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Thursday, August 28, 2014

My Life in August: Medieval Times, Niagara Falls, and Moving Time

August started off with my birthday and I was lucky enough to have my mum and auntie come visit me in Toronto for the long weekend. We did a lot of tourist-y activities that I haven't had a chance to do yet since moving here so that was a lot of fun. For my birthday dinner, we went to Medieval Times, the super fun (and super cheesy) jousting show:
Unfortunately, I was quite sick on my birthday, but I still managed to enjoy myself at the show. The horses were gorgeous and the knights were entertaining. I was also really impressed with the staff (or as they call themselves, serving wenches). Even while I was vomiting copiously all over the floor (there were too many people in the way to make it to the bathroom in time), they never once broke character! They were all like, "Are you alright, my Lady?" and "Do you need another napkin, my fair Lady?" LOL! So yeah, it sucked that I was horribly sick in public, but I had to appreciate that at least. And I swear I really did have a good time for the majority of it!

I also got the chance to go see Niagara Falls for the first time!! And oh my goodness, it's definitely a sight to see! I was able to see the falls from all angles - from far away, from underneath, and from the base:
The whole affair is hugely tourist-y, naturally. There were a ton of people and money grabs, but that's what I would expect. I'm not sure I would ever feel the need to go back, but I am so glad I went and saw everything at least once!

And after that initial excitement over the long weekend, the rest of August was fairly low key. I have been getting everything ready for my move and that is the reason why I'm posting my monthly recap a bit early this month. This weekend is when it will all go down and, although I absolutely abhor the chore of moving, I can't wait to get out of this apartment! And hopefully this will be the end of my landlord issues... we shall see. I likely won't be around much for the first week of September while I get everything settled so expect a short blog hiatus in the meantime. Talk soon!

Blog Posts in August:

Waiting On Wednesday: Hachette Fall 2014 Catalog
Waiting On Wednesday: Penguin Fall 2014 Catalog
Top Ten Contemporaries That Sara Tells Me I MUST Read
Muggle Monday: The Complete Set of New Bloomsbury Harry Potter Cover Redesigns
Muggle Monday: New Tidbits Revealed About The Redesigned UK Harry Potter Editions
Review: The Giver by Lois Lowry - 5 Stars
Review: Veronica Mars - The Thousand Dollar Tan Line by Rob Thomas - 4 Stars
Review: If I Stay and Where She Went by Gayle Forman - 4 Stars
My Life in July: Moving Plans, Anne Obsession, and a Birthday Giveaway

Best Book Read in August:

This month I FINALLY read The Giver and I was able to see for myself why this special book is considered a classic. It was so much more thoughtful and profound than the dystopians of today. I'm not holding out much hope for the movie adaptation though. I will still watch it because I'm curious, but I think I'll wait until it's out on DVD.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Muggle Monday: New Tidbits Revealed About The Redesigned UK Harry Potter Editions

It's time for Muggle Monday, in which I highlight a significant piece of news from the Harry Potter franchise. This is somewhat inspired by the Mundane Monday posts by The Mundie Moms.

But let's be real as to why I made up this feature: I just want the opportunity to post something about Harry Potter.

This week, thanks to the French Harry Potter fan site La Gazette du Sorcier, new tidbits about the newly redesigned Bloomsbury Harry Potter Series have been revealed, including the spine designs, the back cover designs, some extra Pottermore factoids, a J.K. Rowling biography, and a map of the Hogwarts grounds!:

Colourful spines
Back covers for Philosopher's Stone, Chamber of Secrets, and Prisoner of Azkaban
Back covers for Goblet of Fire and Order of the Phoenix
Back covers for Half-Blood Prince and Deathly Hallows

Pottermore factoids - Click to embiggen!

J.K. Rowling biography - Click to embiggen!

And finally, the map of the Hogwarts grounds!

Okay, so I know I already said that I couldn't possibly justify purchasing more copies of the Harry Potter Series, but these versions with all their special features are definitely testing my will!! ESPECIALLY that map. I LOVE maps in books and I think including a map of the Hogwarts grounds is a great idea! I love how colourful the book spines are and the back cover images are pretty cute (though I think the back covers of the new US Editions absolutely WIN in this case because they're gorgeous). I also love the idea of including Jo's bio and little factoids about the Wizarding World from Pottermore (though I'm less keen that it comes across more as an advertisement to visit Pottermore.com). So yes, all in all these new UK Harry Potter Editions are pretty cool, I think! Still doesn't change the fact that I can't afford them though because they are CRAZY expensive as you can see from the price stickers on the books. But if Bloomsbury ever wanted to release a poster of the Hogwarts Grounds Map, I'd be all for that, just saying!! A huge Mercy Beaucoup goes out to La Gazette du Sorcier for taking these photos!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Review: If I Stay and Where She Went by Gayle Forman

Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
Published: January 1, 2009/April 1, 2011
Pages: 201/264
Source: Gifted
Rating: 4 Stars

Synopsis for If I Stay:

Choices. Seventeen-year-old Mia is faced with some tough ones: Stay true to her first love—music—even if it means losing her boyfriend and leaving her family and friends behind?

Then one February morning Mia goes for a drive with her family, and in an instant, everything changes. Suddenly, all the choices are gone, except one. And it's the only one that matters.

In short: If I Stay and Where She Went are beautifully poignant reads with many great character building moments thanks to Gayle Forman's expert handling of emotionally intense situations.
Due to the imminent movie adaptation release, If I Stay and its sequel Where She Went by Gayle Forman were bumped up my insanely long TBR list, though they have both been on my radar for many years now after receiving a ton of praise in the book blogging community. Now I'm sure you all know by now that contemporary isn't usually my thing, but I have been known to enjoy books in the genre from time to time and thankfully this was the case with this Gayle Forman duology.

Of course, "enjoy" may not be the right word choice for a book that ripped your guts out. Perhaps "appreciate" is more apt. If I Stay tells the story of Mia, whom, after a critical car accident with her family, ends up in a coma with a choice. Either she can stay in a world where she's lost nearly everything or she can go to the next great beyond. Where She Went then tells Mia's boyfriend Adam's side of the story in the aftermath of Mia's decision. Neither book deals with easy subject matters, but in both the emotional repercussions are dealt with remarkably well. The drama is genuine, not forced, and I absolutely appreciated Gayle Forman's expert handling of tough situations and questions.

There is not much in the way of plot in either If I Stay or Where She Went as the bulk of the story line in both novels takes place in the form of flashbacks. In this case, the plot is the sacrifice paid for the many excellent character building moments spread throughout. We barely see Mia's family before the accident and yet Gayle Forman is somehow able to forge not only a believable bond between family members, but also a connection between the family and the reader, making the read that much more poignant. I felt like I knew what made these characters tick and yet they weren't entirely predictable either. They were complex and real and absolutely my favourite thing about Gayle Forman's writing.

My second favourite thing about Gayle Forman's writing is her clear appreciation and understanding of music and the effect that it has on people. Music plays a huge part in the If I Stay duology as both the driving force behind Mia and Adam's connection and their division. It occurs to me that I don't get to read many books in which music is such a key component and I would like to do so more often because I really loved that. I think the music and poignancy and thoughtful questions behind If I Stay have the potential to make a truly beautiful movie, but the jury's still out on whether it will play out as I hope. I really hope the movie doesn't disappoint!

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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Top Ten Contemporary Books That Sara Tells Me I MUST Read

For this week's Top Ten Tuesday, I'm teaming up with one of my blog besties, Sara of Just Another Story, whom I have known since almost the beginning of my blog. She's one of my faves even though we very rarely read the same kinds of books. She's more of a realistic contemporary girl, whereas I'm more of a speculative fiction girl. But because we're both into challenging ourselves to go outside our comfort zones - and because I trust Sara's recommendations completely as she is basically my Contemporary Guru - she is here to tell me what contemporary books I MUST read, while I will be telling Sara what fantasy books she needs to read over on her blog. The plan is that this challenge of ours will hopefully play out over the coming months while participating in Epic Reads.

So without further ado, here are the Top Ten Contemporary Books That Sara Tells Me I MUST Read! Take it away, Sara!

1. Crash Into You by Katie McGarry - It was either this one or Pushing the Limits. I am trying to get Aylee to read both. However, Crash Into You is my favourite of the bunch and it is a little bit lighter than its predecessor. Pushing the Limits deals with heavier themes.

2. My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick - This will come as no surprise because this is one of my top five contemporaries. It is just SO good. The characters are brilliant, the banter is fantastic, and it has some really great family dynamics.

3. This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales - This is a really great story about a girl who really discovers herself. It's completely unique (I think). And I think Aylee will appreciate this one.

4. Just One Day by Gayle Forman - Seeing as Aylee has recently finished If I Stay and seemed to enjoy it (Aylee's note: It's true! My review will go up soon), I was eager to add this one to the list. This one is also a story of self discovery, but in a good way. It's not an easy journey for readers, but Forman is an incredible story teller. And come on... Paris.

5. The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp - This is an interesting story. The characters aren't very likeable. I am not sure I liked them at all. But, there is something about this one. This one has been compared to The Perks of Being a Wallflower. I sort of see it, but not really.

6. The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han - I love this book. It's special to me. Another one that is easily in my top five contemporaries. It's not a complicated story, and maybe a little immature. But it's pleasant all the same. A super quick summer read.

7. My Life After Now by Jessica Verdi - This is a heavy one. But it's well worth the read. I was completely moved by this one. And I think it's WAY underrated.

8. Something Like Normal by Trish Dollar - Another one that is a bit on the heavy side. Not too bad though. It's one of the better contemporaries out there.

9) Dreamland by Sarah Dessen - This one is heavy. But it's SO good. It's so unlike anything by Sarah Dessen and it touches on some very sensitive topics. But I love how it was done, and how realistic it was. So worth the read. (Aylee's note: This will be my FIRST Sarah Dessen read!!).

10. Jelllicoe Road by Melina Marchetta - I have been TRYING to get Aylee to read this book for YEARS!! Haha. This is one of my most favourite novels, and I want her to read this one SO badly. I think it's the book I have been urging her to read the most. Someday. (Aylee's note: Eep! I know, I've been a bit nervous about reading this one because of all the hype and because I know it will be a challenging read. But I think my body is finally ready!!).

Honourable mention: The Silver Lining's Playbook by Matthew Quick - This book is brilliant! So much better than the movie (and I loved the movie).

Friday, August 15, 2014

Review: Veronica Mars - The Thousand Dollar Tan Line by Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Published: March 25, 2014
Pages: 336
Source: Borrowed
Rating: 4 Stars

The first book in an original mystery series featuring twenty-eight-year-old Veronica Mars, back in action after the events of Veronica Mars: The Movie. With the help of old friends—Logan Echolls, Mac Mackenzie, Wallace Fennel, and even Dick Casablancas—Veronica is ready to take on Neptune’s darkest cases with her trademark sass and smarts.

In short: The Thousand Dollar Tan Line stays true to the spirit of the original TV series and is a must read for fans of Veronica Mars.
I, along with all the other Marshmallows, was devastated when the TV show Veronica Mars was cancelled years ago. Clearly TV execs don't know a good quality show when they have it if they would prefer to run mindless teen dramas with little to no value on their station. BUT I DIGRESS. The important thing is that we live in a time in which the cancellation of a TV show does not necessarily equal the end of a beloved character and thankfully Veronica Mars was brought back to life in movie form through crowdfunding supporters. Next in line is this book series written in part by show creater Rob Thomas and soon there will be a webseries as well.

And thankfully, both the movie and this first book in a planned series, The Thousand Dollar Tan Line, have stayed remarkably true to the spirit of the original TV series. The whole gang is back, the mysteries are well plotted and surprising, and the snarky dialogue and clever one liners have returned in full force. I'm not sure the book brings quite the same level of engagement that I felt for the TV series, but it's pretty damn good and if it means we get more Veronica then I will absolutely take it.

Of course it helps that I listened to the audiobook version of The Thousand Dollar Tan Line, as narrated by Veronica herself, Kristen Bell. I certainly can't imagine anyone else doing the audio for this one and doing it justice. It just wouldn't be the same! Listening to Kristen Bell narrating the story is just like listening to her narrating an extra episode. Furthermore, I thought she did a remarkable job with the other characters' voices. Clearly, audiobook is the way to go with this one!

As much as I love me some LoVe, I was actually glad that the romance took a back seat in The Thousand Dollar Tan Line as Logan is out of the picture for most of the novel. This allowed the story to go back to its origins about a snarky girl detective who is independent and clever, but also hugely compassionate. If you are a Veronica Mars fan, then The Thousand Dollar Tan Line is not to be missed! And if you are NOT a Veronica Mars fan... then what are you doing with your life?! Jokes, jokes. But seriously, I can't recommend the original series enough (or the first two seasons anyway...) so definitely get on it!

Other Reviews:
Ex Libris
Late Nights With Good Books
The Nocturnal Library

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