Monday, October 26, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday 70 - Halloween-themed books for the faint of heart


Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.
This week's theme: Top Ten Halloween Books for the Faint of Heart

I'm a really big scaredy-cat when it comes to horror. I get disturbed really easily and  I don't like reading books that are dark without any light-hearted parts or nice warm-fuzzies to balance them out. So here's a few creepy/Halloween-themed books that I liked and didn't freak me out too much!


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This book is full of ghouls and ghosts and other things that stalk the night, but it's actually a really endearing coming of age story :)
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This book terrified me when our 3rd grade teacher read it to us in class, but I loved it anyway. It's sinister and creepy without being gory or over-the-top.
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I liked The Diviners better than Lair of Dreams, but this one is still a lot of fun and features ghosts and a lot of mysterious happenings.
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This book isn't technically Halloween but it's really creepy and fascinating and horrifying even though it's not actually that gory. The characters are really messed up though. You've been warned!
 

The original Dracula is really old but it's so wonderfully creepy! I really enjoyed reading it and seeing the original story behind this Halloween staple.
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Another classic! This one isn't that terrifying, but it's disturbing when you start questioning who the monster is...
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This book is great! I really enjoyed how we get a global perspective on a potential zombie apocalypse and how it's told through interviews with really interesting characters.
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Another great zombie apocalypse book. I loved how it wove in journalism, humor, and politics in along with the viral zombie plague.


Have you read any of these? Any recs for non-terrifying Halloween books?
Happy Halloween!

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Friday, October 23, 2015

Review: Made to Kill

23848137Title: Made to Kill
Author: Adam Christopher
Genre: Science fiction, Mystery, Historical Fiction

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Goodreads Summary:In an alternate version of 1960s Los Angeles, the world’s only robot detective has been turned into a hit man by his corrupted master computer.
Ray is good at the job, too—not only does nobody suspect the world’s last robot is a hit man, his fame allows the Electromatic Detective Agency to continue as the perfect front, and with a twenty-four-hour memory limit, he sure can keep a secret.
When a woman arrives at the agency wanting to hire Ray to investigate the brutal murder of a priest, his attempts to dissuade her are overruled when she produces a lucrative advance payment. Profit is profit, and Ray accepts the job, even though the woman demands total anonymity. She tells them not to try to reach her—she’ll call when the time is right—and she vanishes into the city.
Ray’s investigation leads him into a dark world of Hollywood intrigue, where the glamorous jet set societies are under the spell of a mysterious bandage-swathed man. The man and his champagne-sipping circle of followers conduct Satanic rituals behind Hollywood’s razzle-dazzle façade—rituals that lead to . . . murder!

This kind of feels like the show Agent Carter without the incredible Peggy Carter. The book takes place in a not-so-distant past where the Russian spies are hiding around every corner but there are still lots of cool futuristic gadgets. It's an exciting time, compounded by the lavish lives of movie stars and their dramatic lives both on and off screen. With such an awesome setting, I was really excited about this book, especially since I really enjoy both sci-fi and mysteries. Unfortunately I didn't think this book did justice to either genre.

This isn't a bad book, and I didn't dislike it; I was just bored through most of it. This might have been because the main character is a robot who is programmed by a supercomputer to assassinate other people. Our narrator's memory is stored on tapes that are backed up and wiped clean every night, so he doesn't even remember what he did or felt the day before. It's very emotionally disconnected, and it's very hard to get invested in a character with amnesia when you don't care about the how or why. I usually enjoy stories with unreliable narrators, especially ones with flaky memory, because I want to find out what trauma made them that way or how they piece together their lives. Here, you know it's just a technical aspect of being an automaton. It's just so...dull.

The entire book felt like that to me. I was expecting to like it because there were so many elements I enjoy in other contexts, but thrown together in this book, everything was just lackluster. I didn't find any particular aspect of this book compelling and honestly wouldn't have bothered finishing if it weren't so short.


A free e-ARC was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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Monday, October 19, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday 69: Book Genie wishes



Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.
This week's theme: Top Ten Wishes for the Book Genie

This is so easy! I have so many book wishes haha


  1. Finally go to a Sanderson signing

    This almost happened this month during the Shadows of Self Tour, but life happened and I didn't get to go to the SoCal signing/my mom couldn't make it to the Bay area one  :(


    IT'S OKAY ONE DAY I WILL ACTUALLY GET TO MEET ONE OF MY FAVORITE AUTHORS AND IT WILL BE AWESOME.
  2. Another thing I was really looking forward to but fell through this year: ALA was in SAN FRANCISCO and I was really excited because it's so close to home and for once I wasn't in school so I could definitely go...



    but life happened and my family was across the country during ALA.

    Book Genie, please get me to a book conference sometime soon?
  3. This one is an impossible wish, but please make more time in the day so I can read ALL THE BOOKS?

  4. And another impossible wish: Please make all my favorite series be published without delays ever because the wait is bad enough without unexpected publishing delays. My heart can't take it! *sniffles*

  5. Okay, more specific wish: I wish for one more book this year that will blow me away. I've read a lot of really great ones this year, and I'm hoping I run into at least one more extra special book before the year ends.
  6. This one is kind of on me: I don't stay super on top of publishing schedules, so by the time I realize a book I'm really anticipating is coming up and request an ARC, I'm too late! Book genie, help me get more magical ARCs :)


  7. Meeting more book blogger friends: I've only met one fellow blogger friend in real life, and I'm hoping that number goes up because a lot of you are so awesome and get me through really bad days just by being there to rant to (about books and life in general) :)
  8. This ties back to number 1, but basically meeting any author would make my day. I'd just be extra happy if it was one of my favorites :)
  9. This wish is mostly because I read fantasy a lot, but Book genie, please grant me the ability to know how to correctly pronounce every fictional name ever?
  10. Last but not least, I wish for these beautiful bookshelves.



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Sunday, October 18, 2015

Review: A Discovery of Witches

8667848Title: A Discovery of Witches
Author: Deborah Harkness
Genre: literary fiction, urban fantasy

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Goodreads Summary:Deep in the stacks of Oxford's Bodleian Library, young scholar Diana Bishop unwittingly calls up a bewitched alchemical manuscript in the course of her research. Descended from an old and distinguished line of witches, Diana wants nothing to do with sorcery; so after a furtive glance and a few notes, she banishes the book to the stacks. But her discovery sets a fantastical underworld stirring, and a horde of daemons, witches, and vampires soon descends upon the library. Diana has stumbled upon a coveted treasure lost for centuries-and she is the only creature who can break its spell.
Debut novelist Deborah Harkness has crafted a mesmerizing and addictive read, equal parts history and magic, romance and suspense. Diana is a bold heroine who meets her equal in vampire geneticist Matthew Clairmont, and gradually warms up to him as their alliance deepens into an intimacy that violates age-old taboos. This smart, sophisticated story harks back to the novels of Anne Rice, but it is as contemporary and sensual as the Twilight series-with an extra serving of historical realism.


This book has may sound like urban fantasy (witches and vampires hiding in plain sight in the modern day), but it reads like literary fiction that just happens to have witches and vampires in it. I don't really know how to describe what kind of book this is, but I really enjoyed it and I'm looking forward to more!

A Discovery of Witches mainly follows Diana Bishop as she comes to terms with her past and her important role in the future of magic. Diana comes from a long line of famous and powerful witches, and has seen firsthand how crazy magic users become. She tries her best to avoid supernatural creatures and almost never uses her magic. But one day, she accidentally discovers one of the most coveted treasures of the magic world: Ashmole 782. No one can quite agree on what exactly is in the Ashmole manuscript, but everyone agrees that it is priceless and the power it could hold is unimaginable.

Although the stakes are high, this is by no means an action-packed book. It's very richly detailed and slow; it's all about getting to know the characters as slowly as they get to know each other. I'll admit Matthew creeped me out as first, just like he did Diana, but after a while I loved him and I couldn't imagine ever thinking he had sinister intentions. I think Harkness does a great job of that with all her characters: first impressions aren't always correct, but we get plenty of time to learn more about each of the characters and revise how we look at them.

I did enjoy the care that went into portraying each nuanced character, but at times I felt like the detail was a little too much. Every single article of clothing in this book was detailed down to the color, fabric, and number of buttons, and the food was similarly catalogued. It felt slow at times; I didn't need to know every note of the 300-year-old wine Diana was drinking in order to picture that particular scene.

Even if this is a slow book, once things start happening, they really don't stop. I thought the resolution to the stories Diana's parents told her as a child was really well-done and and I am looking forward to seeing how things play out in book 2.

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Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Review: ILLUMINAE


23395680Title: Illuminae
Author: Amie Kaufman, Jay Kristoff
Genre: Science fiction, young adult

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Goodreads Summary:
This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do.
This afternoon, her planet was invaded.
The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.
But their problems are just getting started. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet's AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it's clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore she'd never speak to again.
Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents—including emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more—Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping, high-octane trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes.


There are just so many good things to say about this book, I don't even know where to begin! I went into this book with really high expectations because of all the gushing from everyone I knew. I usually find that the hype makes me enjoy a book less because it'll be great but not freaking fantastic. This book is freaking fantastic.

Kady is such a badass. First of all, props for having the main character be a girl who loves to code and is really good at it. It's so great to see a main character who's a female engineer, because I'm a woman engineer and sometimes it's depressing how few of us there are (let's not even talk about women in STEM being included in fiction). Not only is she a great hacker, she is also amazingly resilient and resourceful, and when the entire world is collapsing around her, she finds a way to protect the people she cares about. And unlike most heroic main characters who save the day without a scratch on them, Kady has a lot of doubts and fears about what she's doing. People she cares about get hurt, and that really takes a piece out of her. Kady is just so real. I loved her!

I've been gushing on and on about Kady, but there were plenty of other great characters. Ezra is hilarious and it's clear he really cares about Kady. He does his best to make sense of his new situation and do what he thinks is right. And AIDAN. I never thought I would have so many emotions about a giant piece of artificial intelligence, but AIDAN really took me on an emotional roller coaster. AIDAN made me terrified, AIDAN made me laugh, AIDAN made me cry with sorrow and with empathy.

The cool thing about this book is that it is presented as a dossier of files collected by the Illuminae group. You get to know the characters through interview transcripts, video footage, chats, and journal entries. The whole book is structured in such an interesting way, and there are a lot of gorgeous spreads. This is one of those books where the way the words fit on the page is a form of poetry and adds so much more to the story the words are trying to tell.

Basically, if you've been living under a rock and haven't heard anyone telling you to go read this book this instant, this is me telling you to go read this book. Now.

A free ARC was provided by Knopf in exchange for an honest review

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Saturday, October 10, 2015

BFF Blog Hop!




Here's my stop on the BFF Blog hop, hosted by Swoony Boys Podcast and Fiction Fare! Also posting today are The Novel Orange, Don't Fold the Page, The Reader and the Chef so be sure to check them out!

I thought this would be a fun way to get to know other book bloggers and spread the love, and hunting for awesome bookstagrammers was a lot of fun. Most of them are twitter friends who also have bookstagrams, but I found a few new ones tooHere are a few awesome ones I found:
This one was new to me, but I loved all the trinkets and color coordination that goes into featuring different books!

I found this one while I was hunting for new bookstagrammers, and I just can't wrap my head around how gorgeous all of these photos are. Just wow.

A twitter friend! I loooooooove Brittany's #weeklybookstagram feature, and all her pictures are so cute! They make me really excited about whatever book she's reading :)

Okay, so this isn't technically a bookstagrammer but I love seeing the new book-related shirts and totes and library card socks that OOP throws our way!

A photo posted by @twobooksaday on
Here's another one that was new to me.  I thought the layout and recommendations were really fun :) Brownie points for the Fantasy section being the biggest haha

I feel like most of the book blogging world knows Jamie, but it can't hurt to say it again: I love how her pictures (and her blog) just feel like you're chatting with a friend.

A photo posted by Amber (@booksofamber) on
Here's another twitter friend!  She's holding Crini's handmade bookmarks in this picture, which are super pretty, but her other pictures are really pretty too!

A photo posted by Crini (@xcrini) on
More twitter friends! I feel like Crini is secretly an interior designer or something because all her artsy photos are on point!

My favorite thing about the My Friends are Fiction blog is the Lego covers feature. There aren't too many of those pictures on the instagram, but there are still lot of really cool photos!

A photo posted by Andi (@andiabcs) on  
Andi's instagram is super fun, with all sorts of odds and ends, both bookish and clothing related!

Giveaway

Check out this awesome giveaway! There will be 3 winners. We are giving away $75, $50, and $25 gift cards to the winner's choice of book retailer.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
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Thursday, October 8, 2015

My favorite reads of 2015...so far




I know it's only October, and I've got a good 3 months more to read all sorts of fantastic books, but I'm really excited about some of these and I just can't wait until December to tell you all to read them! Here are some of my favorite reads (some ARCs, some not) from this year.

Fantasy

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Uprooted is one of those books that is really slow and you don't realize how much you're falling for it until you're halfway through and you realize you just can't put it down. It's lyrical and beautiful, but it also has one of the most unconventional fantasy protagonists I've ever written. Agnieszka is an unapologetic klutz and actually pretty terrible about learning how to control her magical powers, but she's also fiercely loyal and headstrong and brave. The setting is such a big part of this story, which I loved.


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No surprises here! I cannot believe how much this series has changed from book 1 to book 4. I really disliked the first book, and thought it was full of every cliche young adult fantasy trope I disliked. I also really didn't like Celaena as a character. Not only have the characters grown immensely over the past three books, Maas has grown as a writer as the series progresses. Now the Throne of Glass world is just as nuanced and rich as all the other fantasy series I adore. I never imagined my opinion on a series could change so drastically, but I'm glad I gave this series a second chance!


Science Fiction

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If you haven't heard how fantastic Illuminae is, clearly you've been living under a rock. Not only did I love the story itself (a spunky hacker girl taking on rogue artificial intelligence on a spaceship), I loved how everything was laid out on the page. This book is full of awesome spreads and words that twist across the page, making pictures and images that I can't get out of my head. It's just plain awesome! I'll have a full review of this one up very soon.


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I didn't think I'd even come close to finding another SF book I enjoyed as much as Illuminae, but I did! Sleeping Giants comes out early next year, so I won't spoil too much, but for once the description on the book jacket actually makes sense. This one really is an awesome combination of World War Z (it's told in interviews) and The Martian (legit science and snarky characters). I cannot wait for more of the Themis files...it's killing me that book 1 isn't officially out yet because I need book 2 NOW.

Other

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I'm one of those Black Sheep readers who read To Kill a Mockingbird in high school and didn't fall in love. I don't know if it was just the way my English teacher taught or if I just didn't like the book, but I remember thinking it was nothing special. Go Set a Watchman is another story! I loved this book, because it's so much more real to me. People are hardly as heroic as we think they are, especially our parents. As children, we think of them as wonderful people who do no wrong (as we should) but as we grow older, sometimes our rosy glasses are yanked off quite forcefully and we're left reeling as we try and accept the real world. I adored this book and I'm so sad that there won't be any more from Harper Lee.

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I really don't know why I enjoyed this book so much, but I loved it! The satire of both our workaholic, capitalistic culture and the suburban mom stereotypes was excellent. The story was never dull; I'd go from laughing to being very concerned to shocked. I really enjoyed how the whole book was a chronicle of a little girl's attempts to find her mother but it had many more layers than that. Told in emails and scavenged files and memos, this book is a lot of fun but also surprisingly insightful.



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Monday, October 5, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday 64 - Ten Tropes I'm quitting



Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.
This week's theme: Top Ten Bookish Tropes I'm Quitting

Here are a list of phrases and tropes that tick me off when I see them. I started out with contemporary/YA tropes and then moved on to SF/Fantasy tropes, so they're a little random...I couldn't think of 10, but here are a bunch of tropes that I'm really tired of!


  1. "But she wasn't like the other girls"


    This one is inspired by my current read. I'm so sick of the main character of books being "special" and "not like the other girls". It's subtle girl hate, and it's so annoying! Must every main character be some sort of Chosen One?

  2. "S/he let out a breath s/he didn't know s/he was holding"

    This one is just SO OVERDONE and it doesn't even make any sense!
  3. Love triangles.


    I'm so, so done with these. Thankfully they're pretty rare in Fantasy/SF so I don't run into them much anymore but love triangles (squares? PENTAGONS?) just need to stop being a thing.
  4. The ice-queen beauty

    This one is inspired by The Red Queen and every Taylor Swift music video ever. There's always that one beautiful girl the male MC likes, but she's apparently actually a bitch and the female MC spends all her time feeling worthless in comparison. More girl hate. Go away.
  5. Hand-wavy science

    I wrote a whole post on this for Sci-fi November last year, but it really bugs me when an author tries to explain away something with really flawed science. The most infuriating example that comes to mind is the genetics nonsense in the Divergent series, but there are plenty more. Just don't try and explain it with science if you aren't even going to try and make it reasonable!
  6. SF/fantasy worlds that lack diversity


    The real world isn't full of people who all look the same or have the same heritage, but invariably in fantasy and SF worlds, almost every story takes place in either a medieval European-inspired world or a world where only the white people managed to make it to space. It's getting better recently in terms of more races/gender identities and less stereotypes, but it's crazy how homogeneous made-up worlds are when there is so much freedom to have even more variation than the real world. This is why I love The 100: they actually do have a good representation of all sorts of people.
  7. Unpronounceable fantasy/SF names

    I did a whole post on this a long time ago too! I listened to Robert Jordan's Eye of The World on audio, so I thankfully missed all the infuriating apostrophes and didn't have to worry about pronouncing names. Some books do better than others with creating a linguistic pattern that is both interesting and easy or intuitive to pronounce.
  8. Magic powers/technology that only work when all is lost

    This is basically deus ex machina. I hate when the lost memory of our orphaned main character triggers their magical powers in the last second or when a technology that has taken a back seat suddenly comes to life and saves the day. It's so unbelievable and so overdone!



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