Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Update: Moving Apartments~!

So, posting reviews has taken a little bit of a hit for me right now, but there is a very important reason...


I have been working hard to secure a new apartment for the last couple of months and now it is officially mine and I have a couple of weeks to move all of my stuff.

Needless to say, I'm a bit busy.

There is also one other thing. My new place... it won't have internet until at least August 14th (unless I borrow money from someone to get it set up). So... even though I will be reading and writing reviews, I may not be able to post them up for a while.

I may schedule up a few while I still have internet (and a couple of blog tours as well), but the speed will obviously go down for a couple of weeks.

So... consider me on a sort of semi-hiatus.

And wish me luck with OPERATION LIVE WITHOUT TRUE INTERNET (because phones don't count).

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Book Review: Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George

Princess of the Midnight Ball (Princess #1)

Jessica Day George

Publication Date: January 20th 2009

Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens

Pages: 280

Genre:  Fairytale, Young Adult

A tale of twelve princesses doomed to dance until dawn… 

Galen is a young soldier returning from war; Rose is one of twelve princesses condemned to dance each night for the King Under Stone. Together Galen and Rose will search for a way to break the curse that forces the princesses to dance at the midnight balls. All they need is one invisibility cloak, a black wool chain knit with enchanted silver needles, and that most critical ingredient of all—true love—to conquer their foes in the dark halls below. But malevolent forces are working against them above ground as well, and as cruel as the King Under Stone has seemed, his wrath is mere irritation compared to the evil that awaits Galen and Rose in the brighter world above. 

Captivating from start to finish, Jessica Day George’s take on the Grimms’ tale The Twelve Dancing Princesses demonstrates yet again her mastery at spinning something entirely fresh out of a story you thought you knew.
If anyone keeps up and reads many of my reviews than you know that there are a few things I really appreciate in a book. I enjoy stories that are written simply and non-dramatically. In other words, I tend to find other things more exciting in a book (such as the adventure). This is possibly why I enjoy most fantasy retellings so much, as they have all ended up similar tones of storytelling.

Princess of the Midnight Ball benefits from this as well. The romance happens, but they don't dwell on it. There is a terrible thing happening to the girls, but they try their hardest to just weather through it instead of going 'woe is me' in the inner voices. It's very refreshing.

This book is a retelling of the "Twelve Dancing Princesses", a very popular fairytale to retell since it has many elements that can be dealt with in an interesting way. Unlike many of the retellings, however, a little more than half the book is told from the point of view of our hero. On top of that, most of the parts from Rose (our eldest sister's) perspective is told in a limited way, keeping our knowledge of everything at a similar level to Galen (our hero).

Speaking of Galen, he is a wonderfully faceted hero. His personality is so refreshing among all of the brooding heroes in young adult fiction. And I can't resist a man who knits and is proud of it.

Our princesses are well established as well. It is hard to get twelve sisters to stick in your mind. George managed to get half of them established enough that I knew who they were and what their personalities were like off-hand.

As this has become a basic book in the libraries of those who love fairytale retellings, I'm sure many of you have read this book. If you are a fairytale fan and you haven't yet, however, I strongly urge you to. It's cute and full of adventure.


Friday, July 18, 2014

Blog Tour and Kindle Giveaway: Shattering Halos by Sunniva Dee

Shattering Halos (Halos #1)

Sunniva Dee

Goodreads | Amazon | Tour 

Publication Date: February 24th 2014

Pages: 362

Genre:  Paranormal Romance, New Adult
I traded my death for love. I wasn’t given a choice. His decision has caught up with us, so now I am a living, breathing catalyst to war between Heaven and Hell.

The violations he committed saved my life. Since the collision, he’s appeared everywhere. In my hospital room, my school, even my house. He shows up in my paintings, my drawings, in all of my art projects. I can’t stop thinking about him.

He says his name is Gabriel, and he doesn’t understand what’s happening to him. He doesn’t know how I can see him or why he wants me in ways that should be impossible for a Celestial.

My obsession grows. I need him to hold me, kiss me—give all of himself. For every day he protects me, the consequences loom darker and taller. Soon, they’ll crash down on us.

The war is about to begin.
When Shattering Halos starts it is a story about obsession. It is frightening to read, even. For some it may seem romantic, but for me I didn't trust it one second. I was worried I wasn't going to like this book because of how much it put me off. Then our two main characters stop fighting and the story changes.

The last two-thirds of this book are an epic paranormal ride. As soon as the actual plot and stakes are introduced things become interesting. We start to learn about this world and become involved. Dee has a way with words. Her sentences compelled me and dragged me along. Her prose style in the beginning is different than most New Adult or Young Adult out there, less straight forward and little more dreamy and it ends up working for her well. The reader is made to feel like they are passing through a dream in that first third, which is very close to Gaia, our main character is feeling throughout it.

Cassiel is the strongest out of all the characters dealt with in the book. Unfortunately Gaia and Gabriel fall flat when portrayed on their own. It's their relationship and romance that is the true main character of the book and not them. Cassiel on the other hand is layered. He's the one that becomes the most interesting to follow. I would read more books with him as a main character.

I recommend this to people who enjoy stories of angels and fallen angels. I also believe that if you are into reading epic romances (even if some realism is lost in loo of epicness) this is definitely a book for you. It is not surprising that most of the 5 star reviews I've seen around laud the romance as being amazing.


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Feature & Follow: Funny Videos

Question of the Week: Funny Videos

So my funny video once again  brings my Morning Musume obsession to light. These video feature two of the old members attempting to relate a story in English and being quite brilliant lol.

Please watch and enjoy!


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Book Review: The One by Kiera Cass

The One (The Selection #3)

Kiera Cass

Review of The Selection
Review of The Elite (The Selection #2)

Publication Date: June 5th 2014

Publisher: HarperTeen

Pages: 325

Genre:  Fantasy-esque, Dystopia-esque, Romance, Young Adult

For the four girls who remain at the palace, the friendships they’ve formed, rivalries they’ve struggled with and dangers they’ve faced have bound them to each other for the rest of their lives.

Now, the time has come for one winner to be chosen.

America never dreamed she would find herself anywhere close to the crown – or to Prince Maxon’s heart. But as the competition approaches its end and the threats outside the palace walls grow more vicious, America realises just how much she stands to lose – and how hard she’ll have to fight for the future she wants.
Yes. This one is the best one. I can't believe this is the same writer as the first book, she has improved so much for me. Although maybe gulping both this and The Elite one right after each other on the same day could be coloring my view.

The highlight of this book for me (I'm sure it's not true of everyone) is not the romance but instead the friendships and politics of the book.

On top of that Cass manages to show growth in almost every single character still around in this final book. The final four girls left, aside from America, are the side characters where it's the most obvious. It makes me want to go re-read the first book again just to remember how they were when they had started and truly appreciate what they've grown into. America herself grows tremendously as well, from a girl who just wanted to marry the boy of her dreams to the girl who wants to make a difference.

It's hard to talk about this book without revealing all. I laughed. I cried. I almost missed my bell to go to class because I became so absorbed. I am glad I gave this series another chance after a rocky start. I think the first book is a poor introduction to all of the non-romance parts that this series has to offer, but on the other hand it was a good set-up for things to come.

One thing that's true however is that The One is a different book than The Selection. Lucky for me that was a good thing.

This is a fantastic end that cleans up the loose ends of the previous book and ends at a place that feels comfortable and finished. This series is good. It is a fantasy story based in a possible future of our own world. It is a princess story that doesn't shy from the politics of the situation. And it is a love story that plays out dramatically, but realistically.


Friday, July 11, 2014

Book Review: Cress by Marissa Meyer

Cress (The Lunar Chronicles #3)

Marissa Meyer

Review of Scarlet (The Lunar Chronicles #2)
Review of Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles #1)

Publication Date: February 4th 2014

Publisher: Feiwel and Friends

Pages: 550

Genre:  Fairytale, Scifi, Adventure, Young Adult

In this third book in the Lunar Chronicles, Cinder and Captain Thorne are fugitives on the run, now with Scarlet and Wolf in tow. Together, they’re plotting to overthrow Queen Levana and her army. 

Their best hope lies with Cress, a girl imprisoned on a satellite since childhood who's only ever had her netscreens as company. All that screen time has made Cress an excellent hacker. Unfortunately, she’s just received orders from Levana to track down Cinder and her handsome accomplice. 

When a daring rescue of Cress goes awry, the group is separated. Cress finally has her freedom, but it comes at a high price. Meanwhile, Queen Levana will let nothing prevent her marriage to Emperor Kai. Cress, Scarlet, and Cinder may not have signed up to save the world, but they may be the only hope the world has
Finishing Cress left me with a similar sensation to the first time I read Scarlet, that I liked it, but not as much as I hoped I would. I think for me, the Lunar Chronicles are a series I have to reread, because for some reason I enjoy them better the second time around. Honestly this makes them more valuable as books than those that I read once, enjoy immensely and never pick up again. These books have a lasting power.

Cress sees the continuation of the overreaching plotline from Cinder with the addition of the characters from Scarlet, plus the new plotline taken from the fairy tale "Rapunzel". "Rapunzel" happens to be one of my favourite fairy tales, though I still don't know why. I remembered watching closely when I heard Disney were going to get their hands into it (long before the general public knew), the pain when it got shelved again and the joy when it was brought back and designs were released. I went to see it opening night. I also wrote my own interpretation of the story in the story telling medium of Visual Novels.

One interesting thing that I have taken from these different versions is that Rapunzel ends up being characterized the same way: naive and awkward. But really, realistically how else is a girl supposed to be when trapped in a tower for so long? Cress is certainly my favourite version I have read. The way she is written and presented as a character once again solidifies what I stated in my review of Scarlet, that Meyer does characters strong and well. The relationship is also my favourite of the three presented so far in the series, it's adorable, quirky and tentative. Both of them are out of their depths and it's wonderful.

Though the characters are the stars of the books, the plot also continues to hold my attention, which after three books of it is not an easy task.

The biggest issue I had while reading the book can only get worse, unfortunately with the final installment. With each book, there is an increase of characters and plotlines. Last book, the balance was perfect. This time around, with Cress I started to feel a little overwhelmed. The story of Rapunzel got shafted a bit in the end, having to bow to getting the characters to where they're supposed to do so the main plot doesn't fall apart. Unlike in the first two books, this time I can see obviously where bits from the fairy tale were forced it. It was less natural.

I do think that this is something that will improve upon rereading and honestly I'm being a bit strict, perhaps, but I feel as though Cinder and Scarlet have set a bar.

All of that said, I am incredibly intrugued by the charactera of Winter and her probably beau and cannot wait to read them.

Are you not reading this series yet? Seriously? Get on it! Even if you're not a fairy tale person, it's a great YA Scifi story. Though of course loving fairy tales increases it's enjoyability. I'm also starting to believe that very few authors do characters as well as she does. Pretty much I recommend this to everyone. Read it!


Feature & Follow: What time would you go to?

Question of the Week: If you had a time machine (i.e. a TARDIS), where would you go?

I've always been vastly interested in the times where one would have Prarie life. Like Oregon Trail-Laura Ingall Wilder times. The Little House books were the very first books I read on my own obsessively and I personally attribute my love of reading to them.

I also was obsessed with books that took place along the Oregon (and similar) Trails and then the Orphan Train Books which came at a later time period but still have that sense of adventure in a wild, prarie land.

My family and I even went camping among the Oregon Trail for a week and visited major landmarks such as some of the forts, Chimney Rock and the famed Independance Rock with hundreds of names carved into it.

There's something about the sense of adventure and unknown in that time period that I've always gravitated towards.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Giveaway & Book Tour: Into The Blind by Helena Rena

What if a girl became all-powerful? Her boyfriend wouldn’t like it.

Into the Blind

Helen Rena

Goodreads | Amazon | Tour 

Publication Date: June 2014

Genre:  Scifi, Horror, Young Adult

In a world where everyone is gifted, be it in dancing, lightning-bringing, or death-giving, Ever is born…all-powerful. 

For this gift, she is kidnapped and trafficked at birth. Fifteen years later, Ever still hasn’t seen even a glimmer of her powerful gift. Locked in an abandoned mall in New York City, she’s fighting to survive her captivity, her brutal guards, and the other gifted kids in her cell. She would do anything to escape.

Fox is gifted with time manipulation. Like Ever, he hasn’t come into his gift yet; like Ever, he hates the mall; and like Ever, he longs to be free. But there’s one thing he values above his freedom—it’s Ever’s love…

…yet, when the two make a desperate attempt to escape, this attempt proves so dark and twisted that it just might destroy Ever’s love for Fox.
This book is hard to review. Not because it was a poorly written book, or that it doesn't work, but because it's hard to write about it without talking about the twists and spoilers! The world of Into the Blind is one where in the 1950s or so (I could be a bit off on the year, but the point was is that it was a bit in the past), it was discovered that children were now being born with a genetic difference that causes them to develop a strong talent. Some are born graceful, with a natural sense of rhythm and are called 'Dancers'. Some are born with the ability to grow in size and strength and are called 'Gods'. Others have the ability to influence the emotions of themselves and those around them. These are called 'Hearts' and are incredibly rare and considered dangerous and often evil. One of the most famous 'Hearts' was Hitler for example.

Our protagonist, Ever, is a 'Heart'. As a child she was sold to Traffickers and raised along with three other children with promising abilities. She has spent her entire life trapped in a bookstore.

The world is laid out carefully and deliberately. We're introduced to an ability at a time. Things aren't thrown at us too quickly. Rena also establishes the personalities of our four main characters cleverly and quickly through the opening scenes. The tensions we will experience throughout the entire novel are set up in those scenes.

The plot begins with their escape and how they find the outside world is nothing like they imagined it from the books in their store. It's a Wonderland-esque nightmare with everyone against them and time running out. There are themes of choices, power and most of all obsession.

I found myself locked into the book with this ever present feeling of dread. The whole set up reminded me of so many nightmares I'd had of being trapped, of people being after me, of running but feeling like I wasn't getting anywhere. As I'm almost positive that's how I was supposed to feel while reading the book, I'd say Rena did a pretty fabulous job.

In conclusion, I think that the writing and the idea behind this book are it's strongest points. For those looking through books that have come out recentely, this is not one to pass over. It's hard to summarize who this book would appeal to, however. It's got the desperate feeling of a dystopia, though it's not quite one. It's got world-building aspects similar to the Gone Series by Michael Grant and X-Men, with a different twist. I think mostly, however, it is a book that would appeal to those who enjoy plotlines that remind them of Alice in Wonderland, of falling down the rabbit hole into a place that makes absolutely not sense.


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Saturday, July 5, 2014

Japan Interlude: Sailor Moon Crystal Episode One Review

Do you know what today is?


Well, today, Sailor Moon Crystal finally debuted worldwide after years of waiting for it to be finished. As I'm in Japan, I personally watched it on NicoNicoDouga in Japanese without subtitles (but my knowledge of the language + the fact I have the first few episodes of the season memorized already after doing a research paper on the differences between the sub and dub that reflect cultural differences... yes... a Sailor Moon research paper... but yes, anyway it means I had no trouble following it)

So as a huge fan of the original anime (sub and dub), manga and thousands of fan fiction based on the universe, I thought I might jot down a review of my initial impressions of the series.

If you don't know what Sailor Moon is at all, here's a fast and dirty explanation. This is the most iconic "Magical Girl" anime that has ever come out of Japan. It was a widely popular set of comics, and show in both Japan and all over the world. A group of girls find out they are actually a group of super heroes with powers based on the planets (the Japanese names for the planets include elements such as water and fire) and have to defend the world against baddies that the police cannot take care of, all while trying to get through Junior High and then High School.

Also, talking cats.

Now for the review:

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Feature & Follow: Favourite Picture Books

Question of the Week: What are some of your favorite picture books - either current ones or ones from your childhood?

Woo! Favourite Picture books. I loved books when I was really young as well, so I can still remember my favourites. And now that I am teaching Kindergarten and Elementary School in Japan, I am looking through books again that I can use in the classroom to help teach English.

I got two. The first is The Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown
I remember asking my mom to read me this book again and again and again. When looking for the book cover photo I learned it was originally published in 1942 which is amazing. The illustrations are beautiful and when a parent reads it to you as a child it makes you feel loved. It's message is simple and sweet and ages well.

My other favourite book should be rather obvious in a way. Any child named Sam was read this book over and over again:

My father would call me Sam-I-Am and in fact still does sometimes to this day. As an adult I've grown to appreciate the message of this book as well. The simple one. The one about how sometimes you need to try something even if it looks disgusting before deciding if you like it or not.

ARC Book Review: Dollhouse by Anya Allyn

Dollhouse (Dollhouse #1)

Anya Allyn

ARC Disclaimer: I was not paid in any way by the publishers to review this book favourably. The review is my own honest opinion (Whether or not it is agreed with).

Re-Publication Date: May 20th 2014 (Paper Lantern Edition)

Publisher: The Studio, A Paper Lantern Imprint

Pages: 205

Genre:  Horror, Young Adult

Dress-up turns deadly. . .

When Cassie’s best friend, Aisha, disappears during a school hike, Cassie sets off with Aisha’s boyfriend Ethan and their best friend Lacey, determined to find her. But the mist-enshrouded mountains hold many secrets, and what the three teens discover is far more disturbing than any of them imagined: beneath a rundown mansion in the woods lies an underground cavern full of life-size toys and kidnapped girls forced to dress as dolls.

Even as Cassie desperately tries to escape the Dollhouse, she finds herself torn between her forbidden feelings for Ethan, and her intense, instinctive attraction to The Provider, a man Cassie swears she has known before…

Because Cassie’s capture wasn’t accidental, and the Dollhouse is more than just a prison where her deepest fears come true—it’s a portal for the powers of darkness. And Cassie may be the only one who can stop it.
Thanks to Netgalley and Paper Lantern for allowing me to read and review this book.

Wow, this book is crazy in the best possible way. So much is stuffed in there and it's hard to put it down. It's hard to summarize, because there just is that much. I will try however. In short, our main group of characters are walking through the woods one day when they find a huge creepy house. Then later that day one of the girls, Aisha, runs off and promptly disappears. The other three spend the rest of the day looking for her and nothing. Weeks pass and it's like she disappeared into thin air. The three left know that the house must have something to do with it, so they go back to investigate.

What they find is so much more than they bargained for, a life size dollhouse where people are forced to look and act like dolls.

As soon as we entered that dollhouse I was gripped. My eyes were glued to my e-reader's screen and hours passed without me paying attention (I almost missed an appointment in fact). As the dollhouse is introduced, I am terrified. The descriptions... and then what happens... Living in the dollhouse is like slowly losing your mind.

There are so many layers to this tale. It seems like one kind of horror story and then as new things are revealed, new mysteries happened it changes.

Having read one of the older versions of this book, I couldn't help but constantly compare. There were a few pacing things I loved about the older version (there was much more of that losing your mind and realism to it) that were tweaked to make it more concise, but the setting up of the plot and revelations about things was done much better. When I originally read it I was shocked to find out there would be more, now it feels natural, there are so many questions I want to learn the answers to. 

The mythology behind this horror story is now very interesting and well done, but it does not feel as if things were thrown at us all at once and out of nowhere.

I recommend this to people who are fans of Horror. Even if you're not fans of YA, as long as you get through the first, establishing bit, I think you could very well enjoy this on its own as Horror. I also recommend this book to anyone who enjoyed The Forbidden Game by L.J. Smith. It lacks the obsessive romance of that series, but the horror felt similar.

Also, if you read the original version of this and felt it was only so-so, I urge you to please pick up this version. Things make so much sense, things are more concise, the mythology of the world isn't all over the place and there are a couple of things (especially at the end) that hadn't happened.