Thursday, October 29, 2015

batshit & beautiful * – Fanmix for Wild Awake

“I want to kiss you," I say, "but I seem to be holding this cat."

Skunk lifts his hand and touches it to the side of my face. His fingers are warm from carrying the hot skillet to the table. He regards me very seriously, and for a moment I wonder if he's about to tell me we should Focus on Bicycle Repair. Instead he just looks at me for a very long time.

"You're beautiful," says Skunk, "and completely batshit.”

listen )

01 // (Hospital Vespers) The Weakerthans
Doctors played your dosage like a card-trick / Scrabbled down the hallways yelling "Yahtzee!" / You tried not to roll your sunken eyes and said "Hey can you help me, I can't reach it" / Pointed at the camera in the ceiling / I climbed up, blocked it so they couldn't see

02 // Going To Your Funeral Part I Eels
I knew that you were not insane / Living in the insane world

03 // Every Single Night Fiona Apple
Every single night's a fight with my brain / If we had a double-king-sized bed, we could move in it and I'd soon forget

04 // Youth Knows No Pain Lykke Li
Come on, honey, cut yourself to pieces / Come on, honey, give yourself completely / And do it all although you can't believe it / Youth knows no pain

05 // Heavy In Your Arms Florence + the Machine
My love's an iron ball, wrapped around your ankles, over the waterfall

06 // Numb Marina and the Diamonds
I feel numb most of the time / The lower I get the higher I'll climb, and I will wonder why I got dark only to shine

07 // Mad World Gary Jules
When people run in circles it's a very, very mad world

08 // I Wanna Be Yours Arctic Monkeys
I wanna be your vacuum cleaner / Breathing in your dust / I just wanna be yours

09 // I Luv the Valley OH Xiu Xiu
That's a pill and you've got to take it / I won't rest until you take it

10 // A Better Son/Daughter Rilo Kiley
You’ll fake it if you have to, and you’ll show up for work with a smile, and you’ll be better, and you’ll be smarter, more grown up and a better daughter or son

11 // Love Out of Lust Lykke Li
We will live longer than I will / We will be better than I was / We can cross rivers with our will / We can do better than I can

12 // Falling Florence + the Machine
Sometimes I wish for falling, wish for the release, wish for falling through the air to give me some relief

13 // Don't Die in Me Mirah
And if you want something back / All the things that got cracked / When I felt like you lied to me / And all the million mistakes and the kicks in the face / But I don't want you to die in me

14 // P.S. You Rock My World Eels
I was at a funeral the day I realized I wanted to spend my life with you / And I was thinkin' about how everyone is dying / And maybe it's time to live

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish Halloween Costumes

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

I went on a bit of a Halloween costume rampage yesterday, but I seem to be on a bit of a roll, so what's a few more?! Here are my picks for fun & unexpected bookish costumes.

Rainbow Fish. Confession: I was Rainbow Fish for Halloween last year! But clearly I need to be hanging around more book people because nobody got it. I found this amazing rainbow sequin vest that sort of looks like fish scales – it was so perfect that I had to buy it. A sparkly blue-green shirt, a purple cardigan, a fluffy purple skirt, and blue tights made up the rest of my ensemble. I wore electric orange lipstick (fish lips!) and tied metallic blue ribbons in my hair and painted my nails glittery gold. I plan to improve on my costume every year moving forward until I am #RainbowFishGoals.

The Little Prince. I admit I am not totally sure how to accomplish this. I suspect a floor-length robe (or cape), a gold scarf, and a flower are good starting points. Maybe some bird- or star- shaped balloons, too. Speak in riddles and when people ask you questions, change the subject to something else entirely.

The Secret Garden. Decorate your clothes with fake flowers & vines & twigs and branches. Throw on an oversized trench coat. When people ask what you're supposed to be, look around surreptitiously, then flash open your coat and say, "I'm the secret garden."

Harriet the Spy. Who else pretended to be Harriet the Spy as a kid?! I think by now I have her outfit down pat: a striped shirt, flare jeans, Converse sneakers. A tool belt that holds a flashlight, pen, mirror, and some rope. A red hoodie – or, if you're going for film accuracy, a yellow raincoat. A composition notebook with the words PRIVATE on top. Maybe bring a tomato sandwich to snack on.

Dorian Gray. Put on a suit or an evening gown – just look as swanky as possible. Take a hideous picture of yourself, print it out, and put it in a frame. Carry it with you all night and get twitchy when people ask you about the portrait you're holding.

Baby-Sitters Club. This would be a group costume, but I've ALWAYS wanted to get my friends to dress up as the whole gang. Okay, so Kristy Thomas would obviously wear a turtleneck, mom jeans, and a baseball cap. Maybe she could carry a clipboard too. Mary Anne Spier would wear a jumper and Mary Janes or saddle shoes with bobby socks, with her hair braided in pigtails. And carry a box of tissues everywhere. Stacey McGill would have her hair permed out huge, and she'd probably be wearing a black off-the-shoulder sweater with, like, green leggings, with her nails painted a sophisticated pink. Claudia Kishi would have 3 different earrings in each ear, an ugly sweater, a windbreaker from the 80s, zebra print mom jeans – I mean, basically just pick one thing from your mom's closet, one thing from your dad's closet, and 5 different pieces of jewelry, and you're good to go. And for Dawn Schafer, you could probably just go with ripped jeans and a tie-dyed t-shirt that says SAVE THE WHALES. Maybe carry around kale juice for bonus points?

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Discussion: Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard

I'm participating in the Something Strange and Deadly readalong, hosted by Stephanie Kaye & the Waterwitch Babes over at Steph in Wonderland. (Incidentally, Stephanie Kaye & the Waterwitch Babes would be an AMAZING band name, don't you think?) We're about halfway through the book, but it's not too late to join & catch up – I read the whole thing in about 3 days and have already started the next book in the series, A Darkness Strange and Lovely.

First off, let me just say this – Something Strange and Deadly is such a fun, spooky read for fall: paranormal and a little bit dark and filled with characters who manage to shirk my expectations of who they're supposed to be. The story is narrated by Eleanor Fitt, of the Philadelphia Fitts, which I think just means she descends from wealth and privilege. Over the course of the novel, Eleanor surprises me with her fire. That's not to say there aren't moments when she's wholly exasperating, but I like her feminism and how she's always pushing the edges of what's socially acceptable in the late 1870s.

Of all the characters, I think I am most intrigued by Daniel Sheridan, one of the Spirit-Hunters and a researcher of all things paranormal. He's cranky and funny and kind, and I love the way he interacts with Eleanor, both of them stubborn and awkward and passionate and sassy and set on protecting the people they love. They have such an interesting dynamic – soft moments and silly moments and salty moments that are just so entertaining to read.

"Don't think I'll look after you, though – the world would be better off with one less princess."
"I'm not a princess," I huffed, beating my brain for some worthy retort.
"A queen then?"
"No! That's not what I meant –"
"Oh, an empress. I see. Pardon me, Your Majesty."

I'm less excited about the remaining Spirit-Hunters. Joseph Boyer is the head of the group; I like that he's a POC character and that he's arguably the most proper of all of them – intelligent, composed, gentlemanly – but unfortunately he just doesn't make much of an impression upon me. The story moves so quickly that he just doesn't get that much facetime or character development.

As for Jie, my thoughts are still up in the air. I like the idea of her – a Chinese girl who is holding her own in a society where she's an outsider on so many levels – and I think there's a lot more to her story. I'm hoping we get to explore that more over the course of the next few books in the series.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Review: The Assassin's Blade by Sarah J. Maas

Title: The Assassin's Blade (Throne of Glass #0.1-0.5)
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Publisher: Bloomsbury Children's
Publication date: March 4, 2014
Rating: ★★★★½

Summary (via Goodreads):

Celaena Sardothien is Adarlan's most feared assassin. As part of the Assassin's Guild, her allegiance is to her master, Arobynn Hamel, yet Celaena listens to no one and trusts only her fellow killer-for-hire, Sam. In these action-packed novellas - together in one edition for the first time - Celaena embarks on five daring missions. They take her from remote islands to hostile deserts, where she fights to liberate slaves and seeks to avenge the tyrannous. But she is acting against Arobynn's orders and could suffer an unimaginable punishment for such treachery. Will Celaena ever be truly free? Explore the dark underworld of this kick-ass heroine to find out.

I've been rereading the first three Throne of Glass novels to refresh my memory in preparation for Queen of Shadows, and I finally had the chance to read The Assassin's Blade, which includes all five of the pre-Throne of Glass novellas: The Assassin and the Pirate Lord, The Assassin and the Healer, The Assassin and the Desert, The Assassin and the Underworld, and The Assassin and the Empire.

This review contains spoilers for those who have not yet read Throne of Glass and Crown of Midnight so proceed with caution, my little darlings.

I have always loved Celaena, in spite of her haughtiness and arrogance, or maybe because of it. I have always admired her. I loved her even more in Heir of Fire, watching her grow exponentially, seeing her confront her biggest fears and challenges.

But The Assassin's Blade made me respect and admire and feel for her infinitely more. It's that feeling you get in the pit of your stomach, when you're observing something and you already know it's going to end badly. It's like watching a train come off its tracks – fascinating and horrifying and dreadful all at once. This is what it's like to read these novellas.

It's almost upsetting to hear her talk of the life she will lead once she's free of Arobynn Hamel – all you want is for her to be happy and for her to live the life she deserves… and for a moment, you almost forget that Sam dies and that Celaena ends up in Endovier and that everything else happens. For a moment, you entertain that dream with her. For a moment, you imagine what her life could have been had she stayed in the Red Desert from The Assassin and the Desert – not the most lavish of destinations, but maybe something good for her soul. How different things would be.

It's hard to watch things start to backfire, from the slave deal in The Assassin and the Pirate Lord, all the way to her sentence to Endovier in The Assassin and the Empire. Just thinking about it makes my heart squeeze painfully. I can't even get into what happens with Sam in The Assassin and the Underworld. Like, my brain will just not even go there.

And that's only the beginning of her story. To think about everything else Celaena has gone through… all this darkness that spans her life… she is one of the strongest characters I've ever read. You just want to tell Sarah J. Maas to give the girl a freaking break already. There's a line in Heir of Fire where Celaena says that she can't remember anymore what it feels like to be free. And reading that, and knowing all that happens in The Assassin's Blade, makes it so much harder to take.

I loved these stories. I love that they were meaningful and revelatory without being required reading. I love that they enhance the rest of the series – they make Celaena a more empathetic character; they reveal more of the world that Sarah J. Maas has built; they expand and play on little details mentioned briefly in the other books, like Dorian's sapphire eyes that feel like something she's forgotten, and the stolen Asterion horses from the Red Desert, and so much more… Such a treat for anyone who's read and enjoyed the Throne of Glass books.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

September/October Book Hauls

I'm running out of space on my bookshelf for all of my recent book acquisitions! Between Housing Works, Book Outlet, and all the used bookstores in Seattle, I've probably increased my library by thirty percent. Which is not saying much, since I only had like fifteen books in my apartment to start, but whatever! Space is a precious commodity in my life! Speaking of space… sorry these pictures are so big! Wish I knew how to fix it because it's giving me immense anxiety! Success!

Left: I FOUND SAVING FRANCESCA AT A USED BOOKSTORE. This was an awe-inspiring moment for me. There I was, standing in this tiny house that had been converted into a bookstore, this tiny house overflowing with cats (literally, cats around every corner), scanning the children's books section, when lo and behold – I spotted the rare Melina Marchetta, goddess of everything, her name embracing the spine of this book. I MUST HAVE IT, I said. And have it, I did.

Right: This picture and book hurl marks the start of my weekly trips to Housing Works (as well as the beginning of my Baby-Sitters Club graphic novel collection, yippee!). It started with an innocent study session – the only place where I could focus on preparing for my project management exam – and has ended ("ended") with frequent visits just to see what's new. Dear wallet: sorry I'm not sorry.

Left: My Book Outlet book hurl. I'm so excited to have gotten Siege and Storm (my favorite in the Grisha series) and Ruin and Rising (the collector's edition, which has that lovely bronze text on the cover). Also bought Wild Awake, which I feel like I frequently talk about on this blog, and Friday Never Leaving, née Friday Brown, by the illustrious Vikki Wakefield. As much as I love the original Aussie publication of Friday, I have to say that the cover of Friday Never Leaving (hardcover, not paperback) is freaking gorgeous and creepy and perfect for the book. Insert more gushing, bows down to Vikki Wakefield, etc. etc.

Right: I went to this yard sale in the Upper West Side this past Sunday. There was a woman with boxes and boxes of great books. I saw these hardcover Heroes of Olympus books, did a double take, and had to have them. I mean, seriously! Only a dollar each. I felt like I was committing theft, but I am so pleased because the only book I have left to purchase is BoO and soon there will be no more BoO HoO because my HoO collection shall be complete! (I think it's time for me to go to bed.)

Monday, October 5, 2015

Review: Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin

Title: Wolf by Wolf (Wolf by Wolf #1)
Author: Ryan Graudin
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication date: October 20, 2015
Rating: ★★★★½

Summary (via Goodreads):

Code Name Verity meets Inglourious Basterds in this fast-paced novel from the author of The Walled City.

The year is 1956, and the Axis powers of the Third Reich and Imperial Japan rule the world. To commemorate their Great Victory over Britain and Russia, Hitler and Emperor Hirohito host the Axis Tour: an annual motorcycle race across their conjoined continents. The victor is awarded an audience with the highly reclusive Adolf Hitler at the Victor's ball.

Yael, who escaped from a death camp, has one goal: Win the race and kill Hitler. A survivor of painful human experimentation, Yael has the power to skinshift and must complete her mission by impersonating last year's only female victor, Adele Wolfe. This deception becomes more difficult when Felix, Adele twin's brother, and Luka, her former love interest, enter the race and watch Yael's every move. But as Yael begins to get closer to the other competitors, can she bring herself to be as ruthless as she needs to be to avoid discovery and complete her mission?

Many thanks to Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (and NOVL) for sending me this electronic copy via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

Holy Scheisse!!! What a book. And what a thing to write about: a world in which Hitler won the war.

Let me start with my favorite thing about this book (a challenge, for sure, given the number of things I love about this book), and that is Ryan Graudin's writing, which is nothing short of remarkable. The subject of this novel is not, I imagine, an easy thing to write about – the events were ugly enough the first time around. To imagine some alternate universe in which those events only get amplified? Unthinkable. And yet, Graudin does an incredible job representing not only those events but also the internal thoughts and feelings of those who live them.

The writing is wild when it needs to be – a rhythmic beat that makes you feel primal and crazy and aligns perfectly with the savageness of this version of 1956. She writes about the human experience in such an accessible way, but it leaves you feeling raw and wondering how such ordinary words could make you feel so much. It's poetry, stark and brutal, and it makes you want to chant the words and stomp your feet on the ground.

Beyond the writing is the story itself: one girl's mission to get into the Axis Tour, win the race, and kill Hitler. Which is easier said than done, of course. And is layered with even more complexity when we discover the results of the Nazis' human experimentation and the main character Yael's ability to "skinshift" and take on other appearances. We get to watch as Yael fights against all odds to win the game. It's an exhilarating ride, and the story just propels forward.

This is a character-driven novel, and it's not. There isn't character development so much as character revelation, especially since we start from a place of unknowing. We meet Yael and right off the bat we can tell she's a tough one, a girl who has gone through unspeakable horrors and has somehow lived to tell the story, but we learn more and more about her – her weaknesses and insecurities, her self-perceived identity (or lack thereof), her history and the people who have made a mark in it (and upon in her skin in the form of a tattoo of wolves) and what has become of them. Wolf(e) by wolf(e), we discover all these things that make her human, even while she sees herself as a tool.

And the discovery starts with Yael, but it doesn't stop there. We realize that Felix Wolfe (twin brother of Adele Wolfe, last year's winner and the first and only female victor of the Axis Tour) is perhaps more than just an overprotective brother, and that Luka (Adele's former love interest and Yael's competitor) carries his own complicated and intriguing secrets. Even with Hitler and the Third Reich, there is more than meets the eye.

They're definitely not joking around when they say it's Code Name Verity meets Inglourious Basterds. Wolf by Wolf is brilliant and exciting and suspenseful and mind-blowing, and I already can't wait to get my hands on the sequel (Fall 2016!) that concludes this duology.