#T5W | Better Than The First

This week, we are talking about Second/Middle Books That Are the Best in the Series.

Long time no post. I have good reasons for that.

I wrote a fic! It’s in the Yuri!!! ON ICE fandom but inspired by my new obsession, Pitbulls and Parolees. It’s aptly called Poodles and Figure Skaters. It’s Makkachin-centric. Now, I’m so inspired to write more fic. I haven’t finished anything in almost ten years. I even have a Generation Kill fic that is very loosely based on Jane Eyre… 60,000 words and counting. And unfinished. It’s almost done… almost seven years ago.

Another thing that is taking my mind off blogging is Pitbulls and Parolees. Thank goodness for Animal Planet Go. They have all the seasons on there and I’m loving this show so much. If I’m not reading for Tome Topple, I’m probably watching this.

So there’s that. This week’s topic is quite a bit of a challenge. Like with other series lists, I realize that I read a lot of stand alones in the past. I have quite a few series on-going and not a lot finished. And from those I’ve finished, I’m not a huge fan of either the middle book or the series as a whole. While I agree that The Winner’s Crime is the best in the series, I’m not really impressed. I haven’t finished A Court of Thorns and Roses trilogy yet so I can’t say for sure if ACOMAF is the best. And Siege & Storm is only better than the other books because of Nikolai’s introduction to the story. IMHO, anyway.

I have three books, one movie, and one anime series for you. I hope you enjoy!

Taken 3 years ago, almost to the day!

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins.
This should be the only title in this list. Catching Fire was leaps and bounds better than The Hunger Games and Mockingjay. Even the movie was fantastic. It was all action from the get-go and it was such an adventure. I thought it was going to be tedious because it was potentially just a retelling of the events of the first book but it was so much more fun. Then Mockingkay. Well, let’s not talk about that.

Us by Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy.
I loved the first book, Him. When I thought it can’t get any better, it did. Us didn’t have the angst from miscommunication and uncertainty from the first book. The relationship was already established and all they had to deal with was the effect of fame and fortune on their relationship. Plus, the new characters were awesome. So much that I actually want a book about them.

Spiral by Koji Suzuki.
I say this again and again, I rated Ring 5 stars but this, only a 4. But I thought this was better than Ring. Oh man, this was a mindfuck. I thought I would merely skim read this but I was hooked all the way to the end. I understand that this might not translate to film as successfully as Ring. This book doesn’t have a long-haired girl in white that comes out of TV sets. It has a terribly smart virus. Scary.

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
This is actually – officially – my favorite movie of all time. While I can recite The Fellowship of the Ring from memory, I love rewatching The Two Towers. Especially the Helm’s Deep scene and when the ents attack Isengard. What I do is I try to track ONE ORC and see where it goes. There’s always something new whenever I watch this.

Free! Eternal Summer
The second season of the Free! anime series. I love Free! Iwatobi Swim Club but I find myself rewatching Eternal Summer more. They’re all friends in this series and everything means so much more. All of them have grown and it sort of became more of a slice-of-life than a gimmicky sports dramedy. I love this series so much! I’ve since met one of the voice actors from the anime so it made it much more special.

That’s my list! Now, let me go back to writing my next YOI fic… this time, inspired by another anime, sweetness & lightning. I’m gonna have so much fun rewatching this series!

#T5W | It’s Going to be Worth It

This week, we are talking about Series That Got Better.

Guys, this was hard. Sure, I had one trilogy that instantly popped into my mind but coming up with four more was not easy. I realized that I haven’t really read that many series. A good handful of what I started are not finished because I quit them… not because I don’t have time to continue on with the next books. Although, I do own a lot of finished series. Reading other people’s posts is making me reaarange my TBR. If enough of you say that it’s good, it must be, right? As for the stuff I watch, I lose interest on a TV show faster than I can log in to my Hulu account and most of the stuff I choose to watch are single-season anime.

Also, as much as I prefer binge reading finished series, a lot of them suffer from either the “middle book slump” or the “disappointing finale”. Almost always, my favorite book tends to be the first one. My favorite movie in a franchise is probably the first one. Or maybe the 2nd book is the best then it went downhill with the 3rd/final one. So many things can happen. But I will stop rambling and try to give you guys a decent list.

Red Rising trilogy by Pierce Brown.
I must admit, I wasn’t the biggest fan of the first book. I thought it was info-dumpy, pretentious, silly, and overall trying too hard. But for some reason, I decided to read the next book. I loved it. So much. I loved it so much that I screamed when I finished it because I didn’t have the next book yet. (Of course, I read it as it came out.) I got the 3rd book on Kindle because I ordered a signed copy and that would take a while to ship. I read it in 2-3 days. It was phenomenal.

Him duology by Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy.
This is currently my favorite NA books/series. Him was so teeth-achingly sweet provided we are talking about two sporty, muscled hockey players surrounded by their equally manly teammates. Goodness, the angst in this duology was palpable, it hurts. I loved how real it felt, their struggles within themselves and with dealing with the outside world. Just when I thought it couldn’t get better, Us happened. I read this duology in two days. I would read it again in a heartbeat.

One-Punch Man manga by ONE.
Let me set this up for you. A seemingly ordinary young man is actually a pretty fcking powerful superhero who can defeat anyone and anything with a single punch, hence, the name. How can that be interesting for more than one volume? Trust me. It can. I’m on Volume 6 and I’m pacing it. I loved the anime and I hope that one continues on as well.

Free! anime produced by Kyoto Animation.
This currently has two seasons, an OVA, and three theatrically released movies… with one more coming up. It was first released in 2014 and people still love it to this day. I sure do, judging by the number of times I’ve rewatched certain episodes from both seasons. And the OVA. And the seiyuu event. Oh man, I love this series so damn much. I do prefer season 2 over the first one that’s why I included it in this list. But I recommend the whole package. (BTW, I met one of that Japanese voice actors, Daisuke Hirakawa who plays Ryuugazaki Rei, at Anime Expo 2017. It made me entire life.)

Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel JRPG by Nihon Falcom.
For the longest time, my favorite Japanese role-playing game is Final Fantasy VIII. Until this gem of a JRPG entered my life. I love it so much, I cosplayed a character from the first game twice during AX2017 weekend. And guess what, I even met the CEO of Nihon Falcom, Toshihiro Kondo, while in my Fie Claussell costume! This is a game about NINE kids in a military academy training to be “the best Thors Military Academy” can offer. This game is so rich in story while also being character-driven. I loved ToCS1 but I loved the 2nd one even more. I cannot wait for the 3rd!

I really have to work on the series that I own. I want to read so many yet I gravitate towards the stand alone and manga lately.

#T5W | Books Not Set in or Inspired by the Western World

This week, we are talking about Books Not Set in or Inspired by the Western World.

(I tried for a wittier title but my brain is not working right now.)


Here’s the thing, I read a lot of Japanese fiction. These are books by Japanese authors translated into English. They can be manga, light novels, or full length novels. So obviously, majority of them are in a non-Western setting, both in location and tradition. This is where pretty much all of the “diversity” in my reading is coming from: Asian authors writing in an Asian setting. So this won’t be much of a challenge, right? I can just fill up the spots with my favorite Japanese novels, right?

But where’s the fun in that?! Surely, I’ve read other stuff set in other non-Western places by non-Japanese authors. However, “non-Western” is sort of tricky to define so I’ll just go with what I know. It’s actually safer to just stay in the Asian setting and avoid the whole English-speaking regions all together. However, many of these books eventually find themselves out West within the story. Either the main character immigrates or works in the US/UK but tells the story in flashback, thus having majority of the book set in their non-Western home country. I’m thinking about this too much. XD

Anyway, here’s my list. Surely all the Japanese fiction books I’ve read are good candidates but I won’t bore you with that. If you’re interested in my Japanese lit collection, here’s my GoodReads shelf for that.

The Flowers of War by Geling Yan.
This is a novella about the Rape of Nanjing where Japanese troops did unspeakable acts of massacre and rape to the residents of Nanjing, China in 1937-1938. I have never read a more powerful, a more moving piece of literature about war and what it does to those in that situation. In not so many pages, this book horrified and saddened me. But it was so rich in emotion. It’s a tough read but it needs to be read.

The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa.
Here’s another quick yet poignant read. This book reminds me of Tuesdays With Morrie by Mitch Albom but set in Japan. An elderly professor with a failing memory hires a housekeeper. Eventually, their relationship grows into a more familial one through Math, of all things, and the housekeeper’s son. I listened to an audio book version and I absolutely loved it. It was so touching and real and funny… all the feelz.

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini.
I don’t remember this book having a happy ending for anyone. This is one of the heaviest reads ever. We follow two characters, one stays in Afghanistan while the other finds a better life in the United States. They go through a lot and man, it’s one tragedy after another. I don’t know how I got through this book without sinking deeper into depression.

Eon and Eona duology by Alison Goodman.
This is set in a fictionalized China, I think, taking from the dragon lore and some nomenclature. Sort of Mulan-esque because Eon is really Eona. She dresses up as a boy so she could enter a competition only open to boys, trying to capture the powers of a dragon. I loved this duology so much.

The Vegetarian by Han Kang.
This is one twisted book. This is sort of a collection of short stories about a Korean family and how they deal with one of their family members becoming vegetarian. But don’t take this as a light and fluffy read based on that description. It’s anything but light and fluffy.

I realize that I stayed firmly in Asia for this list. Hey, to be safe. 🙂 I could’ve stayed within Japan for a list of 20 but variety is the spice of life.

Random question: What is your favorite Asian food?

#T5W | Hate-to-Love

This week, we are talking about Hate to Love ShipsBe aware of possible SPOILERS.

Okay, so this week’s list will be a bit half-assed. I’m currently in total planning mode for Anime Expo 2017 happening this weekend until Tuesday, 4th of July. They just announced the event schedules for the creators of Yuri!!! ON ICEMitsurou Kubo and Sayo Yamamoto and frankly, I’m freaking out. I’m looking at my July 1 plans and I’m low-key overwhelmed, a bit anxious, but so very excited. I never planned this extensively for any conventions but this year looks so jam packed.

(If you don’t know what Yuri!!! ON ICE is then you must remedy that right now. If you’re bitching about the book community’s lack of diversity, this anime will answer all your woes. It has LGBTQ+ themes, cultural diversity, mental illness, characters of different ages, races, species, love, life, friendship… everything!)

Hate-to-love ships. I thought this would be an easy list but as I looked through my shelves, either I haven’t read that many romances or I just don’t care about ships much. I tend to be more invested in screen ships – TV, anime, film – than book ships. I actually consider book ships more canon, if that makes any sense. Once the ink is dry, it’s official… something like that. But I managed to compose a decent list. I’m just so distracted right now with the AX2017 planning situation.

(By the way, who’s going to Anime Expo? Comment down below if you are.)

You can take your Mr. Darcy, I don’t care. I’m #TeamRochester all the way. These two have such a cat and mouse relationship. She’s no damsel in distress. His terms of endearment come in the form of insults. She honestly blurts out that he is not handsome. He teases her every chance he gets. But you know – YOU KNOW – that they have feelings for each other. It’s just that both of them are stubborn as hell.

MUSTANG & DARROW, Red Rising trilogy.
Now, Darrow “hated” Mustang at first because of she is one of the Golds. Darrow, a Red, hates that level of society as a whole. He kind of just lumps everyone in there just because. But later on, he gets to know Mustang. Mustang admires Darrow but from the outside, she had to keep up appearances, having to come from an esteemed family. They eventually find an ally in one another.

YAEL & LUKA, Wolf by Wolf duology.
Picture a world where Hitler and the Nazis won. She’s Jewish. He’s Aryan. They don’t even need to talk to hate each other. But when you experience something traumatic together, a special bond is going to form. I was rooting for these two characters from the first time they met. Yael is a strong female character and Luka is this arrogant yet goofy boy with a serious side. Sigh. My feelz!

JUNE & DAY, Legend trilogy.
Same with the above entries, these two hate each other by virtue to their social status. June is rich, Day is poor. June is the darling of the Republic while Day is Public Enemy Number One. Then they start to get to know each other, working with one another, and understanding where the other is coming from. Both of them eventually see the good in each other. The ending of this trilogy killed me. These two killed my feelz.

And I give in, guys. FEYRE & RHYSAND, A Court of Mist and Fury trilogy.
I knew from the get-go that these two will be the main ship of the series. Tamlin was just too unlikable to bear. This is a one-sided “hate” since it was only Feyre who disliked Rhysand. He’s been in love with her from the moment they met. And he’s so nice to her… granted I’ve only read the first two books. Rhysand’s Inner Circle is probably the best group of people in Fantasy YA in a long time. Everyone supports each other and all of them are likable. And I love how SJM handled this ship… I was convinced that Tamlin is going to be the one; I was ready to hate. But I felt like this change happened organically. I really like it.

This took four hours to type out, in between me doing actual work and Anime Expo stressing and planning. I hope you guys have a good rest of the week and an awesome Fourth of July weekend. I know I will.

#T5W | B-Team Romance

This week, we are talking about Favorite Side Ships.

Or what my brother and I call “B-Team Romance”.  I can mention so many of these from anime. Who knows, maybe one or two will be on this list. It’s basically relationships that does not include the main character of the story. I am only including canon ships here so be warned of SPOILERS.

So technically, Ron/Hermione can be a side ship since Harry is the very main character but I personally consider Ron and Hermione main characters too. That is one of my very favorite ships and I am willing to fight anyone who says they should’ve ended up with different people. I know that even JKR is not a fan but this is a good example of characters having a life of their own. Fleur/Charlie is more side ship-y to me. Arthur/Molly, even. James/Lily. (Fun fact: I used to write James/Lily fics exclusively when I was in high school.)

Anyway, here’s my list… and some honorable mentions. Because I tend to like side ships more than the main ones. 😉

AZU & HAGITA, Orange.
While I am very firmly a lifetime member of #TeamSuwa, I was rooting for these two misfits the whole time. Hagita is that one odd and awkward friend in the group while Azu is the social butterfly. Even their friends are pairing them together. They are pairing themselves up. Hagita once invited Azu to train with him for the school race and Azu is always picking on Hagita. Although, she was the one who said that Hagita looked like an angel without his glasses… which I tend to agree.

ALUCARD / RHYS, Shades of Magic trilogy.
Notice the use of the slash there? Yes, they are the sweetest and most angsty pairing in this trilogy. Oh goodness, the pining… whoo, Alucard really punished himself for what he “had to do” to and for Rhys. I had legit tears in my eyes during their scenes; the scenes where they talk it out and where Rhys is pleading for Alucard to not leave again. That right there is my favorite kind of fanfiction (which I find in abundance in Yuri!!! ON ICE fics).

JOHN / TIMOFEI, Aerial Ethereal duology.
I’ve yet to decide whether to DNF Infini or not but these two might just be enough to keep me going. I don’t care about the main pairing in both books but I wanted John and Timofei to be canon so bad. They are so cute together! John pretends he’s jaded and fed up of the Aerial Ethereal performers having their way and here comes free spirited Timo trying to thaw him. So fcking cute!

GENYA & DAVID, The Grisha trilogy.
I will go as far as saying that they were the only pairing I cared about in this whole trilogy. Add Nikolai and there’s the list of the only characters I cared about. David doesn’t care about any other living being apart from Genya. I love that they complement each other even though on the outside, they are opposites.

JENNY & IAN, Outlander series.
Domestic bliss. Who said that everything changes once you get married? Jenny is a strong and capable woman who loves her equally strong and capable husband. The love they have for each other is so sweet and they’re the best couple in this whole book. Yes, more than Claire and Jamie.  Continue reading

#T5W | Slytherin Pride!

This week, we are talking about Books for your Hogwarts House.

I remember when Pottermore was in its beta stages, I received an invite to try out the sorting hat section. I’ve taken many of those fan made sorting quizzes and I was sorted into Gryffindor consistently. I was happy about that – being in the same house as the main protagonists of the books, not to mention Oliver Wood. But when I took the Pottermore quiz once, twice, three times… I was always sorted into SlytherinI never looked back ever since.

(My Pottermore handle is PhoenixSword207. I don’t go there often but if you so desire to add me as a Housemate or friend, feel free to do so.)

My hair may be red but my Quidditch robe and shirt underneath represent my House!

Slytherins are defined by the following traits:

  • Resourcefulness
  • Cunning
  • Cleverness
  • Strong sense of fraternity
  • Ambition
  • Self-Preservation
  • Determination

The books that I’m going to mention have characters that personify some or all of those qualities. In Harry Potter, a lot of people associate Slytherins as dark, bad, evil… misunderstood is more likely the case. Everyone needs a villain, right? And that’s okay. We’ll take it. But also do realize that Slytherins are good people too. We are as friendly as your nearest Hufflepuff, as loyal as the next Gryffindor, and as motivated as any Ravenclaw. 😉

A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas. I’m currently reading this and when I heard of this week’s topic, I immediately thought of this book. It’s not that any of them are terribly resourceful or determined but a good lot of them are cunning and ambitious. The Fae has this general thought of “I’m better that all of you” towards the mortals. Think of the pure blood/half blood/muggle born dynamic.

Vicious by VE Schwab. Talk about a book about anti-heroes. There’s no clear cut good guy in this book. Victor and Eli both have their devious sides but they’re very smart and cunning. This book has a rather dark vibe. It makes me think of long dark alleyways, trench coats, and stormy nights.

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch. Determination is the word for this book. And a little bit of self-preservation. This is about a man just living his life and then suddenly, he gets abducted and thrust into a world so very foreign to him. This book talks about his struggles and journey back to his own reality.

The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski. Arin is very resourceful. Kestrel is very clever. They both had their shining moments in this book.

Graceling by Kristin Cashore. Katsa’s “grace” is looked upon by many as something evil. But she goes on with her head held high and in the end, she survives is all with her quick wit and abilities.

I know I’m reaching a bit on some of these but I’m happy with these recommendations.

How about you? What’s your Hogwarts House?

#T5W | Former Fandoms

This week, we are talking about Fandoms You Are No Longer In.

This list was much harder to compose than I thought it would. I am a very multi-fandom person and I get obsessed with stuff quite easily. At first, I thought I never truly fell out of a fandom. Once I’m in, that’s for life. Like Anime, for example. I was born into the Anime fandom. Or the whole Lord of the Rings universe – both book and movie. I will and have dropped everything to attend a LOTR related event. While I can’t say I’m crazy over Harry Potter (I like to keep my distance and be a regular person fan), I’m still very much into the fandom judging by the amount of merch I have and how many times I find myself at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood. Years have passed and I’m still a big fan of F4, Yuyu Hakusho, Mythbusters, and Final Fantasy VIII. If you want a list of fandoms I still very much associate with, click here.

Unfortunately (for the purposes of this specific blog), I never got into any book fandom apart from Harry PotterLOTR. I’m sort of late on this YA fantasy train which I see as a good thing. I got into Tumblr super early and kind of stopped when I became too multi-fandom. It ate up most of my time and I then had no energy to deal with the drama. And I’m not a keyboard warrior. I go out there to the frontlines, as you will soon see.

Looking at my list, I realized that these are mostly from the time I still watched Western TV. I’m not saying I don’t watch it anymore but a couple of years ago, I would religiously watch these on live TV every night. Those were the days before DVR, TV subscription services, and the like. I don’t watch a lot of English-language shows lately so I don’t know what’s popular today. I did watch a bit of The Vampire Diaries when it first came out but that became ridiculous fast… and I hated the books. I could make a list of “TV shows I’ve stopped watching” but that’s for a different post, different blog.

But with this list, I’m going to make an exception. This will be mostly TV and music.

Spoiler alert: this list will look quite similar to this #T5W post.  Continue reading