#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!

June reads, pink hair, and manuscripts that just. won’t. end.

I couldn’t blog last week because work was relentless (ZALORA’s digital magazine community is going live soon!) and I was nursing a fever, sore throat, headache, and runny nose last week (doesn’t rain, but it sure pours).

Buuuut I’m back – with bolder, brighter, and pinker hair! :0)

I was going to go with just the darker copper this time, but it felt a little too dull. So I went and doubled the pink streak! Here were some hairstyles and colours I considered:

Totally leapt up when I saw this – SOOOOOO GORGEOUS!!!!! *__*
I’d love to go this red, but I’m not as fair as pretty Ms Han Ji Min
So I settled for this slightly browner tone like Tiffany’s
Not gonna lie – I wish I had the guts and freedom to go as nuts as Laini Taylor because look how fabulous that shade of pink is! But my dad will probably flip. Maybe someday, if I ever make it onto the NYT bestseller list, I’ll do this to celebrate!

My dad shook his head at the expanding pink strip as soon as he saw it, but oh well I love it. EMBRACE THE PINK! :0)

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And as if my May reading list isn’t long enough, here comes another one for June. But with more swoon-worthy tales of literary apothecaries, OCD romance, mysterious guardians, kidnappings, and magical guardians, the reading list just won’t quit! I mean, just look at these drool-worthy tales:

1. Every Last Word, by Tamara Ireland Stone 

A girl with purely-obsessional OCD finds her place amongst a bunch of misfits, and falls in love with a guy who plays guitar and writes poetry. Sorry, but I’m a sucker for stories like this.

2. Emmy & Oliver, by Robin Benway

Touted as a book to satisfy Sarah Dessen fans (that’s me!), a girl meets her childhood friend whose father kidnapped him years ago. Ever since The Snow Queen, I’ve loved the idea of childhood friends who become lovers. Plus, this one has got all the drama and tears, so I don’t care if the plot seems cheesy. It’s not cheesy if it’s well written. And based on the reviews on Goodreads, it sounds like it might be!

3. The Library at Mount Char, by Scott Hawkins 

Father could do strange things. He could call light from darkness. Sometimes he raised the dead. And when he was disobeyed, the consequences were terrible.” Don’t you want to read it already? I know I do!

4. The Little Paris Bookshop, by Nina George

Books to heal a myriad of ailments and undiagnosable woes, a literary apothecary – sounds like a delightfully magically realistic poignant read already!

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And finally, an update on the WIP that is No Room in Neverland.

It feels like I am NEVER going to finish this story. The word count currently hovers close to 79K. 79K! This is the longest I’ve ever written. Granted, it has two stories in one (Neverland Chronicles, and current day), but come on, 339 pages for a YA contemporary, really Joyce??

I’m trying to convince myself that it’s better to write too much than too little. But that just means you might end up cutting out a lot of scenes that drag down the story. And that’s just as hard as trying to thicken the plot! Conclusions are just as hard as beginnings, if not possibly harder. You have too much to lose by the end of the story to mess it up, so the pressure is ON to tie up the story nicely without making everything too convenient or cheesy or draggy or rushed.

My problem with the first draft of Neverland was that it didn’t have enough of a plot. But this third draft feels like it has TOO MUCH of a plot, and there are so many loose ends I haven’t finished tying up. And I don’t want it to seem like I’m trying to end everything neatly because that’s just lame. A story doesn’t end just because a book does … Am I making sense?

One more scene. Two more chapters. And I’ll be done. And then I can go back and hack out all the extraneous parts. Come on, Joyce. You HAVE to see this through. You’ve spent way too much time and effort on this to stop now.

Writer friends, how do know when to end your story?

To-Read List for May!

It’s a magical realism feast this month, in both contemporary and historical fiction. I’m liking this trend VERY MUCH.

Roald Dahl

Magical realism is such an unexplored genre (as compared to, say, crime and mystery) and I really love how it brings the fantastical into real life and stretches your imagination to accept the strange and the wondrous things that happen every day. That’s probably why I wrote Until Morning – and now No Room in Neverland – because I wanted so badly to read something set in the real world that contained romance and magic.

Speaking of Until Morning, I’ve decided to go the crowd-source route and post it up on Swoon Reads (which published a lovely contemporary romance novel A Little Something Different by Sandy Hall). You can read it (and rate and share if you enjoyed it!) here. And if you need an idea of what it’s about, here’s a teaser:

Lexi Keen has found her soul-mate, although she has never met Night, the elusive street artist who leaves his paintings around the city.

Still, that doesn’t stop her from penning letters to him – until she finds herself living in his paintings after a car accident lands her in a coma. In her mind she is wandering through Night’s paintings. Her only companion: a boy who doesn’t understand why he is trapped there with her and wants to leave.

Sam Young is trying to make sense of the dreams he has been having of late, dreams in which he meets the irreverent, free-spirited Lexi. When his father’s latest development project involves taking over the inn that Lexi’s father owns, Sam has to choose between his loyalties to his father and staying with Lexi in the dream, safe from reality.

So anyway, I’m really looking forward to this month’s haul. Yay for magical realism and contemporary fiction! That’s not to say fantasy is a dying genre, but I think readers as a whole are now looking to take a break from all that supernatural good-versus-evil stuff for a while and go back to something closer to the heart. Even agents I’ve queried have told me they’re not representing fantasy because the market’s too saturated and people are veering away from the genre at the moment.

To Read:

1. Magonia, by Maria Dahvana Headley

2. Girl At Midnight, by Melissa Grey

3. Above Us Only Sky, by Michele Young-Stone

4. Bone Gap, by Laura Ruby

5. The Cost of All Things, by Maggie Lehrman

6. Love Letters to the Dead, by Ava Dellaira

7. Love Fortunes and Other Disasters, by Kimberly Karalius

I can’t stop fangirling over these books. I mean, HAVE YOU READ THEIR BLURBS? ARE YOU NOT PROPERLY EXCITED ABOUT THEM ALREADY? Ships in the sky, memory erasure (coincidentally, I’ve been working on a short story about memory erasure too), Lithuanian bird-women, pickpockets in black markets and missing people. This is while I love reading and creating stories. There are so many exhilarating possibilities that set your mind on fire, so many stories that fill you with ideas and life.

And of course, there’s LANGUAGE itself. Prose. The stringing of words to form beautiful, heart-breaking sentences with rhythm and music.

From Magonia:

“I’m dark matter. The universe inside of me is full of something, and science can’t even shine a light on it. I feel like I’m mostly made of mysteries.”

“I know everyone has dreams of flying, but this isn’t a dream of flying. It’s a dream of floating, and the ocean is not water but wind.
I call it a dream, but it feels realer than my life.”

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Breathe, Joyce, breathe.

Currently Reading:

1. Red Queen, by Victoria Aveyard

SO GOOD. The execution, the plot (and plot twists), the prose – all skillfully done. If I HAD to nitpick, I’d say that my connection with the characters isn’t as strong as the one with Alina and Mal from the Grisha trilogy by Leigh Bardugo. Those two (plus Nikolai Lantsov) got me swooning and dancing and grinning and spazzing. Red Queen, while nicely done, doesn’t send me reeling. But this is probably subjective and different for every reader. This book is still HIGHLY recommended!

2. Before My Eyes, by Caroline Bock

Two words: mental illness. I’m a sucker for any story that deals with issues like this, especially anything creepy or disturbing or psychologically messed up and sheds some light on people dealing with the demons in their heads. Plus, it’s told in alternative POV and it reminds me a lot of Charm and Strange by Stephanie Kuehn and *ahem* Lambs for Dinner by me.

Queued:

1. Saint Anything, by Sarah Dessen

2. Friday Brown, by Vikki Wakefield

What’s on YOUR reading list this month? Recommendations always welcome! :0)

february’s to-read list is not kind on the wallet

The wait is over! February is here!! Sorry, wallet. February’s not a good month for you. Blame the publishers for coming out with a slew of titles I’ve been dying to get my hands on:
1. Red Queen, by Victoria Aveyard

I know I’ve gone on for too long about this book. But the concept! The premise! The conflict!

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It would really suck if the book didn’t live up to expectations, because it looks so delicious I could gobble it up right now. (I didn’t read the seven teaser chapters because I want to read it all at one go, and not wait for weeks before reading the rest of the story.)
2. The Darkest Part of the Forest, by Holly Black

If you’ve read Holly Black’s Curseworker series, you’ll know how brilliant she is at weaving complex but un-confusing plots that keep you turning the pages. And this book looks as deliciously sinister as The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, with vicious faeries (also an obsession of mine that led to Blood Promise), gifted siblings, and a horned boy waking from a long, deep slumber to fight the fairies.

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3. Monstrous, by MarcyKate Connolly

A girl born with a spiked tail and wings meant to save the girls in her town from their mysterious fate is spotted by a boy who leaves a red rose for her every evening.

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4. Beastkeeper, by Cat Hellisen 

A girl who grew up lonely and longing for magic and on the run learns the truth about what they’re running from when her mother abandons them and her father transforms into something beastly. Best part is, she’s cursed too, and can only break free of the curse when she falls in love. It’s a slightly different take on the Beauty and the Beast story, since the protagonist is beast, so this should be good.

5. The Last Time We Say Goodbye, by Cynthia Hand

I’m not usually into tear-jerkers, but I’ve been in this mood ever since I started watching the Korean drama series, Pinocchio (the music! the romance! plus, the relationship between the protagonist and her cold, distant mother), and read Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta, which is more heart-breaking than I had ever expected.

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This is probably why No Room in Neverland is turning out way more emotionally intense than I had intended. I’m on page 185 now, by the way! Woohoo!

What’s on your To-Read list for February? :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)

and the to-read list keeps growing

Another book update. So soon? Yes.

 

BOOKS TO READ:

 

1. Red Queen, by Victoria Aveyard

Expected publication: 26 March 2015

In a world where people are divided by the colour of their blood, silver or red, a girl finds herself endowed with magical powers. There’s rebellion, forced betrothal, and the struggle of the underdog (the protagonist belongs to the Reds, the inferior class). Kinda like Gattaca, come to think of it. Only with magic. And princes and princesses.

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Plus, that cover is GORGEOUS.

 

2. The Girl at Midnight, by Melissa Grey

Expected publication: 28 April 2015

This is purportedly a mix of Cassandra Clare’s City of Bones and Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone. An ancient race of people with feathers for hair and magic running through their veins are kept hidden from humans thanks to age-old enchantments. When her home is threatened by a centuries-old war, a runaway pickpocket decides to find the Firebird, something that can end it for good.

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3. Monstrous, by MarcyKate Connolly

Expected publication: 10 February 2015 

As Bookworm007 said:

Sounds insanely interesting!!!

A protagonist

…with the wings of a raven, the tail of serpent, and the razor-sharp vision of a cat?

…who rescues captive girls from an evil wizard and avoids human interaction?

…in love with a page boy but has yet to reveal her appearance to him?

…forced to question who the real monster is: the wizard, her father, or…..herself?

Lordy, sign me up for this adventurous ride!!!

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I’m inclined to agree.

(Seriously, how do these people come up with ideas like these??)

 

4. The Wrong Side of Right, by Jenn Marie Thorne

It says on Goodreads that “fans of Sarah Dessen and Huntley Fitzpatrick will enjoy this smart debut young adult novel, equal parts My Life Next Door and The Princess Diaries.”

Girl meets rebellious bad boy, family conflicts and duplicitous relationships amid a presidential campaign – all the ingredients of a Korean melodrama YA contemporary novel.

(Speaking of Korean melodramas, I’m currently watching Nice Guy – AKA Innocent Man. More *here!)

This could be good.

 

 

Good thing there are books ALREADY published so we don’t have to wait to immerse in awesomeness:

 

5. Dreams Underfoot, by Charles de Lint

Jilly paints wonders in the rough city streets, while Geordie plays the fiddle while dreaming of a ghost. The Angel of Grasso Street gather the fey and the wild and the poor and the lost; Gemmins live in abandoned cars and skells traverse the tunnels below; while mermaids swim in the grey harbor waters and fill the cold night with their song.

This book is “a must-read not only for fans of urban fantasy but for all who seek magic in everyday life”.

THAT WOULD BE ME, THANKS.

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(Published in 1993?? How did I not know of this book until now and how can I get my hands on one?!)

 

6. In the Night Garden, by Catherynne M. Valente

Published in 2006? How did I ever miss this?!

I mean, shape-shifting witches and wild horsewomen, heron kings and beast princesses, snake gods, dog monks, and living stars, all these stories inked on a girl’s eyelids that are clues to her hidden identity? I WANT TO GET LOST IN THIS BOOK ALREADY!!!

 


JULY READS:

 

1. Sinner (or rather, SINNER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!), by Maggie Stiefvater

Anything from the Mercy Falls series is bound to be good. And I say that with utmost conviction. Shiver was life-changing, and Sinner is only going to rock (pun intended – you’ll get it if you read the books!).

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(I did rush down to the bookstore during lunch to buy the book, but it’s not here yet. I know you’re thinking, Just buy it online, dinosaur! But I like the experience of heading down to the bookstore and making a purchase there, okay?)

 

2. The Midnight Thief, by Livia Blackburne

A con artist recruited by the Assassins Guild meets a palace knight intent on avenging his friend’s death. In my shopping basket now, please.

 

 

* So, Nice Guy.

It started out intriguing enough, with the male protagonist, a promising pre-med student, taking the blame for his childhood sweetheart’s accidental homicide. He goes to jail for a few years and comes out to find that the girl has moved on and married the CEO of some multinational company. (Nice.) He meets her stepdaughter, and makes use of her to get revenge on childhood not-so-sweetheart, but ends up falling for the daughter instead.

It’s a lot to digest, with a power struggle and backstabbing and deception and dead parents and sick sister and amnesia and car accidents and divided loyalties and personal agendas and OMG CALM YOUR HORSES PLEASE, SCRIPTWRITER.

That said, I’m going to finish watching it since I’m already three quarters of the way through (mostly by skipping the draggy bits). Plus, the male lead is easy on the eyes. He has an adorable smile, and fits perfectly into the sweet-nerdy-guy-turned-angsty-protagonist role, even if my dad thinks he has a fat face. Boo.

 

If you have any book or drama series to recommend, please share! I’m always in need of new narratives. Hope your week’s going great! :0)

June Read-List and Watch-List

Read-list: 

 

1. Midnight Thief, by Livia Blackburne

O.M.G. How awesome does the plot sound. Gotta love characters with conflicting agenda, when the love interest is also the antagonist. Can’t wait to read this!

 

2. The Girl from the Well, by Rin Chupeco

Yay for horror that doesn’t involve monsters and gore! A girl who hunts murderers meets a strange tattooed boy with a dark secret. Plus, creepy doll rituals and Japanese exorcisms. YUM.

 

3. Forget Me, by K.A. Harrington

“Psychological thriller with a romantic twist” is what it says on the Goodreads page. Reason enough to read it.

 

4. Of Metal and Wishes, by Sarah Fine

More horror. A unique setting. A girl who is drawn to the Ghost in a slaughterhouse where she assists her father in the medical clinic. The whole thing sounds very Phantom of the Opera-ish. And The Phantom of the Opera is one of the most haunting, beautiful books I’ve ever read.

 

5. We Were Liars, by E. Lockhart

This one has a very deliciously twisty plot.

And bonus reason to read the book: Maggie Stiefvater loves it.

 

6. Deep Blue, by Jennifer Donelly

I will never get tired of mermaid stories. This one’s about mermaid heroines who gather their forces across the 6 seas to prevent a war between the Mer nations. Sign me on.

 

7. Trust Me, I’m Lying, by Mary Elizabeth Summer

Grifters, con artists, swanky high school and its dirty politics, missing fathers. What’s not to love?

 

8. Inland, by Kat Rosenfield

This seems to contain elements of magical realism, and goodness knows I’ve been searching high and low for magical realism books. We need more of those, especially in YA! And you know what Toni Morrison said:

 

9. The Museum of Extraordinary Things, by Alice Hoffman

 

Speaking of magical realism, here’s one of the masters of that genre. I’m still in love with the last Alice Hoffman book I read, The Story Sisters. This one, though, is set in a freak circus. You can’t really go wrong with a setting like that. Remember Wonder Show by Hannah Barnaby? So yes, I have high hopes for this one.

 

10. The 57 Lives of Alex Wayfare, by M.G. Buehrlen

A 17-year-old who has visions of the past is actually a Descender, someone who can travel back in time by accessing Limbo, the space between Life and Afterlife. Alex is in fact one soul with fifty-six past lives. And each of them features this mysterious boy with “soulful blue eyes”. SO reading this.

 

What’s on your read-list? Any other recommendations?

 

 

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Watch-list: 

 

1. Dream High 2

Dream High was a pretty entertaining and compelling drama series, so hopefully the sequel won’t disappoint!

 

2. Pretty Little Liars

Yes, I’m late to the game. But I’ve heard it’s got a great twisty plot like Vampire Diaries, so I’m sold. There’s the stigma attached to PLL – a lot of people probably dismiss it as some high school drama series – but I’m hoping it will, like TVD, change my mind and wow me right from the first episode.

 

3. God’s Quiz 4 

One word: Donghae.

 

Also, this is the cutest thing you’ll see today:

(The boy, I mean. Not the fangirls.)

 

Okay, okay. Something cute that’s not for the fangirls:

I don’t know, bananana sounds catchier to me.

 

Happy mid-week! :0)