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Benefits of Being a Nerd

This is a place for books and other awesome things.

Currently reading

Great Mythologies of the World
Professor Robert André LaFleur, Professor Kathryn McClymond, Professor Julius H. Bailey, Professor Grant L. Voth, The Great Courses, The Great Courses
Moby-Dick; or, The Whale
Herman Melville, Andrew Delbanco, Tom Quirk
Progress: 135/509 pages

Dash & Lily's Book of Dares Review

Dash & Lily's Book of Dares - 'Rachel Cohn',  'David Levithan'

Dash & Lily's Book of Dares is exactly what I expected to be, a cute and funny Christmas romance. I really enjoyed the use of dual perspectives, alternating between Dash and Lily's point of view. I was fun and funny to see them develop ideas about each other based on their own expectations and the notes that they had exchanged in the notebook.


The writing was clear and well-voiced. The characters were funny, relatable, and intelligent, which made the read an even more enjoyable experience. Not to mention that the events of the story could just be so darn funny. It was lovely to read another festive book this holiday season. I wouldn't say that I like this novel quite as much as the collection Let it Snow, but I definitely enjoyed it a lot. Enough that I was able to stay up into the wee hours of the morning to complete the read. 


I would recommend this to anyone who likes YA contemporary and hasn't already read this immensely popular story. I think it is one of the few well-known YA Christmas books. Definitely worth reading if you haven't already.



Norwegian Wood Review

Norwegian Wood - Haruki Murakami

Over the past year, I've heard a lot of really great things about Haruki Murakami's Norwegian Wood. After having read the book, I can attest to its splendour. Though Sputnik Sweetheart is still my favourite Murakami book, Norwegian Wood is close behind.


As always, Murakami's characters have a strange gentleness and grace. I really loved each of them even though they're imperfect individuals. The writing, of course, was absolutely gorgeous. Murakami has such a unique and beautiful way of describing things. He crafts great metaphors and is amazing at describing settings and individuals. I've got a total writing crush on him. 


Norwegian Wood has a fantastic atmosphere to it. This comes from a combination of gorgeous writing, unique characters, beautiful settings, and something else that I can't quite place. Perhaps, it's the philosophical element that Murakami always seems to incorporate into his novels. On the most basic level, Norwegian Wood is a coming of age story and a story of love and sexual awakening. 


I would recommend this novel to anyone who likes contemporary adult fiction, appreciates philosophical and sexual openness in novels, and has an interest in the unique and beautiful ways in which people are deformed. This is a great read, whether or not you are familiar with Murakami, and would make an excellent introduction to his work. 



Friday Reads!

Norwegian Wood - Haruki Murakami

Hello friends,


In a turn of events I ended up reading The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black, but I'm getting back to my TBR this weekend. I hope to complete Haruki Murakami's Norwegian Wood and, if possible, to begin reading The Robber Bride by Margaret Atwood.


What will you be reading?



The Coldest Girl in Coldtown Review

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown - Holly Black

Let me start of by saying, look at this beautiful cover!! It's gorgeous. I didn't like it at first, but it's really grown on me. 


Now for my thoughts on the novel itself. It's refreshing to read a stand-alone YA fantasy novel, as they are few and far between, but I'm not a big fan of vampire novels. I think that The Coldest Girl and Coldtown has some refreshing moments, particularly toward the end. I really enjoyed the final few chapters and kind of wish that there were more moments like those throughout the novel. 


The novel expressed some interesting ideas about vampirism, particularly that turning into a vampire may be an awakening of the darkness inside rather than the insertion of demonism into an innocent person. 


I did like Gavriel's character, which made the novel more enjoyable than it would be otherwise. I think that the madness of his character was oddly charming, especially with the distance of fiction in place. The scenes that involved Gavriel were definitely my favourite moments of the novel. 


Overall, I enjoyed this novel, as I do all of Holly Black's work, but it did not stand out to me as much as her Curse Worker's Trilogy, which is definitely my favourite work of hers.



Winter Reads!

Let it Snow - Lauren Myracle, John Green, Maureen Johnson The Stupidest Angel: A Heartwarming Tale of Christmas Terror - Christopher Moore The Chronicles of Narnia Full-Color Box Set (Books 1 to 7) - C.S. Lewis, Pauline Baynes A Dance with Dragons (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 5) - George R.R. Martin Anna Karenina - Larissa Volokhonsky, Richard Pevear, Leo Tolstoy

Feel like curling up in a warm blanket with a cup of tea or hot cocoa? It's that time of year again and I am here with a short list of books that are perfect for winter reading!


I have already mentioned and recommended Let it Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle, but it is worth mentioning again. If you like reading YA this is a great winter themed book to pick up!


Another Christmas book, which I have mentioned numerous times, is Christopher Moore's The Stupidest Angel. This book is hilarious and wonderfully wintery. Though, as I have mentioned before, it is not for those who do not like or cannot stand vulgar or morbid humour. 


The third book, or series, that I recommend is C.S. Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia! The second book, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, in particular deals greatly with winter and Christmas themes. This is a great series to reread or experience for the first time during the winter months. These books truly are modern fairy tales. The writing is simple, but the imagination and atmosphere in books is inspiring. 


Another series that I recommend for winter is A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin! These books are monsters, but definitely worth the read. Though they are not exclusively winter themed, they do deal greatly with ice, snow, and winter. "Winter is Coming" is a catchphrase from Game of Thrones for a reason.


My final suggestion for winter reading is pretty much any classic Russian novel. These tend to be behemoths of books, but are definitely worth reading and do winter atmosphere superbly. Some suggestion are Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina or War & Peace.


What books would you recommend for winter reading? 



Let it Snow Review

Let it Snow - Lauren Myracle, John Green, Maureen Johnson

Let it Snow, an anthology of three related stories written by John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle, was a surprisingly refreshing read. I really found myself enjoying the romance of these stories. I haven't read much contemporary teen fiction and most of the novels that I read are not romance-based, so it was a really fun change. I thought that the romances were fun, cute, and funny. They never came off as overdone or overdramatic, which is a plus.


I liked all three of the stories, and thought that "The Jubilee Express" and "Patron Saint of Pigs" were excellent introductions to Maureen Johnson and Lauren Myracle, neither of which I had read before. I really enjoyed John Green's story, "A Cheertastic Christmas Miracle," which felt very different from his other works, but still maintained a classic John Green brand of humour. 


I would strongly recommend this collection to anyone looking for some light, funny, holiday reading. I can see myself reading this collection again next year. 



My Favourite Animes!


So, I've told you about my favourite mangas and now it's time for me to share my favourite animes. Other than D-Gray Man and Vampire Knight, which were both mentioned in my manga post, my favourite animes are as follows:


Attack on Titan: This anime is tied for first with D-Gray Man. It has an amazing premise and is so creepy. Definitely one of the most brutal animes that I've watched. Lots of blood and gore, but it never seems unnecessary to the story or the premise, which centres around the remaining group of humankind, who are separated from man-eating giants by three weakening walls. It's just brutal. Kind of like the Game of Thrones of anime. This series is currently incomplete, but absolutely amazing none the less. I give this anime five out of five stars. 


Darker Than Black: You can find this short, completed anime on Netflix. It isn't as dark as Attack on Titan, but still very intense. Really cool story line centred around magical individuals known as contractors. I really appreciate that this is one of the few animes that I've watched that actually has an ending. Most animes I start are still in production or left incomplete. I give this anime four and a half out of five stars.


InuYasha: InuYasha is a childhood favourite of mine. I absolutely love the humour, the romance, and the demon-hunting premise. Such a great anime. I love it for totally different reasons than Attack on Titan or Darker than Black, but I love it just the same. It 's just so satisfying to watch. Though it has more humour than some of my other favourites, it can still be very intense and action-packed. I give InuYasha five out five stars, but I know that part of that is sentimental attachment. 


Kaze No Stigma: Also on Netflix, Kaze No Stigma has only one season out currently. The plot is centred around individuals who can manipulate the elements. Not only is this anime infused with great humour, but also with lots of action and drama. Very funny and entertaining. I give it four and a half out of five stars.


I also really love Full Metal Alchemist (four and half out of five stars), and Dragon Ball Z, which was another childhood favourite (four out of five stars).


Do you all like watching anime? If so, what are your favourites?




My Favourite Mangas!

Special A, Vol. 1 - Maki  Minami Vampire Knight, Vol. 01 - Tomo Kimura, Matsuri Hino The Wallflower 1 - Tomoko Hayakawa D.Gray-man, Volume 21 - Katsura Hoshino

Reading the first volume of Pandora Hearts last month has reawakened my love of manga. So in that spirit, I decided that I would tell you all about my favourite mangas. (I will probably also do a segment on my favourite animes in the future.)


S.A. (Special A) by Maki Minami: This is such a charming anime. So funny and lighthearted. It's about a group of super smart private school students and their shenanigans! Really funny romances and great characters. This is in my top two favourite animes. I also watched the show, but it wasn't as good as some of the other manga adaptations I've seen. I give the magna five out of five stars.


Vampire Knight by Matsuri Hino: This manga takes place at a boarding school with one campus for the Day Class and one for the Night Class (vampires!). This manga has great intrigue, great humour, and the anime adaptation has some of my favourite  animation! I give the manga four and a half out of five stars.


The Wallflower by Tomoko Hayakawa: A classic manga about your stranger-than-average girl who's living with a group of gorgeous boys. Chaos and hilarity ensues. This is a super funny manga and I would recommend it to anyone who loves Japanese humour. It's constant giggles with this one. I give the manga four and a half out of five stars.


D-Gray Man by Katsura Hoshino: D-Gray Man claims its spot with S.A. in my top two, though for very different reasons. Though it is still interspersed with moments of humour, which I absolutely love, this is a much darker series, dealing with exorcists who hunt and rid the world of akuma. I have also watched the manga, which is exceptional, though incomplete. I give the manga five out of five stars.


What are your favourite animes? Any suggestions for future reading?




December TBR!!

The Stupidest Angel: A Heartwarming Tale of Christmas Terror - Christopher Moore Let it Snow - Lauren Myracle, John Green, Maureen Johnson Norwegian Wood - Haruki Murakami The Robber Bride - Margaret Atwood A Dance with Dragons (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 5) - George R.R. Martin

This December, I have an entire free month from school, exams, and work, something that has never happened in the history of my higher education! And, naturally, this means that a ton of reading will occur! I'm so excited!


I plan on reading two Christmas-themed books this month. The first is a reread of my all-time favourite Christmas book, Christopher Moore's The Stupidest Angel! I have mentioned this book before and it is just delightful, though not one that I would recommend to people opposed to vulgar and morbid humour. The second Christmas themed book that I will be reading this month is Let it Snow, by John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle! This is a collection of short Christmas related stories and I'm really looking forward to reading it. (It's the only thing by John Green that I have not yet read.)


Now for the non-Christmas books! At the moment, I'm planning on reading Haruki Murakami's Norwegian Wood, which I have nothing but amazing things about, Margaret Atwood's The Robber Bride, which I have been meaning to read since last December, and finally completing George R.R. Martin's A Dance With Dragons! Oh yes. I'm super excited for all of these reads, but right now I'm most looking forward to finishing A Dance with Dragons. I'm really sad that I lost steam with it during the term.


Now assuming that the month goes particularly well, I'm also considering reading Isaac Marion's Warm Bodies, James Franco's Palo Alto, and perhaps even completing Murakami's Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman. We'll see how the month goes!


What are you all planning on reading this month?



November Wrap Up

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl - Jesse Andrews Pandora Hearts, Vol. 01  - Tomo Kimura, Jun Mochizuki By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept - Elizabeth  Smart Catching Fire  - Suzanne  Collins The Boy in the Striped Pajamas - John Boyne



November turned out to be a really great reading month. I finished reading a total of 6 books! Unfortunately, only one of these books was from my November TBR. 


The first book that I read and completed was Wilderness Tips by Margaret Atwood, which is a delightful short story collection. I have already posted my review.


After that I started reading Haruki Murakami's Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman, which I was unable to complete. I got stuck around the half-way point and lost motivation to read this book. This is unfortunate because I really love Haruki Murakami, but for some reason I find it hard to get through his short stories. This is not at all the case when it comes to his novels.


The next book I was able to complete was Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews. I read this in a single sitting and really enjoyed it. It was the perfect thing to get me back into the rhythm of reading. I have already posted my review for this. 


The next book that I read was actually a manga! I really love manga and anime, but I haven't had the chance to read in this medium for quite a while. Not since high school! I read the first volume of Pandora Hearts, which was written and illustrated by Jun Mochizuki. I really enjoyed this first volume, and I'm definitely considering picking up the next volume. I do not plan on doing a full review for this.


Then I read Elizabeth Smart's By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept. This book was recommended to me by my Canadian Literature professor last summer. It's a very poetic and musically written book that focuses on the author's affair with British poet George Barker. This was an interesting read with highly emotional prose. As such, I don't think that I was able to fully grasp the work on a first reading. 


After seeing the new and amazing Catching Fire movie, I couldn't help but rereading Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins! I really enjoyed reading this book this time around. I liked it when I first read it in high school, but I feel like watching the movie actually made this book better. I know. Weird. It was great having the chance to reread a book. I don't get to do that often. 


The last book that I completed this November was John Boyne's The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. Such a lovely, haunting read. I did a full review, which I have already posted. If you haven't already read this, I would really encourage it. 


So, that's my reading wrap up for November. Even though I didn't stick to by TBR, I regard November as a reading success! What did you all read this month?




The Boy in the Striped Pajamas Book Review

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas - John Boyne

It's truly amazing how much this book does with so few pages. The story is told very simply from a child-like perspective. It focuses on a nine year old named Bruno, and though it isn't told directly from his perspective, there is very little narrative distance. Hence, we are not trapped in Bruno's perspective, but travel seamlessly into his thoughts and emotions. 


This is a very innocent way to recount a small slice of the events that occurred in Europe during the Holocaust. Bruno has little to no understanding of what is going on when his father is promoted by Hitler and moved to what Bruno knows as "Out With." This not only creates a great deal of tension throughout the piece, but also tones down the drama and horror of the events that Bruno unwittingly witnesses. 


This is a really easy read, but it should not be taken lightly. It is very powerful, sad, beautiful and memorable. I can see myself reading this book again in the future. It is very very good and definitely worth picking up.



Catching Fire Movie Review

Catching Fire  - Suzanne  Collins

Catching Fire is without a doubt the most faithful YA movie adaptation that I have ever seen. I think that I liked the movie even better than the book, which is saying something. The acting was exceptional! Even though the movie dealt with intense emotions, the acting never felt forced or cheesy. The movie did an amazing job of allowing the audience to empathize with the characters.


I'm not a movie expert, so I can't list all the amazing things that the movie did. All I know is that, when the movie ended, I wanted to reread the book and see the movie again. Haha. It's just that good. So much better than the first movie, which I actually really enjoyed. Go see it! It is so good. 



Me and Earl and the Dying Girl Review

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl - Jesse Andrews

I needed a break from the short fiction that I've been reading this month so I picked up Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews.


I read it in what was essentially a single sitting. This book has some great entertainment value. It's a very voicey read, which is at the same time engaging and irritating; however, I think that we are supposed to feel irritated with the main character from time to time. 


Though the high expectations that I had going into this book were not completely met, I did really enjoy the read. It diligently works to deal truthfully with cancer and death in youth, which is admirable; however, it is not simply a book about illness. 


I don't really have much to say about it other than I liked it, but it didn't blow me away.



Ender's Game Movie Review

Ender's Game - Orson Scott Card

It's been quite a while since I read Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card, so this review will not be able to provide an in-depth look at the differences between the book and the movie; however, I will do my best to compare and contrast the story's execution in these two mediums.


Right off the bat, I was impressed by how well the plot was compressed. Obviously, this compression had faults, the main one being that the movie did not give an accurate idea of how much time passed during Ender's training. This made the story unbelievable to those who had not previously read the book.


I thought that the movie did a good job of showing the simulations, but I found that I wanted more from them. Since the majority of the story is set in space, I wanted more explanation of the way that training worked without gravity. I also wanted more insight into the strategies that Ender creates during training, since I recall that being a significant chunk of the novel.


All that being said, I really enjoyed the movie. I'm not sure how much sense it would make to someone who hasn't read the book, but I personally really enjoyed this movie separate from the book. I thought that it was a good adaptation, and can't think of any plausible ways that it could be improved without it being super long. Overall, it's an entertaining and well done movie, but, as expected, it doesn't compare to the book.



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Wilderness Tips Review

Wilderness Tips - Margaret Atwood

This is going to be a biased review because Margaret Atwood is one of my favourite authors. I hadn't read any of her short stories until this collection and I really enjoyed her writing in this medium. A few of my favourite stories are "True Trash," "The Bog Man," "Uncles," "The Age of Lead," and, of course, "Wilderness Tips." These stories stood out for me in particular (and for very different reasons), but I actually really enjoyed all of the stories.


I really enjoyed how most (or all) of Atwood's stories had a frame structure. Most of the stories recounted a lifetime from a distilled and unique present. This is something that's new to my short story experience. Most of the stories that I've read are focused on the action of the present; however, I really enjoyed this method and think that it worked to great effect in Wilderness Tips.


I also really liked that most of the stories were set in Toronto, or Canadian summer camps. As a Canadian, it's interesting to read more stories set in my homeland.


Overall, this is a brilliant collection of short stories. If you like short fiction or Margaret Atwood and haven't read this you definitely should check it out.