[Currently Reading/Listening to] Girl power.

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An untested young princess must claim her throne, learn to become a queen, and combat a malevolent sorceress in an epic battle between light and darkness in this spectacular debut—the first novel in a trilogy.

Young Kelsea Raleigh was raised in hiding after the death of her mother, Queen Elyssa, far from the intrigues of the royal Keep and in the care of two devoted servants who pledged their lives to protect her. Growing up in a cottage deep in the woods, Kelsea knows little of her kingdom’s haunted past . . . or that its fate will soon rest in her hands.

Long ago, Kelsea’s forefathers sailed away from a decaying world to establish a new land free of modern technology. Three hundred years later, this feudal society has divided into three fearful nations who pay duties to a fourth: the powerful Mortmesne, ruled by the cunning Red Queen. Now, on Kelsea’s nineteenth birthday, the tattered remnants of the Queen’s Guard—loyal soldiers who protect the throne—have appeared to escort the princess on a perilous journey to the capital to ascend to her rightful place as the new Queen of the Tearling.

Though born of royal blood and in possession of the Tear sapphire, a jewel of immense power and magic, Kelsea has never felt more uncertain of her ability to rule. But the shocking evil she discovers in the heart of her realm will precipitate an act of immense daring, throwing the entire kingdom into turmoil—and unleashing the Red Queen’s vengeance. A cabal of enemies with an array of deadly weapons, from crimson-caped assassins to the darkest blood magic, plots to destroy her. But Kelsea is growing in strength and stealth, her steely resolve earning her loyal allies, including the Queen’s Guard, led by the enigmatic Lazarus, and the intriguing outlaw known simply as “the Fetch.”

Kelsea’s quest to save her kingdom and meet her destiny has only just begun. Riddled with mysteries, betrayals, and treacherous battles, Kelsea’s journey is a trial by fire that will either forge a legend . . . or destroy her.

Goodreads

The unnaturally speedy reading pace that I managed to achieve in the first fortnight of the year has grinded almost completely to a halt these past few days. Thanks to Life starting to take over, I don’t think I’ll be able to clock in the same amount of books within the next few weeks as I did those first two.

Of course, it isn’t helped by the fact that the titles I blew through those fourteen days were meant for much younger readers and were thus short and simple. This book isn’t either. With its 400++ pages of tiny font that makes me feel so old, it’s going to take me a while to get through it.

Still, though, reading is meant to be enjoyable and so there really isn’t a need for me to rush through it (except maybe to beat the library due date). It’s been quite an enjoyable read, too. The pace is quick enough and so far it’s been quite action-packed. I’m only done with the first 50 pages or so, though, so here’s hoping it stays or gets even more awesome.

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It’s one thing to learn to curtsy properly. It’s quite another to learn to curtsy and throw a knife at the same time. Welcome to Finishing School.

Fourteen-year-old Sophronia is a great trial to her poor mother. Sophronia is more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper manners–and the family can only hope that company never sees her atrocious curtsy. Mrs. Temminnick is desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady. So she enrolls Sophronia in Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality.

But Sophronia soon realizes the school is not quite what her mother might have hoped. At Mademoiselle Geraldine’s, young ladies learn to finish…everything. Certainly, they learn the fine arts of dance, dress, and etiquette, but they also learn to deal out death, diversion, and espionage–in the politest possible ways, of course. Sophronia and her friends are in for a rousing first year’s education.

Goodreads

On the audio side of things, I’m working my way through Etiquette & Espionage and I’m really loving it. I loved Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series and this bears the same style – brimming with hilarious quips, ridiculous situations and the best over-the-top affect since, well, her last few books.

What makes the book really fantastic though, is the amazing narration done by Moira Quirk. She has such a wide repertoire of distinct voices and her delivery of aforementioned over-the-top affect is a delight to listen to.


Dear reader, what are you currently reading or listening to?

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[Library Haul] Aching for some reading.

As if six books in my previous haul (which I’m still working my way through, albeit at a much speedier clip than usual) wasn’t enough, I passed by one of my favourite libraries this week, couldn’t miss the chance, and ended up walking out with six more books.

A Hat Full of Sky: Tiffany Aching is ready to begin her apprenticeship in magic. She expects spells and magic—not chores and ill-tempered nanny goats! Surely there must be more to witchcraft than this! Indeed, there is. . . .

Wintersmith: When the Spirit of Winter takes a fancy to Tiffany Aching, he wants her to stay in his gleaming, frozen world. Forever. It will take the young witch’s skill and cunning, as well as help from the legendary Granny Weatherwax and the irrepressible Wee Free Men, to survive until Spring.

I Shall Wear Midnight: As the witch of the Chalk, Tiffany Aching performs the distinctly unglamorous work of caring for the needy. But someone—or something—is inciting fear, generating dark thoughts and angry murmurs against witches. Tiffany must find the source of unrest and defeat the evil at its root, for if she falls, the whole Chalk falls with her. . . .

Goodreads

It seems that life (or librarians) is helping me out with my bookish resolutions because other than giving me a huge stack of Pierce’s books in great condition at one library (although I borrowed them right before I actually made the resolution to complete her works), this time round I found a huge stack of Pratchett’s Tiffany Aching series, in mint condition too.

I didn’t manage to find the first, Wee Free Men, in the series though, so I’ll have to hunt down a copy of that first before starting on these.

Update on 16/1/16: I’ve found the Wee Free Men in another library, in equally pristine condition as the rest! Will be starting on that soon!

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The year is 1945. Claire Randall, a former combat nurse, is just back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon when she walks through a standing stone in one of the ancient circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is a Sassenach—an “outlander”—in a Scotland torn by war and raiding border clans in the year of Our Lord…1743.

Hurled back in time by forces she cannot understand, Claire is catapulted into the intrigues of lairds and spies that may threaten her life, and shatter her heart. For here James Fraser, a gallant young Scots warrior, shows her a love so absolute that Claire becomes a woman torn between fidelity and desire—and between two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives.

Goodreads

I also found an almost new copy of Outlander, another check on my bookish resolutions list. I haven’t been able to find a copy of it in libraries (or even in bookshops) so this was a nice surprise.

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What if you aren’t the Chosen One?

The one who’s supposed to fight the zombies, or the soul-eating ghosts, or whatever the heck this new thing is, with the blue lights and the death?

What if you’re like Mikey? Who just wants to graduate and go to prom and maybe finally work up the courage to ask Henna out before someone goes and blows up the high school. Again.

Because sometimes there are problems bigger than this week’s end of the world, and sometimes you just have to find the extraordinary in your ordinary life.

Even if your best friend is worshipped by mountain lions.

Award-winning writer Patrick Ness’s bold and irreverent novel powerfully reminds us that there are many different types of remarkable.

Goodreads

Also a surprise was this title, which I’m pretty sure I’ve only seen arrive in the bookstores in the past few weeks. I wasn’t a fan of the few Ness works that I read but he’s acclaimed enough and the premise of this story interesting enough that I don’t mind giving him a try again.

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Sixteen-year-old Austin Szerba interweaves the story of his Polish legacy with the story of how he and his best friend , Robby, brought about the end of humanity and the rise of an army of unstoppable, six-foot tall praying mantises in small-town Iowa.

To make matters worse, Austin’s hormones are totally oblivious; they don’t care that the world is in utter chaos: Austin is in love with his girlfriend, Shann, but remains confused about his sexual orientation. He’s stewing in a self-professed constant state of maximum horniness, directed at both Robby and Shann. Ultimately, it’s up to Austin to save the world and propagate the species in this sci-fright journey of survival, sex, and the complex realities of the human condition.

Goodreads

I’ve quite liked the two Ryan Dean novels I’ve read from Smith and so, coming across this one for the first time at a library, all pristine and sparkly, I knew I had to add it to my shoulder-hating stack.

Goodness knows how I’m going to get all this reading done before the due dates.

Dear reader, have you gotten any excellent titles from the library lately?

[Currently Reading] The Song of the Lioness quartet by Tamora Pierce.

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[…] the Song of the Lioness quartet is the adventurous story of one girl’s journey to overcome the obstacles facing her, become a valiant knight, and save Tortall from conquest. Alanna douses her female identity to begin her training in Alanna: The First Adventure, and when she gains squire status in In the Hand of the Goddess, her growing abilities make her a few friends — and many enemies. Books 3 and 4 complete Alanna’s adventure and secure her legend, with the new knight errant taking on desert tribesmen in The Woman Who Rides like a Man and seeking out the powerful Dominion Jewel in Lioness Rampant.

Goodreads

In previous posts, I mentioned how Tamora Pierce’s Wild Magic wasn’t perfect but was good enough to land on my best reads of 2015, that I would have to visit the earlier quartet before resuming the Immortals series, and that I had miraculously procured the entire first quartet, all in great condition, at the library. I almost mentioned how one of my resolutions of the year is to finish off all of her works

…and that’s what I seem to be doing now.

The thing is, her books are short and written so breezily that I’m flying through them at a speed that seems quite impossible for a book snail like me. Perhaps it’s because I’m about twice the age of her actual target readers.

Still, I’m blowing so fast through the series that doing a Currently Reading for each of the books will just mean an entire week of such posts so I’m just doing it all here at once.

So far, it’s been an enjoyable ride (heh.). The books are simply written and the characters are all still a bit too nice but the story is so engaging and the plot progressed so smoothly that I’m actually foregoing internet time for the book. Here’s hoping it gets even better!


Dear reader, have you read the Song of the Lioness quartet or any of Pierce’s other works? What did you think?

 

[Top Ten Tuesday] Bookish Resolutions 2016.

[This post is done as part of the Top Ten Tuesday meme hosted by The Broke and The Bookish]

TTTEvery year, I do up a personal list of resolutions and while I have never been able to fully adhere to the whole thing, these resolutions do help me set some targets to work towards. This year, I’ve decided to expand my 2016 personal resolutions to include a subsection purely for reading-related goals so it’s great that this is the first TTT topic (TTTT?) of the year.

Unlike some of my other resolutions, which can be rather nebulous despite my best efforts to make them as specific as possible, I think my bookish ones are going to be rather targeted and quantified.

[Bookish resolutions]

This year, I plan to:

1. Read 40 books: last year I announced that I would read 55 books, a prediction that fell totally flat when I had only achieved 27 by the end of 2015 thanks to life happening. This year, I’m going for something a bit more realistic given the many exciting changes I’ll be having in my personal life, but still a lofty enough number that I’ll have to push myself sometimes.

2. Blog here at least three times a month: running both a personal blog and this book one can be quite overwhelming at times (which…is not something you can see from the pitiful amount of posts on either) but this year I’ve set myself a comfortable target of two blog posts per week (or eight a month). At least three of those will/shall be for here.

3. Be more active in the book community: this is perhaps the vaguest of my resolutions here but it’s been something I really have been wanting to step up on. This could include taking part in more challenges, commenting more on others’ posts, or hopefully, having some collaborations.

4. Writing more: while this is only tangentially related to a blog on reading, I’ve been wanting more and more to stretch my writing muscle, something that has been sorely neglected for over a decade. I’m currently working on some Magic: the Gathering fanfiction and hope to resume my Pokemon fanfiction and perhaps even some original works.

[Book resolutions]

On top of that, I also have some resolutions targeting specific titles, including:

5. starting on The Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin: this is the current hip fantasy series and I always feel like such a fantasy fraud for not having actually given it a try. The first book is lying in my TBR pile so I aim to get around to it this year.

6. starting on The Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon: I’ve heard so many great things about this series that I have to figure out what all the hooha is about.

7. finishing the Tiffany Aching series by Terry Pratchett: this year, I (and the rest of the comedy fantasy loving world) said goodbye to my favourite author of all time and it shames to say that, while I’ve devoured most of the entries in the Discworld series but have never touched this subseries. Since his last work was about Tiffany Aching, I think it’s apt that I visit this part of the (Disc)world to bid my final farewells.

8. finishing all of Tamora Pierce’s series: I’m quite liking what I’ve read so far and since her books are quite short and quick reads, I hope to blast through her collected works.

9. completing The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien: again, see what I said about George R. R. Martin, only even more epic and classic.

10. finding the Children of Amarid series by David B. Coe: this stands as one of my favourite series of all time and although I have the first book in the series, I don’t seem to be able to find the other two anywhere anymore. This year, I shall try harder.


 

Dear reader, what are your bookish 2016 resolutions?

[Library Haul] Tamomadness.

In a concerted effort to start off 2016 on the right literary note (or, y’know, because I just happened to pass by a huge library), I borrowed a whopping six books on the last day of 2015 for the biggest library haul in quite a while.

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[…] the Song of the Lioness quartet is the adventurous story of one girl’s journey to overcome the obstacles facing her, become a valiant knight, and save Tortall from conquest. Alanna douses her female identity to begin her training in Alanna: The First Adventure, and when she gains squire status in In the Hand of the Goddess, her growing abilities make her a few friends — and many enemies. Books 3 and 4 complete Alanna’s adventure and secure her legend, with the new knight errant taking on desert tribesmen in The Woman Who Rides like a Man and seeking out the powerful Dominion Jewel in Lioness Rampant.

Goodreads

One of the last books I read last year was Tamora Pierce’s Wild Magic and, while it wasn’t perfect, I liked it enough to name it as one of my favourites for 2015. I read on Gillianberry’s Literary PSA, though, that this series wasn’t the best to start the whole saga with and therefore decided to delay looking for Wild Magic‘s sequel until I’ve finished the first quartet…

…which, lo and behold, I found at the library! All four books, all in pristine condition! I’m guessing January will be Tamora Pierce month for me.

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Meet the Cooke family. Our narrator is Rosemary Cooke. As a child, she never stopped talking; as a young woman, she has wrapped herself in silence: the silence of intentional forgetting, of protective cover. Something happened, something so awful she has buried it in the recesses of her mind.

Now her adored older brother is a fugitive, wanted by the FBI for domestic terrorism. And her once lively mother is a shell of her former self, her clever and imperious father now a distant, brooding man.

And Fern, Rosemary’s beloved sister, her accomplice in all their childhood mischief? Fern’s is a fate the family, in all their innocence, could never have imagined.

Goodreads 

This has been sitting on my TBR for the longest time, so long that I can’t even remember when or why I placed it there. Still, this is the first time I’ve seen it at a library (previous sightings were all at bookstores) and it was in mint condition so of course it had to go in the stack.

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An untested young princess must claim her throne, learn to become a queen, and combat a malevolent sorceress in an epic battle between light and darkness in this spectacular debut—the first novel in a trilogy.

Young Kelsea Raleigh was raised in hiding after the death of her mother, Queen Elyssa, far from the intrigues of the royal Keep and in the care of two devoted servants who pledged their lives to protect her. Growing up in a cottage deep in the woods, Kelsea knows little of her kingdom’s haunted past . . . or that its fate will soon rest in her hands.

Long ago, Kelsea’s forefathers sailed away from a decaying world to establish a new land free of modern technology. Three hundred years later, this feudal society has divided into three fearful nations who pay duties to a fourth: the powerful Mortmesne, ruled by the cunning Red Queen. Now, on Kelsea’s nineteenth birthday, the tattered remnants of the Queen’s Guard—loyal soldiers who protect the throne—have appeared to escort the princess on a perilous journey to the capital to ascend to her rightful place as the new Queen of the Tearling.

Though born of royal blood and in possession of the Tear sapphire, a jewel of immense power and magic, Kelsea has never felt more uncertain of her ability to rule. But the shocking evil she discovers in the heart of her realm will precipitate an act of immense daring, throwing the entire kingdom into turmoil—and unleashing the Red Queen’s vengeance. A cabal of enemies with an array of deadly weapons, from crimson-caped assassins to the darkest blood magic, plots to destroy her. But Kelsea is growing in strength and stealth, her steely resolve earning her loyal allies, including the Queen’s Guard, led by the enigmatic Lazarus, and the intriguing outlaw known simply as “the Fetch.”

Kelsea’s quest to save her kingdom and meet her destiny has only just begun. Riddled with mysteries, betrayals, and treacherous battles, Kelsea’s journey is a trial by fire that will either forge a legend . . . or destroy her.

Goodreads

That is perhaps the longest blurb I’ve ever seen on Goodreads.

Like We Are All… above this, I cannot remember why I placed this on my TBR, although I do know that it was a much more recent addition. Still, when I came across this at the library, I found the name familiar enough that I grabbed it before I realised that it was actually on the list. I guess some books are just meant to be.

This book will definitely be the last on this list to be read, though, since it’s the start of a new series and I’m not going to put off another sequel to finish other books (i.e. the above ones) first.

Happy new year!

  
If 2015 was great for you, I wish you an even more awesome 2016. If it wasn’t, I hope that circumstances allow you to step back, take a deep breath and reset for a better year ahead.

In any case, have a happy new year everyone! Here’re some fireworks that looks more like flowers.

Books Wrap-up 2015 a.k.a. Audiobooks saved my life.

This year, audiobooks saved my (book) life. Making up more than half the titles I’ve consumed these past months, the allure and convenience of on-the-go “reading” was too difficult to resist, especially when books feel like such heavy investments of time and mental energy that I usually end up devoting my sedentary breaks to calligraphy, games, shows/Youtube (and, ironically, Booktube), Pocket articles and other forms of less cerebrally-taxing general merriment.

Despite that, I still did not reach my target of 55 books this year, barely even scraping the halfway mark. This small number, of course, makes choosing the standouts this year a bit of a contradictory mess. On one hand, there aren’t that many choices to rack my brain on. On the other, that also means the quality pool is smaller, especially when my year has been dominated by middling autobiographies all quite similar to each other.

Still, there were a few outstanding titles and so, without further ado, here are The Great Gabsby’s Award Winners of 2015!

(…actually, I need to add in some further ado here just to clarify that these aren’t books that were necessarily released, just read by me, in 2015.)

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Best book to listen to: The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex

In a year where I spent more time listening to books than actually reading them, this one was by far the best aural experience. Like I mentioned in my review, the story itself is nothing particularly exciting but the voicework is nothing short of riveting.

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Best Introduction to Irish Mythology 101 substitute: Hounded by Kevin Hearne

I was a mythology nut growing up but always stuck to more traditional, Greco-Roman fare so this made for an interesting premise based purely on its origins. I love this book’s blending of existing mythology and original elements and the result made for an exciting, if light-hearted, romp in the park. The voicework is pretty good here, too. I can’t wait to start on the next entry in the series.

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Best introduction to simple-but-good fantasy: Wild Magic by Tamora Pierce

One of the last books I completed this year, this was a good simple read. It’s not particularly deep, the characters are all a bit too nice and perfect, and the deus ex machinating is a bit too much at times, but Pierce writes so elegantly (some might say…piercingly) that it doesn’t matter. The book will fly past sooner than you can figure out how to pronounce “Tamora”.

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Best conclusion to a sci-fi series (that I’ve read): Strike by D. J. MacHale

I have to draw your attention to the little bracket in the award since, well, this is the only sci-fi series I’ve completed. Still, genre aside, I’d still push this title to anyone. MacHale’s Pendragon series was one of my childhood favourites and it’s a testament of how good he is that he can combine two genres I don’t normally go for and get me so excited for each sequel. This was a fitting and, well, explosive end to the series and I can only hope he churns out more like it.

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Best middle child entry: Firefight by Brandon Sanderson

Middle entries in trilogies usually aren’t that great, laden down with the task of having to progress the plot while still holding out on enough for the exciting finale. This one was fantastic, though. It had a self-contained story while still moving the trilogy’s one along at a brisk clip. The twist at the end wasn’t as good as his usual ones but it’s nonetheless a good enough read that I’m now hankering for the final entry.

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Best This Is Not What I Expected?! surprise: One More Thing by B. J. Novak

The book that made me realise I really have to read book blurbs before starting on them, this title was interesting in that, in a year where I chowed down on mediocre author-narrated tomes (the two most disappointing ones being the sophomore efforts from Jenny Lawson and Mindy Kaling), this broke the mould by a) not being a memoir and b) being surprisingly well-written. I did not expect a collection of short fictional works and had spent the first few wondering why his life (as I had assumed this to be a memoir) was so dramatic. While I did read another “Heh?!”-inducing, celebrity-read book this year (Aziz Ansari’s Modern Romance), this one was the more interesting one.