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, November 11, 2010

Friday Five, or Breaking the Radio Silence

1. Did anyone see the new 2011 Jane Eyre trailer? I think you should go and watch the Jane Eyre trailer. I mean, I don't even like the book very much (Let me qualify this: I was more or less okay with this book, but then Mr. Rochester showed up and I hate his face. And thus I hated the book. I haven't reread or touched the book since that summer eight years ago when I was vacationing in Malaysia and yelled angrily at the book for its ending.) but the trailer's suspense spookiness drew me in. It looks all properly gothic and stuff!! I'll just, I don't know, close my eyes every time Mr. Rochester does that I Am A Poor Tragic Hero crap on me or something.



2. So, that reclist email I promised people who signed up for it. er, I kind of overestimated my abilities to make a personalized reclist? Ahaha, I don't know, I just kind of assumed that it'd be about as easy as reccing things to my friends, which I do more or less all the time, but I forgot to take into account that the reason why it's mostly easy for me to rec things to friends is because I know them pretty well, am familiar with their tastes and can rec things with ease. Whereas here, I'm finding myself having to hazard a guess from people's booklist from GoodReads and their blogs, if they own any. And... it's not the same? Like, I mean, two people can like the same Harry Potter book, but maybe one is all about the hero's journey whereas the other person just really likes boarding school with magic shenanigans. And it's just really tricky to tell.

Also as I was drawing up a preliminary list of possible book recs for each person who signed up, I ended up losing the paper. *dies* That will teach me to go the paperless way more often. Save some tries. And er, not bring blog-related things to class to fiddle with...

Don't worry I won't back out on making the reclist. I'm kind of hoping that my paper reclist is still in my room somewhere since the thought of trying to make a new list of possible recs for every person is making me die a little inside. (I am a horribly disorganized person, fyi... it's quite possible it's still here somewhere, hidden under the piles of disorderly-ness... *crosses fingers*) But if not, when winter holidays comes around I can dedicate at least 48 hours straight on working on this reclist for y'all (and I will be needing at least 48 hours since--if I remember this correctly--I spent at least 3 to 4 days straight working on that reclist before losing it and cursing the world...)

For a sneak peak though, I think a lot of my recs ended up mentioned The Summer of Ubume, Gullstruck Island, and The Lord of the Sands of Time a lot. So if you don't want to wait around until Christmas, you can check those three titles out.

3. Um, this blog. I don't know what to do with it? I had this Crisis wherein I looked at my reviews and was quite horrified to realize that a lot of them read like tangents more than anything. I kind of blame this on the fact that sometimes the things I want to talk about have nothing to do with critiquing the book as a whole but analyzing the novel from one perspective? For instance, no matter how many times I try to draw up a review for Hex Hall, all I really want to talk about is the characterization of the lesbian vampire best friend character. Which er, is not the point of Hex Hall. And they're all so rambly and disorganized! It's like I just vomit out words onto a word document and paste them up online or something! *crawls into a hole in SHAME* (Note: um, this is just me showing that I'm kind of dissatisfied with the reviewer I am and that I'm thinking of changing my reviewing style. I'm not fishing for compliments here or anything.)

And I've been having Thoughts about the whole idea behind book reviewing blogs, and what I hope to achieve with it, and I wish I kind of just knew what I want to do with it then I will know what to do? And it's very hard to organize it all in my brain because I am, in case it isn't terribly evident, one of those people who have Opinions on Everything, but this is meant to be a book blog it's not like I can go around spouting just every little thought that comes to mind and I'm starting to think it'd just be a whole lot easier if I just had a Blog of Opinions, wherein I could just say whatever I want on anything I want and not try to put things in boxes or worry too much about if I'm being coherent and comprehensible or being relevant or whatever.

But I still want to keep a book blog because I kind of miss how it really challenged me to think critically about a book I loved and if I could just find a way to make this blog work for me so that I can talk to my heart's content about the books I've read, and I really do enjoy posting about books I love and particularly doing my best to do justice to books I've loved. I mean, sometimes I feel like I got the review all wrong and it's frustrating, but other times I look back and I'm like, I think I wrote something pretty good here, so yeah. I don't want to give up. Instead, I'm trying to think of a way I can make this work for me, but for now I think it'll be safer to say that I'm on a mental hiatus until I figure something out i.e. figure out my Goals.

However, all galleys and ARC reviews will still go on. If I don't cough up that Solace on the Road review by next weekend feel free to throw stones at me or something.

4. One of the interesting things I've noticed about my reading habit in France is that I'm reading far less books geared towards teens. This is not really a taste thing, but more of a thing of economics. As I was musing with my friend on an email earlier:

I'm kinda amused by my book selection in France. Like, I never really touch the YA section because the prices are like inverse to what happens in Canada. There is only trade paperback and it's frickin expensive, like 25 bucks if we convert to canadian dollars and they don't have a 'poche' edition to them (the french version of a mass bound paperback aka the cheaper books) whereas all the adult books have 'poche' editions and it's actually cheaper to read High Literature of Serious Business than teen lit. Soooooooo I end up reading a lot of very serious novels about war or something, lol. Mostly from WWII and Holocaust related stuff.


And then, you know, I started having these thoughts about how people's reading decisions are limited what is available to them and the way it interacts with all these -isms and ladida all sorts of stuff my brain came up with that is very incoherent and probably of no interest to anyone here. ^^;

5. Hmm, I suppose I should save this for the WoW meme, but I am a very lazy meme-er so~ la. Also i just saw this today and was very excited for it and thought I'd spread my happiness around or something. Yes I know this post is also a meme too, but indulge me, why don't you?)



Isn't it gorgeous? YA Fantasy with Latina lead, and while I can't vouch for the contents at all since I haven't read it, at least we can all admire the cover's beauty and non-whitewashed-ness.

Summary: Consuela is a typical suburban Latina teen until she unwittingly slips into the world of the Flow. Discovering that she has paranormal powers and a mission to save people from dying before their time, Consuela—who has the power to slip out of her worldly skin and cloak herself in elemental skins including water, fire, and air—joins other teens with extraordinary abilities, bound together to safeguard a world they can affect, but where they can no longer belong. Yet when murder threatens to undo the Flow, the Watcher charges Consuela and elusive, and attractive, V (who might prove more than an ally in battle) to find and stop the killer.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Readathon Wrapup

A couple days late, but I've been feeling worn out post-readathon. Is anyone else feeling the same thing?

Instead of doing the final meme, I'll just give brief impressions of the book I read.

1) La prochaine fois - Still don't like it after I've had some distance with that book, and I'm pretty sure Marc Levy is not the author for me. Actually he kind of reminds me of Nicholas Sparks in terms of the romance but with a dash of fantastical elements in it? Slow, meandering, and the chemistry lacklustre... Yeah, just didn't do it for me. Interestingly enough I was quite amused by the banter of Jonathan and Peter, the two main male characters, and I'm pretty sure they had a gazillion times more chemistry with each other than Jonathan ever had with Clara. It's like, with Clara Jonathan is all doom and gloom Tragic Hero, but with Peter he suddenly develops a sense of humour. It's quite disconcerting, actually.

2) Coeur de Jade - I think, my problem with this book was the fact that I walked in with expectations for a heroine's journey with tons of character development, and lots of fantasy elements in a historical backdrop, and instead it gave me a historical epic with a large multicast with minimal fantasy and lots of action and sword fights? Which is not to say that the latter wasn't good (the sword fights were most excellent), just that it wasn't at all what I expected. I still wish that they developed Jade Heart more, and had more explorations of the dynamic between her and the dragon, but I suppose I'll have to read the rest of the trilogy to find out more. At the end of the day, while I didn't enjoy this Chinese historical fantasy epic as much as I wanted to, I'm interested and invested enough to plan on reading the rest of the trilogy. The development of the settings was pretty solid, though I thought the author could have handled the transliteration stuff better (footnotes > glossary - it's the Truth), and if this book ever became available in English, I totally would recommend others to read it.

3) Perrault's fairy tales - Some fairy tales were more disturbing than I remembered them to be (Donkeyskin and Little Red Riding Hood, for example) but I really enjoyed Diamonds and Toads, and Blue Beard. Though, wtf at the translation of the Diamonds and Toads title, the original was "Les Fées", aka The fairies, and I was very confused when I read it and thought to myself that they sounded very familiar... Interestingly enough, most of the romances have the couple actually talking to each other before marrying, and it's an interesting clue-in on the emerging feminist thoughts in Perrault's time. Of course, there were still some stuff I thought could be construed as rather genderfail-y (me and Little Red Riding Hood, we must have Words) but still, very interesting.

4) La Treve - I totally wouldn't have thought of starting off this memoir if it wasn't for the non-fiction meme, so I owe RAT for this awesome read. Primo Levi has a lovely way with words. I only barely started reading this before the whole readathon thing was over, but I plan on finishing this off sometime in the near future.

Thoughts:

Damn, reading so much French was damn hard. I can't read as fast as I want to, and I'm always deciphering words before I see the story beneath it all, and it's very frustrating and there's always that temptation to take constant breaks because my level of focus I have to employ reading in French is sooooooo draining and there's this disconnect I have when I'm reading in French than I do when I read in English. Probably because I can't sink into the story when I'm busy puzzling out the meaning. Hopefully if I just read more I'll get to a point wherein I'll be able to sink into the story instead of always floundering over elusive words, but I confess, the moment the readathon was over, I dashed off to NetGalley and read like, 3 English novels (Butterfly Swords, A Long Walk To Water, Hunger) in a day. I just miss reading novels and not having to second guess my level of understanding. I kind of feel guilty about it though, and will push myself to read more in French.

You know, maybe when I'm back in Canada or something I'll try the marathon with English novels. I've always read really quickly in English, and I'm curious to see how much I can do in 24 hours.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Dewey's Readathon: My Booklist


So, I'm going to participate in this for the first time!

Priority Book List (aka I will finish them this readathon EVEN IF IT KILLS ME *_*):
Coeur de Jade, lame du dragon : Tome 1 - Le secret des masques par Kristoff Valla (trans. Jade Heart, The Dragon's Blade: Book 1 - The Secret of the Masks)
La prochaine fois par Marc Levy (trans. Next Time)

Other French Language Long Narratives:
La traversée du continent par Michel Tremblay (The Crossing of the Continent)
Les liaisons dangereuses par Pierre Choderlos de Laclos (Dangerous Liaisons)
The Sky Crawlers par Hiroshi Mori (A Japanese-to-French translated novel)
La Trêve par Primo Levi (The Truce - An Italian-to-French translated memoir)

Short French Language fictive works:
Contes par Charles Perrault ([Fairy] Tales)
Boys Next Door par Kaori Yuki (manga)
Kaine par Kaori Yuki (manga)
Neji par Kaori Yuki (manga)
The Royal Doll Orchestra - Tome 1 + 2 par Kaori Yuki (manga)

English Novels:
A Reluctant Cinderella by Alison Bond
Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte
Other possible netgalleys I've received from publishers, etc.

The plan for this readathon is for me to read as much of my french novels as possible. The English novels are really just there for a placeholder in case I actually finish all these books before the 24 hours period (not likely, but you never know). Or, if, you know, I hit a certain point in my readathon wherein I start thinking I CAN'T READ ANOTHER DAMN FRENCH WORD, I have other options open to me, like the healing sight of the English word and its soothing presence of comprehensibility, or something.

Also, I may possible cheat on this 24 hour readathon, because well, this weekend the weather happens to be nice, and considering I've been living over a week of dreary rain, I fully intend on being out in the warm sun as much as possible. That would most evidently cut down on my reading time, so I may start before dawn and basically squeeze in reading time when it's dark out. Also, I intend on reading literally 24 hours, even if it isn't consecutive. Which means, let say I read for 3 hours and then took an hour's break - I won't count that one hour and consider what I've read as 3 hours in the 24 hours readathon scheme.

I will probably update this post with my reading updates on this readathon journey, so as not to bother those who have me on their feeds or google reader with a bombardment of spam.

Anyhow, is anyone else participating in this readathon? Are there any other participants planning on reading in their non-native tongue? I'd love to hear from everyone and good luck to all the participants! =D

Update 1

So it's Hour 11 in this readathon and I think I'm going to have to take back what I said about reading literally 24 hours and just count whatever I read during this 24 hour period as what I'll end up with for the challenge.

I've finished my copy of La prochaine fois, which took me 2 hours and 41 minutes, not counting all the loooooong breaks I took in between reading this. (It got to a point wherein I basically welcomed distractions from my roommates. This book! So mind-numbing!) It was such a slow read for me, considering its tiny page number. (less than 300 pages) I'm not understanding the great popularity of this Marc Levy author? The Eternal Tragic Love romance mostly induced eye-rolling reactions the whole time I spent reading this book (I do like reincarnation stories, but the way it was handled here was just so CHEESY and ughhhhhh), and I suspect if I let my brain think harder about the roles of women in this book, I'd be enraged. (Women are manipulative evil crones! Unless they're your love interest-in which case she will sigh and pine away at hero's awesomeness and then waste tragically away and die in your arms as the narrative continues to focus about how this is so Tragic For Our Male Hero! The faaaaaaaail, and the whole treatment of justifying cheating fiancee's actions, blaaaaaaaaaaaaah) But as such, I'm more mildly annoyed than anything and try not to think too much about it while I was reading. Ah well, this was a book a friend lent me, so at least I can 1) finally return it 2) honestly say I've finally given Marc Levy a shot (and will probably never read anything else by him) and 3) practiced my french.

Was 50 minutes into reading Coeur de Jade and I've reached a point wherein I'm reading the words and not even understand what it's saying. Probably because it's like, 12 am as I write this. Also this being an action thriller, a lot of the fight scenes require that mental visualization thing that I've never been really good at, and it being in french just sucks out all my brain effort into this gooey mush.

Haha, so basically out of the 11 hours so far I only spent about 4 hours reading. Honestly the rest of the time I spent either eating or hanging around outside because YAY FINALLY GOOD WEATHER.

Will now go back to see if I can read Coeur de Jade but if now I'll pop open my Perrault's fairy tale collection or the manga I have lying around.

Update 2: Hour 12

Mid-Event Survey:
1. What are you reading right now?
- I'm on Contes de Perrault.
2. How many books have you read so far?
- Well, I finished Marc Levy's La prochaine fois, was in the middle of reading Coeur de Jade until I decided to drop it for something lighter. Hopefully I'll get back to finishing it before this readathon is over.
3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon?
- Honestly if I manage to finish Coeur de Jade by the end of this I'll be quite content.
4. Did you have to make any special arrangements to free up your whole day?
- ... Actually I... kinda allowed myself distractions? Ironically this Saturday was the first sign of nice weather in a week and I couldn't say no to going out to the park. Also the first book I trudged through was such a painfully slow read that everytime someone knocked on my door I'd be like 'Why yes, dear roomate, come in and tell me more about distraction things! Anything if it means I don't have to read this book!' So... yeah. 8D ^^;;;;;;;
5. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those?
- Kind of covered it in #4 but basically I just let them happen. When I found out today was going to be good weather though I did make an attempt to read before the start time to make up for the time I knew I was going to spend outside, but I didn't get far due to not liking my book, etc.
6. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far?
- Actually, I was surprised to hear that there is a French Readathon? I didn't know and if I did, I probably would have registered for that one instead. But oh well. Also the whole cheerleading business is very nice. I didn't expect it so when I saw all the nice comments on this post I was real happy. =d
7. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?
- lol not really? It's been good so far.
8. What would you do differently, as a Reader or a Cheerleader, if you were to do this again next year?
- Choose less novels, more short stories.
9. Are you getting tired yet?
- sooooooooooo tired. I'm thinking of napping a little after this meme.
10. Do you have any tips for other Readers or Cheerleaders, something you think is working well for you that others may not have discovered?
- haha actually I think I'm really not in the position of giving others advice this time around? Perhaps when I'm a more "seasoned" readathon-er, I'll have something to contribute here.

Update 3: Hour 23

The final stretch. I finished Coeur de Jade about an hour ago, so I got everything I wanted finished on my Priority List! Yay!

At first I thought of using the time left (besides taking the time to shower/eat/daily necessity things) to just finish off my Contes collection or maybe start a manga, but at around Hour 19 there was a Non-fiction challenge and I thought I'd crack open my copy of La Trêve. Man, I forgot how eloquent Primo Levi was. Thoughtful, and humble with his select word choice and cuts through all flowery language and is deeply moving. This is the kind of book I'd like to read through slowly.

Anyhow, meme:

1. Have you ever read a memoir/true story (Or book 'based on true events'?)
-I've read a couple, both for an outside of class.

2. If so, what was the title/author?
- Si c'est un homme by Primo Levi was the most recent one that comes to mind (I read this for class). It was about the author's experience in a concentration camp. I loved it so much I bought the sequel to it on my own time. For non-class readings, there was a time when I scoured my library for every Genghis Kan biography available. I especially liked the ones that focused on his years as Temujin. I read Rape of Nanking about two years ago and am still haunted by that book till this day.

3. What what it about?
-lol kind of answered this already in #2

4. Did you like it? Would you recommend it?
-See #2

5. How many have you read?
- *shrugs* I think I read memoirs about once every one or two years? I'm usually more of the documenting historical events non0fiction reader.

6. Why or what made you want to read it?
-For Si c'est un homme, well, it was for class. I can't quite explain my fascination with Genghis Khan. Like all conquerors he committed terrible atrocities, but he had like, this grand vision, the way he thought about himself and his place in the world and I was just lured in by his story. I mean, you know how some people are like, fascinated by Napoleon (my dad is one of those people, lol) or Alexander the Great or something? Genghis Khan was that kind of person for me. Also I read The Rape of Nanking because it was the summer and I found a copy lying around my house.

7. What was the saddest/scariest one you read?
The Rape of Nanking for sure. EVERYONE, READ IT.

8. Did it have a 'happy ending'?
- No

9. When choosing a memoir/true story, do you look for a certain kind? ( i.e. historical diary, inspirational like The Freedom Writer's Diary, Christian, non Christian)
- Not particularly. With memoirs I mostly go by recommendations from others.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

My Reading Journey In France: Reflections on Choice and Accessibility


A MV of a French book I just recently finished direct link in case embed vid doesn't work

Looking back, I can't believe so much time passed by since I last posted. My Blogoversary went by without any comment from me, my birthday shortly afterwards, and now, it's October. *guiltyface* My apologies.

My Reading Journey In France: Reflections on Choice and Accessibility

When my Blogoversary was coming up, I had a hard time figuring out what I would say for it, mostly because I have no idea how my reading experience would be like in a different country. Because, you know, crossing an ocean to a country that predominantly speaks a non-English language really changes my reading habits. I don't have those shiny ereader things so I must rely solely on the local bookstores for books, and... You guessed it, it's hard to find English books in their original English text. Well, the ones that aren't top bestsellers or classics, at any rate. That, combined with the fact that I'm basically in France to improve my French, means that I will be doing my best to read almost exclusively in French. (This also means I'll be reading less books in general since, as I've discussed before, I read slower in French.)

I had a feeling this would impact my blogging, and, you know, it does. I'm still struggling over how I'd review a French book in an English review when 1) the book may not be available in English and thus my readers will probably not care about what I'm reviewing, and 2) I'm actually not at all well-versed in the French literary canon, (I used to not really read more than 3-5 French novels in a year, and most of that - if not all - comes from those compulsory reading materials in my French classes.) and I feel like I'm not quite at the point wherein I can fairly gauge how well the book was written on a word-by-word scale.

I'm looking at my book buying habits here over last month, and I believe that I'm buying more translated into French texts than works written originally in the French language. To be honest, this mostly has to do with the fact that manga here is cheaper than back home, and France licenses quite a number of shoujo manga I can't find in English, or they're releasing the volumes here faster, etc. Aside from manga, I'm also buying more translated novels because... Well, I find that the US publishing industry is not really up in the forefront on translating novels from other places into English. For instance, I've always wanted to read The Sky Crawlers because the movie that was based on this book was simply stunning, but so far there's no trace of a translation in English project in the works. When I found it in the local bookstore here in French I possibly may have made a public display of myself and paid 14.99 euros without so much as blinking. Also, when the book is translated from a language I am not fluent enough to read in its original language like Japanese or Korean or Chinese or Italian or German, etc etc, I feel like whatever language I read it in won't matter since things will be lost-in-translation either way and if I choose to read it in French, my French reading materials also increase.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

My 150 Followers Personalized Reclist Gift Giveaway

IT'S PARTY TIME! source


Once again, sorry for my absence. I actually have lots of blog post ideas I want to put in, but I haven't gotten around to really focus on this book blog until this weekend. I'm working on scheduled posts as we speak and I can AT LEAST guarantee you one blog post tomorrow. My plan is to have the following week fully of blog posts up for y'all, but as I'm terrible with promises, I'll just shut up now. Actions speak louder than words and we'll just have to see if I actually stick to this, lol

Okay, so judging from my poll and comments on the last post, only a small number of people are interested in this reclist idea of mine. However, no one said they hated the idea, so I think I'll proceed with it anyways as a gift to all those who are even slightly interested. It's just that no one will be winning a personalized snail mail reclist from a draw. Basically, anyone who fills out the form at the bottom who's a follower of my blog will definitely receive an emailed reclist from me, ie EVERYONE'S A WINNER. =D

More details:

Your personalized reclist should arrive in your mailbox within 5 to 10 business days of having filled out this form. The reclist will consist of a minimum of 3 novels with a short summary and my pitch about why I think this book would be perfect for you. Any additional title mentions will come as honourable mentions without details/specifications on why I think the book is a good fit and will only come with a title + author mention. Please note that there is no real deadline to filling out this form, except that my followers giveaway will change the moment I hit 200+ followers. Please only fill out this form once.

Optional: If you wish to get a more detailed email on any of the honourable book title mentions for what I think you will enjoy the book, please reply to the reclist I send you with 'BONUS MATERIAL' mentioned somewhere in the subject line or the body message. As the first time, this next reclist within 5 to 10 business days of having received the replied message.

Please remember that this is specifically a gift to my followers, so, in other words, you do have to be a follower to enter for this reclist giveaway.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

AM IN FRANCE + 150 Followers w00t! + Linky Guest Posts + Upcoming Blogoversary


HEY FOLKS. Long time no... exist?! I truly apologize, it's just that this year I'm on a France exchange (aka I'm studying this year in France. In a French University. FOR A YEAR. AHHHHHHHH) and August was this mad dash to get all my papers sorted out and you know, getting together my living expenses and making myself familiar with the town I'm in... Okay, basically it's been deathly busy, my month of August, and I'm sorry for the lack of comments/replies/posts/etc etc. But I thinkkkkkk by next week, it will be less hectic for me and I can start making posts again! Because I have a lot of posts I want to make! 8D (but NOT until the end of tuesday, because right now I have to study for my language test, holy shit I knew I should have opened my grammar book this summer but nooooooooooooo)

Like this whole 150 followers thing! THANK YOU for choosing to follow me!! Unfortunately I won't be able to do any giveaways to celebrate because I kind of really need to conserve my money, especially this first stretch of settling myself down in a new place, and also I didn't lug any books across the ocean with me to giveaway. Well, unless you're including my copy of Anne Bronte's Agnes Grey. BUT YOU CAN'T HAVE IT, IT'S MINE MINE MINE. (You may read Agnes Grey on Gutenberg for free though, YOU SHOULD ALL READ IT, I HAVE SUCH LOVE FOR THIS BOOK, OMG.) Buuuuuuuut, I was thinking I could send people a mail of a personalized booklist recs!

Basically you tell me your likes/dislikes in a novel, and I'll put together a list of minimum 3 novels I think you'll enjoy. Everyone who asks for this will get an email from me, but there will be a draw for a customized, snail mailed booklist letter to the one lucky winner by moi at the end. But I'm not sure if anyone wants this, so I'd just like to take a poll to gauge the interest. If there's more no's than yes's then I won't bother with mailing anything out, but for the people who are interested, I'll set up a post where you can leave me your email and I'll fire away some recs at you. =D

Ahaha, I know this isn't much of a post, but I'll link to a guest post I made for Ari here: Let Us Write Our History, in which I talked about the fictional depiction of (sourlander) Asians in history through the English language canon, pulling from novels to movies to musical examples. Though, I do want to make a note that I really DO NOT think the solution is as simple as just getting more Asians to writing Asian historicals as the title might imply, but really I suck at making titles and I suppose it will have to do. This was er, actually the guest post I meant to write for Ari back then for her blogoversary but I am REALLY REALLY SLOW and thus ended up finishing it later than I wanted to.

Shoutout to Emma, I swear your guest post is coming! I'm just, really really slow. But it'll most likely end up being the usual very long guest posts I tend to end up writing, so maybe its length will make it worth it?! So sorry.

Note to self: Stop accepting to do guest posts unless I have up to 2 months to prepare or it comes with a prompt that I can more or else easily manage to brainstorm ideas for a post.

Blogoversary - it's coming up! I'm still trying to figure out what exactly I will do to celebrate, but er there will of course definitely not be any giveaways this round, ahaha... But I was wondering if anyone would be interested in doing guest posts for me here? If you are please drop a comment here with some means to contact you and we'll talk! =D

Thursday, July 29, 2010

My Strange Angels hate, lemme show it to you

[Note: Normally I save my book hates on Never Gonna Be Finished Books for my dreamwidth blog, but I figured since I haven't posted here in forever and I had a bookish related post all readily typed up, I'd just repost it here too. Also this Anti-Rec at least has some general concluding thoughts I had that I think go just beyond this novel, so it isn't just hating. =D]

So, there's this YA novel plaguing the shelves right now called Strange Angels by Lili St. Crow. I've read about three chapters of it.

I hate it.

I really, really, really hate it.

There are three basic reasons why I could not read beyond the 3rd chapter of this horrendous book.

1) THE WRITING


omg so atrocious. St. Crow really likes to use similes and metaphors. The problem? She kind of sucks at them. THEY DON'T EVEN MAKE SENSE!! Like, I could barely concentrate on the story because she'd throw in a line like

"my head hurts like a bowling ball being squeezed by a giant's fingers" (paraphrased, but it's in the first paragraph of the 3rd chapter if you don't believe me)

And I couldn't even pay attention to what's actually happening in the story because all I can think is WTF DO YOU MEAN YOUR HEAD HURTS LIKE A GIANT'S FINGERS LIKE WTF I CAN'T EVEN SAY THIS STRAIGHT WITHOUT IT SOUNDING STUPID OMG WHY COULDN'T YOU JUST SAID YOUR HEAD HURTS PERIOD?!?!?!?!?!?!

DON'T USE A SIMILE IF YOU DON'T KNOW HOW TO USE IT PROPERLY, DAMNIT.

Some people should just never ever write a metaphor or simile ever. St. Crow is one of those people.

2) IT'S SO RACIST


Lili St. Crow thinks it's perfectly okay to describe a Half-Asian character as a "half-breed" Multiple times within one chapter.

I... don't know what to say to this. EXCEPT THAT IT IS A RACIST, RACIST, RACIST PIECE OF FAIL!!!!

3) PRETTY GIRLS CAN BE COOL TOO, OKAY?!


Gawd, the narration just can't seem to get through a single chapter without some cheerleader hating. Why is it that pretty = stupid = useless?! ugh, I mean, cheerleader hating is widespread all over YA, but this book just sent me over the edge.

Quote~ "Better to be strong than pretty and useless. I’ll take a plain girl with her head screwed on right over a cheerleader any day."

Everything I am quoting happens before chapter 3 is over, btw.

+

So I chucked this book soundly against a wall like it deserves and proceeded to loudly anti-rec this book whenever I get the chance or remember when talking to friends.

You know what's sad though? Is that while people might try to argue with me that I should still keep going with the "half-breed" line or the cheerleader crap, but 100% of the time when I mention the atrocious writing then they would concede that my dropping of the book was a good idea. Like, hating on a book because the writing sucks is okay, but hating on a book because it was racist or has some misogynistic shit in it is not?

I mean, I'm not surprised or anything by these kinds of reaction, but it still makes me HEADDESK all the same.

I AM ALIVE

A thousand apologies for being so very absent from the online stage. I guess you could say I was feeling a sort of fatigue? Not just from blogging, but even my reading seems to be affected. While I was not posting reviews I was still making my way through plenty of novels, but lately I haven't been able to concentrate on reading the written word. My eyes glaze over, and I'd drop said book to make way for eating or TV or something. (Like, I couldn't even focus on a Cynthia Kadohata book! *sobs*)

You might be thinking, but Yuan! You claim to have read a bunch of books before you hit this recent reader's block development! Why don't you just spend this time during your reading slump to like, type up your reviews?

Which... I would, but I've also been hit with a reviewing slump too (hence my shame in not posting). No, seriously, I'd type a review, and it'd be like this:

'This book reminds me of a mecha anime series, with delicious star-crossed romance and time-loop amazing-ness and a whole lot more swearing than your typical mecha fare but sadly no melodramatic music accompaniment to go with it. Still, AWESOME' (see: All You Need is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka)

Which... 1) No one but people who know about anime or gundam stuff will understand and 2) it's like, a sentence long.

The only time I managed to write more than one paragraph about a novel I read was when I'm talking about them in the context trying desperately to convert someone to reading a novel mixed in with fangirl screaming through caplocks. (In other words, my version of a book recommendation)

For example, Standing in the Wind by Traci L. Jones. (Note: this was literally copy+paste from an email I sent to a friend)

omg okay so there's this book called Standing Against the Wind by Traci L. Jones AND YOU HAVE TO HAVE TO READ IT. SO ADORABLE LIKE I CANNOT EVEN BEGIN OMG.

Okay so it's middle grade school and Patrice is like this super nerdy girl who moved to this deadbeat school for lalalla family reasons that involve her mom being in jail and having to stay with her aunt who lived in a poor neighbourhood. She's like super quiet and stuff and has puffy hair so everyone makes fun of her at school but there's this one guy who lives in her neighbourhood who's popular that treats her okay, and tells people to knock it off if he catches ppl teasing her to the point of tears. ANYHOW, so one day popular guy approaches her and asks her to help tutor his little brother who's struggling in school and then they meet up at each other's place or at the library and BOND OVER HOMEWORKING AND SIBLINGS AND GAHHHHHHHHHH SO CUTE YOU HAVE TO READ IT!!!

And it's so so adorable because clearly the guy is interested and uses his brother as a pretext to hang out with her, and is such a joker and very nice, and she's all like 'guh, why does he want to hang out with me in the library instead of going to the park with friends?!' and it's so obvious that the guy thinks the world of her (he is always like 'you're the smartest person I know!' with a kind of awe and is just really proud of her and stuff) and he starts working at schoolwork and stuff just so he can have an excuse to hang out with her, and even if Patrice had no confidence in her looks the guy thinks she's totally fine and he does everything he knows how to make her happy and I LOVE THIS BOOK SO MUCH LIKE YOU WOULD NOT BELIEVE OMG.

SERIOUSLY READ IT READ ITTTTTT

Also! I dont' put much stock in the whole awards winning thing, but this book won the same award that Angela Johnson (author of The First Part Last) so you know it has to be at least halfway awesome.

THINK OF THE MIDDLE GRADE CUTENESS AND BONDING IN LIBRARIES. IT'S SO NERDY AND CUTE AND EVERYTHING I LOVE AND OMG I WANT A SEQUEL AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

... wait readers! DON'T RUN AWAY. I will never inflict this kind of madness on the public again, I swear!

*coughs* But anyways, I seem to have momentarily lost my ability to think critically about the books I've read and enjoyed lately. And on the complete opposite side I'm also developing even less patience than before with books that tick me off and end up not finishing them, thus not leaving reviews for y'all about the atrocious-ness I suffered through.

Sooooooo, I've been thinking about ways in which I can still maintain this blog even if I have this review and reading slump, and then it hit me: MANGA REVIEWS. See, I might not be able to sift through text these days, but my abilities to wade my way through manga and reading visual text haven't been hindered in the slightest. This is perhaps a little bit problematic since I suspect my readers here are more into the whole novel thing, and not many visitors here are familiar with the sequential art reading ways. But whatever. It's what I feel capable of discussing these days, so I guess I'll just go forward with it.

(But I do promise a book review for Siobhan Dowd's Solace on the Road sometime very soon, as I got it for a review copy and I will FORCE WORDS OUT OF MY FINGERS to write it if I have to! =D)

And don't anyone think I forgot about the whole Asians-on-Covers matter. I have been working on this one post and it should be up within the coming week. I'll also try to promote more meta-like discussions here as well. A soapbox post on critiquing reviews is probably coming up soon as well.

So basically, I'M NOT DEAD, I SWEAR. AND I WILL MAKE A COMEBACK. *pumps fist in air*

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

BBAW Registration

As usual, I'm signing up for all this last minute, but better last minute than late, right? (... at least, I hope I'm not too late?!?!)

So, I decided to go for the "Best Cultural Blog" category, because while I don't really see this book blog as one culture specific or whatever, I identify very strongly with the Asian diaspora identity and often talk about this in my reviews and other related posts. Also I do try to be mindful of people coming from different cultural backgrounds from myself, but who knows if I'm actually successful? lol.

Best Cultural Blog:

Child of the Owl by Laurence Yep
Wait for Me by An Na
Crossing by Andrew Xia Fukuda
The Faces of Covers: On Whitewashing and Fantasy
My many feelings on the new Silver Phoenix covers

Just for fun, entering for "Best YA Book Blog" because while I do review MG and the rare rare occasional adult (mostly SFF) title, my passion is YA and the majority of the books I read and ultimately discuss are YA as well.

Best Young Adult Book Blog:
Second Childhood: Review of Song Quest by Katherine Roberts
Triple Snapshots: YA Faerie Romance
Review: A Spy in the House by Y. S. Lee
Shine, Coconut Moon by Neesha Meminger
Give Up the Ghost by Megan Crewe

Also entering for "Best New Blog" category.

Best New Blog

Sequential Art Review: Le pacte des yokai by Yuki Midorikawa - Vol. 1
A Girl Made of Dust by Nathalie Abi-Ezzi
Discussion Post: On Minor Characters
Discussion Post: Reading in a Second Language
Triple Snapshots: Cynthia Kadohata

My many feelings on the new Silver Phoenix Covers

Oh, where to begin? Please read inkstone's post on this, dear readers of this blog, even if you don't want to go through my own post on this topic. It's important. And if you'd like to read more, inkstone is also collecting a linkspam on this issue.

On the eve (just a couple hours before, in fact) of The Last Airbender opening night, I saw a new blog post by Cindy Pon, author of the fabulous fantasy Silver Phoenix. It broke my heart. I refrained from commenting anywhere that night and literally turned off my computer so I could just, you know, take that time for some indulgent self pity. And also write a private journal entry to myself about this + TLA that I refrained from posting up publicly because I basically keysmashed expletives for about 10,000+++ words in capslock.

In other words, I was too distraught to be coherent enough to offer anything meaningful or constructive to add into the conversation. Having given this a couple of days to calm down enough to write something beyond FUCK and HATE though, I think I am reading to put in my own two cents about this situation.

*deep breaths*

This was the original cover of Silver Phoenix in hardback:



THESE are the new repacked covers for the first book and its sequel:



Many people have contributed in blog posts and/or comments on how they felt about these covers. I too have many many feeeeeeeeeeelings on this matter, and there will probably be a series of posts regarding Silver Phoenix and Asians-on-covers related things, but for this post in particular I wish to simply address the covers on their own. I will speak about these covers in 3 parts.

1) Blaming Lack of Title Success Because of Asian Cover Model = Ridiculous. Whitewashing the Cover Repackaging As the Answer? THAT'S RACIST.


Make no mistake, these covers were clearly repackaged to remove any traces of "racial markers" that would give away the protagonist's "Asian-ness", to make it “less ethnic” to reach a “broader (white) audience”. I, and many people who have posted on this, find this a disgrace. Please do not bring up the fact that these new covers are ambiguous enough to be a person of Asian descent, the fact that they tried so hard to make these covers look ~*racially ambiguous*~ (i.e. can pass for white) speaks for itself. The novel Silver Phoenix is a fantasy deeply steeped in Chinese culture and folklore, and to advertise the story with a cover that tries to obscure this fact is dishonest and downright wrong. As bookshop has put it, it robs this novel of its integrity.

The reasoning given behind these cover repackaging move was because the first book didn’t sell well. A large part of this had to do with the fact that the book buyers who decide what will be stocked in shelves choose not to include this title. Now, we may never know whether or not the book buyers skipped this title because it had a clearly Asian face on the cover, but the undeniable fact is that the PUBLISHERS decided that THAT HAVING AN ASIAN FACE ON THE COVER MUST HAVE BEEN THE REASON BEHIND THIS TITLE NOT GETTING PICKED UP. It upsets me, really really upsets me that this was the reasoning given, because it’s SO NONSENSICAL. Think of it this way if for some reason anyone reading this still think this is a logical conclusion: no one ever goes ‘gee this fantasy title about a Caucasian girl going to magic school didn’t sell well, it must have been because we had a white girl on the cover.’ THIS ONLY HAPPENS WHEN WE HAVE A POC ON THE COVER. If a POC title doesn’t sell well, having a POC protagonist is always to blame. FAIL FAIL FAIL RACIST SHIT FAIL I’M SICK OF THIS CRAP.

I understand the need for a cover repackaging due to the first hardcover editions poor sales. Repackaging the cover makes sense. But whitewashing the cover as a marketing strategy? Is wrong. And most likely has far more to do with the prevalent systematic racism type mentality rampant all over the YA (and probably other genres/categories) book industry than any type of reality in the actual success of a novel.

This is all I have to say about this stupid, stupid matter, but if you want to hear in more detail about why this kind of marketing mentality is ABSOLUTELY RIDICULOUS, megwrites wrote up a long post detailing and explaining why this is such a logic!fail Attack of the Whitewashing Strikes Back Again!

2) No One Needs More Passive Agency-Removed Female Cover Models


These covers not only were repackaged to obscure Ai Ling's race, but they were also repackaged to imitate all the Melissa Marr/Alyson Noel/Kelley Armstrong/etc look. This was presumably done as a business tactic, to imitate covers of successfully sold fantasy/paranormal titles so that the book buyers of the large retail bookselling industry will decide to actually stock this book in its shelves. Besides calling into this sketchy business tactic rationalizing the whitewashing of Silver Phoenix, don't people just find the fact that publishers are actively putting out more of these same-old covers grating? I honestly probably would have swallowed a new cover repackaging of Silver Phoenix a whole lot better if they just went for a pure object cover or something, since the cover also besides the whitewash seems to like to emphasize the ~*glowing*~ object, but no, we get these types of passive!white girls holding shiny object crap that takes away the woman's agency. When you cut off the eyes, the face, the body parts of the cover model in the cover frame to maximize the focus on an inanimate object, you RENDER THE PERSON IN THE COVER, A WOMAN, INTO A PROP, A BACKGROUND.

THAT. IS. WRONG.

And, okay, you know what? I get it, shiny objects are pretty, yaddyadda, but honestly I think you can achieve the same shiny!object with the whole ~*dark urban*~ kind of cover just as effectively with those purely object covers a la Holly Black. If the cover is just the shiny object then it's symbolism without the skeevy cut-up woman agency-removal stuff (and also sans the whitewashing problem! YOU COULD HAVE KILLED TWO BIRDS WITH ONE STONE, GREENWILLOW). Judging by the fact that publishers are repacking covers to imitate this look in order to get more sales is basically a horrifying alarm bell sounding on what our future shelves. Just one or two of these covers are fine and are less problematic so long as we still have covers featuring active!woman with a full face and/or showing the eyes looking out towards the reader, but I am not cool with seeing these kinds of agency-removal covers DOMINATING the YA paranormal romance section for the next 10++ years of YA lit. *SHUDDERS*

I understand that these covers are a norm, but it's a norm I'm not willing to embrace, and I ask for those who care at all about the portrayal of postive women in teen fiction and women with agency on their covers to please listen and let's work together to stop feeding the YA book industry in churning out sales that promote these kinds of cover marketing. Please. Let's ask for change. We deserve better.

3) Because Asian Girls are All Passive Demure China Dolls…?!?!


Okay okay, seriously, WHO THE FUCK DO I HAVE TO BLOW IN ORDER TO GET A DAMN FULL FACE OF AN ASIAN GIRL WITH HER EYES TOWARDS THE AUDIENCE ON THE DAMN COVER?!?!?!?!

For white teenage girls, the covers a la Melissa Marr/Kelley Armstrong/Alyson Noel are not, as of yet, all they get for cover models on their YA books. We have white women cover modeling their full faces, a full figure, their back figure, their side profile, a close up of their eyes ETC. And sure not all YA books about white teenage girls make it on the shelves but YA books featuring white female protagonists do dominate the YA shelves and even if we weren't happy with the way one type of cover featured (white) women, we could just move to the next shelf and more or less easily find another one that will have active women looking head on at her audience.

Let me tell you something about the likelihood of getting a FULL, eyes-looking-out-at-the-audience distinctly Asian face on the foreground of the cover for YA books: Maybe 1 or 2 covers from 1 publishing house, every one or two years. Probably 3 years if we're only including these types of covers with Asian authors.*

Do you see - do you understand, how amazing and incredible it was to have the Silver Phoenix original cover the way it was? Nevermind just YA books, across all genres and categories of the US publishing industry, fiction featuring Asian females almost never ever show a full face like that, the EYES so clearly shown. It's not that these covers never happen, but that they come so rarely I could probably count them on my fingers and they always grab my eyes because they're like crumbs to me, to those starving for Asian representation I can get behind on fully.


If ever I get an Asian female protagonist's FACE on my cover it's usually with her head bent a little forward, eyes lowered and showing the eyelashes. Because the face of Asian women is a demure and quiet one, see?!?!?!?!

The fact that the book buyers refused to have this face on their shelves, the fact that now we have another cover of a teenage girl who is of Asian descent displayed as being passive and demure is like ten steps back from where the original book packaging has gone. And I won't lie: this hurts me. As a teenage girl of Chinese ethnicity, this hurts like burning.

What will it take for active!Asian protagonists to be fairly portrayed on covers AND be shelved in bookstores faced-out for readers to buy? WHAT WILL IT TAKE?!

A Post Script:

My father once cautioned me against hoping for so much. Don't look for Asian faces in Hollywood, don't look for Asian faces in this white-dominated world, if I really needed one watch a Mainland China film, a Hong Kong drama, a Taiwanese rock concert -- but I'm still here. I'm still asking. And maybe my dad is right, maybe this path can only lead to disappointment and heartbreak as this book making industry keeps making all the signs that they just don't give a damn about what I want, but I have met some good people on this blog, and I'm still young (maybe childish?) enough to believe in change.

Thank you to all who read this post to the end. Thank you for listening. If you care at all about this, as a YA reader, as a believer in rightful Asian representation in fiction, whatever, please consider spreading the word, speaking up. Words are the start of change, and silence only reinforces the status quo. (Disclaimer: I cannot and am not obliging anyone to speak out! If you don't care, then you don't care, I can't make you change your mind.)

Finally, an embed video of Silver Phoenix's book trailer. Because Cindy Pon wrote a beautiful story, and everyone should give it shot:



(If you liked the trailer and wish to read a few sample pages, you can find the first 70 pages of Silver Phoenix here.)

*Not sure how empirically I can prove this, but I find that most of the full Asian faces I see on covers have a white author attached to writing it. If you want to prove me wrong and that the cover treatment on Asian content for white and Asian authors are completely level and exactly the same, go ahead. I'll listen.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Review: Wait For Me by An Na


Title: Wait for Me
Author(s): An Na
Genre: YA Contemporary, family, romance
Page Count: 192
Publisher: Speak

The Summary: Teenager Mina plays the Perfect Straight-A Model Asian daughter, but she knows more than anyone that this is a lie, and her chances at getting into Harvard are basically nil. Suna is Mina's deaf sister, dependent on her sister and starving for a glimpse of any affection from her mother, who leaves her in neglect. The presence of Ysrael, a new employee into their family's laundromat brings about a whole new chain of events as the two start cracking the mold they fit into their lives...

The Review: Wow, this is a complicated book to review. Let me say first that above all else, this novel haunted me. Having read An Na’s The Fold before, I came into this book not quite prepared for this much darker tone presented in this novel. I’m not sure whether my emotional response had more to do with Na’s writing or simply her subject matter, but the story and Mina’s voice lingered long after I put down the book, always at the back of my mind.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Winner of Vampire Academy + Waiting on Wednesday: Keys to the Repository

Thank you to all entrants to submitted to my 100 Followers Giveaway. The entrants for this round of giveaways about doubled the entries for my previous giveaways combined, lol. I... did not quite realize how popular Vampire Academy was? *amused*

Also according to my comments a majority prefer series to standalones, lol. Fascinating.

Anyhow, the winner of the giveaway is~

Misha Mathew

I have sent you an email, please reply within 48 hours or I'll have to pick a new winner.

+

Blue Bloods: Keys to the Repository by Melissa de la Cruz

The school year at Duchesne is always packed with drama, mystery, murder, and midterms for Schuyler Van Alen and her friends (and enemies). But what about that glorious patch of time from June to August? In this collection of short stories, New York Times bestselling author Melissa de la Cruz reveals how the stunningly gorgeous, ridiculously wealthy, and completely undead members of the Blue Bloods spend their summer holidays. Hamptons, anyone?

My thoughts: omfg you guys have no idea how excited I am about this. Basically my favouritest YA Vampire Romance guilty pleasure evaaaaaaar. Her world is sprawling and epic and all things wondrous, and I wolf down each new Blue Bloods title with glee. IS IT JULY YET?! (Also, to all those who are clamouring about how fallen angels are the next big thing, well, guess what? In Blue Bloods - VAMPIRES = FALLEN ANGELS. LAWL.)

Any new YA Vampire titles you're excited about? Or just upcoming books in general? I'm all ears. =D

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Blog Updates! + Discussion Post: On Minor Characters

Sooooo, I have done some cleanup on this blog. For one thing, I actually TAGGED everything for once! And I made pages!

About the Blog and I is where you should go if you want to know more about this blog and myself.
What I Read gives a list of the types of stories I like/dislike. Am slightly amused that my dislike list looks longer than than my likes... ^^;;;
Review by Title in which all my reviews in this book blog are listed and linked to.

Now all I need to do is make a Contact Page (the email is galnovelty AT gmail DOT com if anyone wishes to speak to me about anything) and maybe a Links Page so that people know where to find me and organizing my Challenge post...

Speaking of which - Anyone want to help explain to me how to make those contact form thingers? I'd normally bug Ninefly for all my tech-y blogging needs, but she's currently busy traipsing around the grasslands of Mainland China, the minx. *IS NOT JEALOUS, NOT AT ALL*

And please feel free to tell me what other pages you think I should consider putting up, etc.

+

My Minor Character Problem

Folks, I have a confession to make. I have a problem. One that my RL friends like to make fun of me for doing all the time. See, I have this habit of falling in love with the Minor Character. Which is okay if I still like the main story but then, I would sometimes like the Minor Characters more than the main characters. And then, they die. Or disappear. And they make me sad.

They also make me incapable of talking about the books properly.

Let's use the Time Traveller's Wife example.

FRIEND A: So have you read that really good book Time Traveller's Wife?
ME: OH GAWD THAT BOOK I WAS SO SAD. IT WAS A TRAGEDY. A TRAVESTY.
FRIEND A: Well, I suppose the romance was a bit on the tragic level -
ME: SHE DIED.
FRIEND A: ... What? Claire didn't die!
ME: NOT HER. Ingrid.
FRIEND A: Ingrid who?
ME: The girlfriend who loved him and said fuck you to the whole destiny crap and we had to see her die OVER AND OVER AGAIN AND IT WAS SO SAD.
Friend A: Oh I kind of remember something like that - wait a minute, Yuan, SHE APPEARED FOR LIKE, TWO PAGES.
ME: *sniffs* The most tragic two pages of my life.

Even the most optimistic of situations, liking the side minor character is a frustrating experience. You'd read the whole book, but you are left feeling unsatisfied because that book wasn't the story you WANTED to read. Like John Green's An Abundance of Katherines. I don't care how many times our MC got dumped and his stupid math theorem! I JUST WANT HASSAN GOING AROUND BEING A LOVABLE LOSER AND MAKING STAR TREK REFERENCES AND WATCH JUDGE JUDY FOREVER.

You'd think a good solution would be to pick out a favourite character who's one of the main leads (usually the MC or the Love Interest in YA is a pretty good shot) as a favourite character, BUT THEN, A BOOK LIKE WHITE CAT COMES ALONG.

ME: So I read this book called White Cat wherein I actually liked the love interest for once AND THEN I WAS SCREWED.
FRIEND Y: Why? What happened? What's this character's name?
ME: LILA. OH, DEAR, DEAR LILA.
FRIEND Y: *reads WC summary* Yuan... it says in the very summary that Lila is dead. How the hell did you think picking out her as a favourite character would be a good idea?
ME: Sometimes, I hate myself. *sobs* LILAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

I can't help it! Something about these characters just draw me in and I've always read my books with character love as the foremost priority. And then I would read this books and be all crushed and no one has sympathy for my loss. *wallows* And I also can't even give proper reviews for these books because ALL I WANT TO DO IS SPEND THAT TIME TALKING ABOUT THAT MINOR CHARACTER, and talking about things that isn't really relevant to the main story is not good review-ing material.

Surely I'm not the only one afflicted with this problem? Tell me about your minor character loves. Or, if you always like the main characters and do not understand my problem, tell me how silly I'm being and show me ways to get over this problem of mine. Or just talk to me about characters you like in general!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Triple Snapshots: Cynthia Kadohata

Triple Snapshots is when I give a paragraph description on the impressions of books I get. Today’s theme for my Triple Snapshot feature is exactly as the title indicates. Now with an added 3-Sentence Summary feature in which I summarize the book.

Kira-Kira by Cynthia Kadohata

3SS: It's the 1950s and the Takeshimas are moving into the US South. The core of the story is that between two sisters, as they grow and make sense of their world. What will Katie do when tragedy strikes her family?

Kira-Kira is a wonderful tale of the bond between two sisters, and growing up. Katie was a wonder of a protagonist to be with, and I simply fell in love with Kadohata’s voice in this book. Kadohata has that ability to capture young pre-adolescent voice perfectly without ever oversimplifying or sounding fake, and I was thoroughly charmed. As with all Kadohata books, she leaves you crushed and heartbroken as she brings her cast through tremendous trials, so I do warn for those especially teary-eyed to keep a box of tissue at hand, but the experience of reading such a fine MG novel will be well worth all the tears. I recommend this book to anyone across all ages. I freely admit I lent this book out to my young little sister and she does not seemed scarred by the experience besides wailing at the ending, and she told me she loved it, so there you go. Even non Kadohata-biased people liked it, so EVERYONE JUST READ IT NOW.

Cracker! The Best Dog in Vietnam by Cynthia Kadohata

3SS: Cracker, our doggy protagonist, becomes separated from her boy and is sent to the army to be trained as a military dog to scout out bombs and other artilleries. She forms a strong and lasting bond with her soldier companion as they warm up to each other through the training. And then, the two of them get set to the front lines for war...

If anyone could make me a believer of animal companionship tales, Kadohata can. I never cared for stories like Watership Down or Redwall or what you will, but Kadohata’s voice, once again, charmed my socks off. You’re reading this and you feel like this author just gets dogs completely, so convincing is her voice. The war in Vietnam was indeed rather sterilized in this novel, which I admit is problematic, (I’m still waiting for that future novel Kadohata will HOPEFULLY write that does the Vietnamese people who fought on the other side of the war justice, but if this glossed over war aspect bothers you, she does better in her latest novel A Million Shades of Grey) but I say give it a go anyways, especially if you’re a dog lover.

Outside Beauty by Cynthia Kadohata

3SS: Shelby lives with her gorgeous mother and many half-sisters. She cannot imagine life outside of her family, but one day her mother is admitted to the hospital and the sisters get separated as they're all sent packing to live with their biological fathers. How will the sisters reunite to become a family once more?

Oh, Outside Beauty. How much I wanted to like you, and how much did you just not succeed for me. It’s my only Kadohata read so far that turned up disappointing. I suspect it didn’t work because Kadohata didn’t quite manage to balance out together all the elements of this book into the story coherently? Certainly this book has a larger main cast than her other books, and I felt like the depiction of the relationship between all the sisters ended up faltering, and because her character interactions were not quite on par, her message on beauty and family fell short. Also, this is the one book wherein she did not quite manage to grasp at her protagonist’s voice quite right… And I’m not sure if it’s because she’s better at the MG-style voice than YA-voice, or if it’s just because the protagonist wasn’t as well rounded as she could have been. There were elements that I liked, and moments where Kadohata’s voice shines out (Coffee scene! *giggles*) but on a whole this book didn’t work for me. Perhaps die hard Kadohata fans should give this a go to complete their Kadohata book reads, but for newcomers to Kadohata’s novels I suggest you set this one aside and pick up any of her other titles instead.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Review: Boys Without Names by Kashmira Sheth


Title: Boys Without Names
Author(s): Kashmira Sheth
Genre: MG Contemporary, India, Child slavery
Page Count: 318
Publisher: Balzer + Bray

I received an Uncorrected Proof copy from Edi

The Summary:For eleven-year-old Gopal and his family, life in their rural Indian village is over. We stay, we starve, his baba has warned. So they flee to the big city of Mumbai in hopes of finding work and a brighter future. Goal is eager to help support his struggling family until school starts, so when a stranger approaches him with the promise of a factor job, he jumps at the offer...

-Summary taken from 1st paragraph of Backcover

The Review: After reading Boys Without Names, I do believe that Kashmira Sheth is now firmly solidified as my new must-read MG author. She reminds me of Cynthia Kadohata, actually, and that is no small praise on my part because I practically worship the ground Kadohata walks on. Except, you know, Sheth would be a South Asian version, and her stories more… uplifting in tone. Less painful moments wherein I feel like my heart is being wrenched out of my chest as I stare desolately at the page with the text blurring as my eyes well up. I wouldn’t say happier because the two books I’ve read by Sheth (Keeping Corner and this book, respectively) deal with serious matters, but I can trust that unlike Kadohata’s works, no one is going to die, no one is going to have to be severed permanently from a loved one – in short, at the end of the Sheth novel, I probably won’t be a sobbing mess. If I’m crying, I’m crying tears of joy over the triumph of our beloved protagonists. They’re very similar in style (close 1st person narration, simple free-of-flowery-language and evocative lines that cut straight to the matter and grab you by the heart, but Kadohata has a stronger voice whereas Sheth’s narration is cleaner and almost lyrical in its simplicity) but diverge more drastically on their tone (Kadohata – sadder, Sheth – happier). I don’t prefer one style over the other, just that I find the comparison interesting and that now I know which MG author to go to if I want to read about a charming protagonist going through life’s hardships, but do not want to cry my eyes out.

Anyhow, on the actual novel itself, I am simply in love with Sheth’s writing style. It’s just so clean. When you take a sentence out of the context, they are almost deceptively dull and simplistic, a basic noun-and-verb sentence construction with the occasional adjective. But put her sentence structures together and then you see Sheth’s full mastery of the English language, how her words are carefully chosen to make the most out of what she wants to say. I felt like there was not a word used that was wasted, that her phrases were carefully weighed to produce the fullest effect possible. Everything was just so smooth and clean and flowed so nicely, you can’t help but sink into the story, time passing you by as you leaf your way through the pages.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Sequential Art Review: Le pacte des yokai (Natsume Yuujinchou) V. 1 by Yuki Midorikawa

I've been meaning to do manga/manhwa/bédé/comics type reviews for this book blog, but finding the right approach to reviewing them proved to be difficult because I read manga/etc very differently from the way I read a novel. I’m still kind of messing around with how I’ll approach this type of review, and there’ll probably be changes in my review format before I find my footing. (For one thing, hopefully they'll become SHORTER over time. *dies x100*) Please tell me about your thoughts on this review, especially if you’re not familiar with manga and if you found any of it confusing.


Title: Le pacte des yokai V. 1 – trans. The Pact of Yokai [1] (Original title : 夏目友人帳 Natsume Yuujinchou – trans. Natsume’s Book of Friends.)
Creator: Yuki Midorikawa trans. by Yuki Kakiichi
Genre: Shoujo[2], drama, supernatural, episodic, slice-of-life
Serialized magazine: Lala
Publisher: Hakusensha (Japanese publisher), Édition Delacourt (French publisher)

Summary: Orphaned teenager Takashi Natsume has always been able to see the yokai since he was a child. His life becomes complicated when a notebook, inherited from his deceased grandmother Reiko, falls into his hands. This notebook contains all the names of the yokai his grandmother has defeated in battle, names which allows Natsume to control the yokai and determine their life or death. This powerful inherited notebook brings Natsume new friends and foes as other yokai seek the notebook either to free themselves or to possess the notebook and all the power it contains.

TL;DR: A fantastic debut to a great series, with evocative art, a sweet protagonist to root for, and heartfelt stories that with grab readers by the heart, this is a manga series no one should miss out on.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Triple Snapshots: YA Faerie Romance

Triple Snapshots is when I give a paragraph description on the impressions of books I get. Today’s theme for my Triple Snapshot feature is exactly as the title indicates. Now with an added 3-Sentence Summary feature in which I summarize the book snarkily.

Wondrous Strange by Lesley Livingston

3-Sentence Summary: Wannabe teen actress gets role in
Midsummer Night's Dream and meets hot faerie dude. Girl finds out she's not all what she seems. Throw in family/romance angst and some saving the world from Faerie and Human world collision into the mix of our run in the mill YA Faerie story.

This book makes it on the list of one of the many books I read for All the Wrong Reasons: Minor Character Edition. That’s right, I plowed through this thing even though I didn’t care for the heroine or the romantic lead, and the romance that made me gag inside. (Can I rant about the whole “his Firecracker” thing? I don’t find that possessive colouring sweet, just… creepy. I don’t even like it when the male leads refer to the girl as “His girl” It makes me want to go, NO, SHE IS HER OWN PERSON, OKAY?! NOT YOURS.) BUT THEN A KELPIE CAME ALONG, AND HE STAYED IN THEIR BATHROOM AND WAS CALLED LUCKY. I was amused. And then the book told me Lucky the Kelpie may turn into Death Horse, and the whole irony of being called Lucky had me cackling and flipping through the pages despite my better judgment. Also Tyff was the best roommate ever. I wish this whole story was from her POV instead. Anyhow, basically what I got out of this is that I really have to stop picking up books because of pretty covers (I love this cover, why oh why did the story within didn’t match up? *sobs*) and crossed off this whole trilogy thinger off my to-read list. As further evidence of my masochistic streak, I actually already heard horrific things about the sequel having a Love Triangle of Doom, and then I skimmed the sequel anyways and it got into this whole Indian mortal child being kidnapped by the faerie queen for his ~*exotic*~ looks AND THEN I was like, fuck this noise. ARGH MUST BLEACH BRAIN. (Needless to say, I didn't finish the sequel) Also if I never read another fairy story that borrows heavily from A Midsummer Night’s Dream ever again, it’d be too damn soon.

Spells by Aprilynne Pike

3SS: Laurel goes to Faerie school! In which we have tourism in faerieland shenanigans for the first (awesome) half and then the second half stops going to awesome school and indulges us all with WHO WILL SHE CHOOSE love triangle drama. Just typical.


I have NO IDEA why I read the sequel when I found the first book so painful. I mean, while I adored the idea of plant fairies and whatnot, the love triangle made me want to die inside and the story formula was just too generic and typical Changeling story (Girl finds out she is fairy and then something comes after her and she has tragic love triangle between a Fairy boy and Mortal boy WHATEVER SHALL WE DO?! Cry me a river.) that I have no patience for this days. Okay, I lie, I do in fact know why I read this. It’s because I found out that the heroine ends up going into fairy school and I was like OMG HARRY POTTER THE FAIRY VERSION?! I am such a sucker for magical boarding schools like you would not believe, people. And I did in fact enjoy it more than the first book. While there was not enough of the fairy school to keep me happy, I really, really enjoyed getting to know more of the fairy world. It’s evident that Pike did some amazing worldbuilding work with this series. It was interesting how we got to know the world too, with the heroine being the tourist and Tamami showing the world. It worked well for me, this way of showing a fantasy world. It’s too bad that Pike simply insists on having the Love Triangle dominate the whole storyline. Watching this whole David/Laurel/Tamami drama drove me quite mad, and made me want to shake all of them. It also made me want to quote Sarah Rees Brennan’s The Demon’s Covenant at them. (“It’s not some kind of tragically stupid love triangle. I’m not going to choose one guy out of two and settle down. It doesn’t have to be either of them for me, or have to be me for either of them. The world’s full of people, if you haven’t noticed.” Pg. 86) But then again I also just want to quote this everywhere whenever I see stupid love triangles in my stories, so I'm not like, singling this out. I'm just a love triangle hater. On the whole, I suggest that unless you’re All About Worldbuilding in your stories (in which case you HAVE TO HAVE TO read this story now. I love this faerie world!), I’d pass on this whole series. It’s really the only thing going for it. (I wish Pike would just write a story set in this world that had no stupid love triangles and more SCHOOLGIRL RIVALRIES and CLASS PROJECTS and stuff, because I'm a geek like that.) Or, unless you actually like the whole Epic Tragic Love Triangle of Ridiculous. In which case you should gobble this up like candy. I’ll try not to judge you. ;D

The Iron King by Julie Kagawa

3SS: Meaghan's bro gets kidnapped by fairies and she goes off to save him. In her saving journey readers subject themselves to a long middle of love triangle romance with creepy killer stalker and jokester best friend in which the girl typically prefers the jerk against all reason. Saving happens at end, but we have crack to entertain us along the way in the form of a cat called Grimalkin, etc.


This novel made me so bipolar.* ETA I found this reading experience mostly a mixed bag. One second I’d be laughing over the crack (OTAKU FAIRIES LOLOLOL, and FAIRIES CLUBBING IN LEATHER and GRIMALKIN, BECAUSE HE’S A CAT WHICH WAS HIS EXCUSE FOR LIFE) and then the next second the love triangle crap made me want to die. Like, even more than in Pike's Wings series. Ash was the creepiest love interest ever. I mean, he tried to kill her! Literally! And has told her that he’d kill her if ever she was on the other side of the battlefield. And then, after Ash makes his speech of wanting to kill her, Meaghan gets turned on?! WTF?! (This happened SO MANY TIMES.) I came into this book HOPING it’d be about the rescuing brother thing but I think the author evidently thought a stupid love triangle would be more compelling (Um, NO) Also I didn’t care for Kagawa’s spin on the whole technology thing? It was a little too TECHNOLOGY BAD, NATURE GOOD, though she did try to complicate a little, I’ll admit. There just wasn’t enough complexity there in her spin on fairy folk lore for me. (Kinda didactic, I suppose?) I probably wouldn’t have bothered finishing it if it weren’t for the fact that 1) ninefly wanted me to do a read through to tell her my thoughts (She always uses me for a guinea pig to test out new novels.) 2) this was a debut book and would count for the Debut challenge. The random crack and Grimalkin got me through it, but there’s no way I’m touching the other books in the series. Any more Ash swooning and I just may have to kill myself.

*

In short, I’ve been disappointed by these faerie stories I’ve been reading lately. I know this entry makes me look like a hater, but I honestly once really enjoyed all these faerie stories, and was extremely partial to those changeling ones. I've been (masochistically?) checking out every YA faerie/fey/fairy/faery/whatever I can find in my library in hopes I'll come across one that I like, and I just read one this morning that I really enjoyed, so I'll hopefully have a happy YA faery book review for y'all soon. IN THE MEANTIME if anyone wants to rec me a YA faerie story with no love triangles of stupid, and no Midsummer Night's Dream references, that'd be awesome. For more specific references, I'd gobble up anything if there's an all-exclusive fairy school YA book out there (BOARDING SCHOOL SETTING IS PREFERABLY, BONUS IF IT'S ALL-FEMALES SCHOOL WITH RIVALRY NEXT TO A ALL-MALES BOARDING SCHOOL 8D) or a kelpie story wherein said kelpie lives in your bathtub. (Also, when I say fey books, I mean like, not fairy tale adaptations. Just straight-up fairy stories, please and thank you.) So yeah, recs will be great.

* I was reading this and it struck me that I probably came across as offensive and drowning in ablist privilege. I do not deny that I have ablist privilege and wrote thoughtlessly without considering the impact my use of these words may have, but I apologize to anyone and everyone for my language, and especially to those who may have been hurt by what I have said, and I shall try to do better at unpacking the implications of privilege I have, etc. Once again, I am very sorry.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

100 Followers Contest for Richelle Mead's Vampire Academy Giveaway! + Your Thoughts on Series/Trilogies/Standalones


I haz 100 followers! Triple digits!! I'm a bit awed and super happy that people out there like this book blog enough to follow it. I was thinking what paperback book I'd be willing to giveaway, and you know, with the talk of Richelle Mead's Spirit Bound floating around everywhere, I was like, hey, I own a used copy of the first book, maybe people would like it??

I think Vampire Academy is a most excellent book. I just read it recently as I heard so much about it and thought I'd dish out a couple dollars for a copy as I found it lying in a used bookstore. I did enjoy it, but I think hearing too much about a book can kind of skew your perception? Because like, I was led on to believe that Dmitri was going to be the hottest thing that came around the block since Casanova, but I was honestly skeeved out by Dmitri/Rose in general. Now, before Team Dmitri goes off and kills me, I'm sure that he has excellent traits! Just that whenever I see these mentor/mentee relationships they kind of make me shrivel up and die inside. It's one of my squicks, and I can't get over this bias of mine. But I think Rose is a cool narrator, and I'm totally in love with the strong friendship between her and Lissa, and I so dig Christian/Lissa like hotcakes. If the spin-off series was from their point of view I'd probably be all over it. Mmmmmm Christian.

But the whole Dmitri thing isn't the reason why I'm willing to let go of my copy of Vampire Academy. As much as I enjoyed the book (no, really, I was dying for a vampire novel with girl BFF stuff and no boyfriend stealing backstabbing crap but a REAL friendship and oh how this novel delivered. ♥), the idea of following a series is making me die a little inside. It's going to be six books! SIX! With a possibility of a spinoff! I'm a fan of standalones, and tolerate trilogies only because of its profusion in the YA market. I almost sighed with relief when I got to the end of the book and found myself satisfied and not in the least bit curious about following the rest of the series. I mean, I do enjoy a select few long series, but as much as I love them, sometimes they leave me feeling so drained. Does anyone else get this feeling? What is your preference/thoughts on series/trilogies/standalones? Feel free to discuss this with me in the comments. Or, you know, talk to me about Christian FOREVAR the Vampire Academy series. Do refrain from spoilers though. While I don't personally mind being spoiled, having no intention of keeping up with the series, I don't want to risk spoiling others who may wander into the comments section here. Or talk to me about your favourite vampire book! (Everyone into YA has a favourite vampire book! Everyone!) Talk to me about anything! I'm all ears. 8D

ANYHOW, to the part people actually care about: Want to win a copy of Richelle Mead's Vampire Academy? Please fill out the form:



Yes it's open internationally. Go wild, folks~ *waves* Ends June 22th, 11:59 PM ESt

Monday, May 17, 2010

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 05/17/2010 + Song Quest Signal Boost + Winner of Crossing Giveaway


(meme from Book Journey)

....... I feel like I've done nothing but read Demon's Covenant. Which was a great novel, but basically it ate my brain. I blame it for my unproductiveness. But I think I'll manage to pull myself together this week. Somehow.

Completed Reads:
Half a Yellow Sun
Marcelo in the Real World
Princess Ben
Scarlett Fever
Demon's Covenant
Demon's Lexicon (reread)

Planning on Reading:
Crazy Diamond
Code Talker
Monstrumologist
Deloume Road

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Signal Boost: Becky from The Bookette is hosting a Song Quest Blog Tour in order to get this lovely book back in print. I love this book very much and it was one of my many formative YA fantasy novel reads, and it'd be awesome to see some support! Here's my review promoting the book, and if you're in the UK, Becky is still taking in people who may be interested in being part of the tour, so please consider checking it out or recommending the tour/book to your friends, etc. 8D

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The Winner of Crossing is Melissa Pham. I've sent you an email. Please reply within 48 hours or I'll be forced to pick another winner.

Review: The Demon's Covenant by Sarah Rees Brennan


Title: The Demon's Covenant
Author(s): Sarah Rees Brennan
Genre: YA Supernatural, Family, Romance
Page Count: 440
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

The Summary:Mae always thought she was in control, but in the past few weeks control has turned into chaos. She’s learned that her brother Jamie has magical powers and that Gerald, the new leader of the Obsidian Circle, is trying to persuade Jamie to join the magicians. The same magicians who tried to kill Mae and Jamie last month in London. The magicians who get their power by feeding people to demons.

Mae turns to brothers Nick and Alan to help her rescue Jamie, but they are in danger themselves. Every magician in England now knows what Nick really is—and they all want him dead.

Nick’s new power has also caused a rift between the brothers. In the weeks they were gone something terrible happened, something that haunts them both. With Nick as unreadable as ever and Alan making secret bargains with a demon, Mae finds herself attracted to both brothers—though she knows she can’t trust either of them. The magicians are closing in on one side and the dangerous, seductive Goblin Market is tempting her on the other, and Mae has to form her own plan to save them all. She's going to find that the price she must pay is more than she ever imagined.

The covenant is binding. There is no escape.

- From US Hardcover

Note: This is a second book in the trilogy. I've done my best to omit spoilers for both the First and Second book in this review, but there are some hints for one of the big reveals for the first book. If you're a complete spoiler-phobe then please proceed with caution.


The Review: Before I begin, I think I ought to confess how this book utterly ruined my week. People, I had plans. I was going to write up multiple reviews here, do more memes, leave comments on posts, go out into that big blue room with the giant yellow fireball in the ceiling and actually socialize with friends and family, but no, ever since I read The Demon’s Covenant last Tuesday, I could think of nothing else. I cancelled all plans, my to-read posts on google reader is at this atrocious triple digit number, and basically I’ve neglected everything just so I could read this book over a total of four times in six days and a small part of me whispers that if I didn’t have to spend a good chunk of my day going to work, the reread count would have at least been double. I even loved this book so much that I went and dug up a copy of the FIRST book to reread as well. (For the record, I reread it twice in these six days. Apparently my revelation for the week was that a day not reading SRB’s writing was a day wasted.) I harassed my family with constant squeals and sighs as I made a public spectacle of myself going all emotional over the book, roping my siblings into listening to various passages I re-enacted for them, whipped out the book from my purse (yes, I lugged that hardcover book everywhere with me) to wave its gorgeous cover in front of the faces of my friends, and even called a friend long distance the second she told me she finished the novel so that I could TALK ABOUT THIS BOOK with someone. This is the kind of sequel that makes the first book a better rereading experience. In fact, this is probably the most amazing sequel book I’ve ever read, and just a really amazing YA book overall and I love it to bits and it’s going to make it on my top 20 books I read this year, I know it, I can feel it in my bones.

I was actually surprised that I loved this book so much, because I wasn’t wow’ed by the first book. I mean, I really enjoyed it, but it wasn’t my favourite read of the year or anything. The first book had its moments of emotional intensity, and a really fast paced plot, (It reminded me of The Hunger Games’ pace, but with a much more careful eye at her choice of words, and interesting metaphor usage. Yes, I am indeed implying that Sarah Rees Brennan writes better than Suzanne Collins.) but for the most part I was mostly swept by apathy towards all the characters unless their name was Alan or Nick (For the record, I liked Jamie’s lines, but I didn’t get attached to his character like the way I did with Alan or Nick.). In many ways, Nick’s world was very small, with very few people he considered important in his life, and this apathy towards anyone who wasn’t his brother was reflected throughout the writing of the first book and ended up generating a lack of story connectivity for me unless it was an emotional moment between the brothers. I also found the dialogue rather forced, with Nick’s lines trying a little too hard to be sarcastically funny (which looking back, I think was on purpose as it was Nick’s way to try to make Alan happy, but I didn’t see it this way a year ago) and the worldbuilding wasn’t to my taste. (Briefly, I prefer my fantasy based strongly on a body of related folklore/mythology instead of a mishmash of different myths/stories mixed together, and the magic here, while neatly laid out, feels a little flat in its tidiness and simplicity.)

The world building still isn’t to my taste, to be honest, but I don’t care about any of that because, my gawd, the characters just blew me away here. I was doubtful about this character POV change to Mae, whom I had a mostly reserved reaction to in the first book, but this story from Mae’s POV was so good . It gave me all the very human moments that neither Nick nor Gerald (who was also considered as a possible narrator for Book 2 and I praise the heavens that this didn’t happen) could have provided, and I got her now, understood her in the ways I couldn’t gleam out of Nick’s narration in Book 1. Mae is totally a female protagonist you can root for, determined and good hearted and funny and all-around fun, and how she doesn’t sit around being a passive narrator and takes measures into her own hands. I’m sorry I doubted the strength of Mae as a narrator for even a second, or Sarah Rees Brennan’s ability to make her sympathetic. Because if there is only one thing I could name in terms of the author’s strengths in her writing abilities, the first and foremost thing that comes to mind is her way of drawing her characters so vividly, through amazing interpersonal character interaction that not only brings out the protagonist’s characteristics, but the other person she’s interacting with as well. Mae’s POV illuminated the very raw and achingly beautiful brother relationship between Alan and Nick that was different from the first book, but in no way less powerful. I love how we got to really know a good slew of people in this novel that we didn’t get in the first book, and there was none of that character disconnection I felt in the first book, which I believe probably stems from the fact that Mae herself is anything but apathetic towards the people she meets and interacts with around her. The experience of reading this novel was just so intense, because you feel like you really got these characters, and you care so much and there’s so much stuff happening and thrown at the character’s way, and you want everything to work out so bad. I wish I could explain this ability of Sarah Rees Brennan’s more clearly, but I’m not skilled enough with my words to do so, and instead I’m going to direct you this reaction post to The Demon’s Covenant that explains the character interaction thing in this novel much better than I have done here.

A large part of The Demon’s Covenant dealt with the idea of consequences. To the best of my abilities in talking about this without spoiling, in the first book people were willing to do the “wrong” thing to “protect” the important person in their lives, and in the second book, it deals with what happens after you do the unforgivable thing. Sarah Rees Brennan doesn’t hesitate to blur the line between Good and Bad, complicating her characters with varying shades of grey, and I really enjoy that, how not only does she challenge the rights and wrongs but is willing to take this a step further and examine the good/bad decisions her characters have made.

I really, really love the theme of family in this trilogy. Of course Nick and Alan was very lovely, and my fondness towards darling lying Alan continues to grow. I really enjoyed seeing the sibling interaction between Mae and Jamie, as a lovely contrast to Nick and Alan, and of course on its own right. It’s nice to see siblings in YA novels who don’t hate each other or the stereotypical Annoying Younger Sibling vs. Distant Older Sibling. I mean, they fight, but they love each other, the kind of family bond siblings share, and they always come through for each other no matter what. I'm so glad we got a better handle of Jamie in this book, because while I liked his lines in the first book, I didn't feel like I really got to know him. All that is rectified in this book. I loved how he was gay without making the whole coming out and what not stuff a Big Issue and he gets a love story and everything, and it was just really, really well done and I want him to be happy. I also enjoyed Mae’s interactions with her mother. Mae’s mom is seriously badass. I may have been a little in love. Actually all the women were rather badass in this novel. No helpless damsels as victims here. Sin in particular was my favourite. (Who is gorgeous and a dancer and an older sister and good with knives and incidentally biracial in the Not Making Race A Dominant Part of Her Identity way and will be the narrator of the third book! So excited!)

I also loved the string of makeout scenes in this novel, but that may be influenced by the fact that I am shallow. Also these kissing scenes were just really hot and sizzling in general. Mmmmmm... *coughs* Er, the fight scene was brilliant too! Very intense, especially the one on the bridge. The dialogue here was much smoother and flowed well to boot, and this book made me laugh and gush sniff and broke my heart and brought it back together all at once. I honestly can’t recommend it enough.

The Verdict: If you’ve read the first book and haven’t put the second book on your to-read this 1) there is something very wrong with you and 2) RECTIFY THIS TERRIBLE AND HEINUOUS ERROR OF YOURS NOW. If you’ve haven’t read the first book, read that first, and then run immediately to grab a copy of the second book. Theorectically I suppose you could read the second book without having read the first, since there’s enough context to pick up what’s going on without getting too lost, but it spoils the first book terribly and the experience of reading the first book would be utterly ruined, so I don’t suggest this. This is one of those rare special sequels that not only tops the first book in every way, but makes the first book better by proxy, and you’d be missing out if you skip out on reading covenant. Plus, the US version is all repackaged with a new gorgeous look with some amazingly beautiful cover models, and HOW CAN YOU RESIST THAT. Dark, intense, funny, and heartwrenching, the story will stay with you long after you’ve finished reading it. And it'll also make you want to commit ritual sacrifices to get your hands on the third book.

Rating: 5/5
Enjoyment: Look, I’ve read this over FOUR TIMES already since having bought it less than a week ago. If this doesn’t make it obvious that this is the book I enjoyed reading the most so far this year, I don’t know what will.

Title and Cover Discussion: EVERYTHING ABOUT THIS IS BEAUTIFUL. EVERYTHING. I’M SO HAPPY THE US COVERS GOT REDESIGNED. I am in love with the font style and colour choice, the dynamic movement of the models, the beautiful blue flames of beauty, the twirling white dress. I am no longer jealous of the UK covers, as this beats the UK version, hands down. I loved it enough to pay full price for the hardcover, which I wasn’t supposed to do since I’m making an attempt to “save money” but I couldn’t let the precious book out of my hands. (I do miss the secret cover of the first US hardback though, as I was kind of hoping for the same thing with the second book, but blue flames make up for everything.) Although now I’m all ~*conflicted*~ since I don’t have matching covers and I want a matching set for this trilogy and don’t know whether or not I should go and collect this trilogy with the UK covers or US, but I am thoroughly off topic by now so I’m just gonna shut up and give this whole package an A

Title: A
Cover: A+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++