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. Continue reading “The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch”

Gap Books

Oh, following up on my previous post, I saw this today over at Shannon Hale’s twitter:

Please read the entire thread! It touches upon some of the things that really irks me in publishing and YA community right now.

Sci-Fi and Fantasy Week on Goodreads: Or Adults VS YA VS MG

So, so, so, I found out today that it’s Science Fiction and Fantasy Week on Goodreads. I was excited to see what lists of books they recommend, when I made a mistake of reading through the comments section. Yeah, unfortunately. Who reads the comments section, these days, on anything? Those who are incredibly healthy, who aren’t in threat of keeling over due to high-blood pressure, that’s who. And while I think that would include me, a pretty hale 25-year-old… I’m not so sure anymore.

See, if you take a peek at the comments, you’ll find it infested with the usual classical champions arguing with trash defenders. I’ll make my position clear and say that I am very much a trash defender, mostly because I find it very difficult to have any affinity with classical works (especially since they’re so Eurocentric). And let’s face it! While I love reading books that are exhilarating and poignant just as much as the next reader, I do have times when I just want some cheap, brain candy. Sometimes I want my mind to take a break from the hassles at work and life, and if that means resorting to easy entertainment, it’s actually not bad for my health. It’s certainly not going to be any worse than getting all worked up, with arteries bursting and veins popping, hating on books that are written after the 70’s.

This blog post, or perhaps a better word for it would be rant, is going to be focused more on the divide between SFF Adult/YA/MG readers, because a lot of the comments in that Goodreads post is aimed at belittling younger readers.

Fact 1: I love children’s books. Yes, I’m 25, and I would unapologetically, unabashedly walk in the children’s (9-12) section of Chapters Indigo. I find children’s books to be so fresh and imaginative. They also often deal with themes that are central to my life even at this point in my mid-twenties: family, friendship, home, identity, finding your place in society, loyalty, and bravery. There are tons of other themes that I can’t pull off of the top of my head at the moment.

In fact, the majority of my favourite books are (or once were considered, since marketing ploys these days tend to push books towards the YA shelves) for children: The Queen’s Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner, The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale, The Lost Conspiracy by Frances Hardinge, and many more.

I love this a quotation by Diana Wynne Jones about the intellect of children and how they respond to books:

“Writing for adults, you have to keep reminding them of what is going on. The poor things have given up using their brains when they read. Children you only need to tell things to once.”

There are other people who have defended children’s literature in much more articulated fashion than I ever will, so I will just move on to the next point.

Fact 2: I like YA books. They’re dramatic, and they pull you in with a lot of shiny, mysterious allure, and when they get the romance right, they really get it right, if you know what I mean. In terms of themes, they might be a little more titillating with their handle on sexuality and morality; otherwise, I don’t think YA touches on themes that children’s books are not able to handle either. And I’ll get more to this a little later.

Fact 3: I like adult books. From their complex world-building to their flowy, detailed sentences, it’s a treat to lose yourself in different world so thoughtfully built.

Here’s my problem though. As someone who reads across all age-ranges, I don’t actually find anything that different in the thematic takeaway or profundity of books targeted for different age groups. I am forced to ponder about colonialism in The Lost Conspiracy as I am with Illusions of Fate. I am forced to ponder about spiritualism in Moribito as I am in Mistborn.

You know what I find to be the only thing that’s really different these days? The explicitness in sexuality and violence, and level of details in the writing. That’s all.

And so I froth at the mouth whenever people look down on books aimed for younger audiences, and because the lowest common denominator here are middle grade books, they unfortunately get the most flack.

Adults VS YA&MG

I’m not saying there aren’t bad YA and MG books out there. Oh there definitely are. But the bad books crop up equally in all three target age ranges. There are bad writers in all three tiers; there are poor plotters in all three tiers.

And each tier have their own set of overused, trite tropes.

Personally, I’m not a fan of love triangle at all; I almost refuse to read any book with a hint of love triangle in it, so that rules out a good lot of YA real estate for me. But you know what? I find a lot of love triangles in adult books too. And they’re not always better handled. If anything, a love triangle is a love triangle is a love triangle, and they’re just as tiresome in an adult book as they are in a YA book.

As someone who’s not that interested in romance, I do tend towards the children’s shelf more often than YA, because romance is such a central theme in so many YA books, and unless it’s handled in a tasteful way, I wouldn’t be that interested. Adult SFF books usually have tame romances as well, and even if they do get kind of explicit, the portion of the book that’s dedicated to romance is still pretty low, unless it’s jointly marketed as romance.

Also, I’m not a fan of gratuitous violence. The emergence of grimdark, I find rather unfortunate, not for its existence, since I know that there are people who find value and entertainment in grittiness and gore; but it’s unfortunate that people treat grittiness and gore now as an end in themselves, and not as a means to some overarching point. I don’t like how somehow if a book is “gritty” and “dark” that automatically entails maturity. Perhaps my definition of maturity is just different, because I think that finding hope and goodness in a world marred by evil is much more mature than succumbing to the bleakness of it all.

YA VS MG

You know, it’s strange because I feel like YA readers and MG readers would be better allies, but that hasn’t always been my experience. YA is sort of a new genre; fifteen years ago, there wasn’t a Young Adult section in the libraries and bookstores I go to. It wasn’t until Twilight came out that the books for younger readers became segregated into 9-12 and 13+. I have a little bit of a complex relationship with the YA community, because while I like some YA books, I find the YA community to be a little confusing.

See, YA readers would be the first to argue with adult readers about how YA books are meaningful despite being aimed at younger audiences. However when I was just getting into YA, there were a lot of YA readers who, ironically, turned up their noses on MG books in the same way adults turned their noses up at YA books. Since I was just transitioning between MG books to YA books at the time, I found the flippant attitude to really repel me from the community. Readers were bashing children’s books that I love, simply because they were for younger audiences, and I can bet that many of these readers had read those same books just few years prior.

Go to Goodreads now, and you will see a myriad of reviewers who say things like, “Oh, this book was bad. It must be written for younger audiences” on some YA books. What is that even supposed to mean? That the poor quality YA books are reserved for children? A bad book is a bad book regardless of what age it’s aimed at. I don’t understand how reviewers can think that if a book doesn’t cater to their taste, it automatically means that they’re too mature for it.

My other pet peeve is when high quality children’s books are repackaged and marketed for YA. It’s great that we’re encouraging teens to read books that work for younger audiences, but what I don’t like about this is that it reinforces the idea that MG books are of poorer quality. Because every time that a good-quality MG book is taken out of the MG shelf and placed in YA, then the only things that are left in the MG shelves are the ones that are not so good, which only supports the belief in the first place.

It’s the same story when we pull out a “cleaner” adult book and repackage it as a YA book. Again, great that we’re diversifying the YA shelves, but it only reinforces the idea that the books that belong in the adult shelves are the ones chock full of dirty and gritty stuff. I don’t like the implications of that… that to be considered mature, you have should be into darker or saucier things altogether. No, that’s not nearly sufficient nor necessary for maturity.

Well, This is Getting Long…

I think part of the problem really is that these categorizations are pretty arbitrary. Books are subjective in general. I think it’s better if we just encourage the idea that no matter what age we’re looking at, there will be bad books and there will be good books. It’s up to the reader to discern what works for them.

Oh, and let’s not even get into these classicists…

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 being a children’s book but 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, and because they occur so often, they are rarely relegated sufficient thought and exploration. But 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 freaking 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 have 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. 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 practised 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 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 around three main ideas surrounding them that was repeated over and over again throughout the pages.

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

 

2017 May Reads

Alright, in an effort to liven up this blog from my incessant writing woes posts, I’m going to take a moment to talk about some of the books I’ve read this month so far. I think if I read really quickly, I might be able to read one more book before the month is up.

27833542 Story Genius by Lisa Cron

I’ve been having a lot of difficulty writing the first draft of my story, mostly because I had a hard time really writing from any of my characters’ perspectives. This book was recommended to me in response to that.

I think the most valuable lesson I learned in this book is how every story that captivates readers sufficiently is ultimately a character-driven story. I’ve read many writing books before, and some of them distinguish between “plot-driven” and “character-driven” stories. In Story Genius, Lisa Cron explains why any kind of meaningful story is actually character-driven, no matter if the plot has tons of exciting things going on.

I know, it’s not a ground-breaking concept. Even in my own reading experience, I tend to gravitate towards books where I sympathized with characters the most. And I think her explanation brings home why this is so: an event in a story (in other words, the actual plot) has very little meaning unless the character gives us a context in which to make sense of that event. So really, even your most plot-driven story, if it’s good, is actually anchored by the protagonist.

Other than that, I feel like this book doesn’t offer anything else that is truly unique that sets it apart from other writing books. I think if you’ve read other writing books before, the bulk of the book after the first several chapters would feel achingly familiar. I’ve also seen other reviewers point out that they would have liked to see actual neuroscience explored in this book. I have to agree that the title and subtitle give off a more scientific vibe than what I got. Most of the time, the author would only say things like, “it’s brain science!” or “our brains are wired to look for this and that.” Now, while that was sufficient for me, because all I wanted was to learn writing techniques, I can understand why others might be frustrated about it.

The Queen’s Thief Books 4 & 5 by Megan Whalen Turner

It’s difficult for me to review these books, because there’s just so much to say. I feel like I’m not going to say anything that haven’t been said before, which is unfortunate, because this series is my absolute favourite, and I feel as if I should be able to say something more personal about it. But I can’t, not succinctly anyway.

In A Conspiracy of Kings, we follow Sophos, the heir to the throne of Sounis, as he is sold into slavery by rebels. This book is my 2nd most frequently reread book in the entire series (yes, even more so than The Queen of Attolia, which I know is the favourite of many many fans of the series). But there’s something about Sophos’s character that just calls to me. I mean, Eugenides is impressive and amazing and I love reading about his tricks and cleverness. But Sophos feels so much more human in comparison, and more relatable in that aspect. His earnestness and even his naivety made me root for him throughout his entire journey. And I feel that because he doesn’t begin as this awe-inspiring figure in the same way Eugenides had always been, Sophos’s character arc then becomes more pronounced. The climax of this book is one of the best things I’ve ever seen, and I almost keeled over seeing how Sophos manoeuvred the difficulties of his situation.

Thick As Thieves is the much awaited (and I mean 7-year-wait) fifth book of the Queen’s Thief series. Similar to the two previous books, we have a brand new protagonist in this book: Kamet. Many people would remember Kamet from his little stint in The Queen of Attolia as the slave and secretary of the antagonist, Nahuseresh. Thick as Thieves follow Kamet’s adventure as his life as a slave is turned upside-down when he finds himself fleeing for his life from the Mede Empire. This book echoes The Thief moreso than the other three books in narration style and the types of twists that had been pulled. Much of the book is about the adventure, and very little political intrigue, unlike QoA, KoA and ACoK. Since this is just my first time reading this book (and I’m sure that like the other books in the series, this one can only get better in rereads), I have to say I’m a little underwhelmed by Kamet as a protagonist. I think I say this, because I read TaT almost as soon as I finished ACoK. And like I said above, Sophos is so, so dear to my heart, and Kamet just had very big shoes to fill. I found myself reading more for the sake of Kamet’s companion (I believe it’s a spoiler if I reveal who it is), than I did for Kamet’s sake. That said, I believe that eventually I’d warm up to Kamet like I did to Costis in KoA.

2017 Jan – Apr Books Read So Far

Ahh, well, I guess my plan of getting back into writing book reviews in the new year sort of fell through. That’s okay though, here’s a combined post of everything I’ve read so far.

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The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner
This one is a reread. The Queen’s Thief series is my favourite books series ever, but the last time I read this book was a few years ago. Because of the new installment in the series next month, I’ve joined the read-along over at Sounis.

The Thief of Eddis is captured by the Queen of Attolia when he was spying for his queen. After suffering a cruel punishment, Eugenides struggles with his identity amidst the onslaught of war and the possibility of… uhm, I don’t want to spoil it for you guys. This is a terrible overview of the plot, but each book in the Queen’s Thief series in general is difficult to summarize, because of the risk of revealing crucial plot twists.

Since my last reread, I’ve forgotten much of the intricacies of the plot. That’s why it’s probably not much of a shock that I found myself reacting to Attolia in much the same way I initially reacted to her. I hated her at first, and then by the end of the book, I just wanted to cuddle her up. I think it’s a testament to Turner’s amazing writing skills that I could undergo this transformation as a reader, not just once, but twice.

The Reader by Traci Chee
I reviewed this book in this other blog post.

Continue reading “2017 Jan – Apr Books Read So Far”