Sunday, May 6, 2018

Hamilton: The Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter

Thoughts at a glance: **** (I really liked it)

Summary: This is a large, photo-filled, coffee-table book about the musical Hamilton, which (in case you have no exposure to pop culture whatsoever [in which case, how'd you find my obscure little blog???]) is a hip hop musical about Alexander Hamilton.

Thoughts: While I do actually own a physical copy of this book (which is awesome, by the way), I chose to listen to this as an audiobook. The book itself consists mainly of the full libretto of the musical (with annotations from LMM himself about the various lyrics and musical lines, etc.), with short "behind the scenes" chapters interspersed throughout, lining up chronologically with the songs at times, and discussing the history of the musical itself from all different angles: the writing, the development, the choreography, everything.

The audiobook gives you all the chapters first, with an introduction from co-writer Jeremy McCarter (as in, he wrote the chapter parts of the book) and the actual text read by actress Mariska Hargitay. And then AFTER all the chapters are over, you get LMM reading the annotations to the songs, but you kind of have to have the book itself to know what he's referring to. (The audiobook makes mention of an accompanying PDF of the songs, but I didn't know how to access that, since I was listening through my Audible app and was driving for most my listening sessions anyway.)

Again, I have the book itself, but since my daughter has decided to take it for herself like a dragon hoarding its treasure, this listen was the first I'd actually "read" it. If you're a fan of the musical, and if you're a fan of music/theater/writing/everything creative that went into the process of building this already-legendary show, then you will totally love this book, in whatever form. I loved hearing about individual songs. I loved hearing about the cast members. I loved hearing about everyone else who had a major part in creating this show in addition to Lin. I know this is the sort of book that any Hamilton fan would want to have anyway, but if you haven't actually had a chance to READ through it, I definitely recommend sitting down with it.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

A Court of Frost and Starlight by Sarah J. Maas

Thoughts at a glance: **** (I really liked it)

This is officially designated book 3.1 of the ACOTAR series, meaning that it's not a full novel, but it is a follow-up to the third book. It's kind of a sequel--an epilogue, really--that sets up the spinoff novels that will come out in the future.

This review may contain spoilers for the previous books in the series. For those reviews, please see below:
Book 1: A Court of Thorns and Roses
Book 2: A Court of Mist and Fury
Book 3: A Court of Wings and Ruin

Summary: Hybern has been defeated, and for now, Prythian is trying to put itself back together and maintain the peace that they fought so hard for. For Feyre, now back with her beloved Rhys and their Night Court, it means settling into her duties as the High Lady.

This includes not just the typical responsibilities to their people and their kingdom, but also sorting out the aftermath of everything they just went through (losing her father, nearly losing Rhys), helping her sisters settle into their new lives (not always successfully), and finding her place in this new world.

For Rhys, it also includes managing dissension both within his kingdom and between other kingdoms, particularly Tamlin and Spring Court, which sits next to the now wall-less human lands.

As the new Court of Dreams prepares to celebrate their first winter solstice together, new troubles pop up, and old troubles continue to linger,  but they manage to (mostly) get through it all together.

(Sorry, that was a really corny way to end the summary!)

Monday, April 23, 2018

Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi

Thoughts at a glance: **** (I really liked it)

Summary: Penny Lee doesn't really feel like she belongs anywhere or with anyone (especially not her oblivious, dresses-too-young mother), and when she heads off to college, the last thing she expects to find is a friend in the form of hot coffee-shop Sam.

Sam, who is amazing at baking and trying to put himself through film school, has a bunch of troubles of his own, and when he basically lands himself in the hospitable, Penny happens to be there to help him. They swap phone numbers, promising to be each others' emergency contacts.

Thus begins a story of two people reaching out to each other, who previously didn't have anyone to reach out to before. As they each navigate their individual lives, Penny and Sam find that they need each other for far more than just emergencies.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

A Potterverse personality profile

Like many people, I am big on self-exploration and reflection and "finding myself." I love taking quizzes. I love memes about my Myers-Briggs. (I'm an INFJ, by the way.) It's fun and can be quite illuminating.

Enter Potterverse. It has been said that seeing someone reading a book you love is like a book recommending a person, but the Potterverse fandom is 1) large, and 2) has a wide variety of personality types built into it already. Getting sorted into a Hogwarts house is such a big thing that even non-Potter fans have heard of it, and there are countless internet articles sorting anything and anyone (including Myers-Briggs types) into the four houses.

There are also countless sorting quizzes all over the internet, and not a single one is perfect, but the one I recognize as canon is the one at, because it's the official JK Rowling-written-and-approved Potterverse website. You can take the Hogwarts sorting quiz, as well as quizzes to find your wand, your Patronus, and your Ilvermorny house, and all your results will be listed together in your profile conveniently for you.

I know what being Gryffindor means, but I've never really taken an in-depth look at all my Pottermore results put together, so today, I decided I would go ahead and jump head-long into this rabbit hole and put together my own Potterverse psychological profile, based on the writings of Pottermore, as well as some various sites around the Internet.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Epoch by Jewel E. Ann

Disclaimers: while my blog post itself does not contain any sexual content, this book does. This is a review for a book that is meant for mature audiences, and therefore is unsuitable for minors.

This book was provided to me for free by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Thoughts at a glance: ***** (It was amazing!)

This book is the second part of duology, and this review will contain spoilers for the first book, Transcend. You can read my review of it here.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Transcend by Jewel E. Ann

Disclaimers: while my blog post itself does not contain any sexual content, this book does. This is a review for a book that is meant for mature audiences, and therefore is unsuitable for minors.

This book was provided to me for free by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Thoughts at a glance: ***** (It was amazing!)

Summary: (as provided by the publisher)

“In another life, she was my forever.”

An unexpected tragedy leaves Professor Nathaniel Hunt a widower alone with a newborn baby.

He hires a nanny. She’s young, but well-qualified, with a simple life, a crazy name obsession, and a boyfriend she met at the grocery store.

Over time, he discovers she knows things about him—things that happened before she was born—like a hidden scar on his head, his favorite pizza, and how he cheated on a high school Spanish test.

She speaks familiar words and shares haunting memories that take him back to over two decades earlier when he lost his best friend in a tragic accident.

“I’m afraid of what’s going to happen when you realize I’m not her.”

Transcend is a sexy, mind-bending journey that uncovers possibilities, challenges beliefs, and begets the age-old question: is there life after death?

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Obsidio by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Thoughts at a glance: ***** (It was amazing!)

Summary: This is book 3 of the trilogy The Illuminae Files. This review will contain spoilers for the first two books. Here are my reviews for Illuminae and Gemina.

With the jump station Heimdall destroyed and nowhere else to go, Kady, Ezra, Hanna, Nik, and all the remaining survivors decide to head back to Kerenza IV on the Mao to see if there is anything or anyone left.

And there is. Kady's cousin Asha, having survived the initial BeiTech attack, is now doing her best to survive BT's occupation of what remains of colony. With their jump platform damaged in the original standoff, the BT troops who weren't killed have now taken over. Asha is doing her best to stay under the radar as she helps the underground insurgent movement try to find ways to send out help signals and sabotage BeiTech.

Unfortunately for her, as it turns out, one of the newly assigned ground soldiers happens to be her ex, Rhys. And conflicting emotions besides, there are only so many days left before BeiTech fixes their jump platform and kills all the civilians before leaving them behind.

And in the meantime, the Mao is on its way.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Movie review: A Wrinkle in Time

Not spoilery, but if you want to be TOTALLY surprised, then maybe read this after you watch it.

I haven't read A Wrinkle in Time in a VERY long while (save for the first handful of chapters, which I read a few weeks ago in preparation for the movie, but then I got sidetracked and didn't continue), but this book will always have a place in my heart because I remember being assigned to read the first chapter in sixth grade English over a weekend, and I ended up reading the ENTIRE thing that Friday night. It was the first school book I had ever read that didn't feel like a school book, and I loved it so much.

So when I originally heard there was going to be a movie, I flipped. And THEN when I heard that Meg would be biracial, I freaked the F out. The book was first published in 1962, and while there was a lot that was forward-thinking about the book, I loved that the filmmakers decided to push the story forward even more.

I know that not all the critics' reviews of the movie have been favorable (and I've not been reading any of them, so I don't know what their reasons are), but keep in mind that this IS in fact a kids' story, and that this IS Disney, and that the source material is from 1962. Thus, a Disney-made movie from 2018 is not going to be identical to a 1962 novel. They were not trying to keep the story in 1962 with this movie--Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling's character), who speaks in famous quotes, throws in Outkast and a Hamilton reference. (It's toward the end of the movie so you will have to wait for it. LOL I'M HILARIOUS.)

So, with all that in mind, yes, I felt like there were some corny moments or jokes, but that's because I'm an adult watching a movie made for kids right now, not a movie made for adults who read the book as kids. And yes, I felt like the pacing and exposition could've been better (especially since I recently reread the beginning of the book), but movie adaptations of books usually have a lot of material to squeeze into a short time anyway, so the point got across, even if it was done quickly.

But otherwise? I really loved this!!! And I thought it was made even better by Meg being biracial because it added a whole new dimension to the ridicule and lack of sympathy she was facing as the story begins. The fact that no teachers (regardless of their race) seem to recognize the pain she's feeling, the fact that she gets branded a delinquent even though she's genius-levels of intelligent feels so much more... IDK... impactful? given that she is a black girl.

And I love that the writers and filmmakers didn't just ignore her race either, as if Meg could've been played by anyone of any race and they just happened to cast a black actress--her character is black. There are a couple points in the movie where Calvin (boy who is her friend and likes her, and who is white, btw) mentions that he really likes her hair as it is (natural), and initially she's just like, NOPE. It's no coincidence that the mean girls at school all have silky straight hair. And at a later point in the movie, when the villain shows her a "better" version of herself, that version has straightened hair.

But Meg's magic is that much more magical too. Maybe I'm reading too much into this, but one of the moments that really made me cry was when Meg and Mrs. Which (Oprah) were having a conversation where Meg basically says she wishes she could come back from their journey as someone else, and Mrs. Which tells her (paraphrased by me), "But there were so many choices and moments that had to have happened since the birth of the universe for you to exist right here in this moment, as you are." It was such a beautiful sentiment, and I'm just imagining how significant that exchange is, between the two characters as well as between the two actresses. Imagine being Storm Reid and shooting this scene where OPRAH is telling you that you are awesome just as you are. <3 And in fact, there are so many moments where other characters tell Meg how beautiful she is and how special she is, and I cried through all of them. In the scene where Zach Galifianakis (I had to look up the spelling), playing The Happy Medium, tells her that she is precious, he looked like he had tears in his eyes, and you know what? So did I.

Basically what I'm trying to say is that there is #blackgirlmagic all over this movie, and I AM HERE FOR IT. The overriding message of the movie, for anyone of any race, is that each of us has the capacity for good and love (and that we all of us deserve goodness and love), but it was beautiful to see a black girl at the heart of it in this movie.

And Storm Reid really was SO good. I know the movie marketing materials all have the Mrses (how the heck do you pluralize that? Misses?) splashed all over the place because Oprah, Reese Witherspoon, and Mindy Kaling are a Big Deal (and Mattel even made Barbies of them), but COME ON. This is Meg's story. This is Meg's journey. And maybe no one knows who Storm Reid is yet, but now they will.

Also, by the way, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, who plays Mrs. Murry, is like, the most stunning kid-movie mom of all kid-movie moms, possibly ever. And I love how the Murrys marriage was depicted--well, not just their marriage, but their professional partnership too. It was something I've always appreciated about their characters in the book, and I love that it was well-preserved in the movie.

So yes, I loved it. If you haven't seen it yet, I would say, be prepared for things not to be just like the book. It is definitely an adaptation. But all the important parts are there: the science, the magic, the love, and the power of one Meg Murry.

Now I REALLY need to go reread the books.

*Note: comments have been turned off because my movie reviews tend to attract spambots*

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

Thoughts at a glance: **** (I really liked it)

Summary: Blue Sargent, daughter of a psychic, has been told all her life that whoever her true love is, he will die. Thus, she has decided that it would probably be in her best interest to avoid boys in any capacity, and most especially, the rich, douchey ones who attend the nearby prep school, Aglionby.

But on this particular St. Mark's Eve, watching for the spirits of the soon-to-be-deceased, Blue sees the spirit of one particular Aglionby boy named Gansey. Blue, who has no psychic power herself, has never been able to see any of the spirits before, and the fact that she saw his carries significance, and not just because he's going to die within the next year.

Blue suddenly finds herself caught up with (the real, alive) Gansey, and he and his friends' desperate search for proof of ley lines and a long-lost Welsh king of legend. But as their search awakens magical forces beyond their control, old secrets and dangers also come to the surface that affect their group of friends.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Love & Ink by JD Hawkins

While my blog post itself does not contain any sexual content, this book does. This is a review for a book that is meant for mature audiences, and therefore is unsuitable for minors.

This book was provided to me for free by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thank you for also providing the press kit with the graphics and blurb.

Thoughts at a glance: *** (I liked it)