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Thursday, July 30, 2015

July Recap: The Long Overdue Harry Potter Reread

July was a very quiet month for me, mainly owing to the fact that the bf was away doing field work on the other side of the country, leaving me to spend most of my time on my own. It was thus a bit of a lonely month for me, but it was thankfully made a bit more endurable by my reread of the Harry Potter Series:

This was the first time I've reread the series in its entirety since before I started blogging! In other words, I was WAY overdue for this reread. July seemed like the ideal month to delve back into the series as it is Harry and Jo's birthday month and it coincides with the Harry Potter Month event. I would really love to make this series reread an annual event itself in my reading schedule because I was basically LIVING for HP for significant portions of this month. Of course my love for Harry has never wavered in the time since I last reread the series, but it felt more amazing than I could possibly say to be able to reacquaint myself with this world I adore so much and would die to see for myself, these characters whom I love to the moon and back, and those words that had such an positive impact on my reading habits when I first read them and continue to do so to this very day.

Yes, this reread of the HP series somehow solidified my love for all things Harry Potter even more... and also really brought into sharper focus for me how lacklustre the movie adaptations are in comparison. Of course I've always been of the opinion that the books are superior, but rereading them back to back in conjunction with watching the movies really showed all the many, many failings of the movies in comparison to the books. I won't go into detail on this topic here as that could be a post on its own, but I will just say that in the end I think I could still objectively view the movies in a somewhat positive light... but ultimately they will never even be in the same realm of the boundless love I feel for the books.

In other news, I have been extremely fortunate to have been appointed a job for the fall semester that will involve much more responsibility and many more hours work than any other teaching job I've had at the university thus far. As a result, I'm thinking I will not be around in the blogosphere as much for the month of August as I prepare for this, the highest ranking position I've had in my lifetime (oh, and there's also that 200-page-long thesis that I've been writing and hoping to finish soon...). I'll have to see how it goes!

Blog Posts in July

Drowning In Series
Waiting On Wednesday: HarperCollins Fall 2015 Catalog
Waiting On Wednesday: Hachette Fall 2015 Catalog
Review: Fairest (The Lunar Chronicles #3.5) by Marissa Meyer - 3.5 Stars
Review: Hold Me Closer: The Tiny Cooper Story by David Levithan - 3.5 Stars
Review: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell - 4 Stars
Series Review: Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead - 3 Stars
My Life in June: Mad Max, Jurassic World, and Serial Podcast

Best Book Read in July

First off, let's just pretend I didn't reread the Harry Potter Series this month. The following was my favourite read of the month OUTSIDE of HP:

This Song Will Save Your Life really resonated with me so deeply that it was both uncomfortable and supremely meaningful. I just really connected with the main character, her life struggles, and her earnest perspective. There were times that the story became so depressing that it was hard to read... but the uplifting ending made the experience totally worth it. Highly recommended.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Review: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Published: January 1, 2012
Pages: 336
Source: Bought
Rating: 4 Stars

Two misfits.
One extraordinary love.
Eleanor... Red hair, wrong clothes. Standing behind him until he turns his head. Lying beside him until he wakes up. Making everyone else seem drabber and flatter and never good enough...Eleanor.
Park... He knows she'll love a song before he plays it for her. He laughs at her jokes before she ever gets to the punch line. There's a place on his chest, just below his throat, that makes her want to keep promises...Park.
Set over the course of one school year, this is the story of two star-crossed sixteen-year-olds—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try.

In short: Eleanor & Park is unlike any YA Contemporary Romance out there and it is that, combined with Rainbow Rowell's talent at crafting genuine characters who experience earnest love, which makes it so special.
Eleanor & Park is not the kind of book I think of when I think of YA Contemporary Romance. And that's absolutely a good thing. Neither Eleanor nor Park are described as being model- or movie-star-good-looking as are most star-crossed lovers of YA fiction. There's nothing remotely exceptional about them, actually. And their relationship isn't punctured with the over-dramatic cliched conflicts or the nonsensical hurdles that pepper the contemporary romance genre. Eleanor & Park is an unabashedly real, uncliched tale of love between two average people and it is that which makes it so remarkable.

Admittedly, I wasn't immediately swept up in their relationship. There was a bit of a disconnect for me between the moment when Eleanor and Park were impassive towards each other on the bus and the moment when they were sweetly holding hands with each other on the bus. But thankfully Rainbow Rowell soon convinced me that theirs was a love so earnest that it was worth cherishing. Rainbow is also a master crafter of genuine characters and thus it was not long until both Eleanor and Park seemed as real to me as actual people, both endowed with plenty of teenage angst, but both sincere and very dear to me.

Eleanor & Park is unlike any YA Contemporary Romance out there and it is this uniqueness in the genre, combined with Rainbow Rowell's talent at crafting genuine characters who experience earnest love, that makes it such a stand-out and special read. Eleanor & Park is only the second book by Rainbow Rowell I have read and, though I didn't love it as much as Fangirl, my special experience with it has solidified my love for all things Rainbow. I can't wait to follow up this experience with her adult books!

Other Reviews:
Alison Can Read
Books in the Spotlight
A Girl, Books and Other Things

Author Links:

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Waiting On Wednesday: Hachette Fall 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 Hachette Fall 2015 Catalog:

Career of Evil (Cormoran Strike #3) by Robert Galbraith
Date: October 20, 2015
Add to Goodreads

When a mysterious package is delivered to Robin Ellacott, she is horrified to discover that it contains a woman’s severed leg.
Her boss, private detective Cormoran Strike, is less surprised but no less alarmed. There are four people from his past who he thinks could be responsible – and Strike knows that any one of them is capable of sustained and unspeakable brutality.
With the police focusing on the one suspect Strike is increasingly sure is not the perpetrator, he and Robin take matters into their own hands, and delve into the dark and twisted worlds of the other three men. But as more horrendous acts occur, time is running out for the two of them…
Career of Evil is the third in the highly acclaimed series featuring private detective Cormoran Strike and his assistant Robin Ellacott. A fiendishly clever mystery with unexpected twists around every corner, it is also a gripping story of a man and a woman at a crossroads in their personal and professional lives.
Cormoran Strike is back, with his assistant Robin Ellacott, in a mystery based around soldiers returning from war.

New Cormoran Strike coming our way from Queen Jo!! I'm SO excited for Career of Evil because the first two mysteries in the Cormoran Strike Series were fantastic. Plus, I'm really curious where Cormoran and Robin's story will go next!

Wolf By Wolf by Ryan Graudin
Date: October 20, 2015
Add to Goodreads

The year is 1956, and the Axis powers of the Third Reich and Imperial Japan rule the world. To commemorate their Great Victory over Britain and Russia, Hitler and Emperor Hirohito host the Axis Tour: an annual motorcycle race across their conjoined continents. The victor is awarded an audience with the highly reclusive Adolf Hitler at the Victor's ball.
Yael, who escaped from a death camp, has one goal: Win the race and kill Hitler. A survivor of painful human experimentation, Yael has the power to skinshift and must complete her mission by impersonating last year's only female victor, Adele Wolfe. This deception becomes more difficult when Felix, Adele twin's brother, and Luka, her former love interest, enter the race and watch Yael's every move. But as Yael begins to get closer to the other competitors, can she bring herself to be as ruthless as she needs to be to avoid discovery and complete her mission?

An alternate universe in which the Axis won World War II instead of the Allies? Colour me intrigued. Wolf By Wolf has been getting some great buzz and has been compared to Code Name Verity and Inglourious Basterds (two of my faves) so I'm definitely looking forward to this one!

Manners & Mutiny (Finishing School #4) by Gail Carriger
Date: November 3, 2015
Add to Goodreads

When a dastardly Pickleman plot comes to fruition, only Sophronia can save her friends, her school, and all of London...but at what cost? Our proper young heroine puts her training and skills to the test in this highly anticipated conclusion of the rousing, intriguing, and always polished New York Times bestselling Finishing School series!

That's a very short synopsis for Manners & Mutiny - maybe the publisher doesn't want to reveal too much about the finale to the beloved Finishing School Series? Whatever the reason, I'm looking forward to getting back to Sophronia and the gang for one last round of espionage!

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

Monday, July 20, 2015

Series Review: Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead

Publisher: Razorbill
Published: 2007-2010
Pages: 2,692
Source: Gifted
Rating: 3 Stars

Synopsis for Vampire Academy, Book 1:
Lissa Dragomir is a Moroi princess: a mortal vampire with a rare gift for harnessing the earth's magic. She must be protected at all times from Strigoi; the fiercest vampires - the ones who never die. The powerful blend of human and vampire blood that flows through Rose Hathaway, Lissa's best friend, makes her a dhampir. Rose is dedicated to a dangerous life of protecting Lissa from the Strigoi, who are hell-bent on making Lissa one of them.
After two years of freedom, Rose and Lissa are caught and dragged back to St. Vladimir's Academy, a school for vampire royalty and their guardians-to-be, hidden in the deep forests of Montana. But inside the iron gates, life is even more fraught with danger... and the Strigoi are always close by.
Rose and Lissa must navigate their dangerous world, confront the temptations of forbidden love, and never once let their guard down, lest the evil undead make Lissa one of them forever...

In short: The Vampire Academy Series by Richelle Mead was an easy and entertaining read, though I would have preferred it to be much higher stakes (no pun intended).
Despite not loving the first Vampire Academy book when I read it two years ago, there was a definite addicting feeling to the story and the promise of more exciting plot-wise action to come, and so I kept reading and have now finished the entire series two years later. I had been hopefully expecting the subsequent books in the series to move away from the largely trivial plot of the first book and delve into a deeper, higher stakes storyline for the rest of the series. And thankfully, it does. Though not to the extent that I had hoped.

I guess what I expect from long over-reaching speculative fiction series like this one, is an epic high stakes plot in which the safety and lives of many are threatened and the hero/heroine has to find a way to vanquish the bad guy despite bad odds. Instead, what I got with the Vampire Academy Series was conflicts that revolve around a very small community of people involving royal vampires and their guardians. The conflicts always seemed so minor to hinge an entire six-book series on and a lot of the time I found myself wondering, "And I should care about this why?"

Thankfully, Richelle Mead did manage to make me care enough about the characters for me to care about where the story was going, at least somewhat. The major conflict of the series revolved around the fate of Rose and Dimitri's relationship and though I much prefer non-romance-centric plots, I did like these characters enough to feel invested in their romance. I do think that perhaps this plot line could have been handled better though, as it was largely played out come the fifth book, Spirit Bound, leaving the final book, Last Sacrifice, rather anti-climactic.

I have no regrets for seeing the series through to the end, however. Overall, despite the often trivial nature of the plot and the poor execution of the storyline, the Vampire Academy Series is a pretty entertaining read. Richelle Mead's writing often comes off as very amateurish and unimpressive to me, and yet at the same time it is this simplistic writing style that makes the series so easily readable. I would have preferred a much higher stakes version of the series, like the other speculative fiction series that I love, but at least it made for an easy and entertaining read.

Author Links:

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Drowning In Series

I've been drowning in series for a long time now. I have so many series on-the-go that it's a little hard to keep track of them and remember where I'm at it the story, and I really hate feeling overwhelmed when it comes to a hobby that gives me such joy. So I have decided that I need to take control of the situation. I need to keep tabs on which series I'm in the middle of, which series I still have yet to read, and which series I need to DNF if they aren't priorities. This is inspired by Mel of The Daily Prophecy, who challenged herself to cut down on the huge number of series she was reading.

WIP Series - TOTAL: 15
I have 15 series that are currently "Work In Progress." Now, this may sound like a big number to some people, but I'm actually quite proud of myself because I've gotten it down from what was originally a hugely embarrassing number that I'd rather not share. My goal is to keep my WIP Series at fifteen series, so if I want to start a new TBR Series, I would like to finish up a series on this list first. Ideally, I could get this number down to 10 someday...

The Archived by Victoria Schwab – 1 book left
Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer – 5 books left
Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis – 6 books left
Cormoran Strike by Robert Galbraith – nth books left
Darkest Powers by Kelley Armstrong – 2 books left
Every Day by David Levithan – 1 book left
The Fifth Wave by Rick Yancey – 2 books left
Finishing School by Gail Carriger – 1 book left
His Fair Assassin by Robin LaFevers – 1 book left
The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer – 2 books left
Micah Grey by Laura Lam – 1 book left
The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani – 1 book left
Starbound by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner – 2 books left
Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas – 3 books left
Veronica Mars by Rob Thomas – nth books left

TBR Series - TOTAL: 52
So as you can see, I have a huge number of series that I would like to read someday (and I'm willing to bet you do too!). And I'm sure this list isn't even comprehensive, as I'm confident I'll be adding to it always (SO many series, SO little time!). A lot of these TBR Series have been on my TBR for a long time and I'm honestly SO excited to get to them... With that said, if ever I decide that I NEED to start one of these right away even if my number of WIP Series is too high, then I'm going to do so because ultimately I want reading to remain my favourite happy past-time.

Abhorsen by Garth Nix
The Agency by Y.S. Lee
Anna by Kendare Blake
The Ascendance by Jennifer A. Nielsen
Bartimaeus by Jonathon Stroud
A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
The Demon’s Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan
The Diviners by Libba Bray
Elemental by Brigid Kemmerer
Fairyland by Catherynne M. Valente
Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson
Flavia de Luce by Alan Bradley
Gemma Doyle by Libba Bray
Graceling Realm by Kristen Cashore
Half Life by Sally Green
Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins
Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini
Kane Chronicles by Rick Riordan
Kat, Incorrible by Stephanie Burgis
Keeper of the Lost Cities by Shannon Messenger
Killer Unicorns by Diana Peterfreund
The Kingkiller Chronicle by Patrick Rothfuss
The League of Princes by Christopher Healy
Legend by Marie Lu
Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld
Lumatere Chronicles by Melina Marchetta
The Malediction Trilogy by Danielle L. Jensen
The Mediator by Meg Cabot
Memoir by Lady Trent by Marie Brennan
Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson
Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis
Penryn & the End of Days by Susan Ee
Pivot Point by Kasie West
The Queen’s Thief by Megan Whalen Turner
The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater
Red Rising by Pierce Brown
The Remnant Chronicles by Mary E. Pearson
Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen
Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket
Sevenwaters by Juliet Marillier
Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi
Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard
Song of the Lioness by Tamora Pierce
Study by Maria V. Snyder
Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
Unearthly by Cynthia Hand
The Winner’s Trilogy by Marie Rutkoski
The Wolves of Mercy Falls by Maggie Stiefvater
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

Are there any series that I've forgotten here that you feel I MUST add to my list? Let me know!

DNF Series - TOTAL: 41
For the life of me, I absolutely cannot DNF a book if I'm in the middle of reading it, no matter how much I'm not enjoying it... The same cannot be said when it comes to series. I guess I feel like life is too short to continue on with a series I'm not enjoying when there are SO many TBR Series that I'm dying to get to! Note that the following DNF Series may not necessarily be on this list because I did not enjoy the first book; I may simply feel no need to continue on with the series despite liking the first book. Priorities!

13 To Life by Shannon Delany
The 100 by Kass Morgan
Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick
Ashes, Ashes by Jo Treggiari
Black City by Elizabeth Richards
Blackthorn and Grim by Juliet Marillier
The Blessed by Tonya Hurley
The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon
Confessions of a Murder Suspect by James Patterson
Dark Inside by Jeyn Roberts
Dark Mirror by M.J. Putney
Death Sworn by Leah Cypress
Defiance by C.J. Redwine
Dualed by Elsie Chapman
The Elemental by Sherry Thomas
The Ender Quartet by Orson Scott Card
Fury by Elizabeth Miles
The Giver by Lois Lowry
Holders by Julianna Scott
Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick
The Hybrid Chronicles by Kat Zhang
Icons by Margaret Stohl
The Lynburn Legacy by Sarah Rees Brennan
Magisterium by Cassandra Clare and Holly Black
Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin
Midnight Thief by Livia Blackburne
Mind Games by Kiersten White
Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
Order of Darkness by Philippa Gregory
Possession by Elana Johnson
Pretty Little Liars by Sara Shepard
Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry
The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
Robert Langdon by Dan Brown
Shadowfell by Juliet Marillier
Splintered by A.G. Howard
Summer by Jenny Han
The Syrena Legacy by Anna Banks
Talon by Julie Kagawa
The Wizard’s Promise by Cassandra Rose Clarke
XVI by Julia Karr

Are there any series here that you feel I should give a second chance and not DNF yet? Let me know!

Completed Series - TOTAL: 40
And to finish off with a list that makes me feel good: there are 40 book series that I have completed and I feel quite satisfied to have done so! Of course, in many cases I was sad to see them end, but in another sense I'm happy to have completed 40 series that I have enjoyed from beginning to end (in most cases... some of these series had disappointing finales).

Across the Universe by Beth Revis
Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
Ashfall by Mike Mullin
The Assassin’s Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke
Blood of Eden by Julie Kagawa
Carter Finally Gets It by Brent Crawford
Caster Chronicles by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
Chaos Walking by Patrick Ness
The Chemical Garden by Lauren DeStefano
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
Curse Workers by Holly Black
Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
Delirium by Lauren Oliver
Divergent by Veronica Roth
Dust Lands by Moira Young
For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund
The Grisha by Leigh Bardugo
Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
The Heroes of Olympus by Rick Riordan
His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
If I Stay by Gayle Forman
The Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare
Insignia by S.J. Kincaid
Just One Day by Gayle Forman
Little Brother by Cory Doctorow
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
Matched by Ally Condie
Maze Runner by James Dashner
Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin
Millennium by Stieg Larsson
The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey
The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare
Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan
River of Time by Lisa Bergren
Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
Unraveling by Elizabeth Norris
Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead
Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr

I'm feeling quite good that I have taken the steps to get organized about my series reading, made goals to cut down on the number that are WIP Series, and DNF'd series that I feel no especial need to continue. As I said, I dislike feeling overwhelmed when it comes to my most cherished past-time and making these lists is my version of coping with that. If you've ever felt like you are drowning in series too, I definitely encourage/challenge you to do the same!