Thursday, April 28, 2016

Book Review: Unity (Illirin series #2) by Laura Maisano

ISBN: 9781771278010
Published: April 28th, 2016
Publisher: MuseItUp Publishing
Read from April 10th to 18th, 2016
Synopsis from Goodreads:
The fires in Illirin have died down, and the survivors are suffering under
Emperor Nor’s tyranny. Unfortunately, Illirin isn’t the only world in danger of
oppression. Nor’s pet wizard, Matt, has issued an insane ultimatum to Earth’s
world leaders. Now Gabe and Lea are running out of time. Again.
For the past three months, Gabe has taken refuge on Earth with Lea. He’s
broken and grieving, but he’s got to pull himself together to save those he left
behind. Meanwhile, Lea prays Merlin’s prophecy of becoming powerful will come
true. She’s busted her butt practicing her newfound magic. Too bad for her, she
still sucks at it. Matt has had a lifetime to master his gift, and she’s fated to face
him? Merlin must’ve made a mistake.
Together, Gabe and Lea go to Illirin hoping to locate help, but the Winged
survivors won’t aid Gabe, who they hold responsible for their losses. While short
on friends and adding new enemies, Gabe and Lea must find a way to defeat Nor
and stop Matt’s plan. Failure could mean being torn apart, the Winged hunted to
extinction, and Earth at the mercy of a wizard bent on domination. 


Because I want to avoid any big spoilers for the first book, I'm going to try to avoid discussing the events of Unity in detail in this review. However, I do want to say that I loved how familiar this book felt when I picked it up. It had been a year or so since I read the first book, and at first, I was worried that I would be confused going into book two. Not only did everything from book one come back to me easily, there was a familiarity to the world that you just couldn't get from the first book, since it was your introduction to the world, and that was a pleasant surprise. It was a nice aspect of the book that definitely added to my enjoyment as I read.

Because I'm so used to series being trilogies or longer, I wasn't expecting the sequel to so strongly wrap everything up and conclude the story. That was a nice surprise, and another one that I greatly enjoyed. It was nice to read a story that, even though it expanded two books, was rather short in comparison to many series. I feel like the characters achieved what they needed, and I almost wish I was okay with adding spoilers to this review just so I could talk more about the ending.

As I said in my review for the first book, there are some elements of this series that I almost remind me of science fiction even though the series is fantasy. It adds a very unique flavor to the story that I quite like, and I think it might broaden the appeal of the story to some who aren't always up for fantasy.

But no matter what genre the book is, it's a nice story, and I think there are many people out there who would enjoy reading a fun series that's only two books long as opposed to getting into a longer series that may take ages to actually finish.

I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Reign Review: Season 3 Episode 11: "Succession"

Reign is back after three months! It makes me so happy to say that. It's been even longer than three months since I wrote a review because the last three episodes to air I made video reviews for instead. The long break was also unexpected to me, so I don't think I even mentioned it in my last review. I don't know enough about television to know if there's significance to the break and Reign being moved to a summer season. All I know is that I'm happy it's back, and I definitely had a moment while watching the episode where it all came back to me how much I love this show. Maybe the break did help amplify that.

I'm really happy that Charles has managed to grow on me as a character, especially considering he's now officially been crowned. In a similar vein, I'm happy that Gideon as grown on me. I wasn't sure about him at first, but I really like him. The relationship developing between him and Mary is really nice, and my heart broke when his daughter told Mary that she wanted her to be her mother.

Lola made another appearance from England, which got me excited, and I'm happy that her and Elizabeth seem to be making some steps towards being friends. I still want Lola's ultimate loyalty to be to Mary (and would like Elizabeth and Mary to be friends too), but a possible friendship between Lola and Elizabeth is exciting towards me. So I like that Lola told her about William.

Christophe, however, is a character that hasn't grown on me. He's always felt a little strange to me, and I think that I can safely call him a sociopath after this episode. When the hints were being dropped about the butcher, I thought it was odd how blatant and in your face it seemed to be, so I appreciated the fact that it was a false lead.

It's been a long break, but I don't remember suspecting Christophe as the killer. I did always dislike him though, so I can't say that this was a surprising turn. It's chilling, though, to see him threaten Catherine, and I think I'm actually worried to see how that storyline goes. I'm sure Christophe will be found out eventually, which I'll be excited to see, but who knows what will happen before then.

The episode ends with Mary declaring she's going to the Vatican. I've talked over and over again about wanting to see Mary go to Scotland, but the Vatican was never an option I considered. I'm actually stoked for this. The Vatican could be a fascinating setting, and if the Pope is a character, then that would be even more interesting. I have no clue who the Pope even was at this point in time, but I'm tempted to look it up now.

The most exciting part of this to me is that it will give us a chance to see how they handle the characters being split up among so many places, in addition to England. I think switching between England and France so far as been a success, so I have high hopes. And I think this is a good indicator that we'll see Scotland eventually, which I am ready for.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Life Post: One Week Before Finals

It's now been ten days since I wrote my last life post, and even in that one I was talking about how long it had been since the last one. I've just been terrible about blogging lately. Almost everything that I said in that last post remains true.

One slight difference, however, is that I finished up the fanfiction I was writing at the time and that I mentioned in that post was taking up so much of my time. That hasn't really made a difference, though, since now I've just been working on my novel instead.

Add on top of that the fact that the week after this coming week is finals and that I've been completing my practicum for this semester. I've just had different priorities than blogging.

The great thing about finals week being so close is that it means that it's almost summer break though. Hopefully I'll be better about blogging then. We'll see.

What I have managed to do since my last life post is upload two Youtube videos. I talked about some of what I hope to see in season two of Shadowhunters, and then I reviewed episodes 316-320 of Naruto Shippuden. At least that's not as large of a backlog of video mentions as I had in the last post.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to study for my earth science final.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Authors Responding to Negative Reviews

I'm really late to this conversation. It was a frequent topic of discussion ages ago. I don't even want to guess how long ago because I'll probably be off, but it always flares back up a bit whenever a new particularly bad incident happens. While I know I've commented on others' posts, retweeted things, etc. about the topic before, I've never discussed it at length.

That's largely because I've never been personally attacked by an author after writing a bad review for one of their books. (Fingers crossed that I didn't just jinx myself with that statement.) I'm particularly happy about that because I review so many self-published books, and that does frequently mean that I've had correspondence with the author. I also think they're generally more likely to find my review even if we haven't been in contact with each other, and they potentially have fewer people advising them against responding to negative reviews (although it should be common sense).

I have, however, had authors respond to negative reviews I've written in a way that wasn't an attack. This has only happen once or twice, and it was so long ago that I can hardly remember the exact details at this point. All I remember is that it felt very awkward because it consisted of them thanking me for writing a review and me struggling with how to respond when we were both very aware that it was a negative review.

Just a general tip for any author: please don't respond to a negative review (whether that be through a comment, tweet, email, or anyway else) even if it's to thank the reviewer for reviewing. Others may disagree with me on this, but it makes me feel awkward and uncomfortable. You know at that point that the author has read what you wrote about their book, and it's impossible to say anything about the review without that hanging between both of you. I think it's just better not to do it.

That is still, of course, nothing like the attacks I've seen authors rage on other bloggers when they are unhappy with the reviews they write. Some of the attacks (or, I feel like I should say, all of the attacks) are rather ridiculous. No matter what you write, someone is going to hate it. Ernest Hemingway is considered one of the best, and I still just barely tolerate most of his work. Don't even get me started on Old Man and the Sea. Clearly, he's a talented writer because so many love his work, but that can't be everyone. That's why it feels so ridiculous when authors attack reviewers.

None of that is even mentioning just how horrible many of these attacks are. I know that the horror stories that stand out in my mind are the outliers. Most authors who respond to negative reviews even aren't as extreme as some of what has happened in the past, but still, it goes without saying that authors shouldn't get up in arms when someone writes a bad review.

That shouldn't need to be said when this topic has been discussed so often, but then again, I never would have thought that it needed to come up in the first place.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Life Post: Finals Are Getting Closer

I haven't written one of these in more than two weeks. I haven't been blogging much at all since April came around. There's no particular reason for that. I just haven't been in the mood if I'm being honest. I'm sure that will stop being the case soon since it's been a while now, and then I'll feel more motivated.

As far as how things have been in the past two weeks, school has just gradually gotten busier, since it's getting close to finals. I think that's what's largely been behind my lack of a desire to blog. I've been having to write at least one big paper in each of my classes. When I'm not working on a school paper, I'm most likely trying to write fanfiction or work on my original novel. Needless to say, blogging has gotten put on the back burner in comparison to other writing.

However, I have posted on my writing blog since my last life post here. I wrote about inspiration when it comes to writing. But that's still only one post that was two weeks ago.

Over on Youtube, I've posted a lot more in comparison. I posted my wrap-up and TBR for the month. I talked about episodes 311-215 of Naruto Shippuden. I reviewed Risuko by David Kudler. I talked about the season one finale of Shadowhunters, and I also talked about what I am happiest they changed from the books in Shadowhunters. Honestly, I would be happy if I could get back to blogging like I've managed to post videos lately.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Book Review: Fast Food Maniac by Jon Hein

ISBN: 0553418033
Published: February 2nd, 2016
Publisher: Three Rivers Press
Read from April 8th to 10th, 2016
Synopsis from Goodreads:
The beloved personality from The Howard Stern Show celebrates American fast food, exploring the history and secret menu items of both national and regional chains, ranking everything from burgers and fries to ice and mascots, and offering his own expert tips on where to go and what to order.

Jon Hein is the ultimate fast food maniac, and in this book he draws on his extensive knowledge of, and love for, both nationwide chains and regional gems, from McDonald’s and KFC to In-N-Out Burger and Carvel. He digs into their origin stories; reveals secret menu items; includes best lists for everything from fried chicken and shakes to connoisseur concerns such as straws and biscuits; takes a nostalgic look back at the best giveaways, slogans, and uniforms; and even provides a battle-tested drive-thru strategy. With behind-the-counter looks at places like the Dunkin' Donuts headquarters and Nathan's original hot dog stand, Fast Food Maniac is the definitive, cross-country guide to some of America's best-loved guilty pleasures.


I find books that explore food, even fast food, to be fascinating. I'm not sure what it is that makes it so intriguing to me, but it's always a topic that will capture my interests. Because of that, I was excited to read this book.

The book doesn't go into much detail about any particular restaurant but instead provides a brief bit of knowledge about a wide variety of places. I would say that it's a fun book just to flip through and explore. I also found it interesting to see whether I agreed or disagreed with the rankings within the book, and I was surprised at how many of the restaurants I've never either heard of or been to, even within the national chains.

There were times when the tone of the book got a bit obnoxious to me. I think that had to do with the fact that you're flipping from restaurant to restaurant so quickly (because of how short the entries were) that eventually it just felt like too much. That's why I'd really recommend this book as something to flip through and read bits and pieces at a time. It's not something you want to sit down and read all at once, which is what I did.

I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Star Rating Systems and Confusion

I saw a book blogger talk recently about what their book rating system meant in a post (I regret that I've forgotten who it was at this point), and I've been thinking about doing it ever since, although at first I was pretty sure that I wouldn't.

That's because I feel so confused about my own book rating system. If you only read my blog, you probably don't even know what I rate books over on Goodreads because I don't post it here on the blog. That's because I don't like doing it, and I never feel confident about what star rating I choose. Each time I finish a book, I'm waffling over the exact rating to choose for a bit before I finally force myself to click on one and accept it.

Maybe it wouldn't be so difficult if I had a clearer idea of what each level means, even just to me personally. I don't. More recently I've come to accept that one star means I really, really hated the book, and a large amount of the time, it will mean that I didn't even finish the book (since I can't rate a book zero stars on Goodreads). Five stars will often mean the best of the best that I've read, but sometimes I'm feeling really good about things, and I start giving out five stars reviews easier than I do at other times. So what exactly it means depends on when I rate the book.

And the two to four star ratings are even more confusing. I'm always particularly confused when I can't choose between a three or a four star rating.

Knowing that some people use ratings on a ten star (or other object/shape) scale blows my mind because how would you ever know what to rate things?

So, I still begrudgingly use the Goodreads star rating system, but I'm not sure how I feel about it. I will admit that I kind of like being able to sort my reviews based on stars every so often. I just wish I could figure out more clearly what they all mean to me. I doubt I ever will, so for now, I'll stick to not including them in my blog reviews. Even if I sort my Goodreads shelves by them every now and then.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

A Shrinking TBR Pile

For at least the last several years, I've hardly ever bought books, and when I did, it was only one or two at a time. I'd managed to stockpile so many books that I hadn't read yet, and I was determined to get through them all. That felt very intimidating at the time because I had stacks upon stacks. It was hard just to keep track of which books were the ones I hadn't read, and I still sometimes wonder if I managed to lose track of one or two of them here or there.

Now it's different though. As it turns out, I was successful at reading them all, even if it took years. I still have books sitting around that I haven't read, but it's at a much more manageable level. One where I can easily tell that I will manage to make it through all the books.

While that does feel satisfying. I definitely like knowing that I managed to get through the books, but despite the feeling of accomplishment, there's this new sort of worry that's taken over me. It's probably due in part to my personality, but there's also the fact that I've constantly had unread books sitting on my shelves for years. Now it feels like I'm at the tail end of that, and I'm starting to feel almost nervous that I'll read them all and have nothing left to read.

I know that feeling is ridiculous. Even if I were to never buy another book, libraries exist. As do free ebooks on Amazon, although the quality of those is hit or miss. I'm never going to be completely without access to new books to read. (I hope.)

Yet I've mentioned in my last couple of monthly wrap-ups and TBRs on my Youtube channel that I've purposefully slowed down the pace that I'm reading books at, even going as far as cutting my Goodreads reading goal for the year nearly in half. Now you know why. Maybe it's an irrational decision. I don't know. I'm still reading, of course, but it is taking me what feels like a ridiculously long time to get through the book I'm currently reading.

Who knows what all of this means about my reading habits in the immediate future, but that's how I'm feeling right now. That will also probably mean fewer book reviews here on the blog and over on Youtube. Saying all of that sounds too over the top though. Obviously I'm still reading. None of this is really that big of a deal. Now I feel like I'm making some somber announcement when really I just wanted to blurt out some feelings that I've been feeling, and now I'm realizing that I also have no idea how to conclude this. (I also probably wrote this too late at night.)