Thursday, January 28, 2016

Curio by Evangeline Denmark--Book Review

About Curio--
For as long as she can remember, Grey Howard has taken potions the Chemists ration in order to help the citizens survive each day. But when her best friend, Whit, is arrested for something she did, things suddenly began to shift--both inside her and outside in the world. Her growing defiance to the Chemists leads her to the family shop--and into the curio cabinet. Here, she finds another world on the brink of disaster with moving porcelain figures and a mysterious man with wings who is drawn to her. In order to help her family, her friends, and her world, she has to find a way out of the curio cabinet and a solution to a broken treaty.

My Review--
My reaction to Curio is divided. On one side, I enjoyed the story and the characters. It felt very unique from most other YA fantasy I've read. There were cool details and lots of action. Its greatest strengths lay in the characters, especially Grey, Whit, and Blaise. (Can we pause to appreciate a tall, female character? And a strong female-male friendship that doesn't immediately turn into awkward romance.) The "curio" world was oddly fascinating. And the steampunk themes were a fantastic surprise.

However, there were weaknesses to the story as well. The world building of both the outside world and the curio cabinet world were at times confusing and very rushed. Just when I was starting to understand the outside world, Grey is transported into the curio world. I couldn't tell if the outside world was a future earth or a parallel earth. There were cities like New York and Chicago used as well as Mercury City, Colorado, yet nothing connected me to a "futuristic" world. People worked in mines or went hunting; the descriptions of clothing and houses felt much older than our world today. The curio city was just as odd and confusing with a lot of specific details on how the world works crammed into the story. I needed more time to sort everything out, but the book didn't offer that leisure.

In addition, the whole "potions" and "Chemists" structure was confusing too. At times, I didn't understand what was happening with Grey or why it was significant. I didn't understand the history of the world, why the people needed potions, or what was so "bad" about Grey's family history with the Chemists. I felt the ending was rushed as well and could have done with a lead-in to book two instead of trying to cram everything into an epilogue. (That being said, is there a book two? Because the story wasn't quite resolved, but there weren't hints of book two coming soon or anything.)

Overall, the story was enchanting to follow. I found myself slipping easily into the story and relating to the characters. The story suffered from condensing a lot of world-building into a short amount of pages. I would have liked for the opportunity to flesh out the worlds and characters better, to slow down a little to let everything flourish. Curio is a good start to a better story.

If there's a book two (or even three) coming, I will definitely look forward to continuing this story. Teenagers who enjoy fantasy--and steampunk--would enjoy this story. Plus, who can forget a mysterious, tall-dark-and-handsome man with steampunk wings? (Yes, I know.)

-Jaime

I received this book for free through BookLook from Blink publishing to give my open and honest opinion of the story, nothing more and nothing less.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Beautiful People: January 2016

A new year usually brings new writing thoughts to my mind. From writing goals to writing challenges to daydreaming about my writing, I've been thinking about how I want to make this year count toward my writing ambitions. Luckily, the creators of Beautiful People were thinking the same thing. The questions for this month are all about 2016 writing resolutions. (Find out more about Beautiful People here.)


Here are the questions, which are answered by me with help from my favorite 'avocados.' :)

What were your writing achievements last year?
I completed NaNoWrio 2016. I wrote 500 words every single day. I re-worked the beginning of my current WIP, which has helped me figure out which direction I should go with it in order to edit.


Tell us about your top priority writing project for this year?
Editing something all the way through. I've never been good at taking the time to edit or re-write something. My goal this year is to edit at least one WIP all the way through in order to start beta readers.


List 5 areas you’d like to work the hardest to improve this year.
Editing, re-writing, outlining, word choice, consistency in time.


Are you participating in any writing challenges?
Currently, no?


What's your critique partner/beta reader situation like and do you have plans to expand this year?
I hope to start off my current WIP with beta readers sometime this year. I want to edit by parts so while they look over one part, I'm editing/re-writing the next part.


Do you have plans to read any writer-related books this year? Or are there specific books you want to read for research?
I should probably read Bird by Bird at some point since nobody assigned it to be in college. I'll be looking through the Writer's Journey from time to time to outline my novel. I'm not sure what I need to research.


Pick one character you want to get to know better, and how are you going to achieve this?
While he's not for my current WIP, I'd like to get to know my space opera MC, Leezander, more. I think he's got a few secrets left. I've also been thinking about my 'superhero novel' and the MC of that. I think I might get to know her--along with the rest of the cast--better this year too. (Currently the 'superhero novel' is being shelved for NaNoWriMo 2016. We'll see if it happens.)


Do you plan to edit or query, and what’s your plan of attack?
Edit. Lots and lots of editing. Re-writing, editing, beta-ing. Plan for attack?


Toni Morrison once said, “If there's a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it.” What are the books that you want to see more of, and what “holes” do you think need filling in the literary world?
Dragons. More dragons. More stories with strongly developed characters. More unique worlds, ideas. More science fiction novels.


What do you hope to have achieved by the end of 2016?
I hope I've got a completed manuscript with enough feedback to push me toward querying.


What are your 2016 writing resolutions?
-Jaime

(This entire post is so ridiculous. I don't even know what I'm doing any more.) 

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Looking behind and looking ahead: Books of 2015 and 2016

This post is late, of course, because I'm not a wizard. So I'm allowed to be late. However, I wanted to show my appreciation for all the wonderful books I read this past year of 2015. (There were 184!) I also decided to take upon a few reading challenges this coming year (and beyond).


So without further ado, here's my list of favorite books released/published in 2015:

-Remnants: Season of Fire by Lisa T. Bergren
One of the best new-er dystopian series, Season of Fire is the second book in the Remnants series. You can check out my spoiler-free review of the first two books, Season of Wonder and Season of Fire, here. Book three comes out this year! (More on this in a moment.)

-Siren's Fury by  Mary Weber
Another new-ish YA series, Siren's Fury picks up where book one, Storm Siren, left us. And this book is even better than the first one. More tension, more nail-biting action. bring me book three now! Check out my reviews for Storm Siren and Siren's Fury here.

-Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard: The Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan
For years, I've been waiting for Rick Riordan to write a Norse mythology story. Magnus Chase is here--and he's wonderful. I don't know Norse mythology that well, but it was still easy to get into the story. Plus, now I can have fun learning about Norse mythology. Worth it? Yes.

-Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
Set after the Grisha trilogy, Six of Crows is basically Ocean's Eleven but with magic. Talk about COOL. I enjoyed this book more than the Grisha trilogy, and I found myself unable to choose a favorite from the six main characters. It's just that well written.

-Winter by Marissa Meyer
Probably my most-anticipated read, Winter concluded The Lunar Chronicles with a wonderful ending. This book, despite 800+ pages, was worth it. I loved the new characters, the interactions of the old, and the ending. This is one series you don't want to miss out on. I look forward to anything else Marissa Meyer writes. Here's my embarrassing review and status update reactions as I read, you  know, for kicks and giggles.


In 2015, I completed a few series I've been working my way through.

-I finally read every single volume of Fullmetal Alchemist. I did it. I finished this series, which is the first manga I read. It was worth it. It was a wonderful, satisfying ending to such a great story. I think I might have cried. Now I'm going to go watch the anime (Brotherhood, obviously).

-I finished The Lunar Chronicles, which I mentioned earlier. It took over a year and half since I read the first ones to get my hands on Winter. And yes, the wait was worth it. This is one of the best fairy tale re-telling I've ever read. Now, I'd like a TV show. I'll even write the script.

-Every year I try to re-read a favorite childhood series. This year I revisited the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. It was amazing how much I remembered from reading them previous. (It's probably been ten years since I read them.) I enjoyed the later years of Laura's story much more this time around. I'll definitely put it on my list to read again ten years.

-I read through every comic connected to Marvel's Civil War, which is being made into a film this year. I wanted to prepare for the movie release, so I "know" what else happened. Yes, it's heart breaking. I'll probably write a post for The Fangirl Initiative on essential comics to read before the movie is released.

2016 promises a ton of new books to read as well as the opportunity to (try to) catch up with books I didn't get to in 2015. Here are my most-anticipated reads of 2016:

-Remnants: Season of Glory by Lisa T. Bergren
This is book three, the final installment of the Remnants series, so I'm anticipating an epic end. Just give it to me now!

-Three Wishes by Lisa T. Bergren
If you know me, you know I love the River of Time books. Three Wishes is another River of Time book, except it's not set in Italy or the 14th century. Instead, Three Wishes is set in California during hte early 1800s. I'm so excited for this book. Plus, the cover is just gorgeous.

-Siren's Song by Mary Weber
The third book in the Storm Siren trilogy, Siren's Song will end the trilogy and (hopefully) Nym's journey. The ending to the second book left me wanting more, so I can't wait for this book to arrive in print in my hand. Plus, I want Nym's green dress, displayed on the cover.

-Stars Above by Marisaa Meyer
This is a collection of short stories about the characters from The Lunar Chronicles. Since I'm not ready to say goodbye, this book is definitely on my short list to read first. Of course, now I just need to wait until February for it to be published.

-Heartless by Marissa Meyer
Remember when I said I would read anything Marissa Meyer writes? Well, later in the year, she's going to be releasing a new book, which is a prequel story to Alice in Wonderland about the Queen of Hearts. I know. It sounds delightful.

-Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard: The Hammer of Thor by Rick Riordan
Of course, I'm looking forward to book two in this trilogy. Hello, that ending was fantastic. I need more humor-filled, Norse mythology to ruin my day.

-The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan
Never would I have ever imagined I'd be blessed with two Riordan books in one year. Yet, here we are. The Hidden Oracle follows the Greek god Apollo, who is cast down from Olympus and ends up in New York as a regular teenager. He has to try to regain favor with Zeus... while being hunted by lots of enemies. I am here for more Apollo sass.

-Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo
This is the sequel to Six of Crows. And with the ending of the first book, I desperately need this book in my hands. Now. Plus, I love this world and these characters. Learning about them was one of the best parts of the books. So, more please!


There are probably stacks of books I'm looking forward to reading this year, but these are the ones currently on my radar and the ones I need immediately.

In addition, I've challenged myself to read 150 books this year. Last year's goal was 100 and I read 84 "extra" books. I think 100 is too easy. I've also decided to read through Les Mis with a friend, which is a daunting endeavor. I'm excited to see how the book differs/is similar to the musical.

Every year I try to re-read a book series from my childhood. Every year, I tell myself I'm going to re-read the Chronicles of Narnia, yet I never do. So I'm either going to re-read Narnia or re-read A Series of Unfortunate Events in preparation for the Netflix show! (I'm so excited for this.) Or... I could do both. Who knows?

 I've also decided to take upon myself the task of reading every Star Wars book. Yes, you heard me, every single one. I've got a list of non-canon (aka "legends") books in chronological order. I've heard many opinions on where to start, what to read, what to skip. But I'm going with this list because I want to. I've read some of the children's books a long time ago, but I decided I need to do more. This, however, is not going to be just a 2016 reading goal. There are over four hundred books on the list, which would take a few years. So I'm going to try to read them all by the time Episode IX comes out, which I think is 2019. That gives me three-ish years. I don't know if I'll complete it, but I'm going to try. This will be fun.

I found a few 2016 reading challenges I'd like to try. I tried one for 2015, but I didn't complete a handful of the prompts. Still, it was fun to see at the end of the year how many books I did read fulfilled the prompts.




How was your 2015 reading year? What will you be reading in 2016?

Friday, January 1, 2016

Hello 2016: A 2015 Recap

In 2015:

I read over 180 books. (80 novels, 91 graphic novels, and a few picture books)

I saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens and fell in love with the galaxy again.

I wrote 500 words every single day for the entire year.

I had a long list of summer adventures, including a trip to the zoo, smashing a car, and watching a meteor shower.

I started an art journal using an old book.

I became an aunt to the cutest nephew ever.


I graduated college.

I put color in my hair.

I went to an art museum.

I paid off my school loans.

I built Lego sets.

I become the assistant to the editor of The Fangirl Initiative.

I turned 21.

I completed NaNoWrimo 2015.

I went to Build-a-Bear for the first time.


I ate fro-yo for the first time.

I played with baby goats.

I received ten pairs of Star Wars socks for Christmas.

I said goodbye to book series, and then I said hello to new fictional friends.

Top(L-R): Easter with my Roman soldier in shining chainmail, selfie on a ferry, Age of Ultron cosplay
Middle(L-R): Hobbit Day shenanigans with my Pippin, Christmas family selfie, giraffes at the zoo!
Bottom(L-R): my first taste of sushi, dying our hair purple, Star Wars cosplay 


In 2016:

I set a goal to read 150 books this year.

I want to edit one of my books all the way through in order to start beta reading.

I want to keep a journal for the entire year.

I want to have adventures and try to take more pictures.

I want to write re-design this blog.

I will turn 22.

I want to find a job I love.

I want to go someplace new and exciting.

I want to write more blog posts.

I want to do things I love.

I want to believe in myself and my potential.

I will...

2015 mirrored 2014 in that it had its ups and downs. Though, I think I can look back and see more good moments than bad. A lot happened. I worked hard, I completed short-term and long-term goals, and I will begin something new in 2016. I've collected so many books I don't have room for more on my four bookshelves (yes, four). I've discovered so many new stories in the form of books, shows, movies, and even video games, I can hardy believe there's still creativity in the world. I've written new stories, dusted off other ones, and re-discovered what made me write in the first place. I went places, I did new things, and I made new friends. As I said, a lot happened. And this is just the beginning of something new.

Here's to 2016. Hopefully, adventure is out there.

-Jaime