June Rewind [2016]

June is starting to come to a close, which means it will be time for wrap-ups and hauls. But with all of the recent forms of entertainment that have left me completely enthralled this month, I wanted to share more than books. So I’ve decided to create another new segment called “Rewind”, where I will rewind the month and discuss some of my favorite things I experienced, whether it be a place, a book, a movie–anything! I suppose it will be similar to a diary, but at the same time, I can also recommend things to you, my lovely friends.

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Television:

If you know me well, I tend to prefer films over television. However, this month presented incredible television that has still left in a trance of both sadness and bliss, of wonder and awe. I simply have to share these programs that grasped on and never let go. And don’t worry, I won’t leave any spoilers.

Game of Thrones: Season Six

Despite not having of read all of the books yet, I was slightly nervous that the show didn’t have a novel to work off of. I do know they have strayed quite far from the books, but still, I was curious where they were going to take the show.

I can say with the whole of my heart, not a fiber of my being is disappointed. Season six of Game of Thrones was possibly the best season yet. As of now, I think it is my favorite. The creators behind the show promised viewers when it came time for the finale, it would feel like the end was near. And it did. It truly feels like the game of thrones is reeling to a gruesome close, and that saddens me, especially because we have to wait a year for season seven, which will only be seven episodes. But it’s fine. I’M TOTALLY FINE AND NOT CRYING AND SCREAMING INTERNALLY.

*deep breath*

Without giving spoilers, I can say this is a season full of action and revenge. There are episodes (particularly nine and ten) that are so phenomenal, I was left speechless. They were better than most films I’ve seen, and that’s saying something.

Being that is isn’t going off the pace of the books, I’ve noticed a significant difference in the amount of action that occurs. Moments of traveling have been cut out of the show, allowing us watch the core of conflict and conversations. The moments of travel are important for the books, which allows George R. R. Martin pour out any important information about characters or dialogue. But I’ve noticed the creators have input the dialogue without the constant scenes of travel. I know people have been complaining about this, but they must realize that there’s time in between that we’re simply not seeing. It’s not a flaw in the writing, only a trim of unnessecary travel.

Many people have been lost this season, and if you’re a viewer of the series and/or a reader of the books, I’m sure this isn’t a surprise. There is a lot of death. But I don’t think all of it will make you sad. I’ll just leave it at that. *wink*

If you’re not a viewer of this series, OHMYGOD WHY? IT IS THE BEST SERIES IN THE WORLD. WATCH IT. READ IT.

Vicious: The Finale

I came across Vicious after going through Iwan Rheon’s IMDb page. And no, I’m not a stalker. I like to choose real people as stencils for my characters and watch them perform on screen for inspiration. DON’T JUDGE ME.

*clears throat*

Anyways, I saw that he was in a sitcom, which I couldn’t imagine, being that I was used to watching him perform as Ramsay Bolton. But he’s an actor, and a talented one. So knowing he, along with Ian McKellen and Derek Jackobi were starring in this series, I was sold. Especially after reading the plot, that it’s about a gay couple (Ian McKellan and Derek Jackobi) who are constantly insulting each other. Then there’s their best friend Violet (Frances de la Tour [another acting legend]) and their new, quirky, sweet neighbor Ash (Iwan Rheon).

I told my mom about the show since we’re always looking for a new program to watch together. She was already laughing as I explained the plot and showed her scenes, so we purchased the series through Amazon and began bingeing. We had to force ourselves not to finish it all within a few days. I think we may have stretched it out to a week. Maybe. But we adore this series. The dry, sarcastic humour, the setting, and the fantastic cast.

Once we finished season two, we hopped onto the nearest computer to see when season three was. We were devastated to learn it was canceled. But then we read that they’ll be having one last episode to tie everything up.

This finale ironically aired June 19th, the same night as the Battle of the Bastards. I re-watched all of season one and two earlier this month in anticipation. Then when the finale hit the PBS app, my mom and I watched it the next day. It was such a bittersweet episode. There was so much laughter, but there were also some teary eyes (from both us and the characters). I hate to see such an incredible show come to an end, though it will never leave our hearts. And to this day, we continue to re-watch episodes and laugh even harder than before.

If you haven’t watched Vicious and you’re into dry humour and sarcasm like me, I highly recommend giving it a watch. You won’t regret it.

ian mckellen iwan rheon vicious vicious old queens i havent laughed this hard in months

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Music:

This was a fantastic month for music. A new album from one of my favorite artist’s was released, and I found a variety of new singers and new melodies to inspire and escalate my writing.

“Conscious” – Broods

I have been anticipating the release of Broods new album since they released “Free” back in April. Actually, I’ve been waiting for a new album back when I first started listening to them in January. But “Free” is easily my favorite song of all time. It captures several messages in my duology with such precision, it might as well have been made for it. So when this album was released on the 23rd of June, I was curled up in bed, savoring each song like a delicate dessert.

This is such a gorgeous album. These aren’t the simple songs that talk about romance and break-ups. They are so much more than that. They speak of freedom, of sadness and  defeat, of what it means and feels to love in lyrics so beautiful, it continues to amaze me. Many of these songs have been added to the playlists for my duology, particularly book two, because it captures the pain of both my protagonist and my anti-hero, along with the relationship they share.

As I’ve been typing this entire post, I’ve been replaying a multitude of these songs. Their music is eccentric and catchy, threaded with stunning words. If you have not yet listened to Broods, please head over to your choice of music player and search them immediately.

“Chopin: Waltzes” – Alice Sara Ott

Alice Sara Ott has been making a prominent appearance in my instrumental playlist. I original heard her alongside Ólafur Arnalds in “Verses”, which is still my favorite instrumental song of all. But after listening to her use a violin as if it was a part of her, I was desperate to hear more.

I came across this album a few weeks ago and fell in love with almost all of the songs. This album is superb background music for everything and anything. I tend to listen to my instrumental music while reading, but I also love it while cooking up a dish or a cup of tea, or maybe during (my attempts) at yoga. To those who enjoy instrumental music, especially the piano or the violin, I can assure you’ll love Alice.

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That’s it for this month! I’ve been so invested with sending out queries for my first book and starting book two, I only watched four films and read two books.

But that’s okay! This has been a month of me realizing that I deserve a break now and then, especially during these stressful times of querying. It was nice to sit back and savor the beauty and gore that is Game of Thrones, drown in my own laughter while devouring Vicious over and over again, and listening to some of my favorite artists’ new songs and gathering bounds of inspiration for writing.

I hope you enjoyed this new segment as much as I enjoyed writing it. What were your favorite things this month? What exciting things did you do? I always love to hear your stories and any other comments or questions you have.

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May Wrap-Up [2016]

Happy June!

May has been a hectic, yet productive month. I finished rewriting book one, and I’m currently reading the whole thing over again and making highlights for final edits. Once I finish reading and complete these edits, it will be time to query!

I ended up reading a total of nine books (most were ebooks), which is good, but I was hoping to at least hit ten. This last week I really didn’t read much of anything because I was pouring over my computer and rewriting the final chapters. This is also the reason I have been greatly inactive on blog, but I’m starting to work on my time management skills and make more time for my blog and friends and family. (No one can pry me away from my computer for too long though, hehe).

But seriously, I’ve been working on this book since fall of 2014, a few months before I turned sixteen. Sure, I didn’t finalize my plot until May of 2015, but I’ve been working on this book for a while. As much as I want to start book two, I’m going to force myself to take a week or two off for my own sanity. And I also want to put more time into my blog and other projects. My books will always be number one in my life (okay, number two because family), but there are so many other things I need to put more time towards. So I’m excited for a fresh start this month!

Onto the books! If you’re interested in reading my full reviews on these books, feel free to head on over to my Goodreads page.

1. First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen

First Frost is a sequel /companion to Sarah Addison Allen’s first book, Garden Spells. Much like the first book, First Frost centers around the Waverly family who have these strange powers and complicated pasts. This book takes the readers ten years into the future and takes us on a new journey.

As always, Allen creates a very vivid world with a unique undertone of magical realism. She truly has such a way with words and knows how to create a warm environment that will make you feel at ease. And her addition of scrumptious food makes the story that much better.

I do enjoy her complexity and array of characters, but sometimes, there seemed to be a little too much detail at once. Each character, including the few new additions, had their own backstory. However, I just wish those areas were trimmed down a bit.

If you’re looking for a delectable read to chew on for a while, I recommend picking up Garden Spells and First Frost.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

2. Deadpool, Vol. 1: Secret Invasion by Daniel Way

 

Ever since watching Deadpool, I have been obsessed with this anti-hero. I had heard about him before, but the movie really exposed his character to me. And I loved his character. Dirty humour isn’t really my cup of tea, but it was so appropriate for this character. I’m also pretty sure Ryan Reynolds is Deadpool.

But anyways, I added a few Deadpool comics on my want-to-read list and recently acquired Secret Invasion when it went on sale a few weeks ago. I devoured within a night and was smiling and laughing almost the entire time. This comic really captured his personality and his odd nature. I loved that Wade would hold conversations with himself through a whole battle.

The illustrations, from what I could tell, looked very detailed and amazing. This was an ebook for my kindle, so I wasn’t able to read it in color. I’ll probably start purchasing this series in physical form, because I really enjoyed this graphic novel and want to read the rest.

Rating: ★★★★☆

3. The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski

I’ve heard so many amazing things about The Winner’s Curse trilogy, and it was my long overdue buddy read with my friend Katelyn, so I was excited to finally get my hands on it. Unfortunately, I didn’t love it as I was expecting.

First of all, Rutkoski is an incredible writer. She created an intricate world with a nice array of characters and political intrigue. But I felt for the first one hundred pages, nothing too important happened, albeit the first chapter. I think this was the time Rutkoski wanted to build the relationship between Kestrel and Arin, but I just didn’t see it. I wasn’t catching the admiration or the love between these two.

The book really picked up about halfway through, but at that point, I unfortunately didn’t feel attached to the characters. Still, this was a very good book and I can see where the love for it comes from. I would definitely would be interested in reading more from Rutkoski, but I won’t be continuing with this series.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

4. Queen of Hearts by Colleen Oakes

Queen of Hearts was a dark retelling of the classic, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. But instead of telling Alice’s story, Oakes takes her readers down a twisted journey of how the Queen of Hearts came to be.

I have a full review for this beauty here. To summarize my review, I really enjoyed Queen of Hearts. I loved the dimension of certain characters and the plot. The details were exquisite, and I would’ve liked even more. Honestly, I would’ve liked more of everything: world-building, character development, etc. I definitely recommend to fans of retellings!

 

 

Rating: ★★★★☆

5. Made You Up by Francesca Zappia

Made You Up was such an enthralling book that circled around the topic of mental illness. The main character, Alex, has schizophrenia. Now, I find psychology very fascinating. I love delving into the human mind, particularly mental illnesses. It seems that nowadays, these matters aren’t taken seriously. I may not know these things first hand, but I try to be thorough in my research. In fact, one of my very own characters has a mental illness, and he has taught me so much. I hope I’m telling his story well and properly.

But anyways, I appreciate Zappia’s writing style and her willingness to dive into a touchy subject. I’m not too familiar with schizophrenia, but from what I researched, this seems fairly accurate. It’s hard to say, because I think multiple people could be diagnosed with the same illness and react differently. I’ve read a few reviews that say this book is completely wrong, so I don’t know. I hope it’s accurate and helpful to those who have this illness.

And I loved this book. The characters held so much dimension and character. They were complex and flawed, real and raw. I thought the romance was quite realistic and still endearing. There was quite a bit of angst at times, but compared to other books I’ve read, I don’t think it was too overwhelming at all.  

I devoured Made You Up within a few days and I couldn’t get enough. There were some dark subplots going on that surprised me, and I loved that. I love being surprised and taken aback, which happened several times during this book. This is definitely a new favorite.

Rating: ★★★★★

6. Deadpool Vol. 1: Dead Presidents by Brian Posehn

Yes, another Deadpool comic. I guess my TBR jar is into Deadpool just as much as me. Deadpool: Dead Presidents was funny and featured appearances from so many amazing characters, like Captain American and Doctor Strange. It was funny, full of violent action sequences, and oozing with puns. I really liked this one, but not as much as Deadpool: Invasion. The ending was little strange, but I still did enjoy the story.

I’m also going to take this moment to fangirl to all of you. Ed Skrein, who plays Ajax/Francis in Deadpool has liked a total of six of my tweets (yes, I’m counting), and one of those tweets was talking about how he was a character stencil for one of my antagonists. That was such a massive gust of empowerment to have a character inspiration like a tweet about said character. And Ryan Reynolds has liked three of my tweets, SO THAT’S ALL VERY AMAZING AND I’M STILL FANGIRLING.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

7. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling

Before I get into my thoughts, please know that this is my first time reading the Harry Potter series, so no spoilers. I know, crazy. But I’ve only been reading for fun for about a year and a half. Up until last year, I haven’t delved into the Harry Potter series. So as a celebration for completing my junior year of high school, my lovely mother bought me the whole Harry Potter set, along with a few Funko Pops. Now that I own it, I’m marathon this beauty and maybe finish by the end of summer? We’ll see.

Like all of the previous Harry Potter books, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban was such a lovely and magical read. There’s this homey feeling I get while reading the Harry Potter series. The characters are so familiar and likable, the Wizarding World is so large and intricate, and it always amazes me. I love this world and can’t wait to continue this journey.

Rating: ★★★★☆

8.  This is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp

When I read the synopsis for This is Where It Ends, I was very intrigued and excited–a novel that takes place during a school shooting from multiple perspectives, all within 54 minutes. It sounds crazy and intense, centering around a fairly new and common threat to our modern-day world.

Unfortunately, I was very disappointed by this book. It had a wonderful start, but as the story progressed, the characters became very black-and-white. Every single character seemed to have an extremely tragic occurrence in their past. Now this isn’t a problem, because every single person has and will continue to live through bad experiences, but this came across a little too cliché.

And the shooter. I had a major issue with the shooter, and it was the fact that there wasn’t much of a reason behind his temptation to go to his school and commit these horrible acts. As the story develops, you learn more and more about the boy with the gun, but this hatred for his fellow students is never quite explained. If anything, he was the bully. He didn’t seem to show any signs of trauma or a mental illness, which could lead to a spike in certain behavioral attributes. He just seemed like a simple villain, walking in with a smile and spewing cliché lines as he shot the students. Of course, villains can be villains just to be villains, but those are rare cases. And when it comes to villains, I love seeing why they became the antagonist, what made them snap and break. I didn’t get that with this novel.

This book seemed serious within the first half, but then it seemed to lose its edge. The characters started to think these things that seemed quite unrealistic. I suppose I can’t say that with certainty, because, thank God, I’ve never been in a situation like this. But if I was, I don’t think I would be hoping me and my crush might go on a date after all of this or crack an antagonizing joke to the boy with the gun. There was also a character who lost a loved one and proceeded to kiss their best friend shortly after.

This book did have some solid and intense moments. I feel bad for writing such a negative review, because Nijkamp has a great writing style. She had a way of keeping the scenes on the edge of your seat, wondering what was going to strike next. I just wish the characters were fleshed out and had more realistic characteristics.

Rating: ★★

9. Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

 

This is it. I have finished the lovely series that began with one of my favorite books (I have recently declared it a favorite, being that it’s always on my mind and makes my heart melt) Anna and the French Kiss. I loved Isla’s presence in the first book, so I was thrilled to hear she would be the main character of the third and final installment.

Much like the first two books, Isla and the Happily Ever After was an adorable read that was easy to devour. However, I didn’t enjoy is nearly as much as Anna and the French Kiss or Lola and the Boy Next Door. Despite Isla and Josh pairing up very quickly in the story compared to the other couples, there was so much angst. I wanted to seem more of a development between their relationship and less makin-out and … other things.

Isla and Josh were both very sweet and layered. Their feelings were understandable, and I really loved their development over the book. But I missed the other characters. I loved that Anna and St. Clair played a large part in Lola and the Boy Next Door, and I was hoping to see that same thing with this installment. Yes, they did come into the story, and when they did, it was amazing, because things with everyone were all tied up with a nice little ribbon. Overall, I really love this series and I’m sad to see it end. These stories and these characters (mainly Etienne), will forever stay in my heart.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

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How was the month of May for you? How many books did you read? Be sure to let me know, especially if something grasped onto your interest. I’m always looking for new book recommendations. Be sure to leave any other thought and comments down below!

 

Review: Queen of Hearts

Synopsis:

The first novel in Colleen Oakes’s epic, imaginative series tells the origin of one of the most infamous villains—the Queen of Hearts.

Dinah is the princess who will one day reign over Wonderland. She has not yet seen the dark depths of her kingdom; she longs only for her father’s approval and a future with the boy she loves. But when a betrayal breaks her heart and threatens her throne, she is launched into Wonderland’s dangerous political game. Dinah must stay one step ahead of her cunning enemies or she’ll lose not just the crown but her head.

Evil is brewing in Wonderland and maybe, most frighteningly, in Dinah herself.

Colleen Oakes’s vivid reimagining of Wonderland proves heroes can become villains and fairy tales can become nightmares. Readers will delight in this fresh take on an infamous villain. 

{Goodreads; Amazon; Book Depository}

Review:

Queen of Hearts was such a quick and enthralling read that is sure to grip onto your mind and drag you down into its dark depths. Once again, Colleen Oakes weaves a creepy and intricate retelling that keeps you in wonder.

I really loved the array of characters and their traits, particularly Charles–an adaption of the Mad Hatter. He was a strange and crazy boy, but you couldn’t help but care for him. And his hats! They sounded so gorgeous and intricate, ranging from all colors with feathers and branches and hearts and basically anything you could imagine. I would definitely like to have a few hats myself.

These characters were extremely interesting, so I would’ve loved to even see more of them. I do understand this is the first in a trilogy, but I would’ve enjoyed an expansion on each character. I think this novel actually could’ve been longer all the way around to allow more room for details with the settings and character development, along with more scenes.

With that said, I appreciate that this wasn’t a romance based story. That is SO refreshing, especially in a young-adult novel. I loved the theme of this story, for the rule of power and control. I liked that Dinah, the main character, wasn’t all that lovable, that she  It’s normal for humans to have flaws, especially in scenarios such as these. Dinah wanted to finally have control in her life, to have a say in the way she was treated and the kingdom was ruled.

I will (not) patiently await the next installment of the series, Blood in Wonderland, and to see this story come to life on the big screen.

Rating: ★★★★☆

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Have you read Queen of Hearts? If so, what did you think? What’s your favorite fairytale and its retelling? Leave any recommendations, along with your thoughts and comments, down below!