Monday, 29 February 2016

Monday Mix || Dead Devotion

Okay, full disclosure here: While I absolutely adore the Dragon Age series with every fibre of my being, I have not actually played through much of Mass Effect.

I tried once! And got stalled and stopped and never tried again. But I have read a lot of spoilers and watched a metric tonne of clips online.

Like all of the Garrus romance ones. And the Kaidan romance ones.

So, I mean, I have a pretty decent idea of the story arcs and plots and what have you.

And oh. You guys. I adore Garrus. (And Kaidan, but shush, this is a Garrus/Shepard mix so.)

This is a post ME3 mix with the tag line: "Garrus is alive. Shepard isn't." So uh. Be prepared for all the feelings.

Dead Devotion

Sunday, 28 February 2016

Review || Noggin by John Corey Whaley

Noggin by John Corey Whaley ★★☆☆☆
Listen — Travis Coates was alive once and then he wasn’t.

Now he’s alive again.

Simple as that.

The in between part is still a little fuzzy, but he can tell you that, at some point or another, his head got chopped off and shoved into a freezer in Denver, Colorado. Five years later, it was reattached to some other guy’s body, and well, here he is. Despite all logic, he’s still 16 and everything and everyone around him has changed. That includes his bedroom, his parents, his best friend, and his girlfriend. Or maybe she’s not his girlfriend anymore? That’s a bit fuzzy too.

Looks like if the new Travis and the old Travis are ever going to find a way to exist together, then there are going to be a few more scars.

Oh well, you only live twice.

I couldn't talk about this book in the way I wanted to without spoiling major parts of the plot. So read on at your own discretion!

This is a difficult one to rate because some parts of this book were really excellent and other parts were just definitely trying too hard.

On the excellent side of things you have all of the parts that deal with death and grief. The flashback scenes where Whaley explores how people deal with grief are really poignant and heartwrenching. Watching Travis as he is, sick and dying, is only compounded by watching what his friends and family are going through. Even after he comes back, there are scenes that focus on the repercussions of this. About how tangled up all the emotions are after having grieved for five years and now suddenly have Travis thrust back into their lives. The execution here was fantastic.

However, most of the plot felt insincere, like it was trying too hard to say something profound. Like the subplot regarding Travis' best friend Kyle and his sexuality. Travis pushes and pushes--and it doesn't come off as genuine concern for his friend, but more like superiority that Travis understands the Truth of the situation and it's kind of obnoxious--but eventually gets Kyle to admit he's been in denial for years and then... Nothing. Happens. Well, nothing more than a few throwaway lines. It felt too much like a ploy for a pat on the back more than genuine inclusion of diversity.

And then there's the romance plot with Cate. Imagine me making a lot of aggravated noises as you read this section because OH MY GOD NONE OF THIS WAS OKAY. I appreciated Travis' sort of Twilight Zone experiences because it's only felt like a few weeks for him, but this whole thing should've been shut down after the first attempt because it just became creepy and gross. Cate makes it very clear that there will be no rekindling of the romance between her and Travis. Explicitly clear. Multiple times. That this is not what she wants. That she has a fiance and has moved on. And Travis continues to be completely gross and obsessive about the entire thing, going so far as to buy her and ring and try to propose (and her fiance is literally feet away).

To be fair, most of the side characters in the book are yelling at Travis for being stupid about this, but even still the narrative still mostly tries to make you buy in. Or tries to excuse it. It was terrible and awful and it almost made me DNF this at like 75% of the way through because I could not stand it.

Whaley tries to make amends at the end by offering some thoughts on how to move on and let go, but then allows Travis to continue to make excuses. And if that epilogue is anything to go by, I don't know if Travis really got it at all.

So. 2 stars. Parts of this were great writing and parts of it made me want to set the book on fire. Mostly, I'm disappointed in how this turned out because there were glimpses of something great hiding beneath the problematic. I don't know that I'd recommend this book at the end of the day.

Monday, 22 February 2016

Monday Mix || Made of Stardust

I really enjoy listening to instrumental playlists. I put them on when I need background music, but don't want to get too distracted from whatever else I'm doing.

I mentioned how I use instrumental playlists to help me power through my marking, and this playlist is another one I discovered while staying late after school to mark tests.

There's just something about the ambiance and atmosphere that just really hooked me. The tracks chosen for this were perfection and I knew I had to click the like button before I was halfway through.

Hope you like it as much as I did!

Made of Stardust

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Review || An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

An Ember in the Ashes (An Ember in the Ashes #1) by Sabaa Tahir ★★☆☆☆
Laia is a slave.

Elias is a soldier.

Neither is free.

Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.

It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.

But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.

There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

2.5 stars. Deceived by the hype-monster again.

I tried to do everything right here. I waited for the unbelievable hype to die down. I didn't set my expectations too high. But in the end, this fell flat for me anyway.

The Roman-esque flavour of the worldbuilding here was definitely a selling point, and the magic and mythology intriguing, but it never fully came alive in the way I'd hoped. It felt like a duller version of the world from The Winner's Curse, to be honest. (Which, read that book instead anyway, please.)

It was this detached quality to the writing that carried over to the characters as well. I never found the "chemistry" between Elias and Laia believable, even as the book was all but forcing them together for the plot (quite literally). It was really only in the last 20-30 pages that I felt anything for any of the characters at all. And even that was tempered by a dire situation that turned into a bluff. Which. Come on.

And what's worse, is sometimes this book felt like work. Like I was plodding along trying to get to the good stuff. Like we were just spinning our wheels going nowhere in the name of "set up". Things finally picked up once the Trials started, but that was a good third of the way in.

There were times when I could see a glimmer of something more. Times when Tahir was trying to tease out some interesting commentary about the world she'd built. And then it was snatched away again just as quickly.

I will say, the last section of the book improved quite a bit and is responsible for the extra half star I've given here. But even that is a little bit soured by the fact that there is so much more to be done in the sequel. This was supposed to be a standalone when it first came out, but there's no way that ending was ever really meant to stand on its own. And I'm interested enough that I might be convinced to pick up the sequel. But I'm not sure. I might just be as happy reading spoilers online later. We'll see.

Monday, 15 February 2016

Rainbowthon Wrap Up

I deviated from my TBR slightly--because of another inter-library loan, if you can believe it--but what else is new! Still. I did a good job.

1. Arrow's Flight (Heralds of Valdemar #2) by Mercedes Lackey
This one was a bit slower going than my experience with book 1, but I still did enjoy it. It's definitely a set-up for a big final showdown in book 3, which is shaping up to be really interesting. But beyond that I really loved the casual inclusion of queer relationships and threesomes (yes really!). 3.5 stars.

2. Court of Fives (Court of Fives #2) by Kate Elliott
Really fun, Elliott didn't disappoint. Some seriously high stakes in this one! And a really swoon-worthy boy! This just confirms that I really need to read her Spiritwalker trilogy ASAP. (I've had it on my shelf for ages.) 4 stars.

3. Captive Prince (Captive Prince #1) by C.S. Pacat
Here's the deviation due to library. But I regret nothing. Still, I'm not totally enamoured with this yet. But I am really intrigued to see where this is going to go--and I put book 2 on hold immediately. 3 stars.

4. Honor's Knight (Paradox #2) by Rachel Bach
Okay, I'm only like 50 pages into this one, but still! I have done almost nothing but holler, "WTF!" at this book since I picked it up. Interspersed by the occasion, "Oh, this is not going to end well." I absolutely cannot wait to see what happens in this one!

And that's it! Not too shabby, if I do say so myself.

Have you read any of these? What did you read this week? Let's chat in the comments!

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Review || Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley

Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley ★★★☆☆
In 1959 Virginia, the lives of two girls on opposite sides of the battle for civil rights will be changed forever.

Sarah Dunbar is one of the first black students to attend the previously all-white Jefferson High School. An honors student at her old school, she is put into remedial classes, spit on and tormented daily.

Linda Hairston is the daughter of one of the town's most vocal opponents of school integration. She has been taught all her life that the races should be kept separate but equal.

Forced to work together on a school project, Sarah and Linda must confront harsh truths about race, power and how they really feel about one another.

2.5 stars.

Oh, I wanted to like this a lot more than I did. Darn it. Talley is writing about some incredibly important topics here and that's why I wish I felt more than just lukewarm about this book.

I've seen some people criticize this book for trying to take on "too many issues at once". As though racism and sexuality can always been squared away and neatly separated from each other. As though queer people didn't exist in the 50s. Yeah, alright.

That said, I wasn't a huge fan with how the sexuality plotline was handled a lot of the time. There is some build up, but it isn't super believable. I never fully bought into the fact that Linda wasn't totally straight. And I didn't really understand how Sarah could be falling for such a racist.

Because yeah, Linda is really racist. And that's definitely the point. Which is fine. Because you get the idea that she's supposed to grow and change as the book goes on. Which she does, but she still has some really racist views, even at the end of the book. Oh Sarah, I get that it's fun to argue with her, but you can do better, really.

The torment that Sarah and her peers go through at school is difficult to read about. As it should be. Talley has done her research here and it shows. It is profoundly uncomfortable and heartwrenching to know that this (and worse) really happened in our not-so-distant past. Though, I admit, I'd like to see an author who is actually a person of color tackle the topic as well.

And there was just something about the writing. I can't quite put my finger on it. But I was never truly immersed. I didn't feel the attachment to the characters. I just never got sucked in. I read it in a day, so it's not as though I was totally put off by it, but I found myself starting to skim-read in places, which is never a good sign.

Overall, I'm torn about whether to recommend this or not. On the one hand, it is a super important topic to read about. On the other, I wasn't a huge fan of the writing. I don't know, maybe go seek out some non-fiction from the time? Or fiction by authors of color.

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Top 10 Tuesday || Should've Done Romances Differently

Top 10 Tuesday is, as always, brought to you by The Broke and The Bookish. This week: Valentine's Themed!

I decided to do a twist on this topic and I'm going to talk about books where I think the romance should've been done differently!

We're going to start with these two together for a reason. Because both these books had love triangles in them that I thought should've been handled differently. Not that our main character necessarily ended up with the wrong person... but there was just such a missed opportunity here for some really compelling threesome stuff.

Okay, listen. I've talked about this on here before. And I am well aware that threesome will never be the solution to a love triangle in YA fiction. But I can dream, can't I?

The thing that makes it especially compelling to me in both these novels is that the two boys in question actually interact with each other frequently enough to make it plausible. There is definitely some chemistry and tension there that could be explored! Even if we're not going full throttle for threesomes, to have the love triangle occur because one of the boys is bisexual would work for me.

And full disclosure: I hated Matched, to be honest and I never continued on with the series. But I did enjoy Rebel Belle and plan to read the sequel.

These are also going together for a reason. Because both these books had romances that you were supposed to root for, but I found really gross.

Now, with Lies Beneath, we could've had it all. But what started off as a ploy turned into a genuine romance that I found really problematic. It would've been so much better if we'd actually stuck to the murderous mermaids premise and kept Calder villainous. It would've been a much more compelling story with more murder and less romance. (Seriously!) [Read my full review here.]

And Noggin is a recent read, but falls in the same traps. Travis wakes up after five years and basically stalks and harasses his former girlfriend--who is now 21 and engaged, thank you very much. Cate makes it very clear that she is not interested in getting back together with him and that maybe they could be friends. And despite some side characters calling Travis out on his behaviour, part of the book still plays it off as though you should be rooting for him? Ugh. No. I have a full spoilery review coming, so watch out for that.

All right, we're going to end with something completely different. I really enjoyed Witchlanders, much to my surprise. I didn't have a lot of expectations going in, but the world and magic system ended up being really cool.

And this doesn't have a romance. But it should.

This gets kind of spoilery, so if you don't want to be spoiled, turn back now! This is the last book on my list anyway.

Okay? Okay.

So Ryder and Falpian should've definitely kissed. Seriously. Brothers-in-spirit who are born enemies? Having to work together to harness powerful magic? Basically being soulbounded? And actual facts telepathy? COME ON YOU ARE KILLING ME HERE.

There's this wonderful build up and tension between them that I was convinced was going to lead to something more. I even checked the tags on Goodreads part way through the book hoping to find it tagged as LGBTQ, but alas. There's even a dramatic moment where Ryder needs to be silenced that I was positive was going to end with kissing. It was just such a missed opportunity and I CAN'T EVEN READ ANY FANFIC TO SATISFY MY NEED BECAUSE IT DOESN'T EXIST.

... Ahem.

I have strong feelings about this, as you might be able to tell.

Anyway, we're going to end the post here before it devolves into total chaos. So there you have it! Have you read any of these? Any romances you think should've been done differently? Link me to your TTT and let's chat in the comments!

Monday, 8 February 2016

Monday Mix || Hopelessly in Love

I've loved all of Rainbow Rowell's books, so it was no surprise that I picked up her newest, Carry On, pretty much the minute it was released. And it ended up being my hands down favourite book of 2015.

I'd been anticipating Carry On since it was announced, because I'd absolutely loved the world of Simon Snow when it was mentioned in Fangirl. And oh, I just adored the characters and the magic and everything...

But especially Simon and Baz.

As I mentioned in my favourites post, Carry On reads like your favourite fanfic in book form. And Simon and Baz's relationship was just so perfect. I put sticky tabs in my copy of the book and I never do that.

So is it really surprising that after putting the book down I immediately went on the hunt for fanmixes?

(No, no it is not.)

I have a few saved on 8tracks that I really enjoyed, but I'll do my best to spread them out... for now, enjoy this one.

Hopelessly in Love

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Review || Fortune's Pawn by Rachel Bach

Fortune's Pawn (Paradox #1) by Rachel Bach ★★★★☆
Devi Morris isn't your average mercenary. She has plans. Big ones. And a ton of ambition. It's a combination that's going to get her killed one day - but not just yet. That is, until she just gets a job on a tiny trade ship with a nasty reputation for surprises. The Glorious Fool isn't misnamed: it likes to get into trouble, so much so that one year of security work under its captain is equal to five years everywhere else. With odds like that, Devi knows she's found the perfect way to get the jump on the next part of her Plan. But the Fool doesn't give up its secrets without a fight, and one year on this ship might be more than even Devi can handle.

4.5 stars.

Holy smokes, I didn't actually mean to finish this all tonight but I hit that sweet spot and just couldn't stop. I am trying to resist the urge to order books 2 & 3 immediately because I am trying not to buy a ton of books right now BUT.

Wow, this was a lot of fun. Like, just really good sci-fi fun. Devi is a fantastic narrator, but all the characters were great. And Bach does something really cool with an alien species and their approach to gender which I ADORED. And oh man there are some huge freaking secrets going on here and some of the dialogue in the last few scenes really started to tease out hints of a much larger world and I am just SO IN. And AH that ending. AH.

I had a feeling I was going to like this, but I didn't expect to like it THIS much. If you like spaceship/mission centred sci-fi, mercenaries and kickass lady-types, you should probably pick this up immediately.

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Rainbowthon TBR

The Rainbowthon is a readathon happening February 7-14 and is hosted by a number of Booktubers--check out the #Rainbowthon on twitter for more information as well.

The objective is to read books during the week featuring the different colors of the rainbow. You can read 6 differently colored books (we're ignoring indigo because who cares), 6 books with all the same color, or double up on a few colors to make the challenge a bit easier.

I've got a TBR picked out, but I only chose 4 books because I doubt I can read more than that in a week. I went with a yellow/orange spine theme as well... take a look at the books below!

I'm hoping I can read all of them during the week. I flew through the previous books in the series by Mercedes Lackey and Rachel Bach, so I figure those will be easy to knock off the list. The other two I have no idea. They just fit the theme and I've been meaning to read them.

So! That's the plan. Are you participating in Rainbowthon? Feel free to send me your TBR links and let's chat in the comments!

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Top 10 Tuesday || Settings I'd Like To See

Top 10 Tuesday is, as always, brought to you by The Broke and The Bookish. This week: Settings You'd Like To See.

1. The French Revolution
I just adore this time period. It's one of my favourites. And there's no shortage of conflict here... so I think it would make a really compelling setting.

2. Non-Western Historical Fiction/Fantasy
And by this, I mean, not set in Europe or feature non-white characters. I recently read a steampunk anthology and my favourite stories were the ones that really twisted the genre and expectations. What was going on in parts of Africa? Or the Middle East? Or Asia? I want to read those stories, especially if we get a fantastical twist on things.

3. Non-Medieval Inspired Fantasy
I really like medieval-esque fantasy, don't get me wrong, but like #2, I'm ready for fresh new ideas. And also like #2 you have to be careful, because white authors writing in these ballparks can sometimes be iffy. (CoughStormdancercough.)

4. Matriarchies
... I'm kind of cheating, is this a setting? WHO CARES. Anyway, I've read some fiction with matriarchal societies, but it too often seems to be exactly the way things are now just with gender roles reversed. Which, okay, can be compelling, but can often fall into the same trope and still sexist traps. I want to see this done well.

5. The Grand Utopia Future In Which Everyone Is Queer
... okay, I'm getting a little tongue-in-cheek now, but shush. I've also mentioned this before, so it shouldn't really be super surprising. Give me all the fiction in all the genres with incidentally queer characters. Where their sexualities and gender-identities are not the set up for a big tragic lesson at the end of the story. But where there are grand adventures and romances that would happen in every other genre book, but these ones just happen to be queer.

If you have any recommendations in ANY of these categories, please give them all to me immediately!

What do you think of my list? Feel free to link your TTT below and let's chat in the comments!

Monday, 1 February 2016

January Wrap Up & February TBR

Well, we've started things off with a bang! I've had a really good reading month, quantity wise, and a pretty good one quality wise too. My average rating this month was 3.3 so I enjoyed most of what I read! 

I also split my reading nearly 60/40 between my own books and library books. Which. I feel like I should've read more of my own books, but I was fooling myself when I said I'd stay away from the library... so!

And so far I've been really good about sticking to my book buying rules. I've read 10 books, so I ordered two that I wanted just because. And the only other two books in that order were books 2 and 3 in a series I started this month and absolutely LOVED.


Six-Gun Snow White by Catherynne M. Valente ★ 1/2
Their Fractured Light (Starbound #3) by Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner 
Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng ★ 1/2
Moth (Moth Saga #1) by Daniel Arenson 
Trial By Fire (Worldwalker #1) by Josephine Angelini 
Fortune's Pawn (Paradox #1) by Rachel Bach ★ 1/2
Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley ★ 1/2
An Ember in the Ashes (An Ember in the Ashes #1) by Sabaa Tahir ★ 1/2
Steampunk Revolution (Steampunk volume 3) edited by Ann Vandermeer 
Illuminae (The Illuminae Files #1) by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff 
Noggin by John Corey Whaley 

GOODREADS: 13/50 [+13]
ALPHABET: 9/26 [+9]
SERIES: 1 complete [+1]; 11 ongoing [+4]

Reading Stats 2015
Monday Mix || Like Weapons
Unpopular Opinions Book Tag
Monday Mix || Distract Our Hearts
Top 5 Wednesday || Favourite Buzz Words
Monday Mix || Rubber Ring Mix 2015

Winter (Lunar Chronicles #4) by Marissa Meyer

Luck in the Shadows (Nightrunner #1) by Lynn Flewelling
Miss Mayhem (Rebel Belle #2) by Rachel Hawkins

I really need to get around to Winter in February. I'm putting it off for no good reason other than I'm not ready for the series to be over..! The other library books are ones I currently have signed out. So.

I'm definitely planning on reading more than just 4 books. Maybe not the 13 I managed this month, but I like to leave the TBR relatively open so I can pick up whatever I'm feeling like.

What did you read this month? Let's chat in the comments!