TOP TEN TUESDAYS | Not What I Thought

I feel like I made a list like this before. But I’m too lazy to check the rest of my posts so we’re still doing this!

TopTenTues

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday is the Top Ten Books I Loved Less/More than I Thought I Would.

While it didn’t take me long to end up with this list, it was kind of difficult to come up with it. I’m a mood reader and quite picky at that. I don’t usually veer away from genres that I know I like. And I do extensive research even before putting a book as “to-read”. If I don’t like the sound of the blurb, I probably won’t pick it up.

But for those that made the cut, my expectations aren’t always spot on. For some, I liked it more that I thought I would and that’s awesome. Yet for those that I expected to like but ended up not liking, well… the disappointment is real. So why not we start with those.

BOOKS THAT I LIKED LESS THAN I THOUGHT I WOULD (this GIF pretty much describes my feelings about these books):

Trivia: Rei is my favorite character from “Free!”; then Makoto.

  • Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes. I’m still not over this. This is the book that disappointed me the most. In all my life. I feel like I should be inserting that Tyra Banks gif here instead. I mean, to begin with, my expectation wasn’t that high. But that hook, man. Half-boy, half-deer carcass found in the woods? Criminal Minds should be wheels up in 30. Then it became this magical realism BS that is just so ridiculous. No. Unhauled faster than I hauled it.
  • I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga. Same reason as above, really. The premise was A+ but it ended up being a C. At least to me. I was excited that it was a series but I’m not continuing on with it.
  • To All the Boys I Loved Before by Jenny Han. See, I went in to this prepared for cheese and bubbles and  a lot of eye-rolling. I already knew that I wasn’t going to sing its praises. But when I read this… geez. I originally rated this a 3 but the more I thought about it, I actually hate this book. Then this standalone is now a trilogy. Wow.
  • Snow Like Ashes by Sara RaaschThis wasn’t particularly bad. I just had high hopes for this book and everything in it. And it disappointed me at every turn. The writing wasn’t good, the world building is the most convoluted thing ever, the magic system had potential but none of the characters were good enough to embody it. The best thing about it is the love triangle. There you go.
  • A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas. Wow. It’s Twilight time all over again. Prior to picking up this book, I’ve never held a SJM book in my hands. I finally gave in to the pressure but I had low expectations, regardless of the glowing reviews this book has on Goodreads and everywhere. Dang, this is totally guilty pleasure read. And even with that mindset, this was laughably disappointing. Bordering on bad. Fae is not my thing. But you know what, I kind of want to continue with this series.

BOOKS THAT I LIKED MORE THAN I THOUGHT I WOULD (yes, Viktor — I love them too):

  • Legend trilogy by Marie Lu. I read the entire trilogy and two graphic novels last year. It was already an old trilogy filled with the dystopian tropes that avid YA dystopian readers are used to. But I wasn’t one of them and I loved this trilogy so damn much. I was able to have Champion personalized and signed by the author not too long ago.
  • Eon duology by Alison Goodman. I knew next to nothing about this book when I bought it. But my brother read it and he said it was okay. No, it was more than okay. I loved it. Enough to marathon the whole thing. Lost sleep even.
  • Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson. No one is more surprised than myself. Contemporary is not my thing but I enjoyed this one so darn much. It was cute and it came in the perfect time in my life. It wasn’t super cheesy and I loved the playlists.
  • The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion. Talk about going in blind. I bought this book because I needed something to read on a long-ish wait. And it was $1.99 at Goodwill. But I loved this book. LOVED IT.
  • Lexicon by Max Barry. It’s more like I’m surprised at the strong urge to re-read this book. I’ve been meaning to re-read this for about a year now. I knew nothing about this book when I picked it up but the story stuck with me. I can’t remember particulars but I remember how creative this story is and it’s so smart. I hope I can get to this book again this year.

Notice the anime gifs in my posts? Yep. It’s taking over my life again. I should do an anime version of this topic. 😉

#T5W | Favorite Non-Written Novels

This week, we are talking about favorite non-written novels.

118368

Manga, audio books, graphic novels. That looks like my 2016 reading pattern. I rediscovered all three last year. I mean, I’ve read my share of comics growing up but I never read more than two in one sitting. Now, I realized that I prefer manga over graphic novels and comics. And I tend to enjoy sci-fi mystery thriller audio books. Nothing else holds my attention long enough for me to tune it out without getting lost. But I’ve found some. And I hope to find more.

I was tempted to fill this list with manga but I already have several posts about that here and here. They also feature heavily in my wrap-ups later last year. I mean, they’re a good way to catch up to your GoodReads reading goal. Same with graphic novels. But I really enjoy manga more. Reading sequential art from right to left is more natural to me. It’s confuses me so much when I go back to graphic novels and then I just end up putting it down. As much as I enjoy superheroes and fantastical beings in panels, I much prefer my big-eyed adorable boys and girls of manga.

But that I not to say I don’t have any graphic novels in this list. Read on to find out!

  • [GRAPHIC NOVEL] Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples. I enjoyed this from the first page of the first volume to the last page of the sixth. I’m sure you already know what this is about so I won’t go on about it. While set in a fictional outer space with aliens, the story and their struggles feel so human. And it is just so funny. You can’t help but root for these characters. Even those who you would initially view as a bad guy. I can’t wait for the next volume. Then I’ll read it in 20 minutes. Sigh.
  • [GRAPHIC NOVEL] LegendThe Graphic Novel by Marie Lu, Leigh Dragoon, and Kaari. This served as a perfect catch-up when I read the trilogy last year. I read the Legend graphic novel before I started Prodigy then that book’s graphic novel adaptation before I read Champion. To see what Day looked like… so good! And you bet I pre-ordered the Champion graphic novel. It’s set to be released in April.
  • [MANGA] One-Punch Man by ONE. That’s the page on the right. Yes, Saitama, our hero pictured right there on the bottom, looks like that – and no, he doesn’t look like that really. That’s part of his charm. The strongest “heroism-as-a-hobby” hero. He’s surrounded by a bunch of characters who are equally funny and endearing. Everyone is a foil to each other. They all have their own out-of-this-world powers and abilities that make them special. And while you’re at it, go watch the anime. It’ll be so worth it. English or Japanese, they’re equally funny.
  • [MANGA] Black Butler by Yana Toboso. I had a tough time choosing another manga for this list. Everything I’ve read so far has been so good. But I have to mention Black Butler. I exclusively watched the entirety of the anime not too long ago but I’ve always wanted to read the manga. And now I’m reading it and I can’t stop thinking about it. I’m tempted to just sit down and marathon through everything but I don’t want to burn myself out. Anime goes by faster so it’s easier to digest. The manga is still on-going after all so I’m in no hurry to catch up. Having watched the anime first, I have the characters’ Japanese voices in my head as I read. Especially Finnian because he was voiced by one of my favorite seiyuu, Yuuki Kaji. I can’t with the English dub, sorry.

  • [AUDIO BOOK] Any James Rollins book on audio. I’m currently in the middle of The Bone Labyrinth, narrated by Christian Baskous. I’m enjoying it a lot. He’s doing a good job with giving each character a different voice or accent. I previously listened to Sandstorm and Subterranean narrated by John Meagher. He is my favorite of all the narrators so far. Now that Goodreads counts re-reads, I’m definitely going to listen to the other Sigma Force books that I already read. I’m so familiar with James Rollins’ style of storytelling that I can afford to dedicate half my attention to it without getting lost. And I love his Sigma Force characters. I am still going to read physical copies when I feel like it but right now, HOOPLA has so many of his work on audio so I’ll be pretty busy on that front for a while.

Question: Where do you guys get your audio books? I want to explore this medium and while Hoopla has been a very good resource, I’m curious to see where else you get it. I do have some titles on Audible. What books can you recommend? YA or Fantasy. I’m not much for contemporary. But mystery thrillers are always welcome. Thanks!

Review: Rad Women Worldwide, Written by Kate Schatz, Illustrated by Miriam Klein Stahl

Beyonce has said that “girls run the world”. And I believe we do. We can be anything we want to be. If this list of women doesn’t inspire you, I don’t know what will.

I mentioned the great Beyonce. She is not in this book. But the great women who inspired her are featured here. I imagine future volumes would eventually include her and the rest of Destiny’s Child, maybe Hillary Clinton (regardless of what you think of her politically), Oprah, and Emma Watson too. Hey, maybe we can see 2ne1 too. A fangirl could dream.

This list has 40 great women from 30 different countries. Some of them are household names, some not really. But all of them impacted the world, empowered men and women, raised their voices and took action. They used their knowledge and talents to fight for change not just for women. We all know Malala Yousafzai who fought for education. A bullet to the head didn’t stop her from speaking out. Fe del Mundo, the first female who was accepted to the Harvard Medical School. A Filipina. She then devoted her entire life to children healthcare. Marta, a Brazilian futebol player who didn’t let poverty and her short stature from achieving greatness in the sport. And of course, my favorites Venus & Serena Williams who at 35 and 36, dominated this year’s Australian Open as runner-up and winner respectively. It boggles my mind why up to this day, they still have to fight to get the recognition they so truly deserve. There is absolutely no question that these sisters are already two of the best in history of sport.

The artwork in this book is intense. There ink drawings, black and white; some of them are just silhouettes. Their simplicity reflects somewhat of a subdued power, sort of a tribute to this amazing women and letting their actions speak for them. The descriptions in a form of essays are short but very well researched. They’re capsules of information but they are enough for the reader to realize how extremely amazing these women are.

I recommend this book to everyone, male or female, young or old. Maybe you’ll see yourself in these women and it’ll inspire you to do more. Who knows, maybe it’ll be you up there someday.

Rating: 5/5. I’ve never read something so empowering. Thank you, Blogging for Books, for the opportunity to read this and share it with others.

AUTHOR SIGNING: STEPHANIE GARBER | Caraval

Yup, two author signing days in a row!

Jessica Cluess and Stephanie Garber

Jessica Cluess and Stephanie Garber

And I almost didn’t make it to this signing. Yeah, Vroman’s Bookstore advertised this event on Facebook to start at 7PM. I got to the area at around 6-ish and decided to have dinner first. Literally, as soon as the food got to my table, the Vroman’s Instagram went LIVE with a feed of the panel. So I packed up, paid an unnecessarily large tip (which I regret now but I felt bad for the restaurant), and went over to the bookstore.

I missed quite a bit of the conversation so I’m afraid I can’t share much with you guys on that regard. From what I was able to catch, Stephanie Garber shared her road to publication. Living above her parents’ garage, working a part-time job, she wrote five previous novels before making it big with Caraval. That same morning, she received the news that her book debuted at #2 on the New York Times best seller list. CONGRATULATIONS!

Jessica Cluess, author of A Shadow Bright and Burning was there too. (And I also spotted S. Jae-Jones and Roshani Chokshi.) She asked the questions and shared something that I really appreciated. She talked of how surreal it was to release a book at a place that you either frequented when young or somewhere you worked at previously. She shared her experience when she held her book release at Barnes & Noble at The Grove. She said she used to work and she met classmates or co-workers there. It was so special to her to be the visiting author this time around rather than an employee or patron. That warmed my heart.

The Q&A portion was a blur to me. It was rather spoilery and I admit, I haven’t even flipped through the pages of this book. Hee! Soon. I promise. Someone asked a question about dresses to wear to Caraval and Stephanie’s answer was a ball gown made of huge red roses. I love red and I can so picture that dress. I want one. 😉

wp-1486689687731.png

I love Stephanie’s energy. She was all smiles all the time. You can see her excitement about her book and how she just really likes to write. And I was so happy for her. When it came my time to have my book signed, I couldn’t help but be so excited. She lit up the whole room and it was genuine. She complimented my phone case (it was the Evil Queen and Maleficent talking a selfie together).

Overall, it was a great, and very YA two days. Keep ’em coming, Vroman’s Bookstore!

AUTHOR SIGNING: S. JAE-JONES | Wintersong

And I also met Roshani Chokshi, Marie Lu, and Leigh Bardugo at the same event.

(L-R) Roshani Chokshi, S. Jae-Jones, Marie Lu

(L-R) Roshani Chokshi, S. Jae-Jones, Marie Lu

Guys, while the Lord of the Rings cast is still my #friendshipgoals, author friendships come a close second. This author event became so much more than a book birthday and signing because of the relationship among these three gorgeous women.

Once again, many thanks to Vroman’s Bookstore in Old Town Pasadena for hosting this event. Support your local independent bookstore, people, they’re seriously awesome. It is definitely one of my favorite places in Pasadena and I’m so happy that many authors love this place too. Plus I live so close so… yay!

Anyway, it’s been a long minute since my last author event. I think it wasn’t even a legit author event. It was the VE Schwab panel at WonderCon 2016, if I remember correctly. Then, nothing. Sigh, for someone who read 80 books last year, my overall events list was lacking.  Continue reading

WORD VOMIT: A Court of Thorns and Roses

I have one but I can’t be bothered with a written book journal right now. Plus, typing is faster.

Go Genos, go!!!

Go Genos, go!!!

Backstory: I know this is one of the most hyped books and authors of the past few years. But I’ve never ever physically picked up a Sarah J. Maas book until I saw it on a Target run a month ago. And it was for $8. I would pick it up and set it back down again. Then yesterday, work stress got the better of me and I finally bought it. I started reading it this morning (2/3/2017) and I’m about a third of the way through. That’s pretty fast for me.

I’m torn. I do like Beauty and the Beast, the Disney version as well as the original. And this being a loose retelling, I’m not expecting it to follow the events of the original. I’m not much for retellings but if it’s done good, it’s good. After all, the Disney ones are technically retellings also. I know the story of Beauty and the Beast better than the other retellings that I read. But… I am finding the decisions made and directions taken in this book a bit (lot) problematic.

(May contain potential spoilers. You are warned.)

Again, I’m a good chunk in but who is Feyre? Really. I know that 1st person POVs don’t talk about themselves a lot but I know next to nothing about her. I have a good idea of what Tamlin looks like — your typical romance novel Fabio. The three of them – Feyre, Tamlin, and Lucien – remind me of an anime dynamic. Tamlin and Lucien are two sides of the same coin and then Feyre is this newcomer trying to figure them out. Tamlin’s and Lucien’s characters are so developed that I can probably figure out a backstory and continuation on my own. But Feyre? I had to look up crude fanart just to figure out what she looked like. Emphasis on crude.

Each chapter is like a day in a life of Feyre. And it’s all the same every time: she eats with the two, she refuses help from Tamlin when clearly he’s willing to help, she goes to Lucien just to piss Tamlin off, then plans to escape even though she has no clue as to where she is and how she got there. I admire the tenacity but… stubborn much? Your family doesn’t care about you even if you cared for them. It seemed that she was more honor-bound than actually doing it out of the goodness of her heart. From her, I got the “I want out but my mom said I stay” vibe but at the same time, she had nothing good to say about her mom. Huh? And she never told her father and sisters about it. She just accepted their greed and awfulness. Boo-hoo. Then what?

Also, is this YA or adult? I’m asking because I tend to get into a reading mood. If it’s YA, I go into a YA mode. I tend to be more forgiving. Then again, I was told this has adult themes. (And yes, I flipped through and happened on that part.)

But despite all of that… I am enjoying this. Very much. Sort of like how you would enjoy a guilty pleasure read. That’s why I’m torn. Do I rate this because my knee-jerk reaction is that I like it? Or do I sit down and think about how problematic things are and give it a lower rating?

Hashtag: Reader Problems.

Let’s talk about this. I needed to let this out.

WRAP-UP | JANUARY 2017

LE NOUVEL

One month down, eleven more to go. Unlike the previous months, I am not listening to an audio book at this moment. I recently finished one yesterday and now I’m at a loss. What do I read next? There’s so many audio books on Hoopla. How does one pick? I mean, I can continue listening to James Rollins but I had the sudden urge to actually READ The Eye of God instead of listening to it. Decisions… decisions.

So far, I’ve been working my way through the James Rollins audio books on Hoopla. I guess I’ll be listening to The Bone Labyrinth then. (I have a feeling I have a copy of Bloodlines and/or The Eye of God in the mess I call “my room” somewhere.) Sci-fi mystery thrillers are definitely my audio book genre so if you have any suggestions, let me know. They might end up in future wrap-ups. But here’s my January wrap-up. How about we start the year with good numbers, ei…

TOTAL BOOKS READ: 11.

  • The Final Empire (Mistborn #1) by Brandon Sanderson – Okay, I sort of cheated on this one. I read most of it in December but finished it on January 3rd. That counts! I fell in love, guys. It’s totally worth the hype. It’s a great read for people who love fantasy and those who are new to it. I loved all the characters and was genuinely rooting for them. Hopefully, I get to finish the rest of the trilogy by June. New favorite. 5/5 stars.
  • One-Punch Man Volumes 4 & 5 by ONE – Mumen Rider holds a special place in my heart. Puri-puri Prisoner is just… special. 5/5 stars for both.
  • sweetness & lightning Volumes 3 by Gido Amagakure – I realize that I enjoy the anime more because I can see them cooking instead of just reading about it. I don’t actually care for the recipe. Plus, Tsumugi is an adorable little munchkin. Nevertheless, 5/5 stars.
  • Subterranean by James Rollins – I actually listened to this but I’m counting the pages as well. This is not in his Sigma Force series but I did still enjoy it. It’s a little bit crazy; my suspension of disbelief was very much challenged. But it does follow the same formula so it was easy for me to follow. I admit, the ideas were pretty cool and besides, this is fiction. Thinking back now, I would’ve DNF’d this if I read it but since I listened to it, I enjoyed it. 4/5 stars.
  • Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brogsol – This is a graphic novel about a Russian immigrant family. Then Anya meets this ghost who becomes her only friend. The blurb sounded so interesting and if only they expounded on the “immigrant” part of the story, I would’ve rated this higher. Ultimately, this is about something else. 3/5 stars.
  • A Gathering of Shadows by VE Schwab – I finally got to this, just in time for the release of the 3rd book this month! And there should be no surprise that I loved this. Alucard/Rhy is life. Actually, anything Rhy is awesome. I pre-ordered my copy of A Conjuring of Light signed so all three of my Shades of Magic books are signed. 😉 Of course, 5/5 stars.
  • Orange Volume 1 by Ichigo Takano – The anime hit me right in the feelz. Once again, I ugly cried. If going by this first volume, the manga will do exactly the same. This is a story of time-travel, magical realism, and romance in a very slice-of-life setting. If you’re new to manga, this is the perfect place to start. 5/5 stars.
  • The Doomsday Key by James Rollins – This is another audio book, another James Rollins book. This time, it’s part of his Sigma Force series. This is not my favorite but I still enjoyed it, especially Kowalski and Monk. It love it when big burly tough guys show a softie side. And of course, Grayson Pierce. 4/5 stars.
  • Barakamon Volume 1 by Satsuki Yoshino – Again, anime was awesome. I read this at the Little Tokyo public library and I wish they had the rest of the volumes. I loved everyone in this manga and having watched the anime, it didn’t take away from my reading experience. 4/4 stars.
  • Spiral by Koji Suzuki – This is the 2nd book in the Ring series but this wasn’t the source material for the second movie. Oh boy, this was amazing. It was very scientific but geez, so twisted. I loved how everything was pieced together and how it tied to the previous book. I’m definitely picking up the 3rd one very soon. 4/5 stars.

STATS:

  • 3695 pages – counting audio books as if I read the physical books
  • 2 audio books – 26.5 hours
  • 5 manga and 1 graphic novel

As for purchases, I acquired 16 books. I don’t think I can commit to a book buying ban, to be honest. Not like I did for makeup in 2016 where I only really bought makeup at IMATS. I do sort of collect Japanese fiction in hard copy as well as uncommon editions – signed, non-US cover, translated, etc. I also have a growing collection of Jane Eyre pretty covers as well as Viggo Mortensen works. So I can’t really go on a book buying ban. But a good thing is that I can control myself when it comes to books. I don’t mind the cost… it’s the space that bothers me. And besides, I may go to Book Outlet and the likes but there are times when I struggle to find a book that I want to actually purchase. Yup, it’s happening. I’m happy with what I have right now and apart from a few titles, I can settle for digital copies. So I’m doing good!

wp-1486078154136.jpgTechnically, the books in this first photo are purchased during Boxing Day. December 2016. Those in the 2nd photo were in fact ordered and received in January 2017.

Click on the photo for the post where I talk more about these books. This was one of the better hauls that I did because I genuinely wanted everything in this batch. I actually started reading Love in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction by Judd Trichter but I suddenly felt the strongest urge to finally pick up and read A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas. Yes. And I’m loving it so far. I went in absolutely blind and unaffected by the hype. When is the next book coming out of paperback, by the way? 😉

Also, in the last days of January, I ordered three books from Thriftbooks and they arrived today. These three fit nicely with the reason I stated above about being unable to go on a buy ban. I’ll talk about them in a separate post next week.

wp-1486078154145.jpg

If you want to buy books for cheap but not from a used bookstore, I suggest you check out Target, Walmart, and Barnes & Noble online. I got ACOTAR for $8.25 and A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro for $7.99. Winter Sleep by Kenzo Kitakara came up as a recommendation on Goodreads and then I found a copy for super cheap on Better World Books during their promo (20% off 5+ sale books). Something that I realized last year is that the best way to read duologies is to read them back-to-back. I already have Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein so when I saw Rose Under Fire at a discount, I picked it up.

For my 2017 reading challenge, I put there The Fortune Cookie Chronicles by Jennifer 8. Lee as my food memoir pick. While I do love my ramen and Japanese curry, you can never go wrong with Chinese food. I already have a copy of The Devil of Nanking by Mo Hayder but that’s a beat up mass market paperback. I saw this hardcover for the same price with a discount. And finally, a book that I’ve been wanting to read ever since it came out: Night Film by Marisha Pessl.

I feel so good with these latest hauls. There are books that I really wanted and I can see myself reading in the remaining months of the year. Looking at February, I may have a couple of books that I will definitely get to, namely A Conjuring of Light and possibly two more other books coming out this month. But right now, let me go back to one more episode of Bungou Stray Dogs and ACOTAR.