January + February 2018 Wrap-Up

Hey all!

Soooo, I’ve been playing around with my site a bit, and I stumbled across the ability to add wrap-ups easy peasy into posts. I thought this would be a fun way to close out each month! We’ll see how long it lasts.

And since I discovered this with three days left in February, you get a double hit of the wrap-ups in one post! Yay me not figuring things on out time.

January Reads

January wasn’t too bad of a month for me. I feel like I started 2018 off with a bang and really hit my reading grove. I started off strong, but then the books got just alright.

  1. [8 Jan] The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin ★★★★★
  2. [15 Jan] The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick ★★★★
  3. [22 Jan] Resilience: Navigating Life, Loss, and the Road to Success by Lisa Lisson ★★★
  4. [29 Jan] Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor ★★★

February Reads

I think the biggest win for February was finishing off the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series which has been on my shelf for yeeeaaars. I’ve kept them because they’re pretty, but now I can say I’ve also read them! Although they weren’t my favourite, I’m glad I finally made it through.

  1. [13 Feb] Days of Blood & Starlight by Laini Taylor ★★★½
  2. [20 Feb] Dreams of Gods & Monsters (Daughter of Smoke & Bone, #3) by Laini Taylor ★★★½
  3. [27 Feb] Darkfever by Karen Marie Moning ★★★★
  4. [28 Feb] January + February 2018 Wrap-Up

Alright guys, that’s all for this one! What did you guys read in the month of February?

Darkfever

Darkfever by Karen Marie Moning
Published by Dell on August 28th 2007
Genres: urban fantasy
Pages: 349
Goodreads

"My name is MacKayla, Mac for short. I'm a sidhe-seer, one who sees the Fae, a fact I accepted only recently and very reluctantly.


My philosophy is pretty simple - any day nobody's trying to kill me is a good day in my book. I haven't had many good days lately. Not since the walls between Man and Fae came down. But then, there's not a sidhe-seer alive who's had a good day since then."

When MacKayla's sister was murdered, she left a single clue to her death, a cryptic message on Mac's cell phone. Journeying to Ireland in search of answers, Mac is soon faced with an even greater challenge: staying alive long enough to master a power she had no idea she possessed - a gift that allows her to see beyond the world of man, into the dangerous realm of the Fae.

As Mac delves deeper into the mystery of her sister's death, her every move is shadowed by the dark, mysterious Jericho...while at the same time, the ruthless V'lane - an alpha Fae who makes sex an addiction for human women - closes in on her. As the boundary between worlds begins to crumble, Mac's true mission becomes clear: to find the elusive Sinsar Dubh before someone else claims the all-powerful Dark Book - because whoever gets to it first holds nothing less than complete control both worlds in their hands.

This is my second time reading Darkfever and I’m intrigued but also annoyed.

I love the plot. Give me almost anything set in Ireland and I’m in. All of the history/geography seems to be really well researched, which adds SO much texture to the story. It’s one of those books where I felt like I was walking beside the main character the entire time, looking through her eyes.

The main issue I had was MacKayla herself. Her entire attitude is the self indulgent “I’m young but I know everything” attitude. Like, look. You flew to Ireland because your sister was MURDERED. You find out monsters exist. A man who knows WAY more about monsters than you do decides to save your ass. But do you listen to him? No. You think you can handle the world so you just continue almost getting killed. I know he’s an ass, but come on?! I spent most of the book wanting to punch Mac in the face, honestly.

The other issue I had was Jericho. Not with the character himself, per say. I just had a very hard time building a mental image of him. When my mind is trying to convert the story into a nice little movie, I don’t know quite how to picture him. I’m hoping this gets better for me as the books go.

As I said, the plot was great. I’ll definitely continue reading it just for that. Also because I already own the second.

One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

Dreams of Gods and Monsters

Dreams of Gods & Monsters (Daughter of Smoke & Bone, #3) by Laini Taylor
on April 8th 2014
Genres: fantasy, young adult
Pages: 613
Goodreads

Two worlds are poised on the brink of a vicious war. By way of a staggering deception, Karou has taken control of the chimaera's rebellion and is intent on steering its course away from dead-end vengeance. The future rests on her.

When the brutal angel emperor brings his army to the human world, Karou and Akiva are finally reunited - not in love, but in a tentative alliance against their common enemy. It is a twisted version of their long-ago dream, and they begin to hope that it might forge a way forward for their people. And, perhaps, for themselves.

But with even bigger threats on the horizon, are Karou and Akiva strong enough to stand among the gods and monsters?

The New York Times bestselling Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy comes to a stunning conclusion as - from the streets of Rome to the caves of the Kirin and beyond - humans, chimaera, and seraphim strive, love, and die in an epic theater that transcends good and evil, right and wrong, friend and enemy.

After reading the first two books in this trilogy without being super blown away, I was interested to see how Laini Taylor planned on ending it. I was also a little apprehensive. I was terribly afraid it would quickly turn into a “and everyone lived happily ever after” scenario.

I’m really glad (but also kind of sad) that it didn’t end out that way.

This book was dark. We’ve got smart Karou back, although she’s tired and so done with everything that’s going on. We’ve got her and Akiva on minimal speaking terms, but it’s enough. We’ve got the whole gang of awesome characters ready to fight a war that no one really wants to fight. Let’s gather everyone and kick some butt!

The stand out for me, character wise, in this book was Liraz. I loved her character development, even though it might not have always been straight forward. In the first book, I didn’t like her. By the end of Gods & Monsters, I had a profound understanding for why she is the way she is.

I felt so bad for Ziri throughout this book. Boy got the short end of the stick more often than not. His story line broke my heart the most, I think.

The one main thing I wasn’t a huge fan of was the back story to Akiva and his powers. Maybe it was because we didn’t start learning about it fully until this book (or was it the second?), but I just felt like it wasn’t as flushed out as it could have been. It was like we were told a legend about creation and expected to accept it without any questions. It just bothered me how that entire plot was handled.

I have mixed feelings about the ending, but I’m kind of happy it ended the way it did. I think it was a good compromise. I know that explains nothing, but if you read the books, let me know if you agree.

Really, I’m just happy I finally finished this trilogy. It’s been sitting on my shelf for far too long. And whether or not I like the stories, Laini Taylor has wonderful writing.

One StarOne StarOne StarHalf a Star

Days of Blood and Starlight

Days of Blood & Starlight by Laini Taylor
on November 6th 2012
Genres: fantasy, young adult
Pages: 517
Goodreads

Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love and dared to imagine a world free of bloodshed and war.

This is not that world.

Art student and monster's apprentice Karou finally has the answers she has always sought. She knows who she is—and what she is. But with this knowledge comes another truth she would give anything to undo: She loved the enemy and he betrayed her, and a world suffered for it.

In this stunning sequel to the highly acclaimed Daughter of Smoke & Bone, Karou must decide how far she'll go to avenge her people. Filled with heartbreak and beauty, secrets and impossible choices, Days of Blood & Starlight finds Karou and Akiva on opposing sides as an age-old war stirs back to life.

While Karou and her allies build a monstrous army in a land of dust and starlight, Akiva wages a different sort of battle: a battle for redemption. For hope.

But can any hope be salvaged from the ashes of their broken dream?

As the middle book in a trilogy, Days of Blood and Starlight wasn’t half bad. The plot was a little slow, but that’s because it’s creating a slow build up to the third and final book.

My only real issue with this entire book was Karou.

Oh, uh, spoilers.

I understand that Karou has just basically lost everything and everyone that she loves. I get that. Betrayal is extra devastating. But she gets so…caught up?…in her grief that she stops being Karou. I don’t know if that’s me being uncompassionate, but come on. She’s a smart girl and she closes her eyes to some OBVIOUS shit. Mostly regarding the White Wolf. It aggravated me a lot that I just had to sit by and watch stupid Karou make stupid mistakes while her stupid heart was broken.

I felt intensely sorry for Akiva, even though he’s the one that messed up and got people into this mess. I just..ugh, I don’t know. I feel like he screws things up, tries to apologize, but no one gives a shit that he’s made a mistake. Look, just because the guy’s an angel doesn’t mean he doesn’t mess up.

Days of Blood and Starlight is where I really started to connect with the characters, which was fantastic. Karou I still had issues with, but Zuzana and Mik I absolutely LOVED. I would take Zuze as a best friend any day of the week. I can understand why Karou doesn’t let her in immediately to the Fantastic World of Beasts, but I feel bad that Zuze has to basically fight her to be let in.

Gaining more insight into Akiva and his siblings was fantastic. They become more human (ironic) than in Daughter, where I felt they were just out to kill everyone. Although, this book still has a lot of killing. But it makes you realize how senseless violence is, and how tiring it can be.

On the plus side, there was no insta-love, so that was an improvement for me. We get a darker, grittier, emotional feelz between the characters. Which is an improvement, but still not my favourite. I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again. A lot of relationships in books could be solved with some simple communication. It would save everyone so much heartache.

One StarOne StarOne StarHalf a Star

Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor
on September 27th 2011
Genres: fantasy, young adult
Pages: 422
Goodreads

Around the world, black hand prints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grows dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherworldly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real, she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious "errands", she speaks many languages - not all of them human - and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out.

When beautiful, haunted Akiva fixes fiery eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?

A little backstory about this series before I start my review. I’ve owned the entire trilogy since Daughter of Smoke and Bone came out in 2011. That’s 7 years these guys sat on my shelf. I originally bought them 1) for the covers, 2) I love things set in Prague, and 3) the plot seemed really intriguing.

I read Daughter about a year after it came out. I was not a fan. I loved the setting, the characters were fun, the plot was okay, but it didn’t do anything for me. Which is shown by the fact that it took me 5-6 years to continue the series even though they sat on my shelf the entire time.

This could get a bit spoilery from here on out, FYI.

Although Karou was fun, I had issues with her personality. I can understand parts of it, she just comes across as whiny. This didn’t get any better in my opinion.

Akiva was cute but he didn’t really do anything for me. His personality seemed very empty.

The main issue I had was the insta-love. The backstory behind that slowly gets explained, but I just couldn’t get on board with it. It seemed very fake to me. I can’t even explain why.

I loved the atmosphere and the universe Laini Taylor created, though, and I think that is what drew me back to this series. In order to continue with them, I had to go back and read Daughter since I legit could not remember a single thing that happened in it. This time around I understood things a bit better, and although I still wasn’t 100% on board with the insta-love, I made it through all right. The rest of the story mattered more to me this time.

I definitely liked it better this time and I’m glad I did a reread. There’s a lot of things I glossed over the first time, which is likely me being an impatient reader. But Laini Taylor is a fantastic writer, which I appreciated more this read. I liked it enough to finish the series, so stay tuned for those reviews!

One StarOne StarOne Star

Resilience

Resilience: Navigating Life, Loss, and the Road to Success by Lisa Lisson
Published by ECW Press on October 17th 2017
Genres: memoir
Pages: 240
Goodreads

Lisa Lisson’s life seemed perfect: she had married her high school sweetheart, applied her marketing degree to a position at FedEx Express Canada, and risen to become a vice president (and would ultimately become president) of the company. One night, after putting their four children to bed, her husband, Patrick, marvelled that their lives seemed perfectly happy.

Just a few hours later, everything changed.

One moment Lisa was sleeping beside Patrick, and the next, she was kneeling on the floor beside his unconscious body frantically administering CPR. Patrick had had a massive heart attack and was in a coma, and the doctors were blunt: there was no hope. But for the next two years, Lisa stood by his side and awaited a miracle, while continuing to balance life as a high-powered executive and mother of four.

Part leadership guide, part memoir of loss, and part personal empowerment primer on how to achieve your goals no matter what the universe throws at you, Resilience is an inspirational story about how to rise to the top in a man’s world, triumph over adversity, lead a fulfilling life, and live each day with purpose and gratitude.

I received this book in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. Pinky swear!

First off, Lisa Lisson, I applaud you. You are a strong, fierce, independent woman and I am sorry you’ve had to go through the things you have, although I have a feeling you’re the type to tell me it’s alright because you learned from it. I’m applauding you anyway.

Lisa really knows how to pull heart strings. The book starts off with a punch to the gut and it just continues from there. I found myself immediately drawn into the story and the issues Lisa was facing. You could almost feel the panic and sheer distraught coming off the page. Although I felt bad because I knew these were actual events that had happened to someone, I was hooked and wanted to keep reading.

Alternating with these heartbreaking chapters were chapters about Lisa’s rise to the top of FedEx. They begin with her telling us why she chose to work at FedEx and then detailed her climb up the corporate ladder. These chapters were less exciting for me but they were short enough that it didn’t bother me too much. The most insightful part of these chapters were learning that even if you’re a bigwig, you still get anxious when you’re in the process of getting promoted to bigger wig. These chapters just lacked a little bit for me. Maybe I wish there’d been more solid advice here, but I don’t think that’s what this book was trying to achieve.

The biggest downside to Resilience for me was the repetitiveness. I found that, especially near the end, a lot of thoughts and explanations of her career were repeated. It didn’t take away from the story too much, but it happened enough that I started looking forward to the book being over. Besides that little hitch, I was a little sad when the book finished.

I won’t lie, it was also pretty cool to read a book that takes place in Ontario, since that doesn’t happen very much with what I read!

The one piece of advice that I will be taking away from this is creating a list of goals as a leader for your department, with input from your employees. It seems like such a simple concept but I’d never thought of it before!

One StarOne StarOne Star

The Man in The High Castle

The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick
Published by Penguin on September 6th 2001
Genres: science fiction
Pages: 249
Goodreads

It's America in 1962. Slavery is legal once again. The few Jews who still survive hide under assumed names. In San Francisco the I Ching is as common as the Yellow Pages. All because some 20 years earlier the United States lost a war, and is now occupied jointly by Nazi Germany and Japan.

I’m not even really sure how to sum up my feelings about this book.

I sort of understood what was going on, but at the same time I had no idea. Normally this would make me dislike a book, but I think that was the point of The Man in the High Castle.

I love that there was really no hero, no big lead up to some final climax (not really), and no big love story. You’re legit just reading a book about what could have happened if the Allies had lost, and Germany and Japan had split up the States like a little cake. Or are you.

The choppy sentences were a bit hard to deal with sometimes, but I understood that Dick was trying to get across just how much Japanese influence there would be in America if they’d won.

I liked the idea of a book within a book as well. It tied all of the characters together in a more solid way, and it made it almost seem like there was an awakening happening. Like you knew people were reading this book and realizing how different the world could have been if the Allies had won. Which was kind of funny to read as someone from the universe where the Allies won.

It was slightly scary to read, but made me very grateful for what I have today because of the sacrifices that others made before me. The ending also sort of made me distrust my own universe, but I don’t want to get into it. The ending was the most confusing part.

Have you read Philip K Dick? This was my first foray into his work and I will definitely be reading more.

One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

The Happiness Project

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
Published by HarperCollins Publishers Ltd on April 16th 2012
Genres: memoir
Pages: 336
Goodreads

Gretchen Rubin had an epiphany one rainy afternoon in the unlikeliest of places: a city bus. "The days are long, but the years are short," she realized. "Time is passing, and I'm not focusing enough on the things that really matter." In that moment, she decided to dedicate a year to her happiness project.

Rubin didn't have the option to uproot herself, nor did she really want to; instead she focused on improving her life as it was. Each month she tackled a new set of resolutions: give proofs of love, ask for help, find more fun, keep a gratitude notebook, forget about results. She immersed herself in principles set forth by all manner of experts, from Epicurus to Thoreau to Oprah to Martin Seligman to the Dalai Lama to see what worked for her—and what didn't.

Her conclusions are sometimes surprising—she finds that money can buy happiness, when spent wisely; that novelty and challenge are powerful sources of happiness; that "treating" yourself can make you feel worse; that venting bad feelings doesn't relieve them; that the very smallest of changes can make the biggest difference—and they range from the practical to the profound.

The Happiness Project is the last book I read in 2017. A friend lent it to me at the beginning of the year and it just sat on my shelf, but that friend and I got into a discussion around Christmas about the book and I decided to pick it up. After reading the first chapter, I challenged myself to read it before midnight on New Year’s Eve. Challenge accepted, me! I finished it at about 8pm that night.

I don’t entirely know what I expected going into The Happiness Project. I’d heard bunches about it, and I knew the general premise, but I didn’t know if any of it would be relatable. I consider myself a fairly happy person. The idea that someone spent an entire year of their life dedicated to making themselves happier just felt, weird?, to me.

The thing about The Happiness Project is that it’s completely relatable while also giving us examples of how each of the resolutions affected Gretchen’s life. So we had the theory behind things and then the proof of how they can work (or not). What made it even more relatable to me was the inclusion of people’s responses from her blog. For almost every resolution, Gretchen posted the question on her blog and included the answers in her book. It was interesting to see how different people interpreted her resolutions or made up their own that related.

There were a couple of things that I took away instantly from the book and started incorporating into my life immediately. I have no idea why they resonated with me so much, but they’ve definitely made small improvements to my happiness.

1. If it takes less than a minute to do, do it right now instead of putting it off.

2. Happiness comes from within, not without.

3. Pursue a passion and forget about the results.

4. Be aware of how your attitude/happiness affects others.

Even if you aren’t looking at improving your happiness, I think you should read this book. I guarantee you that you’ll take something away from it without even trying. I did! Plus, Gretchen’s writing is superb, hilarious, and flowing. It made it enjoyable to read while also teaching me something.

All in all, this was a great way to end 2017 and I’m 100% sure it’s going to help shape my 2018 into a better year.

One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

2018 Resolutions

Happy 2018, y’all!

I rang 2018 in curled up in bed, with my cat, finishing up a book, and thinking about how I want this year to go. As everyone is likely doing, I’ve made some resolutions. But because I ended 2017 reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, my resolutions for this year are a little different. (Review coming soon on the book. Spoiler: Go get it, it’ll change your outlook.)

These aren’t all necessarily book related, but some of them cover both books and my life in general. And as Gretchen says, the difference between resolutions and goals is that these aren’t an end destination. Resolutions are things I’m looking at incorporating into my life. So, here goes.

  1. Forgive myself more. This one applies to both books and life. In 2017, I read about a third of what I did in 2016 and I felt terrible about it to begin with. But I realized it’s not a race and the only one putting pressure on myself is me. So, I’d like to work on forgiving myself for things that I shouldn’t be harping on myself for in the first place.
  2. Read what I want. In both 2016 and 2017 I found the vast network that is booktube and fell down a nice little rabbit hole. I started to buy books that I never would have picked up just by myself. This has been both a good and a bad thing. I’ve read some amazing books that I otherwise would have never found, but it also means that I got caught up in reading what other people thought were good books and not necessarily what thought I’d like to read.
  3. Cull often. This plays off #2. I’ve got a ton of books on my shelves that I’m likely never going to read because I bought them in that booktube whirlwind. Why keep them? Someone else can enjoy them. This is also a little more broad. Why keep clothes I don’t wear? Cull those. Activities I spend time on that I don’t really like? Take them out of the calendar. People I don’t really want to spend time with? Well, maybe don’t cull them out completely. But I’ll make more time for the people that I truly care about. (Is there a way to word that without sounding like a bitch?)
  4. Stop making excuses. Ohhhh boy, this will be a hard one. I’ve always been one of those people who makes excuses not to do something because I’m too lazy to do it. Example: I should go to the gym today, but I went Monday, so I can skip today and I’ll just go next week. No, no Mackenzie. You do the things you said you’d do now. The only person losing out is me when I make these excuses.
  5. Live in my passions. Funny enough, this is also a part of #4. If you asked my two top passions, I’d answer in a heartbeat: reading and writing. If you asked me how often I do both of these activities, I’d stutter out a soft “uhhh” followed by an excuse. If these are the things I love doing, why am I not doing them more often? Fear of failure is one of my biggest excuses for not writing more. But who cares? I can write without a book ever seeing the light of day and I’d still love writing a book. Or having a book written, I doubt any writer really loves the torture that is the process of writing a book. My excuse for not reading as much as I like is either because I’m too tired to put forth the mental energy, or because I’ve gotten caught up in reading a book I’m not really that interested in. This is something I’d desperately like to change. There’s too many books out there that I want to read, I shouldn’t be wasting my time on books that I’m only half interested in.
  6. Be happy. This is another tidbit I took away from The Happiness Project. Happiness is not something that is found without, you carry it within. For the most part, I am happy. I’m one of those weird cheery people that is usually always smiling. But there’s always room for growth, and there’s always room for more happiness. I’d like to find more within myself.

So, there are my 6 resolutions for this year. Tell me if you made any resolutions for 2018!

-M

Weirdo

Weirdo by Cathi Unsworth
Published by House of Anansi Press (Canada) on September 30th 2013
Genres: mystery
Pages: 408
Goodreads

Corinne Woodrow was fifteen when she was convicted of the ritualistic murder of her classmate in a quaint seaside town. It was 1984, a year when teenagers ran wild, dressed in black, stayed out all night, and listened to music that terrified their parents. Rumours of Satanism surrounded Corinne and she was locked up indefinitely, a chilling reminder to the parents of Ernemouth to keep a watchful eye on their children.

Twenty years later, private investigator Sean Ward — whose promising career as a detective with the Metropolitan Police was cut short by a teenager with a gun — reopens the case after new forensic evidence suggests that Corinne didn’t act alone. His investigation uncovers a town full of secrets, and a community that has always looked after its own.

I wanted Weirdo sooooo bad when I first saw it on Chapters. That cover, that synopsis. I had to have it!

(A bit of backstory: I have a slightly unhealthy obsession with anything murder related. The psychology of different people, especially criminals, hits all of my interest buttons.)

It’s October and I figured it was the perfect time to pick this darling up. Sadly, I was not as thrilled by it as I thought I was going to be.

The story itself is pretty interesting. The two different timelines (in the 80s leading up to the murder and in the 2000s when it’s being re-investigated) are interesting and insightful, but I think they make the book longer than it needs to be. You get to know the main people that were involved in the murder, while also kind of sort of learning about Sean Ward and his investigation into the murder. But there’s so much backstory with both that it I just felt like I was learning about people and completely forgot it had to do with a murder half the time.

Maybe I was just expecting something else, as I don’t really read much mystery, but it didn’t feel very mysterious to me. The plot-ish twist at the ending got a “huh, alright” from me, but that’s about it. And the ending after that felt super rushed. It’s like you received this nugget of information and the characters went “well, that’s that” and went home for the night. The entire build-up of the book is figuring out if Corinne did the murder herself and I feel like it wasn’t treated as the climax it should have been.

I guess overall I was just meh with the entire thing. I read it, though, so there’s that.

One StarOne StarOne Star