Monday, 30 January 2017

Musing Mondays - Kelley Armstrong Mystery Box & most anticipated books of 2017

Musing Monday January 30, 2017

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’m super excited to tell you about...

The box of books I received today! So earlier this month on Facebook Kelley Armstrong (who I know I have mentioned is one of my favourite authors) announced that she had mystery boxes to give away. Each mystery box was going to contain a random selection of 9-11 of her excess books and they would all be autographed as well (for $40 all in). I thought what the heck and threw my name in thinking there is no way in heck I was going to be selected because there'd be hundreds of people wanting one. BUT I WAS! And they arrived today! And I only already owned 3 of them! Another 2 I own different versions of, 1 book I got I own as an ebook, and I got an auidobook which I already own a hardcover of. One of the 3 books that I already own was autographed and the other wasn't (oops?). So I figure I'll keep the autographed one and either sell/donate/gift my old copy. I was thinking about giving the other one to my Aunt who is the one who got me into Armstrong's Otherworld series, but that was when I discovered that that one wasn't autographed, but the 3rd one, also from that series is autographed so I'll give her that one. All in I got 10 novels and 1 audiobook and also some bookmarks. So which books did I get?

Let's go top to bottom:

1. Thirteen - audiobook, this is the one I own a hardcover of. Book 13 of Women of the Otherworld.

2. Dime Store Magic - I already own this exact edition, and this is the one that isn't autographed :(. Book 3 of Women of the Otherworld.

3. The Rising - this one one I own and am going to switch out the non-autographed version for. Book 3 of Darkness Rising.

4. Men of the Otherworld - this is the one I am thinking about giving to my aunt. I own a copy of the edition that matches Dime Store Magic. Book 1 of Otherworld Stories.

5. Thor's Serpents - this one was on my Amazon wishlist cause I bought Loki's Wolves late in 2016 and it's still on my to be read pile. Book 3 in The Blackwell Pages.

6. Enthralled - I'd not heard of this one before! So this one is very exciting for me. It's part of the Morganville Vampire series apparently.

7. Forsaken - Another one that's been on my wishlist forever. Book 13.5 of Otherworld Stories.

8. Living with the dead - it's a good thing I am not one of those people who cares overmuchly about having all of my books in the same series match each other. Book 9 of Women of the Otherworld.

9. Visions - I just finished reading this at the tail end of 2016 haha. This is one I own as an ebook, because I bought the first book as an ebook and thus just kept going with that. It's nice to have a hardcopy, because I do love it. And it's autographed :). Book 2 in the Cainsville series.

10. Waking the Witch - I've had this one on my wishlist for ages because I want to read the entire series it is a part of. Book 11 of Women of the Otherworld.

11. The Unquiet Past - Another one I'd not heard of, most exciting! This one is the first in a series of 7 linked novels by 7 different authors called Secrets.

        THIS WEEK’S RANDOM QUESTION: Are there any books you are really eagerly waiting for in 2017?

Hahahaha. Yes, yes there are. There are at least 10. Or these are the 10 that most immediately jump to mind anyway. I'm a series hound, so all of these books are part of ongoing series that I am enjoying and want more of. Here they are in order of release date:

  1. Winter of the Gods (Olympus Bound #2) by Jordanna Max Brodsky - coming February 14 2017
  2. Saga, Vol. 7 (Saga) by Brian K. Vaughan - coming March 28 2017
  3. The Dark Prophecy (The Trials of Apollo #2) by Rick Riordan - coming May 2 2017
  4. The Darkest Promise (Lords of the Underworld #13) by Gena Showalter - coming June 13 2017 [OMG WE'RE FINALLY GETTING CAMEO! YES!]
  5. Our Dark Duet (Monsters of Verity #2) by Victoria Schwab - coming June 13 2017
  6. Faith, Volume 3: Superstar (Faith #3) by Jody Houser - coming June June 27 2017 [I didn't realise vol. 2 was already out! Must acquire ASAP!]
  7. Rituals (Cainsville #5) by Kelley Armstrong - coming August 19 2017
  8. Bring the Heat (Dragon Kin #9) by G.A. Aiken - coming August 29 2017
  9. One Dark Throne (Three Dark Crowns #2) by Kendare Blake - coming September 19 2017
  10. The Ship of the Dead (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard #3) by Rick Riordan - coming October 3 2017

So much for my plan of buying fewer books this year! Hah! What books are you looking forward to this year?

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Musing Mondays - Novellas from the library & reading formats

Musing Monday January 23, 2017

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 acquired the following book(s) in the past week…

I'm making a change to this category because I didn't buy the books I got last week, I acquired them from the library where I work, so I've got them out indefinitely (until I read them or someone else recalls them, whichever comes first). I wanted to talk about them still so that was why I chose to hijack one of the categories for them. I read an article on Book Riot last week, 100 Must Read Novellas, and it inspired me to snag a few from the library. Specifically 3 of them that had been on my want to read list for some time but that I'd never gotten around to. What I like best about novellas is that they can usually be read in one sitting and I can usually get through them in about 2 hours because they're under 200 pages. So what did I pick up?

Booker Prize winner Dame Antonia Byatt breathes life into the Ragnorak myth, the story of the end of the gods in Norse mythology.

Ragnarok retells the finale of Norse mythology. A story of the destruction of life on this planet and the end of the gods themselves: what more relevant myth could any modern writer choose? Just as Wagner used this dramatic and catastrophic struggle for the climax of his Ring Cycle, so AS Byatt now reinvents it in all its intensity and glory. As the bombs of the Blitz rain down on Britain, one young girl is evacuated to the countryside. She is struggling to make sense of her new wartime life. Then she is given a copy of Asgard and the Gods—a book of ancient Norse myths—and her inner and outer worlds are transformed.

War, natural disaster, reckless gods and the recognition of impermanence in the world are just some of the threads that AS Byatt weaves into this most timely of books. Linguistically stunning and imaginatively abundant, this is a landmark. -- via Goodreads
Why this one? Two reasons - 1 I love mythology of all kinds as I have mentioned before and 2, because I have a love/hate relationship with A.S. Byatt. I did my 4th year English seminar on her and her mother, I had to write a 25 page paper on her novel Possession, I hated that novel. But I loved all of her short stories, so I figured this being in between the two I've got a 50/50 chance of loving it. I know she won't spend nearly as much time describing bathrooms in this one as she did in Possession.

The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood
For Penelope, Odysseus's wife, running a kingdom while her husband is away fighting in the Trojan War is no simple matter. Already distressed that he had been lured away because of the shocking behavior of her beautiful cousin Helen, Penelope must also raise her wayward son, face scandalous rumors, and keep more than one hundred lustful, greedy, and bloodthirsty suitors at bay.

Margaret Atwood gives voice to Penelope, one of antiquity's most infamous heroines, so that she can tell her story at last and set the record straight once and for all. -- via Goodreads
I chose this one for similar reasons to Ragnarok. It's another one about mythology, Greek this time. I've been saying for years I'd like to try reading more Margaret Atwood stuff. The only book of hers that have read is The Robber Bride which I actually really liked. So I thought I'd start with her novella and then move to her comic book and then try her novels. I've had Oryx and Crake out from work for ages.

The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin
For Joanna, her husband, Walter, and their children, the move to beautiful Stepford seems almost too good to be true. It is. For behind the town's idyllic facade lies a terrible secret -- a secret so shattering that no one who encounters it will ever be the same.
At once a masterpiece of psychological suspense and a savage commentary on a media-driven society that values the pursuit of youth and beauty at all costs, The Stepford Wives is a novel so frightening in its final implications that the title itself has earned a place in the American lexicon.  -- via Goodreads
I didn't even realise that this was a book. I knew about the film, I've seen the Nicole Kidman version. So I was already familiar with the premise and I decided I should read the original source material. I also thought given the subject matter that now was an appropriate time to read this. I read it last Wednesday and I was right about my timing, it's a disturbing and scary novella, even moreso because you can see something like this happening. (not with robots  (hidden for spoilers), but through legislation for example)

        THIS WEEK’S RANDOM QUESTION: What is your preferred reading format?

I was a die hard physical books only girl when ebooks first started getting big, which thinking back makes no sense at all given that I am also a long time fanfiction reader but whatever, I guess I was a little hypocritical. I have since changed my tune! I also had a similar thing about audiobooks, I kept saying they didn't work for me, but they do now. All in all I don't necessarily have one particular format that is my preferred choice. Usually I make my choice of format based on specific circumstances. Like if I know I am going to be travelling, ebooks are perfect because then I just need my phone or tablet instead of the 3-5 paperbacks or 2 hardcovers that I previously would have fought to get into my carry-on and suitcase. I'm going to visit Angie in May and have already decided that I am not taking ANY physical books with me - this will be a first for me. Auidobooks have their place for me as well, usually when I'm at work and am the only one in the office and thus need some sound. I've tried them while walking the dog a few times, that was fun too. I didn't bring headphones with me so I'm listening to Philosopher's Stone on speaker phone while I walk through the park on a Saturday morning. Good thing there was no one around to disturb with it. I like paper backs because they're light, easily fit in my messenger bag and are easy to hold, they're also relatively cheap compared to everything but ebooks usually. And of course I do love a good hardcover, I love hardcovers best for reading at something, like at my desk or at the kitchen table, because then I can just sit the book down and just flip the pages. They can be a pain, literally, when you have to hold them up, especially if you read in marathon stretches like I've been known to do.

Also - this is the 100th post on this blog, YAY! Congrats to us Angie!

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Graze Box Number 1 Unboxing

A couple of years ago I used to have a regular subscription to Graze Box, a weekly or bi-weekly box containing four snacks.  There are several types of box to choose from.  Variety box is the main box and will contain a selection from the full range of graze snacks available.  There are also Graze Light (all snacks below 150 calories), chocolate, kids and lots of others to suit all different palates.  You can also browse the snacks on offer and choose to 'bin' anything you wouldn't like to receive, for example I don't like anything with coconut so I chose to bin any snacks containing coconut so I will never get these in my box.  Likewise if you try a snack and don't like it, you can mark it as binned so you will never receive it again.

On the flip side if you try a snack that you particularly love, you can mark it as 'Love' and you will receive it more often.

I stopped my subscription a while back now for a few reasons. I wasn't eating as many of the snacks so they tended to stockpile and I felt it silly to get more and more boxes when I wasn't eating the snacks I already had.  Also money was a factor and I had to cut back on any non essential items and unfortunately this was one of them.

However I recently decided to renew my subscription and I received my first box today.  I opted for the Graze Light box to keep the calorie content down in line with my Slimming World plan.  I always work out all the syn values for the snacks when I receive them using the nutritional information leaflet provided.

The snacks I received are all ones I have tried before so I know I'm going to like all of them.

1. Slightly Sweet Popping Corn.   I love popping my own popcorn, there's just something about hearing it popping in the microwave that's slightly more satisfying than just opening a bag.  Graze do 3 different flavours which are Sweet, Salted and Black Pepper.  The sweet is the only one I like so I can't wait to munch on this, probably tonight.

2. Eleanor's Apple Crumble.  Apart from loving the name (because my niece is called Eleanor), this is especially tasty thanks to the cinnamon honeyed almonds in it.  The dried apple pieces I can take them or leave them but it's the nuts that really make this snack for me.  It also contains raisins as well.

3. Chocolate Pretzel Dippers.  This snack is a little indulgent and is the highest calorie value in the box (but still under the 150 as it's a light box).  It's a few pretzel sticks and a chocolate dip to dunk them in, it really feels like a naughty treat when you have this one.

4. Lightly Toasted Pistachios.  I had never tried pistachios until I got them in a Graze box the first time I subscribed and I quickly discovered how tasty they are.  This time I got the lightly toasted ones which are nice but they also do a BBQ flavour version which are amazing, I hope I get them soon.

All in all I was very pleased with my first box.  I've chosen to get the boxes fortnightly so I don't end up with a huge pile of them again, so I will ration them out to 2 per week, probably at weekends as a treat.   

If anyone wishes to try a Graze box subscription, I have a referral code which enables you to get your first box free.  You aren't tied into any length of subscription but if you decide to continue with the boxes, this code means you will also get your 5th and 10th boxes for free as well.

The code is 7PZV1P2WB 

Follow the link here

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Musing Mondays - reading Heartless & how to read more when you're busy

Musing Monday January 16, 2017

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’m currently reading…

Heartless by Marissa Meyer

I know last week I said I was enjoying Little Vampire Women because I'd mentally framed it as taking place in the same universe as Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter. Unfortunately though even that didn't stop it getting supremely boring to me by the end of chapter 5. So I've decided to set it aside and call it a did not finish, I don't do it often but there are so many books I am excited to read that it just doesn't make sense to stick with one I am not actively enjoying. Which leads me to the book I'm reading now. I was super duper excited to get started on this one from the moment it arrived in November's #owlcrate. There has been a lot of hype surrounding this book. I've never read anything else by Marissa Meyer (yet, Cinder is on my shelves) but I am familiar with her name and I know that she's a really well liked author. The hype that sucked me in though is that this is a re-imagining of Alice in Wonderland in that it's an origin story for the Queen of Hearts. I've said it many times Alice is one of my absolute favourite stories and Wonderland one of my favourite fictional worlds. I also love to see stories I enjoyed re-told from the perspective of a different character (Lion King 1 1/2 is one of my favourite Disney films for that reason) and this isn't the first one I've read from the POV of the Queen of Hearts - that would be Colleen Oakes's Queen of Hearts which if you have never read, you should do because it was amazing and the sequel comes out at the end of this month (here's the review I wrote of it back in 2014).

So when this came in my #owlcrate I was super excited and it's been sitting at the top of my reading pile waiting for me to get to it. The edition we got in the #owlcrate is an exclusive edition only available through them, I'm not sure what makes it different than the non-exclusive editions except that it's got a white dust jacket. I think I mentioned that I have a plan for tackling my to be read shelves this year? In case I didn't here's my plan, it's a cycle: read a newer book, read 2 graphic novels, read an older book - lather, rinse, repeat with as needed interruptions for library books that have due dates coming up. So Betrayals was my first book of the year and it was newer having been bought with Christmas money, I followed that up with volumes 2 and 3 of Akira and then immediately went in to Little Vampire Women as my older pick. Once I realised LVW wasn't going to work for me I cleansed my reading palette with the 4th volume of Akira and then promptly and excitedly picked up Heartless. I've been reading it slowly because I haven't felt like bingeing so I am only up to the beginning of chapter 10 but I freaking LOVE it so far. It's meeting my expectations at the moment!
"Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland and a favorite of the unmarried King, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, she wants to open a shop and create delectable pastries. But for her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for a woman who could be a queen.

At a royal ball where Cath is expected to receive the King’s marriage proposal, she meets handsome and mysterious Jest. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the King and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into a secret courtship.

Cath is determined to choose her own destiny. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans." -- via Goodreads

        THIS WEEK’S RANDOM QUESTION: How do you make time for reading when you are very busy? Or how do you find a better balance between wanting to spend time reading and other commitments?

I feel like we answered a variation of this question a month or so ago, hmmm better go hunt that down so I don't accidentally write the same thing twice! I was sort of right, there were similar-esque questions, one on reading during the holidays and one on reading to relieve stress. To tie in to what I was saying in the musing about reading to relieve stress it always seems that the busier I am the more I want to not do the things that I have to do so I can just read - because reading relaxes me. Because I know how much I love to read and because I know the calming effect that reading for pleasure has on me I always make it a priority to balance whatever is going on with time to read. Sometimes that means I only get to read comics/graphic novels but that's enough to make me happy too!! My best trick for making time to read no matter how busy I am is to get up a half hour before I actually need to be awake in order to use that half hour to just read. It's my morning ritual before I shower. I can usually get through about 2 chapters in that time depending on how long the chapters are. One of the best things about this is that after I've done that then I can tackle whatever a busy day throws at me knowing that I've already read. And I'd say about 50% of the time, depending on how tired I am, I usually read for a half hour right before bed as well. So that's my tip, schedule chunks of time to read and then enjoy them and make them sacrosanct, no matter what else is happening, that chunk of time is dedicated to reading bar any absolutely unavoidable circumstances.

Do you schedule time for reading into your day?

Saturday, 14 January 2017

'If people want to know who I am, it is all in the work' - Alan Rickman Remembered

A man who seemed to gain a reputation for playing villains that we all love to hate, there was much more to Alan Rickman than being good at being bad.  It has been one year to the day since the passing of this great British actor who died 14th January 2016 at the age of 69 following a short battle with cancer.  I remember being at work when one of my colleagues emailed me to say he had died and I remember reading it with a kind of disbelief because how could someone I had admired as an actor for many years suddenly no longer be around to make any more films.

Alan Rickman was a very accomplished stage actor but as this is my personal tribute, it is how I remember him as a film actor that I will be talking about.  Film fans of many different genres will remember him as he covered a wide range of roles, some villains, but others were good guys.  His first big film role came as the delightful Hans Gruber in Die Hard.  I mean, who even wants Bruce Willis to win when you have Alan taunting him? Not me! I don’t even like Bruce Willis.  However, the first film I saw him in was Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves as the deliciously evil Sheriff of Nottingham and I loved him in it.  

Putting aside the dodgy accents from the other cast members (yes Kevin Costner I mean you), the Sheriff was perfectly British, his quips about calling off Christmas, cutting hearts out with a spoon and just his general flamboyant flouncing around was perfectly played by Rickman, so much so that most of the deleted scenes on the DVD Special Edition were his. Rumour has it Costner felt Rickman acted him off the screen (and he did).

My signature from when I roleplayed Snape

Despite being so good at bad guy roles, Rickman also took on other types of roles such as Sci-Fi (Galaxy Quest), romantic (Sense and Sensibility), comedy (Love Actually) and musical (Sweeney Todd).  He did voice work as well such as the lesser known Help I’m A Fish and the more well-known Alice in Wonderland and the sequel Alice Through The Looking Glass as the Blue Caterpillar Absolem, his final role.  He had a voice that you could recognise without even being told who it was and he also had this wonderful talent to able to make one sentence last for half an hour. It was a delight to watch and hear.

It was in his best-loved role for me that this talent showed itself best.  He delighted and terrorised in equal measure children and adults alike as the mean yet misunderstood Potions Master Professor Severus Snape in the Harry Potter series of films.   He was one of only thirteen actors or actresses that appeared in all eight of the film adaptations.  So pivotal was his role that he was let into a much-guarded secret by JK Rowling herself (that Snape had loved Lily, Harry’s mother, since childhood) as she trusted him with the information to enhance his performance.  It is in this role that I will remember him most fondly and I will always be grateful that all eight films were released before his sad death as I could never imagine anyone else playing that role to such perfection. Snape will forever be Alan Rickman and Alan Rickman will be forever Snape.

I lament the fact that I will never see him in anything new but rejoice in his legacy of the wonderful films that remain with us.  


Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Musing Mondays - what I'm reading & book to tv/movie adaptations

Musing Monday January 9, 2017

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’m currently reading…

Little Vampire Women by Lynn Messina

I decided that the only way to really make a dent in my TBR shelves this year is to have a cycle - read 1 more recently purchased book, read 1-2 graphic novels, read 1 book that's been sitting on the TBR shelf for more than a year and then rinse and repeat. So on Saturday I finished Betrayals (and seriously I feel utterly betrayed by the ending. Seriously the ending of that novel can go die in a fire I am that disappointed in the direction Kelley Armstrong is going, but I digress) and then read volumes 2 and 3 of Akira before trying to decide which book I wanted to read next. Little Vampire Women caught my eye so I grabbed it. I picked this up for $2 at a local independent bookstore probably 3 years ago or so now, long enough that I can't exactly remember when I bought it. I am NOT a fan of classic literature at all really, especially not stuff written in the 1800s. Which is funny because I have a degree in literature and a good 85% of my classes focused on the classics, which is why I am 100% certain I am not a fan. Anyway, I've tried the original Little Women several times and I've never enjoyed it and never gotten very far into it. I have however always wanted to try reading one of the new genre mashups of the classics - the trend which started with Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

So I started reading Little Vampire Women before bed on Saturday night and I wasn't convinced that I was going to like it - until I got to page 10 where Messina talks about the Marches father being away at war  - the civil war. She then goes on to describe the civil war being about exactly the same thing that it's about in Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter, which I LOVED. I immediately in my head placed this novel in the same universe as ALVH and that is the frame of reference I am reading it now with now, imagining it as though it's actually just a side story of ALVH showing what life is like for those not fighting in the Civil War. It's making it really enjoyable for me, much more than I ever thought it would be anyway, but I am only up to the beginning of chapter 4 so we will see if that lasts!
"'Christmas won't be Christmas without any corpses.'
The dear, sweet March sisters are back, and Marmee has told them to be good little women. Good little vampire women, that is. That's right: Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy have grown up since you last read their tale, and now they have (much) longer lives and (much) more ravenous appetites.
Marmee has taught them well, and so they live by an unprecedented moral code of abstinence ... from human blood. Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy must learn to get along with one another, help make society a better place, and avoid the vampire hunters who pose a constant threat to their existence. Plus, Laurie is dying to become a part of the March family, at any cost. Some things never change.
This horrifying — and hilarious — retelling of a timeless American classic will leave readers craving the bloodthirsty drama on each and every page." -- via Goodreads

        THIS WEEK’S RANDOM QUESTION: What do you think about books being made into movies or tv shows and do you always read the book first?

I have a shirt that has "the book was better" emblazoned across the chest. I used to wear it to work when I was a Page at the Public Library. In general that shirt sums up my feelings about book adaptations, but you know what they say about generalizations. There are always exceptions and my opinions on book adaptations are no different, there are times where my opinions on the matter are much more nuanced than my old tshirt suggests. The easiest way to sum it up then is that my thoughts on books being adapted to visual mediums largely depends on the book - and how well it's adapted. I think books have the potential to be adapted really well but I don't think they are a lot of the time. That being said there have also been some adaptations that I have actually found better than the source material, although not many. Take for example the Harry Potter films. Anyone who has read the books knows that there was a lot left out and a fair bit of that I personally found detrimental to the overall story but not to the quality or enjoyability of the films. You still get the full story of Harry from the film you just don't get as much detail as you do in the books and that's the trouble with film adaptations, because of run time requirements and other aspects of the medium, you lose out on the amount and level of detail that you get in the original book. TV adaptations can do better but they don't always; Game of Thrones is a really good example of that. I loved the books, and the TV show from what I've seen of it is good, but for my taste there's too much deviation/compressing of the source materials. You do gain in visualisations with both mediums obviously though, but I don't always consider that a good thing either because sometimes I prefer the look of things as I saw them in my own imagination.

My favourite thing about the prevalence of adaptations that is trending right now is that they do lead me to try books I've not heard of before and/or encourage me to finally read something that's been on my to-be-read list for years. Dirk Gently for example, I really want to watch the series but I haven't read the original books yet and I want to do that first. It's been my preference to try and read the books before watching the adaptations for years now for a couple of reasons, one of which again goes back to my love of Harry Potter. I made what is in my opinion now the mistake of not reading the books before the first film adaptation came out, I saw that first and then forever after no matter how JKR described any of the characters that appeared in that first film, I was unable to picture them in my imagination as anything but their actions. They became inextricably linked for me, which isn't a bad thing it's just not my preference and I made damn sure to read every other Harry Potter book well in advance of the other 7 films. A similar thing happened with Game of Thrones I tried watching the first episode of the show, realised I had no bloody clue what was going on, and then picked up the first book. After reading that I was unable to actually get into the show but I've watched it sporadically. Sometimes I don't find out that a film was an adaptation until after I've seen it and I always wish I'd known so I could have checked out the book first, but sometimes I do end up checking it out after.

What about you? Book first or movie/show first?

Friday, 6 January 2017

Unboxing - Marvel #collectorcorps - December 2016 - X-Men box

As with the Owl Crate post from Wednesday this one is also a procrastination. My Collector Corps box for December arrived some time last week but I was too into all the books I was reading and the pokémon game I got for Christmas to get around to writing these unboxing posts. This will be my last MCC unboxing for awhile. I've decided to put my subscription to this service on hiatus for 2017 in an effort to save money. I enjoy these boxes, but not nearly as much as I am enjoying Owl Crate and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter boxes and I don't have the room or the budget to keep three subscriptions going. So this is the one I decided to get rid of. I will say that they unknowingly ended on a high note for me! I loved all the items in this months box and I was worried because for me X-Men can be a really hit or miss fandom.

So what are all these items and how do I feel about them?

1. Pin and Patch

This month's pin features Magneto's helmet, just his helmet though, no Magneto face to go with it, which I feel is an odd choice. The patch features Storm and it's a really nice rendition of her I think. I mean the pins and patches are a neat feature of the service, but honestly they're just in piles on my shelves because I can't figure out what to do with them. Aside from the fact that I've cannibalized the backs off of half of the pins for use with my other pins (the ones I was trying to showcase on my bag) because they were better quality backs than the ones my other pins came with.

2. T-shirt

I love the t-shirts because I love geeky t-shirts but it's got to the point where I have WAAAY more than I need because I can't wear most of the ones I have to work. I need more directly literary/library related ones for that purpose haha. Anyway this shirt is really great as far as the shirts from this box go. It's a ringer tee, a style which I love, and it's a play on a varsity shirt for Xavier's school for gifted youngsters. It's giving me all sorts of ideas for a cosplay to do for Halloween. I wonder if I can convince my co-workers that our 2017 theme should be X-Men...hmmmm....

3. Comic

The best part about the comics is the adorable Funko styled variant covers. In my opinion they're always really well done (I especially loved the Doctor Strange one). I only just noticed you can't see this month's properly. It's an issue of Champions with a Funko Cyclops on the cover. One of these days I will actually get around to reading all of the various single issues I've received from my subscription boxes.

4. Funko!Rock Candy

AH!!! I have been wanting a Rock Candy since I first heard about the line!!! They remind me of old school pin up art which is a style I've always thought interesting. I was 100% thrilled to see this in the box! And equally thrilled that they chose Mystique. I know that's expected because she's one of the most recognisable and popular female mutants, but I think she has a great colour scheme and her styling lends itself well to this medium!

5. Funko!Pop

This is the second coolest MCC exclusive Funko!Pop they've ever included. Nothing can take the best title from the Hulkbuster Pop in the first box. But for me this one comes pretty close. As with Mystique I'm not surprised that they went for Wolverine because he's easily the most iconic mutant from the X-Men universe now-a-days. You can't argue with how well they did this Pop though. It's so badass and the detailing on the bike is just amazing.

Overall I really couldn't have been happier with this box than I am! Mystique now lives on the same shelf as the Hulkbuster and Wolvie's gracing the top of my pile of books on my coffee table.

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Calendar Girls - Jan 2017 - debut novel (in my opinion) - #CalendarGirlsBooks

Best Debut Novel of 2016 [in my limited opinion]

I'm really excited to be participating in this monthly blog challenge! It sounded like a lot of fun when I heard about it. I did read a LOT of books in 2016, but as far as I have been able to figure only 2 of those were debut novels and I picked them both out in response to finding out the topic of the first Calendar Girls theme. So here's my pick for the best debut novel of 2016...out of my limited pool of 2 options:

The Immortals (Olympus Bound #1)
by Jordanna Max Brodsky

As the final book that I completed in 2016 there were a lot of books to compare this too, but if I had to list all 71 books that I read in order of how much I enjoyed them then this book would place pretty high on the list even though I read it last. From the minute that I selected this book to read I had high hopes for it. It's an adaptation on Greek mythology, which is one of my favourite things. I've loved Greek mythology since I was a kid so when I found out people were writing fictional adaptations of those myths I started trying to get my hands on as many as possible. So even though my hopes and expectations were pretty high going into this, it ended up delivering and even surpassing my expectations once the twist hit. Here's the synopsis:

The city sleeps. Selene DiSilva walks her dog along the banks of the Hudson. She is alone-just the way she likes it. She doesn't believe in friends, and she doesn't speak to her family. Most of them are simply too dangerous.
In the predawn calm, Selene finds the body of a young woman washed ashore, gruesomely mutilated and wreathed in laurel. Her ancient rage returns. And so does the memory of a promise she made long ago. To protect the innocent-and to punish those who stand in her way.
With the NYPD out of its depth, Selene vows to hunt the killer on her own. But when classics professor Theo Schultz decodes the ancient myth behind the crime, the solitary Huntress finds herself working with a man who's her opposite in every way. Together, they face a long-forgotten cult that lies behind a string of murders, and they'll need help from the one source Selene distrusts most of all: the city's other Immortals.

Much like Lev Grossman's The Magicians spoke to a generation of adults who grew up with Harry Potter, THE IMMORTALS will enchant anyone who loved American Gods or Percy Jackson." -- via Goodreads

There are a couple of reasons why I think that this book was the best debut novel of the year. The first is the premise. It's taking the Greek gods and goddess and placing them in a modern world and showing not only how they affect the modern world but how the modern world affects them. They're not still the same all powerful, omnipotent figures of ancient times like we see in books like the Riordanverse; the gods and goddesses in this adaptation have been changed by history just as much as mortals and that's at the crux of the action. The action itself is another reason I think this novel is the best, at it's most basic I can sum it up simply as CSI: Greek Mythology. It's as much a mystery/detective novel as it is a Greek mythological fantasy novel and that's really not something I've ever seen before. Another thing that to me makes this the best debut of the year is the characters as both individual characters and their relationships with each other, especially the main character Selene/Artemis. Selene is an immensely interesting character who could absolutely be classed a strong female character - but not unbelievably so. She is still flawed and imperfect and acknowledges her flaws and weaknesses willingly. Her relationships are also really interesting and I found the romantic subplot to be refreshing because it didn't end up in the two MCs having sex. Although I suspect they will in one of the sequels, which is fine! It'll be interesting to see how the author deals with the whole virgin goddess thing because that aspect of Selene is something that her powers are inexorably linked to.

If Greek mythology is your thing I highly recommend this book. Alternately if you like mysteries this would also be a good choice!

Other Participants

Flavia : Iron Cast
The Reality Bug Book Blog : Ever the Hunted
Melanie : Arena 

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Unboxing - #owlcrate December 2016 - Epic

December's #owlcrate arrived last week and as usual I procrastinated on posting the unboxing until this week. The theme for this box was all things EPIC.

I was figuring there'd be an HP item, a LoTR item and a GoT item for sure but I wasn't sure what else and as always I had no idea what book to expect because I don't follow YA publishing enough to know what's on the horizon in terms of releases.

1. Harry Potter mystery mini from Funko!

I love Funko figurines, I have a lot of them, so many that I don't know the exact amount. I especially love the Harry Potter ones. I actually have the Hermione and Crookshanks mystery minis sitting on my desk. The best part about the blind box ones is hoping you'll get one of the rare ones. Angie bought me a blind box Vinylmation at Disney World for my birthday gift and I got the rarest option which was super exciting for me! So I ripped into this one's box right away with my fingers crossed for a rare one. I got Harry himself as you can see. He's the most common option, but he's adorable so I forgive him! Now he lives on one of my book shelves hanging out with the Sirius Funko!Pop I got for Christmas.

2. Game of Thrones coasters from Dark Horse Comics/HBO

These are awesome, they're really gorgeous and vibrant. I don't need more coasters. I have as many as I actually need. So I've decided I am going to follow the advice of my interior design idol, Sarah Richardson, and get a shadowbox or shadowboxes to frame them because I think they would look really good framed. I LOVE the GoT books - not such a big fan of the show though.

3. Lord of the Rings book pin from Jane Mount at Ideal Bookshelf

At one point I was starting to showcase my pins on my messenger bag. But they kept falling off, specifically the Mockingjay pin I got as a gift from Angie, so I thought better to be safe than sorry so I took them off even though that made me sad. I'll have to figure out how to showcase them now and then add this one to the showcase. Maybe these could be mounted in a shadowbox too, hmmmmm.

4. Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe card from Susanne Draws

Narnia is <3, and LWW is my favourite of the Narnia books. I've been saying/thinking to myself that I didn't have enough Narnia prints on my geeky gallery walls (Just 1, of the lamppost) so this was a great and timely addition! It's actually a greeting card and not a print, but that didn't stop me from framing it as you can see. It JUST fits into that 4x6 frame, like the edges of the card are pressed right against the inner edges of the mat. It now lives on my wall as part of a fourseome with a photo of me and Angie in front of Cinderella's Castle, a Star Wars print, and a photo of my coworkers and I in our 2016 comic book Halloween costumes. And coincidentally the entire foursome hangs right next to the Harry Potter print from a previous Owl Crate.

5. Darker Shade of Magic quote sticker from Miss Phi

The author's YA novel This Savage Song was one of my favourite reads of 2016. I absolutely adored it. That being said I haven't read V.E. Schweb's original series which is quoted on this sticker yet. But I plan to! I have the audible editions of both books. This sticker has a great quote on it and it's really well designed. I'm trying to figure out what to do with it. Maybe I'll continue the trend of almost everything else in this box and frame it! How novel! haha.

6. Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst

What a gorgeous cover! As is pretty much par for the course with my Owl Crate books, I've never heard of this one before. But honestly that's one of the best parts about Owl Crate to me. They're introducing me to new things that I might not always pick up on my own. I read the authors letter before reading the book's blurb and that was actually enough to hook me. I'm really excited to get around to this one. It's about unconventional princesses. I LOVE unconventional princesses. Cimorene from the Enchanted Forest Chronicles was one and she is one of my favourite literary heroines to this day.

"Betrothed since childhood to the prince of Mynaria, Princess Dennaleia has always known what her future holds. Her marriage will seal the alliance between Mynaria and her homeland, protecting her people from other hostile lands. But Denna has a secret. She possesses an Affinity for fire—a dangerous gift for the future queen of a kingdom where magic is forbidden.
Now, Denna must learn the ways of her new home while trying to hide her growing magic. To make matters worse, she must learn to ride Mynaria’s formidable warhorses—and her teacher is the person who intimidates her most, the prickly and unconventional Princess Amaranthine—called Mare—the sister of her betrothed.
When a shocking assassination leaves the kingdom reeling, Mare and Denna reluctantly join forces to search for the culprit. As the two become closer, Mare is surprised by Denna’s intelligence and bravery, while Denna is drawn to Mare’s independent streak. And soon their friendship is threatening to blossom into something more.
But with dangerous conflict brewing that makes the alliance more important than ever, acting on their feelings could be deadly. Forced to choose between their duty and their hearts, Mare and Denna must find a way to save their kingdoms—and each other.
" -- via Goodreads
Hey, if you're ever thinking about subscribing to Owl Crate - why not use my referral link and help me earn a free box?

Monday, 2 January 2017

Musing Mondays - What I'm reading & my 2017 reading challenges

Musing Monday January 2, 2017

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’m currently reading…

I finished The Immortals on Saturday - that was the last thing I did before going to sleep on New Year's Eve because I wanted to count it for 2016! I'll talk more about that in my post about it for the Calendar Girls challenge on Wednesday.  Now though, now I am reading: 

Betrayals (Cainsville #4) by Kelley Armstrong

I wasn't going to start reading this right away. I want to finish the books that I started reading in 2016 but set aside for other things first. Namely: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (I started reading it like the night after I'd seen the movie and since the movie was so fresh in my mind I was easily side tracked - looking forward to reading it now though), Tao of Pooh (I was reading it on my lunch breaks when there was no one else around but that doesn't happen often anymore haha), and the Prisoner of Azkaban audiobook (I only have a few chapters left but I keep having to stop because listening to the parts about Sirius are making me even more emotional than just reading about them, or even watching them in the films.). But since I finished The Immortals on Saturday night before going to sleep - I didn't have another any of those upstairs with me on Sunday morning. I mean I could have listened to PoA but that would have disturbed everyone else in the house who was still sleeping. So I started Betrayals, and now I am up to chapter 14 and I am enjoying it as much as I did the first 3 books in the series so far. The end of Deceptions was an emotional roller coaster, it was trying to kill me with emotions and I said as much to Angie as I was finishing it on Saturday.

"The exciting fourth novel in bestselling author Kelley Armstrong's "impossible-to-put-down" Cainsville series.

When Olivia's life exploded--after she found out she was not the adopted child of a privileged Chicago family but of a notorious pair of convicted serial killers--she found a refuge in the secluded but oddly welcoming town of Cainsville, Illinois. Working with Gabriel Walsh, a fiendishly successful criminal lawyer with links to the town, she discovered the truth about her parents' crimes in an investigation that also revealed the darker forces at work in the place that had offered her a haven. As if that wasn't enough, she also found out that she, Gabriel and her biker boyfriend Ricky were not caught in an ordinary sort of love triangle, but were hereditary actors in an ancient drama in which the elders of Cainsville and the mysterious Huntsmen who opposed them had a huge stake.
     Now someone is killing street kids in the city, and the police have tied Ricky to the crimes. Setting out with Gabriel's help to clear Ricky's name, Olivia once again finds her own life at risk. Soon the three are tangled in a web of betrayals that threatens their uneasy equilibrium and is pushing them toward a hard choice: either they fulfill their destinies by trusting each other and staying true to their real bonds, or they succumb to the extraordinary forces trying to win an eternal war by tearing them apart.
" -- via Goodreads

        THIS WEEK’S RANDOM QUESTION: Have you joined any challenges in reading for the new year? Do you have any general book goals or even not book related goals for 2017?

I am doing several challenges/have several goals (reading related and otherwise) for 2017. I'll talk about my goals first and then how each of the challenges I am doing works towards those goals. My baseline goal is to always read at least 1 book a week, to that end I always make my basic goal 52 books for the year, and then when I pass that, I get to challenge myself to see how high above 100% I can get on the Goodreads widget. 2016 was my best result since I started doing the Goodreads challenge in 2013. At 71/52 books my completion bar sat at 137%. Obviously I'd love to get past that in 2017, but I know myself and I know that life happens, so even though I am relatively certain that I will read way more than 52 books, I keep my baseline goal at 52 because I know I will read at LEAST 52.

2017 Reading Challenge

Lauren has read 0 books toward her goal of 52 books.

I have a few other reading related goals:

1. I want to read more graphic novels

I think a good goal is that for every 2 novels I read I will read 1 graphic novel. That means my baseline goal for graphic novel consumption for the year will be 26. Considering that I have 27 sitting in my TBR shelves right at the moment that seems doable!

2. I want to read as much of my TBR shelves as possible

Speaking of the aforementioned TBR shelves, I really would like to clear them as much as possible this year. There are books that have been sitting on there for like a decade. And I'm not even exaggerating I'm pretty sure there's at least 1 book on there that I bought on my first trip to visit Angie and that was in 2005. I know right now that I am not going to stop buying more books so I should read the ones I already have so that I don't feel guilty about it. To that end, this is the year that I tackle reading the shelves.

3. I want to listen to more audiobooks

First I need to finish listening to the last 4 Harry Potter novels. I need to get to Half-Blood Prince sooner rather than later because Angie and I do HP roleplay together and that's the year we're up to in our plot right now and I find myself fuzzy on some of the time line because it's been awhile since I re-read this particular one. But also - I have like 10 audiobooks that are NOT Harry Potter sitting on my Audible account and I would like to listen to them. I want to listen to Wil Wheaton read me a John Scalzi novel, I want to finally get around to the Darker Shade of Magic books, and I want to read Carry On! I also just got the first two books in the Dresden Files through Audible, so I am going to keep my subscription up long enough now to get the rest.

So those are my 3 specific reading goals and I've found 5 challenges that at least partially will help me achieve them:

Under a cut because holy image heaviness Batman! I will eventually make a separate post for each of these to keep better track of them.