Tuesday, September 2, 2014

[Recap] YA Book Buzz @ Kinokuniya - National Bookshop Day 2014

I normally never get the opportunity to attend a book event--it's either work or school, too early or too late or too far or just somehow otherwise inconvenient to get out there to meet the authors. But not this time! Stroke of luck: my boss told me to take the day off work, so I quickly RSVP'd and ended up going with a couple of fellow book-loving friends.

We entered Kinokuniya at roughly 11:30 am, drinks from the Starbucks downstairs in hand, only to be faced with a panel of authors overlooking about five rows of chairs. Luckily we got to sit down (a few people had to stand along the sidelines) and enjoy our drinks while the crew set up the mics and the authors talked amongst themselves. They looked quite excited to be there, the audience, ditto.

A couple of minutes passed before the host hopped up on stage and started things up. The authors bantered about who should speak first: Garth Nix eagerly nominated Wanda Wiltshire, who admits that this is her second book event, but her first with a considerable crowd. She passionately described her novel, Betrothed, which is about not just romantic love (it is NOT just a romance novel!), but love of all kinds. I had never even heard of her book before, but it was a treat to listen to her talk about her book, as well as her sequel, Allegiance. She finished up with some book recommendations--anything by Melina Marchetta and the Shiver trilogy by Maggie Stiefvater.

Garth Nix took the mic next, much to Wanda Wiltshire's relief (Garth: don't worry, we'll get back to you). He was a bit sick but still very charismatic and funny. Unfortunately I only remember his recommendation of Rogues, a collection of short stories about rogues written by the likes of George R.R. Martin, Gillian Flynn, himself (Garth Nix) and Neil Gaiman, and Howl's Moving Castle and all other works by Diana Wynn Jones.

Next up, Margo Lanagan, who I was pretty excited to meet since her books probably interested me the most. She describes her books as 'dark fantasy' and mentions that her next book will also be a selkie novel, but even darker and more messed up than Sea Hearts (The Brides of Rollrock Island). She makes light of the fact that her previous books have run into trouble in the past for being filth (Them: Is this the kind of filth that kids should be reading these days? Margo: Yes!). Her biggest recommendation was Joyce Carol Oates.

Last to speak was Justine Larbalestier, who was wearing an incredibly snazzy coat. Her new release, Razorhurst, sounds so good, it was pretty hard for me not to get a copy of it for myself (both my friends did, so I will have to borrow later on). I can't remember what she recommended, but she did add on to one of Margo's (Careful, He Might Hear You by
). (Apparently the dialogue is amazing; Justine wrote Razorhurst from her reading of that book to better understand the period and how to write good dialogue.)

Then it was time for questions!

I had intended to get a copy of Tender Morsels for the longest time, so I finally got it and it's mine and she signed it and she was lovely. I'm kind of really really frugal and money-conscious, so I did not end up buying a book from every author on the panel (I did feel bad about it when I only went up to get a signature from Margo!). If I had prepared a little more and KNEW that there would be author signings I would have brought my copy of Zombies vs. Unicorns, Team Human and Sea Hearts. My friends made up for it though since they went nuts.

Anyway, I had an awesome time and I was extremely glad that I was able to attend. Let me know if any of you guys attended too! I would love to have more reading buddies for Tender Morsels... and also for Garth Nix's Abhorsen series (I've preordered the pretty new cover editions! :D)!

PS. I know I'm super late with posting my recap of this book event. I'm going to try and be more up to date with the goings-on with bookish stuff, including book events.

PPS. I will be having a giveaway in the near-ish future. Something Garth Nix related! :D <3

PPPS. I am EXTREMELY sorry for the lack of posts and presence lately! Blogging is, and always will be strictly a hobby for me, so in the grand scheme of things it'll never be up there on my priority list. Work's been crazy, life's been crazy, you know how it can be. I'll be flitting from one full-time job to another very soon, so I have no idea what's to come in the future (as usual).

Monday, August 4, 2014

[Review] Bitterblue (#3) by Kristin Cashore

(#3, Graceling Realm)
Graceling | Fire | Bitterblue

Publication (dd/mm/yyyy): 18/09/2013 (pb)
Publisher: Firebird
Pages: 608
Source: Bought
Genre: YA (14+) - Fantasy

Violence | Sexual ContentProfanity
My Rating:

My thoughts

First, let me preface by saying that it's been a month and a half since I finished reading this book and I barely wrote any of my initial thoughts and feelings afterward, simply because I didn't even know what to say or think. This series, and author, has been a major influence on me as a reader. Graceling was my first venture into high fantasy young adult fiction. It was one of the longest books that I'd allowed myself to be engrossed in from start to finish. Kristin Cashore was also the first author I'd ever met in person and gotten signed personally. So you could say that my writing this review saddens me is entirely correct. Because after this, there is nothing more. It's like recovering from a really good TV show, something that has moved you in more ways than you can even begin to understand. The Graceling books will always hold a very special place in my heart, of that I can be sure. So for all the reasons mentioned above, I'm pretty sure this review is going to be sloppy and not really any good at all, but it's important for me that I write this.

If you've already read Cashore's first two books, Graceling and Fire, you'll already have a firm understanding of her writing style and just how she weaves her characters into her slower-paced story, and for Bitterblue this is also true. Cashore writes beautifully and allows the reader to fully immerse him/herself into this rich world that she has created and built upon. The characters are such a delight to return to. I love that characters that were the focal point in the previous novels fulfill lesser roles in this book, but they also matter a great deal and we learn even more about them in a new perspective (Bitterblue's). Like Katsa and Po, who are definitely really important to Bitterblue and vice versa. They rescued her, and we never really got to know more about Bitterblue in Graceling, or how she felt about it all, about her sheltered world changing forever. This book sheds so much light on that; it was so very interesting to follow how everything connects from that book.

Bitterblue is now the queen of Monsea. She signs countless amounts of papers every day as part of her duty as the queen, with her royal servants and her father's advisers by her side. For a young lady of eighteen, this life bores her. So she does what any suffocating sheltered girl would do: she sneaks out and discovers a secret life in the streets, learning more about her father Leck's terrible reign in the story rooms and meeting some new friends who may just be her undoing. Even after Leck's death, the resonances in his ruling are still prominent, and then she learns what's really happening in her castle that will force her to take risks that will change everything.

This book is chock-full of politics. If that's your game, then this book will be a massive treat for you. I'm admittedly not so into politics, and found myself lost in it a little bit, however I still found this book extremely interesting and was never too bored. The plot is unsurprisingly much more complex than the previous two books, which only proves the genius and patience of Cashore (it took her AGES to get this book to how it is now). I loved the more action-filled scenes, as well as the quieter scenes that built upon the characters and their relations with one another. Cashore managed to bring out the emotional aspects that come with everything that happens in the story brilliantly, while also maintaining a steady pace that escalates as the plot thickens.

I loved Bitterblue. I admired her desire to always do good by others. I admired her intelligence, her loyalty and pursuit for knowledge, no matter how painful it may be. The fact that she's gone through so much throughout her miserable childhood and she's had a massive amount of pressure and responsibility pushed onto her so suddenly and at such a young age, and she wants to be the queen that her mother would be proud of and the kind of queen worthy of that title... she was a very likeable character.

All the other characters make an appearance in some way or other in this book: whether it is from memory or story (in the case of Leck), or by actual presence and involvement (in the case of nearly all the other characters from the previous books). And I liked that they weren't just static: Katsa and Po had more issues and battles to fight. I liked that they never took over the importance of Bitterblue's story, but that they also took on a life of their own.

More than any other 'new' character, Thiel made the largest impact on me. His story is so very tragic, and it's obvious that he cares for Bitterblue a great deal, right to the bitter end. He's such a sympathetic character, and yet it's a conflicted kind of love that I feel for him in the end, even after all he's been through. Cashore explores the shades of grey in every character's personality and background-- it's just awesome. Major thumbs up for character devleopment, Cashore!

The budding relationship between Bitterblue and Saf is incredibly sweet and lovely and just such a treat to watch. I loved the secrets and lies and games that play on between the two of them: she a queen (in disguise), he a notorious thief. I loved their dialogue and exchanges, the tension between them, the dynamic nature of their relationship in the face of their circumstances.

Bitterblue is a conclusion more than I could have asked for or expected. It took me just under a month to complete this beast. This may be the end of the series, but the story and the characters will live on in my mind, until I decide to re-read the entire trilogy (for this is definitely one trilogy I will be coming back to sometime in the future!). There were so many twists and turns that left me a little dizzy (from memory), so I will surely want to give this a re-read, more than the others, just so that I can truly understand it all. Regardless, I am extremely glad that I can finally close in on this trilogy. I am extremely glad that I decided to give this series a chance in the first place (I wish I could remember whose review it was that pushed me to reading it). There's nothing really more for me to say, other than the love that I feel for this trilogy is more than words can truly describe.

First lines: When he grabs Mama's wrist and yanks her toward the wall-hanging like that, it must hurt. Mama doesn't cry out. She tries to hide her pain from him, but she looks at me, and in her face, she shows me everything she feels. If Father knows she's in pain and is showing me, Father will take Mama's pain away and replace it with something else.

Favourites: "The more I see and hear, the more I realize how much I don't know.”


AUSTRALIA: Angus and Robertson | Basement Books ($5!) | Booktopia | The Nile

INTERNATIONAL: AbeBooks | Fishpond | Book Depository

I purchased this book with my own money. All opinions written here are my own.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

[Review] Hold Still by Nina LaCour

Publication (dd/mm/yyyy): 25/09/2009
Publisher: Dutton
Pages: 230
Source: Won
Genre: YA (14+)

Violence | Sexual ContentProfanity

Book Tunes
Passenger - Let Her Go

My Rating: 
Powerful and moving.
My thoughts

In one word: engrossing. I kind of felt like, after the last page I wanted even more. I found that I wasn't finished with the characters, I wanted to stay with them for a while longer but LaCour had decided that their stories were done, and that made me kind of sad and want more. But that's kind of what happens when an author has just done something really right: when equal amounts of satisfaction and longing are felt by the reader when he/she reads that last page.

I came into this book expecting something dark, somber, emotional, deep, hard to swallow. It was all of these things, but what I wasn't expecting so much was the hope that followed. Yes, LaCour brings to light the extremely debilitating effects that grief and loss has following a young girl's suicide (for the one left behind), but the after can be a major up and down roller-coaster journey. I loved following Caitlin's journey.

The romance was quite sweet, but thinking about it it was a bit weird. The whole outcast girl/popular guy thing sometimes gels with me, sometimes it doesn't. I thought their interactions were nice but as a whole it never clicked with me. The good thing is it doesn't matter all that much to me. I was able to take it all at face value and appreciate the aw factor of it all without needing to really believe it.

Something extra special about this book is that it includes journal entries (from the dead girl, Ingrid). The journal entries were such a treat to read. I absolutely love reading journal entries in fiction. These raw, startling entries that provided glimpses into the working mind of Ingrid. She shares every little thing that she was too scared to share even to her best friend Caitlin, who suffers from immense guilt following a suicide that should have been prevented. A girl that she should have been able to help. I felt that it was important that the author include this, that the overall messages wouldn't have been nearly as impacting had there not been some way of expressing Ingrid's point of view and her frame of mind as she was leading up to her suicide.

Furthermore, this book is unbelievably bittersweet. The range of emotions that Caitlin handles during the course of her story is just handled so well. LaCour explores the journey of grief, acceptance, first love, growing up, extremely well and without it feeling forced. It felt genuine and almost as though it came from something within the author herself, like a memory.

Overall, I absolutely adore this book and can't wait to venture into more of LaCour's writing. In fact I've already bought her other books and plan to read them in the summer. Despite the subject matter I found this to be a truly absorbing read; rather than completely drain me to the point where I should have only been able to read a chapter at a time, I was so so invested in everything that I needed to keep reading on. I needed to know what was going to happen to all of the characters. Just love. Go and get it!


First lines: "I watch drops of water fall from the ends of my hair. They streak down my towel, puddle on the sofa cushion. My heart pounds so hard I can feel it in my ears.
   "Sweetheart. Listen.""

Favourite quotes: “It was the moment I realized what music can do to people, how it can make you hurt and feel so good all at once.”

AUSTRALIA: Booktopia | BookWorld

INTERNATIONAL: AbeBooks | Fishpond | Book Depository

I have received this review copy in return for an honest review.

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