Sunday, September 17, 2017

Kerrytown Book Festival

I moved to Ann Arbor a couple of weeks ago for grad school, and it's so different here compared to LA (where I've lived for the last 5 years). Everything is so much quieter in Ann Arbor...well, except the freight trains that insist on honking as they go past. I like that it's a smaller town, and obviously because it's such a college town there are plenty of coffee shops and bookstores :)

Last weekend was the annual Kerrytown book festival, which I found out about quite on accident as I walked down Main street. It was a really cute little festival, with about 50 booths ranging from indie bookstores to stationary/journal booths to art prints to bookish swag. I guess that's actually quite a bit, but having been to the LA Times Festival of Books in the spring, this one seemed tiny by comparison!


I got some awesome bookish magnets and bookmarks, and business cards from people who make bookish stuff. One of the business cards was stylized as a library due date slip, which I thought was really cute! They did not pay me to publicize them or anything, I just thought their card + stuff was really cute:

Also saw some cute art prints of the Star Wars ladies ("May the FIERCE be with you", online here) which I almost bought but didn't because broke grad student + I'd already bought some other stuff at the fair.

The one book I bought at the fair was the first volume of Saga from an indie comic book shop. I asked for comic recommendations and the guy just handed me Saga and said he hasn't met anyone who didn't love it (spoiler alert, I loved it). He also recommended Habibi, which I got from the library later on because it was super gorgeous but I just couldn't afford it at the moment.

All in all, a few hours well spent at the book festival! I'm hoping to make it out to some author events too. Literati cafe has Jeffrey Eugenides and Celeste Ng coming out later this month, and I've liked but not loved their books. I think it would still be cool to hear them talk about what makes them tick though! We'll see how much of my life research + homework eats up.

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Wednesday, September 13, 2017

SFF Reading Challenge: Update 4

I think I'm doing pretty well on the reading challenge, I have 6 books and 4 1/2 months left. The manga and the novella will probably be quick, so as long as the books I'm planning on reading are available at the library, I'm golden! (Watch me still struggle to finish the last few books in December LOL)

I've read 3 more books for the challenge since my last update. I finally read Library of Fates, a book I've been meaning to read for ages! I also read Foundation, a book that I read in middle school and completely forgot about. And Persepolis, a comic book I've wanted to read for years but could never find at the library until this month. All three books were awesome!

I also finally planned all the books I'm going to read for the rest of the challenge. I was really excited about getting approved for 27 Hours on NetGalley because that was one of my crowdsourced twitter recommendations for a book with an Ace/Aro character. The only other book I've read with an Ace character is Quicksilver (featuring Tori), and I'm always looking to broaden my perspectives and support authors who bring diversity in their books. The other planned books are in gray below.

Purple books are ones I've finished since the last update, black books are ones I finished earlier this year, and the ones in gray are books I'm planning on reading for the challenge. 

1) Fairy tale retelling: Miranda and Caliban by  Jacqueline Carey - A retelling of Shakespeare's The Tempest

2) Historical Fantasy: Range of Ghosts by Elizabeth Bear - an alternate history/fantasy based on Mongolia in the time of Genghis Khan

3) NPR top 100 books: Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson

4) non-British Steampunk: Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo - Russian/Scandinavian steampunk? 

5) Crossed with another genre: The City & The City by China Mieville - a police procedural mystery story that's also sort of sci-fi

6) Manga: Either Death Note or Ghost in the Shell, whichever one is at the library when I go next :)

7) Comic book: The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

8) Urban Fantasy: Hunting Ground by Patricia Briggs

9) A classic: Foundation by Isaac Asimov

10) Superheroes: Wonder Woman Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo

12) Sci-fi western: The Gunslinger by Stephen King

13) earth-based sci-fi: Station Eleven by  Emily St. John Mandel - a beautiful post-apocalyptic story about how people find their humanity after the end of the world

14) A Sci-fi with aliens: Waking Gods by Sylvain Neuvel - ALIEN ROBOTS EVEN BETTER

15) Non-White culture fantasy: Library of Fates by Aditi Khorana

16) POC MCs: Seveneves by Neal Stephenson - multiple POC main characters, including Moira, Doc, and Ivy. Extra glad that Asian POCs were featured!

17) LGBTQIA+ MC: The Swan Riders by Erin Bow (Greta is bisexual, and some supporting characters are queer as well)

18) Ace/Aro character: 27 Hours by Tristina Wright

19) POC author: Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang - loved this anthology!

20) M/M Romance: A Conjuring of Light by VE Schwab - Rhys and Alucard are THE OTP

21) F/F Romance: Skullsworn by Brian Staveley - it would be spoilery to say who ;)

22) Pub 2016: Empire of Storms by SJ Maas - another epic love-hate installment of the Throne of Glass series haha

24) Novella: Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

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Sunday, September 10, 2017

#TRQ final update

The Reading Quest ends tonight! I don't think I'll be binge-reading anything before the night is out, so I figured I would put up my final stats now!

So I ended up at Level 5 with 200 XP! I also had 330 HP by the end of the challenge. I finished the Mage quest, just like I planned, but I only finished 1 book of the Knight quest. I did read a couple of books for side quests though. Here's a list of all the books I completed for the challenge:

One word title: Foundation by Isaac Asimov
Contains Magic: Flame in the Mist by Renee Adieh
Mythology: Library of Fates by Aditi Khorana
First Book in a series: Persepolis (part 1) by Marjane Satrapi
Different World: ACOWAR by SJ Maas

Verb in title: When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

Respawn (previously DNF) - The Star Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi
Animal Companion (animal in title) - The Tiger's Daughter by K. Arsenault Rivera
Mini-Game (poetry/graphic novel) - The Complete Works of Maya Angelou
Open - Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller

I'm pretty happy with how I did for this challenge. I normally would have been able to squeeze another book or two in, but moving across the country and starting grad school kind of threw a wrench in my normal reading habits LOL

I had a lot of fun with this challenge, though, and it really pushed me to finally read those books by POC that have been on my TBR forever. Now I have an even bigger list of books by marginalized authors or featuring POC/LGBTQIA characters, so I'm excited to get to those!

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Tuesday, September 5, 2017

TTT: Ten Books I Struggled to Get Into But Were Totally Worth It

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish
This week's theme: Top Ten Books I struggled with but were totally worth it in the end

Foundation – Isaac Asimov
This story takes place over a century, and it's more like a short story for every era. I always have a hard time connecting with characters immediately, so it was hard to keep re-setting every 50 or so pages, but overall it was an awesome story!

 Well of Ascension - Brandon Sanderson
I haven't re-read to confirm, but this is perhaps the only Sanderson book I dislike. It was really slow and angsty, but the ending was INCREDIBLY MINDBLOWING and book 3 made it more than worth it.
The Queen of Attolia – Megan Whalen Turner
It took me until I re-read this book to fall in love with it, the first time I just found it dull. But that's just because I was being a lazy reader and not paying attention to the subtle threads MWT was weaving together :)

The Tiger's Daughter - K Arsenault Rivera
I love the structure of this book in retrospect, but at first the fact that most of the book is in the form of letters addressed to "you" really threw me off. I eventually got used to it, and loved the story and characters.

Ancillary Justice - Ann Leckie
I had to read the first 50 pages twice before I figured out what was even going on, but this book was so worth the effort! Definitely made me think about my assumptions about gender, but also it was just a really cool, non-linear sci-fi story.

This Savage Song - VE Schwab
I really have no idea why it was so hard for me to get into this book, but the voices of the characters in my head were too whiny. So after reading the first 50 pages three times, I picked up the audiobook, and promptly loved the characters and their incredible journey.

The Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
There wasn't anything particularly difficult to get through with this book besides its incredible length. At around 1200 pages, it was a workout just to hold the book open! But this was a highly entertaining classic by an author whose work I really enjoy.

Empire of Storms - SJ Maas
For about 80% of this book, I was rolling my eyes. I honestly just wanted to read about Dorian and Manon, forget Aelin and the rest. And then somehow SJ Maas managed to make all that go out the window with an incredibly emotional final 100ish pages. I was really excited to see the epic scope of the series grow and see how many plot lines converged at last.
Image result for ember in the ashes

An Ember in the Ashes - Sabaa Tahir
I freaking hate Laia. She's so powerless and whiney and gorgeous but doesn't think so and just ugh. But the world was captivating and the other characters (especially in book 2) made it more than worth putting up with Laia.
Image result for jonathan strange and mr norrell 

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell - Susanna Clarke
I really struggled with the slow pace of this book, especially with the incredible amount of footnotes. Once the second half of the story picked up, though, I was hooked. This book was magical and captivating, and watching the BBC mini-series has cemented it as one of my favorite fantasy books.

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Saturday, September 2, 2017

Review: Strange the Dreamer

28449207Title: Strange the Dreamer
Author: Laini Taylor
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Goodreads Summary:The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around—and Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has always feared that his dream chose poorly. Since he was five years old he’s been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, but it would take someone bolder than he to cross half the world in search of it. Then a stunning opportunity presents itself, in the person of a hero called the Godslayer and a band of legendary warriors, and he has to seize his chance or lose his dream forever.
What happened in Weep two hundred years ago to cut it off from the rest of the world? What exactly did the Godslayer slay that went by the name of god? And what is the mysterious problem he now seeks help in solving?
The answers await in Weep, but so do more mysteries—including the blue-skinned goddess who appears in Lazlo’s dreams. How did he dream her before he knew she existed? And if all the gods are dead, why does she seem so real?

Welcome to Weep.

I fell in love with Laini Taylor's DoSaB trilogy because of her magical ability to pick the perfect words to make even the most mundane situations seem gorgeous. Her prose is so unique and beautiful, and that prose is in full force in Strange the Dreamer. It was even better with an excellent narrator, Steve West, reading the story out loud. I also enjoyed DoSaB better on audio than with the paper book; maybe her writing style is more immersive and beautiful to me when someone is actually telling the story.

As with DoSaB, Strange the Dreamer is full of whimsical worlds and magic known only to a secret few. There are gods and humans who are each flawed and have bad blood between them. There are complicated families, found families, incredible friendships, despicable human beings, and excellent descriptions of food. I really loved the world of this story, especially as we slowly unearthed the history of what happened to the gods and their children.

All the characters were very well-sketched out and memorable as well. Ironically, I don't remember her name except that it started with an M - the child who controlled ghosts - was the most mercurial and terrifying character in the book. It's pretty incredible when an author can make your skin crawl every time a six-year-old makes an appearance (even if she's not actually six). Sarai was incredible as the Queen of Nightmares - torn between wanting justice for the atrocities committed against her people by the humans and wanting to understand the humans whose dreams she inhabits. She was vulnerable yet loyal and committed to helping everyone she loved. Lazlo was endearing, of course, with his broken nose and his incessant curiosity. I also really liked all the secondary characters.

So it seems like I can't stop gushing about how amazing this book was, so why only 3.5 stars? The book takes forever to get on its feet. The true plot doesn't begin until nearly halfway through the book, and as much as I loved getting to know the characters and world, I felt like all those details were preventing the plot from progressing for much of the book. The ending was spectacular, however, and full of twists and heart-stopping moments.

I definitely recommend this for fans of Laini Taylor, and for anyone else interested in immersing themselves in a lushly written fairy-tale world tinged with more than a little bit of darkness and pain.

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Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Review: The Invisible Library

21416690Title: The Invisible Library
Author: Genevieve Cogman
Genre: Steampunk, mystery, sci-fi, fantasy

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Goodreads Summary:The first installment of an adventure featuring stolen books, secret agents and forbidden societies - think Doctor Who with librarian spies!
Irene must be at the top of her game or she'll be off the case - permanently...
Irene is a professional spy for the mysterious Library, which harvests fiction from different realities. And along with her enigmatic assistant Kai, she's posted to an alternative London. Their mission - to retrieve a dangerous book. But when they arrive, it's already been stolen. London's underground factions seem prepared to fight to the very death to find her book.
Adding to the jeopardy, this world is chaos-infested - the laws of nature bent to allow supernatural creatures and unpredictable magic. Irene's new assistant is also hiding secrets of his own.
Soon, she's up to her eyebrows in a heady mix of danger, clues and secret societies. Yet failure is not an option - the nature of reality itself is at stake.

I had heard many awesome things about The Invisible Library, and the premise sounded pretty cool. I was really excited to read a steampunk novel that also featured Librarian-spy-thieves. I love characters who love books, and I love reading about spies and thieves, so naturally I loved Irene. I wasn't as in love with the book as a whole though. My main complaint was that the mystery moved too slowly, and I didn't really like Kai for most of the book (or his relationship/banter with Irene). When you don't love one of the two main characters, it gets hard to stay invested in the story. But Kai grew on me eventually, when he was done brooding and spilled all his not-so-hard-to-guess secrets.

The world building in this book was really cool. I loved the concept of the Library that exists in a parallel dimension, with portals to worlds all over space and time. I also really liked how more Chaos-filled worlds had technology and/or magic that defied reason - it was fun to see how crazy things could get.

I can't put my finger on why I didn't love this book, but I did have fun reading it. It's quick and enjoyable, although sometimes the big reveals and twists aren't actually that hard to guess before they're revealed.
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Sunday, August 27, 2017

Review: City of Stairs

20174424Title: City of Stairs
Author: Robert Jackson Bennett
Genre: Science fiction, fantasy

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Goodreads Summary:Years ago, the city of Bulikov wielded the powers of the Gods to conquer the world. But after its divine protectors were mysteriously killed, the conqueror has become the conquered; the city's proud history has been erased and censored, progress has left it behind, and it is just another colonial outpost of the world's new geopolitical power. Into this musty, backward city steps Shara Thivani. Officially, the quiet woman is just another lowly diplomat sent by Bulikov's oppressors. Unofficially, Shara is one of her country's most accomplished spymasters — dispatched to investigate the brutal murder of a seemingly harmless historian. As Shara pursues the mystery through the ever-shifting physical and political geography of the city, she begins to suspect that the beings who once protected Bulikov may not be as dead as they seem — and that her own abilities might be touched by the divine as well.

The world of City of Stairs has a pretty cool premise: A nation enslaved by another revolts, kills the Gods of their rulers, and then takes power for itself...but there's more to the story and we are just on the verge of discovering what really happened. I loved that the nations weren't based on medieval western Europe; the main characters come from countries based on south Asia, Russia, and Scandinavia (as far as I could tell, anyways). I also thought it was very cool how the cultures of both countries were well-developed and influenced how the characters from different places viewed the world so differently. The world-building in this book is top notch.

That said, I didn't love this book because it just felt very slow and plodding. I was bored throughout the middle. It just felt like the book was longer than it needed to be. There were political machinations and progress made on the murder mystery throughout the book, but what I really wanted to know was what happened in the cataclysm so long ago and what the ramifications were for "now". I got the answers I wanted eventually, complete with epic battle sequences, but it just took so long to get there that I nearly didn't finish.

I did enjoy this book, but I probably will not be continuing with the series.

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