Sunday, November 22, 2015

Review: The Wrath and the Dawn

I've been motivated to finally getting around to writing this post, primarily because it's been a couple months since I've finished the novel, and my friend Callie - the same friend who enabled my LAST complete review, of Victoria Aveyard's Red Queen - has actually managed to finish it by this point as well, so what excuse do I have, really? 

The Wrath and the Dawn, by Renee Ahdieh, follows the story of Shahrzad, a new bride to a brutal king, who faces a dangerous reality in marrying this sadistic ruler: though he takes a new wife every night, she never lives to see the morning. However, avenging the death of her murdered friend - one of his previous brides - is not as easy as she hoped, as there is more to the Caliph of Khorasan than the rumors say, and soon Shazi finds herself falling in love with the last person she'd ever expect.

When perusing the notes I'd made in my book note book - where I write down my book nerd ramblings in real time while speeding through the novel at hand - I actually made a note that I should have been writing about the first 50 pages, but I didn't actually even remember to, because I had been so sucked in by the immediacy of the plot. (In other notes I didn't jot down, I also might have benefited from a glossary of names at some point. There's a lot of characters.)

Another bookish note: "Gaaahh, I'm so invested!" Also, "Holy ish, these stakes are real. The danger is palpable." It's hard to match high stakes with fully fleshed-out characters, especially with the limited time range of YA and an especially fast-moving plot with a lot of action, but by goodness this book managed it.

I also really did like the main character. Shazi was pretty cool, a legitimately tough and loyal girl among a sea of sarcastic, wilting redheads in current YA. She reminded me of what was attempted  with the characterization of Nyx from Cruel Beauty, by Rosamund Hodge - which would make sense, because both girls kind of go through similar circumstances - though I would argue that Shazi was done more effectively. She reminded me of one of Tamora Pierce's Tortallan heroines, someone who might have gotten along well with Alianne, you know?

There were a couple of characters I got a little annoyed by, and friends of mine have expressed similar sentiments. I think it has less to do with the characters or plot points themselves, but how much quickly some story lines moved rather  than others. My heart was primarily with Shazi the whole time, and I was just more invested in what was going on in that section of the story.

Here's what makes me happiest, in retrospect: it was a great book, but by no means a complete one. A lot of groundwork was laid, and yes, in true YA fashion, we can tell this is going to be a series, but there's a lot of room still left for backstory, for character growth, without leaving this first installment feeling anemic. This was a little frustrating to Callie - she thought it was going to be a standalone, though by the end of the novel, you can tell that's not the case - but still, the "cliffhanger" ending wasn't just the only unresolved point: there's still a lot of questions that need to be answered, but the book still feels like fairly filled out. The stage is set for a killer continuation with The Rose and the Dagger in May, and I can't wait to see what comes next!

Final Verdict: This was one of summer's most-hyped releases, with very good reason: with a grand stakes story line that sweeps you along from start to finish, with plenty of danger and distress to keep you on your toes and swoony romance to keep you turning pages, The Wrath and the Dawn shapes up to be a pretty great start to what is sure to be a thrilling saga.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Book-to-Movie Adaptations I Want to Watch (and One I Don't!)

Top Ten Tuesday is a bookish meme, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish!
My family's always been a big ol' pack of culture vultures - voraciously consuming any and all new media that's making news and seems like a good time - but there's a pretty nice matchup that's developed through our teen years, between my sister, The Cheerleader and me: while I've always cornered bookish news, she's got a special kind of enthusiasm for movies. Therefore, whenever there's a new movie that happens to be based on a book, well, there's a high chance we're freaking out about it.

Here's a list of some new, old, and everywhere-in-between titles we're excited have gotten - or are going to get! - the big screen treatment... plus one that's we're not really feeling so much.


1. Still Alice, Lisa Genova
You'd think I'd never shut up about this gripping contemporary novel, about a woman facing early-onset Alzheimer's written by an actual neuroscientist, but I have yet to see the movie, no matter how many times I have to beg we make it a Sigma Kappa sisterhood event for my chapter (really, I just need people to watch it with who'll hold me and refrain from judgement while I sob).

2. Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn
Despite the fact that I have touted this title as one of my most favorite recent reads of the past couple of years for a little while now - I even did a College Fashion post on it! - I haven't been able to bring myself to set aside some time to really enjoy this thriller. I'm just naturally a very anxious person, and it's a lot easier to set down a book and take a breather than try to distract yourself from the crazy with a pause button.

3. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, Jesse Andrews
I don't know, The Cheerleader is especially obsessed with the cinematography of this tragically-fated teenage love story, but I've heard that the movie has a different vibe than the book. Thoughts?


4. The Martian, Andy Weir
My obligatorily nerdy father had been dying to get his hands on this novel since the first trailer came out, but while both he and The Cheerleader have seen it, I'm holding off until I can read the book. (The Cheerleader's still in the middle of reading it!)

5. Brooklyn, Colm Toibin
It actually took me a good couple instances of looking into the plot of this movie, about a young Irish girl's immigration to America in the '40s, to realize that it was based off of a book by the same name. On the other hand, it took me about 20 seconds of the trailer for me to realize that I really, really want to see this movie. 

6. Room, Emma Donoghue
I also had no idea that this movie was based off of a book the first couple of times I saw the trailer, but I definitely wasn't drawn to it as strongly... I mean, the story of a young mother and her five-year-old son, held captive in a room, isn't exactly the kind of stuff I usually fill my free time with. However, I've heard amazing things about this movie from my best friend, and it's been garnering quite a lot of early Oscar attention, too, so maybe I'll have to give it a try!


7. Alice Through the Looking Glass, Lewis Carroll 
I actually debated leaving this one off of the list, being that movie adaptations of any of the Alice in Wonderland books maintain a pretty tenuous hold on any and all organization of plot or characterizations of the children's stories. Still, this sequel is pure wonder and whimsy from top to bottom, and I like Sacha Baron Cohen too much to leave it off. 

(And I swear to goodness that if I hear one more person use the phrase "Alice in Wonderland 2" it's OFF WITH THEIR HEADS.) 

8. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith
Okay, okay, I'm fully expecting this film adaptation to go the route of Grahame-Smith's other notable novel-turned-movie - Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter - but I actually really, really like the look of this one. 

9. The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupery 
Aaaanndd I cried ugly Savannah tears when I first saw the trailer for this one... even though, at the time, the only trailer was available in French. Still, I love this book - yet again, a great source of inspiration for College Fashion! - and I can't wait to introduce some of my friends to it with the movie, too.

(and... I'd prefer not to) 

10. The Jungle Book, Rudyard Kipling
I'm not so sure about this one, folks... I'm all for creative license and new interpretations of old stories and everything, but I think that even if the trailer didn't tell me that it was directed by the same guy who did Iron Man, I probably could have guessed. No thank you.

What were your Top Ten? Let me know, in the comments below! 

Sunday, November 8, 2015

What I Did this Weekend: Shopping Antique, and Library Time

No need for Low Fi or Valencia when you've got these kinds of old-school filters... right, Instagram?
Yesterday, I had the chance to visit the Puyallup Fairgrounds back home, for the Annual Antique show my mother, sister and I attend every year. I have this bookseller who specializes in antiques that I like to visit there, and we can usually find a bunch of old things to gawk at and marvel over along the way to her booth. For instance, I'm partial to vintage bake ware and dining sets, the Cheerleader likes looking at pinup girl calendars and vintage Disney memorabilia, and my mom's always trying to amp up her collection of sparkly brooches.

We also buy a new bug gem for my sister every year for Christmas - you'd be surprised how beautiful (and popular!) brooches shaped like insects are!

In terms of books, unfortunately, there wasn't that great of a selection this year. I've got a pretty particular type I'm looking for, in terms of taste, and lean towards old copies of Nancy Drews, pre-1950s homemaking and manner instructionals, and cookbooks. In terms of things that did stumble across my path, I found a secondary edition of The Whispering Statue (Nancy Drew #14) that still had its book jacket in really good condition, all the way from 1944... but I couldn't justify spending $25 on it when it wasn't one of my favorites, and I already have a copy sans dust jacket from the '40s, too.

I also realized, somewhat belatedly, that I am still on my 2015 Resolution, and thusly, wouldn't have been allowed to buy new books this year, anyways! Darnit! 

Tumblr aesthetic as hell, amirite? 
Chilling out with the bro's hedgie after.
Deep, deep regrets that I didn't spend $1.50 on this. 
Though all was not for naught: I do think I developed a new favorite antique find this past weekend, as some of my personal favorites from this time 'round included suitcases filled with old photos - like pictured at the top of this post! - and autograph books, filled with celebrity and schoolmate signatures alike.

It's amazing looking at such old pictures, and seeing what's passed out of fashion, but what's still the same: beautiful brides with their parents, family photos that have fallen to shenanigans as they were being taken, couples holding hands and best friends laughing. Not to mention the school "autograph books" that stood in the place of yearbooks, back when they would have been too expensive to print... rhymes that stood as the old-school equivalent to "H.A.G.S.," to heartfelt pleas to "Remember that time we fought..." or "I hope we're still friends in high school."

To be honest, I can totally see why Ransom Riggs was inspired by these old kinds of visual memories for his Ms. Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children series, because there's still a lot of interesting stories to be gleaned from people who aren't necessarily around to tell them anymore! 

Best way to ease the lack of great old books I was walking away with? FAIR SCONES. 
Afterwards, I insisted on a trip to the library, because if I couldn't pick up anything old, then I wanted to make sure I got my hands on something new! Still, I am in the thick of the Quarter - and shout out to my fellow Quarter systems school chums - so I drew the line at four, from various genres:

  • YA Fiction: Lair of Dreams (The Diviners #2), Libba Bray 
    • (And it was right next to The Diviners, with its original cover, instead of the redesign... my mom agreed that the original was much better!) 
  • Non-Fiction: Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen, Mary Norris 
  • Fiction: Hostile Takeover (The Intern's Handbook #2), Shane Kuhn
  • Cookbook: Milk Bar Life, Christina Tosi
So I was able to head back up to Seattle with some exciting new reads, after all.

What bookish things did you do this weekend? Let me know, in the comments below!

Sunday, November 1, 2015

No, No NaNo : Why I'm Not Taking Part in NaNoWriMo this Year

(Alternatively titled, "I Hate Everything: Senior Year is a Trap.")

So, at the stroke of midnight this past evening, with all of the witches and sexy cats and pun-based, indecipherable costumes making their ways back home - all of the freshman Cinderellas looking for the shoes they kicked off when they found it was nearly impossible to dance in heels on a sticky fraternity basement's floor - it no longer was Halloween, but the First of November. 

And y'all know what that means.

Most NaNo devotees were clearing their desks of candy wrappers and rogue costume props, to settle down at their word processors for a bout of writing that would lead their yearly National Novel Writing Month challenge on a preemptive spree. But alas, I did not.

I am, tragically, too busy for living right now: between a work-heavy class load, the ending of my Panhellenic experience, working three and four shifts a week, sorority events and obligations, and trying to find time to even write for this blog, I will be left as a shell of a human being by Winter Break as is! Besides, I've recently fallen behind on my Goodreads Reading Challenge again - after an 8 book lead this past August! - and I can't risk leaving a month of dead reading time in my wake when I honestly need it most.

Originally, I had toyed with the idea of taking part again, anyways. I mean, I was busy last year, too, but I still found the time, right? It's hard to come off of a win in the challenge, and then just not do anything the following year. I crushed #NaNo14, and I wanted the chance to prove my mettle at the hands of the writing gods again! I want another tee shirt, dammit!

However, after considering all possible outcomes of participating this year - on one hand, I'd lose, because I just wouldn't have enough time, and on the other, unlikelier hand, I might win, and thereby allow my other obligations to fall to the wayside and still come out a loser - I've decided I officially can't do it. 

And thusly, I am rendered moribund. *deep sigh*

My NaNoWriMo track from last year:

Anyone else out there with a huge case of NaNo FOMO? Let's talk about it!