Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday #149: Unusual beach reads

Today's Topic: 
Top Ten Unusual Beach Reads
I Want To Read Eventually

This topic... Every year I dread it. I hate "beach reads" so much that there's no way I could put together a list of books that I liked. So this year I decided to go with books that are summer/ocean/island related that probably aren't what you usually think of when you go looking for a beach read - and I learned that Jeff Probst writes books! Who knew?!

The Aqua Secret by L.L. Hunter
The Black: Arrival by Paul E. Cooley
The Deep by Peter Benchley
Drown by Esther Dalseno

Jaws by Peter Benchley
Leviathan by Jared Sandman
The Poseidon Adventure by Paul Gallico
Stranded by Jeff Probst

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish.
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Sunday, May 21, 2017

Weekly Recap: 5/14 - 5/20

Happy weekend, everyone! This week has been slightly easier with the puppy. He's had fewer accidents in the house, although they haven't completely stopped. I will be so happy when he's fully house trained and I don't have to clean up after him! The most exciting event of the week was previewing Pandora, the brand new land at Disney's Animal Kingdom! You can check out my experience in yesterday's post! I've also been hard at work getting new candles ready to go up for preorder, so keep an eye out!

HOW IN THE WORLD IS IT ALREADY THE END OF MAY???? Seriously, where the heck did this month go? I feel like I have accomplished nothing this month. I've been working my butt off, so I've barely read and I haven't done much blogging. I honestly don't have much to report for this week. I basically just worked and slept. My cats have been fighting a bit, so I've been working on getting them to calm down. And trying to teach the new kitten not to eat all of her brother's food. This weekend is the first weekend in MONTHS that my boyfriend is away and I have the entire weekend to myself. It's weird to have nothing to do. I miss him, but I'm also really enjoying my down time. I have a lot of chores to do, but I'm also catching up on a lot of reading! It feels amazing!

No new books this week!

Monday audiobook review of Norse Mythology
The topic was books with absent mothers for Top Ten Tuesday
I featured Bad Romance for Can't-Wait Wednesday
Friday ARC review of Defy the Stars
On Saturday I shared my experience at Pandora in Disney for the Weekend

We're linking up to Stacking the Shelves & The Sunday Post!
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Saturday, May 20, 2017

Disney For the Weekend: Pandora Preview

Happy Saturday, everybody! It's been a little while since I've brought some Disney for your weekend, but I have something exciting to share!

You may or may not know that Disney is bringing Avatar's Pandora to Animal Kingdom. Why? I haven't the slightest clue, honestly. I have no idea why Disney thought a movie from almost 10 years ago was the best material to work with, but here we are anyway. Pandora opens on May 27th, 2017, but I had the amazing opportunity to attend an Annual Passholder's preview this past Monday and I have the details for you!

I arrived at Pandora at the beginning of my two hour window, which was 12pm - 2pm. Let me be the first to tell you, two hours is not nearly enough here. Sure, there are only two rides, but there is SO MUCH to look at! Walking up to the new land, you really cannot see anything.

Although I knew there should be floating mountains on the horizon, all I could see were the standard Animal Kingdom theming. I trekked on and the hype was building! A Cast Member handed me a FastPass for Flight of Passage, which ensured that not every guest would rush the ride right out of the gate. The trail wound around for a while until I finally came upon some distinctly alien plant life. 

I couldn't tell you what this thing is supposed to be, but it was pretty cool! The theming in this land has all the extra touches you'd expect from Disney World. Everything was totally unreal, but believable at the same time. And my favorite part was that I really felt like I was IN Pandora. I couldn't see any other part of Animal Kingdom once I crossed the threshold. I kept on down the path a little more and finally I saw what I'd been looking for!

Didn't I tell you it was gorgeous?? The floating mountains really look like they're FLOATING! I don't know how Disney Imagineering pulled it off, but they did and the pictures really don't do it justice. There are multiple levels to explore. You can see the mountains from several angles and they look incredible no matter where you're standing. 

Once I got my fill of sightseeing, I headed over to Na'vi River Journey: Discover Shaman of Songs, a dark boat ride through Pandora. I really don't know how to explain this to you other than that it's awesome. Yes, it's just a dark ride, but there is so much new technology in this ride that my jaw was open the entire time. There are realistic projections and amazingly fluid animatronics, among other things. I won't spoil it all for you, but I will share a couple videos from inside!

When I exited the ride, my time had come to experience Flight of Passage! I will preface this by telling you that I get severe motion sickness. I cannot ride any simulator without a hefty dose of Dramamine and even then I get pretty nauseous, to the point that I usually will not do them. But this was something new and had beed described as "Soarin' on steroids," so I decided to brave it and see what happened! 

The FastPass queue was well-themed and seemed to be leading us deep into some kind of laboratory. I know there is another really awesome animatronic in the standby queue, but I didn't have the chance to see it! Once we were lined up, we were ushered into a pre-show where a "scientist" described what we'd be experiencing. We were told we'd be matched with an avatar based on our genetic makeup in order to ride a banshee. It was honestly one of the longest pre-shows I've ever been in and I could have done with it being a little shorter. 

Finally, we were sent into the room with the ride vehicles! They looked a lot like motorcycles, which was a little weird, but I hopped on, donned my 3D glasses, and waited as the restraints locked into place behind my back and legs. I sat there and waited... and waited. 

The lights began to flash suddenly, momentarily blinding me. Then the wall was gone and in its place was a massive screen and on the screen was Pandora. I was flying! And I could feel the banshee breathing against the sides of my legs! It was the single most odd and cool ride vehicle I've ever been on. I soared through the skies on my banshee, mist in my face, and the scents of Pandora washing over me. This is definitely a full sensory experience. We banked and turned and plummeted at the last second to avoid another massive flying creature, and I didn't get the least bit nauseous. Whatever the ride engineers did with this particular simulator is A+ and I hope that this is how every simulator in the future is made. My flight did seem to last for a decent amount of time, but it wasn't nearly long enough! I exited the ride area with a smile on my face and already calculating when I could come back to do it again. 

I exited through the gift shop, where there were some really unique Pandora items for sale, including tiny banshees that could sit on your shoulder and move. I didn't even ask how much those cost, instead heading towards the one restaurant inside Pandora.

The restaurant was quick service, but the fare was pretty unique as far as Disney quick service goes. The first main option were bowls made at the grill including things like sweet potato hash, quinoa, kale, wood-grilled chicken, beef, and tofu. The second was steamed pods filled with a hamburger or curry vegetable filling. Obviously I skipped both of those and went straight for dessert. 

Ordering was the same as every other Disney counter service, but was quick and painless. I ordered the Blueberry Cream Cheese Mousse, solely based on how pretty it looked in the pictures. I was not disappointed! I don't know how to describe it to you, but it was blueberry and cream cheesey and delicious. The inside was purple! And the outside was so gorgeous I didn't want to eat it (but I did)! I will definitely be ordering this dessert again. 

After I finished eating, my time had come to an end and I had to leave Pandora for the day. Like I said, two hours isn't nearly enough. I snapped one more picture in front of the floating mountains before heading out. 

Although I've seen some people say Pandora didn't live up to their expectations, I loved it! I do wish there was a little more to do, but I expect that with the massive wait times that are soon to come, what's there is probably plenty to keep everyone occupied. I thought Pandora was fantastic and I hope all of you get to experience it someday too! 

Have you been to Pandora? Did I forget anything?
Let me know in the comments!
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Friday, May 19, 2017

DNF ARC Review: Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray

Title: Defy the Stars (Constellation #1) 
Author: Claudia Gray
Publication Date: April 4, 2017
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Pages: 501
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 //I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review//

Noemi Vidal is a teen soldier from the planet Genesis, once a colony of Earth that's now at war for its independence. The humans of Genesis have fought Earth's robotic "mech" armies for decades with no end in sight.

After a surprise attack, Noemi finds herself stranded in space on an abandoned ship where she meets Abel, the most sophisticated mech prototype ever made. One who should be her enemy. But Abel's programming forces him to obey Noemi as his commander, which means he has to help her save Genesis--even though her plan to win the war will kill him.

Together they embark on a daring voyage through the galaxy. Before long, Noemi begins to realize Abel may be more than a machine, and, for his part, Abel's devotion to Noemi is no longer just a matter of programming. 

Noemi is a Genesis soldier, fighting for her planet's independence from Earth. A war has been raging for decades, and there seems to be no end in sight. Earth uses robotic 'mech' armies to slaughter the soldiers of Genesis and assert their technological superiority. After an attack, Noemi finds herself on a deserted Earthen ship, looking for medical supplies. What she finds instead is the most advanced mech ever made, Abel. And he is programmed to follow her every command - even those that would act against Earth.

I know a lot of people who didn't like Defy the Stars and decided not to finish it, but there were also a ton of people in the book community that were super excited for it. I thought the synopsis sounded interesting, so I went in with an open mind. Ultimately, though, I ended up putting this book down after about 100 pages. There aren't any glaring, big problems with Defy the Stars. The reason I decided not to finish it boils down to two main things: it's boring and predictable and I didn't care about the characters or what happened to them at all.

I think both of these issues stem from the writing style of this book. The story is told in the third person from the alternating perspectives of Noemi and Abel, and the pacing was so slow. Despite a very slow start to the book, I wanted to keep giving it a chance. Even though there were some interesting developments in the plot, the pacing still dragged and the writing felt clunky. I felt like I was being told a story, instead of being immersed in it. All of the plot developments were so predictable as well. I bet I could predict how this book ends, because there were no interesting twists and turns in the story.

The third person point of view made it very difficult to connect with the characters. I was intrigued by Abel and his growing sense of humanity, but I didn't get enough in the 100 pages I read to convince me to hear the rest of his story. Noemi was so focused on her one mission of saving her planet that she felt more robotic than Abel. I felt no sympathy for her when she experienced pain and I didn't care about her enough to find out if her mission was successful.

I may eventually finish Defy the Stars, reading a chapter here and there until I finally learn the end of Noemi and Abel's saga. But that won't happen any time soon. I am so disappointed the I didn't enjoy this book because I have heard such amazing things about Claudia Gray and her writing. Defy the Stars fell completely flat for me though. If you want an awesome book with artificial intelligence that develops beyond its programming, skip this and read Illuminae. (Or watch Bicentennial Man...fantastic movie.)

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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Can't-Wait Wednesday #2: Bad Romance

Happy Wednesday, fellow book lovers! This week's "can't wait to read" is:

Bad Romance
by Heather Demetrios
Publication Date: June 13, 2017

Grace wants out. Out of her house, where her stepfather wields fear like a weapon and her mother makes her scrub imaginary dirt off the floors. Out of her California town, too small to contain her big city dreams. Out of her life, and into the role of Parisian artist, New York director—anything but scared and alone.

Enter Gavin: charming, talented, adored. Controlling. Dangerous. When Grace and Gavin fall in love, Grace is sure it's too good to be true. She has no idea their relationship will become a prison she's unable to escape.

Deeply affecting and unflinchingly honest, this is a story about spiraling into darkness—and emerging into the light again.
You may know that I don't usually read contemporary fiction. I surprised even myself by adding this to my TBR list! But the concept of Bad Romance speaks to me on a personal level and I will definitely be grabbing this one the second I have a chance!

Can't-Wait Wednesday is a weekly event hosted at Wishful Endings.
This meme is based on Waiting-on Wednesday, which went inactive last year.
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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday #148: Books with absent mothers

Today's Topic: 
Top Ten Books With Absent Mothers

Today's topic was so hard! I've said it before and I'll say it again, I hate freebies! XD I looked and looked and I realized that I never remember anything about the moms in the books I read... Whoops! But I do remember the books where mothers were suspiciously missing (or not so suspiciously deceased). So here is my slightly morbid Mother's Day freebie: top books with absent mothers!

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
And I Darken by Kiersten White
Caraval by Stephanie Garber
The Madman's Daughter by Megan Shepherd

Of Metal and Wishes by Sarah Fine
Scarlet by Marissa Meyer
Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski
The Young Elites by Marie Lu

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish.
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Monday, May 15, 2017

Audiobook Review: Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

Title: Norse Mythology
Author: Neil Gaiman
Narrator: Neil Gaiman
Publication Date: February 7, 2017
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
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Introducing an instant classic—master storyteller Neil Gaiman presents a dazzling version of the great Norse myths.

Neil Gaiman has long been inspired by ancient mythology in creating the fantastical realms of his fiction. Now he turns his attention back to the source, presenting a bravura rendition of the great northern tales. In Norse Mythology, Gaiman fashions primeval stories into a novelistic arc that begins with the genesis of the legendary nine worlds; delves into the exploits of the deities, dwarves, and giants; and culminates in Ragnarok, the twilight of the gods and the rebirth of a new time and people. Gaiman stays true to the myths while vividly reincarnating Odin, the highest of the high, wise, daring, and cunning; Thor, Odin’s son, incredibly strong yet not the wisest of gods; and Loki, the son of a giant, a trickster and unsurpassable manipulator. From Gaiman’s deft and witty prose emerges the gods with their fiercely competitive natures, their susceptibility to being duped and to dupe others, and their tendency to let passion ignite their actions, making these long-ago myths breathe pungent life again. 

I have always loved mythology! First it was Egyptian Mythology throughout my childhood, followed by Greek Mythology in high school, and Roman Mythology in college. I've always been interested in Norse Mythology, but too daunted by it to dive in. When I saw that Neil Gaiman was releasing a retelling of Norse Myths I knew I had to have it! Stumbling across the audiobook narrated by Neil himself was even better!

First of all, it was impossible to listen to Neil read this and not imagine these guys:

Of course, there were so many other characters in these stories, but these two were by far my favorites! Embarrassingly, most everything I know about Thor and Loki comes from Marvel, so it was awesome to get so much background about the characters they're based on. Thor was absolutely hilarious! His ego is massive and I was constantly cracking up at the ridiculous ways he got out of situations (e.g. assuming a goddess would marry a giant to get his hammer back and then crossdressing instead when she refused). Loki was also a fantastic character, but (maybe not surprisingly) much more intelligent and crafty than Thor. His children were especially fascinating!

Each story was included separately and broken into chapters. They didn't necessarily intertwine like a normal novel, but there were elements that wouldn't be understood without reading previous stories. Each story could be read individually, but I do think that reading the entire book chronologically is the best way to go with this one, at least on the first read! While I've never read any of these myths before, I've read that Neil Gaiman stayed very true to the source material while expanding upon it and making it his own. All of the stories certainly had the feeling of classic mythology!

Some of my favorites: 

  • » The Treasures of the Gods, in which Loki steals Thor's wife's hair and tries to get a replacement
  • » The Children of Loki, in which Odin is worried about being murdered by Loki's wolf kid 
  • » Himir and Thor's Fishing Expedition, in which Thor goes fishing and almost sinks the boat
  • » The Last Days of Loki, in which I became depressed and cried a little

Neil did a fantastic job of keeping all these stories interesting, but they were still somewhat simplistic as myths generally are. There were moments when I was a little bored, I'll admit, but Norse Mythology fully lived up to my expectations! Best of all, I learned so much about the gods and locations! All of the Norse gods became fully fleshed out characters through these stories and I'm honestly a little excited to go see Thor: Ragnarok knowing so much more about this mythology than my husband! (Ha!)

As always, Neil Gaiman is an incredibly narrator! I wish so much that he'd narrate books other than his own so I could hear him talk more... I wasn't totally sure what to expect from Norse Mythology but I ended up really loving it! I definitely recommend this book (and the audiobook in particular) to any mythology lover!

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