Wrap Up: August 2017

Okay, seriously, the summer came by way too quickly this year. I already have only a few days left before I have to actually get back to work, and I’m shaking my fists at you, Summer!

That said, at least the weather will cool up (I absolutely love sweater weather), and I’m ahead of my Goodreads goal, so huzzah!

Books Read

Still got a number of reviews I want to get done in September, but for the most part, these were the books I’d finished during the month.

I DNFed one book in August, which isn’t too bad, though I do note that my list of DNFs have grown a big higher than previous years. I think it’s tolerance level, maybe. Mostly I just decided that I have way too many books I want to read that spending time on one I don’t really care about is a waste.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr || Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman || Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor || Battlestar Galactica Vol. 1 || Batman: The Killing Joke by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland || The List by Patricia Forde || Xena, Warrior Princess, Vol. 1 ||  Injustice: Gods Among Us Year One || The Moth and the Flame by Renee Ahdieh || The Crown and the Arrow by Renee Ahdieh || Monstress, Vol. 2 by Marjorie M. Liu || The Wicked + The Divine, vols. 4 and 5.

Currently Reading

So far so good!

Waking Gods by Sylvain Neuvel || Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch

Writing

I’ve been on and off with the writing this summer, which is probably the only thing I’m disappointed in, though, again, largely my fault. I did manage to do a huge deal of edits to my novel, and I wrote down what I can discern are notes of a future short story.

Movies and Television

Lordy, Game of Thrones. I don’t think I can last that long to want to see the last season. I really want it happening sooner than later.

I’ve also pretty much binged iZombie on Netflix and NO REGRETS.

As for movies: the most entertained I got was Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, which is saying something. I absolutely hated how stupid Civil War was, and likely put me off of watching any other Marvel Avengers movie that’s to come in the foreseeable future. I also don’t know why I watched Schindler’s List for practically the umpteenth time, but it IS a fantastic one, albeit the topping is super depressiong.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies || Million Dollar Baby || Captain America: Civil War || The Craft || Schindler’s List || Armageddon || Game of Thrones || iZombie

Video Games

Besides the apps I play on my phone (which have started taking up more time in general), I started Mass Effect 1 all over again and beat that in a week. I’m halfway through my playthrough of Mass Effect 2 but it’s taking longer because of all the DLCs that are now included into my copy. Also, I LOVE Kasumi. I don’t know how I never got through a playthrough with her, especially when I’ve played ME multiple times already.

Gonna have to put some of ME playing on hold, though, now that school is back soon. Sigh.

Fooding

Part of the reason this month went by quickly for me was because I totally baked or cooked double-time. It was hard picking pictures out of really stellar ones, but I’ll narrow things down to food I’ve either made the first time or foods I’ve tried the first time.

Peach crumb cupcakes || Korean-flavored ground beef || Parsnip cakes || Triforce blueberry pie || Pan de bono || Poke bowl || Spicy ramen with poached eggs || Chicken with saffron sauce

Miscellany

Took advantage of the pool and the beach this summer, and went on family and friend trips in surrounding areas (loved the glass museum!). Didn’t travel too far, though, which is somewhat of a bummer, since I’ve made my list of places to visit outside of the U.S. but I’ll have to hit those another time.

My friend and my podcast (Fableulous Retellings) has ended its first season run, and we’re gearing up for season 2, which should be exciting, because it’s all about 1001 Nights, which is a collection of some of my favorite stories ever!

I started a knitting project that could quite possibly take me over a year to finish, because it’s massive. The idea isn’t mine, though it certainly came about when I was making a Christmas present that I wanted for myself as well…

Nerdy News

I mean, how much more epic a saga can Dragon Age be? A super-epic one, if Laidlaw has anything to say about it. And, honestly, I cannot wait for the next installment. After Trespasser, things look like they’re going to get super exciting!

Good Omens is happening, but what’s more, it’s happening with the two perfect actors to take on the roles of Aziraphale and Crowley! Honestly, you can even interchange the roles and I’m sure Tennant and Sheen can still hit the ball out of the park.

A modern Dracula, a la Sherlock? Well, with Sherlock pretty much wrapped up (as far as I can see), I wouldn’t mind seeing what its former creators have in store for another iconic Victorian creation.

A Cuckoo’s Calling has premiered, but I haven’t seen it yet. This was the trailer I watched a while back. I love Holliday Grainger, and this looks pretty good!

“Neo-Victorian fantasy noir.” You mean detective steampunk?! I’m down. So down.

I’m so happy for Victoria Schwab right now. Mostly because now I have MORE Shades of Magic books to look forward to. But, I mean, wow. Just wow. Good for you, Schwab. I can somewhat live vicariously through her, haha.

That’s it. How was your August?

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Unlove and Marriage… || Cruel Beauty Review

Initial Thoughts:

Honestly, this book was okay at best. There was so much talk about the Hermetic arts but it showed almost NOTHING useful about it. There was a lot of wishy washy magic which I had put aside and tolerated up until the solution at the end was to BLATANTLY REVERSE TIME to when EVERYTHING wasn’t effed up. That’s when I lost my shit.


CRUEL BEAUTY

by Rosamund Hodge
Balzer + Bray, January 2014
YA fantasy, fairy tale retelling
Rated: 2.5 / 5 cookies

Since birth, Nyx has been betrothed to the evil ruler of her kingdom-all because of a foolish bargain struck by her father. And since birth, she has been in training to kill him.

With no choice but to fulfill her duty, Nyx resents her family for never trying to save her and hates herself for wanting to escape her fate. Still, on her seventeenth birthday, Nyx abandons everything she’s ever known to marry the all-powerful, immortal Ignifex. Her plan? Seduce him, destroy his enchanted castle, and break the nine-hundred-year-old curse he put on her people.

But Ignifex is not at all what Nyx expected. The strangely charming lord beguiles her, and his castle—a shifting maze of magical rooms—enthralls her.

As Nyx searches for a way to free her homeland by uncovering Ignifex’s secrets, she finds herself unwillingly drawn to him. Even if she could bring herself to love her sworn enemy, how can she refuse her duty to kill him? With time running out, Nyx must decide what is more important: the future of her kingdom, or the man she was never supposed to love.

The Good Bits

For podcasting reasons, I’ve been in a Beauty and the Beast retelling splurge. After I read A Court of Thorns and Roses, I’d scoured reviews just to see what people were writing about regarding that particular fairy tale retelling compared to some others. Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge was a common comparison and mention in many of the reviews, so yes, I was very intrigued by the book itself.

Note, I did initially think that Cruel Beauty was also new adult, so my expectation on the romance was a bit…more.

Cruel Beauty started off well enough. You have a dystopian Greek-inspired world, where a Gentle Lord rules a separated and isolated nation of Arcadia. You have an angry girl who is destined to marry said despicable Gentle Lord. Who, by the way, she has been trained to kill from birth.

Pretty damned compelling stuff, if I do say so myself.

And for the most part? It was pretty cool, the premise. I expected things to go wrong the minute Nyx would be married to Ignifex, and it being a rather close retelling to its original source (and the fact that the book jacket summaries SPECIFICALLY FOCUS ON THIS), I knew general YA love hijinks was going to happen. What I overestimated was the amount of chemistry that these two lovebirds were going to have.

As a BatB retelling, though, it was pretty spot on, including the lovely library, a magical ring with a rose emblem on it, and a foreshadowing of the dream-prince/Beast who shows up as a shadow servant of the mysterious Ignifex.

Alright, so Ignifex isn’t a Beast in a purely physical sense (which seems to happen in a friggin’ YA novel)–since he’s supposed to be Rhysand-level kinds of sexy, with black feathery angel wings in the package–but he is a monster in the emotional sense. He keeps Arcadia trapped and rules through his shadow demons. He also is the Gentle Lord, a dealer of wishes and seemingly unfair bargains. That being said, obviously there’s a chink in his armor, and there is something that explains why he’s the Gentle Lord in the first place.

I will admit that’s the best bits of the story. Well, along with the fact that Ignifex is a pretty amusing villain, especially when he knows exactly why Nyx is there and lets her roam the castle anyway.

The Triggery Bits

Unfortunately, cat-and-dog conversation and dystopian fantasy backdrop were pretty much the only things I liked about the story. I wanted to like the rest, but there were several things that drove me nuts. Her family being one of them.

There was no redeeming quality in any of her family members, and I was deeply disappointed in Nyx’s twin sister, Astraea. What could have been a deeply interesting character turned out to be a bland, tropey, vengeance-filled sister with added naivety, which was quite possibly the worst combination of traits in a character EVER. I couldn’t even pick a limelight lady from the bunch of females in the group, because honestly, Nyx was the most interesting female, and she’s already got enough limelight.

On top of that, the magic in the book was frustrating. In the attempt to keep with the timeline and mythological background, the magic used for Nyx and the Resurgandi lies in the Hermetic arts. My problem with this is that there was a lot of talk about Hermetic arts, along with symbols and rules, but nothing ever came out of this type of magic. At the end of the day, the other magic that showed up in Cruel Beauty was something that didn’t have any rules and wasn’t explained all that much. By the end of it, it was all a Deus Ex kind of thing.

AND WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT TIME-FUCKERY AT THE END?

Let’s all just retcon the entire story because the characters are making more mistakes than the plot can handle, and soooo we’ll give them all a clean slate. This was quite possibly the worst copout ever. What was wrong with having characters live through the mistakes they made and try to make up for them? What was wrong with trying to break out of their dark, worldly prison as opposed to having all their experiences rewritten to a happier one? Ugh, this was the most upsetting bit.

But I won’t rant anymore. Otherwise I could go on and on.

2.5 out of 5 cookies! I wish I could have loved this book more…sigh.

How to Survive Cotillion as a Paladin || Rebel Belle Review

rebelbelle-review

Initial Thoughts

A fun romp of YA fantasy in the Southern U. S. of A. I think it was made even better with the narrator’s lovely accent, though honestly Harper Price pretty much had me after killing a man with a stiletto.

REBEL BELLE

by Rachel Hawkins
Putnam Juvenile, April 2014
YA urban fantasy
Rated: 3 / 5 cookies

rebelbelleHarper Price, peerless Southern belle, was born ready for a Homecoming tiara. But after a strange run-in at the dance imbues her with incredible abilities, Harper’s destiny takes a turn for the seriously weird. She becomes a Paladin, one of an ancient line of guardians with agility, super strength and lethal fighting instincts.

Just when life can’t get any more disastrously crazy, Harper finds out who she’s charged to protect: David Stark, school reporter, subject of a mysterious prophecy and possibly Harper’s least favorite person. But things get complicated when Harper starts falling for him—and discovers that David’s own fate could very well be to destroy Earth.

Harper Price Has It Made

I don’t think I’d ever seen such a well-put together young woman in high school, let alone the fact that she’s only a junior and already a member–and head–of a gazillion clubs, has the “perfect” boyfriend, a best friend who’s practically awesome, and a bright future ahead of her. Not just because she’s a head cheerleader and the homecoming queen, nope. She’s also pretty darn smart and can word-spar with the academy’s most stalwart journalist.

In short, she’s the type of character you can throw into the Mary Sue bucket.

BUT. And yes, there is a but.

The fact is that she is a Mary Sue and is slowly unraveling at the pressures of her newly begotten Paladin powers. Eventually she ends up losing Aaron Samuels a boyfriend, her friends all think she’s gone off the deep end (so there goes her army of skanks), and her principal, parents, and–in some degree–cotillion matron (or trainer…or whatever they’re called) think she’s lost her shit and going the way of the tragic statistic (which might or might not take care of her “hot body”). At that point she becomes a little more interesting and a little less Mary Sue-ish.

Oh yes. I just went the Mean Girls route.

I will admit, however, that even as a Mary Sue, I kind of liked Harper Jean Price. She’s the epitome of Southern charm and upbringing, valuing family and tradition foremost in her life. The most important event in her life at Rebel Belle is pretty much cotillion, and heck, she’s been preparing for that since she was a little girl.

I do love that I search “cotillion” and it gives me Gossip Girl results. I think Google knows my Netflix history very well…

Up until she gets snogged in the ladies’ bathroom by a janitor. Up until she gets attacked by her history teacher in the same bathroom. Up until she realizes she can fight back. And then she kills the man with a shoe, and honestly, I was already done by that point. Laughing, I tell ya. It was diabolical. It was effing perfect. The fact that the Oracle pretty much sets the cotillion as the “day of doom,” so to speak makes the whole situation with Harper even more insane. How she manages to keep her shit together until cotillion is beyond me. I guess that’s why I may need a few lessons from her.

Now, that is not to say that the book was something I would have picked up if not for the audiobook. The Southern accent did help, and I kept grinning when I heard the narrator talk with Harper’s story voice. It was pretty cool. Honestly I probably wouldn’t have been as entertained if I’d read the text, only because while the first few chapters were a lot of fun, things start getting a bit boring after things got explained to Harper. There’s a lull in the middle of the book where I just wanted cotillion to be over with already, just so we’d get to the end.

And er, I’m not quite sure how the hookup happened, really. It seemed to move too slowly at certain points, and then BAM. Suddenly Harper and her new beau are snogging. It was weird.

All the same, Harper Jean Price did teach me a few things along the way.

How to Survive to Cotillion as a Paladin

  • Learn martial arts. Mostly, learn martial arts whilst wearing a kickass white dress.
  • Don’t drink the punch at cotillion, especially when you know there’s an alchemist on the loose. Plus, it’s not very good anyway.
  • That editor in the newspaper is worth having as a friend and not an enemy. He might even be a good snog if you’re into the whole geek thing (I know I am).
  • Do not throw an evil, deranged mage into the back of the car and expect her to stay there the next time you turn around. She’s a mage, chances are she’ll know how to Apparate.
  • Staplers can be brandished as weapons, but it’s just embarrassing, so don’t bother.
  • Just tell your BFF everything. It’ll save some time later on when shit hits the fan.
  • Need to escape a tail? Drive your car into a fence.
  • Most importantly, don’t forget your damn lip gloss.

So yeah. Rebel Belle was a fun and light read, though pretty slow in the middle with a set of Mean Girl-esque characters that I just didn’t care about. (I mean, honestly, Mary Beth, control yourself.) All in all, I’d recommend it as an audiobook, if only to hear the narrator’s lovely Southern drawl.

3 out of 5 cookies!


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Mini-Reviews: Fairest, Deadman Wonderland

I’m slowly making my way through the manga I’ve borrowed from the library, so here’s another one added in! Also, a mini-review of Fairest, which kind of goes between Marissa Meyer’s Cress and Winter in The Lunar Chronicles. That said, I read Fairest after finishing Winter, so not much was a big surprise (unless you count the stuff with Evret Hayle).

fairest

deadmanwonderland

Review: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

Psychics and ley lines and Welsh mythology and rich, private school boys oh my!

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Honestly, if it weren’t for the fact that this book was just setting things up for later books, I would have rated it much higher.


THE RAVEN BOYS

by Maggie Stiefvater
Scholastic Inc., July 2013
YA urban fantasy
Series?: Yes (#1 of The Raven Cycle)
Format: Paperback
Pages: 409
Rated: cookieratingcookieratingcookieratingcookiehalfrating / 5 cookies

ravenboysEvery year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue herself never sees them — not until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks directly to her.

His name is Gansey, and Blue soon discovers that he is a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.

But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He has it all — family money, good looks, devoted friends — but he’s looking for much more than that. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents all the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul who ranges from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher of the four, who notices many things but says very little.

For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She never thought this would be a problem. But now, as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.

Gifly Thoughts

My initial impression of this book pretty much went along the lines of: “So wait. Girl meets four rich boys and their fates are intertwined in the big picture of things.” Which then made me think of a  favorite J-Drama of mine (Hana Yori Dango) which also consists of one independently-minded girl and four seemingly entitled private school boys. In the case of The Raven Boys, its version of the F4 is more concerned about bigger things than inheritance issues (though that still is a small problem for some) and petty school-bullying tactics. Like magic. And finding magic. And waking up a legendary king for said king to grant one boon.

f4

Because the Raven Boys and Blue totally have this much swag.

Suddenly the rest of the book itself just crashed into the world of magically awesome.

There were a lot of different plot points happening in the book which sometimes threw me off because I wasn’t sure just which one was the major, “big picture” plot. First off, there’s Blue Sargent, who was told at a very young age that she would kill her true love with a kiss. Blue’s not the type of girl who would easily be put off with such a vaguely predicted future, but she does live with a group of women–her mother and psychic “aunts”–who’ve pretty much confirmed the same prediction throughout the board. And unlike the faux psychics littering the modern world, Blue’s aunts happen to be right.

nokissing

Which brings about her avoidance of any boy in general, especially the ones who attend the local prep school, Aglionby. Aglionby boys–raven boys–are apparently trouble. Not to mention self-entitled, snooty, and overly blase about what they’re spending their inheritances on. Certainly this is what Blue’s first impressions are over seeing them at work. And she doesn’t much change her mind even when one of the raven boys has his eyes riveted to her.

But this is really only skimming the top part of the big picture. The raven boys themselves encompass the larger portion of the book.

Which brings me to the R4 (haha, because HYD-play going on here). While much of the POV happening in the book is Blue’s, there’s still a bunch of other characters that are highlighted within. Adam and Gansey being two of them (though I do believe Ronan also features his POV in one scene or other). While Blue provides a more magically-attuned view of ley lines and whatnot, it is the R4 perspective that dragged me in. They were complex characters, all of whom were dealing with a great deal of other things besides finding the magic in the ley lines. Ronan, for instance, struggles with what’s happened to him in the past, all the while lashing out to everyone, even his friends. Adam suffers in his own, prideful way, a scholarship boy living in a tragic familial situation.

thatsrough

My favorite of the POVs would definitely have to be Adam, mostly because I really felt for him in the writing. Ronan was a close second, because I feel like he’s got more potential for a lot of things in the future books. That ending “revelation” certainly proves so, and I was pretty much stoked for this ability of his. I’m still reserving my judgment on Gansey, because I think he does have moments where he’s a bit adorable, but other times I’m feeling “meh” towards him.

Still, Stiefvater wrote quite a bit of magic in the pages, but mostly they were tidbits here and there. For the most part, the story had been largely driven through character decisions that took place in the past, and then, eventually, the present. Or, erm, the future, because there was some weird time-traveling phenomenon going on at some point.

The end of the book did leave me wanting more, though. I still had several questions gone unanswered (What about Declan’s current girlfriend? Does she become more prominent later on? And don’t even get me started on the questions those last chapters brought up!). There was also a great deal of open-ended problems that needed to be resolved; in fact, the one plot point that had closed off was something minor and more attached to the past than the present, IMO.

questions

As an introductory book to the rest of The Raven Cycle series, The Raven Boys made fantastic work of character introductions and motivations. I’d love to read more about the characters in the story, especially more of the R4 and Blue and her slightly crazy household. I do want to know how Blue’s going to end up killing her “true love,” though I’m not sure at this rate whether I’m feeling the whole Gansey-Blue thing that’s supposed to be happening. Maybe that’s the point, and their romance is as slow-burn (and slightly amusing) as Makino and Domyouji.

makinodomyouji

Now I just want to watch this series again, lmao!

3.5 out of 5 cookies! I do want to read the rest of the series in any case.


ravenboys-calla

Adam happens to be my favorite raven boy. Who’s yours?