About Me

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I'm immortally interested in cultural/literary deconstructions, feminism, anti-racism, South Korea, Supernatural, Sherlock Holmes, Hayao Miyazaki, Diana Wynne Jones, food (including but not limited to maple butter, tomatoes, and toast), fairy tales, parentheses, paper airplanes, films and books.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Giant (WARNING: Minor Spoilers)

Alek and Deryn are on the last leg of their round-the-world quest to end World War I, reclaim Alek’s throne as prince of Austria, and finally fall in love. The first two objectives are complicated by the fact that their ship, the Leviathan, continues to detour farther away from the heart of the war (and crown). And the love thing would be a lot easier if Alek knew Deryn was a girl. (She has to pose as a boy in order to serve in the British Air Service.) And if they weren’t technically enemies. 

The tension thickens as the Leviathan steams toward New York City with a homicidal lunatic on board: secrets suddenly unravel, characters reappear, and nothing is at it seems in this thunderous conclusion to Scott Westerfeld’s brilliant trilogy.**

The end to this fantastic series gave me mixed feelings. Here's why:

Personally, Alek was getting a lttle bit annoying with the destiny talk. Did anyone notice that in the previous books? You know when someone points out something you’ve never seen before but after you can’t stop seeing it? Deryn did that with the destiny thing and now it flat-out aggravates me. What’s wrong with him? Does Deryn need to back-hand him or something? Every chapter he talks about how maybe the newest trouble is part of his destiny or maybe the fact that someone wants to kill him is part of his destiny. Heck, I want to reach into the book and slap him.

One of the best things I found out about this book was the reversal of gender roles. Deryn was taller than Alek, stronger than Alek, heavier than Alek, much more forward than Alek and no matter how much she thought about being in love with the guy, she didn’t let something like a kiss dwell on her mind. I laughed out loud when Deryn was arguing with Volger about Alek’s delicate state of mind and how the revelation about her gender might do to him. I couldn’t stop laughing after the wildcount literally went “Dammit, she’s foiled me again!” It’s just so awesome to see a guy realizing that his best friend’s a girl when she’s saving his life. I mean, it wasn’t even during their tailoring session. They were on top of the levitation and Deryn’s trying to get him to just stay the fuck down with her arms and he's up in her face all woozy going damn, she’s amazing. Delirious Alek is side-splitting. The fact that he couldn’t stop thinking about Deryn’s kiss when she was just like “Score one! Oh, time to climb the spine,” made it all the more great. You know you’re ready excellent YA when the male lead’s more prone to fainting and hallucinations than Bella.

There’s one point in the book at the very end of a chapter where Alek is about to do something incredibly drastic and I screamed at the implication. Because it was pretty much bloody awesome. I may not be the sanest person to be speaking about this but I honestly felt like this series was going to end on the same dark note as Harry Potter. It would have been great for it to end with the same “Your parents have been murdered” vibe that it had started with. I mean, they’re in the middle of a war responsible for eradicating the majority of the world’s monarchy. *Spoilers!* Of course, Westerfield was teasing and went that route anyway but I felt disappointed. The end gave a sense of hope and fluffiness that I wouldn’t have expected with both of them heading off to Edwardian London to be spies during war. I just wished there was more meatiness – more substance. *End of spoilers!*

The label that Miss Rogers gave Deryn “the bell captain” was brilliant. It described her so well too because in Leviathan that was Deryn by the end of the book, holding on to secrets everyone had. I can’t wrap my mind around how brilliant this girl is when you compare her to the thousands of YA heroines in books that are flying off the shelves. She could singlehandedly betray every important person on the ship at any given moment and they know it.

The only problem I had with her was the way Deryn thought about revealing herself to Alek. That apparently was the worst part of everyone finding out about her disguise. Him knowing and hating her. I know that it was the girl’s first crush and she’s from the Edwardian age, but then she goes and kisses him and brushes it off, and I'm having a hard time swallowing that a girl like that would care about him hating her so much. In any case isn’t there more to lose from being revealed than having your crush hate you? Like, you know, decapitation?

I wish Westerfield had spent more time in Japan. I mean, Edwardian Japan with Clanker and Darwinist philosophies together in harmony is much more interesting than the US still fighting their civil war. Speaking of which, it would have been exciting but I feel like the Clankers and the Darwinists were on the wrong sides. I mean, why was the North (if they were still fighting the civil war) with the Clankers? The civil war separation was caused by the North wanting to abolish slavery, a concept that was propagated by the English. So why wouldn’t the North side with the Darwinists (aka the English)? (Although I understand the whole themes of the cold north and their mechanics, and the warm south with all those warm-blooded animals.) I didn’t really get that part (Am I getting my history wrong?). The Mexican Revolution however is such an expansive subject that I hated how lightly it was touched down. Like people have said, it was a bloody, bloody affair and I didn’t like how simple it was rendered when you compare to the second book dedicated to the troubles of Istanbul. The explanation as to why would have made sense but only if it was explained in the book. That part could have easily been substituted for a different country without it affecting the story.

There’s also this feeling of mellowness. You’d think that a girl hiding as a boy would be constantly alert because it might not be a crime but it certainly wouldn’t be allowed during World War I. The revelation of Goliath and what it could do was terrifying at first but then it just got muddled into a potential telecommunications device? I didn’t understand no matter how many times I re-read that part just what the Goliath could do. Was it like a video phone? Did it transmit lightning-like radio waves through the earth? Whatever it was, once Tesla gave his demonstration, it felt like the stakes in the book just dropped. No one ever seemed to be in danger. There was no urgency that I could feel even during the battles. They seemed so longwinded and caught up in the explanations of the logistics. Even the kappas, they just seemed like intelligent crocodiles.

On the other hand, the twist at the end was thoughtful. It felt like Westerfield was saying that man’s greatest enemy isn’t war or one another but themselves. I thought it was a nice touch despite the lack of urgency.

Best thing about the book though? Alek not wanting Deryn to lose her “swagger” and the awesome lorises. Lorsises for president!

All in all=☆☆☆☆

*This book was provided by the publishers at Simon & Schuster.
**The summary was taken from Goodreads.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Drink, Slay, Love (aka I'm back from my months-long hiatus!)

So what happened was, I went to Africa. Ethiopia, specifically, and blogs are blocked by the Internet so I had to give it up for months. When I got back, I had a pile of written reviews that I had yet to type up, but school got in my way and NaNo was finally given me the incentive just write, regardless of time. I'll be here to stay now, thank you very much.

Pearl is a sixteen-year-old vampire... fond of blood, allergic to sunlight, and mostly evil... until the night a sparkly unicorn stabs her through the heart with his horn. Oops.

Her family thinks she was attacked by a vampire hunter (because, obviously, unicorns don't exist), and they're shocked she survived. They're even more shocked when Pearl discovers she can now withstand the sun. But they quickly find a way to make use of her new talent. The Vampire King of New England has chosen Pearl's family to host his feast. If Pearl enrolls in high school, she can make lots of human friends and lure them to the King's feast -- as the entrees.

The only problem? Pearl's starting to feel the twinges of a conscience. How can she serve up her new friends—especially the cute guy who makes her fangs ache—to be slaughtered? Then again, she's definitely dead if she lets down her family. What's a sunlight-loving vamp to do? **

Drink, Slay, Love = WIN.

I'm not sure just how I'm going to be able to convey how wonderfully awesome this book is but I will try in point form because doubtless I'll end up incoherent otherwise.

1) Durst knows how to do atmosphere. Better yet, she can write amazing characters, great plot and do atmosphere which seems to be a hassle for many new YA authors. I felt awe as I read and went through the cool night and opened into a beautiful, warm sunny day (over here it's cloudy 24/7) and then back into a dark, dank mansion that would have creeped me out if I wasn't so in love. Atmosphere in an supernatural book is a must and without it, this book I feel would have suffered.

2) Pearl. Ever heard of a female character with such a feminine name end up so fantastically kick ass? If you thought Buffy, go get yourself a cookie and let me tell you about a second equally wicked one. Despite the fact that she's the second successfully written one I've discovered yet, Pearl remained as un-Buffy like as possible (unlike certain other protagonists). Buffy had that mixture of popular and girly-cool while Pearl just oozed a femme fatale cool not many YA heroines can get nowadays. Personally, I loved her in the first chapter but her new conscience warmed me to me as the book went on and her nickname for the unicorn "Mr. Sparkly and Pointy" won me over. I mean, she's a vampire. Imagining those words coming out of her fanged mouth was hilarious. And then at the end? When she completely turned over an impression Jadrien had made of her? She's just classy. In a way a vampire hasn't been since ... Prime example: Picture a female Damon with a conscience. Yeah. That amazing.

3) Bethany was just ... augh. Best girly female character I've met yet. SPOILER! And she organized the whole thing! How gosh darn amazing is that?! END OF SPOILER. To be honest, all the female characters really are GREAT. You've got the popular girl who doesn't rule the school with her looks but with her self-esteem fueled confidence and at the end, after all that's happened to her, she's STILL got her part of her confidence intact. Albeit it was a bitch move, but isn't that exactly what "bitch" means? Bethany could be considered one as well if it wasn't for the fact that she's ridiculously nice (diabolical plans aside). And oh my God, I loved her even more after I read that she wasn't in love with Evan. Let me rephrase that:

The secondary female character - NOT IN LOVE WITH ANYONE ELSE IN THE BOOK - is exceptional smart, confident and still nice. Seriously. Durst, where have you been hiding?

4) Unicorns. Of course unicorns can give vampires a conscience! They're made of sugar, rainbows, puppies and virgin maidens! Why hasn't anyone thought of this before? Unicorns and vampires are a match made in heaven. Especially the twist which I - the analyzing beast - did not see coming. I loved it though. SPOILER! I mean a guy as a unicorn? Other than the kind of pedophilic undertones I thought of in the insistence the guy ever goes near any little girls, young or not, the reveal made me smile. END OF SPOILER!

5) The romance wasn't exactly pulse pounding but it was the kind of sweet that most YA authors are lacking nowadays. Then again, I had the feeling that physical attraction had a lot to do with it as well. Not to say I didn't enjoy it, but I would have actually felt a lot more satisfied if the book had ended with Pearl and Love Interest admitting their attraction for each other and desire to date. But hello, subversion number one!

6) The subversions were priceless and one of the main reasons why this book just made me want to hug it. We had the (finally!) mean/popular girl outed for what she was: popular because of her confidence. And can I say that I loved that she wasn't even that pretty? She was popular because of her confidence or bullying or whatever it was that made her the best. I actually wished she could have stuck around. Her interactions with Pearl were the best I've seen since the fish-out-of-water scenes in K-dramas. But I do want to say that if this was a real school, Bethany would have been the popular one. I never get how all these mean girls end up popular. In my school (which was full of rich suburban white kids) the most popular girl was yes pretty but she was also really sweet and OK, a little clueless. The same with the popular guy. Man, he wasn't even a jock. He was a really good musician with an excellent personality to match. To this day, no matter how much I enjoy the better written mean girl tropes, they still puzzle me.

Moving on, you have the next subversion, which is the "nice guys are not allowed by universal law to be the main love interest" trope. It brought tears to my eyes, that did. After I got over the whole stalkerish vibe of course, but that was explained later to my relief. In any case, I hope that newer YA writers take this as an expample. Pearl had a perfectly functional jackass as a boyfriend (you could say that this book is a sequel to a book I never want to read) whom Durst calls Jadrien (I laughed when I read that since I first saw that as Jace. Heh). She's aware he's an asshole but then so is she. Then she meets the nice guy and realizes that he's an asshole who cares more about having her because she's hard-to-get and would look good next to her than an actual understandable reason. You see, 1000+ YA female protagnists in the PNR genre? See how Pearl realized this in the space of half a book? So much win.

Bethany is another subversion of one-dimensional secondary "best friend" character of the new girl. Brad is another of the whole victim and "what's one to a million" trope. SPOILER! In most vampire books, once someone dies, that's it. That's literally the end of their existence. But Pearl not only remembers him but the fact that he had a personality right before he died cemented him in her mind and I had to stop from squealing when she was reminiscing. END OF SPOILER!

This last point leads me to the reason why I couldn't wholeheartedly love the book: the cliches. OK, so I understand that Pearl's family are all vampires and that they haven't had a stab in the heart yet but the gothic cliches? I cringed. It's not like they're forced to dress that way. They're vampires! They should have classy style. I can never wrap my head around why vampires would go around wearing human-made imitations of a style that existed in their time. It didn't make any sense to me. Also their attitudes were just ... really? You could have made them much more dynamic. Antoinette was a start with her Molly Ringwald obsession and so was Jeremiah, who I honestly wished I could have seen more of. He's a crazy vampire! Who doesn't love a crazy vampire?

*cough* Drusilla *cough*

He remained a dynamic character to the end and it made me sad to see an opportunity for Durst to flesh out a person affected by tragedy and influence Pearl a little more than done wasted. Then there was the vampire king who gave me the creeps when he was described as seventeen. Why seventeen PNR authors? He's a vampire! He could be any age! Seventeen is such a typical number. At least give me a college age guy so he doesn't feel like a bratty teen king a la Joffrey. Regardless of the age factor, I felt like there was a story behind the king that could have made me look beyond that magical number. A story that could have led to a personality. Sometimes I want to scream: EVIL DOES NOT MEAN PERSONALITY. Voldemort had character because he had a reason behind everything he did.

Why do all these characters assume that they're evil because they kill for food (which we humans do as well)? They're f*cking predators now! Of course they kill humans! Now I understand that vampires are a "species" of humans, which is why it causes some discomfort, but when you look at the news, people are killing each other for no reason everyday. I think that being a vampire with no other healthy blood source, you have to be granted some leeway. Now the king is cruel. He kills someone for violating standing protocol and for not being strong enough to even stand up. This sounds like pretty much every king/emperor/pharoah/dictator/president that ever lived. The latter is even considered a freaking mercy kill.

Another opportunity I felt flew by was Bethany and SPOILER! Pearl's father. I mean it screamed opportunity. Imagine if Bethany turned out to be a spy for Pearl's Daddy? It would have just, I mean ... OK, what actually played out made sense as to get her into  the game. But still. What if Pearl's Daddy turned Bethany? And she took Pearl's place? END OF SPOILER! Augh. So much good dramatic possibility. Most authors can't replicate other people's drama well let alone create this much in between their original set up. It could have gone and elevated itself to a five the same Wildefire was able to elevate itself with simply its ending. Because that's the kind of whiplash that feels good.

Unfortunately all the wasted opportunities plus the cliches cost this book a star.

All in all=☆☆☆☆

*This book was an ARC provided by NetGalley.
**This summary was taken from Goodreads.

Friday, June 3, 2011


Every flame begins with a spark. 
Ashline Wilde is having a rough sophomore year. She’s struggling to find her place as the only Polynesian girl in school, her boyfriend just cheated on her, and now her runaway sister, Eve, has decided to barge back into her life. When Eve’s violent behavior escalates and she does the unthinkable, Ash transfers to a remote private school nestled in California’s redwoods, hoping to put the tragedy behind her. But her fresh start at Blackwood Academy doesn’t go as planned. Just as Ash is beginning to enjoy the perks of her new school—being captain of the tennis team, a steamy romance with a hot, local park ranger—Ash discovers that a group of gods and goddesses have mysteriously enrolled at Blackwood…and she’s one of them. To make matters worse, Eve has resurfaced to haunt Ash, and she’s got some strange abilities of her own. With a war between the gods looming over campus, Ash must master the new fire smoldering within before she clashes with her sister one more time… And when warm and cold fronts collide, there’s guaranteed to be a storm.

WHOA. Before I say anything, let me just say that I just had the biggest there's-no-way-you-weren't-inspired-by-insertwhateverhere moment ever when reading Wildefire. Surprisingly it didn't even happen until literally halfway through. Halfway through, complete with hideous orange jumpsuits, three supernaturally-gifted kids were went off to complete their punishment for the day.

Sound familiar? If not let me give you a hint. It rhymes with smifits. Rearrange those letters or maybe look up said description above, because man, oh, man that was a blatant rip off if I ever saw one. I mean, really? Really? Misfits should not be tangled with. The first season of Mistfits is an excellent example of what television for teenagers should be like, but it cannot be translated onto paper. Every character on that show is imbued with a little something of the person playing it and so, it just can't be copied without somehow losing its spark in the translation. The spark I'm talking about is the personalities of Wildefire's gang. Other than their obvious diversity, they all blend into your typical kids with pasts that don't translate at all into the present. 

Knight missed an awesome chance to build onto his diverse cast. To get past the in-your-face (albeit excellent) racial problems some of them held and ground himself into the problems this set up for them all. Raja, a popular, pretty Egyptian? I know plenty of popular Egyptians and they're all extremely smart girls driven with ambition and goals to make people see past their nationality and she seemed only interested in Rolfe. And Lily? Girl who's been transplanted from Japan with such a blatant and un-Japanese (FYI Yuri is the Japanese translation of Lily and a name a lot of girls have so there really is no reason for Lily) moniker? Why didn't she have the same problems the Japanese exchange students I know do? If she's lived in Japan all her life, wouldn't she have some rather unique traits that us of the Western world don't understand? Wouldn't there be droves of guys coming after her, since Japanese high school girls are so fetishized by American, European and even their own culture? Friends of mine have been hit upon simply because they're Asian and look Japanese (even though they're not). It's the same with Ade and Rolfe. No matter how much Knight wanted to point out the cliche of being a surfer, he could have gone past that himself. 

I know that they're all supposed to be gods but just like that insufferable trend in YA literature about reincarnation and finding your lost love, those are all past lives. Why aren't they different? They should be teenagers without having to define them as racially diverse gods. That part of the book turned me off completely when I saw Serena being referred to as "the little Greek". This might be ableism but I would have been more comfortable with "blind girl" rather than refer to a part of her nationality that was not explained to beforehand and that it was the best and only thing that could define her. It was actually even more infuriating that her blindness didn't seem to have affected her life all that much. I liked that she said that most people wouldn't have cared (to help as she was being kidnapped) and then it goes onto being ignored because it's simply part of her being a goddess. Like it doesn't matter. Even though she's still blind! Having powers is no excuse to shove that aside. And the other characters . . . let's just say that they all kind of blended in. Snarky, sarcastic, sardonic, yes, they were that redundant.

One thing is for sure, Ash is one angry kid.

Don't get me wrong. I love anger. I myself write angry characters. On a whole, angry girls are better than passive, backbone-less heroines. But there are sometimes when Ash just doesn't make sense. I wish I could have been given a better outlook on her thoughts. I think actually a whole lot of what she did could have been much more understandable if the novel had been written in the first person. Although taking in context the subject matter and the scope of just what Ash is, the chosen perspective makes sense. 

OK, is it just me or has there been a sudden influx in the nicknaming of every YA heroine "Ash"? There's Wicked Lovely's Ash, Ash's Ash, and now Wildefire's Ash. It's kind of mindbogglingly really. Is there really no other cool-sounding nickname? I find that here the naming is appropriate; her power and her name relate to one another. Fire=Ash. Right? So what is this "Ashline" business? I checked on the Internet and although that isn't the best kind of resource on Earth, I couldn't find anything that suggested it was a human name. In fact, Google suggested I use Ashlyn and that's when it finally hit me, after about three hundred pages of wanting to cross out "Ashline", that it was actually just another quirked up name. That was extremely disappointing, especially since both Ash and Eve's "island roots" are touted throughout the book. I mean, the fact that they're adopted and not the product of the usual American couple means they could've had much more race-specific names, names that could have just as European ones meant something. Then again, this is paranormal. I should be glad for the fact Ash is even Polynesian to start with. Sigh. All right, rant over.

Their powers are something else as well. The one thing you can find are not linked to Misfits is in the way they utilize them. In other words, the fact that they suddenly have mastery over  telekinesis and making things appear out of thin air when a short while ago they were having a hard time believing all of this even existed. If there's one thing I hate in the paranormal books of late it's how easily the characters understand their powers. if it was explained, like maybe on The Last Airbender where Aang goes into a trance where all his older, experienced ancestors take control of his body and his powers leaving him in the backseat, this sudden mastery would make much more sense. But alas this is not the case.

The dialogue was also something that made me uncomfortable. Not that it didn't make me laugh at some parts. It was just that it was a little bit mature for their age. As in, teenagers I knew didn't talk like that unless they were hidden perpetually behind SAT books. Had I not known their real ages, I would've thought them to be college students. Then there's the whole cheesiness factor. Yes, it is difficult to write frightening and wrenching scenes without them becoming inevitably cliche but I find that Wildefire suffers from it whenever Ash is either in a nightmare or backed into a corner by someone or something. As I am a college student, I find that none of these kids, Ash included, sound especially like high school teenagers but more like my smart and sometimes reckless friends. It was just something that bothered me throughout the book.

Now let's talk about Ash's sister, Eve, because other than the fact that she's completely and totally kickass, she should be locked up. I don't care if she is a goddess. Someone should 1) give her a mental analysis and figure out that she's a sociopath and 2) toss her into the deepest crevice in the Pacific Ocean where she can rage forevermore. I appreciate that for once the villain is related to the protagnist. I'm glad that for once someone's showing that just because someone's blood-related to you doesn't mean they're going to go Oh, I love you. I can't hurt you even though you basically knocked a girl's teeth over my school's parking lot and killed her in my name. Because sometimes, relatives are assholes, plain and simple. Yes, even sisters.

Now about Colt, the love interest. When Colt climbed into Ash's bedroom, it assured the demotion of the following star. I'm sorry but the fact that even if it was just a dream, Ash was turned on is wrong. How do you not find it wrong that a college student is stalking a high school student? Can you say jailbait? Not to mention the declaration of insta-love. Of course the ending changed ALL of that. I literally reached the last line and went ASLKDASKDFLUDVNDILWEAJS NO WAY. I swear, the only reason why this book has three star is for the three of the best surprises to hit you. If there's one thing that Knight did absolutely terrifically in this book it was the twist because oh my soul were they ever insanely good. Insanely. And just because of that, I'm going to read the next. Yes, despite my many greivances, I'm reading the next one, why? Because Knight knows how to write well enough to keep going and only at the end does he throw the best punches at you. 

The real misgiving I had with this book was the hype. It didn't live up to the hype, and I hate it when a book does that. And then there's the pacing and that even though Ash knows she's a goddess about a third way through, she does nothing for the entire book. I mean seriously, she pretty much just breaks school rules, dates older men, plays tennis, fights with her sister and attends a school dance. Yeah, you know, everything I would do if I found out I was a fire goddess. It isn't until 3/4 of the way through that she even tries to find out who she is. Sigh. As much as I hate it, I recommend this book for the ending and the diverse albeit shallow main characters.

All in all=☆☆☆

*This was an ARC provided by Simon & Schuster publishing.
**This summary was taken from Goodreads.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Music's the Medicine of the Mind

I've been busy editing, revising and creating so I haven't had time all week to update my blog which definitely is bad on my part. In any case, we'll have this be "Song Sunday" for just today.

This week, I'll be listing the top instrumental songs I love off the top of my head. (I say instrumental because some of the songs I'm going to include probably won't be traditional classical music.)

1. Opening - Merry-go-round of Life by Joe Hisaishi

I don't know what it is about this song that just rips me a new one each time I listen to it. I think that maybe it's the nostalgia of childhood. I don't remember Spirited Away's soundtrack as much as I do Howl's Moving Castle, which is strange because it has only been five years since I watched it. Oh, nostalgia, how you befuddle me.

2. Star Locket - Various Artists

I've spent the past ten minutes trying to find who was responsible for creating this incredible thirty second masterpiece. I have come up short and I feel terrible for it.

3. Waltz No. 3 in A minor, Op. 34, No. 2 by Chopin

I used to be able to play this. Unfortunately as my keyboard spent years of neglect in the corner, so did my piano skills. I can do the first few bars with my right hand but that's about it. I do regret it, though. The only thing I can play now is Joy to The World and St. Nicolas is Coming To Town, which is great for entertaining drunk and annoying guests at Christmas. Even as a child, I've always preferred Chopin and Satie, to Mozart and Beethoven. (Not that they're not incredible, I just liked Chopin and Satie's tones a lot more.)

4. Arpeggione Sonata D821 (Pt. 1) composed by Frank Schubert, played by Emanuel Ax and Yo-Yo Ma

Ever since I watched the trailer of 49 Days, I was in love with the show and this song. What is so great about it? The fact that it is 8 minutes long, which means I don't have to get up from my bed and put it on repeat every two minutes like most of my favorite songs. A big plus is the cello. The cello is my favorite instrument, piano included. There's just something so soulful and plaintiveness about it.

5. Maybe - Yiruma

Hands up if you liked Yiruma before all this Twilight nonsense. (Of course I might have discovered him because of my fascination with South Korean culture but you know, he's still just freaking brilliant.) I couldn't pick a favorite so I just went with my favorite live performance.

6. Gnossienne No. 1 - Erik Satie

As stated above, I prefer Satie, but maybe I should rephrase that so it encompasses my all-exclusive love for him. Under great restraint, I did not list my top ten favorite songs by him alone.

7. Ode to Simplicity - Secret Garden

I remember when I discovered this band, I went on a binge with their music for days. Literally days straight without listening or doing anything else. This has to be one of the saddest songs on the album and it is also the thirteenth song off of it which is just awesome. (I'm superstitious but in that weird way that thinks everything that brings bad luck actually brings good luck.)

That's all for today folks!

Monday, May 23, 2011

In My Mailbox #3

In My Mailbox is hosted by Kristy at The Story Siren. Every Sunday (or whichever day of your choosing), bloggers post up books they've received in the past week.

I am so bad at keeping up with book readings. Case in point, I received Liar weeks ago and yet just finished the other day. I apologize if my reviews are ridiculously sporadic.

Heroes of the Valley by Jonathan Stroud
Halli Sveinsson has grown up in the House of Svein, listening to the legends of the heroes as all his forefathers did. His is a peaceful society where the violence of the past has been outlawed and disputes are settled by the Council.
But young Halli has never quite seemed to fit in with the others. For starters, he was not at all handsome or tall, like his attractive blond siblings. He's stumpy and swarthy, with a quick mind and aptitude for getting in trouble. Bored with the everyday chores and sheep herding, he can't help himself from playing practical jokes on everyone, from Eyjolf the old servant, to his brother and sister. But when he plays a trick on Ragnor of the House of Hakonsson, he goes too far, setting in motion a chain of events that will forever alter his destiny. Because of it, Halli will have to leave home and go on a hero's quest. Along the way, he will encounter highway robbers, terrifying monsters, and a girl who may finally be his match. In the end, he will discover the truth about the legends, his family, and himself.
Jonathan Stroud's new novel is a hero's saga and coming-of-age--as well as a surprising look at what bravery really means.

I loved Jonathan Stroud's Bartimaeus Trilogy with a passion, and I'm looking forward to seeing what he does with this.

Tales of the Madman Underground by John Barnes
Wednesday, September 5, 1973: The first day of Karl Shoemaker’s senior year in stifling Lightsburg, Ohio. For years, Karl’s been part of what he calls “the Madman Underground”—a group of kids forced (for no apparent reason) to attend group therapy during school hours. Karl has decided that senior year is going to be different. He is going to get out of the Madman Underground for good. He is going to act—and be—Normal. But Normal, of course, is relative. Karl has five after-school jobs, one dead father, one seriously unhinged drunk mother . . . and a huge attitude. Welcome to a gritty, uncensored rollercoaster ride, narrated by the singular Karl Shoemaker.
I heard good things about it. But that's pretty much it.

White Cat by Holly Black

Cassel comes from a family of curse workers — people who have the power to change your emotions, your memories, your luck, by the slightest touch of their hands. And since curse work is illegal, they're all mobsters, or con artists. Except for Cassel. He hasn't got the magic touch, so he's an outsider, the straight kid in a crooked family. You just have to ignore one small detail — he killed his best friend, Lila, three years ago.

Ever since, Cassel has carefully built up a façade of normalcy, blending into the crowd. But his façade starts crumbling when he starts sleepwalking, propelled into the night by terrifying dreams about a white cat that wants to tell him something. He's noticing other disturbing things, too, including the strange behavior of his two brothers. They are keeping secrets from him, caught up in a mysterious plot. As Cassel begins to suspect he's part of a huge con game, he also wonders what really happened to Lila. Could she still be alive? To find that out, Cassel will have to out-con the conmen.
Holly Black has created a gripping tale of mobsters and dark magic where a single touch can bring love — or death — and your dreams might be more real than your memories.

Red Glove by Holly Black
Curses and cons. Magic and the mob. In Cassel Sharpe's world, they go together. Cassel always thought he was an ordinary guy, until he realized his memories were being manipulated by his brothers. Now he knows the truth—he’s the most powerful curse worker around. A touch of his hand can transform anything—or anyone—into something else.

That was how Lila, the girl he loved, became a white cat. Cassel was tricked into thinking he killed her, when actually he tried to save her. Now that she's human again, he should be overjoyed. Trouble is, Lila's been cursed to love him, a little gift from his emotion worker mom. And if Lila's love is as phony as Cassel's made-up memories, then he can't believe anything she says or does.

When Cassel's oldest brother is murdered, the Feds recruit Cassel to help make sense of the only clue—crime-scene images of a woman in red gloves. But the mob is after Cassel too—they know how valuable he could be to them. Cassel is going to have to stay one step ahead of both sides just to survive. But where can he turn when he can't trust anyone—least of all, himself?

Love is a curse and the con is the only answer in a game too dangerous to lose.

I was glad I won books; I love acquiring books period and I'll definitely read this series again. The only problem is now that I have the first two, I'll be forced into buying the third. I get an itch when I don't finish building a trilogy or a series of seven books. 

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Liar, Liar

Micah will freely admit that she's a compulsive liar, but that may be the one honest thing she'll ever tell you. Over the years she's duped her classmates, her teachers, and even her parents, and she's always managed to stay one step ahead of her lies. That is, until her boyfriend dies under brutal circumstances and her dishonesty begins to catch up with her. But is it possible to tell the truth when lying comes as naturally as breathing?

Taking readers deep into the psyche of a young woman who will say just about anything to convince them, and herself, that she's finally come clean, Liar is a bone-chilling thriller that will have readers see-sawing between truths and lies right up to the end. Honestly


I love reading unconventional books but wow. Liar blew my expectations out of the water. That said, the one twist that had everyone talking, I saw coming a mile away, but the hallmark of a good writer is being able to turn that twist around and make it interesting despite the fact that it was obvious.

I think what made this book so good was its unorthodox storytelling. Larbalestier talked about using Scrivener in her Author's Acknowledgement, and that without it, the book might not have existed. I can understand that; I use Scrivener myself and it must have eased the writing process for this book so much. And if Scrivener helped Larbalestier, I'm sure that it'll help some other writers out there, looking for some unconventional methods to storytelling.

I'm not sure if I can really talk about this without spoiling the hell out of it. The only thing that I can say is that it is definitely a book that defines the best of its genre. Now nothing I can read about ________ will be able to come up to this. (Even though the existence of the matter is still subjective in itself.) Which sucks, really. I guess that means I'm confined to re-read Liar over and over again, although that doesn't seem like such a bad idea . . . especially since my mind is still spinning over the possibilities.

All in all=☆☆☆☆☆

*Summary taken from Goodreads.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Music is What Feeling Sounds Like

Music, music, music. I got a comment asking if I could share some of my music on my blog, and I'm surprised I didn't think of doing this before. Here are just a couple of choices of what I think are the most beautiful songs I can think of at the moment in no particular order. (Warning: I tend to think sad songs are the most beautiful so I can't be held responsible for anyone feeling immediate depression after listening to any of these.)

1. It's You - Super Junior

(Warning: the English subtitles might confuse you but that's OK. They confuse everyone.)
Meet Super Junior. Once the biggest boy band in the world with thirteen members. They'll frequently appear on any song list by a K-Pop lover, and I've personally been a fan from my first foray into K-Pop. One thing that appeals to me about K-Pop (Korean pop music) is the quality of their music videos. OK, sometimes it really doesn't work but half the time they're still better than most American produced MVs. This MV is the Drama version, in which the members walk around personifying the same person with their own personal touch. I personally think that at the beginning of this video, they were left by a girl and that's when they realized that it's her, she's the one. Sigh. I'm not romantic but that always gets me.

2. One - Epik High feat. Ji Sun

This is the first music video to ever make me cry. It took me a while to even understand what was going on and piece the actual video with the subtitles. Epik High does sing in Korean but they can't be classified as K-Pop. Before they appeared, the only music the majority of Koreans listened to was slow ballads or pop music. They brought hip hop music to Korea, and made it all the better for it. Did you know rap is actually an acronym of Rhythm And Poetry? I learned that by listening to Epik High.

Even if you don't understand, just listen and try and find the English lyric translation. I promise you will be swept away. Epik High is made up of 1 creative producer and 2 rappers, one of whom graduated from Stanford with a Masters in Creative Writing and the other who was a poet before becoming part of the underground hip hop movement. They have creative credibility, not to mention that one of their albums was banned from Korea for touching on subjects like government corruption, prostitution and religion.

3. Stay - Jesse Thomas

There's something so raw about this song. First time I listened to this, I was actually angry that it was so damn short! Then I realized that that was half the charm, and so I listened to it again and again and I've yet to tire of it. (And yes this song was on Degrassi. No, I don't watch it but man, was I ever surprised when I found it the number of amazing songs that are being featured in that show.)

4. Please - Jang Jae In

I did not like Athena. But I am addicted to this song. I've loved Jang Jae In ever since I heard her voice on a Korean Idol of sorts. I can't believe she's only nineteen. I watched this video of her recording Chasing Pavements when she was seventeen and my jaw dropped. Her voice is more soulful than most English artists I've listened to. Here are the English lyrics.

5. Louder Than Thunder - The Devil Wears Prada

Gah. So. Pretty.

6. The Genius Next Door - Regina Spektor

I realize that some people might understand the appeal of Regina Spektor but her lyrics are worth the listen. She's an honest-to-God genius from the way she sings, to her composition, to the words that follow. She's the genius next door.

7. Papa, Can You Hear Me? - Lea Michele

I was close. This close to bawling. I think, despite how sad the episode was, I felt that way because this song is just so beautiful. This is the song that made me fall in love with Lea Michele separate from her character. The range that she shows, just the fact that she can whisper and still sing like that. I just can't get over how awesome sauce she is.

That's all I've got for today, but leave any kind of suggestions on what you think the most beautiful songs you've ever listened to.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Follow Me Friday (3)

Follow Me Friday is a Weekly Meme hosted by Parajunkee. Every Friday bloggers participate to answer a specific question and spread the love!

Q. It's circle time. Time for us to open up and share. Can you tell us FIVE quirky habits or things about you? We all have them...

1. I don't like babies. I know that that's akin to being virtually inhumane, but I don't. And I'm not sorry for it. They freak me out with their disproportionate body parts (i.e. large heads and large eyes). Strangely, I love toddlers ...

2. I'm addicted to Asian music. And Celtic music. And Reggae music. And the soundtracks of any film/show in existence. And Italian opera sung by Korean singers. Case in point, my newest obsession:

And just a couple of months ago, I couldn't stop listening to jazz.

3. Like a lot of bloggers it seems, I suffers from insomnia. Usually to get to sleep, I have to play solitaire and read some random trivia (I have mild case of OCD) and listen to "A Year of Love" which is by a singer whom I worship. But at the same time, I don't really mind it. I love staying up at night and then walking around in the very early morning. I have done so many times and the experience is honestly one of kind. I am seriously considering turning nocturnal.

4.I read really fast. When I first received Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, (I wasn't aware) my sister timed me and I finished in 2 hours and thirty seven minutes. One of my many nicknames in the family is Spongebob.

5. I've always had a very strict schedule for Saturdays. Nowadays, I wake up at around 11:00, drive around until 12:55 and then return to my television to alternate between watching cooking shows on PBS (a television station which I've been faithful to since first exposure to Arthur) and writing.


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Worse Off Wednesday

Worse Off Wednesday is a brand new weekly meme created over at The Book Buff. Every week you post up about a character you think is worse off.

This meme is a brilliant idea. I can think of tons of characters who are worse off. Of course, most books I read feature a character who get progressively worse off as the story goes on. One of the most recent ones that come to mind is Alison from Ultraviolet by R.J. Anderson.

Being able to see music and taste colors sounds great at first but imagine not being able to turn it off. Ever. Imagine having to hide it, ignore it even as it pushes against your brain itself, because you're afraid of your mother who forbid from ever even mentioning it. Then imagine believing that you killed a girl because of it, and being carted off to a psychiatric hospital after confessing all about it.

To date, I've yet to remember a character in a contemporary world who started off this bad. Despite the intelligent love interest, I wouldn't change my place with Alison if I was given position as Emperor of the World. (OK, maybe. Just maybe.)

Borvil's Behemoth (Mild Spoilers)

The behemoth is the fiercest creature in the British navy. It can swallow enemy battleships with one bite. The Darwinists will need it, now that they are at war with the Clanker powers.

Deryn is a girl posing as a boy in the British Air Service, and Alek is the heir to an empire posing as a commoner. Finally together aboard the airship Leviathan, they hope to bring the war to a halt. But when disaster strikes the Leviathan's peacekeeping mission, they find themselves alone and hunted in enemy territory.

Alek and Deryn will need great skill, new allies, and brave hearts to face what's ahead.*

Behemoth was everything a sequel should be in my opinion: different in all aspects. Location wise, character wise and conflict wise. There wasn't much conflict in Leviathan other than Alek, who couldn't be caught, and the Leviathan's getaway. Behemoth is soaked in it, on the other hand, and the location made the experience all the better.

Set in early twentieth century Istanbul, as Westerfield mentioned in the author's note, unlike in real world history, the revolution was unsuccessful the first time around leaving the sultan's position still intact by the time the First World War came around. Changing that little bit of history was such a great decision; having this whole mess take place in a city that's rife with anarchists and German controllers wouldn't have been half as fun. The uncertainty (regarding the revolution and such) of the city ensured that the readers see that it's rich with so many customs and cultures that even with instability and invaders its multicultural traditions are left virtually untouched. I think that's what gave this book just one star just because. It's not just the culture of those living in Istanbul but I also learned some fabulous German. Who knew you didn't need a glossary to understand it?

I've read some reviews on Goodreads that say that they disliked the fact that Westerfield introduced this other character into the mix. I say, hurray! More conflict! It was particularly funny after Alek's certain revelation about said character towards Deryn and its ending, which made me squeal with delight as I read by the pool. Alek and Deryn's relationship grows a little deeper in this book as well as Alek tells her the last of his secrets and Deryn starts to feeling the beginning pangs of angsty guilty about her own little secret. I was really hoping though that she would tell him. There was this one moment (which Deryn agreed with me afterwards) in which I was hoping against hope that she would tell him but then ... Sigh. We can't always get what we want.

The pacing was excellent in this book. With every little thing that was wrapped up, a bigger problem presented itself. That kept me on edge the whole time I was reading and the ending blew me away. It's going to be angst fodder now that right after Deryn's fully accepts the fact that she's in love with the little prince, she hears how Alek will never ever marry a commoner and give his children the same fate the marriage of his parents gave him. And then the punches just keep coming! My mouth literally dropped at the penultimate page. It was the last thing I expected to happen. But I was placated by the hope that Alek and Deryn's journey might end in Japan. It's the Taisho period! Who doesn't want to see princely Alek tripping over his kimono? Though I have little doubt that Deryn will be doing the same.

The third book in the series, Goliath, comes out September 20 2011. Want. So. Badly. I also confess to stalk Scott Westerfield's blog in comfort that I'm not the only one doing so.

All in all=☆☆☆☆☆

*Summary taken from Goodreads.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


In the beginning, there's a boy standing in the trees . . . .

Clara Gardner has recently learned that she's part angel. Having angel blood run through her veins not only makes her smarter, stronger, and faster than humans (a word, she realizes, that no longer applies to her), but it means she has a purpose, something she was put on this earth to do. Figuring out what that is, though, isn't easy.

Her visions of a raging forest fire and an alluring stranger lead her to a new school in a new town. When she meets Christian, who turns out to be the boy of her dreams (literally), everything seems to fall into place—and out of place at the same time. Because there's another guy, Tucker, who appeals to Clara's less angelic side.

As Clara tries to find her way in a world she no longer understands, she encounters unseen dangers and choices she never thought she'd have to make—between honesty and deceit, love and duty, good and evil. When the fire from her vision finally ignites, will Clara be ready to face her destiny?

Unearthly is a moving tale of love and fate, and the struggle between following the rules and following your heart.*

The hype behind this book was incredible. First off, not only did one my favorite Goodreads reviewer give it five stars but the overall review ratings for Unearthly were almost five stars. I had to give in, and I'm partly glad I did.

Unearthly - this may have been said before - is the anti-Twilight. It features a girl who's smack dab in the middle of her journey as an angel, her big move having a purpose with selfish consequences, the main love interest who's actually just nice, a potential one who could be Gilbert Blythe's twin (if he wasn't already someone else's) and - gasp! - a family anyone can relate to. If this had been released a few years ago, I might have fainted at the thought of such instantaneousness progression.

One thing I loved about this book was the fact that Clara might be a quarter-angel but she never seems to feel that way. There are never those awkward moments where she's feeling the angelness and it makes her seem holier-than-thou and all Virgin-Maryish. It's actually at those angelic moments that Clara seems to feel the most awkward. It's a refreshing change from all the paranormal heroines who seem to find out about their powers and gain complete mastery over them in the space of an entire week.

I really did enjoy Unearthly. I especially loved Tucker and Angela. Tucker with all his gruff affection because he spent half a year teasing a girl he didn't know how to like. Angela because I'm having this inkling she's going to do something bad and that is all pure win in my book as are Goth angels. Christian ... I like the broody. Unfortunately, other than his looks, I really can't remember anything else about him. That makes me disappointed because I remember being seriously excited that he was showing interest in Clara and sad at the quick way her infatuation with him faded away.

This brings me to one of the main reasons why I only enjoyed the first and last half of the book: the stalking.

OK, so Christian was Clara's purpose, I get that. But the vibes I was getting from the way she was always around him reminded me of the reason why I hated Twilight and the rest of its predecessors. It was creepy. I couldn't get over the fact that she was literally following him around, watching him all the time, hanging around his favorite haunts, disliking his girlfriend and even going so far as to adopting some of his habits just because she needed to get near him. Read this book and tell me that Clara wasn't seriously crushing on this boy, purpose or no. That made it even more uncomfortable to read. It felt like Hand had created this purpose solely to get them together which would have seriously pissed me off had it not been for Tucker's existence. I honestly had to put the book down to process the fact that everyone, Angela included, wanted Kay out of the picture just so Clara could find her purpose. For once, the "mean girl" had a reason for being mean! The girl was trying to steal her boyfriend so blatantly of course she had every right to defend him (although spreading rumors was a little nasty I suppose). Couldn't Clara have done her purpose even with Kay in the picture? Hand-holding, cheek stroking or no?

There were only two other things that bothered me about the book: the wings and the upcoming sequel.

Maybe this is my fault. I was coming into this book with two impression: the wings and the upcoming sequel. I thought that these angels wouldn't have wings. They are crucial to the plot line, yes, but I find that it could have been so much more without them. (SPOILER) When I read that Black Wings (I shuddered at the name - I mean, Hand came up with Dimidus and Quarterius! Why, Black Wings? Why?), I nearly bawled. The way Hand described how they could be sensed was just so incredibly powerful that it hit me at all the right spots and more. The fact that Black Wings felt massive, externalizing guilt because of what they did was so spot on with angelology that I wanted to send Hand an email touting my internal author-crush. Then along came Sam. Sigh. Something about that scene made me uncomfortable as well. It seemed like Hand wanted him to be a villain and a sympathetic character at the same time and it just didn't click. (Although I am in bliss at the fact that Clara's MOM saved her!) (END OF SPOILER)

My other crushed impression was that this would be a stand-alone novel. Of course it wouldn't. Although it makes a little bit of sense considering that Hand has clearly put thought into the mythology of her world that one novel wouldn't be enough, I still honest-to-God thought that it was going to be a stand-alone and I was just so excited. Well, we can't have and eat too, can we? (This does not mean I will not be checking in to the sequel, I'll just be less excited. Sad face.)

Unearthly is still an excellent book and worthy of the hype. Hand's mythology is so intricate and thought-out that it makes you want to read more just for the sake of learning it. Not to mention, she kept her mythology close to the original source (No sparkly, gentlemanly creatures here!) but Hand deftly dealt with the subject of God so well that no one could possibly have any objections. Teen fluff or not, Unearthly is worth checking out for Tucker's wisecracks and the mythology alone.

All in all=☆☆☆☆

*Summary taken from Goodreads.