Thursday, January 19, 2017

Audiobook Review: Cinder by Marissa Meyer


Title: Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles #1)
Author: Marissa Meyer
Narrator: Rebecca Soler
Publication Date: January 3, 2012
Publisher: Feiwel and Friends

Add to Goodreads
Reviews for book 3, book 3.5, & book 4 

Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl.

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

So, I have to admit, I was pretty late to jump on the Lunar Chronicles bandwagon. Years ago, I downloaded a sample of Cinder to my kindle and read the first few pages before deciding I wasn't interested. I literally did this FIVE TIMES. I kept trying to get into it because everyone said it was amazing, but it just wasn't hooking me. Finally, I decided to just get the whole book and push through. I read it and really enjoyed it a couple years ago, and now I've just finished listening to the audiobook.

I really enjoyed the way this retelling is handled. Personally, I don’t much care for retellings that are very similar to the original story (see: my review of Heartless…sorry Tracy). In Cinder, the elements of the original Cinderella story were there, but there was so much more to the story. Set in the future, Cinder is a cyborg living as a mechanic in New Beijing, fixing androids and hovercrafts. She lives in a world where people live on the moon and the world is plagued by letumosis, a rapidly-spreading disease that has killed hundreds of thousands. Not your typical Cinderella story.

The Lunar Chronicles is one of the few series I've read where I actually like all of the characters. There aren't any characters that I don't enjoy...except the ones we are supposed to hate, that is. (*cough* Levana *cough cough*) Cinder is amazing - shy and totally awkward, but also brave and strong and not afraid to get dirty. And Kai - oh, sweet Kai. I'm pretty sure the heart eyes emoji was made specifically for him. I don't think this is how he is described, but I totally picture Li Shang from Disney's Mulan as Kai. Or the Prince Charming from the Rogers and Hammerstein Cinderella movie staring Brandy. Does anyone remember that? I know, one of those men is a cartoon character and the other is a hunky Filipino-American actor, but I can't help what my imagination comes up with.

Ok, let's get back on track....I love the main characters of Cinder and Kai, but I also just adore the supporting characters. Iko and Dr. Erlund are some of my favorite sidekicks ever. They intrigue me and keep me laughing and add so much depth to the story. I really feel like all of the characters are my friends. I feel like I know them so well and I can't wait to open a book and hang out with them. Well, maybe not Levana...

While I really enjoyed Cinder, rereading it has made me realize just how much I prefer the other books. I do like Cinder, but the series really comes into its own as the cast of characters grows and develops. Cinder is a great first book for the series. It introduces you to an awesome cast and a captivating story...but it is lacking that wow factor that appears in the later books as the story develops. It took me forever to get into Cinder, but once I finally gave it a chance, I really enjoyed it. And once I continued on with the series, I was hooked. I absolutely devour these books and I can't wait to continue on with the series. I'm currently rereading the first three in preparation for finally getting around to reading Winter for the first time. I can't wait!




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Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday #131: underrated books


Today's Topic: 
Ten Eight Underrated Books I've 
Read In The Past Year Or So


Although there are a ton of underrated books out there, I haven't found very many of them in the last year! These are the eight that I feel are either literally underrated or just under-hyped. I can't wait to see what all of yours are!



Alight by Scott Sigler
The Architect of Song by A.G. Howard
Beast by Brie Spangler
Floor 21 by Jason Luthor



The House by Christina Lauren
Never Never by Brianna R. Shrum
This Dark Endeavor by Kenneth Oppel
Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson


Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish.
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Monday, January 16, 2017

ARC Review: Caraval by Stephanie Garber


Title: Caraval (Caraval #1)
Author: Stephanie Garber
Publication Date: January 31, 2017
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Pages: 416
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Before you enter the world of Caraval, you must remember that it’s all a game . . .

Scarlett has never left the tiny island where she and her beloved sister, Tella, live with their ruthless father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval, the legendary, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show, are over.

Then, Scarlett’s long-dreamt of invitation to Caraval finally arrives. So, Tella enlists a mysterious sailor’s help to whisk Scarlett away to this year’s show. But as soon as the trio arrives, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But she nonetheless soon becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic with her sister, with Legend, and with the other players in the game. And whether Caraval is real or not, she must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over, a dangerous domino effect of consequences is set off, and her sister disappears forever.

There are books that I enjoy, books that I love, and then there are books that are pure magic - books that feel like magic. Very few fit into the last category, but Caraval does. I first heard about Caraval at the ALA annual conference in Orlando last summer. Unfortunately, I didn't get to meet Stephanie Garber, but I was lucky enough to get my hands on a copy of her book. Without seeing any of the hype for this book, I dived in and was amazed. Caraval deserves every ounce of hype it has received (and I'll happily add to it)!

Scarlett is the main character of this story, and I loved her. She has wanted to go to Caraval since she was young, but has never had the chance... until now. Scarlett's mission while in Caraval is to find her sister who has been mysteriously kidnapped and not everything is as it seems. In Caraval everything is a game, nothing is real. At least, that's what they tell everyone who who goes inside. As Scarlett discovers, though, it's difficult to remember this when the stakes get high. I found Scarlett to be both strong and intelligent. She wasn't scared to take chances and be brave when she had to in order to save her sister, but she was never reckless (a trait I cannot stand in "strong" MCs).

Of course, Scarlett doesn't enter Caraval on her own! Julian accompanies Scarlett and her sister to the game and throughout the book. He is a wonderful character who I just couldn't get enough of. While I loved Scarlett, I adored Julian! My favorite kind of love interest is the kind that's a little dark, a bit of a scoundrel, and a little mysterious - the kind of guy that you're never quite sure about. The relationship between Scarlett and Julian was perfect! It was a bit of a slow burn and I tend to be impatient, but I loved the way things played out between them.

Although this book shines in every aspect, my favorite was most definitely the world of Caraval. I didn't know quite what to expect when I jumped in, but it wasn't this magical world. I knew from the synopsis that Scarlett would be fighting to recover her kidnapped sister, but I didn't expect the darkness in Caraval... and I loved it! Things are never what you'd expect and there are clues at every turn. I didn't have a map in my advance copy, but I still felt like I was able to picture the world in my head. Of course, when I was able to get my hands on the map, it made it even better! I can't wait to get my finished copy and do a re-read with the map within easy reach!

The story itself is mysterious and gripping. I was pulled in very quickly and once Scarlett got to Caraval I knew I was a goner. There is never a dull moment as Scarlett and Julian race to beat the clock and constantly run into new and exciting people and places. There are even super secret, mysterious (dangerous) tunnels! Thankfully, this is going to be a series! But I'm happy to report that there are no cliffhangers here. This roller coaster of a book wraps up nicely enough that you won't want to throw it at any walls, though it may leave you with a serious book hangover.

I loved every single thing about Caraval, in case that wasn't obvious, right down to the gorgeous cover. The characters were fantastic, the world was pure magic, and the story grabbed me from page one. I plan on reading this again as soon as I get my pre-ordered copy and I'm already dying for book two! I definitely recommend picking this one up if you enjoy fantasy.



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Sunday, January 15, 2017

Weekly Recap: 1/8 - 1/14



Tracy's Happenings Off the Blog

Well, this has (thankfully) been a pretty low key week. I spent some of it catching up on Supernatural (I just got to the season 11 reveal!). Unfortunately, I didn't feel great for part of the week, but I seem to be over whatever it was, thank goodness. I got to see my house again this week - there's drywall! I'm so excited to be moving in soon! This was also a pretty good new book week! Two I got from trades and two are from Netgalley! I'm also trying to get into preparation mode for ALA next weekend. It has come from out of nowhere and I am not ready, but I'm extremely excited!


New Books



This Week I Read




MC's Happenings Off the Blog

Hi everyone! Happy weekend! It has been a seriously long week. I barely read at all and I've been SUPER busy at work. I probably won't read much next week either, because I'll be spending a lot of time getting ready for ALAMW. I'm so excited to finally meet Tracy in person!!! Sorry that my update is pretty boring this week...that's honestly what my whole week has been like. Next week should be way more exciting! Maybe Tracy and I can share some pictures from our trip!


New Books



This Week I Read




In Case You Missed It

Monday audiobook review of Reign of Shadows
The topic was 2016 releases I didn't get to for Top Ten Tuesday
Thursday book review of The Girl From Everywhere
Saturday movie review of Blair Witch


Upcoming Reviews



We're linking up to Stacking the Shelves & The Sunday Post!
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Saturday, January 14, 2017

Movie Review: Blair Witch


Title: Blair Witch
Release Date: September 16, 2016
Starring: James Allen McCune, Callie Hernandez
Director: Adam Wingard
Runtime: 1hr 29min
Rating: R
View on IMDB

A young man and his friends venture into the Black Hills Forest in Maryland to uncover the mystery surrounding his missing sister. Many believe her disappearance 20 years earlier is connected to the legend of the Blair Witch. At first the group is hopeful, especially when two locals act as guides through the dark and winding woods. As the night wears on, a visit from a menacing presence soon makes them realize that the legend is all too real, and more sinister than they could have ever imagined.

Blair Witch is the sequel to The Blair Witch Project, the 1999 horror film that fooled a hell of a lot of people into believing it was all real. Of course, there was already a sequel, Book of Shadows, released in 2000 (but we don't speak of that one). The Blair Witch Project easily makes one of my top 10 horror flicks of all time (I've talked about it here and here), so I was hesitantly excited when I heard of Blair Witch. Before I saw it, I heard that Blair Witch might as well be a remake instead of a sequel, but with modern technology. Still, I went into it open and hoping to at least enjoy it.

James is the main character of this story and I was surprised to find out that he was (apparently) the brother of Heather, the main character of The Blair Witch Project. It has been 20 years since she went missing in the woods and for some reason he has only now decided to go looking for her... because his sister might still be alive... in the woods... 20 years later. This was where my issues with Blair Witch began, only minutes in.

There are, of course, other characters. Lisa is the girl who James is kind of into, their friends Ashley and Peter, and the two locals, Lane and Talia, who agree to be their guides. Gone is the large camera from the original movie. Unfortunately, none of these characters have enough real screen time to become in any way memorable or sympathetic. Peter is the one who almost immediately freaks out and wants to go back, while Ashley gets injured right off the bat by walking through a river without shoes on. Lane and Talia prove themselves to be utterly useless and for some reason everyone sleeps in their own individual tents instead of sticking together in woods they know to be, you know, not right.

I should've listened to those who said this was basically a remake. This time around they have cameras that fit into their ears, drones, and other various cameras to record from every angle. Sadly, with this new technology, Blair Witch loses a lot of the mystery and suspense the original had. In The Blair Witch Project, the entire movie is filmed on a single camera, making it truly feel like real found footage. This one, however, is edited to show every conversation and trek from several different angles. It just lost all authenticity for me.

Speaking of the severe lack of suspense, Blair Witch relies far too much on jump scares. Where the original film showed a weird pile of rocks here, a stick figure there, or a character hearing strange voices, the sequel is 90% people running around and then bumping into each other and screaming. There was no real buildup and I felt very little actual fear. While there were a couple good scares during the hour and a half of runtime, it just was not enough to sell me.

All in all, this movie was just weird. The premise of Heather's brother looking for her 20 years after her disappearance alone is extremely questionable and the behavior of this group of people who have supposedly watched the original footage did not make any sense. Blair Witch did a lot of strange things with the mythology of the Witch - things that were totally unnecessary. I've also read that the directors backtracked from their original claims about the movie after it received (deserved) backlash from the public.

Though it was fun to return to the world of the Blair Witch in a way that was so similar to the original film, it just did not live up to my expectations at all. The premise was shaky, the scares were lazy, and the characters were really pretty dumb. At first I thought it might actually turn out okay, but the further it went on, the more I realized how much I disliked it.



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Friday, January 13, 2017

My absolute favorite movies based on books: adult edition


Ahh movies, my loves. There are so many great ones based on books that I couldn't fit them all into one post! Last week I shared with you my favorite movies based on kids' books. This week, as promised, I'm back with my favorite movies based on adult (non-kid?) books! While I haven't actually read all of the books they're based on, I can definitely vouch for each of these films!


THE LORD OF THE RINGS


Say hello to my favorite movie(s) of all time! It hurt my heart not to include The Lord of the Rings in last week's list, so now I can breathe a little easier. Fun fact: I've only read The Hobbit and the first two LotR books. I know it's probably blasphemous to say, but I loved the movies so much more. I became totally obsessed with them in high school and it never quite let up! In fact, the majority of my tattoos are LotR (ahem, Galadriel) themed. I didn't think The Hobbit movies were nearly as good, so you won't find them on this list, although I still enjoyed them! 


PLANET OF THE APES


I almost used -that- gif. You know, the one that would totally spoil the ending. It's just SO chilling! I first watched Planet of the Apes at some point during my childhood because my mom and uncle both loved them. I've owned several editions of the complete saga and re-watch them probably once a year. Seriously, if you've never seen the originals, at least go watch the first one. I actually didn't even know that Planet of the Apes was based on a book until fairly recently, so now I'm on the hunt for the audiobook.


JURASSIC PARK


Another oldie, but goodie! My mom let me watch this movie when I was nine, alongside Jaws. This was pretty much the beginning of my love for killer animal movies (Killer Bees, The Birds, you guys know). I ended up loving all three of them, although I've recently watched the third again and realized that it was um... it was special. And yes, I even LOVED Jurassic World. It's totally possible that it was mostly nostalgia, but I can't wait for the next one and I kind of hope they never stop making these. This is yet another one I haven't actually read, but I do at least own it!


ATONEMENT


If you are searching for a movie to rip your heart out and stomp all over it, look no further! Atonement is a romance and a story about, well, atonement. You see, Cecilia's little sister Briony has gotten her boyfriend(?) into trouble and from there things unravel rather spectacularly. The rest of the film follows all three of their independent stories and Briony's attempt to atone for what she's done to her sister. This is yet another one that I didn't realize was based on a book until after it killed me for the second time (are you even shocked at this point?). I'm not sure I would actually read the book, but the movie has made my favorites shelf.  


THE SHINING


You may not believe it, but I've actually read The Shining! I even read the new(ish) sequel, Doctor Sleep! Stephen King is really hit or miss for me, but The Shining was a hit in both formats. It's one of the only classic horror films I've actually really enjoyed and one I do re-watch occasionally. There's something so terrifying about the slow unravelling of sanity at the Overlook Hotel that freaks me out more than most modern horror flicks. I definitely recommend checking out the book and the movie if you haven't already! (Maybe skip the sequel though, if we're being honest.)


WORLD WAR Z


Shockingly, I actually read this book too. I'm kind of scared to admit that I didn't actually like it at all though... In fact, I didn't finish it. But I got a chance to see World War Z in theaters and loved it so much I saw it again! This zombie movie is pretty unlike any others I'd seen before it and, um, Brad Pitt was in it. I love horror and I love movies about the end of the world, so it's no surprise that this one is on my list of favorites.



Are any of these movies on your favorites list?
Is there one that I'm missing and should know about? 
Let me know in the comments!
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Thursday, January 12, 2017

Book Review: The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig


Title: The Girl From Everywhere (The Girl From Everywhere #1)
Author: Heidi Heilig
Publication Date: February 16, 2016
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Pages: 464
Add to Goodreads


//I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review//

Nix has spent her entire life aboard her father’s ship, sailing across the centuries, across the world, across myth and imagination.

As long as her father has a map for it, he can sail to any time, any place, real or imagined: nineteenth-century China, the land from One Thousand and One Nights, a mythic version of Africa. Along the way they have found crewmates and friends, and even a disarming thief who could come to mean much more to Nix.

But the end to it all looms closer every day.

Her father is obsessed with obtaining the one map, 1868 Honolulu, that could take him back to his lost love, Nix’s mother. Even though getting it—and going there—could erase Nix’s very existence.

For the first time, Nix is entering unknown waters.

She could find herself, find her family, find her own fantastical ability, her own epic love.

Nix lives a very unique life. As long as her father has a map, he can sail his ship to any place or time, real or imagined. Can you imagine the possibilities? Traveling to anywhere in the world, visiting your favorite fictional lands. Sounds absolutely amazing.

I'll be honest...when I first read The Girl from Everywhere, I enjoyed it. Was it life-changing? No. But it was a fun, quick read that let me escape from the real world for a bit. It was well-written and a fun story. But when I took a step back and started looking at this book critically, there were a lot of places where it fell flat.

This book had so much hype around it when it first released, and I have to admit, I was really excited for it. I was so excited to travel the world (and the fictional world) with Nix and the crew of her father's ship. But unfortunately, I didn't get the adventure that I was hoping for. The majority of the book took place in Hawaii, which is an awesome setting, but not what I had been led to believe was waiting for me. There was very little time spent in other lands. There were only a couple chapters spent in India, China, and modern-day New York. We spent a lot of time in Hawaii, and although it was awesome to read about a place that isn't often discussed in YA literature, there was one very important thing missing.....the Hawaiians! I understand that the book is about the daughter of an immigrant to Hawaii, but seriously, there were barely any actual Hawaiian natives in the story. How can a book take place in one place and not include any natives to that area??? I feel like that was such a missed opportunity because Hawaii has such an interesting history and rich culture.

I didn't feel very connected to Nix as a character, but I actually really enjoyed the supporting characters. Kashmir was amazing and I would have loved to learn more about him. I would definitely read a story just dedicated to his backstory. The rag-tag crew on the ship was also made up of other people from various times, places, and fictional worlds. I wish so much that we had been able to learn more about their stories. They were a really cool group, but they weren't developed as much as they could have been.

One other thing that I found a little annoying was the magic(?) system. I personally don't like unanswered questions, so this might not bother you if you are ok with that. But there wasn't really any explanation of why Nix's father can travel via map, or how it works, or if it is even magic or something else. I would have liked to learn more about Navigators, but I never got any answers. Perhaps these questions will be addressed in the next book? I probably won't ever find out.

Honestly, if I had read this series when the second book was already published and I could marathon them, maybe I would have continued on with Nix's story. But the next book won't be out for a while and I am already starting to forget a lot of details about the book. While I enjoyed The Girl from Everywhere while I was reading it, I don't feel connected to the characters or the story and I don't think I will pick up the next book.




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