March 2017 Books

I’m still a little behind in my reading challenge, but I think I did better this month than I did in February. So let’s get right into it!

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The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud

Lucy is one of the three members of a ghost-hunting company called Lockwood and co. One day, they are asked to resolve a haunting, and Lucy unwittingly takes the Source of the ghost. But the mission turns sour and it leads their company into near ruin. They decide to solve the mystery of the ghost to attract more customers. But when a too-good-to-be-true offer comes their way, is it really the opportunity they’re waiting for or someone who has a different agenda?

Let me tell you, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The premise of ghost-busting isn’t particularly original, and the plot was quite predictable at times. However, the twist of having only children sense ghosts was part of the reason Lockwood and co. was such an entertaining group to read about. The characters were fun, empathetic, and flawed. Lucy’s narration was so smooth. It’s one of those writing styles that just really suck you into the story. The worldbuilding was clever; actually what I really love about it is that it took a common concept and just gave it a little twist, and I was really excited to see what the story will do with it.

For most of the book, one of the things I really enjoyed is the way Lucy was never considered inferior to her peers because she’s a girl. It really seemed as if everyone just had this expectation that when it comes to ghost-hunting, girls and boys were equally skilled, and nobody expected otherwise. But this sadly got subverted near the end of the book, where even Lucy was forced to admit that as a girl, she’s more sensitive. I just didn’t think this was very fair for her.

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The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang

So, we’ve all heard the likes of Delilah Bard, women who dress up in men gear. Sometimes it’s because they require the disguise to be safe, but other times simply because it suits them.

Well let me introduce you to Prince Sebastian, a prince who sometimes like to wear dresses. When I saw Shannon Hale recommend this on her Twitter, I was intrigued.

The last time I encountered a male character who wears dresses was when I watched Fushigi Yuugi. Nuriko was one of the most compelling anime characters I’ve seen to this day. I mean, look at him! His death was one of the most painful character deaths I have ever endured. (Spoiler alert for those who haven’t seen Fushigi Yuugi… but I suppose it’s a little late now.)

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I don’t usually read graphic novels (the last time I read manga was in 2014). But I got in this one really easily. The characters were cute and expressive. I really like the way Frances and Sebastian’s friendship evolved, and the eventual romance they cultivated. I also like how the conflict evolved naturally from their personal and interpersonal goals. I’m pretty sure I’m adding this to my list of comfort books.

Currently Reading

Yes, I’m still making my way steadily through The Way of Kings. It’s taking a long time. I feel bummed about it. I usually devour a Sanderson book.

Ahhh, I’ve been waiting for Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi for about a year now. I’m so excited to be reading it.

Finally, in keeping with my non-fictional historical interests, I’ve picked up Lisa Lowe’s The Intimacies of Four Continents. It’s a bit dense, but I do think it provides a different perspective of the many things we’ve come to associate about colonial period.

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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.

One of the plot twists that I was afraid of happening happened in the last 5 pages of the book, which was… erm, a bit of 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 quite an 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! 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.

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.

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 »

Leng’s 2016 Book Awards

Alrighty, it’s that time of year again! It’s time to give Imaginary Awards to books I have read in the previous year, as my tradition. I’ve been doing this since 2011 over at my LiveJournal. But I shall continue on the tradition here.

Beware: this post has spoilers in it!


Now for this year’s candidates, here’s a neat image provided by Goodreads of all the books I’ve read this year. Since I only give out awards to fiction books, I’ve faded out the non-fiction ones.

books2016-1books2016-2books2016-3Read More »