Saturday, January 31, 2015

Loony Literate Launch Blog Hop!

Hello! So Emily, who I follow Twitter @thelooneytuney, has launched her own website! As part of a celebration of launching her own website, she's doing a fun blog hop thing, and the questions looked fun, so I thought I'd join in. (And while you're at it, go check out her site, it's super cute: www.loonyliterate.com). 

1) What’s something a bit LOONY about you?

As a child, I was extremely sensitive, and often books that I don't blink an eye at now scared me to pieces then. I couldn't finish Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac by Gabrielle Zevin when I first read it in middle school, because it scared me too much! I also get nervous sometimes on precarious staircases, especially ones where you can see through each step. 
 
2) Since I’m Australian – what’s your favourite book by an Australian author?

Melina Marchetta is my favourite author OF ALL TIME, so I have much love for Australian authors. Jellicoe Road, Saving Francesca, The Piper's Son and her Lumatere Chronicles series are my favourite. 
 
3) What’s your favourite kind of post to write, and why?

Silly, creative posts are really fun to write, but so are tag/blog hop posts like this, because then I don't have to do as much work to figure out to word stuff - I just have to answer questions!  

4) Favourite genre of YA?

Contemporary, then fantasy. 
 
5) Biggest blogging goal?

Currently, I want to do waaay more book reviews this year. Also just more posts in general (so far I'm doing pretty good!)
 
6) Name another blogger who has been an inspiration to you.

Steph Bowe has some great posts on her blog (hey look another Australian!)
 
7) Trivia -
a) a 2014 contemporary YA release where the main character is called Emily (and I loved it, by the way). This author also wrote a book about a road trip.

I saw someone else's answer but now I can't remember... it's a book by whoever wrote Amy and Roger's Epic Detour, though, I know it. 
 
b) Madam Rosmerta from Harry Potter makes lovely oak-matured what?
[hint…it’s part of my name]

Mead! Because Emily's last name is Mead. ;)
 
8) If you haven’t done this already, look up your full name (or your pen name if you use one) on an anagram finder. What’s the best anagram of your name?

Either Salary Heck Loss or Scholarly Sakes, but there are so many! Haha. That was fun, thanks Emily.

9) One thing you want to see more of in YA?

I always want to see more friendship and family stories, especially where both parents are present and well-developed. I'd also love to see stories set outside of North America, with non-American main characters. 
 
10) And finally – are you excited about Loony Literate????

Yes! I am excited to see what you will do with it. :) Also, it is already beautiful, and it must be exciting having your own website! 

Check out Emily's blog, and her blog hop link-up giveaway she's super sweet! :)

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

What's Up Wednesday

Hello! Thought I'd do a What's Up Wednesday to update you guys.

WHAT I'M READING

I am currently reading an ARC of The Winner's Crime by Marie Rutkoski that I got from my local bookstore, on the condition that you send in a review to them. It's a pretty sweet deal. Also, I loved The Winner's Curse (the first one in the series), so I'm excited to read it's sequel, even if it's so painful, already, and I'm only about twelve chapters in.

WHAT I'M WRITING

Heheh... nothing, at the moment. I had started rereading the draft I finished in August, although I've stopped since school started. I suppose half a year is enough time for a draft to sit before digging into it, ha. There's still a lot that needs to be fixed, but I think I like the direction I've gone in better now. So I guess one of my goals is to finish reading it, and then start digging in and revising again. I'd also love to find a few more critique partners, so if you're interested...

I also want to write some more short stories, although I currently have no ideas. I'd also love to start something entirely new, but I only have an inkling of an idea, and no conflict or anything yet, so. I'm kind of in a slump with writing at the moment.

WHAT INSPIRES ME RIGHT NOW

Pascal Campion's art is gorgeous. I could look at it all day. I think my favourite thing about his art is that it tells a story.

Ahh so pretty.

WHAT ELSE I'VE BEEN UP TO

School! What else is new? Going into the fourth week back, and I've finally become a little bit motivated. Oh, I also spent the evening with my best friend on Saturday, and we went to two different bookstores, and then we went back to her place to watch the CBC adaptation of the Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill. Both the book and the mini-series are very, very good and if you have not read the book, you should, and if you have, watch the CBC mini series!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Review: Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

I picked DAIRY QUEEN up from the library because it was recommended to me on Twitter after I asked for contemporary recommendations. I ended up reading it because I knew it would be an easier read and I needed something fluffier after reading a bunch of intensely emotional books.



When I started this book, I didn't really expect much. I expected it to be fun, and since it was first person, maybe kind of annoying, but ultimately bearable and in the end, forgettable. I was pleasantly surprised, however, when it turned out to be much better than I expected and I didn't have trouble slogging through it at all.

DAIRY QUEEN is about the main character, D.J., and her ups and downs with her family, an annoying football jock from a rival high school who has been sent to her family's farm by his football coach to do hard work, and her relationship with football, a sport she loves.

I've read a lot of first person POV books of young teenage girls that are just irritating. Authors somehow seem to think that as long as the MC is snappy and sarcastic, they'll be interesting, but it's so overdone and frankly boring. D.J. was not like that at all. She was unabashedly herself, and while she was sarcastic, it was just a pure, innocent humor that just made me like her that much more. D.J. was like that person that you meet at school who you can immediately tell they are the sweetest person ever and after five minutes of talking with them you feel like you could be best friends. 

Another thing I appreciated about D.J.'s POV was that she didn't ignore the obvious, like when some first person POV narrators constantly deny that they like their love interest, or other obvious things. D.J. was open and honest about everything with herself, which was quite refreshing.

The best thing, though, was how D.J. came to conclusions about her life and who she is on her own. She wasn't validated of her beauty or whatever by her love interest or anyone else. She was the one who changed her mind, and she was the one that took the initiative to get places and change her own thoughts about herself.

If you want a fun, relaxing read with a happy and silly young narrator like D.J., I'd encourage you to check this book out! 

Check it out on Goodreads here. 
Check it out on Book Depository here, as well as Amazon.com and Amazon.ca.
Check out the author on her website here.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Around the World Reading Challenge

Hello! I found this reading challenge while browsing Twitter one day, the Around the World Reading Challenge 2015. It's a challenge where you keep track of the places where the books you read are set, and then you mark those places on a Google map throughout the year. Part of the challenge is also to encourage people to read more diversely, so that their dots are all over the world rather than mostly just in North America or the U.S. I have to admit that most of the books I read are set in the U.S., just because when you pick up YA books, that's usually where they are set. It's a lot of work to find lots and lots of books that are set in unique places all around the world. 



But, this year I have decided to commit to doing the work of seeking out books with non-U.S. settings. I think I am even going to try to read more books set outside of the U.S. this year than books with U.S. settings. Why not? I think it'd be fun, and a way to encourage me to read more diversely which I'm always trying to do. 

One of the mini challenges in the challenge is to read a book set in each U.S. state, but since I've read lots of books set in the U.S. already, and since I'm Canadian, I thought I'd try to read a book set in every Canadian province and territory instead. I know there are only 13 provinces and territories compared to 50 states, but it is significantly harder to find books set in Canada that I actually find interesting enough to want to read. (Like there are lots of books set in the Yukon but most that I've found so far are historical fiction about the gold rush, which I'm not really interested in).

Anyone interested in joining this challenge with me? Also, do you have any book recommendations for books set in Canada, or just anywhere outside of the U.S.? 

Oh and you can check out my map here, if you want to see where I've journeyed in my reading so far this year! :) 





Tuesday, January 13, 2015

How to Find Your Favourite Book

Today I am going to tell you the story of how I ended up finding my favourite books, probably the top two being Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta (and Saving Francesca and The Piper's Son by her) and Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt. 



I found Jellicoe Road because I read an interview that YA Highway had with Melina Marchetta, and I thought the concept sounded interesting, so a few weeks or months later I picked it up at the library, not knowing at all that I would fall in love and discover my first favourite book ever. Before Jellicoe Road, whenever people asked my what my favourite book was, or what I thought the best book ever was, I shrugged and said I liked too many books to answer that, or that I had a hundred favourites. Now I have an answer, and it's this book. Of course, this led to me wanting to gobble up everything Melina Marchetta, and I did so and loved it (with the exception of Looking for Alibrandi, but I think I'm going to give that one a second chance). 



Okay for Now I put on my TBR list because I liked the cover, and picked it up at the library eventually. Even when I started it, I didn't feel like it was anything special, just a simple story with a fairly typical character. I'd read a bunch of books in a similar vein; the cutesy, small town MG. However, there was some moment two thirds of the way through when something clicked and I saw just how brilliant Gary D. Schmidt's writing was and all of the cleverly subtle things he did to craft a beautiful story, with intricately complicated and tender characters and the main character maybe was typical, but Doug is now my precious and one of those characters I'd protect at all costs.

So there is no step by step guide on how to find your favourite book. All of my favourite books I've just stumbled upon. I had no idea when I opened Okay for Now, or even when I was halfway through, that it would end up being one of my favourite books of all time. 

How do you find your favourite book then? Read. Read lots. There are many quotes from people about how there is no one who doesn't like reading, just people who have not yet found that one book that they love. There are soo many books out there, and I promise you, there is one for you. There is one book that will make you feel not alone and special and warm and fuzzy and make you think or whatever you need to love a book. 

But you also need to work to find that favourite book. You need to read lots, because if you never read, you are obviously not going to find your favourite book. I read 109 books this past year, and I really only fell in love with a few. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed a lot more than that, but not all of them make me feel incredibly, undeniably happy or blown away. And despite that, I trudge onward, knowing that any of the next 100 books I pick up could be my new favourite. But I will have no idea until I read them. 

What's your favourite book, or have you not found yours yet?

"There is no such thing as a child who hates to read; there are only children who have not found the right book."  -Frank Serafini

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Alyssa Recommends Fantasy

Fantasy is probably one of my favourite genres (and my second most read genre in 2014), although that's mostly because I'm just interested in reading good books, and for some reason a lot of fantasy books end up falling into the category of good books. Maybe it has something to do with how in order to write a good fantasy, writers really have to go all out to create in-depth worlds and characters, I don't know. Anyway! Here are some of my favourite fantasies. 

1. The Queen's Thief Series by Megan Whalen Turner



I can't really say anything about this series because any spoilers would just tarnish the entire brilliance of the books. I can say however that MWT is a genius, and she creates awesome characters and awesome story. You never know what's going to happen, and she is the queen of twists. I also really appreciate how clean and to the point her writing is. Everything she includes is there for a reason. I've read the four books about three times now, and King of Attolia (third book) about five or six times, and I discover new things each time I read them. And if you really need more convincing, R.J. Anderson wrote a lovely non-spoiler-y review of the series here.  
  2. The Lumatere Chronicles by Melina Marchetta


Come on, all my lists of my favourite books have to include my favourite author. I have to admit I put off reading the first book in this series, Finnikin of the Rock, for a long time considering MM wrote my favourite book of all time, Jellicoe Road. I just had trouble getting through the first few pages, but once I did get through that confusion, I read and fell in love with the heartbreaking story and characters that Melina Marchetta had once again created. MM is amazing at characters, and that is what I read for - characters. Froi of the Exiles was just as heartbreaking (although sometimes confusing), but Quintana of Charyn, the final book in the series, wrapped it up perfectly staying true to the characters, story, world while at the same time providing a message of hope. Belle at Belle's Bookshelf wrote a wonderful post that explains ten reasons why you should read this series.



3. Seraphina by Rachel Hartman



This was one of the best fantasies I've read in a long time! The concept of dragons in human form cavorting around with humans and the political and racial (species?) tensions between them was so interesting and different. The writing was clean and crisp, just like Megan Whalen Turner's, and the characters were perfectly well rounded and I loved the development of the relationships between them. I'm super excited for the second book, Shadowscale, which comes out in March 2015! (Also my copy of Seraphina has a shiny cover which is super fun).

4. Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson



The thing I liked about this fantasy was that it was not in a European setting, which was refreshing for a fantasy. Eliza's character was also really well-written and interesting. There was also an aspect on religion, which is not always present in YA. 

5. The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo



I saw the first book in this series, Shadow and Bone, EVERYWHERE before I started reading it - and thankfully this was one of the few times where the book actually lived up to the hype! It was a very different fantasy, very dark and the setting was Russian-inspired. My mom and brother also read the series. I think the third book is the best, which is good because that is how it is supposed to be in a trilogy (*cough*allegiant*cough*).

6. The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski





Another book that lived up to the hype! I was excited to finally get my hands on it, and I was even more excited that I liked it. An interesting story and good characters, what more could you ask for?

7. The Princess Bride by William Goldman



Genius, a classic, and hilarious. 

There you go! Some great fantasies. Read them and get lost in their awesome worlds and characters. :)  
  
What are your recommendations for good fantasy books? 


Thursday, January 1, 2015

Review of All the Books I Read in 2014

It's my annual tradition to stuff all of the book reviews I could have done throughout the year into one post (although I did do more individual reviews this year thanks to the A to Z challenge I did), so here you go! This year I read 109 books, compared to last year when I read 57 (although this year I wasn't taking any English courses where I had to read books, so).

Best Books of 2014

The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo - An interesting fantasy with a Russian-inspired setting. Lived up to all the hype!

Quintana of Charyn by Melina Marchetta - Perfect, heartwarming ending to series full of sorrow, heartbreak, and good characters. 


The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater - An interesting series with good characters! (The Dream Thieves is probably my favourite though). 

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell - Stephanie Perkins and Rainbow Rowell are on the top of my list of YA romance authors. They write the best romances. 

A Voice in the Wind by Francine Rivers - A powerful book that is written so well and doesn't shy away from anything. I'm not a huge reader of historical fiction, but this one (and it's sequel) was so worth it. 


Charm and Strange by Stephanie Kuehn - A brilliantly written, painful book. I think everyone should read it. 

Books I Bought in 2014


The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo - After I read Shadow and Bone, I knew I'd like the sequels (and that the wait at the library would be FOREVER), so I bought them!

Quintana of Charyn by Melina Marchetta  - I have to own all of the Marchetta. 

The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater - I bought The Raven Boys and The Dream Thieves after I read The Raven Boys, and then I bought Blue Lily, Lily Blue as soon as it came out in October!

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell - I loved Eleanor and Park, so I knew another romance by Rainbow Rowell I would want to own. I was right!

Reason for God by Timothy Keller - I bought it because I knew I would want to lend it out to people. An interesting read. 

How to Love by Katie Cotugno - I kind of wish I hadn't bought this book, since it didn't live up to the hype. 


Of Two Minds by Carol Matas and Perry Nodelman - This is a super unique MG fantasy that I read when I was younger, and I found it at a charity book sale so I bought it (for like $2!) It's also available on Kobo, I think. 

Shut Out by Kody Keplinger - I liked Kody Keplinger's other books, The DUFF and A Midsummer's Nightmare so I was hoping I would like this one... I didn't.

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater - Got this one at a charity book sale. It was really good! 

Dead Ends by Jade Erin Lange - I was hoping this would be better than it was. 


13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher - I read this once in high school and it made an impression on me, so when I saw it at the book sale for $1, I thought I'd buy it and reread it - just as good and important the second time. 

Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins - I will buy all of Stephanie Perkins books until she stops writing. 

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz - I bought it because of the hype. It wasn't as good as I thought it would be, but I liked the family dynamic and the writing was decent. 


The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutoski - Bought because of recommendations from Megan Whalen Turner fans - thankfully it lived up to the hype (and I was able to get my brother to read it)!

The Secret History by Donna Tartt - I only bought this book because the line was like 20 people long at the library, but I actually really liked it (even though it's kind of a horrible book as far as content). It's basically a modern Greek tragedy, if that explains anything. 


Water Book One: Ascension by Kara Dalkey - Again, got it at the book sale! I'd read it in middle school and thought it was the best mermaid book ever. It still is. 

The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson - I bought it because it was $1.50 at Dollarama, of all places. It was good. 

Home of Our Hearts by Robin Jones Gunn - RJG is one of my favourite authors, so of course I have to have her latest book. 

Ingo by Helen Dunmore - From the book sale for like $1.50 - it was a good mermaid MG. 

And I just bought Althea & Oliver by Cristina Moracho, Wild by Cheryl Strayed and Complicit by Stephanie Kuehn yesterday, so I have yet to read them - but I will let you know how they go!

Books I Reread in 2014

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo - so I could remember what happened when I read the rest of the trilogy after I bought them. 

The Raven Boys and The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater - Because they were good and I wanted to enjoy them again - also I missed so much stuff the first time!!

The Piper's Son by Melina Marchetta

Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta - My tenth reread of this wonderful book, and I STILL find new things.

Codename Verity by Elizabeth Wein - I'd forgotten most of what happened, so it was just as good the second time around. 


The Queen's Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner -   MWT is a genius, and in my third reread I still find new hidden gems. 

The Christy Miller series by Robin Jones Gunn - read in anticipation of the newest release, Forever With You! 

13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Of Two Minds by Perry Nodelman and Carol Matas

Worst Books of 2014

The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler - It turns out a book about Facebook is just not that interesting. 

Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig


Nobody But Us by Kristin Halbrook - So much problematic stuff in this book. (Actually now that I think about it, I bought this as an ebook. I'm trying to forget that I did).
Ultraviolet by R.J. Anderson - Poorly written, misrepresentation and other problems. 

Wildefire by Karsten Knight - Nothing happens, nothing gets resolved, the characters were bland, and the writing was horrible and cliche. 

The Crying Tree by Naseem Rakha - Way too cheesy and fluffy for me, with surface level description and characterization. 

So there you go! A quick summary of my year in reading, although of course there were other books that I enjoyed but weren't in either extreme of best or worst. As for 2015... I still want to read lots of books (my TBR list is filling up from all these end of year recommendations!) and I also want to try and read more diversely. Ideally I'd love to get my blog up and running regularly, but it's easy to think like that when I don't have school to worry about, so we'll see. 

What about you? What were your best or worst reads of 2014? Have you read some of the books I did this year? Did you like them or not? 

Happy New Year!



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