Bend and Snap! + 1 review

Have you ever re-watched a movie you haven’t seen in a long time and forgot how good it was? That’s what I did yesterday with Legally Blonde. What a classic! Now if only I could conduct a highly scientific experiment to see if the Bend and Snap really works… (any volunteers?) 😀

In the meantime, here’s another review for a book I finished earlier this week:

Paranormalcy by Kiersten White

Genre: paranormal romance (as if you couldn’t guess that from the title)

This was a good read: it comes up just a little short of the mind-blowing level, but let’s face it: there are few books that are on that level. The heroine of this story is a girl named Evie, who is endearing for various reasons, but mostly because she unironically carries a pink rhinestone-studded taser on her missions to track and retrieve supernatural creatures. And she calls it Tasey. TASEY. How awesome is that? I appreciate a young protagonist with a sense of humour. Evie gets in her fair share of witty one-liners in this book and isn’t one of those heroines who will make you roll your eyes. Evie is a girl with an extraordinary ability: she can see through the “glamours” that supernatural creatures use to shield themselves from humans. But despite her unique ability, she remains down-to-earth and likeable. I might have enjoyed a bit more conflict though, and maybe a bit more elaboration on the IPCA (the organization Evie works for.) While there are a further two books in this series, Paranormalcy does a good job of wrapping up a lot of the conflict – a few threads are left dangling to deal with in the sequels, but the ending is ultimately satisfying.

Final grade: B

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Jaywalker with headphones

So I had my afternoon off yesterday and I was cruising down one of the busiest streets in town (which isn’t so busy at 2:40 in the afternoon, actually) when I see some guy cut across the street halfway between two intersections: one of those jaywalkers. I kind of shake my head because I’m thinking, ‘what, you can’t walk a few more metres and cross at the light like all normal people?’ but then I notice he’s listening to music. It’s a good thing the street wasn’t very busy at that time of day, because if it hadn’t been, that guy would’ve gotten smoked. And he couldn’t have heard it coming because of his headphones! Sheesh.

So I keep driving, minding my own business, because I’m listening to music too: I’m just listening to it in the car with the volume up, like I always do. I turn the corner and what do I see? Another jaywalker with headphones. These folks are really taking their lives into their hands.

And yet, I get it: I know what it’s like to get caught up in whatever you’re listening to. To be fair, I was driving around listening to one of my Nightwish albums, and we all know what an intense listening experience that can be. So in honour of getting lost in the music, I’ve decided to start a weekly playlist feature on this blog. I’ll post whatever songs I happen to be listening to in and talk about why I like them.

So the inagural Weekly Playlist for this, the last week of September, 2012:

1. “What Is This Feeling” – Wicked soundtrack

2. “April Rain” – Delain

3. “Nemo” – Nightwish

4. “Shot in the Dark” – Within Temptation

5. “Wicked Game” – HIM

6. “Seven Devils” – Florence + the Machine

7. “Breathing Underwater” – Metric

8. “Big Bright World” – Garbage

9. “Settle Down” – No Doubt

10. “The Wizard and I” – Wicked Soundtrack

Okay, so I couldn’t resist putting two songs from Wicked on there. I just really like Wicked. My inclusion of Delain, WT and Nightwish can be summed up simply by the fact that I love symphonic metal. As for Florence… we all know everything is more epic if you include Florence + the Machine somewhere. And No Doubt and Garbage are two of my all-time favourites who just released new music so yay! And a cover is always good, that’s why HIM is on there. This one goes out to the jaywalkers with headphones everywhere!

Jumping on the Bandwagon

Well.

Last night I finished watching the first season of Downton Abbey.

I’m now faced with a difficult decision: do I stop off after work to buy season two or wait until I go to the mall on the weekend to pick it up? I probably won’t have time to watch any tonight but if I don’t end up making it to the mall, I’m gonna need to have it for this weekend.

So many questions…

I’ve also come to the conclusion that adding Florence + the Machine to any soundtrack makes it 100 times more epic than it would be without it. Dear Florence Welch, why are you so amazing? How do you do it? What is your secret?!

I also finished reading another Agatha Christie novel last night: The Mirror Crack’d From Side to Side. I didn’t guess the murderer this time, but I did make a couple of other deductions early on that it took the cops in the novel a long time to make. Like who the intended victim was: everyone assumed the killer was trying to do away with the famous actress and accidentally killed the other woman instead, but I suspected the other woman was actually the target and I was right. I kind of want to be Miss Marple when I grow up.

And then I bought some new books:

Witchlanders by Lena Coakley

Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Serious question now: if you’re one of those people who has to alphabetize all your books (like me), where do you put a book that’s got two authors? Under the first author’s name?

Is it slighly OCD of me that I can’t stand it if my books, CDs and DVDs aren’t all alphabetized? These are definitely first world problems.

What I’ve been up to lately + another review

So here’s what I’ve been up to.

I finished re-watching the first season of ABC’s Once Upon a Time. If you haven’t checked this show out yet, then drop what you’re doing and go watch it now. Like, right now: this instant. And then when you’re done you should check out Downton Abbey. I’m only two episodes into that one but I’m already obsessed. And since we’re talking about TV, how about last week’s Doctor Who? This show has really been amazing this year. I think this is my favourite season with Matt Smith as the Doctor. And don’t get me started on last week’s episode of Sinbad either: the ending!! Looks like our boy Sinbad is about to get more than he bargained for…

I also saw the musical Wicked a few weeks ago and all I can say is WOW. I only hope the eventual movie will do it justice because this is such a great show. It’s officially my favourite musical now. Phantom of the Opera can just move over, ok? I’m over it. Move along, mask boy. *toss, toss*

I’ve also been reading of course. I read a couple of things I wasn’t crazy about, so I won’t be reviewing them. But I will however highly recommend the latest from Lesley Livingston: Starling. If you wondered what became of Fennrys after the end of the Wondrous Strange trilogy, then wonder no more! Fenn is back and this time he’s paired up with a girl who’s very cool in her own right: a fencer named Mason Starling. Mythology geeks will love this one because it’s got more references to Norse, Greek and other myths than you can shake a stick at, plus the promise of more. It ends on a hell of a cliffhanger though (thanks a lot!) that’ll keep you OMGing until the next one comes out. Livingston has definitely done a bang-up job here and while Once Every Never is still my favourite of hers, Starling definitely holds its own. I even liked it better than Wondrous Strange, which I didn’t expect to, but hey. The fencing won me over.

Final Grade: A

I’m taking a break from YA now and reading some Agatha Christie. Fall seems to be a good time to read a murder mystery.

Books that have impressed me this year (so far) Part Deux

Here are five more of the most interesting books I’ve read so far in 2012.

Eon by Alison Goodman

Genre: fantasy

It’s been suggested in recent years that the use of dragons in fantasy fiction has become cliche. And I get that: if you’re going to use a fantasy staple, then it’s hard not to fall back into what others have done before. That’s why I chose not to have any dragons whatsoever in my own fantasy novel. I didn’t want to be cliche, but I also think that you can take a tired old concept and do it in a completely different way to break out of the cliche cycle: this is exactly what Goodman has managed to achieve with Eon. Instead of having a cranky old dragon dispensing cryptic advice (ala BBC’s Merlin, which I love, btw) or a dragon-lady breathing fire (ala ABC’s Once Upon a Time, which I also love) Goodman has drawn on Asian traditions to make her dragons stand out from the crowd. The result is a compelling story and a main character who you want to see succeed, despite the double disadvantage of being a girl in a society that didn’t allow women to do much, and being crippled on top of it. Eon/Eona is not a heroine who’ll make you roll your eyes by being too perfect. My only complaint: pacing. Sometimes the story moves a little slow. Partially this is because of the intense world-building that needs to be done in order to tell this kind of story.

Final grade: B+

Unearthly by Cynthia Hand

Genre: YA paranomal/angels

I mentioned in my previous review about how angels are the new vampires: a few years ago, everyone was writing about the vamps and the wolves and the fairies and the witches, but now we’re seeing stories about angels and mermaids and various other fantasy critters. Angels are a hot commodity right now, but like the Mercy series, Cynthia Hand has also made a successful story that stands out in the crowd of heavenly beings. In the Unearthly universe, angels and part-angels all have a sacred purpose in live: the one thing they were set on this earth to do. We see Clara Gardner recieve her purpose early in the novel, but things get complicated along the way. As humans we don’t always like the idea that destiny rules over freewill. Clara struggles against her destiny and her actions at the end of the novel will have implications for what follows in Hallowed, the sequel. My only criticism of the book was the love triangle: I’ve said that I think the love triangle is an over-done plot device and while it works for the purposes of this story, I’m hoping the two boys in question will be more interesting in the next book because at this point I’m not sure which one I’m rooting for yet.

Final Grade: A-

The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell by Chris Colfer

Genre: children’s fantasy/fairytale

Full disclosure: my motivation for picking this one up is because of Chris Colfer. I love his character on Glee and I was curious to see if he was more than just a pretty face with an amazing voice. Luckily I wasn’t disappointed: the guy can write too. And he’s only 22 and already published. He makes me feel like a slacker.

Now to be fair, I liked this one but it didn’t quite blow my mind the way some of the other books on this list did. I think part of the problem is in the pacing: there was a lot going on and there wasn’t always room to breathe between adventures. The characterization wasn’t always consistent, but there’s so much potential here. And let’s face it: fairytale adaptations are all the rage right now. Colfer’s is one of the better ones.

Final grade: B

Nevermore by Kelly Creagh

Genre: YA paranormal

Have you ever had an OMG moment: you know, that moment where a book/TV show/movie throws you for a loop and you just have to stop and collect yourself? That’s how I felt reading Nevermore. If you’re a fan of Edgar Allan Poe, you have to read this book. You just have to. You also have to overlook the seemingly cliche setup with the blonde cheerleader and the goth boy because it’s true what they say: opposites attract. And in Nevermore they attract in a big way. Even though Isobel and Varen (our resident cheerleader and goth) seem like a pair of walking stereotypes, that’s actually what makes them great: they have to come from opposite worlds, otherwise it just wouldn’t work. If this was a story about two goth kids it wouldn’t be the same.

The novel is very well written and you can certainly tell that the author has done her research on Poe as well. Poe’s stories and poems have continued to have an avid following and Nevermore is the perfect homage to his work. It’s been awhile since I’ve read a book that I had this much trouble putting down. I’d set it aside only to pick it up again a minute later because I couldn’t stop reading. This ain’t your average star-crossed love story.

Final grade: A+

The Agency: The Traitor in the Tunnel by Y.S. Lee

Genre: YA historical

This is the third book in the series and though it’s cliche to say it, it’s also the best. (I’ve been talking about cliches a lot today, haven’t I?) For those who haven’t read the first two, The Agency series follows our protagonist Mary Quinn and her investigations as part of a top secret all-female detective agency in Victorian England. This time Mary has gone undercover in Buckingham Palace of all places to find a petty thief. Of course she gets more than she bargains for when she tangles with the prince(what a creep!), her old flame James (what a dreamboat), her employers (turns out not all is well within the Agency itself), her father (OMG) and (spoiler alert!) Queen Victoria herself! Fans of the series will appreciate how Lee resolves a few storylines that have been kicking around since the first book (A Spy in the House) but also leaves plenty to keep them interested for the fourth and final book. And on a more personal level, it’s nice to have a biracial heroine for a change. There aren’t nearly enough of them in YA.

Final grade: A+