Thursday, December 31, 2015

Ringing in the New Year With Happy Memories!

Hello readers! Normally, I limit the posts on this blog to stuff related to books, but I figured I would make a exception today to reflect on the end of 2015 and the beginning of 2016. For the longest time I never really believed 2015 would arrive this quickly. The last I recall I remember thinking in high school that 2015 was so far in the future. I mean who can imagine graduating college and becoming an almost adult at that age, yet here I am.

I've never been a fan of New Years Eve or New Years resolutions because they always felt kind of sad. Another year of your life has passed and instead of looking backward fondly and planning for a great future, there is this pressure to better yourself. The you that you are currently isn't good enough. You need to be nicer. You should lose some weight. You need to get into a relationship. That's a load of BS. I gave up making resolutions long ago, but this past year I tried something new. Something that makes this particular New Years and those in the future special. I like to call it my memory cup.

The idea is that you find yourself a vessel of some sort, be it a glass, mug, cup...or if you're one of those people, a mason jar. It can be a normal cup, but I think this works best if it's a cup that has some significance to you. Then throughout the year you write down any happy memories, accomplishments, or important life events on a small piece of paper. Make sure you put the date with it. Then you just fold up the paper, stick it in the cup, and then naturally as time passes you forget what you wrote on those slips of paper. By the end of the year, your cup will be full of little slips of paper.

On New Years Eve you can spend however long you'd like reading all of the papers in the cup and fondly remembering the past year. Rather than picking yourself apart and focusing on all of the negative aspects of your life, you can spend time thinking about how the past year was awesome. From little day to day happy memories to large milestones. It's this physical and tangible recognition that you are growing as a person.

For those curious about my memory cup, I got this rather unique cup as a gift when I was in college. As some of you may remember from older posts, I spent a lot of time studying Arthurian Literature with the same professor. I wrote a number of large term papers that turned into graduate level papers that I presented at conferences specifically for Medieval and Renaissance literature. At the end of the last Arthurian course my senior year, my professor gave everyone in the class a cup. These were handmade cups that he was given over the course of his academic career at conferences. My senior year he decided to retire and on the last day of class he gave each one of us a cup that he jokingly called our own personal grail, "...even though you all know that the grail isn't necessarily a cup..." I figured this was the perfect cup to use since it is directly and even tangentially tied to so many happy memories. 

A few minutes ago I read all of the slips of paper and had the chance to realize how great this year has been. I've had some large life accomplishments like getting an internship, joining honor societies, graduating college, and getting my first job. I've also had some amazing smaller memories like going to the movie theaters with one of my best friends to see Breakfast At Tiffany's and dressing up as characters from The Wizard of Oz with my co-workers on Halloween. I've decided that I want to save these slips of paper somehow, so I can look back on all of my years. It might involve a 2016 craft project. 

All I can say is that 2015 might have had some negative moments and sad memories, but all I can think about today are the happy ones. I can't wait to start the new year and start filling that cup with more paper and more happy memories. 

As for my blog, you should expect the continuation of all of my awesome series. I'll be doing my usual TBR and Wrap-Up posts, along with my monthly music recommendations. Not to mention the newly created Nostalgiareads and the resurrection of Murder Mystery Mondays. In the near future, I'm going to announce the book that will be the basis for my next Watch-a-thon series! I've already chosen the book and drafted the list of movies to watch. It won't be easy to cover all that content by any means, but I'm so looking forward to it. 

Of course in the next week or two, I'll be releasing my December Wrap-Up and January TBR. Also I have yet to share my bookish Christmas haul, which you know I can't forget about!! To top it all off, I've got to give shout-outs to all the great books I read in 2015. I think all of this awesomeness is enough reason to stick around. 

Now, in celebration of reclaiming the past and looking forward to the future, I'm going to get ready to spend New Years Eve with my amazing best friends from high school. So dear readers, in conclusion, I hope every single one of you has a Happy New Year. See you next year!

Monday, December 28, 2015

Murder Mystery Monday: Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith

Hello readers! Was this a nice surprise or what? For a while now I've been thinking about actively resuming this series, but I was never really in the mood for a murder mystery novel until now. I decided it would be nice to end the year with a return to one of my favorite genres. Not to mention the release of the next Robert Galbraith novel was the perfect excuse to write the next installment of the series. So here we are! Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith.

This book again follows the private detective, Cormoran Strike and his assistant, Robin Ellacott. Some time has passed since the previous book and now the agency has dwindling clients. Everything changes when Robin receives a package, which turns out to have a severed foot it in. Cormoran naturally produces 3 suspects from his past that he is sure would try to attack him and his business through Robin. What results is a three pronged investigation into who has been murdering women and sending their severed body parts to Robin.

Now on to my opinion. As a whole, I thought this was a pretty decent third book in the series. It wasn't as good as The Silkworm, but it was loads better than The Cuckoo's Calling. I feel like with every new installment J.K. Rowling/Robert Galbraith is exploring a different subset of the genre. The first book tended to feature a lot of interviews and long discussions over the killer's identity, The second book tended to step away from the more dry investigative style, and this book seems to focus on the gory aspects of murder mysteries. I think the amount of violence to women in this book and gore is what probably caused me to dislike this book a little more than the last. I prefer a much more intellectual mystery where the gore is hinted at, but never elaborated on in detail.

What also sets this book apart is the POV chapters from the killer. I wish it had been a little more successful at revealing the psychology of the killer, but those chapters just acted as a vehicle for more gore. The book also tried to take a larger thematic angle about violence against women, but I don't think the characters had any prevalent discussions about it to give the theme some weight for the readers. 

That being said the best part of this book had to be the character development. In fact it kind of overshadowed the mystery itself, particularly when the murderer was revealed in probably the fastest way possible. Readers get a glimpse into Robin's past and her relationship with Matthew gets tested. Even though the main character in this series is Cormoran, Robin is the primary character in this murder mystery. Her strengths as an investigator have grown, but her personal life is far from perfect. The book even ends on a cliffhanger. One that doesn't deal with the murder mystery, but with Robin and Cormoran's relationship. 

As a whole, I found this to be a fast paced murder mystery whose inclusion broadens the scope of the series, making it enjoyable for more murder mystery fans. I hoping that J.K. Rowling channels another facet of the genre in her next book and I can't wait to see what happens with Robin and Cormoran's lives. Now enjoy all of your holiday gifts and I'll see you back here for some more bookish blog posts! 

Monday, December 21, 2015

Tis The Season Book Tag

Hello readers and welcome back to another Christmas/holiday themed blog post! I'm hoping to squeeze in some last minute posts before the end of the year and it will be a nice weekly surprise to see what pops up here. It's been quite a long time since I've done a tag post, so I figure why not do one now that is centered around the holidays. As always the tag was not created by me, but the answers are all mine.

1. Do You Have a Favorite Winter Read?

You know. There really isn't one single book or series that I consistently read during the holiday season. As I mentioned in my December TBR post, I actually have this habit where every year in December, I try to read a ya contemporary novel that takes place during Christmas time. This year that book was My True Love Gave To Me: Twelve Holiday Stories. A couple of years ago it was Let It Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle. I just love a nice fluffy, easy to read book during the holidays.

2. Find a Book with Blue on the Cover

For this question I could have chosen any number of the amazing books I've read this year, since the majority of them have some blue on the cover. I decided to go out of the box and choose a book from my past for a particular reason. This is that book.

Ninth Key by Meg Cabot. This is the second book in The Mediator series. I loved reading these books in middle school and now I can't stop thinking about them because Meg Cabot has decided to continue the series!! The books are about a girl named Suze who can see and speak to the dead. Most of these books are about the weird adventures she gets herself into while helping dead people with their unfinished business. Of course there is some romance thrown into the mix. A new novella will be released in January and the next full length book will be released in February. The anticipation is killing me.

3. Find a Book That You Would Use as a Star on Top of Your Christmas Tree

The book that I would use as the star at the top of my Christmas tree this year would be Winter by Marissa Meyer.

Now I know what you are thinking: "But Penny you haven't even read the book yet. Why would you put it at the top of your tree." Well first of all this is a beautiful cover that deserves to be displayed. Next, I think this book sort of represents the spirit of the season. December signals the end of the year and Winter is the last book in the amazing Lunar Chronicles. There is also a lot of anticipation for the holiday season. You get to spend time with your family and exchange gifts. I know I've also been anticipating this book for a long time. This book deserves to be admired by many.
4. Pick a Fictional Place That Would Be Perfect for a Winter Vacation


I feel like this is the most unoriginal answer, but the only fictional place I wouldn't mind vacationing in is Hogwarts and the surrounding areas (read as Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley). There would be nothing like actually going to the setting from one of your favorite childhood series.

5. What Fictional Character Would You Like to Take with You on Your Winter Vacation?

It took me quite a long time to think about this answer, but I finally decided that the perfect fictional character to bring along on this vacation, assuming they are unattached in this fictional universe, is Henry Nobley from Austenland by Shannon Hale.

I mean he already has experience fitting into a fictional universe and I'd like to think he would enjoy Hogwarts just as much as me. Not to mention he would make for some pretty attractive company.
6. Pick One Book That is on Your Wishlist This Year

My best regards to this fabulous question, but how could I possibly share just one book on my wishlist.

In fact why not share all the ones I asked for because I'm pretty darn excited about them. First on my list is Mirrored by Alex Flinn.

Ever since I read Beastly by Alex Flinn, I've had to read every one of the fairy tale retellings she releases. Mirrored is the next novel in what she calls the Kendra Chronicles and as you can probably guess by the title, it's a retelling of Snow White.

The next book on my wish list is Ginger: My Story by Ginger Rogers.

This is the autobiography of Ginger Rogers, one of my favorite actresses. Many of you might know her as part of the Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers dancing duo featured in an ton of awesome classic movies. I've mentioned on this blog a couple of times that I like to read nonfiction books, particularly if they are about a person or piece of history that I'm really interested in. I'm hoping to get this book and learn a bit more about Ginger Roger's life.

7. Name Your Favorite Holiday Drink, Treat, and Movie

My favorite holiday drink is coffee. I know all of you are completely bowled over by shock and awe.

What makes my normal everyday cups of coffee qualify as a holiday drink you ask. In December I love to drink my coffee with peppermint mocha creamer, which makes this delicious coffee and candy cane taste that reminds me of the holidays. My favorite treats are Christmas cookies, but not just any cookies. They have to be my great grandmother's recipe with homemade frosting. As for my favorite holiday movie...well I have two of them. One older and one newer style. The first is called The Shop Around The Corner.

This movie stars Margaret Sullivan and James Stewart, who stars in another Christmas classic, It's A Wonderful Life. Basically this story is about a salesman, played by Jimmy Stewart, who corresponds with a pen pal. Everything in his life is pretty normal until Margaret Sullivan's character starts working at the same shop. She also corresponds with a secret pen pal and she and Stewart's character are pretty antagonistic towards each other. All of this takes place during the holiday season. For those interested in a little bit of movie history, this movie has been remade twice. The first remake is called In The Good Old Summertime, a technicolor musical, starring Judy Garland and Van Johnson. The third remake is one all of you are probably familiar with starring Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks: You've Got Mail. Anyway I have to watch this movie every year or it doesn't feel like Christmas to me.

The other movie that I have to watch every year is A Christmas Story.

Simply put the movie focuses on a kid named Ralphie and his quest to get a Red Ryder BB Gun for Christmas. It's much more than that though. You get snapshots of his life at school, his interactions with his best friends and the school bullies, not to mention his family. It's basically this awesome messy portrayal of a family's life around Christmastime. I've watched it every year since I was a kid and I'll continue to watch it well into adulthood.

That was the Tis The Season Book Tag. I hope you enjoyed all of the questions in this post and that they might inspire you to do your own version of the tag. Until my post!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Penny's Music Recommendations: December Holiday Edition 2015

Hello readers, music lovers, holiday aficionados alike! As hinted at/promised in my November Music Recommendations post, I'm here to bring you a special holiday edition of Penny's Music Recommendations.
Ed Edd n Eddy's Jingle Jingle Jangle is a holiday staple in my life. No you are not allowed to judge.
Granted this is less of a music recommendation list and more of a "here, this is what I listen to every holiday season" list, but eh semantics. I figured since December is the time for holiday cheer, I would share a little bit of what I do to amp up for Christmas. Basically these are the songs I listen to when I'm decorating, putting up the Christmas tree, making Christmas cookies, and wrapping presents. I would listen to them at work, but sadly receptionists have to talk to people and answer the phone, not jam out to Christmas music with my glass window shut and locked. A girl can dream can't she?
Time for some holiday music!
  • Christmas by Michael Buble (Yes the full album)

Every year since this album came out, I've listened to it without fail. The day after Thanksgiving is the official the start of my Christmas season and this is the soundtrack to it. In fact, I wrapped presents on Black Friday to this album. I've included the yule log version of the full album on YouTube because it really sets the mood. Michael Buble has a perfect voice for Christmas songs and his songs remind me of the old greats aka Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby. I love all of the songs on the album with the exception of his version of Jingle Bells. That song just grates on my nerves. My personal favorites from the album are Mis Deseos/ Feliz Navidad and White Christmas ft Shania Twain. Honestly everybody should listen to this album during the holidays.
  • White Christmas by Bing Crosby
If you haven't guessed by now based on the reappearance of this song on my list, White Christmas is my favorite Christmas song. I listen to about a billion versions of it during the holidays, but of course the original is always the best. During the holidays there are usually two types of holiday music listeners: the ones who listen to the classics and the ones who listen to modern Christmas music. As a general rule, I fall in the first camp. I love this song, I love the movie it's in and it reflects my wish every December: a white Christmas.
  • Believe by Josh Groban (From The Polar Express)

In a sea of modern Christmas songs, the soundtrack to the movie, The Polar Express, has to be one of my favorites. Every song is memorable and one of the best parts about Christmas at college was that I got to play a medley of songs from this movie during our Concert Ensemble holiday concert. Nothing like a ballad-like song to remind everyone to remember the spirit of the season.
  • O Holy Night by Celtic Women

Another important facet about Christmas music is that often you might aesthetically enjoy the music, but sometimes you enjoy it because of the memories you made while the song was playing. O Holy Night is one of those songs for me and Celtic Women's version is one of the most beautiful I have ever heard. In high school, I was in Choir and Chamber Singers, an extracurricular singing group. During December we would go to churches, the VA, and retirement homes to sing Christmas carols. Now, I'm not really a religious person, so I'm not hugely into religious Christmas songs, but O Holy Night reminds me of all those great trips and concerts.
  • Santa Claus is Comin' To Town by Fred Astaire

See I told you I like classic Christmas. Anybody that know me knows that I love classic movies and I particularly love anything that Fred Astaire is in. Many of you are familiar with this old Christmas special, Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town, and Fred Astaire voices the postman. Of course at the end of the special, Fred Astaire sings his own rendition of Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town and this is my favorite version. 

Those are a good chunk of the Christmas songs that I listen to every year. This is by no means a comprehensive list of the Christmas songs I like. I can almost bet the moment after I publish this, I'll think of something other songs. Even though taste is subjective, I hope you find or even rediscover a new Christmas favorite in this list. Until my next post!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Nostalgiareads: Ruby Holler by Sharon Creech

Hello readers and welcome back to another edition of Nostalgiareads! The series where I re-read some of my favorite childhood books to see if they are as good as the nostalgia glasses make them out to be. After reading The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin I got to thinking about all of the books from that year of elementary school that I bought. The one that immediately came to mind is today's featured book: Ruby Holler by Sharon Creech.

Like the first book in this blog series, I  encountered Ruby Holler in elementary school when my teacher used to pick books for the read aloud section of our English class. She read this book from start to finish and I liked it so much that I went out and got it. Cut to me re-reading this constantly. I remember staying up late into the night reading this, even on school nights... gasp! As one corny saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words, so let me show you just how much I liked this book as a child.

Granted, paperback copies always wear easily, but these are pictures of a very worn and very well loved book. What's sad is that I remember reading this book when I was younger, but I never remembered what it was actually about. Not a single detail. That's what made this book such a great candidate for Nostalgiareads. Anyway, time to stop all this unnatural gushing and tell you about the book.

Ruby Holler is about two twin orphans, Dallas and Florida. They've lived at the orphanage run by the Trepid's basically their whole lives with the exception of a handful of awful foster home experiences. They've resigned themselves to living this unhappy life for a distinctly long time. All of that changes when they are invited to spend the whole summer with a pair of eccentric old people, Tiller and Sairy. The twins are fostered for the summer to act as aides and partners on each of Tiller and Sairy's respective trips. They are brought to the idyllic country side of Ruby Holler to live, a place Henry David Thoreau would probably have had an aneurysm over.What results is a lot of personal growth for the majority of the characters and some feel good mushiness.

Now for the most important part of this post: Does the nostalgia hold up after all of these years? Yes, yes it does. Now I understand why I loved this book oh so many years ago. For being somewhere between a children/middle grade book, the content is quite intelligent and thought provoking without being too complicated for younger minds. The book doesn't talk down to you or spoon feed you generic lessons from all of it's complicated issues. Although it does get a bit heavy at times, particularly when Dallas and Florida mention the orphan who died saying "Who Am I?" Another plus to this book is that the imagery is amazing. I can understand why I wanted to live in Ruby Holler so much when I was a child. When I got to the end of Ruby Holler, I was surprised at how quickly it's all over, I easily felt like there were enough loose ends to justify a sequel, but it some ways I'm glad that the book is open ended. It allows readers to continue on the story for themselves. Honestly, I would recommend this book to both kids and adults because I think everyone can get something out of it. There's the quest for self identity, maintaining hope in the face of hardship, the essential support of family, and the eternal struggle of enjoying life while coming to terms with aging. Oh and it is an award winning book, if that's something you put a ton of stock into.

All I can say is that this was another successful Nostalgiareads and I'm looking forward to rediscovering the next childhood favorite! Now back to your regularly scheduled lives, which for me means drinking coffee way past the appropriate time and, for all my nerdfighters out there, watching the rest of the Project for Awesome livestream. DFTBA to all of you!

Sunday, December 6, 2015

December 2015 TBR

Hello readers! Can you believe that it's already December? Already almost the end of the year? I know I can't. Last I knew it was the beginning of summer and now we're here. I think it's probably because where I live we haven't had a proper snow fall yet, so it doesn't feel like Christmas time. I'm loving that now, but later on in the month I'll definitely be sad if we don't have a white Christmas (cue the Bing Crosby music).

I've finished just about all of my shopping for gifts, so now I'm ready to celebrate the spirit of the season. In comparison to previous months, I've decided to keep my December TBR a bit conservative. Why you ask. Well, Christmas is usually when I get a nice haul of new books and I just know I'll want to read them as soon as I get them. I figure why not give myself the time to do that near the end of the month. I think that's enough introductory babbling. Time to tell you what books I want to read during December.
  • My True Love Gave To Me: Twelve Holiday Stories
Every year around Christmas time I have to read a holiday themed contemporary romance book. It helps put me in the spirit of the season and it's one of my guilty pleasures. Usually before December rolls around I already have one book picked out and I've had my mind set on My True Love Gave To Me since the beginning of the year. This book is basically just a collection of short stories by popular young adult writers. I'm so excited to read this because it has some of my favorite authors in the ya contemporary genre like Stephanie Perkins and Rainbow Rowell. I'm pretty sure this is going to be the first book I'll finish this month.

  • Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

This book hadn't even been on my radar until just before it's release and now that I know about it, I can't wait to read the whole story. I first heard about Illuminae from a couple of my favorite booktubers and when they showed the inside of the book, I immediately made myself a note to go buy it. As all of you know, I love a book with a nontraditional format and this book is told through a series of hacked documents like emails, military files, and medical reports. Illuminae is a science fiction ya novel and it centers on a female protagonist, Kady. Two rival megacorporations are at war over the planet that she lives on and while trying to escape, a plague breaks out. The synopsis makes this book sound super action packed and it's by the author that wrote the Starbound series, which I really liked. I think I'm going to say this about every book on this list, but I'm super excited to read it.

  • Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith (Cormoran Strike #3)

You know I'm a sucker for a murder mystery novel and I couldn't let the newest release of the Robert Galbraith aka J.K. Rowling book go unnoticed. This is the third book in the Cormoran Strike series and I'm hoping that this book is just as captivating as the second, The Silkworm. The premise of Career of Evil is that Cormoran's assistant, Robin, receives a package that contains a woman's severed leg. This launches a police investigation, but when Cormoran and Robin look into the crime, they find their investigation to be quite different from the police leads. I've been dying to read this book for so long and it may just signal the return of one of my blog series...hint hint.

  • The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
You know the drill. It's time for my classic pick of the month. Aside note first. When I went to look at my TBR pile to decide on the next classic book I wanted to read, I was super shocked at how few classics I have left. I'm so used to having all of them clutter up my space because I bought classics with the hope that I'd get around to them eventually and I never would. Now that I've committed to reading one a month I feel so much better about myself. Honestly, if you have a collection of classic books you've always wanted to read, but never got around to, you should consider what I've been doing these past couple of months.

Back to this month's classic pick. I chose The Picture of Dorian Gray because I've always read and heard so much about this book and I feel guilty about not reading it. The basic premise of the story is that it's about a man who commits some terrible acts and never ages, yet his portrait shows all the signs of his age. I'm hoping this book will captivate me more than the last couple of classic picks.

There you have it. Those are all of the books I'm hoping to read this December. For any of you looking for gifts to buy a book lover or you're trying to put together a Christmas list for yourself, the gift guide that I made in 2013 still holds up to this day. Many of the sites have expanded their stock since then, so if you're interested I'll leave the link to that post here. Other than that make sure you stick around for some awesome holiday themed/end of the year posts!

November 2015 Wrap-Up

Hello readers! Another month has come and gone. Now that I've recovered from my food coma and sadly went back to work (which is why this post is so late), it's time to tell you about all of the books I've read in November. I didn't realize just how long this was or how many books I actually read this month, so get comfortable. Grab yourself a beverage and a snack. I'm here enjoying a cup of coffee with peppermint mocha creamer, which is my December/Christmas standard. Now it's time to get reviewing!
  • The Amazing Book is Not on Fire by Dan Howell and Phil Lester

I'm a YouTube addict. Yes I'll admit that right now. A good chunk of my day is spent watching all of the videos in my subscription box and that addiction has gotten worse now that some of the channels I subscribe to are doing vlogmas, where they vlog every day in December. I spend almost an hour a day watching those, which is terrible, but at the same time awesome. Two of my favorite outubers are Dan Howell from Danisnotonfire and Phil Lester from AmazingPhil. The two of them create hilarious videos that I love watching and because they are friends and roommates, their videos usually feature the both of them. This year, since it is the year publishing companies have decided to give youtubers book deals, the two of them released The Amazing Book is Not on Fire or TABINOF as it's usually referred to. Since the ghost writing scandal that surrounded Zoella's book had such huge press, I think the two of them went to pretty great lengths to show audiences that this book was in fact written by them, which is something that I really appreciate.

I'm going to say this now. If you haven't watched Dan and Phil's videos, you probably might not enjoy this book. In fact, TABINOF seems like a book created especially for their fans (phans?). What's so refreshing about this book is that it doesn't try to give you life advice like the other youtuber books. I'm sorry but if you are under the age of 35 or maybe even 40, I don't think you've lived long enough to give me life advice. I'm just being blunt here. What this book does have are great full color photographs (which is to be expected in this type of book to fill out the page count) and tons of hilarious passages. Some of them are old diary entries, old messenger conversations, and chronicles of their trips abroad. Every section has another great story that helps viewers of their channels get to know Dan and Phil a bit better.
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Illustrated Edition) by J.K. Rowling

Even though I recently re-read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, I knew I had to read it again now that I have the illustrated version. All I can say is this purchase was totally worth it. The entire book is full of detailed, full color illustrations that really bring the story and characters to life. It's nice to have a point of comparison to the story presented in the movies. Honestly, you could spend forever just looking at the pictures and not even get to the story. This book even has illustrations of the different types of dragon eggs and the various species of trolls. I, of course, have some favorite illustrations that I kind of wish I could get as separate prints. I loved the picture of Harry in the cupboard under the stairs and the illustration of him with the mirror of erised is so beautiful and so heartbreaking. All I have to say is if you are a Harry Potter fan, you will LOVE this book. I can't wait to get my hands on the next illustrated edition in the series.
  • Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

Oh Rainbow Rowell, why are all of your books so good!? She writes some amazing contemporary novels and now she churns out a fantastic fantasy book. For those that don't know, Carry On grew out of Rainbow Rowell's ya contemporary book, Fangirl. In the book, there is the Simon Snow series that exists in that world and the main character of Fangirl, Cath, writes a fanfiction based on that story. This real life version, Carry On, is basically that fanfiction. What makes this even more screwy is that it is also inspired by/a fanfiction of Harry Potter. Even after all of that, if you can keep it straight, this is a great book. It has that all too often hard to achieve balance of action, world building, and romance.

This story takes place at the Watford School of Magicks where Simon Snow (aka our Harry Potter double) is struggling with his powers, pressure from The Mage to leave the school, and the threat of the humdrum. On top of all of that, he is having relationship troubles with his girlfriend, Agatha, and his roommate/enemy/vampire, Baz. hasn't returned to school. This book basically chronicles Simon, Penny, and even Baz's efforts to defeat the humdrum. Not to mention there is some awesome LGBT+ representation going on here. It's not to often that we get mainstream books whose main romance is an LGBT+ one and I love it. If you're a fan of Harry Potter and ya contemporary romances, you really need to read this book.
  • Night Film by Marisha Pessl

When I first started reading Night Film, I expected it to be a book with a innovative format, but for the most part it was a traditional novel, with the exception of the Night Film app. Night Film centers around an investigative journalist, Scott McGrath, whose whole career was ruined when he accused Stanislas Cordova, a director, of having a corrupting influence on people and an unsettled mind. He looks into Cordova's life again when the director's daughter, Ashley Cordova, is found dead. What results is a twisting and turning investigation into the director's life, his movies, and the supernatural.

Within the story there are a few pictures of articles and copies of records. If you download the special app on your phone, you can use the app to scan the specific bird illustrations to unlock content. While awesome in theory, the app is very testy and sometimes it will take numerous tries before the app recognizes the illustration. Not to mention the content that is unlocked is just bonus content like audio clips and poster concepts of Cordova's films. If you don't download and use the app, you aren't missing anything.

I think the one glaring fault to this book is the fact that it is just too long. All of the weird supernatural stuff that Scott experiences or uncovers draws you in and then the next second it gets boring again. Then you have to slog through a tons of pages to get to another exciting part. Had this book been edited down a little bit, I think it would have made an awesome mystery/supernatural thriller book.
  • Sapphire Blue by Kerstin Gier

I'm going to be honest. Sapphire Blue is like the sophomore slump of this whole series. This is the second book in the Ruby Red Trilogy which centers on Gwen, who discovers that she has the power to time travel. As a result, she becomes a part of this secret time traveling society lead by the Count de Saint Germain. Using the Chronograph, which is a device that allows her to control her time traveling, she travels with her partner/love interest, Gideon,
in order to get the blood of all the 12 time travelers into the Chronograph and fulfill the prophecy. Part of the conflict in the series is the question of whether or not the Count is abusing the time travelers for his own evil reasons.

While the first book, Ruby Red, had a nice balance of action, world building, and romance, this book does not. Most of the content in this story is of course the romance between Gwen and Gideon. Not to mention the pitiful love triangle of Gwen, Gideon, and Charlotte. I was ready to learn more about the prophecy and get deeper into the history of this organization. Not to mention I wanted a little bit of character development with the secondary characters. Sadly, this books is pages and pages of "Does Gideon really love me?". Not to mention the majority of the action in this book is a build-up to a ball. Just when the book starts to get interesting, the next moment it's over. I was shocked that there wasn't more left to this book. As a result, I started reading the last book in the series straight away. Speaking of which...
  • Emerald Green by Kerstin Gier

I'm going to skip over the usual plot summary for this one because you already read the premise above and I really don't want to be too spoilery. Basically all this book boils down to is more Gwen and Gideon relationship drama and the end of the series conflict with the Chronograph and what happens when the blood of all of the time travelers is placed within it. While the final book in the series was enjoyable, I'll give it that, it was so underwhelming at times nor was there any build-up to a final clash. There are a lot of character revelations in this book that you could see a mile away. Not to mention the characters don't act so surprised and shocked as you think they would to these revelations. I think the best parts of this book, or really just the whole series in general, are when Gwen interacts with the secondary characters. Those relationships are more interesting and feel more authentic. I love the conversations she has with Lesley and James. I think the best moments happen when Gwen is talking with her grandfather in the past. The Ruby Red Trilogy started out with an amazing concept, but fell prey to the usual ya genre stereotypes.
  • Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray

Lair of Dreams is the sequel to The Diviners and like the first book, takes place in the 1920s. Another important setting backdrop to this story is the xenophobic tensions surrounding immigration, particularly in regards to Chinese immigration. This included denying citizenship to Chinese men and women, not to mention the Chinese Exclusion Act. Now on to the story.

This book picks up after Evie O'Neill, a girl who can see the past by reading objects, reveals to the world that diviners exist. Diviners are people who have any type of supernatural power. Evie in her self absorption, alienates herself from her uncle and is now the star of a radio show where she showcases her powers. She uses her wealth to throw lavish parties and then consequently gets thrown out of numerous hotels. But if I'm going to be honest, this book isn't about Evie.

Lair of Dreams takes the time to tell the stories of all the other diviners. All of these secondary characters turned main characters are forced to come together when another supernatural force is menacing New York City. Many people in the city are falling prey to the sleeping sickness, where people go to sleep and never wake up. The bulk of the story focuses on Henry DuBois and Ling Chan, two dream walkers who bond over trying to reclaim the past through their dreams. Their lives get worse when the public starts to blame the Chinese for the outbreak of this sickness. Even though this book is quite large in size, I was completely captivated and there wasn't a single boring moment. During the work week when I was reading this, I was totally antisocial on my lunch breaks because I spent them reading this. All of the characters are fully fleshed out, the would building is seamless, and I love the historical background to it all. I'm just annoyed that I don't have the next book in the series in my hand right now to read. If you haven't already, you need to look into The Diviners series. You won't regret it.
  • Mansfield Park by Jane Austen

Now it's time to review the classic pick of the month. Mansfield Park is the last Jane Austen book that I had left to read, with the exception of Sandition, well if you really want to count that book. I really had high hopes for this book because I didn't like Sense and Sensibility that much. Sadly, I wasn't a huge fan of this book either. In fact, it took me so long to force myself to read this that I didn't actually finish this until the first week of December. I'm still including it in this wrap-up anyway.

Mansfield Park centers on Fanny Price, a young girl whose care has been taken over by her aunt and uncle who live at Mansfield Park. The two of them considered removing Fanny from her overcrowded and poor family to bring her up in gentile society as an act of kindness. She's raised with her cousins: Thomas, Edmund, Maria, and Julia. She grows up into a meek woman, who is always reminded of her place in the house as a ward. All of their personal relationships are complicated when Mary and Henry Crawford come to the area.

The intellectual in me understands how great this book actually is when you consider the characters. Fanny isn't mean't to be like the other spunky, outspoken Austen protagonists. She is the lens through which the reader gets to see all the faults of the other characters and upper class society in general. Their loose morals, shallow relationships, and excess. The other part of me just thinks this was a boring book and Fanny was such an uninteresting character that I really didn't care what happened to her. Not to mention the main romance of the story was barely mentioned or even wrapped up by the end of the novel. All I can say is that I did like this book better than Sense and Sensibility and now I'm ready to move on to my next classic pick.

Those are all of the books that I read in November. I hope that you enjoyed all of these mini reviews and that you'll check out some of the higher rated titles in this post. Now that November is over, I guess it's time to start thinking about Christmas decorating and looking forward to all of the new books I hope to get before the end of the year. Stay tuned to read about all of the books that I hope to read during the festive month of December!