Saturday, May 31, 2014

#ArmchairBEA - Wrap Up

First of all, a hugeeeee GRACIAS ~THANK YOU, to the wonderful people who coordinated Armchair BEA, the bloggers, moderators, cheerleaders and sponsors.

I believe I will become a regular participant in years to come since I have only warm-fuzzy-feelings on this, my first experience. I had so much fun during this week!

My main challenge: daily posts! Yikes :P I post weekly, and mostly reviews, so stepping out of my blogging routine was something new and exciting!

Armchair BEA was the perfect scenario to discuss, learn about new books, connect and meet so many wonderful people.

I'm very grateful to all of those who ventured to my blog, read my rants and commented.

Please don't be a stranger, come and say hi on my blog or here:
Goodreads*
Twitter

*I'm a GR addict, so you'll probably find me adding daily books to my neverending TBR pile!


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Friday, May 30, 2014

#ArmchairBEA - Day 5 "Fictional Meals"

To finish off in style these 5 days of blogging in ArmchairBEA, I want to highlight my obsession with books' fictional meals and share with you my favourite supeeerrrr easy green soup recipe.

Why? Because I've recently discovered that this soup has superpowers of boosting your imagination and making you happy when reading High Fantasy books... Random, I know. But trust me. Give it a Go!

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Lina's Magical Green Soup:

- A bunch of spinach
- 3 or 4 celery stacks, diced
- 1/2 a cup of green peas
- 1 head of fresh broccoli, diced
- 1 green pear peeled and diced (<---secret ingredient)
- 2 or 3 basil leaves
- 1/2 head of white onion, diced
- A little bit of diced fresh ginger (1/2 a teaspoon of powdered works as well)
- 1/4 teaspoon of turmeric
- 1 clove of garlic, minced
- 1 Spoon of olive oil
- Salt & pepper to taste

Directions:

In a skillet, sauté the onion with olive oil.
Fill a medium pot with water, add all ingredients (including the sautéed onions) and bring to boil. Reduce heat. With a hand blender mix all ingredients, heat for 5 minutes and VOILÁ!

Enjoy :)



My advice, once you finish this magical soup have a warm cup of Earl Grey tea. It will give you extra super-powers!


Thursday, May 29, 2014

#ArmchairBEA - Day 4 "Beyond the Borders"

Oh diversity!
You're an excellent topic. Very close to my heart since I'm an anthropologist and all...
So, I will take the opportunity to change course from my usual reading blogging genres (YA, Fiction, fantasy, etc.), and open up the little anthropologizing window over here. I've read TONS of anthro literature on this topic, which basically encompasses lots of ethnographers’ research.

These are two of my favourite ethnographic books that have transported me to a different culture (apologies in advance if I bring out geeky academic jargon and inspiration to this topic)




This is a very insightful story of a Hmong girl, Lia, who was born in 1981 to a family of recent American immigrants at that time, and developed symptoms of epilepsy. It focuses on how her disease is dealt by her parents and her American doctors. This narrative is very detailed describing how cultural misunderstandings clashed towards tragedy when dealing with such disease. 

Particularly what impacted me the most: how different views of the world affect a culture's perception of health. Specially since Lia's illness was viewed with mixed blessings by her family, because her seizures could be a sign of possible shamanic powers. It is a very thoroughly investigative story and I learned a LOT about cross-cultural illnesses. 








I was privileged to have Gastón as a professor when I was reading his book during my graduate degree. I was able to ask direct questions to him and he was kind enough to explain a lot about his research, teaching me a great deal of how this was done: so rich and insightful. 
This research portrays indigenous perceptions of a particular region, El Chaco, in Argentina, in regards of colonization of British Anglicans in the early twentieth century. 

What impacted me the most: as familiar as I am with South American aboriginal studies, the way each community constructs its geography through memory and space so very different from one another. What I love about this book is how it makes you realize a lot of subtle experiences about yourself. 
Basically they way I (Lina) experience a place is completely constructed by my social context, background and historic perspective. So very different from someone else, like you, my reader, who may be experiencing the same place.

Also, something we tend to forget: geographic places are not objective entities but a result of historical forces.


The main theme, or lesson from these books is the term us, anthropologists love, Cultural Relativism: one should judge a person’s actions or beliefs from the perspective of that person’s culture.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

#ArmchairBEA - Day 3 "Novellas/Short Stories"

For today's ArmchairBEA theme, I chose to give some love to a short story anthology book I care deeply about.

I am a fan of Holly Black's dark creepy writing, where characters find themselves in very dark odd places or circumstances. So, imagine my happiness when I saw her short story anthology book: The Poison Eaters and Other Stories. Better yet, I found it in audiobook form (and I love this format), yes, I *squealed* when I saw that Holly herself narrates this compilation! I had great small pleasures with this book, listening in short walks, errands, and devoting entire moments just sitting down to hear Holly... it took me almost a year to finish.

During this reading experience, I created a handful of memories of these stories: some where just forgotten, some lingered and others I am already re-visiting.

There are 12 stories in this book:

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown
A Reversal of Fortune
The Boy Who Cried Wolf
The Night Market
The Dog King
Virgin
In Vodka Veritas
The Coat of Stars
Paper Cuts Scissors
Going Ironside
The Land of Heart’s Desire
The Poison Eaters


From these, I loved the first one, which also became a full length standalone novel, The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, The Night Market, The Coat of Stars and Paper Cuts Scissors. These are all dark, gritty, sad, happy and hopeful.

I personally believe that the beauty of this collection is how each character must challenge or face a obstacle that forces them to make choices and learn something about themselves. It also has superb descriptions, events and surroundings, so different from one another.

Matilda, from The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, is scared about her infection and wants to keep away from everything and everyone she knows so she wont pass her vampiric disease. But then, she restores to highlight how horrible and un-human is this disease once it hits you, in an attempt to shatter any romanticized notion of vampirism. This tidbit is a wonderful place to start with Holly's stories.

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Tomasa from The Night Market, is a true heroine. Her sister is sick because and enkanto's spell. Her determination and resourcefulness are a true beauty to enjoy. I loved the ending of the story!

Rafael Santiago from The Coat of Stars, is also a tale of bargaining with supernatural characters, but a tale of love. I found it smart and crafty! I really really liked that we have queer characters in here.

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Justin from Paper Cuts Scissors, wants to understand why his girlfriend left, as she disappeared inside a book. He is a library student, who is scared of books and is hired to classify a massive underground library. I found this particular story fascinating. The notion to change books, endings and events sounds fun! It reminded me at some point of Woody Allen's movie Midnight in Paris. I was mesmerized by the classification of books in sections according to the ten broad categories of the Dewey Decimal Classification System, used in this story.

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My favourite quote from this story comes from Justin's musings when describing who he was going to library school with and how he avoided the hipster kind of girls: "Those girls seemed as dangerous as books that unexpectedly killed their protagonists". It made me chuckle. You may listen to this story for free ***HERE***

In my experience, this book shouldn't be read in one sitting. It is perfect for keeping you company in odd life moments when you really can't devote many hours. I will miss having this unfinished title in my audiobook library.


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

#ArmchairBEA - Day 2 "More Than Just Words "

Books have the capacity to take you places. Yup, you are able to travel to different places in the world, through space, time and sometimes visit parallel worlds.

I believe that reading is simultaneously a Space and Place.


Such travelling can also be done by listening to stories... and what better way to create memories about the stories you experience than through audiobooks?


I am a big fan of this format. I have been a long time subscriber to Audible.com, and I simply adore it. Spoken words find a direct link to my heart, specially when combined with good narrators. They become my second conscience as I move through the world doing my everyday stuff.

Mostly, my favourite part of reading lots of books by listening to audiobooks is the way my memories of what I do or experience enrich the stories I read.




For example, I'm doing the whole series from G. R. R. Martin's 'A song of Ice and Fire' better known for 'A Game of Thrones' in audiobook format with my husband. We both listen at the same time with headphones or speakers, thus we have fun commenting events, characters and predictions. It is wonderful to share. We have also make it our plan when we take walks together, drive and best of all, travel together. My memories of our last vacation are intertwined with these books, and I find it fascinating that we are both able to enjoy reading the same thing at the same time. Luckily for us, these books are HUGE, as such, many many many more hours of listening to come.






















These shared book experiences is what makes me profess my undying love to spoken written words.


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Here are some *FREE* audiobooks that you may download from Audible.com to peek your interest in these formats:

- The Jester: A Riyria Short Story by Michael Sullivan

- 3 prequels to The Returned by Jason Mott
    The First - (0.25)
    The Sparrow - (0.5)
    The Choice - (0.75)

- The Secret Life of Walter Mitty by James Thurber, narrated by Ben Stiller

(please make sure they are still free before downloading)


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Monday, May 26, 2014

#ArmchairBEA - Day 1 "Introduction"

By Amber from Shelf Notes

I'm beyond excited to participate for the first time in this year's #ArmchairBEA. Which, for those of you who where as clueless as me a few hours back, this is an awesome virtual event for book bloggers who are unable to attend the famous Book Expo America or/and Blogger Convention held in New York during this week of May. Basically, you get to enjoy BEAness from the comfort of your armchair. Thank goodness for this, as I am in the right continent, but in the wrong hemisphere for BEA.

With further ado (since I'm already joining this #ArmchairBEA party late), here are my 5 answers to the introduction questions.

1)What genre do you read the most?

I love to read fantasy young adult and paranormal romance stories because they usually take me to fictional awesome places. I love "book traveling" with my imagination. And mostly, I find it imperative to read about empowering kickass female characters. I also enjoy the happily ever afters. They bring joy to my life :)    

2) What was your favourite book read last year? What's your favourite book so far this year?

My favourite book read last year was Holly Black's The Coldest Girl in Coldtown. I had it as an audiobook and it was a blast! The narrator was perfect, the story was gritty, dark but hopeful. I am a "sucker" for vampire stories and this one was the perfect fit.

This year, my favourite book so far is Karen Kincy's Shadows of Asphodel. I loved this dieselpunk steamy romance.

3) Share your favourite book or reading related quote:

I have plenty, but I kind of always come back to this quote by Karen Marie Moning on her book Darkfever

"I love books, by the way, way more than movies. Movies tell you what to think. A good book lets you choose a few thoughts for yourself. Movies show you the pink house. A good book tells you there's a pink house and lets you paint some of the finishing touches, maybe choose the roof style,park your own car out front. My imagination has always topped anything a movie could come up with. Case in point, those darned Harry Potter movies. That was so not what that part-Veela-chick, Fleur Delacour, looked like.”

4) If you were stranded on a deserted island, what 3 books would you bring? Why? What 3 non-book items would you bring? Why? 

- The Lumatere Chronicles trilogy by Melina Marchetta. Because they are so rich, beautiful and perfect, I wouldn't mind re-reading them ad infinitum.

- A pocket knife, a tent and a zippo. I'm guessing I need basic survival skills or something in order to be able to enjoy my reading time while stranded on said deserted island.

5) What book would you love to see as a movie?


- Ohhh Ann Aguirre's book Enclave, set in a crazy dystopian world of zombies!

Monday, May 19, 2014

"You give them the hope that they can overcome anything - short of death"

Branded (Sinners, #1)Branded by Abi Ketner
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I received a free copy of this book from the authors in exchange for an honest review, and as an invitation to be part of a re-launch blog tour. However, I had to decline my participation after reading the book. The reason: I didn't like it. I'm sad, I really really really wanted to adore - like - rave to the four winds about this book. But I couldn't... for the life of me, I couldn't.

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This book has a great premise, but it's badly executed.

Premise: in a dystopian future world, what is left of the United States has been transformed by The Commander, an authoritative figure who re-organized everything including the judicial system. People's rights are obliterated and the presumption/suspicion of crime is enough to convict you. The conviction system consist of dividing crimes in the 7 capital sins. Each sinner is branded with a tattoo on their neck that has a colour for each sin: wrath (red), greed (yellow), sloth (black), pride (purple), lust (blue), envy (green) and gluttony (orange). Lexi Hamilton, our 18 year old main character is branded purple. She is then sent to The Hole, a prison/fortess sort of walled city where every sinner is dumped so they will be "transformed" and basically left to their own so the outside won't be contaminated with their sins. Some sinners work outside of The Hole, but are brought back every day and are carefully surveilled.
^^This premise rocked my socks. I was oh so very excited to read this book and couldn't believe my eyes on how cool the first few chapters were. However, the execution *cries* ouch ! *more tears of frustration*

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Execution or why I didn't enjoy this book:

First of all, the worldbuilding is a mess. The great opening of this book gets obliterated later on, when you basically learn nothing about the society Lexi lives in. She is sent to The Hole and you are left in the dark about the High Society where she used to live, what is happening (or happened) to the world outside of the geographical territory of the U.S.? What happened with technology? They talk about books and how precious they are, but I really never learned how teaching went through in that future society. Also, who creates the things they use/wear/eat?

My main dislike, and why this book feels off is about its characters and how well or under developed they are. For the life of me, I was never able to feel any empathy for Lexi Hamilton. I know this is not a cause for book-hate, but damn, she is unlikable. First of, she is intensely traumatized by her step-father, and re-victimized once she is branded with the blue of lust. In The Hole, she is always in danger and is constantly relying in others for "saving". This trope gets dull after a few rounds it's thrown around. Also, her insta-love-you're-my sister-frienship with a patient she has to care for, Alyssa. I never got why she got so close to her. In this book I am told over and over about things Lexi *feels* but it always seemed like she was 'acting out' a role. In sum, Lexi Hamilton never felt real for me.

Another character that I couldn't get: Cole. We never learn ANYTHING from him. His past, why he is sent to guard Lexi, how on earth he ends up with all these feelings. I am sorry, but it never made sense for me. If you're a cold-heart killer (he does shoot up a lot of people in front of Lexi), you need a stronger character development. Why is he there? What's his story. It just felt terribly one sided. Also, his: "you must do such and such because I say so" gets old and boring. I disliked their 'insta-love', and this is something I sort of enjoy in my reading life. I think this book lost me with the unbelievability of the once - sided - romance.

Zeus was my favourite character and he never spoke (I guess this is hard... being a dog and all).

There are also lots of inconsistencies. One moment you're evacuating the building because it is being bombed... *kaboom* and then they merrily go back to the *bombed* building as it had never happened, and continue living there... uh?

On a positive note, I really liked this book's grittiness. There is lots of violence and kickassery. Again, I feel this book has lots of potential and yes, I am glad I read it. I won't however read the second instalment or I would recommend it as it is to anyone.


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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

"I can't forget the hypercanes churning their way across the surface, obliterating everything in their paths ..."

Some Fine DaySome Fine Day by Kat Ross
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This. Book. Is. Good. Period!

If you're looking for a little dosage of Jules Verne imaginary travels to the centre of the Earth (not the nasty movie), a luxuriously described survival in a remote island setting (including a hot guy named Will) with dangerous mutants that may be lurking around, a little bit of Ender's Game military training; and some scary crazy weather: hypercanes that destroy everything in their way; this is it: just read Some Fine Day. You'll be rewarded with the awesomeness of this story.

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The plot centres around Jansin Nordqvist, a 16 year old girl who is the daughter of a high level military head. They live in one of the cities that have been built underground as in response to the crazy climate change that occurred in the future. The melting of the Arctic and Antarctic ice unchained a crazy weather where 5 immense hurricanes hypercanes, erratically move in the surface of the Earth, continent-sized storms, destroying everything they encounter.
Jansin has been training in military school since she was 8 years old. Thus, she is basically a kickass with some serious combat skills.

The plot of this story thickens after Jansin and her family take a vacation on the surface, making the reader travel with her to unexpected adventures.


I found it fun, quick and very interesting! But I think that the ending could have delivered better closure, as I have so many questions.... Is this really it? No more Jansin and Will?

I don't think my imagination is good enough to fill in the blanks :(

I WANT MORE

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I had so much fun reading it! Be gentle with it and it will reward you with its subtle messages. It was super appropriate and scary to read during this week as the terrible news of where a study from NASA explained that "a major section of west Antarctica's ice sheet will completely melt in coming centuries and probably raise sea levels higher than previously predicted, revealing another impact from the world's changing climate." YIKES!
Source

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I received an advanced copy of this book from its publisher, Angry Robot/Strange Chemistry through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you for this :)

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Friday, May 2, 2014

"Nothing ever seemed to work according to her plans. She should stop making them"


Medair Dulogy by Andrea K Höst
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read the Medair Duology from start to finish in less than 24 hours. I sort of had to do human stuff in between to make sure I was still... mh... human? Yes, that's the type of obsessive reading I have every time I grab an Andrea K Höst book. Her stories simply kidnap my brain and take it into this weird place where I cannot fathom my existence without finishing her stories... I know super randomly poetic, but seriously, I think there is a Höst psychological condition that has been unexplored because, Wow! I transform into a zombie persona and I won't revive unless I read the final word with it's accompanying little end period. Since this is starting to sound too crazy, I will put it in lay words: YOU MUST READ ANDREA K HÖST'S BOOKS.  Done. I'm finally free to roam the world!


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But let's go back to the Medair Duology. This series comprises two books: The Silence of Medair and Voice of the Lost. It is a high Fantasy story located in the remote Land of Farakkan. Here, magic, bloodlines and loyalties are the rule. You'll get acquainted with Medair. A herald for the Empire who in an attempt to save it from impending war, ventured into a quest to find a mythical horn. However, when she did find it, she emerged from its hiding place discovering that 500 years went by and the world as she knew it was completely transformed. This is roughly the introduction to Medair's story. So amazing, unique and intriguing I was immediately lost into its words.

https://sites.google.com/a/andreakhost.com/silence/home/map
From Andrea Höst's site


I had so many emotions when reading these books: love, confused, WTF, fist-bump, WTF, *tears* confused again... yup, the whole roller-coaster neatly packed in 400 pages. Phew- I survived this ride and so should you!


The worldbuilding is awesome. The story does not dwell in explaining much, but just brings you straight to the core of things. Basically, you'll remain confused a large part of it, however, there is a point in between both books it simply *clicks* into place and all makes sense. Really. Trust me. Get both books and you wont regret it.

Lots of things from these books had me thinking really hard. The romance, I adored, as well as Medair's loyalties. Medair is a strong and fierce woman, very interesting main character that curls up within your heart.

Probably the weakest issue and the most important part that made me question lots of things was: if 500 years passed did Farakkan didn't change regarding it's tools and technology? I seriously doubt it. Inventions, settlements, agricultural systems, means of transportation do change A LOT. 500 years of thriving smart people doesn't reflect much in the before/after horn Medair lives. But yeah, I'm just nitpicking at this point. This story will truly haunt me. I can feel it... like previous Höst's books I kind of wish I had a magic eraser to forget so I can re-introduce myself to them over and over again.
















Fictional Meals

In Medair's handy infinite bag, she carries helpful snacks. In various occasions her stash of dried meat, fruits and soggy bread helped her and her travelling companions fend off hunger and exhaustion. I find it always interesting how much dried foods provided (and still do) nutritious goods when facing extreme circumstances.

I was just checking my pantry and I do carry a fine stash of dried stuff! I'm guessing if I had Medair's fancy bag I would probably carry this stuff and chocolate. Lots and lots of it. And obviously coffee, but I don't know if Farakkan's are aware of that delightful god's elixir.... Their loss!

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