Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday #16

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish which features a variety of bookish top ten lists!

Top Ten Books Recently Added To My TBR Shelf

*Click on the image for Goodreads*

In the Hand of the Goddess (Song of the Lioness #2) - After reading and loving the first book in the series recently, I added all the rest of the books to my shelf!

Half Bad - A bunch of my blogger friends had high praise for this one and the fact that it's about Witches sealed the deal for me :)

The Last Ever After (School for Good & Evil #3) - The final installment of this trilogy, and one that I'm very eagerly awaiting! I'm hoping - nay, begging for a 'happy ever after' for Agatha and Sophie.

The Walls Around Us - I've read a lot of praise for this one so I'm hoping it delivers for me as well.

Becoming Jinn - A story about Genies!!  Enough said. This book, I need it.

City of Fae - If that stunning cover isn't enough to attract your attention, check out the blurb and you'll be sold.

The Storyspinner - Another one that's been getting a ton of positive buzz, I couldn't resist adding it to my shelf!

And now the ones without covers:

A Court of Thorns and Roses #2, Twilight of the Gods by Sarah J Maas, The Rose & The Dagger (The Wrath & The Dawn #2)

After finishing ACOTAR a while back, I didn't hesitate to add the sequels on my shelf, I NEED more Tamlin and Feyre in my life ♥  And basically, Sarah J. Maas is out to ruin our feels with yet another release in the works. I don't know if Twilight of the Gods will be the first in a series, or a standalone...I just know that I'll be reading it and loving it.  And after also loving The Wrath and The Dawn by Renée Ahdieh, I hastily added the follow up to my wishlist. SO.MANY.GOOD.BOOKS. Gah!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Review: A Monster Calls

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
Inspired by Siobhan Dowd
Illustrated by Jim Kay
Published January 1st 2011 by Candlewick Press

The monster showed up after midnight. As they do.

But it isn't the monster Conor's been expecting. He's been expecting the one from his nightmare, the one he's had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming...

This monster is something different, though. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor.

It wants the truth.
A Monster Calls is a book I've heard nothing but positive things about since it's release in 2011, and I was lucky enough to be gifted a copy so I was very eager to read it...but, I knew I had to be in just the right mood to dive in considering the content. So, when the mood presented itself recently, I didn't hesitate for one second.  Although I feel sure my heart won't soon recover from being broken into a million tiny pieces...

As many of you are no doubt aware, A Monster Calls is a book that deals with loss, death, letting go and saying goodbye.  We meet our main character Conor, a young thirteen year old, whose mother is battling an aggressive form of cancer. On an evening just like any other, Conor is visited by a monster. A wild and terrifying monster who wants something from Conor: the truth. A truth that Conor does not want to face. In fact, Conor would rather face the monster's wrath than face up to this truth.  So, the monster makes a deal with Conor - it will visit Conor again and tell him three stories. Once the stories are done, the monster will require the truth from Conor. Or else.

The emotional punch that this book packs is actually staggering. Within a short 215 pages, it takes us on a whirlwind of feelings: curiosity, amazement, wonder, fear, dread...and inevitably, sadness and pain.  I felt myself tense at the unavoidable outcome at about 50 pages in, and the tension only continued to build, amidst my growing sadness and the tears splattering it's pages at various intervals. Conor doesn't want to face the possibility of losing his mother, but despite his denial, he still goes through the many stages of grief in loss in a poignant and thoroughly relatable way.  I found myself hoping blindly along with him, despite the fact that I knew how the story had to end.

A Monster Calls is achingly beautiful in the way it's written, with stirring prose that hits you right in the feels.  It's filled with gorgeous and haunting illustrations throughout that really set the tone perfectly.  This was my first read by Patrick Ness, but it certainly won't be the last.  The fact that he wrote this based on an idea by the late Siobhan Dowd - who tragically succumbed to cancer herself before completing this book - says a lot about Ness' ability as a writer in my mind.

I am beyond grateful to have finally read this little gem of a book that will surely stay with me for years to come.  Though the characters are dealing with cancer specifically, A Monster Calls deals with loss in a universal sense, and the underlying themes of love and acceptance make this a book I feel that everyone should read.  My heart may never recover - and I'm ok with that.

My Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Harry Potter MotW #83

Harry Potter Moment of the Week 

Harry Potter Moment of the Week is a meme hosted by Leah @ Uncorked Thoughts  & Me @ Lunar Rainbows Reviews. The idea is to share a favorite moment, magical item, character, spell, quote, object from the books, films or J.K.Rowling herself!  How to join &  upcoming topics here.

Hi everyone :) You may have noticed a little change in the description above^^ but I just wanted to let everyone know officially:  I'm going to be co-hosting HP Moment of the Week along with Leah! Yay ♥  We're going to alternate hosting duties starting this week with me hosting. You'll find the linky below for those who want to link up!  Ok, so without further ado, this week's topic asks:  

What Would Your Patronus Be?

As much as I wish that the Patronus Quiz was live on Pottermore right now, I feel like this one is a bit of a no-brainer for me.  Anyone who knows me could very easily guess what form my Patronus would take:

A Cat

I adore cats and have a huge affinity for the species in general.  Sure stupid Umbridge did damage the cat-lover's reputation, but I take comfort in knowing that a total BAMF like McGonagall, had a cat-Patronus herself.  AND she also chose to Transfigure herself as a cat.  I like to think that I would follow her lead in both cases ;)

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday #15

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish which features a variety of bookish top ten lists!

Hi everyone :)  This week's topic was more of a challenge for me, my reading tastes were quite different in my youth, I went from Shakespeare and other classics to horribly clichéd teen reads that have not aged well...but there were some good ones in the mix.  That being said, it was a fun trip down memory lane so I hope you guys will enjoy what I came up with too:

Top Ten Books From My Youth That I'd Love To Revisit

Anne of Green Gables - I adored this series to bits as a child and it remains one of my all-time favorite reads.  Especially the first book.  The sequels kept my attention less and less as a kid so I'd love to re-read the entire series as an adult and see if I'd have better luck.  I've reread the first book a number of times but a full series revisit seems in order.

The Secret Garden - Admittedly, I've already reread this one as an adult - and I loved it just as much as the first time around - but I'd love to revisit this story again. I have nothing but love for these characters so I can certainly see myself returning to them again and again.♥

A Little Princess - This is another book, by the same author as The Secret Garden, that I also reread a few years back, and to be honest I feel the same way about this one as I did with #2 ^^, It's such a sweet, heartwarming story, I could read it again and again and never, ever get sick of it.

Les Filles de Caleb - This is a classic French historical that I read after seeing the t.v. mini-series based on it, which was HUGELY popular in the 1990's.  It's equal parts romance and tragedy and the books are beasts (Book #1 is 500+ pages and the sequel is 700+pages!) but my young self couldn't get enough.

Romeo & Juliet - I went through a pretty big Shakespeare phase in my teens and with the trendy film that came out in the late 90's featuring Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes (Romeo + Juliet), I got into this classic even more.  I know it's not a favorite among Shakespeare fans, but I've always had a soft spot for the story.

The Raven - Similarly, I went through an Edgar Allen Poe phase in my later teens but the Raven was always a standout to me. It's so dark and atmospheric, I'd never read anything like it - and still haven't. I also love The Simpsons take on the poem in their very first Treehouse of Horror Halloween Special hehe!

Frankenstein - I read this my first year in Uni and to be honest, it was a struggle.  I remember not liking it all that much. So why did it make the list? Well, I also remember the story staying with me for ages after I'd finished reading.  I couldn't get the haunting, twisted story out of my head  I'd love to re-read it now, of my own free will (LOL) and see if I'd feel any different about it.

The Little Prince This was the only high-school reading requirement that I actually loved. I read it first in the original French, and then re-read it soon after in English.  It's simple and charming, not to mention filled to the brim with valuable life-lessons. I can not wait to see the upcoming animated film by the same name, I hope it's just as good as the book was!

Hamlet - I read this one my last year a high school and I remember thinking it was simultaneously engaging and seriously messed up lol.  But then recently, I watched the BBC's rendition of Hamlet, starring Patrick Stewart and David Tennant (♥) which - naturally - gave me a whole new perspective on the story...and got me in the mood for a reread. Fans of the book should definitely check out the BBC's take on this classic, by the way.

Sweet Valley High - *cringe*  These trashy stories of high-school twins living a Melrose Place-styled life were all the rage back when I was in middle-school. Man, just looking at that cover makes me feel old!  A far cry from the actual YA-literature we have at our disposal today, I got hooked into them all the same.  I'd love a sort of ironic reread into Elizabeth and Jessica's adventures, just for kicks LOL.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Review: Fairest

Fairest by Marissa Meyer
The Lunar Chronicles #3.5
Published January 27th 2015 by Feiwel & Friends

In this stunning bridge book between Cress and Winter in the bestselling Lunar Chronicles, Queen Levana’s story is finally told.

Mirror, mirror on the wall,
Who is the fairest of them all?

Fans of the Lunar Chronicles know Queen Levana as a ruler who uses her “glamour” to gain power. But long before she crossed paths with Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress, Levana lived a very different story – a story that has never been told . . . until now. 

Marissa Meyer spins yet another unforgettable tale about love and war, deceit and death. This extraordinary book includes full-color art and an excerpt from Winter, the next book in the Lunar Chronicles series.
Fairest is supposed to be the bridge book between Cress and the upcoming Winter, but it also doubles as a prequel book to the series at the same time, since the events for this one take place before the start of the series proper.  It's also a novella, since it's not quite the size of a full-fledged book, but the page count is higher than some of those little tiny novellas, coming in at 222 pages. Despite not quite wowing me quite as much as I would have liked, I'd still consider this one an absolute must-read for fans of The Lunar Chronicles.

I should clarify: I read Fairest in one sitting within one afternoon, so I definitely enjoyed it.  I'd been extremely curious to learn more about the evil Queen Levana and her motivations for being the way she is in the series.  The setting for this one is entirely on Luna, which was fantastic to me because I've longed to explore the colonized Moon since the very start of the series.  The writing style was as engaging as it always is with a Marissa Meyer book -she sets the tone perfection to tell Levana's story and there was a delicious air of mystery throughout the book, as she slowly gives out details to Levana's past, rife with childhood trauma and neglect.

When we're introduced to Levana, she's already in her teens and barring a few, too short lived (in my opinion) flashbacks to her youth, we see her go through her teens and into young-adulthood.  I think my minor issues with the outcome of the plot stems from what I had inadvertently come to expect, going in.  I thought the story would begin it's focus on Levana's traumatic childhood and slowly we'd get her metamorphosis into the wicked creature we know from The Lunar Chronicles. I don't know if it was the way we're introduced to her, but something threw me off.  I just kept thinking: sure she's messed up, but she could so easily be brought back to her sense if someone just talked some sense into her...or gave her a good shake -which I longed to do throughout the book.  So much of the trials she suffers are of her own making - barring that one awful thing when she and her sister were kids - that was horrible *shudders*

Of course, Levana never does get that talking to she so desperately needed in Fairest, and her entire teen years, into young adulthood are marred with one terrible decision after another.  She does clearly seek power and has a natural talent for politics and...dictatorship, so while her personal life decisions are plagued by delusions and cruelty, her quest for power is nothing short of ingenious and filled with  equally cruel actions to get what she wants more than anything: to rule over Luna...and eventually, Earth.  It was extremely cool to see how Lunars and Levana in particular use their gifts of glamour with such ease.  No one has any issues with others walking around as complete lies, with altered appearances or identities, this is the norm on Luna.  It was also great to get glimpses into Princess Selene's birth and early childhood - as well as young Winter from the upcoming fourth and final book in The Lunar Chronicles.

What's the final verdict on Fairest? I liked it a lot, but it felt like it was missing a little something too.  It was an insightful and fascinating read, but it might have benefited from being a full-length book to be honest.  It didn't blow me away like some of my favorite novellas of late, but it easily kept my attention. A quick, if dark glimpse into the mind, and the past of one of the most famous villains in YA literature today.

My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Harry Potter MotW #82

Harry Potter Moment of the Week 

Harry Potter Moment of the week is a weekly meme hosted over at Uncorked Thoughts. The idea is to share one favorite moment, magical item, character, spell, quote, object from the books, films or J.K.Rowling herself!    For information on how to join up & for upcoming topics, click here.

What Would Your Amortentia Smell Like?

The Ocean - The salty tang soothes my soul.
Fresh Raspberries - My favorite fruit.
Wintergreen - Similar to Mint/Spearmint but much more appealing to me.

I'm not sure what those combined aromas would get me, but here's hoping they'd be as enticing put together as they are separately ;P There's something about the idea of Amortentia that's so cool, isn't there?  I mean, I would never use the thing, but I love how it smells differently for everyone, according to what attracts a person.  JKR really is a genius!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday *112*

Waiting on Wednesday

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine in which we spotlight an upcoming book release we're especially looking forward to!

Here's what I'm eagerly awaiting this week:

Winter by Marissa Meyer
The Lunar Chronicles #4
Expected Publication: November 10th 2015 by Feiwel & Friends

When Princess Winter was thirteen, the rumor around the Lunar court was that her glamour would soon be even more breathtaking than that of her stepmother, Queen Levana. In a fit of jealousy, Levana disfigured Winter. Four years later, Winter has sworn off the use of her glamour altogether. Despite her scars, Winter’s natural beauty, her grace, and her gentleness are winning admiration from the Lunar people that no amount of mind-control could achieve.

Winter despises her stepmother, but has never dreamed of standing up to her. That is, until she realizes that she may be the only one with the power to confront the queen.

Can Cinder, Prince Kai, Scarlet, Wolf, Cress, Thorne, Princess Winter, and the palace guard Jacin find their happily ever afters?
Another unsurprising pick for me this week - with the cover being released last Friday, there was absolutely no doubt in my mind that Winter would make the cut.  And that cover is easily my favorite in a string of stunning covers for the series,  I LOVE how the apple glows and seems to be made of glass or magic or something ♥  I am dying to meet Winter and see how she'll mesh with Cinder, Scarlet, Cress and the rest of the crew!  And I'm pretty much on my knees, begging that everyone gets their happy ever after. Please.Please.Please.Please.PLEASE.

Are you pining away for Winter too?
Let me know below when you link me up :)

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday #14

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish which features a variety of bookish top ten lists!

Hi everyone and happy Tuesday!  This week's topic is about what's on our Spring TBR shelf.  Now most of the books I want to get to this Spring won't necessarily be new releases...more like whatever I feel like I must get to as soon as possible.  As much as I am a notorious mood-reader, I hope that I'll be able to get through most of these:

A Darker Shade of Magic - One of my very next planned reads, I'm dying to be blown away by alternate Londons and all the magic!

The Winner's Curse - With the sequel getting glowing reviews all around, it's time I see what the fuss is about :)

A Monster Calls - My feels needed to be ready for this one, I know it's going to be tough, but totally worthwhile too! I actually *just* started this one yesterday.

Shadow and Bone - I'm possible the last person alive to not have read this yet...and I need to fix that.

The Alloy of Law - The MASSIVE hangover I had when I finished The Hero of Ages has let up some and I'm craving returning to this amazing world and see how much has changed.

Fourth Grave Beneath My Feet - Love this series, but I've been drawing it out to make it last longer...I sense the need to return to Charley is fast approaching.

Soulless - A recent birthday gift, I've heard wonderful things about this series so I can't wait to get acquainted.

Finnikin of the Rock - Another recent gift, I've been dying to read some Marchetta and I think me and Finnikin will get along marvelously ;)

Outlander - There's a lot of talk of this series, good and bad but my curiosity is still going strong so I must satisfy it.

The Casual Vacancy - I can't call myself JKR's number one fan while I haven't read all her works. That's going to change soon - especially with the miniseries out already!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Review: Blue Lily, Lily Blue

Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater
The Raven Cycle #3
Published October 21st 2014 by Scholastic Press

There is danger in dreaming. But there is even more danger in waking up.

Blue Sargent has found things. For the first time in her life, she has friends she can trust, a group to which she can belong. The Raven Boys have taken her in as one of their own. Their problems have become hers, and her problems have become theirs.

The trick with found things though, is how easily they can be lost.

Friends can betray. Mothers can disappear. Visions can mislead. Certainties can unravel.
Blue Lily Lily Blue is clearly a book I should have read the moment it came out.You guys knew it, hell, even I knew it but sometimes, I can't help myself from resisting a deeply-anticipated book. Why? Well to postpone it's inevitable end, of course!  I knew my feels would take a beating with this one and that afterwards I,d have to suffer waiting for the next book.  So, I held off...until I couldn't wait any longer. The book was calling to me and I answered it's call.  I read through it in a few short sittings with my heart in my throat the entire time.  And now it's over. And I want to cry/find a TARDIS and make it September already!

Blue Lily, Lily Blue might just be the most gorgeously written book of the series so far - which is saying an awful lot because this series is one of the most stunningly written series I've ever come across.  But this installment man...this one was almost poetic.  It was like reading a work of art.  The pacing was perfectly done, and every.single.moment. was given the time and attention it deserved. And when it comes to The Raven Cycle, that applies to ALL of the moments.  I was able to seamlessly slip back into this world as though I had never left it  and bask in it's glorious, dream-like quality for the duration.  These books have always been more about the journey than the destination but at the same time, there's always that constant sense that you are building towards something veeerrry important.  The pieces of the plot are being expertly positioned towards the inevitable end *sniff* excuse me while I cry into my pillow. *sobs* (I NEVER want this to end!!)

So, Blue Lily, Lily Blue might have our beloved Blue's name right there in the title, but as always, this book gives attention to all of it's beloved characters.  Admitedelly, Blue is a little bit more front and center than she was the last time around, if only because she finally gets to know herself a little bit better in this book.  While becoming more all the more mysterious for it.  And the same can be said for Gansey, Adam, Ronan and Noah.  We may have felt like we were pretty familiar with the crew at this point, but the diabolical temptress that is author Maggie Stiefvater showed us that she still had a few surprises up her sleeve.  Even the characters themselves, who have been the best of friends for ever, came to the collective realisations that they might not know each other as well as they had once thought.  Adam seems to have come the furthest out of the group at first glance, for obvious reasons *cough* Cabeswater *cough*, but Ronan, ever the enigma, has still more secrets that he's keeping for himself.  And then there's Gansey, who reveals hidden insecurities beneath his cool and kingly exterior.  Even Noah managed to surprise me - and creep me the hell out in the process.  o.O

With the series drawing ever closer to it's inevitable conclusion, Blue Lily, Lily Blue sets the tone for the upcoming ending wonderfully.  I feel more in love with the boys and Blue than I ever did before - and believe me, I was already head-over-heels going in.  The mystery-factor is at an all-time high, the magic woven through these pages is so much more at the forefront than it's ever been, so I'm bracing myself for one EPIC finale.  This series has earned a spot on my all-time favorites shelf since the very first book, but my love for these books just keeps growing with every new installment!  I'm equal parts dying to read The Raven King and terrified to see it end.  No doubt our feels will be shattered beyond repair.  *gets in line and waits for the soul-crushing to begin*

My Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Harry Potter MotW #81

Harry Potter Moment of the Week 

Harry Potter Moment of the week is a weekly meme hosted over at Uncorked Thoughts. The idea is to share one favorite moment, magical item, character, spell, quote, object from the books, films or J.K.Rowling herself!    For information on how to join up & for upcoming topics, click here.

Best Hogwarts Teacher

So many Hogwarts teachers deserve credit for being the best of the best when it comes to their respective fields.. and magic in general to be honest.  Sure, some were lame (like Lockhart) and some were downright cruel (like Snape) but most were just busy being epic 24/7 and they deserve props. Since I gave all the love to Lupin last time we were talking teachers, I decided to mix it up this week:

Albus Dumbledore 

Throughout the series, my one dream was to be taught by him. I can't explain how deep my need was for him to teach Harry personally.  I finally got my wish in Half-Blood Prince, and while it wasn't exactly what I had in mind, it was no less amazing!  Dumbledore skills and sheer brilliance were legendary way back when he was a student, so I can't even imagine how much wisdom he'd have to impart as a teacher. It boggles the mind. All I know is that I want a piece of that action.

Minerva McGonagall 

When push comes to shove, this woman is a legend.  She's a no-nonsense teacher, she's exceptionally skilled at what she does - and what she does is as complex as it can get.  Transfiguration isn't some old magic trick anyone can pull off at the drop of a hat.  It takes years to even wish to be as skilled as she clearly is - and then you get to turn yourself into something. Like a cat.  You can't get any more awesome than that.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday *111*

Waiting on Wednesday

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine in which we spotlight an upcoming book release we're especially looking forward to!

Is anyone honestly surprised by my pick this week? For real though:

Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas
Throne of Glass #4
Expected Publication: September 1st 2015 by Bloomsbury

Her Destiny Awaits. But First, Vengeance.

Everyone Celaena Sardothien loves has been taken from her. But she's at last returned to the empire—for vengeance, to rescue her once-glorious kingdom, and to confront the shadows of her past . . .

She will fight for her cousin, a warrior prepared to die just to see her again. She will fight for her friend, a young man trapped in an unspeakable prison. And she will fight for her people, enslaved to a brutal king and awaiting their lost queen's triumphant return.

Celaena’s epic journey has captured the hearts and imaginations of millions across the globe. This fourth volume will hold readers rapt as Celaena’s story builds to a passionate, agonizing crescendo that might just shatter her world.
EVERYTHING about this book kills me.  That title? Dead.  That bloody mesmerizing cover? Dead. Celaena's deadly/badass/epic/BOSS stance and stare? D.E.A.D.  I simply can not get over all the badassery that is at play here.  The Queen herself, returning to Adarlan. For justice. For revenge. Tears will be shed.  Nails will be bitten raw.  Feels will be shattered beyond repair.  And we, the readers will be left a bloody, broken mess on the floor.  Because that is the way Sarah J. Maas wills it. And believe me, she will have it her way.

Will YOU kneel before our Queen? *ahem*...I mean - 
Are YOU super crazy pumped for Queen of Shadows??!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday #13

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish which features a variety of bookish top ten lists!

Hi everyone :) I hope this Tuesday is treating you all well! Today's a special day over at Lunar Rainbows Reviews since it's my birthday :D  and what better way to celebrate than chatting with some of my favorite people about books!  The topic this week is pretty open, so I decided to go with:

Top Ten Books For Readers Who Are All About The World-Building

You guys know me and my love for elaborate fantasy worlds that suck you in and won't let go and since today is my day, I figured you'd all indulge me and tag along for the trip ;) I'm not going to stick to one single specific genre, instead I just want to feature series that shine at setting up a whole other world:

1. The Stormlight Archive - No other series could be more deserving of the top spot in my opinion, than this epic (and I do mean EPIC) fantasy series in progress by Brandon Sanderson.  The sheer scope of this new world boggles the mind: there's new gender-roles, unique currency, different weather patterns and freaky animals aplenty...not to mention a wholly-original magical system!

2. Throne of Glass - Sure, this series starts off on the simpler side when it comes to fantasy world-building, but Crown of Midnight takes it up a notch and then Heir of Fire blows the whole freaking thing out of the water.  There are Fae, Witches, Wyverns and some of the most amazing magic I've ever come across!  It is elaborate as it stands and I have a feeling Queen of Shadows will take it even further *squee*

3. Daughter of Smoke & Bone - This trilogy actually starts out in our world - well, if our world had angels and monsters that is... but the way the author describes Prague makes it seem like another world entirely. Through the course of the series, we end up seeing other worlds, like Eretz, and that imagery will be forever burned in my mind! Unique species of animals and sentient-beings abounds, not to mention the landscape author Laini Taylor painted so perfectly. THAT to me is an example of stellar world-building.

4. Lord of the Rings - You can't discuss world-building without thinking of J.R.R. Tolkien's masterful Middle-Earth. This world is as fresh as they come with Dragons, Hobbits, Elven Kingdoms, enchanted Forests, Dwarvish Mountains, Orks, giant Spiders and an omnipresent Dark Lord.  This place is pretty much nothing like Earth and I love it all the more for it!

5. The Lunar Chronicles - Ok. So, this one takes place mostly on Earth...but it's of the futuristic sci-fi variety and it's so wonderfully atmospheric that you feel like you're in another world entirely!  And then there's space travel and we even get to go ON THE MOON.  I stand by this one because Marissa Meyer's really gives every detail her full attention and the end result is one that truly transports you into the future.

6. His Dark Materials - Parallel Universes.  Multiple parallel universes existing within one reality. Worlds with magic and talking animals and witches and enchanted items like compases, knives and spyglasses! To me, this series is the epitome of fantasy world-building.  The fact that Philip Pullman was able to develop so many unique realities - and do so not only coherently, but gloriously is true magic in every sense of the world.

7. Chronicles of Narnia - Another classic I found impossible to ignore for this list, the magical system in this one is more or less a part of the actual world in Narnia. That is to say, it's the world and it's creatures that are magic, there is no magic that exists without them. The people don't have magic, the world does.  Suffice it to say it takes some pretty incredible world-building skills to pull something like that off.  My issues with the Lewis' theology, and that dreadful ending aside,   I have to give credit where credit is due and Narnia is an amazing world to explore.

8. Mistborn - You guys had to know that if we're talking world-building, Sanderson was going to make multiple appearances, right?!  This is a world where people with the gift can ingest metals and 'burn' them to gain magical abilities.  The elaborateness of the magical system alone is enough to feel like you've been transported into another reality.  Even before you start encountering savage, horrifying beasts you've never imagined before.  And by the end of this series, the world that was built is forged anew into something pretty spectacular ;)

9. The School for Good & Evil - In this world, fairytales and fantasy collide into something fresh and innovative.  Dual magical schools, magical creatures abounds, some familiar and others new. This trilogy might start off in a world close to our own but when our heroines travel to the School for Good & Evil, the world they encounter will take your breath away!

10. Harry Potter - Y'all didn't think I was going to leave this one out did you?  Once again we get a story that starts off in our our world (shut up! I won't ever believe otherwise) but within OUR world, there exists hidden magical places.  Like Hogwarts, Diagon Alley, Hogsmeade and Godric's Hollow. This one's pretty self explanatory but in case anyone needs reminding: WIZARDS. WITCHES. SPELLS. PHOENIX. DRAGONS. TIME-TURNERS. INVISIBILITY CLOAK. PENSIVE. WANDS.  Oh, and magical foods, candies and drinks ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Friday, March 6, 2015

Review: Alanna

Alanna: The First Adventure
by Tamora Pierce (Song of the Lioness #1)
Published: September 1st 1983 by Athenium Books

“From now on I’m Alan of Trebond, the younger twin. I’ll be a knight.”

And so young Alanna of Trebond begins the journey to knighthood. Alanna has always craved the adventure and daring allowed only for boys; her twin brother, Thom, yearns to learn the art of magic. So one day they decide to switch places: Disguised as a girl, Thom heads for the convent; Alanna, pretending to be a boy, is on her way to the castle of King Roald to begin her training as a page. But the road to knighthood is not an easy one. As Alanna masters the skills necessary for battle, she must also learn to control her heart and to discern her enemies from her allies. Filled with swords and sorcery, adventure and intrigue, good and evil, Alanna’s first adventure begins—one that will lead to the fulfillment of her dreams and make her a legend in the land.
It seems like a sin that this book was first published in 1983 - when I was 3 years old - and that I'm only reading it now.  Alanna: The First Adventure is a classic fantasy adventure that I can't help but wish I'd discovered as a kid, even though I enjoyed the hell out of it as an adult!  It's just one of those stories that I can see my younger self becoming seriously obsessed with though.  The fantasy elements are understated in their simplicity but that's part of where this story gets it's charm and appeal.  I was swept away with Alanna's adventures into knighthood and rooting for her every step of the way.

Alanna: The First Adventure feels like it's the original 'girl posing as a boy' fantasy story.  We've all read at least a few of the newer versions of this trope, but it seems to me that this is where it all started..  The basic premise of Alanna was one I took to straight away: the fact that Alanna and Thom are twins, both dead-set against the roles they're forced to take by their father - roles dictated by their genders.  Knighthood calls to Alanna, while her brother wishes to be a sorcerer.  When their father sends them off for schooling in their respective, predetermined roles, Alanna suggests that they switch things up. Unbeknownst to their father, they set off in disguise.  Alanna will go where her brother should have, and train to become a knight and Thom will be free to become a sorcerer.  If their disguises hold up that is...

 Alanna and I hit it off straight away.  It's hard not to admire a young woman willing to do anything to accomplish her dreams. With her strong will, crafty lies and her magical abilities, she's a force to be reckoned with. The way she manages to go beyond simply fitting in, to making a name for herself among the boys was wonderful to behold and while I did worry that her secret would be discovered every step of the way, I also had a blast every single time she fooled someone into believing her lies.   Alanna makes quite a few friends along the way and though some of them could have done with better character development, others like Prince Jonathan, George the King of Thieves, Coram and Sir Miles, the knight/teacher were fantastic to get to know!  I sincerely hope that the relationships Alanna has forged in this book will continue to develop in further books.

The villains of the story were a bit underdeveloped as well, but it's clear by the end of the book that we haven't seen the last of either of them.  Hopefully the rest of the series will offer a little more insight into both of their characters, specifically their motivations.  Being the first book in a series though, a certain amount of details were sure to be omitted and held out for future books, so I didn't let it bother me.  Additionally, there was quite a bit of foreshadowing regarding Alanna's future so I feel certain we'll be getting more details in the sequels. In any case, the story was fun enough on it's own without having all the answers straight away.

One last thing I wanted to discuss was magical items! I freaking love discovering new magical items and artifacts and Alanna: The First Adventure marks the discovery of Lightning, Alanna's magical sword.  That discovery, when coupled with Alanna's own magical gift of healing left me super excited to see how both of those assets will serve her in the future.  All things considered this was truly a little gem of a book.  I've already went ahead and ordered the boxed set for the series because I only owned an e-book version of this one and after having finished it, I know I need physical copies since I'll surely be re-reading this series in the future.  I never tire of a light, fun magical romp with plenty of heart and character.  I'd recommend this book to any and all fantasy readers that haven't had the joy of reading it yet.

My Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Harry Potter MotW #80

Harry Potter Moment of the Week 

Harry Potter Moment of the week is a weekly meme hosted over at Uncorked Thoughts. The idea is to share one favorite moment, magical item, character, spell, quote, object from the books, films or J.K.Rowling herself!    For information on how to join up & for upcoming topics, click here.

Best Neville Moment

Dear, sweet Neville.  The poor boy struggled through a good part of his time at Hogwarts.  And when his friends learn what happened to his parents early on, even Harry Potter admitted that Neville's parent's faith was worst than what happened to his own.  There was a lot of pressure put on Neville after that from his family and the poor boy could barely help nearly crumbling under the weight of it all.  That all changed though in his 5th year at Hogwarts when he became a member of Dumbledore's Army. With the help of the best teacher ever, Harry and the rest of the DA, Neville got his confidence up and his spellwork improved tenfold.  All his progress through the series was never more evident than in this moment:

Slicing Nagini's head straight off!

I guess it goes without saying that I prefered this moment in the books, but at least Neville got his moment in the film too!  Bottom line?  He proved he was a true Gryffindor to everyone when the sword appeared to him. And, he made the most of it by destroying a Horcrux with it.  Go Neville!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday #12

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish which features a variety of bookish top ten lists!

Happy Tuesday everyone! Hey look at me, I'm back with another edition of TTT after just one week - much better than my 2-year hiatus before that.  I couldn't resist the topic this week of course, any excuse to gush about our favorite books is a total treat, am I right? So without further ado - and with lots of cheating - here we go;

Top Ten All-Time Favorite Books

1. Deathly Hallows - As impossible as it feels to pick one favorite within my favorite series of life, I'll always have a special kind of affection for the one where all the puzzle pieces fell into place. The one that proved that Harry was indeed the hero I always knew he was ♥  Honorable mentions go out to Prisoner of Azkaban & Half Blood Prince which are tied as my second favorites LOL

2. The Way of Kings + Words of Radiance - There is NO WAY I'm even attempting to pick a favorite with this series.  Each of them has so.freaking.much. going on, so many feels and so much EPIC that I could never, ever decide.

 3. Heir of Fire - Again, this is another series that was impossible to narrow down to one.  I adore ALL of these books for different reasons but HoF brought on a full force of feels...which is saying something.  And with more magic and history, it was a cinch to be the winner. So far. Honorable mentions to Crown of Midnight & The Assassin's Blade for their contribution to the feels party. *cries all the tears*

4. The Raven Boys + The Dream Thieves: The only two I've read in the series so far but there was no way I was picking favorites. None.  The first books brought this amazing story to life...but the second was was all about Ronan. Oh and the Adam+Ronan feels. Gah! PS- Blue Lily, Lily Blue is next on my reading list.  About time too...>.<

5. Mistborn:The Final Empire - I adore this trilogy as a whole but where most people seem to prefer the third book in the series, I'll always hold a special place in my heart for the one that started it all. Being introduced to such amazing characters, watching them become friends and then change the world is hard to beat.

6. Catching Fire - Another trilogy I have nothing but love for, but the middle book was always my favorite of the lot.  The sequel is rarely as good as the first book, but CF managed to surpass The Hunger Games for me. And let's face it, the last one was a MAJOR bummer and pretty much destroyed me - I still can't think of that one without cringing. So yeah, CF is my favorite!

7. Every Breath - To say that contemporary books aren't my go-to genre would be an understatement.  That being said, the fact that this one makes the cut says a lot about it.  I'm sure that once I read books 2 & 3 they'll earn a spot on this list too. Such an amazing book!

8. Dreamfever + Shadowfever - This series hooked my right from the first book, but it was the last two volumes of the series that nearly killed me. The mysteries, the huge reveals and the sexy times were built up to the breaking point and I thought my head would explode from the awesome.

9.Daughter of Smoke & Bone - Another beloved series as a whole, but to me the first book in the series captured my heart in a way that the others didn't quite manage to.  The second one came close, but it was much sadder...so I like to remember the happier times^^

10.Anne of Green Gables - This was my favorite book as a child and it has stayed with me way into adulthood.  I did enjoy the first few sequels quite a bit but unfortunately, my interest steadily declined with the later books. Despite that, I have nothing but love for Anne Shirley.