Friday, December 30, 2016

Bout of Books 18 Sign Up

It's that time again! (Did you really think I could resist a read-a-thon?)

Bout of Books
The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, August 17th and runs through Sunday, August 23rd in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 18 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. - From the Bout of Books team
So that's what's happening. Come. Join. Read things (you know you're going to anyway...)

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Review: Aerie

Title: Aerie
Author: Maria Dahvana Headley
Series: Magonia
Volume: 2
Genre: Fantasy
Goodreads

A year after she died, woke up on a flying ship, and discovered she wasn't human, Aza Ray is trying to lead a semi-normal life back on Earth. Despite the pull of what she left behind in Magonia, she's making it work- mostly. But Magonia isn't something that can just be put in the past, and Jason's paranoia about her safety results in a mistake that puts Aza back in danger- both from those on the ground and from her mother, who has escaped from prison intent on destroying the world below.

Out of Ten: 8/10

Review at a Glance: Though it didn't wow me quite as much as the first one, I was still pretty wowed by this strange, dreamlike sequel.

Review:I loved Magonia when I read it last year. Like, flat-out, hard-core loved it. There are a lot of books that I really like, and then there are a couple books that I go for like I went for Magonia. So Aerie was a book I was really looking forward to/ anticipating with fear this year.

I didn't love this as much as I loved the first book, but I still really enjoyed it. It was still really good, it just didn't quite dazzle me the same way. Possibly because there was less emphasis on the seed saving and the Svalbard seed vault? Possibly I'm a total nerd? Who knows, it's a mystery. Regardless, it still managed to be a fairly Kelly book, which was nice for me.

Maria Dahvana Headley has a way of telling stories that's very stream-of-consciousness, while simultaneously being quite lyrical, with a tendency toward going on tangents. (Luckily for me, I like tangents.) The characters she crafts are vivid and unique and strange and delightful.

I still really liked both Aza and Jason, despite (because of?) their mistakes and fumbles over the course of the story. They both struggle with their own personal challenges in this one. Both of their points of view have felt familiar to me since the first book, and that didn't change here, which was fantastic. Not so much all of the thoughts as... the way of processing information, maybe? (Especially in Jason's case.)

The world was fantastically imagined in the first book, and it gets bigger and stranger in the sequel, managing to be both whimsical and terrible. There are more creatures! There is a vague, yet menacing, government agency! (Welcome to Night Vale reference, anyone?) Science and magic collide! (This is still very much a Kelly book, as you can see.)

I think the downside of this one for me was also one of the upsides, and it was that this book is really pretty out there. It is one of the strengths of this book (flying ships! bird people! songs as magic! sky whales singing storms!) but it is also the one place this book didn't quite work for me. Because of how little I understood about Ava's magic, it was hard to really fully comprehend her struggle and what was Ava-specific extraordinary, versus just regular extraordinary. When you don't really know what the limits are supposed to be... it's less impressive to watch someone surpass them. I can't tell if this was a worldbuilding thing (which, besides this was really lovely) or a plot thing... it just didn't entirely hold my interest during the climax of the story.

Overall, I really liked this book! It was a good follow-up to Magonia, and just as wonderfully imaginative. While it wasn't quite on the level that this first book was for me, it was still pretty great!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Review: And I Darken

Title: And I Darken
Author: Kiersten White
Series: The Conquerers Saga
Volume: 1
Release Date: June 28, 2016
Goodreads

Lada Dragwyla is heir to Wallachia- or she would be, had she not been born a girl. After years of striving for her father's respect and affection, he abandons her and her brother, Rabu, to the role of hostages for the Ottoman empire. Lada is determined to return to her home and claim what should be her inheritance, while Rabu just wants somewhere he can feel safe. They rapidly find themselves pulled into the dangerous politics of the Ottoman empire, when they, against all odds, find themselves befriending the son of the Sultan.

Out of Ten: 8/10

Review at a Glance: A character-driven and fascinating alternative history with a female Vlad the Impaler.

Review: This was #YAReadAlong's book this month. I'd actually tried to pick it up once before, but I just didn't end up getting into it. I'm really glad that I gave it another try though, because I ended up really enjoying it. There are so many fascinating things about the story.

I don't typically go for books with unlikable main characters... and Lada is arguably an unlikable character in the extreme. She's aggressive, combative, and often cruel- except that watching her struggle to live her life on her terms meant she became a character that I was really invested in, despite her terribleness. I wouldn't say I supported all of her choices, but I definitely understood them. She's constantly in situations where she has to fear for her life, and covers that terror with rage so well that sometime she doesn't even realise what it is.

She and her brother Rabu have a fascinatingly fraught relationship. They both function as more or less the sole constant presence in each other's lives- but both are constantly growing and shifting, changing into people that conflict with each other on some very basic levels. They're mirrors of one another in a lot of ways- Lada has little use for religion; while Rabu beings to find himself when he finds Islam, Lada fights with a direct approach and by making herself feared; Rabu strategies and fights by making himself loved. They're both incredibly interesting characters on their own, and their interactions were intriguing in how their differences stood out sharply. And yet, they care about each other, in their own complicated, messed-up way. It's this push and pull, with a lot of really complicated emotions.

This conflict made more clear by Mehmed, the son of the Sultan to whom the siblings were given as a hostage. He really brings out the contrasting natures of Lada and Rabu. While complicating things by being both the person in love with Lada and the person who Rabu is in love with.

There's a lot of development, both for the characters themselves and with respect to the plot. This books spans year, rather than weeks or months, though it does focus on specific periods of time within those years. So naturally, a lot happens. Readers get to watch Lada and Rabu grow from being children with very few options... to young adults who still have limited options, but are a heck of a lot better at making those work for them. We get to see them carving out places for themselves in a world that isn't at all welcoming to them.

I could write a whole blog post on Lada's relationships: with herself, with her brother, with the world at large. One of the most interesting parts of this book was her complicated relationship with femininity. She's raised in a way that gives her very little respect for women, and often rails against being one herself. She's in possession of a lot of traits that aren't coded as feminine, and lives in a world where a woman isn't always a good thing to be. It's only toward the later half of the book where she meets women that she might respect and I'm interested to see how that plays out on the next two books. Likewise, I'm really hoping to see Rabu's character (and his relationship with his sexual orientation) develop too. I'm so intrigued by all the facets of both of these characters, and I'm so excited to see what's going to happen with them next (and a little concerned, because it's a very stab-y world they live in).

Overall, this one was a pleasant surprise for me. It's strongly character driven, gritty, and intense, and I'm really looking forward to seeing how the story continues.

P.S. Nazira is fantastic. I really like the friendship between her and Rabu. Also the friendship between Lada and Nicolae. There are a lot of really wonderful and well-crafted secondary characters, did I mention that. No? Well, here I am, mentioning it in a postscript.


Saturday, November 19, 2016

Review: The Abyss Surrounds Us

Title: The Abyss Surrounds Us
Author: Emily Skrutskie
Series: The Abyss Syrrounds Us
Volume: 1
Genre: Post Apocalyptic, Science Fiction
Release Date: February 8, 2016
Goodreads

After rising sea levels reshaped world, the seas became a lawless place. Cassandra Leung has spent her life learning to train Reckoners, genetically engineered sea monsters that protect ships from pirates in the NeoPacific. When, on her first mission, her Reckoner fails, she is taken captive by pirates- who present her with a new Reckoner pup to train, and offer her an ultimatum: as long as the pup lives, so does she.

Out of Ten: 8/10

Review at a Glance: This was a quick, fun read. It contains so many cool things, and I'm really looking forward to the sequel!

Review: I mean, sea monsters, folks, SEA MONSTERS. How cool is that? (Very cool.) The sea monsters in this case a genetically engineered with DNA from different species. In my brain our two main Reckoners look like a combination of sea turtles and plesiosaurs... I would love a picture of what they're meant to look like because I feel like I possibly don't have a perfect imagine my head.

Our main character, Cas, begins the novel at the end of her training, just about ready to be a fully fledged trainer. One of my favourite things about her is how she knows the Reckoners, and also how she applies what she knows from them to her interactions with humans... Also that she's very competent. I mean, obviously she faces some super-tough decisions, (borrowing words from The Winner's Curse here) she plays the game to its end, and I'm really looking forward to seeing what that end is. She's a consistently structured character and I really appreciate that!

While the action isn't non-stop, there is always something happening. If there isn't a high-seas battle going on, there's Cas making her way on the pirate ship, or Cas and Swift's adventure visiting Swift's home. The action scenes were fairly well done, though I think sometimes I did get a bit lost? Mostly, I think, because, as I mentioned I didn't quite have a picture of exactly what the Reckoner looked like.

Now that I've mentioned Cas and Swift, I feel like I should mention them some more... I liked how Swift's character was revealed to the reader, and watching her change in Cas's eyes, while also being a very flawed character. Their relationship was interesting in that it... kind of proceeded in fits and starts, and yet didn't feel stilted? They figured each other out, and I also quite liked how they agreed equal footing was super important for relationships, and didn't wouldn't begin anything romance-wise unless they were able to be equals. (Also points for casually non-straight characters!)

Overall this was a fun, short read. While there were a few moments where I got a bit disengaged from the story, I still had a really good time reading it, and I'm looking forward to seeing where the sequel takes Cas!


Monday, November 7, 2016

All the Ways the World Ends: The Scorpion Rules

(Maybe) new feature! I read a lot of dystopic and post-apocalyptic things, and one of my favourite things about them is collecting all the ways the world could end. (I'm a well adjusted adult human, it's what we do. Ask anyone.) I actually talked about my interest in novels set after the end of the world back in 2013, back when I was a cynical just-out-of-high-school student. Now, since the world had yet to conclusively end, I'm revisiting it as a cynical, almost-out-of-university student!


What triggered this? Mostly, the So You Want to be Human twitter chat a few weeks ago, which brought The Scorpion Rules back to the forefront of my mind- but also the a couple conversations I got into with my classmates about the psychology behind humans' fondness for zombie stories.

Anyway. The Scorpion Rules takes place in a future where rampant climate change has ravaged the world, and resource wars had driven humanity to the brink of extintion- before an AI took over. It was awesome. I feel like I didn't fully apreciate parts of it the first time I read it, but it really ended up sticking with me. Where I thought I didn't love the relationships or characters in my first review, I realised that I had become really quite attached to both when I got the chance to read The Swan Riders. (And hey, canon bisexual leading lady!)

The apocalypse in The Scorpion Rules is fantastic. And when I say fantastic, I mean kind of worrying, of course. But also really, really interesting for an enviro. sci. nerd like me- because it's already happening. It was the thing that grabbed me right off the bat, before I'd even had time to really get attached to the characters, because it's something that I have a little bit of a background in. In my life outside this blog, I'm studying environmental science, so I really latched onto the climate part of it and ran with it, (and ran with it, and then ran with it some more).

Water gets a starring role in the novel- with different countries squabbling over access to one another's lakes, and a very irritated AI trying to stop them from decimating each other ...by threatening to decimate them first. (Saving humanity from itself: it's a tough job, but somebody's gotta do it.)

Precipitation patterns under climate change projection from the IPCC's 2013 report. The first is for 1986-2005, the second is the projection for 2081-2100. (Look at it! It's so cool. And scary. Also scary. I feel like it doesn't quite convey the depth of the scary we're facing here, world.)
Water is a resource that is completely essential to life on Earth, and is not distributed evenly across the planet. Humans use water for so many things- drinking, washing, growing crops...  It exists in a lot of different forms all over Earth, but MOST (97.5%) of it is saltwater. What remains is freshwater, though it is not all in a form available for human use. What is in an available form is distributed unevenly around the world in aquifers (think groundwater) and lakes. We're already sapping some of the more sensitive groundwater sources, using water more quickly than they can be replenished. People all over the world are facing drought and contaminated water. It's already causing conflict now, as many parts of the world face extended drought.

It was really interesting to read a world where- rather than some big, catastrophic event bringing about massive destruction, humans just basically continued just on the path we've been on for years. (Okay, the AI was new... but the landscapes and climate? The climate wars? Totally plausible.) The changing climate is going to have huge, wide-spread impacts. We're talking rising sea levels, changes in growing seasons, melting permafrost, changes in precipitation and seasons, and changes in species distributions. It's going to have economic effects, impact access to water, effect how and where crops are grown, and even have health effects as distributions of diseases change.

Anthropogenic (human-caused) climate change has already started to wreak havoc on the planet, and is expected to just keep right on doing that. Even IF we all magically stopped releasing greenhouse gases tomorrow, we'd be facing continued temperature change for the next little while- so many balances have already been tipped, triggering self-fulfilling loops that will only stop once they find a new balance. So that's happening. Not that humans shouldn't be trying to curb our carbon emissions- we definitely should, there's no need to make a bad situation worse- but there also needs to be a focus on adapting to the effects of climate change (preferably without letting an amoral AI with a terrible/excellent/terrible sense of humour take over the world).

 P.S. Please check out this awesome post on Erin Bow's website about the making of the world of The Scorpion Rules. It is, as I said, awesome, Maps!


Further Reading, some of which is to be taken with a grain of salt because the media is often sensationalist and whatnot:


References
Parker, L. (2016, July 14). What You Need to Know about the World's Water Wars. National Geographic. Retrieved from: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/07/world-aquifers-water-wars/

[Stoker, T. F., Qin, D., Plattner, G.-K., Tignor, M., Allen, S. K., Boschung, J., Nauels, A., Xia, Y., Bex, V., & Midgley, P. M.] (2013). Summary for Policymakers. Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis. Contributions of Working Group I of the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Retrieved from: http://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar5/wg1/

Warren, F. J. & Lemmen, D. S. (2014) Canada in a Changing Climate: Sector Perspectives on Impacts and Adaptation. Retrieved from:  http://www.nrcan.gc.ca/environment/resources/publications/impacts-adaptation/reports/assessments/2014/16309

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

October DNF

It has been quite a while since I've actually had trouble with enough books to do a DNF!


The Graces

This one just didn't work for me. I really did want to like it, and the family of witches sounded so promising. But it just didn't deliver for me, and I just couldn't find a way to drag myself through it. The biggest issue was the main character, who was... just terrible. She spent endless amounts of time telling us how different she was from her classmates, without really seeming to have any defining personality traits otherwise. After getting almost a third of the way into the book without anything of substance happening, I ended up dropping it and just... not picking it up again.

The weak narrator, lack-luster character interactions and apparent absence of a plot were what kept this one from working for me.



Stalking Jack the Ripper

I knew this one was a long shot. I really had one simple, uncomplicated reason for picking this up- the fact that there was a lady forensic scientist. I feel like maybe me liking of the book hinged on that, and, when this book didn't deliver well on that or any other front, I lost interest. 

Side note: for a relatively un-prolific serial killer (most expert agree the true number of victims is most likely five, which, terrible as it was, is on the low end for a serial killer,) Jack the Ripper has managed to capture the imagination of so many in a really interesting way. Part of which was that the Ripper killings took place when society itself was reaching a turning point, in terms of science and it's application to forensics in England. Forensic science was in it's infancy, and psychology too was a growing field, especially where it applied to use in investigation of crimes. Widespread dispersal of information was improving, which meant news could spread. And, of course, the perpetrator of the Whitechapel Murders was never caught.


Friday, September 30, 2016

#YAReadAlong: The Dark Days Club


I know I've been semi-absent from the blog recently, but I have been doing things! Look, a thing! (A thing using Microsoft Paint, don't judge.)

I'm helping coordinate a read-a-long on Twitter, starting this October (aka tomorrow, how time flies). It isn't something I've done before, so it ought to be an adventure! If you're interested i joining us, please feel free to tweet along using the hashtag #YAReadAlong... let's see how this goes!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Review: The Swan Riders

Title: The Swan Riders
Author: Erin Bow
Series: Prisoners of Peace Duology
Volume: 2
Genre: Post Apocalyptic, Science Fiction
Release Date: September 20, 2016
Goodreads
eARC recieved through NetGalley

A Quick Introduction: Greta Stuart has become and AI. Following the traumatic operation, she travels with Talis and two Swan Riders to the seat of the AI's power in post-apocalyptic Saskatchewan. However, her fate has triggered a rebellion against the AIs maintain peace through fear- AIs with no compunction about blowing up a few cities to make a  point.

Out of Ten: 8/10

Review at a Glance: A funny and stimulating companion to The Scorpion Rules explores humanity against the backdrop of a post-apocalyptic Saskatchewan.

Review: First of all, let us acknowledge the cover. I liked the cover of The Scorpion Rules, but these new covers? Wow. Beautiful. (I know mid-series cover changes are the worst. But look how beautiful the new covers are!) (I digress.)

I always have a bit of difficult time reviewing Erin Bow's books, and I find this duology especially challenging, because there's something about them that feels like they shouldn't work. Except that they kind of do.

It took me a little while to really get into this book- I found that with The Scorpion Rules as well- Erin Bow's writing is not the sort that you launch right into. It takes time to build. The setting interests me because 1) I'm Canadian, and it takes place in post-apocalypic Saskachewan (which for the most part looks a lot like pre-apocalyptic Saskachewan) (if I can't make fun of Saskachewan, what can I make fun of?), and 2) I'm an enironmental science student, so there are aspects that are frighteningly plausible.

Where The Scorpion Rules stumbled for me, The Swan Riders was stronger. The sense of character was stronger. Greta remains a very internally strong character- having survived the AI upload, she's now basically struggling to hold herself together, and to hold onto the human parts of her. She's got a lot going on, but there's sometimes this strange feeling that, while she's the narrator, she's not always the main character. Even more strangely, that didn't bother me much... she's a character who is both an active participant and a more passive narrator, and it made for an interesting combination.

Talis gets a lot more focus during this book, as do The Swan Riders (who would've guessed that, based on the title?) Talis has always been a challenging character to understand, simply because he's so many things at once, and it was intriguing seeing those parts shift and change, and form more of a cohesive whole. In The Scorpion Rules, he was an interesting character because he's this combination of terrifyingly amoral and charismatically funny, but he didn't change much. In The Swan Riders he actually has a character arc, which was great to explore.

The thing about both The Scorpion Rules and The Swan Riders is that they're very much stories being told, in a way that renders the action not very action-y. It's not that it's terribly written, so much as that the action isn't the focus- the effects are, because these books are, in a lot of ways, ruminations on humanity and human nature that just so happen to contain characters and a plot. It's done in such an interesting way!



The humour in these books really works for me. It's alternatingly clever, morbid, and truly, truly bizarre, which fits my own sense of humour to a T. I do wish there'd been more of it, but that probably would have upset the balance!

Overall, I really enjoy The Swan Riders. It took me a while to get into, but I loved the humour and the thought-provoking aspects, and continued to be intrigued by the setting.. This sequel did a good job of wrapping up the story, in a way that was both fitting and somewhat bittersweet, and I'm really glad I read it!

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Review: Every Hidden Thing

Title: Every Hidden Thing
Author: Kenneth Oppel
Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance
Release Date: September 20, 2016
Goodreads
ARC recieved through HarperCollins Canada's First Look program.

A Quick Introduction: Legends of a massive dinosaur skeleton take Samuel Bolt and his struggling paleontologist father to the Badlands when they recieve a black, fossilized tooth in the mail. Also on the trail of "Black Beauty" is Samuel's father's long time rival, Professor Cartland and his daughter, Rachel- who hopes finding the skeleton will be her key to her university dreams and life as a paleontologist. Despite their fathers' enmity, and the fact that they're both chasing the same fossil, Samuel and Rachel are drawn to each other. When the truth of their relationship comes out, they have to decide whether or not to allow old prejudices and family rivalries to pull them apart.

Out of Ten: 7/10

Review at a Glance: An engaging novel featuring flawed but human characters and an unusual (and very interesting) setting.

Review: Here it is, my review for one of my most anticipated novels for this year!

Okay, a little background. Kenneth Oppel has been one of my favourite authors for a long time. He was kind of my introduction to YA? Airborn remains one of my favourite trilogies ever, so when I heard about this I was SUPER excited. Because I am also a dinosaur nut. I have been since I was about six, when I somehow managed to pronounce impossibly long dinosaur names, while still unable to spell the word because. So be warned, at least part of this is going to be me nerding out about paleontology... I promise I'll fit the review in somewhere, though.

Kenneth Oppel continues to impress me with his crafting of characters that feel very real. Samuel and Rachel are both very flawed people, but they still ended up being characters who I very much wanted to succeed. They're both driven, ambitious, and also quite selfish... so their relationship definitely had it's challenges. Their entire relationship had a bit of "unstoppable force meets immovable object" going on, with a side of feeling like it was rather abrupt. It wasn't necessarily unbelievable, it just felt like they were rushing into things and acting on impulse... which I suppose is a part of the story.


I think I understood Rachel better than Samuel, and I'm always happy to see female YA characters in science- there just aren't enough of them! It was nice to meet a character who also didn't outgrow her dinosaur obsession, and I quite liked her way of looking at the world. Samuel was a bit harder for me to like, but his motivations generally made sense to me (which is something that I think is sometimes more important than liking a character...)

I really liked the time period in which this was set- dinosaurs were still kind of a "new" thing, they were a sensation and fossil hunting was something alternately grueling and glamourous. The science of paleontology was just getting its start. Academics of all sorts are known to have long-reaching rivalries- ones that were known to end in property damage, physical altercations, and careers left in tatters. Or, at least, some very sarcastic peer-reviewed articles.

This book was completely devoid of action, either. The Badlands were a dangerous place at the start of the 19th century- a rough, forbidding landscape with poisonous creatures unfamiliar to visitors, and with the risk of conflict with indigenous peoples who (rightly) felt that their lands were being invaded and their rights disrespected (like, a lot, and we definitely see some of that in this book). The main conflict in this book, though, was that between Professors Bolt and Cartland, and their children's struggle to find a way to be together despite their family prejudices.

Overall, I enjoyed reading this, and really like the portrait of fossil hunting in it's fairly early day. The setting and time period were well crafted, as were the characters. While the impulsive relationship between the two main characters wasn't necessarily something I'd want for myself, it wasn't totally unbelievable, and it definitely moved the story along and set them both on their path. I'm just going to go ahead an recommend this to more mature YA readers (there is sex, sex happens, we do not fade to black, consider yourselves warned) who didn't manage to outgrow their dinosaur phase.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Reread Challenge: The Supernaturalist

WHEN I First Read
I read this right after I finished all available Artemis Fowl books and was desperate for more of Eoin Colfer's writing. It's my second favourite from Eoin Colfer, after the Artemis Fowl series.

WHAT I Remember
I remember the general story, and some vivid memories of specific scenes (the satelite scene, the end scene). I also remember wondering why on Earth we didn't get a sequel. I would still dearly love to revisit this world and it's inhabitants.

WHY I Wanted to Re-Read
My library has it available in audiobook. While waiting for the rest of the Artemis Fowl series became available, I listed to this one.

HOW I Felt After Re-Reading
I still really like it. It isn't as strong as Artemis Fowl, in my opinion. The plot and action isn't quite as tight. I don't like the dialogue as much, but there's something about Eoin Colfer's science fiction that's really excellent.

The Supernaturalist is also a bit grimmer in my eyes than Artemis Fowl is. Colfer is pretty good at bittersweet endings, but I think the end of The Supernaturalist is darker than the end of Artemis Fowl, not helped by the fact that it doesn't really feel finished. The Supernaturalist reads more like the begining of a series than a standalone. Also I don't think I'm totally over what happened to Stefan... he ends up being a bit of a tragic hero, doesn't he?

Basically the end verdict is "still pretty great, 10/10 would read more of this story."

WOULD I Re-Read Again
Probably at some point. I think I'll always feel a twinge of regret that this book is the only one I'll see with these characters, though.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Top Ten Books I Wish I'd Read As A Kid


Top Ten Tuesdays is a weekly feature created at The Broke and The Bookish.

1. The Spiderwick Chronicles by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi: These were, of course, out when I was a child... they probably would have been right up my alley, if I'd known what my alley was.

2. The Nest by Kenneth Oppel: Granted this wasn't out when I was a kid, but I think it would have been fantastic to read when I was in the fifth or sixth grade.

3. Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan: I read these when I was in high school. I think I would have liked them... I was fascinated by Ancient Greek and Ancient Egyptian mythology at the time.

4. The Search for WonderLa by Tony DiTerlizzi: I love Tony DiTerlizzi's art. It was something that drew me to Spiderwick in the first place, and my favourite part of this one.

5. The H.I.V.E. series by Mark Walden: Child and teenage criminal masterminds were something that I was drawn to as a child (not worrying at all, Kelly), and something that I still enjoy reading about now. I think part of it was that I really like heist stories and cleverness.

6. The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet by Reif Larson and Ben Gibson: Again, brilliant kids. Also there was something about how T.S.'s brain worked that I think would have made sense to me.

7. Ungifted by Gordan Korman: I think it's very valuable to see that there are different kinds of intelligence... especially because school systems seem to have a very weird and narrow description "gifted."

8. The Glass Sentence by S.E. Grove: It's such an interesting idea. I think it's an idea that I would have liked  as a kid.


Monday, August 8, 2016

Review: The Glittering Court

Title: The Glittering Court
Author: Richelle Mead
Narrator: Kristen Sieh
Series: The Glittering Court
Volume: 1
Genre: Fantasy
Release Date: April 15, 2016
Goodreads

A Quick Introduction: Elizabeth's family fortune is failing- the only way to save it for her to marry into a family with money. After meeting her fiance, she decides that this is a fate she'd rather avoid and, passing herself off as one of her maids, joins the Glittering Court. The Glittering Court grooms lower class girls for marriages in the colonies across the ocean... and Elizabeth, now going by Adelade hopes that it will give her more choice in her own life.

Out of Ten: 1/10

Review at a Glance: Nothing about the plot, characters, or writing of this book made it interesting or remotely believable to me.

Review: Ugh. No. I started off vaguely unimpressed and progressed to very unimpressed as time went on. The thing with this story is that it's, well, boring. There's nothing about it that draws the attention, and I think Richelle Mead's writing really doesn't work for me. I came so close to DNFing this one.

I think the frustrating part with this story was that so much of it was TELLING rather than showing- something that was exacerbated by the fact that I listened to it as an audiobook. Most often we are told that a character displays a certain personality trait, rather than seeing it. I grew weary of the way descriptions were carried out... for all that telling, the world of the story was barely built and felt drab. It almost read the way a historical fiction novel would, had someone done no research on the era they were writing about, and just vaguely borrowed the aesthetic.

I have never really found myself hoping for a love triangle. That is not what I do. At all. But there were moment while listening that I idly wondered "oh, is this character going to come and be love interest number 2, so that I don't have to deal with her moping about what's his name again?" (Cedric. His name is Cedric, Kelly, at least remember his name.) This was a romance with absoloutely zero chemistry... they were just so boring together. Like, what do they even talk about? How hard it is to be the privileged children of members of the conquering nation? The price of silk? How intensely unexciting their secrets are? I just didn't get why they liked each other- I didn't like either of them, and didn't care about them together.

The whole concept of this frustrated me, too. If she was really that desperate to have choice in her own life, surely she could have come up with a better way than essentially putting off being married to someone she doesn't know for another year or so? We are told that she is a very talented artist, surely she could have found a way to do something with that which was less convoluted and fraught with room for error than her plan with the Glittering Court?

The narrator did an alright job. It was nothing fantastic, but I don't think it was her fault I didn't enjoy the book. I think the book wasn't enjoyable in any format.

Overall, I just didn't GET this book. I don't know why anyone thought it was a good idea. The prose lacked any vibrancy, the story had no flow, and the characters and plot appeared to be having a contest to see who could be LEAST interesting.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Ten Books You'd Buy Right This Second If Someone Handed You A Fully Loaded Gift Card


Top Ten Tuesdays is a weekly feature created at The Broke and The Bookish.

These sorts of questions are always a bit odd for me because I don't have that many books that I would only buy if I had a gift card... but at the same time I have a lot of books I have vague plans to purchase at some point in my life. So I kind of have both to few and too many options.

1. The Complete History of Middle Earth box set: I'm slowly working my way though a library copy of The Lost Tales right now... I'd love to eventually invested in the complete collection.

2. Magonia by Maria Dahvana Headley: I keep meaning to get the paperback, but I just somehow haven't done yet. Its definitely something that's been hanging out on my wishlist.

3. Across a Star-Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund: Another one that I mean to acquire eventually... I have the first book and I was initially just waiting the paperback to come out and then I just... didn't?

4. The Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling: My family's copies are rather battered, and there's one set of covers that I'd love to eventually get my hands on.

5. Harry Potter companion books (Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Quidditch Through the Ages, and The Tales of Beedle the Bard) by J.K. Rowling: I read these a long time ago but never got copies of my own.

6. Rites of Passage by Joy N. Hensley: Again, I really enjoyed this one, and I'd love to have my own copy someday.

7. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen: I read this in ebook about five years ago and was really surprised by how much I liked it.

8. Ink and Bone and Paper and Fire by Rachel Caine: I'm currently planning to eventually get this series in paperback when it finishes, but I think I'd probably buy the hardcovers, because they're lovely, especially for Paper and Fire.

9. I'd probably buy a hardcover of The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater. I love my paperback, don't get me wrong, but I kind of want it in hardcover eventually. (Much like I'd love to eventually get the first three books of Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel by Michael Scott in hardcover).

10. My own copy of The Supernaturalist by Eoin Colfer. This is my favourite Eoin Colfer book after the Artemis Fowl series, and I keep meaning to get a copy for myself. I'm not huge on the new cover, though, so I might have to find a way to acquire the old one.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Review: This Savage Song



Title: This Savage Song
Author: Victoria Schwab
Series: Monsters of Verity
Volume: 1
Genre: Fantasy, Paranormal
Release Date: July 5, 2016


A Quick Introduction: Verity is a city divided, and Kate Harker and August Flynn are on opposite sides. Kate's ruthless father rules half the city, making people pay for protection from the monsters that roam the streets. August lives in the other half of the city, and is one of the monsters- though only one of three that are his particular brand of monster. He's been adopted by the family that rules his side of the city, as they attempt to keep all the other monsters under control. When Kate get's kicked out of her sixth boarding school, she is sent back to Verity- where August is assigned to befriend her. They've barely known each other a week when an assassination attempt sends them both running for their lives.

Out of Ten: 6/10

Review at a Glance: A fairly enjoyable series started set in an interesting world.

Review: This was my third attempt at Veronica Schwab's writing. I didn't get through The Archived, and, while I did finish A Darker Shade of Magic, I still didn't love it. For me, This Savage Song was better, but it still didn't astonish me. To me, I feel like a lot of it is that I like the concept of these stories, but the execution just misses the mark for me.

Victoria Schwab creates a world where violence literally does breed violence- every violent act spawns monsters- the type depends on the nature of the act. August is a Sunai, a creature generated by the most horrific acts humans can commit, and uses music to feed on the guilty. I loved the idea! I even liked the worldbuilding.

I also liked the characters. I found things that I admire about both of them (August a bit more so, I think), but there was something that I didn't completely connect to about either of them. They just didn't feel quite like real people. It's like there's something missing, and I'm not sure if that will be something that improves in the next book.

I think what kind of fell down for me was the plot. It wasn't that there was anything particularly wrong with it... it just wasn't told in a way that was totally engaging. It kind of lacked momentum, I suppose you could say.


Overall, I found that I preferred this to other pieces of Veroncia Schwab's work that I've picked up. I didn't love it, but it was still an enjoyable read and I quite liked the world, and it is possible that I'll pick up the sequel.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Top Ten Things Books Have Made Me Want To Do or Learn About After Reading Them


Top Ten Tuesdays is a weekly feature created at The Broke and The Bookish.

1. The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes: Profiling as a concept interests me. I dabbled in psychology a bit when I was in high school, but it was never something I could really see myself doing.

2. Every time I read something set in Italy, I want to learn Italian. And how to make pasta properly, I never manage to make it from scratch with total success.

3. Genius: The Game by Leopoldo Gout it was interesting, and reminded me how very much I don't know about computers.

4. The Martian by Andy Weir and the viability of the potatoes intrigued me. Obviously less something to do and more something to research. We did grow tomato seeds that had been sent to space when I was in high school.

5. There are plenty of books that make me want to start taking self defense again...

6. I'm quite interested in the development of the field of forensics, and forensics itself. I read a book when I was in the sixth grade that kind of started my interest in it. One of my favourite things about The Shallow Graves were the proto-forensics bits.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

I'm in France!

I don't think I mentioned this at all, but I'm taking a French course in France right now! I got a scholarship through my university to cover the cost of the course, and I'm living here in student housing for the next month.
I'm not carrying any physical books with me (baggage limitations) but I'm hoping to get through a few ebooks (and eARCs) while I'm here. I'm also working my way though audiobooks, and I'd love audiobook recommendations! They're fantastic for travel and the like, and it would be great to find some more really good ones.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Ten Books Set Outside The US


Top Ten Tuesdays is a weekly feature created at The Broke and The Bookish.

I'm going to assume that it is restricted to this planet. It is not restricted to reality because I don't read that many books entirely set in reality.

1. Unspoken, Untold, and Unmade by Sarah Rees Brennan: Is set in the UK, in the mythical town of Sorry-in-the-Vale, with a brief visit to London.

2. Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer: Takes place in quite a few places, none of which are America. Most of the first book is set in Ireland.

3. The Mary Quinn Mysteries by Y.S. Lee: Set in Victorian London, it paints a vivid picture of the city.

4. For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund: Set in futuristic New Zealand. The sequel, Across a Star-Swept Sea is set in the Pacific Islands.

5. The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow: Set in what was once in Eastern Canada.

6. Rook by Sharon Cameron: Paris. All be it a Paris slightly under water.

7. Every Breath by Ellie Marney: Set in Melbourne, Australia. The second book mostly takes place in London.

8. A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller: Another one set in London.

9. Cinder by Marissa Meyer: Set in Beijing in the distant future. The series visits several other places (also not America).

10. The Tomorrow Code by Brian Falkner: Also set in New Zealand. This was such a fast-paced book, and I remember quite enjoying it.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Review: First & Then

Title: First & Then
Author: Emma Mills
Genre: Realistic fiction
Release Date: October 13, 2015
Goodreads

A Quick Introduction: Devon Tennyson is happy, right? Sure she's got a probably never-to-be-requited crush on her best friend Cas. Sure she has no idea what she's going to do after high school. But she's happy. Until her cousin comes to stay with them. Foster doesn't fit in, and doesn't really try to- and he also has a talent for football. Foster's newfound talent pulls new people into Devon's life and suddenly everything in Dev's life is changing- and she has to decide what it is that she wants.

Out of Ten: 8/10

Review at a Glance: Despite a poor first impression, this novel ended up really impressing me!

Review: This book, people. This book. I kind of thought I would hate this book. And then I did. And then suddenly I realised that, wow, actually I didn't. Like, at all. How's that for first impressions proven wrong?

But, Kelly, you say. This is a review, you say, we need more info. than that! Fine. Well, to begin with, I don't typically like realistic fiction. It is not my genre of choice, and I'd generally much rather have something with dragons. And to end with, I'm very leery about anything compared to Pride and Prejudice, because it bears the distinction of being one of the few classics I've ever wholly enjoyed. And in between things is the fact that it involves football and that there's a heart on the cover.

I am a judgmental jerk. It's true.

But, despite my leery-ness about all things compared to P&P, I was also curious, and so, when the library had First & Then available, I picked it up. And I hated it. I really did. For the first fifty or so pages I was fully prepared to drop it like a hot potato and move onto something with more magic and explosions. I really didn't like Dev- I found her pretentious and judgmental.

Then it was like a switched flipped. I still found Dev judgmental, but I felt like I just got her. She's judgmental because sometimes people are judgmental. And just because she was flawed, didn't mean I didn't come to like her. There were parts of her that started to seem very familiar to me... her struggles with feeling motivated to go above and beyond what was strictly necessary when it came to school were all too familiar.

Despite the lack of dragons, I found myself really enjoying Dev's journey. I liked watching her and Foster figuring each other out, her growing relationship with Ezra, and seeing her start reaching out to other people as well. It was very subtle development, but she did grow in a very real way, and I found myself quite proud of her in the end. The supporting cast was pretty great too, in the end I found that I really liked Lindsey, Emir, and Jason. I would have to see her regard for some of her phys. ed. classmates grow a little more, too, though she did make some strides on that front toward the end. (Okay, possibly I just would have liked another couple chapters...)

Overall, this book was such a pleasant surprise. I kind of want to say the start was shaky, but I don't think it was. I think my dislike of Dev in the beginning set her up to grow on me as the novel continued, and I'm really glad I pushed through my initial frustration.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Review: Paper and Fire

Title: Paper and Fire
Author: Rachel Caine
Series: The Great Library
Volume: 2
Genre: Fantasy
Release Date: July 5, 2016
eARC received through Netgalley

A Quick Introduction: Born into a family of book-smugglers, Jess has always been an enemy of The Great Library- but now he's also a member of their ranks. He also has far more personal reasons to hate the Library, having seen far too many of it's dark secrets during his training, and lost his best friend, Thomas, to the Library's ruthless control of new ideas. When he finds out that Thomas may still be alive, he and his friends will stop at nothing to free him.

Out of Ten: 8/10

Review at a Glance: An intriguing continuation of a series in which the Great Library of Alexandria never burned, and now controls all availability to books, and knowledge in general.

Review: I did quite enjoy Ink and Bone, but Paper and Fire took it to another level for me. It raises the stakes, and pulls us further into the world of the Library. There is A LOT happening in this story.

Jess has always had a pretty complicated relationship with the library, and that continues in this book. He now has a lot of ties within the library- people he trusts more than his own blood family- but also far more reason to fear it. When he finds out the Thomas is alive and being tortured by the library, he and his friends and allies are determined to find out where. This means deception, and their quest definitely leads to come collateral damage.

What was really interesting about this is we see the Library is not a faceless evil made up of only terrible people doing awful things. There's a lot of good people who truly value knowledge there, and there are a lot of conflicting ideals at work. There's people plotting, but there are also a lot of people who serve the Library without really knowing about the corruption among it's highest ranks, which we see more of in this book. I'm really hoping that in the next book something is done about how the Obscurists are treated- and also that Sybilla is okay.

There are so many characters in this book, too. There's Jess and his friends, and Wolfe and Santi, and a whole host of supporting characters who all have names and motives and histories of their own that get touched on. One thing I still rather suspect I wouldn't have missed is Jess's relationship with Morgan? I'm not sure, it just feels like it was shoehorned in during the first book, and it somehow never really developed into something I cared that much about.

Something else that I really liked was that Wolfe and Santi continue to play a role. Often, in YA novels, the teenage protagonists don't have any real adult support. Paper and Fire manages to let Wolfe and Santi play a role, without having them condescend to any of the teens, all the while letting them be characters going through their own struggles. I feel like it isn't common enough in YA to see adult characters who actually respect the young heroes, and I really appreciated getting to see that.

I do still wish that the power of the Obscurists was expanded on, and I still don't fully understand the alchemy. I wish that had been expanded on more, I was hoping it would be made more clear in this book, but if wasn't.

I'm really looking forward to seeing how this trilogy concludes, and to see how the existence of the Library has shaped North America in the next book.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Blog Disatisfaction

So about a two months ago was Armchair BEA, which was super fun. There's a day where you talk about your blog and blogging, which I notably didn't post for. Because I froze up after coming to this slightly disconcerting realisation: I am getting sick of looking at my own blog. I'm just very... not happy with it right now. I don't like looking at it.

The thing is, I can't really tell if it's the BLOG that I'm annoyed with, or BLOGGING that I'm annoyed with. I've been blogging so long- I've only been here for four years, but I've had a blog more or less since I started high school at the age of 13- (maybe that doesn't seem long, but it's over a quarter of my life, so it feels like a long time). I can't tell if I'm still doing this because I like it, or if it's because I don't like change and I'm kind of afraid to stop.

Part of it is that I tend to hit low points where I'm just not really very motivated. I've talked about that, and they're usually followed by periods where I'm pretty intensely creative for a day or two. I've accepted that I'm not necessarily a naturally creative creature, and that my motivation is going to wax and wane unpredictably. But the down periods seem to be happening more and more often, and happening for longer and longer. And that's just been very frustrating.

Another part is that a lot of my life feels like a holding pattern right now, including the blog.

I've just stopped looking forward to book blogging. The issue is mostly that I kind of don't care about my opinions on books anymore. I just... don't want to bother writing them down. I don't care about them enough, and I don't think its reasonable to expect anyone else to. So I'm kind of on hiatus for a while, with the exception of a few reviews.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Review: The Star-Touched Queen

Title: The Star-Touched Queen
Author: Roshani Chokshi
Series: The Star-Touched Queen
Volume: 1
Genre: Fantasy
Goodreads

A Quick Introduction: Cursed with a horoscope promising a marriage full of death and destruction, Maya is content to resign herself to life as a scholar. Thanks to her horoscope, she is blamed for anything that goes wrong. However, when her father decides to try and marry her off to quell outside rebellions, she finds herself married to Amar and queen of Akaran. But both Amar and Akarnan have secrets, and Maya begins to suspect that her life is in danger and must figure out the truth on her own.

Out of Ten: 6/10

Review at a Glance: A fantasy debut with a great concept that faltered a bit on execution.

Review: This was one of my most anticipated debut novels of the year, and overall I enjoyed it! While I didn't love it, it was still both an interesting concept and fairly well executed. The story pulled me in initially, but stumbled a bit as the story continued.

Maya's horoscope means that she is treated terribly by the women in her father's harem, where she lives and is blamed for every bad thing that happens- from small injuries to stillborn children. Maya basically navigates from difficult situation "people in the place I live routinely tell me to go die" to difficult situation "my father just told me he's planning to marry me off to a stranger" to difficult situation "I'm now the queen of a magical kingdom where nobody tells me anything about anything." For so much of the book it felt like things were happening to her, as opposed to her being an active participant in making them happen. Which was weird because she did do things, but there's something about the writing that feels kind passive.

I think that was one of the things that stopped me from all-out loving this one. It kept me from really being involved in the story. While I enjoyed reading about Maya's journey, I wasn't fully engaged in it. The romance between Maya and Amar felt kind of rushed as I read it. I also found all the secrets being kept from Maya frustrating. I know that, within the story, there was a magical reason, but from a storytelling perspective it felt a little contrived.

The plot itself was a great way to showcase a very interesting world- one that is both beautiful and imaginative. While this book did struggle in some places, I did overall enjoy the story, and I'm still looking forward to exploring this world more in the next book.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Review: Love, Lies, and Spies

Title: Love, Lies and Spies
Author: Cindy Anstey
Genre: Historical fiction, Romance
Goodreads

A Quick Introduction: All Juliana Telford wants while in London is to get the scientific research she and her father have been working on published. She is determined to get that done, and have an otherwise completely uneventful season before returning to her father in their country home. This plan is interrupted by a chance encounter (one where she was stranded on the side of a cliff) with Spencer Northam. Unbeknownst to Juliana, he has is own reasons for being in London- he's working as an Agent for the War Office, and the family she's staying with are under suspicion.

Out of Ten: 5/10

Review at a Glance: This novel focused mostly on a romance that I just wasn't feeling, and would have benefited from a change in pacing.

Review: I think this novel was okay for what it was, and the issue is that it just wasn't what I was hoping it would be. You may have noticed that I don't generally read stories that are just romance. I confess I was hoping for explosions. And also lady scientists. And this book didn't really deliver on those fronts.

I didn't really feel like either of the main characters were particularly memorable. It wasn't that I disliked them, but I wasn't terribly invested in the characters, or their romance. And since this story was entirely romance, that was a biiiiiit of a problem. They didn't really have any chemistry, I suppose? They didn't really have the characteristics that I like in my fictional pairings. I think I would have been more invested in the relationship if I'd been more invested in them as individuals. (Is this a veiled complaint of NOT ENOUGH LADY SCIENTISTING? Maybe.)

The writing was just kind of "meh." There were certain word that were used excessively, and I found that really getting on my nerves. (The overuse of the word "pure" for one thing kind of made me want to scream.) Otherwise this writing was just sort of flat, and the dialogue suffered for that. The plot meandered somewhat- it was fairly simple, and didn't move anywhere with much urgency.

Overall, this novel just didn't have what I was looking for. It was definitely a fluffy romance, but didn't have the kind of character depth and writing that I would have liked to see.

P.S. Also the lack of an Oxford comma in the title dove me to distraction.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Ten Books I Picked Up On A Whim

Top Ten Tuesdays is a weekly feature created at The Broke and The Bookish.

I'm going to go with some books that I actually purchased on a whim. I'm not generally an impulse-buyer, but sometimes, if something sound's interesting and it's on sale, I'll pick it up. (Mostly if something is $3.99 on Book Outlet.) Mostly because I have a hard time figuring out which books I have actually read and a) enjoyed or b) hated were the ones that I picked up on a whim. If that makes any sense.


1. Control by Lydia Kang: I heard about this one a really long time ago, I'm looking forward to picking it up.

2. A School for Unusual Girls by Kathleen Baldwin: Historical science girls are my jam. Basically any mention of that catches my interest.

3. Shutter by Courtney Alameda: Horror sounds fun.

4. Maid of Secrets by Jennifer McGowan: While it isn't historical science girls, it is historical ladies doing stuff, so I'm up for it.

5. Trial by Fire Josephine Angelini: I remember when this came out I considered reading it and just... didn't. I like the new cover a lot, so I grabbed the paperback off Book Outlet.


6. Valour and Vanity by Mary Robinette Kowal: I think I read Glamour and Glass a long time ago... this is more a commitment to eventually reading the series than anything else.

7. Forbidden by Kimberley Griffiths Little: Ugh, this was a mistake.

8. Compulsion by Martina Boone: This ended up being alright. I liked the gothic-y feel.

9. Mortal Danger by Ann Aguirre: What a disaster. I quite liked Enclave, but this was disappointed by this one in the worst way. You can read more about why here.

10. In the After by Demitria Lunetta: This was an interesting read, I'm hoping to eventually pick up the sequel.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Armchair BEA: Wrap Up

I haven't done an ABEA post in two days. The reason is mostly "because I am the worst." But also because I have been reading for Bout of Books for some of that time.

Anyway. This is the second time I've taken part in Armchair BEA, and I really enjoyed it. I got to help out with the international committee this time (how weird is the spelling of committee? very weird) and that was a great experience! I kind of dropped the ball toward the end because things were happening, but I still really enjoyed it.

The Twitter chats were kind of my favourite part this time. It was fantastic to engage with so many other book lovers! I got to help out with the international Twitter chat, which was incredibly fast paced. The chat was an hour, but it felt a lot shorter because of how much happened.

Anyway, thanks again to the ABEA team for running such a fun event, I had a great time being part of it!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Bout of Books 16 Update

A.K.A. The "Kelly has failed" post.

A.K.A. The "why oh why did I sign up for two big events in one week when I have the time management abilities of a potato?"

Anyway. Thus far I have read:
  • Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee (FINALLY!)
  • The Girl from Everywhere Heidi Heilig
I've also started and dropped a couple of other books. I'd really like to get some more reading done tomorrow, especially because I've got a couple of holds waiting at the library!


Review: Rebel of the Sands

Title: Rebel of the Sands
Series: Rebel of the Sands
Volume: 1
Genre: Fantasy
Release Date: Mar. 8, 2016
Goodreads

A Quick Introduction: Sharpshooter Amani is desperate to get out of her dead-end desert town. When she meets Jin, a foreigner passing through, she seizes an opportunity for escape. However, escaping her family proves more difficult than expected, and she's finds herself in a situation beyond imagining.

Out of Ten: 7/10

Review at a Glance: A quick, fun fantasy debut set in a magical desert.

Review: Wow, I should not have put of review this one for so long. I still remember stuff, but I don't think I'm going to really communicate the full impact of the book. This is what happens when I read during exams. I picked this one up during an author event that ACTUALLY CAME TO CANADA.

I really enjoyed this one. It wasn't a particularly heavy read, it was overall just a fun fantasy. Amani was a very determined, and such a resourceful character, and she also has her flaws. She makes impulsive decisions, and she has a temper that occasionally gets the better or her. Jin was... sort of flat in the beginning, and I still feel like he's not completely formed as a character. Their relationship felt a little abrupt, but I also think it has potential to grow as the story progresses (this is a series).

I seem to enjoy fantasy novels set in the desert. Granted, I haven't read that many, partly because there really aren't that many. A place as hostile as the desert opens up a whole bunch of new challenges, and novels set there also draw on different cultures for inspiration. There's a lot of potential there, and I'm delighted to see it being explored!

The magic system is interesting. It's familiar somehow, but I'm not quite sure how. I get the sense that there is going to be bigger magic as the series continues.

Overall, this was a fun read, and I'm looking forward to continuing the series.

Armchair BEA: Aesthetic Concerns - Books & Blogs

Books

I am the worst cover judge. Back when Fierce Reads released the new The Winner's Curse covers, I was VERY MUCH NOT IMPRESSED. Granted, I feel like I had my reasons for that one, and I was both surprised and impressed when they relented and released the hardback with the originally planned cover.

 For me, covers are a part of the reading experience, especially because they can communicate expectations about the audience of the book... I don't know how else really to describe it. Also it is possible that I just like pretty things.

Cover-related choices I have made:
  1. Been interested in a book almost solely because I like the cover.
  2. Not been interested in a book almost solely because I dislike the the cover.
  3. Bought the hardcover because I don't like the cover on the paperback. (In my defense, often I do this when the hardcover is on sale)
  4. Not bothered purchasing the rest of a series I was on the fence about because I didn't like the cover change and might as well just borrow them from the library.
  5. Purchased new copies of a favourite trilogy because the tenth anniversary editions were so lovely. (In my defense there were also on sale.)
I'm just saying, look at them.

So yep, I do have a bit of a thing about covers.


Blog

This blog is in DESPERATE need of an upgrade. (Seriously.) It's more that I've been toying with moving to self-hosted Wordpress for almost two years now, and I've just been putting it off. So basically I'm stuck in limbo.

Things I really should do this year, a numbered list:
  1. Get an icon and banner made. I think making one myself is outside of my skill set.
  2. Finally decide whether or not I want to migrate to self-hosted Wordpress. I think part of me never expected to still be blogging here, so now making an actual commitment is weird to me. And so now I dither.
  3. If I'm not doing that, update the layout here. I've had this layout for way too long. WAY to long. It is very much not me.
Basically, what I'm saying is that I am truly terrible at branding. It wasn't really something that I associated with blogging when I started- I was in high school and far more preoccupied with all the things high schoolers are preoccupied with (bog mummies and mass extinction events), and really didn't know anything about building a brand. I only too one business class in high school, and it taught me very little (though I do make excellent spreadsheets). 

This is somewhere I'm totally open to suggestions... its probably always going to be one of my weaknesses, just because I'm not as interested in it as I am about going on and on about books...

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Armchair BEA: Introductions and Diversity in Books


Introduction

What name do you prefer to use?
Kelly

How long have you been a book blogger?
I've been at this blog since 2012. I did post about books before, but it wasn't on a blog meant specifically for books. That blog is dead and gone now, which is for the best, really.

Have you participated in ABEA before?
Yep! This is year two for me.

What is your favourite genre and why?
Fantasy, probably. My go to answer for "why" used to be that I'm an escapist... this is true, but I don't really think that's ALL of it. After all, a lot of fantastic fantasy novels explore real world issues through a different lens.

Which day of ABEA are you looking forward to most?
I'm pretty excited about tomorrow, because I'm on the international team this year and that's the day of the Twitter chat.

How do you arrange your bookshelves? Is there a rhyme or reason?
My shelves are mostly arranged using the ancient art of "just try to make everything fit on the shelves." Otherwise, by... mood, I suppose? And yes, those are two IKEA bookshelves stacked on top of each other. My father was kind enough to attach them to the wall so that I could stack them without worrying about them falling.

Which books are you most excited for on your TBR? What are you most intimidated by?
I'm probably most excited about either The Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo or Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. My go-to answer for "most intimidated by" used to be The Silmarillion, but I've read that now... hmm. Maybe The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin?


Diversity

I feel like it's possible that the answer is always going to be "there is not enough diversity anywhere at all." That said, it's A LOT better than it was when I started reading YA, looking back.

I'm mainly a YA fantasy reader, as mentioned above, which has had a bit of an issue with diversity. Popular high fantasy especially ended up trapped in this "kind of medieval-ly England where everyone is white men, written by authors who are also white men" rut, which I think it might be just starting to get out of. It's getting there. Crawling in the general direction, at least. And I think YA is on the forefront of that.

Don't get me wrong, there's a lot of work to do, but YA is where I see a lot of it getting done. (It is possible that this is because YA is where I spend my time. Possibly I have sampling errors. Watch out for sampling errors, kids.)

Types of diversity I am seeing, that I would like to continue to see more of:
  1. Characters diverse in ethnicity, race, and/or cultural background. Especially written by AUTHORS of diverse ethnicity, race, and/or cultural background. (We definitely need more of that.)
  2. Non-neurotypical characters. I can count on one hand the positive representations of non-neurotypical characters in fantasy novels. We just don't see a lot of characters that are struggling with learning disabilities or mental health issues in fantasy.
  3. On that thought, characters struggling with disabilities in general.
  4. LGBT+ characters. This is getting more common, which is great. I'm glad strides are being made, but I'd really like to see more. Especially transgender characters, and characters that fall into the "+" part of LGBT+. 
  5. Diversity of place. I read a lot of high fantasy, but also a lot of fantasy that is set in our world. And, by "our world," I mean America and/or London. Because that seems to be where most of them are set. I had a moment of horror when I was working on some stuff with the international team and realised that I couldn't name a single YA fantasy novel off the too of my head that took place in China.
Generally, the representation I see it pretty decent, but every so often I'll come across something that makes me cringe. Not going to go into too much detail now, because I'm trying to remain! upbeat! and! optimistic! (It's a thing I'm trying out...) But trust me, terrible representation definitely exists. It does more harm than good. Terrible representation isn't really representation at all, in a way. Since it isn't really all that representative.

Overall, I'm glad that SOME progress is being made, and I'm hoping to see a lot more. There's a real push for it, and hopefully that continues to have an impact.