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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

My Month in July: Moving Plans, Anne Obsession, and a Birthday Giveaway

July was a fairly low-key month for me, which doesn't translate into a particularly exciting monthly recap post so I apologize for that. I've been spending much of the past few weeks planning for a move. The end of my lease is FINALLY approaching (August 31) and I can't wait to get out of my crap apartment and away from my shitty landlord (excuse the language... I rarely ever swear, but in this case I feel it is warranted). I won't go into details, but basically I have never felt so violated in my life as I have living in this apartment and dealing with several breaches of my personal privacy by my landlord. Luckily, my boyfriend and I have found another apartment that is in a better location, seems to have a reputable landlord, and is just generally better quality (ie. NO cockroaches or major electrical problems!). The only problem is of course, it's much more expensive. But I think I've finally come to accept that that's just how it has to be, living in the second most expensive city in Canada and wanting to live in a nice, clean home that I feel safe in.

But ANYWAYS. While I've been dealing with the stresses of moving, I've also had plenty of opportunities to relax and enjoy myself. As I mentioned last month, I read Anne of Green Gables for the first time and it became an INSTANT favourite of mine! So much so that not only did I reread Anne of Green Gables again this month, but I also went on to read the entire series! (Or, at least, all the books that are in the public domain; I haven't quite got my hands on the two books that were written afterwards in the 1930s).

I spoke before of my love for Anne, but it's worth repeating: I just love her earnestness, her dramatic nature, and her love of life. Reading about her adventures just brings me so much JOY! And it's an instant pick-me-up for me when I'm feeling down or stressed. I didn't enjoy the sequels quite as much as the original as Anne naturally does some growing up and loses a bit of her theatricalness, but it was just such a pleasure to read about her journey from orphan girl, to budding teacher and writer, to married with children. These books have become SO special to me this month that I just had to share!

They also do a great job with the movie adaptations, I think:
Megan Follows IS Anne brought to life! It's so satisfying when a book you love is translated into a faithful movie adaptation that does the book justice.

And taking my Anne Obsession to the next level:
Just HAD to have these potatoes from Anne's home, Prince Edward Island!! Bonus: they're also endorsed by two-time Olympic gold medalist Canadian bobsledder, Heather Moyse! LOL.

Also this month, I binge watched another Canadian treasure, Orphan Black:
I actually didn't even know this show was Canadian at first. All I knew about it was that it was about clones, it airs on BBC America, and the lead actress was supposedly brilliant. And lo and behold, I recognized Toronto immediately and then determined that the entire cast, crew, everything was Canadian, which was surprising because it's also a very fast-paced, thrilling show with great acting talents. Now I don't mean to sound disrespectful, but I feel like it's honestly pretty rare that Canada is able to produce shows of the quality of Orphan Black to run with the big shots in the US and the UK, for various reasons. So I am definitely pleasantly surprised with Orphan Black and I'm totally LOVING it! Also, Tatiana Maslany - who plays many different renditions of her cloned character absolutely brilliantly - was totally ROBBED of a nomination for Best Actress at the Emmy's this year and last!!

Lastly, there are a number of birthdays to celebrate. Firstly to my favourite hero Harry, who turns 34 today and who changed my life for the better, and secondly to my favourite author Jo, who turns 49 today and who is my Queen. Thank you for inspiring me, being there for me through my hardest times, and for giving me a love of reading.

And thirdly, and much less importantly, it is my 26th Birthday tomorrow! So to celebrate these birthdays and because I haven't hosted one in a while, I'm having a giveaway. One person will win $15 CDN to The Book Depository for the book of their choice. Thank you so much for reading my blog!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Blog Posts in July:

Best Book Read in July:

No surprise here - I LOVED Jo's newest book, written under her pseudonym Robert Galbraith. As with the first in the Cormoran Strike Series, The Cuckoo's Calling, the mystery was excellently done, the characters are layered and likeable, and the story is very engaging. I was glued to the pages of The Silkworm and I really cannot wait to see more from Jo and Cormoran Strike in future instalments!

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Ten Authors I Own The Most Books From

Megan Whalen Turner - 4 Books
Own 4 and Read 0 Megan Whalen Turner books. Need to get to The Queen's Thief Series!

J.R.R. Tolkien - 4 Books
Own 4 and Read 4 J.R.R. Tolkien books. Classic.

Rick Yancey - 5 Books
Own 5 and Read 4 Rick Yancey books. Still need to finish up one of my favourite series, The Monstrumologist!

Patrick Ness - 5 Books
Own 5 and Read 4 Patrick Ness books. Still need to read More Than This and I'm excited because Patrick Ness is definitely a fave!

Rick Riordan - 5 Books
Own 5 and Read 5 Rick Riordan books. I binge read the Percy Jackson and the Olympians Series earlier on this year. I had fun with these!

John Green - 5 Books
Own 5 and Read 5 John Green books. I binge read his books in May in what I have dubbed The Great John Green Read of 2014. It was a great experience!

Meg Cabot - 6 Books
Own 6 and Read 0 Meg Cabot books. I picked up the entire Mediator Series second-hand a number of years ago and I'm just waiting for a good opportunity to binge read them.

Richelle Mead - 6 Books
Own 6 and Read 1 Richelle Mead books. There was a great deal on the Vampire Academy boxset back when the movie was released, so of course I snapped it up. I have only read the first book so far, but I'm looking forward to getting back into the series!

Cassandra Clare - 9 Books
Own 9 and Read 9 Cassandra Clare books. The Mortal Instruments Series was only completed a couple months ago, but Cassie already has a number of new Shadowhunter trilogies planned to add to this list. Something to look forward to!

J.K. Rowling - 13 Books
Own 13 and Read 13 J.K. Rowling books. Well, obviously! You guys know I will buy and read (and LOVE) anything Queen Jo writes, no matter what it is.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Muggle Monday: The Silkworm (Cormoran Strike #2) Review

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, I'm reviewing The Silkworm, the second book in J.K. Rowling's adult mystery series, written under her pseudonym Robert Galbraith:

Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
Published: June 19, 2014
Pages: 455
Source: Bought
Rating: 5 Stars

When novelist Owen Quine goes missing, his wife calls in private detective Cormoran Strike. At first, Mrs. Quine just thinks her husband has gone off by himself for a few days--as he has done before--and she wants Strike to find him and bring him home.
But as Strike investigates, it becomes clear that there is more to Quine's disappearance than his wife realizes. The novelist has just completed a manuscript featuring poisonous pen-portraits of almost everyone he knows. If the novel were to be published, it would ruin lives--meaning that there are a lot of people who might want him silenced.
When Quine is found brutally murdered under bizarre circumstances, it becomes a race against time to understand the motivation of a ruthless killer, a killer unlike any Strike has encountered before...

In short: The Silkworm is yet another superbly plotted and unpredictable mystery to add to J.K. Rowling's résumé and I can't wait to read more of Cormoran Strike.
J.K. Rowling was born to write mysteries. She just has this talent for writing intricately plotted, impressive mysteries that always surprise me. She proved unequivocally that she had the talent to run with the best of the mystery writers in The Cuckoo's Calling, the first of the Cormoran Strike Series, written under her pseudonym Robert Galbraith, - in addition to the superb mysteries at the core of the Harry Potter Series - so it was no surprise that she has pulled out another truly fantastic murder mystery for The Silkworm.

In addition to knowing to expect an impressive and unpredictable mystery, with J.K. Rowling we can also count on intricate characterization and genuine characters. Cormoran Strike makes for the perfect lead to a mystery novel. He is gruff and to-the-point as an extremely skilled detective and yet receptive and compassionate to those he cares for and believes in. Robin makes a superb... well, Robin to Strike's Batman, her earnestness as genuine as it is likeable. It's great seeing these two play off each other; they make an excellent team.

You'll have to excuse me for the short review; there really isn't much more to say about this one that I haven't already voiced in my review of The Cuckoo's Calling and without spoiling anything. Just know that The Silkworm has it all: an ingenious and impressively plotted mystery, genuine characters, and of course great writing. J.K. Rowling has already announced that she plans to write more books for the Cormoran Strike Series than she has for the Harry Potter Series - understandable because Cormoran Strike has discrete mysteries rather than an overarching series story - and the prospect of getting to return to these characters time and again for another mystery is one that excites me indeed and is one that I will never get tired of.

Previously, my review of The Cuckoo's Calling.

Author Links:

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Waiting On Wednesday: HarperCollins Fall 2014 Catalog Part 2

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'm featuring Part 2 of my picks from the HarperCollins Fall 2014 Catalog. I am usually able to narrow down my picks to the Top 4 MOST anticipated books from whichever publisher's catalog I am featuring, but I was utterly unable to this time! HarperColins has some FANTASTIC sounding books coming up for us this fall, so I've decided to split my Waiting On Wednesday Catalog feature into two parts for HarperCollins. Part 1 focused on books by authors I have read previously and Part 2 focuses on books by authors I have not read previously. So without further ado, LET'S GET TO THE BOOKS!!:

The Fires of Calderon by Lindsay Cummings
Date: September 23, 2014
Add to Goodreads

After following a mysterious map into the woods and then under the woods, eleven-year-old Albert Flynn learns he’s a Balance Keeper—someone with special magical skills for fixing problems in three underground Realms at the Core of the earth. His new job is important; if the realms fall out of balance, the world above could be in great danger.
Albert and his Balance Keeper teammates Birdie and Leroy arrive in the Core not a moment too soon. There’s an Imbalance in the Calderon Realm and it’s threatening to bury Albert’s hometown of New York City in a mountain of ash.
The three must train hard completing mental and physical challenges, but above all, they must harness the power of their Tiles—unique superpowers given to each Balance Keeper. So far, Albert’s mastered the art of not mastering his Tile....
With the situation in Calderon growing worse every day, can Albert, Leroy, and Birdie restore balance before New York is destroyed forever? Will Albert master his Tile before it’s too late?

The Fires of Calderon immediately brings to mind other great Middle Grade fantasies, which of course I love - so long as it is not too derivative and makes a name for itself in its own right. Who can resist stories about kids finding out they have a superpower?

Stray by Elissa Sussman
Date: October 7, 2014
Add to Goodreads

Princess Aislynn has long dreamed about attending her Introduction Ball, about dancing with the handsome suitors her adviser has chosen for her, about meeting her true love and starting her happily ever after.
When the night of the ball finally arrives and Nerine Academy is awash with roses and royalty, Aislynn wants nothing more than to dance the night away, dutifully following the Path that has been laid out for her. She does not intend to stray.
But try as she might, Aislynn has never quite managed to control the magic that burns within her-magic brought on by wicked, terrible desires that threaten the Path she has vowed to take.
After all, it is wrong to want what you do not need. Isn’t it?

I do so love fairy tales, and the blurb for Stray promises that it is an original fairy tale with hints of Grimm and Disney, which changes it up from the retellings I'm used to reading. I really hope this one lives up to my expectations!

Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch
Date: October 14, 2014
Add to Goodreads

A heartbroken girl. A fierce warrior. A hero in the making.
Sixteen years ago the Kingdom of Winter was conquered and its citizens enslaved, leaving them without magic or a monarch. Now, the Winterians’ only hope for freedom is the eight survivors who managed to escape, and who have been waiting for the opportunity to steal back Winter’s magic and rebuild the kingdom ever since.
Orphaned as an infant during Winter’s defeat, Meira has lived her whole life as a refugee, raised by the Winterians’ general, Sir. Training to be a warrior—and desperately in love with her best friend, and future king, Mather — she would do anything to help her kingdom rise to power again.
So when scouts discover the location of the ancient locket that can restore Winter’s magic, Meira decides to go after it herself. Finally, she’s scaling towers, fighting enemy soldiers, and serving her kingdom just as she’s always dreamed she would. But the mission doesn’t go as planned, and Meira soon finds herself thrust into a world of evil magic and dangerous politics – and ultimately comes to realize that her destiny is not, never has been, her own.

I've been a bit let down by the high fantasies I've read lately, but even still synopses like the one for Snow Like Ashes never cease to excite me. I guess I have really high expectations when it comes to this genre so if this one is as good as I'm expecting it to be based off the blurb, then it will impressive me greatly!

A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray
Date: November 4, 2014
Add to Goodreads

Marguerite Caine’s physicist parents are known for their radical scientific achievements. Their most astonishing invention: the Firebird, which allows users to jump into parallel universes, some vastly altered from our own. But when Marguerite’s father is murdered, the killer—her parent’s handsome and enigmatic assistant Paul—escapes into another dimension before the law can touch him.
Marguerite can’t let the man who destroyed her family go free, and she races after Paul through different universes, where their lives entangle in increasingly familiar ways. With each encounter she begins to question Paul’s guilt—and her own heart. Soon she discovers the truth behind her father’s death is more sinister than she ever could have imagined.
A Thousand Pieces of You explores a reality where we witness the countless other lives we might lead in an amazingly intricate multiverse, and ask whether, amid infinite possibilities, one love can endure.

A Thousand Pieces of You sounds like proper sci fi and an intense one at that, which I love. I have not read any of Claudia Gray's books, but I understand she's a great paranormal fiction writer, so I'm curious to see how she takes on a sci fi book.

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

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Review: City of Heavenly Fire (The Mortal Instruments #6) by Cassandra Clare

Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Published: May 27, 2014
Pages: 733
Source: Bought
Rating: 4 Stars


I am coming.

Darkness returns to the Shadowhunter world. As their society falls apart around them, Clary, Jace, Simon and their friends must band together to fight the greatest evil the Nephilim have ever faced: Clary’s own brother. Nothing in the world can defeat him — must they journey to another world to find the chance? Lives will be lost, love sacrificed, and the whole world changed in the sixth and last installment of the Mortal Instruments series!

This review is spoiler-free

In short: City of Heavenly Fire by Cassandra Clare does not pack the punch that the original Mortal Instruments trilogy finale had, but was still a good read overall.
I have been a fan of The Mortal Instruments series since its release in 2007 (and prior to that I was a big fan of Cassandra Clare's Harry Potter fanfiction). I recall thinking the story and world in the first instalment, City of Bones, was pretty derivative (take one part Harry Potter, another part Buffy the Vampire Slayer, add a smidgeon of Star Wars, and there you have City of Bones), but I instantly fell in love with the characters and the humour of the series and said features remain my favourite parts of Cassandra Clare's writing today.

I was perfectly happy with the ending of the original trilogy in City of Glass - it really was a fantastic finale - but when presented with an opportunity to read more from these beloved characters in the form of a new trilogy, a continuation of the series, I was keen. I loved the series, why wouldn't I be excited for more? Well, my attitude changed at some point when I realized that this second trilogy wasn't living up to my love for the original trilogy. I can be picky about series finales; a good series finale is one in which the final book raises the stakes, goes out with a BANG, and is the best instalment in the series. City of Glass gave me all that. So I needed City of Heavenly Fire to give me that and MORE.

And well, it came close. There was certainly action aplenty and of course there was the emotional pain and turmoil that Cassandra Clare is so well known for. I like how the story played out and where the characters ended up - in some cases in good positions and in some cases bad. It was a good finale, but the fact remains that the City of Heavenly Fire ending was just not as good as the original ending in City of Glass. I felt that certain issues were wrapped up too easily, some resolutions were resolved too conveniently. The final showdown seemed a bit abrupt, and thus anticlimactic. And as far as emotional feels, well, it came no where close to those of Clockwork Princess.

And as for these beloved characters of mine, what does it mean that my favourite scenes in City of Heavenly Fire were actually the ones involving characters from Clare's steampunk trilogy, The Infernal Devices, and the ones involving new characters from her upcoming new Shadowhunter trilogy, The Dark Artifices? Well, it indicates to me that as much as I love the Mortal Instruments gang, I am ready to move on. Their story has been played out and they deserve some rest now because Clare sure put them through a lot of crap over the years. It's time to say good-bye finally, and it's sad, but I'm ready for something new.

So while City of Heavenly Fire didn't pack as much of a punch as I needed from a finale for one of my oldest favourite series, it was still a good read overall. I definitely wouldn't say no to Mortal Instruments character cameos in Cassandra Clare's next Shadowhunter trilogy, but I'm satisfied with their ending in City of Heavenly Fire and I'm ready to move on. Bring on The Dark Artifices!

Previously, my reviews of City of Fallen Angels and City of Lost Souls.

Other Reviews:
Books in the Spotlight
Ex Libris
Nori's Closet

Author Links:

Monday, July 14, 2014

Top Ten Favourite TV Shows

Books are my first love, but I have quite a few TV shows that I love, as well. The following is a list of my top ten favourite TV shows that I have watched so far. I'm always looking for a new favourite TV show though, so if you know of any that you think I might like, please let me know in the comments!

Every now and then, a show comes along that changes the way we view TV, that revolutionizes what TV used to be and makes it into something MORE. This was LOST. And I was HUGELY obsessed with it while it was on the air. You have never seen an introduction more epic than the Pilot for LOST, nor have you likely come across a show that had as many confounding mysteries, surprising twists and WTF moments. For the uninitiated, LOST is best watched back-to-back binge-style as the plot can get quite hard to follow if you watch it over a longer period of time.

2. Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Anyone else grow up watching Buffy and used to pretend you were a bad-ass vampire slayer of extreme strength and agility? No? Just me then. Oh, how I adore Buffy! Sure, some of the earlier seasons were pretty cheesy, but the characters were ALWAYS the best. Of special note is the Season 4 episode, "Hush", and the Season 6 Emmy-nominated all-musical episode, "Once More With Feeling". I could watch those episodes ad nauseam.

3. Breaking Bad
I binge watched the entire series of Breaking Bad earlier on this year and it was immediately apparent that yes, what people say is true: it really is one of the best TV shows ever. Breaking Bad has possibly the most incredible character arcs I've ever witnessed in a TV series. It is truly a remarkable story and I don't hesitate to recommend it to everyone I know.

4. Six Feet Under
I've never given much thought to death before - I generally avoid it as a rule - but Six Feet Under, centred around a family-run funeral home that begins each episode with a death, definitely got me thinking about mortality in a very profound and moving way. The characters are incredibly flawed, but I can't help but like them anyway. Six Feet Under also features the most perfect series ending to a TV show ever, so it's a MUST watch.

5. Skins
Skins is a bit like Degrassi in that it centres around a group of troubled teenage friends who all have their different issues to sort out. Except you know... compared to Degrassi, it's actually really well written and acted and is GOOD (ouch... sorry Degrassi). I can't say that I was able to identify with many of the characters on Skins because I had a very different adolescence than these teens, but I still can't help but have such fondness for them all. And PLEASE don't even think about watching the much inferior MTV US remake of the show! Stick with the original UK show!

6. Downton Abbey
I've made no secret of the fact that I LOVE period drama series and Downton Abbey was the one that started off that obsession! The show veers into soap opera territory from time to time, but on the whole, it's a fabulous show with fantastic sets, costumes, characters, and storylines. It's basically impossible not to become completely engaged in these characters' lives from the get-go.

7. Veronica Mars
While some may classify Veronica Mars as just your typical teenage drama, don't be fooled: Veronica Mars is film noir at its finest and appeals to teens and adults alike. This show was SUPER under-appreciated while it was on the air, leading to its premature demise, but thanks to a very successful Kickstarter campaign, it was risen again! Oh, but lets pretend Season 3 never happened.

8. Freaks and Geeks
You may recognize James Franco, Jason Segel, and Seth Rogen from the short-lived Freaks and Geeks. It aired for one season only, but produced some of the best and most realistic coming-of-age episodes in that time. You can't help but love these outcasts!

9. Game of Thrones
I have never watched a series more epic than Game of Thrones. Is there any other show like it that compares to its cast of thousands, its ambitious sets, its ruthless killing of main characters? I know not of one. Game of Thrones was definitely the impetus behind my newly re-found obsession with high fantasy and it's crazy how excited I get for each new episode.

10. Planet Earth
Planet Earth is without a doubt the most breathtaking and awe-inspiring nature shows of all time. Not into nature shows? Well, you'll be into this one, trust me. It is absolutely the most comprehensive and ambitious showcase of life on Earth out there and you WILL be blown away by it.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Muggle Monday: 7 New Things We Learned From J.K. Rowling's New Article On Pottermore

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.

Did you know that the 2014 Quidditch World Cup had been going on in the Patagonian Desert in Argentina at the same time that the FIFA 2014 World Cup had been playing out in Brazil? Well, this past week, perennially bitchy journalist gossip columnist, Rita Skeeter, posted an article on Pottermore detailing the adult lives of past members of Dumbledore's Army as they met up for the Quidditch World Cup Final - Brazil vs. Bulgaria. You've all probably read it already, but I'm pretty excited about it so I thought I would post a summary of the major facts we learned from the article (as opposed to the gossip spouted by Rita). NOTE: obviously there are some major spoilers ahead if you have NOT finished the Harry Potter series!!:

7 New Things We Learned About Dumbledore's Army From Rita Skeeter's Article On Pottermore

1. Members of Dumbledore's Army are even MORE famous now. Not just Harry. Everyone from the old gang - Ron, Hermione, Ginny, Neville, and Luna - are apparently celebrities in the wizarding world.

2. Harry has a mysterious nasty cut on his right cheekbone. Presumably he got this as a result of his work as an Auror at the Ministry of Magic - and NOT as a result of a curse from Ginny, as Rita Skeeter implies - but it is not known exactly how he got it. Harry is also still sporting his trademark round glasses.

3. Ginny is working for the Daily Prophet and has been covering the 2014 Quidditch World Cup. Well, we knew this before Rita's article as she has been reporting the results of the tournament from Patagonia on Pottermore for the past few weeks now.

4. Ron quit his job as an Auror and has joined George in managing Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes. I've always disliked the movie depiction of Ron as a clown with no useful skills to bring to the trio as book fans know that he is in fact essential, but I DO quite like this idea because it means George is now getting help and company in the wake of Fred's death.

5. Hermione is working her way through the ranks of the Ministry of Magic very quickly. No surprise that our girl became Deputy Head of the
Department of Magical Law Enforcement in a meteoric rise and is now poised to go ever higher in the Ministry. Will Minister for Magic be next?

6. Neville is a popular Herbology teacher at Hogwarts. His wife, Hannah Abbott, wants to take over Madam Pomfrey's old position as Matron of the Hospital Wing at Hogwarts. Rita seems to indicate that Neville and Hannah are alcoholics now, but we all know this is utter rubbish.

7. Luna has twin boys with her husband Rolf Scamander, grandson of Magizoologist Newt. You may recall that Newt Scamander will have his story told in the film adaptation of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, screenplay by J.K. Rowling. Unfortunately, the film will take place decades before the time of Harry Potter, so we will not see Luna and Rolf or any of the gang on screen then.