July 25, 2013

3-Year Blogoversary, Giveaway, and Announcement

Hey everyone,

Hard to believe I've been running this blog since 2010! I joined my first Book Blogger Hop almost exactly 3 years ago, and quickly got all wrapped up in everything the book blogosphere has to offer. Blogging has been an awesome experience in so many ways — connecting with other people who love books as much as I do, learning some HTML, improving my critical thinking and review-writing skills, and most importantly, giving me something to look forward to and participate in when real life wasn't necessarily going exactly as planned. I also had the pleasure of co-hosting one blog event (A Cornucopia of Dystopia) in 2011 and hosting another (Psychtember) in 2011 and 2012. I never imagined when I first set up my blog that I'd be involved in coordinating anything like that!

But as happens with so many bloggers, real life is going to get a lot busier for me come September, as I'm starting grad school in a new city. My program's going to be pretty intense so I really don't know how much time I will have to dedicate to reading and blogging. So this is a head's-up that I will inevitably be posting much less frequently than usual after August, and this blog may go on hiatus altogether... we'll see. But just a reminder that the 2013 New Adult challenge will keep going :)

A huge thank-you goes out to all my followers, both the ones who have been there since the beginning and the ones who've started following more recently!

And in celebration of my third-year blogoversary, I'm hosting a giveaway — your choice of a book for up to $15 (CDN) from The Book Depository!


- Open internationally, as long as The Book Depository ships to your country
- Must be 13 years or older to enter
- Giveaway ends Aug. 11

Enter using the Rafflecopter below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

July 19, 2013

The Book Sacrifice Tag

When I saw this tag I just knew I had to join in! It was created by ArielBissett on YouTube and I first came across it on ChapterStackss's channel. As the title implies, it's all about which books you'd sacrifice in various scenarios. You can watch ArielBissett's original video here, and then if you do your own leave me a link so I can watch yours!

July 14, 2013

Cross My Palm 2013: YA Fantasy

The first Cross My Palm 2013 post took a look at trends in sci-fi YA, the second one analyzed contemporary YA. This week it's fantasy YA! This is just based on my own observations of books and what I've seen publishers/authors/other bloggers talking about. (Note: like last year, I'll be dedicating a separate post to paranormal YA.)

Trends from last year's post that are still going strong:

- Assassins, thieves, and things that go bump in the night. Well, something like that. If you're writing about these in the YA fantasy genre, you are in good company. Several series are on the go, including Robin LaFevers' His Fair Assassin series, Ari Marmell's Widdershins series, and Sarah Maass's Throne of Glass series. There are also upcoming releases like Deathsworn by Leah Cypess, Sea of Shadows by Kelley Armstrong, and Midnight Thief by Livia Blackburne.

- There's still a ravenous appetite for fairy tales. A fan of Bluebeard? Try Strands of Bronze and Gold by Jane Nickerson. Beauty and the Beast more your style? Keep an eye out for Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge. Prefer The Snow Queen? You're in luck: Jackson Pearce's Cold Spell releases in November, and Crown of Ice by Vicki Lemp Weavill is due out next year. There's also The Glass Casket by McCormick Templeman, Minnow by Stephanie Oakes, Feather Bound by Sarah Raughley, Mortal by Sarah J. Maass... and then if you want a little of everything, there are the books that mash up fairy tales: Far Far Away by Tom McNeal, Trail of Shadows and Blood by Bianca Ison, Banished by Liz de Jager, Stray by Elissa Sussman, and of course, the Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer.

- And not just "fairy tales" but tales of the fey. That's right, there are plenty of faerie stories alive and kicking in YA. From historical UK (The Falconer by Elizabeth May, the Faerie Ring series by Kiki Hamilton) to historical New York (Winterspell by Claire Legrand) to modern-day Boston (Breathless by Skylar Dorset) and modern-day London (All That Glows by Ryan Graudin), faeries are happening.

- Time travel – or in some cases, time manipulation. YA books featuring a traditional presentation of time travel are doing quite well; Julie Cross's Vortex was published earlier this year, Myra McEntire's Infinityglass and Kerstin Gier's Emerald Green come out in August and October respectively, and then there's the upcoming books The Fifty-Seven Lives of Alex Wayfare by M.G. Buehrlen and The Eighth Guardian by Meredith McCardle. But I think a broader notion of time alteration/manipulation is on the rise, with books like Gennifer Albin's Crewel World series, Gates of Thread and Stone by Lori M. Lee, and After You by Jessica Corra.

Hopeful trends that haven't quite gotten off the ground yet:

- Dragons. There's a smattering of dragon YA books — the Seraphina series by Rachel Hartman, the Newsoul series by Jodi Meadows, the Dragon King Chronicles by Ellen Oh — but I don't think this trend has yet, shall we say, taken flight.

- PoC characters. There are certainly at least a handful of recent and upcoming YA fantasy books featuring PoC characters — Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst, Ink by Amanda Sun, The Night Itself by ZoĆ« Marriott, Gilded by Christina L. Farley, The Fire Wish by Amber Lough — but I would love to see more! I'd especially like to see a larger number where the protagonist is a person of colour, and also greater diversity generally in ethnicities represented.

New trends:

- Deserts. No, not desserts as in yummy chocolatey goodness, but rather those arid places lacking water. At the moment it seems very chic to give your YA fantasy novel a desert setting. Sarah Beth Durst did it with Vessel, Cassandra Rose Clarke with The Assassin's Curse, Rae Carson with Girl of Fire and Thorns, Moira Young with her Dust Lands series (admittedly, these probably fall more into the dystopian genre) and Amy McCulloch with The Oathbreaker's Shadow. I suspect we might get a desert-like atmosphere in Amber Lough's upcoming The Fire Wish, too. Let's face it: deserts are *hot* right now in YA fantasy. (See what I did there?)

 Vanishing trends:

- The power of touch. This made a brief appearance with books like Maria Snyder's Healer series, Holly Black's Curse Worker series, Corrine Jackson's The Sense Thieves series, Tahereh Mafi's Shatter Me series, Leah Clifford's A Touch trilogy, and Kim Harrington's Clarity series. But it seems like it was a rather short-lived blip, because besides upcoming books from the aforementioned series, I don't think I've seen very many new books that would fall into this category. Have you?

You also might want to check out Stacked's Get Genrefied: High Fantasy post if you're looking for suggestions of YA books to read in this genre!

So, what do you think of these trends? Love 'em? Hate 'em? Think I'm way off base? Let me know your thoughts!

July 9, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Best/Worst Book-to-Movie Adaptations

The Top Ten Tuesday meme is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish, and this week's topic is film adaptations of books, both the good and the bad. For a longer list of "best" adaptations, check out my previous Top Ten Tuesday post.


1.) Just generally, Andrew Davies' period dramas. This includes, of course, the famous BBC Colin Firth version of Pride & Prejudice, but also less well-known ones like Northanger Abbey, Little Dorrit, and Wives & Daughters. An exception would be the 1996 Emma, as I prefer the version featuring Gwyneth Paltrow and Jeremy Northam. (Mainly because, hello, Jeremy Northam.)

Catherine and Henry in Northanger Abbey... aren't they adorable?!
2.) The 1983 version of Jane Eyre, which I know practically nobody is familiar with (it stars Timothy Dalton and Zelah Clarke). It's probably the version that is most faithful to the original book, although the 2006 version does a decent job as well.

3.) Anne of Green Gables and Anne of Green Gables: The Sequel. Megan Follows and Jonathan Crombie play off each other really well as Anne and Gilbert. Even though there are some major liberties taken with the storyline in the second movie (they kind of mashed together plots from a few different books in the series) the two main leads still manage to make it an entertaining movie-watching experience.

4.) Lord of the Rings. It's not a perfect rendering of the books, but hey, it comes pretty close. And it definitely gives off that necessary EPIC feel.

5.) The 1996 Much Ado About Nothing film. This is one of my favourite Shakespeare plays, and it's done wonderful justice in this version. The roles of Beatrice and Benedick are critical, and Emma Thompson and Kenneth Branagh play them pretty much to perfection. Honourable mention to the new Much Ado About Nothing film, which I saw just a couple days ago and was really quite good (certain scenes were absolutely hilarious!).


1.) The 2011 adaptation of Jane Eyre. I saw this in theatres and I kid you not, my friends and I were cracking up practically the whole way through. And Jane Eyre is not a comedy.

Rochester: "It is your SOUL that I want." Me: Run, Jane!!! Run!
2.) Ella Enchanted. I know I've used this example before, but this shouldn't even be considered an adaptation. It's appalling how they completely massacred Gail Carson Levine's novel.

3.) The 2005 version of Pride & Prejudice. There are certain aspects this one has going for it (the panoramic shots of scenery are breathtaking) but I don't think either of the leads are particularly well-cast. I'm not a huge Keira Knightley fan and I liked Matthew MacFadyen better as the character he plays in Little Dorrit (*points up*) than Mr. Darcy.

Darcy: "You have bewitched me, body and soul, and I love...I love... I love you. I never wish to be parted from you from this day on." Elizabeth: "Well then...your hands are cold." Me: ... WHAT??????
4.) The Princess Diaries 2 movie. Technically I guess this one isn't really an adaptation, because it's not based off of any storyline Meg Cabot wrote, but it's a very cheesy, cringe-in-places kind of movie. (To be fair, it is funny in spots too.) It bugs me how Michael is completely written out of it, though.

5.) Anne of Green Gables: The Continuing Story. This is the third Anne movie and it departs significantly from L.M. Montgomery's original books. As in, they didn't even bother mashing together her storylines this time, they just came up with something totally different. For the most part it is pretty ridiculous — I like the scene where Anne and Gilbert find each other again, but that's about it.
No, that little boy is not Davy from the original series. That's Dominic, one of many new characters inserted into this rather pathetic attempt to 'continue Anne's story' without, um, consulting the books or anything.

What are your top ten best/worst book-to-movie adaptations?

July 5, 2013

June "New Adult" Reviews – Link Them Up Here!

That's right, time again for participants in the "New Adult" reading challenge to share their NA reviews! If you have reviews from June, here's your chance to link them up. And if you have not yet signed up for the NA Challenge but want to participate, don't stress: you can still sign up here :)

Insurgent: A Close-Up Review

"One choice can transform you, or destroy you. Every choice has consequences, and as unrest surges in the factions all around her, Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves, and herself, while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love." (from Goodreads)

 Insurgent by Veronica Roth

*Note: There will be spoilers here for events that occurred in the first book, Divergent, so you have been warned! If you'd like to read it, here's my review of Divergent.


Tris: she undergoes a lot more introspection and personal analysis in this second book in the series. She's a little more vulnerable than in Divergent, as she hasn't gotten over shooting Will and it's given her major post-traumatic stress disorder.

Tris really develops the "Abnegation" part of herself here and even though she's quite ruthless at times, she'll put herself out for people she cares about if they're in danger. She also shows her "Erudite" side more as well. We actually get to see Tris using her intellectual capabilities more — thinking more logically and strategizing — and I appreciated that the power of intellect is displayed this way, showing that these abilities can be used in positive ways as well. Although, it's kind of difficult to say "positive" or "negative" about anything in this book, really — things are not as black and white as Candor would have them be. Still, Tris tries to do what's "right" most of the time.

Tobias: I didn't like his character that much in this one. He seems to have pretty high standards for Tris, and then gets disappointed easily when she doesn't come through for him. He needs to stop building up all these expectations about her, because he makes mistakes and he has to expect that she'll make some too. He definitely had a point about her being reckless, but I feel like he didn't appreciate Tris' selfless side enough. He seemed to get almost hardened towards the end, very "Dauntless", and wasn't allowing himself to be open-minded to different possibilities. Instead, he had a very narrow focus and seemed blind to the pitfalls of the path he was going down.

Tris & Tobias: their relationship is very tense and tumultuous in this one. They both make a lot of mistakes and need to grow up — which I think Tris accomplishes more than Tobias. He still has to work on trusting Tris, and become more aware of his own biases (spoiler, highlight to read: in particular, how blinded he was by prejudice towards his father).

Because they're both keeping things from each other, unfortunately a lot of their intimate scenes just didn't feel authentic. Plus, neither of them was very happy in this book, so they couldn't be happy together; usually when one was feeling content, the other was worrying about something. Basically, they were not in a very good spot for most of Insurgent. That said, I think they needed to get it out of their systems, and I suspect the third book will show a united front from them. That's usually how it goes in a trilogy, especially a YA dystopian one (just to break it down quickly: in book 1 the characters fall in love, in book 2 there's conflict in the relationship, and in book 3 they unite once again to fight a common enemy). I have the feeling that's the way this one's going to go. But I'm glad there wasn't a love triangle — I think that would have been pointless and contrived. Rather, the problem here was all about their own misunderstandings and mistrust, and not sharing everything they should have with each other was their downfall in this book. I'm hoping that they learn from that and aren't hiding stuff from each other all the time in book 3.


As in the first book, the serum mind-control thing still bugged me. I think it's one of the weakest aspects of the world-building; people wandering around like zombies just seems a little far-fetched. I'd also like more explanation of the science behind being Divergent, as well as the science behind the assessment test and simulation serums. Insurgent goes into the neurophysiology of Divergence a little in discussing Tris's brain scans, which I found quite interesting, and I thought the psychology behind that was fairly accurate and made sense (spoilers: Divergent individuals have more mirror neurons, leading to greater empathy; a small reward-seeking center; and a larger than average prefrontal lateral cortex). The author must have taken the time to look up parts of the brain and figure out how they might be different in a Divergent. What I don't get, though, is how these people developed — why some are Divergent and others aren't. It seems to be treated like flipping a switch, either you're Divergent or you're not, but you can't be just slightly Divergent...which doesn't seem very realistic.


Insurgent is darker than Divergent, with more emotional gravitas. It deals with PTSD, plenty of dangerous situations, people dying left, right and center, war criminals, psychological torture...it's intense. Insurgent shows how entrenched a memory can be, and how traumatic stress can linger and affect someone in the present. It's made clear that PTSD isn't something you can just "snap out of", and on the whole I thought the illustration of PTSD was very well done.

There were a lot of twists I didn't see coming (major spoilers: her brother betraying her! Also, Peter being the one to save her — which I thought was fitting.) I thought the climactic scene could have been improved upon in some ways; it was shorter than I expected and featured a rather predictable obstacle. Spoilers: Tris has to kill "herself" in order to get to the door, which is an idea that's been done before. I liked that there was an intellectual activity that needed to be completed before you could breach security, but I wish there were more! I thought it was going to be like the first Harry Potter book, with all of these tricky traps you have to think through.

I wish Amity had been involved more. Quite frankly, I agree with the other bloggers who've said that the cover is misleading. It's not a huge mental leap to assume that because the first book had fire on the cover and focused on the Dauntless faction, that a cover with a tree as the symbol would focus on Amity. But there is more fighting than peace that goes on in here, and really I ended up feeling a little cheated that we didn't get to see more of Amity! If anything I think a more accurate cover would have alluded to Candor, since a lot of this book revolves around truth. I'm hoping that Amity plays a bigger role in the next book, as I feel like we've still only scraped the surface of their faction. It feels like they get somewhat dismissed by Tris, as though she thinks they're a bunch of useless cowards. I'd like to see Roth showing a stronger, more positive side to them.

Spoilers for the ending: I kinda liked the whole idea that this was an experiment. It's like a much better version of The Maze Runner, in that the reason they developed this society was originally to try again and make humanity better. Obviously that hasn't exactly worked out, but I think this revelation will lead really well into a totally different third book, where we learn about what's outside the gates!

The end left me feeling a little unsettled; I think I wanted more resolution to the Tobias/Tris feud than I got, or perhaps the way it was resolved just felt too easy and cliched. Spoilers: I wanted more of an apology from Tobias at the end, or for Tris not to forgive him so easily for turning his back on her. His quick reversal from not believing her to believing her came off as somewhat predictable and contrived. 

I also had some difficulty visualizing the places mentioned and remembering who was who (there are a lot of deaths in here!), and I found it challenging to keep track of the timeline of events.

Final verdict: 4.5 shooting stars. This, like Divergent, is an captivating whirlwind of a read, but it has broadened in scale from the first book, becoming more epic. I didn't like a lot of the choices the characters made, but I appreciated that Tris really grew in this book.

Note: there is some mature content (namely violence) in this book.

July 1, 2013

Cross My Palm 2013: Contemporary YA

Last week I did my first Cross My Palm 2013 post, looking at trends in sci-fi YA. Now it's time to put contemporary YA under the microscope! This is just based on my own observations of books and what I've seen publishers/authors/other bloggers talking about.

Trends from last year's post that are still holding steady:

- Car accidents. Somehow, inexplicably, either teens love reading about car crashes or YA authors love writing about them, or both. I don't fully understand the obsession, but there you have it. With books like Golden by Jessi Kirby, Truly, Madly, Deadly by Hannah Jayne (admittedly, it sounds like the crash in this one was no accident), Far From You by Tess Sharpe, and The Truth About Alice Franklin by Jennifer Mathieu making their way into the reading world this year and next, it looks like there will be plenty of fuel for this trend for a while yet. (There's even a 2015 release already in this category: Rearview Mirror by Rachel Harris!)

- Road trips and other travel journeys. There are some coming up – How My Summer Went Up In Flames by Jennifer Salvato Doktorski, When You Were Here by Daisy Whitney, Right of Way by Lauren Barnholdt, Open Road Summer by Emery Lord – but not quite as many as last year, it seems. Hopefully there will still be more to come, because I think travel stories offer so much fodder for creativity!

Trends that seem to be on their way out:

- Books dealing with war and/or PTSD. There were several of these published last year, but it doesn't look like that's continuing into 2013 and 2014. Although I'm sure that several of the abduction stories (see below) will probably involve PTSD, and I know for sure that the recently published Bruised by Sarah Skilton does.

- Sister stories. I thought these would keep on going for a while when I wrote up last year's post, but now it doesn't look that way! Deviant by Helen Fitzgerald just released last month, and there's Jennifer Echol's Dirty Little Secret and Rainbow Rowell's Fangirl, both of which sound like they deal with sister issues to some extent, but apart from that I haven't seen a lot of upcoming contemporary books focusing on a sister relationship. (Am I just blind here or what?!)

New trends:

- Teens undercover and/or on the run: you might consider this Road Trip Trend's darker, wilder cousin. Examples of books falling into this category include Nobody But Us by Kristin Halbrook, Rules for Disappearing by Ashley Elston, Fake ID by Lamar Giles, Being Henry David by Cal Armistead, Leap of Faith by Jamie Blair, and Pretending to Be Erica by Michelle Painchaud.

- If I had a million dollars... (I'd buy a monstrously large library, of course, but that's besides the point.) It looks like several YA authors are exploring the dynamic of rich and not-so-rich teens. If you've ever wondered "how the other half lives", you might want to check out these books when they're released: What I Thought Was True by Huntley Fitzpatrick, The Distance Between Us by Kasie West, All the Rage by Courtney Summers, Crash into You by Katie McGarry, and The Secret Diamond Sisters by Michelle Madow.

- Girls in sports: I think we have Miranda Kenneally's Hundred Oaks series to thank for this trend, at least in part. In addition to the next upcoming book of hers, Racing Savannah, there's also Played by Liz Fichera, Wild Cards by Simone Elkeles, Out of Play by Nyrae Dawn and Jolene Perry, Riptide by Lindsey Scheibe, and Being Sloane Jacobs by Lauren Morrill. While I'm personally not a big sports enthusiast, it's nice to see YA offering these sorts of protagonists and stories, especially since this used to be viewed more as "boy book" territory.

- Abduction, because amnesia just wasn't good enough. There seem to be a slew of abduction stories permeating the contemporary YA section these days! From Pretty Girl-13 by Liz Coley, Panic by Sharon M. Draper and If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch to Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller, Stained by Cheryl Rainfield and Emmy & Oliver by Robin Benway, apparently kidnapping is where it's at in YA.

There's even Leap of Faith by Jamie Blair, which as a twist features the teen protagonist as the abductor. And if you think girls are the only ones who get kidnapped, think again: Pointe by Brandy Colbert makes this very point (pardon the pun) by making the abductee a teen boy.

If you want to get caught up on the offerings in contemporary YA for 2013 and 2014, you might want to check out these two Goodreads lists. (Note that not all of the books on that first one are actually 2013 releases.)

So, what do you think of the trends in contemp YA? Love them? Hate them? Tired of them? See something I've missed? Let me know!

(P.S. To all my Canadian blogging friends: Happy Canada Day!!)

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