Monday, 10 June 2013

[book post] March-ing in my Monthly Reads

Lame pun! I'm sorry for that, I couldn't resist.

By the way, I wrote this entry WAY BACK MARCH and it is now *drum roll please* JUNE! Yay me! Hahaha. Well, an entry is an entry. That means I'm going to do double time for my April and May reads.

Anyway, March comes rolling around and I finished five books! What a miracle! I have just finished my 16th book, but by April last year I was only up to 10 books. I don't know why I'm reading so much. I guess this is what happens when your iPod gets stolen? I stopped playing so many games and just read, which admittedly is a lot more beneficial to my intellectual capacity and development.

I am, however, developing the unfortunate habit of buying new books and finishing them before I finish the books I've bought before. Some books I've bought years ago are still in my bookshelf collecting dust. Ugh. I do hope I get around to reading the books I've bought before instead of going out and buying more books.

That said, let's proceed to my March reads!

All summaries taken from Goodreads (except the last one which I took from Google Books because the GR one was nonsense).

10. Julie Ann Peters - Luna - ****

Regan's brother Liam can't stand the person he is during the day. Like the moon from whom Liam has chosen his female namesake, his true self, Luna, only reveals herself at night. In the secrecy of his basement bedroom Liam transforms himself into the beautiful girl he longs to be, with help from his sister's clothes and makeup. Now, everything is about to change-Luna is preparing to emerge from her cocoon. But are Liam's family and friends ready to welcome Luna into their lives? Compelling and provocative, this is an unforgettable novel about a transgender teen's struggle for self-identity and acceptance.

11. Brian Katcher - Almost Perfect - ***

Logan Witherspoon recently discovered that his girlfriend of three years cheated on him. But things start to look up when a new student breezes through the halls of his small-town high school. Sage Hendricks befriends Logan at a time when he no longer trusts or believes in people. Sage has been homeschooled for a number of years and her parents have forbidden her to date anyone, but she won’t tell Logan why. One day, Logan acts on his growing feelings for Sage. Moments later, he wishes he never had. Sage finally discloses her big secret: she’s actually a boy. Enraged, frightened, and feeling betrayed, Logan lashes out at Sage and disowns her. But once Logan comes to terms with what happened, he reaches out to Sage in an attempt to understand her situation. But Logan has no idea how rocky the road back to friendship will be.

I'm gonna try something new and do a combined review of these two books, just because they're so similar.

My sister probably thinks I have gender issues after seeing me read these two books, one after the other. So just to clarify, I am a girl and I'd like to stay that way, haha. But it is particularly interesting for me to read about transsexual issues since they've never been discussed before in mainstream media, and I just happened to have found two novels talking about the same issue! So I got to reading.

Aside from the general issue at hand, Luna and Almost Perfect had some other similarities too. For one, the events were narrated by someone who isn't transsexual (Regan in Luna, and Logan in AP). Some people found it a bit imprudent to have a novel talking about transsexual issues narrated by cisgendered persons, but I don't really see the problem. I think it's more disrespectful to write about a transsexual's feelings when they're so complicated. Both novels are also about males who want to become female. I've yet to see a book tackling the issue the other way around. Also, both Luna and Sage have little sisters who have been very supportive of their true gender. The novels will definitely take a different turn if they dealt with brothers instead.

Finally, a similarity that was to me a bit off-putting was that both Luna and Sage are portrayed as really flamboyant and super femme -- skirts and make-up and squealing about boys, the whole nine yards. That felt kind of contrived to me, I guess. I mean do all transsexuals (mtf ones) act like that just to show that they want to be female?

A main difference is the tackling of the issue of love and attraction alongside transexuality. It was never discussed in Luna (but we do know Luna is attracted to boys), although in AP it's discussed at length, but more from Logan's side of things. Also, Logan is totally an asshole about the entire thing. I'll admit I hated him a lot during the very first chapters because he was acting like such a typical teenage boy, being highly misogynistic and shit. But I gave him a chance and I'm glad he redeemed himself a bit. I don't have qualms with how he was written though. I think any normal teenage boy would be highly conflicted if they found out the girl they liked was born a boy.

I think I like Sage more than Luna though, because Luna is so desperate to be female that she came of sort of bratty and a burden. I mean (SPOILER ALERT) she rifled through a strangers wardrobe and used her makeup! What part of that is OK? I felt really sorry for Regan after that part. Sage is a lot more controlled about her identity, but I feel sad for her because her attitude is obviously driven by fear of her father.

In the end (SPOILER ALERT AGAIN) both characters don't get a perfectly happy ending. Luna flies off to Seattle to meet with a fellow MTF transsexual to begin her transitioning, leaving behind her sister. I mean it's great that she finally gets to live out her dreams, but obviously sad to leave her family behind. Sage, oh my heart, it just broke for poor Sage. I hated that part where she was thinking about living as a boy again just because it was causing her so much grief (Seriously, I was screaming "NO SAGE DON'T DO IT." in my room). It's sad that both endings had to be so bittersweet, so close to real life.

I hope next time I can read about a female-to-male transsexual! Any recommendations?

12. Rachel Hartman - Seraphina - *****

Four decades of peace have done little to ease the mistrust between humans and dragons in the kingdom of Goredd. Folding themselves into human shape, dragons attend court as ambassadors, and lend their rational, mathematical minds to universities as scholars and teachers. As the treaty's anniversary draws near, however, tensions are high.
Seraphina Dombegh has reason to fear both sides. An unusually gifted musician, she joins the court just as a member of the royal family is murdered—in suspiciously draconian fashion. Seraphina is drawn into the investigation, partnering with the captain of the Queen's Guard, the dangerously perceptive Prince Lucian Kiggs. While they begin to uncover hints of a sinister plot to destroy the peace, Seraphina struggles to protect her own secret, the secret behind her musical gift, one so terrible that its discovery could mean her very life.
I forgot why I picked up this book, but I think it was from an author recommendation? I mean, it already had me at "dragons" but upon further reading, I found out it involved music, medieval times, court life, the military, and most importantly, a romance that wasn't a love triangle! Sign me up for the war!

Obviously I really liked this book because of all the elements above combined. I think Rachel Hartman worked really hard in her world-building because everything was so particular. The danger of that was inserting details that didn't seem to be of much use. Like the saints. There was a lot of talk in the beginning about saints and their significance in your birth or whatever, but it didn't really add much to the story. Maybe in the future it'll mean something.

With the world-building came new terms, and I think Hartman did a pretty good job in her language-crafting because the words sound believable as a new language, and I even managed to remember her terms. I envy her world building so effing much! I only wish I can do the same for my own stories. And I really, REALLY like how she imagined the dragons to be (hehe imagine dragons). I think it makes total sense how they're intellectual but unemotional and that this particular quality of theirs caused conflict with an entire nation. I think this is the kind of novel that would make a good movie.

Finally, I really liked the protagonist and the novel's namesake, Seraphina Dombegh. To be honest, I was a bit apprehensive because her name sounded like total Mary Sue fodder. And she's supposed to be a gifted musician. But I'm glad I put that train of thought aside, because Seraphina is pretty normal (well except the half-dragon part), she's not amazingly gorgeous, she's talented in music but not astonishing in much else, and she's kind of socially inept. I enjoyed reading about her and her journey, and even coming into terms with her feelings for the prince, Lucian.

I think I saw some people in GoodReads say that the romance was a bit rushed, which I agree with. Then again, this was based on the Middle Ages and they weren't particularly known for long courtships. Besides, I think getting into an all-out battle with dragons speeds up your realizations, haha. What's important to me is that Seraphina has a pretty good reason for liking Lucian, and not just cause "he's so hot omg".

Seraphina is actually the first in a trilogy (the second book comes out next year, urgh!). Nevertheless, it's not a loss to begin reading this book. I might re-read this sometime, but with medieval oud music playing in the background.

13. George Orwell - Animal Farm - *****

Tired of their servitude to man, a group of farm animals revolt and establish their own society, only to be betrayed into worse servitude by their leaders, the pigs, whose slogan becomes: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” Published in 1945, this powerful satire of the Russian Revolution under Stalin remains as vivid and relevant today as it was on its first publication
Aww man. I've been wanting to read this book since FOR-FREAKING-EVER. I really loved 1984 and I've always wanted to read Animal Farm, even though I knew what was going to happen. I found a copy of the book at work and I took it home to read on the bus.


Gosh darnit Orwell, why do you have to make this world such a hopeless place to live in! I remember finishing this in the bus, looking up at the sea of empty seats and thinking of how pointless my life really is. No, not really, but I did feel really intense while reading this novella. Which was strange, given that I basically knew what was going to happen. Orwell's language just adds to that hopelessness. I did think it was a bit too preachy and in-your-face. Like, you can't miss the comparisons between the political ongoings of his time to the Manor Farm. It could have been more subtle. But all in all, it was a great read. I'll probably buy a copy for myself.

14. Dorothy and Thomas Hobbler - The Ghost in the Tokaido Inn - ***

Samurai fear nothing, not even death. They are loyal and brave. Fourteen-year-old Seikei has studied the way of the samurai, and would like nothing more than to be one. But a samurai is born, not made; Seikei was born the son of a tea merchant, so a merchant he must be. But when a priceless ruby intended for the shogun-the military governor of Japan-is stolen by a ghost, Seikei finds himself having to display all the courage of a samurai. Seikei is the only person to have seen the thief, and now the famous magistrate, Judge Ooka, needs the boy's help to solve this mystery. Can the son of a merchant prove himself worthy to the shogun himself?

Confession: I have a tendency to take a look at/buy things that have anything to do with Japan. I am a weaboo, shoot me. I saw this book and was intrigued, especially with the premise of "the Japanese Sherlock Holmes". I honestly wasn't expecting much, seeing as it was a 9-12 book.

I was pleasantly surprised that I liked it! I managed to read it in just one sitting and had a good time. I like that the sleuthing wasn't the typical scenario where we figure out the culprit by the very end. Seikei and Judge Ooka already had a culprit in mind, and the problem was finding out how he did it. I also liked that it didn't woobiefy the perpetrator, and he got sentenced in the end.

I will try to find the other books in this novel! It'd be interesting to see how Seikei grows up.

AND THAT IS IT FOR MY MARCH READS! Gosh darnit! Now I'm going to have to write 2 more entries for April and May huhuhuhu. I'll definitely try to be less verbose in my upcoming reviews!

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