Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Top Ten Books People Have Been Telling You That You MUST Read




The Fault in Our Stars
I figured I should just go ahead and get this one out of the way. I don't have a clue why I haven't read it yet - I read Looking For Alaska and I loved it.  Everyone loves this book, and everyone loves John Green.  And yet...I've only read one book.  Like 8 years ago.  And in other news, a bus full of 16 year olds spoiled the ending of this book and it's totally the reverse of what I was expecting (if you've read it you know what I mean. Probably.) So I still don't know when I'll work my way up to reading it.  I'll probably get to his other books first haha



Oryx and Crake - Margaret Atwood

Oryx and Crake (MaddAddam Trilogy, #1)

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale was one of the most amazing, influential books I have ever read.  It is by far my favourite dystopia, and I also loved The Blind Assassin which is a totally different sort of writer. Clearly I love, love, LOVE Margaret Atwood...so why haven't I read one of the most lauded dystopias ever...written by the author of my favourite dystopia?





The Girl of Fire and Thorns (Fire and Thorns, #1)

I have only heard fantastic things about this book.  It's fantasy. It has a nonstandard heroine. It has basically the set up that sounds like I'll love it.  ...still haven't read it.



Shatter Me - Tahereh Mafi

Shatter Me (Shatter Me, #1)

I don't know anything about this book. Except that there's a really smoking love triangle apparently. And it's addicting. 



On the Jellicoe Road - Melina Marchetta

Jellicoe Road

I didn't mention it on the blog (I don't think?) but I FREAKING LOVED The Lumatere Chronicles.  I will read anything by this author, regardless of genre.  Give it to me now.



Vampire Academy - Richelle Mead

Vampire Academy (Vampire Academy, #1)

So, vampires are rarely my thing.  And the cover features an Angelina Jolie lookalike.  And yet...I know SO many people who are totally into this series.  I need to just go judge for myself!



The Blue Castle - L.M. Montgomery

The Blue Castle

This appears to be everyone's favourite not-Anne story!




The Knife of Never Letting Go (Chaos Walking, #1)

The concept seems awesome, a lot of people I whose opinions I respect really liked it.  Also Tamora Pierce gave it 5 stars and an awesome review (from what I could tell. I skimmed)



Eleanor and Park - Rainbow Rowell

Eleanor & Park

I know, I know! This is even worse that TFIOS I think.  I loved Fangirl, and hello this features like the only white/asian relationship with the same gender/race set up as my boyfriend and I!  It also has all the marks for a contemporary/historical fiction? novel that I'll love



Between Shades of Gray -


Ok I can honestly be excused a little bit for this one because I honestly thought it was a 50 Shades of Grey sequel.  Which considering what it's actually about it well...embarrassingly offensive lol


Leave me a link in the comments so I can go check out your list!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Monday Musings: Fantasy Settings and Diversity


To give you a little background on this week's MM, I'm going to talk a little bit about The Kiss of Deception.  No spoilers, and it's only to give parameters for the topic.

The Kiss of Deception (The Remnant Chronicles, #1)



The Kiss of Deception is not only a book you should absolutely go pick up now, it's a book that led me to an interesting epiphany of sorts.  While reading this book I came to a realization: for possibly the first time ever, I imagined all these characters as non-white characters without consciously making the decision to do that in the beginning of the book.  I had been imagining the main character as resembling someone like Jasmine from Aladdin (and actually she still might be - I couldn't remember her description) and the others as a range of darker skin tones - but Rafe is blond and Pauline is described at some point as having honey hair, and another character is mentioned as having pink skin.  This actually dampened my enjoyment of the novel - the characters were just so different in appearance than I had imagined!  This is unusual for me, because I generally have a vague concept of how things appear, not specific ideas so I can't think of a time finding out someone's appearance or race being different than I imagined as a bad thing.  But I suppose I was just so pleasantly surprised to discover a fantasy novel with both diverse settings and diverse people that I got disappointed when I discovered this wasn't the case.

I was trying to figure out why this bothered me so much and why I had imagined them all as non-white characters in the first place.  Then I realized that the setting is different - there are jungles with tigers, as well as deserts and your general expected town settings in a fantasy novel.  Almost all fantasy worlds are set in the equivalent of the Western world, and almost all characters are white. Fantasy novels rarely get deserts, and even scarcer are jungles, and I think these settings are intrinsically linked to other cultures for me, therefore other races are at the forefront of my mind when imagining these places.  When I think of jungles and the desert, my mind definitely jumps to stereotypes of Africa, the Middle East, and South America - all places where there's generally a majority of darker skinned races.  (My dad is South African and he's white, so this all goes to say that I DO know that not everyone is one color in these places.  And there's plenty of blonde South Americans.  But still. Generally, stereotypically speaking, I think most people around me also have the same stereotypical images when thinking of these places)

I was really excited about getting new settings - while I'm a fantasy girl through and through, we really do seem to get a lot of the same looks in fantasy worlds.  I'm always excited to discover something entirely different (in fact it's one of the ONLY things I liked about Defy - it was probably the first fantasy novel I'd ever read that even mentions a jungle).  That's a lie - Tamora Pierce does a fantastic job of getting her characters into all sorts of different lands - Carthak and the Copper Isles are great examples, and the Circle of Magic series has even more great settings.  But otherwise, I really haven't encountered much Eastern based fantasy. (C.S. Lewis doesn't count. The Horse and His Boy had some offensive stereotypes if I recall. I could be wrong about that though.) Now I have even more reason to want diversity in setting - specifically speaking for me, I imagine more racially diverse books when the setting is more diverse itself.  This isn't to say that I don't strongly believe we need more diversity in ALL fantasy - after all it's not like the Western world is only built up of white people, so we shouldn't be getting only white characters in our Western based fantasy novels - but if I get to kill two birds with one stone (Actually I hate that saying. It's barbaric.) why not get a book with diverse climates, cultures, and people?

Goal: I'm always on the lookout for books with diversity (this is not exclusive to race), but I'm also specifically looking for non-Western based fantasy.  Go!


Sunday, August 17, 2014

A Day in the Life (19)



Holy cow the last few weeks have been crazy! (Hence my impromptu disappearance).  To be honest I don't even feel like going into most of it - I could fill a week's worth with blog posts on all the drama haha!  Long story short, move to Baltimore Part 1 didn't go well (The electricity not being on when I moved in was only the beginning of a long, long saga), but I'm feeling pretty confident Part 2 will go much better.  But good things were lined up afterwards - last week was my best friend's wedding!  Everything went smoothly, and it was a really beautiful, awesome ceremony.  I'm so excited for her, and I think her new husband is perfect, and I was so honored to be a part of all of this.


This was her recessional piece - total classic with lots of fun oboe duets!

You know what else was exciting about that trip for the wedding?  I got to see Shannon!!  I was super, crazy excited about it!  And then after all that...we forgot to get a picture haha!  We ate at this delicious dim sum place - sadly I was still recovering from a week's worth of wedding activities so I didn't eat a whole lot, but I'm definitely going back there the next time I make it out there!  She also gave me a copy of The Kiss of Deception which was so freaking amazing!!!! Seriously guys. Go read this.  Especially if you like the ToG series - this book was fantastic.  And inspired a post I will hopefully get up tomorrow...and I might even review it.  And I'm not really reviewing things today!  She got a super long text from me when I finished reading it (I finished RIGHT as I landed too - perfect timing!) because I was so excited haha.  So I went from having a really, really terrible week, to a stressful but fun week, and then I got to finish it all off by meeting Shannon which was definitely a highlight of my month, so I call that an overall success!

This week has been more moving stuff, so I'm pretty exhausted now.  A week in a different time zone for the past month has been so tiring!  Luckily some friends offered to let my mom and me visit at their beach house which is GORGEOUS, so I'm currently enjoying some choice beach relaxation time! (Or I will tomorrow. And I'd have a picture for you, but it's pitch black outside, sorry!)  So that's a short summation of my...month pretty much lol


I'm kind of obsessed with cover songs, and this is a new favourite!

Because I haven't done this in like two weeks, and because one of the bloggers (you should really check her out, she's got loads of interesting things) I follow did a HUGE recap of what's been going on in the book world, this is going to be quite long.  I let myself bold 5 articles that I think are absolutely worth reading if you were on the fence about doing so, or don't want to skim through the long list!



Bookish Links

Here I go! Operation: Rekindle - Mitchii talks about all the suggestions she's received to help tackle her reading slump.
YA convention debates gender, sex, and strong heroines - I must have posted like every article ever about these topics haha
Don’t Categorize as “Special Interest” - Yes!!! This is so, so important!
Why We Need "Ugly" Heroines - Again, yes, yes, YES! I might make a Monday Musings post along similar lines pretty soon.
How Librarians Can Help Fight the Culture of Slut-Shaming - I'm going to start getting redundant here, but there just can't be enough said about this.
I read books. Does that make me a nerd? - An interesting article written by someone who is still a teen. I used to be right there with her, so I'm glad I've settled into my reading obsessed skin!
Imaginary friends: Philip Pullman on fairy tales - I mean, as someone who is crazy about both fairy tales and Philip Pullman, I was excited about this article haha
Is Bullying in Books Unrealistic to You? - I have been guilty of this before, so I'm glad that I've been set right on this front.  Definitely a recommended read on this list!
Why The Hunger Games' killer Katniss is a great female role model - I know there are many people who have difficulty with Katniss as a character, but this article really nails why I love her.  I don't think she's emotionally healthy - but I also don't think Suzanne Collins was saying that where Katniss is, is emotionally healthy either.  But I digress - read the article and I'll stop talking so much :)
Girls Ruin Everything: Stephenie Meyer, Lois Duncan, and Childhood Nostalgia - I can not agree with this more. I don't think we can credit another series (although HP probably comes pretty close) with getting so many people reading, and that in and of itself is amazing!
In a Balm of Space and Time, Healing - Gayle Forman on grief. This is a truly beautiful and inspiring article.
In Defense of So-Called "Bad Fanfiction" -You all know at this point that I love good fanfiction (and once again this is a call for any recommendations! I'm always looking for more!).  But there's a reason why I believe all fanfiction is valid and important (and a reason I'm unsurprised why it's so looked down upon). This article really touches on all of this so I don't have to :)



Fun Bookish Posts

What If Book Genres Were Pizza? - Yum!
Tough Travelling {1}: Princesses - A look at some of the types of princesses (and who they are) we've come across in our reading 
Science Fiction and Fantasy 101: Thinking Academically About Genre - An overview of how sci-fi/fantasy (and what books) would be approached if it were studied as a college course
Grim: A Twisted Fairy Tale Collection - I'm not big on short stories, but Yash talks about some really awesome fairy tale retellings - even some of the less popular ones like Bluebeard!
10 Diverse YA Historicals About Girls - I'm definitely adding these books to my TBR pile!
When Authors Are Wizards - I'm pretty sure all of us have experienced this at some point



Books and TV/Movies

Holly Black Will Write the Twelfth Doctor’s Next Adventure - Oh my god guys this is so exciting!
Max Landis Writing Show Based on Douglas Adams’ Dirk Gently Books - DOUGLAS ADAMS FOREVER!!
Joss Whedon: The Biography (Excerpt) - Joss Whedon. 'Nuff said. Read now.
Young Adult Book Authors Reveal Their Favorite Adaptations - Definitely some surprising picks on this list.
Dr. Seuss Mash Ups - These are so fun!
Game of Thrones Houses Get Their Own Makeup Looks - I really like the Baratheon one.
Frozen Writer Will Adapt A Wrinkle In Time For Disney - OH MY GOD OH MY GOD OH MY GOD



Harry Potter

It’s Harry Potter’s Birthday: Let’s Celebrate With Fan Art! - Holy cow guys, these range from beautiful to funny to heartbreaking.  Go take a look!
What Your Hogwarts House Actually Says About You - What's wrong with liking pineapple on a pizza exactly?
Harry Potter Words As Guessed By People Who Have Never Read The Books - HAHAHA oh man some of these are fantastic - take the description of Voldemort for example...
 Harry’s still Potter-ing around, but Hermione is my true hero - I think this is true for an entire generation of girls who grew up with Hermione, myself included.
YA Authors Sort Their Own Characters Into Hogwarts Houses - Levi is totally a Hufflepuff
What Secondary "Harry Potter" Character Are You - I'm Oliver Wood :)
Rewatching The Chamber of Secrets Film - Another post in the HP reread along!
20 Times Harry Potter & Tumblr Were Magical Together - The baguette chooses the wizard, Mr. Potter!
Which Hogwarts Professor Are You? - I'm Hagrid!



Nonbookish Links

Why Were People & Critics So Infatuated With Frozen? - This is a really, really interesting discussion that I recommend no matter what your feelings on Frozen are!
John Stamos to Play Jousting, Singing Knight on Musical Fantasy Sitcom Galavant - There are already so many reasons to be crazy excited for this show...but if you're looking for another one here you are.
Recaps From the Brightest Timeline: Community Season 6 Episode 4 “Repetitive Music Theory” - THERE IS NOT AN EPISODE AS PERFECT AS THIS REIMAGINING.
Does Thor Qualify as a Disney Princess? - This is totally a valid question.
Haute Couture Versions of Pop Culture Icons  - The Sailor Moon characters are so freaking beautiful!
The Secret Folk Song Joss Whedon Co-Wrote While Making "The Avengers 2" - Have I mentioned that I'm obsessed with all things Joss Whedon?

Thursday, August 7, 2014

The House of Many Ways - Diana Wynne Jones

House of Many Ways (Howl's Moving Castle, #3) 


Summary

GoodreadsA chaotically magical sequel to Howl's Moving Castle. Charmain Baker is in over her head. Looking after Great Uncle William's tiny cottage while he's ill should have been easy, but Great Uncle William is better known as the Royal Wizard Norland an his house bends space and time. Its single door leads to any number of places - the bedrooms, the kitchen, the caves under the mountains, the past, to name but a few. By opening that door, Charmain is now also looking after an extremely magical stray dog, a muddled young apprentice wizard and a box of the king's most treasured documents, as well as irritating a clan of small blue creatures. Caught up in an intense royal search, she encounters an intimidating sorceress named Sophie. And where Sophie is, can the Wizard Howl and fire demon Calcifer be far behind?


Thoughts

I have to say that while I enjoyed Castle in the Air, The House of Many Ways  is right back up at the level of Howl's Moving Castle.  Maybe I just prefer Diana Wynne Jones' heroines to her heroes?  I'm not really sure what it was, but I can tell you that the heroine of this book might be my favourite of the three I've read so far in this series.  (Also is Wynne Jones her last name or just Jones?  I've wondered this for years...)

While she's clever and clearly magically powerful, Charmain (which I kept reading as The Chairman which drove me nuts haha) is by no means a perfect heroine.  She subverts our idea of a traditional heroine, particularly one in a fairy tale setting - she's not kind, not domestic at all (and not in the charming clumsy way you often find in manga), she's lazy, stubborn, and in general rather irritable.  I say these like they're bad things (and they are - I suppose most people don't see these as good characteristics) - but she's not unlikeable.  While there's nothing wrong with unlikeable characters, I do have a harder time reading books with unlikeable main characters.  That being said I LOVE it when characters aren't perfect (or the sort of imperfect which is still pretty much perfect ala the charming clumsy girls of shoujo manga).  I mean look at one of my favourite characters of all time - Celaena is selfish, vain, and she knows she's good at what she does - and she revels in it.

There's also loads of Howl and Sophie (even if Howl isn't exactly...how you expect him to be. I don't want to say anything because spoilers!) which is always lovely.  This is set at least a few years after Howl's Moving Castle, so it's wonderful looking at how their lives have got on since then.  It's just as funny and disfunctional as their relationship was in the first book and yet just as charming.  We also see a return of my favourite character - Calcifer!  Although I have to say I've added another favourite character from this universe - I love, love, LOVE Waif.  (Waif is a dog in this book who is adorable and as main a character can be with no dialogue)  I particularly love how Diana Wynne Jones has built her worlds, so they're all connected in some ways, and you get to see all sorts of references to the other worlds, but they all follow their own distinct rules.  It's a perfect blend of familiar and something new, and when it comes to world building Diana Wynne Jones is absolutely one of the best.

TL;DR

If you are a fantasy lover and haven't read Diana Wynne Jones yet, you need to remedy this immediately.  Howl's Moving Castle is a great place to start, and if you liked Howl's Moving Castle, you should definitely give this book a read!  (In fact, you don't need to read HMC to read this book, although you will miss out on some of the joy in seeing Howl and Sophie in this book).  Yet another fantastic book from DWJ!

Monday, August 4, 2014

30 Day Book Challenge: Day 05 - A book or series you hate

It's honestly really, really difficult to make me hate something.  Mostly because it's hard for me to hate anything that someone has spent years of their life dedicating heartfelt work into.  As an artist, it hurts a bit when I dislike things because well...as an artist I understand what it's like to be on the other side of the process.

That being said, I seem to have a specific trigger for RAGE when reading.  When it's pointless.

Example 1.  Waiting for Godot

Waiting for Godot

There is nothing NOTHING worse than this book.  Period. The end. Ever.  The entire point of the book is THAT IT HAS NO POINT.  I just can't.  I don't give a crap about your existentialist points.  They're full of shit and so are you Thomas Beckett.  There's three whole pages of gibberish.  It's not even real words, or even charming nonsense words like Dr. Seuss (who I adore).  IT'S NOTHING. THE WORLD IS EMPTY AND MEANINGLESS AND BOOKS LIKE THIS SHOULDN'T EXIST.



Example 2. Heart of Darkness

Heart of Darkness

Until I read Waiting for Godot, this was the worst book I'd ever read.  I honestly can't remember anything but a very specific scene I will get to.  I'm pretty sure it's set in Africa.  ....and that's all I've got.  I'm not sure even when I read it that I understood anything that was going on, to be honest.  What I do remember is a specific scene somewhere in the middle of the book.  The characters are stranded somewhere in the jungle because they need screws for their ship.  And then literally like a sentence later IN THE SAME PARAGRAPH...they're sailing down the river.  Wait what? When/where did they get the screws? What was the point of telling me any of that then?  WHY????


As much as slut shaming and carboard bffs are enough to make me want to throw a book across the room, none of these have anything to the rage induced by these books. (Probably because I HAD to read them).  That being said, Thomas Hardy's Tess of the D'Urbevilles is definitely up there on this list.  I think it's an important book, and I think Hardy wrote some great commentary on the society at the time, but man do I loathe that book.  I didn't include it in this list because I feel like I can't talk about the reasons why I hate it without spoilers and well...I feel like there are people out there who will actually read it. And I know people who love it. So there you are *shrugs*

And that concludes books I loathe!  Any other books I should avoid at all costs?


Sunday, August 3, 2014

A Day in the Life (18)


I DID IT!!! (Sort of)  Move completed! (Mostly).  Technically I have all of the stuff I brought from Chicago inside of the apartment, which is really what counts.  It was long and stressful, but it's over!!! (...until I do it all over again with my stuff at my mom's place in South Carolina) 

EVERYTHING IS EPIC AND AWESOME.

Unfortunately my darling, wonderful boyfriend hooked up the electricity....to a different address.  And it's the weekend.  So guess who's been moving and unpacking in the dark?  This girl!  I have yet to uncover the flashlights, and I have a niggling feeling I left my nice petzel in the kitchen of my Chicago apartment.  But the good news is that I found some batteries, so whenever I find the flashlights, I should be golden!  In other less than stellar news, my landlord told me he was getting the carpet in my room replaced...the day I was moving in.  Which would have been inconvenient...but the guy didn't show up.  Which means I can't move any of my stuff into the bedroom...so there's that too.  And the last tenant didn't move out all of their stuff and there's some gross sticky stuff all over the kitchen counter. I have not yet decided whether it's a good thing or not that due to not having electricity, I can't see said gooey stuff haha!  But I'm off to get some cleaning supplies and it's going to sparkling :) (Maybe so sparkling it will light up the apartment?  If wishes were...isn't there a saying that starts that way? I can't remember the rest of it...)  And next weekend I'm going to be celebrating my best friend's marriage!!! (Must. Write. Speech. NOW!) And I get to see Shannon! :-D  Be jealous, be very, very jealous >:-D

I cannot express how much I love this song! I've been listening to it pretty much nonstop all month. (Well ok, it's like the 2nd. All last month haha!)


Bookish Links

Dragonriders of Pern Is Going to be a Movie. FINALLY. - YES YES YES!!!! Lessa is one of my favourite heroines.  And also - dragons!  Please let this happen...(preferably sooner than like a billion years from now)

11 Things You Should Never Do - Ahahah! This is a really funny/cute list from one of the book bloggers I follow!
Why I Love Romance Novels - Quinn talks about all the (often overlooked) great things about romance novels, and how it is a legitimate genre with some fantastic writers!
Colbert Nation vs. Amazon - Oh my god this is so freaking awesome! I mean I think Colbert is the best, but he just made a ton of really great things happen. Go watch this video!
J.K. Rowling's Real Life is More Incredible Than Any Fiction - You go girl :) (And happy birthday to you and H.P.!)
The Best, Funniest, and Most Ridiculous Harry Potter Memes - OH MY GOD HAHAHAHA! These are fantastic.
What Else is Disney Not Telling Us (Fairy tale panel) - You all know my obsession with fairy tales and retellings, so here's a look at what was said in the fairy tale panel at SDCC!
A Few More Short Stories - The Book Wars focused on short stories this month, and here are some of Janet's all time favourite short stories!


Nonbookish Links

SDCC’s “Women Who Kick Ass” Panelists Only Want to Play Male Superheroes - I would have loved to see this panel! So many awesome actresses, and some really interesting things discussed
Women Kick Ass at Comic-Con - Ok, this is from last year, but I still thought there were a lot of interesting things said!
13 Soul-Shattering Third Eye Blind Lyrics - Someone other than me has a deep, abiding love for Third Eye Blind? Who knew!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Feature and Follow: Biggest City You Live Near

Alison Can Read Feature & Follow


This week's prompt couldn't have come at a better time as I'm literally in a big move from one big city to another big city.  And so, a letter to two of the most important cities in my life:



Goodbye, Chicago.



City of the most beautiful skyline I've ever seen, beaches galore, and water taxis.  City of the most perfect apartment in the coolest section of a city I've ever lived in.  City with trees and free live bands and surprisingly great Mexican food.



 Goodbye Chicago, city of snow (that I have grown to love).  City with a winter that last 8 months and below 0 degree weather (that I will not miss).  Goodbye Chicago, city of my heart. Perhaps we'll meet again :)


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Hello Baltimore!



City of dragon boats, a billion Indian restaurants, and cheap sake.  City of cherry blossoms, the Inner Harbor, and my Alma Mater.   Hello Baltimore, city with my best friend, city with my boyfriend! 










Hello Baltimore, I think we're going to get along just fine :)