Sunday, April 30, 2017

Sunday Funday: Weekend Update & The Circle (2017)


Happy weekend everyone!  I don't know about you guys, but my week has been absolutely insane.


In bookish news, I was a lucky winner of an ARC of It's Not Like It's a Secret by Misa Sugiura via Epic Reads - thanks again!  This YA LGBT Contemporary will officially be released on May 9th - and it sounds very promising.  This week I also managed to finish two books - Given to the Sea by Mindy McGinnis and Saga, Vol. 7 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples - my reviews are linked, by the way.  I wish I could have read more and have participated in Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon, but unfortunately, I was far too busy yesterday to take on that challenge, or read anything really.


Anyway, though, I did manage to take a shred of my spare time on Friday evening and go to the movie theater to see The Circle starring Emma Watson and Tom Hanks.  Even, though, I wasn't the biggest fan of Dave Egger's original novel, I liked the concept enough and the trailers and the cast looked quite promising.  The cast also includes Karen Gillan, John Boyega, Patton Oswalt, and the late Bill Paxton.


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Through the help of a friend, Mae manages to land a job working for one of the biggest tech companies in the world called The Circle.  It's the opportunity of a lifetime and she jumps at the opportunities it affords, including healthcare for her MS stricken father.  As she progresses from her initial position with Customer Experience to taking the lead on a new experiment by going fully Transparent.  By taking this on, her every waking moment is watched and commented on by millions around the world at any given time.  From that moment on, every decision she makes will affect everyone she knows and cares about, not to mention the entire world.

To get right to it, there are some things I preferred about this movie adaptation in comparison to the original novel and there are some things I preferred about the novel to the movie.  Neither are bad, but neither are they great.  They are mediocre.  I will say that the movie is (only slightly) more thrilling than the book, since it's tighter and doesn't drag nearly as much.  The actors are all good, of course, but no one in this movie really shines.  But, I will say that Tom Hanks as Eamon Bailey, a bit more a villain here, gives about the best performance using the persona that you usually see when he's on tv talk shows.  Watson also does a decent job of pulling off Mae and supporting the entire film though admittedly her accent kind of slips a couple of times.  The movie is also very timely considering its subject matter deals with privacy and control.  Visually, I liked how the movie shows the comments from her screens and wrist bands, so we can see them as well.  The adaption follows the source material fairly well, but there are a few changes or deletions - my favorite change is in the ending, but no spoilers from me.

In regards to the things that I didn't like as much, I was hoping that the movie would really be able to amp up the paranoia and the thriller aspect, (which it does only slightly better than the movie) but it never gets to that point where it's truly suspenseful.  Aside from Hanks and Watson, though, the rest of the cast is underused and pushed to the background when they should be right in the forefront - I would have liked to have seen more of Karen Gillan as Annie.  Plus, sometimes the acting became overly dramatic and cheesy.  Like with the book, sometimes the characters, particularly Mae make dumb moves, and the movie isn't an exception.


Verdict: Borrow it, or check out some of Emma Watson's other films that have flown under the radar - for example, Colonia is excellent and quite thrilling.


Next up: Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 - Hopefully, this coming Friday!


As always, thanks for visiting my blog, and perhaps even commenting below.  Happy Sunday everyone!

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Given to the Sea (Given Duet #1) by Mindy McGinnis - Review & Giveaway (INT)



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Khosa has been born to be given to the sea, as was her mother and her mother's mother and beyond, as a sacrifice to appease the brutal sea and prevent another wave like the one that once destroyed the Kingdom of Stille hundreds of years ago. However, before she fulfills her purpose she must give birth to a female heir to follow in her footsteps in order to secure the kingdom's safety for generations to come. Unfortunately, Khosa can't withstand the touch of anyone except an Indiri. Siblings Dara and Donil are the last surviving Indiri, a magical people of the earth with special abilities, including the ability to see and relive the memories of their ancestors. The Pietra, led by Witt, slaughtered the rest of the Indiri several years ago and now they're coming to claim Stille for the survival of their own people. Vincent will one day inherit the Kingdom of Stille. His father, the prince, will do anything to ensure that Khosa does her duty to the Stillean people as their Given. Vincent knows he must do whatever it takes to make sure the kingdom prospers, but the more he actually gets to know this Given personally, the more he begins to question the traditions of his kingdom.

Given to the Sea by Mindy McGinnis was easily one of my most anticipated releases of 2017 and it really delivers on so many fronts. The author has written in multiple YA genres, but this is her first fantasy novel which is also the first of a duet. McGinnis has quickly become one of my favorite authors, so of course I'm glad to say that her first foray into fantasy really worked for me. In this novel, her world-building, her character development, and tackling of social issues stood out in particular to me. However, I will warn you right off the bat that while quite a bit happens I wouldn't consider this an action-packed book. Events travel at a slower pace here than in most YA fantasy, but it is definitely worth sticking around to see how everything comes to a head.

For me, the success of a second world fantasy often hinges on the author's world-building skills. The world of the Kingdom of Stille and its surroundings, from a vengeful sea to an unfriendly neighbor bent on war, is uniquely imagined and designed. Stille has a destructive history that they have to prevent from coming to pass again and again each generation. Even if that means a girl must be born and raised specifically to sacrifice to that vengeful sea. The world of the novel is a mostly non-magical one that focuses on the political machinations of those who have power, and to great effect. I do believe, however, that the book could definitely benefit from the inclusion of a map in order to better see the lay of the land and the sea.

Turning to our cast of characters, this story is told from four alternating perspectives - two in first person and the other two in third. Our first person POVs are Khosa, the Given, and Vincent, the grandson of the King and one day heir to the throne of Stille, while our third person POVs are Dara, one of the last two surviving Indiri, and Witt, the cold-blooded warlord and leader of Pietra. Of these four, I will say that I found myself most interested in Vincent's and Dara's chapters and they quickly became my two favorites of the novel. As much as I enjoyed getting to know Khosa and explore issues of personal and political autonomy in terms of her life and future, she is quite bland, a little too much so even though I know that that's how her character has been raised - to do her duty for her kingdom regardless of her own personal wants and needs. I will admit that it is great when we see her begin question her future and the horror and revulsion she feels at what she knows that the future holds for her. Anyway, while all perspectives are handled well I wouldn't say all of them are absolutely necessary, since the characters overlap quite a bit - Dara's, in particular, as her and Vincent's story are very close. Regardless of the necessity of her chapters, though, Dara quickly became a favorite and made me wish that Donil, her twin, also had POV chapters.

Overall, Mindy McGinnis's Given to the Sea is a great first foray into fantasy. If you're a fan of this author's work, this first in a two-part series is a must read. If you are also interested in mostly non-magical political fantasy that doesn't travel at a breakneck pace, but features excellent world-building and character development, this novel may be your cup of tea. I know I'm certainly looking forward to the second part of this duet and McGinnis's upcoming release, This Darkness Mine.


I read this novel from April 22 - 28, 2017 and my review is also on Goodreads.



I'm also giving away this book as a part of the April 2017 New Release Giveaway Hop - you can enter my giveaway (INT) here.

Friday, April 28, 2017

The Friday 56 (With Book Beginnings): The Ship Beyond Time by Heidi Heilig + 50/50 Friday


Welcome to The Friday 56, a weekly meme hosted by Freda's Voice.

These are the rules:
1. Grab a book, any book.
2. Turn to page 56, or 56% on your eReader.
3. Find any sentence (or a few, just don't spoil it) that grabs you.
4. Post it.
5. Add the URL to your post in the link on Freda's most recent Friday 56 post.


I'm also taking part in Book Beginnings, a weekly meme hosted by Rose City Reader.  The rules are pretty simple - you share the first sentence or so and your initial thoughts, impressions, or whatever else it inspires.  Don't forget to link up your post's url with Rose City Reader.


This week I'm spotlighting my next read, The Ship Beyond Time (The Girl From Everywhere  #1) by Heidi Heilig.  I absolutely can't wait to jump into this novel as the first book in this series was one of my favorites from 2016 and an absolutely marvelous debut!


Beginning:

On a warm December day in 1884, the Temptation was leaving Hawaii, as well as the nineteenth century, and her destination was entirely in her hands.

56:

"We should do something nice for the," she said then.

"For who?"

"For Bee and Ayen.  To celebrate."

"What's better than a triple scoop with rainbow sprinkles?"

Now Nix swatted at me, but instead of slipping away, I caught her fingers in mine.  "She helped throw me a party for my theft day," she said.  "It's important."


This week I'm also taking part in a linkup called 50/50 Friday, which is hosted by Carrie @ The Butterfly Reader and Laura @ Blue Eye Books.  Every week they'll have a new topic featuring two sides of the same coin - this week the topic is World You'd Like/ Not Like To Live In.  I could have very easily said the Wizarding World and Panem as my two choices respectively, but I'll pick another pair for a change of scenery.

World I'd Like To Live In:



Arnes, aka Red London from Shades of Magic series by V.E. Schwab - Can you blame me?  Kell's London sounds wonderful.

World I'd Not Like To Live In:


The titular luxury high-rise of J.G. Ballard's High-Rise - The 1975 novel was adapted into a film in 2015 starring Tom Hiddleston as the main character who moves into an ultra modern and convenient high-rise apartment building in London.  Let's just say, things take a decidedly dystopian turn in the building - think Lord of the Flies set in a new apartment block.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Things That Will Make Me NOT Want To Read A Book


Happy Tuesday and welcome back to Top Ten Tuesday, a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish!  This week's topic is Things That Will Make Me NOT Want To Read A Book.  Here are some things that I'm not a fan of:


Too Much Romance - I've never been a fan of when romance over takes the plot.  Basically, the less romance the better in my opinion.


Forbidden love - Sometimes this can work if done well, but often times the forbidden love takes over the plot.


Instalove - Please, get to know each other for at least more than 10 pages before you're willing to die for one another.


New Adult - Although, I'm closer in age to New Adult characters than Young Adult characters, I still prefer YA.  Too much of the NA books I've read feature a little too much of the first three elements on this list.


"The Next Twilight" - It could just be the next super hyped up book, but being compared to the Twilight Saga dings it in my opinion although it could still be a great read in the end.


Special Snowflake Syndrome, aka The Chosen One - Obviously, this can be one of my favorite things since I just love Harry Potter, but sometimes it can just be too much of the same old thing.  I like seeing that trope subverted - a great example is The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness.


Sports - Yeah, I only really care about Quidditch... (and fencing, I like that too).


Cozy mysteries - Overall, I definitely prefer something a little more complex, hard-boiled and/ or noirish.


Westerns - By this I mean, the stereotypical western - but I do like the genre with a steampunk or fantasy flavor.


Novels in verse - I like mixed media and alternate formats, but I have a harder time connecting with (or figuring out) novels in verse.


What makes you automatically not want to read a book?  Do we share anything, or are any of my peeves some of your favorites?  As always thanks for visiting my blog and for perhaps commenting below!

Monday, April 24, 2017

Music Monday: Starset


Happy Monday everyone and welcome back to Music Monday! Let's share some songs we've been enjoying lately!  If you would like to play and I really hope you do, please see the rules and link up below.

Rules:

Every Monday share a few songs you've been enjoying lately.  It doesn't have to be a specific genre, new, or one of your favorites - just something you'd like to share with others.  If possible, share a music or lyric video of the song and your thoughts on the song(s), artist(s), and/or music video(s).

If you would like to participate in Music Monday, please join the link up by sharing your post's url.

This week I'm sharing two songs from Starset, a rock band from Columbus, Ohio.  There music has sci-fi elements and you might like listening to them if you also like Linkin Park, 30 Seconds to Mars, and Skillet.  Plus, a couple of their influences are Sigur Ros and Hans Zimmer.  Anyway, "Monster" (2017) is the first single from their most recent album, Vessels, and "My Demons" is their first ever single from their first album. Transmissions.  I love the videos that go along with both of these songs - the sci-fi elements are really creative!  I've been hearing quite a bit of these songs on the radio since the release of their newest album.  It's always great seeing a local band doing well.






Friday, April 21, 2017

The Friday 56 (With Book Beginnings): The Lost City of Z by David Grann + 50/50 Friday


Welcome to The Friday 56, a weekly meme hosted by Freda's Voice.

These are the rules:
1. Grab a book, any book.
2. Turn to page 56, or 56% on your eReader.
3. Find any sentence (or a few, just don't spoil it) that grabs you.
4. Post it.
5. Add the URL to your post in the link on Freda's most recent Friday 56 post.


I'm also taking part in Book Beginnings, a weekly meme hosted by Rose City Reader.  The rules are pretty simple - you share the first sentence or so and your initial thoughts, impressions, or whatever else it inspires.  Don't forget to link up your post's url with Rose City Reader.


This week I'm spotlighting one of my current reads, The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon by David Grann.  This is my eighth read for Book Riot's 2017 Read Harder Challenge and it fulfills the task of reading a travel memoir.  It follows the quest to discover what happened to Percy Fawcett's 1925 lost expedition to find the lost city of Z in the Amazon.  The book was released in 2009, but I didn't realize what it was about until recently after seeing it come and go from my library almost weekly - plus, I've been seeing the trailers for the movie which looks pretty promising.  I'm not that far along into the book yet, but I'm already hooked.


Beginning:

I pulled the map from my back pocket.  It was wet and crumpled, the lines I had traced to highlight my route now faded.  I stared at my markings, hoping that they might lead me out of the Amazon, rather than deeper into it.

56:

When I told the archivist that I was looking for Fawcett's papers, she gave me a quizzical look.  "What is it?"  I asked.

"Well, let's just say that many people who are interested in Fawcett are a little..."  Her voice trailed off as she disappeared into the catacombs.


This week I'm also taking part in a brand new linkup called 50/50 Friday, which is hosted by Carrie @ The Butterfly Reader and Laura @ Blue Eye Books.  Every week they'll have a new topic featuring two sides of the same coin - this week the topic is Favorite/ Least Favorite Book in the X Genre.  The topic gives me a bit of freedom this week, so I'm selecting Romance.  I don't talk about romance much as a genre since I generally prefer very little romance in my books, but I thought I'd change things up today.

Favorite:



The Princess Bride by William Goldman - Seriously, how can you go wrong - it has everything!

Least Favorite:


Black Ice by Becca Fitzpatrick - Okay, I have several least favorites, but this one definitely stands out.  I probably strained my eyes rolling them so often while reading this - Britt and Korbie were irritating and too stupid to live, plus, there's Stockholm Syndrome and a love triangle, etc.  It's shooting for something like YA romantic thriller - it's neither and I remember wondering if either Britt or Korbie had ever seen a bad made (and not of the so bad it's good category) for tv horror movie.  Yet somehow I still managed to finish reading it.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Enemy Within by Scott Burn - Review


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I received a free ecopy of this novel from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Max has always felt like an outsider and when the apocalyptic visions begin. After he attempts suicide, he winds up under the guidance of a therapist who believes him to be an exceptional seventeen year old. After Max begins to give up the ideas of the visions, he realizes that the visions weren't just in his head. Three others have also been having these visions and they're looking for Max.

The Enemy Within by Scott Burn is an action-packed YA sci-fi novel that doesn't waste any time jumping right into the thick of things. Max is an intriguing character to follow and I liked following his story. However, I had a difficult time connecting to anyone else throughout the story. Everyone else fell flat for me and consistently felt quite static in comparison and lacking dimension to really flesh them out. I also think I would have preferred less jumping around when it comes to character perspective. As interesting as it was to see the military have a presence, it takes away crucial time with our main cast that could have been spent fleshing them out a bit more.

Overall, I liked the story and the plot of Scott Burn's novel, The Enemy Within, particularly the concept, the action, the twists, and Max. However, in retrospect, it doesn't stand out that well in my memory against other YA sci-fi novels. It's a short and fun read, but could ultimately benefit from improved character development.

Thanks again to the author for the opportunity to read this novel!


I read this novel from March 31 - April 1, 2017 and my review is also on Goodreads.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The Circle by Dave Eggers - Review


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Mae Holland, a young and disgruntled utility company employee, snags the job at a lifetime at The Circle, a huge internet company that is one of the most influential companies in the country. Annie, one of her old college friend's and currently high-up at The Circle, put in a good word for her. Working for The Circle is something along the lines of working for Google or Facebook. She's absolutely thrilled by the work and all of the opportunities that the company offers to its employees. Although her work keeps her life outside of The Circle distant, a strange meeting with a coworker leaves her shaken, and her role at the company becomes more and more Transparent and visible to the public, she finds herself falling in line with everything The Circle stands for and is really anticipating the inevitable day The Circle completes regardless of what it means for the world at large.

Since I'd like to see the upcoming movie adaptation starring Emma Watson and Tom Hanks, I wanted to give the source material of the movie that's promoted as a five minutes in the future drama thriller. Initially, I really liked the concept of the story and it offers an intriguing hook as it's setting up a sort of pre-dystopian 1984-esque up-to-the-minute commentary on social media. Mae's story and The Circle intrigued me enough that I needed to know how it all ended although I had two primary issues with the book.

The first of my two main issues is that the book if far too long at nearly fourteen hours worth of listening (or nearly 500 pages). I suspect it could easily be trimmed down 150 pages to near 350 instead. As the story stands, it isn't actually all that much of a thriller. I will admit it has it's moments, especially nearer to the end, and there are some times when tonally you feel that The Circle isn't everything that it's cracked up to be. However, that doesn't happen enough for me here - I would have preferred more tension to reel me in and hold me.

Secondly, my other key issue is Mae herself. While I didn't exactly like her to begin with, the more I stuck with her the more she really began to grate on my nerves. She starts off as fairly intelligent woman and turns into an incredibly shallow, selfish, and paranoid kid. She doesn't have a much in terms of character growth (or what she does get, she manages to tamp down). She just eats up whatever The Circle tells her regardless of what she could plainly see if she focused on something more than her next zing, smile, or frown. Mae's one of those characters that you just want to slap some sense into their thick skull. There are so many other fascinating characters in the novel that I would have preferred to have followed instead of Mae, to say the least. Luckily, though, I will say the narrator does a great job of bringing Mae and the rest of her fellow Circlers to life.

Overall, I really like the concept behind The Circle by Dave Eggers, but, after it was all said and done, the final product is a bit of a let down. For a twisty pre-dystopian thriller, it should definitely offer more tension, thrills, and less predictability. Plus, a POV character that I wanted to root for on her journey up the corporate ladder and into the shady side of the corporation. If you're interested in dystopian novels set just before the new regime takes over, you may be interested in this timely social media tale that begins to channel the classic, 1984. I'm just hoping that the movie can do the concept justice.


I listened to this audiobook from April 12 - April 18, 2017 and my review is also on Goodreads.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Things That Will Make Me Instantly Want To Read A Book


Happy Tuesday and welcome back to Top Ten Tuesday, a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish!  This week's topic is Things That Will Make Me Instantly Want To Read A Book.  Here are things that I find hard to resist:


Authors or characters with the same first name as me - This doesn't happen that often, so I feel a little thrill of excitement when someone has the same first name as I do!


Fairy tale retellings - I like to see new remixes on known (or more obscure) tales.


Magic - I've got to pass the time unti I get my Hogwarts (or should I say Ilvermorny) acceptance letter!


Noir - I'm with this genre (books and movies, for that matter) "straight down the line", baby.  10 points to Hufflepuff if you know what I'm quoting!


Pirates - Who can resist?


Sassy, snarky, sarcastic characters - The more the better.


Time Travel - One of my favorite elements of sci-fi!  (Does anyone else hope Timeless gets renewed for a second season?)


Unreliable narrators - Don't you just love questioning everything you think you know?


V.E. Schwab and Maggie Stiefvater - I just need more of these two authors in my life.


Villainous or morally gray leading characters - Pretty please!


What makes you want to read a book?  Can you resist any of the things I would love to see more of in books (or anything for that matter)?  Thanks again for visiting my blog and perhaps even commenting!

Monday, April 17, 2017

Music Monday: Play That Song vs. Heart and Soul


Happy Monday everyone and welcome back to Music Monday! Let's share some songs we've been enjoying lately!  If you would like to play and I really hope you do, please see the rules and link up below.

Rules:

Every Monday share a few songs you've been enjoying lately.  It doesn't have to be a specific genre, new, or one of your favorites - just something you'd like to share with others.  If possible, share a music or lyric video of the song and your thoughts on the song(s), artist(s), and/or music video(s).

If you would like to participate in Music Monday, please join the link up by sharing your post's url.

This week I'm sharing "Play That Song" by Train (2016) and "Heart and Soul" by Larry Clinton and His Orchestra, featuring Bea Wain (1938).  I've been hearing a lot of Train's newest song and honestly my favorite part is that it draws so heavily on "Heart and Soul".  That's what really makes it stand out to me, but I must say I love how happy the official video is!  If you haven't heard the original "Heart and Soul" (written by Frank Loesser and composed by Hoagy Carmichael - the singer who James Bond in Casino Royal by Ian Fleming is supposed resemble), I highly recommend it - Bea Wain has a beautiful voice and the band sounds amazing.  The video for it below is from a 1939 short that featured several live performances of major songs from the time.  By the way, Bea Wain will turn 100 years old on April 30th.






Friday, April 14, 2017

April 2017 New Release Giveaway Hop (INT)


This month I'm taking part in the April 2017 New Release Giveaway Hop, which is hosted by Shannon @ It Starts At Midnight.


Khosa is Given to the Sea, a girl born to be fed to the water, her flesh preventing a wave like the one that destroyed the Kingdom of Stille in days of old. But before she’s allowed to dance – an uncontrollable twitching of the limbs that will carry her to the shore in a frenzy – she must produce an heir. Yet the thought of human touch sends shudders down her spine that not even the sound of the tide can match.
Vincent is third in line to inherit his throne, royalty in a kingdom where the old linger and the young inherit only boredom. When Khosa arrives without an heir he knows his father will ensure she fulfills her duty, at whatever cost. Torn between protecting the throne he will someday fill, and the girl whose fate is tied to its very existence, Vincent’s loyalty is at odds with his heart.
Dara and Donil are the last of the Indiri, a native race whose dwindling magic grows weaker as the island country fades. Animals cease to bear young, creatures of the sea take to the land, and the Pietra – fierce fighters who destroyed the Indiri a generation before – are now marching from their stony shores for the twin’s adopted homeland, Stille.
Witt leads the Pietra, their army the only family he has ever known. The stone shores harbor a secret, a growing threat that will envelop the entire land – and he will conquer every speck of soil to ensure the survival of his people.
The tides are turning in Stille, where royals scheme, Pietrans march, and the rising sea calls for its Given.

I am giving away a hardback copy of Given to the Sea by Mindy McGinnis, the first book in the author's new Given Duet.  Be on the look out for my review soon!

This international giveaway ends at 11:59pm on April 30th, 2017.  I will email the winner, who will have 48 hours to respond with their mailing information.  If the winner does not respond within 48 hours, I will select a new winner.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

May the odds be ever in your favor!