Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Happy Holidays!

I've been really terrible about posting on my blog and visiting other blogs, especially with final exams coming up next week. I promise I will reply to all my backlogged comments and visit all your lovely blogs very soon!

In the meantime, I won't be posting any more on my blog for this year, so see you all in January!

Happy Holidays :)

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Monday, December 8, 2014

Book Talk: Diversity in fiction

I'm sure on some level, I have always been aware that the characters in books weren't like me. As a child of immigrant parents, I have grown up with that whole in-between thing of not quite being American but not quite fitting in with "the motherland" because I was born and raised halfway across the world. This in-between crossed over into my books as well. I'd read about typical American teenagers, and be surprised about how they interacted with their parents and friends because it was so different from the values and experiences I've had growing up. Then I'd turn around and be baffled by daily life in Indian fiction because I had grown up in America and absorbed that culture.

I've been lucky enough to live in California for most of my life, where there are large immigrant communities and I never felt alienated, but if we ever took road trips to other states, I definitely noticed the funny stares (there are brown people in this country? whaaaat?). I know a lot of others aren't so lucky, and I just wonder what it would be like to have role models or people we could relate to in the fiction we read or watch growing up. I know Ms. Marvel, a Pakistani American superhero, did wonders for a lot of young Muslim girls living in America. Wouldn't it be cool to have that for everyone?

It wasn't until recently that I consciously realized that people of color and/or people on various points of the gender spectrum weren't really represented in mainstream fiction, and that this was a problem. When the real world is full of different kinds of people, shouldn't our fiction reflect that? It was actually a book (Ash, by Malinda Lo) that helped me understand what it was like to be part of the LGBTQ community. If I hadn't read that book, I'm ashamed to say I would not have been very supportive when one of my friends came out to me. But because of that book, I was able to overcome my ignorance and my prejudices.

Books can help you understand and respect people that aren't like you. Think of all the implicit prejudices and fears we could get rid of if books and movies portrayed the world as full of different kinds of people. I'm paying a lot more attention to this in the books I read thanks to all the lovely bloggers and authors who have championed diversity in fiction. Once I realized how strongly I felt about this, I created my feature DiverSFFy to highlight books that do do a good job of portraying those differences with love and respect.

Diversity in fiction could be one more step towards a more inclusive world. Isn't that reason enough to support it?

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Saturday, December 6, 2014

Review: The Art of Wishing

13530566Title: The Art of Wishing
Author: Lindsay Ribar
Genre: YA, contemporary, fantasy

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Goodreads summary:
Margo McKenna has a plan for just about everything, from landing the lead in her high school play to getting into a good college. So when she finds herself in possession of a genie's ring and the chance to make three wishes, she doesn't know what to do. Why should she put her life into someone else's hands?
But Oliver is more than just a genie -- he's also a sophomore at Margo's high school, and he's on the run from a murderer. As he and Margo grow closer, she discovers that it will take more than three wishes to save him.
A whole lot more.

I picked this book up because I needed a brainless fluff book after a bunch of dark ones, and two bookish friends with excellent taste recommended this to me. I was very excited for genies, because I loved Bartimaeus (of The Amulet of Samarkand fame) as a child and more recently fell in love with Helen Wecker's The Golem and the Jinni. This was certainly a cute fluffy book, but it just got too ridiculous towards the end. I think I would have liked it better if the ballistic arch-nemesis plotline hadn't been so dramatic.

I was sold with this story for the first half, in which Margo meets Oliver and discovers that this 16-year-old boy is actually a genie. Everything was just adorable - Margo and her banter with her friends, Oliver's earnestness about making people happy with wishes, Margo and Oliver getting to know each other. I thought the concept of how genies are "born" was really creative, and I thought it was a clever spin on genie folklore. I also really enjoyed how Margo was snarky and independent, and even when she started falling for Oliver, it wasn't a head-over-heels LOVE BEFORE ALL ELSE thing.

I had a couple of issues with the second half. The introduction of the fourth wish was so late and so convenient that it almost felt like a deus ex machina. The antagonist was creepy and totally insane, yes, but the entire final battle was incredibly predictable. The resolution to that battle was ridiculously abrupt, and my first thoughts were "WHAT ABOUT THE PARENTS?". SPOILERS: Highlight if you want to read them (my spoiler button isn't working right now...) (Yes, Margo has a strained relationship with her parents and they don't exactly spend a lot of time together, but don't you think they'd notice if their daughter turned into a genie and disappeared for good?) I just felt like the author made the buildup of the antagonist and final conflict far more dramatic than it needed to be, and in the end the resolution wasn't satisfying.
I'd recommend this for people looking for fluff, but with the caveat that you leave your logic at the doorstep when you start reading.
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Thursday, December 4, 2014

Review: The Blade Itself

The Blade Itself (The First Law, #1)Title: The Blade Itself
Author: Joe Abercrombie

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Goodreads summary:Logen Ninefingers, infamous barbarian, has finally run out of luck. Caught in one feud too many, he’s on the verge of becoming a dead barbarian – leaving nothing behind him but bad songs, dead friends, and a lot of happy enemies.
Nobleman Captain Jezal dan Luthar, dashing officer, and paragon of selfishness, has nothing more dangerous in mind than fleecing his friends at cards and dreaming of glory in the fencing circle. But war is brewing, and on the battlefields of the frozen North they fight by altogether bloodier rules.
Inquisitor Glokta, cripple turned torturer, would like nothing better than to see Jezal come home in a box. But then Glokta hates everyone: cutting treason out of the Union one confession at a time leaves little room for friendship. His latest trail of corpses may lead him right to the rotten heart of government, if he can stay alive long enough to follow it.
Enter the wizard, Bayaz. A bald old man with a terrible temper and a pathetic assistant, he could be the First of the Magi, he could be a spectacular fraud, but whatever he is, he's about to make the lives of Logen, Jezal, and Glotka a whole lot more difficult.
Murderous conspiracies rise to the surface, old scores are ready to be settled, and the line between hero and villain is sharp enough to draw blood.

I was very pleasantly surprised by this book. It is definitely a set-up book, in that almost nothing happens in terms of plot, but the characters were all fantastic and I can't wait to keep reading.

Before this book, I'd only read Half a King by the same author. I heard it was a watered down version of Abercrombie in terms of grittiness and gore, and I can see why people said that. The thing about the grittiness and gore of this book is that it isn't actually that dark. I am one of those very faint of heart that feels nauseous whenever blood and gore comes up. I absolutely cannot stomach cruelty, especially not torture. And yet I was reading a torture scene in this book where a character is having his fingers chopped off, and I was chuckling.

This is the power of Joe Abercrombie. Yes, his books are dark and gritty and his characters are not afraid to get their hands dirty. Characters are all rather morally ambiguous, and I'd hesitate to call any one of them a hero or a good person at heart. But despite all this darkness, Abercrombie puts in plenty of humor and clever conversation to balance out the darkness.

My usual complaint with epic fantasy is that the women are either nonexistent or objectified. This book leans a bit towards the nonexistent side, but the few women who were present were certainly not objectified, and in fact had a lot more agency than some of the men. Abercrombie turns stereotypes on their heads throughout this book, what with a dark-skinned wizard who could pass for a butcher and a pretty girl who absolutely isn't fawning over the supposedly charming nobleman. I had a lot more to say about the diversity in this book, and you can read my DiverSFFy discussion post on it here.

As I mentioned earlier, the main characters are all unconventional and decidedly not heroic: a crippled torturer, a barbarian who just might be turning over a new leaf, and a vain fool of a nobleman. I enjoyed seeing how their lives crossed and how they changed (or didn't change) over the course of the book.

I am looking forward to seeing how this series plays out!

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Monday, December 1, 2014

Blog Tour and Giveaway: Slip and Grip by David Estes

slip banner

I'm participating in the book blitz for Slip (Slip #1) and Grip (Slip #2) by David Estes. This book blitz is organized by Lola's Blog Tours, and runs all of this week. You can find the complete blitz schedule on the website of Lola’s Blog Tours.

Slip coverSlip (Slip #1)
By David Estes

Genre: Dystopia
Age category: Young Adult
Release Date: 1 December, 2014

Blurb:Someone must die before another can be born...
As sea levels rise and livable landmasses shrink, the Reorganized United States of America has instituted population control measures to ensure there are sufficient resources and food to sustain the growing population. Birth authorization must be paid for and obtained prior to having a child. Someone must die before another can be born, keeping the country in a population neutral position at what experts consider to be the optimal population. The new laws are enforced by a ruthless government organization known as Pop Con, responsible for terminating any children resulting from unauthorized births, and any illegals who manage to survive past their second birthday, at which point they are designated a national security threat and given the name Slip.
But what if one child slipped through the cracks? What if someone knew all the loopholes and how to exploit them? Would it change anything? Would the delicate resource balance be thrown into a tailspin, threatening the lives of everyone?

And how far would the government go to find and terminate the Slip?
In a gripping story of a family torn apart by a single choice, Slip is a reminder of the sanctity of a single life and the value of the lives we so often take for granted.

You can find Slip on Goodreads

You can buy Slip here:
- Amazon

Grip coverGrip (Slip #2)
By David Estes

Genre: Dystopia
Age category: Young Adult
Release Date: 1 December, 2014

Blurb:In a tumultuous world of population control, one illegal child has slipped through the cracks. Now, as a teenager, Benson Kelly has escaped certain deaths at the hands of the Department of Population Control, only to find himself the symbol of a rebellion, something he never intended.
While trying to survive one day at a time, Benson seeks to unravel the tangled knot of secrets left behind when his father died, the key to which has something to do with his mother, Janice Kelly, recently escaped from the insane asylum.
As the rebel group known as the Lifers continue to use brute force to send a message to the government, Benson's twin, Harrison Kelly, seeks to exploit a loophole that could be the key to freedom for his brother. All that's required is a simple act of murder.
Meanwhile, Population Control's attack dog, a sadistic cyborg known as The Destroyer, closes in on Benson and his family. His directive: Kill them all.
Faith, family and love will be pushed to the limits in the GRIPping sequel to Slip.

You can find Grip on Goodreads

You can buy Grip here:
- Amazon

Author Photo - David Estes

About the Author:

Author of popular YA dystopian series, the Dwellers Saga and the Country Saga. Voted books to read if you enjoyed the Hunger Games on Buzzfeed and Listopia.

Join 2,400+ David Estes Fans and YA Book Lovers Unite in David Estes' official fan group at:

David Estes was born in El Paso, Texas but moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania when he was very young. David grew up in Pittsburgh and then went to Penn State for college. Eventually he moved to Sydney, Australia where he met his wife. They now live together in their dream location, Hawaii. A reader all his life, he began writing novels for the children's and YA markets in 2010, and started writing full time in June 2012. Now he travels the world writing with his wife, Adele. David's a writer with OCD, a love of dancing and singing (but only when no one is looking or listening), a mad-skilled ping-pong player, and prefers writing at the swimming pool to writing at a table.

You can find and contact David here:
- Website
- Facebook
- Twitter
- Goodreads

What's a Book Blitz without prizes? Here is what you have a chance at winning:

- Winners choice of book to the value of $15.00 U.S. from The Book Depository
- A signed copy of SLIP plus bonus swag- U.S. entrants only
- A signed copy of BREW plus bonus swag- U.S. entrants only
- 3 ebook packs with three David Estes ebooks of your choice
- 4 signed packs of bookmarks

You can enter the blitz wide giveaway here:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

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