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”

Thick As Thieves ARC Contest

Oh gosh, I hope this would not come across as a school essay. The prompt for this entry is, “Why I should have an ARC.” I think I will echo most of the other entries in saying “I really need one” and “I really want one!” Hehe. But I think I will also customize my response by saying how The Queen’s Thief series in general has affected me as a person.

QT was one of the reasons I became a better reader, writer and artist. Yeah. As someone who didn’t really read much as a teen, reading QT and participating in Sounis really improved my reading skills. I used to be the kind of inactive reader who wouldn’t think twice about certain lines, and so I always missed subtle twists or nuances in stories. QT changed that. I learned how to read better, where to find clues, and how to check my perceptions. In the end, I learned how to enjoy stories all the more because my experience with QT reminds me that there’s more to discover if you just know where to look.

Becoming a better reader also made me a better writer. Even though I mostly wrote fanfiction, QT inspired me to take chances with twistier plots. And because twists require that you actually have some idea of your story’s plot, I really had to learn how to map out my stories before hand. Which is a good thing, because I used to be the kind of writer whose characters would inevitably die by tripping into plot holes. Moreover, I realized the importance of subtlety. Whereas before, all I really cared about were long, flowery internal monologues or commentaries about weather, I now enjoy writing with deceptive simplicity. And I think my stories are better when there’s actually stuff going on, not just a boastful list of thesaurus-based vocabulary.

And finally, to top off this hamburger-style essay, I would say that QT made me a better artist. Well, not even better, but I would say, it made me an artist. I wasn’t an artist for most of my life. I enjoyed drawing every now and then, but it wasn’t until I stumbled upon the QT fandom (and many other book fandoms) that I felt the need to take drawing more seriously. I really love looking at fanarts, but for many small book fandoms, there aren’t many fanarts at all. I realized that just like with fanfiction, if there’s something I wanted to see but nobody else is creating it, it’s up to me to do it! The problem was that I was a very bad artist at first. So I really had to push myself to learn art. Because if I want to see a picture of Eugenides and Irene kissing in that infamous Queen of Attolia tent scene, well too bad, nobody else would give it to me! Or how about a dandy Gen striking a really awesome pose? A buff Sophos? Gen and Irene just being dorky? These images were always in my head, and I wanted to see them manifest in real life. I wanted to share them, and squee with other fangirls about my ideas. I don’t think I would have worked half as hard at being an artist if it wasn’t for QT.

I don’t know if any of these things really justify why I deserve an ARC, haha, and I definitely don’t think I deserve one any more than other fans. But I guess I just want to say that I love, love, love this series so much, not only because of the wonderful characters –who now seem a little more than just imaginary friends — or the amazing plot twists, but also because of the positive influence it had on me.