Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Year To Date: January - June 2018

Hello again!

Wow... Well, I definitely started writing this post before the end of June, but obviously I then forgot all about it, because here we are freshly into August... Oy.

So the plan for this post was to first give a quick summary of the books I read in June, then do a little reminiscing about the books I read during this first half of the year gone by, and then finish off with some goals/TBR list for the rest of the year. So, I might as well continue with that!

June 2018 reads
Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi - 4.5 stars
The Last of August by Brittany Cavallaro - 5 stars
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J.K. Rowling (audio) - reread
The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner - 5 stars
Legendary by Stephanie Garber - 5 stars
Relative Happiness by Lesley Crewe - 5 stars
Sold by Patricia McCormick - 3 stars

2018 Part One
So between January and June, I read/finished 41 books on Goodreads. Technically, it's 43 because The Hogwarts Library (Quidditch Through the Ages, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and The Tales of Beedle the Bard) only counts as one on there. We'll keep counting it as one, unless I need more books at the end of the year.;)

Favourites so far:
Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend
The Magic Misfits by Neil Patrick Harris
Relative Happiness by Lesley Crewe

Pleasantly surprised by:
Trouble is a Friend of Mine by Stephanie Tromly
The Hearts We Sold by Emily Lloyd-Jones

Disappointed by:
Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
The Wizards of Once by Cressida Cowell

2018 Part Two
For July and August, I am participating in a reading challenge called Summer Lovin' Book Camp hosted by the amazing admins of the TBR and Beyond Facebook group. They created a really cool board game where each square had a different genre/theme. I pre-rolled so that I could pick out a list of books ahead of time, and ended up with eleven. The squares I landed on, and the books I (originally) picked out, are below. I think I will write a separate post to discuss my progress with this challenge. Aside from this summer reading challenge, I have a few other books that have been on my shelves for a while that I would like to finally tackle, and Christmas gifts from this past year. I don't have any specific goals, except continuing toward my Goodreads challenge of 80 books.
  1. Diverse: Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli
  2. Debut author: Beyond a Darkened Shore by Jessica Leake
  3. Fae: The Cruel Prince by Holly Black
  4. TBR group read: Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young
  5. Paranormal: Our Dark Duet by V.E. Schwab
  6. Tear jerker: Where She Went by Gayle Forman
  7. Free space: Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
  8. Retelling: Fairest of All by Serena Valentino
  9. All the feels: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  10. Purple: Heart of Iron by Ashley Poston
  11. Summer: When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Progress Report: April - May 2018

Well, I have all but given up on book blogging. I just can't seem to make it happen. I'm terrible at writing reviews anyway. I can appreciate how taking notes and writing a review helps to really comprehend what you've read and be able to discuss any topics it raises... I get that. But that's not why I read. I read to escape, for entertainment, to have a harmless pastime. I'm not in a book club so I don't need to discuss anything with anyone. And then it comes down to it, if it was a good book, I will remember the basic premise and my feelings about it enough to either recommend it or not. Admittedly, after some time, I barely remember the plot of most of the books I've read, and I literally have to check Goodreads to see if I've read it or not. *sigh* Anyway...

Since it has been a while, I guess I'll just do a summary of the books I read in April and May, and how I rated them. And I will try to come back in a couple weeks to summarize what I read in June, and do a little 6 month recap! Ok, here goes...

April 2018 reads:
The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton (audio) - 5 stars
Alice in Tumblr-Land by Tim Manley - 3 stars
The Magic Misfits by Neil Patrick Harris - 5 stars
The Hogwarts Library by J.K. Rowling - 5 stars
Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee - 4 stars
Death Du Jour by Kathy Reichs - 4 stars

My favourite read in April was definitely The Magic Misfits. I loved how interactive it was, with actual clues and puzzles in the book for you to solve as you read. I really enjoyed the story as well, and I am looking forward to reading any sequels.

My least favourite read in April was definitely Alice in Tumblr-Land. It's just a sort of coffee table book, conversation starter, not exactly a "read" as such. It's basically just comics about the "real" lives of fairytale characters in a modern world. Some were funny, but some weren't. I had picked it up because when I flipped through it there was one that struck me funny, but in the end, not worth it.

May 2018 reads:
Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman (audio) - 3 stars
York: The Shadow Cipher by Laura Ruby - 5 stars
The Dollmaker of Krakow by R.M. Romero - 4 stars
The Doldrums by Nicholas Gannon - 5 stars
The Wizards of Once by Cressida Cowell - 3 stars
How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell - 4 stars
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman - 4 stars

In May I did a reading challenge through one of the Facebook groups I am in, called TBR and Beyond. The challenge was called "Book to School" and we had to read all middle grade books. There was a "report card" to fill out, and at the end of the month we were graded, and every middle grade book read equalled one entry for a prize. My favourite read in May was a tie between York and The Doldrums. They both have so many elements that I love in a middle grade book: adventure, mystery, friendship...

My least favourite read in May was probably The Wizards of Once just because I had such high hopes and was really disappointed by it. I had never read any of the author's other books. It's classified as middle grade, but definitely geared toward the younger end of the 8-12 age range. I have more appreciation for books that are written for the older end of that range. Her other book, How to Train Your Dragon, was in the same style, but I enjoyed it more, perhaps because of the movie.


So, as of the end of May, I had finished 34 books out of my goal of 80, putting my 2018 Goodreads reading challenge at 43% complete!

Thursday, April 26, 2018

What I'm Currently Reading...

It's one of those days where I feel like writing a blog post, but I don't really have anything to write about. I haven't got any book reviews ready, it's not a day for any of the weekly memes I have previously participated in, it's not quite the end of the month, and I just did a quarterly update last month... What to do?
So I thought I might just let anyone who is reading this know what I am currently reading!
*** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***
How to Stop Time by Matt Haig
I started reading this book at the end of March. It didn't immediately grab my attention, so I set it aside and read a couple others in the meantime, but I am still saying I'm "currently" reading it because I do plan on finishing it soon.
The premise intrigued me. It has a sort of The Time Traveler's Wife and The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August vibe to it. I am drawn to stories about time travel, reincarnation, regeneration, so this sounded like the perfect book for me. The story is about Tom Hazard who has a rare condition: he ages at an extremely slow rate. The story alternates between Tom's present and his past as he relives the tragedies and heartaches that brought him to this point.
Death Du Jour by Kathy Reichs
This is the second book in the Temperance Brennan series (the inspiration for the TV show Bones). I liked the TV show very much, and decided to collect and read the books which inspired it. I have most of the series (with the exception of some of the newer titles) and read the first book probably five years ago.
I remember thinking at the time that the book was not like the TV show, and that it was a bit darker than I had expected, but then years passed and I couldn't remember why I hadn't read more. It's starting to come back to me... At this point in my life, it's not the writing style or the dark content that is a turnoff, it really is just how different the books are from the show. Basically the only similarities are the main character's name (Temperance Brennan), occupation (forensic anthropologist), and her romantic involvement with the detective with whom she works.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Progress Report: January - March 2018

I knew I hadn't posted for a while, but when I really stopped to look at the calendar I realized that this year is already 25% completed... Things are moving along a bit quicker than I thought! So since I haven't posted in months, this will be a long one!

Once again, I will try to be a little more proactive in my blogging/reviewing. One of my unofficial goals for the year was to blog more, but I feel that's not really realistic, especially as I am trying to read even more books this year than I did last year. If I couldn't keep up with blogging before, what makes me think I'll be able to now?!

I've been shifting around all my piles of books recently, and seeing them all piled up together in one place now gives me this overwhelming desire to read as fast as I can, get through them as fast as possible, and try to get rid of some of them. I feel bad getting rid of books I haven't read yet, because (usually) there was a reason I picked up the book... you know? But then I also feel bad getting rid of books I have read, because it's like I'm abandoning them or betraying them. Anyway, bunny trails...

So, the reading goal I set for myself this year is 80 books. This means I need to be reading 6-7 books every month. That is a fairly average rate for me, but it leaves me no room for slumps or reading breaks. Basically, I need to be chain-reading. So far I'm keeping up (because January I was a book dragon, devouring much more than average), so we'll have to see how the next quarter goes...

January was my biggest reading month so far, partially because I finished up a couple books that I had read large chunks of in December, but also because I was fired up for the new year! Haha! Here's the list of what I read, and how I rated them:

The Glass Spare by Lauren DeStefano - ****
The Extraordinary Adventures of Alfred Kropp (Alfred Kropp #1) by Rick Yancey - ***
Trouble Is a Friend of Mine by Stephanie Tromley - *****
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline - *****
Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie - ****
26 Kisses by Anne Michels - ****
The Trials of Morrigan Crow (Nevermoor #1) by Jessica Townsend - *****
Queen of Hearts (Queen of Hearts Saga #1) by Colleen Oakes - ****
Blood of Wonderland (Queen of Hearts Saga #2) by Colleen Oakes - ****

In February, I participated in the OwlCrate-A-Thon reading challenge, which helped me bust through 3 OwlCrate reads I hadn't yet got to. Here's what I read:

War of the Cards (Queen of Hearts Saga #3) by Colleen Oakes - ****
Heartless by Marissa Meyer - *****
The Hearts We Sold by Emily Lloyd-Jones - *****
Foolish Hearts by Emma Mills - *****
Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith - *****

There's not much to say about March, nothing special happened. These were the books I read:

Furthermore (Furthermore #1) by Tahereh Mafi - ****
Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia - ****
You Know You're Dutch, When... by Colleen Geske - ***
North of Happy by Adi Alsaid - ****
The Lonely Hearts Hotel by Heather O'Neill - ***
Daughter of the Siren Queen by Tricia Levenseller - *****
Newt Scamander: A Movie Scrapbook by Rick Barba - ****

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Book Review: The Extraordinary Adventures of Alfred Kropp by Rick Yancey

The Extraordinary Adventures of Alfred Kropp
by Rick Yancey

Source: Unintentionally ordered through

Genre: Young Adult, Fiction, Fantasy, Adventure

About the book:
This is the first book in a Teen/Young Adult trilogy by author Rick Yancey (of The 5th Wave fame). I have read The 5th Wave, but admittedly have not yet finished that trilogy. I must also admit that I had certain expectations from this book, which were not exactly met.

This book features parts of Arthurian mythology, it's got some pretty intense high-speed chase and fight scenes, a bit of that "chosen one"

Alfred Kropp is a nobody. He's just a normal, albeit large, kid with average grades, with an absentee father, a dead mother, living with his uncle. Soon enough, Alfred's uncle gets them both into quite a bit of trouble, resulting in a theft and several deaths (including that of Alfred's uncle). Alfred spends most of the rest of the book feeling guilty for what happened, trying to fix what he thinks was his fault, and continuing to think that he isn't special (when, of course, he is).

There is a special place in my heart for medieval stories and the legends surrounding King Arthur and their retellings, so I was pretty into the synopsis of this book. The cover didn't grab me (just being honest), but the fact that it features the Sword Excalibur, and is written by the author of The 5th Wave, that was enough for me.

I mentioned that I unintentionally bought this book online... I try to give my nephews a book & something else for Christmas/birthdays, and my older nephew's birthday is January 1st, so I was on the lookout for two books for a teenage boy who likes sports, videogames, and fast cars. Well, Ready Player One was suggested to me and seemed a no-brainer. Two other series that were recommended to me were this one, Alfred Kropp, and the Alex Rider series. I couldn't decide which to buy, so I had all three books in my cart for the longest time. Then I thought I had decided on Alex Rider, and made my order, but when the box came, there were all three books. Whoops. So then, of course, I had a little dilemma over which books to actually give him (because I really wanted to read Ready Player One myself).... Long story, but I gave him the other two because they seemed like they would be more his style, and I kept this one.

So, all that to say that I did not intentionally buy this book for myself, but I decided to keep it because I'm a good auntie. And I decided to read it right off the bat in January, because, I don't know why... I just wanted to see if it was any good, I guess.

I gave the book 3.5 stars because it was ok, but there was just something about it that I didn't love. I didn't particularly like the dialogue, and Alfred's character... He was self-deprecating, which isn't exactly uncommon in young adult fiction, but he was kind of clueless and simple-minded. I suppose one could see that as being refreshing (as compared to the typical main characters in the young adult genre who are "wise beyond their years"), but it just fell kind of flat for me, especially when he turns out to be a sort of "chosen one." I might, someday, want to know what Alfred gets up to in the next books, but I definitely won't be going out of my way to acquire them.

My Goodreads rating:
I actually gave this book 3.5 stars, but as there are no half-star options on Goodreads, I rounded up.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Book Review: The Glass Spare by Lauren DeStefano

The Glass Spare
by Lauren DeStefano

Source: The November "Castles. Courts and Kingdoms" box from OwlCrate

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, Magic

Wilhelmina "Wil" Heidle is a princess, the apple of her mother's eye, and one of her father's best-kept secret weapons as a potential spy. Wil is the youngest of four, the beloved daughter after three sons, a spare who will never see the throne. Wil is close to two of her brothers: Owen (the heir), and Gerdie (the second youngest, and alchemist). Baron (second oldest, the first spare) is a despicable character, only loved by his mother, and even she fears him.
The story of Wil's birth is quite special. By all accounts she appeared to be cursed and should not have lived, but did. She looks nothing like the rest of her family, which makes her excellent spy material. She has a knack for fighting and undercover work (she often escapes the palace to find special ingredients for Gerdie's alchemy). Wil wants nothing more than to travel the world, and if being her father's spy (and thereby earning his approval) is the only way to do it, so be it.
But soon everything changes. Wil's life is threatened, and in her fight for her life, something inside her awakens. She suddenly has the ability to turn living things to "stone" when she is upset. Actually, gemstones. Emeralds, diamonds, rubies, etc.
After a series of unfortunate events, Wil's family now believes that she is dead, and she is on the run, trying to find a way to cure the curse, and save her kingdom.

I found this book to have a bit of a slow start. I mean, I was interested from the beginning, because, what a great premise!, but it wasn't quite able to hold my attention. This may have been due  to my own mindset at the time, as I was trying to finish the book in December as part of the Facebook group Life and Lit's Bingo reading challenge, which I guess was a bit too much stress. I decided to set it aside for a couple of weeks, and when I came back to it, things seemed to be a bit more interesting, and by the halfway point I was hooked.

I seem to have a real problem with fantasy world-building. It doesn't seem to matter what the world is, if it isn't the here and now, I tend to have a hard time picturing it. I found the world in this book to be rather confusing. On the one hand, it sounded medieval to me, King Arthur-esque. However, upon further research, I suppose it's meant to be more like King Midas' time period, which would be Ancient Greece (I honestly didn't remember this from history?). But the presence of modern technology (electricity, elevators...) really threw me off.
Aside from that, I really enjoyed the adventure, and the sort-of romance. I really like this idea of a cursed princess, I love the "Midas touch" aspect, and I appreciated that it wasn't all about the romance. I was really frustrated with the ending because it's what I consider a bit of a cliffhanger; Wil still hasn't found the cure for her curse, she has to go back to her kingdom to save someone's life, something tragic may have happened back in her kingdom but we don't know for sure, and we don't know what kind of deal she made with the Marveler, or what will be expected of her in the future after she returns... *sigh* I guess I'll just have to wait for the sequel!

Overall, I found it an interesting read, and I think I would recommend it to someone who likes fantasy. :)
My Goodreads rating:

Monday, January 15, 2018

It's Monday! What Are YOU Reading? #8

Good Monday afternoon! Let me tell you, I was not this chipper this morning. I didn't sleep very much last night, my brain was running on high speed, so I was groggy and grumpy this morning, and it was something like -23*C. Yuck. Anyway... feeling a little less murderous this afternoon...
I have been working on some new book reviews, but they're not quite ready yet, but I thought I should post something for you guys... You know, all two of you, waiting with bated breath... *insert massive eye roll*
So, what am I reading this week? Well that's kind of a long story, that starts before Christmas... If you want the long-story-short version, please skip over the blue text...
Right, so I like to try to give my nephews each a book and something else for Christmas/birthdays. I've been gifting my younger nephew the Harry Potter series, so he was taken care of for Christmas, but I needed to find something for my older nephew, plus his birthday is January 1st, so I actually had to find two books for him.
I did a little consulting on the Facebook groups, and got lots of great ideas! The most suggested, and the one I thought would be the best-received was Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, especially with the movie coming out in March! So I ordered that one, and then I couldn't decide between two other suggestions. One was the Alfred Kropp series, the other was the Alex Rider series. They both looked pretty interesting, but I thought I had settled on Alex Rider because it seemed a little more his style (these are spy books with a lot of extreme sports, which he loves). As it turns out, I accidentally ordered both books, The Extraordinary Adventures of Alfred Kropp (Alfred Kropp #1) and Stormbreaker (Alex Rider #1).
I kept hearing good things about Ready Player One, and I really wanted to read it myself, so I considered keeping it, (I mean, I really struggled with this...), and just giving him the other two, since I had them. But I knew he would like Ready Player One, and I had bought it for him, so what to do? Well I knew that I wasn't interested in reading Alex Rider myself, and that it would be more his thing, so I gave him that book for Christmas, leaving myself a few days to decide what to do with the others.
What I ended up deciding was just to give him Ready Player One, but start reading it myself. I started reading it, mistakenly thinking I would have enough time to read the whole thing before his party on the 1st, but I only got about halfway through before the party rolled around and I had to give it away! So I put my name in right away for an interlibrary loan copy, thinking I would probably get it this past week. No dice. I only got the call last Friday that it was delivered, but the library is closed on Monday, so I have to wait until tomorrow! Then I will finally be able to finish Ready Player One!
So, long-story-short, I am "currently reading" Ready Player One, even though it has not been in my possession for two weeks, and I will only be able to resume reading it tomorrow. In the meantime, I am also reading Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie. I won't have time to finish it before I get my hands back on Ready Player One, but I just might possibly finish both of them this week - we'll have to see! :)

What are you guys reading this week? Have you read Ready Player One yet? I was loving it, what I've read so far, and really can't wait to finish it, and then for the movie to come out in a couple months!!