makes her a monster. But in the end she realizes, it's okay to get mad sometimes. SOMETIMES. No, Elena, it's okay to be a person all the time. If you're an angry person that's okay. If you don't always do what you're told that's okay. I don't get the message that the book tried to impress where it's okay to sometimes not be what society tells you to be, but most of the time try to live with what the boundaries and expectations are. What???

The writing itself wasn't much to enjoy, which is a shame because I've read more of Armstrong's writing and I thought it was quite good. Maybe because it's a debut, or maybe because I was already having so many problems with it, but the writing did nothing to impress me. There was also little consistency with time (and when the sun rose or set; like events would happen in the middle of the night but then they'd get home and it would be like noon without ever saying that much time had passed; twelve hours is a lot of time to pass without noticing or mentioning something) or much of a grasp of the way a space worked on the page. There's one scene in the end where a character is holding a gun against someone, but is also holding Elena in his arms and keeping her trapped there. What? How does this work? At all? Do you not need to arms to both hold a gun and be threatening with it, and also two hands to hold someone's arms back? Also, the gun does just disappear in this scene, and the plot just keeps trucking.

Because the writing was poor I had a hard time connecting with any of the characters and an even harder time caring about the ones who died. No one is really fleshed out and they all just have basic roles to play if they aren't a main character. Besides Elena no one has any drive of their own, really, and they just do whatever is expected of them like NPCs in a game. Of all the side characters I will give some props to Jeremy for at least being interesting and not problematic but actually a good guy who does feel stress.

It may be surprising with all my complaints that I plan on continuing and finishing this series. For one, not every book is about Elena and Clay and I'm hoping that I'll find I like other characters more. For another, it felt like a very familiar book. I used to read a lot of paranormal romance and returning to the genre wasn't unlike getting under a warm blanket. Don't expect to see any more reviews for these books until I finish the series (or maybe at the halfway point as well, we'll see) when I do a series wrap up review because, as you can tell, they're kind of a waste of time to put too much energy into. However, they're quick guilty pleasure books and I haven't had one of those in a long time.