Sunday, 29 June 2014

June Book Haul: Part 2

My June Book Haul is massive - check out Part 1 here and let me know what you think!

Now for Part 2! All of the books in this post were given to me: numbers 1 through 7 were very kindly donated to me by my good friend Christine, and 8 through 11 were sent to me by the lovely people over at Quirk Books.

What are some books you got this month?

Saturday, 28 June 2014

June Book Haul: Part 1

This is my first month doing a Book Haul on here, and I have a grand total of 24 books to share with you. Due to the gargantuan nature of this Book Haul, I'm splitting it into two parts - you can read Part 2 here.

This month I got my books through a variety of methods: good old-fashioned buying, as donations from friends, and being sent copies for review. I quite like all of these ways of getting books, and I'll split up this month's book haul accordingly; today's post consists of all the books I bought!

Most of these come from a wonderful store called Book Outlet - fellow Canadians, take note (for US and international shipping, read their Shipping page)! Torontonians likely know about a chain of used book stores called BMV, and I got a couple of books from there as well. The most expensive book I paid for on this list (meaning today's and tomorrow's posts) was $7.99, and everything else was significantly cheaper, so I'm content with this month's books gained to money spent ratio.

Have you read any of these books? Do any of them interest you?

Friday, 20 June 2014

"Cinder" | Book Review

"Cinder" Book Cover
 Cinder is a fascinatingly futuristic re-imagining of the classic fairy tale, Cinderella. The title character is a cyborg working as a mechanic, but most of her earnings go to her cruel step-mother, who is very clear about her hatred for the girl. As a plague hits New Beijing and Cinder is tasked with fixing Prince Kai's beloved android, she quickly becomes entangled in intergalactic issues and must learn more about her mysterious past in order to protect the planet.

 I love this adaptation. It's so different from the original story in that it takes place in a future very different from what we know right now - the descriptions are so vivid that while I read this, I felt like I was in the future, experiencing and seeing everything Cinder was! It's also really fun to notice all the parallels as you progress through the story. Even the things that were changed from the original - like Cinder's cyborg foot instead of a glass slipper, and certain aspects of her relationship with her step-sisters - were done in a way that I felt suited this version of the story better.

I found Cinder herself to be an interesting character and an even better role model. She is self-reliant and self-sufficient, always wanting and willing to get things done on her own. She faces a lot of discrimination because her society frowns upon cyborgs - they are not seen as "whole". Because of this prejudice, she is often undeservedly hard on herself, but through all her troubles, she perseveres.

My only criticism is that there was a bit of insta-love between Cinder and Prince Kai. Having said that, I can forgive it in this case because this is an adaptation of Cinderella, after all.

I recommend this novel to anyone who is interested in a unique twist on fairy tales!

Read about the Marissa Meyer book signing I attended.

What's your favourite fairy tale?

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Naked Cover Books | Top 5 Wednesday

This week's Top 5 Wednesday topic is "Naked Cover Books" or, hardcovers without dust jackets!

1. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

This is actually my mom's, but I stole it from her because I think it's gorgeous. It even has gilded pages!

2. The Great Gatsby and Other Stories by F. Scott Fitzgerald

I'm a big fan of the flapper look, so I love that there's one on the cover of this edition of Gatsby.

3. Hollow City by Ransom Riggs

I love the way a lot of Quirk Books' novels look, visually. This one is light blue with silver lettering. The inscription on the front cover says "Perplexus Anomalous", which is the name of a future character.

4. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

The brown leather paired with gold writing looks so nice, and the "JRRT" insignia on the front is very cool.

5. William Shakespeare's Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope by Ian Doescher

Another one from Quirk Books, this book looks like it's covered in distressed swirls of paint.

What's your favourite book without a dust jacket?

Monday, 16 June 2014

"Maleficent" Review | Movie Monday

"Maleficent" Theatrical Release Poster
Maleficent is a re-telling of the classic tale of Sleeping Beauty, with a twist: it's told from the point of view of the villain, Maleficent (Angelina Jolie). Bent on vengeance after she is betrayed by her childhood friend, Stefan (Sharlto Copley), Maleficent curses his newborn daughter, Aurora (Elle Fanning). As the girl grows up and spends more time in the Moors, Maleficent begins to wonder if she made the right decision by cursing her.

I really like this movie. I've been looking forward to it ever since I found out it was being made, and I'm glad I finally got to see it. I like that we get to see Maleficent's side of the story, because she's always interested me.

I enjoyed seeing Maleficent grow up in the Moors, the forest land she resides in. In the beginning, there are definitely some "classic Disney" moments, by which I mean there were times when the film borders on cheesy fairy tale story. The scenery was beautiful and filled with fascinating, fantastical creatures.

The event that leads to her thirst for revenge is heartbreaking, particularly hearing her cries of anguish. I'm really glad they didn't make Maleficent into a purely evil villain - she has legitimate reasons for what she's doing, even if her curse is misplaced. She also has doubts. She's a highly intelligent woman who is constantly considering and observing what she's done, and admits when she realizes she's done wrong.

The film is visually stunning, including Maleficent herself. I'm really impresses by the makeup and costumes she has; everything about her is so elegant, from her horns to her cheekbones to her clothes. I think this version of Maleficent is absolutely beautiful.

I love the way they did some of the lighting - in the scenes where Maleficent is in the dark, there's a soft glow of light on her, just enough so that there's a twinkle in her eyes.

If you love the Disney princess movies, you'll love this re-telling of the classic Sleeping Beauty, from a whole new perspective.

Which Disney villain do you want to have their own movie?

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Orange is the New Black, Season 1: A Discussion

*The following text contains spoilers for the first season of Orange is the New Black*

I finally started watching Orange is the New Black the other day, and let me tell you - I'm hooked! I wanted to talk a bit about some of the characters, so feel free to leave me messages in the comments section!

The series is about Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling, who looks so much like Katy Perry, my god.), who is doing time for a crime she committed ten years ago; she transported money for her then-girlfriend Alex (Laura Prepon), who was a drug dealer.

I really like Piper. I think she's a pretty well-rounded character who is likeable, but certainly has a lot of flaws. Although I can't relate to being in prison, I empathize with her in her struggle to learn the ins and outs of prison, and how to survive in there. She makes a lot of mistakes at first, including insulting Red (Kate Mulgrew), which doesn't bode well for her stomach. But as she gets some help from the other inmates, I feel like she adapts pretty quickly, although she never gets used to being there.

Piper also makes a lot of bad decisions for her personal life outside of prison, especially with regards to cheating on her fiance Larry (Jason Biggs). She really messed things up with him by sleeping with Alex. Which, given what we know about Alex (specifically, that she named Piper), will probably come back to bite her in season 2. I'm glad that she stood up to Tiffany (Taryn Manning), although their fight was quite violent in the finale.

In some ways I like Alex, but I'm also very aware that she's the type of person that craves adventure - she doesn't have specific plans and goals, she takes life as it comes, and is ultimately self-serving. She betrayed Piper before by naming her and she could very well do it again, so I think it's probably best that they broke up.

I really love Daya (Dascha Polanco) and John (Matt McGorry), individually and as a couple. They're both so sweet and they clearly love each other - I'm happy they're together and I hope things work out between them. Daya being pregnant is a tough situation for them both; it's obviously bad timing and it sucks that basically the only option that kept them both out of trouble was for Daya to sleep with and frame Mendez (Pablo Schreiber) - he's such a slime ball. It's really upsetting that his only punishment was suspension without pay - for all his superiors know, he raped Daya. It's so messed up that he didn't get fired and/or charged.

Susanne "Crazy Eyes" (Uzo Aduba)  is at first the character that everybody laughs at for being strange, but when we actually get to know her, yes she's weird, but she's also very sweet. It kind of broke my heart when she asked Piper why everyone always calls her "Crazy Eyes". It really reminds me why we shouldn't be mean to/about people we don't understand.

Nicky (Natasha Lyonne) is probably one of my favourite characters, and not just because we share a name. As I've said before, I tend to like the characters who provide comic relief, and Nicky does that pretty often. I find her funny because of all the snark she gives. She doesn't hold back her opinions - people don't always want to hear them, but they're always accurate and said funnily. She's also always there if someone needs a shoulder to cry on, which I think people really appreciate - and it always ends well for her, if you know what I mean.

Taystee's (Danielle Brooks) storyline was plotted really well. I like that they talked about how difficult it is to get your life going once you've got your freedom. Most people are excited to get out of prison, but hardly anyone talks about what it's actually like on the outside after prison.

Sophia's (Laverne Cox) character is so important, especially in this day and age when we don't have a whole lot of representation of transgender women. Her storyline was really moving and sad, but also hopeful. Although I can't even begin to imagine how she feels or how her home life is affecting her, I'm glad to have a little perspective into what transgender people experience. As a character, I think Sophia is so sweet and yet she can also be quite sassy which, as I mentioned above, I really love in a character.

Tricia's (Madeline Brewer) storyline was emotional. She was a sweet kid who was dealt a bad hand. She got into drugs at a young age and it obviously didn't help that she was living on the streets. It was really sweet that although she stole a lot of things, she kept track, always intending to pay her debts. It makes me sad that she never got a chance to do that. Even in prison, Tricia remained hopeful and had she not been around stupid Mendez, eventually she might have been able to do as she intended. I hope that jerk gets what's coming to him.

Tiffany is incredibly irritating, and every time she comes onscreen all high and mighty, I want some to take her down a notch - and I'm pretty sure everyone around her feels the same way.  Her back story was interesting because we learn that she's had five abortions, but calls herself "Defender of the Unborn", a title mistakenly given to her when she shoots the Abortion Clinic nurse who disrespects her. She's living a lie - whether or not she believes what she's spewing is questionable.

I'm really looking forward to learning more about the characters' back stories in season 2, including the ones we haven't learned much about yet.

Have you seen Orange is the New Black? Share your thoughts on the show in the comments below.

Friday, 13 June 2014

"Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children" | Book Review

"Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children"
Happy Friday the 13th!

I'd been wanting to read Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children for almost two years, but for one reason or another, I never got around to it; that is, until a couple of weeks ago!

Written by Ransom Riggs (how cool is that name? I love alliteration), Miss Peregrine tells the story of Jacob Portman, a 16-year-old boy who grew up being told fantastical stories by his grandfather, Abe, but who has now lost his faith in the stories and characters. That all changes one fateful night when Jacob's grandfather is brutally murdered by a creature that Jacob glimpses in the woods. Jacob sets off to Wales to find out the truth behind his grandfather's strange tales.

Although I'd wanted to read this for a long time, I hadn't read any reviews or heard anything about the book, other than "it's intriguing" because of its pictures - which is certainly true. Because of this, I didn't really know what to expect, but I though it'd probably be some kind of supernatural story, based on the levitating girl on the cover. As it turns out, this story is a blend of fantasy and sci-fi, specifically of the time travel variety - and who doesn't like a good tale of time travel?

At the beginning of the novel, I didn't like the protagonist. I found Jacob to be irritating and insufferable. But he grew on me once he became more independent and on his own, started to look into the mysteries surrounding his grandfather's life and death.

The pictures were very cool and definitely added to the eerie feeling of the story. There were some freaky photos in the book, including one of Santa Claus that is nightmare-inducing.

Despite disliking Jacob for the first few chapters, I really enjoyed Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. The story itself is not revolutionary or anything, but it's a fun read, especially if you're interested in odd, fantastical stories and characters with strange abilities.

What's the strangest book you've ever read?

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Books You Struggled to Finish | Top 5 Wednesday

1. Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

I'm currently reading Ender's Game and I'm having such a hard time getting through it. I picked it up a few months ago and was breezing through it, but put it down to read other things. Now that I'm trying to get through it again, I find that I'm not enjoying the technical descriptions that pervade the story.

2. Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

I really liked the first half of this book, but I don't enjoy the way the story is progressing - it just doesn't interest me. I put it down for a few months to see if it would engage me when I was in a different mood, but it looks like I'm not gonna finish this one for a while.

3. The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells

I did finish this book a couple of years ago, but I struggled through it. I found the writing quite dry and I was bored through much of the story, so I had to force myself to finish it.

4. House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

Okay, I think it's acceptable that this one's on my list. House of Leaves is very strange - in a good way, I think. It's also massive. I'm quite enjoying this, but it makes it onto my list because of the sheer amount of time it's taking me to get through it.

5. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

To be honest, I don't know why I've never been able to finish this story. I really like the storyline, the characters, and the writing style. Perhaps it's because both times I tried to read it, it involved school; you know how it is - the readings pile up and you have to move onto another book eventually!

What book(s) have you struggled to finish?

Monday, 9 June 2014

"The Apparition" Review | Movie Monday

"The Apparition" DVD cover
Four college students attempt to recreate the 1973 "Charles Experiment", where a group of people concentrated on a drawing of a man named Charles Reamer in an attempt to summon his spirit. Using modern technology to magnify the parapsychological study's effects, Patrick (Tom Felton) and his team delve into the dangerous world of the paranormal and they summon more than they bargained for. Now Ben (Sebastian Stan), one of the participants in the study, and his girlfriend Kelly (Ashley Greene) are being haunted by the very thing that was summoned that night.

The beginning of this movie is incredibly awkward - but if you get through the first 15 minutes, you'll probably get through the whole movie. The set-up for the couple's story is so cheesy and unnatural; I think it's a combination of bad writing and directing, which is a shame because I like both Sebastian Stan and Ashley Greene and I know they're better than they seem at the beginning of this film.

The good news is, no part of this film is worse than the first 15 minutes. Once creepy things start happening around the house, the film improves. There was a good build-up of suspense with the mysteriously open doors and nerve-wracking "break-ins" at night.

This movie is pretty creepy if you watch it at night like I did, so if you enjoy being scared, I recommend viewing it in the dark. This is by no means a fantastic horror/thriller movie, but it's entertaining and good for a one-time watch, especially if you're with friends who are easily frightened.

Sunday, 8 June 2014

"Saga: Volume 1" | Book Review

"Saga: Volume 1" Cover
Saga, written by Brian K. Vaughan and with art by Fiona Staples, follows two young soldiers, Alana and Marko, who are from opposite sides of a galactic war. Both sides are after their newborn baby, Hazel, whose mixed race is seen as an abomination. Running for their lives, they battle bounty hunters and platoons, all while protecting their newborn.

The world-building in this series is wonderful. The galactic war between the Landfallians (who have wings) and the Wreathers (natives of Landfall's moon, Wreath; have horns and antlers) has ensured chaos and hatred between the two races. I've heard Saga compared to the Star Wars series, and in terms of galactic wars I agree, but this series really is in a league of its own.

I love the writing; it's often quite snarky, especially when Alana is involved. I love her as a character - I think she's hilarious. The artwork is absolutely stunning, in my opinion; I think Fiona Staples' artistic style is beautiful so I really enjoy admiring the artwork. In terms of writing and artwork compatibility, Saga has it made - Vaughan and Staples make a great team and the art always matches up with the writing, in terms of facial expressions conveying the witty dialogue and the intended attitude to go with it.

I encountered this series randomly a while ago because the Comixology app on my phone had the first issue available for free. I'd never heard of it before, but the synopsis was intriguing so I decided to give it a shot - and I was blown away.

If you enjoy sci-fi and fantasy stories, beautiful artwork and witty dialogue, then Saga is for you!

What comics do you enjoy?

You can also read my reviews of Volume 2 and Volume 3.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

"The Fault in Our Stars" | Movie Review

Expect tears. That's the first thing I want to say about this movie. But if you've read John Green's novel of the same name, you already know what a sob-fest you're in for.

I'm really impressed with The Fault in Our Stars. It is a truly moving story of two teens who are in love, and how their lives have been and continue to be affected by cancer.

I think the cast did a beautiful job of portraying this very sad, very sweet story. Shailene Woodley makes me love Hazel even more than I did before, and Ansel Elgort IS Augustus. Personally, I think they were both perfect in their respective roles.

Fans of the novel are probably concerned about how well the film adaptation presents the original novel's sentiments and quirks. Fear not, because this film is very true to the novel. I'm so glad they were able to keep the scenes and lines that we, as fans, have come to love so much. The cast and crew truly brought the novel to life in front of our eyes.

If you're a fan of the novel, I think you'll be very impressed with The Fault in Our Stars as a film adaptation. If you haven't read the novel, I absolutely recommend reading it and watching this film. Hazel and Augustus' story is one of reality, love, and above all, hope.

You can read my review of the novel here.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Characters You Wish You Were More Like | Top 5 Wednesday

  1. Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series, written by J.K. Rowling
I want to be like Hermione in that I really want to go to Hogwarts. We both have muggles for parents and like Hermione, I know I could do well at Hogwarts. She's a fantastic student and while I definitely did well in school, I could benefit from having Hermione's intelligence and dedication (couldn't we all?).

     2.   Katniss Everdeen from the Hunger Games trilogy, written by Suzanne Collins

Katniss is a badass. There's no denying it. I don't by any means long for her place in the Games, but she's incredibly self-reliant and resourceful - and boy, does she know how to use a bow and arrow! I love archery but haven't developed skills anywhere near Katniss-level.

     3. Bilbo Baggins from The Hobbit, written by J.R.R. Tolkien

Although he's undeniably a home-body and he loves to be alone (qualities I share and I think are perfectly normal sometimes), Bilbo goes on an adventure when opportunity literally comes a-knocking. He pushes his personal boundaries by agreeing to help Gandalf the Grey and the Dwarves.

     4.   Reagan from Fangirl, written by Rainbow Rowell

Reagan always has a witty remark to make. I find that in books, films, and TV shows, the characters who provide comic relief tend to be my favourites, and I'd love to embody that more. Though her snark often masks it, Reagan can also be quite sweet and is always willing to help out a friend.

     5.   Saba from the Dust Lands trilogy, written by Moira Young

Saba has the same quality of self-reliance that I so value in Katniss. Saba definitely has some poor qualities, but it's the fighter in her that I love. Her brother means more to her than the world, and she proves that by, against all the odds, overcoming all the incredible obstacles she faces while trying to rescue him.

Which character (from books, movies or TV shows) do you wish you were more like?

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

"The Fault in Our Stars" | Book Review

"TFiOS" book cover
The Fault in Our Stars, written by heartstring-tugger extraordinaire John Green, follows Hazel Grace Lancaster, a 16-year-old girl with stage 4 Thyroid cancer with metastis forming in her lungs. After her mother forces her to attend weekly support group meetings, Hazel meets Augustus Waters, an intelligent, very attractive 17-year-old boy in remission from Osteosarcoma. Although Hazel fights it at first, the two fall in love and develop a relationship that is a pleasure to witness take form.

To call this book a tear-jerker would be a massive understatement. John Green gives us such an honest portrayal of cancer's effects on families and relationships. You really do fall in love with the characters over the course of the story; it's the wonderful characters coupled with the harsh truth about cancer that make this story so painful. And yet, through all the tears (and trust me, there are a lot), Green manages to leave readers with a sense of hope at the end of the novel.

I absolutely love this book (I've now read it twice), although I do sometimes find it hard to believe Hazel and Augustus are teens because the way they speak sounds so advanced. I've never known any teenager to speak with the level of intelligence they do - which is not to say I think teens are unintelligent, because I don't, nor am I saying these kinds of teenagers don't exist. I just found a lot of their speech to be so metaphor-laden and mature-sounding. I think this maturity can be attributed to the amount of growing up their cancers have forced them into; they had to deal with extremely difficult situations at a young, impressionable age.

I highly recommend this sad, beautiful, hopeful, and incredibly quotable book to anyone and everyone. Be warned: you will cry, so be sure to keep a box of tissues by your side.

Have you read The Fault in Our Stars? If so, what did you think? Will you be watching the film adaptation?

You can read my review of the film here.

Monday, 2 June 2014

"Bad Words" Review | Movie Monday

"Bad Words" Theatrical Release Poster
Bad Words tells the story of Guy Trilby (Jason Bateman, who also directed the film), a 40-year-old man who finds a loophole in the Spelling Bee rules and decides to enter, much to the chagrin of the child contestants, their parents, and the event organizers. Guy has a reporter named Jenny (Kathryn Hahn) report on his progress in the competition, and along the way he reluctantly befriends one of the contestants, Chai (Rohan Chand).

This film is full of dark humour - the kind that makes you chuckle and simultaneously wonder, "Oh my god, did (s)he really just say that?" Jason Bateman's Guy is a miserable person and when he reveals his reason for entering the Spelling Bee, it just makes you, as an observer, feel bad for him because he was so affected that he went and ruined an otherwise entertaining competition for a bunch of kids.

Guy's relationship with Chai is really funny and endearing as we see it develop; Guy begins by not wanting anything to do with the child, but Chai is just so sweet and persistent, despite Guy being an absolute jerk to him.

I really enjoyed this movie; it's definitely not a happy, feel-good film, but the dark humour did make me laugh often, and I think the story-line is an interesting concept.

What's your favourite word?

Sunday, 1 June 2014

"Tic Tac Tome: The Book That Will Beat You at Tic-Tac-Toe" | Book Review

"Tic Tac Tome"
Picture this: you're all alone, trying to think of something to pass the time. You feel like a good ole game of Tic-Tac-Toe - but there's no one around to play it with you. That no longer matters, because now Tic Tac Tome exists!

This book claims (yes, the book actually addresses you) that it's nearly unbeatable at Tic-Tac-Toe. And that's not far from the truth! I have yet to beat it at the game, although we have drawn a few times (I grew up playing Tic-Tac-Toe a lot and my Dad taught me a few tricks).

I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys playing the game. Tic Tac Tome is a lot of fun and definitely makes you think about your strategy and what your next move will be. You'll be a better player for it!

Tic Tac Tome: The Book That Will Beat You at Tic-Tac-Toe comes out on June 10, 2014.

Do you play Tic-Tac-Toe?

*This book was sent to me by Quirk Books as a review copy. All my reviews are honest and based on my own opinions.