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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

Author Links:

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Waiting On Wednesday: Simon & Schuster Fall 2014 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 Simon & Schuster Fall 2014 Catalog:

Winterspell by Claire Legrand
Date: September 30, 2014
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New York City, 1899. Clara Stole, the mayor's ever-proper daughter, leads a double life. Since her mother's murder, she has secretly trained in self-defense with the mysterious Drosselmeyer.
Then, on Christmas Eve, disaster strikes.
Her home is destroyed, her father abducted--by beings distinctly nothuman. To find him, Clara journeys to the war-ravaged land of Cane. Her only companion is the dethroned prince Nicholas, bound by a wicked curse. If they're to survive, Clara has no choice but to trust him, but his haunted eyes burn with secrets--and a need she can't define. With the dangerous, seductive faery queen Anise hunting them, Clara soon realizes she won't leave Cane unscathed--if she leaves at all.

The Nutcracker retelling - OMG!! I used to go see The Nutcracker ballet every Christmas growing up and I absolutely loved it. So to have a book inspired by the story of The Nutcracker?! I can't imagine the feeling of nostalgia it will inspire in me! Can't wait for Winterspell!

Black Ice by Becca Fitzpatrick
Date: October 7, 2014
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Sometimes danger is hard to see... until it’s too late.
Britt Pfeiffer has trained to backpack the Teton Range, but she isn't prepared when her ex-boyfriend, who still haunts her every thought, wants to join her. Before Britt can explore her feelings for Calvin, an unexpected blizzard forces her to seek shelter in a remote cabin, accepting the hospitality of its two very handsome occupants—but these men are fugitives, and they take her hostage.
In exchange for her life, Britt agrees to guide the men off the mountain. As they set off, Britt knows she must stay alive long enough for Calvin to find her. The task is made even more complicated when Britt finds chilling evidence of a series of murders that have taken place there... and in uncovering this, she may become the killer’s next target.
But nothing is as it seems in the mountains, and everyone is keeping secrets, including Mason, one of her kidnappers. His kindness is confusing Britt. Is he an enemy? Or an ally? 

I never really got into Becca Fitzpatrick's Hush, Hush Series, but I remember thinking the story was fun in that easy, addictive kind of way. I'm hoping the same can be said for Black Ice - it certainly sounds like an exciting thriller!

Sublime by Christina Lauren
Date: October 14, 2014
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When Lucy walks out of a frozen forest, wearing only a silk dress and sandals, she isn’t sure how she got there. But when she sees Colin, she knows for sure that she’s here for him.

Colin has never been captivated by a girl the way he is by Lucy. With each passing day their lives intertwine, and even as Lucy begins to remember more of her life—and her death—neither of them is willing to give up what they have, no matter how impossible it is. And when Colin finds a way to physically be with Lucy, taking himself to the brink of death where his reality and Lucy’s overlap, the joy of being together for those brief stolen moments drowns out everything in the outside world. But some lines weren’t meant to be crossed…

Sublime sounds pretty romance-heavy, which I'm not usually a huge fan of, but I have to say that I am super intrigued by the premise and the cover here. Seems like ghostly love stories never end well, but I'm still pretty curious to see how this couple will work things out.

The Retribution of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin
Date: November 4, 2014
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Mara Dyer wants to believe there's more to the lies she’s been told.
There is.

She doesn’t stop to think about where her quest for the truth might lead.
She should.

She never had to imagine how far she would go for vengeance.
She will now.

Loyalties are betrayed, guilt and innocence tangle, and fate and chance collide in this shocking conclusion to Mara Dyer’s story.
Retribution has arrived.

And Mara Dyer is finally back for the final instalment of her exceptionally trippy psychological mindf*ck of a story. It's always fun getting caught up in her strange and confusing mind, so I'm looking forward to The Retribution of Mara Dyer!

How about you? Are you waiting on any of these Simon & Schuster Fall 2014 reads? Are there any upcoming books from the Simon & Schuster Fall 2014 Catalog that I didn't include here that you feel I should add to my list?

Monday, September 15, 2014

Review: Ruin and Rising (The Grisha #3) by Leigh Bardugo

Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Published: June 17, 2014
Pages: 417
Source: Bought
Rating: 4.5 Stars

The capital has fallen.
The Darkling rules Ravka from his shadow throne.
Now the nation's fate rests with a broken Sun Summoner, a disgraced tracker, and the shattered remnants of a once-great magical army.
Deep in an ancient network of tunnels and caverns, a weakened Alina must submit to the dubious protection of the Apparat and the zealots who worship her as a Saint. Yet her plans lie elsewhere, with the hunt for the elusive firebird and the hope that an outlaw prince still survives.
Alina will have to forge new alliances and put aside old rivalries as she and Mal race to find the last of Morozova's amplifiers. But as she begins to unravel the Darkling's secrets, she reveals a past that will forever alter her understanding of the bond they share and the power she wields. The firebird is the one thing that stands between Ravka and destruction—and claiming it could cost Alina the very future she’s fighting for.

This review is spoiler free

In short: Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo is a largely satisfying finale worthy of the series we all love.
And so yet another beloved series of mine comes to an end. It's always hard to say goodbye to a favourite series once you've come to respect and/or love the characters and enjoyed spending time in the beautifully developed fantasy world (although in this case, it seems as though we don't have to say goodbye to this world just yet - Leigh Bardugo is planning another series set in the same universe!). But thankfully the goodbye process is a bit easier when the finale delivers an ending worthy of the series you love - which Ruin and Rising largely did.

Siege and Storm left off in dire straits so it came as no surprise that Ruin and Rising was at times a very broody, dark read. Thankfully, Leigh Bardugo is an expert at weaving in humour even in the darkest of times, alleviating gloom and creating great character moments all at once. Speaking of characters, all of our previous favourites are back, and others that weren't previously favourites surprised me with their charming personalities in Ruin and Rising. The hero's journey is often a lonely one, so it was so nice to have a large cast of characters behind Alina, supporting her cause at every step and playing a critical part in protecting Ravka.

The story is well paced and yet still allows for some important character histories that we have been waiting on, and these backstories finally bring the story together. As for the finale - it was good though not quite as grand and breathtaking as I was hoping it would be, especially because the set-up to the final battle was lengthy. But overall I was pleased with how the story was wrapped up and where the characters ended up - those that survived anyway. I'm sad to see The Grisha Trilogy come to an end, but the ending felt right for the story and for the characters, and I'm sure before we know it we'll have the new Grisha spin-off series from Leigh Bardugo in our greedy little hands.

Previously, my reviews of Shadow and Bone and Siege and Storm.

Other Reviews:
Alice Marvels
Courtney Reads A Lot
The Daily Prophecy

Author Links: