#WatchMeWrite a review

In September, E. R. Warren started a campaign called #WatchMeWrite where authors filmed themselves writing, sped it up, added a dash of music, and took over people’s laptops to showcase their writing process. I made one of these videos too, but then decided to showcase my review process too — because just reading reviews might get a bit boring, and hopefully some John Williams Star Wars music will help with that.

So now you know how I write these reviews. ;P To see the entire review, complete with the rating, don’t forget to come back tomorrow!

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Waiting on Wednesday [4] | The Wrath and the Dawn by Renée Ahdieh (The Wrath and the Dawn, #1)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, where we bloggers get a chance to feature upcoming releases that we can’t wait for!

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

Release Date: May 12, 2015

Every dawn brings horror to a different family in a land ruled by a killer. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, takes a new bride each night only to have her executed at sunrise. So it is a suspicious surprise when sixteen-year-old Shahrzad volunteers to marry Khalid. But she does so with a clever plan to stay alive and exact revenge on the Caliph for the murder of her best friend and countless other girls. Shazi’s wit and will, indeed, get her through to the dawn that no others have seen, but with a catch . . . she’s falling in love with the very boy who killed her dearest friend.

She discovers that the murderous boy-king is not all that he seems and neither are the deaths of so many girls. Shazi is determined to uncover the reason for the murders and to break the cycle once and for all.

I just. I just can’t with this blurb. There is so much incredible yes going on here.

First: THIS PREMISE. I always thought the framing story for A Thousand and One Nights was absolutely amazing. Think about it. There’s so much girl power and juicy potential going on here: a ruler is killing all his brides after a one-night-long marriage. A clever girl volunteers to marry him and tells stories to keep herself alive each night. This is pure gold, people. GOLD. You can do so much with a story like that – bring the characters to life, create plenty of moral ambiguity (because yay gray areas!), bring in some political intrigue (that’s just my fantasy-politics-driven brain talking), maybe even add some romance. And this blurb looks like it’s promising some of this. Maybe more. And that EXCITES ME.

The protagonist. Just the blurb is making her sound so cool. Shazi is described here as someone clever who is seeking revenge for the sake of other girls, using her “wit and will” (what a cool phrase, gosh). This is my kind of heroine.

Look at this conflict. SQUEE. She’s falling in love with someone she thought was a killer! She’s trying to keep herself from getting executed by him! It looks like there are… secrets! And maybe magic! *shifty eyebrows*

Fantasy in a non-western setting. Just read the blurb once more and see for yourself. Non-western fantasy is necessary. And valuable. And it almost never fails to get me psyched to read a book.

The title. Do I even have to explain how amazing this title is?

And the cover. Design win. That’s all I can say on the subject.

The only thing I don’t like about the sound of this book?

The six-month wait until it releases.

Waiting on Wednesday [3] | A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray (Firebird, #1)

Find the Book: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

Release Date: November 4, 2014

Marguerite Caine’s physicist parents are known for their radical scientific achievements. Their most astonishing invention: the Firebird, which allows users to jump into parallel universes, some vastly altered from our own. But when Marguerite’s father is murdered, the killer—her parent’s handsome and enigmatic assistant Paul—escapes into another dimension before the law can touch him.

Marguerite can’t let the man who destroyed her family go free, and she races after Paul through different universes, where their lives entangle in increasingly familiar ways. With each encounter she begins to question Paul’s guilt—and her own heart. Soon she discovers the truth behind her father’s death is more sinister than she ever could have imagined.

Though I haven’t read any of Claudia Gray’s books, I have seen her name around the internet from time to time attached to heaps of praise, so I’m going into this WoW feature hoping that that praise isn’t misplaced in this case.

First of all, THE COVER. As I’ve proven in past Waiting on Wednesday posts, I’m inexplicably and irresistibly drawn to beautiful covers. I can’t help it. I judge. But this… I dare you to call this cover ugly. The dual city illustration, combined with the clean font and defiant, bold colors, is something I would probably buy and frame on my wall as art. It’s just that pretty. Plus, the edges look like watercolors! Very cool. And the cover also has everything to do with the book itself, since A Thousand Pieces of You is about parallel universes.

But like any self-respecting, logical(ish) reader who spends way too much time on Goodreads, I always read blurbs before I decide if I really want to read a particular book. Though premise isn’t everything, it certainly counts for something, and anyway, piling books into my TBR basically depends entirely on the blurb. And this particular forthcoming book has my “amazing” radar going off like crazy. A quest for revenge? Check. A girl who wants justice for her parents? Check. Murder? Check. Parallel universes? Check. Lots of science? Hopefully check.

Contrary to popular belief, as well as the belief of my eighth grade science teacher, I do actually find science fascinating.

I mean, WHAT? HOW can this much awesome even be contained in a single blurb? It defies the laws of physics. (Laws of physics… Marguerite’s physicist parents… get it?)

(Okay, that was a horribly cruel and clumsy attempt at a joke. Readers and fellow members of the blogosphere, I humbly beg your forgiveness.)

Though I’ve never pre-ordered a book in the fear that I might not like it, with A Thousand Pieces of You I am sorely tempted. Luckily, the wait for this one is only three months. *squee* With luck, my library will for once have the foresight to get a book when it comes out rather than half a year later, and I can get my grabby bookworm hands on this as quickly as possible.

Waiting on Wednesday [2] | A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab (A Darker Shade of Magic, #1)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, where we bloggers get a chance to feature upcoming releases that we can’t wait for!

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

Release Date: February 24, 2015

Kell is one of the last Travelers—magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel universes—as such, he can choose where he lands.

There’s Grey London, dirty and boring, without any magic, ruled by a mad King George. Then there’s Red London, where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire. White London, ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne—a place where people fight to control magic, and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. And once upon a time, there was Black London…but no one speaks of that now.

Officially, Kell is the Red Traveler, personal ambassador and adopted Prince of Red London, carrying the monthly correspondences between the royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they’ll never see—a dangerous hobby, and one that has set him up for accidental treason. Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs afoul of Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations, who first robs him, then saves him from a dangerous enemy, and then forces him to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure.

But perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, Kell and Lila will first need to stay alive—and that is proving trickier than they hoped.

I NEED this book for several very good reasons, despite the fact that it’s an adult title and therefore not what I usually read:

The author. Although V. E. Schwab is the name she goes by for her adult books, Victoria Schwab is also the author of The Archived, which was one of my favorite reads of this year and ALL TIME. (Because I’m awful at getting my hands on books, I have yet to devour The Unbound, but mark my words, I will.) Her sharp, gorgeous writing style is genius, and the way the magic bleeds into the very fabric of the story – ugh, it’s so inspiring and breathtaking and jealousy-inducing.

The premise. Victoria herself has stated that A Darker Shade of Magic will contain magic in heaps, pirates, parallel universes, cross-dressing thieves, crazy kings and queens, fight scenes, and angst. I mean, I like every single one of these elements when they’re alone. But together? It sounds almost too good to be true.

The setting. Um, it’s London. Actually, it’s several Londons. Let’s try that again. LONDON. Need I say more?

The cover. If you don’t think this combination of an amazing red-black color scheme, wickedly cool typography, and detailed, expressive art isn’t an absolute work of genius, I really don’t know what to say to you.

Okay, there. Now that I’ve explained myself, you won’t have to think me odd whenever I practically salivate at every mention of this book, yes? And we only have to wait… six more months! *cries inwardly*

Waiting on Wednesday [1] | Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, where we bloggers get a chance to feature upcoming releases that we can’t wait for!

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

Release Date: March 26, 2015

Mare Barrow’s world is divided by blood—those with red and those with silver. Mare and her family are lowly Reds, destined to serve the Silver elite whose supernatural abilities make them nearly gods. Mare steals what she can to help her family survive, but when her best friend is conscripted into the army, she gambles everything to win his freedom. A twist of fate leads her to the royal palace itself where, in front of the king and all his nobles, she discovers a superhuman ability she didn’t know she had.

Except . . . her blood is Red.

To hide this impossibility, the king forces her into the role of a lost Silver princess and betroths her to one of his own sons. As Mare is drawn further into the Silver world, she risks her new position to aid the Scarlet Guard—the leaders of a budding Red rebellion. Her actions put into motion a deadly and violent dance, pitting prince against prince and Mare against her own heart.

I’ll admit that this mind-bogglingly awesome cover is what first drew me to this book. My heart is very easily captured by great cover designs. I mean, the beautiful and powerful minimalistic layout with the stunning, eye-catching crown in the middle dripping with blood – all of this is just brilliant. Plus, the cover’s tagline, “Power is a dangerous game”, promises lots of deadly intrigue.

I am a sucker for all sorts of political intrigue in fantasy. I will eat it all up.

Anyhow, I would’ve read this book on the cover alone. I was completely sold. But then I read the synopsis.

SO MUCH YES.

There are clear social class conflicts, a heroine with concrete and meaningful goals, high stakes, and a beautiful sense of aesthetic all wrapped up into a few short paragraphs. These are all things I thoroughly enjoy, so I have really, really high hopes for this book.

So basically: WHY MUST I WAIT UNTIL MARCH. WHAT IS THIS CRUELTY.

There’s our first Waiting on Wednesday! What are all of you waiting on? Let us know in the comments!

Top Ten Tuesday [2] | Characters I Would Bring With Me to a Deserted Island

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, featuring – you guessed it – a top ten list every Tuesday centering around a chosen topic. If you’ve got a blog, do join in so we can talk about our lists, and if you’ve already done a TTT for this week, feel free to link in the comments! And as always, have fun!

This topic was a boatload of fun, as I considered what might induce me to bring any character to a deserted island with me. I considered practical survival skills, general likeability, and yes, “the hot factor”. So here are my picks! Like last time, they’re in no particular order, because picking favorites is cruel.

Somehow I also managed to get an equal number of girls and guys in here, if a cute alien counts as a guy. Go me. (Heh.)

(NOTE: These images aren’t mine – I tried to credit them to the proper sources in each caption, and if you click on the image, it’ll link to the page where I found it. The links in the headings will take you to the Goodreads page for the book or series.)

Halt O’Carrick from the Ranger’s Apprentice series

This image (courtesy of the Ranger’s Apprentice wiki) was cropped out of the cover of the ninth book, Halt’s Peril.

Okay, this one’s just obvious. Not only is Halt the hands-down coolest mentor character in any series EVER WRITTEN, he’s got a plethora of useful skills and sarcastic jokes at the ready for a lengthy stay on even the most boring of deserted islands. I would have said Will Treaty for this one, but let’s face it. Who wouldn’t choose Halt over Will in this case? (Psst – Halt is also one heck of a good cook, unlike yours truly and my… well, rather microwave-dependent skills.)

Richard Campbell Gansey III from The Raven Cycle

This gorgeous and perfect fanart was done by The Art of Young Adult.

Fine, I admit it. Half of choosing Gansey for this was the “hot factor”. I have a MASSIVE CRUSH on him, you guys. (If you’ve read the back-of-the-Camaro scene with him and Blue in The Dream Thieves, you should come cry with me.) But there’s also the fact that he’s absurdly rich, which would help us avoid any discomfort in the survival department.

Linh Cinder from The Lunar Chronicles

This beautiful edit was done by Tumblr user inkyopinions.

Let’s face it. Cinder has ALL the skills. True, she’s mainly great in the mechanics department, but there’s never been a situation in the Lunar Chronicles where our very own Linh Cinder hasn’t been able to think up a solution. If anything’s broken – her heart, her mechanical foot, her country – Cinder is sure as heck going to fix it. And this can-do mentality that she has would serve us both well if we were stuck somewhere.

Will Herondale from The Infernal Devices

This sketch (FANTASTIC much?) was done by mseregon on deviantART.

Again, I was definitely swayed by the hot factor here. (We live and breathe words, anyone? Or the holy water and blood scene? Or, you know, general Welsh awesomeness?) But as a Shadowhunter and general amazing person, Will is also going to be incredibly resourceful and determined not to die. Also, I could sing songs with Will about demon pox and discuss A Tale of Two Cities (PHENOMENAL book!) with him all day. What’s not to love?

Karana from Island of the Blue Dolphins

I found this sketch on a government page talking about Island of the Blue Dolphins – though there isn’t an artist credited there.

Since Karana is stuck on an island herself for most of this book, her practical knowledge and quiet strength would come in handy if I were ever stranded. I read this book a long, long time ago, so I don’t remember absolutely everything – but I do recall admiring Karana’s fortitude in any situation, and her unshakeable trust in herself.

Westley from The Princess Bride

If you don’t recognize this rascal from the movie I don’t know what you’ve been doing with your life. (No link here, because it’s a movie shot.)

Sorry. But how could I not? He’s a farm boy, a pirate, and an all-around rapscallion with a heart of gold who always knows just the thing to save the day. Sure, he may be a tad arrogant at times, but that isn’t much of a problem when compared to things like POSSIBLE STARVATION ON ISLAND. (And having him saying “as you wish” to me every day? Ahh.)

(Seriously, though – if I ever date someone and they reference Westley I’m probably going to marry them on the spot from fangirl-y joy. Westley is just… gah.)

Karou from the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy

Another fanart piece by The Art of Young Adult (see the Gansey pic up there). GORGEOUS HAIR IS GORGEOUS.

“Karou” is said to mean “hope” in this series, and she has an ample supply of that despite the hardships she endures throughout the series. I feel like that hope would be invaluable if I were staying on a particularly desolate island. Besides, Karou would know lots about surviving in isolated places, because she’s traveled to so many places from Eretz to Earth and back again.

J. Lo from The True Meaning of Smekday

Painting of J. Lo done by the author.

I admit that this would be incredibly counterproductive, but it would be SO much fun. J. Lo is a Boov, an alien race that comes to Earth looking for a home, and he’s just about the most quirky book character you’ll ever meet. He’s delightfully illogical, always hilarious, and really, really fun to be around (if a little frustrating). Even Gratuity, the main character of The True Meaning of Smekday, has to acknowledge that J. Lo is a great, great friend to have.

Puck Connolly from The Scorpio Races

This edit (+ I LOVE the fancast) was done by Tumblr user welcometothisby.

Puck knows islands. She lives on everybody’s favorite island (THISBY THISBY AHH), for crying out loud. In fact, she would find pretty much any deserted island a breeze compared to Thisby’s capaill uisce-populated shores. Other than the fact that I would just love to be her best friend, Puck is great at reading the boundaries between land and sea, as well as keeping her head up even in the darkest times.

Aoife Grayson from Iron Codex

This image, courtesy of refractedlightreviews.com, was cropped out of the cover of The Iron Thorn.

There’s no denying it: Aoife Grayson is smart as a whip, and she has a fierce will to live that takes over in the most tricky situations. She’s got great leadership skills that would help rally me if my morale ever went down after too long on the island. Besides, there is so much pure AMAZING contained in this girl that not surviving when you’re with her is absolutely inconceivable.

And that’s a wrap for Top Ten Tuesday #2! Love these characters – or love to hate them? Let us know in the comments, and have a fabulous Tuesday!

Top Ten Tuesday [1] | Films and Television Shows

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, featuring – you guessed it – a top ten list every Tuesday centering around a chosen topic. If you’ve got a blog, do join in so we can talk about our lists, and if you’ve already done a TTT for this week, feel free to link in the comments! And as always, have fun!

Oh gosh, this one’s going to send me into spirals of fangirl-y joy. As much as I adore books, since they are now and always my first love, films and television shows are just… ahh. I love stories in any medium, truly. (These are in no particular order, as I didn’t want to go through the agony of choosing favorites.) And if you have any recommendations for me based on what I enjoy, don’t be afraid to leave them in the comments!

*cracks knuckles* Well, here we go.

Sherlock

Um, there is so much yes going on in this show. Mainly Benedict Cumberbatch. And Martin Freeman. And the actor who plays Moriarty (I swear his name is on the tip of my tongue – er, fingertips). Also the perfection that is Johnlock. I don’t know whether I ship them romantically anymore, but least they’re one of the most awesome friendships I’ve ever seen on-screen. Plus the plots of these mysteries are absolutely thrilling, ensuring that I was hooked from the first episode.

Inception

I rewatch this endlessly. ENDLESSLY, my friends. Leonardo DiCaprio is A+ and the supporting characters (especially Ellen Page! I AM SUCH AN ELLEN PAGE FANGIRL) were pitch-perfect. I have a soft spot for Eames and Ariadne. Also, the character dynamic between Cobb and Mal was so well-done – it attacks me with the feels every time I watch this movie. Plus THE PREMISE. HOW CAN YOU NOT FANGIRL OVER THIS PREMISE. I mean, dreams within dreams. With a soundtrack by Hans Zimmer, one of my favorite movie score composers of all time. There is nothing I don’t love about this delicious, heart-bending mind game.

Cinema Paradiso (aka Nuovo Cinema Paradiso)

Ennio Morricone is another one of my all-time favorite movie score composers (I’m weirdly obsessed with film scores, in case you haven’t noticed). So it makes sense that one of his scores was the musical background for another one of the movies of my heart. Cinema Paradiso is a beautiful Italian movie about the magic of the cinema (which sounds very… meta, but it’s not really, I promise). The emotional trials of Salvatore’s coming-of-age journey are heartbreaking, poignant, and lovely. Not to mention that pretty scenery is INCREDIBLY pretty.

Spirited Away + Any Ghibli or Miyazaki Movie Ever

Okay, okay, I’ll come clean. I will judge you at least a little if you don’t like Ghibli/Miyazaki movies. But Spirited Away is probably my favorite of the bunch (I’ve seen nine of them, so I have some basis for judgment). With its highly original setting – a bath house for spirits! I mean, come on! – and its quietly strong heroine, it’s got a mix of ingredients that obviously appeals to me. But add in some seriously epic magic and a swoony dragon/boy/river spirit/general awesome person of awesome (CAN ANYBODY SAY HAAAAKU?) and you can be sure I’ll be drowning in a puddle of my own emotions. This has been a favorite of mine since… well, forever.

Mansfield Park

*raises right hand* I, Christina of the Literoses team, am an incurable and admittedly somewhat snobbish Janeite. This means that I love period films, especially Austen adaptations. This is perhaps the best one I’ve ever seen – though my favorite of the novels is Pride and Prejudice (Darcy is mine I mean ELIZABETH’S) – this film brings the book to life in an unprecedented way. Frances O’Connor is pure gold as Fanny Price, with the rest of the cast adding a good dose of heart and laughter and surprising depth. Good stuff. Good stuff. (Anyway, if Lord Grantham of Downton Abbey is playing the hapless Mr. Rushworth, you know you’ve got genius on your hands.)

Lord of the Rings Trilogy + Hobbit Films (So Far)

Oh, now you’ve done it. THESE MOVIES. This goes without saying, but Howard Shore’s score is probably the best movie score I’ve ever had the privilege of hearing. And I’ve rewatched the original trilogy so many times I can spout lines before the characters do. Although I hate Frodo, I adore basically every other supporting character – Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas (LEGOLAS MY DARLING I WILL LOVE YOU FOREVER *ahem*) have such great chemistry, Eowen is the absolute greatest (she is NO man, guys), Arwen (played by Liv Tyler) is so beautiful and elf-like I can’t even, and the orcs are hilarious. And that doesn’t even begin to cover my love for this trilogy. Plus the new Hobbit movies are kick-butt as well – MORE LEGOLAS! How can I resist? – with both Martin Freeman and Benedict Cumberbatch showing up (I can derive the most absurd Johnlock subtext from this, you guys) and a whole host of adorably unintelligent dwarves to love. And then there’s Tauriel. And Kili. Be still, my shipping heart.

How to Train Your Dragon (1 & 2)

The poster for the second movie is pictured above.

It’s so hard to start with these films. Fine, then. Here’s the obvious: DRAGONS. Combine that with a totally funny and cute hero (with a DISABILITY that he’s actually proud of, woohoo!) who’s got an amazing team of supporting characters at his back, as well as Toothless, and you have a recipe for fangirling. Or at least fangirling from me. And I love how Astrid and Hiccup’s relationship developed in the second film. And I of course love Toothless. Toothless is… special to me.

The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain

I already knew I was interested in Wales after reading the Infernal Devices and meeting everybody’s favorite terrible Welshman, but this cemented my love for it. With vivid details, plenty of humor all around, and the positively breathtaking scenery, I fell in love. Predictably. But I also unpredictably fell in love with the character of Anson, played by Hugh Grant. (He’s the one in front. Sort of obvious, but hey.) I mean, look at his face. Take a good look at it. He’s just… *sighs happily*

The Prestige

I am a huge fan of anything that has to do with magicians. *cough* The Night CircusNow You See Me. The Illusionist. (Kudos to you if you know what all of those are.) But The Prestige is almost like The Night Circus gone wrong – two incredibly talented magicians locked in an intense, lifelong duel. It’s dark and creepy, and therefore utterly enchanting to someone like me. Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale are top-notch in terms of acting performance, with the time period details and plot being completely spellbinding. I highly recommend checking this out if you don’t mind being some spookiness.

Les Miserables

How could I not? Ever since I saw this movie, I’ve been a huge fan of the Les Mis music and characters. Admittedly, this movie was slightly ruined by Russell Crowe’s near-monotone of a voice, but that’s forgiven, because oh gosh. The emotions and the power and oh, did I mention emotions? Because those will be in your heart in abundance once you’ve seen this. It’s hopeful and battered and beautiful. Just beautiful. I hope to see the Broadway musical someday as well, because these songs – I could listen to them forever and ever. (Red! The blood of angry men! – Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)

Some More Favorites

…so that you know it’s 100% okay to fangirl about these with me: The Grand Budapest Hotel, Amadeus, PenelopeStardustDownton AbbeyThe HelpThe Perks of Being a WallflowerThe Great GatsbyMulanDespicable Me, Rise of the GuardiansThe IllusionistNow You See MeAvatar: The Last AirbenderLife is BeautifulBig FishMona Lisa SmileThe Importance of Being EarnestA River Runs Through ItThe Nightmare Before Christmas, Far and AwayMonk (though Sharona will always be my favorite), Edge of Tomorrow, the Narnia movies (but not the books, please no), SunnyMoulin Rouge (haven’t quite finished the movie but I love what I’ve seen, even if it’s somewhat frightening), and Source Code.

And many more.

Also, in the anime department, don’t be shy – talk to me about Fairy Tail or Kuroko no Basuke anytime. Seriously.

That’s it for our first Top Ten Tuesday! (*cough* It was done in a rush, so apologies for the seemingly spotty commentary on all of these truly wonderful films and TV shows.) Hope you all enjoyed it!