August 2018 Books

And it’s time for my monthly reading recap! I’m proud to say I actually did well this August. At the beginning of the month, I was 4 books behind my Goodreads Reading challenge, and now I’m one book ahead. To be fair, two of these “books” were comic volumes, but hey, I needed the boost.

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To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis

Aaand, starting us off, we have a sci-fi classic! To Say Nothing of the Dog is about a bunch of historians who time-travel, and find themselves pulling forward into the future an member of an extinct species: a cat! And before this destroys the time-space continuum, Ned Henry and Verity Kindle must return the  cat and fix the incongruities they’ve introduced.

This was a lot of fun! Although I found the beginning quite tedious and a little difficult to get into, once you pass the quarter mark, it gets very entertaining. And the end offers a really pleasant twist that you might not have seen coming. (Not the butler though; I saw the butler thing coming, hehe.)

13190596The Governess Affair by Courtney Milan

A year ago, I read the first book in Courtney Milan’s “Brothers Sinister” series, “The Duchess War,” and ended up thoroughly enjoying it even though it was one of the rare times I ventured out of my SFF comfort zone. Earlier this year, I read the follow-up novella, and this time, I was up for a short, fun fluffy romance after the roller-coaster ride I got with To Say Nothing of the Dog. And I was already confident that Courtney Milan’s style and characterization would give me what I was looking for, so I went ahead and read the prequel novella. It did not disappoint! I think I will do something really unusual and read this entire romance series.

Mythspace Vol. 1 and 2 by Paolo Chikiamco

Mythspace is a 3-volume graphic novel about a young man who discovers that the folklore his grandmother used to tell him are actually true! But not in the way he thought it would be. This graphic novel reimagines Filipino folklore in an SFF setting, showcasing mythological creatures from the manananggal, to the capre, and laho. I really enjoyed reading these two volumes, and I was a little sad to find that the volumes aren’t being sold anymore at Kobo.

8511599Eskrima: Filipino Martial Art by Krishna Godhania

I started reading this a few months back, because I needed an introduction to Filipino combat system as part of the research for my story. At first, I was a little skeptical of this book, and it seemed like it made assumptions about its audience (specifically, that you’ll be male, as there was a scene the author asks you to envision, where you might need to use self-defence when you’re out at night with a member of the opposite gender and you guys somehow come across sketchy people who have bad intentions towards your date — needless to say the image that popped in my head was probably not the one the author intended).

But apart from the introduction, I found his explanation of Filipino martial-arts system incredibly detailed and helpful. I don’t think it would substitute the knowledge you gain by actually signing up for classes (which I’m hoping I get to do soon), but there is enough, I believe, to get a writer on a pretty good path to describing how FMA works in fighting scenes. There are also dozens of helpful images and diagrams as well.

33230889The Good Daughter by Karin Slaughter

So, so, so. I was working on finishing off my 3rd draft this month, but I found myself lacking the creativity to keep up the tension in my scenes. So I decided I should probably read some thrillers or mysteries to figure out how to keep good tension.

The Good Daughter is the first mystery/thriller book I’ve ever read, and it really gives you what you’re looking for. As soon as I started reading it, I couldn’t put it down. I read it in a day. I even stayed up until 2 in the morning reading it (that hasn’t happened since I was reading Six of Crows / Crooked Kingdom).

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PSF11 Launch, 07/18 Camp NaNoWriMo Overview and Other Updates

This post is a month overdue, but I was too busy crunching in my word counts for Camp NaNoWriMo to write this.

Without further ado, Philippine Speculative Fiction Vol. 11 is out now!

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It’s been a long time coming. This volume has been in the works for almost 2 years, and I am so, so honoured that the piece I submitted was accepted. My short story is called The Goddess of Debt and it’s about a young woman who is unexpectedly chosen to be a human sacrifice. Yikes, I know that sounds a little morbid, but the story isn’t really about the sacrifice, as it is about the Goddess who offers her a way out, and about whether she will take it or not.

For those of you who may not be familiar with the PSF series, it is an annual anthology that celebrates speculative fiction written by Filipinos about Filipinos for anyone at all who is interested in the genre. It’s one of the few avenues out there that brings Filipino stories out to the world. The good news for you is that all the stories in the anthologies are written in English. So please support it if you can! It would mean a lot to me, whose piece is the first original fiction I’ve written that has ever been published, and to the producers of the anthology who work tirelessly year after year to serve an underserved area of fiction.


And on to Camp NaNoWriMo…

For those of you who have followed my blog for at least a year now, you probably noticed that I try to participate in as many as NaNoWriMos as I can. It’s because it really motivates me to just write down my story. Another reason why I join is because I get an excuse to write about my writing! Writing is such a solitary process, but when you’re part of a program that you know hundreds of thousands of other people are also doing, it makes the experience a little more social.

This month, as I tried to churn out those 50K words while real life was trying its hardest to prevent me from doing so (I swear, it really seemed like it was), I’ve come to realize how much I appreciated the messages written by the camp counsellors. These are real writers who take the time out of their lives to give us newbies (or seasoned — depending on where you are in your career during NaNo) some tips and tricks, as well as kind words to keep us going. Sometimes, I would come home and feel like I don’t even want to open up my word document, or I’d start to lose heart in my story (again), but I would see one of these messages in my inbox, and I’d have the strength to just put down maybe a few hundred words.

So I would like to share with you some of the messages that really helped me this month.

From author Claire Kann:

One of the hardest parts of drafting is getting to The End! While drafting do you prefer to revise as you go, rereading and polishing your previous day’s work before moving on? Or do you prefer to write out of order as the scenes come to you and connect the dots later? Personally, I am a zero drafter. I word-vomit the entire story in chronological order, not stopping to fix anything. There are multiple ways to draft, and no one way is going to work for everyone. It’s important to find a method that works best for you.

And what do you know, I’m a “word-vomiter” too!

From author Kristin Chen:

Just as important as writing every day (or as close to it as you can manage) is reading every day. I read as much as I can, and broadly, too, not just research for my work-in-progress. In my experience, it’s often the books that resemble yours the least that end up unlocking something in your writing. And when this happens, it’s a wonderful reminder of how mysterious and magical this whole process is—and how lucky we are to be writers.

I don’t read every day, nor do I write every day when it’s not NaNoWriMo. (Can you imagine? I have a full-time programming job, and my hobbies include reading, writing and drawing. Practitioners of all 4 of these get told to do these things everyday! I’d be dead if I were to try that!) But I do appreciate Kristin Chen’s advice that we shouldn’t avoid reading when we’re writing, because it’s food for your creativity!

Here’s a bit from Gloria Chao:

Everyone’s process is different so listen to your gut: if you’re not feeling it today, it’s okay if you don’t hit your word count. Take a break, read, relax, and come back when you’re refreshed. You can make up for these days later when you’re more on a roll. And remember: it’s not about the number but the work you’ve put in, which sometimes can’t be easily quantified.

I always have an equivalent metric for the word count, like number of chapters or the part of the story that I should reach by a certain date. It helps me contextualize that this isn’t about the word count, but about helping you reach the milestones in your story.

And finally, from Jessica Strawser:

I once had the privilege of interviewing Patricia Cornwell—who was adamant that insecurity can be good for a writer. “I’ll be honest,” she said. “When somebody has written their first novel and they tell me how fantastic it is, I know it’s probably not very good. It’s usually the person who says, ‘I’m not sure what I think…’ and then you look at the thing and go, ‘Now that is really special.’ So it’s not bad to be a little insecure. It makes you work harder and pay attention.” When I’m pushing through a draft and that hopeless feeling creeps in, I remember this. Feeling uncertain could be a sign of real magic! You’ll never know if you don’t see it through.

You guys know me. Y’all have seen all my Writing Woes posts. I have major angst about my novel. Knowing that it’s okay to feel uncertain about your story makes me more hopeful that it’s probably not as bad as it might seem.


So where does this get me?

This camp helped me get to the midpoint of my 3rd draft. I really want to finished the 3rd draft before fall, so I will take a few days break, write the outline for the rest of the story, and use August to finish it off. I am hoping that after a little bit of tidying up and editing, I can start letting other people read my story to get some feedback.

In the meantime, I’ll be working on my online presence. I usually drop off the face of the earth when I’m doing NaNoWriMo, but I know I need to improve my reach if I want to get some feedback for my story. I’ll be reworking my website, probably spend a bit more time blogging, and of course, there’s always my Schoolism assignments to help me generate original artwork to post.

Here’s a question for you guys. What are you more interested in seeing? Do you want to see more posts about my story? About the writing process? What I’m reading? The research? How about posts that are more collaborative, you know, something that doesn’t scream ‘Me, Me, Me’ like all my posts do? Lol. Let me know, because I have a hard time gauging the interests of people. If it were left up to me, I’d just talk about my story. But I know that there are people who don’t like that, because the story should speak for itself, and once the story is out there, nothing the author says about it that isn’t written as canon ever really matters.

So, yup, let me know!

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?

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.

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