Monday, 24 June 2013

April Books!

Hello folks!

I know I mentioned here some time ago that I was going to have to write two entries for my April and May books. I guess I better begin now, since June is ending in a week! Can you believe that? I felt like June 1 was just yesterday, but now it's June 24.

Recently, I haven't had the time to write because I feel like I get sick every week. One week I was down with a bad allergy and the next week I had coughs that wouldn't stop. Whenever I get thoughts of updating, some random virus suddenly attacks. The weather's not helping my case as well. But now that I am relatively well, you are getting a post.

Also I mentioned forever ago that this blog was going to get an overhaul, but obviously that's going to have to go into the back burner. Wait until I get my life together.

Onwards to the books!


For some reason April was a really slow reading month for me. Probably because it was a busy month at work that I'd rather sleep on the bus than read. But anyway I finished two good books this month!

15. Kristin Cashore - Graceling - ****

In a world where people born with an extreme skill—called a Grace—are feared and exploited, Katsa carries the burden of the skill even shedespises: the Grace of killing. She lives under the command of her uncle Randa, King of the Middluns, and is expected to execute his dirty work, punishing and torturing anyone who displeases him.
When she first meets Prince Po, who is Graced with combat skills, Katsa has no hint of how her life is about to change.
She never expects to become Po's friend.
She never expects to learn a new truth about her own Grace—or about a terrible secret that lies hidden far away...a secret that could destroy all seven kingdoms with words alone.

I've been seeing this book for a while in Book Sale, so I decided to finally buy it since the plot was intriguing.  I've always liked fantasies involving powers and Graceling is unique, in the sense that the characters don't really have unusual powers like invisibility or pyrokinesis, but they simply have heightened skills for a certain attribute. I also enjoy the world of Graceling, very medieval and simple (there's definitely a theme to the YA fantasies that I read lol). Katsa is also an awesome character. I related a lot to her overall social awkwardness and greatly admired her sense of duty and inner strength. Po is also a great character (I talked about him before in a book challenge entry).

TBH it wasn't that great plot-wise, but I think the one thing I really liked about this novel is how it shows relationships and love. A lot of YA fantasy (or YA in general) kind of suck about handling relationship issues. Not a lot of books discuss the fact that there are people who are not ready for relationships (now or ever), and even if a character does come out and talk about it, there's definitely someone who's going to say "Oh, just wait. You'll want to fall in love/marry in the future." It actually happened in this book (with Giddon) but I liked that Katsa basically raised a middle finger to that and continued her merry way. When (spoiler alert?) she does start developing feelings for Po, yet was not ready to have a relationship, Po respected that. He tells her he'll be there as a friend anyway. AND THAT IS AWESOME. If this was any other book, the boy would feel entitled about the girl's feelings and say "Well you like me and I like you so we should get together, don't be so stubborn yadda yadda yadda" and I am sick of that. I'm glad to finally see an acknowledgement that some people just aren't made for relationships and that's ok. Well, they got together in the end though, but at least she wasn't forced into it.

All in all, I enjoyed this book and I might read the sequel and prequel when I get the time. 

16. Lisa See - Peony in Love - ****

For young Peony, betrothed to a suitor she has never met, these lyrics from The Peony Pavilion mirror her own longings. In the garden of the Chen Family Villa, amid the scent of ginger, green tea, and jasmine, a small theatrical troupe is performing scenes from this epic opera, a live spectacle few females have ever seen. Like the heroine in the drama, Peony is the cloistered daughter of a wealthy family, trapped like a good-luck cricket in a bamboo-and-lacquer cage. Though raised to be obedient, Peony has dreams of her own.
Peony’s mother is against her daughter’s attending the production: “Unmarried girls should not be seen in public.” But Peony’s father assures his wife that proprieties will be maintained, and that the women will watch the opera from behind a screen. Yet through its cracks, Peony catches sight of an elegant, handsome man with hair as black as a cave–and is immediately overcome with emotion.
So begins Peony’s unforgettable journey of love and destiny, desire and sorrow–as Lisa See’s haunting new novel, based on actual historical events, takes readers back to seventeenth-century China, after the Manchus seize power and the Ming dynasty is crushed.

I bought this book because of the cover. YES KILL ME. At first I didn't really want to buy it because the title was so corny (KILL ME AGAIN), but I'm glad I didn't let that stop me! 

Lisa See is an author I've been hearing about a lot, and for good reason I think! Her writing is very melodic, though she has a tendency to get verbose (or maybe that's just the result of writing historical fiction idk). It really immersed me into the world of ancient China. That's the thing I like best about historical fiction -- you get to enter a new world without being confused! 

I also like how I learned a lot about ancient Chinese burial rituals and afterlife beliefs, more than I'd care to know haha. It's fascinating how much attention they pay to the burial of their ancestors and seeing them through the afterlife. I think it's a bit unfair though that women who die in childbirth go straight to hell. It's not like they wanted a miscarriage! But oh well, who am I to argue.

The one thing I didn't like was that the ending was a bit flat? In true Chinese fashion, it was very subtle and quiet but I just felt like decades of waiting needed to be commemorated with something else other than Peony just floating up in the sky. 

I think I'll be reading more of Lisa See's books!

And that's it for my April reads, yay me! This week I'll also be posting my May books. I hope I don't get sick again!

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