Thursday, January 22, 2015

BR: Everything I Never Told You

by Celeste Ng

This novel topped Amazon's Best Books of 2014... and I'm like, oh cool, I guess I'll read it. Plus it's not YA, so huzzah for stepping outside comfort zones!

Summary (goodreads):

Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet . . . So begins this debut novel about a mixed-race family living in 1970s Ohio and the tragedy that will either be their undoing or their salvation. Lydia is the favorite child of Marilyn and James Lee; their middle daughter, a girl who inherited her mother’s bright blue eyes and her father’s jet-black hair. Her parents are determined that Lydia will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue—in Marilyn’s case that her daughter become a doctor rather than a homemaker, in James’s case that Lydia be popular at school, a girl with a busy social life and the center of every party.

When Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together tumbles into chaos, forcing them to confront the long-kept secrets that have been slowly pulling them apart

My (brief) Thoughts

Tears and tears.

There's a lot to love about this book. The characters are complex and intriguing; they carry the story as we flit through histories and grief and the moments in life where perspectives clash and misunderstandings happen. Ultimately, it's a book about histories that shape individuals and the dynamics that hold a family together or tear them apart.

The writing was a little heavy handed at times- Ng's prose sometimes felt too 'tell' instead of show, especially regarding James and Marilyn. However, she shines when really creating the suffocating atmosphere of the Lee household, and setting the stage before and after Lydia's death. Each character had his or her own motivations and complex relationship with Lydia, which made the story richer and Lydia's death that much heavier. I appreciated Ng's refusal to shy away from the racial aspect of the novel and the harsh realities befell upon people of colour and intolerance of society, and felt particularly realistic given the time period and setting.

The story is quiet and beautiful and sad, it's about people and their desires and dreams and promises kept because of love. Oh, and tears. Definitely recommended!


source: library
author's website / twitter

Friday, December 26, 2014

Favourites of 2014

GUYS! 2014 is like, over!
This is nuts.

I lovelovelove favourites lists, in fact, one may even say that favourites lists are my favourite lists. I love to see what books resonated with readers at the end of the year, and which books seem to be a consensus favourite so I can pick them up with higher expectations (heh), as well as to see if I've missed out on books I've been meaning to read.

Unsurprisingly, I didn't actually meet my meager goal of 35 books this year-- same old excuses: university, homework, work, life, time, money, TV shows, passive hobbies... but that doesn't mean I didn't read any fan-effing-tastic ones that I'm eager to share. As per the last few years, I'll be copying the same format (see 2011, 2012, 2013 or just look in the sidebar) that was originally adapted from the lovely Nomes at Inkcrush (it's been years now, Nomes! Wowza.)


1. favourite book read in 2014!!!

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

This book. THIS BOOK!!! It's released in 2012 and it's won a slew of well-deserved prizes. I can't believe it took me so long to get around to reading it, and when I finally did, it was like the universe had finally calmed down for a moment long enough to let me enjoy the simplicity and beauty of words on a page. It made me laugh. It made me cry. It made me feel so full of heart and love for these characters that I just want to write jibberish to convey my feelings.

I have so much love for Ari and Dante, and this is the most beautiful book I've read this year.

2. book you were excited about but didn't live up to your expectations

Raging Star by Moira Young. This book makes me a bit angry because I was so emotionally invested and in love with this series (the first book blew me away, the second was a brilliant shocker) and this last one was just frustrating and unengaging and horribly unenjoyable. *frowny face*
There's a handful of other books that could have made this list as well, but this one is the unlucky stand-out.

3. best ache-y, heart-breaking, tear-jerker read

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz
Did you not read what I just wrote above? I ached for these wonderfully realized characters, and their wonderfully realized lives

All the Rage by Courtney Summers
This is released in 2015, but boy, did my heart hurt for Romy and boy, did I want to strangle a lot of people. 

Unmade by Sarah Rees Brennan (The Lynburn Legacy, book 3)
I unashamedly adore SRB and she put readers through a very specific and literary hell for this one

4. delicious, rainy day comfort read

Better Off Friends by Elizabeth Eulberg
This was just such a fluffy, predictable, but still incredibly charming read. Very cute, definitely recommended. 

5. adrenalin-filled, unputdownable read

Catalyst by SJ Kincaid
I want to bring some more attention to Kincaid's Insignia series, Catalyst is book 3 (read my review) and this series is just a bundle of fun, fast-paced action with witty retorts and a fantastic protagonist (that I feel Kincaid gleefully put readers through HELL in this last book).

6. the beautiful prose award

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz
Is this getting unfair yet? 

7. most atmospheric and vivid setting

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
Another book published in 2012, this time it's an immersing fantasy book about dragons. Dragons! 

8. best under-appreciated, hidden-gem book

The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch
This is a high fantasy adventure that was marketed as Ocean's Eleven meets Robin Hood. It is neither of these things, but it is still fantastic -- great pacing, sympathetic characters, excellent action, shocking twists... give this one a go.

9. i-had-no-idea-i-would-love-this-so award
The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski 
I distinctly remember my friend Eden holding a giveaway for this book and I had no clue what it was about-- she mentioned how it had been super popular in the blogosphere (again, something I was completely oblivious to) but I poked around the interwebs and decided to trust the reviews and picked it up for myself. It was SO much better than I had expected-- I thought it'd be a 3-4 star read, but I think it's like a 4-5 star read, because I was thoroughly entertained and engrossed in the world and the chemistry between the characters.  

10. outside my comfort zone but gosh how i loved liked it

The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer
This is a mix of a memoir/nonfiction story, and I gave it a rating of 7.7/10 (so not "loved", but still enjoyed). I'm putting this on my list mostly because I didn't really read anything outside of my comfort zone (does journal articles for school count?) and this is pretty much the only non-YA, non-fiction book I read this year. I do encourage you to watch her TED talk (here), or, while we are on the topic, Brene Brown's TED talk (here).

11. an unfinished series that i'm loving 

The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer 
Same as last year! I finished Cress in 2013 (so now I've gone an entire year without a Marissa Meyer book.. *sniff*.. it was fantastic.
Fairest is a companion novel about Queen Levana, and is released in January 2015, while the conclusion, Winter, is released in November. And I am beyond excited.

Honourable Mentions:
The Winner's Curse Trilogy by Marie Rutkoski (I've read book 2 already... so I've got a pretty long wait til the last one)
The Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss (not holding my breath here, though)

12. can't believe i waited so long to read this

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz
I can't believe I'm 2 years late to this delightful party.

13. book that lived up to (or superseded) the hype

Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour
I expected a solid 4-star read, and I got the solid 4-star read. LaCour is a talented author and I've read and enjoyed (and given 4 stars to) all of her books :) Emmi's job was the coolest!
Also, I didn't want to put Ari & Dante on this list again

14. want to re-read already

Aristotle and Dante....  

Yeah, no ragrets.


1. best plot-twist (no spoilers!)

The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch
A mild spoiler: "NOOOOOOOOOO HOW COULD YOU" that is all, Mr Lynch, that is all. Not really. You bastard (I say this lovingly).

Honourable Mentions:
Unmade by Sarah Rees Brennan-- the above comment works for you, too.
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart -- admittedly the hype kind of killed my enjoyment (and memory) for this book, but I apparently really liked it when I first read it (I gave it an 8.5/10). Anywho, great twist. 

2. best swoon-worthy moment

"I love swimming - and you." 
-this is from a book you can probably guess. I'm not sure if the quote is 100% accurate because I don't own the book (*cries*)... but you get the gist.

3. best cliffhanger

The Winner's Crime by Marie Rutkoski
Not gonna say any more, it's released in 2015.

4. best ending for a stand-alone

The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton
This one is a re-read.
I get a little choked up when I read "When I stepped out into the bright sunlight from the darkness of the movie house, I had only two things on my mind: Paul Newman, and a ride home." (which like a dork, is something I've memorized, and is why I noticed that it's misquoted in Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell and that bugged me to no end. Why am I even telling you this?) 

5. best ending for a series

Catalyst by S. J. Kincaid (The Insignia trilogy). I didn't finish too many series this year, but oh gosh, Catalyst was so satisfying. Not perfect, but definitely loved the darker tone and the resolution for such an action-packed trilogy.


1. most memorable female character

Kestrel - The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski
Loved her.

2. most memorable male character

Dante - Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz
Or maybe Ari? Is anyone surprised by my lists anymore? 

3. favourite friendship
Kami and Angela - Untold/Unmade by Sarah Rees Brennan. 
They were pretty kick-ass-- a sassy, headstrong detective coupled with a secretly-caring but outwardly apathetic bff. They're sisters, really.

4. favourite relationship 


I don't really want to spoil it? But like, it should be pretty obvious by now.. 

5. new literary crush

Probably Dante's parents, or something. I should retire this category, I don't seem to crush on literary characters very much anymore. 

6. favourite sibling relationship

Angela and Rusty - Unmade by Sarah Rees Brennan
SRB, you sure are making a lot of appearances on this list!

7. best villain


All the Rage by Courtney Summers (released April 2015)
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz
The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski


1. favourite cover (of a book i read)

It's just so pretty!!

2. book you're looking forward to the most in 2015

This year's list: The Howling Boy by Cath Crowley, An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir, Winter by Marissa Meyer, Minders by Michele Jaffe, Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen, The Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard. Also, any type of book and/or grocery list by Melina Marchetta.

Several debut authors, and a book I've been holding out for for a few years.

Last year's list (strike-outs mean I read them): The Howling Boy by Cath Crowley, Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins, Raging Star by Moira Young, Catalyst by S.J. KincaidThe Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey.

And to Markus Zusak, WHEN DOES THE BRIDGE OF CLAY COME OUT?!?!??!??!! (just kidding, take your time) <-- pretty sure this comment has been here for the last three years


And that's it! Kind of long, kind of repetitive, just like my internal monologues.

Thanks to all of you who have stuck around and read my singular blog post each month (even then, not always). I really appreciated your comments, and I hope to keep it up next year, since I love to set hazardously low bars for myself.

I hope you all read wonderful books and explored worlds and fell in love with characters and prose. Please let me know what your favourite read was this year, I'd love to know!

I'll be posting my favourite movies in the upcoming days, so stay tuned.

Lastly, have a wonderful new year, and an extraordinary 2015. Here's to you! xx



Thursday, December 18, 2014

a Holiday wishlist

Dear Santa,

For Christmas, I want:

A Quentin Tarantinto-esque YA novel (this is very important, Santa. I've been thinking about this a lot). Must include: twisted off-kilter protagonists, dark but funny dialogue, unexpected character deaths, suspense for the ages, violence (preferably not hypersexualized, though), and someone I can visualize as Christoph Waltz.

A ticket for The Hobbit 3 (to be cashed in tonight).

Sarah Rees Brennan to finish writing a her parodies of The 100 (they are brilliant and got me through watching the entire series). In other news, The 100 is not terrible and has complex female characters and a boatload of grey-tinged morality (the best colour for morality, I say!). It also has a boy named Bellamy and a girl named Clarke who need to get married already.

More time to read books. Or, more motivation to do so. And please make Scarlet (from Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen) not annoying, I'm only a few chapters into the book and I really want to like it but I'm worried it's going to veer into mind-numbingly-frustrating-heroine-slash-love-triangle territory.

A good TV show to watch. The Americans? Broad City? True Detective?

Some tiramisu cake from Costco (let's face it, it's the best dessert ever created).

Winter by Marissa Meyer

My TV shows to come back from hiatus.

Someone to write my best-of list because I'm pretty lazy (hint: you can just put one book for all the categories because it is the best)


So... what's on your list?

Saturday, November 29, 2014

November! where'd you Go?

Just poking my head in this abandoned blog to lament the end of November. When did this happen? Where did my month go??
Some quickie life things:

-finishing up the semester! Four more "big things" left, so the countdown begins. I've really loved the classes I took, which is a huge bonus

-I'm loving Season 3 of The Newsroom! Also keeping up with The Walking Dead, Arrow, Brooklyn 99, New Girl, Scorpion, Elementary... and sometimes The Flash and The Mindy Project. Hey now... I've cut like 4 or so shows this season! (I stopped watching Gotham, SHIELD, Selfie, and Greys... they just were not doing anything for me) What shows have you been hooked on?

-I'm looking for a fun airplane read! I have a Neil Gaiman book and a Patrick Rothfuss book I want to get around to finishing over the holidays, but I always think plane reads should be fun and action-packed and awesome. Any recommendations? Maybe The Infinite Sea... hmmm...

-CHRISTMASSSSSS. I get to enjoy it while I'm in Toronto, since when I go back home, there's like zero Christmas spirit, ha.

-Two of the most-played songs this month: Railroad Track by Willy Moon, and Monsters by Angus Powell.

-I watched Mockingjay and thought it was awesome! It's a little unnecessary to split it into two parts, but I liked how faithful it was to the book, and the acting is great. I'd love to watch Part 1 and 2 back to back, because it's like a 6 hour adaptation of a book that could actually work on some level (since the first part is, admittedly, not super super exciting)

-Also I LOVED INTERSTELLAR ugh so much. Nowhere near a perfect movie, but boy, I still loved it.

Alright, that's it for now! I can't wait for December though, because that means BEST-OF lists and I LOVE THOSE THINGS. I can gather more book recs because it's like getting the cream of the crop :D What's the best book you've read this year? Best movie?

Monday, October 27, 2014

BR: Catalyst

by SJ Kincaid
Insignia trilogy; book III

Guys, I LOVE the Insignia series. Ever since I got tired of reading deep, depressing YA contemporary books, I've been looking for "quick fix" type books that are perfect escapes and full of action and humour-- and this series is exactly what I'm looking for. I was so thrilled to have won an ARC from the author and even more delighted to see what lay ahead.

Summary (goodreads):

**May contain SPOILERS for previous 2 books**

This exhilarating, explosive, and heartrending conclusion to the Insignia trilogy brings Tom and his intelligent, passionate, and brave young friends stunning tests and dangerous confrontations and through to an impossible future they could never have predicted.

Tom Raines and his friends are eager to return to the Pentagonal Spire to continue training for the elite Intrasolar Forces, but they soon discover troubling changes: strict new regulations and the revelation that the Spire is under new military control. What begins as an irritating adjustment soon reveals a dangerous shift in reality. Those now in control are aligned with corporate sponsors and their ruthless agendas. And when the military academy begins welcoming new cadets with suspicious neural processors, the first step in a plan with horrifying worldwide ramifications, Tom is desperate to stop it, even if that means keeping secrets from his closest allies.

Then a mysterious figure, the other ghost in the machine, begins fighting against the corporations, but with methods even Tom finds shocking. And when the enemy comes for Tom, how much can Tom endure in the battle to save himself? He must decide if he can still fight when the odds of success seem to be sliding from his grip.

My Thoughts

Gosh, I love this series. I don't finish a lot of series, but boy am I glad to have finished this one.

It's a bit slow to start, and it takes some time to get used to the characters, storyline, and terminology again... but it didn't take too long to get up and running again. I LOVED the way Kincaid has evolved her young, exciting action series into something more mature, thought-provoking, darker, and ominous. She went dark, man, I didn't expect it but I really appreciated it anyway. She managed to up the stakes and deal wonderfully with character development.

Although we saw less of Wyatt, there were a few significant moments that I thought were just perfect. She's always been an underdog favourite of mine, and I love her character arc. Blackburn was always a wild-card (though I'll admit, I have forgotten a lot about his role in the earlier books) but I loved that he's a really complex, ambiguous character that I couldn't pinpoint. Vik and Yuri's dialogue was once again pitch perfect; they were unique and so entirely them. And of course, Tom. Tom Raines, I can't say enough good things about you, you wonderful character. Infinite hugs for you. His storyline was just beautifully done, which is kind of difficult when you feel caught up in a Transformers-movie-esque action scene, but still. Harrowing and heartbreaking at times, his progression in this entire series is marvellous. Kincaid gave us a sympathetic character who had to grow into his own, and undoubtedly succeeded.

I liked the plot, although the ending was a bit too tidy for my liking, but the ride was so worth it. I had no idea how they'd get out of this mess, and the resolution was wholeheartedly satisfying. I liked how we ventured a lot further from the Spire and into the 'real world', away from pranks and into murders, villains, and the struggle for humanity.

It's an imaginative series with broad appeal that has great characters, writing, pacing, and heart. As a picky reader, I'm not easily impressed... I'll be sitting here urging you to pick this series up.

Thank you, SJ Kincaid.


Rating in HP Terms: Exceeds Expectations
Recommended for: people looking for something fun, readable, Harry Potter-esque main character/vibe, a technology-heavy futuristic world

source: author
author website / twitter
goodreads for book 1, book 2 (seriously pick them up!)