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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Giveaway (CAN): Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers

Mortal Heart is the third and final book in the His Fair Assassin Trilogy by Robin LaFevers, and it's coming out THIS Tuesday, November 4 - Who's excited?!

I know I am. I was totally enamoured with the "assassin nuns" concept when I first read Grave Mercy, but I think the real strength of these novels lies in the portrayal of the strong heroines - Ismae, Sybella, and Annith - and the slow-burn romances. They also introduced me to the idea that historical fiction that is heavy on the details doesn't need to be scary - it can be super interesting! I absolutely cannot WAIT to read Annith's side of the story in Mortal Heart.

Here's a peak at Annith's story:
Annith has watched her gifted sisters at the convent come and go, carrying out their dark dealings in the name of St. Mortain, patiently awaiting her own turn to serve Death. But her worst fears are realized when she discovers she is being groomed by the abbess as a Seeress, to be forever sequestered in the rock and stone womb of the convent. Feeling sorely betrayed, Annith decides to strike out on her own.
She has spent her whole life training to be an assassin. Just because the convent has changed its mind doesn't mean she has...

And thanks to Thomas Allen & Son, I have one finished copy of Mortal Heart to give away! The only restriction is you must be Canadian (I'm sorry, eh. I'll host an international giveaway soon for everyone!).

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October Recap: The Busy Business Continues

...And a month has flown by since I last posted. All the busyness surrounding school and work that I mentioned last month was still in place this month, and it's about to get even busier for me in a bit. But I can't complain too much because life has been pretty good to me on the whole. Here are some non-school-and-work-related things I did in October:

I saw Wicked for the third time!:
(I had really bad seats because the tickets were so expensive, but whatevs because this was my third time seeing it and I know all the words and actions to the songs by heart anyways. The show was entertaining as usual!)

I went to a Toronto FC match for the first time:
(A whole lot less entertaining than Wicked. But I'm always into trying everything at least once and I'd never seen a soccer match in person before [nor on TV for that matter...] so I thought why not. Once was enough though. But who knows, if I ever get the urge to watch grown men whine and fake injuries in a spectacularly bad way, then maybe I'll have to check out another soccer game sometime.)

And I finally - FINALLY - began watching Doctor Who after everyone and their grandmothers had recommended it to me:
First thoughts: not great, unfortunately. I had a tough time getting into it at first. I am just SO incredibly left brained that it took me a long time to get past the cheesiness and the insane plot holes and the crappy science explanations. Plus, I kind of hate Rose (Billie Piper).

BUT once I was able to force my brain to turn off (mostly anyways...) and once they finally got rid of Rose, it was mostly smooth sailing from there on out. Doctor Who reminds me a lot of Buffy (one of my all-time faves) in that there are some misses here and there (episode-wise), but when they get it right, it's GENIUS. Most of all, I admire the creativity that goes into each episode. It's simply incredible that the writers can come up with new episode concepts and creatures that are wholly original every single time. I am genuinely impressed by what I have seen thus far and I'm excited to see what's in store next!

Finally, some news that will mean I am not ready to get back into blogging any time soon: I will be leaving for Berlin in a few days to attend a palaeontology conference in which I will be giving a presentation on my thesis research in front of hundreds of expert palaeontologists who all know way more about my subject than I do! So... yay/eek!? Obviously, I'm excited because I've never been to Berlin before, but I do wish I was going there purely for leisure. Ah, oh well, hopefully I will make the most of it and have fun in spite of the nerve-wracking high-pressure presentation... Wish me luck!

Previously, September Recap: A Very Busy Start To Fall.

Best Book Read in October:

What's this? I finally managed to read the book I swore I would read ages ago, but have been putting off for years and years now? Thanks to Sara for forcing me to read it. Jellicoe Road was definitely worth it so I'm glad I finally bit the bullet even if it was difficult to get into at first. Definitely a powerful read, and I'm happy to have finally gotten a taste of what Melina Marchetta has to offer.

Monday, October 6, 2014

September Recap: A Very Busy Start to Fall

Greetings! I haven't been around much in the blogosphere ever since my move and the start of the new semester simply because I've been quite busy. And sadly, if anything it's only going to get busier for me from here. There's just no time for blogging in between teaching undergrads about animal physiology, marking mounds of papers, doing homework for my own class, working on my research, preparing several presentations, finishing up my latest manuscript, getting audited by the government, dealing with some major health problems, and trying to maintain some semblance of a social life (Yikes, I get panicky just writing all that down! Deep breaths...).

But as sad as I am about not having a ton of time to blog lately, it doesn't compare to how majorly BUMMED I've been about not having time to read. I have not had the time to do "just for fun" reading in over a week now! And do I ever miss it. There are so many just-released highly-anticipated sequels that I have been DYING to read, as well as contemporaries that I've been STOKED to read ever since being challenged by Sara, and older fantasies that I have been meaning to read for a long LONG time and was hoping to buddy read with Micheline... Just SO MANY BOOKS and no time to read them! And no sign of this busy grad school life letting up until winter holidays. Bleh.

So I guess what I'm trying to get across here is that I'm feeling quite stressed and overwhelmed with school and work and I have not had - and will not have in the near future - very much time to blog and read. I will do my best to post and comment when I can, but at the moment I'm feeling doubtful that that will happen as regularly as I would like. It sucks, but I guess that's just how it's going to be for the next little bit. I hope to get back into my regular blogging routine soon because I miss it and I miss all of you!

And now that that's out of the way, here's a quick rundown of my busy September:

First, my parents flew to Toronto to help me move and to visit a bit and it was so nice having them around! After a few days of laborious moving, we took in a Jays game...
(They lost, but I still had a surprisingly fun time considering I could not care less about baseball normally)

And I took them on a private tour of my workplace behind-the-scenes at the Royal Ontario Museum...
(There are SO MANY cool things stored away in collections that the public never gets to see)

And I gave them another guided tour of Ripley's Aquarium...
(This was my second time visiting the aquarium, but I swear I will never tire of it. It's SO cool!)

And I took them to Toronto Island for a day...
(We had a very pleasant day! I definitely want to spend more time there)

And while on the island, I got to cozy up to some cute animals at the petting zoo...
(I also got to pretend I was a tiny person)

And then they went back home to Edmonton. It was a good visit while it lasted!

Then I got to meet one of my all-time faves, Lauren Oliver, with my author-event-buddy Zahida:
She was soooo lovely!! I got all my books signed and personalized and had an altogether great night. Delirium was the first book I ever received for review and I LOVED it. I never thought in my four years of blogging that I would ever get the chance to meet Lauren, so I'm feeling quite lucky that I did!

And finally, I also took in a musical this month:
This was my second time seeing The Book of Mormon and it was just as good as the first! You can read my original review from 3 years ago if you want to know my thoughts on the musical in more detail, but suffice it to say, it's the most outrageously funny show I've ever seen. You know you've had a good time when you've laughed so much that your face hurts afterwards!

Blog Posts in September:

The Bookish Seven Deadly Sins Tag
Waiting On Wednesday: Macmillan Fall 2014 Catalog
Waiting On Wednesday: Simon & Schuster Fall 2014 Catalog
Waiting On Wednesday: HarperCollins Winter 2015 Catalog
Review: Ruin and Rising (The Grisha #3) by Leigh Bardugo - 4.5 Stars
Review: Salt & Storm by Kendall Kulper - 2.5 Stars
My Life in August: Medieval Times, Niagara Falls, and Moving Time

Best Book Read in September:

This should really read "ONLY Book Read in September" because as I mentioned, I have not had a lot of time to get my reading on lately. But there's a good chance Ruin and Rising would have been my favourite anyways because I thought it was a pretty great conclusion. Not AMAZING, but I was altogether satisfied with how the story ended and where the characters ended up.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Waiting On Wednesday: HarperCollins Winter 2015 Catalog

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill of Breaking The Spine in which upcoming, eagerly anticipated releases are highlighted on the blog.

This week, I've chosen to feature a few picks from the HarperCollins Winter 2015 Catalog:

Monstrous by MarcyKate Connolly
Date: February 10, 2015
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The city of Bryre suffers under the magic of an evil wizard. Because of his curse, girls sicken and disappear without a trace, and Bryre’s inhabitants live in fear. No one is allowed outside after dark. 
Yet night is the only time that Kymera can enter this dangerous city, for she must not be seen by humans. Her father says they would not understand her wings, the bolts in her neck, or her spiky tail—they would kill her. They would not understand that she was created for a purpose: to rescue the girls of Bryre. 
Despite her caution, a boy named Ren sees Kym and begins to leave a perfect red rose for her every evening. As they become friends, Kym learns that Ren knows about the missing girls, the wizard, and the evil magic that haunts Bryre.
And what he knows will change Kym’s life. 

I can never resist a Middle Grade book with a cute illustrated cover! Especially when it has dark undertones and reads a bit more mature than MG normally does. Monstrous is definitely MY kind of read!

A Wicked Thing by Rhiannon Thomas
Date: February 24, 2015
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One hundred years after falling asleep, Princess Aurora wakes up to the kiss of a handsome prince and a broken kingdom that has been dreaming of her return. All the books say that she should be living happily ever after. But as Aurora understands all too well, the truth is nothing like the fairy tale. 
Her family is long dead. Her "true love" is a kind stranger. And her whole life has been planned out by political foes while she slept. 
As Aurora struggles to make sense of her new world, she begins to fear that the curse has left its mark on her, a fiery and dangerous thing that might be as wicked as the witch who once ensnared her. With her wedding day drawing near, Aurora must make the ultimate decision on how to save her kingdom: marry the prince or run. 

A Wicked Thing takes up after the classic story of Sleeping Beauty ends - and it ain't a happily ever after like we thought. I love this idea! I mean, because waking up to find that your family is long dead and your supposed "true love" is a stranger isn't exactly my idea of a happily ever after. Definitely intrigued!

Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver
Date: March 3, 2015
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New York Times bestselling author Lauren Oliver delivers a gripping story about two sisters inexorably altered by a terrible accident. 
Dara and Nick used to be inseparable, but that was before the accident that left Dara's beautiful face scarred and the two sisters totally estranged. When Dara vanishes on her birthday, Nick thinks Dara is just playing around. But another girl, nine-year-old Madeline Snow, has vanished, too, and Nick becomes increasingly convinced that the two disappearances are linked. Now Nick has to find her sister, before it's too late. 
In this edgy and compelling novel, Lauren Oliver creates a world of intrigue, loss, and suspicion as two sisters search to find themselves, and each other.

Wooo, new Lauren Oliver! Thank goodness that Lauren is such a prolific writer because that means we get new books from her, filled with her gorgeous prose, pretty regularly. Can't wait for Vanishing Girls!

The Orphan Queen by Jodi Meadows
Date: March 10, 2015
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Wilhelmina has a hundred identities. 
She is a princess. When the Indigo Kingdom conquered her homeland, Wilhelmina and other orphaned children of nobility were taken to Skyvale, the Indigo Kingdom’s capital. Ten years later, they are the Ospreys, experts at stealth and theft. With them, Wilhelmina means to take back her throne. 
She is a spy. Wil and her best friend, Melanie, infiltrate Skyvale Palace to study their foes. They assume the identities of nobles from a wraith-fallen kingdom, but enemies fill the palace, and Melanie’s behavior grows suspicious. With Osprey missions becoming increasingly dangerous and their leader more unstable, Wil can’t trust anyone. 
She is a threat. Wraith is the toxic by-product of magic, and for a century using magic has been forbidden. Still the wraith pours across the continent, reshaping the land and animals into fresh horrors. Soon it will reach the Indigo Kingdom. Wilhelmina’s magic might be the key to stopping the wraith, but if the vigilante Black Knife discovers Wil’s magic, she will vanish like all the others. 

High fantasy + magic + espionage?! Count me IN! I'm SUPER intrigued and excited after reading this cool premise for The Orphan Queen!

How about you? Are you waiting on any of these HarperCollins Winter 2015 reads? Are there any upcoming books from the HarperCollins Winter 2015 Catalog that I didn't include here that you feel I should add to my list?

Monday, September 22, 2014

Review: Salt & Storm by Kendall Kulper

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Published: September 23, 2014
Pages: 416
Source: For Review from Hachette Book Group Canada
Rating: 2.5 Stars

Sixteen-year-old Avery Roe wants only to take her rightful place as the witch of Prince Island, making the charms that keep the island's whalers safe at sea, but her mother has forced her into a magic-free world of proper manners and respectability. When Avery dreams she's to be murdered, she knows time is running out to unlock her magic and save herself.

Avery finds an unexpected ally in a tattooed harpoon boy named Tane--a sailor with magic of his own, who moves Avery in ways she never expected. Becoming a witch might stop her murder and save her island from ruin, but Avery discovers her magic requires a sacrifice she never prepared for.

In short: Salt & Storm by Kendall Kulper had a cool and unique concept, but frustrating characters and slow pacing hindered my overall enjoyment.
Salt & Storm called to me the moment I heard of it. How could I resist a book that combines historical fiction and magic? I can't. And while the end product wasn't nearly as satisfying as I had hoped - in fact it was downright frustrating at times - I was at least impressed with the concept and lore developed in Salt & Storm. It's a cool idea certainly, and I love that it was based in history, but there were a few major aspects in Salt & Storm that hindered my overall enjoyment.

Protagonist Avery was probably my main source of frustration in Salt & Storm. She's been given a bad lot in life, definitely, so I would excuse some anger on her part, but this girl frequently flies into these bizarre fits and rages at the drop of a hat. She's also extraordinarily selfish at times, concerned only with wrongs done unto her, and never thinking of the hurt she causes others in turn with her fits of melodrama.

Somehow there's this guy - Tane - who sees through her rages and likes her, and they quickly - and I mean QUICKLY - declare their love for each other. There were a few times that I found their romance sweet, but for the most part it annoyed me. Their hokey professions and their whip-lash arguments were the stuff of soap operas, not a genuine romance that I could root for. I could not take them seriously and so I did not care what became of them and their romance.

Initially the writing drew me in and immersed me in the atmosphere of this small whaling island so beautifully. But at some point I began to fall out of love with it - the prose is descriptive and the sentences are lengthy, sometimes weighing the pacing down, making the reading tedious and uninteresting. And when the pacing is slow and the characters are unlikeable, the story DRAGS and is a chore to get through.

If it weren't for the frustrating characters and slow pacing, I would have totally dug Salt & Storm though. I did really love the concept behind it and I loved the historical backdrop too. It was just such a fresh idea to me and I really appreciated that because I don't get to read books with unique ideas often. I also really admired the fact that debut author Kendall Kulper decided to GO THERE with the ending and that she's left this as a standalone. So all in all, I'm 50/50 in my rating for Salt & Storm.

Other Reviews:
Late Nights With Good Books
Maji Bookshelf
Supernatural Snark

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