Of Book Hauls and Signings

I shall keep this post sweet and short, because honestly all I want to do this morning is play Final Fantasy XV and read A Conjuring of Light (but let’s face it, I’m probably doing neither because I have lesson plans to write and papers to grade *sobs*).

Last week and the week before I was lucky enough to attend two book signings at my favorite book shop! Of course, this meant a breakage in the bank, but OMG my haul is pretty lovely. And the authors were fantabulous.

From the Tor side of things…

So um. A Conjuring of Light came out late February, and obviously the first thing I was thinking was: “WHEN IS SCHWAB COMING TO TOWN AND I CANNOT WAIT TO GET MY HANDS ON THIS BOOK.” The lines for Schwab were absolutely ridiculous that I was getting paranoid about making it on time. Thankfully, I managed to dash out of work without having to inflict any physical injury on other persons on my way there, hah.

Seriously, you guys, I’m 300 pages into ACOL and LOVING IT. I mean…I totally cried at least once already. Maybe twice. And I totally squeed several times already. And yelled at characters to get a room (an advice they seemed to have heeded occasionally *COUGHSQUEECOUGH*) because my god that tension. And and and…oh god, okay, I’ll review this at some point.

Also! I had been oggling Truthwitch for ages, and borrowed a library copy to read prior to Dennard showing up at Books of Wonder. Unfortunately, the reading didn’t happen on time, but I decided I wanted a copy of at least the first book anyway, because hell, I’ve bought books in the past that I don’t plan on reading at all, and honestly, I feel like I’d actually like Truthwitch. Susan Dennard should totally be my friend. Not only is she a Dragon Age fan, but like Schwab, she’s also an Avatar: The Last Airbender fan. She’s ALSO a Zutara fan. (YES SOMEONE I KNOW IN PERSON IS A ZUTARA FAN, I MEAN, WHAT.)

Not pictured, but I also got a signed copy of Goldenhand by Garth Nix, because I mean, let’s complete that signed Abhorsen hardcover collection I have sitting prettily on my shelf. No, really, though, I do want to read this next book. Eventually.

God, I just love authors.

From the Penguin side of things…

Let’s be honest here, I was totally hoping Flame in the Mist galleys would be thrown at the audience during this tour, but hell, there was a stellar set of ladies kicking off their tours, and I’ve been meaning to get Rebel of the Sands for the longest time. Alwyn Hamilton’s sequel also came out, but I opted to get just the first book for now. Lesley Livingston’s The Valiant also caught my eye because um, hello, princess-turned-gladiator? Yaaaaaas. Livingston herself was such a dork, I loved her.

AND I AM A LITTLE JEALOUS of the girl who actually DID get an ARC of Flame in the Mist from Renee Ahdieh. But omgah, Ahdieh was awesome enough to let me take some swag and a signed poster! I cannot wait to Food and Fandomize Ahdieh’s next book…though I am still trying to figure out the best opportunity to make myself a full-blown Persian meal…

Mini Reviews: Hamilton, Legenderry

Ugh, balancing time between work and hobbies have become almost impossible at this rate, especially when I find myself constantly thinking about grading papers instead of doing other, more sane things. *shudders*

That said, books must be read, reviews must be written! At least, I try to get as many reviews written as I can.

One of which is a nonfiction. Yay! I need to add more of these in my life, and I do have a few more lined up somewhere. Audiobook-style.

This other one was a bit disappointing after a time. I try not to dwell on it, because it’d be my first attempt at steampunk this year and the results were lukewarm at best. (And I usually am biased for my steampunk, so that’s saying something…)

Legenderry: A Steampunk Adventure counts as #1 on my Steampunk Reading Challenge.

Have you read either of these books? What did you think?

Wrap-Up: February 2017

february2017-monthlyFirst off: Happy Dr. Seuss Day!

Teaching the bigger voldies has given me quite the perspective on time management. Where “time management” equates to “no time at all” for the most part. Seriously, how do fellow teachers deal all the time?! I swear I’ve only managed to rack in a couple hours of video game this weekend, and then it was back to grading, lesson planning, and browsing other math and science resources. Not to mention the fact that I’m also trying to keep regular schedule with reading and blogging…

Sigh. At best, it’s going to be an interesting next few months. At worst, I’ll not have done any writing or editing at all.

But it’s not all fatigue and sadness! Lots of good stuff this month, too!

Books Read

I was in a bit of a slump over the month, to a point where I’ve even gotten bored with audiobooks to a point where I just DNF it after the first few chapters. Hopefully I’ll find a balance of being able to read AND get other work done in the coming weeks.

Avatar: The Last Airbender, Smoke and Shadow, Vols. 1-3 by Gene Luen Yang || An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir || Legenderry: A Steampunk Adventure by Bill Willingham || Gilded Cage by Vic James

Currently Reading

Let’s be honest here. I’ve probably pushed all books back in light of Schwab’s A Conjuring of Light being out. Sorry not sorry.

Portal of a Thousand Worlds by Dave Duncan || Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson || Truthwitch by Susan Dennard || A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab

Writing

Unless I’m counting blog posts and lesson plans, writing has pretty much been nonexistent. Not a good thing, but I don’t think that’s going to change until I’ve got a decent system in place to get through my regular workdays without being utterly drained of any motivation whatsoever, lol.

Movies

February is always my busiest month for movies, and for good reason! Now that the Oscars are over, I can finally take it easy with watching the other movies I wanted to get to this year. That said, there were some very good movies on the list that I watched this month. And, uh, I totally watched more than 8 movies, I just didn’t have room to add the rest…

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Moana || Hacksaw Ridge || Lion || Kubo and the Two Strings || Florence Foster Jenkins || Fences || Jackie || Hell or High Water || Nocturnal Animals (not pictured) || The Red Turtle (not pictured) || Captain Fantastic (not pictured)

Television

The Magicians, Season 1 – Honestly, this had something going for it, up until the characters kept doing stupid things, and I was just so over it.

Arrow, Season 3 – Yeah, still on this season, but I’m getting to the point where I had stopped a long way back!

Flash, Season 1 – Ditto.

Outlander, Season 2 – So I subscribed to a free week of Starz, which meant I totally binged a majority of the second Outlander season. I may have to resort to other streaming services to get to the rest of the episodes, though…

The Great British Bake Off, Season 3 – NETFLIX FINALLY HAS MORE SEASONS UP. Naturally, I just had to watch it.

Video Games

Dishonored 2 – Took me much longer to finish a stealthy, non-lethal run with Corvo, but that’s mostly because I haven’t been binge-playing video games in a while. I plan to do a couple more runs on this game, but I might wait another time.

Batman: Arkham Knight – A ways back, I totally rage-quit this game and stopped playing it for a while because the effing Batmobile Riddler challenges DROVE ME NUTS. I just went back into the swing of things, though. Might as well try to finish the game…before I contemplate heading back to Dragon Age

Fooding and Drinking

Last month there was a severe lack of food and drink pictures gracing my blog. This month, I needed to separate food AND drink apart, because there was a lot of both happening due to Valentine’s Day and it being my mother’s birthday among other things.

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Thin Mint Oreo and Kit Kat Brownies || Tutti Frutti Waffles || Apple Pirozhki || Pineapple BBQ Chicken Flatbread Pizza || Tiramisu || Waffle Fries || Marinated Prime Rib BBQ || Harvey Wallbanger Cake

I’d also visited The Way Station, which was the dorkiest bar I’d ever seen. And this is a good thing! I ended up ordering a few Doctor Who-inspired drinks, and they were LOVELY.

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Galliano || 4th Doctor || 10th Doctor || River’s Red Mark || Barefoot Moscato || Mocha Madness || Moroccan Mint Tea || Vodka (for baking!)

Miscellany

Valentine’s Day was a pretty good day, considering. My bestie and I ended up just reserving a table at Max Brenners and fed on food and chocolate for the rest of the day. Soooo delicious.

I did do another Food and Fandom post, which means I’m good for the month. But now the cycle begins again and I probably need to start thinking about another F&F project to do in order to stay on top of my own Reading Challenge…

Nerdy News

I honestly don’t know why I insist on following up on the Mass Effect hype, because every single time I see an article, like character profiles (YES FEMALE TURIAN COMPANION RAAAAAAH), voice actor announcements (Margery Tyrell joins The Tempest crew as an asari, WHAAAT), and the fact that you can still actually decide which Commander Shepard is YOUR Shepard in ME: Andromeda (FemShep all the way!) only gets me overexcited about this game. And it’s not like I’m even planning to get it in March! I’m going to have to wait much longer than that, otherwise NO work is getting done…

On another space-related note: I am so eagerly awaiting for our First Contact with turians. NASA, make this happen. You’ve found the planets, so find the aliens. Just don’t try to wage war, please. 😄

WHAT IS THIS NEVERWHERE SEQUEL, GAIMAN YOU ARE KILLING ME HERE I MUST HAVE IT.

You know what, I’d actually be interested in the Ford, Bernard, and Maeve Westworld Funkos. I wouldn’t mind if they suddenly came up with a Hector Funko. Rodrigo Santoro is a beautiful man.

Hayao Miyazaki getting bored of retirement and coming back to make more movies is really not surprising. He’s pretty much a workaholic, which is a good thing, because YAY MORE MIYAZAKI MOVIES!

My first reaction to there being a possible A Darker Shade of Magic movie was practically, “OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG EEEEEEEEEEEEE.” My second one is, quite naturally, “OH GOD PLEASE DON’T EFF THIS UP I LOVE THIS BOOK SO MUCH.” So yeah. Excited and REALLY hoping for the best. And super happy for Schwab, who must be super-stoked about this news.

Skill and Slavery || Gilded Cage Review

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Initial Thoughts:

Hot damn, but this was a very good book. It was DARK by the end, and now I’m bummed because I have to wait for the second book, but omg, that ending though. I can’t trust anyone in this book! And I definitely should have told myself not to get attached to people. TOO LATE DAMMIT.


GILDED CAGE

by Vic James
Del Rey, February 2017
YA fantasy, dystopia
Rated: 4 / 5 cookies
provided by NetGalley (thank you!)

gildedcageOur world belongs to the Equals — aristocrats with magical gifts — and all commoners must serve them for ten years. But behind the gates of England’s grandest estate lies a power that could break the world.

A girl thirsts for love and knowledge.

Abi is a servant to England’s most powerful family, but her spirit is free. So when she falls for one of the noble-born sons, Abi faces a terrible choice. Uncovering the family’s secrets might win her liberty, but will her heart pay the price?

A boy dreams of revolution.

Abi’s brother, Luke, is enslaved in a brutal factory town. Far from his family and cruelly oppressed, he makes friends whose ideals could cost him everything. Now Luke has discovered there may be a power even greater than magic: revolution.

And an aristocrat will remake the world with his dark gifts.

He is a shadow in the glittering world of the Equals, with mysterious powers no one else understands. But will he liberate—or destroy?

Down with the Monarchy, Down with Equality

This book took me a bit by surprise. Not so much because I’d expected it to be bad, but that I’d expected something as heady as slavery and politics to be a slow read and not at all the fast-paced narration I’d encountered in Gilded Cage. So when I started reading, there were many things that I had to soak in and think about, things that I didn’t really see coming, and characters that definitely made me go “OMG X IS REALLY Y HOW CAN I TRUST THIS LITTLE SHIT EVER AGAIN?” by the end of the book.

Luke’s little sis and her friends were careering round behind the house shrieking at the tops of their voices, while some unforgivably awful C-pop boy band blared through the living room window.

The time of the Equals. First off, I did want to point out that one of the most interesting things for me is that this particular England mirrors more of a modern England than any other time period. There are cars and magazines and TV and technology. Heck, the opening scene follows Luke and his family during his sister Daisy’s 10th birthday, and already from the first few paragraphs we are shown that the Hadleys seem to be a regular family living a routine, regular life. Luke is attempting to study for his exams, his older sister Abi is reading a smutty romance novel, and his sister Daisy is partying with her friends. Nothing out of the ordinary, right?

Until, of course, we are told a page or two later that this seemingly ordinary English life is fitted within a city drenched in a history of slavery. And it is still happening as of the beginning of Gilded Cage. Instead of open rebellion against such injustice, Luke takes it in stride and mostly for granted up until his parents sign the entire family up into ten years of enslavement. Then things begin to change for the Hadley family.

Let me tell you, those first few pages in Chapter 1 were already a doozy. Imagine an England where citizenship is not allowed to non-Equals unless they consign themselves into a decade-long servitude. Imagine these non-Equals taking it for what it is and not opposing the government, because what can the Skilless really do against the Skilled Equals, whose mysterious powers are beyond their understanding. It’s pretty heavy stuff, and right then and there I was already on the mindset that things were about to get pretty dark, pretty damn fast.

“Oh, shit” indeed, Varric.

The book largely tells the story of Luke and Abi, brother and sister whose parents decided to take their entire family into the slavedays, where they and their family enter into a period of slavery in order to fulfill their citizenship obligations. Abi, evidently the smartest of the three siblings, has managed to sign her entire family up into servitude at Kynestone, the household of one of the most powerful Equal families in England. It looked like a cushy 10-year position for everyone, except for one thing. By some stroke of misfortune, Luke is separated from his family and taken to Millmoor–a town where slaves are treated like animals. Working conditions are poor, difficult, and very long at Millmoor, and to Luke, it’s only the start of what looks like the most miserable ten years of his life.

Enter the various points of view that really helped with the pacing. I had initially thought the main POVs would be that of Luke and Abi (and quite possibly Daisy, because many reviews mention her a lot), but the book itself had many more characters that were given chapter POVs. It really added a more in-depth look of the inner workings of the Skill and the characters who wield them. It also gave a more in-depth look at some of the character motivations on both sides. After all, it isn’t just Luke and Abi roaming the pages, there’s also Silyen, Euterpe, Gavar, and Bouda. At first I thought this would become problematic, considering a lot of these secondary character POVs only showed up once or twice, but honestly, their chapters helped to form the bigger picture of the world of the Equals.

Beside him, her own exams long since completed, Abi was lost in one of her favorite trashy novels. Luke gave it the side-eye and cringed at the title: Her Master’s Slave. She was nearly finished, and had another pastel-covered horror lined up. The Heir’s Temptation. How someone as smart as his big sister could read such rubbish was beyond him.

And on a related note, I totally related to Abi. Completely and utterly.

“It’s an ability, origin unknown, manifesting in a very small fraction of the population and passed down through our bloodlines. Some talents are universal, such as restoration–that is, healing. Others, such as alteration, persuasion, perception, and infliction, manifest in different degrees from person to person.”

“Magic, you could say?” Silyen offered.

Then there’s the Skill itself. As of Gilded Cage, not much is known about how it manifests in a few people, and what the limits of the Skill are. Some Skilled people are clearly kill-able, yet the how is still a little vague. In some cases, the plot conveniently kills off Skilled people in a fire. Yet others are burned and mutilated, yet somehow within minutes and quite possibly seconds, they are right as rain. There was a bit of explanation about why some siblings had a great deal of Skill while others didn’t, but it was only briefly touched upon, and not altogether fully developed. It will be interesting to see how the Skill continues to be unraveled within the later books.

In the Philippines, Skilled priests regularly repelled dangerous weather systems that threatened their islands. What were Britain’s Equals capable of? Abi wasn’t sure.

The fact that the Skill manifested within the rest of the world makes this magical system even more interesting!

…word must have gone round the whole of Zone D.

And Luke had talked it into existence.

Thinking about that made his head spin. It was almost like Skill–conjuring up something out of nothing.

“There no magic more powerful than the human spirit,” Jackson had said at the third and final club meeting. Luke was beginning to dare to hope that was true.

I couldn’t say which place had been the most interesting part of the book. On the one hand, I thought Luke was getting more action within the story, having been mistakenly thrown into Millmoor as opposed as being stuck in the Jardine household. On the other hand, a lot of political bullshittery hit the fan within the Jardine household that I almost wished Abi had taken some sort of initiative and went out of her way to find out more about the household she served. I mean, there were parts where Abi did do something, but I thought she’d been sidelined as a character who pined for someone unattainable and slaved away as a secretary. She’s much more than that, and I really hope she gets a bit more into the plot in the next book (and from the look of things, it sounds like she will be!).

Be warned: This book ends in a cliffhanger ending. And you might want to cry just a bit if you get attached to certain characters. Because OMG HEARTBREAKING THINGS HAPPEN.

You tell ’em, Meredith!

4 out of 5 cookies! Did I think the pacing work for the book? Yes, I did! Did I enjoy the politics behind it? Surprisingly, I did! Honestly, I thought Bouda Matravers played a great game, though she wasn’t the only one with far-reaching ambitions. Do I want the next book now? Ugh. Don’t talk to me about another trilogy. Because of course I want the next book now.

This book counts as #5 of the Flights of Fantasy Challenge.


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Did you read this book? What did you think?

Bookademy Awards

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Whoo Academy Awards! If there’s anything else I love other than books and video games (and baking and reading…), it’s definitely watching movies. So imagine my excitement every year when I turn to my friend and start watching as many of the award-nominated movies as possible in order to cast in our own predictions of which movie will rake in the gold.

Well, considering tonight IS Academy Award night, I figure I could do a list of “Bookademy” Awards to commemorate it. Because, heck, this blog is largely book-related, right? I suppose I *could* throw in my movie predictions as well, but I can throw that in at the end. Um. Maybe.

So yes. Books. For the sake of saving time and not having to go back to all of my favorite reads, I’m going to be basing this year’s Bookademy Awards to what I’ve personally read in 2016.

2017 Bookademy Awards

Best Male Protagonist

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I talk of Kell in the second book because he’s become much more multi-faceted after his showdown with Holland. Plus, he pretty much went into an entire spectrum of emotions in this book, considering the situations he’s had to deal with.

HONORARY NOMINEES:
Kaladin Stormblessed (The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson)
James Fraser (Outlander by Diana Gabaldon)
Parzival (Ready Player One by Ernest Cline)
Khalid Ibn al-Rashid (The Rose & and the Dagger by Renee Ahdieh)

Best Female Protagonist

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It’s always difficult to just pick one female protag amidst the plethora of female main characters I’ve been reading about in books. They’re all so friggin’ awesome in their roles! Yelena, though, remains my favorite of 2016, because she has undergone so much throughout the Study books, and at the prime of her power, she still remains adamant in her quest to continue learning. Plus, while she’s probably one of the few fantasy females I know who is shown to balance both her work and love life well.

HONORARY NOMINEES:
Cress (Cress by Marissa Meyer)
Maika Halfwolf (Monstress by Marjorie Liu)
Lada (And I Darken by Kiersten White)
Shahrzad Al-Khayzuran (The Wrath & the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh),

Best Secondary Male

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Four books of sass-mouthing and motivational speeches. I don’t even need to say anything else.

HONORARY NOMINEES:
Scorpius Malfoy (Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by John Tiffany)
Murtagh (Outlander by Diana Gabaldon)
Warren (Fire Touched by Patricia Briggs)
Alucard Emery (A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab)

Best Secondary Female

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Limelight Ladies galore! Reagan takes the cake because of her dialogue. She’s pretty much that character that prods and goads the protagonist into action for the most part, and honestly, she made me laugh way too much throughout Fangirl.

HONORARY NOMINEES:
Iko (Cress by Marissa Meyer)
Ivy Tamwood (Dead Witch Walking by Kim Harrison)
Minny (The Help by Kathryn Stockett)
Ilsa Flynn (This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab)

Best Villainous Villains

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I’ve mushed together male and female villains, because honestly only one of them took the cake. Astrid friggin’ Dane. I would have also put her brother here, but honestly, I remember Astrid much more because she’d been crueler, subtler, and more conniving with her actions. Athos was pretty straightforward cruel. Astrid, on the other hand, was straight-up psychotic.

HONORARY NOMINEES:
Naughty John (The Diviners by Libba Bray)
Eli Ever (Vicious by V.E. Schwab)
Queen Levana (Winter by Marissa Meyer)
Pernicia (Spindle’s End by Robin McKinley)

Best Graphic Novel/Manga

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The first volume of this female-centric graphic novel packed such a punch that everything else paled in comparison.

HONORARY NOMINEES:
Saga, Vol. 5 by Brian K. Vaughan
Deadman Wonderland, Vol. 3 by Jinsei Kataoka
The Way of Shadows: The Graphic Novel by Brent Weeks
The Exile: An Outlander Graphic Novel by Diana Gabaldon

Best Adaptation of a Book

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I still love watching The Help movie whenever I can. It was done so well.

HONORARY NOMINEES:
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography by Neil Patrick Harris
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
The Wrath & the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

Best Retelling

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It was a tight race between Ahdieh’s The Wrath and the Dawn and Cress, but Cress won out because the tale stayed true to the fairy tale amidst a science fiction world.

HONORARY NOMINEES:
Winter by Marissa Meyer
The Wrath & the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh
Spindle’s End by Robin McKinley
William Shakespeare’s The Jedi Doth Return by Ian Doescher

Best in Magical Systems

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Was there any question? Sanderson has always been stellar at telling the story and creating in-depth magical systems. And heck, he doesn’t just make one. Oh, no. Sometimes books will have multiple magical systems.

HONORARY NOMINEES:
The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
Blood of the Earth by Faith Hunter
A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
Magic Study by Maria V. Snyder

Best in Worldbuilding

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Same vein as the above category. His worlds are superbly vivid, and his descriptions have often made it so easy to get transported into the middle of the scene.

HONORARY NOMINEES:
The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
Monstress, Vol. 1 by Marjorie Liu
The Wrath & the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh
A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

Best “Must Buy” Author

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Seriously, Schwab. Just stahp.

HONORARY NOMINEES:
Renee Ahdieh
Patricia Briggs
Marissa Meyer
Brandon Sanderson

Best Books of a Humorous Nature

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I believe Whil Wheaton’s narration had a lot to do with me finding the story geeky and adorable, but yes, I did laugh a lot with this book.

HONORARY NOMINEES:
William Shakespeare’s The Jedi Doth Return by Ian Doescher
Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography by Neil Patrick Harris
Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Best Books of an OMG Nature

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Alright, so there are just going to be those books that have the flair for the dramatics. Fire Touched was pretty much a turning point for Mercy and her family, and for that, the book takes the cake on dramatic events.

HONORARY NOMINEES:
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
Fair Game by Patricia Briggs
Vicious by V.E. Schwab
Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

Best Squee-Worthy Book

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I still sigh and squee over this duology. The first book had some of the best lines, though let it be said that I also squeed lots over its sequel.

HONORARY NOMINEES:
A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab
Winter by Marissa Meyer
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
Magic Study by Maria V. Snyder

And as a bonus, my Academy Award movie predictions.

Best PictureLa La Land

Best Actor (Leading Role) – Denzel Washington, Fences

Best Actor (Supporting Role) – Mahershala Ali, Moonlight

Best Actress (Leading Role) – Emma Stone, La La Land

Best Actress (Supporting Role) – Viola Davis, Fences

Best Animated Feature – Zootopia

Best Cinematography – Linus Sandgren, La La Land

Best Costume Design – Madeline Fontaine, Jackie

Best Directing – Damien Chazelle, La La Land

Best Documentary FeatureO.J.: Made in America

Best Documentary ShortJoe’s Violin

Best Film EditingHacksaw Ridge

Best Foreign Language FilmThe Salesman

Best Makeup and Hairstyling – Star Trek Beyond

Best Original Score – La La Land

Best Original Song – “City of Stars,” La La Land

Best Production Design – La La Land

Best Live Action ShortEnnemis Interieurs

Best Animated Short – Piper

Best Sound Editing – Hacksaw Ridge

Best Sound Mixing – Hacksaw Ridge

Best Visual Effects – Kubo and the Two Strings

Best Adapted Screenplay – Fences

Best Original Screenplay – La La Land

Do you have anyone you would have awarded Bookademy Awards to? And how about movies? Do you have an Academy Award prediction?