Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Twilight: The Graphic Novel, Volume 1

Twilight: The Graphic Novel
Volume 1
by Stephenie Meyer & Young Kim


Summary: When Isabella Swan moves to the gloomy town of Forks and meets the mysterious, alluring Edward Cullen, her life takes a thrilling and terrifying turn. With his porcelain skin, golden eyes, mesmerizing voice, and supernatural gifts, Edward is both irresistible and impenetrable. Up until now, he has managed to keep his true identity hidden, but Bella is determined to uncover his dark secret...
So... Twilight and I have had a pretty interesting roller coaster relationship. I loved it when I first read it, then I sort of hated it when I noticed its flaws, then I sort of loved it again but the movie kind of tainted it and I then hated the last book which made me kind of resent the series a bit... Basically, a lot of flip-flopping between love and hate.

But, I think I've reached a point where I am content to consider it one of my problematic faves (and I am very, very aware of its problematic aspects so I do not need anyone to point those out to me). I've sort of wanted to reread it recently, now that I'm at that point, just to see how I'd feel about it. I couldn't really justify rereading anything though considering the size of my TBR pile... This was the next best thing.

I've found that graphic novels aren't my kind of thing in general, but I can really enjoy them if they are adaptations of novels (instead of just being graphic novels from the start) -- this kind of cemented that for me (which was another reason to read it -- to test my theory that I like adaptations).

I love the art work in this -- the illustrations really are beautiful, and I did love that it was true to the book instead of just drawing the characters based on the cast of the movie. The way hints of colour were used was really lovely, I just wish there was a little bit more of it to emphasise certain parts of some of the drawings but overall they were really beautiful and even if I'd hated the story I would be happy to have this on my shelves just for being aesthetically pleasing.

As for the story (as it is in the graphic novel, not Twilight in general) I'm not sure if I'd have liked it as much had I not already read the novel. I think it works well as a sort of companion to the novel, for people who are already fans, but on its own -- I'm just not sure and I can't tell if that's just my aversion to graphic novels in general (not nearly enough detail for my tastes) or if it was just that the text they chose to include wasn't enough to make it stand on its own.

The tl;dr version of this review is basically that I loved the artwork and I would really recommend it to people who like the books (it did give me nostalgic little echoes of the feelings I had when I first read the book back in 2006/7).

I'd rate it 4 stars out of 5 and I will definitely be checking out the others (I think that volume 2 of Twilight and the two volumes of New Moon are all that is released so far -- I don't know if they'll be doing the last two books but I hope they do).

Later.

Monday, 28 September 2015

Down Among the Dead Men by Michelle Williams

Down Among the Dead Men: 
A Year in the Life of a Mortuary Technician
by Michelle Williams


Summary: Michelle Williams, an attractive young woman with close family ties and an active social life, describes her first extraordinary year in her unusual new job as a mortuary technician. It's a year in which, with innate good humour, she encounters death at its most tragic, bizarre and hilarious. Her tale, neither gruesome nor sad, is enlivened by a range of colourful and eccentric characters, from pathologists and coroners to hospital porters and undertakers, giving us a glimpse of life ? and death ? that few of us will ever experience.
This is not the type of book I'd normally read -- partly because it's a memoir which aren't usually my kind of thing and partly because it's about a mortuary technician (not exactly the type of thing I like to think about). But, alas, morbid curiosity got the better of me...and I ended up enjoying the book way more than I expected to.

As far as the subject matter goes, I wouldn't recommend reading the book if you're particularly squeamish about graphic descriptions... I mean, I know way more about corpses and mortuaries and eviscerations and post-mortems now than I ever really wanted or needed to know. But it was sort of fascinating, if you have the stomach for it -- which, surprisingly, I do.

The book wasn't perfect though -- I really did not like the chapters about her personal life. On one hand, I can appreciate what they were maybe added for, because they did add this sense of normalcy to her life. She is doing this odd job that people tend to think of as weird, and that the people doing that job must be kind of weird, so showing her personal life makes you see that she really is just a regular person and provides this balance to her story... The problem was that her home life was boring and the writing in those chapters felt really mediocre at best.

So yeah, I can appreciate why those chapters were included, but they were mind numbingly dull and none of the "characters" (I know, they're not fictional, but still) seemed fully developed so it made it very difficult to care at all about any of them. Her co-workers in the mortuary had way more spark to them.

Aside from that though, I did really enjoy the book and I loved the mortuary aspect of it. It was really interesting reading all about what working in a mortuary entails -- from the gory details of it to the interactions with the police and undertakers and family members of the deceased, and especially the stories about specific cases she's dealt with.

Basically, it was just a really interesting book. The biggest negative is that her home life was incredibly boring (especially in comparison to the stuff going on in the mortuary) and it dragged the book--and my rating--down a bit.

I'd rate the book 3.5 stars out of 5.

Later.

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Wrap Up (42)

On the Blog
These posts definitely seem to have become more of a monthly thing than a weekly. But anyway, I'm going to skip the posts and reviews wrap up this time though, because there is a lot and it's 3:20am as I'm writing this and I'm way too tired to get all the links for them right now. =P

Lanna
I have quite a few new books (yay for getting vouchers for changing gas/electricity tariff -- of course I'd use them to get books. And also some from Abebooks, which is awesome for cheap used books). And it's nearly 2 months of books, so...

So yeah, onto the books (pictures from my bookstagram).

For review:


The Secret Garden Artists Edition by Johanna Basford (colouring book)
The Big Lie by Julie Mayhew
Harry Potter: The Character Vault
Queen of Shadows by Sarah J Maas

Bought:




Twilight: The Graphic Novel (volume 1)
The Perfectionists by Sara Shepard
Uprooted by Naomi Novik
The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
Fire and Hemlock by Dianna Wynn Jones
The Stranger I Married by Sylvia Day
Ask for It by Sylvia Day
Aftershock & Afterburn by Sylvia Day
Pride and Pleasure by Sylvia Day
Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller
As You Wish by Eloisa James
Potent Pleasures by Eloisa James
The Fifth Wave by Rick Yancy
Only Ever Yours by Louise O'Neill
Sing You Home by Jodi Picoult
The Time Machine & The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells

And a few not pictured because they haven't arrived yet...

Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
Lone Star by Paullina Simons

As you can tell, I'm giving the Sylvia Day train a try... Lets see how this goes. :P

I'm not even going to try to list the e-books I've gotten, there's way too many (I have an e-book problem -- seriously, if I see one that is on Kindle to download for free and it sounds mildly interesting, I get it, even if the chances of me reading it are small).

What've you guys been reading this month? :)

Later.


Julie 
I haven't done one of these in a while and I'm...definitely not gonna be able to catch up. So, I'm gonna do the books I've purchased since getting here and as many egalleys as I can get to because...there's a lot.

Books Read:

The Shadow Queen by C.J. Redwine

I only allowed myself to bring 5 ARCs, my travel guides, and my mass market of Pride & Prejudice with me and the adjustment period has been slow, so I haven't been reading much, sadly. Plus, a lot of my reading is usually done while traveling, but I haven't traveled solo much lately.

Purchased: 

All I Know Now by Carrie Hope Fletcher
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
Jane Austen: A Life by Claire Tomalin 
Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Look how well behaved I've been! I'd been planning to buy Carrie's book when I got here...since she announced it and I'm so psyched to finally have it! And after hearing such good things about Me Before you for so long, I was enchanted by the UK cover and decided to give it a go. I'm currently making my way through both - I started Me Before You, but haven't been in the mood to cry, so switched gears. Uprooted was another one I knew I'd be getting here since I LOVED it, but read it from the library as an ebook and this cover is better than the US cover so. And finally, the Jane Austen biography came from the official Jane Austen center and can help me with my thesis next semester maybe.

Review Books:

As I'm not in the states, unless some UK publisher picks up interest or a US publisher is willing to pay shipping, I'm only getting egalleys for the next few months. And it's been...pretty intense. Which is especially a problem since my Kindle refuses to download "personal documents" aka egalleys on this Wifi....fun.

But also I haven't done this since JUNE and have no idea how to attempt to decide where to start so I'm just...gonna come back to this next time. I'll update my goodreads shelves this weekend though if you want to check there! 

Today, I'm on an indie book shop tour of London so...we'll see how next time looks!

--Julie

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Aftershock & Afterburn by Sylvia Day

Aftershock & Afterburn
by Sylvia Day


Summary: Never mix business with pleasure. Never bring politics into the bedroom. In a way I did both when I took Jackson Rutledge as a lover. I can't say I wasn't warned.

Two years later, he was back. Walking into a deal I'd worked hard to close. Under the tutelage of Lei Yeung, one of the sharpest businesswomen in New York, I had picked up a thing or two since Jax walked away. I wasn't the girl he once knew, but he hadn't changed. Unlike the last time we'd drifted into each other's lives, I knew exactly what I was dealing with... and how addictive his touch could be.

The inner circle of glamour, sex, and privilege was Jax's playground--but this time, I knew the rules of the game. In the cutthroat business world, one adage rules all: keep your enemies close and your ex-lovers closer...
This book was odd, because I sort of liked it and hated it simultaneously. And there may be some mild spoilers in my review because it's easier to explain my issues with the book if I include examples.

I once wrote a blog post about what the worst thing that a book can be and for me, the answer is boring. I can't stand boring books, and I can forgive a lot in a book so long as it doesn't bore me. So, when I say I liked this one, that is why -- it didn't bore me. It hooked me. It kept me entertained for a couple of hours.

I liked it for that reason...but, it also frustrated me in so many ways that I hated it for.

It was everything from little irritations (like her repeatedly calling her phone her "smartphone" -- got on my nerves so much and dated the book in an annoying way) to bigger things, like the fact I could not stand Jax and Gia as a couple.

The writing wasn't bad (although the sex scenes did have me rolling my eyes and snorting in derision multiple times -- not sure if that was down to the writing or just my dislike of the couple, probably the latter) but as this was a romance book, the fact that I hated the couple was...well, not good.

I did not believe they loved each other at all -- they barely knew each other and it seemed like the only thing they had in common was physical attraction and sexual chemistry, but love is about more than that. Jax... he was awful 99% of the time, he treated her like crap and he pulls quite a few infuriating moves that would make Christian Gray proud (stalking is not something to swoon over, stalking is something that should have you heading straight to file a restraining order, it is not cute, it is creepy).

The worst part was that, on her own, I liked Gia. I liked the way she was with her family, I liked the relationship she had with her boss and that she was strong and independent...but that just made it all the more disappointing when those good things about her character go right out the window when Jax is on the scene. He treats her like crap and she'll think that it's not okay or even say directly to him that it's not okay...but then sex happens and she allows him to keep treating her that way.

It's like, you know when you have a friend who is dating someone that treats them like terribly and they deserve so much better and you just want to scream at them to be a lioness instead of being his doormat? That feeling. This book gave me a lot of that feeling.

Even things that were probably supposed to be romantic were just ruined by his character.

Moving in together? A big step in a relationship, a good thing, right? Not when the dude just decides she is moving in with him. He doesn't ask, he doesn't even wait for her to give any sort of opinion or response, he just says that she is moving in with him. When she needs space, he doesn't give it to her -- whether that's by stalking her to another state, or showing up at her hotel room and threatening his way into her room so she'll talk to him, or climbing into bed with her when she's made it clear she didn't want to sleep in the same room as him that night, or ordering her about like a child when she says she wants to stay with her family for one night...eughfvlsfdvb - I'm getting angry just thinking about it.

Relationships based on sex and attraction are fair enough, but don't try to call that love. It's lust. This book was a whole lot of tell and barely any show when it came to the love part. I can't think of one conversation they had that wasn't small talk or them talking about sex or arguing about the problems with their relationship (i.e. that he treats her like crap, but in the end it's always okay because sex)...if they had any scenes together that showed love instead of lust then I'm drawing a blank trying to remember them (the ending doesn't even count, but my explanation of why would get a bit too spoilery).

Basically...the romance sucked and considering this is a romance book that meant the book kind of sucked. But it also kind of didn't because it was entertaining? Confusing. Yes.

I'd rate this book 2 stars out of 5, but in spite of that, I do look forward to reading another Sylvia Day book because it takes talent for an author to keep me reading a book that I hate.

Later.

Friday, 25 September 2015

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

We Were Liars
E. Lockhart
Delacorte Press
[May 14, 2014]
ARC from friend


A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.

We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from National Book Award finalist and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart.

Read it.
And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.

I read this book a LONG time ago, but I'm trying to clear up my Netgalley backlog (because I apparently also requested it on Netgalley?) and figured I would finally get to reviewing this! I had put it off initially since Lanna's review had just gone up and I didn't want them too close...and then a year and a half later...

Initially, I had no intention of reading this book. I'd never read an E. Lockhart book, so there was no reader loyalty. And I had no idea what the book was about, so how was I supposed to get excited? Excellent word of mouth, that's how. The ARC packages were numerous and intense - my friend ended up with an extra copy, which is how I got one - and the buzz was instant from all of Lockhart's supporters. And for me, there's just something about such major pushes from publishers and the instant buzz of readers that intrigues me. I had to read it suddenly.

Oh man I'm glad I did.

The characters were rich and incredibly well built in such a short book. And the imagery Lockhart created! I'm not a very visual reader - I don't picture characters or settings and I don't do fan castings because I just don't see things very clearly - but I could see those beaches and those houses and those four teens. It was all so vivid.

And no, I didn't see any of it coming.

I had no idea that ending was coming or that I'd be so in love with it. I had no idea what was going to happen and it made it such a fascinating reading experience. I'd only ever read one other book like it (and you'll be able to read it in a couple of weeks) and it unlocked a love of unreliable narrators I didn't know I'd have. I'm still desperate for more psychological thrillers like these in YA.

This is a book that got so much hype and I know that puts people off, but it was hyped for a legit reason. It was an astounding read that sucked me in so much and I was utterly enthralled. If you haven't picked up this book or just haven't gotten to it in your TBR, you should change that ASAP.

--Julie

Thursday, 24 September 2015

As You Wish by Eloisa James

As You Wish
by Eloisa James


Summary: With This Kiss - Lady Grace Ryburn is in love with a dashing young lieutenant, Colin Barry, but she turns away, thinking that Colin is in love with her sister. Should Colin throw propriety to the winds, imitate his pirate father, and simply take what he most desires?

Seduced by a Pirate - After years at sea, Sir Griffin Barry comes home to claim his wife. But is Phoebe his wife, if their marriage was never consummated? As an infamous pirate, Griffin claimed and kept gold and jewels… but this is one treasure that will not be so easy to capture.
Okay, I'm going to review the two stories separately (and, just a warning, but there will be spoilers in the review of the second story)...

Let's start with Seduced by a Pirate, seeing as it is the first in the book.

Seduced by a Pirate was... Well, it was disappointing to say the least. Out of all the Eloisa James stories I've read, this one is by far the worst. It was really, really boring and the alternating POV's were incredibly annoying and the characters and romance were just so flat.

One of the things about regency romance stories that make them fun to read is the build up -- you know it's going to end in happily ever after, because it always does, there's always a lot of predictability to them...the fun is in the twists and the banter and all the stuff that comes before that happily ever after. But this story was just totally void of that.

On top of that, I kept thinking "have I read this before?" and I'm still not sure if I have or not meaning it was either really unoriginal or I had read it before but it was so forgettable that I can't remember reading it.

I'd rate this story 1 star out of 5. I don't know if maybe it would've been better if it was longer and had more time to develop the characters and relationships, or if it was just a mediocre story in general, but yeah... I sort of hated this one.

Now, the second story -- With This Kiss. This one was actually the main reason I wanted to get this book in the first place. And... Well.

In comparison to the first story it was a vast improvement. I hated being bored while reading and I can overlook a lot of flaws in a book so long as it doesn't bore me. The second story wasn't boring like the first one was, but it did feel very rushed.

It would have been a decent story had it not included a scene that I'm really, really not okay with. Basically, there's a rape scene but it's not treated as rape at all -- a guy is drugged out of his mind (as well as being newly blind) and yet the woman has sex with him anyway. She does this knowing he is drugged, knowing he's in a very vulnerable position, and believing he thinks she's someone else. Plus, her intention seemed to be to trap him into marriage anyway... Then, after it, he barely remembers the details and the only mention of rape is the victim actually worrying that he might have raped her, when she was the rapist in that situation.

I don't care if the reaction is historically accurate and I don't care if he really did love her, a scene like that being romanticized or treated like it was anything but what it was... that was just not okay with me at all. Had the roles been reversed, with the woman being the one drugged then the reaction (in the book and in other reviews) would've been vastly different. It felt like it was perpetuating this idea that men can't be raped, because they're bigger, they're stronger, because their body reacts in certain ways.

Overall, I'd rate the book 1 star out of 5. I am still a big Eloisa James fan, she is one of my favourite authors of regency/historical romance, but I just didn't like this book at all. I think maybe her actual novels work better for me than her short stories (so long as no more scenes like the one in this book crop up).

Later.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Cover Reveal: A Shot of Reckless

Hello everyone! Today I have a cover reveal for a book co-written by two of my friends and I'm so excited! I love them both and I can't believe cover reveal day is almost here which also means I get to read the book soon!

So, what's the book about?

Art major, Roxy Thompson, is a ball of fun—but she's also careful to keep her walls intact when it comes to men. She likes relationships just like her coffee: light and sweet. After having her heart shattered once before, she’s determined not to ever feel that broken again. 

College senior, Lake Foster, is just tempting enough to make Roxy rethink her rules of engagement. Suddenly, high-dollar shots and a no-strings night out aren't enough anymore. But Lake isn't looking for long-term. His future is set, and in four months, he intends to graduate and leave Georgia—and everything in it—behind. Luckily, short-term fun is Roxy’s specialty, and Lake can’t resist what he promises will be a fleeting taste. 
Will Roxy and Lake really walk away when their time is up? They only have one shot to find out.

And who are these authors?

Writing duo Maddie Paige bonded over books, shirtless boys and Step Up movies. One lives for her coffee while the other prefers hot chocolate. Both lovers of romance, they tag teamed a manuscript over late nights at Steak 'n Shake. They live in Atlanta, GA and A Shot of Reckless is their debut.

You can follow us on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/maddiepaigebooks

And what does this cover look like? 


HOW CUTE IS THAT COVER THOUGH???

When can you read this beauty?

October 14!

How can you read it?


OR you can win a copy!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

I'm excited. Are you excited? SO EXCITED.

--Julie

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Queen of Shadows by Sarah J Maas

Note: This is the 4th book in the Throne of Glass series, so there'll be spoilers for previous books in the summary.

Queen of Shadows
by Sarah J Maas
Summary: Everyone Celaena Sardothien loves has been taken from her. But she's at last returned to the empire—for vengeance, to rescue her once-glorious kingdom, and to confront the shadows of her past...

She will fight for her cousin, a warrior prepared to die just to see her again. She will fight for her friend, a young man trapped in an unspeakable prison. And she will fight for her people, enslaved to a brutal king and awaiting their lost queen's triumphant return.
This series... It's one of my all time favourites and it is so good to read a series where it just keeps getting better and better with each book. With a lot of others, they start to feel dragged out or the books mid-series feel like they're just filler books to bridge the gap between the beginning and the end -- that doesn't happen with these books at all, each one feels necessary and is awesome in its own right.

Basically, I loved Queen of Shadows. It didn't disappoint me at all and it was well worth the wait. Even though it had a few alternating perspectives (pet peeve of mine), it didn't bother me -- actually, I loved that about it, I love how much more complex the world in the story is becoming, I loved the new characters it introduced and seeing the growth of the ones we already know. I love that the characters I'd least expect to like turned into favourites, I just -- I love it. Yes.

One of my favourite things about the way Sarah J Maas writes is that she isn't afraid to make characters unlikeable -- even fan favourite characters have total asshole moments, and I love that because it made them feel more human, more realistic, because sometimes they're wrong and sometimes they make mistakes.

It's the same with the romance, she's not afraid to tear fan favourite ships apart... Often in books there will be this one couple that is clearly meant to be endgame but the couples in this series -- again, it's realistic, they fall for each other and sometimes it sticks, sometimes life gets in the way, sometimes their feelings change or they change and things end and they move on and find someone else that makes their heart beat faster...and I really, really like that. I like that I can't predict who will be together in the end.

The only issue, and it is a very minor one at that, that I had with the book (and the previous book) is the way love triangles are resolved by having the rejected person move onto someone else quite quickly and it becomes very obvious from the moment certain characters are introduced that they are there to be the person the rejected party moves on with (and when it's not resolved that way, it's resolved by killing a character off before a love triangle can happen).

I did say that I like that the couples don't necessarily stay together and that they move on, but having the characters move on so quickly and round about the same time seems like a too-neat way of wrapping it up. I'd like it more if it happened more gradually, if these new characters were introduced and developed as just characters instead of their introduction seeming kind of contrived so they can help other characters move on.

But, like I said, it's only a minor issue.

The book was over 600 pages long but it didn't bore me at all. If you haven't read this series yet then give it a try. I'd rate the book (and the series in general) 5 stars out of 5.

Later.

Monday, 21 September 2015

Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson

Walk on Earth a Stranger
Rae Carson
Greenwillow Books
[September 22, 2015]
egalley via Edelweiss


The first book in a new trilogy from acclaimed New York Times bestselling author Rae Carson. A young woman with the magical ability to sense the presence of gold must flee her home, taking her on a sweeping and dangerous journey across Gold Rush–era America.

Lee Westfall has a secret. She can sense the presence of gold in the world around her. Veins deep beneath the earth, pebbles in the river, nuggets dug up from the forest floor. The buzz of gold means warmth and life and home—until everything is ripped away by a man who wants to control her. Left with nothing, Lee disguises herself as a boy and takes to the trail across the country. Gold was discovered in California, and where else could such a magical girl find herself, find safety? Rae Carson, author of the acclaimed Girl of Fire and Thorns trilogy, dazzles with this new fantasy that subverts both our own history and familiar fantasy tropes.

Walk on Earth a Stranger, the first book in this new trilogy, introduces—as only Rae Carson can—a strong heroine, a perilous road, a fantastical twist, and a slow-burning romance.
I was pretty disappointed in this book, honestly. But it was me. It was well written and full of genderbending and had a lot of amazing characters and development but it wasn't what I was expecting.

When I first heard about this book, to me it sounded like a fantasy YA inspired by the Gold Rush. Which was exciting to me because I don't particularly like American history and the Gold Rush is one of those really boring phases to me, but with Rae Carson and a fantasy lead, it would surely be better! But...not so much. Instead, I got a historical fiction YA about the Gold Rush with a fantasy twist. Which...doesn't interest me. So I just wasn't particularly interested in the story. 

Rae Carson is still an excellent writer and she does some really great things in this book. I really liked Lee and the cast that's built around her. Rae doesn't pull any punches in making a dark, very twisted story and it's clear that it's only going to keep going in the sequels. It's a perfectly good book and I wish I liked it, but I just didn't want this story and I wish I'd thought to look at the description better before picking it up. I might just sit this one out and wait for Rae Carson's next series.

--Julie
 

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Behind the Books (6)

Well, haven't done one of these in a long time! Where to start?

Moving and Moving and Moving

Back in May, I finished my third year of university in New York City. I still haven't quite adjusted to telling people I'm in my senior year. Not going into, not doing X in my senior year. I'm in it and this is all happening. The same week I finished finals, I also wrapped up a publicity internship at St. Martin's Press, which was amazing. I think it solidified that I'll be looking into publicity and marketing work as opposed to editorial. I'm not shutting the door on editorial totally, but the odds are not in it's favor.

As soon as I finished my internship and finals, I began moving. Over Memorial Day weekend, I took what I had packed up back to my parents to celebrate my young brother's eleventh birthday. He's getting so old! His birthday also means that I'm next in the line of 1s. My mom had my older sister, myself, and my younger brother about ten years apart - 1984, 1994, 2004 - so each year, the last number of our birthdays are the same. My sister turned 31 in January, my brother turned 11, and I'll be turning 21 in just about two months. I started getting really serious about this blog right after my 15th birthday, so it's mind boggling.

I then returned to my apartment for BEA. I helped out a lot again this year at the Teen Author Carnival and it was so much fun! Then, three incredible days at - hopefully - my last BEA as a regular attendee. I won't be going next year since it's in Chicago and right in the middle of finals, and hopefully I'll be employed by 2017! I did a recap on the blog in June about BEA, so you can check that out here.

During my bits of down time at BEA, I was at my apartment, packing it into boxes. I stayed up late the last night trying to pack up as many as I could, then up early to finish. Around 11, my parents showed up and we began packing everything else into the cars, putting things my roommate and I didn't want out for free, bagging up my mattress, box spring, and rug, and taking them out to the trash. It only took about an hour and then I was officially no longer a resident of New York City.

We swung by my grandma's house and began unpacking things I wouldn't need for a while since we were moving in later this summer, grabbed lunch, and then I resettled into my parents' house.

Then we waited.

An offer had been put in to our house and accepted, but there was still a lot of hurdles to jump through with the bank and inspections and poor communication skills going around the group involved. As of writing this post, we're still waiting on a closing date, just about four months to the day after the offer was accepted.

By the end of July, my parents were sick of the waiting game and my dad was sick of his longer commute to and from work - the commute would be about 5 minutes from my grandma's. My mom had left her job and I had to get in and out of the city for various meetings, which was more complicated in our hold house than in our new house. So, we packed up what we needed and piled it into moving trucks. I went a day early with the cats to make sure we wouldn't lose them in all the craziness that is a moving day. We spent a lot of August moving things we hadn't gotten packed and putting things in storage and clearing up the basement where a lot of our stuff is stored. But since we were settled, we could start getting all of the little things done - stuff I needed to do for study abroad, appointments for me and my brother, unpacking and reorganizing everything. And we went on vacation, which was nice.

I managed to go to an overdue doctor's appointment, where I got 5 shots and blood drawn, two dentist appointments, and an oral surgeon to get all four of my wisdom teeth removed 9 days before I left the country.

Now, we're all settled into the new house, for the most part. The old house is cleaned out. My brother has started school and seems pretty okay with it so far. The cats have gotten used to the house, for the most part. It's still a constant balance trying to combine how we life with how my grandma lives - she's been on her own in that house for 19 years or so, so we're not shocked.

And yes, now I'm no longer in the country.

I'm writing this post about a week in advance of posting it, so I left for London Tuesday night and arrived Wednesday morning. I'll be here for three months, living about 45 minutes from Picadilly Circus (when taking the fastest modes of mass transit). Classes are starting a few days after this post goes up (technically Monday, but I may or may not have Monday classes). So far, I've had some orientation, some registration, and plenty of reasons to start learning the new mass transit system. We've made a couple of trips into central London so far and it's amazing how similar to New York it still all feels to me. I kind of feel like I'm just in some new neighborhood of Manhattan a lot of the time.

This past week was Fresher's Week so I went to a club and I went to an amusement park (in the cold and rain) and I visited a nearby town with a Waterstones and a Paperchase, but I've been feeling rather unwell for the past couple of days - probably partially due to the cold/rainy amusement park, partially due to general new country/new school/new people. So, I've taken it easy the past couple of days instead of going to a lot of the events and today while you're reading this, I'm in Bath, being an Austen nerd.

So, yes. I'll be here for a few months and I'll be visiting a few places throughout Europe while I'm not so far away - including going to meet Lanna in Scotland for the first time. I'll be posting a lot of these adventures on instagram - both my personal and my official travel instagram. I created a second one because my school has a social media team for study abroad they want us to share with...but I don't want them to have my personal account. It also allows my mom and other family members and friends from real life access to what's happening without sharing my account full of books, cats, and selfies. They don't know I'm that weird and I'd like to keep it that way. I do also have a tumblr dedicated to this, again, for school purposes, so it's gonna be the pretty cleaned up version. Twitter and my personal instagram will be the most open about what's going on, so take your pick!

And that's been my life the past couple of months! What's up with you guys lately? 

--Julie

Friday, 18 September 2015

Let's Talk Oyster

Earlier this summer, I was contacted about Oyster, which many describe as the Netflix for books. Since I was going to be abroad all fall and would therefore primarily be reading ebooks, I was definitely intrigued. They offered me a three month trial to check it out for myself and I'm definitely impressed!

How do I properly describe Oyster? It's kind of like Kindle Unlimited - a service available for Amazon Prime users. For a fee, you can have free access to a bunch of titles. But there's a difference. Most of the Kindle Unlimited titles are self or indie published and I'm not sure I've ever seen many titles that interest me. On top of that, a lot of the titles are often usually on sale for $1 or $2 anyway. But with Oyster, it's a lot more book options and a lot more books I've heard of included in the fee - Oyster Unlimited titles to be exact.

Want an example? I went through my Goodreads and Amazon wishlists and looked for books on the app. And well...went a bit crazy. I found:

Some Like it Secret by Heather Long
Some Like It Easy by Heather Long
Summerset Abbey by T.J. Brown
What We Did for Love by Natasha Farrant
Sabriel by Garth Nix
A Novel Idea by Aimee Friedman
Liar by Justina Larbalestier
The Rules of Ever After by Killian Brewer
To Catch a Prince by Gillian McKnight
Valkyrie Rising by Ingrid Paulson
A Creature of Midnight by Rebecca Hahn
Women Heroes of World War II by Kathryn Atwood
When He Was Wicked by Julia Quinn
Marie-Therese, Child of Terror by Susan Nagel
Once a Princess by Johanna Lindsey
Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase
Flawless by Carrie Lofty
A Lady's Lesson in Scandal by Meredith Duran
Doon by Carey Corp and Lorie Langdon
Major Crush by Jennifer Echols
Secret Desires of a Gentleman by Laura Lee Guhrke
She's No Princess by Laura Lee Guhrke
What a Duke Wants by Lavinia Kent
The Bride Price by Anne Mallory
By Royal Command by Mary Hooper
At the House of the Magician by Mary Hooper
The Barefoot Princess by Christina Dodd
Surrender to Me by Sophie Jordan
In Scandal They Wed by Sophie Jordan
Too Wicked to Tame by Sophie Jordan
What Matters in Jane Austen? by John Mullan
A Tale of Two Lovers by Maya Rodale
Bloodlands by Timothy Snyder
The Assassin's Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke
The Bookstore by Deborah Meyler
Ladies in Waiting by Laura L. Sullivan
The Wild Irish by Robin Maxwell

That's a hell of a list, isn't it? It's incredibly varied, from YA to romance to non-fiction. A lot of their newer YA titles are the really popular ones, but they do still have plenty of older and more obscure YA, which I appreciate. Years of blogging have kind of put the backlist out of my mind, but now I have a bunch of options! The app is easy to use and seriously, the Unlimited list is AMAZING. Plus, a lot of books not available on Unlimited are still available for purchase.

On top of that, there's an extra step where you can make your reading experience 100% customizable - lighting, font, color, etc. It's an amazing opportunity to have a reading experience on your phone or tablet or computer that works best for you, your eyes, and your environment.

Oyster Unlimited is usually $9.95 a month, but the lovely people at Oyster have offered up the option for all of you to try Oyster yourselves. If you go through this link you can get 3 months of Oyster for .99. Think of all the books you can read!

AND, Oyster's also offering up one 12-month subscription to one of you readers! The giveaway is US only, since Oyster only currently works in the US, and only for people aged 13+. It closes in ONE week, so get to it!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Meanwhile, I've got quite a bit of reading to do. Good luck!

--Julie 

Monday, 14 September 2015

Dumplin' by Julie Murphy

Dumplin'
Julie Murphy
Balzer + Bray
[September 15, 2015]
egalley from Edelweiss/ARC from BEA

Self-proclaimed fat girl Willowdean Dickson (dubbed “Dumplin’” by her former beauty queen mom) has always been at home in her own skin. Her thoughts on having the ultimate bikini body? Put a bikini on your body. With her all-American beauty best friend, Ellen, by her side, things have always worked . . . until Will takes a job at Harpy’s, the local fast-food joint. There she meets Private School Bo, a hot former jock. Will isn’t surprised to find herself attracted to Bo. But she is surprised when he seems to like her back.

Instead of finding new heights of self-assurance in her relationship with Bo, Will starts to doubt herself. So she sets out to take back her confidence by doing the most horrifying thing she can imagine: entering the Miss Clover City beauty pageant—along with several other unlikely candidates—to show the world that she deserves to be up there as much as any twiggy girl does. Along the way, she’ll shock the hell out of Clover City—and maybe herself most of all.

With starry Texas nights, red candy suckers, Dolly Parton songs, and a wildly unforgettable heroine— Dumplin’ is guaranteed to steal your heart.
This is one of the best, most personally important books I've ever read. 

I was a fat girl from middle school on. I still technically am, though poor-college-student diets and NYC living have combined to push me more towards an average size. But this is the book I needed in middle school. This is the book I needed in high school. This is the book I've needed every day of my life for ten years. Willowdean is my hero and Julie Murphy managed to translate what being a fat girl, or a girl who is in anyway "unacceptable," is really like.

Willowdean was amazing and funny and snarky, but she was also insecure. She was very real and felt so much like the teenager I was. One of the biggest things for me to read about was seeing her own disbelief that an attractive boy could like her back and then her doubts about letting him see her body. Because that was so painfully real to me and I loved her for it.

I've never read a Julie Murphy book, so I wasn't sure what to expect, but I knew most of my friends loved her work. And it didn't disappoint. The story itself was a little slow at the beginning in getting to the major plot of Willow joining the beauty pageant, but the other things going on meant it didn't drag; it just took longer than I expected. But the story was so much richer and more complicated than I expected. Everything was just so much more than I expected.

And also can we talk about the amazing romance? Willowdean gets not one, but two love interests (It's not a love triangle, y'all. A girl can have two love interests and not have it be a triangle). She had two different boys be attracted to her, even as a fat girl. That's so amazing and important to read about.

This is one of the best books I've ever read; definitely one of the best of the year. It's going to be a lifetime favorite for me as well. And all I can do it encourage you to please, please, pick up this title on it's release date tomorrow.

--Julie

Friday, 11 September 2015

Oblivion by Kelly Creagh

This is the third and final book in the Nevermore trilogy, so spoilers for the first two books will be in the summary (review is spoiler free).
Oblivion
by Kelly Creagh
Summary: This electrifying conclusion to the Nevermore trilogy takes one last trip to the dream world of Edgar Allan Poe to reveal the intertwined fates of Isobel and Varen.

The boundaries which divide Life from Death are at best shadowy and vague. Who shall say where the one ends, and where the other begins? —Edgar Allan Poe

The fine line between life and death blurred long ago for Isobel Lanley. After a deadly confrontation with Varen in the dreamworld, she’s terrified to return to that desolate and dangerous place. But when her nightmares resume, bleeding into reality, she is left with no choice. Varen’s darkness is catching up to her. To everything. Threatening to devour it all.

Isobel fears for her world. For her sanity and Varen’s—especially after a fresh and devastating loss. To make matters worse, the ghostly demon Lilith wants Varen for her own, and she will do anything to keep him in her grasp—anything.

Can Isobel ever find her happy ending? Worlds collide and fates are sealed in this breathtaking finale to the Nevermore trilogy. 
I'm not sure what to say about this book really, because it's hard to untangle my thoughts on the series as a whole and just judge this book on its own merit.

The first book in the series? It's one of my favourite books... The second book was kind of disappointing, it didn't quite have the same spark that the first one did but the last bit of the book was great. And this one, the final book in the trilogy --  well, it was more like the second book. It was kind of disappointing (unfortunately without the having an awesome ending like the second one to make up for its faults).

The problem is, I'm not sure if it was underwhelming and disappointing because the book just wasn't great or if the problem was that we had to wait about three years for it to be released -- that is way too long to wait for closure on a series, and because the wait was so long, I had high expectations for the book and it just didn't live up to them at all.

The writing was still excellent, the characters were still awesome and I adored them. I still loved the Poe stuff woven into the story and I still think it's incredibly original and creative...but -- something about it fell kind of flat. There were some moments that I really loved (scenes with Isobel and Varen or any scene involving Pinfeathers) but in general it was really slow and way too drawn out with an ending that felt abrupt and anticlimactic considering the build up to it.

Maybe that was the problem -- everything about it was too dragged out, from the time we had to wait for it being released, to the story itself and I just didn't have the patience for it. With the first book, I couldn't put it down but with this one it was a struggle to keep reading (I think I put it down about 10 times? I had to force myself to pick it up again each time just so I could be done with it).

It's not a bad book, as negative as this review sounds, but it doesn't measure up to the expectations set by the first book. I don't know if it would've been different had I read the books closer together (the release dates were: 2010, 2012, 2015).

If I had to sum up my reading experience with this book in one word: underwhelming.

Sorry, this review is quite rambling -- it's just hard to sort out my thoughts on this one unfortunately.

Overall, I do still consider this series one of my favourites, just because the first book was excellent but it's one of those series that goes downhill... It's doesn't ever become bad, even at their worst the second and third books were still decent, they just aren't particularly great.

I'd rate this book 3 stars out of 5. The series as a whole gets 4 stars out of 5.

Later.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Top Ten Finished Series I've Yet to Finish

So, it's been quite a while since I've done a Top Ten Tuesday post, but seeing as this weeks topic is "Ten Finished Series I Have YET to Finish" I thought I'd jump in, because I have a lot of series that I need to catch up on and this list might make me change that.

So... Onto the books.


Why: I honestly don't know what happened with this one really, because I absolutely love this series. And I own all the books, so I don't even have that as an excuse. But for some reason, I literally stopped halfway through the 5 book series (and I really mean halfway -- I read half of the third book, and I enjoyed that half, I don't know why I stopped). I need to marathon the rest because I have no excuse for this one.


2. Fifty Shades trilogy

Why: I do not like this series (and that is a pretty euphemistic way of summing up my thoughts on these books without a lot of cussing and ranting involved). I just cannot bring myself to pick up the last one...but I will. I will finish this series, it will not defeat me. Yes, I'm stubborn. Yes, I'm ridiculous. But I need to see it through -- the last book can't get worse than the first two, right? RIGHT?!

Why: I kind of forgot what the overall plot of this series even is. I remember the love triangle, although not the specifics of it. But the plot? Totally drawing a blank, it didn't stick with me at all so I kind of don't care what happens? And I know the resolution of the love triangle so I've just not had much motivating me to read the last book.



Why: With this one, it's probably because I liked it as a trilogy, I thought it was great and it ended well and when it was announced it would be dragged out for another 3 books? Not a happy Lanna (especially seeing as we'd probably need to read those three if we wanted to read the spin-off, The Dark Artifices, and not miss anything). I think I have two books left to go in the series. I own them, and I will get to them at some point, but yeah... wish it had remained a trilogy.


5. The Divergent trilogy


Why: Initially, it was major dystopian burn out that had me not finishing this series. But then, I was spoiled for the ending and had no desire to read it... Not because I have a problem with what happens really, but because the only issue I've had with the series is that certain plot points seemed too contrived and I think the big twist of the final book will be the same.


Why: THERE IS SIXTEEN BOOKS IN THIS SERIES!!! *calming breaths* I hatehatehate when a series is dragged on for a ridiculous amount of time. Sixteen books? Ridiculous. Extremely ridiculous. That is way too much time to spend on one series when there are so many other books to read. I'll probably just read the ones I own (original four) and then pretend the rest of the series doesn't exist.

7, 8 & 9. Mara Dyer trilogy, Hex Hall trilogy and Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy

Why: Grouping these together because my why's are the same. I loved the first book in each trilogy, but then by the time the second ones were released I just... well, not lost interest exactly but I didn't have that same "OMG I NEED THE NEXT BOOK! NOW!" feeling and the longer I left it, the less inclined I was to read the rest... Basically, I just waited too long to read them. I will finish them. Eventually. At some point. Perhaps.




Why: This is a fun little series that I mostly loved, and I only have one book left to finish the series. I think the issue is that I've just forgotten what happened in the previous book and I've not been in the mood for a vampire story?

...So, yeah, I need to work on finishing some of these. Soon, hopefully. Are there any series you've neglected to finish? Are there any on this list that you think I should get to first?

Later.


Monday, 7 September 2015

Secret Garden Artists Edition by Johanna Basford

Secret Garden Artists Edition
by Johanna Basford

Buy link (The Book Depository)

Description: From the artist and the publisher that brought you the hugely successful Secret Garden and Enchanted Forest - this special artist's edition features 20 beautiful, pull out art prints for colouring in. Colouring fans of all ages will enjoy immersing themselves in a selection of the most popular artworks from the original book, now presented in a new, large-scale format for maximum colouring enjoyment. Each detailed illustration is printed on high-quality card and can be removed easily for framing or craft projects.
I know, I know, this is not the kind of book I'd normally review on here, but hey, if you're asked to review a colouring
book how can you say no to that? You can't, it's not possible.

Anyway, seeing as reviewing this type of book isn't really my forte I'm going to pepper this post with pictures so that the pretty will distract you from my clumsy attempt at being coherent when really I just want to mash the keys in a fangirl-like manner, okay? Okay.

I was so ridiculously excited when it arrived (think 5 year old on Christmas morning) -- that very night my best friend and I literally sat on her mums living room floor colouring in for four hours straight (until we realised it was after midnight and we had to go home at some point).

Basically, this book is absolutely stunning. The artwork is so lovely--owls and flowers and intricate designs with leaves and trees and fdjhdlkfjh! And the quality? The quality of the book is awesome.

I forgot how relaxing colouring books are. Seriously, if you ever get stressed out or anxious, get a colouring book -- it's so therapeutic. Or if you know someone who does and are stuck for present ideas, go with this (both my best friend and her mum have decided they want one for Christmas).

Also, I really loved this edition in particular because it's made so that you can remove the pages to hang/frame your finished pictures but that also makes it ideal for doing what I did--making it a fun group activity to do when you're just chilling out watching TV/listening to music together.

To sum up: I absolutely loved this book. And now I want more colouring books, particularly ones by Johanna Brasford/this publisher, because the quality of this one really impressed me (the ocean and enchanted forest ones? totally leapfrogged their way to the top of my wishlist).

Later.


p.s. and here is a picture of a dog (mine, to be precise) napping on the coloured pencils?

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