Monday, 28 April 2014

Monday Mix || Even If No One Understands

So. Here we are again.

Okay, full disclosure: I have a lot of ships. And a lot of my fanmixes are odes to my favourite ships. Judge me if you want, but I have been in this game for nearly 2 decades and I am not stopping now. (One of my favourite things to say to my 8th grade students is "I have email accounts older than you". And then I have to laugh so I don't cry.)

Anyway. The second part of this full disclosure is that I have yet to read Les Miserables. I grew up with the musical, have watched the movie adaptation more times than I care to count, and have read excerpts. But never the whole thing.

That has not stopped me from doing what I do best. And that is shipping. Sorry not sorry.

So have an Enjolras/Grantaire fanmix.

(Tracklist, etc. after the cut)

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Review || Arranged by Catherine McKenzie

Arranged by Catherine McKenzie ★★☆☆☆
Anne Blythe has a great life: a good job, good friends, and a potential book deal for her first novel. When it comes to finding someone to share it with, however, she just can't seem to get it right.

After yet another relationship ends, Anne comes across a business card for what she thinks is a dating service, and she pockets it just in case. When her best friend, Sarah, announces she's engaged, Anne can't help feeling envious. On an impulse, she decides to give the service a try because maybe she could use a little assistance in finding the right man. But Anne soon discovers the company isn't a dating service; it's an exclusive, and pricey, arranged marriage service. She initially rejects the idea, but the more she thinks about it-and the company's success rate-the more it appeals to her. After all, arranged marriages are the norm for millions of women around the world, so why wouldn't it work for her?

2.5 stars.

Which is really disappointing, because the first half of this book was definitely 4 star material for me.

Listen, chick-lit is not usually my thing at all. But I had this weird craving and this popped up under the recommendations after I'd read Attachments. So, hey, why not?

The premise is interesting and I was especially intrigued because I actually have a cousin who decided to go the arranged marriage route because of cultural tradition. And the first half of this book was everything I wanted it to be. Light, fluffy, adorable. It was exactly what I was in the mood for.

I read half of it in one sitting. And then life got in the way and I had to wait several days to pick it back up again. And then I read the rest in another sitting.

But instead of all the stupid grinning fluff that I'd been anticipating, the book took a turn. Even before the much touted "plot twist" I was starting to become disillusioned with the whole thing. Spoilers ahead! (Highlight to read)

I became very disillusioned with Jack, in particular.

Even before his "sinister motives" were uncovered, he was kind of being a douche? Like, he kept pushing Anne into all of these adventures that were really not her style. And instead of it coming off as him trying to help her get outside of her comfort zone, it ended up being coming across as him being really pushy and selfish. Seriously dude, the day of her book release is actually more important than you getting an adrenaline rush white water rafting. I just. What.

I had a really hard time with the fact that all this behaviour was played off as "romantic". Because it was really a lot of Jack not caring about Anne's wishes and bullying her into consent. Which. No.

And then with his book, I was ready to have him kicked to the curb! Which happened... but only temporarily. And then all of Anne's friends were suddenly like, "Oh, read the finished book, he's changed it."

And then they get back together?! No. No no no.

Listen, I like my fairy-tale endings as much as everyone else. But Jack was a manipulative, lying jerk. (There's a lot stronger language I'd like to use here, to be honest.) Do we not get the irony of Anne actually saying that the next book she's writing the heroine isn't going to be saved by a guy. And then that's exactly what happens here?

UGH. No.

It's really too bad that it ended this way. Because the first half was such fun. But I would've much preferred a non-reconciliation ending.

Overall, this ends up on my "i-wanted-to-like-this" shelf. So.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Random Recs || First Books

I've been hunting around the blogosphere for some inspiration for posts and memes that I might be able to do on a semi-regular basis. I'm really trying to get the content back up and running around these parts. I feel like I've been a little negligent.

Anyway, I found the "Recommend A..." meme by Chick Loves Lit, which sadly looks like it fell by the wayside shortly after it started. But that got me thinking that maybe I could do some random recommendations from time to time.

You know me (maybe), I love recommending books. And I love getting recommendations. One of these days (when I actually feel like I have time again) I swear I'm going to sign myself up for Epic Recs. But until then, we'll have to make due.

So this instalment's theme is:

First Book In A Series

Listen, I am a pro at reading the first book in series. Up until this year I very rarely finished series. Not because I wasn't enjoying them, but just because I sometimes have book ADD and then forgot about them.


Wool by Hugh Howey
This one might be cheating a bit, since this is really a short story and the first 5 have been all put in a bind-up. But this part, part one, was the first introduction I had to Howey's world. It was free for Kindle a while back and it sucked me in almost immediately. Give the whole omnibus a try.

Feed by Mira Grant
I always pitch this book as "a political thriller disguised as a zombie novel". So if that intrigues you, definitely check this out. It's the first book in a trilogy and it's my favourite of the three by far. It made me do a lot of ugly crying.

Unwind by Neal Shusterman
If this book was a person, it would be the kind that kicks you in the stomach and then laughs gleefully as you struggle to breathe again. There's never a dull moment here and it's all so painfully plausible it actually does make my breath catch.

Science Fiction
These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Megan Spooner
I had a lot of reservations about this book because of the "Titanic-in-space" parallels. But it was so worth it in the end. A slow burn romance in the midst of a survival story? Sign me up. Also, the other books in this series will be companion novels, not true sequels, so that's interesting as well.

The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson
I've sort of strayed from this series, because I didn't think it needed a sequel. But it is part of a trilogy. Regardless of my negligence, this book is fantastic. Like all good science fiction it makes you contemplate what exactly does it mean to be human? And how far will you go for someone you love?

What do you think? Have you read any of these? Let's chat in the comments! (And, as always, hit me up with recs of your own!)

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Top 10 Tuesday || Characters I Adore

Top 10 Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, featuring a new category every week!

This week is Top 10 Characters Who X--where you get to decide. So I went with Top 10 Characters I Adore.

There are lots of different reasons I adore these characters, so I'll try to go into the reasons behind each and everyone one of them as I go.

This is in no particular order, either!

1. Meg Corbyn from The Others series by Anne Bishop
Meg is just such a delightful character. She's so unique. She's weak and clumsy, unsure and naive. But she has such a good heart. She tries her best. She stands up tall and strong and brave when she knows she has to, even when it scares her. There's a reason a Courtyard full of vicious Others have taken to her. I adore her so.

2. Linh Cinder from The Lunar Chronicles series by Marissa Meyer
Cinder has undergone so much growth since her eponymous debut. She's strong and independent, but still struggles with the destiny resting on her shoulders. Her interactions with all the rest of this delightful cast are so layered and ugh, I adore her.

3. Georgia "George" Mason from the Newsflesh trilogy by Mira Grant
I'm going to single out George from especially Feed (book 1) in this trilogy. Feed was such a captivating read for me, and it was because of George's character voice. She's such a compelling narrator and Feed was a rollercoaster ride like none I'd ever been on before thanks to her.

4. Liesel Meminger from The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
I feel like, out of all of these, this probably requires the least explanation. Liesel's story is one full of such hardship and heartbreak. But she herself is full of perseverance and light and hope. She's definitely something special if Death himself made a point of telling her story.

5. Aech from Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Without spoiling too much, Aech's identity reveal near the end of Ready Player One was really really interesting to me. It was here that I saw a glimpse of what might have been for this story. It was here that there were so many layers and interesting conversations about the social order. Now, it may seem odd that a character from this book should make an appearance, given my lukewarm feelings towards it, but Aech is on here because I maintain that the book would've been 100 time more compelling with Aech as the narrator.

6. Aziraphale & Crowley from Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
Again, I feel like this one almost speaks for itself. And you have to group these two together, because how can you not? Witty banter, co-dependent relationships, hilarious blasphemy... what more could you want?

7. Sturmhond from The Grisha trilogy by Leigh Bardugo
I'm literally resisting the urge to just up and swoon here. I was so wary of Sturmhond before I started Siege and Storm (book 2) because how could the collective readership of this series adore a character so much when he hadn't even been in book 1? I was nearly instantly converted. Sturmhond is clever, witty and a man of many masks. (I have a thing for identity reveals, in case you haven't already noticed.) I just want to banter with him forever.

8. Chubs from The Darkest Minds trilogy by Alexandra Bracken
Listen, I adore Liam as much as the next girl, but there is this huge place in my heart for Chubs and I don't even know how that happened. This trilogy is super good at getting me ridiculously attached to everyone, but somewhere along the way Chubs grabbed me and wouldn't let me go. I just adore him.

9. Noah from The Raven Cycle series by Maggie Stiefvater
Almost from the first moment there was something about Noah I loved. It was probably that his description included "smudgy". I don't even know what to tell you. I just. As you'll see with this and #10, sometimes the characters I adore are the ones I feel like I need to fiercely protect. They're too wonderful and sweet and too many bad things have (or will) happen to them. Noah fits this category to a tee.

10. Patroclus from The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
Oh Patroclus. Part of me just wants to weep. The other part of me wants to cradle him protectively against my chest and never let him go. And possibly hiss at anyone who comes close. Patroclus just is so endearing in this narrative and there's something about him that awakens my ridiculously protective instincts. I just need him to be happy and safe and loved forever. The end.

Okay, not quite the end, but you get my meaning.

What characters do you absolutely love and adore? How do you feel about the characters on my list?

Let's chat in the comments!

Monday, 21 April 2014

Monday Mix || I Fought the War But the War Won

Okay, listen. I love making fanmixes. I always have. I usually have about half a dozen unfinished playlists in iTunes at one time.

A little while ago, I posted my mix based on Mira Grant's Feed. I had to express myself somehow. That book destroyed me. (Spoilers spoilers spoilers in that mix, by the by.)

So, I've got a bit of free time on my hands now (thank goodness) and I thought why not try to actually make this a thing I do on my blog? I have a few mixes in the queue from before I started this blog, so I'll post those for the first little bit. But it doesn't have to be a full mix. I figure even a song or two that remind me of a book or a character or whatever would be fun.

And, as per usual, you are welcome to join in if you'd like. (Definitely link me up if you've got something similar going, I'd love to check it out.)

So, without further ado, here's the first instalment of Monday Mix.

Okay, maybe a little bit more ado. Because have I mentioned how much I love comic books? I don't know if that's common knowledge around these parts yet or not. But I really really do. I am basically in nerd-vana with all the comic book movies and everything going on.

So what better way to celebrate than with a horribly depressing comic inspired mix!

If you're unfamiliar with the Marvel Universe, a number of years ago there was a huge crossover storyline called Civil War. It basically pitted everyone against each other. One side supported the idea of superhero registration (and the death of secret identities). The other was vehemently opposed.

Tony Stark and Steve Rogers were on opposing sides. It was rough. I still have a lot of feelings. As the mix will undoubtedly show you.

(Tracklist after cut. And spoilers, obviously.)

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Review || Soulless by Christopher Golden

Soulless by Christopher Golden ★★★★☆
Times Square, New York City: The first ever mass séance is broadcasting live on the Sunrise morning show. If it works, the spirits of the departed on the other side will have a brief window -- just a few minutes -- to send a final message to their grieving loved ones.

Clasping hands in an impenetrable grip, three mediums call to their spirit guides as the audience looks on in breathless anticipation. The mediums slump over, slackjawed -- catatonic. And in cemeteries surrounding Manhattan, fragments of old corpses dig themselves out of the ground....

The spirits have returned. The dead are walking. They will seek out those who loved them in life, those they left behind...but they are savage and they are hungry. They are no longer your mother or father, your brother or sister, your best friend or lover.

They are soulless.

The horror spreads quickly, droves of the ravenous dead seeking out the living -- shredding flesh from bone, feeding. But a disparate group of unlikely heroes -- two headstrong college rivals, a troubled gang member, a teenage pop star and her bodyguard -- is making its way to the center of the nightmare, fighting to protect their loved ones, fighting for their lives, and fighting to end the madness.


I actually really enjoyed this. More than I thought I was going to. The first little bit was kind of slow and confusing--what with being dumped right into the middle of people's lives and all that. But the book quickly hit its stride and then did not stop.

I really like ensemble casts and this book took the threads of many different stories and pulled them all together. The zombie mythos here was fresh and interesting. And downright actual-facts creepy. Some of the scenes in this book were seriously horrifying, and there was one point near the end where I wasn't actually sure if I was going to be able to read without skimming because of the gore factor.

So. Not for the faint of heart. But definitely worth a look if you're into zombies.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Reading Moods

I've been thinking a lot about my tbr lately. Mostly because I've been so atrociously busy since the beginning of March that I feel like my reading and blogging has suffered.

Though, looking back at my March wrap up, the reading part seems to be trucking along just fine. So it's really just been my blogging.

I've been really swamped with work and extra-curricular obligations that I haven't had time to do a lot of blogging. Oh, I still check all my subscriptions religiously, but having the drive to create content has gone by the wayside.

Thankfully, the worst is over and with Easter break just around the corner, I'll actually have some time to myself.

I think all the stress has put my brain in a weird reading mood. My April tbr was intentionally sparse because I knew that life was going to get in my way again. So I put a few library books on there and pretty much left the rest of it open.

That's turned out to be a good thing, because the past week has thrown me some curveballs. At the beginning of the week I was really craving some dark and gritty apocalypse stories. So I pulled a few off my shelf and gave them a go. (The first fell kind of flat for me, but the second was surprisingly good. But they were both exactly what I was in the mood for.)

As I was wrapping up the zombie apocalypse novel, my brain was ready to move on. "It's time for really fluffly chick-lit," said my brain.

Wait. What?

I don't read a ton of chick-lit or contemporary. It's not usually my thing and I prefer my fiction to be a bit more escapist. But uh. Okay. I snagged a book that fit this description from the library and am surprisingly eager to start it.

So not only is my brain just plain messing with me, it's been putting me on an adult fiction binge too. What is wrong with me? Who am I? 24601

Has this ever happened to you? Are you a "mood reader"? (Truthfully, this was never an expression I think I fully comprehended until this past week and a bit. Wow.)

Let's chat in the comments!

Monday, 14 April 2014

Review || Soft Apocalypse by Will McIntosh

Soft Apocalypse by Will McIntosh ★★☆☆☆
What happens when resources become scarce and society starts to crumble? As the competition for resources pulls America's previously stable society apart, the "New Normal" is a Soft Apocalypse. This is how our world ends; with a whimper instead of a bang. New social structures and tribal connections spring up across America, as the previous social structures begin to dissolve.

Locus Award finalist and John W. Campbell Memorial Award finalist Soft Apocalypse follows the journey across the Southeast of a tribe of formerly middle class Americans as they struggle to find a place for themselves and their children in a new, dangerous world that still carries the ghostly echoes of their previous lives.

Well. I didn't hate this but I also didn't like it either.

I picked this up second hand at a charity shop after reading the synopsis and it only took me a handful of hours to read, so it's not really much of a loss. But it is a little disappointing.

While I appreciated the slow decline approach, I didn't really care about any of the characters. I felt pretty emotionally detached from the book as a whole, which isn't really what you want here. Because listen, I'm the person who can turn on the Hallmark movie ten minutes before the end and start bawling even though I know next to nothing about what's going on. They killed a dog in this book--which we all know is far worse than killing a person--and I felt nothing. So.

I will admit that this book walks the line of gratuity much better than my last read. Because while there is no shortage of horrific acts of violence, it never felt gratuitous. So that's something.

Anyway. Probably not worth your time.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Seriously Series Update

The first quarter of the year is over... hard to believe! So it's time for a Seriously Series Challenge Update! This is hosted over at Reading the Paranormal.

My current running list can be found here and I'm pretty pleased with the progress I'm making overall. I knew when I started typing out my list there was no way I'd get to all of this in one short year, but I'm happy to have the goal in mind. The list will help me figure out what goes on next year's tbr. (And with the ridiculously amazing reading year I'm having so far... who knows!)

Series Started Before 2014
I broke this down into two categories: continuing (I need to read a few or the new release) and resuming (I read the first book so long ago I need to start over).

Though the latter category hasn't gotten any love from me so far, I still want to give some of them a shot.

Here's what I've managed thus far:
  • The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer
    • Scarlet
    • Cress
  • The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater
    • The Dream Thieves
  • The Grisha by Leigh Bardugo
    • Siege and Storm
  • The Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier
    • Sapphire Blue

Series Started in 2014
This is still an overambitious list, but oh well! Too many books, not enough time.

Here's my progress:
  • Anna by Kendare Blake
    • Anna Dressed in Blood
    • Girl of Nightmares
  • The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken
    • The Darkest Minds
    • Never Fade
  • Legend by Marie Lu
    • Legend
    • Prodigy
    • Champion
  • Pivot Point by Kasie West
    • Pivot Point

Overall Results
I'm pretty pleased overall. I have 3 "completed" series thus far (The Lunar Chronicles counts because book 4 doesn't come out until next year). I'm caught up on another 3 (and eagerly awaiting the next books!)

This upcoming month will add another few tallies to this list. I'm in the middle of Murder of Crows by Anne Bishop which will catch me up with The Others series. I have Emerald Green by Kerstin Gier out from the library up next which will complete The Ruby Red trilogy. And Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor is released this month and I plan to gobble that up ASAP (and that will finish the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy as well)!

I still am eyeing a number of books on the tbr pile that I really want to start soon. The Falling Kingdoms series and the Throne of Glass series especially.

I think the next quarter will be for those, but also carry a focus on the "resuming" list. Both Soulless and Cold Magic are right up at the top of that pile. And I caved recently and bought the Divergent box set, so I should probably do something about that too.

All in all, a good first quarter, I think!

Are you working on any series right now? Have you read any of these? Let me know!