WRAP-UP | WINTER [12/21/16 through 3/20/17]

It wasn’t hard for me to narrow down the my best reads of Winter to five titles. I read a total of 32 books, most of them are manga. I also listened to quite a few audio books. Overall, I’m happy with my result.

While I did read a lot of good books, here are five that stood out the most (in no particular order):

  • The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson. The first book in the Mistborn trilogy. It’s a perfect starting point for fantasy. I was surprised at how easy it was to follow despite having such a large cast of characters and a not-so-simple magic system. The language was so readable. I cannot wait to get to the rest of the series… and Sanderson’s other works.
  • Spiral by Koji Suzuki. This is the 2nd book in the Ring series. I rated this 4 stars while I gave the first book 5 stars. But I chose this instead. Honestly, this is scarier, gorier, and more compelling than Ring. I was already familiar with Ring even before I realized it was a book. I gave it 5 stars because I had never read anything like it. Going into Spiral, it has somewhat the same formula – a mysterious virus that kills certain people. But oh boy. This was terrifying.
  • Battle Royale by Koushun Takami. I finally got to this masterpiece. If you thought The Hunger Games were good, you haven’t seen anything yet. There is YA and there’s Japanese YA. You have your usual young adult characters, romance, teenage angst, bullies, and school problems. Add about a ton of violence, blood, guts, gore, guns, knives, beheading, explosions, and evisceration. Yup. It makes Peeta’s abduction a vacation.
  • A Conjuring of Light by VE Schwab. The third and final book to the Shades of Magic trilogy. This was a pretty solid conclusion. I got all the feelz — dread, wondering what will happen to my faves; happiness, because they found theirs; sadness, for there were things lost. It was so good.

  • Orange by Ichigo Takano. This 5-volume manga is absolutely beautiful. Gorgeous. Also, all the feelz. Watch the anime. Watch the live action. Read the manga. Everything!

What are your top reads last winter? What is your most anticipated reads for spring? 🙂

TOP TEN TUESDAYS | Authors

My entry for last week’s TTT already featured author event photos. I should’ve checked this week’s topic. Pfft.

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday is the Top Ten Authors I’m Dying To Meet / Ten Authors I Can’t Believe I’ve Met.

I’m lucky to live in an area that has a very good independent bookstore community. Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena has made a lot of author events so very accessible to me. Not to mention a lot of popular conventions are held conveniently near where I live. I wish I could go to more but well, life… work… life. But still, looking at my “authors I’ve met” list looks pretty good.

My list of “authors I want to meet” is substantially shorter. I don’t really think, “Oooh, I want to meet this author”. No, I check schedules and then decide whether to go or not. I’ve missed opportunities to meet Jane LynchCameron Diaz, and Lyndsay Faye. But then again, I once scheduled my day around an author meet. 😉

Here is the list of AUTHORS I WANT TO MEET:

  • PIERCE BROWN. I hope and pray that he does an event at my local Vroman’s Bookstore. I remember he did one with their sister bookstore, Book Soup, but that was too far away from me. I do have Morning Star signed and I would love to have the previous two books signed as well. Not to mention my ARCs.
  • ERNEST CLINE. I would love to hear him talk about Ready Player One. And have my copies of that book and Armada signed as well. Yup, my main goal is to have my stuff signed.
  • NEIL GAIMAN. One day, maybe. And I do have that illustrated version of American Gods.
  • JK ROWLING. I wonder which book I’ll bring to have signed.
  • EVAN WRIGHT. I already have a copy of Generation Kill signed by him. But I bought that. I want him to sign the “special copy” that I have signed by the cast and one of the actual Marines from the book.

And here’s a list of AUTHORS I’VE MET (off the top of my head): Continue reading

#T5W | Bring on the ANGST!

This week, we are talking about Favorite Angsty Romances.

If you know me at all, angst is my favorite category of fan fiction. Some people get bedtime stories, I pull up a 100,000 word piece and bawl my eyes out before bed. I’m currently reading one about Yuri!!! On Ice and I’m blown away at the quality of some of the stuff I find on there.

But we are not talking about fanfics. Here are some angsty relationships from books. They’re not as frustrating and angsty as my fics but they’ll do.

  • Naho x Kakeru from Orange This is actually a part of an adorable but incredibly frustrating love triangle. I honestly prefer the other guy (and think he got the shortest end of an already short stick) but this was the direction the story was going. If you’re not familiar with Orange, you might not get it. But in a nutshell, five friends at present day meet up again to celebrate the birthday of a friend that died ten years ago. Then they get an idea to somehow send letters to their past selves and try to save this friend from dying and “erase” whatever regrets they have at present time. That wasn’t a good synopsis but trust me, this is SO GOOD – manga, anime, live action. But if you’re in the mood for so much frustration that you’d want to fling a shoe at both of their heads, this one is perfect for you. 😄

  • Let’s get this out of the way, shall we? Jane Eyre x Mr. Rochester from Jane EyreDo I even need to explain this? He was playing hard-to-get. She pretends that she doesn’t care. Both of them insult each other as a kind of flirting device. One is the key to the other’s happiness but they both refuse themselves of that. Argh… both of them are angsty as hell.

  • Shahrzad x Khalid from The Wrath and the Dawn duology. This will be in a lot of lists today. What is it with brooding male characters? I love them. In anime, they end up being my favorite characters. But it is a source of such frustration from the female character. And the reader. More often than not, these brooding male characters are “No one can love me. Don’t love me; I don’t deserve it. Stay away from me!” Khalid is definitely that to the very end.

  • June x Day from the Legend trilogy. The ending of the 2nd book, Prodigy, drives the angst home. If you don’t know what I’m talking about… well, Legend is an easy trilogy to marathon. And oh, there are graphic novels. I enjoyed those so much because I got to see what these two characters look like. Day, again, is one of those brooding male characters with so many dark secrets from a dark past. No matter how much June tells him that she is willing to help, Day pushes her away. But unlike other female characters, she allows herself to be pushed away. Yes, she’s still hung up about him but she lets it go. And for a reader and shipper, I wanted to pull my hair out.

  • Alana x Marko from Saga. Man, these two. Hell, they don’t even speak the same language! But you can just feel the love that they have for each other. It’s almost tangible. Yet their trust for each other is broken. This graphic novel series is definitely SFF with outer space and aliens and stuff but it  is definitely very human at the same time. I’m rooting for them so hard. And I cannot wait to read the next volume coming out next week!

That’s my list. I still think my fanfics have more angst but hey.

Review: A Study on Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro

I enjoyed it. At the end of the day, that’s all you really need to know.

This book, at its core, is just like every modernized Sherlock Holmes story. Every situation fits conveniently perfectly to a story in the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes collection. Too conveniently. I’ve watched my share of those to recognize that trope. You don’t have to have read the original story to figure out which story the case was based on but I could imagine it would’ve been a better reading experience. I’ve only read A Study in Scarlet, ironically, and The Hound of the Baskervilles – and of course, watched the BBC adaptation. It would’ve been awesome to have those lightbulb moments as more and more clues come to light. Like, “Aha! They’re talking about so-and-so story!” I certainly had that while watching Sherlock. I love how this follows family relations of the three main characters – Holmes, Watson, and Moriarty. It’s a bit cheap to have their names sound like their ancestors but hey, you got me. (“James” Watson though. Hm.)

Trust me. I enjoyed this book. And I would gladly read the next one as soon as it comes out on paperback (so it’ll match my signed copy). However.

I was ready to rate this more than I did but while this is a rather fast read, some parts left me confused. It IS extremely readable though. However, there were parts that didn’t flow very well, as if the previous paragraph didn’t connect well with the next. There were times when I thought I actually skipped a page. It was THAT disjointed. And the characters were rather one dimensional. While there were character description and some backstory, I didn’t really know these characters. Jamie Watson, the narrator, was aloof and it was as if he was just… there. Charlotte Holmes tried to be as cold and unattached as Sherlock.

Also, I had to constantly remind myself that this is categorized under Young Adult. As you know, as long as the protagonist is 16-19, the book is considered YA. But I honestly think that this book would’ve benefited more from an older setting. College-age, maybe. This boarding school thing got so confusing. Everybody seemed so much older than high school age. I don’t think the story would be any different if it were set in an Ivy League. In fact, I would’ve been more convinced if it were. That would take care of so many things. And so many triggers, be warned.

(I also have to throw this out there: is it just me or was there insta-love? I mean, it could be just that the writing was so unconnected that I missed the part where Charlotte became Jamie’s “best friend”. I mean, I got zero from Charlotte so it could all be in Jamie’s head. But then right before the ending… ah, whatever.)

I admit that this is the first “descendants of Sherlock Holmes” novel that I’ve read and it follows that sort of formula. If your parents are doctors, people will assume you’ll take the same route. I get that. But it was like Charlotte was a reincarnation of Sherlock – from the violin to the drug use to the way she would unknowingly push people away. Jamie said it somewhere in the book, “I’m not John Watson,” or something to that effect. You don’t have to be. I just hate the idea of being defined by a famous relative. (This paragraph didn’t make much sense. Sorry, it’s 11PM.)

Overall, it was a quick and easy read. I definitely needed that after Battle Royale. While I did have a lot of not so good things to say, I liked this book. Confusing but enjoyable.

 Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars.

TOP TEN TUESDAYS | Spring Forward!

I really could use that one hour. For sleep, for reading, for watching two more anime episodes… guh. But at least I get home with the sun still up and high in the sky.

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday is the Top Ten Books on my Spring TBR.

I always say that I’m not much for TBRs but lately, I’ve been making lists of books that I definitely do want to get to this month, this season, this year. And actually writing them down so I won’t forget. That counts for a TBR, right? It makes me so excited; but not too excited. The reason why I never formally followed a TBR because I don’t want to feel boxed in like I’m obligated to read these titles just because in my head, writing them down means I’m committed. I ain’t that deep. LOL. But I’ve accumulated quite a few books that I really wanted lately. February was a huge month for me in terms of meeting authors and acquiring signed books. This list is basically by February book haul.

Spring starts on March 20 but it’s already upwards of 80s and 90s here in Southern California. I won’t have many upcoming releases on this list. Other than that, I own all of these titles. Man, what a difference. I wouldn’t be able to say that same time last year.

This list is in no particular order. I will definitely read these books but I can’t guarantee I’ll read all of them by the end of spring, June 20. We’ll see.

(I met the authors of these first four books in two days.)

  • Caraval by Stephanie Garber. I’m sure you’ve heard of this book already. It’s the most hyped book of the winter season. It is compared to The Night Circus. I loved that book. I’ve been hearing praise for Caraval left and right… except from people that I trust. Yikes. I saw how excited the author and the fans were for this book at the signing. The girls there were so passionate about it. But then I hear disappointments and DNF’ing from vloggers and bloggers that I trust. So… I don’t know. I still want to read it but I’ve heard some scary things.
  • Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones. I met her during her book launch the day before I met Stephanie Garber. I also have a special art print. It’s a loose retelling of Labyrinth and the way her fellow authors describe the writing, I really want to experience it myself. I love anything with music and I can’t wait to see how she put that into words.
  • A Crown of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi. I met her at the same event with S. Jae-Jones. I read The Star-Touched Queen last month and enjoyed it. (Today is the last day to pre-order this book and receive a perk.) I love her energy! I also love how she incorporated the Indian culture in her book. It was gorgeous. I already pre-ordered this and hopefully, I can get to it as soon as I receive it. (Release date: 3/23/2017)
  •  The Young Elites by Marie Lu. Rounding out the three authors. Yes, it was a very fun night. I absolutely love Marie Lu’s writing. I then managed to acquire signed copies of this trilogy. I loved Legend and I heard nothing but good things about this one. She has a new series coming out this year. I hope to read that too. Ah, I just love her.

[I realized that I have trouble starting (another) series without finishing the one I started before that. I did finish two series lately: Shades of Magic by VE Schwab and Orange by Ichigo TakanoSo I guess I can start some new ones now!]

  • As Red as Blood by Salla Simukka. I received this from Blogging for Books. I have 90 days to read it so I guess it’ll definitely fall into my Spring reads. It’s a thriller and that’s all I need to know. I’ve glanced at some reviews and they are pretty positive so I would like to go into this blindly.
  • A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro. I might read this next, after I finish Battle Royale. There’s a story behind this — I already bought a copy from Target. About a month after, I saw a signed first edition paperback copy at that same Target. I bought it and planned to return my unsigned one with the newer receipt. But then I just decided to pass it along to someone else who might like it also. I saw the book trailer at Target, yep the same one, and I got intrigued. The second book just came out so we’ll see how this goes.
  • Dust & Decay by Jonathan Maberry. I have all the books in this series. I told myself I will go through all of them last year but I only managed to read the first one. I enjoyed it so much and I’m definitely ready for more. I’m not really a “seasonal” reader so I’ll still read this in the middle of a park lush with trees and green grass. 😄
  • The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski. Seriously, I’ve been wanting to start this trilogy for years. Ever since it came out. Now I have all three so there’s not reason not to marathon this, right? I honestly don’t know much about this trilogy apart from it’s about a pianist. Or there’s something about a pianist. That’s all. You got me.
  • Another Episode S/0 by Yukito Ayatsuji. This is a companion to Another. It is about Misaki Mei and her experiences with a ghost. Really, any continuation to Another, I will inhale it.
  • Loop by Koji Suzuki. This is the 3rd book in the Ring series. I loved Ring and Spiral. I actually wanted to read this in February but things got in the way. I want to hopefully get to this book this month. I wanted to read one Japanese novel per month this year and I already missed February.

That’s my list. I must stay, I’m genuinely excited to read all of these books. Hopefully, I get to them. Follow me on Goodreads to find out!

#T5W | Favorite Sci-Fi and Fantasy Books

This week, we are talking about FAVORITE SCIENCE FICTION/FANTASY BOOKS.

I was looking at my books and fantasy is definitely one of my favorite genres. I do read sci-fi as well, maybe starting to dabble deeper into it soon. I definitely had more than 5 books in my first list. I tried to see if I can have five fantasy and five sci-fi books but it was just impossible to separate them into categories. The line between fantasy and sci-fi is blurring more and more. I wrote down some titles that toe that line, jump across it multiple times, and plant one foot on each side of it. I am overthinking this, aren’t I?

Or I can just do this:

All of these are signed copies!

That’s my list. Bye-bye! *logs off*


I’m kidding! While VE Schwab is definitely deserving a top spot on this list, I’m counting all these books as one. The Shades of Magic trilogy alone is an excellent example of a solid fantasy series with awesome world-building and an interesting magic system with equally engaging characters. The Savage Song, written under the name Victoria Schwab is a YA fantasy with NO ROMANCE. About monsters. No romance. Let that sink in. And my favorite, Vicious, is about two villains – anti-heroes. Both of them are bad guys trying to eliminate the other. Vicious and This Savage Song is bordering on urban fantasy while Shades of Magic is straight up magic and adventure and yes, romance.

I guess that’s my first pick!

Number two, The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson. It’s the first book in the Mistborn trilogy. I only read the first book so far but I have every intention to finish this book by the end of 2017. It’s high fantasy but it’s so easy to read and follow. We follow Kelsier and Vin and their band of rebels trying to overthrow the Lord Ruler. The pretty UK paperbacks are a booktube and bookstagram staple so you bet I have them too. The world-building is excellent and while the magic system can be complicated, it is so interesting that you won’t mind it. Plus, there are guides that you can check out. Honestly, the hype is real with this book. It’s not even hype… it’s PRAISE!

(I just noticed parallels between The Final Empire and A Conjuring of Light, specifically. I would have to do more research but I’m lazy and I’m sure other people already noticed that too.)

My pick of sci-fi is the Parasitology trilogy by Mira Grant. I feel like this is an underrated series. It’s about parasites in the form of worms that is consumed by the body to help it combat illness and basically better the quality of life. Then these parasites develop a mind of their own and start to take over their hosts. This trilogy is unique where the pace doesn’t really change. It’s a continuous slow-ish burn. There’s so many twists and turns. While it does get a bit repetitive at parts, it’s still an enjoyable ride.

This can’t be a list of fantasy books without one of my favorite books of all time, The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien. There was a time I read this twice in a row – the first one was for leisure and the second one for school. All in three days. I used to read this once a year but I’ve since fell off of that tradition. However, I recently got the 50th Anniversary Limited Edition so I might go back on that re-read habit.

And I’m going to bookend this list with another author pick, James Rollins. Specifically, his Sigma Force series. I finished listening to The 6th Extinction a few hours ago. They are perfect audio book material especially if you’re already used to the formula that these sci-fi thrillers usually have. And of course, a certain amount of suspension of disbelief. I absolutely love this series and I’m actually thinking of re-reading some now that GoodReads has the re-read feature. There’s never a dull moment when reading this series.


There you have it. That’s five. But in my indecisiveness, I can’t leave out these titles. Honorable mentions!

37/200

  • Legend trilogy by Marie Lu. I was hesitant to include this because I wasn’t sure if it were fantasy or sci-fi. Both then. I completely fell in love with Marie Lu’s writing and at how simple yet intense this trilogy is.
  • Red Rising trilogy by Pierce Brown. This didn’t make the cut because I didn’t enjoy the first book as much as I did the second and third ones. The first book was more sci-fi while the rest is definitely fantasy.

Notice the lack of Harry PotterThe Night Circus, and Ready Player One… while I do love all of them, these title stand out more to me when I hear the words “fantasy” and “sci-fi”.

WRAP-UP | FEBRUARY 2017

February is the shortest month of the year. Even shorter this year because we don’t have the 29th. Reading-wise, I did okay. But the thing that stood out was the amount of signed and full-priced books that I acquired this month. I buy books at full price very seldom – only if they come signed, really. But I went to two back-to-back author events and found signed copies of books that I love. When did I ever been this concerned about new releases?

I fully had a TBR in my head for February. I wanted to read books with a romantic aspect. Not contemporary or new adult. Just anything with romance in it. I also planned to finish Orange but I started Black Butler instead. And I actually played around with the idea of a March TBR but given my history with them, I dunno. LOL.

Anyway, I still call this a good month. I could’ve done better but my anticipation for A Conjuring of Light by VE Schwab got in the way of everything. I actually did start it in February but only finished it yesterday. Yep, I was destroyed. But that’s for the next wrap-up.

TOTAL BOOKS READ: 10.

  • Black Butler, Volumes 1-3 by Yana Toboso. I’ve been meaning to read this manga series for a long time. I recently watched the entirety of the anime and loved it. I didn’t love the second season then I find out it’s an anime original. Well, that explains it. To be honest, I’m a bit lukewarm towards the manga. It’s still fun but it definitely benefited from seeing the pictures move. I still enjoy it and squee whenever Finnian is on the page. I can actually hear Grell’s and Lizzie’s Japanese voices when I read their panels! I’m definitely continuing with it.
    • Volume 1 – 3/5 stars
    • Volume 2 – 4/5 stars
    • Volume 3 – 3/5 stars
  • Orange, Volumes 2 & 3 by Ichigo Takano. I don’t know why I’m taking my time with this finished series. I mean, I know what happens – I watched the anime and live action. Still, I have one more volume to go (as of this posting). I love it. I think I’ll end  up rating all five volumes a full five star. I was actually just rewatching the 9th episode this morning. The more I do that, the more I’m sure that I’m Team Suwa. I love Kakeru but Suwa’s taking a MAJOR one for the team. Both 5/5 stars.
  • A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas. Oh dear. This book. I finally cave only to have my initial hesitations prove me right. I posted a word vomit about this when I was around halfway through the book. I have a full review outlined that I might not post because it really just boils down to one question: how was this a good book? Harsh, I know. But I just don’t get why people literally puke and cry over this book and the rest of the author’s work. Granted I will still read the next one but this time, with the mindset that this is strictly a guilty pleasure read. I may or may not post a full review for this book but let’s just say that I don’t get the hype. 3/5 stars. And that’s me being generous.
  • Rad Women Worldwide by Kate Schatz. I should do better with my Blogging For Books reviews. I got this almost two months before reading and reviewing it but it only took me an hour to read it. I loved it. This should be in every library. I hope there’ll be a second volume. 5/5 stars.
  • The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi. I’m torn with this. At first, I loved it. It was atmospheric, the Indian culture was rich and lovely. But then the purple prose started to weigh on me. It got tedious. The writing is already beautiful even without the flowery words but it got too much. All that bogged down my reading experience. The romance was sweet though. I already pre-ordered the next book; that comes out later this month. 3/5 stars.
  • The Bone Labyrinth by James Rollins. More Kowalski, please. This is another audio book but I’m counting pages. I am enjoying these in the audio format (I’m listening to another Rollins audio book right now). But I also think that I will eventually re-read them in physical form. These books are very formulaic but never boring. 4/5 stars.
  • Sorako by Takayuki Fujimura. I borrowed this one on a whim from Hoopla Digital. It’s about Sorako, a young woman who just graduated and is on the hunt for a job. It’s a collection of short stories in manga form. It was okay, nothing mind-blowing. 3/5 stars.

STATS:

  • 2649 pages – counting audio books as if I read the physical books
  • 1 audio book – ~15 hours

As for my February haul… like I said, I went to two author events, meeting six authors: Leigh BardugoS. Jae-JonesMarie LuJessica Cluess, and Stephanie Garber. I got Leigh Bardugo’s autograph on a Post-it note as kind of a book plate. Then I got a couple of books signed. On top of that, I bought a couple of signed editions. And a mini-Book Outlet order. Here’s the list:

  • Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones – Vroman’s Bookstore on release date
  • The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi – Vroman’s Bookstore during the Wintersong event
  • Caraval by Stephanie Garber – Vroman’s Bookstore during author signing
  • A Conjuring of Light by VE Schwab – Barnes and Noble, signed pre-order
  • The Midnight Star by Marie Lu – Barnes and Noble, signed edition
  • The Rose Society by Marie Lu – Book Outlet, signed edition
  • Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi – Book Outlet
  • A Thousand Naked Strangers by Kevin Hazzard – Book Outlet
  • Recent Forgeries by Viggo Mortensen – Better World Books
  • Linger by Viggo Mortensen – Better World Books

Honestly, this book haul looks like a TBR list. I already read two out of the list. Notice that I’m missing the first book in The Young Elites trilogy. Well, I recently bought it. And yes, also signed. 😉

That’s my wrap-up. I’m still thinking about a possible TBR for March. Who knows. I got a lot of new releases. I’m inspired.