Dawn’s Early Light – Pip Ballantine & Tee Morris

•January 17, 2017 • Leave a Comment

dawns-early-light

Synopsis

Working for the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences, one sees innumerable technological wonders. But even veteran agents Braun and Books are unprepared for what the electrifying future holds…

After being ignominiously shipped out of England following their participation in the Janus affair, Braun and Books are ready to prove their worth as agents. But what starts as a simple mission in the States—intended to keep them out of trouble—suddenly turns into a scandalous and convoluted case that has connections reaching as far as Her Majesty the Queen.

Even with the help of two American agents from the Office of the Supernatural and the Metaphysical, Braun and Books have their work cut out for them as their chief suspect in a rash of nautical and aerial disasters is none other than Thomas Edison. Between the fantastic electric machines of Edison, the eccentricities of MoPO consultant Nikola Tesla, and the mysterious machinations of a new threat known only as the Maestro, they may find themselves in far worse danger than they ever have been in before…

My Thoughts

The third installment of the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences changes everything. The continuation is going to be one hell of a ride! Good thing we have a handy motorcar at the ready for the adventure.

Dawn’s Early Light takes our duo across the Atlantic, on quite the adventurous tour of the United States, in order to help their American counterparts solve one hell of a convoluted mystery. Of course, Eliza is never one to pass on the action and adventure – being in the field is what suits her best.

Still the same as ever, she tends to solve her problems with bullets, and fists. I was absolutely giddy when she knocked one particular American cowboy flat on his arse in the middle of a pub (a woman after my own heart, she is). However, emotions are running high.

I recall being very excited at the end of the last book that the romantic undertones between Books and Braun were finally coming to a conclusion. Well, I was wrong. It takes a few thwarted conversations, a few misguided flirtations, and a lot of frustration before Eliza and Wellington see fit to resolve their unspoken feelings for each other. While disarming a bomb. Because when else are you supposed to confess your undying love for your partner?

As we come to our climax and conclusion, everything changes, and everything we thought we knew turns on a dime. There is, undoubtedly, a distinct feeling of being punched in the gut.

The first two books of this series, and a good portion of this third book, do a fantastic job of setting us up for what’s to come. We have fully established the world, the technologies, and how everything works. We’ve meshed technology, science, and clockwork into the mechanics of what keeps this world going. We’ve met our main cast, and we know them very well (with a few mysteries left to solve, but that’s all in the character development).

We are now set for what’s to come – and it’s going to be on hell of a hair-raising adventure. Eliza and Wellington definitely have their work cut out for them.

2016 Reading Roundup

•January 1, 2017 • 1 Comment

Well. This was a year…. and I will leave that at that!

This year, I embarked, once again, on the great educational adventure, and began my studies for a third undergrad degree. While I’ve heard a lot of negativity about yet another undergrad degree, all I have to say is: stuff it. I’m doing this because I want to, and because it will help me get further in a career I kind of stumbled into (almost literally – there was some flailing involved).

Thankfully, this time around, I have a MUCH better grasp of time management, and scheduling. This allows me to both go to school full-time, as well as work full-time. I am pleased with where these two things are bringing me in the future, and I am very, very proud of myself. It’s not easy to pack it in and restart your career path in your mid-twenties. But I’m doing it, and I think I’m doing just fine.

I also accomplished a lot of personal goals, and started a lengthy personal project that I’ve shared snippets of over on ye olde Tumblr. Much of this was thanks to the help of my dearest friend, and platonic life-partner, Sir Sassy Pants (who has asked to remain relatively anonymous, but trust me, the nickname is spot on).

Somewhere between the sassing and the frustrated head-desking, we managed to get through this year together. We even plotted our way into taking over an alternate realm, becoming royalty, and drinking our combined weight in tea and wine while we commiserate and watch anime. It will be brilliant. My husband looked on both fondly, and bemused (then gave me glass upon glass of wine so as not to burn out in an anxious cycle of overthinking and flailing).

Now, onto the books!

My goal for 2016 was to read 50 books. I nearly made it! I read a total of 32 books – 64% of my original goal. Which is absolutely fantastic, compared to previous years! As I said, I’ve become much more skilled in managing my time, and finding time to relax, read, and review. Once again, I am quite proud of myself!

In previous years, I would usually do a run through of my ratings, and what not. I won’t be doing that. Instead, take a look at my Goodreads profile and see for yourselves what I’ve been up to. I can say, with absolute certainty, that Carry On stole the show this year. It is, by far, my favourite read of 2016.

I also started a new series, The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences, which has stolen my heart, and my attention. I am so very, very smitten. I never would have considered the series had it not been recommended to me by a dear friend. Ben, if you’re reading this, you are Book Recommendation Royalty. I appreciate your thoughtfulness, and your sheer love and excitement for books! I have a list of everything you’ve ever recommended to me, and I am slowly making my way through! So, thank you! I am ever so grateful to have you as both a friend, and an avid book lover and reader.

Moving onto to 2017, I’ve downsized my goal to 40 books for the year. I feel that, with my academic work load, as well as my employment commitments, this is much more realistic and feasible. I started three different series of books last year, and I plan to get them all caught up to new releases. I also hope to expand my tastes, and try out new things.

I have also amassed a collection of trilogies, thanks to the generous gifts of gift cards from both Chapters and Amazon this year. Hopefully, I’ll be able to tackle a trilogy or two – that would be great fun!

As this year begins, I am optimistic, and energized. I haven’t felt this content in a long time. I’ve made some changes this last year, I’ve learned a lot, and I’ve grown a lot. And I hope that these changes – for the better – are reflected in the year to come.

Here’s to a happy, and safe 2017, dear readers! Cheers!

The Revenge Playbook – Rachael Allen

•December 29, 2016 • Leave a Comment

the-revenge-playbook

Synopsis

In this poignant and hilarious novel, Rachael Allen brilliantly explores the nuances of high school hierarchies, the traumas sustained on the path to finding true love, and the joy of discovering a friend where you least expect.

In the small town of Ranburne, high school football rules and the players are treated like kings. How they treat the girls they go to school with? That’s a completely different story. Liv, Peyton, Melanie Jane, and Ana each have their own reason for wanting to teach the team a lesson—but it’s only when circumstances bring them together that they come up with the plan to steal the one thing the boys hold sacred. All they have to do is beat them at their own game.

My Thoughts

This book gave me my new favourite word – Backpfeifengesicht – a German word meaning a face that desperately needs to get punched. I know a lot of people like this. Within the first chapter of this book, the entire football team fit this description exceptionally well. Even as I write this, I am still seething with rage. This review is going to be more of a discussion – because this is a discussion that NEEDS to happen. Yes, I will talk about the book, but this will not be objective by any means. I need to talk about this, and I need to talk about this now.

The Revenge Playbook is a perfect YA novel for laying out the groundwork of feminist anit-rape culture theory for young teens – any young teens. The language used by the football team to discuss the young women, who are our main characters, makes me absolutely sick. And yet, this is the norm. Not only in high school, or in sports culture, but this is the norm everywhere – I see it every day – and this needs to stop. NOW. Immediately.

The girls in this book take on quite the task – they want to take the football team down a peg. They want an end to the preferential treatment, to the absolute horrendous hazing and bullying, and to their abhorrent treatment of women. The message is a strong one – what these boys do, and how they act and speak, is not okay, it is not normal, and it should never be perceived as such. Ever.

How these boys act and speak doesn’t end after high school – trust me. It isn’t okay then, and it certainly isn’t okay in adulthood. The young women in this book know this – they know themselves. And they will not stand by and watch it happen. Now, I could go on a rant here about how everyone, everywhere, should be like these young women and stand up to patriarchal notions of sexism and misogyny. But I won’t do that. Because we already know this.

However, I didn’t learn this until my mid-twenties. Had I read a book like this when I was a teenager navigating the extremely unpleasant hallways of my three high schools (yeah, I went to three, and they all sucked), maybe I would have learned that I wasn’t inferior earlier in life. That would have been absolutely bloody fantastic.

The Revenge Playbook handles themes of feminism, rape culture, “Locker room talk” (even typing that made me feel ill), misogyny and sexism with grace. These women never once doubt themselves – which is super important – in their mission to try to change culturally appropriated norms and behaviour that are inherently dehumanizing and, well, just plain disgusting.

This is a brilliant book, with a range of characters that can appeal to just about anyone. For me, most importantly, this book is unapologetic about how disturbing, disgusting, and toxic misogyny is. And that gives it an A+ in my books.

The Fill-In Boyfriend – Kasie West

•December 22, 2016 • 3 Comments

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Synopsis

When Gia Montgomery’s boyfriend, Bradley, dumps her in the parking lot of her high school prom, she has to think fast. After all, she’d been telling her friends about him for months now. This was supposed to be the night she proved he existed. So when she sees a cute guy waiting to pick up his sister, she enlists his help. The task is simple: be her fill-in boyfriend—two hours, zero commitment, a few white lies. After that, she can win back the real Bradley.

The problem is that days after prom, it’s not the real Bradley she’s thinking about, but the stand-in. The one whose name she doesn’t even know. But tracking him down doesn’t mean they’re done faking a relationship. Gia owes him a favor and his sister intends to see that he collects: his ex-girlfriend’s graduation party—three hours, zero commitment, a few white lies.

Just when Gia begins to wonder if she could turn her fake boyfriend into a real one, Bradley comes waltzing back into her life, exposing her lie, and threatening to destroy her friendships and her new-found relationship.

My Thoughts

I haven’t read YA romance in a while. A long while. The Fill-In Boyfriend did not disappoint.

Our main character, Gia, is very relatable. She is absolutely terrified of conflict (preaching to the choir, there), and tries to avoid it at all costs. That was all too real for me, as that is how I had lived my life until quite recently.

Gia is trying to figure herself out, during her last weeks of high school, while trying to navigate a recent breakup, and friends who seem perfectly content with shallow, surface-only relationships. Gia wants to change, to grow up, and be a better person. Some of the people around her don’t like that. And if that isn’t the most relatable thing about high school, then I don’t know what is.

By meeting new people, and a new boy (who’s sheer sincerity and snark mark him as Bloody Brilliant in my books), Gia realizes a lot more about herself in the span of a few weeks than most people do their entire lives – and I think that is fantastic.

Realistically, people do not change that drastically, that fast. However, it is possible.

The Fill-In Boyfriend isn’t necessarily a coming of age story, but it’s definitely a story of growth and development. It’s a story full of heart, that will not only break yours from time to time, but will fill it to the brim, too.

Carry On – Rainbow Rowell

•December 21, 2016 • 2 Comments

carry-on

Synopsis

Simon Snow is the worst chosen one who’s ever been chosen.

That’s what his roommate, Baz, says. And Baz might be evil and a vampire and a complete git, but he’s probably right.

Half the time, Simon can’t even make his wand work, and the other half, he sets something on fire. His mentor’s avoiding him, his girlfriend broke up with him, and there’s a magic-eating monster running around wearing Simon’s face. Baz would be having a field day with all this, if he were here—it’s their last year at the Watford School of Magicks, and Simon’s infuriating nemesis didn’t even bother to show up.

Carry On is a ghost story, a love story, a mystery and a melodrama. It has just as much kissing and talking as you’d expect from a Rainbow Rowell story—but far, far more monsters.

My Thoughts

I was oh, so very excited to read this book!! And I was so not disappointed. The story of Simon Snow comes straight from the story of Fangirl (my review can be found here). Fangirl introduces us to these lovable characters in the periphery. Carry On gives us a rich, fulfilling story full of wonder, magick, and kissing. Oh, and, of course, monsters.

We enter this world near the end of the Big Plot. There’s a lot to catch up on. And yet, it doesn’t feel like information overload. We’re given a lot of the background and history in flashbacks – which is a great way of doing it. Flashbacks allow for the plot to move on at a great pace, without awkward pausing or stunting, while giving the reader the information necessary to move on. It also helps that the narration is from multiple first person points of view. I loved that. I loved seeing the same scenario, or a similar flashback, from different perspectives. We get all the information we need in a timely manner. Of course, not everything is laid out on a silver platter – there are a few mysteries to solve, after all.

This world, these characters, are so absolutely rich. They’re thriving. The magick wraps itself around you, envelops you, and transports you straight into the heart of Watford and the World of Mages – its power struggles, its wars, and its battle against the Insidious Humdrum are all encompassing. Even as I go over my notes and write this, I still feel like I’m right there, living it, breathing it, experiencing it. I haven’t felt that in a book for a while – it’s a really good feeling.

The banter and bickering between Baz and Simon will always get to me – they’re hilarious, and wonderful. Baz drips sarcasm as Simon drips raw sincerity. They snipe, they snip, they snark, and they sass. They make a very interesting pair – and, apparently, and exceedingly handsome pair, at that. It is oh, so very Simon to realize seven bloody years later that he’s just as hopelessly in love with Baz as Baz is with him. As Baz would say, by Crowley, he’s thick. (I love them so much – I can’t help it.)

The way things start fall into place – the way the mysteries unravel has you sitting on the edge of your seat. I think I stopped breathing at one point (I didn’t realize it until I had to gasp and had no breath to do it with). It’s all so subtle, and yet beautifully woven to be convoluted. All the hints, all the clues, they’re right there in front of your face – and you miss them by a mile. Until you realize too late that it was all there all along! Amazing.

Carry On is the whole package – mystery, adventure, romance, and a little bit of heartbreak and sorrow. It’s very well balanced, and presented exceptionally well. The story of Simon Snow, the worst Chosen One ever, according to Baz, is a great story – one I will be reading over, and over again.

The Job – Janet Evanovich & Lee Goldberg

•December 15, 2016 • Leave a Comment

janet-evanovich-the-job

Synopsis

Charming con man Nicolas Fox and dedicated FBI agent Kate O’Hare secretly take down world’s most-wanted and untouchable felons, next job Violante, the brutal leader of a global drug-smuggling empire. The FBI doesn’t know what he looks like, where he is, or how to find him, but Nick knows his tastes in gourmet chocolate.

From Nashville to Lisbon back alleys, from Istanbul rooftops to Thames, they chase clues to lookalike thefts. Pitted against a psychopathic bodyguard Reyna holding Kate hostage and a Portuguese enforcer getting advice from an ancestor’s pickled head, they again call driver Willie for ship, actor Boyd for one-eyed Captain Bridger, special effects carpenter Tom, her father Jake – retired Special Forces, and his talent – machete-wielding Somali pirate Billy Dee. This could be their biggest job – if they survive.

My Thoughts

The Job is probably the most fun adventure that Kate and Nick embark on. Also, the most dangerous. Thankfully, their crew is swift, efficient, and quite good at their respective jobs. Nick is quite adept at finding underdogs who are the best of the best in their respective fields. With enticing rewards, they come willingly to help Nick and Kate on whatever mission they happen to be on. Their motley crew of loyal, skilled, and talented individuals make for quite the colourful cast of characters. It’s exciting!

Kate seems to take Nick’s eccentricities in stride now – which is kind of nice. Things that used to throw her into a whirlwind are now worthy of no more than an eye roll. It’s a refreshing change – she’s adapting, and it’s great character development. Kate also shows that she’s quick witted, clever, and a very fast thinker. She doesn’t panic easily, and while most of that is probably due to her military training, it also shows that she’s levelheaded, and can face any challenge head-on. I mean, she goes toe-to-toe with a psychotic body guard and wins, if that doesn’t show tact and skill, I don’t know what does. Kate is very strong, and she can verbally spar with Nick like nobody’s business. The sass and the snark keep me going! (Have I mentioned that I love sassy characters? Sarcasm is my favourite brand of humour.)

Nick is also far more clever than I ever gave him credit for. In the previous books I’d read, he always came across as more arrogantly confident than anything – I am very glad to be proven wrong. We also see a tiny glimpse of his past in this book. We have very little information about Nick, so getting this glimpse was a treat. The more we understand about Nick, the more he becomes an actual, real human, rather than this ethereal, clever, ridiculous heisting being. The added level of humanity brings everything back down to earth, and that is amazing.

Facing off against Violante and Reyna, Nick and Kate are separated – which is unusual when they run a con to catch a con. However, they both handle themselves quite amicably. And of course, Jake is always the best form of backup. I’ve spoken extensively about how much I love the father-daughter relationship between Jake and Kate, so I won’t discuss it much here. My one thought about it is that Kate is damn lucky to have an ex-Marine black ops commando for a dad, and she is even luckier that his number one priority is her health and safety. They’re quite the pair, and their humour is oh so very entertaining.

Throughout the series so far, we’re stuck in this will-they-won’t-they loop with Kate and Nick. Usually, this would annoy me to hell and high water – there is nothing more annoying than dragging tensions on in this manner for the sake of a poorly developed plot. But that’s not what’s happening here. Kate and Nick work so well together because of that tension. It’s an essential part of their dynamic. If this were to change, I think it would cause irreparable damage, not only to their working relationship, but to the overall plot. So, for once, I truly hope the tension stays put for a while.

While the job this time was probably the riskiest, most dangerous thing Nick has ever come up with, it was also quite extravagant. This book brought about a good amount of character development, which was a good balance against just how stressful the actual job was. The mix of adrenaline and fuzzy warmth of understanding made for a really great read. I’m very much looking forward to the fourth installment of the adventures of O’Hare and Fox!

Outlander – Diana Gabaldon

•December 9, 2016 • Leave a Comment

outlander-1991_1st_edition_cover

Synopsis


The year is 1945. Claire Randall, a former combat nurse, is back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon–when she walks through a standing stone in one of the ancient stone circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is a Sassenach–an “outlander”–in a Scotland torn by war and raiding Highland clans in the year of Our Lord…1743.

Hurled back in time by forces she cannot understand, Claire is catapulted into intrigues and dangers that may threaten her life…and shatter her heart. For here she meets James Fraser, a gallant young Scots warrior, and becomes a woman torn between fidelity and desire…and between two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives.

My Thoughts

First, I have to preface this review with two statements.

  1. I will attempt to be as spoiler free as possible – I can say with absolute certainty that there are very specific things I’d like not to discuss here.
  2. I have to keep reminding myself that the majority of this book takes place in 1743 – and while I understand this is an extremely different time period, it still does nothing to excuse a lot of the behaviour I saw in this book.

Okay, that taken care of, let’s get going!

Outlander is incredibly rich in imagery – there’s a certain mystique here that is incredibly captivating. All at once, I found myself walking through the woods of the Highlands. I could smell the smells, and see the sights. I was there, at Castle Leoch, with Claire, being introduced to the goings on of the period. (And the dresses! Yeesh, how did women walk in those things!)

It’s very clear that a lot of research went into this book. I know very little of the history of Scotland, but even a curious google search showed me that much of the goings on – even the places and some of the people – are very factually accurate. I love that. I love the rich history, and the imagery, and just how much passion went into every detail, every thought, every action.

That said, there is a fair amount of vivid imagery I really, really did not care for. It’s here that I have to keep reminding myself of the different time period – my 2016 mentality, beliefs, morality, socialization, and culture do not fit 1743 Scotland by any stretch of the imagination. As stated, though, it does not excuse the behaviour. (There was a lot of behaviour that made me physically ill – at one point, a panic attack was triggered, and that was so very unpleasant.) A foul person is a foul person – no matter who, what, where, or when they are.

It’s this incredible difference that makes Outlander a difficult book for me to enjoy. There are scenes, occurrences, and goings on that I cannot stomach – and Claire’s complacent attitude towards them boggles the mind. However, I have to remind myself again that Claire is originally from post-war 1945 – things weren’t all that great then, either. She also has to deal with quite the cultural shift. She’s mending, herself, from her experiences as a nurse in the war, only to see first-hand battle on the Highlands. Falling head-first, quite literally, into an ongoing conflict, Claire sees quite a fair amount of bodily damage – unlike anything she’d seen during her own experiences. She sees, and endures, a fair amount from the people around her, it’s no wonder she assimilates to the culture and social graces presented to her in an extremely intense, and emotionally jarring, situation. However, her complacency, and apologetic excuse-making is not something I can support – nor can I support why she became so complacent, unfeeling, and apologetically excusing.

It’s hard not to find certain things about these characters endearing, though. There is an abundance of sass, snark, sarcasm, and bite. And we all know how much I love me some sassy characters.

Outlander is an intense, wild, complicated, and incredibly dramatic adventure. It’s a wild ride, beginning to end.