Moving - Again!

22 August 2014

Due to the fact that I've been having trouble logging in to blogger, added to the trouble I've been having using the blogger app on my tab, I'm moving to Weebly. This blog can now be found here.

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How to Be Bad by Lauren Myracle, Sarah Mlynowski and E. Lockhart

13 February 2014

How to be Bad is (1) told in three different voices by three YA authors I like; (2) a road trip story; and (3) a novel with three girls as its narrators and friendship as one of the themes. All things I usually liked in a book. Even so, my TBR stack was kind of monstrous, and I didn’t think I would bump it to the top of the stack until I just flipped to the first page, and continued reading instead of putting it back down.

Of the three girls, only Vicks and Jesse were actual friends, and had been so since childhood. But Jesse was a devout Christian, and Vicks was starting to get sick of Jesse’s holier-than-thou attitude. Jesse, on the other hand, had been feeling a little left behind ever since Vicks started spending more time with her boyfriend, and didn’t share as much as she used to. Mel was the new girl who tried to hard, desperate for friends. Put these three girls in a car together, and well. Drama.

I actually enjoyed this a lot. It’s definitely light reading, and it isn’t going to go into my absolute favourites list, but it’s a nice book, something fun to read when I need a break from my usual stuff. Each of the girls’ voices are quite distinct, and I liked that I could very easily imagine all of them in my head while reading. My favourite of the three is Mel, even if her story isn’t as compelling as Jesse’s. I’d recommend it as a fun road trip book! 
 
~ originally posted on Elsewhere

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Insurgent by Veronica Roth

08 February 2014

[may contain spoilers for Divergent]

I think my friends might be a bit sick of hearing me talk about the Divergent books now. But, yeah. I started on Insurgent right after finishing Divergent (despite telling myself that I should wait for the next day), even though the first book ends pretty neatly – most of the Dauntless faction had been used by Erudite to attack Abnegation, and the world as Tris knew it would never be the same again. Insurgent picks up pretty much immediately after where Divergent left of, and is a lot more action-packed and angst-driven. It also offers a closer look at the factionless as well as Amity, Erudite and especially Candor, which I appreciate.

As I said, it ends nicely enough for me to not need a sequel, but it was definitely appreciated. Because one of the flaws of Divergent was that the dystopian society it depicted was never really quite believable to me. I liked what I saw of Abnegation and Dauntless, and the differences between the two factions. But still – a society divided by factions? Placing the blame of everything that went wrong on one thing (or the lack of one virtue)? I’m not sure I buy that. Not that I need to get, or even believe in, all of the YA dystopians I read. I didn’t quite with Divergent, and I still loved the book. But one of the things that made Insurgent a far better read was that it explored the idea further. When Tris first heard Dauntless’ manifesto, and thought about how things might have started out differently than what the factions have turned into – it tied in with their discovery later in Insurgent about why the factions were first created. It’s still not exactly plausible (maybe even less so) but somehow I enjoyed it anyway, and enjoyed it more, so I guess it worked.

I wasn’t as excited about the fact that there’s more Tris/Four romance (seriously, NOT one of the reasons I follow this series), and all the teen angst that comes with it, so I can see why some people might not enjoy Insurgent as much as the first book. But going by how engaging – and fun! – it is, and how much I craved for Allegiant once I reached the ending and it’s cliffhanger, I would still recommend this to anyone who would listen. 
 
~ originally posted on Elsewhere

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Divergent by Veronica Roth

31 January 2014

I think the first thing I thought when I started on Divergent was – wow, this is really well-written. And it is. Even though I should be sick of dystopias by now, even though I’m not sure if dividing the world by factions even make sense, I couldn’t stop reading. And the whole time I was reading, I was also telling people, “you should read this.” I still think that – you should read this.

We’re first introduced to Beatrice Prior, or Tris, as she would later be known, as her mother fixes her hair, on the morning of an important day. Because she lives in a society that is divided into five factions, each dedicated to a single virtue – Candor (honesty), Abnegation (selflessness), Dauntless (bravery), Amity (peace), and Erudite (intelligence). While one is born into and raised within any of the five factions, at the age of 16 they will take an aptitude test to determine which virtue was strongest with them, and which faction would suit them the most. Tris was born and raised in Abnegation, but had always felt she wasn’t selfless enough for her faction. When the time came to choose, she would have to choose between remaining with her family, and being herself. Choosing a faction was a difficult decision for Tris, but it wasn’t the end of her trials. She would then have to undergo the initiation of her chosen faction, and if she fails, she would be factionless, an outcast of her society.

There’s so much about this book that I like, I don’t know where to start. I found Tris likeable, and I enjoyed reading about her navigating through her new life, making friends and enemies. I liked Four well enough, although like most male romantic leads, I could pretty much do without him. I was really glad for the lack of a love triangle – I know it works with some books, but it’s another YA trope thing I’m getting tired of. I liked the fact that it dealt with Tris’ relationship with her family members and how it changed after she made her choice. I liked thinking about how their society worked – even if it seemed highly unlikely a system, I still wondered about what faction I would be in. (I figure that most of us would be Divergent, but if I had to choose only one faction, I guess mine might be Erudite. I am a Ravenclaw, after all!) I liked reading about Tris’ initiation, and learning more about the factions. I liked… ah, I give up. I liked a lot of things about Divergent, okay? To the point where I stop remembering the things I didn’t quite like.

At this point I think it’s best to just point out two things. One – I started on Insurgent right after finishing Divergent, and it was on Eid, so I was basically just ignoring relatives and friends in favour of reading; and Two – I was already making a mental note as I read this that I would order more copies for the store, and promote it in any way I can.
 
~ originally posted on Elsewhere

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Teaser Tuesdays: Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore

21 January 2014

"When I was a kid reading fantasy novels, I daydreamed about hot girl wizards. I never thought I'd actually meet one, but that's only because I didn't realize wizards were going to walk among us and we'd just call them Googlers."


- page 118, Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

Teaser Tuesdays

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OCD Love Story by Corey Ann Haydu

18 January 2014

Bea knows that she’s crazy, but she isn’t sure if the diagnosis she’s been given really suits her. After all, she might be a little obsessed with taking notes, but she isn’t as bad as the others in her group therapy. Beck, too, knows that others think he’s overdoing things – but surely exercising and caring about hygiene isn’t a bad thing? When Bea helps Beck through his first panic attack, she knew that she liked him, despite not knowing anything other than his first name. When they meet again at group therapy, it seems like fate – or it would be, if she believed in fate – and they tentatively start dating. 

As her feelings for Beck and her understanding of both their compulsions strengthens, Bea would have to confront her obsession for someone else, before things fall apart. I’m not sure what I was expecting when I started on this book, but it certainly wasn’t quite what I thought it was going to be. It ended up being a lot heavier, a lot darker than I expected – which was actually a good thing. This is a love story, but it’s also a story about coping with anxiety disorder, and caring for someone with anxiety disorder – which can be harrowing and potentially triggering if you actually have OCD, but it does help those who don’t understand it better. In the end, I found this novel to be uncomfortable and disturbing at times – especially when I related to it the most. However, I still think it’s a very good read, and though it’s not for everyone, it’s definitely a book I’d recommend.

~ originally posted on Elsewhere

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失恋ショコラティエ(1) by 水城せとな

13 January 2014

This "review" will be on the rambly side, so I apologize in advance.

I probably wouldn't have even heard of this manga if it wasn't for the fact that it was going to be made into a Getsu9 (Fuji TV's Monday prime time) drama starring Matsumoto Jun (first episode airing today!). I tend to enjoy the adaptations of manga that MatsuJun starred in - he had got me reading Hana Yori Dango and Gokusen and Bambino, and helped me discover new favourites that way. That, and the fact that this drama is about a chocolatier (and I love manga and dramas about food), made me curious. So I started reading reviews, and saw it compared to Nana and Honey & Clover. That sold me, and I immediately got the first three volumes to try out. (This would be one of those moments when I despair the fact that there are no Book Offs in this country... well, okay. I always despair the fact that there are no Book Offs in this country.)

Shitsuren Chocolatier, or Heartbroken Chocolatier, is at its heart a love story, I guess. The protagonist is an overly naive, masochistic young man named Sota who had been in love with the same girl all through high school. She had never really paid him any attention, until he asked her out before Christmas, and she accepted. The thing about the girl, Saeko, is that she's really passionate about chocolate. She doesn't just like any chocolate - she's rather picky and only likes the best. Sota's family owns a cake shop and he began training to learn to make chocolates just for her. So when she dumped him right before Valentines day, he was understandably devastated.

So devastated, in fact, that he took off to Paris. Yup. I'm still hazy on how this was even possible, but I'm too used to these things in manga to even question it, really. In Paris, he visits Saeko's favourite chocolatier to beg to be made an apprentice, and of course one of their staff is an otaku, who helped Sota out in exchange for magazines and manga. End suspension of disbelief, here. The story picks up again five years later when Sota had become a chocolatier in his own right, and returned to Japan to take over his father's store. He met with Saeko again, only to hear that she was getting married, and wanted him to cater for her wedding. Ah, the stuff that dramas are made on, definitely. I wonder how the story would be treated in live action format (I hope that Sota would be less of a pushover when it comes to Saeko, really), but back to the book.

I think right now I have a love/hate relationship with this manga. It happens a lot, when I read josei manga. On the one hand, I love reading about the shop and the descriptions of the chocolates are lovely, and there are really good side characters. I'm completely into Kaoruko, the girl who worked at Sota's father's shop, and now worked for him. (I heard that Ishihara Satomi, whom I absolutely adore, will be in the drama. I was hoping she'd be Kaoruko, but apparently that role is being played by Mizukawa Asami, and I love her even more, so much yay for me!) Even Olivier, though annoying when in full-out otaku mode, had his moments. I find myself wanting to know more about them, which I hope to do in future volumes.

Saeko, though, is utterly clueless, and selfish. It's hard to believe that she had no clue as to how she was affecting Sato, and while I don't hate her for it - she does remind me a little of Nana Komatsu from Yazawa Ai's Nana - it gets hard to read, at times. And Sato. I'm torn as to how I feel about his character. On the one hand, I understand his desire to devote himself to his love for Saeko, even when he knew nothing might come of it. On the other hand, I hope that this series wouldn't be volume after volume of him pining after her, because seriously, that's boring. And really a little too masochistic for my taste. I think there's hope, though - in the last chapter he talked with Kaoruko, who questioned his "stalkerish" habit of keeping track of what Saeko buys every time she visits the shop. He had answered that it wasn't out of mere desire to know everything about Saeko, but because he knew that Saeko had a strict and distinctive taste for good chocolate. Even if it was her friend's shop, she would not purchase something she didn't like twice. So he was keeping track of her purchases because she tried his new products, and he wanted to know which worked, and which didn't. 
While the fact that he records her purchases still come across as a tad creepy, I was glad to see this side of Sato for once, the one that thought of his chocolate first and his love second, the one that was determined to make only the best. It tied in nicely with what Olivier said to Kaoruko towards the end, that even if the shop was born out of something like unrequited love, the fact that that love made it possible for such a shop, and the chocolates that came from it, to exist, meant that that love had value, and wasn't something that's "wasted", which is what a lot of people would say of unrequited love.

The sentiment does seem to carry tinges of Honey and Clover, and those two scenes made me raise this manga from three to four stars on GoodReads. It isn't as epic as either of the two series that it had been compared with, but it certainly had something that made me want to continue reading. Here's hoping for more character development in the next installment!

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A Really Awesome Mess by Trish Cook and Brendan Halpin

11 January 2014

It’s really hard to write about this book, because I feel so divided about it. I know a lot of people aren’t too keen on the cover, but it’s actually what made me decide to pick it up and give it a chance. It made me think of Ned Vizzini’s It’s Kind of a Funny Story. The premise seemed interesting, too – Emmy was adopted from China, and had never felt like she fit in with her white family, while Justin was still struggling with his parents’ divorce and his ever-absent father, who barely even spoke to him when he visited for the holidays. Through very different circumstances, both of them were sent to Heartland Academy, a reform school. At Heartland, they had to learn to confront their respective issues, and coexist with the other students from their Anger Management group – Diana, a small, perpetually angry girl; Jenny, a selective-mute since her step-father fed her her pet pig; Chip, who hacks iPods to store porn; and Mohammed, who claims to be a refugee from the Sierra Leone civil war.

Each of the characters had very different issues, the roots of which may not be discussed in depth – as the novel is told from Emmy & Justin’s POV – but were hinted at every now and then. Emmy was revealed to be suffering from anorexia, while Justin had depression. While I liked the attempt to bring to front the issues of mental health in teenagers, I didn’t really like the way it was executed. The book opened with her POV, and from the first moments of fat-shaming I wanted to put it down. I tried to remind myself of books like Blaze (Laurie Boyle Crompton) that angered me with its slut-shaming, before turning things around and coming up with the message that it’s wrong (kind of. I still dislike how the book handled it.) Anyway, I made myself continue reading, and I disliked Emmy right off the bat, despite the fact that I was excited to read a book with a WOC character. And then Justin’s narration starts, and he makes a rape joke.

(Rape jokes are never funny. Okay? Rape jokes are NEVER funny.)

So. What kept me divided is the fact that on the one hand, I liked the alternating narratives and it handles some issues pretty well, like racism and Justin’s depression. I also appreciated that while Emmy’s first sighting of Justin included the word “glitter” and screamed of insta-love, the romance aspect of this book actually builds up pretty nicely. Emmy crushed on Justin almost at once, but was repelled by his jerk-like tendencies, before actually falling for him as she got to know him better. And yet – I really hate the fat-shaming which didn’t improve throughout the book at all, the fact that the rest of the students in their group knew that Emmy’s anorexic and made fun of her body anyway, while enabling her by helping her eat her food, the way anorexia was treated and portrayed, and, oh yeah, the fact that rape jokes aren’t funny.

In the end, it was one of those book that I could tolerate – and maybe even enjoy – while reading, because of the bits I liked, but after finishing I’d think about what I’d read, and the more I thought about it, the less I liked it.
 
~ originally posted on Elsewhere

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Booking Through Thursday: Least Favourite

10 January 2014

“What was your LEAST favorite book last year? Most disappointing?”

Since most of the books I read last year were pretty good in one way or another, it's hard to choose a least favourite. I guess it would be a toss up between A Really Awesome Mess by Trish Cook & Brendan Halpin, and The Elites by Natasha Ngan.

A Really Awesome Mess was definitely a challenge to read because of how much the characters annoyed me, the treatment of eating disorders, and the inclusion of an unapologetic rape joke, which made me switch on to rage mode immediately. BUT the actual writing isn't bad - I have to admit that much. I can't recommend it based on content, but that's about it.

The Elites, on the other hand, was a book I very much wanted to like, because the author was Malaysian or Malaysian-born, if I'm not mistaken, and it's very rare to get dystopians from here, especially dystopian YA. And a big YAY for having a POC heroine in a Fantasy novel! But the writing really wasn't strong enough to hold my interest, or to carry the (very predictable) story, and the characters just kind of fell flat for me.

So that's two books that are potentially my least favourites from last year, for completely different reasons.

(I have a feeling that I will always be posting this meme on Fridays instead :p)

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WWW Wednesdays (8th January)

08 January 2014

• What are you currently reading?
Angelfall by Susan Ee. I received the ARC for this awhile ago. I was only mildly interested in the title, and thought I'd give it a try when I received World After, the second book, last year. Then I kind of forgot about it, until I saw it coming up in a few year-end book lists, and I liked what was being said about Angelfall and World After. I took the store's copy and started reading, and over the weekend I dug it up from my pile of ARCs. It's not what I thought it would be, and I mean that in a good way. I'm only halfway through right now, but I like what I've seen of Penryn's world, and so far I'm enjoying both her and Raffe's characters. Especially Raffe, and that's new; usually I'm less than impressed with the guys in the SF/F YA I read. I've already topped my orders for the store and planning to highlight it soon.

• What did you recently finish reading?
My Heartbeat by Garret Freymann-Weyr. I've heard of this title before, but never really read the synopsis or tried to find out more, because the title didn't interest me. Mistake. Daphne mentioned it as a YA she liked, and so I looked it up, and realised that it's exactly my kind of book, quiet and unassuming and all kinds of wonderful. The synopsis and some reviews focus a lot on the love triangle, which I admit did capture my interest, but really I just love Ellen and her observations about the world around her. I loved watching her mind find its heartbeat.

• What do you think you’ll read next?
Either World After by Susan Ee, depending on how Angelfall ends, or The View From Saturday by E.L. Konigsburg, which was a Christmas present from Daphne that I can't wait to read. I may also read The Rosie Project by Graeme Simpson as part of my "read more non-YA" thing, or the Isa Kamari that Daphne lent me. We'll see how it goes!




-> WWW Wednesdays

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