Sunday, 30 October 2016

Strictly Come Dancing Week 6 - Halloween (spoiler alert)

So we’re up to Week 6 of Strictly Come Dancing and of course this week is the Halloween Special.  Much like Movie Week, Halloween is a fun week with a great shout out to the make-up and wardrobe department.  All the contestants and their partners looked fantastic and the sets were also amazing.

The professional dancers performed a brilliant opening dance to You Spin Me Right Round (Like A Record) by Dead or Alive, a wonderful tribute to Pete Burns who sadly passed away earlier this week.

And so to the dances and in typical Halloween fashion there were some spooky surprises in the performances.  The two strongest contenders so far have been Ore Oduba and Danny Mac but both of them had bad performances tonight.  Danny Mac totally messed up his Foxtrot and Ore’s Charleston looked a bit messy and out of time.  Both guys ended up mid table which is an unusual place for them to be.  Another poor performance came from Anastacia who went from last week’s brilliant Quickstep to a very poor Jive this week, not the best comeback for Brendan Cole, back following his illness last week.

Being in the dance off last week seems to have affected poor Daisy Lowe’s confidence judging by her training this week.  She was down and quite tearful at times, however her Paso Doble was very strong and dramatic and impressed the judges.  Greg Rutherford had a bad week as well last week and on Sunday looked genuinely astounded he wasn’t in the dance-off. His Rumba this week was an improvement from last week’s Cha Cha Cha but it didn’t impress the judges.  However I did find him strangely sexy in his ghostly makeup.

Speaking of the Cha Cha Cha, in another Halloween shocker Ed Balls had his best dance yet. Now I don’t think he should have lasted this long but he actually performed moderately well tonight, not spectacular but not as bad as the last couple of weeks.

However there were some great performances of the evening from Laura Whitmore, who came back from injury with a stunning tango, Louise Redknapp danced a brilliant Charleston and her and Kevin Clifton easily had my favourite outfits of the night as Harley Quinn and The Joker.  Judge Rinder was brilliant moody and dramatic in his Paso Doble and joint top of the leaderboard with Laura was the adorable Claudia Fragapane who impressed the judges with her American Smooth (danced to one of my favourite songs Black Magic by Little Mix).

So by the end of Saturday night the leaderboard looked like this

Claudia Fragapane & AJ Pritchard 36
Laura Whitmore & Giovanni Pernice 36
Louise Redknapp & Kevin Clifton   35
Daisy Lowe & Aljaz Skorjanec 33
Judge Rinder & Oksana Platero 32
Ore Oduba & Joanne Clifton 32
Danny Mac & Oti Mabuse            30
Greg Rutherford & Natalie Lowe 26
Ed Balls & Katya Jones 26
Anastacia & Brendan Cole 25

So what frights will Sunday night bring with the results show?

Sunday night and yet more tricks and treats.  A hauntingly beautiful opening number from the professional dancers, Kevin Clifton and his wife Karen along with Brendan Cole taking centre stage to Phil Collins’ In The Air Tonight, a favourite song of mine anyway.

And to the dance off.  What on earth is Daisy Lowe doing in the bottom two again?  Her Paso was really good and it’s very disappointing to see her in the dance off again.  No surprises to see Anastacia in there again as her jive was dreadful.  The dance off however is only based on the final dance on the night regardless of prior performance on the Saturday but there was no change.  Daisy was strong once more and Anastacia was poor.  The judges agreed and voted four to nil for Daisy and it’s farewell Anastacia.  I wish I could say I was sorry but I’m not disappointed to see her leave.

Nine couples through to next week, there’s never anything taken for granted with Strictly so who knows what will happen.   Spooky!

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Unboxing - #nerdblock October 2016

So as I mentioned last month, Nerd Block is the very first subscription service I ever subscribed to, and this month's block marks the last one I will receive from them. My subscription was up fore renewal again (the last time it came up I bought a 6 month one), and since for the most part I've been less and less happy with the boxes over time I decided that I would cancel it this time. And fate must have agreed that was the right decision because right after I cancelled it LootCrate announced a Wizarding World of Harry Potter subscription block for the same price that my Nerd Block renewal fee was going to be -  so even though I originally complained that it was super expensive (because for the same price you only get half as many boxes because it's bimonthly instead of monthly) I caved and subscribed because I figured, it's Harry Potter there's really a very miniscule chance that I'll be unhappy with the contents, plus I can share anything Angie really wants out of them with her.

All that being said, for my last block it was a pretty good one. Have a look at what I got and then I'll tell you about the items clockwise from the bottom left again:

1. the Beetlejuice inspired Handbook for the Recently Deceased notebook

My coworkers and I were just discussing our mutual love of the ghost with the most last week so they're going to be jealous of this notebook, which even has striped pages to match Beetlejuice's iconic suit! So I know I said the Oz notebook from my Owlcrate was going to go to work but I think this notebook might instead. I grew up in the 90s and the Beetlejuice cartoon was one of my favourites, I also loved the 1988 movie starring Michael Keaton and Winona Ryder which of course inspired the cartoon.

2. Scream print

Scream and the Scream franchise are my absolute favourite horror movies. I saw Scream on VHS in 1997. We watched it for the very first time at my 11th birthday party - a sleepover, and I have a vivid memory of my parents scaring the crap out of us - to this day my mother maintains that it wasn't on purpose but I still don't believe her. We were in the middle of the opening sequence with Drew Barrymore when we hear a knock on the family room window (which was 6 feet off the ground mind you) which caused us all to scream in fright. I jumped up on the couch and looked out and couldn't see any one. When I looked away there was another knock which caused us all to panic and scatter into the kitchen looking for my parents who were laughing their butts off at us. Turns out my mum, who'd gone out for a smoke had knocked on the window trying to get our attention. That's the origin story of my love for Scream I've at this point probably seem all of them about 500 times. So this print of Sidney and Ghostface is most definitely getting framed and hung, I already have a spot on the wall picked out for it.

3. Simpsons Tree House of Horror tshirt

The Simpsons is another series that I've loved since I was young and I always get a kick out of the Halloween specials. This tshirt will definitely see some use - I may wear it to work on the Friday before Halloween this year.

4. Ghostbusters Vinylmates action figure

This an exclusive item made for Nerd Block and it's awesome. I've never heard of the Vinylmates line before but I do love vinyl figurines I have god knows how many floating around here. This one is really neat it kind of looks like a giant LEGO minifig. This one is Ray from the original films and he's covered in Slimer slime! Love it, it's already found a home on my shelves next to my Funko!Dumbledore and last month's Joker action figure,

5. Walking Dead ear wallet

I am a zombie fan but I am not a Walking Dead fan, and even if I were I am not sure I would ever have the desire to use a wallet shaped like a fallen off zombie ear. I think I know a student assistant at work who is a Walking Dead fan so I think I will see if they wants it.

6. Alien salt and pepper shakers

Until now (literally at the time of writing this) I had never seen Alien, I knew about it from pop culture obviously but I'd never watched it before. That being said these salt and pepper shakers are really grossing me out. I have a coworker who loves Alien so I offered them to her and she was all for it until I said they were shaped like alien eggs at which point she then got grossed out too haha.

Overall feelings for this box? I love 4/6 of the items so that's not a bad haul at all. Now if I could just find someone to give these salt and pepper shakers to...

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Musing Mondays - booktoberfest #bookhaul & trying to predict the future in my current read

Musing Mondays - October 24, 2016

Musing Mondays is a weekly meme that asks you to choose one of the following prompts to answer:

  • I’m currently reading…
  • Up next I think I’ll read…
  • I bought the following book(s) in the past week…
  • I’m super excited to tell you about (book/author/bookish-news)…
  • I’m really upset by (book/author/bookish-news)…
  • I can’t wait to get a copy of…
  • I wish I could read ___, but…
  • I blogged about ____ this past week…

I bought the following book(s) in the past week…

When I was reading through last week's Musing Monday posts from the other participants I noticed that one of them mentioned that was having a Booktoberfest sale - and I mentioned how dangerous that would be. I grossly underestimated the danger level. The entire site, which already had cheap prices and very good shipping costs, was 15% off for 3 days. Yeah I couldn't pass that up not when there are so many series that I need books to finish. So I bought 8 books, only 7 are for me although I am sure I will read the 8th after my mum reads it. What did I buy then you're asking? Well, here's the list and the summaries and my thoughts:

1. Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay

As you've notice the last couple of weeks I am currently reading Kay's seminal Fionavar Tapestry trilogy, so I decided I wanted to delve into some of his other works to see if I'd enjoy them as much as I enjoy Fionavar. I also keep saying I would like to read more work by Canadian authors so it works for that too.

"Two rival conquerors have divided the Peninsula of the Palm. As the provinces in the peninsula were falling one by one, the sorcerer Brandin made a fateful decision, sending his beloved son to capture the last one. But when that son is killed on the battlefield, Brandin, blinded by grief, avenges his death by ruthlessly vanquishing the resistance and then cursing the people of this province with a dark sorcery--so that the very name of their home cannot be spoken or remembered. Years after that devastation, a handful of men and women set in motion a dangerous plot. Their aim: to overthrow both conquerors, and bring back to the world the lost brightness of an obliterated name--Tigana." -- via Goodreads 
2. Black Heart by Holly Black

This is the final book in Black's Curse Workers trilogy. I read, and enjoyed, the first two books in this series as soon as they came out, but then I just never got around to buying and reading the last book. For $2.79 I thought that now really was the perfect time to pick it up and I look forward to re-reading the first two so that I can read this one.

"In a world where Magic is illegal.Cassel Sharpe has the most deadly ability of all. With one touch, he can transform any object - including a person - into something else entirely. And that makes him a wanted man. The Feds are willing to forgive all his past crimes if he'll only leave his con artist family behind and go straight. But why does going straight feel so crooked?For one thing, it means being on the opposite side of the law from Lila, the girl he loves. She's the daughter of a mob boss and getting ready to join the family business herself. Though Cassel is pretty sure she can never love him back, he can't stop obsessing over her. Which would be bad enough, even if her father wasn't keeping Cassel's mother prisoner in a posh apartment and threatening not to let her leave until she returns the priceless diamond she scammed off him years ago. Too bad she can't remember where she put it.The Feds say they need Cassel to get rid of a powerful man who is spinning dangerously out of control. But if they want Cassel to use his unique talent to hurt people, what separates the good guys from the bad ones? Or is everyone just out to con him?Time is running out, and all Cassel's magic and cleverness might not be enough to save him. With no easy answers and no one he can trust, love might be the most dangerous gamble of all." --via Goodreads
3. Sea of Shadows by Kelley Armstrong

I love Kelley Armstrong, and she's the second Canadian author on today's list. In fact she's actually local to me if I remember correctly which is pretty cool. Anyway she write paranormal fantasy and she does it well. I have yet to read a book by her that I have disliked. Sea of Shadows is the first book in her Age of Legends series. I already owned, but had not read, an ebook copy of this one; however, with the second and third books being for sale on bookoutlet I decided I would order a physical copy of this one so I could have the whole series in the same format and at $6.62 it really wasn't that costly of a decision.

"In the Forest of the Dead, where the empire’s worst criminals are exiled, twin sisters Moria and Ashyn are charged with a dangerous task. For they are the Keeper and the Seeker, and each year they must quiet the enraged souls of the damned.Only this year, the souls will not be quieted.Ambushed and separated by an ancient evil, the sisters’ journey to find each other sends them far from the only home they’ve ever known. Accompanied by a stubborn imperial guard and a dashing condemned thief, the girls cross a once-empty wasteland, now filled with reawakened monsters of legend, as they travel to warn the emperor. But a terrible secret awaits them at court—one that will alter the balance of their world forever." -- via Goodreads
4. Empire of Night by Kelley Armstrong

The second book in the Age of Legends series. This one only cost $4.41 on bookoutlet during the sale.

"SISTERS MORIA AND ASHYN ARE THE KEEPER AND SEEKER OF EDGEWOOD.OR AT LEAST, THEY WERE.Their village is gone. Their friends have betrayed them. And now, they are all but prisoners in court, forced to watch and wait while the Emperor decides whether to help the children of Edgewood, who remain hostages of the treacherous Alvar Kitsune.But when the emperor finally sends the girls on a mission to rescue the children - accompanied by Prince Tyrus and a small band of men - the journey proves more perilous than any of them could have imagined. With lies and unrest mounting in the empire, Moria and Ashyn will have to draw on every bit of influence and power they possess to unite their people and avert an all-out war.In this second book in her epic and captivating Age of Legends trilogy, #1 New York Times bestselling author Kelley Armstrong blends romance, danger, and magic to send readers on a heart-racing journey through an unforgettable world." -- via Goodreads
 5. Forest of Ruin by Kelley Armstrong

This is the third book in Age of Legends and it was published earlier this year, April 5 to be precise. This was only $6.11 on booktoutlet which means I got the whole trio for $17.14 before tax. Forest of Ruin alone on Amazon would have cost me $20.56 before tax. That's why I didn't mind spending $6.62 on a physical copy of Sea of Shadows.

"In a world at war, who can you trust?The empire rests on the edge of a knife, and sisters Ashyn and Moria are the handle and the blade. Desperate to outmaneuver the evil Alvar Kitsune, whose hold on the people grows stronger every day, Emperor Tatsu begs Moria to put aside past grievances and ally with Gavril—at least long enough to make an attempt on Alvar’s life. Meanwhile, reunited with her long-lost grandfather, Ashyn discovers that she is the key to a ritual that could reawaken an ancient dragon and turn the tide of the coming battle in their favor.But with lies and betrayal lurking around every corner, Ashyn and Moria will have to decide once and for all where their allegiances are. And it may not be where their hearts would lead them…In this breathtaking final book in her epic trilogy the Age of Legends, #1 New York Times bestselling author Kelley Armstrong blends fantasy, action, and romance to give readers the unforgettable ending they’ve been waiting for. " -- via Goodreads
6. Once a Crooked Man by David McCallum

For those of you who don't recognise the name, David McCallum plays Ducky on NCIS and he was also Ilya Kuryakin in the original The Man from U.N.C.L.E. I adore him, but more importantly so does my mother. So when we found out a few years back that he'd written a crime novel I told her I would get it for her but she forbid me from paying full price. So I didn't, and now she's getting a copy for Christmas thanks to it only costing $3.90 on bookoutlet last week. This is the one that I plan to read once she's finished with it.

"A deliciously quirky crime novel from David McCallum, the beloved actor known for his portrayal of Illya Kuryakin on The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and Dr. Donald "Ducky" Mallard on NCIS.Crime pays. And pays well.Sal, Max and Enzo Bruschetti have proved this over a lifetime of nefarious activity that they have kept hidden from law enforcement. Nowhere in any file, on any computer is there a record of anything illegal from which they have profited. But Max has a problem. His body is getting old and his doctor has told him to take it easy. Max has decided that the time has come for the family to retire.But when young actor Harry Murphy overhears the Bruschetti brothers planning changes to their organization, including the murder of a man in London who knows too much, the Bruschetti's plans begin to unravel.After Harry makes the well-intentioned if egregious mistake of trying to warn the Bruchetti's intended victim he finds himself alone in a foreign country, on the wrong side of the law, with a suitcase full of cash and a dangerous man on his trail. And while his good looks, charm and cheerful persistence may prove assets in the turbulent events that follow, none of Harry's past roles have prepared him for what happens next.At turns tense and funny, Once a Crooked Man is infused with the infectious charm that has made David McCallum one of television's longest running, most-beloved stars." -- via Goodreads
7. Mortdecai AKA Don't Point that thing at me by Kyril Bonfiglioli

I did not know that this was a book let alone a trilogy of books until I saw it in the Movie tie-in section on bookoutlet. I have the movie, it's weird and funny and pretty much exactly what you would expect from something starring Johnny Depp, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ewan McGregor and Paul Bettany - except with fewer Iron Man references because I was expecting at least one of those once I realised that Bettany was playing Paltrow's butler. Needless to say once I realised that it was a book before it was a movie I decided I wanted to read the book so for $5.51 I thought why not and bought it.

"A cult classic in the UK since its first publication there in the 1970s, Don't Point That Thing at Me is the first of a series of hilarious and dark-humored crime thrillers featuring the Honorable Charlie Mortdecai: degenerate aristocrat, amoral art dealer, seasoned epicurean, unwilling assassin, and acknowledged coward.With his thuggish manservant - the incomparably named Jock Strapp - Mortdecai endures all manner of nastiness involving stolen paintings, a vintage Rolls Royce, secret police, a whirlwind trip to the United States, a dead client, and a ravishing and wealthy young widow...all just to make a dishonest living. He's not one to pass up a drink - or too many - and he prides himself on being stylishly dressed for whatever occasion may present itself, no matter how debauched. Don't miss this brilliant mixture of comedy, crime, and suspense." -- via Goodreads
8. The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow

Similar to Vassa in the Night from yesterday's #owlcrate unboxing I've heard about this one before on other blogs that I follow so I decided that for the low, low price of $4.41 I really couldn't pass it up. It's the first in a series and it was just published last year. It sounds like something I will really get into so I am excited for it.

"The world is at peace, said the Utterances. And really, if the odd princess has a hard day, is that too much to ask?Greta is a duchess and crown princess—and a hostage to peace. This is how the game is played: if you want to rule, you must give one of your children as a hostage. Go to war and your hostage dies.Greta will be free if she can survive until her eighteenth birthday. Until then she lives in the Precepture school with the daughters and sons of the world’s leaders. Like them, she is taught to obey the machines that control their lives. Like them, she is prepared to die with dignity, if she must. But everything changes when a new hostage arrives. Elián is a boy who refuses to play by the rules, a boy who defies everything Greta has ever been taught. And he opens Greta’s eyes to the brutality of the system they live under—and to her own power.As Greta and Elián watch their nations tip closer to war, Greta becomes a target in a new kind of game. A game that will end up killing them both—unless she can find a way to break all the rules." -- via Goodreads

          THIS WEEK’S RANDOM QUESTION: Take a guess at what might happen in the book you’re currently reading.

This week I am reading the second book in Guy Gavriel Kay's Fionavar Tapestry, The Wandering Fire. Which I have mentioned several times now that I have read before so I feel like if I answer this question it will be like cheating because I already know, and remember, some of the biggest plot twists in the book. I can't remember exact details, or the order in which the events take place, but I can remember all of the important things that happen to the main characters. That makes guessing rather futile I think.

I could take a guess at the order in which things are going to happen I suppose, but that really isn't in the spirit of this question. And even if it were I wouldn't be able to do it without giving away spoilers and there is absolutely no fun in that, so I am not going to do that. Instead I am going to modify the question slightly while meeting the spirit of the activity. I am going to grab a book from my TBR shelves and I'm going to then take a wild guess at what I think is going to happen in that book just based on the summary on the cover/dust jacket. That seems like it will be a fun exercise. Now to pick a book, now since Halloween is next week, why not go with a horror novel.

An Evil Guest by Gene Wolfe

"Set a hundred years in the future, An Evil Guest is a story of an actress who becomes the lover of both a mysterious sorcerer and private detective, and an even more mysterious and powerful rich man, who has been to the human colony on an alien planet and learned strange things there. Her loyalties are divided--perhaps she loves them both. The detective helps her to release her inner beauty and become a star overnight. And the rich man is the benefactor of a play she stars in. But something is very wrong. Money can be an evil guest, but there are other evils. As Lovecraft said, "That is not dead which can eternal lie."" -- via Goodreads
This book has been sitting on my TBR shelf for a good 5 years now. I was drawn to it inexplicably in the book store based mainly on the cover because it reminds me of one of my favoruite Christopher Pike novels. I'm going to be honest though, the reason I haven't read it yet is because I don't really have a sense of where it's going to go from that blurb, but now it's time for me to try and take a guess and maybe that will encourage me to finally read it. I've never read any Lovecraft (it's on my want to do list though) but I know that he specalised in eldritch horrors so I'm betting there's definitely going to be some very freaky alien interactions in this novel - perhaps her rich lover is possessed! Her life is definitely going to be in danger at some point, probably more than once. There's surely going to have to be a character death before the end of the book just based on the fact that there's a love triangle and it's a horror novel.

Huh, I was right this has triggered my curiosity. Not least of which because I read the cast of characters and found out that the main character has an awesome name, Cassie Casey, and there is in fact a character whose role is labelled "squid god" and another classed as "shark god". I think this book just got bumped up in the TBR pile, now I know what to pick up next time I'm in the mood to read a horror novel.

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Strictly Come Dancing Week 5 (spoiler alert)

Week Five of Strictly Come Dancing started with a few medical absences. Laura Whitmore suffered an ankle injury during her training this week and after seeing the Strictly doctor was ruled unfit to perform and according to the rules of the contest, she and partner Giovanni Pernice were granted a bye into the next round.  Also Brendan Cole who appeared to be suffering last week from a cough turned out to have a lung infection and earlier in the week had voluntarily attended A & E.  Due to this he had been unable to train with Anastacia and Gorka Marquez stepped in.  Despite his health improving towards the end of the week he decided to rest and let Anastacia perform with Gorka in the live show.

It certainly paid off and Anastacia performed her best routine yet and was one of my favourite performances this week, her Quickstep was lively and well performed, as was Claudia Fragapane’s Samba.  Judge Rinder’s jive showed much improvement from last week’s waltz and Louise Redknapp’s Rumba was beautiful and very romantic.
Another pair of very strong performances from Danny Mac with his Rumba, which is apparently very difficult for a male dancer to perform, and also from Ore Oduba who slowed things down from last week’s amazing jive and performed a beautiful Waltz.

Greg Rutherford had a bad week with his Cha Cha Cha and Lesley Joseph’s Tango didn’t fare well with the judges although I quite liked it but not as much as her Charleston last week.  Speaking of the Charleston, Daisy Lowe scored well with the judges for hers but I wasn’t a fan of it, maybe that’s just me.  And way down at the bottom of the leaderboard once again was Ed Balls who performed the American Smooth.  Now I thought at times he was actually making a decent effort but then he’d start stomping around and camping it up again and the moment as lost and his final lift was just plain scary, I imagine Katya Jones was in fear of serious injury as he almost dropped her.  If there is any justice in this tournament, he will be on his way out this week.

So by the end of Saturday night, the leaderboard looked like this.

Ore Oduba & Joanne Clifton 36
Danny Mac & Oti Mabuse            35
Louise Reknapp & Kevin Clifton   33
Daisy Lowe & Aljaz Skorjanec 32
Claudia Fragapane & AJ Pritchard 32
Anastacia & Gorka Marquez 30
Judge Rinder & Oksana Platero 29
Lesley Joseph & Anton Du Beke 24
Greg Rutherford & Natalie Lowe 24
Ed Balls & Katya Jones 18

So I was disappointed for Greg Rutherford this week as I do like him, I hope he makes it through to next week but Strictly is full of surprises and we’ll see what Sunday brings.

So Sunday night brought a fabulous opening dance sequence from the professional dancers and a lovely song from Leanne Rimes.  The results are in and Ed Balls has made it through yet again, presumably the public felt Katya Jones had been in fear of her life once already and didn’t want to risk her again.  Into the dance off goes Lesley Joseph and Daisy Lowe.  Now I did mention earlier that I wasn’t keen on Daisy’s Charleston but I felt she performed it better in the dance off.  Unfortunately, Lesley Joseph didn’t perform as well and the judges chose to eliminate her.  It’s a shame because she has had some lovely dances and it’s unfair she is having to leave.

So next week is Halloween special and the question has to be, how many more dancers must we lose for the sake of a Balls up?

Unboxing - #owlcrate October 2016 - Once Upon a Dream Box

October's #owlcrate arrived on Wednesday, but I didn't get the chance to sit down and write this unboxing post until this weekend. This month's theme was Once Upon a Dream and here's the spoiler card:

The theme being what it is I was totally and completely expecting anything and everything related to fairytales and classic children's stories and I was not at all disappointed. They included items inspired by/based upon a few of my fondly remembered and well loved classical children's tale franchises.

Time for what I thought of each of this month's items, this time I'm following the order the items appeared on the spoiler card:

1. Fabric button bookmark from My Heart My Tribe

Bookmarks seem to be almost standard fare for an Owl Crate and I am not complaining because so far they have all been lovely! Although I can't find my Queen of Hearts one from the darkness box at the moment so I will need to go hunting for it. This bookmark is basically a giant paper clip with a really lovely button on it. The fabric my bookmark is made of is a light, powder blue base and then blue; red; and blue and white flowers. It really is very love - I am currently undecided on if I am keeping it for myself or if it's going to be gifted.

2. the Oz passport from from The Unemployed Philosophers Guild

This is a cute little 60 page note book designed to look like a passport. Go here to see better pictures of it. I love little notebooks I have them all over the place to write down all of the various thoughts, ideas, and plottings that have been known to pop into my head at random. I think this little one will go and live on my desk at work because that's about the one place I don't have a notebook right now.

3. Sleeping Beauty charm bracelet from The Geeky Cauldron

First and foremost I must say how much I absolutely LOVE the name of this shop and I really wish I'd thought of it myself years ago for a blog name it's a fantastic name! Such wordplay! I love it. Anyway now onto the bracelet, it's a lovely little bangle with a spinning wheel charm, and a charm that says once upon a dream. I don't tend to wear jewelry, but I have a tweenage cousin who loves princesses who I think will adore it so it's just become part of her Christmas gift.

4. Slouchy Peter Pan beanie from Whosits & Whatsits

So this was the item that they announced was going to be in the box last time, they said in October we would get a clothing item from Whosits and Whatsits. I can't help but start singing Ariel's song from The Little Mermaid every time I have to say or think that store name!! Its' fantastic. And so of course is the beanie! Who wouldn't want to wear a Peter Pan themed beanie! I've been jealously coveting the slouchy beanie my coworker made for herself but now I have one of my own, so yay for that! I can cosplay as Pan himself every day this winter if I so desire now! Although I might have to alternate between this and the Stormtrooper toque I got in a sci-fi block earlier this year.

6. Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter + signed bookplate, and temporary tattoo

I feel like I've heard of this book - or at least I've seen the cover before because it looked and sounded familiar, maybe one of the blogs I follow reviewed an ARC at some point. Who knows either way I have it now and based on the summary it sounds like it has the potential to either be something I could really enjoy like City of Dark Magic or be something I really wanted to enjoy but ended up being disappointed with and not enjoying at all, like The Night Circus. It's a retelling of a traditional Russian folktale so it's got me very curious because I've always been fascinated by folktales and I love retellings. Now, without further ado here is the aforementioned summary of the book from Goodreads:

In the enchanted kingdom of Brooklyn, the fashionable people put on cute shoes, go to parties in warehouses, drink on rooftops at sunset, and tell themselves they’ve arrived. A whole lot of Brooklyn is like that now—but not Vassa’s working-class neighborhood.
In Vassa’s neighborhood, where she lives with her stepmother and bickering stepsisters, one might stumble onto magic, but stumbling out again could become an issue. Babs Yagg, the owner of the local convenience store, has a policy of beheading shoplifters—and sometimes innocent shoppers as well. So when Vassa’s stepsister sends her out for light bulbs in the middle of night, she knows it could easily become a suicide mission.
But Vassa has a bit of luck hidden in her pocket, a gift from her dead mother. Erg is a tough-talking wooden doll with sticky fingers, a bottomless stomach, and a ferocious cunning. With Erg’s help, Vassa just might be able to break the witch’s curse and free her Brooklyn neighborhood. But Babs won’t be playing fair… 

Overall I am pretty pleased with this month's box there weren't any items that I didn't like. Obviously there were also a few items which I loved. I am SUPER PUMPED for next month's theme though, like so, so hyped for it - the November theme is going to be Wonderland and anyone who knows me knows how much I LOVE Alice in Wonderland. So an Alice retelling is right up my alley for a book choice next month!

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Musing Mondays - Waiting for Magnus & Key Players in my current read

Musing Mondays - October 17, 2016

Musing Mondays is a weekly meme that asks you to choose one of the following prompts to answer:

  • I’m currently reading…
  • Up next I think I’ll read…
  • I bought the following book(s) in the past week…
  • I’m super excited to tell you about (book/author/bookish-news)…
  • I’m really upset by (book/author/bookish-news)…
  • I can’t wait to get a copy of…
  • I wish I could read ___, but…
  • I blogged about ____ this past week…

I can't wait to get a copy of...

The Hammer of Thor (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard #2) by Rick Riordan

I've mentioned a couple of times now on this blog how much I love Rick Riordan. He numbers among my top 5 favourite authors. He has yet to write a book that I haven't utterly enjoyed (and I will be forever thankful to the student from my student teaching days who finally got me off my butt to read the first Percy Jackson book). The first book of the Magnus Chase series was everything I had been hoping for when I heard that he was finally tackling Norse mythology. I'd been waiting for that announcement. I pre-ordered The Sword of Summer so I'd be able to read it as soon as it came out, and I did, I devoured it, and then somehow I totally spaced on the fact that we were coming up to the release date for Hammer of Thor and suddenly I was seeing an announcement that it was out and there was a lot of ._O reactions on my part haha. So I promptly put in an online order for a copy and now I am just patiently waiting for it to arrive in my mailbox so that I can read it, as soon as I finish re-reading Fionavar of course.

Here's the summary for Hammer of Thor from Goodreads:

Thor's hammer is missing again. The thunder god has a disturbing habit of misplacing his weapon--the mightiest force in the Nine Worlds. But this time the hammer isn't just lost, it has fallen into enemy hands. If Magnus Chase and his friends can't retrieve the hammer quickly, the mortal worlds will be defenseless against an onslaught of giants. Ragnarok will begin. The Nine Worlds will burn. Unfortunately, the only person who can broker a deal for the hammer's return is the gods' worst enemy, Loki--and the price he wants is very high.

          THIS WEEK’S RANDOM QUESTION: Who are the key players in your current book? (or current themes, if nonfiction)

This is such a fun question!! I am really excited to answer it actually, because I'm still reading The Summer Tree and it's nice to have an excuse to talk about the characters because I'm really loving them all.

This is an epic fantasy novel with a large cast of characters, though that cast is nowhere near as large as the cast of George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series. They're much easier to keep track of than Martin's characters as well! That being said, within the large cast there are about 10 really, super important key players that I'd like to tell you about:

Kevin Laine
One of the 5 main characters called the 5 by Kay in the character sheet. Kevin is one of the 5 people brought from Toronto into Fionavar at the start of the novel. He's either a law student or works at the Faculty of Law at the University of Toronto, I'm honestly not clear on what it is because it's not explicitly said in this book. He's close to his father. He is Paul's best friend, Jennifer's ex, and antagonistic towards Dave. He is a bit of a ladies man, very confident, witty, and also very loyal and compassionate and protective when it comes to those he cares about. He builds a fast friendship with Prince Diarmuid and his band of men quickly giving his loyalty to them. Out of the 5 he's probably the one who has the least eventful time in this novel, but that's not to say nothing happens to him it's just that nothing on the scale of what happens to the others happens to him. If I were going to compare him to another fictional character I'd say he's somewhat similar to Zack Morris from Saved by the Bell except much less selfish.

Paul Schafer
Another of the 5 Paul is the brooding loner to Kevin's outgoing alpha male persona in Toronto. We know thanks to Paul's behaviour and some exposition on Kevin's part that Paul is suffering some sort of tragedy, we find out later that that tragedy is the death of the woman he loved and that's all I'll say on that because anything else would be spoilers. Just know that one of Paul's main motivations is his feelings of guilt and the other is his compassion for his friends and for King Ailell (who he takes a fast liking to) and the whole of Brennin. Out of the 5 he is tied with Kimberly for the most changed in this novel, he definitely has the most eventful journey of the 5 Torontonians in this book. Paul has got a very Dean Winchester of Supernatural vibe going on.

Jennifer Lowell
As mentioned above she is the 3rd of the 5, and she is Kevin's ex-girlfriend, she is also Kim Ford's roommate both in Toronto and in Fionavar. She is described as being a very beautiful woman indeed, uncommonly beautiful in fact and she is 100% aware of her beauty and how her beauty affects others. Jennifer is strong-willed and confident, she doesn't take any crap from anybody. When someone does or says something to her they get told off, even when they are the Prince and heir to the throne in a new country where she knows none of the customs. We don't actually get to spend as much time with Jennifer in this book as we do with the other 5, but that's because something very eventful happens to her that drives the plot forward. To me she's like a cross between Fleur Delacour and Ginny Weasley from Harry Potter.

One of the Princes in Brennin, heir to King Ailell and Warden of the South Keep. He leads a very interesting band of men. He is a cheeky monkey but he is also damn good at his job. He is quite the flirt and womanizer he constantly hits on Jennifer (and strikes out) and even has enough nerve to "claim" her as his which does have the side benefit of making sure no one else hits on her unwelcomely, but is still icky. He's daring and adventurous and unfailingly loyal. Diarmuid has a strong sense of right and wrong and is very just. Diarmuid is a variant on the Irish/Irish Mythological name Diarmaid and apparently pronounced DEER-mid but trying to remember that while reading is very hard I keep mentally pronouncing it Dyer-mood. It's hard to liken him to another character because he's kind of an archetype unto himself he's just that big of a character, I guess think sort of like Face from the A-Team if Face were a Prince in a medieval fantasy realm?

Oooh Aileron is such a badass. The exiled older brother of Diarmuid, he was the original heir to the throne, but obviously managed to get himself exiled. We don't actually meet him officially until about halfway through the book but when he do he wastes no time showing off how awesome he is. Loren Silvercloak describes him as very much a War King and it's such a fitting appellation for him. He is dark and brusque to Diarmuid's light brightness. Aileron is a very polarizing character. I just realised he kind of reminds me of Jamie Fraser from Outlander.

Loren Silvercloak & Matt Soren
Loren is a mage and Matt is his source, I originally had them as two separate lines but then thought that given the nature of the relationship between a Mage and their source in Fionavar it made much more sense to discuss them together. Loren and Matt are responsible for bringing the 5 into Fionavar to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Ailell's rule. Matt used to be King of the dwarves before becoming Loren's source - we don't find out much about that history in this book, that comes later. Loren is a trusted advisor to the royal family in Brennin and in fact was the childhood teacher of both Princes. Matt reminds me of a cross between Gimli from Lord of the Rings and Tyrion from Game of Thrones with maybe a little bit of Thoren Oakenshield from The Hobbit in there. Loren is a little harder for me to make a comparison with, he's supposed to be a Merlin type character but really he just seems to remind me of Remus Lupin from Harry Potter.

Kimberly Ford
Kim is the 4th of the 5 and she's the reason they all get brought into Fionavar. Loren singles her out specifically and serendipitously she happens to have 4 companions when they meet him at the talk he is giving at the University of Toronto. In Toronto she is a Medical Intern at a hosipital. She is bright and self assured and very much believes in magic. She is drawn into the inner happenings of Fionavar very early on in comparison to the other 4 when she is introduced to Ysanne the Seer of Brennin. That meeting is what makes sure Kim has the 2nd most eventful time in this book after Paul; she goes through nearly as many changes as he does. The closest comparison to another character I can think of for Kim is Kara 'Starbuck' Thrace from Battlestar Galactica if Starbuck were a Doctor instead of a fighter pilot.

Dave Martyniuk
The last of the 5, I left him last on purpose. He tries to change his mind at the last minute and it's only Kim's latching onto him that gets him to Fionavar. However he gets separated from everyone else and so we don't meet him again until about 2/3rds of the way through the book. Dave is originally the skeptic of the 5 but once in Fionavar actually seems to be the one who fits in the fastest. Dave doesn't have a great relationship with his father that's a very important aspect of his character. He's a final year law student at UofT before they get pulled into Fionavar. He's actually the reason the others are all able to meet Loren because he's the one who brings them to the event where Loren is speaking because his Professor older brother is part of the event. When he does reappear in Fionavar we find out that he ended up a lot further north than the others, among the Dalrei, the riders of the plain where he simultaneously stands out (because of his physical appearance) but also fits right in. He has several interesting adventures with his Dalrei companions before rejoining the main action in Brennin late in the book. Since I'm trying to equate each of these characters with another character from something else I've been working on figuring out who to compare  him to, Percy Jackson of Percy Jackson seems sort of fitting. Because like Percy Dave has no idea what's going on in the beginning but as soon as he figures it out and makes some friends they start kick ass and taking names.

Levon is one of Dave's aforementioned friends in Fionavar and he's the Dalrei equivalent of a Prince, he is the eldest son of the Chieftain of the 3rd tribe of the Dalrei and one day he will lead that tribe. He is the only known person other than the namesake of the maneuver to attempt Revor's ride in the hunt and not die. The Dalrei are the Fionavar version of the Dothraki from A Song of Ice and Fire in fact I have a sneaking suspicion that the latter was inspired by the former but I have exactly zero proof of that. The trio of Levon, Dave and Torc is a formidable triumvirate indeed. Levon is very much a leader, he's smart and capable and strong. He tends toward introspection and quiet as do Dave and Torc. Aside from seeing him in action in hunts and fights we don't spend too much time with Levon in this novel but if I had to compare him to another character it would be to Khal Drogo but less intense, like I could never picture Levon forcing himself on someone the way Drogo forced himself on Dany.

Last but certainly not least is Torc dan Sorcha, originally known by the name 'The Outcast' when we first meet him. He is another member of the 3rd tribe, and until he finds Dave and they join forces he's on the fringes of the tribe alone and treated poorly because of a mistake his father Sorcha made when he was still a child. Torc is similar to Paul in his tendency towards being dark and brooding. After Levon he is considered the best hunter in the tribe and Ivor the Chieftain trusts him implicitly with very important tasks. As with Levon we don't really get as much from Torc's perspective but we do come to learn that he has feelings for Levon's younger sister Liane. Torc sort of reminds me of Jon Snow from A Song of Ice and Fire.

Wow this post ended up being a lot longer than I originally thought/planned it to be!