post-christmas state

Reading this:

Image from Goodreads

This book makes me want to delve into another fantasy project! Leigh Bardugo has a knack for creating vividly imagined worlds, endearing characters with fully fleshed out back-stories, and quiet tension that keeps you flipping the pages way past bedtime. It’s not hard to see why she has such a passionate fanbase, or why Six of Crows debuted at number one on the New York Times Bestseller List.

Watching this: 

Image from Drama Fever

My Lovely Girl (starring Rain and Krystal) came with mixed reviews. Some said the plot was too slow, and some loved the character development. But it’s surprisingly engaging, with the sort of K-drama moments that I love (you know, the ones where the characters don’t say a word and the music swells and you just feel all the feels and hear all the unsaid words? It’s those moments where you feel yourself falling for a show and start rooting for the characters. Those are the moments I want to create in my stories.)

Plus, Krystal is always a joy to watch.

Girl crush!

Missing this:

 photo donghae blue hair sunglasses smile_zps36w1jgto.gif

donghae cute smile.jpg

Discovering this: 

 photo james smile_zpsudu3ac16.gif

His name is James, and he’s the bass guitarist of the Royal Pirates. You’re welcome.

Listening to this:

It’s been two years since they debuted. Can we please start appreciating this under-rated band more already! I’ve raved about them here on ZALORA Community (yes, unabashed plug here), so I won’t say more. Just give them a listen.

Writing this:

Receiving this:

Sigh. Into the Rejection folder this goes. But I am still beyond grateful for the feedback, even if this isn’t quite the result I was hoping for.

Nothing like some heartwarming fan mail to lift your spirits and spur you on!

And lastly, finding strength in this:


Happy holidays! :0)

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#ReadingList for October!

To read:

 

1. Two Years Eight Months and Twenty Eight Nights, by Salman Rushdie

Is this magical realism from Salman Rushdie? FINALLY.

2. Six of Crows, by Leigh Bardugo

If you haven’t read the Grisha trilogy by this amazing author, do yourself a favour and pick it up from the bookstore today. Aside from Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy, it was one of the most richly imagined, vividly narrated YA fantasy stories I have ever read.

Needless to say, as soon as I heard of this spinoff set in the Grishaverse, I wasted no time in adding it to my to-read list. High-stakes heist? Sign me on! Plus, I read the sneak preview chapters of the book the Leigh shared, and it was everything I expected AND MORE. It’s just mind-blowing, how she manages to come up with such intricate plots supported by stellar writing.

3. The Demon in the Wood, by Leigh Bardugo

Speaking of the Grisha trilogy, here’s another story set in the Grishaverse. This prequel reveals the Darkling’s past – back when Grishas were reviled and persecuted – that shaped him into the misunderstood villain he later became.

I can’t say I have a soft spot for the Darkling, unlike a lot of other fans of the series (the cocky but charming Nikolai is more my cup of tea, along with sweet romantic Mal). But the Darkling isn’t evil for the sake of being evil. He believed in his cause, and for that his backstory is worth reading. Besides, more from the Grishaverse – what’s not to like?
4. Glass Sword, by Victoria Aveyard

HAVE YOU READ RED QUEEN. Go read it. Now.

While I wouldn’t say I was completely, incorrigibly and incoherently smitten with it like I was with the Grisha trilogy of the DOSAB one (Laini Taylor is indomitable), this series by Victoria Aveyard is definitely a masterfully written piece of work. I’m not a fan of dystopian fiction by any stretch (which is why I’m not on the Hunger Games or Divergent bandwagon, sorry!), but this one drew me in with its high-stakes plot and unusual premise. All those twists! Be prepared to have the rug pulled from under you at any time.

So yes, sign me up for the sequel.

Currently reading: 

Magonia, by Maria Dahvana Headley

I’ve always been entranced by stories set in the sky, among the clouds. It’s why I love Studio Ghibli’s Castle in the Sky and Howl’s Moving Castle (the latter a movie adaptation of Diana Wynne Jones’s book) so much. And how dreamy does Magonia seem! Can I sail away to that kingdom in the sky already?

And speaking of books in general, here’s the loot from the National Library book sale today!

I know, I know. As an author myself, I should be supporting other writers by buying their book first-hand and not at these secondhand book sales because none of the proceeds go to the writers for all their efforts. But in my defence, some of these, like Silksinger by Laini Taylor, are already out of print (trust me, I’ve looked everywhere for it).

And, you know, as long as people are reading and getting to know new authors, this is not an entirely bad thing. Right??

So Round Two tomorrow! Hope your weekend is a bountiful one too! :0)

Were you at the NLB book sale today? What titles did you get? Share your loot here – I’d love to hear from you!

Post-CNY Book Updates and Writing Links

Happy Lunar New Year!
It’s been a whole week (and more) of preparations (who knew one good meal with your family involved so much effort?) and spring cleaning and general merry-making that involves too much grilled honeyed meat jerkies (physically impossible to resist), pineapple tarts, cashew nut cookies, sashimi salads (I know I’m not doing the food much justice with these descriptions, but just know that they are basically the reason why the clean eating programme is going out the window this festive period), and mandarin oranges. Many, many mandarin oranges.
But it’s Monday again, so here’s an update on No Room in Neverland, and some great links to share:
1. Sophie Kinsella’s advice for writing a book:

Everybody, no matter who they are gets to the middle of a book and thinks crikey, I’ve had enough of this. You get bored with your story and your characters, you hate them all, you can’t think why you started this wretched story in the first place.

The truth is, every book is hard to write, everybody reaches a wall, whether it is a plot hole or a scene that you can’t get past. So you’ve just got to get to the end. Even if it’s not the greatest draft, if it needs rewriting fine, at least you have a book to rewrite.

Truth.

So this is me trying to put one word after another towards the end. I’m at page 220 now, which may not seem like much, but between Lunar New Year and spring-cleaning and hosting a party and trying to prolong reading Jellicoe Road
by Melina Marchetta and watching this Korean drama called Pinocchio so they won’t end so soon (which, of course, requires Herculean effort, because that book oh god that book and that drama oh god that drama I need to rave about them soon!), I think any progress is good progress.

At least what I’ve written so far for Neverland doesn’t make me want to barf, which is more than I can say for the first draft.
2. How wild is it that Harper Lee is writing another novel, “a sequel of sorts” to her breakout To Kill a Mockingbird
half a century after it was published? It’s called Go Set a Watchman, and she wrote it in the 1950s before setting it aside. Just goes to show that it is never too late to pick up that figurative pen and revisit a novel that didn’t quite work out.

3. As you may know, I’ve been caught up in this fantastic fantasy trilogy lately. The Grisha trilogy by Leigh Bardugo is set in ancient Russia, and the plot and characters and writing just gets better and better with each installment. I’m on the final book, Ruin and Rising, now and am trying as hard as I can to read as slowly as humanly possible.
Here’s an interview she did with The Midnight Garden, a book review blog that features a gorgeous whimsical layout and thoughtful reviews on young adult books. In the interview, Leigh reveals her upcoming book, Six of Crows, which she describes as an “Oceans 11, Inglourious Basterds, ragtag band of misfits, impossible heist story” that stars a supporting character from the Grisha trilogy. Big yay for more stories in the Grishaverse!

4. Another old post from ex-literary agent Nathan Bransford, where he offers some advice for young writers:

Don’t judge your writing success by whether you’re able to find publication immediately. Instead, write to get better, write for catharsis and practice and fun. Your future self will be thankful for the time well spent.

I’ll admit, it’s easy to get caught up in the whole publishing game (not sure if game is the right word here, but let’s go with it for now). It’s easier to fire out query letters to literary agents than writing that book, but it just distracts from the whole point of writing a book in the first place. You end up worrying too much about whether the book will be worth the time and effort, and worrying about whether people will like it, and forget to enjoy the process of writing it, and forget to write the story that you will like.

quote by Timothy Zahn

5. And more great advice from the inimitable Laini Taylor:

Daydreaming, however awesome it is, is passive. It happens in your head. Learning to make dreams real is another matter, and I think it should be the work of your life.

Enough said, really.
Okay, back to working on Neverland now! For the first time since I started writing it in November/December 2013, I’m actually properly psyched about it. Because I see the end in sight and I’m making my way there, one word at a time.
Hope the year of the goat is kinder to you than the horse has been! :0)

this week’s reading list

Currently reading:

1. On the Jellicoe Road, by Melina Marchetta

I read her other books, Saving Francesca and Looking for Alibrandi when I was 14, and I fell completely in love. Marchetta’s writing was the contact I had with first Australian YA fiction, and it opened up the way I saw how contemporary fiction could be written. Full of heart and characters so real you wish they were your friends because you feel like you understand them and that they would understand you too.

I tried reading Jellicoe Road a few years back, but got thrown off by the complicated territory wars that didn’t seem to relate to the main plot. Plus, the story was, like The Midnight Dress by Karen Foxlee (another terrific Australian YA author), told in a non-linear narrative. So it was kind of confusing, especially with the host of characters.

But I’m appreciating it more now during my second attempt. The poignant moments are never overdone, and I’m beginning to think it’s an Australian thing. The story SEEMS light-hearted and funny, but the words worm their way right into your heart.

2. Ruin and Rising, by Leigh Bardugo

I don’t want this story to end! The final installment in the Grisha trilogy is just as dramatic and all-encompassing and swoon-worthy and all around awesome I can’t even! From the changing dynamics between Alina and Mal, Alina’s gradual self-actualisation, the return of the fantabulous Nikolai Lantsov (someday, I aspire to have his level of confidence, wit, resourcefulness, and charm), the seductive power of the Darkling, and Bardugo’s skill in world-building, book #3 is the most complex and enthralling in the trilogy, as it should be.

3. Encyclopedia of the Exquisite: An Anecdotal History of Elegant Delights, by Jessica Kerwin Jenkins

This compendium is so delectable I could eat it up. It’s like a little cabinet of wonders, a treasure trove of bite-sized info on, well, exquisite things like the evolution of the Japanese kimono, unicorns, alchemy, tea, alfresco dining, fireworks, and masquerades. And okay, some of the entries weren’t as scintillating (I don’t think we need so much info on strings or tassels), but most of the entries, which are subjects in varied fields, set my mind alight with ideas and sometimes that’s all you ask for in a book.

While searching for quotes from Jellicoe Road, I found this passage that made me spazz out from the GORGEOUS, lyrical imagery:

Google tells me it’s from The Last Unicorn, a 1968 fantasy novel by Peter S. Beagle. Wikipedia tells me it’s a story centered on a unicorn who, believing she’s the last of her kind in the world, embarks on a journey to find out what happened to the others. She meets a host of diverse characters along the way, each of them bringing her closer to her goal. 

If that passage isn’t reason enough to read it, the slew of five-star reviews on Goodreads definitely is. Now, off to get my hands on the book. 

Happy mid-week! :0)

First To-Read List for 2015!

Realistic Fiction (oxymoronic as it sounds):

1. Saint Anything, by Sarah Dessen

I would read ANYTHING by Sarah Dessen. Ever since I first picked up Keeping the Moon when I was 14, I was sold.

Saint Anything didn’t come by smoothly for the writer. Sarah struggled with a story that was going nowhere, and was miserable when she wrote it and rewrote it and rewrote it again. It’s hard to churn out a novel a year, and after writing more than ten books in the same genre, I guess she got a little burnt out. But I’m so glad she took a break, because Saint Anything looks SO GOOD, slightly different and darker than her usual books.

2. Made You Up, by Francesca Zappia

Ever since E. Lockhart’s We Were Liars wrecked me emotionally, I’ve been looking for more stories told by unreliable narrators. Plus, Made You Up also involves mental illness, another theme I gravitate towards. And the cover art! How pretty!

3. All the Bright Places, by Jennifer Niven

This book is touted as The Fault in Our Stars meets Eleanor and Park, a “love story about a girl who learns to live from a boy who intends to die”. Even though I found E&P a little over-dramatic at times, I’m holding out on the hope that this won’t be as overplayed.

4. The Howling Boy, by Cath Crowley

This book is a mystery. No cover art yet, or confirmed publishing date. But after reading – and rereading, and re-rereading – the magical, bittersweet, poignant, inspiring Graffiti Moon, this book CANNOT come soon enough.

Fantasy:

1. Six of Crows, by Leigh Bardugo

More stories from the Grishaverse (that’s Grisha universe, by the way). YES, PLEASE! I’m still savouring the final installment of the Grisha trilogy, Ruin and Rising, so it won’t end so soon. So more Grisha tales are definitely welcome.

2. The Darkest Part of the Forest, by Holly Black

Faeries, monster-slaying children, fairy-tale retelling. What’s not to love? And knowing Holly Black, it would be dark and sinister and all kinds of delicious.

3. Red Queen, by Victoria Aveyard

OMG OMG OMG. I have never been this psyched for a book to be released before –

Okay, well that’s not true. But this is definitely one of the books I’m properly excited about. I mean, just read the blurb. COME ON. Does it not want to make you read it already?! I can only hope it won’t disappoint, because I am all ready to sink my teeth into this juicy novel.

4. Beastkeeper, by Cat Hellisen

I love how fairytale-ish the premise is, yet how real and current the protagonist’s conflict is, with an age-old curse and an absentee mother. “The day she falls in love for the first time, Sarah will transform into a beast … unless she can figure out a way to break the curse forever.” Okay, I’m on board.

What’s on YOUR To-Read list for 2015?

By the way, I am HOOKED on Aussie YA, thanks to incredible writers like Cath Crowley, Lucy Christopher, Melina Marchetta, Karen Foxlee, and Vikki Wakefield. There must be something in those Australian waters that lets them churn out such dreamy prose and create such relatable characters. If anyone has any recommendations, please share the good stuff! :0)