Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Abbreviations #42

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
Series: Hercule Poirot #10
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Publication Date: January 1, 1934
Source: Purchased the Kindle book
Buy the Book: Book Depository | IndieBound | Barnes & Noble | Amazon

I wasn’t planning on indulging in a second Agatha Christie book until 2018, but when I was randomly browsing my Kindle library recently, Murder on the Orient Express caught my eye. I’m glad I decided to read it, because I enjoyed it! I really enjoy the storytelling style that Christie employs here, where the evidence, the players and the setting are limited and where the result is conclusive by the end. It was interesting to see how the murder investigation unfolded, and as a novice mystery reader, I honestly didn’t know what the results would be until it was revealed. The novelty of this genre (to a newbie reader) and the cleverly plotted mystery won me over, and I’ll certainly be reading more Christie in the years to come.

Series: Valkyrie #1
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Publication Date: January 2, 2018
Source: ARC received from the publisher (Thanks!)

I’m not a big urban fantasy reader, but I certainly enjoyed Between the Blade and the Heart. This new series starter centers around Malin, a Valkyrie-in-training, who discovers that her mother failed to kill an immortal she was assigned to and who is affected by all the consequence of that choice. Sounds fun, right? And in many ways, it was fun. I enjoyed Malin’s journey to resolve the big, world-ending, life-threatening problem that she faces, especially when she gets to team up with some of her friends (old and new, mind you). I thought the world was a touch overwhelming (it’s immortals from all sorts of lore – including Filipino!), but also immensely fascinating because of the possibilities it offered. I was flying through the earliest chapters of this story, thanks to the easy-to-read writing… And then, it hit one stumbling block for me – the romance. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy parts of the romance, because I did. But it was the way that I felt like it wasn’t particularly necessary to the progression of the actual story and would much rather have just focused on the primary plot instead. Still, overall, it was a pleasant read and I do think I’m going to be picking up the sequel to discover what happens next.

Melting Stones by Tamora Pierce
Series: The Circle Reforged #2
Publisher: Self-published
Publication Date: January 1, 2007
Source: Purchased the Kindle e-book
Buy the Book: Book Depository | IndieBound | Barnes and Noble | Amazon

I’m pleased that I finally had the chance to read Melting Stones this year! This is the first novel in the Emelan/Circle series that centers around a protagonist other than the four main mages of the series, as it focuses on Evvy as she and Rosethorn journey to the Battle Islands to try to help the island’s inhabitants figure out why there are dead trees, acidic water sources and less magic. It’s a neat little adventure tied up in a bow, and I thought it was real fun to read. It’s deceptively light in tone (especially considering it occurs post-Battle Magic events), but that doesn’t mean the reader doesn’t get a sense of the gravity of the situation. Pierce successfully weaves together a story that is easy to devour and compelling, filling in the spaces with familiar faces (Evvy, Rosethorn and Luvo) and some new characters. Even though this one pales in comparison to its predecessor, I still thought it was worth the read to spend more time in this world and with these folks. It’s definitely something to check out if you’re a fan of the Emelan/Circle series!

Monday, January 15, 2018

Gift Guides for Jude + Cardan | #CruelPrince (+Giveaway)

FTC Disclosure: Thanks to the lovely team at the NOVL, I received a copy of The Cruel Prince and have an exciting giveaway to share with all of you!

If you've been following my blog (or our YouTube channel or my Instagram account) for a few months, you'll know how much I adore The Cruel Prince! I read it for the first time around June last year (Thanks to a big push from my lovely pal Kristin of Super Space Chick!) and fell head over heels in love with Holly Black's portrayal of a human girl trying to navigate the complicated, brutal world of the fae. I loved it so much that I reread it again as my first book of 2018 (spoiler: it was still just as amazing as the first time I read it) and will continue to recommend it to everyone and anyone! 

I'm really thrilled to be partnering with the NOVL team for this fun post and a giveaway. Before we get to the goods (and it's definitely a prize pack you're going to want to get your hands on - trust me!), I'll be sharing a fun little gift guide I put together for Jude and Cardan, the two central charactesr in The Cruel Prince, in the hopes that you'll enjoy getting an idea of these two personalities!

Absinthe | It's a fact that Cardan and his crowd enjoy indulging in a drink or two (or ten). While I'm not necessarily fond of alcohol myself, I do feel like Cardan would rather like absinthe. It would suit his tastes, I'd like to say, both in terms of taste and aethestic.

Silver fox mask | While I'm sure most fae folk can create glamours to serve as their costume, there's still something to be said for a traditional masquerade where all in attendance must don actual masks. Silver, and a tricksy sort of animal? This mask would certainly suit our prince.

A red velvet coat | Honestly, I just feel like Cardan would be the type to wear velvet and look smashing in it! It would probably suit him as part of his everyday wardrobe, particularly with his dark looks and his princely bearing.

A deck of cards | Cardan, as with many of the fae, is fond of games. While his tend to toe the line between reasonable and violently passionate, I do think he'd be a clever, savvy card player. He would certainly be an entertaining (and potentially difficult) opponent.

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas | A story that centers around a man hellbent on exacting revenge on those that wronged him? This sounds like a novel that is right up Cardan's alley, particularly considering the circumstances.

Sword letter opener | While Jude obviously has her own sword to use in an actual duel, I think she would get a kick out of owning one of these. It would be perfect for going through her correspondence, and through certain other documents she might have to go through...

Gold acorn necklace | While it wasn't specifically significant to Jude initially, I feel like she would appreciate owning a gorgeous piece of jewelry. It would symbolize a moment that is extremely important in the course of Jude's story, and would serve as a subtle reminder to other folk in the know.

Elf ears | Jude longs to be more like the fae that surround her day in and day out. These might not be the real deal (yet), but it would be a substitute that brings her desire to look like them a little bit closer and also just looks really damn pretty.

Starbucks gift card | Even though she lives in the world of Elfhame, it's a fact that Jude (and her sisters) often slip away to the human world. One of the things that Jude absolutely loves is a mocha, and it would be a pleasure for her to have the funds to feed her habit.

Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll | When Jude and her sisters were children, their mother would read them this story. It would mean a lot to Jude to own her own copy of this book, particularly if it looks as beautiful as this one.

I had so much fun coming up with these present ideas for Jude & Cardan! I hope I've intrigued you sufficiently, enough so that you want to meet these two for yourself. Luckily, the team over at the NOVL is partnering with me to give one lucky winner the chance to win this incredible prize pack!

The Queen of Faerie

Join Holly Black, the Queen of Faerie!
To get in the mood for a little magic and mayhem, one (1) winner receives:

Copy of The Cruel Prince
Copy of The Darkest Part of the Forest
Fairy Dust
Fairy Dust Manifestation Ritual Candle

Giveaway open to US addresses only.
Prizing and samples provided by NOVL.

In case you also wanted to know a little bit more about The Cruel Prince and Holly Black, you can check out the book details, author info and relevant links below.

The Cruel Prince by Holly Black (Follow Holly Black on Twitter and Instagram!)
Series: The Folk of the Air #1
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: January 2, 2018
Watch The Cruel Prince body paint tutorial!
Visit! Follow NOVL on Twitter and Instagram

By #1 New York Times bestselling author Holly Black, the first book in a stunning new series about a mortal girl who finds herself caught in a web of royal faerie intrigue.

Of course I want to be like them. They're beautiful as blades forged in some divine fire. They will live forever.

And Cardan is even more beautiful than the rest. I hate him more than all the others. I hate him so much that sometimes when I look at him, I can hardly breathe.

Jude was seven years old when her parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Jude wants nothing more than to belong there, despite her mortality. But many of the fey despise humans. Especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King.

To win a place at the Court, she must defy him—and face the consequences.

In doing so, she becomes embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, discovering her own capacity for bloodshed. But as civil war threatens to drown the Courts of Faerie in violence, Jude will need to risk her life in a dangerous alliance to save her sisters, and Faerie itself.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Holly Black is the bestselling author of contemporary fantasy novels, including Tithe: A Modern Faerie Tale and the #1 New York Times bestselling Spiderwick series. She has been a finalist for the Mythopoeic Award and the Eisner Award, and the recipient of the Andre Norton Award. Holly lives in Massachusetts with her husband, Theo, in a house with a secret library.

Friday, January 12, 2018

My One Word for 2018

On New Year's Day, I go out of my way to do two specific things in the middle of all the revelry with the people I love. First, I think about the year that's just ended - the memories I've made, the lessons I've learned and the people who were central to my experiences. It's a nice way to take the time to appreciate what's gone on in the year past, and to see how far I've come from its beginning to its end. (P.S. If you're interested in the specifics of my year, you can check out the recap!) But I'm digressing from the real topic of this post, and it's the second activity I take the time to do on New Year's Day: thinking about the word or phrase that will define the year to come.

Even though it doesn't always happen this way, I can't help but find it amazing how the word I've chosen for this year simply popped into my mind one day and wouldn't leave me alone. It's one of those random coincidences that life throws your way, and I live for moments like that. But again, I digress, and clearly, I'm just building up the anticipation as to what my word for 2018 is (though anyone who follows me on Instagram will already know what I picked out).

It's fitting that I'm writing about my word choice, because it is part and parcel of what that word currently means to me and what it means for my year. Capture has multiple definitions, but the one that is particularly applicable is, quoting the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, "the act of recording in a permanent file"

I've always been sentimental, and I've always recorded memories in a whole slew of journals and diaries and planners over the years in a tangible way. Why? Because memories have power. They remind you of good times when you're feeling down, encourage you to keep pressing on when you see how far you've come, reminds you of the lessons you've learned over the years, if just to name a few. I've always been pretty great at capturing my memories, so you might be wondering why I still chose capture as my word for the year.

It occurred to me that, apart from simply writing down the specifics of my day-to-day, there are other ways to capture moments and feelings, other mediums to explore... and I wanted to do that. It also occurred to me that capture has another meaning, also from Merriam-Webster, and it's "an act of catching, winning or gaining control by force, stratagem or guile" and it made me think of the way I wanted to gain control over certain areas in my life. I chose the word capture with these specific thoughts in mind:
  • Capture the moments... with words, with photos, with music, with videos. I love my daily journal, and I'll continue to do that through the year, but I want to explore the other mediums as well since I don't really indulge in any of them quite as often! It would also be really cool to be able to scrapbook my year, but I'm not entirely sure how that would work...
  • Capture the ideas... with stories.  If you're one of my people, also known as a writer, you'll understand when I tell you that I'm always coming up with ideas but finding it hard to stick to one and actually finish an entire piece of fiction. 2017 actually marked the first time I was able to finish something, and it encouraged me to set my goals a little higher for 2018.
  • Capture the skills... with practice. There are two practical skills that I want to be in control of this year: 1) driving (I know how to, mind you, but it's been years and I'm sure I'm rusty), and 2) budgeting (I'm terrible at adulting, but I already started working on this and its oddly satisfying?). 
These were the three main things on my mind when capture slotted itself as my word for the year, and I'm hoping I can manage to "live my word". While I generally find that my word always morphs as the year goes on, gaining depth and meaning with every day that passes by, I'm going to stick to my guns... and hopefully, manage to make it happen to the best of my ability. So here's to me being able to capture my year in all the ways that I'm hoping to and more! And here's to you, with the fervent hope that you have an amazing 2018 ahead of you no matter what's in store <3

(P.S. Might I encourage you to hop on over to my little sister Rachel's blog where she talks about the word she chose to encapsulate her 2018? We came up with the idea of doing our posts on the same day in our first mini-collab, and her word choice is a really good one too.)


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