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

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?
FRIEND A: Well, I suppose the romance was a bit on the tragic level -
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?
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?

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.