Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Top 10 Tuesdays: Top "Ten" 5 Star Reads Of 2016

Top 10 Tuesday is a weekly meme that is brought to us by The Broke & the Bookish. Check out the topic list here.

I set out to write this post about the top ten 5 star reads I had read this year and when I was going over my Goodreads challenge for the year, I realized that I had not actually read all that many 5 star reads this year.

Wow, how did that happen! There were a lot of 4 star reads, so it isn't like there weren't a ton of great books. There were only 9 titles, though, that blew me away either with the story or the art, and those are the titles I'm sharing with you today.

xxxHolic, Volumes 1-3 by CLAMP

Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow

The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge

Dear Baobab by Cheryl Foggo

 by Christy Colon Hasegawa

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Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Review: Maresi by Maria Turtschaninoff

Only women and girls are allowed in the Red Abbey, a haven from abuse and oppression. Maresi, a thirteen-year-old novice there, arrived in the hunger winter and now lives a happy life in the Abbey, protected by the Mother and reveling in the vast library in the House of Knowledge, her favorite place. Into this idyllic existence comes Jai, a girl with a dark past. She has escaped her home after witnessing the killing of her beloved sister. Soon the dangers of the outside world follow Jai into the sacred space of the Abbey, and Maresi can no longer hide in books and words but must become one who acts.

Rating: 3 Stars

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Maresi was a novel that I went into without knowing much about. I don't do this nearly enough as the few times that I have done it this year I have found myself pleasantly surprised and enjoying the books rather more than I thought I would.

The circumstances of the women in this book are both tragic and empowering. They are treated as second class citizens in the world at large, but have managed to found a haven for themselves called the Red Abbey. The island itself might, if this were a film portrayal, have a bit of a creepy vibe to it as there is not a single male person on this island. Everyone is female, having fled from the world due to one situation or another. The vibe itself lent a somewhat eerie feel to the narrative that I felt was just on this side of good and didn't tip over into the overdone realm.

Maresi was a bit stiff, at first, as the main character, which I think had more to do with her as a person who has not yet found her place among these women. She does know her way around, how things work, etc., but not what her defining role is or will be. Once she meets Jai, a newcomer, however, I felt like she loosened up a bit because we got to see a kind side to her as she guided this girl around and introduced her to things.

The story has some fantastical elements, which I appreciated, particularly the earth goddess divinity. The pacing was good, if a bit on the slow side. Maresi had this odd quality of being a rather short book so it didn't actually take long to read, but the writing made things feel as if they were happening slower than they really were. As this is only the first book in the series, I'm curious to see if the pace will pick up in the next book(s) or if they will all be similarly short page wise but slow pace wise.

My recommendation: This book could definitely earn a spot on your TBR if you're interested in female dominated societies and don't mind the vaguely awkward pacing. I wouldn't say it's a must-read at the moment, but with more books to come, perhaps that will change.

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Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Top 5 Wednesday: Books I Want to Finally Read in 2017

Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Thoughts on Tomes. Check out the Goodreads group here.

My to-be-read pile is enormous, like monstrous enormous.

It feels like my own Black Books and I wouldn't have it any other way. With so many good books coming out all the time, it stands to reason that I would eventually buy more than I could keep up with in the reading. I tend to buy books as I see them if I have the money because I have this weird fear that if I don't, I might never find it again or I won't be able to read it when I want to. So, I buy it, I have it, I'll read it eventually.

This means my TBR spans the shelves and I have several books on it from years past that I really want to read, but this year was really the year of rereads. This week's theme got me to think about the five that I wanted to read the most that have been neglected for one reason or another.

The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher

These are the first books I put on my Goodreads TBR and I've only read the first two books and the fourth. As there are soon to be seventeen books in the series, I really need to play catch-up, so this entry is a catchall for the series rather than just one volume.

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

I've tried to start this book a couple of times, mostly because the main character is a librarian. Any book that is about books, bookstores, libraries, librarians, etc., go on my list simply because they're about something I love. I want to read this and then watch the movie, something else I've been meaning to watch since it came out.

From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg

This sounds like the kind of book that I would have loved when I was the age of the kids in the book. I can easily imagine having a dream about running away to a museum, though I would have chosen the Natural History Museum rather than the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black

I got this for my husband when it first came out. We're big Holly Black fans in this family, but for some reason I never got around to reading it at the time. However, I did see the book trailer and thought it was really creepy. My husband said yes, it was, and that it perfectly matches the tone of the book. If that's true, I'm really interested in reading it for myself.

A Gentle Madness: Bibliophiles, Bibliomanes, and the Eternal Passion for Books by Nicholas Basbanes

This was a Christmas gift years ago and I feel a slight sense of shame at not having read it yet. From what I remember, Nicholas Basbanes wrote a few books that are essential reading on the subject of reading and readers. It's non-fiction, so maybe that's what kept me from picking it up and reading it straight through? I hope I can make it through in 2017 because I'm pretty sure this was on a list for 2016 and I forgot.

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Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Top 10 Tuesday: Top Ten New-To-Me Authors I Read For The First Time In 2016

Top 10 Tuesday is a weekly meme that is brought to us by The Broke & the Bookish. Check out the topic list here.

2016 has been a rough year, what with all of the tragic events that have happened (deaths, political events, etc.) and when things get tough, instead of reading something new I tend to turn to old friends in books. Rereading is something that has gotten me through a lot of hard times, especially Harry Potter.

This week, however, is time to take a look back at the authors that I read for the first time this year. While there are more to the list than these ten, these are the ten authors new to me this year that I am actively looking forward to reading more from, hopefully in 2017.

The Lie Tree (5 Stars)

Girl in Pieces (5 Stars)

5. Sam Maggs

Wonder Women (4 Stars)

Blackbird Fly (4 Stars)

Nora & Kettle (4 Stars)

9. Joshua Khan

Shadow Magic (4 Stars)

All pictures, quotes, and videos belong to their respective owners. I use them here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Review: The Wishing World by Todd Fahnestock

In the Wishing World, dreams are real. You can transform into your own hero, find wild and whimsical friends, and wield power as great as your imagination. But Lorelei doesn't know about any of that. All she knows is that a monster took her family.

It happened during a camping trip one year ago. Hiding inside the tent, she saw shadows, tentacles and a strange creature. By the time she got up the courage to crawl outside, the monster--and Lorelei's mom, dad, and brother--were gone.

Lorelei is determined to find her family. When she accidentally breaks into the Wishing World, she discovers a way. It's a land more wonderful than she could have imagined, a land of talking griffons, water princesses, and cities made of sand, where Lorelei is a Doolivanti--a wish-maker--who can write her dreams into existence.

There's only one problem: the monster is a Doolivanti, too. What he wishes also comes true, and he's determined to shove Lorelei out, keep her family, and make the whole Wishing World his. To save them, Lorelei must find the courage to face him, or her next wish may be her last.

Rating: 2 Stars

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The premise of this novel attracted me because the wish fulfillment aspect has always been appealing. Even with the vast amount of power that you would think comes along with that gift, it's never as simple as it appears to be. When Lorelei has to use her newfound abilities to save her kidnapped family from the Ink King, a mysterious creature that has the same powers she does, it sounds like I as the reader am in for a good adventure.

I found this not to be the case, though, at least not entirely. The beginning of the book starts off rather rapidly. A lot of the establishing action has happened already: Lorelei losing her parents and brother, refusing to accept that they're dead like everyone else in her life does, etc. She is thrust into the Wishing World by accident, but still very quickly. I didn't really have time to get to know her as a character.

What bothered me about her in particular in the beginning was that I couldn't get a grasp on her age and thus couldn't accurately picture her in my head or in this narrative. As a middle grade novel heroine, I'd expect her to be around twelve or so, but there were ways that she spoke and acted that made it seem like she could be anywhere between twelve and sixteen. Then, just when I thought that perhaps she was older, she'd go back and do something else that was quite childish. It made it a roller coaster ride of trying to figure out Lorelei the character.

As for the story line itself, I tried very hard to get into it because, as stated above, the idea of a story about wish fulfillment and it not being as easy as one would think is very appealing. Even when Aladdin got the genie (phenomenal cosmic powers and all that), he still had a lot of problems, some of which stemmed from not knowing how to handle said power. The plot and pacing of The Wishing World, though, felt a bit all over the place. One minute there'd be so much action I didn't know where to look; the next minute it would drag and I would find myself metaphorically checking my watch and wondering how much longer the book would take to read. It wasn't a well planned rise and fall of action to my mind, like an enjoyable story ought to be, so the fun was taken out of this book for me.

I can't say I'd really recommend this book strongly, but I wouldn't warn people away from it actively either. There may well be some readers that enjoy the chaos more than I would have and to them I wish the best of reading time.

All pictures, quotes, and videos belong to their respective owners. I use them here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Dumbledore's Army Readathon

Aentee is at it again with another tremendous readathon. If you don't remember, earlier this year she hosted the #ReadThemAllThon. It was so much fun and with the addition of a point system relating to Pokemon evolution, I had a grand time. Harry Potter, though, is the number one fandom that I'm a part of, so when I got the email that Aentee had created the #DAReadThon, there was no question of participating.

It runs midnight to midnight, 1st January to 15th January, so it does cross over with the Winter Biannual Bibliothon a bit, but I don't care, it's HARRY POTTER!!

What would a challenge be without prompts? These are inspired by the spells that Dumbledore's Army practiced and are hopefully promoting diverse titles.

I haven't read an Ellen Hopkins book in a long time, but I know she handles a lot of tough subjects and  this one feels like the right one for this prompt. It deals with suicide attempts and depression, both of which have affected me personally. I live with depression every day and that neurological oddity has often put me at odds with the rest of my life. Reading has been one of the few things that has acted a Patronus for me.

I got this book awhile ago and have been waiting for the perfect time to read it. I've wanted to read more books about transgender characters, so if anyone has any suggestions for more, please let me know!

My library just got this in and someone on Twitter recommended it. I don't think I've read a de la Cruz book, so it'll be my first. I hope I like her writing, as this story sounds fascinating.

This title has been on my TBR for over a year, so it certainly qualifies. I am so sorry, lovely book, for neglecting you! 

I read the first chapter or two of this when I first got it and can't for the life of me remember why I put it down. I remember it being really interesting and the rest of the Internet certainly seems to think so, so check this off as my Stupefy selection (especially before the sequel comes out!).

Thanks to @_diversereads for the fabulous recommendation. You're always good for them. I think this is the one I'm most looking forward to come January.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Harry Potter Thursday: One Thing I Would Change About the Goblet of Fire Film

Harry Potter Thursday is a weekly meme created by Uncorked Thoughts.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was, sadly, never my favorite movie in the series. There was a lot that happened in that novel that was either cut from the movie or butchered almost beyond recognition. Granted it was never my favorite novel (that honor belongs to Prisoner of Azkaban), but I still had a lot that I was looking forward to in the fall of 2005.

One of the things that I was looking forward to the most was the Quidditch World Cup. A lot is made of it in the book. The Weasleys can't stop talking about how unique of an opportunity it is for the Cup to be held in England and how lucky they are to get tickets (regardless of price, simply at all). With all of the sports talk between different members of the family, I found myself as excited as Harry.

The beginning footage looked amazing. When the Weasleys, Diggorys, Harry, and Hermione all arrived at the campgrounds, you could feel the excitement. It was like going to a Harry Potter convention and knowing that something awesome was right around the corner.

While we couldn't get all of the minutae of their walk through the campgrounds (meeting Ludo Bagman, buying souveniers, etc.), I was still happy once they got to the stands. I don't quite understand why the filmmakers changed the seating arrangements around (book: everyone is in the top box, tense moments with the Malfoys; movie: top of the stadium is suddenly bad and the Malfoys are lower down, still snide), but moving on.

I went to see this movie at the midnight premiere by myself, so I didn't have anyone to talk whisper to in the theater about this, but once the teams were introduced, I sort of wondered why we didn't get the introduction to the Bulgarian team mascot (Veelas). The Irish team display was still visually impressive.

Bulgaria was a bit of a letdown as it was merely a team introduction rather than the spectacle from the book.

Shortly after the introductions, when Cornelius Fudge announces that the game is ready to begin, there's a flash of light and suddenly it's over. The Weasleys, Harry, and Hermione are back in their tents celebrating the victory, which was Ireland, but I don't remember if they're clear about that in the movie.

When I first saw the movie, I definitely remember being confused. Where was the Quidditch? They clearly knew how to shoot it because it had been featured in the three previous films. I'm sure the visual effects were available because they did fine both in the Quidditch introduction and in the Triwizard tasks. What was the reason here? Timing? It feels like a weak reason when that was such a huge visual treat that I'm sure more people than myself were looking forward to.

It could have been amazing and that is what I would have changed about this movie. I would definitely have filmed the Quidditch World Cup properly. It would have been beautiful and a fun aspect of Goblet of Fire.

All pictures, quotes, and videos belong to their respective owners. I use them here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.