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!

Monday, December 14, 2015

Top Ten Best Books Of 2015

Never Judge a Lady by Her Cover (The Rules of Scoundrels, #4)

A romance novel? With a cross dressing main character? Cat and mouse chase?  How could I NOT love this??

10. Good Enough by Paula Yoo

Good Enough

If you know any classical musicians, or juniors/seniors in high school, you should recommend this for them.  If you know someone who is both? Just go and get it for them!  Seriously a book that resonated with me and I would have found particularly apt at that point in my life.

9. Dark Currents by Jacqueline Carey

Dark Currents (Agent of Hel, #1)

I was pretty shocked when I read this, since my only knowledge of Jacqueline Carey's work was her Kushiel Series (which, incidentally, was on my 2013 best books list).  This is SO. DIFFERENT.  It's crazy to me that she can write not only two fantastic series, but two fantastic series that only resemble each other in having a diverse cast. (A variety of races? Check.  A variety of body shapes? Check. A variety of sexualities and gender identities? Check.)  Seriously, where Kushiel is a giant epic fantasy with some serious sexy times, Dark Currents is a paranormal fantasy novel set in in the Midwest of all places!  It's crazy fun, and I've been trying to get my hands on the second book for ages.  This is definitely a series I'm going to want on ebook form (since it doesn't come hardcover) because I'm going to want to reread them over and over!

8. The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

The Bone Season (The Bone Season, #1)

This book was just so interesting.  The world building felt really creative to me. Maybe not creative in premise exactly, but how Shannon chose to flesh it out.  It's weird because I didn't feel incredibly attached to the characters (and it's rare for me to really thoroughly enjoy a book without that), but I had a really hard time not just leaving my car running to listen to what was going to happen next. (Not going to lie, actually, I sat in my car for an hour after finding parking.  Probably lucky I didn't make my battery die haha)

7. Soulless by Gail Carriger

Soulless (Parasol Protectorate, #1)

I don't think I've had so much fun reading a book before.  The whole premise is fun and steampunk is fun and romance is fun and the world building managed to be new and creative and fun all in one go.  Seriously, if you need a pick-me-up, you should read this.  Did I mention it was fun?

6. The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

The Scorpio Races

God, there is just something about Maggie Stiefvater's writing.  And this, for me, is the best of the best from her.  It's lyrical, and quiet, and deep, and heartbreakingly beautiful.  If you haven't picked this up (and at least in the YA blogiverse, I know I'm one of the last) you should.  If you love Stiefvater's work already, seriously you have no excuse.  If you haven't read her yet but are interested in knowing what all the buzz is about, do yourself a favour and make this your first of her books.  It certainly won't be your last. 

5. The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

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

I finally read it!  I don't know what took so long, but thank god for Shannon (who also gets credit for getting me to read The Scorpio Races sooner than I otherwise would have) because it might have been years before I finally got to this.  I blame the blurb. And the cover.  This book deserves better.  It's EVERYTHING I've been wanting from fantasy!  Want a non-Western based fantasy with loads of non-White characters and a main heroine who is overweight and not stunningly beautiful?  READ THIS BOOK.

4. The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett

The Wee Free Men (Discworld, #30)

Speaking of things that are everything I ever wanted (this will be a trend for the rest of these books pretty much), how have I never read Terry Pratchett before??  This book was like Diana Wynne Jones and Douglas Adams combined which...have you read this blog?? I mean, look at my blog title and then remember how many times I've talked about fairy tales and YOU tell me this book wasn't written specifically for me.  And for those of you who don't know where to start with Pratchett, this was my first Pratchett book and I wasn't lost (seriously tracking what book to read in this series is hard work), and I can recommend it, so go check it out!

3. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

This is the book I never knew I needed.  It reads like Jane Austen wrote a biography on magicians.  Seriously.  It's fantastic and I could have lived in this book for months.  It was physically painful for me when I got to the end of it.  It's definitely not for everyone - it's long and slow moving, but for me the characters and world building were so engrossing that the slow plot didn't bother me. I just wanted to hear more about everything!

2. Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

Beauty Queens

This was one of the funniest and most insightful books I've ever read.  It''s really hard to explain the feel of this, but if you are a feminist or like satire or basically are a human being on this earth, you need to read it.

1. Unwind by Neil Shusterman

Unwind (Unwind, #1)


I knew from the moment I finished this book that it would be my favourite book I read this year.  Seriously, I didn't even consider the idea that another book could top this.  And I usually have a really hard time ranking books, so I don't bother, but this year there was absolutely a clear winner for best book of 2015 for me.  So if you haven't read it? Go read it.  It's an Important Book.  It's thought provoking and heart pounding and all around one of the scariest things I've read other than The Handmaid's Tale in looking at how society works.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Darkly, Deeply, Beautifully (The Ceruleans #5) + Death Wish (The Ceruleans #1) Review

So I've never done a cover reveal (in fact, I'm not entirely sure what one does for these things. I probably should have asked. But I am the mighty Elizabeth. I do not ask questions, I am just always right), but in the process of doing this, I realized that I never posted a review outside of Goodreads for the author which makes me a terrible, horrible person since I read this in like...May.  So I figured now was a good time to do that to give you guys a taste for what you're in for!

Death Wish (Ceruleans, #1)


The Ceruleans: mere mortals infused with power over life and death. Five books; one question: If the might of the heavens were in your hands, would you be sinner or saint?

Seventeen-year-old Scarlett Blake is haunted by death. Her estranged sister has made the ultimate dramatic exit. Running away from school, joining a surfing fraternity, partying hard: that sounds like Sienna. But suicide? It makes no sense.

Following in her sister’s footsteps, Scarlett comes to an isolated English cove with grand plans to uncover the truth. Alone. But she hasn’t reckoned on meeting two boys who are determined to help her. Luke: the blue-eyed surfer who’ll see the real Scarlett, who’ll challenge her, who’ll save her. And Jude: the elusive drifter with a knack for turning up whenever Scarlett’s in need.

As Scarlett’s quest for the truth unravels, so too does her grip on reality as she’s always known it. Because there’s something strange going on in this little cove. A dead magpie circles the skies. A dead deer watches from the undergrowth. Hands glow with light. Warmth. Power.

What transpires is a summer of discovery. Of what it means to conquer fear. To fall in love. To choose life. To choose death.

To believe the impossible.


You know, I was really pleasantly surprised by this. I've been dreading reading it for months, because I have a rule about not accepting books for review directly from the author (and these days I just don't review) - because WHAT WOULD I DO IF I DIDN'T LIKE IT??

Luckily I did! The beginning has a rocky start, but all the things that had me giving it a suspicious side-eye ended up not being concerns at all. Sort of spoilers but not really? (NOT A LOVE TRIANGLE PRAISE THE LORD!! At least not in this book, I can't speak for later books, but it didn't feel that way at all).

I've read in some of the reviews that the paranormal stuff doesn't happen until like the last 5%, and it's true that the full blown out paranormal things don't happen until then, but there are DEFINITE clues throughout the book, and especially for a series that's going to be 5 books long I think this was absolutely a great introduction. Plus it made for a great ending - there are clues, and if you don't have it half figured out by the end I'd be surprised - but the other half I'm preeettyyyy sure you won't have figured out.  The story sets the plot up as expected with a paranormal novel, but then uses the tropes to set up something that felt utterly fresh and new.

There are quite a few pop culture references that I think will date this book in an unfortunate way in a few years, but I am 100% the target group with all the references. I mean, Pirates of the Caribbean? Florence + the Machine? All the cheesy mystery shows like Columbo and Murder She Wrote? TOTALLY MY SCENE. It also suffers from some awkward moments in the writing, but almost all of that was towards the beginning, and part of that might just have been me adjusting to the writing a bit slower than usual.

It also has a GREAT friendship - and you know how strongly I feel about those. Cara is both not a cardboard cut out of a friend, she's not just the manic pixie girl version of a friend either. Yes she's cheerful and quirky - which helps offset Scarlett, but she also has her own struggles to deal with that have nothing to do with Scarlett. She's also got a physical disability and I felt like that was dealt exactly how I want disabilities of any sort to be written - not a defining "this is who she is" sort of thing, but not glossed over as if it wasn't something she had to deal with. It's definitely part of who she is without defining her, and I can count on one hand the number of novels I've read where the whole point of the book wasn't the disability or the disability wasn't just used as a token character.

A lot of this has Scarlett, Cara, and Luke dealing with grief - all in different stages and experience with it. As someone who has had her fair share of experience with it, I think this is one of the better books I've read where characters react realistically to what's going on. It never felt as if Scarlett was being melodramatic or just mentioning it woodenly because that's what the character SHOULD be doing it, nor did it feel like she just instantly forgot it. It is ever present throughout the novel - but it's very much how I have felt in the past. It's constantly in your thoughts, until it's only mostly in your thoughts. You have fun and forget for a moment and then BAM. Out of nowhere it hits you again. Grief is one of the hardest things to write realistically (or at least I'm guessing, since I rarely see it written in a way that rings true for me. That being said, everyone responds to grief differently, so maybe I just have a too narrow idea of how it feels).

TL;DR - This is a fresh, new take on some well trod paranormal tropes featuring a great romantic relationship (seriously, I am usually a gags and rolls eyes sort of girl when it comes to cheesy romantic scenes, but oh my GOD there's this scene in the book that totally melted me and I got all teary-eyed and GAH), a great friendship, and a realistic portrayal of grief. It doesn't get too bogged down with that last part though - Megan artfully brought in a funny or light moment without detracting from the feelings of what just happened. It's hard to balance the two, but I thought she did a fantastic job!

So,  basically you should check out this series. I immediately bought the ebooks for the next couple books (although I then got hit with all things audition so I haven't read them yet) I enjoyed this one so much.  And I'm veerrrrryyyyy picky about my paranormal books.  This one is worth it for Cara and Scarlett's friendship, let alone all the other wonderful things.

And now for what the whole point of this post was originally supposed to be! 


With her mother’s life hanging in the balance, Scarlett is devastated – and done with being in the dark. She wants answers, all of them. 

But when was her pursuit of the truth ever straightforward? 

Pulling a single thread triggers a great unravelling. And each revelation will force Scarlett to rethink what she thought she knew about the Ceruleans, the Fallen, her family – herself.

All that came before was a mere prelude to this, the last journey. From London to Twycombe to Hollythwaite to Cerulea, Scarlett will be stalked by the ghosts of what has been, what may have been and what may come to pass. Until she reaches the place where it all began, and it all must end.

But in the final reckoning, none will survive unscathed. And some will not survive at all.

In this explosive conclusion to The Ceruleans series, all must be defined by their actions: sinner, saint… or something more beautiful entirely?

It's so pretty!! And you know the upside to all this? You can buy the first book, get hooked, and then immediately go binge read the rest of the series. Trust me, you'll want to.  You can pre-order this one here and here - it comes out February 16, 2016!

Monday, December 7, 2015

Top Ten New-To-Me Favorite Authors I Read For The First Time In 2015

Samantha Shannon, author of The Bone Season

Samantha ShannonThe Bone Season (The Bone Season, #1)

If Samantha Shannon's debut book, The Bone Season, is anything to go from, it looks like we've got plenty of fantasy novels with fantastic world building to look forward to, as well as the huge ensemble casts she manages to juggle throughout the novel.  I usually balk at long series (Sarah J. Maas excluded, of course), but this is definitely a series I'm planning on staying with for the long haul!

Neal Shusterman, author of Unwind

Neal ShustermanUnwind (Unwind, #1)

Neil Shusterman excels at writing books that take things relevant today and making an insightful, and utterly disturbing story out of it.  His 2015 novel, Challenger Deep, won the National Book Award for Young People's Literature, and by all accounts is just as impactful as Unwind was for me (although I haven't read it yet. There's only so much soul crushing a girl can handle in a year).

Susanna Clarke, author of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell

Susanna ClarkeJonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is unlike any other fantasy novel I've ever read.  It looks like it's the only novel she's written, although she has quite a few short stories which I'm definitely going to read ASAP.  I've no idea what another novel by Susanna Clarke would be like, but you can bet I'd buy it.

Terry Pratchett, author of the Discworld Series

Terry PratchettThe Color of Magic (Discworld, #1; Rincewind #1)

I know, I know, how can I possibly have only discovered Terry Pratchett in 2015?  Especially since his writing one part Diana Wynne to one part Douglas Adams which would be like my dream team of authors.  All wrapped up in one.  And I find it particularly sad that I only discovered his books a month or two before he died.  But there you have it, and there's now a new lifelong Terry Pratchett fan in the world.

Rae Carson, author of the Fire and Thorns trilogy

About RaeThe Girl of Fire and Thorns (Fire and Thorns, #1)

If all of Rae Carson's books are going to feature even one of my favourite things about The Girl of Fire and Thorns (non-Western based fantasy setting with non-Western based cultures and a heroine that is neither thin nor beautiful), I'm in.  The Girl of Fire and Thorns was definitely my favourite high fantasy novel of 2015.

Marie Lu, author of the Legend trilogy

Marie LuLegend (Legend, #1)

Marie Lu created some of the best fleshed out characters I've had the pleasure to read in her Legend series.  It's not just the main cast - even the secondary characters had character arcs that spanned the whole trilogy, and I can't think of another author I've gotten to see that from in a long time.  It's so hard to balance all the parts of a story without relying on extra characters as plot points, and I loved that she managed to surprise me with them throughout the whole series!

Sangu Mandanna, author of The Lost Girl

Sangu MandannaThe Lost Girl

The Lost Girl was like Unwind meets Never Let Me Go (but infinitely more uplifting because that combination is just distressing otherwise haha).  It's definitely a hidden gem - I don't hear about it often, and it's not a splashy book exactly, so I can see why.  But I do wish more people knew about it, because it was thought provoking AND fun. So here I am doing my due diligence - this is an author who should be on your radar!

Ben Hatke, author of Zita the Spacegirl

Ben HatkeZita the Spacegirl (Zita the Spacegirl, #1)

Guys, guys, guys this story is SO CUTE! And heartwarming.  And features an adventurous, compassionate heroine and there's a giant mouse she can ride and a crazy inventor and robot best friends and can you please just read this because what about that doesn't sound awesome?

Paula Yoo, author of Good Enough

Paula YooGood Enough

It turns out Paula Yoo has had a pretty diverse career - this is the only novel she's written, but she's been involved with TV scripts and illustrated picture books, so chances are you've run into something else she's worked on.  Here's hoping she writes another novel though!

Sarah MacLean, author of Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake

maclean.jpgNine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake (Love By Numbers, #1)

So earlier this year I went on a HUGE historical romance novel binge.  In the process, I discovered Sarah MacLean and there is just no coming back from that.  She has all the wit I love from Julia Quinn and the more feminist minded heroines from Courtney Milan (not that Julia Quinn's aren't, but Milan's tend to be a bit more overtly so) and just something that is all Sarah MacLean and it makes for the best historical romance novels!