Saturday, February 27, 2016

Blogademics: The Murky Marshes of Motivation

Remember how I once mentioned that I go through phases of intense apathy? Well, they're almost immediately followed by phases of hyper-creativity where I feel like writing six or seven posts in three days, wreaking havoc on my sleep schedule.

These are obviously not ideal either as a student or as a blogger! Because I have assigned deadlines, and commitments, and secret deadlines that I must meet even if (and maybe especially because) I've only promised myself that I will. I have a real problem with inertia sometimes. I'm sure you all know what I'm talking about... sometimes once you stop doing something it is really, really hard to start again.

Motivation is a flighty creature. The sort of creature you have to chase through a bog in the middle of summer with a net, only to have it ambush you from behind. So here's some things that I do to bait a trap for motivation, and how I deal with when it just won't bite:

  1. MUSIC. I discovered in high school that I genuinely cannot do certain things without music in the background. This one sometimes gets me weird looks, because some people have a hard time working to music. I research and draft most of my essays and papers while listening to pop music (lots of Taylor Swift), soundtracks, and some truly bizarre music of unspecified genre. I listen to music while writing posts, too.
  2. To-do lists. Usually my bookmark is a list of things I need to do. I still take pleasure in being able to check things off, so it gives a necessary little nudge to sit down and get the thing done. Sometimes that's all it takes.
  3. I keep notebooks and scrap paper everywhere. By my bed, in my backpack, next to the computer. Now, I know inspiration and motivation are two very different things, but I like to have an idea at the ready whenever I am feeling super-motivated.
  4. Grocery shopping. I don't know, somehow taking a bus over to the grocery store and purchasing salsa is conducive to motivation. I don't make the rules.
  5. ROUTINE, ROUTINE, ROUTINE. This is probably the most important one for me. I'm a creature of habit, so being in the routine of something really helps me get it done.
  6. I have "seed posts" in my drafts all the time. Posts I've started that are just waiting to be finished. They're great for days where I'd like to post something, but I'm not super motivated. (It also ensures keep my draft pile under control!) This doesn't really have a school-related equivalent, unfortunately. I don't have any back-up eutrophication essay prompts.
Motivating myself can be frustrating. It's less of a problem for blogging, because my grades and future don't depend on my posting for every single Top Ten Tuesday, and also because blogging is, by and large, really fun for me! (Meanwhile, Fluvial Dynamics labs are... not.)

So, dear readers, do you have any methods for avoiding procrastination and getting motivated? Also, does music distract you, or help you focus?

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Top Ten (okay, not quite) Book I Enjoyed Recently That Weren't My Typical Genre

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

I generally read fantasy and sci-fi, so I kind of looked at anything but that. This TTT was an interesting once for me. It turns out I've been somewhat limited in the past year- I couldn't come up with more than five books that really stood out to me). I also didn't read a single contemporary novel without mystery that worked for me. I know that it's a lot of people's favourite genre, but I honestly can't find contemporaries that I actually enjoy. Suggestions?

1. The Silmarillion by J. R. R. Tolkien: Okay, yes, it is fantasy. But it is a very different sort of fantasy than my typical read- more focused on storytelling than story, in a way. I really enjoyed it, nonetheless, and it has since carved out a little part of my brain and taken up permanent residence there.

2. Every Word by Ellie Marney: I was really impressed by the intensity of this. I do love a mystery (as we shall see). Maybe this isn't totally out of my genre?

3. The Fixer by Jennifer Lynn Barnes: I really liked this one! Political mystery, and it was such a fun read.

4. All In by Jennifer Lynn Barnes: She's on the list twice this week! This series has really grown on my since I first started it. I just really enjoy reading them.

5. These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly: I have a soft spot for early forensics, so I really enjoyed that aspect of this one, as well as the mystery.

I clearly need to get out of my comfort zone more! Any suggestions? 

Saturday, February 20, 2016

2016 Love-a-Thon

What’s your name?

Where in the world are you blogging from?
Canada. More specifically Ontario.

How did you get into blogging in the first place?
This isn't my first blog, actually. I started blogging eight years ago, on a blog that I definitely hope that nobody will ever hate me enough to dig up from it's internet-grave. It wasn't a book blog, but I did start blogging about books there purely because it is a kind of a big part of my life. This blog was created somewhat later.

How did you come up with your blog name?
I don't really have a story. Despite the fact that it was only three years ago.

What genre do you read and review the most on your blog?
I tend to read fantasy (mostly YA fantasy).

What other types of posts do you do on your blog, apart from reviews?
Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by The Broke and the Bookish) posts, almost every week. I'm doing a series of mini-essay-like things about blogging and academics (which I'm calling Blogademics, because I like making up words sometimes).

Best blogging experience so far?
I went to the Book Blog Ontario meet-up last year, which was a really neat experience! I don't often get to meet other book bloggers in the actual, physical world.

Favorite thing about the blogging community?
Nobody seems to get bored of talking about books. (Also there are always people to talk to about said books). 

Name the 5 books you’re most excited for this 2016!
Just five? 
  1. The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater
  2. The Winner's Kiss by Marie Rutkoski
  3. The Fobidden Orchid by Sarah Biggs Waller
  4. The Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo
  5. Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Name the 5 books you want to read this 2016 that you didn’t get to in previous years!

What’s an underrated book or series that you think everyone should read?
I'm always going to go with Airborn on this one. It got new covers for it's tenth anniversary, too, which are absoloutely beautiful.

Which book boy or girl would be your book BFF?
Cinder, from The Lunar Chronicles, maybe? I really like both her and Kai.

Which book boy or girl would be your book boyfriend/girlfriend?
I'm always bad at this question. Seriously, so bad. I don't really have a tendency to get fictional crushes.

Who would you recruit for your apocalypse squad? (5 characters max)
*Is stuck.* It really depends on the apocalypse in question, doesn't it?

Apart from reading, what are your other hobbies or interests?
I'm a full time student, I work with horses.

Apart from book shopping, what else do you like shopping for?
Um... groceries? I'm honestly not a big shopper. My most exciting purchase last year was a giant hoodie dress.

At a party, the DJ suddenly changes the song – and it’s your song. What song would be playing?
At the moment, probably Hold On by Walk off the Earth.

Pick out either a book you want turned into a film/TV show, or a film/TV show you want turned into a book.
Again, just one? I'd love to see The Raven Cycle as a TV show, ditto for The Winner's Curse. (I have a list for Top Ten Tuesday a while ago.)

What would your dream library look like?
Enough shelf space. (Ha.) 

Author you want to meet and sit down to tea with?
I feel like I don't know exactly which author to pick for this question.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Top Ten Songs I'd Love Books For

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

I kind of feel like I'd like to see something inspired by these songs... I'm not really sure why. I enjoy taking songs literally, and adding magic to everything. So there's that.

1. Angels by Within Temptation: Justly entitled revenge story plus magic because magic.

2. Joan by Heather Dale: Joan of Arc retelling? Joan of Arc historical fiction? I don't know, either works.

3. Blinding by Florence and the Machine: Possibly because I'm never 100% sure what this song is about, I'd like a book about it.

4. Faith and Science by The Script: Maybe this could be a contemporary? Maybe I would actually read it?

5. The Night by School of Seven Bells: I would definitely need monsters in this one. This is more a song I can picture playing in the background of a scene probably involving a portal to another dimension.

6. The Call by Regina Spektor: Someone who has to return to the magical world they saved and then had to leave. Because it needs saving again. "WHY CAN'T IT JUST STAY SAVED?" They yell, while secretly delighted to be heading off to said magical world again, because algebra is just boring.

7. How Far We've Come by Matchbox 20: Mostly for the line "waking up at the start of the end of the world."

8. Something Beautiful by NeedToBreath: Somehow this seems like it would be interesting for a book including both artists on some sort of surrealism? Something with surreal elements pulled into the real world?

9. Kings and Queens by 30 Seconds to Mars: You really have to ask? It's epic!

10. Losing Your Memory by Ryan Star: Apparently this is from Vampire Diaries? Huh. Who knew. Oh well, I'm appropriating it for this list. Something set in a world where memory loss is common, maybe? (Taking this song literally, because reasons.)

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Review: Stars Above

Title: Stars Above
Author: Marissa Meyer
Series: The Lunar Chronicles
Genre: Fantasy, Science Fiction, Re-Telling

A Quick Introduction: This novella collection contains the stories of Cinder, Wolf, Thorne, Cress, Winter, and Jacin from before the series, as well as Cinder and Kai's first meeting from his perspective, a retelling of The Little Mermaid, and an epilogue set two years after Winter.

Out of Ten: 8/10

Review at a Glance: An fun and clever short story collection that expanded on the Lunar Chronicles.

Review: Reviewing this is a little strange because they are technically separate stories. They are all in the same world, and do have a certain continuity to them. I'd only read Glitches before starting this collection, and that was a while ago.

It was a lot of fun to get an insight into how a lot of the characters grew into the people we meet in the series itself. The stories are told with Marissa Meyer's signature fast-paced and fun style, and it lends itself well to short stories. While the tone of each story does vary slightly depending on the narrator and the situation the characters were it.

The Little Android was also a fun read, though I wasn't nearly as invested in it as I was in the ones focused on characters I was familiar with. And then, if course there was Something Old, Something New, the wedding story, which was definitely among my favourites. It was great to see our favourite characters finally able to relax a bit! I had a lot of fun reading it. I was so delighted just to see them all being happy and not running for their lives.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading this  collection. I'm really looking forward to the graphic novel spin-off of the series (starring Iko) as well!

Check out the rest of the series:

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Review: Passenger

Title: Passenger
Author: Alexandra Bracken
Series: Passenger
Volume: 1
Genre: Fantasy, Time Travel

A Quick Introduction: All violin prodigy Etta has ever wanted is to perform- until she's thrown from the world she knows and into a violent new one on the night of her debut performance. She discovers she's heir to a legacy she knew nothing of- she's a time traveler. She finds herself on a ship over a hundred years in the past, heir to a legacy she knows nothing about. Nicholas, meanwhile, knows far more than he'd like about the time traveling families that hold the keys to his freedom. Charged with finding a stolen item of great value, Etta and Nicholas are soon swept up in a quest spanning continents and centuries.

Out of Ten: 6/10

Review at a Glance: A time travel with an interesting concept, insta-love, and slightly underdeveloped characters and plot.

Review: *sighs dramatically* I wish I had loved this one. I really, really do. The cover is lovely. It's a time travel book. But, alas, it was not to be.

This book was kind of a hype-monster- I devotedly avoided reading just about every review I encountered because I didn't want to give myself expectations. It wasn't necessarily that this book was awful or anything, it was just that I wasn't impressed by it, either.

Both Etta and Nicholas fell sort of flat for me- there were very few times that I felt engaged in their struggles. There wasn't much time spent developing them as people before they were launched into the plot, and even less once the plot got rolling.

This book did seem very much plot driven. It was such a rapidly paced story, with multiple very different settings. While the settings didn't feel particularly vivid to me, they were generally adequately described. The plot is a simple one, and did seem almost too convenient at times. The pacing was a bit strange, so I found myself thrown by what was happening occasionally... which may have been intentional, considering how disorienting it must be to suddenly discover you're a time traveler.

I think the biggest detractor from my enjoyment of this novel was the romance. It's tough for me to get invested in a relationship between two characters when I'm not all that invested in the characters themselves, and it just seemed like it happened so fast! There wasn't any build, then suddenly they were in love? I didn't really see where it was coming from, and that frustrated me a lot.

Overall, being blindsided by the romance like that really did detract from my enjoyment of this one. I'll probably pick up the sequel to find out what happens, but I'm also not overly anxious to find out the conclusion to this story.

If Passenger was your thing, I really recommend checking out the Ruby Red trilogy by Kersin Gier. They're both about girls who find themselves unexpectedly time traveling, tasked with a mysterious quest through time for a mysterious and slightly sinister family-slash-secret-society.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Blogademics: My Degree Doesn't Mesh

My degree has ABSOLOUTELY NOTHING to do with book blogging. The closest I get to reading novels in any of my courses is getting particularly well written textbooks, or maybe a newspaper article about climate change. Let's talk about what my degree doesn't cover:
  • Anything to do with literature. 
  • Anything to do with coding.
  •  Anything to do with running a blog or business.
Folks, I study everything but the above. I'm doing my bachelors degree in Environmental Science (which I'm capitalising because it is Important). I study geography and biology. I study policy and government. I study chemistry and economics and map making.  You see where I'm going with this? I dabble in just about every imaginable fields, except for anything remotely bookish or blog related.

If I could, I might take courses that made me a little more tech-savvy. I don't like that I'm dreadful at coding! But I honestly don't think I'd want to go anywhere near university English, much less do a degree in it.

Because here's a thing about me: I hated high school English. Well- that's not entirely true. I liked writing essays and exploring storytelling. But I hated reading books in high school English, with one or two notable exceptions. I came out of my high school education with the overall perspective that if you liked reading after you'd gotten your English credits, you liked it despite English class. The Kite Runner and I shall be eternal enemies after what it put me through in eleventh grade (seriously, high school teachers, PLEASE find something else to make your students read).

Everything is a learning experience though, and I learned several things about myself:
  1. I don't like being told what to read. I don't mean recommendations- I love when people recommend books to me! I mean being given a reading schedule and then being told "okay, now read chapters 1-5 of The Kite Runner and discuss!"
  2.  I despise being told what to think about whatever I am reading. No, I don't need you to tell me all the reasons that I am going to love this hideously depressing novel. And no, you are not going to persuade me to love it.
  3. I don't like super depressing books. English teachers (or, at least, my English teachers) have a gift for choosing novels that are just range from dreary to relentlessly miserable. They seem to be under the impression that such novels are a deep and meaningful portrayal of the real world, and that a bunch of teenagers really need to be sad more often. Here's the deal, English educators of the world: if that's what the real world looks like, I'm perfectly happy over here with my dragons.
  4. Possibly I'm not deep enough for Great Literary Masterpieces. (Capitalised because Importance.) I am a simple creature, I read primarily for enjoyment. If I can't enjoy a book, chances are I won't read it, whether it is a Great Literary Masterpiece or not. There may be books that fall under this category that I do enjoy, but I refuse to pretend I enjoy reading something I don't.
My experience with the English curriculum really taught me one major thing about me: that I wasn't going to succeed and be happy in a university English program, despite the fact that I loved books as much as I loved pizza and read a novel every two days. I didn't even consider applying for an English program when it came time to think about what I wanted to do after high school. Too many required readings, too many people telling me what I ought to think about said books, and far, far too many Great Literary Masterpieces.

I love books. I think I could happily spend the rest of my life talking about books. But I have never really regretted closing the door on the more academic side of books and reading.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Ten Futuristic Settings I'd Love To Read

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

1. Deep Space: These are kind of starting to show up more, I think. Everyone probably already knows how much I adored Illuminae (so much), in part because of how much I enjoyed the setting. There's just something marvelously adventurous and also disturbing about deep space.

2. Planetary Colonies: Or not even colonies. Any part of the "hey look at this new planet." Stranded on Mars? I'm listening. Living in the clouds on Venus? I'm very interested. Fictional planets? Bring them.

3. Crash-Landed on an Unfamiliar Planet: I'm kind of a sucker for these. Bonus points for a plucky crew! I just really like space, okay?

4. Jungle: No no listen, okay? People living in a jungle/ forest somewhere, then they come across a random spaceship from a past age, half submerged in some shallow body of water. Adventure ensues.

5. Supercity with Cyberpunk-y Superheroes and/or Vigilantes: Or just cyberpunk anything, really. (Says the person who doesn't even regularly carry a cellphone.)

6. Of Course I'm Not Keeping an Alien in My Bathtub: Does this even need explanation? This isn't so much a setting as a goofy story that I'd love to read.

7. Beneath the Surface of Ocean: I really liked Dark Life by Kat Falls... it just seemed like such a neat idea, and it was really fun to read.

8. Six Degrees Later: I'm an environmental science student, so we talk a lot about the impacts of climate change biologically, geographically, economically, geopolitically... (which can be kind of grim, not going to lie). I really like to see authors' interpretations of the future we've set ourselves on course for.

9. Telaporting is Possible: I'm kind of curious how near-instant transportation would effect how the world works.

10. We Just Made Contact: Something set in a world where Earth JUST made contact with sentient (probably not overtly hostile) creatures from another planet. Probably following from the moment of contact to about a month after, probably told as a series of journal entries/file entries/ recordings. That would be cool. Wouldn't it? It would.

So the takeaway message is that I really like space. Really, really. Anyone else have some favourite sci-fi/ future-y settings they'd love to see more of?