January 2018 Books

One of my resolutions this year is to finish all the books I’ve already bought before buying new ones. I might allow myself to borrow a book from the library if I really can’t help it, but I’ll try my best to get through the ones I own and haven’t read yet.

The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge

I am becoming a pretty solid fan of Frances Hardinge. The very first book I read from her, Fly By Night, failed to make a strong impression, but the next book I read, The Lost Conspiracy moved me to tears. I had a rocky start with A Face like Glass, but by the end, I know that I would read almost every single book Hardinge writes thereafter. When I picked up The Lie Tree, I was wondering if it would be hard to get into it like A Face like Glass, but not at all! From the beginning, we are given a premise so compelling for the main character that I was motivated to keep turning the page. This is one of those books I read well into the night because I couldn’t put it down. Good thing I was on vacation at the time!

What I love about Hardinge’s books is that they tackle really complicated subjects without being verbose about it. She also writes loneliness and ostracization really well. Sometimes when a protagonist is dealing with all kinds of crap, which they do very often, it can come off as a “woe is me” kind of situation. With Hardinge’s books, I’ve never felt that.

Whose Body? by Dorothy L. Sayers

The Peter Wimsey mysteries is one of those highly-recommended books over at Sounis, so I bought the entire collection as a bundle. The first book is Whose Body? I have to say, I’m not jumping up and down about it. I thought the mystery was well constructed, but it was difficult to get into Sayers’ writing. Most of the plot was advanced through dialogue. Everyone was just talking all the time in big chunky paragraphs. I’m not saying it’s terrible — just that I’m not used to it. There also wasn’t much characterization until near the end when we witness Peter’s trauma from the war. I’ll still read the other books in the series, simply because I already have them at hand.

Currently Reading…

The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

This is one of those books I’ve owned for a long time and have not yet read. I bought it in Dec 2013, so I’ve had this book for 4 years now. I tried to read it twice before but have never gone very far. I really admire a lot of Sanderson’s works, but for some reason, it was difficult for me to get into this one. I think there was just so many characters, so many different things happening in such wide far-flung locations, that it was difficult for me to care about any of them. So I’m slowly making my way through the book again and hopefully this time I’ll be able to finish it. To balance it (because it’s a huge book), I’m reading some other smaller books along with it. In January, I read this alongside Whose Body?

Now that I’m on my third re-read, I find that I’m much more invested in the characters than the first two times I started it. I think that’s a good sign. I’m currently around 25% through the book.

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What “Realistic” Means in Fantasy

I have written a lot on this blog about how I would like to see realistic elements in fantasy, particularly when it comes to politics. Inevitably, I receive comments indicating that readers are upset that I apparently don’t understand that fantasy is, well, fantasy. But I have never criticized fantasy for containing dragons or ogres […]

via Wanting Realism in Fantasy — Pages Unbound | Book Reviews & Discussions


This is something I’ve always wanted to write about as well. There’s a certain level of logic that even books of the fantasy genre must uphold in order to be immersive.

Leng’s 2017 Book Awards

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Aaaand it’s that time of the year again! This is the point in the year where I look at the fiction I’ve read the previous year and give out some fake awards (according to my humble opinion of course). I’ve been doing this for several years in a row now. If you want to see previous years’ awards, I have a link here in my post last year.

This year’s candidates are shown in the neat little image above I captured from Goodreads. I faded out the nonfiction books I read, because these awards are geared towards fiction only. So without further ado, let’s get to it!

Warning: Spoilers abound!!

Best Male Protagonist

  1. Eugenides (Queen’s Thief) — it’s almost not fair when I do my QT rereads, because every character there is just so badass.
  2. Kaz Brekker (Six of Crows, Crooked Kingdom) — okay, I gotta admit that Kaz is a very, very close second to Eugenides in most aspects. But it’s Eugenides’s capacity to be merciful despite tragedy that makes him a more compelling character than Kaz IMO.
  3. Lazlo Strange (Strange the Dreamer) — ugghhhh, I want to lift my 3-spot restriction, because I had to choose between Lazlo and Locke Lamora and Kell Maresh and Sophos! Why do I hate myself? Why did I read so many good books? Why is Harry Potter not on this list? I feel bad that Harry Potter did not make it in this list!

Best Female Protagonist

  1. Inej (Six of Crows, Crooked Kingdom) — oh man, I love Inej, but TBH the only reason Attolia is not a top contender for this section is because she’s an antagonist in QoA and a secondary character in KoA and a minor character in both CoK and TaT. So Inej takes top spot for breaking my heart, and putting it back together.
  2. Isaveth (A Little Taste of Poison) — A lot of the female protagonists in the list are compelling characters but I would actually consider Isaveth to be the smartest out of all of them. At thirteen years old, no less.
  3. Balsa (Guardian of the Darkness) — again, the final spot is a toss between so many characters: we have crafty Shai, freaking chess genius Minerva Lane, pirate-wannabe Delilah Bard… so many great female characters. But among them, I think Balsa really captured my heart in this instalment of Moribito.

Best Male Secondary Character

  1. Wylan Van Eck (Six of Crows, Crooked Kingdom) — I never said there would be no favouritism in this award show =P
  2. Quiz (A Little Taste of Poison) — ohh man, the Chat Noir vibes are real and dangerous
  3. Jean (Lies of Locke Lamora) — Ron Weasly, Erstwhile from A Face Like Glass and Archer from The Reader are close ties with Jean, but I had to choose.

Best Female Secondary Character

  1. Eddis (Queen of Attolia) — do I even need to explain this? It’s Eddis!
  2. Sophie (Castle in the Air) — I loved seeing Sophie in action again! Even as a secondary character, her personality still shines
  3. Hermione (Harry Potter) — I really liked how Hermione’s “nerdy” archetype is portrayed in the books. It’s both comedic but endearing, and while the others might be annoyed with her, I never was.

Best Sobstory

(I think I made this category back when I wasn’t reading such tragic books)

  1. Inej (Six of Crows, Crooked Kingdom) — all crow members have a tragic backstory but I think Inej was the one who really pulled the heartstrings
  2. The god killer (Strange the Dreamer) — I forgot his name and I’ve returned the book to the library! Forgive me! He and his wife need a nice, long vacation
  3. Balsa (Guardian of the Darkness) — her fellow competitor for the last spot are Kamet and Attolia (QT), Archer (The Reader), and Minerva Lane (Duchess War). I chose Balsa because I think she had a worse past than either Kamet or Attolia or Minnie; and the narrative surrounding it feels more raw than Archer’s.

Best Backstory

  1. Minerva Lane (Duchess War) — seriously, she had one of the most creative premises I’ve ever read about.
  2. Holland (Darker Shade of Magic) — this is a little bit of shade, but I think either Kell Maresh or Lila Bard would have been in Holland’s place if their backstories were actually present in the trilogy. There was enough enigma surrounding both of them for their backstories to be nothing less than cool
  3. Locke Lamora (Lies of Locke Lamora) — his thieving schemes when he was younger were amusing to read about

No Super Power But Still Kicked Butt

  1. Kaz Brekker (Six of Crows, Crooked Kingdom) — I think everyone in their group except for Nina qualifies for this award
  2. Sohpos (A Conspiracy of Kings) — Again, I would consider many QT characters to qualify for this award, excepting perhaps Eugenides, who’s a bit god-touched
  3. The Kleptomancer (A Face Like Glass) — Oh my, the strategy gymnastics he performed for decades is honestly impressive

Best Villain You Love To Hate

  1. Van Eck (Six of Crows, Crooked Kingdom) — you can tell a book is good when both its  good and bad characters keep getting the top awards
  2. The Grey King (Lies of Locke Lamora) — I would consider him to be of the same vein as Minya from Strange the Dreamer, in that their tragic backstories explain their cruelty, and yet I still hate them both
  3. Miss Appeline (A Face Like Glass) — I think once a character loses their ability to empathize, they cross over from villain to psychopath

Best Not-So-Evil Villain

  1. Attolia (The Queen of Attolia) — not sure if she’s a “villain,” but I think she fulfils the role of antagonist quite well in this book
  2. Holland (Shades of Magic) — in the end, I think he became a much more interesting Antari than either Kell or Lila
  3. The Golden Prince (Strange the Dreamer) — gah, I forgot his name too!! I read SD really fast because it was just so good, but I ended up forgetting a lot of the names

Most Romantic Couple

  1. Eugenides and Attolia (Queen’s Thief) — After rereading QoA, their status as my ultimate OTP has been reinforced like ten fold. And then… then there was that tragedy in TaT
  2. Kaz and Inej (Six of Crows, Crooked Kingdom) — Despite showing little physical affection, their love story is still one of the most genuine romance I’ve read in YA
  3. Robert and Minnie (Duchess War) — it’ll be a little weird to not give this award to the only couple that actually belongs in the romance genre

Best Dynamic Duo

  1. Quiz and Isaveth (A Little Taste of Poison) — I feel like they’re the only fitting pair for this award since they’re the only ones that really worked as a pair, unlike many of the characters in the other books
  2. Sefia and Archer (The Reader) — not sure if I’d label them as “dynamic,” but the duo part is definitely there, and I think they work well enough together
  3. Kamet and Costis (Thick as Thieves) — same as above

Best Superhero Team

  1. The Crows (Six of Crows, Crooked Kingdom) — honestly I feel this category was meant for them
  2. Neverfell, Kleptomancer and co. (A Face Like Glass) — I really loved the ending and how everyone managed to escape Caverna
  3. Harry, Ron, Hermione, Neville (HP  & Philosopher’s Stone) — I was going to grant this last spot to the Antari of Shades of Magic, but I think these four had better teamwork at the end of the first book

Most Imaginative Fictional Place

  1. Weep (Strange the Dreamer) — I really loved the worldbuilding of this book. From ghosts to deities to lost cities… nothing short of impressive
  2. Kelanna (The Reader) — the world in this book is massive. I keep getting confused over the names of the countries and kingdoms (but I take full responsibility for not studying the map), but needless to say there was a lot of worldbuilding that went into this story
  3. Caverna (A Face Like Glass) — both the magic and the people are unusual and the setting is itself a character

Best Magic System

  1. Soul Stamps (The Emperor’s Soul) — I don’t think I could have a Sanderson book not win this award, tbh
  2. Elemental magic (Troubled Waters) — elemental magic is one of the most common magic systems in fantasy, but I think TW put such a fresh spin into it. It’s like elemental magic horoscope and it’s quite cool
  3. Baked magic (A Little Taste of Poison) — another cool twist on magic… one that you bake!

Best Premise

  1. A Face Like Glass — Caverna is a place populated by people who don’t have natural facial expressions… except for 12-year-old Neverfell
  2. The Emperor’s Soul — A woman must carve soul stamps for an injured king, potentially pulling off the biggest deception in her land
  3. Shades of Magic — there are four alternate Londons, and Kell Maresh is one of the few people who can travel to the alternate worlds

Best Twist

  1. Queen of Attolia — when Attolia turned out to have allied with Eddis to defeat the Mede army
  2. Six of Crows — when Kuwei turned out to be Wylan Van Eck (still screaming about this)
  3. Lies of Locke Lamora — when the Grey King used and abandoned Locke against the Capa to fake his own death

Best Plans

  1. Crooked Kingdom — Kaz’s plan to take back the Dregs and fight against Van Eck and everyone else out for their hides
  2. A Conspiracy of Kings — Sophos’s deception of that baron (forgot his name, sorry!) in the end so that the Attolian army can get into position against the Mede army. And then his shooting of the ambassador.
  3. A Little Taste of Poison — Isaveth and Quiz’s plan to reveal his brother’s involvement in Orien’s murder

Worst Plans that Still Worked

  1. Lies of Locke Lamora — that hilarious bit in the end when Locke was trying to get some money but all these bankers didn’t believe his ruse, but then he used their own suspicions against them
  2. A Gathering of Shadows — Lila stealing another contestant’s identity so she can play in the games; as far as plans go, this is one of the worst I’ve come across, but I think it was intentional so we can get a clearer picture of Lila’s character
  3. The Reader — Archer fighting all the other boys in the end, even though it ruined him, just so he and Sefia can meet with the Arbiter; this was actually quite sad

Most Climatic Resolution

  1. Crooked Kingdom — Kaz’s convoluted plan, from the spread of the plague to the fake tide mages, was so on point. Except for the part where Matthias died.
  2. A Face Like Glass — Neverfell and her friends’ escape from Caverna
  3. The King of Attolia — Costis setting Eugenides up to fight the Guard so he could save his honor

Mos Anti-Climatic Resolution

  1. Troubled Waters — I found the lack of character arc to be the most anti-climatic, and I think this was clearly demonstrated by Zoe’s flooding of the river regardless of the risks
  2. A Gathering of Shadows — it was a clear setup for the next book and nothing was really resolved
  3. Strange the Dreamer — Sarai’s death and the revelation of Lazlo’s origins created more questions than answers for an ending

Best Comic Relief Scenes

  1. A Conjuring of Light — Kell and Lila almost tipping the ship and Alucard falling into the sea
  2. Crooked Kingdom — Kuwei pretending to be Wylan and kissing Jesper… this is one of those moments that you’re so embarrassed on someone else’es behalf (forgot the word for it)
  3. Thick As Thieves — when Kamet finally meets the Thief of Eddis and he has to go up so close because he’s got blurry eyes, only to find Attolia’s boot boy

Most Emotional Scene

  1. Thick As Thieves — the river knows its time… y’all know what I’m talking about
  2. Crooked Kingdom — Kaz changing Inej’s bandages and they’re both thinking about their past traumas and trying to get past them
  3. A Face Like Glass — Neverfell discovering the truth about Madame Appeline and how she tortured her mother for her facial expressions

Best Action Scene

  1. Crooked Kingdom — Kaz fighting the entire Dregs alone as he goes down three flights of stairs
  2. The King of Attolia — Eugenides fighting the entire Guard to show that he’s not a weakling that can be killed by a toddler with a fork
  3. The Guardian of the Darkness — Balsa fighting Jiguro’s ghost

And that’s all folks! I decided not to include some of the previous awards because boy, this is getting long. But I’m interested in knowing what you guys think if you’ve read some of these books.

What are your favourite books from 2017? Which ones would you award in each category? Any books you’re looking forward to this year?

October 2017 Reads

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

This is the sequel to Six of Crows. After the botched heist, Kaz Brekker and his crew of crows try to get back the money that Van Eck cheated from them. With risks higher than ever, and as old allies turn against them, Kaz launches his biggest plan yet.

Needless to say, I loved this. Loved SoC and this was an impeccable sequel. There was only one thing I didn’t like near the end, and I’m pretending it didn’t happen. Other than that, whoa, what a great ride. I’m adding this duology to my list of books with exemplar writing.

A Face Like Glass by Frances Hardinge

Neverfell doesn’t remember her life before she turned five. She grows up helping a cheesemaker make magical cheese, confined to her master’s tunnels. When she manages to break out, she gets caught up in the politics of Caverna. Here’s my thoughts from Goodreads:

Ahh, this was an interesting read. I was surprised because a lot of people seem to like this better than Gullstruck Island, but I found the first half to be incredibly slow. Things were happening, but because of Neverfell’s happy-go-lucky temperament, I just never felt there was any real stake. No matter what happened to her, she was okay. It was so unlike Gullstruck Island, where off the bat, you knew that there was so much on the line for Hathin. In any case, the second half of this book was really good. There was intrigue and mystery, some really heartless villains, and twisty plans.

A Gathering of Shadows and A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab

I quite enjoyed A Darker Shade of Magic, the first book in the series. I love the two main protagonists in that book, and I looked forward to joining them in new adventures. I would say that overall I really liked the reading experience I had with this trilogy. I do admit that as the series progressed, I became a little disappointed, perhaps because I had expected something different from the premise and where the first book left off. I guess I just got used to characters who have wildly intelligent and twisty plans, and this series didn’t really have that. Which is fine, not all stories need it, and like I said, I still liked this a lot.

September 2017 Reads

Wow, I think I made a reading record last month. 6 books! I’m notorious for being a slow reader, but I don’t know what I happened… I blew through 4 large books and 2 smaller ones.

7908762Troubled Waters by Sharon Shinn

This book got me out of my reading slump. It’s about a noble girl who lived most of her life in exile, until her father died and she was brought back to court life. As someone who is an elemental mage, she holds a lot of power and soon she finds herself embroiled in intrigue.

I love how character-centric this was. Even though much of the plot isn’t action-oriented, I was always wondering what’s going to happen to Zoe next. Zoe was a likeable character, though I think for a character-oriented book, it kind of lacked a character arc. I don’t think Zoe became a better person in any way, even though people warned her that her power might harm others. She was always reckless with it, and there was a distinct lack of repercussions after her destructiveness in the climax. If anything, her self-assuredness and her time away from court enabled her to not care about things some people have to just to survive in a place crawling with intrigue. And then she shames them for caring. I mean, they weren’t very nice people either, so maybe they deserve it, but this is definitely one of “those” books where an outsider girl is not like those “other” girls, you know what I mean?

Also, one of the plot twists that I was afraid of happening happened in the last 5 pages of the book, which was… erm, a let down. So overall, I enjoyed this book lots except for a few parts, and thank it very much for pulling me out of my reading slump.

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Brown Skin, White Minds by E.J.R. David

This is another research book I read to help me with my original project. It’s a highly recommended item for Filipino research, but I didn’t pick it up for the longest time because my focus is on precolonial Philippines, whereas this looks at postcolonial. Anyway, here’s my review from Goodreads:

I decided to pick up this book because I thought that although my project is on precolonial peoples, my audience is not. It’s important for me to know what issues are relevant in today’s postcolonial society, so that I can at least be sensitive about it in my project.

This book gave me a lot of reassurance that my experience is not by any means a singularity. Apparently they’re very prevalent. I think this is where the book shines: it shows psychological studies on colonial mentality and also paves a way on how to deal with it. I especially liked the chapter where the empirical studies were shown. Unfortunately there was a chapter or two on theoretical postulation that I think would have benefited greatly from some empirical data; as it is, those chapters had a lot of “may cause” or “might influence” wordings that don’t have a lot of data to back the theories. This book also frequently reads like a school paper, which might be understandable, seeing that the author is a scholar. But the wordings tend to be repetitive and paragraphs seem to say the same things over and over. I think the author was overly cautious that something might be taken out of context.

18270942Why We Fail by Victor Lombardi

Okay, this one is for school. We were asked to review a business book, and this was one of the few books that caught my interest in the pre-selected list.

This book looks at products that failed due to terrible user experience. Overall, I found the book to be quite bloggish. Each of the case studies was interesting in and of itself, but I was expecting a little more from a book compilation. I was hoping for some cohesive and unified lesson that could be applied to the next business venture, but there wasn’t really anything like that. Some things that caused the failure of one product would be the cause of success for another. So it doesn’t really leave you with any kind of applicable knowledge. The only thing I liked was the suggestion of using the scientific method.

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The Duchess War by Courtney Milan

I rarely ever read romance, and this is one of the few times that I did. Here’s my review from Goodreads:

This is one of the rare times I make a foray into the romance genre. While I’ve read a few romance books before, I’ve mostly stayed away for two, perhaps petty, reasons. A) I don’t like large age gaps, which seems to be the staple of the genre, and B) to say that I dislike rakes is a gross understatement. I picked up this book because miraculously it has neither. I actually saw the book recommended on a Tumblr post about romance unicorns.

And what a book it was! I can only compare to the handful of romance books I’ve read previously, but this one is a lot more nuanced and complex than the others. Now don’t get me wrong. I love escapism and brain candy as much as any other person — my favourite genre does happen to be fantasy, after all. But there are only so many impossibilities that an illusion can uphold before the entire thing loses its magic, even moreso when it’s not supposed to be fantasy.

This book has so many threads in it that were all equally fascinating. Even the romance seemed to take a step back to other themes like family, wealth and ambition. The story of Minnie’s past was honestly so unique and creative, now I’m wanting an adventure book based on a twelve-year-old prodigy.

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A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

Ah, I love fantasy books like this! I’ve been meaning to read this for a while now but I’ve just been swarmed with books on my TBR.

Kell Maresh is an Antari, a person who can travel between different worlds. One day he was framed to smuggle in a powerful object into his world. Piggybacking on his travels is petty thief Lila Bard. Together, they try to prevent the destruction that the smuggled object will cause.

This is a fun adventure book, and I love the two main protagonists. I’m still not too keen on the perfect prince, but we’ll see if I get to know him better in the following books. The only thing I didn’t like about this book was that it was too short! Good thing there’s 2 more books in the series, which I’m looking forward to reading.

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Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Ah, this is one of those books that everybody has been talking about but I wasn’t really interested in picking up until two of my friends told me it is really good. Needless to say it deserves all the hype it got, because man, this is a stellar example of great fantasy writing.

Kaz and his band of thieves are hired to retrieve a prisoner from one of the toughest prisons for a hefty price. However, everyone’s got baggage, and they just might kill each other. Heh. Bad plot summary, because the plot itself is too smart for a summary.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

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I know it might come as a surprise to many people when I confess that this is the first time I’m reading Harry Potter. HP is such a staple in children’s fantasy, which is one of my favourite genres (probably the most). But the way circumstances would have it, I only picked up the series a couple of weeks ago.

I’ll keep this review brief, because I think everyone by now is familiar with the series.

Rating: 5/5

Needless to say, I enjoyed it. It was a lot more whimsical that I thought it would be. I did see 6 out of 8 movies, and I had the impression the books would be as dark and mysterious as the movies made the story seem to be. But I think it’s a lot more like Diana Wynne Jones’s books than anything. It’s got a very endearing quality to it, and I’m not surprised at all why so many people fell in love with the book.

I found the characters to be slightly different in the book than they were in the movies. I felt as if the movie got one dimension of their characterization right, but the book gave such great nuances that the movies didn’t have time to show off. Harry, for example, was a lot sassier than he was in the movies. Ron was a lot funnier, although I do remember Rupert Grint making me laugh hysterically when I watched the films as a kid. Hermione was so intense; she was really milking the smarty-pants stereotype so hard, I couldn’t even find her annoying for it. And Neville! Whoa, I was surprised how much screen time Neville got. He was always that outlying character in the movies, but here, the gang really seemed more like a quad than a trio. I have a feeling I’m going to really love Neville even more in the following books.

Overall, I feel like I understood the story better now. As a kid, I never quite knew what was going on — only that there were things going on with Harry and he needed to fix them, hehe.

The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

19385917Hey everyone! I’m back with another book review. This time, I will be reviewing an adult fantasy that one of my favourite series, The Legend of Eli Monpress by Rachel Aaron, has frequently been compared to: The Lies of Locke Lamora.

Overview

Locke Lamora and his band of thieves, called The Gentlemen Bastards, launch a complex plot to steal half the fortune of one of the barons in the City of Camorri. However, they become embroiled in the bigger, more dangerous plots of a mysterious man named the Grey King.

Rating: 4.5 / 5
Warnings: cursing (high), gore (high), sexual content (medium)

My Thoughts

I think this is the first book I’ve read that didn’t get a full score because some things were lacking, but because they were excessive. So it’s safe to say that this book has everything I like in books: dynamic, empathetic characters; complex plots; and interesting world-building. It really does have everything.Read More »

Gap Books

I saw this today over at Shannon Hale’s twitter:

Please read the entire thread! It touches upon some important issues I feel strongly about in the children and YA publishing industry.

Moribito: Guardian of the Darkness by Nahoko Uehashi

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Okay, I am so excited to review this book. This is the sequel to Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit, which is also the the basis of the anime, Seirei no Moribito. I read the book and I watched the anime back in 2015, and I fell completely in love with both. I got distracted since then, which was why it took me so long to pick this book up even though I bought both books at the same time. I really regret it, because… you guys… this book is beyond amazing!

Overview

After the events of Guardian of the Spirit, Balsa decides to return to her homeland of Kanbal, from which she and her foster-father were forced to escape due to a cruel conspiracy by the late King Rogsam. She wishes to find closure from her past and believes that returning to her homeland to find it is the best idea. However, upon her return, she finds herself once again entangled in another conspiracy, possibly still a continuation of the one that had led to her flee in the first place.

Rating: 5/5

My Thoughts

Oh my gosh, you guys. I really want to applaud this book for not shying away from really tough situations. I’m not talking about X-rated, cover-your-eyes type of situations, but complicated themes like death, revenge, shame and honour. I know that these themes already often occur in books that are geared for older audiences, but it seems that because they occur so often, they are rarely relegated sufficient thought and exploration. However in this book, you really get to see how these themes affect a person’s humanity.

What I love about this book first and foremost is the clever political intrigue. There was political intrigue in the first book as well, but this took it to an entire level altogether. Everyone was so smart, and you can feel the motivations of the characters, even those who had been corrupted by the first conspiracy.

The second thing I love about this book is the emotions. It might use simple, middle-grade level vocabulary to communicate, but oh man, that does not at all prevent the emotions from coming through. I was sitting on the train yesterday to work and trying not to cry during the climax because of that heart-breaking plot twist.

Ah yes, the plot twist. The plot twist that was foreshadowed from the very first chapter and yet I still completely MISSED until I was reading it. I could feel my heart stop. And I just want to bawl my eyes out. Oh Balsa. Poor, poor Balsa and poor, poor Jiguro.

Just like in the first book, the magic in this book does not really follow a system. It’s based on tradition and what “experts” in the magic tell you, and you must take it at face value. As someone who loves magic systems, this kind of magic is a little underwhelming, but you can tell that the story isn’t *about* the magic. It’s about the people who are just trying to make the best of their circumstances, and if those circumstances happen to deal with magic, so be it.

This book follows the same bittersweet ending that the first book did. Balsa may have accomplished her goal, but sometimes she needs to leave good friends behind and go on to a different adventure. She is such a lonesome soul, I really want to know if she can find a place she can comfortably call home.

The only thing I really, really missed in this book was Tanda, her friend from the first book. Tanda was my favourite in the first book. However, that said, it was very heartwarming to see Balsa think of Tanda whenever she needed hope and warmth. It broke my heart when she thought of visiting him as a spirit in case she dies. I just… these two just need to get together already!

June 2017 Reads

I wasn’t able to read a lot this month, and most of the things I read were for school. For some reason, I was just really tired most of the time, and even during my morning commute to work, I just didn’t feel like reading. I think it mostly has to do with my reading slump after finishing Thick As Thieves by Megan Whalen Turner. I’m hoping to hop out of this slump this month.

In any case, here’s what I read for school. These books are for my technical entrepreneurship class.

The Lean Startup by Eric Ries

My professor claims that The Lean Startup was a real game-changer several years ago. I can tell it was, because a lot of the principles mentioned in this book are things that are being actively practiced in the industry, at least in the companies I’ve worked for. Things like A/B testing and MVPs that seem like very reasonable things were surprisingly not very ubiquitous some years ago.

The main thing I didn’t like about this book was how disorganized it was. I think there was an attempt to organize the book into sections, but it didn’t work, because a whole lot of the things mentioned in the first few chapters were incessantly repeated throughout the entire book. Not only were the concepts repeated across chapters, but the author has one of those high-school essayist syndrome where they try to repeat the thesis ten times in a paragraph. It just gets very redundant. Don’t get me wrong, the ideas are extremely helpful and important. I just did not like the way they were written.

Business Model Generation

The coolest thing about this book is its format. I ended up buying a physical copy, and I would recommend to anyone who wants to read this book to also buy a physical copy. Its strengths are really in how the message is conveyed. The design is spectacular, very sleek and almost magazine-like.

The most important parts of this book is in the first quarter. After you finish reading the different sections of a business model and the different types of business models in existence, the content gets a little uninteresting after that. The chapters on storytelling and visualization were pretty much common-sense. And you can tell that they’re common-sense, because there were basically three main ideas surrounding them that were repeated over and over again throughout the pages.

Well, here’s to hoping I’ll get more interesting things to read this month.