Wednesday, June 28, 2017

ARC Review: Warcross by Marie Lu

Warcross (Warcross #1)
By Marie Lu
YA, Sci-Fi, Thriller
Release Date: September 12, 2017
Penguin Canada
From #1 New York Times bestselling author Marie Lu—when a game called Warcross takes the world by storm, one girl hacks her way into its dangerous depths. For the millions who log in every day, Warcross isn’t just a game—it’s a way of life. The obsession started ten years ago and its fan base now spans the globe, some eager to escape from reality and others hoping to make a profit. Struggling to make ends meet, teenage hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down players who bet on the game illegally. But the bounty hunting world is a competitive one, and survival has not been easy. Needing to make some quick cash, Emika takes a risk and hacks into the opening game of the international Warcross Championships—only to accidentally glitch herself into the action and become an overnight sensation. Convinced she’s going to be arrested, Emika is shocked when instead she gets a call from the game’s creator, the elusive young billionaire Hideo Tanaka, with an irresistible offer. He needs a spy on the inside of this year’s tournament in order to uncover a security problem... and he wants Emika for the job. With no time to lose, Emika’s whisked off to Tokyo and thrust into a world of fame and fortune that she’s only dreamed of. But soon her investigation uncovers a sinister plot, with major consequences for the entire Warcross empire. In this sci-fi thriller, #1 New York Times bestselling author Marie Lu conjures an immersive, exhilarating world where choosing who to trust may be the biggest gamble of all. 
Hey everybody! *crickets crickets*
Yes, I am aware it has been quite some time since my last post and for that I have no excuse. I have certainly been missing the blogging world however, and reading in general. So, when I had the opportunity to read Warcross I most certainly did not pass it up.  Finally, I could do some reading which wasn't coming from a source material forced upon me from my Professors.

Just the summary itself sets it self apart from the more commonly seen YA scenarios and honestly I can not remember the last YA I read set in a sci-fi/futuristic world. It is not a common sub-genre within YA so it was refreshing to experience. It was also well executed, Lu's world-building clearly is the crux of the book and without it you'd be lost. With it, you are fully immersed in the story from the very beginning and throughout the story just wanting to learn more and more details about the world that these characters call home. Perhaps this (alongside the non-stop action) is what added to the book's seemingly compulsive pull on me to continue turning the pages far into the night.

There was quite a bit of terminology alongside the featured technology expectantly involved in this story and it was handled in a clear way that honestly just had me marveling at its coolness (for lack of a better term) and at times feeling quite honestly jealous at its element of escapism. There is just something about escaping from the daily grind of reality, as captured by this story, that is so appealing. The irony is  not lost on me that I managed to escape the current stress of my own life by reading this novel, meanwhile in the novel you could definitely see examples of characters doing the same.

Speaking of characters, Emika was a pleasant enough narrative to read through. I enjoyed her definitely more as the story went on and especially had grown fond of her by the end. That is certainly a sign of good character development, as in the beginning I was rather ambivalent (and honestly skeptical of her). I just found Lu was trying to cram in all of the emotional turmoil Emika suffered throughout her whole life  in the beginning of the story and for the cynic I am, I just found it to disingenuous and therefore it nearly had the opposite effect of the intended. I did not feel sorry for her, rather I felt annoyed at being bombarded with her life story instead of learning it throughout the course of the novel. I honestly found it to be a poorly guised technique for me to connect and sympathize to Emika straight away. It did not work.

However, what did work was seeing Emika grow and change. This was especially highlighted when Emika got more and more engrossed in the games and seeing her handle these heightened stakes. You really do get a sense of her intellect, integrity, loyalty and bravery throughout Warcross and for me that was what I found appealing. It was seeing her challenge to adversity present in the novel and her fighting spirit. It was seeing her character grow to be less naive and learn from her previous thoughts and mistakes. Without giving away spoilers, Emika becomes a character you can truly root for and, through some of Lu's emotionally evocative scenes, you not only understand her emotions but truly empathize and connect on a greater level. 

Emika's relationships to side characters in the novel are also interesting, and I would say that they are a little bit different to what you would normally see in YA. There are definitely layers present in their interactions and especially of that with the love interest. While I found Emika's backstory to be completely in your face obvious, I found the side characters (including the love interest's) to be more subtle and definitely more mysterious. By the end of the book there is still so much you do not know and it just leaves you with even more questions. I like that in the sense that it has you evaluating more closely what is going on and reading in between the lines to piece some details together. The side character's themselves are also just so much fun and I think give Warcross that extra little spark. I loved seeing their friendships with Emika not only grow but get challenged and altered throughout.

A bigger focus throughout the story was the love interest's relationship with Emika, which I briefly mentioned in the above. Honestly, I am rather iffy on it. While I feel Emika's attraction and strong feelings made sense (given there was a previously held almost 'celeb' like idolization) I cannot say the same of love interest's. It seemed as if his feelings just came out of the blue and I am not sure what the base of this was for him, therefore I do get some insta-love vibes. However, I enjoyed Emika and her love interest's romantic interactions and witty banter present throughout Warcross. Lu can definitely write romance. This is also a relationship that I think is completely tied into the ending and I am most certainly curious to see where Lu goes with it.

The ending ahhhhhh. I do not know where to even begin.  It was an ending that certainly packed a punch and one was I was not expecting at all, the very definition of plot twist. It was not a twist completely thrown out of left field however, with it making sense and looking back I could see the tiny hints weaved throughout the novel that would lead to its conclusion. The ending of Warcross certainly changed the course of the novel and I assume the resulting path will further complicate things in the sequel to come. I cannot wait to read it and see what else Lu throws at us.

 This was the first novel of Lu's I have ever read and I certainly am not disappointed. While everything else I have highlighted in this review is relevant to my feelings on this book, the most pushing (yet seemingly basic and inarticulate) thought I continue to have is that I simply had fun reading this story. It has been quite some time since I have truly read a book without pause and was smiling, gasping and just being so damn engrossed in it. I literally missed the train stop I was supposed to get off to meet my boyfriend at because I was reading Warcross. For a  novel with elements of escapism in it, I found myself having so much pure joy at reading it and in fact escaping for a bit myself. I have already touched on this idea a bit already but something inside of me cannot help reflect at how ironic this all is, and how books can provide that feeling for many.

In summation: read this book and escape for awhile. You will not regret it and will have a blast. 

~ Thank you Penguin Canada for the advance copy~
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Monday, January 23, 2017

20 things I've learned in my 20 years // IT'S MY 20TH BIRTHDAY WHAT

IT'S MY BIRTHDAY. Ahhh, I really cannot believe I'm now 20 and no longer a teenager :o I started blogging back in 2014 (on YA Midnight Reads) which is pretty wild to me. I'm growing up but honestly I still feel quite young.

I suppose it is that feeling that has inspired me to write this post. I am going to make it my goal; to craft one of these posts every single year as I grow older. In this way I hope to see a concrete representation of  growth and also to see if anything about me has changed. If nobody else reads this I honestly think it'll just be interesting for me to see personally and it's something I'm quite excited about. LOL I suppose it is one regular post I will guarantee on this blog. 

Now onto 20 things I have learned over the course of my 20 years on this lovely planet Earth. Some will be deep, some more silly but irregardless things that I find relevant and important. This list is in no particular order and please do ignore typos. I'm literally spilling my brain directly into this and I'm sure there will be a shit ton of errors and run on sentences. 

1) The importance of learning to be okay with be alone, how to deal with loneliness and the fact you're never truly alone. Loneliness is something I have most certainly experienced and I would say this feeling was really highlighted in the past two years of my life specifically. With highschool friends moving away, attending a University over 30 000 (lol not sure how big this is compared to the rest of the world but it's large to me okay) and not originally knowing anybody there, and some big friendship/boyfriend breakups AHHHH. There have been some times where I have felt completely alone. This is not a nice feeling and because of the frequency of it lately I have had to learn how to deal with it. I have learned to appreciate the time I do spend alone with doing activities that do make me feel happy. Whether it be reading, watching tv or even writing to express how I'm feeling, there is something to usually occupy my mind. Furthermore I have learned that you're not truly ever alone. This is something I've partially learned from this community in fact, that you can reach out to others online who have gone through similar experiences and lean on each other. You can feel this genuine support and new ideas you may have not even considered that will make you feel so much better.

2) Family matters.  I'm 20 and to say I have had my fair share of disagreements with my family would be quite the understatement. We all have very strong personalities after-all that tend to clash. However if I have learned anything in this past year due to unfortunate circumstances is that the bond family shares is something to cherish, is so special and important. We must value the time we spend together as (excuse me I'm going to be really frank) we don't have forever. Nobody is going to have our backs in the end more than our family and despite any tough arguments/disagreements we must remember that there is so much love present. It's also important to realize (and this may be obvious to some) that yes our families are indeed human. They have their own shit going on, they're not just roles in your life but people.

3) Stop being petty and just fucking talk about it. LOL this is something I struggle with. I really do tend to be quite passive aggressive and drop hints when I'm upset. I honestly thing sub-tweeting was invented for people like me. Clearly, this is not a healthy way to deal with my anger/sadness and it will avoid a lot of unnecessary build up of conflict if I avoid being petty. As hurt as I've been I have found it so much easier to directly address the source of the pain I'm feeling. Yes this can be pretty nerve-wracking but it really does save time to cut the bullshit and get to the root of the problem. I've found it removes the unnecessary drama component as well and usually leads to a more successful resolution. 

4)  Stop saying ‘Sorry’ or ‘It’s okay’ when you don’t mean it. #Canadianprobs You don’t realize how frequently you say it until you do and sometimes you don’t realize how much power those words actually can give people. You give power to other people and in some cases it can excuse their behavior and the hurt it has caused you if you just simply say it all the time. If you’re not sorry or you don’t feel okay, don’t say it at all and say something else. If someone is apologizing but you don’t forgive them yet? Don’t say ‘it’s okay’ when it isn’t or else this could end up with you just getting more and bitter in some circumstances. 

5) Try not to let jealousy overpower you. I'm naturally a really jealous person who tends to especially so in cases of friendships and relationships. Ooops. But I'm working on it. Remember you are  awesome and amazing and are not going to get replaced. Jealousy is going to cause you a lot of problems inevitably but don’t give into it. We need to stop comparing ourselves to others and find happiness in our own selves.

6) Your self-worth is not determined by others. Stop caring so much about what others think because their opinions do not matter as much as how you see yourself. If you love and value yourself, that’s enough. If someone talks bad about you, who cares? We need to stop putting so much care in regards to what the media perpetuates as the norm (especially in beauty standards) and accept ourselves. guess what?! The perfect person/woman/life/job/social life/anything does not exist. Dealing with this highly ingrained social and cultural norms in a healthy way is a zillion times easier said then done. Baby steps.

7) Trust your gut instinct. I tend to second guess things which just leads to me overthinking and then going with my original idea. This could really be easily avoided if I just followed my gut in the first place. It's vital to have faith in yourself because you are the one in charge here. Trust yourself and it will make decisions a whole lot more simple. 

8) Acknowledge other people's opinions AND feelings.  This is something that may seem like common sense but sometimes when we get caught up in our own way of thinking it is something that can be overlooked. Acknowledge that different views may exist even if you do not agree with them, they are still valid to the person who holds them. Also you must importantly acknowledge a person's feelings. For example, if they are offended by something and you're not? Fair enough. Don't just toss aside their feelings as being null/void/wrong. That is going to do absolutely nothing and usually ends up derailing any positive and important discussion from occurring.

9) Live a little. Take some risks. Break from routine.  #YOLO hahahaha. As cheesy as it is, I've found this really true. I tend to be somebody who enjoys the comforts in life and usually doesn't stray to far from the norms of day to day life. But what are some of the best memories of my 20 years on this planet? The times I've taken risks. Clearly this should tell you something. The most fun adventures that are to be had will not be occurring during your daily routine most likely. This is why you should really mix things up. However, I must recommend NOT to try the ghost pepper. Yeah... that was a risk gone wrong.

10) Don't be shy. Be active. Alright, by this I am not talking about being active as in physically healthy (lols also important and I need to work on that), I'm talking about being active in terms of sharing your voice. Don't be shy or scared to share your views. Take an activist role by sharing your thoughts/values/beliefs because that is how you learn and grow.  Advocate for what you believe in and you'll undoubtedly find a community with similar thoughts which will allow you to truly have meaningful conversation. If you never speak up then you'll be severely limited and that will impact your growth in the long run. 

11) Educate yourself and know the facts. If you are going to be engaging in some sort of meaningful discussion as previously mentioned or just any sort of conversation about controversial issues it usually helps if you know what is going on. By this however I don't just mean what is going on in your life/your personal connection to the issue at hand. Be worldly and diverse in your thinking. Think about others and how SO many different factors may come into play. I think knowledge is so important and research is crucial to really getting a better understanding of the world, as is listening and truly trying to understanding the experience of others. Never stop trying to get a more cohesive view and keep on learning. Question everything, it's how you learn and grow. 

12)  Learn when to stop caring/ one sided friendships suck balls. Recognize when you care more than the other party, you need to know when to pull back. In the long run you have to stop caring and realize some people will never feel the same way you do- time won’t change that. This is something I really have realized in regards to one sided friendships this year. Despite all of the effort you may pour in there will come a point when you'll realize you're getting nothing in return. This isn't normal nor is it okay. Friendships are a two sided thing and if you're the one constantly trying to make it work while the other person is cruising/only there when it's convenient? So not worth it. Cut the strings and you will feel so much relief. 

13) HOLY DLKASJDALKJDA IT IS EXAM TIME AND I'M GOING TO FAIL WHAT IS EVEN LIFE OMFG I CANNOT BREATHE.  (HOW TO DEAL WITH STRESS) Life can be all sorts of stress at times and it can be so so so so overwhelming. This is why finding stress relieving techniques will save your life. I think I have some sort of a system down?? For me I love baths. I used to be the type of person who could not stand them but now I'm obsessed. I think Lush deserves some of the credit for this, their bubble bars/bath bombs smell so great and are so fun. They make bath time even more relaxing and fun. Other than baths, another thing that helps me is to totally take a day away from studying as counter-productive as that may sound. This requires not only taking a break from studying though, but also from anything that may remind you of it. So your phone buzzing with constant panicked texts and reminders? Bye. Try to completely disconnect from everything. Food, ugh don't underestimate the power of good food.  This is what works for me but I know everybody has different techniques. I'm still perfecting mine. 

14) Life is not some super romantic movie or some typical YA romance novel. Hah. This point is a little cynical but true for me. Growing up I've constantly been immersed and actively consuming romantic material. Which yeah, I'm not crazy- ......of course I realize that books/movies don't = real life. But I suppose some of those tropes are harder for me to shake in terms of my expectations which are admittedly at times unrealistic.  I had some pretty grandiose notions of a relationship that definitely has sprung from these over the top romantic forms of media. Now, I'm not saying do not have standards but it really is important to go into things open minded without any preconceived notions of things will be. Or else yeah, you'll end up pretty fucking disappointed. Yes, you'll fight with your boyfriend/girlfriend and it won't be pretty. Yes, there probably won't be any huge grand gestures. Appreciate the little things :)

15) Be money smart. Hahahaha. Okay! So with student loans and all of that bullshit it’s probably time for some finance planning. Yes, we can still splurge and have fun. But, perhaps buying food all the time isn’t the best (……BUT IT TASTES SO GOOD). Work on budgeting and allotting certain amounts of cash for certain treats. Value your job, it really is so important despite what you may rather be doing. I'm really realizing this now as I recently lost my job /: which leads me to my next point...

16) Don't give up. In regards to my previous point, which deals with me not having a job there has been so many times I've felt completely hopeless. Times are super tough where I live right now, to the point where 94 people are applying to a part time retail job. You have got to keep pushing to see any results though. I applied to so many places and finally have received an interview (which is actually tomorrow haha) so I hope that all my attempts will eventually amount to something.

17) Fake it till you make it. For me I have always loved dressing up in fancy clothing, doing my make-up, fixing my hair and trying new looks. I found it easy to slip into the mask of confidence while doing so and it made me feel good. Then there came a day when I was applying red lipstick when I realized something- I was not faking confidence anymore. I was sincerely confident in myself and getting dolled up was just an extension of that- no longer was it the basis of that feeling. It really did take some time but looking back at my 16 year old self I really think I've grown so much. Do I still have days where I'm not 100% feeling it? Yes totally, I am human. Nevertheless I have made so much progress in terms of self-confidence and that is growing with each passing day. 

18) TRAVEL TRAVEL TRAVEL. I have not traveled a lot recently and it's killing me :( However, the next chance I get you bet I will be getting my ass on a plane. Travel to me is something so rewarding and such a learning experience, and not just in the ways you expect. Yes, you'll undoubtedly learn/develop a new appreciation for different cultures and different ways of life but you'll also build essential life skills. Planning, language, navigation, packing, new foods....the list goes on and on. There are literally no cons, I mean besides the lighter feeling in your bank account. 

19) There is no better medicine than some girl talk. There is nothing that beats crying/ranting phone calls or late night car rides where you just leave everything on the table. I appreciate these so much. You really do feel a weight lifted off your shoulders after these sessions. I also find them to be the true friendship builders. See if you can stand to see me crying with mascara all over my face and then we can maybe be real friends [; 

20) I don't have it all figured out. LOL I'm no where near close to having everything in life figured out. I have so many more mistakes to make and learn from. I have so many more opportunities to learn what I adore and cannot stand. I have time to change my mind and start fresh. I am able to make new friends and learn new perspectives. I may loose people I may have thought would be in my life forever or at least a very long time
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Sunday, January 22, 2017

Must Watch TV Shows

So clearly I have not been reading as much as I used to and I believe that is partially due to the fact that when I'm having down time I just want to relax into my sofa and watch netflix. I have always loved watching TV but that love has only grown over the years it seems which is why today I'd like to share some of my favorites with you (: I'd say they're quite spread out overall but I do notice some overarching trends I seem to like.

Without further ado, some of my favorite TV series (in no particular order):

  • Jane The Virgin (2014-present)

This show is just hilarious. I mean with a plot surrounding a women who is accidentally artificially inseminated I think that can be expected. It uses the dramatic tropes of actual telenovelas in a satirical way that is just so well done. You'd think I would find this show overly dramatic/cheesy but honestly the writing is so good in the way that the show doesn't take itself seriously. This just adds to its charm, not to mention how easily binge watchable it is. There are also some very well done romance arcs that I just adore. However, the real star of the show is the beautifully done relationship with Jane and her family. 

  • iZombie (2015-present)

I feel as if this series is a little bit more unknown? I completely adore it to no end though. It's written by Rob Thomas (hello, Veronica Mars creator) and you can definitely tell with the gripping plot, hilarious one liners and refreshing take on the tired cop show trope. It is a show that is also surprisingly emotional in some scenes (the season finales hold nothing back) and it packs quite the punch. I really wish more people I knew watched this one so I could have more people to talk about it with. Currently it seems as if the next season won't be coming out for a while so PLEASE. Binge watch this and get back to me. 

  • Stranger Things (2016-present)
Omg if you haven't watched this already...WHAT ARE YOU DOING!? It's a stellar netflix original that everybody seems to love, I haven't heard of anybody who wasn't immediately drawn in by the very creepy sci-fi undertones this series has. It is also very emotional and I 100% cried after the finale. You will definitely become attached to the characters, and for me personally I definitely became attached to the children in particular. They're insanely talented actors/actresses for sure whose performances will blow your mind.  I need season two already please. 

  • Gossip Girl (2007-2012)

Haha, this one is an classic. Objectively super over dramatic but my ultimate guilty pleasure. I actually just started/finished this series around this time last year. It is one that you can definitely binge watch as it's just so addicting. You certainly grow to love (or completely despise...yes i'm looking at you Jenny Humphrey) the characters and do see quite a bit of development over the course of the series. Romance wise there is also no shortage of that on Gossip Girl, with one of my favorite ships of all time (Chuck & Blair) being present. However, there is still one part of me that dislikes a certain romance that ended up being endgame in the series finale  (;

  • How I Met Your Mother (2005-2014)

Can somebody give me props for finishing all 9 seasons of this show during the last summer? Haha cause that certainly happened. And I enjoyed them all. I mean minus that series finale because WTF WAS THAT!? However, even with my intense dislike of the way things ended (I'm obviously not alone in that) I still recommend this show. Despite the ending, I enjoyed and laughed during every episode. I became so attached to these characters, their lives, their storylines, their romances. This show never failed to bring my mood up, even in its more emotional points. I have so much love for it and think I always will.

  • How to Get Away With Murder (2014-present)
This show is probably one of the most intense and heart pounding I've ever watched. There is some much tension and suspense in every episode. I adore the way the story is told (flashbacks leading up to the big moment seen in the season finale) and it makes the show even more addicting. The characters are also not black & white in the slightest, they're so complex and grey that it makes you wonder about them all. Of course, I must give props to Viola Davis as her portrayal of Annaliese never ceases to blow my mind. 

  • A Series of Unfortunate Events (2017-present) 
This show is very new, it just got added to Netflix this month. .....And I finished all of the episodes available in a single weekend. Oops. I loved reading this series when I was younger and this show captures the books perfectly. It's quirky, humorous, emotional, dark, mysterious, hopeful and I cannot wait to see the rest of the book series get played out. The acting in this show that is also so amazing, from the children, to the side characters and to Count Olaf. 

  • Modern Family (2009-present)

This show has been on air since 2009 and is still going strong. Which is something that I do find remarkable honestly. It really is an hilarious show and I always laugh multiple times during an episode- guaranteed. I love the family dynamics and even as the situations can get pretty unbelievable they're done in a way that doesn't come across as contrived or forced. The show also tackles some pretty big issues in tasteful ways. It incorporates a lot of diversity and I love it. 

  • Hart of Dixie (2011-2015)

I really wish this show lasted longer than it did. It was honestly so cute and different than what I usually watch. I loved the atmosphere of the small town and its hilarious members. For all of its numerous funny moments there were actually some pretty deep emotional ones that made me feel all of the feels. Of course I must mentioned the relationship between Wade/Zoe. As complicated as it was I found it to be simple in terms of how obvious their feelings were for each other (; Definitely one of my favorite tv couples. 


I hope from this post you found some new TV shows to check out!! 
Also if any of you have watched these shows I would love discuss them with you. Haha, clearly I am an avid TV watcher of sorts and love talking about my favorite shows :)

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