My Giveaway + Announcements

*My first foray into an Author Interview with Andrew Xia Fukuda is up! (Should I do more?)
*My first manga review for Natsume Yuujinchou V.1 - please let me know what you think

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Year in Review: Author Discoveries and Top 15 Books of 2009

Note: The books I'll be talking about won't necessarily have been published in 2009. These lists are more of the books I personally read and finished by the end of this year.

Author Discoveries of 2009:

JUSTINA CHEN HEADLEY - Where has this author been all my life? One page into her novel Girl Overboard and I was suckered in, hook line and sinker. I love her protagonists and her humour and her motifs (there's ALWAYS a prevalent motif in her works) and her sucker punch one-liners. I've read all three novels published by her and all I can say is "When are her next books coming out?!"

CYNTHIA KADOHATA - aslfkdja;lj Kadohata is my goddess. I can't believe I only laid my eyes on her Weedflower novel back in the cold month of January. She is brilliant, utterly and completely brilliant, and I've read all of her YA novels with the one exception of Outside Beauty (which will be remedied soooooon, veryyyyyy soooooon) and am SO EXCITED FOR HER NEW NOVEL IN 2010!!! (It's called A Million Shades of Gray and I would most definitely camp out a night in front of the bookstore to grab myself a copy. 2010 can't come fast enough.)

ANGELA JOHNSON - I can't believe I spent all these years without someone shoving me a Johnson novel. After I read it, I found out that one of my IRL reading friends actually read and owned her own copy of Johnson's The First Part Last and I was like "And you kept this novel from me ALL THIS TIME?!" (Don't worry, we got over this tiny dispute. After a span of sullen silent treatments, that is. =D) *coughs* Anyhow, I only managed to read Bird and The First Part Last by Johnson because my library SUCKS. *kicks* But I swear I'll make it a mission to read more of her works in 2010. *is determined*

Top 15 Books of 2009

15) Shadow Magic by Jaida Jones and Danielle Bennett *

14) The Shadow Speaker by Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu

13) Nothing but the Truth (and a few white lies) by Justina Chen Headley

12) Ask Me No Questions by Marina Budhos

11) Skin Hunger by Kathleen Duey


10) Sacred Scars by Kathleen Duey *

9) The First Part Last by Angela Johnson

8) A Wish After Midnight by Zetta Elliot *


7) Ten Cents a Dance by Christine Fletcher

6) Liar by Justine Larbalestier *

5) Dragon Road by Laurence Yep *

4) Cracker! The Best Dog in Vietnam by Cynthia Kadohata

3) The Absolute True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie


2) Warchild by Karin Lowachee

1) Gullstruck Island by Frances Hardinge *

* - books came out 2009

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Review: Gullstruck Island by Frances Hardinge (Revised)

(Original Post here)
Okay so normally I wouldn't repost old reviews, but I was feeling awful for only doing 1 review so far this month and besides, this is basically my favourite novel of 2009, I wanted to pimp it as much as possible. Also added content to make myself feel like I'm not just posting the same old thing.



Title: Gullstruck Island aka The Lost Conspiracy (US)
Author(s): Frances Hardinge
Genre: MG Post-Colonial Fantasy
Page Count: 512
Publisher: MacMillan

The Summary: On an island of sandy beaches, dense jungles, and slumbering volcanoes, colonists seek to apply archaic laws to a new land, bounty-hunters stalk the living for the ashes of their funerary pyres, and a smiling tribe is despised by all as traitorous murders. It is here, in the midst of ancient tensions and new calamity, that two sisters are caught in a deadly web of deceits.

Arilou is proclaimed a beautiful prophetess—one of the island’s precious oracles: a Lost. Hathin, her junior, is her nearly invisible attendant. But neither Arilou nor Hathin is exactly what she seems, and they live a lie that is carefully constructed, and jealously guarded.

When the sisters are unknowingly drawn into a sinister, island-wide conspiracy, quiet, unobtrusive Hathin must journey beyond all she has ever known of her world—and of herself—in a desperate attempt to save them both. As the stakes mount and falsehoods unravel, she discovers the only thing more dangerous than the secret she hides is the truth she must uncover.

--From Author's Website.

The Review: First things first: I love Frances Hardinge (and hence cannot talk about her current work without random pimpage of her previous novels). There's always the risk of finding the later works by your favourite author disappointing, but not in the case of Hardinge. From the moment I saw the first page of her debut novel Fly by Night on the bargain shelves, I was a goner. It was love at first sight, pure and true, and with this latest addition to Hardinge's reportoire I feel like my little gold mine I plucked out of the bargain section oh so many years ago struck true. Frances Hardinge really let herself go with this novel. Her amazing wordplay seems to have taken on a new stage in this novel. I remember Fly by Night as the novel with such intoxicating words that you could just drown happily into them, forgetting the very premise of the story and lose yourself in words, words, beautiful words, the laughter and high rollicking fun. And Verdigris Deep showed a more serious side, with the same trademark wordplay still grabbing at you, but in a sticking out, unsettling sort of way, a prickling, itchy crawling at your skin that just fits beautifully with the horror genre that novel reflected. However, with Gullstruck Island, the words do not seek to grab your attention in a showy way, but settle around you, like dust, like our protagonist Hathin, quiet and unremarkable and glowing with inner zeal that can push mountains. Hardinge employed a restraint on her wordplay, letting the story shine through instead. And this more controlled, maturing writing is simply gorgeous and proves Hardinge to be a master of the art in English prose.

AND THE WORLDBUILDING. Homg the worldbuilding. (It had to be caps locked, it was just THAT GOOD.) Volcanoes mythology and folklore and intricate details of the geology and society in Gullstruck Island, not a thing missed, from the way language is used and the interaction between the different races and the Lost and the history and the layout of the land, and homg I could just die of happiness. Best post-colonial fantasy I’ve EVER read, even better than (…dare I say it?) Terry Pratchett’s Nation. And, you guys, I love Nation and Terry Pratchett. I didn’t think I’d come across something that’d top that novel in its genre but then Frances Hardinge comes along and I’m blown.

The cast in this novel is amazing in ways I can't even begin to describe. It's large and sprawling and everyone is distinct and unique and larger than life and my heart, be still. *.* The protagonists are lively, the villains are deliciously wicked, and the people who walk in the gray are well-rounded and have their own distinct voice and lives and I fell in love with each and every single one of them.

I love how tightly woven the plot was and the pacing was immaculate. Considering all these factors, I think it's safe to say that Gullstruck Island is easily Hardinge's best work yet, and easily my favourite novel of 2009.

And if my rambling and fangirling didn’t convince anyone, I’ll let the book do the talking and quote one of my favourite descriptions in this novel of volcano activity:

There was a hush-half-second like a gasp, a sense of something tiny but momentous change, of something cracking silently like a heart. The next instant, through that hidden crack beneath the surface, an oozing, millennia-old fire met dark, lucid water. And in that meeting, water and fire loved each other to destruction.


The Verdict: Best post-colonial fantasy novel I've ever read, also my favourite novel of 2009. Why have you not bought this book yet?

Rating: 100000000000000000000++++++++++++/5
Enjoyment Level: 10000000000000000000000000++++++++++++% AKA It is Perfection unto itself.

Title and Cover Discussion: Since I can't be talking about Gullstruck Island without comparing it to the US version, let's go there. First of all I love the title Gullstruck Island. It rings of those good old Island adventure stories like "Treasure Island". And the cover evokes that feel too. And um, when I see the US version, all I can think is, "I'm SO GLAD Canada got the UK copy." Skipping out on ratings 'cause I get the feeling that I'm being distinctly biased in all this comparison between UK and US cover and I don't want to give Gullstruck Island good marks solely because I'm hating on the US version.

2010 Book Challenges

Signed up for a gazillion challenges for 2010!! =D I feel slightly insane...

Waiting on Wednesday: Loups-Garous by Natsuhiko Kyogoku

(Meme from Breaking the Spine)


Summary:

Virtual reality
. Murder. Werewolves. And teen girls! In a future where nothing is as it seems, can old legends come true? In the near future, humans will communicate almost exclusively through monitors, making real interaction a rarified and weak occurance for those living in a near totalitarian society. In this new world of communication, children are only allowed to interact personally on school grounds. So when a serial killer starts slaughtering junior high children the communication routes go under futher surveillance. And despite all the safeguards put in place to avoid physical interaction, the killer's latest victim turns out to have been in contact with three young girls: Mio Tsuzki, a certified prodigy; Hatsuki Matsuno, a uiet but opinionated classmate; and Ayumi Kono, her best friend. And as the girls get caught up in trying to quell curiosity under such terrorist scrutiny, Hatsuki learns that there is much more than meets the eye of their monitored communications.

Through kelakagandy's excellent post on the English-Translated Japanese Novels coming out in 2010, I found out that we are getting new works by Natsuhiko Kyogoku!! Am sooooo excited!! =D He's the author of works such as The Summer of Ubume (Haven't read it yet? What are you waiting for?! Buy a copy now) and Mouryou no Hako aka The Box of Goblins (which only spawned like, an amazing anime tv series and a live-action movie, to name a few. It's that good.) And it's from the Haikasoru publishing line, a new line from Viz to bring more translated Japanese SFF lit to the English speaking world. I had a good experience reading their Usurper of the Sun and have full confidence in both Kyogoku's storytelling abilities and Haikasoru's quality in their translations.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Book Trailers, Oh My!

There’s this thing about me that I don’t disclose much on the intrawebs and that is: I love watching book trailers. Not because I think they’re wonderfully made or that they’re representative of the content, but because a lot of them are so awful I think it’s funny.

Take Boys That Bite by Mari Mancusi, a trailer so funnily awful that I would never touch the book ever. (SUNNY and RAYNE ahahahahahha)
Or Girl in the Arena by Lisa Haines, a trailer so hilariously wrong I felt the need to find a copy of it in my library. (not enough to actually check it out of the library, mind, but a lot better than the previous. And say what you want, but you'll remember the title after the trailer is over.)

*coughs* But I’m not here to inflict my collection of awful book trailers at you. Instead, I’ll be posting my top 5 book trailers I came across this year! In no particular order~

MOVIE-ESQUE SCARY TRAILER - The Maze Runner by James Dashner



THE COOL TEXT STUFF - Liar by Justine Larbalestier and The Van Alen Legacy by Melissa de la Cruz





PRETTY STILLS - Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon



STILLS WITH AWESOME QUOTES READ ALOUD BY AWESOME SPEAKER - Mudbound by Hilary Jordan



(There's a nicer, longer trailer on BookSpots.Com, but I can't seem to link it no matter what I do, so I guess look for it yourself if you wanna see?)

So, what book trailers do you like watching? Or if you just feel like sharing those really awful-yet-hilarious trailers, I'm totally down with that. =D

Teaser Tuesday 12/29/2009

(meme from MizB at Should Be Reading)

My first teaser tuesday, woo~

* Grab your current read
* Open to a random page
* Share two (2) “teaser” sentences paragraphs (yes I'm cheating) from somewhere on that page
* BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
* Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

“Who’s out there!?” I heard a grizzled shout. Followed by a grizzled bark. Right on the other side of the hedge. “I’ll shoot you in the belly, you bastards! Feed your guts to the dog!”

Forget peeing. I might never pee again. I pulled up my pants and dashed after Pen, toward the driveway, just as the huge black metal behemoth came careening out. Someone screamed. It might have been me. The car screeched.

-Swoon by Nina Malkin, pg. 103


Thanks to ninefly for helping me pick out a page. =D

Saturday, December 26, 2009

In My Mailbox - (10) and the presents list 12/27/2009

(Meme from The Story Siren)


Will discuss books from Top to Bottom, Left to Right.

Malice by Chris Wooding (bought) - Because I missed Wooding's stuff, and it was selling at $8.99. I'm curious about how the half-comic aspect of this novel works out. =D

Swoon by Nina Malkin (bought) - Bought this with the giftcard I got. lol a little present to myself. The forbidden aspect of this romance looks like just my thing. =D

Shine, Coconut Moon by Neesha Meminger (bought) - Because I love Meminger's blog, and I liked what I read of this novel before I was obliged to return this book back to the library or suffer fines to my account. I am definitely gonna finish this novel before Meminger comes to the T.O. signing. *determined face*

Give Up the Ghost by Megan Crewe (bought) - Because after having loved it and wrote up my review, how could I not own my own copy? =D

In My Humble Opinion Journal (present) - =DDDDDDDDDDDDD The Most Awesome Journal Ever. It's So Awesome, I Have To Talk About It With Caps On All My Words.

The Harmony Silk Factory by Tash Aw (bought) - Actually I heard some not-so-positive reviews for this novel, but any novel that has a Malaysia setting warrants a must-buy from me. Also, it was only $5.99~ =D

Usurper of the Sun by Housuke Nojiro (bought) - I finally bought a book from Viz's Haikasoru publishing line! I'm really excited about Haikasoru and am happy to support the works they put out. I read the first half of this novel and I'm really enjoying it so far. Also, the translation was good, a fluid read. =D

Outside Beauty by Cynthia Kadohata (bought) - I figured I owned all of Kadohata's other YA novels, I might as well buy this to finish off my Kadohata YA collection. =D

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (bought) - Okay, having obsessed with this novel and raved about it in my review, I had to have it in my bookshelf.

The Camel Bookmobile by Masha Hamilton (present) - Never heard of this novel but the synopsis looks appealing. Thanks ninefly~

And here are the books I bought for people as presents:

Graceling by Kristin Cashore
Soon I Will be Invincible by Austin Grossman
Psych Major Syndrome by Alicia Thompson
Happy Hour at Casa Dracula by Marta Acosta
The Arrival by Shaun Tan
Tenderness by Robert Cormier
Anne of Green Gables, the 3 movies boxset (okay that's not a book, but it's ~*related*~)

Triple Snapshot Saturday - Legend of Tarik, I Wanna Be Your Shoebox, Bound By Your Touch

(Idea inspired by Hyper-Parfait's now defunct Triple Delights)

In which I discuss three novels at the end of the week (Saturday) in quick paragraph snapshots on my general impressions and reactions.

The Legend of Tarik by Walter Dean Myers
You know, I think I just read this book at the wrong time. I can see objectively that it is a very well written book, and for what the story tries to do, it does it well. It’s a whole fantasy quest story to avenge his father, with one little subversion: the hero is black. Now, I do appreciate this subversion, but it doesn’t satisfy me. I mean, yay black hero that actually wins the day in a magical quest story, that’s a storyline that you don’t come across every day. But my tiff with this book is that it didn’t subvert enough for me. Why not go all the way, I thought to myself. Subvert the wise old men who trains the hero prodigy! Subvert the role of women! Subvert the whole object troupe! Hell, challenge the stereotypical villainous characters as well!! But alas, this book didn’t do that. Basically I wanted a bigger challenge to the whole typical magical quest story and it didn’t do it for me. The role of Stria, the hero’s woman companion, particularly disappointed me, not because Myers didn’t attempt at subversion (he did! She had personality! She was his partner to fight the bad guy as oppose to being the weak love interest!) but because I just wanted more. I wanted to see why she couldn’t be the hero of the day, and the best we got was that it’s because she had anger problems, and that plus the whole hysterical aka way-too-emotional woman type characters often found in fiction made me frown.

This frustration wanting more subversion for other aspects of the novel besides the black hero/white villain thing stopped me from appreciating the novel as much as I would have, if I read this back when I was a bit more enamoured with the fantasy quest story line and only needed a little bit of subversion to be happy. But I’m mostly jaded on these quest things and it takes a lot more reversals of the typical quest storyline for me to be invested. Sadly, The Legend of Tarik didn’t do it for me. I do recommend this to people who love the magical quest storyline and want just a slightly different twist on the formula. I can guarantee that the writing is spot-on and will appeal to the lovers of this genre.

I Wanna Be Your Shoebox by Cristina Garcia
Omg soooooo much fun to read!! Our main character, Yumi, is a girl that cannot be easily confined to a checklist of what she should be. I like this aspect a lot, because I think it shows the endless possibilities of Yumi’s bright future. I also liked the intertwined storyline between Yumi and her grandfather, Saul. It isn’t my favourite use of this device, but I thought they worked well together. And the portrayals of Yumi’s relationship with her family and friends and classmates were vivid and a great joy to read about. I think the biggest theme of the whole novel is hope, a bright, endless hope of the future, that there’s always a possibility of great things to come and experience. That’s not to say that there aren’t any “serious” themes to this story, there’s death and divorce featured in this MG novel as well. But this novel is not a problem novel and about dealing with such conflicts. It’s more about facing the future, of the good and bad and making the most of it. And the book convinces you of this hopeful message by being written with such gusto and spirit. It’s the kind of book that makes you smile every time you remember reading it. Highly recommended.

Bound by your Touch by Meredith Duran
The book I would have never read if it weren’t for Sarah Rees Brennan’s recommendation! It was lots of fun, and I love the romance aspect. However, the historical part was not as good as it could have been. I mean, it more or less sticks to how 19th Century England works, but it doesn’t exactly make you feel like you’re there in that past, or challenging the notions of the time period. Then again, this is a novel marketed as romance and if the “historical” side to the romance was not as good as it could have been (not that I remember ever reading historical romances that actually did the historical side justice… I suppose I have to look into straight historical novels for that), it balances out by having a lovely romance that subverts stock romance troupes. The spinster gets the young rake! And other spoilery stuff I shouldn’t reveal about various family members that have interesting subversions. I was rather irked by the whole Egyptology thing being used as the driving plot of the story though. I mean, it has that feel of exotic foreign dead artifacts being used to further along the European story and that always nudges me the wrong way. Perhaps I could have reconciled with this if there was a prominent Egyptian character in the story but they were nowhere to be found. I did enjoy this novel very much though. Not enough to feel like buying my own copy of the novel, but it was a fun read.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Mai Idea for Future Book Giveaway Contest, along with Poll

So, I mentioned previously about a book giveaway contest idea I had, and now I'm finally gonna talk about it!

A while back, Sarah Rees Brennan made a post about book covers wherein she made up a Summary of Lies (with an inkling of the truth sprinkled in) for the books she wished to discuss. I loved these lying summaries and I thought it'd be a lot of fun to use this idea for a giveaway! Basically the idea is that I host a contest for a book, write up a lying summary, and the winner is chosen based on who can tell me which part of the summary is true, either by whoever answers first or I do a draw of all the ones who got the right answer.

Let's use one of Brennan's lying summaries as an example:

What do you do when your girlfriend Katherine leaves you? Well, you could go on a heartwarming road trip with your best friend and learn a little about love and life, OR you could clone Katherine a thousand times, in order to make a clone army and TAKE OVER THE WORLD. Nothing says 'I'm over you, baby' like being God King of the Universe.


This one is fairly obvious on which part of the summary was true (HINT HINT answer is in bold), but I thought it was the simplest example to use in order to illustrate how this contest is going to work. So, assuming I use this summary above, all you have to do to be eligible to win is quote the true statement, leave your comment with the answer and your email (they will all be screened so no one should see the answer) and then I draw lots on the people who got the answer right and the winner gets a prize!

HOWEVER, one problem: I'm having a hard time deciding what prizes to give out. Also, I don't know what kind of books y'all would be interested in me doing lying summaries of. So, I'd be really grateful if you'd fill out these polls. ALSO, if you want advanced dibs on this contest I'll be hosting in the future, leave a comment after filling out the polls with your username and a link to this page and I'll give you an extra point on the first contest I host. =D Point form version below, to make this easy on the eyes~

Advanced Dibs on the First Future Book Giveaway Contest
+1 pt - link (leave a comment on this post with the linked URL)
+1 pt each - leave the name of the person who referred you to the contest and BOTH the referrer and the referred get a point each



Sunday, December 20, 2009

In My Mailbox - #14 12/20/2009

(Meme from The Story Siren)

Sooooo many books this week eeeeeeeeeeee~~!! =D

1 giveaway
4 catologue
3 bought
6 borrowed
Total = 14!! =D

GIVEAWAY:




The Hour Glass by Hilary Spiers

Won this from Goodreads. It's a short story anthology. Will be using the holidays to go through the short stories, along with my little towering pile of anthology collections I neglected this year... I'll do my best to get a full review up, but no promises.




CATALOGUE:



Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith

Eeeeeeee so excited for this book! There's WWII and women and plane pilots and POC and it just sounds like a really, really promising YA historical novel, if the first chapter is anything to go by. >D






Kira-Ki
ra by Cynthia Kadohata

A;LSKDFJASDLKFJ I GOT THIS HARDBACK FOR $9.99 CDN!!! ASL;DKJFDASL;JF Did I ever mention how much I love Kadohata? I love, love, love Kadohata. I haven't read Kira-Kira yet (blasphemous, I know), but if her other books are anything to go by, I'm confident that I'm going to love this one.






A Curse Dark As Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce

Rapunzel retelling! =D I love retellings, and I'm interested in how Bunce relocates the setting into 1700s England.









Luv Ya Bun
ches by Lauren Myracle

It just looks like a cute MG novel. And bonus: a diverse cast! =D







BOUGHT:

BLUE BLOODS BOXSET -
Blue Bloods, Masquerade, Revelations by Melissa de la Cruz

You know how everyone has their guilty vampire reads? Well, the Blue Bloods series is mine. Yes yes it's generic and way too much brand-name dropping and the writing is horrid and the cast sucks but THE CRAZY MYTHOLOGY OF EPIC, YOU GUYS. REINCARNATIONS! PSEUDO-INCESTUOUS TWINS. It's like Gossip Girl meets Twilight meets Angel Sanctuary and it makes my heart die in happiness.

BORROWED:



The A
bsolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

I already reviewed this. SO GOOD. I'M BUYING MY OWN COPY THIS WEEK OR WHENEVER IS THE CLOSEST CHANCE I GET TO HIT A BOOKSTORE.








Shrinking Violet
by Danielle Joseph


Cute, light-hearted read. Lots of fun, but not exactly a book I'm going to remember in the future or thinking about getting my own copy though. Will do a write up for it soon.








The Kiss of Death
by Marcus Sedgwick


It's about time I started a Sedgwick novel, and I thought I'd start of with this copy. From the first few pages it looks really promising.








The Swan Kingdom by Zoe Marriot

Retelling of the Wild Swans! Which is like, only one of my favourite fairytales of alllllll tiiiiiime~~ I'm crossing my fingers and hoping that it'll end up being good.







Strange Angels
by Lili St. Crow


Borrowed on a whim. it's one of those titles wherein I see the cover on sites so many times that I finally got curious enough to check it out.








Riot
by Walter Dean Myers


Because I felt the need to check out more of Myers stuff, and the whole draft riots aspect of this novel sounded interesting.