Sunday, January 31, 2016

Weekly Recap: 1/24 - 1/30


My Super Exciting Life 

This week was, thankfully, mostly uneventful. I walked a few puppies, which was honestly so much fun. If I could walk dogs every day forever and get paid for it, I think I'd be happy.

On Monday I headed over to Epcot for the afternoon and had lunch in Paris. After riding a few rides and roaming around the World Showcase I headed back home. I'd be lying if I said I didn't adore living close enough to Disney World to visit for a couple hours at a time!

I continued to binge read fantasy books this week, catching up with The Remnant Chronicles. I'm finishing up the third Grisha book now and then I suppose I'll move on to Six of Crows. I also visited the library again and have continued to be impressed with their selection, although I still say the local branches aren't much to look at. I suppose the books are what's important though!

The Celebration of Harry Potter was this weekend at Universal Studios and I had planned to attend yesterday with a friend to take part in the memorial to Alan Rickman. Unfortunately, I didn't feel too great and ended up staying home. From what I've heard, I didn't miss too much. The celebration honestly sounds like too much waiting and negotiating crowds for my taste. Maybe I'll head over next year!



New Books

For Review



From the Library

    



In Case You Missed It

Monday book review of The House
The topic was YA fantasies I need to read for Top Ten Tuesday
I featured Jane Steele for Waiting on Wednesday
Thursday book review of The Kiss of Deception
On Friday I talked about the dystopian genre


This Week I Read

  



Upcoming Reviews

  


I'm linking up to Stacking the Shelves & The Sunday Post!
Friday, January 29, 2016

So what is dystopia, really?

It has recently come to my attention that either I am really confused about what qualifies as "dystopia" or a lot of other people are. Here's what I think of when I picture dystopian fiction:


Each of these books is sci-fi(ish), about people in the future dealing with crazy governments and dire situations, which is the loose definition I had in my mind. But there are so many seemingly random books tagged as dystopia on Goodreads that, as one of the hosts of the 2016 Dystopia Reading Challenge, I felt I had to dig into this a little further.

Google defines dystopia as "an imagined place or state in which everything is unpleasant or bad, typically a totalitarian or environmentally degraded one." That sounded pretty accurate as far as what I generally think of when I'm searching for a new book to read.

But then I took it a step further and looked up "dystopian fiction" on Wikipedia and found this: "Dystopia is defined as an alternate society characterized by a focus on negatives, usually frightening, such as mass poverty, public mistrust and suspicion, police state, squalor, suffering, and/or oppression, that society has most often brought upon itself." Okay, still not bad. It was starting to seem like my idea about what makes a dystopian book was actually pretty on point.

So why is it that, when dystopian fiction seems to be such a well understood genre, does there seem to be such confusion over what qualifies? Here are some example of books I've seen tagged as dystopia that seemed a little off to me:


Let me just put this right out there in the open: I tagged An Ember in the Ashes and The Winner's Curse as dystopia. Why? Because everybody else did! But are they really? Yes, they have unfortunate governments and some dire circumstances. But how exactly do they fit into the definition of dystopia?! And that was when I realized... It was possible I had been projecting my own preconceptions onto the genre.

I went to what I considered to be the source on the matter, Tor.com, and I found this: "'Dystopia' is not a synonym for 'post-apocalyptic'; it also is not a synonym for a bleak, or darkly imagined future. In a dystopian story, society itself is typically the antagonist; it is society that is actively working against the protagonist’s aims and desires."


Nowhere in any of these definitions did it say anything about a "future" society. I felt like I had been living a lie!! Who told me that dystopia went hand in hand with science fiction and the future of the human race? By these definitions, An Ember in the Ashes and The Winner's Curse WOULD qualify as dystopia! But then where is the line between simple fantasy and dystopian fantasy?

After all this digging and soul searching, I am even more confused than before. I went into this thinking I knew what I was talking about and I've come out having my preconceptions stomped all over. Did you already know this about dystopian fiction? Like me, did you think dystopia was an offshoot of science fiction? Even Amazon has it categorized that way! I'd love to hear your thoughts on how you decide whether to tag something as dystopia or not! Let me know in the comments!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Book Review: The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson


Title: The Kiss of Deception (The Remnant Chronicles #1)
Author: Mary E. Pearson
Publication Date: July 8, 2014
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. 
Pages: 489
Add to Goodreads
Reviews for book 2 & book 3

A princess must find her place in a reborn world.

She flees on her wedding day.

She steals ancient documents from the Chancellor's secret collection.

She is pursued by bounty hunters sent by her own father.

She is Princess Lia, seventeen, First Daughter of the House of Morrighan.

The Kingdom of Morrighan is steeped in tradition and the stories of a bygone world, but some traditions Lia can't abide. Like having to marry someone she's never met to secure a political alliance.

Fed up and ready for a new life, Lia flees to a distant village on the morning of her wedding. She settles in among the common folk, intrigued when two mysterious and handsome strangers arrive—and unaware that one is the jilted prince and the other an assassin sent to kill her. Deceptions swirl and Lia finds herself on the brink of unlocking perilous secrets—secrets that may unravel her world—even as she feels herself falling in love.

I have owned The Kiss of Deception since last May. That's almost nine months that I could have already known this wonderful story. I could have known these wonderful characters and their wonderful world, but I didn't because I picked this one up, read a couple chapters, and put it back down. (This is the curse of being a mood reader.) Eventually, though, I did pick it up and I am SO glad I did!

Princess Lia (or just Lia) has been trapped by her parents in an arranged marriage with the prince of a neighboring kingdom. She isn't at all interested in this arrangement, so she takes things much further than other royals before her by running away from it all and starting a new life with her friend in another town. While I think Lia's decision to run away from her kingdom and start a new life may have (possibly) been the slightest bit impulsive, I did really love her as a character. I enjoyed watching her learn to navigate her new life as a commoner working as a tavern maid as opposed to her previous lavish existence. I found her to be sympathetic, even though she was coming from a position that most people couldn't identify with, and I loved the relationship between Lia and Pauline. My only real problem with Lia is that she continues to be an impulsive character (sometimes irrationally so) right up until the end.

There are two possible love interests in this story - one is an assassin and one is a prince. Both these men are fully aware of Lia's true identity, but deception abounds and she has no idea who they are. While she is creating her new life, the assassin and the prince are both have very conflicting feelings about Lia. This is a love triangle that works within the story. Both these characters are so very different that it's really easy to see how Lia could fall for each of them. Kaden and Rafe are both such excellent characters in their own ways. Personally, I loved both of them! I was really glad that the love triangle was not there throughout the entire book, though. Although her girlfriends are pushing her in both directions, Lia does eventually make up her mind (I haven't made my mind up yet, though).

The world of The Remnant Chronicles is spectacular!! I loved every single place they visited whether or not Lia was happy about her location. Not only has Mary E. Pearson created incredible landscapes, she's created unique mythology and even wildlife to accompany each place. I was so thankful for the map on the inside cover and found myself constantly referring to it. I felt like I could picture each place on the map that was described and that is really one of the most important things to me when I read fantasy!

And then there's the story itself. This one is so good! Unfortunately, I ruined what I suppose was going to be the big twist by snooping around the internet, but that didn't mess up the experience at all for me. Even though I knew what Lia didn't, I still found myself being shocked for her each time something new was revealed. There is so much unique mythology in The Kiss of Deception and little bits of it are sprinkled at the beginning of each chapter. It really makes this world feel genuine. But the very best part about this book was that it made me FEEL! There is a particular scene near the end that basically ripped my heart out of my chest and stomped on it and that truly doesn't happen much.

The Kiss of Deception is a truly fantastic book! The only issue I had with it was the beginning being a little slow for me. Once events really got moving, though, I really enjoyed it! The writing was immersive and I really even loved the multiple perspectives of the book, which I usually cannot get into. I definitely recommend this to fantasy fans and I cannot WAIT to read book two!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday #86: Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye


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

Jane Steele
by Lyndsay Faye
Publication Date: March 22, 2016
Reader, I murdered him.

A darkly brilliant Gothic retelling of Jane Eyre from the Edgar-nominated author of The Gods of Gotham.

Like the heroine of the novel she adores, Jane Steele suffers cruelly at the hands of her aunt and schoolmaster. And like Jane Eyre, they call her wicked - but in her case, she fears the accusation is true. When she flees, she leaves behind the corpses of her tormentors.

A fugitive navigating London's underbelly, Jane rights wrongs on behalf of the have-nots whilst avoiding the noose. Until an advertisement catches her eye. Her aunt has died and the new master at Highgate House, Mr Thornfield, seeks a governess. Anxious to know if she is Highgate's true heir, Jane takes the position and is soon caught up in the household's strange spell. When she falls in love with the mysterious Charles Thornfield, she faces a terrible dilemma: can she possess him - body, soul and secrets - and what if he discovers her murderous past?
I've never actually read Jane Eyre but I will totally read it so that I can read this one! I saw the movie years ago and really enjoyed it!!


"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event hosted at Breaking the Spine.
Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday #80: YA fantasies I need to read


Today's Topic: 
Top Ten YA Fantasies
I REALLY need to read


If you stop by my blog often, you may have noticed I've been on kind of a fantasy binge... But there are just SO MANY more out there that I need to read!! Here are the ten I want to get to first!


        

Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes
Graceling by Kristin Cashore
The Orphan Queen by Jodi Meadows
Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo


        

The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
Uprooted by Naomi Novik
The Wrath and the Dawn by Renée Ahdieh


Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish.
Monday, January 25, 2016

Book Review: The House by Christina Lauren


Title: The House
Author: Christina Lauren
Publication Date: October 6, 2015
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Pages: 384

Add to Goodreads

Gavin tells Delilah he’s hers—completely—but whatever lives inside that house with him disagrees.

After seven years tucked away at an East coast boarding school, Delilah Blue returns to her small Kansas hometown to find that not much has changed. Her parents are still uptight and disinterested, her bedroom is exactly the way she left it, and the outcast Gavin Timothy still looks like he’s crawled out of one of her dark, twisted drawings.

Delilah is instantly smitten.

Gavin has always lived in the strange house: an odd building isolated in a stand of trees where the town gives in to mild wilderness. The house is an irresistible lure for Delilah, but the tall fence surrounding it exists for good reason, and Gavin urges Delilah to be careful. Whatever lives with him there isn’t human, and isn’t afraid of hurting her to keep her away.

Whoomp! There it is! My first 5 star book of 2016. This book was completely and utterly amazing and totally not what I was expecting at all. Going into The House, I expected a straightforward haunted house story, but that's not what this is at all. The House is a story about love and commitment just as much as it is a horror novel and it's beautiful.

Delilah and Gavin are the main characters in this wonderfully amazing book and the story is told from alternating perspectives. Delilah has had a thing for Gavin since before she left for boarding school and Gavin has secretly wondered if she really liked him, liked him. But then she comes home and stakes claim almost immediately and they begin an awkward friendship that slowly becomes more. They're both super weird kids in their own ways. Delilah is obsessed with horror movies and hauntings and Gavin, well, he lives in a really weird house.

The romance between these two was a huge focus of the book and I was totally okay with that. Their relationship was not insta-lovey at all, despite Delilah going after Gavin so quickly, and the romance between them was believable, natural, and totally swoon-worthy. I completely adored both of these characters, separately and together.

But, hey, this is a horror novel, so where's the horror?? Well, let me tell you. It's there. The horrific elements of The House are slow and subtle and sneakily creep up your spine until you find yourself looking over your shoulder and around corners before realizing how totally ridiculous you're being. Despite the fact that this book does focus heavily on romance, it is one of the best YA horror novels I've read. Period. There was mystery and shock factor and twists that I never saw coming.

If I could find one teensy thing to complain about it would be the over emphasis on descriptors for Gavin and Delilah. Seriously, by the end of this book I was wondering if Gavin was actually Hagrid. He was described as large and long and huge and big and massive and giant and I get it! The guy is really tall! Delilah should really get checked out by a doctor because she has a few kinds of birds, horses, and butterflies in her chest and that probably isn't healthy. All things considered, these are seriously minute issues though.

I truly wish that I could rave and fangirl over this book for awhile longer, but it's a book that I think would be very easily spoiled and so I'm not going to say too much more about it. Suffice it to say that this is a terrifically creepy book with amazing romance and you should totally read it if you like either of those things!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Weekly Recap: 1/17 - 1/23


My Super Exciting Life 

Well, this has been an interesting week! I walked some dogs this week and that was super fun! I'm still in training at this new job, but I feel like I'm going to fit in just fine. I get to hang out with dogs! They get me.

In other news, I checked out the library (finally)! I was honestly really impressed with the YA selection in the two Orlando branches I visited. That being said... the branches I went to were kind of sketchy. Luckily, I found out the Orlando library delivers to your house!! WHAT?!

The only other semi-interesting thing that happened this week was a quick trip to Magic Kingdom on Wednesday. I rode a few rides and grabbed dinner and just generally enjoyed the atmosphere.

And I'll leave you with a final warning: do not watch Everest. I made that mistake last night. It was a bad thing. I ended up depressed. Now I need to find a happy book to read.



New Books

Purchased

    


From the Library

    
    



In Case You Missed It

Monday audiobook review of Anyone?
The topic was recent TBR additions for Top Ten Tuesday
I featured A Court of Mist and Fury for Waiting on Wednesday
On Friday I talked about getting my books crossed
On Saturday I shared my Smuggler's Bounty unboxing



This Week I Read

      



Upcoming Reviews

  


I'm linking up to Stacking the Shelves & The Sunday Post!
Saturday, January 23, 2016

Smuggler's Bounty Resistance Unboxing

Happy Saturday, fellow book bloggers!! Today I'm doing something a little unusual on the blog and I'm pretty darned excited about it! I am unboxing my first ever Smuggler's Bounty subscription box.

If you don't know anything Smuggler's Bounty, it's the official Star Wars subscription box by Funko. Unlike other subscription boxes, this one is only sent every two months. The first box was sent in November and the theme was The First Order. I missed out on that one, but I knew I had to get my hands on the Resistance box!

Warning: this post will be picture-heavy!


My box arrived on Friday afternoon and I giddily ran to my apartment and had to restrain myself from opening it long enough to grab my phone to take pictures. The box itself is awesome. It was enough to make me squeal like a little girl, if we're being totally honest. 



When I opened the box, I found two small items: a BB-8 patch and a Poe Dameron pin. The patch says "Resistance" on it and is totally adorable, although I have no idea what to do with a patch. The pin is super cute and maybe a teensy bit more functional, although I haven't decided where to put it yet. I pulled both those items out of the box and flipped open the hidden compartment...



...where I found the coolest Funko shirt ever!! It has several resistance characters on it, Chewbacca obviously looking the most ferocious (as he does). My only complaint about the shirt is that it only comes in men's sizes. I ordered a small and it's a bit too big, so I'll probably try going with an x-small next time. This one is still going to make a great pajama shirt though! The November box contained 1 of 4 shirt variations, but it's unclear whether this box had variations also.



Next was what we've all been waiting for! 



The promised flocked Pop! This Chewie is adorably vicious and is covered in soft fuzzies. I love him! If you want to see him out of the box, stay tuned on my Instagram!



I had already accidentally seen a spoiler of the last item, which was a C-3PO mug. It's square, so I think it would probably be difficult to drink out of. Since I'm out of room in my mug cabinet anyway, I'll probably just use this one as decoration.



So there you have it! The Star Wars Smuggler's Bounty Resistance box! Overall, I was very pleased with this box and definitely think it was worth the price ($25+S/H)!



I loved the Pop and the t-shirt (even though it was too big) and the other items were pretty cool too. I love that the things in the box are exclusive to Smuggler's Bounty and that not just anyone can go buy them at Hot Topic!



I highly recommend the Smuggler's Bounty subscription box if you're a Star Wars fan or collector. I really don't think you'll be disappointed! You can check it out and sign up for the March box here!