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Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Waiting On Wednesday: HarperCollins Summer 2016 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 Summer 2016 Catalog:

The Thousandth Floor by Katharine McGee
Date: August 30, 2016
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New York City as you’ve never seen it before. A thousand-story tower stretching into the sky. A glittering vision of the future, where anything is possible—if you want it enough.
Welcome to Manhattan, 2118.
A hundred years in the future, New York is a city of innovation and dreams. But people never change: everyone here wants something…and everyone has something to lose.
Leda Cole’s flawless exterior belies a secret addiction—to a drug she never should have tried and a boy she never should have touched.
Eris Dodd-Radson’s beautiful, carefree life falls to pieces when a heartbreaking betrayal tears her family apart.
Rylin Myers’s job on one of the highest floors sweeps her into a world—and a romance—she never imagined…but will her new life cost Rylin her old one?
Watt Bakradi is a tech genius with a secret: he knows everything about everyone. But when he’s hired to spy by an upper-floor girl, he finds himself caught up in a complicated web of lies.
And living above everyone else on the thousandth floor is Avery Fuller, the girl genetically designed to be perfect. The girl who seems to have it all—yet is tormented by the one thing she can never have.
Debut author Katharine McGee has created a breathtakingly original series filled with high-tech luxury and futuristic glamour, where the impossible feels just within reach. But in this world, the higher you go, the farther there is to fall….

Ooh, I love the premise of this one. While the multiple characters' POVs can be a tricky thing to pull off, if it is handled well then I can see The Thousandth Floor being quite the intriguing read!

The Queen of Blood by Sarah Beth Durst
Date: September 20, 2016
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An idealistic young student and a banished warrior become allies in a battle to save their realm in this first book of a mesmerizing epic fantasy series, filled with political intrigue, violent magic, malevolent spirits, and thrilling adventure.
Everything has a spirit: the willow tree with leaves that kiss the pond, the stream that feeds the river, the wind that exhales fresh snow . . .
But the spirits that reside within this land want to rid it of all humans. One woman stands between these malevolent spirits and the end of humankind: the queen. She alone has the magical power to prevent the spirits from destroying every man, woman, and child. But queens are still just human, and no matter how strong or good, the threat of danger always looms.
With the position so precarious, young women are chosen to train as heirs. Daleina, a seemingly quiet academy student, is under no illusions as to her claim to the throne, but simply wants to right the wrongs that have befallen the land. Ven, a disgraced champion, has spent his exile secretly fighting against the growing number of spirit attacks. Joining forces, these daring partners embark on a treacherous quest to find the source of the spirits’ restlessness—a journey that will test their courage and trust, and force them to stand against both enemies and friends to save their land . . . before it’s bathed in blood.

"Political intrigue, violent magic, malevolent spirits, and thrilling adventure" - yes YES to it all! The Queen of Blood is exactly the kind of book that I tend to gravitate towards. Plus I always hear good things about Sarah Beth Durst!

Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake
Date: September 20, 2016
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In every generation on the island of Fennbirn, a set of triplets is born: three queens, all equal heirs to the crown and each possessor of a coveted magic. Mirabella is a fierce elemental, able to spark hungry flames or vicious storms at the snap of her fingers. Katharine is a poisoner, one who can ingest the deadliest poisons without so much as a stomachache. Arsinoe, a naturalist, is said to have the ability to bloom the reddest rose and control the fiercest of lions.
But becoming the Queen Crowned isn’t solely a matter of royal birth. Each sister has to fight for it. And it’s not just a game of win or lose...it’s life or death. The night the sisters turn sixteen, the battle begins.
The last queen standing gets the crown.

And here's another dark political fantasy, Three Dark Crowns, published on the same day to boot! Hey, I'm not complaining - bring on the battling queens!

How about you? Are you waiting on any of these HarperCollins Summer 2016 reads? Are there any upcoming books from the HarperCollins Summer 2016 Catalog that I didn't include here that you feel I should add to my list?

Friday, May 6, 2016

April Recap: Shadowhunters and The Raven King

April was a quiet month for me which was nice, especially because the upcoming months will be more busy than quiet as I start a full-time position at the museum. I'm definitely excited to finally be employed full time at an institution that I love, but I know I will soon be missing these lazy April weeks of watching TV and reading.

This month, I finally took the time to watch Season 1 of Shadowhunters, based off of The Mortal Instruments Series by Cassandra Clare:

While a lot of people - myself included - were disappointed with the movie adaptation of the series that was released a few years back, I remained cautiously optimistic that they would do a better job with an episodic adaptation of the series. And thankfully, my optimism was not misplaced - the acting and writing still isn't great and I'm not sure what to make of all the changes that were made from the books... But it was still definitely more watchable than the movie. And is it weird that I was still kind of into it despite all its flaws? I don't know, it's easy entertainment (all episodes were made available on Netflix in Canada) and it's addictive once you get going. I will continue watching when they do a second season. Has anyone else watched Shadowhunters? I'm curious what the consensus is from fans.

Also in April, I was presented with the final instalment of The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater in all its glory:

Even though I only read the first three books last month, the series already has a special place in my heart and I was so sad to see it come to an end already. Nevertheless, I dug right into The Raven King as soon as I had a chance. I won't be posting my thoughts or a review anytime soon because a) I'm still processing it, and b) I'm worried that even my raw reaction might spoil the book for others in some way. But feel free to DM me if you've read it too and want to discuss!

Blog Posts in April

Waiting On Wednesday: Penguin Summer 2016 Catalog
Muggle Monday: Chamber of Secrets Illustrated Edition
Muggle Monday: Fantastic Beasts Teaser Trailer Released
Muggle Monday: Career of Evil (Cormoran Strike #3) Review - 5 Stars
Series Review: Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi - 2.5 Stars
Series Review: The Raven Cycle (#1-3) by Maggie Stiefvater - 5 Stars
March Recap: Little House, Raven Cycle, and Easter Weekend

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Waiting On Wednesday: Penguin Summer 2016 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 Penguin Summer 2016 Catalog:

Thornghost by Tone Almjhell
Date: August 16, 2016
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Something strange is happening to the woods and water around Niklas Summerhill’s home: Animals are dying, Niklas’s grandmother doesn’t seem like herself, and his uncle is suddenly lost in grief over his sister, Niklas’s mother, who died seven years ago. When Niklas discovers an ancient key, he and his talking lynx companion, Secret, leave home behind to travel to a different realm. But this realm, populated by animals, is in danger as well: A tribe of evil trolls is wreaking havoc, a mysterious enemy called the Sparrow King is bringing his wrath down upon the animals, and the Rosa Toraquata, the root that connects this realm to Niklas’s own, has developed a dark twist that is infecting the land. Can Niklas and Secret save the animal realm—and their own?

I am always SUCH a sucker for any story featuring an animal companion. So when I heard about Thornghost, a story about a boy with a talking lynx companion?? YES PLEASE!!

Furthermore by Tahereh Mafi
Date: August 30, 2016
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There are only three things that matter to twelve-year-old Alice Alexis Queensmeadow: Mother, who wouldn’t miss her; magic and color, which seem to elude her; and Father, who always loved her. The day Father disappears from Ferenwood he takes nothing but a ruler with him. But it’s been almost three years since then, and Alice is determined to find him. She loves her father even more than she loves adventure, and she’s about to embark on one to find the other.
But bringing Father home is no small matter. In order to find him she’ll have to travel through the mythical, dangerous land of Furthermore, where down can be up, paper is alive, and left can be both right and very, very wrong. Her only companion is a boy named Oliver whose own magical ability is based in lies and deceit—and with a liar by her side in land where nothing is as it seems, it will take all of Alice's wits (and every limb she's got) to find Father and return home to Ferenwood in one piece. On her quest to find Father Alice must first find herself—and hold fast to the magic of love in the face of loss.

So, the Shatter Me Trilogy didn't really work for me because of all the love triangle melodrama, but I think Tahereh Mafi does have quite a talent for writing. So I'm curious about her fantasy MG debut, Furthermore, which I hope is considerably less focused on the romance aspect.

The Reader by Traci Chee
Date: September 13, 2016
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Sefia knows what it means to survive. After her father is brutally murdered, she flees into the wilderness with her aunt Nin, who teaches her to hunt, track, and steal. But when Nin is kidnapped, leaving Sefia completely alone, none of her survival skills can help her discover where Nin’s been taken, or if she’s even alive. The only clue to both her aunt’s disappearance and her father’s murder is the odd rectangular object her father left behind, an object she comes to realize is a book—a marvelous item unheard of in her otherwise illiterate society. With the help of this book, and the aid of a mysterious stranger with dark secrets of his own, Sefia sets out to rescue her aunt and find out what really happened the day her father was killed—and punish the people responsible.

I think we can all appreciate a story about a marvellous book that saves the day! Throw in some assassins and pirates and we can be sure The Reader will be an intriguing read!

How about you? Are you waiting on any of these Penguin Summer 2016 reads? Are there any upcoming books from the Penguin Summer 2016 Catalog that I didn't include here that you feel I should add to my list?

Monday, April 25, 2016

Muggle Monday: Career of Evil (Cormoran Strike #3) Review

It's time for Muggle Monday, in which I highlight something from the Harry Potter world. 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, I'm reviewing Career of Evil, the third book in J.K. Rowling's adult mystery series, written under her pseudonym Robert Galbraith:

Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
Published: October 20, 2015
Pages: 497
Source: Gifted
Rating: 5 Stars

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…

In short: Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling) is yet another expertly plotted and impressive mystery to add to the superb Cormoran Strike Series.
Even during the crazy busyness of teaching a university course and preparing for my thesis defense, I still made a point to pick up Career of Evil, the third in the Cormoran Strike mystery series by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling) last October when it was released. And all these months later, I still remember the details of the story. This illustrates both the enthusiasm I have for this series as well as how talented J.K. Rowling is at crafting intricately plotted mysteries that stick with you long after the tale has ended.

In this third instalment, the mystery is brought closer to home and made personal, raising the stakes significantly. Whereas in the previous two instalments, the whodunit murderer could have been any number of people, in Career of Evil Cormoran Strike is able to narrow down the list of suspects to three people from his past. At which point you might be thinking (as I was) that you could certainly easily figure out the identity of the murderer with only three possibilities. Wrong! J.K. Rowling keeps you guessing the entirety of the novel, throwing out red herrings left and right to easily fool readers into accusing each suspect in turn, always second guessing yourself.

But as impressive as these mysteries are, my favourite part still remains the lead characters, Cormoran Strike and Robin Ellacott. These two play off each other so well and make the perfect investigative team. In a book that features some truly despicable and vile people, Cormoran and Robin's genuine compassion and earnestness shine through all the brighter. I really cannot wait to see where their story takes us next. And thankfully J.K. Rowling is showing no signs of slowing down with this series - so here's to many more superb Cormoran Strike mysteries to come!

Previously, my review of The Cuckoo's Calling and The Silkworm.

Other Reviews:
The Broke and the Bookish
Shooting Stars Mag

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Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Series Review: The Raven Cycle (#1-3) by Maggie Stiefvater

Publisher: Scholastic
Published: 2012-2014
Pages: 1,246
Source: Gifted
Rating: 5 Stars

Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue never sees them--until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks to her.
His name is Gansey, a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.
But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can't entirely explain. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul whose emotions range from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher who notices many things but says very little.
For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She doesn't believe in true love, and never thought this would be a problem. But as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she's not so sure anymore.

In short: The Raven Cycle proves once again that Maggie Stiefvater ranks up there with the most masterful storytellers and visionaries.
Finally. Finally! My reading of The Raven Cycle has been a long time coming. From the moment I learned about The Raven Boys, I knew it was a "me" book that I would love to death. But I also knew that my feelings about books can be heavily influenced by my current mood and because I had been a wee bit stressed the past few years, I put off reading it. Cut to years later, my schooling is done, and I have now finally read the first three books in The Raven Cycle - just in time for the finale, The Raven King! And the series was every bit as special as I was hoping it would be.

Having said that, I'm honestly having a hard time phrasing my thoughts in a way that would truly do the series justice. How would I even describe the premise?? It's hard because a) it's unlike anything I have ever read before and so it's hard to draw comparisons and b) The Raven Cycle is definitely a series best appreciated if you go into it knowing as little as possible. But suffice it to say, the conclusions you should draw from this are that a) The Raven Cycle is a wholly original tale with no comparisons and b) Maggie Stiefvater always keeps it interesting with one intriguing and unexpected twist after another.

I think where the series really shines for me though is in the characters, each more carefully drawn and complexly unraveled than the next. While the plot is wildly imaginative and the prose correspondingly artistic, it is the characters that bridge the gap between magic and reality and elevate the series to a wonderfully memorable saga. The Raven Cycle proves once again that Maggie Stiefvater ranks up there with the most masterful storytellers and visionaries.

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