#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!

Advertisements

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)

Halfway into NaNoWriMo!

Writing advice from Kate Brauning:

Don’t get discouraged when you’re drafting if you’re not seeing magic happen. That magical touch and those insightful moments you see in great books aren’t magic at all. They’re the result of blood and sweat. First drafts are limp and flat and awkward—that’s normal. The depth and layers come as you revise. And revise. And revise.

Ugh, limp and flat and awkward first drafts. Too much experience with that. But it’s true that it gets better with each draft. You kind of figure out more stuff the more you write – the mood, the tone, the characters, their voices, their backgrounds – and all that helps you see the end more clearly.

So how is NaNoWriMo going for all my writerly friends?

Reading Siege and Storm, book #2 of the Grisha trilogy by Leigh Bardugo, is making me ache to write Indigo Tides.

It is so insanely good, much better than the first in terms of prose and pacing. I mean, it’s got mythical monsters and fairy tales and an unorthodox (and callously funny) ship captain that is fast becoming my favourite character in the book. What’s not to love? Plus, I love how Leigh doesn’t go overboard with the sappiness between Mal and Alina – every scene, every exchange, every touch between them is significant and propels the story forward while leaving your emotions scattered everywhere.

 photo asian babies spazzing_zpslj2j4rr3.gif

 photo mishaincoherentfangirling_zps1198f4ab.gif

But that’s a review for another day. I will properly gush about it then. For now,

Off to Neverland! Have a good week, everyone :0)

Book Review: Shadow and Bone

Fair warning: this post contains fangirl moments over Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo, the first of the Grisha trilogy by Leigh Bardugo. If fangirling gives you a massive headache, walk away now.

Otherwise, OMG THIS BOOK!!


The Story


Set in an alternate ancient Russia, in a place called Ravka, the story opens with a boy and a girl, both orphans adopted by Duke Keramsov before being posted to different vocations: Alina a cartographer, Mal a tracker/hunter. They live in a country that is constantly under siege by Fjerdans from the north, and Shu Hans from the south, and there’s this thing called the Fold that the Darkling and his men have to cross on their voyage across the Unsea. There, bird-like beasts called the Volcra feast on human flesh. The inciting moment is when Alina is taken across the fold and manages to save those on board with her once-dormant power of light.

The Darkling, by the way, is the leader of the Grisha (the magical elite) who is trying to wrestle for power from the passive king and rule all the land. He finds use for Alina, who is revealed to be the Sun Summoner, the one who can drive the Volcra away and ensure the safe crossing of the Fold. Alina is taken under the Darkling’s wing and hailed as the new hope for the people of Ravka.

But as she is taken deeper into the world of the Grisha, Alina uncovers more secrets and is forced to question her loyalties to the Darkling.

The Pacing


The first 60 percent of the book was kind of forgettable, and more than once I questioned where this was all leading up to. The flirty little moments between the Darkling and Alina, where the latter is lured by the promise of power and affection (things that had been denied to her when she was an adopted orphan), the lessons Alina had to go through, the petty politics of the court, where Alina was the subject of gossip and underhanded attacks by a jealous Grisha girl. I was ready for Alina to stop whining about how pathetic she was physically and get on with honing her powers already.

But then: PLOT TWIST PLOT TWIST PLOT FRIGGING TWIST!

Only it came about 100 pages too late. I would’ve liked things to move a little quicker, especially around the first 60 percent or so of the book. I took three weeks to read this book because I gave up on it halfway and moved on to other books. But once you survive till 65 percent or so, you will be glued to the page. There, I didn’t give anything away, did I?

The Writing


I wasn’t really a fan of the prose at the beginning. There were just too many I’s in the sentences, and after a while I was like, Vary your sentence structure, pleeeease!

Case in point:

And lest you think this is typical of first-person narrative (I know people who scoff at first-person POV), it’s not. There are a lot of writers whose writing feels natural even in first-person.

But then you’ve got moments like these:

And it’s just,

 photo fangirling 2_zpsjrqtkyqf.gif

 photo mishaincoherentfangirling_zps1198f4ab.gif

Sentence structure what??

The Romance

Um, need I say more? Malina (Mal + Alina) is endgame. (I peeked at the end of the last book), and that makes me happy *insert cheesy grin*

So I can get past the excessive use of I’s and rote reporting of events, because OH YES THIS IS HOW YA FANTASY SHOULD BE DONE.

And the good news is: books two and three await.

Happy Friday! Hope you’re lost in a good book too :0)