Summer Reader Book Tag

Summer is almost over, but there’s still time for me to post this before it becomes irrelevant! 😉 This tag was created by islandOFbooks, I believe, and I was (for once! 😀 ) actually tagged for it – by the lovely Cátia from The Girl Who Read Too Much! Now on to the tag:

Amy Tan//The Kitchen God's Wife1) Lemonade – a book that started off bitter but then got better

Since I’ve been thinking about it a lot recently, I’ll once again take this chance to mention The Kitchen God’s Wife by Amy Tan. I really didn’t enjoy the first few chapters, but once the story got  going, it was an incredible read! I’ve written a full review of the book here, if you’re interested in checking it out. 🙂

Natasha Allegri//Adventure Time with Fionna & Cake2) Golden Sun – a book that made you smile beyond compare

Adventure Time with Fionna & Cake by Natasha Allegri makes me smile like a lunatic. It’s just so colourful and fun! I don’t know why I love the genderswapped Adventure Time universe so much, but I do, and this comic is Fionna & Cake at their best! 😀

Kim Thúy//Mãn3) Tropical Flowers – a book set in a different country

I have a lot of books that are set in countries other than England (especially America, China & Japan), but for this one I wanted to pick a book where the setting is a very prominent part of the story, so I decided to go with Mãn by Kin Thúy, which is set within a Vietnamese community in Montreal – and which is another book I’ve written a full review for (one of the first reviews I wrote)! You can read it here.

J.K. Rowling//Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban4) Tree Shade – a book where a mysterious or shady character was introduced

Sirius Black in Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling! He was such a suspicious character when he was introduced! And, actually, Remus Lupin was pretty shady, too, when we first met him (in the same book). Naturally, these two are some of my favourite characters now. 😛

Tahereh Mafi//Shatter Me5) Beach Sand – a book that was grainy, and the plot barely developed

The Shatter Me series by Tahereh Mafi had its strengths, but the plot was definitely not one of them. This trilogy is nominally a dystopian series, but you can only tell that it’s a dystopian because the characters keep telling you it is – the society and the problems it faces barely come in to the story, while it focuses instead on angsty romantic drama. I’ve written another full review of this series here, if you’d like to take a look.

Jane Austen//Emma6) Green Grass – a character that was full of life, making you smile

Emma Woodhouse from Jane Austen’s novel Emma. She’s an incredible snob, and she always thinks that she knows better than everyone else, but I love her – partly because of those qualities. She just ends up in so many hilariously awkward situations throughout the book, and it never fails to get me smiling. 😀

Cassandra Clare//Clockwork Princess7) Watermelon – a book that had some juicy secrets

Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare! The mystery of Tessa’s entire existence is something that will baffled me for the entire Infernal Devices trilogy – until I got to the end of the last book, where all was revealed. And it was absolutely worth the wait! One of the best conclusions to a series that I’ve read in a very long time.

J.R.R. Tolkien//The Fellowship of the Ring8) Sun Hat – a book with a vast universe/setting

It only makes sense to pick an epic fantasy for this question, and – though it’s an obvious answer – the biggest, most in-depth setting I’ve ever come across is J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth, the setting of both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings (as well as a vast mythology, which is published in various places).

Jennifer L. Armentrout//Obsidian9) BBQ – a book in which a character was portrayed as a hunk

Almost every romance novel I’ve ever read! 😛 It was a difficult choice, but for this one I’ve decided to go with the Lux series by Jennifer L. Armentrout. Damon is the hunk in question, and his relationship with Katy – the main character – is a whole load of fun to read~ ❤

10) Summer Fun – pass the tag on

I pass. 😛 Since it’s very nearly the end of summer, I won’t be tagging anyone else specifically. If you’d like to do this tag despite the incoming cold, rainy weather, then feel free to consider yourself tagged by me! 🙂
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January Wrap Up

January was not my best reading month, mostly because I spent the majority of the month in a rather severe reading slump, the likes of which I haven’t experienced in a few years. Luckily, I managed to get through it (with the help of a couple of readathons), and I eventually managed to read a grand total of five books, and two short stories.

Tahereh Mafi//Unravel MeUnravel Me by Tahereh Mafi. The sequel to Shatter Me, which I read in December. I found it a little slow at first, which wasn’t much help with getting out of my reading slump, but I made it through eventually! The world’s a lot more fleshed out in this, which I appreciated, and I also found myself liking Warner more and more as the book went on, while liking Adam much less (I’ve definitely figured out where my loyalties are in terms of this series’ love triangle).3 stars

Kim Thúy//MãnMãn by Kim Thúy. A beautifully-written book about life, love and food, set in a Vietnamese immigrant community in Montreal. I’ve written a full review of this book, which you can read here.5 stars

Marcus Sedgwick//The Dark HorseThe Dark Horse by Marcus Sedgwick. The story of a boy named Sigurd growing up in what seems to be an island fishing village, and his foster sister Mouse, who was raised by wolves then rescued by Sigurd’s tribe. The story is quite slow-moving, particularly at the beginning, but I found that it suited the story that Marcus Sedgwick was telling. Sigurd was an interesting and believable character – a young boy trying to do right by his family, even when he’s not really sure what the right thing is – and his relationship with Mouse is sweet. The whole story has a folkish feel to it, which I liked a lot, though the ending was quite sad. 3 stars

Jane Hardstaff//The Executioner's Daughter

The Executioner’s Daughter by Jane Hardstaff. A slightly fantastical tale set in the Tudor period, about a girl who has grown up in the Tower of London and longs for the outside world. I liked the writing a lot – it was both quick and engaging; the main character, Moss, was an interesting and likeable protagonist; and her friend Salter’s cynical outlook on the world was a fun contrast to Moss’. The historical and fantasy elements of the story were blended together very well, and lent the book a rather spooky undertone. My favourite part of the book, however, was the relationship between Moss and her father, which, though full of misunderstandings, was resolved beautifully in the end. There’s a sequel (River Daughter), which I’m now looking forward to reading, too, though The Executioner’s Daughter was also an enjoyable read in and of itself.3 stars

Tahereh Mafi//Destroy MeDestroy Me by Tahereh Mafi. This is the first of the novellas in the Shatter Me universe, and follows Warner from the end of Shatter Me through to around the middle of Unravel Me. Warner’s perspective is definitely interesting, and after reading this novella and Unravel Me, I finally feel like I understand where all the hype over this series is coming from. Despite the fact that this was released between the first two books, I definitely wouldn’t advise reading it before finishing the second book.4 starsPrudence Shen//Do Not TouchDo Not Touch by Prudence Shen. A short story about a security guard in an art gallery, whose duties involve rescuing people who have fallen into paintings that they weren’t supposed to touch – in this case, retrieving a schoolboy from Georges Seurat’s Le Cirque. Generally speaking, I’m not really an art person, so some of the specific painting references were a little over my head, but Prudence Shen’s writing was very fluid and enjoyable. The concept for this story is original, and also incredibly well-executed. It’s also a Tor.com original, so it can be read online here.3 stars

Delle Jacobs//Loki's DaughtersLoki’s Daughters by Delle Jacobs. An adult historical romance novel about an Irish Celtic girl who was saved from Vikings as a child by one of their own, and when she is an adult, Ronan (the boy who saved her) comes back to make her his wife. The characters could be quite frustrating at times, as they constantly failed to communicate, and in the early parts of the book I also found myself often annoyed by Birgit and the other women in Arienh’s village, who seemed to be constantly undermining all her attempts to protect them, but as the story progressed this became less of a problem. The two main romances (Arienh and Ronan, and Birgit and Egil) were both very sweet, and the story was engaging – I particularly liked the way that Jacobs managed to reconcile Ronan and Arienh’s very different cultures, and bring their two communities together.4 stars

Review: Mãn by Kim Thúy (Spoiler-Free)

MÃN5 stars

Kim Thúy//MãnSUMMARY

The story of a Vietnamese woman named Mãn, living in Montreal and working in her husband’s restaurant. It is told mostly through snapshots of her life, with her recollections of her mother and of Vietnamese culture scattered throughout the book.

The edition I am reviewing was translated from the original French by Sheila Fischman.

STORY [4/5]

As I said, the story is told mostly through the medium of snapshots of Mãn’s life, so it is no surprise that it can be quite meandering in places. The things that she tells us about depend largely on the memories associated with whatever she happens to be cooking, which in turn depends upon her mood, lending the book an almost stream-of-consciousness feeling.

This sometimes makes it a little difficult to follow the story, but each chapter is so short (and so beautifully written) that it doesn’t detract from the experience to go back and re-read a couple of chapters here and there.

CHARACTERS [5/5]

Mãn is a very passive character: She takes whatever life throws at her and very rarely seems phased by anything, which makes her a very good narrator. The book doesn’t have too many other very important characters – Mãn’s mother (only ever called Maman), and her friend Julie come to mind, but most other characters are only mentioned a few times. However, even these very peripheral characters are well fleshed-out, and Mãn always takes the trouble to tell everybody’s stories.

ROMANCE [4/5]

I knew going into this book that there was going to be a romance aspect to it, and that it was going to involve a married man (who wasn’t Mãn’s husband), because it said so on the blurb. But while infidelity is a topic that often makes me feel uncomfortable in literature, I found that it was very tastefully written. The romance was very under-stated, and in fact only began towards the end of the book (Mãn doesn’t even meet Luc, her love interest, until about halfway through).

WRITING/TRANSLATION [5/5]

I can’t speak/read French, so I can’t comment on Kim Thúy’s writing, but Sheila Fischman’s translation is beautifully written. I wasn’t initially all that excited to read this book, but this quote on the back is what sold it for me:

Maman and I don’t look like one another. She is short, I am tall. Her complexion is dark, my skin is like a French doll’s. She has a hole in her calf, and I have a hole in my heart.

OVERALL IMPRESSION [5/5]

The insights into Vietnamese culture and immigrant culture are very interesting, and the descriptions of the different kinds of food that Mãn cooks are mouth-watering, but the real strength of this book is in the writing, which is both powerful and absolutely beautiful.

RECOMMENDED FOR…

Those who like the lyrical writing style of Catherynne M. Valente’s Deathless, or anyone who is interested in Vietnamese food and culture.

November & December Haul

Nov.-Dec. Haul 2014I didn’t really think it was worth posting a haul in November, since I ended up buying a grand total of one book, but hopefully this will make up for it… I went a little crazy spending my Christmas money, and (including that book I bought in November) I have twenty books to tell you about today. 😀 From top to bottom:

1) Studio Ghibli Layout Designs by the Hong Kong Jockey Club. A beautiful book of (mainly) artwork from various Studio Ghibli films. This was a Christmas gift from my lovely friend Chloë, when I went to visit her in Hong Kong. 🙂

2) Books I Have Read & Books I Want to Read by the British Library. This was the only thing that I actually requested this Christmas, and it found its way (to my delight) into my stocking on Christmas morning. It’s a journal-style book for keeping track of all the books I’ve read, as well as book clubs, literary events, and there’s even a little address book at the back for all my favourite bookshops and websites!

3) Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. This is the book I mentioned that I bought in November. I came across it while I was Christmas shopping, and couldn’t resist buying it (I’m weak-willed, I know) – partly because I’d heard so many good things about it, but mainly because it’s signed! It’s a World War II-era novel set in France, I believe, but I don’t know too much else about it.

4) Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson. A contemporary summer romance novel, though I’ve heard that it’s pretty sad. I decided to pick this one up after reading Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour, since I liked that one so much.

5) White Crow by Marcus Sedgwick. This is the first of the books I bought on my Christmas-money-shopping-spree, and I don’t really know what it’s about (this is going to become a theme in this haul), but it’s by Marcus Sedgwick, so I’m sure it’s very good (even though I still haven’t read any of his books…).

6) The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart. Again, I don’t know much about this book, but I read We Were Liars, by the same author, earlier this year and loved it, so I have high hopes for this one, too.

7) The Executioner’s Daughter & River Daughter by Jane Hardstaff. The first two books in a series (or perhaps just a duology) about a girl who’s locked up in the Tower of London. These two were complete impulse buys, & I mainly picked them up because River Daughter (the second book) was in the buy-one-get-one-half-price deal, along with The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks. I’ve been craving historical fiction lately, though, so hopefully I’ll read these sometime soon.

8) The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente. I’ve heard so many amazing things about this series, & I’ve been wanting to pick them up for ages! Once again, I don’t really know what it’s about, but Catherynne M. Valente’s writing is like some kind of word-magic, so I have high expectations~ 😀

9) Trouble by Non Pratt. This one’s about a teen pregnancy, and sounds pretty interesting.

10) Mãn by Kim Thúy. This was a gift from my aunt & uncle, & I really have no clue what it’s about, except that it is very short (less than 150 pages) and the author apparently won several awards for her previous book. I’ve flipped through the first few pages, and the writing style seems really beautiful, so I’m definitely looking forward to reading more.

11) The Boy that Never Was by Karen Perry. A mystery novel about the parents of a small boy who disappears. My Dad picked this one out for me, as he apparently read a review that claimed it would be perfect for fans of Gone Girl (by Gillian Flynn). It looks interesting, though I’m not sure when I’ll get round to reading it…

12) Shatter MeUnravel MeUnite Me & Ignite Me by Tahereh Mafi. This is a YA dystopian trilogy (Unite Me is a novella bind-up) about a girl who has a lethal touch. I’ve actually read the first book already, so you’ll be seeing that in my December wrap up post, & I’m currently reading (& enjoying) Unravel Me.

13) Seconds by Bryan Lee O’Malley. A graphic novel about a young chef who finds a way to erase her past mistakes and ends up screwing with the fabric of the universe (more or less), to disastrous effect. It’s a lot of fun, & I actually read it almost as soon as it arrived in the post, so I’ll talk more about it in my wrap up.

14) Onwards Towards Our Noble Deaths by Shigeru Mizuki. A short manga set during World War II, from the perspective of a Japanese soldier (I think). I’m definitely excited about this, since most WWII literature that I’ve come across is told from the Allies’ side, or else from the side of German Anti-Nazi sympathisers… I believe that it’s also partially autobiographical.

15) Rage of Poseidon by Anders Nilsen. Another book that I read as soon as I got it, so you’ll be hearing more about it soon. It’s a collection of graphic short stories mainly about the Greek gods in the modern world. Very well-done (and, to my surprise, published as a fold-out, concertina-style book, though only one side of the concertina has been printed on…).

16) Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor. The third and final book in the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy, which I have not yet started, but am really looking forward to reading. I was actually planning on waiting until it came out in paperback to buy it, in order to save space on my shelves, but I recently obtained a new bookcase, and so I decided to throw caution to the wind! And it is a very beautiful book, so I regret nothing. 😉