Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Rebel Spring

The world that Morgan Rhodes has created is beautiful. Mytica is a mysterious island, where King Gaius has forced three countries into one. The island is one with hidden magic, with magical beings watching it. There is a magical treasure to find and these beings are influencing the mortal world. They should all be working towards the same goal, but maybe not. The story is rich, with enough movement that I can't say where it will all end. With such a fantastic world and plot, it is the characters that have me coming back.

When I started Rebel Spring, I was so excited to find out what happened to the characters from Falling Kingdoms. Cleo and Jonas, Magnus and Lucia, all had such open ends to their stories. But I didn't expect the new characters to grip me just as much. Lysandra is amazing and Prince Ashur is intriguing. The Watchers gave me more than one, what the f@#$?! moment. I can't wait to see where these characters are going to go. Rebel Spring is full of unexpected twists and reveals. Morgan Rhodes created such a high intensity sequel, it had me hooked into this series more than the first book.

I really like that the book opens with Lysandra. Even though I wanted to know about the other characters, Lysandra's story is important. It also gives you a good idea what the tone of this novel is going to be like. There's a lot of death. There's torture and destruction. Blood will be spilled on the land, Gaius is the King of Blood after all. Lysandra also concludes this story, making the novel more complete than if the ending has less of her.

Also, Prince Ashur! He is going to be a wild card. I wasn't sure how he was going to fit into this intense, complex mix of characters, but he did his job. He's getting in there. He's learning and forging alliances, among other things. I'm excited to see what he does next. I wonder who he'll side with or if he has an agenda all his own.

That moment between Cleo and Lucia, what is going to come from that? Cleo has lost everything. Her entire life has changed and she really is lucky to be alive. She's long gone from that spoiled princess. She's learning to be a leader, to be strong, to be smart. She's learning to believe in magic. I want her to make the right decisions, but between Jonas and Magnus, Lucia and the king, I'm not always sure what that's going to be. Her relationship with Jonas is what I thought it would be, but her relationship with Magnus is something different.

Is Lucia going to be a villian? I can't tell. I don't want her to be. I think she has the potential to join Mytica together in a way unlike her father, but I don't know if she's capable. How much is she going to be influenced by others and by her own power? Is she going to lose herself? I feel like Rhodes initially wrote her as an innocent girl, being controlled by her adoptive father, but I'm not sure about that any more; she's not the girl she used to be.

I need to keep reading this series. Except for Cleo, the King of Blood, and maybe Jonas, I can't tell who the heroes and villians of this story are going to be. Anyone could choose to do anything. Many of their decisions seem personal, but they will effect the whole of Mytica.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Homemade Burger

The lighting in my dining room is
bad. I should have taken the picture
I know it's fall now, and the last hot weekend was probably last weekend, but I just have to share this homemade burger recipe. It's not winter yet, after all.

Ted Reader's recipe has served me well. I made a couple changes, as I always do. Follow the link to see the original recipe. My changes are below.

Here's the burger recipe, with my minor changes:

3 lbs ground beef
4 tbsp butter, softened
1/2 red onion (it calls for white onion and a whole one, but I like red better and one onion is too much.)
3 cloves garlic
1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1.5 tbsp Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
Salt to taste
Freshly ground pepper to taste
6 or 12 buns (depends on how big you want your burgers. I would not do 6)
Mix it all together well.

When I make burgers for the four of us, I make 1/3 of the recipe. I make the burgers about 1cm thick and about a big around as my hand. When they grill, they shrink and thicken, if you know what I mean. I have a friend that I gave this recipe to and she dices some jalapeños to add to the mix. I definitely have to try that version.

You know what makes this burger great? The butter. It just gets absorbed into the meat and the burger is so moist. I feel like it's practically impossible to dry this burger out - and I might occasionally set my grill on fire. This is without a doubt, my go-to burger recipe. I hope you get a chance to enjoy some more barbecue time before the fall chill sets in!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Paperbacks and Hardcovers

I'm thinking of switching to paperbacks for a certain author. This author's books are HUGE! I think they might be getting bigger too. In general, I'm a hardcover fan. I don't know why. I think it's partly an aesthetic thing. They're big and tall and sturdy. They just give me a feeling that I think a lot of book lovers, no matter their preference can relate to. As I've gotten older, my preference for hardcovers has grown.

However, they're not cheap. I'm a book lover who also likes a good price. I buy from sales, bargain bins and used bookstores. If there's a book I want and the paperback is significantly cheaper than the hardcover, I'll go for the paperback. (I do have moments where I want paperbacks too.)

Which brings me back to this particular author. A book has come out that I want. But it's HUGE! In hardcover, this book and future books by this author would take up a lot of space. Space that I don't have. Even though I'd have to wait, waiting for paperback might be a good idea. Also, the hardcovers from this author seem to be getting more expensive. I'm pretty sure all of the books I have from this author are hardcover, which makes the decision more difficult. It'd be switching formats. Do I want to do that? I think I do. The uniform-ness of that author's books, might look nice, but in general, I don't tend to need books to match, it's just because all of these do.

I know I could just get the book from the library, but I'm a book hoarder. I accept it. Though the library has been getting more appealing as I run out of space.

So, that's it, right? I'm waiting for the paperback?

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Blast from the Past #3 - It Is All About The Comment This Time

I had a hard time deciding which post from the first half of September 2006 to talk about. Was I going to look back at An International Episode, a story written by Henry James, or was I going to talk about the time I got "corneal ulcers" (my eyes are fine now, so no worries). On the surface, one definitely seems a little more interesting than the other (I think). However, what left me thinking was the comment someone left on the An International Episode post. It's a comment I never responded to, yet didn't delete. I just wasn't sure how I wanted to handle it. I guess I ended up with the old tried and true, "ignore it" solution. It kind of worked. It went away. I hadn't thought of this specific thing for about 10 years. Now though, I'm doing this thing where I look back at posts from the past and talk about them. I'm looking at how I felt about something and if those feelings and impressions have changed over the years. Like with last week's post, they can influence me now.
I didn't include the name, but you can see it if you go to the original post.

The comment may seem innocuous at first, just someone recommending a book, but it irks me. It's presumptuous. The commenter, whose blog I never visited because of my annoyance, assumes I'm Indian, which I'm not. It's something that's happened to me my whole life. I get it, I know I "look Indian", as explained to me by, like, a hundred people and I'm probably not exaggerating as this has been occurring since puberty. From that tiny little profile picture (which I aught to change, as it's been 10 years), this person assumed I was Indian . Also, I know it's different now, but it used to say in my "About Me" blurb that my parents immigrated from Trinidad and I was born in Canada. Admittedly, I do have some Indian heritage from several generations ago, but you wouldn't know that from reading my blog. The commenter recommended a book to me, entirely based on the presumption of my being Indian (and because the commener apparently lived in her neighbourhood). Not that I don't want to read Jhumpa Lahiri's The Namesake. I actually picked up a copy a few months ago, so I have it, with the intention of reading it. It also sounds like something I would relate to because of the immigration themes, as I have read a a few books from immigrants, Indian and otherwise, and find they often have similar issues. Not because the Indian part will "hit home" with me. Really, this person just sounds like they were trying to make a connection, but they didn't do it in a way that would get me to respond.

Have I blown this out of proportion? Maybe. Maybe the comment just represents something I've had to deal with my whole life. Presumption about my ethnicity, people asking where I'm "actually" from, people not liking or believing the response when I say I'm Canadian, is a decades old battle. Somehow, for some people, saying I'm Canadian is not good enough. Occasionally, I don't get "you look Indian". Sometimes people randomly speak to me in other languages, assuming I would know what they're saying. Just a few weeks ago (specifically, the night of the Tragically Hip concert on the CBC), someone spoke to me in Portuguese because he thought I was Brazilian. Seriously? Yup. I laughed it off. We were at a party and I wasn't going to let someone ruin our time. Though I did make fun of him and tried to point out what a dumb thing that was to do. He was older too. I find I get less of this from people my age or younger.

So, 10 years ago, I ignored the comment and this person, whoever they are. This came just a couple years after two different job situations in which I had to deal with some.... things. One was terrible; the other was more a steady stream of annoyance.

I know I usually don't talk about this kind of stuff; I like that my blog is about books and movies and in general, things that make me happy. I even thought about deleting all this once I wrote it. I don't even know how coherent it all is. It seems like a bit of a rant. The comment, these memories, and even a recent event, brought up such strong feelings in me. I'm a little hesitant to share these feelings on the internet, but today I'm feeling brave.

I feel like I should have some kind of concluding sentence or statement here, but I don't know what else to say. It's not like this kind of thing is going to "conclude" for me. At least it happens (to me at least) with less frequency than 10+ years ago. I guess for today, that's all she wrote.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Undead and Unsure

Perfect Laura is just awful. She's the Anti-Christ though, so I don't know what I expected. I can't elaborate without spoiling the story. I let what she did sit with me for a bit, but she makes me so angry. MaryJanice Davidson spent several books, possibly since Laura was first introduced, setting up the ending to this novel. I didn't see the full twist coming though. Some of it was expected, but not all. Did she always know she was going to do this? Sometimes, I still can't believe it, what a terrible girl and such a cold-hearted thing to do.

Undead and Unsure is another entertaining installment is the Undead series. Whenever I want something fun to read Queen Betsy is there for me. Like the other Undead books, Undead and Unsure had a quirky storyline and piled together is an unlikely cast of characters. Really though, I loved the baby storyline. Dr. Taylor coming in and trying to tell everyone something was wrong, but NO ONE listened? How everything distracted them from what should have been a horrible situation? Those moments were the best for me. I also really liked the hellfog. That strengthened the sister versus sister storyline. I still have to say, the best part of the story was the end. The epilogue made the book so much better. It caused me to be a little astonished and a little mad too (in a good way). It also made me very excited to read the rest of the series. I know the final book in the series will be out soon, but I have two more to read before I see Betsy's end. I hope it's a happy(ish) one.

Can I also mention how excited it was to get some of the story from Sinclair's perspective? His tone was different, it was nice to hear him, the way he thinks and some deeper truths into who he is. Reading him from Betsy's perspective has long kept him at a distance. I feel like he's deep, thoughful and loves his wife. I hope that more books will have his perspective and maybe the perspective of other members of their family. I always enjoy the Undead books and I look forward to more.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Appointment With Death

I wish I could figure these stories out before the end. Sort of. I thought it was, who it was, for a few pages, but then some of the stuff that Poirot said, threw me off. It's all about the psychology of the crime, at least in this case, though coupled with evidence. It's hard to figure out stuff too when so many people are lying.

Appointment with Death is another wonderful and interesting Agatha Christie mystery. I love Hercule Poirot. He's so different. He's unassuming, soft-spoken, but he sees everything. He sits and speaks with all the interested parties, but he doesn't play much of a part in the first part of the novel. The first part of the novel establishes the Boyton family. We are introduced to the victim as she is in life, and the people who surround her. We meet her children, a family friend and the people who are travelling along side them. This part of the novel gives us an idea of motive, but also what might happen as a result of the matriarch's death.

I loved Sarah King. She was the star of the book for me. She was a woman, travelling on her own, who was also a doctor. The other medical person, Gerard, showed her respect, as did everyone else in the camp. Christie definitely wrote some strong, intelligent, formidable female characters. Sarah King did allow her feelings to get in the way. Though she was certain of "anything medical", her feelings definitely influenced her. From her first conversation with Dr. Gerard, I just loved her confidence.

The ending though, that was a serious surprise. Not just the figuring out of what happened, Poirot going through each member of the assembled party in classic Christie style, but after. The obituary... I won't say anything else, because I don't want to spoil it, but this was Christie at her best. Also, the epilogue was lovely. The reunion was great.

I'm so glad I finally read my fifth Agatha Christie classic. Appointment With Death is everything I wanted to be and I recommend it to any Agatha Christie fan.

This is also #26 on my Classics list. (I'm so behind.)

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Angel Catbird

Wow. I'm totally hooked. I guess instead of "resting on her laurels"* Margaret Atwood can pretty much write and publish whatever she wants. So, instead of being a "nice, literary old lady"** Atwood decided to write a fun, funny, graphic novel. Angel Catbird is so fantastical, so unbelievable, that you just have to go with it. It's almost satirical in some of its absurdity.

Angel Catbird takes some of the superhero tropes and makes them so obvious. Mutations, chemical spills, powers from animals, loss of a "loved one", secret identities, they're all right there. The main character is a nerdy scientist and he gets turned into Angel Catbird, and he's beautiful. I loved the art in this story. The drawing, the colouring, the detail was lovely. I couldn't help but be drawn in by the cover and by the images of Angel Catbird and the Half-Cats. Cate Leone was fantastic, easily moving between professional and alluring. Count Catula was just fun.

I have to admit though, I was not totally happy with the end. I know that Angel Catbird is the first volume in the series, but I would have liked the ending to be a little more satisfying. It's not really a cliffhanger, as we know the bad guy's next step, I just wish the beginning of the story felt more complete. Instead, the first volume of Angel Catbird felt almost like the first episode of a television series.

I have to say, I love the note from Johnnie Christmas in his sketchbook, with the character drawings of Cate Leone, saying that he hadn't really done any "sexy" comics before and Atwood told him how to do it. That's Canada's nice, award-winning, literary lady. With all the stuff she comes up with, I want Margaret Atwood to write forever.

*From Atwood's introduction to Angel Catbird.
**Also from the introduction.

Friday, September 02, 2016

Crown of Midnight

I have so many feelings. So many. I mean the big "twist" at the end, I saw coming. Most people did, right? But it wasn't about the twist, it was about the journey getting there. It was about secrets and Chaol. What is going to happen? What decisions are going to be made? Who will be the next to die? Crown of Midnight came out in 2013 and it's the second book in the popular Throne of Glass series. I know a lot of people have read it, but obviously not everyone, so I will try to be vague about any spoilery information. Seriously through, this book was better than the first, better than the novellas and I don't know if it's the plot, but I think Sarah J. Maas's writing seemed more mature and engaging. I feel like there were many more feelings and secrets woven through the tale.

Should we talk about Celaena? She's just so much more complicated than I thought after reading Throne of Glass and The Assassin's Blade. She seemed so much a "girl" in the first book. While she could fight, she liked pretty things. She found her first friend. She had a crush on the prince. But there is so much more to her. She has changed in all kinds of fantastical ways. By the end of this story, many of those girlish things have fallen away. She's an assassin, a warrior. She's in love. She's not above revenge. Though sometimes her emotions guide her down dark paths. She has so many secrets, most of which she tells Chaol, but he has to figure the rest out himself. I am also left wondering if there are more.

Speaking of being an assassin, Crown of Midnight was definitely more violent than the first novel. That was something I think I mentioned when I read Throne of Glass, that for being called "Adarlan's Assassin", she didn't really kill a whole lot of people in that story, nor did she do as much fighting as I would have expected. That has all changed. Someone hurts Celaena or one of her very few friends, watch out. They're pretty much toast. She might give off the impression of being a young, blonde, pretty girl, but she's deadly. The scene in the warehouse was fantastic. So, was the last big battle. Secrets and swords flying.

In the first book, I think I felt bad for Chaol, watching Celaena and Dorian, but this time, I felt bad for Dorian. He seemed so distant from both Celaena and Chaol. He needed a friend, but all he found was Roland. I thought Roland was one thing, but in the end, he ended up as possibly something else. Dorian just seemed so alone. He has changed so much too. He's more than just a prince with a crush.

Chaol is still my favourite though. He's torn, through so much of the novel. Who holds his loyalty? What is he willing to do for Celaena? He can appear stoic and hard, but he's so full of emotion. His interactions with his father tell so much. What Chaol is willing to do and sacrifice shows so much of his character. By the end of the book, I just want to hug him.

The characters definitely make this series for me. Not just these three. Nehemia is wonderful and sad. Elena is full of secrets. So is the King. Archer was a great addition. Even Ress seemed to know when to act and when to be quiet. I'm interested in how Dorian's little brother Hollin will develop, portrayed as a young brat, he can't be that way forever. Yellowlegs was wicked. So was Duke Perrington. I wonder what's going to happen to Kaltain and Roland. There are so many questions still.

Crown of Midnight is the book that has definitely hooked me into the series and I can't wait to read the rest. It's so hard not to read the synopses for the other books. Looking at the covers, as lovely as they are, I think they give away a little bit too, especially Empire of Storms, the 5th (sort of 6th) book, which is is out in a few days. I'm hoping to pick it up and the rest of the series too.

Thursday, September 01, 2016

Blast From The Past #2 - The ABC Murders

(AKA: Throwback Thursday)

I realized that while I definitely, totally want to look back at my blogging this year, doing it every week is going to be to hard. So, it'll be bi-weekly, maybe more often if I can swing it. Doing it bi-weekly though, gives me a bit better selection as to which posts from the past I'll be highlighting, as I was apparently not a "regular" poster back then. After looking at this week's post and last week's, I also did not add pictures to my posts. I don't know when I started doing that, but I'll likely be finding out as I take this journey.

Approximately 10 years ago, I read The ABC Murders, by Agatha Christie. This was my second book by Christie, having read Murder on the Orient Express the fall before. I also read this on my honeymoon, per the post. There was also a big twist at the end, which I don't remember. I remember remember really liking the post. I remember other chracters underestimating Poirot. Maybe The ABC Murders is another book I'll have to re-read.

When I looked back to figure out which post to highlight this week, it left me in a "Christie" sort of mood. I read two other books by her since this post and I own a fifth. Why haven't I read the fifth book after so many years? I have no idea. Too many books, not enough time? So, I pulled Appointment with Death off my shelf and I'm a couple of chapters in. I'm excited to see what's going to happen with this family and how the woman and French doctor are involved. From what I remember about Christie, she does not introduce characters lightly. I also like that looking back at the past influenced what I was going to read now.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Me, Myself and Why?

I don't know exactly how I feel about Me, Myself and Why? It was an interesting book, full of bizarre and unique characters. I really couldn't put it down. It was unlike any book I think I've ever read before. The main character was all over the place in a "multiple personality disorder" kind of way, but that is sort of the plot of the book. Really though, everyone was weird. Not just the people at BOFFO (the super secret division of the FBI that employs crazy people), but the supposedly normal people in Cadence's life.

I picked up me myself and why along time ago because it's written by MaryJanice Davidson. I love Davidson's Undead books and have been reading them for years, though I've fallen behind. So, when I see something else written by her, I snap it up. I've been slowly picking up the Cadence Jones series and now that I have all the books, I thought I aught to read them. I wasn't disappointed either. Me Myself and Why? was definitely the style I've come to recognize from Davidson, without making Cadence sound like Betsy. Cadence, Shiro and Adrienne are distinct and I think that must have taken some work.

I'm not totally happy with the ending. While the story concludes, it has definitely left threads hanging. While the end wasn't a cliffhanger, it left too much open, unlike other series books I've read from Davidson. Usually I get more satisfying endings. That definitely hasn't put me off the books though, especially when they're so easily accessible.

You know when you're reading something with a mystery, and you're trying to figure out who the bad guy is? Well I kind of figured it out and I kind of didn't.  I don't want to give away the ending, because I think it was a unique way to call attention back to the main character, without it being obvious until it was revealed, because then it was kind of obvious. So, that final part of the mystery I really liked, I called it, but I didn't. With those kinds of twists, I'm looking forward to reading more about Cadence Jones.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Suicide Squad

Easy come, easy go....

Amanda Waller is terrible, amazingly terrible. Seriously, who's the real bad guy? I know some of her comic history, so only some of it was surprising, but when she comes face to face with the team? What?! She's certainly someone who blurs the line, maybe erases the line.

I really liked how we knew the Suicide Squad were bad guys, but the movie created sympathy for them. Except for Diablo, I felt sympathy for him from the start. Diablo wasn't a saint by any means, but he knew what he was capable of and he wanted to stay in control.

While it's a bit brutal and totally wrong, I like that the movie shows Joker and Harley Quinn's relationship from the beginning. He made himself the perfect girlfriend. Did Dr. Quinzel get a little too close to the Joker, yes, but, well, he certainly took control of her and pushed her over the edge. Yet Harley isn't just Joker's girlfriend. She has friends and is loyal to them.

I enjoyed Deadshot's story too. They definitely wanted you to know what he was, but he also had someone he cared for. (I wasn't 100% sold on his shopping outfit though.) I think a lot of these "bad guys" had someone they cared for, a lover, children, a brother, so those people were used to "humanize" them. But these were also not nice people.

Also, I kind of loved Flagg.

I appreciate that they didn't reveal the big bad in the trailers, we didn't even see a full image of the evil (unless I missed it), which I thought was a mistake they made with Dawn of Justice. The audience needs surprises. That being said, the plot was a little....thin. I understand that they wanted the thing they were fighting to be "evil" instead of just "bad", because otherwise, why would these guy care? But, I don't know... The plot did afford back story and bonding between the characters. So, you know, it was okay. In the end, I enjoyed the movie and was happy we went to see it.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Books From Before Blogging

I haven't done a Top Ten Tuesday in a really long time. This week's topic grabbed me though. This week, the bloggers from The Broke and the Bookish wanted to know the top Ten Books That Have Been On Your Shelf (Or TBR) From Before You Started Blogging That You STILL Haven't Read Yet. Since I recently started looking back at my blogging past, having passed my 10th blogging anniversary, I started to wonder, what books have been sitting on my shelf, unread, for over 10 years? My posts on Suicide Squad and The Humans are going to have to wait, because I need to know this now.

1. Appointment with Death, by Agatha Christie - I own 4 of Christie's books, why did I stop reading at 3?

2. It, by Stephen King - What is wrong with me? King is one of my favourite authors and I've read loads of his other books, but not It?

3. The House of Mirth, by Edith Wharton - I picked it up on the cheap after having reading Ethan Frome and it's just sat on my shelf.

4. Fury, by Salman Rushdie - Again, I got it on sale, after having read Haroun and the Sea of Stories, and it has just sat there.

5. Jacob's Room, by Virginia Woolf - I took a class on Woolf, but Jacob's Room was not one of the books we read. I bought it anyway.

6. Almost all of Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles - My Hubby and I were both reading these books. I was also reading Rice's Mayfair Witches books. Somehow I have never made it past Tale of the Body Thief. I will soon though (maybe).

7. A Perfect Pledge, by Rabindranath Maharaj - I read Maharaj's short story collection The Book of Ifs and Buts and loved it, so I picked up this novel... and it's followed me for years.

8. War and Peace, by Leo Tolsoy (can we include Crime and PunishmentUlysses here?) - They're long and scary. Based on length alone, I'm more likely to read Crime and Punishment than the other two.

9. The Tiger Claw, by Shauna Singh Baldwin - I don't know why. It just hasn't been read yet.

10. From Ink Lake, edited by Michael Ondaatje - It's a collection of Canadian short stories. Seems like my kind of thing, but nope. It's sat on my shelf as long as the rest of them.

I thought there would be more, but last year I started making an effort to read the books that I've had for a long time. That's part of the reason I got around to reading Tale of the Body Theif. Seeing this list has reminded me how much I wanted to read each of these books when I bought them. Hopefully, I get to at least one of them soon.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Harry Potter And The Cursed Child

I loved it. I really did. I loved grown up Harry, Ron and Hermione. I loved grown up Draco. I love the moment of envy and connection he has with Ginny. I loved their children. Albus and Scorpius are unique and different from their fathers. Yet, Albus is more like Harry than he realizes. I loved Rose and wish we had more of her. I enjoyed the whole story. How the characters changed, then changed again. I loved the glimpse of darkness. The Augery. I loved the Harry Potter series and The Cursed Child is a great addition.

Now I'm eager to see it. I hope the production travels. I hope Harry Potter and The Cursed Child comes to Toronto and I get to see it. I'm sure the tickets will be insanely expensive, but I already talked to Hubby, who is also a huge fan, and we'll just splurge. Yes, we're already planning and the play has only been open in another country for just a few weeks.

Yes, this is very much a play. There are definitely some descriptive, beautifully written stage directions, which lend themselves to the telling of the story, but The Cursed Child is a published script, and those are stage directions, not an artfully crafted descriptive paragraph. I've talked to people who have had a hard time with reading plays in the last, not just Shakespeare, but anything non-novel. I've never had a problem with that. Though I would agree seeing a play is better than reading one. I felt that way after reading Death of a Salesman and Cyrano de Bergerac. But really, this is Harry Potter and J.K. Rowling. If you want to know what happened to Harry, Hermione, Ron and many of the rest, this story is a must-read.

I could gush, I could write all kinds of spoiler-y things, but I won't. I'll just say that this story is amazing.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Blast from the Past #1 - A Series of Unfortunate Events

I finished the last five books of Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events. I took these books (among others) on my honeymoon. Why? I don't know. Not typical honeymoon reading material. Certainly different than the books I read on my recent vacation. I said it was the "perfect poolside read" and maybe they can be, if what you want is fun, exciting and easy. They're books for children, so I probably didn't have to do a lot of thinking while reading them. 

The post looks weird. I chose Courier for the font, for whatever reason... I think because Lemony Snicket writes letters on old typewriters. There are also no pictures and no links. Now, there's always at least one picture, no matter the post. I also include links to the books, authors, series information and anything else I think else related to the post. Not back then. It's also kind of spoilery, so don't read it if you haven't read the books. Apparently I didn't know about Spoiler Warnings back then.

10 years later, I still think they're great books. I'll probably start reading them with my daughter in about a year, maybe sooner. They have a darkness to them, but they're cheeky and they are about the children solving these problems. I'm looking forward to re-reading them with her.

So this is my first "Throwback Thursday" sort of post. I think I'll keep doing it, though it's throwing me to see how "uncomplicated" this post was. I wonder what next week will bring.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Vacation - The Books

One of the best parts of a vacation is the extra reading time. However, I didn't read the books I thought I was going to. I downloaded some YA, some sci-fi, some fantasy to my Kindle and iBook apps. I brought along Tigana, a book I won from Goodreads, which I thought would be perfect for my very long car rides, but nope.

You can read a bit about my trip in yesterday's post, but this one I thought I'd focus on all the books. I had started The Wicked Will Rise right before we left, so it was the first book I read on this trip. Afterward, something about the car, the busy-ness, the heat, I ended up reading a few short romance novels. I don't read a lot of romance in general, but I have read some. Many stories I read have a "romantic element", but they're not usually the focus. 

When it was time for me to pick something new, there was one story that jumped out at me. I had downloaded it a very long time ago and thought the plot sounded interesting. It also described itself as a romantic comedy and when I finished The Wicked Will Rise, I thought it would be fun. Then one thing led to another and suddenly I had a whole digital stack of romantic reading material. They were all good, but the ones I liked the most had a good story, and an interesting character or two trying to find herself or himself. There were family issues and/or career issues often weighing on their decisions. They, of course, find that one person who can help them balance their life or whatever. Some of the books were steamier than others. Nothing was too outlandish, I don't think. I thought I'd post a few thoughts about each "vacation book", since they were all read in a two week span. So, here they are, in the order I read them.

The end was a bit like, Bam! I don't know what's going to happen next. Amy Gumm is not the girl from Kansas anymore. She's a badass witch. She's a Wicked Witch. She is very special. The Order of the Wicked see it, Glinda sees it. They all want her and I wonder what she'll choose.

I was a little disappointed in Pete's behaviour. I had figured out the dual-identity thing in Dorothy Must Die, but I was a little surprised at how easily he could be dismissed. So, I understand the choice he made, sort of. It was still a glaring mistake.

I really liked that we got to revisit the Queendom of the Wingless Ones. The queen herself, there's so much more to her than we first realize. I really liked Bright and Polly. I liked that not too many new characters were introduced. We got to know the people we had already met better, and we got to know Oz better as Amy made her journey, searching for Nox and the remnants of the Order.

I'm really not sure what's going to happen next, but I'm excited to find out.

Let's Be Just Friends was cute, though the title trips me up every time I try to type it or say it. It's about a male/female friendship. They're best friends. Should they be more than friends? The story is short, but a lot happens. Over a year goes by and the relationship between the friends, Rose and Tyler changes. Friends, more than friends, less than friends? There's a lot of twists, other love interests, poor decision making. Rose and Tyler are at Harvard Law, so young, but not too young. It was enjoyable.

Have you ever watched The Wedding Date? Well, this is kind of like that.  I really thought the story was interesting, the game show was a unique tool that moved the plot along. Kate was neurotic, but cute. Joel was amazing and more than what he seemed. I hated the Ex and the Lady Dragon. They were just terribly perfect antagonists. I think there could have been more sexual tension, though I did like that Kate was a grown up, who understood that her child had to come first. I also liked that Joel was multi-dimensional, not just eye candy.

Seized by Love had a unique and modern story. I liked that Lizzie and Blue had gotten to know each other over the course of the year. I thought Lizzie's secret was not something Blue, or anyone, would have ever expected. Her relationship with Blue, was tense, then not, then angry, then tense again. I also really appreciated that Lizzie was her own person. She had a family, a business, and responsibilities. Those things remained a priority throughout; she wasn't going to change for Blue, she wanted him to understand. I don't know what it was exactly, the heat, the story, the independent character, but after reading Seized by Love, I really wanted to read more stories by Melissa Foster.

She's a hockey player! The main character, Billie-Jo Barker, one third of the Barker Triplets, was an Olympic, professional, hockey player. She comes home due to injury and isn't sure what to do with her life. She desperately misses hockey though, and when she joins the local team, the men don't like it. Like several of the romance stories I've read recently, it's a small town. So there are rumours, fights, innuendo and her car gets very damaged.

Not that Billie is completely innocent. She might have more hockey skill than all the men in the town, but she isn't perfect. A long time ago, back when she was known as just a jock, before going off to the Olympics, something happened. I kind of saw it coming as Stone skirted around it, but it was still a doozy. I really liked, for some weird reason, that Logan had this secret that he had to tell Billie, but hers destroyed it. I really enjoyed this story and I might read the rest of the Barker Triplets stories.

I hesitated about this one, but because Melissa Foster wrote it and it was free on Kindle, I downloaded it. I wasn't sure I liked the idea of a therapist falling for her patient, no matter how hot he is or how much she thinks she can fixed him. In the end, I enjoyed the story. Their relationship started outside of therapy. When things start to get heated, I think Danica reacted appropriately. I think Blake could have controlled himself a little more, but that was part of his problem.

What I really liked was how Danica's life wasn't just work or this new romance, but she had a life, interests. She was a Big Sister and I liked how she was concerned about this girl. This second storyline was full, not just filler. The relationship between Danica and Michelle was important to how she grew as a character. Danica is flawed, she is self-conscious and hides behind her professional exterior. It isn't just a man that has her accepting herself, but other aspects of her life too. I think that's why I kept coming back to Foster, her characters are looking for more than love.

This is my favourite book by Foster so far. I loved Dr. Daisy Honey. The name is hilarious and it plays a part of the story. I liked Daisy's parents and her best friend. I thought the decision she had to make was interesting. I liked that Luke was not the reason she made that final choice. I liked that she got to resolve her troubled past with the small town girls who were mean to her. There were so many issues touched on, bullying, health care, alcoholism, domestic abuse. It was a full story, with a fairly decent variety of situations the doctor had to deal with.

I also liked that Luke wasn't a bad boy that Daisy had to "tame". He was settled. He had been building his ranch and business. He was at a place in his life where he wanted to find that special someone. He didn't decide to suddenly stop his serial dating or scratch some kind of itch. He got reacquainted with Daisy and he wanted to get to know her. While it was definitely a steam story, it was grown up, not just "adult". I mean, the whole thing with the drunk man in the tub was just great (though terrible). Also, I hope her best friend gets his own story.

Speaking of future stories, most of these ebooks have a little sneak peak of the next novel in the series. The one after this, Fated for Love with Luke's brother Wes, sounds fun. The main character is a librarian! Callie just seems super sweet and I'd like to see them interact outside of the library.

For the last of my road trip stories, I read Laini Taylor's novella that is a companion piece to her Daughter of Smoke and Bone series. Why did I change gears for the final leg of the the trip home? I think part of it was that I couldn't download Fated for Love on the road. The other was that I really wanted to read the story. I recently got the final book in the series, Dreams of Gods and Monsters and I want to read it. Before I can read it, I had to read this.

I'm glad I did. It's a cute side story, featuring Karou's best friend, Zuzana, and the boy she's pursuing. I like the perspective of a regular person trying to go one about their life, while their best friend is involved in supernatural pursuits. I also enjoyed Mik's perspective and his surprise at the end. He's such a sweet guy. I hope he does okay in the final novel.

Night of Cake and Puppets didn't expand a lot on what we already knew about Karou and the world of this series. It was a good stand alone story, you definitely don't have to have read the series to appreciate the magic that happens between Zuzana and Mik. I think it was a good way to end the trip as we cruised home, a feel-good kind of fantasy story.

That's it. Certainly enough. It was a great trip, filled with a lot of good reading. 

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Vacation - The Trip

My son didn't want to be left behind looking for turtles.
My family and I have just gotten back from a trip to the American South. We were there primarily visiting my husband's family. It's been nine years since we made this trip; post-marriage, but pre-children. Driving 14 hours to his uncle's house is a lot different with two little ones than it is when you're young and childless. I could talk about the long drive and the visits and the swims, but one of things that has really stuck in my mind is all the differences between here (Canada) and there. I didn't expect there to be a lot. I watch American television and movies. I have American friends and family. It's not as though I had never been there, but it had been a while. My Hubby and I made a few comments regarding the differences, and I think this is the first time I really noticed them and took note. I thought I would share some of the differences I found.

Family swim time.
Tires - Hubby told me something I didn't know as I took the wheel for the first time in the States. The "tire regulations" were different. Apparently, you can dig deeper treads into tires, once they start to flatten, so he wanted me to be careful while driving next to big trucks.. While I didn't see any tire blowouts myself, I saw bits, pieces, chunks and almost entire tires lying at the side of the interstates. Sometimes not just on the shoulders, but in the middle of lanes. It was a little freaky.

Wobbly Tires on Trucks - Which was something else freaky. Nothing like driving behind that transport truck and the tires just don't look stable.

Speed Limits - 70 mph is unusual for me. Our major highways have a maximum speed of 100 km/h, approximately 62 mph. 70 mph converts to about 112 km/h. So, driving 70 felt like speeding, but fine. However, there were SO MANY people driving faster than 70. I was on parts of the interstate where 70 was basically slow.

Cars At The Side Of The Road - Why? Why are people pulling over at the side of the highway? A lot. There were just so many. The exits, whether for gas stations or Rest Areas, weren't far. You couldn't make it a couple more miles? Stopping where people are zooming by at 80+ mph just seemed extremely unsafe.

Tim Hortons - I know it's a very Canadian thing to notice, but I missed Tim Hortons. There were some near the border, when we crossed into Buffalo. On the way back in Ohio, we could tell we were getting closer because there was Tim's, and we had to stop at one. 

Starbucks - Does not have lactose free milk, at least not in the ones that we stopped at. After 2, we stopped trying. It's not for me, but for Hubby. I felt bad going to Starbucks when he couldn't get what he wanted. Soy milk just doesn't taste the same.

Our favourite pool.
Wine in Walmart - We picked up some wine in Walmart. It was where we were suggested to go. Which is great, I think. We can get wine in our grocery stores here, and recently beer, but not Walmart. Walmart seems super convenient.

The Heat - I know people complain about Canadian winters, but how about Southern summers. Too hot to be outside? There are ceiling fans on porches! Every other person has to have a pool. I sweat without moving, in areas where I don't usually sweat. I felt like I was on fire, like I might actually get a sunburn (I had one once.) Also, the air conditioning is always cranked. Yes, I would not be able to survive down south without the AC, but I'm also Canadian; if I want to put a sweater on, maybe it's too cold inside. I think it might just be where you grow up too. I'm used to our winters; everyone down there is probably used to their summers.

Olympic Coverage - This is probably one of the things I missed the most. What I didn't know is that Olympic events aren't always aired live in the States. A neighbour of Hubby's uncle explained that because a network laid down a whole lot of money, they make these stories about the athlete, then air them with the competition. What? I have 4 to 6 stations airing the games as they happen. One major network and then the rest are the sports channels. Sometimes a station will stop Olympic coverage to air the Blue Jays game or another sporting event, then go back to the Olympics. Was it just the station that was chosen (not by me)? Are there stations in the US that air all of the Olympics? Please let me know if I'm wrong. Though, I did have to experience the opening ceremonies in the US. I missed CBC when that happened.

I found the TARDIS!!
I have to say though, everyone was nice to me. I was a little nervous, being non-white, going to the American South with their current political climate. I don't talk politics here very often, if at all. But I have to say that to one of his aunts, my husband pointed out that if a certain candidate won their up-coming election, I might not be allowed to visit again for a while. I don't know if that made a difference to her or to his uncle, but he wanted to show them real life versus abstract consequences. Besides that one short conversation, it never came up. Everyone we interacted with was kind. I didn't feel terribly out of place and I was treated like everyone else. I don't know if that's because we were staying in nice areas, as both families we stayed with are well-off. We went to science centres, indoor play parks, and shopping malls and I didn't have any problems. I hope that I'm able to go back soon and continue to always have positive experiences.

I am glad to be home though. I missed this country. Though the trip was a lot of fun and I hope we can do it again sometime, but I'm happy to be back in Canada.

Monday, August 01, 2016

A Court of Thorns and Roses

Wow, just wow. I loved Sarah J. Maas's A Court of Thorns and Roses, much more than I expected to. I've read Throne of Glass and the prequel novellas to that series, so I expected that I would enjoy A Court of Thorns and Roses, but it really was amazing. I don't know if I would classify it as "Young Adult" though. It was racy, full of sexual tension, beyond romantic and also very violent, full of killers and victims. I appreciate in what I've read of the series, that Maas has said it's for an "older" Young Adult crowd. This is not a teen or "high school" romance. Feyre, the main character, is 19, technically an adult, and the youngest of her sisters, though young enough to attract the "older" teen readers. The fairies are old, centuries old, but for the last few decades, they've been fighting a "blight" in their land. There are no young, rebellious teen fairies, fighting to win Feyre. Tamlin is a Lord, trying to protect his people.

I read in an interview with Maas that A Court of Thorns and Roses started out as a retelling of the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale, but turned into something different, though she paid tribute to the source material. After reading the book, the beginning is definitely reminiscent of Beauty and The Beast, but it grows into so much more. (Also, there's a girl with a bow, hunting to feed her family, so where have I heard that before?) Apart from its origins, A Court of Thorns and Roses has a life of its own. It is Feyre's tale, starting with life as provider for her broken family, then life as resident of the Spring Court, then so much more. About halfway through the book, I started thinking about the plot, in that there wasn't really one. I mean, stuff happened, after Tamlin brought Feyre to his estate, plus the cause of him bringing her, but they were little things, a bad fairy here, a party there, but no big battles. Feyre watched the life of the fairies around her unfold, move on from day to day. The first half, maybe even two-thirds of her book, is about her and her relationships with the people around her and how she evolves. The writing was so amazing though, I didn't notice that all that was happening was painting and parties, romantic longing and tension. Feyre was an amazing protagonist, carrying the story through her feelings and how she saw the world.

Tamlin was an interesting Beast, of course more than he appeared at first. I think that's just how it is with Maas' stories. He was rough, but gentle, forced, but easy. He was caring, considerate, restricted, but want to be free. I loved his connection with Feyre, but also with the others around him, Lucien and Alis. He cared about his people, and even fairies of other lands.

I just want Lucien to be happy. His story is so tragic. Not just before he becomes part of the Spring Court, but during and after. He suffers for his love and for his friendships. I also really want Nesta to be happy. I hope she is around in future stories. I think she deserves her own prince, someone who can help her move past the hurt in her heart. Rhysand is so complex and deep. I'm excited to learn more about him too. I know the next story takes place in his Court, so I'm eager to see how his relationship with Feyre and with the other fairies change.

As I was looking into this book, I came across a blog post by Jamie at The Perpetual Page-Turner, which I think perfectly sums up why you should read this novel...and she made it a list, which is awesome. If you need more reasons to read A Court of Thorns and Roses, go check it out.

A Court of Throns and Roses gave me a serious book hangover. I'm excited to see how Feyre handles herself in A Court of Mist and Fury. I expect the story to be complicated and full of twists and turns. It also seems as though this will be another long-running series from Maas. Eight books are listed, with two already here, that means there are six more to come. I imagine that I'll be excited about each one.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

The Wizard Returns

I'm not sure how I feel about the Wizard now. At first I thought he was one thing, but then he was something else. I thought the end was going to be predictable, but that last little bit, it made the story something different. The Wizard Returns, though not the longest, I think it is the most complex of Danielle Paige's Dorothy Must Die stories so far. Those "people" at the end, it's their fault, they messed up the Wizard's journey; things would have been different if they seemed more.... compassionate? Kindness goes a long way.

The Wizard Returns is another well thought out, interesting companion story. It teaches us about the Wizard and what happened to him between the time he supposedly left Oz and returns. However, I think it also raises more questions than answers and it definitely makes me more suspicious about the future. What is the Wizard really up to? Can the Order trust him? Can Amy? Can he even trust himself? I wonder if there are going to be more monkeys in the future books, monkeys the Wizard knows. I really don't want to give anything away; it's a story worth reading.

I read The Wizard Returns, No Place Like Oz, and The Witch Must Burn as part of Dorothy Must Die, Stories Volume 1. There are two published volumes right now, each with three stories. There are more stories being written, so I expect one more volume of stories will be published before The End of Oz. I actually thought for a while that Yellow Brick War was the end and I owned all the Dorothy Must Die books, but nope. There are more coming and I'm interested to see how this story ends.