Review: Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo

Freitag, 5. Januar 2018

Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo
Published: June 17th 2014 by Henry Holt and Company
Number of Pages: 427 Pages (Paperback)
Series: Yes, #3 in the Grisha Trilogy or Grishaverse

   Since this is the third and final book in this trilogy I won't post the summary here, since it certainly contains spoilers, so head on over to goodreads if you want to read it.

   I was more than ready to love this book, hoped that the ending would live up to all the positive reviews I'd seen on YouTube and on goodreads from bloggers and booktubers I trust. But, unfortunately, I was left feeling disappointed and annoyed at a lot of what happened. I will try to talk about my opinions in a way that won't contain any spoilers, or at least I'll try.

“I hope you weren't looking to me to be the voice of reason.
I keep to a strict diet of ill-advised enthusiasm and heartfelt regret.”

   Siege and Storm, the second book in this trilogy, already left me feeling more neutral and underwhelmed than I expected after I'd LOVED Shadow and Bone (review). I truly hoped that things would change in the finale, that the answers we'd hopefully get would make the mediocracy of the second book okay, but unfortunately that didn't happen.
   The beginning, as in about the first 100 pages or more, were very slow. There was just a lot of nothing, just some conversations, sitting around, thinking, some more conversations that didn't really amount to anything much. Then the plot finally picks up once Nikolai shows up.
   To be quite honest, Nikolai was the reason I didn't give up on Siege and Storm, and I hoped he would once more play a bigger role in this book, but that wasn't the case. We get a lot of tension between Alina and one of the main male characters, a lot of angst and emotional struggle, which I found just a bit annoying after a while, though not quite as bad as in Siege and Storm.
   Just as I hoped we did get some background informations that did explain some things, some relations between characters and history, and that was great. I liked how everything was tied together and how it certainly explained a few of the key things. It showed that all those things hadn't been just said along the way but that there'd been a purpose all along, hints that now finally made sense and created the big picture we'd waited for.

   Unfortunately the story did a great job of having amazing characters, and then just not using them, sending them away or other, and that was just really a shame. There were so many other ways in which those characters could've been used more effectively for a bigger impact than this. When the first major character related plot twist happened, I know we were all supposed to probably be shocked and sad, but I was just very annoyed. I liked that character, damn it.
   Ironically later down the line we had another major character twist (I'm avoiding actually saying what it was but I think once you'll read it you'll know what I mean) and, again, I'm pretty sure we were supposed to be sad, feel the pain of that event. Well, I don't know what it says about me, but I was pretty happy and smiled, though my happiness was short lived.

Na razrusha'ya. I am not ruined. E'ya razrushost. I am ruination.”

   Then there is generally the ending of Ruin and Rising, and thus also the trilogy as a whole. Did I like it, did it live up to my expectations and leave me satisfied? Nope. I really didn't like the ending and I'm not sure if I feel like it made sense in the grand scheme of the characters but I know others loved it so theres that. When I started Shadow and Bone I was in love with this world Leigh Bardugo had created and these really intricate characters, yet the ending of Ruin and Rising left me wondering if maybe I should've just stopped and only read Shadow and Bone. That isn't to say that Ruin and Rising, as well as Siege and Storm, didn't contain any awesome stuff, because they most certainly did. The writing was brilliant, the world building very interesting and (at least some of) the characters were well characterized and great to read about. Some of the secondary characters fell a bit flat and I probably didn't care about them as much as I should have.

   Speaking of which, let's talk about the main characters. Alina, who seemed like such a strong character most of the time, had so many emotional struggles because of a certain someone that I was just amazingly annoyed by (even more when I spoiled myself on with whom she would end up). Seeing darker sides manifest inside of her, this desire for more power, for something that the old her would've thought was wrong or too greedy, that was amazing. I loved how caring she was about the people she traveled with, her friends, and she tried to do whatever she could to save her country. In the end she was ready to sacrifice everything to do it, though I hated how torn she was. On one side she was ready to sacrifice so many people, but on the other side she wasn't ready to sacrifice a single specific one to save everyone else. HM.

“I'm the Sun Summoner. It gets dark when I say it does.”

   If you've followed my updates on goodreads you know that I REALLY didn't like Mal. From the moment on that it was said that he has feelings for Alina back in Shadow and Bone, until the very last page of Ruin and Rising. He was whiny, jealous, controlling, and sure he was a great tracker and he meant well, was ready to give his life for Alina, but most of the time I just wanted someone to punch him. He didn't fit in, he wasn't like Alina and the Grisha, and, wow, he truly had to obsess over that, behave so incredibly annoyingly because of it like your average typical 'I don't fit in with the crowd and I don't want to' teenager reminding us of that again and again.
   When it comes to his relationship with Alina, I truly felt like what they had was more of a best friends vibe, and not a romantic one, which was probably why I just couldn't with their romantic relationship. I felt like Alina had much better chemistry with other characters than with him.

“You never know," said Nikolai. "I've been busy. 
I might have some surprises in store for the Darkling yet."
"Please tell me you plan to dress up as a volcra and jump out of a cake."
"Well, now you've ruined the surprise.”

   Nikolai was simply brilliant, snarky, intelligent and just an overall fascinating character from the moment he entered the story until the very last page. I loved him and just whenever a scene contained him, whenever we saw him interact with Alina, it was just so much fun! I could honestly read an entire separate book just about him and his crazy adventures. Unfortunately I feel like his potential as character was completely wasted in Ruin and Rising which was a shame and, once again, left me annoyed.

   (If you'd take a shot every time I said annoyed in this review, I think you'd probably have quite the problem, I'm sorry.)

   Then there was the Darkling, whose real name we've finally found out. As someone who usually favors the evil characters, I was quite fond of the Darkling. Yes, he was a horrible man who did horrible, unspeakable things, I am not denying that, but as character he was just incredibly intriguing and fascinating. He was so well characterized and had this certain something about him that I just loved. Did he deserve what he got? Hell yeah.

   All in all, even if Ruin and Rising left me ultimately disappointed and annoyed for the last 100 pages, it was still a good read and I enjoyed parts of it greatly. This is a great trilogy and probably the first fantasy trilogy I've enjoyed in a very long time. I adored the fact that Ravka was inspired by old Russia, though some of the last names drove me insane because they didn't follow the 'rules' for last names in Slav countries. If you're a Slav like me, Morozova would be a female for you, right, because of the -a ending. But in this universe it's a male last name, or maybe last names don't even make an ending distinction like they do in real life. ANYWAY, that isn't really important, just a little something I thought I'd mention. Oh and also all the traveling that happened in this story, that just got a bit boring after a while.
  Despite all of this I still recommend this trilogy, especially to people like me who usually don't really enjoy fantasy because this story doesn't contain any elves or witches or orcs or any of that.
I give Ruin and Rising 3 Stars.

Review: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Samstag, 2. Dezember 2017

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
Published: June 5th 2012 by Henry Holt and Company
Number of Pages: 358 Pages (Paperback)
Series: Yes, #1 in the Grisha Trilogy or Grishaverse

   Alina Starkov doesn't expect much from life. Orphaned by the Border Wars, she is sure of only one thing: her best friend, Mal--and her inconvenient crush on him. Until the day their army regiment enters the Fold, a swath of unnatural darkness crawling with monsters. When their convoy is attacked and Mal is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power not even she knew existed.
   Ripped from everything she knows, Alina is taken to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling. With Alina's extraordinary power in his arsenal, he believes they can finally destory the Fold. Now Alina must find a way to master her untamed gift and somehow fit into her new life without Mal by her side. But nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. As the threat to the kingdom mounts and her dangerous attraction to the Darkling grows, Alina will uncover a secret that could tear her heart--and her country--in two. (goodreads.com)

   I've heard a lot about this book and the trilogy over the years since it came out. It was all over booktube and bookstagram, and everyone recommended it, but despite buying it surely two years ago, I hadn't gotten around to picking it up until the end of November '17. Oops. I didn't really know much about the story before going in, purposefully avoided reading the synopsis, so I just kew that the world was inspired by 19th Century Russia (present me with a book set in Russia or a world inspired by Russia and I will read the shit out of it) and that it contained a character called Darkling and 'magicians' call Grisha. That's it.
   I got sucked into the story easily after maybe two chapters or less and finished the entire book in like two or three days (I mostly got around to reading for an hour or two at night) and loved it! The world was intricate and captivating, the characters three dimensional and interesting (at least most of them), and Leigh Bardugo's writing simply amazing. The way she led certain scenes or moments in the story, it was brilliant. I can definitely understand why everyone was so obsessed with this trilogy because honestly same.

   Alina was a really interesting and fun protagonist and experiencing the story and world through her eyes was great. We got to watch her go through quite the transformation across the story, make mistakes and try to fix them, navigate a society she never thought she would ever be part of, and somehow survive even if the chances were minimal to none. (As slavic person myself and used to how last names work in Russia, the fact that Alina's last name is Starkov instead of Starkova will probably never stop irking me even if it's such a small, unimportant detail.)
   The Darkling was a fascinating character that I'd easily read an entire book about, just have him narrate his everyday life and I'd still read that asap. His particular brand of evil was well crafted and I cannot wait to see how things will develop across the entire trilogy. The Darkling is the sort of evil character that you know you shouldn't like but you can't resist because he is interesting and captivating and marvelously written.
   Out of the three people caught in this love triangle (yes the story unfortunately contains a love triangle, I wasn't a fan when I realized that while reading, I'll admit that) was Mal. It wasn't that he was a bad character or not well written, I just didn't particularly like his sudden change of heart when it comes to Alina. I guess I'll probably warm up to him as the story will continue, or at least I hope so.

   Even though I'm not the biggest fan of magic in books, the way the Grisha were portrayed and explained was amazing, that it was science instead of actual magic, just manipulating the elements around them instead of making things just happen out of thin air. I really enjoyed that a lot. The whole part about the Shadow Fold and how it came to be and what it does, the scenes set within it, now those were amazing and creepy and really creative.
   Leigh Bardugo definitely wrote a brilliant beginning to what promises to be a marvelous trilogy and I honestly cannot wait to continue with Siege and Storm, the sequel to Shadow and Bone, as soon as my copy arrives in the mail. 
I give Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo 5 out of 5 stars.

Grand Prix Series - Internationaux de France de Patinage 2017

Dienstag, 21. November 2017

   Welcome to the fifth events of the Grand Prix Series in Grenoble, France. If you watched the Grand Prix last year, you know that Trophee de France (as this event was called before this year's name change) was a bit of a mess. Somehow the French organizers managed to make it even more of a mess this year.
   After witnessing the Internationaux de France de Patinage I truly wonder, along with basically everyone else on twitter, why the ISU is still giving this event to France even though they have shown, time and time again, that they really shouldn't be hosting a Grand Prix event. In one of my tweets (here) I've summed up a few of the differences between this year and last year, how this event continues to be a mess time and time again.
   My list went a little something like this:
  • Last year - No flags at all (yes, the national anthem of the winner was played simply played just like that, no flag to look at, nothing. Everyone was rightfully confused)
  • This year - shitty animated flags on a screen (It seemed like the organizers decided that it was easier to full flag gifs off of the internet instead of spending a very small amount of euro to buy a handful of different flags. What even.)
  • Last year - Paper medals (yes, as far as I've heard, the organizers hadn't managed to get the medals ready in time, so as substitutes the medalists received what seemed to be laminated paper with what the medals would look like printed on them. It was ridiculous.)
  • This year - Plastic stars in four different colors and three different sizes (I have a billion questions starting at have they just reused the 'medals' from some novice or junior competition and hoped no one would notice, or did they hire some French hipster designer who wanted to be edgy and different and thought that handing out pink/magenta stars to the ladies, blue to men, yellow to ice dance and green to pairs seemed like a good idea. I think not.)
   Personally, as well as many other people, I really think, and in a way hope, that the ISU will look at all of this and reconsider if France really is the right choice for this Grand Prix event. Maybe giving it to a different EU country would be a better idea, like maybe Spain or Germany or something, just not France.
   But, enough about what went wrong when it comes to the organization, let's instead talk about the medalists.

Men

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   During his final season, Misha Ge of Uzbekistan finally managed to win his first Grand Prix title with an outstandingly beautiful bronze performance during both the short program and free skate. Misha is one of those skaters who might not have the quads but instead have the artistry that reminds you of what figure skating is really about. When you watch Misha perform you feel everything he wants you to feel, you see that thoughts went into the programs and choreographies, that every move and gesture is perfectly timed with the music, and it is just such a delight to watch. I am very happy that he got onto the podium and received bronze for this, though I truly would've wished that he would've gotten an actual medal instead of a plastic star.
   Javier Frenandez on the other hand continues to be something like a problematic favorite of mine. I know he is a really damn good skater, he has the technical skill, he can perform beautifully if he wants, but both of his programs are still simply not it for me. I thought that maybe, as the season would continue, I'd warm up to them, but that just isn't the case. His short continues to be goofy and comical, appropriate for the fact that it is Charlie Chaplin themed, and his free skate tries to be comical too, but instead of giggling and smiling, enjoying watching it, I just sit there and cringe. The costume is awful too just saying. He has the technical abilities but I think he tries too much to be like Nathan Chen (all quads and chasing the points) instead of like Misha Ge (more artistry and fines instead of quad gambling) which is a shame.
   This, unfortunately, is also slowly the case for Shoma Uno. I love him to pieces. He is a fantastic skater and I love both of his programs, but as the season continues I begin to find it exhausting to watch him because you worry, every single time, if he will make all the jumps, if he will hurt himself somehow and hinder his own success in this very important Olympic season, or will he make it. I think, if he would switch out some of his quads for triples and put more of a focus on presentation, he could still win and it would be less of a nervous train wreck for the viewers, and possibly also for him.
   With all the quad chasing and point grinding in the men field, it does make me wonder how healthy all these jumps are for their bodies and what the long term effects might end up being cause I can't imagine anything good coming from it.

Ladies

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   The ladies were a mess during the short program, then again everyone was because of the (as far as I heard) bad ice quality and even practice time issues because great French organizers, but the free program brought things back closer to the level you'd expect during the Grand Prix of an Olympic season.
   Personally I am happy for Alina Zagitova that she won this event. I like both her Black Swan short and Don Quichot free, her balleteque tutu costumes and the music choices. I've already once complained about how backloaded her free program is with all the jumps in the second half, but somehow this time around I didn't mind it quite as much. I definitely think she is very talented and has a lot of potential and could, in the future, really challenge the current reigning Queen Evgenia Medvedeva.
   Maria Sotskova, there is something about her programs and her skating that I struggle with. For this event she had new costumes, which I dubbed pink candy princess and blue boredom, but they didn't help much either. Maybe it's the fact that Maria seems to have much longer limbs than many of her competitors, maybe it's how awkward it looks when she has her arm raised during some of the jumps, I don't know, but I can't really warm up to her, though I think she has good chances to make the Russian Olympic team.
   Finally, taking bronze, we had Kaetlyn Osmond from Canada. As the season progresses I am actually starting to like her. She is definitely a good skater and I can't wait to see her in competition when all the ladies will be present, see how her scores will compare to the other top competitors etc.

Pairs

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   I am still very, and I mean very salty about the fact that Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres of France were basically robbed of their gold medal, or rather big green star. Their performances were amazing, even with Vanessa two footing (I think) the landing of their quad throw. They definitely deserved that top podium spot and I won't get over that any time soon.
   I can't stand Tarasova's and Morozov's free skate. Their costumes are hideous with their yellow and black polka dot aesthetic, and the music cut and selection of it, don't even get me started on how questionable and in poor taste that is. I don't know if maybe the person who chose it just didn't pay attention to the lyrics, or if maybe they didn't completely understand it, but honestly those are not lyrics I thought would be appropriate for something that will be skated during the Olympics, if these two will make the team. Not a fan, at all.

   And that is, all my saltiness and a few nice words about the Grand Prix event in Grenoble, France. I am very excited to see how the final event, Skate America, will be and who will make it into the Grand Prix Final!

Grand Prix Series - Audi Cup of China 2017

Samstag, 4. November 2017

   Welcome to the third event in the Grand Prix Series, the Audi Cup of China 2017 in Beijing, China. I've wondered why I've seen people call it the 'Cup of Disasters', but after I watched the short programs and free skates of the men, ladies and pairs, I certainly understood where people were coming from. A lot of strong performances but also a lot of flaws, mistakes, falls and disappointments, so lets just jump right into the medalists and my thoughts on them.

Men

  1. Mikhail Kolyada - Russia - 279.38
  2. Boyang Jin - China - 264.48
  3. Max Aaron - USA - 259.69
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   The first day was quite the surprise filled event for the men with Mikhail Kolyada taking the surprise lead with more than a nine point advantage over Boyang Jin and thirteen over Javier Fernandez, skating a clean and magnificent program that resulted in (I believe) his first score above the 100 point mark, 103.13 to be precise. I, as well as a lot of people on twitter, was very happy about the results of the first day, and actually thought that the final results and the podium would look a little like this at the end.
   The fact that Javier Fernandez only came in 6th at the end of the competition was a true surprise. Something about his two programs just doesn't seem to work, and despite everyone seeming to love them, I dislike both. The Charlie Chaplin short program has its comedic, reference type moments but little else, in my opinion. His free skate isn't much better, and looking at his results for the free skate, merely 162.49 points, it should definitely give him quite a bit to think about. It also makes me wonder if maybe at a certain point, and age, skaters are possibly just not able to squeeze Nathan Chen amounts of quads out of their bodies anymore.
   Boyang Jin also seemed to have some troubles with his programs, both not really convincing me, though I know a lot of people love his free skate because of the partial Star Wars music used for it. I thought he was much stronger last season, but I hope he'll manage to return to the same level of skating, at least. 
   The fact that Max Aaron made it onto the podium, well, I have quite a few thoughts on that, but I will leave it at - I think it should've been Han Yan from China (who came in 5th with only 5 points behind Aaron) because his free skate was truly amazing.
   On the other hand, as I mentioned before, Kolyada was quite the surprise, at least during his short program. His free skate on the other hand, well, it went a little in the same direction as the previous time we've seen him perform it. Maybe it was the pressure of being in the lead that he just wasn't quite able to deal with well, or just bad luck or the need for more practice, but despite popping two jumps (and I think falling once?) he still managed to win. This is actually his first Grand Prix title so it's truly exciting and I am very happy for him. He definitely earned it!

Ladies

  1. Alina Zagitova - Russia - 213.88
  2. Wakaba Higuchi - Japan - 212.52
  3. Elena Radianova - Russia - 206.82
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   The ladies competition was on fire during the free skate, the quality just getting better and better and each lady set the bar higher and higher. If this is giving us an idea of what we'll see during the Olympics in February 2018, I am even more excited. We have seen amazing performances, clean and marvelous to look at. 
   Alina Zagitova definitely caught my eye with her Swan Lake short program, and the amazing costume she paired it with that looked like she could wear it on the ice but then also join a ballet company and fit right in. Her skating is marvelous and she will definitely try to give Evgenia Medvedeva a run for her money, not that she would actually be able to beat Evgenia, but push her to somehow be even better than she already is. Her free skate was also marvelous, though I will admit I wouldn't have given her gold.
   Wakaba Higuchi and her Skyfall free skate were it for me. She had the speed perfectly showing her skills, the jumps and just the overall presentation. She is an artist and I am loving both her programs. How the judges gave her lower PCS (presentation scores) than Zagitova is beyond me, but I loved watching those two perform nonetheless.
   Elena Radionova was also pretty damn good, though certainly not as good as the two ladies above her, which shows in the point difference she has to them. I definitely liked her programs the least out of these three, but that doesn't mean they were bad by any means. She is a very good skater, I will give her that, so third place definitely seemed appropriate.
   I have a feeling we will certainly see quite the fierce competition this season once you'll also place Medvedeva, Osmond, and Kostner in the ring along with them.

Pairs

  1. Wenjing Sui / Cong Han - China - 231.07
  2. Xiaoyu Yu / Hao Zhang - China - 205.54
  3. Kirsten Moore-Towers / Michael Marinaro - Canada - 194.52
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   It is safe to say, and certainly easy to see, that the Chinese pairs dominated this competition on their home turf, and Sui/Han won very much rightfully. They are the reigning World Champions and they were untouchable in this competition. I mean, have you noticed that almost twenty six point advantage they have over the silver medalists?
   Watching Sui/Han perform both programs was mesmerizing, captivating and simply awe-inspiring in every way you could think of. The ease with which they skated, as if it was the easiest thing ever and it wasn't a competition but just the exhibition skate or something, the chemistry between them, the quality of their jumps, spins and throws, their figures and costumes, everything was utter perfection (even if Sui slightly messed up one of their jumps). I could watch them all day, every day, and I so hope that they will not only win every competition leading up to the Olympics, but also Olympic gold.
   The other two pairs were great, too, but they definitely stood in Sui/Han's shadow without any chance of getting even close to them. Maybe seeing their points, watching their programs and performances will push all the other pairs to improve even more, strive after them, even though I am sure they all stand no chance of ever actually reaching them.

   And that's it, my thoughts on the medalists of the Audi Cup of China 2017. Of course ether was also Ice Dance, but I didn't watch it so I can't share any of my thoughts with you on that, sorry! What did you think about the competitions, the winners and 'losers'? Let me know in the comments below or on twitter (@Alice_Reeds).

Grand Prix Series - Skate Canada 2017 - Short Program

Samstag, 28. Oktober 2017


   Welcome to the second Grand Prix Series event of this season, Skate Canada in Regina, Canada. A much smaller number of my favorites has been assigned to this one, but I was still really excited to watch the short programs regardless. Unlike in my Rostelecom Cup post, in this one I will be talking about my faves in the men, ladies and pairs categories, and not just the men. Timezone wise (as well as live stream wise) this competition was a nightmare for me with. For example, Shoma Uno skating at way past 2am so I had to catch up on the men's short program in the morning.
   Anyway, without further ado, let's just jump right in.

Men

   Jason Brown - USA - I am Hamilton trash and I'm pretty sure everyone knows that, so when I heard that one of my absolute favorite skaters would have a program set to my favorite song from the musical, The Room Where It Happens, I was overjoyed. I knew that Jason and his team would do an amazing job with this one and I certainly wasn't disappointed in any sort of way. When Jason takes the ice and they call is name you can just see the happiness radiate off of Jason's face and smile. He is like a beautiful ball of sunshine and watching him perform this program with so much fun is just amazing. I honestly just sit there and smile the entire time because honestly how could I not? This program fits him perfectly allowing him to show off his great artistic skills and expression making him a true artist on the ice. Honestly I just love this program and I love what Jason did with it and the way he performs it. I need him to make Team USA for the Olympics and just rock the Olympic ice because he deserves it so much. Can't wait to see his free skate and just see him bloom and grow even more as the season continues.
   For his short program Jason received a total of 90.71 points. He is currently in 3rd place. If you want to watch his performance you can do it right here.
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   Shoma Uno - Japan - Another one of my favorite skaters with a program set to a piece of music I adore, Vivaldi's Winter. This program is breathtakingly beautiful, marvelously choreographed and timed, and Shoma's artistic expression is just top notch amazing. His costume, that reminds me of last years free skate one but this time in shades of gray instead of red, fits perfectly into the picture. Overall I am a big fan of Shoma and his skating, his programs are always very difficult, this one definitely again on a high level, though he's mastering it with easy it seems. Love this program!
   For his short program Shoma received a total of 103.62 points. He is currently in 1st place. If you want to watch his performance you can do it right here.
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   Patrick Chan - Canada - Patrick is a good skater, but unfortunately he is accompanied by a sort of inconsistency when it comes to jumps. He didn't fall this time, but he touched down at least once, which was a shame. This is a really nice program, smooth and emotional, fitting with the music. Patrick's costume is quite simple in shades of gray but that underlines the choreography nicely. There is certainly room for improvement but it's easy to see that this is a very promising program. I'm actually quite surprised I must admit. I'm usually not that big of a fan of Patrick's, but this is a good one. 
   For his short program Patrick received a total of 94.43 points. He is currently in 2nd place. If you want to watch his performance you can do it right here.
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Ladies

   Marin Honda - Japan - Marin looked absolutely lovely in her dress accompanied by a beautiful choreography and music. It was a delight to watch her, even if she unfortunately fell once. Despite that she did an amazing job and I can't wait to see her perform this program at its fullest potential at some point in this season. Seeing her sit in the kiss & cry afterward slowly but surely breaking into tears was really sad, even more so because she did really good and thus there was no need to cry. Looking forward to her free skate!
   For her short program Marin received a total of 52.60 points. She is currently in 10th place. If you want to watch her performance you can do it right here.
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   Ashley Wagner - USA - I like Ashley a lot, not only because she's rink mates and besties with Adam Rippon (whom I adore) and shares a coach with Nathan Chen, but also because she's a good skater. Watching her perform her short program was fun because you could see that she was having a lot of fun, too. Her dress was black and simple but still very pretty. I'm not quite convinced by the ponytail she had going on, but it was still a solid performance that I enjoyed watching. Curious to see her free skate and grow as the season continues.
   For her short program Ashley received a total of 61.57 points. She is currently in 7th place. If you want to watch his performance you can do it right here.
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   Anna Pogorilaya - Russia - I was really excited to see Anna again on the ice after her disastrous free skate at Worlds last season where she fell more times than not, a truly sad sight that honestly made me cry right along with her. This time though she performed beautifully and without any falls. Her red and gold dress was very pretty and fit her marvelously, as well as her music and choreography. She did struggle just a little in a few places but besides that she did great and I enjoyed watching her a lot. She's definitely up there on my list of favorites among the ladies so I hope she'll continue to work on her SP and get better and better as the season continues. Would love to see her represent Russia along with Medvedeva at the Olympics next year.
   For her short program Anna received a total of 69.05 points. She is currently in 2nd place. If you want to watch her performance you can do it right here.
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   Rika Hongo - Japan - Rika wasn't on my radar before Skate Canada but I am now really interested in. Her program was really awesome, her costume red, black, sparkly, and intricate, and her performance really good and artistic. Everything fit beautifully together and I am definitely putting her on my list of ladies to follow this season.
   For her short program Rika received a total of 61.60 points. She is currently in 6th place. If you want to watch her performance you can do it right here.
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   Kaetlyn Osmond - Canada - Is it just me or was she awfully overscored? Home turf must do that trick for you, or a judge who just really wanted you to lead, though this is just me being a negative nancy I suppose. I really liked her dress, she looked very pretty in it, but watching her program felt like she was doing one thing while the music something completely else and, even if you'd play the wrong one, it probably wouldn't make too much of a difference. I mean sure she is a good skater, but I don't think she should've gotten that many points and have such a big lead on Anna Pogorilaya (whom I thought actually had the best performance out of all the ladies). Nonetheless I will follow her this season to see how her scores will compare and to see that rivalry play out on the ice, probably in the same way that I follow Nathan Chen to be honest.
   For her short program Kaetlyn received a total of 76.06 points. She is currently in 1st place. If you want to watch her performance you can do it right here.
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Pairs

   Vanessa James / Morgan Cipres - France - I adore these two, easy as that. They have so much chemistry between them and artistry in their skating and expression it is unbelievable, and they just keep on getting better and better. I've so far loved all of their programs and this one is no different. The choreography, set to Make It Rain by Ed Sheeran, was beautiful and fit on the dot, their costumes with Vanessa's blue dress and the blue accents in Morgan's shirt and vest were perfect and underlined the program just right. I could watch them skate all day, every day and not get bored any time soon. I am sure they will go far this season, their throws are definitely improving and I can't wait to see this program performed at its full potential soon.
   For their short program Vanessa and Morgan received a total of 73.04 points. They are currently in 10th place. If you want to watch their performance you can do it right here.
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   And that's it for the short programs at Skate Canada. Next up the free skate and the question of who will medal from my little list of favorites. Let me know what you think and whom you are rooting for in the comments below, or on twitter (@Alice_Reeds).

Audiobook Recommendations - #1

Donnerstag, 26. Oktober 2017

   I used to think audiobooks suck, not because they are made in a bad way or their voice actors aren't good (I mean that's the case sometimes but that's not the point), until I finally signed up for a free audible trial (this isn't a sponsored post, although it'd be damn awesome if it were hah) and gave them a try. I haven't unsubscribed and my collection has steadily grown since. So I thought I could have a look at my library and maybe recommend you a few audiobooks that I've enjoyed and that I hope you might want to check out.

Jerkbait by Mia Siegert
Length: 7h 34min
Narrated by: Raviv Ullman

   Even though they're identical, Tristan isn't close to his twin Robbie at all—until Robbie tries to kill himself.
   Forced to share a room to prevent Robbie from hurting himself, the brothers begin to feel the weight of each other's lives on the ice, and off. Tristan starts seeing his twin not as a hockey star whose shadow Tristan can't escape, but a struggling gay teen terrified about coming out in the professional sports world. Robbie's future in the NHL is plagued by anxiety and the mounting pressure from their dad, coach, and scouts, while Tristan desperately fights to create his own future, not as a hockey player but a musical theatre performer.
   As their season progresses and friends turn out to be enemies, Robbie finds solace in an online stranger known only as “Jimmy2416.” Between keeping Robbie's secret and saving him from taking his life, Tristan is given the final call: sacrifice his dream for a brother he barely knows, or pursue his own path. How far is Robbie willing to go—and more importantly, how far is Tristan willing to go to help him? (goodreads.com)

   This was one of the first books I downloaded and absolutely loved. I've read the book before I got the audiobook (review), but I didn't care. Hearing it narrated by Raviv Ullman was amazing since he fit the voice perfectly and did a great job at doing Mia's book justice. I actually listened to the audiobook together with Mia while gushing and discussing the story as we went along, how different it was to experience the story through the audiobook format and such, which was a lot of fun. If you haven't read Jerkbait yet, and even if you did, I would still wholeheartedly recommend the audiobook. It is amazing, engaging, pulls you in and doesn't let you go until the end because the narration gives it that extra something that just makes it a great book to listen to.

Illuminae by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman
Length: 11h 41min
Narrated by: Full Cast

   This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do. This afternoon, her planet was invaded.
   The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.
   But their problems are just getting started. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet's AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it's clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore she'd never speak to again.
   BRIEFING NOTE: Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents—including emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more—Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping, high-octane trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes. (godreads.com)

   THIS. This audiobook is honestly everything I ever wished for, especially for a book like Illuminae. We got a full cast, we got sound effects, we got the full deal and it was amazing. All the voice actors did a brilliant job, the sound arrangement was superb, the production amazing and I just...I could scream about this all day, every day. I love Illuminae, as well as it's sequel, Gemina (find my reviews here and here), and the audiobooks are so worth listening to. If sci-fi is your kind of thing, most definitely give this one a go.

I Hate My Selfie by Shane Dawson
Length: 4h 6min
Narrated by: Shane Dawson

   The book that more than 12 million YouTube subscribers have been waiting for! Shane Dawson’s memoir features twenty original essays—uncensored yet surprisingly sweet.
   From his first vlog back in 2008 to his full-length film directorial debut Not Cool, Shane Dawson has been an open book when it comes to documenting his life. But behind the music video spoofs, TMI love life details, and outrageous commentary on everything the celebrity and Internet world has the nerve to dish out is a guy who grew up in a financially challenged but loving home in Long Beach, California, and who suffered all the teasing and social limitations that arise when you’re a morbidly obese kid with a pretty face, your mom is your best friend, and you can't get a date to save your life.
   In I Hate Myselfie, Shane steps away from his larger-than-life Internet persona and takes us deep into the experiences of an eccentric and introverted kid, who by observing the strange world around him developed a talent that would inspire millions of fans. Intelligent, hilarious, heartbreaking, and raw, I Hate Myselfie is a collection of eighteen personal essays about how messy life can get when you’re growing up and how rewarding it can feel when the clean-up is (pretty much) done. (goodreads.com)

   Usually I'm not big on celebrity or YouTuber books, but this book is both hilarious (review) and very emotional and honest, so I recommend it regardless if you watch Shane, or if you won't even know who he is really. I had a lot of fun listening to it, laughed way more than I thought I would, and just found myself very curiously listening to all the different stories he had to tell from his life that showed a more human side to the Shane we usually get to see acting in his videos. And yes, disclaimer, his humor can be considered a little much, sometimes even a bit offensive, so if things like that are a major no-go for you, maybe this isn't for you. If you can look past that, definitely give it a try and don't take it too seriously.

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin
Length: 9h 40min
Narrated by: Christy Romano

   Mara Dyer doesn’t think life can get any stranger than waking up in a hospital with no memory of how she got there.
   It can.
   She believes there must be more to the accident she can’t remember that killed her friends and left her mysteriously unharmed.
   There is.
   She doesn’t believe that after everything she’s been through, she can fall in love.
   She’s wrong. (goodreads.com)

   What a surprise, of course I would use this opportunity to mention the Mara Dyer trilogy. The books themselves are amazing, and so are the audiobooks. I love the narrator and the way she voices Mara, all the other characters, and even gives Noah his British accent. I absolutely loved it, and of course had to get the entire trilogy as though having it in hardcover and paperback wasn't quite enough just yet. If you considered checking out the trilogy, now is a great time. You could listen to all three books and then laugh at all of us, who read the trilogy as it came out, because the companion trilogy that's Noah-centric, starting with The Becoming of Noah Shaw, is about to come out and you won't have to wait years for it. Amazing opportunity, right?

One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus
Length: 10h 43min
Narrated by: Kim Mai Guest, MacLeod Andrews, Shannon McManus, Robbie Daymond

   The Breakfast Club meets Pretty Little Liars, One of Us Is Lying is the story of what happens when five strangers walk into detention and only four walk out alive. Everyone is a suspect, and everyone has something to hide.
   Pay close attention and you might solve this.
   On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention.
   Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule.
   Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess.
   Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing.
   Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher.
   And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High's notorious gossip app.
   Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention, Simon's dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn't an accident. On Monday, he died. But on Tuesday, he'd planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who's still on the loose?
   Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them." (goodreads.com)

   I head a lot about this one before I decided to pick it up. I didn't really know what it was about so I just bought it, downloaded it, and started to listen to it right away. It was a great read, the narrators were really good making it an even better listen/read, and the story itself was quite good too. It had that mysterious, high school intrigue vibe to it making you constantly wonder who did it and what is going on. The fact that each of the four POV characters had their own voice actor definitely also helped distinguish the voices of the characters a bit better since some of them do sound a bit similar if you purely read them. But, all in all, it's a lot of fun and I definitely recommend it!

   And that is it for my first round of audiobook recommendations. Please let me know in the comments down below, or on twitter (@Alice_Reeds), what you thought and if you've listened to any of these or plan on doing so. I definitely have a few more books on my list so I'll surely make a second edition at some point in the near future.
   Thank you so much for reading and I hope you enjoyed!

Grand Prix Series - Rostelecom Cup 2017 - Medalists

Dienstag, 24. Oktober 2017


   Welcome to my medalists post for the Rostelecom Cup in Moscow, Russia. Previously I wrote about the men's short program (and planned on talking about their free skate) and today I will be talking about the finals for the men, ladies and ice dance. I don't follow anyone in pairs (who was present) so unfortunately nothing about them, I'm sorry. 
   Reminder - I'm not a pro when it comes to figure skating, so this isn't a technical analysis of the programs or anything by any means, therefore I might (accidentally) get something wrong. If I do, please do correct me. This is more of me just gushing or talking about my thoughts and opinions. I hope you'll still enjoy it.
Anyway, without further ado, let's get right into it.

Men

   Nathan Chen - USA - Gold - Where do I begin with Nathan? If you read my previous post you know that, even though I enjoy seeing Nathan in competitions and going up against my favorites, especially Yuzuru, you know I am not really a fan of his short program. I'm also, what surprise, not a fan of his free skate either. His costume (is this the final one?) is almost the same one as during his short program, the only difference being that the shirt is a dark blue instead of black. That's it. Maybe it iss supposed to be less special so that his skating can shine, maybe not, I don't know, but as much as I usually like simple and elegant costumes, I expected something...more? Last season he had an amazing costume for his free skate that fit it perfectly, so I guess I hoped he'd have something as interesting this year, too. Aside from his costume, his choreography wasn't really my thing either. Sure it is technically on a high difficulty level, it has a lot of jumps and spins, but that by itself doesn't make a  good choreography. To me, as someone who, among other reasons, watches figure skating because of its aesthetic beauty, it was just very lacking. Lots of arm flapping and going in circles while preparing for the next jump and not much else. Maybe as the season will continue I will warm up to his programs, but so far it's not my jam. (Side note - can we please also remember that, even though Nathan perfectly skated his free skate, his points were lower than Yuzuru's, even though Yuzuru missed out on a couple points?) The next time we will be Nathan will be November 24-26 at Skate America in Lake Placid, NY, USA.
   Fun Fact - Nathan is the first American male skater to win gold at the Rostelecom Cup (or back then the Cup of Russia) since the time Johnny Weir won it back in 2007.
   Check out his short program (100.54 points) and free skate (193.25 points, total of 2903.79).
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   Yuzuru Hanyu - Japan - Silver - His fans were crying, I was sad, everyone was sad, because Yuzuru didn't get gold, despite landing his quad Lutz in this competition. But, he struggled with some of the jumps, and had to turn a quad into a double (I think, though correct me if I'm wrong), which was such a shame but I have absolute faith that Yuzuru will rock the season regardless. This program is absolutely phenomenal and just perfect for him. His costume, the music, the artistry, it's wonderful to watch, filled with passion and showing just how much work went into all of it. Yuzuru is an amazing skater and he showed that once again at the Rostelecom Cup, despite a few struggles and wobbles here and there. Do I wish he would've won? Hell yeah. But being a very close second place is also totally fine for the first serious competition of the season. There is still so much more to come, especially the Olympics, so Yuzuru has a lot of time left to perfect both programs, easy. The next time we will see him will be November 10-12 at the NHK Trophy in Osaka, Japan
   Check out his short program (94.85 points) and free skate (195.92 points, total of 290.77).
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   Mikhail Kolyada - Russia - Bronze - As much as I want to like his free skate to this rather oddly put together Elvis medley, I just don't. I mean the costume isn't as awful as the one previous season, but it still doesn't really convince me, neither does the music. The skating is good, although it is pretty evident that Mikhail is very much still struggling with it quite a lot. At this point, after watching him more or less crash through this program, I kind of do wish he would just switch back to a different one, maybe the one from previous season, to give him a better chance at medaling at a competition where he would have to stand up against the big six. He is a very good skater so seeing him struggle is just a really sad thing, but I'm still hoping that he'll continue working on both of his programs and that, when we see him again November 3-5 at the Cup of China in Beijing, China, he'll be stronger and more confident. (Side note - why is it so hard to find pretty/good looking pictures of Mikhail from his programs?)
   Check out his short program (85.79 points) and free skate (185.27 points, total of 271.06).
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Ladies

   Evgenia Medvedeva - Russia - Gold - Is anyone really surprised that Evgenia won? I don't think so because, let's face it, she is perfect in every way possible. If I understood Russian commentator Tatiana Tarasova correctly (my Russian is a bit shaky so excuse me if I got something wrong), she said that in all her years as coach, and just in the figure skating world, she has never seen such a remarkable athlete as Evgenia. She is graceful, her artistry is captivating, her choreographies perfectly showcase her abilities (I mean did you see all those Rippon jumps?). The one surprise that I'm sure stayed in all of our minds after watching her Free Skate was the fact that Evgenia fell after landing her double axel toward the end of her program. A collective gasp went through the arena. But I love how Evgenia wasn't bitter about it, she rather laughed at it all and that was amazing. The next time we will get to see her will be at NHK Trophy.
   Check out her short program (80.75 points) and free skate (150.46 points, total of 231.21).
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   Carolina Kostner - Italy - Silver - Carolina is definitely an established and experienced skater and I really like watching her a lot, she's also the only Italian skater I follow. Both of her costumes are great, her programs intricate and artistic, and it's just a delight to watch her. The point difference between her and Evgenia is quite something though, but I can understand it. Maybe I would've actually given her a few more points for both programs, but I'm not in the know-how enough to really be the judge of any of it. I certainly can't wait to see her again at the NHK Trophy, and certainly hope to see her in the Grand Prix Final. She definitely would deserve it.
   Check out her short program (74.62 points) and free skate (141.36 points, total of 215.98).
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   Wakabe Higuchi - Japan - Bronze - I live for both of Wakabe's costumes as well as programs, especially her Skyfall Free Skate with her dark blue dress. It's amazingly choreographed and the music fits seamlessly to it. Both of it is rounded off by Wakabe's artistic expression and with how much passion and emotions she performs. I think she definitely deserved her spot on the podium and I can only hope that she, too, will make it to the GPF, and that her performances will just keep on getting better and better. Also, hi, please send her to the Olympics, that'd be awesome. The next time we will see Wakabe will be at the Cup of China.
  Check out her short program (69.90 points) and free skate (137.57 points, total of 207.17).
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Ice Dance

   Maia and Alex Shibutani - USA - Gold - Usually Ice Dance isn't really on my radar, since I'm not that into any of the pairs, or at least so I thought until the Free Dance and the Shibutani siblings took the ice. I loved their red and black costumes, their choreography, music choice, and their artistic expression. Watching them was just fun and I enjoyed it a lot, which really surprised me. I can't say that it necessarily made me more curious about ice dance, but I will definitely keep an eye out on how these two are doing across the season, that much I know. The next time we will see the Shibutani siblings will be at Skate America.
   Check out their short (77.30 points) and free dance (119.94 points, total of 197.24 points).
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   And these were all my thoughts on the medalists from the Rostelecom Cup 2017. Next up is Skate Canada, November 27-28 2017. Thank you so much for reading!