Book Series I Need to Catch up On

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I have this problem... I LOVE book series. I know a lot of people will prefer standalone books to series just because these days stories are getting unnecessarily stretched out into trilogies for financial reasons, but I will admit: I am part of why this problem exists. The thing is, when I really love a book I want to spend more time with the characters and in the world the author created. That's not to say I don't end up disappointed by book series—I would say that most of the time nothing lives up to the thrill of the first book for me, but I can't help wanting more. That results in me wanting to start NEW book series... pretty much all the time. Which also means I'm constantly in the middle of multiple series, and that just irks me on a personal level—I really don't like leaving things unfinished. So, I have decided to dedicate the rest of this year to tying up loose ends and getting caught up on everything I'm in the middle of. You will see some of those in my upcoming Summer TBR post, but here are ALL of the books...

1. Unwind Dystology by Neal Shusterman (books left to read: 2)

I don't know why I haven't finished this series yet. I loved Unwind, and really liked UnWholly, but somehow I never ended up starting the third one. I finished the second book back in 2012, so it's about time I got back into this, before I forget what the cliffhanger was.

2. The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare (books left to read: 4)

OK, I actually know what happened here—a bad audiobook narrator. I had a great time reading City of Bones (review here) and City of Ashes (review here), but for some reason decided to listen to City of Glass. Bad move, I couldn't stand the narrator—everything sounded so cheesy, and her version of male voices was ridiculous. I couldn't even finish the book! So, I will be re-reading that one before I continue further.

3. The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer (books left to read: 3)

This is my most recent book series endeavor—I just reviewed the first book, Cinder, in my previous post. Though I had some problems with it, I still am very interested to continue reading. I don't want to lose momentum with this book series, and I want to make sure I catch up before the next book comes out this fall, so I will be reading the rest very soon. 

4. Song of the Lioness by Tamora Pierce (books left to read: 2)

Remember how I said I was going to get back to reading this series a year ago? Yea, that's yet to happen. I read Alanna: The First Adventure and In the Hand of the Goddess back in 2013, and really enjoyed them, so I have no idea what's taking me so long. I think part of it is that there is always something higher on my priority list, but I'm making a point of finishing this series this year.

5. A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin (books left to read: 2)

This is a series I'm currently making a lot of progress on. After I'm done with A Storm of Swords (which may take some time, since it's a quite lengthy novel), I will only have 2 books left until I am all caught up. Needless to say, I'm absolutely loving the series. You can see my reviews of the first two books here and here.

6. Death Note by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata (books left to read: 6)

This actually sounds scarier than it is, because Death Note is a manga series. I read half of it a while ago, and though I was really enjoying it, it took an unexpected turn I wasn't on board with, so I decided to take a break. I do want to find out how everything ends, and since it's not going to take me a long time, I suspect I will marathon the rest of the series very soon. 

7. Sword of Truth by Terry Goodkind (books left to read: 10?!)

OK, now this one IS a little scary... However, if this series starts going downhill, I won't worry about finishing it. I read Wizard's First Rule a few years ago, and I felt a little conflicted about it. On one hand, I enjoyed the world building and the variety of characters, as well as how dark of a story this actually turned out to be. On the other hand, I had a little trouble getting into the writing itself, so it took me longer than necessary to finish the first book. Basically, we'll see how this goes, but I would like to at least try to finish this beast of a series.

That's quite a long list of books, so I better get back to reading.
Is there a book series or two you want to finish soon?


Cinder by Marissa Meyer | Book Review

Series: The Lunar Chronicles (Book #1)
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Fairy Tales
Page Count: 387
Release Date: January 3, 2012

★★★½☆

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As you can tell, it took me a while to pick up Cinder, and The Lunar Chronicles book series is something that I kept taking off and putting back on my to-read list for the past two years. My relationship with fairy tale retellings (as well as YA books in general lately) has been a rocky one, but I'm happy to tell you I have hope for the genre again. Cinder is a science fiction retelling of Cinderella, in which the main character is a cyborg and a mechanic. It takes place in New Beijing, while the country is being ravaged by a plague for which there is no cure. The book has the standard Cinderella elements: the mean stepmother, two stepsisters, a prince, a ball, and some romance. However, there are plenty of unique additions as well, which made this book very interesting to read for me. 

First of all, I was very intrigued by the Lunars—people living on the moon, most of whom possess special powers, ruled by an evil queen. I thought they were a really interesting addition, and I can't wait to find out more about them. The flip side of this is that I thought there wasn't enough about the Lunars and what their "deal" was, which is probably something that will get discussed more in the other books in the series, but at this point I was definitely left wishing for more information. Second, while we're on the topic of wishing for more information, I really wanted the author to go further into the discussion of who Cinder is. Does she have artificial intelligence? Is she human? How much of her being a cyborg and her brain wiring actually effect her personality, emotions, and feelings? How much programming is involved (since we know there is some)? All of these questions were left unanswered, and I thought there could be a very interesting discussion had there.

Something that I really appreciated about Cinder was that not everyone in the family was mean to the main character. First of all, one of the stepsisters was very friendly and kind, which I thought was a great change from the original story. I also loved Iko—Cinder's android friend, she was adorable. Something I was pleasantly surprised by was Kai, the prince in this story. I always thought that the Cinderellа prince lacked any kind of development and personality, and Kai is a huge improvement—he's an actual human being, he's pretty relatable, and his character development is interesting to follow. I'm actually excited to see what his life will be like after this book!

My biggest issue with Cinder was its predictability. Of course, a fairy tale retelling comes with a certain level of predictability, but this was on a whole different level. Every plot twist was obvious way before it actually happened, and like most people I was able to predict how things were going to go down very early on. This is ultimately what made me take the rating down from 4 to 3.5 stars, because despite the faults I still really enjoyed Cinder, and I burned through it pretty quickly.

Overall, I think this is definitely a book worth reading, and I will be continuing with The Lunar Chronicles series very soon (I already bought the next two books). I hope the rest of the series is just as fun, but a little less predictable, because this sci-fi setting is really working for me.

Have you read Cinder? What did you think?


The Coffee Book Tag!

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Though I wasn't tagged to do this by anyone (to the best of my knowledge), I just couldn't pass on this tag. It combines two of my favorite things: coffee and books. I'm sure you have seen it around lately, and I decided I should also answer these questions while sipping on a nice hot cup of coffee. Why not iced? Because despite it being May, it's only 48°F outside in Chicago today. I also want to tag Lindsay from Have a Parade, Alice from The Book Castle, and Tina from Read the Bloody Book. Please do this tag with me, ladies! 

1. Black: Name a series that's tough to get into but has hardcore fans.

For me, this has to be The Ender Quintet by Orson Scott Card. I read Ender's Game earlier this year, and it was a struggle: aside from the personal issues I have when it comes to the author, I thought Ender was hard to relate to, and the book was filled with sexism, stereotyping, and derogatory terms that are just brushed off as jokes. It's too bad, because I actually really enjoyed the movie. Definitely not a series I plan to continue reading.

2. Peppermint mocha: Name a book that gets more popular during the winter or a festive time of year.

I don't think I've ever paid attention to seasonal books all that much, but last holiday season was all about My True Love Gave to Me—I remember seeing this collection of stories on almost every book blog and BookTube channel. Personally, I haven't read it—some stories got mixed feedback, and this type of book just doesn't sound like my cup of tea. Or should I say coffee?

3. Hot chocolate: What is your favorite children's book?

Peter Pan by Sir J. M. Barrie. I remember having a beautiful illustrated edition when I was little, and I couldn't get enough of it. I still love the story, and I actually think it's time to reread it.

4. Double shot of espresso: Name a book that kept you on the edge of your seat from start to finish.

Can I just say that I really love a good double espresso? As for the book—there are quite a few. However, my most recent intense read was Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith. I could not put it down, it's such a gripping thriller! You can check out my review here.

5. Starbucks: Name a book you see everywhere.

While there are a lot of books that are pretty popular right now, I have to go with the ULTIMATE book series that I hear about almost daily: Harry Potter. As someone who reads quite a few book blogs and watches a bunch of BookTube channels, I can tell that there is aways someone bringing those books up.

6. That hipster coffee shop: Give a book by an indie author a shoutout

OK, this question is a bit of a struggle, since I don't really read indie authors. However, I just picked up Wool by Hugh Howey, and I didn't realize it's something that was originally self-published. How amazing is it that this book became such a success? Way to go!

7. Oops! I accidentally got decaf: Name a book you were expecting more from.

I would like to take this moment to express my sadness about In the Afterlight. It's not a bad book by any means, but you have to understand, I was LOVING The Darkest Minds series, including the novellas. I had pretty high expectations going into In the Afterlight, and they just weren't met. You can read my thoughts on the book here or watch my overview of the entire series here.

8. The perfect blend: Name a book or series that was both bitter and sweet, but ultimately satisfying.

This may be cheating, because I'm only on book 3 of the series, and it's not finished yet... But I absolutely cannot think of anything that fits the definition of "bitter and sweet, but ultimately satisfying" better than A Song of Ice and Fire. The terrible things that happen in those books make the sweet and great things feel even more satisfying.


A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin | Book Review

Series: A Song of Ice and Fire (Book #2)
Genre: Fantasy
Page Count: 768
Release Date: November 16, 1998

★★★★☆

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I am continuing my journey through A Song of Ice and Fire, and I am here to tell you: the second book in the series does not disappoint. I can't say that I loved it quite as much as A Game of Thrones (check out my review here), but I still enjoyed it a lot. I can't tell you much about the plot without ruining the first book, but long story short: MAYHEM IN THE REALM. Be prepared to learn more about those who survived A Game of Thrones, but also to meet quite a few new characters and get introduced to new landscapes. 

I think your enjoyment of A Clash of Kings depends on why you like reading A Song of Ice and Fire: if you want a lot of action, you won't get into this book right away—it has a bit of a slow start. However, if you love the twisted politics of Westeros—this will be right up your alley. For me, I can definitely say this was a bit slower than I would have liked, but it was all worth it in the end. Another thing to be ready for is that most of this book has to do with King's Landing and the surrounding "activities". This makes sense, considering the huge political shifts at the end of A Game of Thrones, but at the same time if your favorite characters aren't Tyrion, Sansa, and Arya, you may find yourself a bit disappointed.

Speaking of characters and being disappointed, probably the most disappointing part of the book for me were the chapters that had to with Daenerys. There aren't that many of them, and there was only one that truly got my attention—the one that had to do with prophecies and the House of the Undying. The other character's PoV I wasn't all that interested in was Catelyn, which is funny because I really like her in the show. On the other hand, Bran and Jon have unexpectedly grown on me—their characters are pretty slow-building, considering that I didn't care much for them in A Game of Thrones, but A Clash of Kings really made me interested in both of them. Bran is someone I expect to be an "endgame" character now, after thinking he is more of a "placeholder" for a while. The person I wanted to strangle in this book is Theon. What a sleazy guy! He's definitely up there with Joffrey for me, on the villain list. It would take a lot for him to redeem himself in my eyes, and I don't even know if it's possible at this point. 

Freaking Theon....

If I'm comparing A Clash of Kings to season 2 of Game of Thrones, I have to say the book flowed much better for me. Season 2 is my least favorite one, particularly because I thought it was very confusing and not very eventful. Though there we a couple of things added to the show in the same time frame that I enjoyed, I still think the book dealt with this transitional period of the story much better, and there were a few twists that were much more effective in A Clash of Kings compared to how they were presented in the show.

Overall, it goes without saying that I will be continuing with the series. Though not quite as exciting as A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings is still a solid sequel and that's why I'm giving it 4 out of 5 stars. I can't wait to read the next book!

P.S. If you're a fan of the show, have you been watching my weekly episode recaps? Check out the latest one below, and take a look at my Game of Thrones + ASoIaF playlist.


Five Things Friday: Post-Apocalyptic and Dystopian Movies

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Today Mad Max: Fury Road hit the theatres, and wow... what a film! I managed to see it last night and I was on the edge of my seat the entire time. I also made sure to marathon the three previous Mad Max movies in preparation, so I'm very much in a post-apocalyptic mood. And that's why today's Five Things Friday post is dedicated to my favorite post-apocalyptic and/or dystopian films. This was actually a tough list to make, as this topic is one of my favorites across all types of media, and I had MANY options to pick from. In the end, I feel very good about this list and I can wholeheartedly recommend every single one of these movies—they are all my favorites.

Blade Runner (1982)

I loved this movie before I even watched it. For years, my favorite quote has been: "All those moments will be lost in time... like tears in rain..." I had no idea where it was from, but throughout my teenage years it was something I wrote on the first pages of my diaries because for some reason it spoke to me. It wasn't until my early 20s that I've actually watched Blade Runner for the first time, and as I was bawling my eyes out during Rutger Hauer's monologue—there it was. If you've never seen it, Blade Runner is directed by Ridley Scott and takes place in LA in 2019 (that's coming up soon!), when androids indistinguishable from humans are banned and hunted. It's not quite a post-apocalyptic world, but it's definitely a dystopian one, and the neo-noir style of this film is mesmerizing. It's also based on a 1968 novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick.

Dark City (1998)

This is another neo-noir film (clearly, I'm a fan of those) that takes place in a questionable future. Written and directed by Alex Proyas, the same guy who directed another favorite of mine—The Crow, this movie centers around a man who has lost his memory and is accused of murders. It's set in a really strange futuristic city with no sunlight, where the poor guy is on the run from the police and a strange group of people with mysterious powers. Dark City has a brilliant cast, including Rufus Sewell (whom I love), Kiefer Sutherland, Jennifer Connelly, and William Hurt. Though we never find out where and when the events take place, the story certainly has a nightmarish dystopian, and post-apocalyptic look and feel to it.

28 Days Later... (2002)

Moving on to a zombie apocalypse, 28 Days Later... is definitely one of the best zombie films out there. Directed by Danny Boyle and written by Alex Garland (who recently wrote and directed Ex Machina), this movie should be a staple of your zombie thriller education. I'm not the biggest fan of the sequel, but the original film had my heart racing from beginning to end. If you've somehow managed to avoid this film, definitely check it out—you're in for a crazy ride. You may also fall in love with Cillian Murphy.

Snowpiercer (2013)

You may remember me gushing about this movie last year—I posted about it here, and also included it in my list of Top 10 Movies of 2014 (because it actually wasn't released in the US until 2014). Of course, I had to include it here as well. The entire film takes place on a train that circumnavigates our planet after humanity's attempt to stop global warming resulted in an ice age. The train carries the only people left alive, and has a very familiar class system: the small population of the rich is living in luxury at the head of the train, while many poor people are crammed at the tail. Snowpiercer has quite a few standout performances, but Chris Evans is a particularly long way from Captain America.

Mad Max (1979 - 2015)

And finally, I couldn't leave out the Mad Max franchise. All of the films, including the newest one, are directed by George Miller and take place in a post-apocalyptic Australian wasteland. Though things get a bit questionable in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, the rest of the films are great. In Mad Max we meet a young reckless cop who ends up seeking revenge against a dangerous motorcycle gang. In Mad Max 2: Road Warrior he is a much more detached and cynical guy, who faces another group of bandits, and decides to defend a settlement with a large gasoline supply. Each of the films paints a unique picture of the society descending into a chaotic future. As for Mad Max: Fury Road—I just watched it last night, and I highly suggest you do the same after watching the first three. If you want to know my thoughts on the film, check out my review:

Do you enjoy post-apocalyptic and dystopian movies? What are some of your favorites?


April Book Haul | 2015

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You know you buy a lot of books when you give yourself a pat on the back for buying ONLY (?!) 11 in a month. Still, I would say my efforts to buy less books have been successful compared to last month's haul. I'm also taking some books that I've read and didn't love to a used books store today, so I'm definitely taking it easy on my bookshelf this April. Now, onto the books! Between some of these being pretty short, others being available only in paperback, and shameless cover shopping, I ended up with all paperbacks this month. This is quite unusual for me, since I normally prefer hardcovers, but I am very happy with all of these editions.

Blindness by José Saramago tells a story of a city hit by a sweeping epidemic of "white blindness", which sounds rather terrifying. A few years ago I saw a movie under the same name, which was apparently based on this novel, and while I didn't love the movie, I thought the concept was intriguing. I'm very interested in checking out the source material. Another book that became a movie is A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess (this one I haven't watched)—something that I've heard about over and over again, and yet I somehow know nothing about the plot. All I know is that this is a dystopian novel, which automatically piques my interest. To complete this set of books with a grim outlook on life, I also picked up The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories by Angela Carter—a collection of dark fairy tale retellings. Something like this is usually a hit or miss for me, but I've heard a lot of people rave about this book, so I'm giving it a shot.

I put A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki on my to-read list after watching this video, so when I saw it on sale for $5 at Barnes & Noble I decided it was fate. It sounds like a fascinating cultural journey! During the same stroll through the bookstore, I picked up The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne—I've been wanting to read this for a while, as the topic of WWII and the Holocaust is very interesting to me. Later, I decided to get two more novels by Cormac McCarthy: No Country for Old Men and Blood Meridian. I don't have a very specific reason for picking these up—in general, I decided that I needed to read more Cormac McCarthy, especially since Blood Meridian is on the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die list. But also, I really like the colors of these editions, so that was a factor as well.

Probably my favorite April purchases are The Last Wish and Blood of Elves by Andrzej Sapkowski. I have been wanting to get my hands on The Witcher book series for some time now, but they are a pain to find. Until recently there was a really odd publishing situation happening (it's a long story) where book 2 in the series was skipped and it was unclear if books 5 and 6 were going to be published in English at all (the series is originally written in Polish). Finally, there has been a confirmation of ALL of the books being translated and published in English within the next couple of years, which makes me very excited. These two are books 1 and 3, but book 2 is being released at the end of May, so I will be getting my hands on that as soon as I can. I will be telling you much more about The Witcher series eventually, but trust me, these are amazing fantasy books.

Finally, I picked up two very different classics: I, Robot by Isaac Asimov and The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas. I don't think either of them need an introduction—one is a famous French historical fiction novel, and the other is a science fiction staple. Somehow, they're both blue, and I adore the covers!

What books did you pick up in April?


The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins | Book Review

Genre: Mystery, Thriller
Page Count: 319
Release Date: January 13, 2015

★★★☆☆

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You know when a book is compared to another great book, but doesn't live up to the claims, and you as the reader end up disappointed? This is how I feel about The Girl on the Train, which people keep comparing to Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl. Now, I knew better than to expect a similar story, but I did expect the quality to be comparable. It's not. Here's the thing: The Girl on the Train is a pretty solid mystery thriller, and if you love the genre I think you will definitely enjoy it, but I don't think it's anything particularly special.

The story is told from three different perspectives, but our main character is Rachel—a woman with a drinking problem, who takes the same train to work and back home every day. She observes the same streets, houses, and people going about their daily lives. However, one day Rachel sees something unusual that has a strong effect on her, and she just can't let it go. That's all you need to know about this book.

I think my biggest issue was that I didn't like any of the three women from whose perspectives the story is told, and it's hard to enjoy a book when you don't like anybody. I could definitely understand Rachel making bad decisions—she's an alcoholic, and for someone in her position she actually seemed pretty reasonable. However, the other two ladies I occasionally wanted to slap around with a dead  fish. They frustrated me to no end, and seemed incredibly immature. What's sad is that most of their problems stemmed from the fact that they were bored, and creating drama was the solution, apparently. Because if you're married you most likely sit at home and don't know what to do with yourself. Right.

I can’t do this, I can’t just be a wife. I don’t understand how anyone does it—there is literally nothing to do but wait. Wait for a man to come home and love you. Either that or look around for something to distract you.

As a psychological thriller, The Girl on the Train was reasonably entertaining—the concept was intriguing, and towards the end it definitely gained intensity. However, I can't say I was particularly surprised by anything. The writing itself was pretty plain as well, and I wish that the three women had more distinct voices. I was never confused about whose perspective I was reading from, but that had more to do with plot than personality. 

Overall, I liked The Girl on the Train, but it definitely didn't live up to the hype for me. What I do want to recommend is the audiobook: the three narrators did a fantastic job bringing personality to the three POV characters. I actually wish I would have listened to the entire book instead of reading a physical copy.

Have you read The Girl on the Train? What did you think?