Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Tell Me Tuesday #9 In Which Elizabeth Gets Kidnapped By a Series



I have been a reading monster these past few days!  After what's felt like AGES since I finished a book (in my defense, I was so sick I wasn't even able to read for the first half of the week) I apparently went through a bad enough withdrawal that I HAD to read. RIGHT NOW.  Which happily led to a new absorbing series for me:




So Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder is on sale on Amazon (it's $1.99, so grab it while it lasts!), and it's on my TBR so I figured....well why not?  It's been recommended to me a few times by more than a few people, so I figured I would give it a shot.  Unfortunately, while I liked the world building, the character developments sometimes felt a bit uneven, and I really wasn't into the ship.  Which isn't to say it was a bad book, but it's not one that's probably going to stick around in my memory.  Plus, loathe that I am to admit it, ships are sometimes REALLY IMPORTANT to me.  And I tend to connect to books better when they are - and it just wasn't. I really, really didn't care.  I liked the story and was willing to forgive the rest (because honestly it wasn't like it was awful) to pick up the second book, and oh man am I glad that I did.  It ended up being so absorbing that it led to immediately checking out the third book and staying up until 2am to finish it, which is a feat I am rarely up to these days since I usually have to get up so early.  The second book remains my favourite by far, but I can't wait to get my hands on the rest of the now ongoing series!  (It was originally a trilogy, and it looks like the second trilogy is going to finish next year).

What most interested me about the series beyond the absolutely heart pounding, non-stop action of the plot, was the world building.  Maria Snyder has managed to create a world where there are two countries - one based on a capitalist democracy, the other on communism, and I'm so used to finding the former glorified and the latter vilified that I was pleasantly surprised to see that she managed to make an argument for both systems.  Both systems in this book have big drawbacks - in the communist country, rules are strictly enforced without mercy and lives are micromanaged, but everyone has job security and a purpose, and they are rewarded based solely on their abilities - not gender or age.  In the democracy, there are beggars and homeless and the council is very slow to act on anything, often taking months even in situations that are perilously time sensitive, but the people have the freedom of choice.  It was really interesting seeing that dichotomy, and I think being fairly accurate in what the benefits and drawbacks are of each system, and it's something I've never really seen in a fantasy novel before.

So as much as I did not paint a flattering picture of the first book, I'm really in the minority on that - something like 30 of my Goodreads friends have read this series, and like 95% of them rated all the books very highly.  Plus, I can guarantee that that if you had the same issues I did with the first book, the second book makes up for it.  Which is to say, I think you should go read this series.


Now.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

A Day in the Life #42



So my blogging schedule hasn't quite made it to any resemblance of regular (or frequent) posts, but I picked up extra shifts at both my jobs the past two weeks, so I've decided to go ahead and forgive myself.  I'm so magnanimous, I know.

Why have I been picking up so many extra shifts you might ask?  Well there's:

A. My student loans that have kicked in because the government took forever to process my repayment plan, but more importantly
B. I'M GOING TO PARIS!!!!

My best friend is now a flight attendant!  Which is such a good fit for him, and has mad benefits for me.  Namely, I can go to Paris for like...nothing practically.  All it's going to cost me is basically hotel fare, doing stuff in Paris costs, and the cost of not working.  Which is totally worth it. Because, hello, I'M GOING TO PARIS.  It'll only be for a couple days but, hey I'm not complaining!

And that's basically it?  Overall it's been a fairly uneventful past couple weeks, with really lovely weather, so I can't complain too much :)


HAHAHA.  You ask why I'm laughing? Because I was going to post this last weekend.  And then I got knocked flat for half a week by the stomach flu.  Like...easily in the top 5 sickest I have ever been in my life.  Which considering the sickest I've been is either the time I was pretty much confined to my room for a month with an ear infection, throat infection, and pink eye or that time I threw up every 10 minutes for 24 hours (quite literally), is really saying something.  Also that lovely weather is SO NOT TRUE ANYMORE.  It HAILED yesterday. HAIL.  In APRIL.  Also I'd put my lavender and baby aloe vera plants out because it had been nice and I'm fairly certain they aren't going to recover which makes me sad :(.

But hey, I'm not sick anymore and I'm going to Paris, so what's a little bad weather and plant death to me?


What I've Been Listening To:


I tried watching the MV for this one and...I had no earthly idea what was going on.  Don't care though, this song is SO. GOOD.




I've been listening to Kishi Bashi for the past month and I can't pick between these two songs as my favourites.  It's like Andrew Bird meets Sufjan Stevens meets MGMT.  It's so bubbly and fun and layered and I LOVE IT.


Ooh and speaking of musical stuff, turns out they actually recorded the Bach concert, so for those who care to listen, here's the recording of my part of the Bach concert!






And now I leave you with your weekly bookish links!


Foz proposes 5 Potentially Amazing SFF Adaptions That Need To Happen.
Christina has Thoughts on Gender and Romance.
Alec dissects the history and impact canceling the red line in Baltimore has and will continue to have in his third installment of The Inequality Chronicles.
Brit talks about Queer Experience in Maggie Stiefvater's The Dream Thieves and Kin and Kind in Blue Lily, Lily Blue.

And for any of my readers in Australia, JUST SO YOU KNOW IMPORTANT ALERT: Tamora Pierce is going to be at the Supanova Pop Culture Expo in Sydney and Perth in June!!! (And heck, my bff is a flight attendant - maybe I'll go to see her there too!) 

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Tell Me Tuesday #8: In which Elizabeth's lack of reading is exposed

Hosted by La La Toadstone



Well, the title is a bit misleading.  It's not that I haven't been reading, it's that I've mostly been rereading.  To give you an idea this has been the main staple of my reading diet this year:


Sandry's Book (Circle of Magic, #1)Magic Steps (The Circle Opens, #1)Alanna: The First Adventure (Song of the Lioness, #1)


To be honest most of my reading has been in the car, aka audiobooks.  I've already made it all the way through The Circle of Magic and The Circle Opens series, and almost all the way through The Song of the Lioness series.  Basically I think this is going to be the year that I read ALL THE TAMORA PIERCE NOVELS.  Not that I haven't read them all before, but this will be my first time reading them all in one year!  I don't know what I'm going to do when I finally get to the end of her books in audio format - it's been so easy picking what I'm going to listen to next!  Luckily I have another couple months til I manage to go through them all.  (Except her Beka Cooper books since I originally read those in audio format and want to go through them in written form this time.  Especially keeping in mind said events in the third book that absolutely destroyed me.  I'm actually not entirely sure I will reread that third book.  We'll see how I feel when I get there I guess.


Actually, looking at my Goodreads list, it looks like I've read more books than I realized! Although it's probably not up to snuff with how much I usually read, especially once you take out the picture books and rereads haha!  

Bloodlines (Bloodlines, #1)Everything, EverythingThorn 


1. I went through all of Richelle Mead's Bloodlines series and I felt like it was pretty on par with the Vampire Academy series (although I had less of the swoons.  I love Adrian, but I'm pretty picky with my OTPs).  It had a lot of the same faults and a lot of the same pacing issues - consistently my favourite and least favourite books were the same number into the series in both Vampire Academy and Bloodlines.  But overall it was still a fun series to read, although not one I'll likely revisit.  But I'll definitely be reading more Richelle Mead!

2. To say I had high expectations going into this would be a bit of an understatement.  It seemed like this was everyone's favourite book of last year, even people who aren't big into contemporary YA (like me).  And I did like it (and am very glad I got absorbed enough to check out a physical copy of it. The narrator does a really good job, but the way this book is formatted, it is a book that is meant to be read), but I could see what was coming from a mile away (although I thought that couldn't possibly be it because well...everyone loved it so much!  In any case, I will definitely be picking up Nicola Yoon's next novel - while I have mixed feelings on the ending of this one, the writing is really gorgeous and I did enjoy reading it quite a lot.  Also have you seen this cover?? I would frame this and hang it up on my wall!

3.  And speaking of covers I would frame and hang up on my wall - Thorn will definitely be a contender for my top reads this year.  I actually met Intisar at Chessiecon last year!  I had been wanting to read this book for ages actually (hello it's a Goose Girl retelling!!) - but my library doesn't have a copy.  After getting to hear her talk, I really REALLY wanted to read this!  Luckily La La was kind enough to let me know when it went on sale so I snatched it up and lo and behold here we are.  I think this actually may be my favourite Goose Girl retelling.  I absolutely adore Shannon Hale's Goose Girl so really I'm just happy to have two retellings of this that I love, but I loved how fleshed out Khanani made her world building and characters.  It definitely wasn't a perfect book, but it had beautiful writing, and wonderful characters, and I am totally sold on whatever she wants to write. Because if this is how she writes for a debut novel? It's already this good - I can't even imagine where she's going to go from here.

And speaking of Shannon Hale...

Austenland (Austenland, #1)An Assembly Such as This  (Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman #1)North and South 


I got hit with a need for SWOONS.  And so this happened.

1. I was actually disappointed with this - I honestly don't know why I keep reading Austen reinterpretations and retellings because I don't think I've found a single one I've liked.  Which I guess is what happens when you love the source material so much.  But it was especially disappointing because I know how well Shannon Hale writes - and you definitely see it here, but it kept devolving into the silliness you see in other Austen novels.  And to be honest I would have been ok with that - if she had just chosen one or the other.  It just didn't fit, unfortunately.  I'll still be trying her sequel though, I like her too much not to try it :)

2. I'm actually currently reading this!  So far it's been fairly good as reinterpretations go, but it definitely feels like more of a reinterpretation of the BBC series than of the book itself.  (I know this because I am currently watching it for the first time and a lot of the references seem to fit the scenes awfully well and to use dialogue I don't remember being in the book.  Which considering the number of times I've read it seems likely it's not actually in the book. Although not impossible.)

3. And I checked this one out from the library as well.  After all the flailing I did about this ship  it's honestly strange I haven't read it before! I think a little of me is scared it won't hold up to the miniseries.  Which seems unlikely. And if it doesn't...well oh well who cares?  I'll still have Armitage playing Thornton and I can have the feels that way too!


And that's what I've been reading over the past few months!  What about you guys? Anything good? (Anything with swoons? This mood doesn't appear to be dying down! I need all the recs!)

Monday, March 14, 2016

A Day in the Life #41: In which Elizabeth has many life updates because she hasn't posted in months



It's been a while (to put it mildly) since I've posted one of these, so I have loads to tell you!  I don't even know where to begin, really.  I quit the gym job I've had for the past year which is one of the best decisions I've made all year. I hated working there - it was super boring which just exhausted me. Who knew doing nothing would make you that tired?  I don't think I realized how much blogging I got done during that job though, even when I'd lowered my shifts down to just one day a week.  Basically I haven't done any posts since I quit, which I'm ok with.  The blog isn't all of life, but I have missed it.  Here's hoping I'll be motivated to post more regularly even though I'm not chained to a desk job any more!



I also had a really good talk with the teacher I had while studying at my undergrad.  I basically just had a heart to heart about how I felt like I was kind of stuck - taking auditions and not getting anywhere with them, dropping my student, a very long dry spell in gigs which basically meant that at that point in time I was doing 0% of what I wanted to do.  She reminded me I'd never wanted an orchestra job in the first place, which is very true. I was taking auditions because I felt like it was something I should do, and something that would offer me at least a little (very little) job security if I did win a job.  And then she pointed out that my boyfriend is also a freelance musician.  And you know what a freelance musician + a freelance musician equals? No benefits and no retirement.  With Obamacare, no benefits isn't a huge deal for me at the moment, but no retirement...that's kind of a big deal.  

My grandfather runs his own jewelry business - he designs jewelry using pressed and preserved flowers. 


They're really gorgeous actually, I'm lucky I'm his granddaughter so I've got a few pieces of my own - you should go check them out!  I have the pendant version of these earrings - they've got Hawaiian seaweed (Limu) pressed and preserved inside. He deals primarily with orchids, but he started this line a few years back and it's one of my favourites - I've never seen Limu jewelry anywhere else, so it feels really unique!

 It's his passion, and I am so, so happy he's able to do what he loves for his work.  But he also didn't have retirement options, and he's near or in his 80's (it occurs to me I am a terrible granddaughter for not actually knowing his age) and not working isn't an option for him.  He gets to do what he loves...but he has to do what he loves. Every day. Even if he gets sick. He simply can't afford not to.  And I don't want to be in that position.  It's half envious - being able to do what you love is really an amazing thing - but half agony. Or at least it would be for me, it may not be for him (although I imagine he'd appreciate being able to take a  vacation).  Oboe is a very, very physically demanding instrument.  To be honest your chops start to go in your 50s and 60s, and beyond that...well, most of us have retired by then.  If I did freelance solely (assuming I ever got that successful) I'd be constantly competing against younger, and to be honest better musicians.  Which...is horribly depressing.  

My teacher pointed out that I already know that I loved teaching middle school band, and it comes with benefits and retirement, and that if my boyfriend and I ever get married, he'd be added to those.  And that if I really want to play, I will find ways to make it happen.  And she's right.  I don't for a second regret going to grad school and getting my Masters in performance, nor do I regret the past year and half taking auditions and gigs when I can. They've made me a better musician and I think it's made choosing to pursue teaching a more informed decision - I think if I'd done this earlier there would always be a feeling of "what if". And now I know: I don't think I would be happy doing only freelance work.  And happiness is what I want.  So I've mailed off the paperwork to be certified, and I'm in the process of applying to be put on the substitute teaching lists.  And I am so relieved that I'm doing all of this - I don't feel like a failed musician. I think all this time, even though I don't think of other teachers as "failed musicians", I've been afraid I would feel that way about myself.  All in all, I feel nervous and excited and determined and...well, happy.







On a more depressing note, things haven't been going so well with Lily. She broke her tail in December (how exactly is still a mystery since she was home alone, but that's beside the point).  It's fine - a bit kinked, but it hasn't had a big impact on her ability to walk or anything.  It's everything else I found out - turns out she isn't six as we'd previously though....she's thirteen.  And with it she's got all the problems that come with being thirteen - she's got hyperthyroidism, and I've just found out she's in the early stages of kidney failure.  I haven't talked to the vet yet, but I know what she's going to say: at best Lily's got a few years left in her at max.  I can do a little to help extend her life and keep her feeling good...but.  To say it's heartbreaking to go from expecting to have a decade left with her to discovering it'll only be a few years is an understatement.  BUT I am going to make sure she's as comfortable and happy as possible, and I'm going to steel myself for the tough decision that's going to be looming in my future.  In the meantime she seems to be feeling ok, and Tristan is just as cuddly and active (how this cat is 22 pounds I just don't understand.  Well, except that he likes to lick oil bottles. Yup. That's a thing) so at least they're not both ill.  (I'm not going to lie, I'm actually terrified I'm going to take him to the vet in May and I will be getting more bad news, as I've taken Lily to the vet 3 times in the past 4 months and each time gotten more bad news. BUT IT CAN'T HAPPEN TO HIM TO I WILL NOT LET IT AND GOD HELP ME I AM GOING TO FIGURE OUT WHERE HE KEEPS GAINING ALL THIS WEIGHT. And I'm going to hide my oil bottles.)






Tristan, as fat and sulky about not getting Lily's wet food as ever.  And Lily LOVES the snow! When it starts snowing she glues herself to the door and windows until I let her out haha!



I'm not going to lie, this hiatus from the blog hasn't been entirely due to work/life things. I have watched so much tv.  Like...SO. MUCH. TV.  So, on the off chance any of you are looking for something new to watch, here's:

What I've Been Watching:



This is like....zombies meets..Rizzoli & Isles?  Basically it's a really fun premise, Ravi is (WOULD IT KILL BLOGGER TO LET ME PUT HEARTS OF SOME KIND)  amazing
(and cute. Did I mention that? Super, super, super cute), also there are zombies.  It's a good time, I swear, you should watch it.






 Guys, this took over my life for like a month.  I blame iZombie and Kirsty - I basically did 
NOTHING but watch this show. I worked, ate, and watched the show.  I did not sleep. There was no sleep.  IT'S SO GOOD. SO SO SO SO SO SO GOOD.  And I know people freaked out about this show but I didn't care and I was so stupid (but glad because I would have DIED if I had to wait like a decade for the movie). The first season remains my favourite - the second season had some weird story lines that went way out there, and the third season just didn't hit it's stride until the very end.  BUT, that being said that's like criticizing early Beethoven.  IT'S STILL GOOD. (Also I'm not saying I think late Beethoven is better, although I do prefer it. In fact actually this is a terrible simile, ALL BEETHOVEN IS GOOD I AM NOT BEING A BLASPHEMER RIGHT NOW. But I can't think of a better thing at the moment so I'm just going to...move on.)  The pilot episode of this show is FLAWLESS.  I mean it - it's one of the most courageous pilots I've seen - they really don't hold back and I love Veronica Mars and oh my god I want to go watch this show again STOP ME.  So basically this was my life for almost a month - I binge watched all three seasons, and then the movie, and then the first book. The only reason I haven't read the second book is because my library only has it on e-audiobook for some odd reason and I prefer cds in my car. Plus it would just take too long AND I WANT TO JUST READ THE WHOLE THING RIGHT NOW.  Ahem.  So basically, blame Kirsty for a month of this hiatus, that month is completely her fault.





Speaking of really fantastic shows....Granite Flats is really good.  It has really short seasons, is sort of...50's noir meets children? I don't know I suck at these stop asking me! Just watch it!  I was....quite upset by an event at the beginning from season 3 that I still haven't quite forgiven, but the first two seasons are just truly fantastic works of art.  And very much like YA - light hearted at times, but definitely doesn't pull punches when they're deserved.







I finally finished Sense8 - it's one of those shows I wanted to make sure I actually sat down and watched instead of had on while doing the dishes or something.  It's so stunningly beautiful to watch and complex enough that you really need to pay attention to watch it.  It some how manages to be both quiet and touching, but fun and exciting.  And I love that it's set all over the world!!  It's so hard to pick what I like most about it, but it's such a diverse cast of characters - and I'm not just talking about race and culture although it's certainly one of the most if not the most diverse show I've watched in that sense, but in their stories and personalities and how their storylines evolve.  I really, really recommend this one, but only if you have patience as it unfolds itself without being rushed about it.




And last but not least, Velvet which is a Spanish show.  It's set in 1950s Spain, and it's set in a fashion store so you get these beautiful costumes, with all the financial/business drama of Mad Men mixed with the class differences of Downton Abbey and it is gorgeous.  I haven't finished this one as it's obviously a subtitled so I have to watch it slowly, but it actually features one of the actors from Sense8 (incidentally possibly my favourite character/storyline from Sense8, although it's really hard to choose).  So far it has been really fantastic!







What I've Been Listening To:




   

 I realized I hadn't ever listened to Imogen Heap's latest album (I'm grossly behind - this came out in 2014) and this is the opening track.  It is everything I love about her music and it's reminded how deeply impressed and moved I always am with her music.  The lyrics are thought provoking, the music is so layered and somehow manages to always surprise me with where it goes harmonically, which is a rarity in the pop music world. (Although Imogen wouldn't exactly be considered a pop artist, but my point is the non-classical/jazz world).




I seriously thought Phil Collins had joined a band the first time I heard this song.  It's not as clear on the other tracks, but on this one in particular he sounds just like him. Seriously. Listen to this, and then listen to this.



...did I mention how obsessed I got with Veronica Mars?  I'm not even kidding I may have been bordering insanity.  I actually prefer the original season 1 and 2 versions of the song, but I LOVE the way they did the season 3 credits, so I compromised and put that video up instead.  But here's a link to the full song because it is SO GOOD and reminded me that when The Dandy Warhols are on, they're on.  (...but they have a lot of weird stuff too haha)



And if you guys are ever into what I listen to or don't mind rather eclectic playlists, I update this one fairly frequently with what I'm listening to at the moment!





What I've been playing:

It's been a very choral month for me!  First up we have the Beethoven Mass in C Major: 


I honestly think this is the first time I've played with a professional choir since I graduated high school, and it was by far the most pleasant experience I've ever had.  My undergraduate would do a choral/orchestral concert each semester and...well let's just say it felt more like a battle than a collaboration.  Working with the group I did was just so fun, the musicianship was fantastic, and everyone was very welcoming!




I was lucky enough to be contacted by the Beethoven director who was also putting together a Bach marathon (yay all day Bach!) and needed an oboist for a cantata.  To say playing Bach is a challenge (especially physically) is...it would be an understatement to say it is an understatement.  But they're so lovely!  Luckily for my face this one is only about a half hour, but this was probably one of the most fun things I've been able to do in recent years.  Once again, the singers were phenomenal and the group was very small - I think there was a grand total of fourteen musicians performing this, so it felt really intimate.  And luckily the director was great to work with - and this is not always the case.  I can't even imagine what his schedule must have been like having back to back weekends of the Beethoven Mass and then the Bach Marathon which he had to put together, but he managed to do it somehow and was a pleasure to work with.  All in all, this month has been a very good one for me (minus the rather major Lily thing) and it's finally starting to be like spring and I have daytime in my life again, so I've been in a pretty good mood!  (...it probably helps that I can have coffee again now that I don't have any upcoming performances.)


And I'll have to leave the bookish part for tomorrow since it's Tuesday (and also this post is going to take the average person a year to read it's so long), and that means it's La La's Tell Me Tuesday!  ...which I'm hoping I will get up.  No which I WILL get up. I BELIEVE IN MYSELF.  So that just leaves my sparse bookish links, since let's be real I've been about as good about visiting blogs as I have been about writing blog posts.


Authors

Tamora Pierce writes about her Chessiecon experience (the con I saw her at as a refresher)


Books

Ilana C. Meyer muses on what makes The Hero and The Crown by Robin McKinley such a great book (and they're all my reasons too)


Blogging

Christina picks her SoulTPs (aka OTPs that she will fight for until the end of time).
Gillian posts the Shippy Awards winners.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

2015 End of Year Survey

2015-end-of-year-book-survey-1024x984
Hosted by Jamie


Once again I'm getting to this later than I meant to, and my family plans at the end of the year mean no internet access for a week, so it leaves little room for getting this out before the new year if I don't get a head start on it!  ...and I'm definitely a procrastinator so here we are.  With no further ado, the very comprehensive end of year book survey!

reading-stats-2015-1024x278

Number Of Books You Read: 320
Number of Re-Reads: 25
Genre You Read The Most From: Discounting picture books since I honestly don't know what genres most of them were and they made up about half of the books I read this year, it's a pretty good guess that it's fantasy, although within that it actually might be paranormal fantasy for the first time EVER. (I don't feel like counting but it seems like a real possibility)



best-YA-books-2014

1. Best Book You Read In 2015?

For once, there is no question at all which book gets this title: Unwind by Neil Shusterman. I may have some close calls on the list, but Unwind remains one of the most thought provoking, disturbing, heart racing, horrifying books I've ever read. And I do mean all of those as compliments I swear!

2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon - from what little I knew of it I had been expecting something completely different, and while I don't have a problem with this exactly, I also did a supremely idiotic thing and decided to read it directly after reading the first Game of Thrones book. Which was like...ok I know I like big, long fantasy books, but that was just too much.

 3. Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read?  

More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera. I don't really want to hint why since I don't want to spoil anything, but needless to say it was nothing like what I thought it was going to be (despite appearances for the first 2/3 of the book)


 4. Book You “Pushed” The Most People To Read (And They Did)?

HAHAHA like you don't know the answer to this

Unwind (Unwind, #1)


 5. Best series you started in 2015? Best Sequel of 2015? Best Series Ender of 2015?

1.  The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson  (Hey, I can't put Unwind down for EVERYTHING. Besides, I'm discounting it because it was technically originally written as a standalone.) - This series has everything I've been asking for from fantasy:  New fantasy landscapes (aka non-Western), diverse characters and cultures (aka non-Western based), a fat heroine (although she does lose some weight but I'm pretty sure she's still heavy at the end), and love stuff I can't say because of spoilers.  But this literally has everything I've been complaining about not seeing in fantasy in every blog post I've written about it.  So I guess it probably shouldn't have been a surprise since Shannon said in pretty much every post "Hey...remember that book I keep telling you about? You should probably read it. Like now."  She was right.


2.  Locke & Keye: Keys to the Kingdom - This is the fourth volume in the series.  I had enjoyed the first three, but the huge turning point for me was this volume.  Shit gets real, and I loved how they played with the artwork here!


3. Wow, I really didn't finish many series this year. Hmm..I should probably fix that....
Champion by Marie Lu - I LOVED the way this ended.  Spoilers: I loved that they didn't only sleep with each other (I am not a huge fan of "true love" and "first love" being one and the same) and that the ending was bittersweet   (End spoilers)


 6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2015?

In the interest of not having Neil Shusterman and Unwind as my answer to all the things, I'd have to say Terry Pratchett for sure.  The ridiculous humour of Douglas Adams paired with the subject matter and world building of Diana Wynne Jones (and some of her humour as well) is really just the perfect mix for me!

7. Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone?

Good Enough

Good Enough by Paula Yoo - Honestly I think I read maybe five contemporary reads this year. They're not really my scene. And while More Happy Than Not totally wrecked me (you should go read it), I haven't had a contemporary book resonate with me probably ever the way Good Enough did with me. It's rare to find books written about life as a musician that is in any way accurate or plausible, but it's clear that Paula Yoo was involved in the classical music scene because she was spot on. I wish more people knew about this one because while it's a quiet one - it's not going to destroy you from the inside (which is usually how I convince people to read books. We clearly have issues.) but it feels true, and I absolutely wish I'd had it when I was auditioning for college. (So if you know someone who likes contemporary and is a junior or senior in high school, do them a favor and get this for them)

 8. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?

Unwind by Neil Shusterman (although Michael Grant's Gone series was also particularly action packed)


 9. Book You Read In 2015 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year?

Tamora Pierce's Beka Cooper series. I may have disagreed violently with the way the last book ended, but it also means I'm constantly thinking about it. I'm definitely going to be interested to see if I feel differently on a reread as I pick more stuff up!


10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2015?


Beauty QueensThe Bone PeopleThe Magicians (The Magicians, #1)


1. Beauty Queens - Because this cover is just PERFECT for the book
2. The Bone People - It's hard to see the details on this one when it's small, but the art on this is really intricate and looks like Maori art looks (at least to my untrained eye).  I should probably add that it's set in New Zealand, so the Maori art part is relevant.
3. The Magicians - I don't know why I love this cover, I just do.  The way it's mirrored? The shape of the tree? The simpleness of it all?  Who knows, but it's a very attractive cover.

 

11. Most memorable character of 2015?

Beka Cooper from Tamora Pierce's Beka Cooper series. Honestly Beka Cooper may be my new favourite Tamora Pierce heroine (but that's how I feel about all of her heroines every time I read one). She's got the wild magic of Daine (although certainly on a lesser scale), she's got Kel's steadiness, she's got such passion for her job, and she's cripplingly shy, which isn't something I've read often (and it was done really well). I don't know how Tamora does it, but she's just so her own person - none of her characters feel like they're the same. They're so distinct. And even though I read these novels towards the beginning of the year, I'm still thinking of them. They deal with poverty and crime in a much more direct manner than her other novels have so far (since almost all of them have featured nobles, this makes sense), and...I will reread that third book. It might kill me, but I'll definitely be rereading this series because I'm still thinking about it all the time.


 12. Most beautifully written book read in 2015?

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater, hands down. Her writing is just heart breakingly beautiful.  I actually think this is probably novel from her so far, and can I recommend the audiobook for this? Because it was PERFECT.


13. Most Thought-Provoking/ Life-Changing Book of 2015?

Do I even need to say it?

Unwind (Unwind, #1)


14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2015 to finally read? 

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke - It's been published over a decade at this point, and I even OWNED it for a good number of years. I've been meaning to read it for AGES, and I'm actually surprised no one's really pushed it on me before because other than Terry Pratchett's books, I can't think of anything more me. I mean a fantasy novel that read like Jane Austen? I'M SO THERE.

 15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2015?"


How about anything Maggie Stiefvater ever wrote? Seriously:

“As the sun shines low and red across the water, I wade into the ocean. The water is still high and brown and murky with the memory of the storm, so if there’s something below it, I won’t know it. But that’s part of this, the not knowing. The surrender to the possibilities beneath the surface. It wasn’t the ocean that killed my father, in the end. The water is so cold that my feet go numb almost at once. I stretch my arms out to either side of me and close my eyes. I listen to the sound of water hitting water. The raucous cries of the terns and the guillemots in the rocks of the shore, the piercing, hoarse questions of the gulls above me. I smell seaweed and fish and the dusky scent of the nesting birds onshore. Salt coats my lips, crusts my eyelashes. I feel the cold press against my body. The sand shifts and sucks out from under my feet in the tide. I’m perfectly still. The sun is red behind my eyelids. The ocean will not shift me and the cold will not take me.”

“Do you know how to wrap a leg?'
'I was born wrapping legs,' I say stiffly, because I'm insulted.
'Must've been a challenging delivery,' Sean notes.”

Both of those were from The Scorpio Races, by the way. Which, upon reading all the quotes on Goodreads, has made me want to read the book (I listened on audio and I would listen again the narrators were THAT GOOD. But I would like to read the book too) immediately.  It is decided: I MUST buy a hard copy of this!

But on the other hand, there's plenty of quotable things from Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, so I'll also leave you with this:

“It has been remarked (by a lady infinitely cleverer than the present author) how kindly disposed the world in general feels to young people who either die or marry. Imagine then the interest that surrounded Miss Wintertowne! No young lady ever had such advantages before: for she died upon the Tuesday, was raised to life in the early hours of Wednesday morning, and was married upon the Thursday; which some people thought too much excitement for one week.” 



16.Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2015?


Lumberjanes #1Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
                 24 pages                                      1006 pages


17. Book That Shocked You The Most

Mastiff by Tamora Pierce. Yes, this shocked me even more than the ending of Gone Girl. And I won't say why. I'm still not ok.

18. OTP OF THE YEAR (you will go down with this ship!)

I actually don't really have any big ones for this year - note that I still haven't read Queen of Shadows or A Court of Thorns and Roses (AND I DON'T KNOW WHY SO DON'T YELL AT ME), so if I had maybe I would have. So my favourite OTP for the year will go to Izzy Goodnight and Ransom from Romancing the Duke (aka one of my favourite romance novels of the year, and the one that really kicked off my romance novel crave where I pretty much only read romance novels for a month haha)

 19. Favorite Non-Romantic Relationship Of The Year



Death Wish (Ceruleans, #1)

 Bekka Cooper and her partners HAHAHAHA I CAN'T EVEN SAY THIS WITHOUT CRYING JUST KIDDING I TAKE IT ALL BACK. So excluding them because THEY DON'T COUNT ANYMORE Scarlett and Cara from Megan Tayte's Death Wish. They're supportive and snarky and witty - but it doesn't come off as flippant or one-dimensional.  No cardboard cutouts here!





20. Favorite Book You Read in 2015 From An Author You’ve Read Previously

This has been the year of new authors for me, so I am SO happy I finally have somewhere to talk about Beauty Queens by Libba Bray. This would be my favourite book of the year, if I hadn't read Unwind. And to have two consecutive years of favourite books written by Libba Bray is a wonderful, wonderful thing. This one wasn't soul shaking like last year's Going Bovine, but it was absolutely FANTASTIC. I don't even know where to begin describing it, but it's got a diverse cast of girls (both in race and personality), and if you never wanted a satire based in feminism and reality shows where beauty contestants have to survive a government conspiracy on a desert island than I don't even want to talk to you.

But seriously, if you consider yourself a feminist or enjoy satire (see? You don't even need to be a feminist AND like satire) you should 100% make this your next book.  (After you read Unwind, obviously.)


21. Best Book You Read In 2015That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else/Peer Pressure:

Orleans by Sherri L. Smith - La La not only kept telling me it was like her favourite book and I should totally read it - she sent me a copy hahahaha!  So she wins.  And she's right - it's great!  It's an interesting combination of dystopia and sort of like a plague outbreakish setting, it's got a refreshing lack of romance, it's set in Louisiana post extreme hurricane so it's been abandoned by the continental U.S.  (so yay for a new sci-fi setting!), and it's fast paced and smart, and yeah you should go read that too. (P.s. - Tamora Pierce recommends it too, just sayin!)

Oh wait - actually Unwind was a friend rec, I totally forgot!  T.J., a friend from school, had been pushing this novel for like two years before I finally picked it up!  But still I've talked about it too much, so Orleans still wins.

22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2015?


Art by Lostie815  
(you should go check out ALL her fan art, it's amazing!)

Captain Thorne. I didn't even have to hesitate to think of someone. Just because I didn't have a big OTP of the year, doesn't mean that I wouldn't snap up Captain Thorne in a second if he was real. I mean, he's basically a spaceship pirate. He's a witty, hot, rogue character. Umm, hello that's basically my kryptonite.

23. Best 2015 debut you read?

Err...did I read any? Let me look and see..Oh hey look, I read two! More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera and Death Wish by Megan Tayte. So let's say both! The former if you like being destroyed, and the latter if you like paranormal fantasy with awesome BFF's.


24. Best Worldbuilding/Most Vivid Setting You Read This Year?

Hmm, this is a tough one.  There's The Girl of Fire and Thorns for it's non-Western based setting (it felt like the equivalent of where the Moors would have lived in Spain, but I could be wrong about that), or The Bone Season for it's detailed, layered world building (it was my favourite thing about the whole book actually), or Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell for it's completely unique setting.  But I guess really if I HAD to choose it would be The Scorpio Races.  It's set on the (fictional) island Thisbe, and between Maggie Stiefvater's just impossibly beautiful writing and the fact that the island the sea both are almost characters themselves with the impact they have on the people living in the story it's well...very vivid.   See, this is what happens when you read as much fantasy as I do, it's hard to choose damn it!


25. Book That Put A Smile On Your Face/Was The Most FUN To Read?

Soulless by Gail Carriger.  She's seriously the Queen of Steampunk and I don't know if gentleman werewolves and vampires are normal in steampunk as I'm new to the genre, but they're there and there's great clothes and fun mysteries and sexy romps and man Soulless was fun!


26. Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2015?

BAHAHHAA - so like every book? (...I maaaaaaay have a problem)

Unwind - Because of THAT. SCENE.
More Happy Than Not - Because holy shit did I just get hit in the heart by a giant brick of unexpected feels?
Mastiff - Because NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO


27. Hidden Gem Of The Year?


The Lost Girl 

I've already talked about Good Enough, so I'll mention The Lost Girl by Sangu Mandanna.  It's a similar premise to Never Let Me Go or The House of Scorpion (and to some extent Unwind), but it takes it a step further.  So it basically takes something I already clearly enjoy a lot, and then adds something new to it.  And did I mention that it's set in India? I mean how many science fiction books do YOU know set of in India? (Actually that isn't rhetorical. If you do know of some, send them my way!)




Hamster Princess: Harriet the InvincibleFor middle grade, my choice would definitely be Hamster Princess by Ursula Vernon, who I was lucky enough to meet at Chessiecon (and I got to hear her talk at length about all sorts of things. Particularly frogs haha!)  I'm so glad I went (for a lot of other reasons too) because I never would have picked this up otherwise and this is exactly what younger me would have wanted.  (..ok, current me wants this too).  I mean it already gets bonus points for being a fairy tale retelling, but make that a mix of fairy tales, particularly lesser known ones (The Princess on the Glass Hill!), mix in a reversal of tradition good/evil and gender roles and you have my dream book.  Plus there's cute hamsters.


 

28. Book That Crushed Your Soul?

Unwind by Neil Shusterman, followed by More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera


29. Most Unique Book You Read In 2015?

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray and Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke, the former for its premise and the latter for its setting.


30. Book That Made You The Most Mad (doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t like it)?

Mastiff by Tamora Pierce.  If you've read it, you know why. Although The Magicians by Lev Grossman is a close second. It didn't get quite to 1Q84 levels of eye rolling and loathing, but it started getting pretty close.


book-blogging

Favorite review that you wrote in 2015?

 Welp, as of this post I have officially written 4 review posts in 2015, and three of those were mini-reviews.  So here's to you, Series Review: Legend by Marie Lu.

Best discussion/non-review post you had on your blog?

 My Anime and Manga 101: Introduction was so much fun to put together, and I loved that I found out how many of my friends love them too!  Also I promise, REALLY, that I am going to have follow up posts. Soon.  Ish.

Best event that you participated in (author signings, festivals, virtual events, memes, etc.)?

I've already recently talked about this at length, but discovering Chessiecon was by far one of the biggest highlights of my year.  It was full of great music, interesting panels, and OH YEAH I MET TAMORA PIERCE.  (P.s. you should go next year because A. Tamora Pierce will be there, and B. So will I)


Best moment of bookish/blogging life in 2015? 


 

I REPEAT. I MET TAMORA PIERCE.
AND TALKED TO HER. AND GOT STUFF SIGNED BY HER.
AND LISTENED TO HER TALK.

(And may have babbled because that's what happens when I'm nervous.  *sighs*)


Most challenging thing about blogging or your reading life this year? 

Definitely trying to balance all my jobs and trying to keep up a regular schedule.  Throw in auditions? It was impossible.  I posted half as many posts as I did last year, and it makes me kind of sad.  I'm just so freaking tired by the end of it all that I haven't been reading as much, let alone getting posts up.  To be honest, I don't see this changing in the future, but I think I might have to devote my Sundays at work to stockpiling posts for the coming week.  It means that my visiting other blogs is going to be greatly diminished though since that's usually what I did at work instead :-/.  We'll see, I'll work something out I'm sure!


Most Popular Post This Year On Your Blog (whether it be by comments or views)?


 On Priviledge: The Baltimore Riots.  I got megahits on this one, and I'm not entirely sure why, but I was glad if it meant people (especially those not living in Baltimore) got a better look at what was really going on at the end of April and beginning of May.  (And what with the trials going on, it's particularly apt right now, so go check it out.)

Best bookish discover (book related sites, book stores, etc.)?

I can't remember whose blog I found this on (so if it was yours, let me know and I'll link it!), but someone posted about Book Sale Finder and it is AMAZING.  I found out about a library closing for renovations sale, and it is the BEST deal I've ever gotten on books.




And there we are folks! Since everyone has already done their wrap up posts, if I haven't commented on yours yet, leave me a link below and I'll stop by!

Monday, December 28, 2015

A Day in the Life #41: In which Elizabeth shares the SECRET THINGS she has not told you yet



Well it's certainly been a while since I've posted one of these, hasn't it?  I promise it was for a good reason though - I went to AN EVENT and was too busy to post, and then I couldn't post about SAID EVENT because I had surprise presents I was sending to people and I didn't want them to know about it beforehand and all I wanted to talk about was OH MY GOD THIS EVENT and I couldn't so I just didn't write anything at all.  But now everyone has got their packages and so now I can tell you:



GUYS I MET TAMORA PIERCE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!




Apparently she comes down to Chessiecon (previously Darkover Con) every year and it's held just around the corner from me (...Well. Relatively speaking) so I'm going to be able to hear her talk on panels ALL THE TIME. (...Well. Relatively speaking)  I was able to hear her read some excerpts from books that are going to be released in 2017 (and she'll have releases lined of up 2018 and 2019 since she had a book that ended up being split into two books) and to hear her talk on a variety of subjects - from dealing with magic from a world building aspect, to hearing her talk about race and culture and gender, and unsurprisingly I have a similar mindset to hers on said subjects, and she had plenty of thought provoking things to say.  When I went to go get the books signed by her, I ended up meeting one of her "fairy godchildren" right beforehand which was very fun and honestly that's the only thing I remember really talking to her about haha.  I...tend to lose my mind and babble when I'm nervous.  Which I guess is better than losing my mind and crying? (This was a legitimate concern of mine).  And while this is the #1 reason I came to the con, it was SO amazing for a variety of reasons.

This was my very first con OR bookish event!  I always feel intimidated by the thought of going to a con, particularly by myself because they seem giant and overwhelming and I am usually not fond of large crowds of people I don't know.  I am so, so glad I decided my love of Tamora Pierce won out over all my concerns about the former because it's probably the best experience I could have had as far as a first con goes.  It's not a huge con so I didn't feel overwhelmed, but there were still SO many panels/events I wanted to go to!  And it was such an awesome eclectic mix of things.  The con itself is primarily about science-fiction and fantasy, with a focus on female authors (so basically totally my jam).  Beyond that though it's got a ton involvement with filk music (which I will get to in a moment), gaming (board and video), art, and there were a ton of events for dancing, druidic healing, bard circles, knitting...I mean seriously it was SO. COOL.  I unfortunately couldn't make it to any of the druid events because they conflicted with a lot of the book events I wanted to go to (and I had priority on bookish events particularly those with Tamora Pierce) but I absolutely am going to try and go to at least one next year since I'm super curious about it.

But first the bookish events!  This year was extra awesome for me on the book front because not only was Tamora Pierce there, Seanan McGuire (aka Mira Grant, author of my favourite zombie series) was a guest author!  Intisar Khanani (author of Thorn and Sunbolt)  is also apparently a regular at Chessiecon, and I'm so glad I got to hear her talk as it's made me want to read her books even more. (Thorn, as a fairy tale retelling, has been on my radar since it came out, but unfortunately my library doesn't have it.  But it's officially been bumped up to the YOU WILL BUY THIS list on my end, and I'll be suggesting it to the library to buy).  Intisar actually ended up being probably my favourite panelist - I quickly made it a point to go to any panel she was talking on (...which since they were often with Tamora Pierce and/or a YA fantasy panel it was hardly a difficulty on my end since I was planning on going to them anyway).  She takes the time to really think about what she's saying, and everything she said was just...well, it was interesting and thought provoking.  A lot of things I wouldn't have thought of. And she was funny as well, as all the panelists were, really.

Other panels of note were the zombie apocalypse one I went to - lots of tips I hadn't thought about before.  Namely, that you are likely going to be trying to survive the apocalypse with whoever you are next to, so statistically speaking it's fairly likely to be your neighbors.  And in cities, we aren't as friendly with our neighbors (heck I don't know who half of mine are) and if someone doesn't have an emotional connection with you, they're less likely to try and help keep you alive.  The panel on fairy tales really brought to light how much power Disney has had over which tales are commonly known - there are plenty of fairy tales that don't have a female lead or don't end up with a prince.  Most interesting for me - and I think Intisar brought this up - was that while we see marriage as women "finding their happy ever after/being saved by a man" it's different when you look at it through a historical lens.  Women of the time really had no other way to bring themselves out of poverty - marriage meant running your own household and having a stable livelihood - so being able to arrange a good match for yourself as a woman really was achieving success on your own terms.

While I spent the majority of my time going to bookish panels, I would have been a poor musician if I hadn't made a point to go to some of the musical ones.  Which is where I discovered that Seanen McGuire actually has a really great voice and she founded Lady Mondegreen and used to tour with them.  A fair number of their songs have a filk crossover, but I get the idea they aren't all filk?  In any case, it was a ton of fun.  I also went to a bardic circle which was super low key - I just sat in the back instead of joining the circle since I didn't know what was going on exactly, but basically someone would just say hey does anyone know "this song" and someone would say "yeah I can do the chords" or people would sing acapella, and it was just...I guess similar to a jam session, just much quieter and low key.  Mostly there were guitarists, although people would beat drum patterns on their legs, and there was someone with a few auxiliary percussion instruments.  It was fascinating, and I would have stayed longer if I wasn't so tired.  They end every night (I think it was every night, it might just have been Saturday) with a rendition of the Hallelujah chorus. No idea why or when the tradition started but I LOVE IT.  A crowd of people just gather at midnight, grab the music and organize by voice type, sing it, and then disperse to whatever else they wanted to do.  It felt a bit surreal haha!

But lastly, I wanted to end with Heather Dale, who's song Mordred's Lullaby has basically changed my life:



I've linked to a live unaccompanied version of the song because I actually think her voice sounds better in this version (and it's how I experienced it) and when you're in the audience and everyone joins in...seriously it raised chills up my arms.  But the finished product is also well worth listening to and has some interesting instruments/textures (for your viewing pleasure, here's a link to it being used in a fan video from the show Merlin.)  She's actually writing a musical that was inspired by this song - it's basis is - what if Morganna and Guinevere best friends? And I have to say that this song just absolutely nails the rage and power that for me encompasses how I envision her (seriously, the lyrics in the last stanza? Amazing.) and I literally have been listening to this on loop since I saw her perform it.



I will say that I wish I'd had someone to fangirl with all this about. I met some people at the con which was nice, but for most of it I was on my own and I would have had SO much more fun (basically I would have exploded with funness because this was fun as hell to begin with) if I'd had friends there!  Soooo...basically this is my way of saying that I've already bought tickets for next year, so if you are going to be anywhere near Lutherville-Timonium in Maryland from November 25-27, that's where I'll be and we should hang out!  (Or even if you aren't near - it's well worth your time and money!) Tickets are on sale for $45 until the new year starts, and if you don't want to commit a year in advance, tickets won't rise past $60.  They won't have much information on panels up for ages, but they have the featured guest artists for the year (if you're there for Tammy too, don't worry she's there every year) keep checking the site if you want more info!