Let’s Talk: Writing a book review

I don’t know if I’m weird, but:

1) I HAVE to write the review before starting a new book

If I don’t, I’d forget my thoughts and feelings on the story. Unfortunately, this happened recently

   

I managed to write a couple of sentences for these books, but failed to write a full Discussion post 😦

 

2) It takes a REALLY long time for me to write a decent review

I usually do it in the following procedures:

1. Read and take notes

2. Expand and link the ‘notes’

3. Read others’ review to see if there’s something I agree with them but forgot to mention

4. Check for mistakes

The 2nd step requires the longest time. With the problem mentioned in 1), my ‘reading rate’ decreases significantly (LOL)

 

And that explains why I haven’t been posting Book Discussion posts lately. Currently I’m working on the review for Pivot Point, as well as marathoning the Harry Potter Series. (Errm maybe I shouldn’t do that. Not again.)

Anyway, how do you write your reviews? Do you have the same problem as I have?

 

∞ ϟ 9¾ ♔ ⚯͛ △⃒⃘ ➵ ♆

 

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Let’s talk: Reading books written in your first language

In case you don’t know yet, my first language is Chinese (cantonese). To be honest I wasn’t a big fan of Chinese books when I was small, especially those translated ones. I find it really difficult to read and remember translated names. Plus, a lot of the Chinese books are sort of lyrical and descriptive – I’m just not good enough to understand the writer’s emotion haha.

However, I did read some that I truly enjoyed – the Wuxia (martial arts and chivalry) genre. The most renowned Wuxia writer has got to be Jin Yong. He wrote The Legend of the Condor Heroes (which I love dearly), The Return of the Condor Heroes and many many more. These books are thick (4 volumes per story) and yet I was able to fly through them. I guess the main thing about going into reading is to find a genre that interests you. Otherwise, you’d be living under an illusion of ‘eww I don’t like books’, which was me two years ago.

Now that I’m done talking about modern Chinese literature, let’s talk about ancient ones. They were written in classical Chinese, a language that I struggle with. It’s Chinese, yes, but the use of words and meaning etc are different. They are condensed and much shorter. For all the Chinese tests I had, there were at least one passage written in classical Chinese, and you’d find me staring at it, re-reading it over and over again, attempting to solve the puzzle and understand what’s going on. Once it’s solved, the gateway to ancient wisdom will be opened *shimmery light everywhere*

Chinese literature is beautiful and full of wisdom, but sometimes it’s difficult to ‘grasp its essense’, especially for a literature idiot like me. Nevertheless, I do hope that they’d be treasured – how disheartening it is to ban books and cut both the culture and the history from its descendants.

So what is your favourite book written in your mother tongue? What do you like about it?

[Disclaimer: This is just me babbling about Chinese books. I’m by no means a Chinese literature expert, and it’ll be a pleasure if anyone can enlightened me on this issue.]

 

∞ ϟ 9¾ ♔ ⚯͛ △⃒⃘ ➵ ♆

 

Book discussion: Seige and Storm

Book Title: Siege and Storm

Author: Leigh Bardugo

Genre: Tsarpunk

★★★★★ (4.5 stars)

Hunted across the True Sea, haunted by the lives she took on the Fold, Alina must try to make a life with Mal in an unfamiliar land. She finds starting new is not easy while keeping her identity as the Sun Summoner a secret. She can’t outrun her past or her destiny for long.

The Darkling has emerged from the Shadow Fold with a terrifying new power and a dangerous plan that will test the very boundaries of the natural world. With the help of a notorious privateer, Alina returns to the country she abandoned, determined to fight the forces gathering against Ravka. But as her power grows, Alina slips deeper into the Darkling’s game of forbidden magic, and farther away from Mal. Somehow, she will have to choose between her country, her power, and the love she always thought would guide her–or risk losing everything to the oncoming storm.
– Goodreads

This is a sequel to Shadow and Bone. If you haven’t picked it up yet, I recommend you to do so. So far it’s not an action-packed series, but the characters and world building are amazing… So bye! Non-spoiler people!

Tsarpunk
The edition I have includes a Q&A session with the author. One of the questions is about the genre of The Grisha trilogy. It could be classified as High Fantasy or Epic Fantasy, but Leigh Bardugo prefers ‘Tsarpunk’.

So how do you define Tsarpunk?
I’ll say that Tsarpunk is fantasy that takes its inspiration from the aesthetics, culture, politics, and social structure of early 19th century Russia. – Leigh Bardugo

[ Read the full interview here: http://ageofsteam.wordpress.com/2012/04/25/genre-friction-what-is-tsarpunk-by-leigh-bardugo/ ]

‘Tsarpunk’ sounds cool 😂 I’m learning Russian history at school right now and I wrote ‘Tsarpunk’ all over my notes to keep myself from falling asleep. (Shouldn’t be doing that. Whatever.)
Later when people ask me what genre is this trilogy classified as, I’m definitely going to say ‘Tsarpunk’

 

Okay. Enough Tsarpunk. Now let’s move on to my thoughts on the book.

 

Characters
I love how Leigh Bardugo creates the character – even the hero/heroine have their dark side. It makes the characters more human. And this (in addition to the amazing world-building) are the reasons why I still love this trilogy though it’s not that action-packed.

Alina
I was so afraid that Alina would be power-hungry and eventually become the next Darkling (Lightling, maybe). And the fact that she doesn’t tell Mal about the appearances of the Darkling irritates me. I hate it when characters keep ‘secrets’ from each other. However, as I’ve said before, heroine has her dark side, so although I don’t really like her in S&S, her character is interesting.

Mal
I’m never fond of Mal. His relationship with Alina in this book bugs me a lot, but I’m going to wait till I finished the whole series before I comment on his character.

Sturmound
If he doesn’t turn evil, he’s probably my favourite character in this trilogy. He is just AWESOME, but I don’t trust him yet.

 

Faith
Sankta Alina
I like how Leigh Bardugo made the pilgrims worship Alina as a saint. There are something or some messages behind ‘faith’, but I’ll have to wait untill I finish the whole trilogy (again) before I talk about it.

 

The Ratings
The plot of Siege and Storm is pretty good – there are surprises, politics and actions.
The first 2/3 of the book is kind of slow. After coming back to Ravka, the characters have to deal with their personal matters, so that part is not gripping at all. I was ready to give it a 4/5 stars. But then there’s Nickolai’s birthday, and things start to get intense. The final battle is just EPIC. I loved it so much, I just can’t give it a rating lower than S&B.
It’s not a 5/5 stars because I really don’t like Alina keeping secrets, and Mal kind of bugs me. But I’m looking forward to their character development in R&R.

I’m probably going to do a discussion post on the trilogy as a whole.

Book discussion: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children


  Book Title: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

  Author: Ransom Riggs

  Genre: YA Fantasy

  ★★★★★

A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of very curious photographs.It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive.A spine-tingling fantasy illustrated with haunting vintage photography, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children will delight adults, teens, and anyone who relishes an adventure in the shadows.

– Goodreads

 

This book had been on my tbr list for a very long time but I never got the opportunity to purchase it, so I was pretty excited when I found it in the library. I flipped open the book, and was immediately pulled into the world.

I didn’t know what to expect when I first heard about this book. I thought it was a story about an orphan in a ghost house or something. However, it turned out to be a gripping, amazing story. The idea of the loops and the peculiar children is very interesting and I LOVE how photos are included in the book. My friends were like ‘What is that you’re reading? A horror book?’ No, I wouldn’t say it’s a horror book, but there are horror elements in it. The description about the monsters are so vivid it gives me chills.

There was a part where Dr. Golan was on the phone with Jacob and he said he was in the airport picking up his sister. I immediately knew that he was going for Jacob. However, other than that, the story is pretty unpredictable. Jacob did remind me of Percy Jackson and Emma was Annabeth, but the concept of the story made it different from PJO.

My favourite quote from this book is

‘Stars, too, were time travelers. How many of those ancient points of light were the last echoes of suns now dead? How many had been born but their light not yet come this far? If all the suns but ours collapsed tonight, how many lifetimes would it take us to realize we were alone? I had always known the sky was full of mysteries—but not until now had I realized how full of them the earth was.’

Looking at the sky is like looking back in history. I always find it fascinating as I’ll be looking at the past.

So that’s basically my thoughts on this book. This discussion is pretty short, I know, but I enjoyed every single part of this book and has nothing to rant about it. I CAN’T WAIT to read hollow city. So many books, so little time. (<- First world problem)

For those who’ve read this book, how do you feel? Comment down below your thoughts!

Oh, and I have a new twitter account https://twitter.com/nbooklovern   Follow me! 🙂

Book discussion: The Book Thief

Book Title: The Book Thief

Author: Markus Zusak

Genre: Historical Fiction

★★★★★

It’s just a small story really, about, among other things, a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery.Set during World War II in Germany, Markus Zusak’s groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist: books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids – as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement before he is marched to Dachau.

This is an unforgettable story about the ability of books to feed the soul.

– Goodreads

 

When I first read this book, I knew nothing about Nazi Germany, except that there was an evil guy called Hitler and Jews were killed in concentration camps. I was interested in History, especially in WWII, but with no knowledge about it, I didn’t understand what death was talking about. Since this book is slow, and I had no idea what was happening, I decided to stop reading it until I had my History lessons.

“A small fact:
You are going to die….does this worry you?”

Death, as I’ve mentioned before, is the narrator. Death is omnipotent, during war or not. It’s watching over us, and we have no idea when it will come and collect us (sounds depressing).

“You want to know what I truly look like? I’ll help you out. Find yourself a mirror while I continue.”

This quote literally gave me chills.

One of the life lessons this book teaches us is that death is EVERYWHERE, and we need to have to courage to face it. Death will pick us up anyway, it’s just the matter of time, so why waste your energy being scared. Just like Hans:

“His soul sat up. It met me. Those kinds of souls always do – the best ones.I know who you are and I am ready. Not that I want to go, of course, but I will come.” Those souls are always light because more of them have been put out. More of them have already found their way to other places.”

Okay. Enough of this depressing and cheesy theory.

The Power of Word

“I have hated words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right.”

As seen in the Nazi Germany, Hitler used propagandas and his speeches to persuade, or brainwash, I would say, the Germans. Words manipulated people, twisted their thinking thus helped Hitler to achieve his ambition. There were censorships at that time. Why? Because Hitler understood that words are powerful. They could be used as a weapon against him.

One of the best parts of this book is the story Max left for Liesel. Words were trees, and the people who climbed the trees were called word shakers. There were numerous Führer’s trees in the forest, but a girl planted a different seed. The Führer demanded the tree to be cut down, but once the girl boarded the tree, not even the sharpest ax could leave a mark.

Hitler destroyed people using words, but Liesel stole them back. She used them to calm down people during bombing and wrote her own story. A beautiful, touching story.

The Jews and the Germans

The Book Thief showed me a different perspective. History class merely taught me that Jews were treated horribly, but The Book Thief taught me that some Germans did stand up and helped the Jews, even though it meant that their lives would be at risk – Hans hid Max, and Liesel called out to Max when the Jews were parading. These are small acts of ordinary bravery. Not everyone bow down to Hitler, not every teenager obeyed.

The Jewish fist-fighter, Max. That part where Max fought the Führer. Breathtaking. He hoped that he would win, but ended up being hit by the fists of an entire nation. Until a girl appeared. His hope.

“Millions of them-until one last time, when he gathered himself to his feet… He watched the next person climbed through the ropes. It was a girl, and as she slowly crossed the canvas, he noticed a tear torn down her left cheek. In her right hand was a newspaper.”

This is the best scene. I love it so much.

I was surprised that Max survived at last. I thought he’d be killed in the concentration camp. Perhaps he fought to survive because of Liesel, Hans and Rosa. Somehow hope will get you through the darkest hour.

Humans

“I wanted to explain that I am constantly overestimating and underestimating the human race – that rarely do I even simply estimate it. I wanted to ask her how the same thing could be so ugly and so glorious, and its words and stories so damning and brilliant…I AM HAUNTED BY HUMANS.”

War is the darkest time of human race. You would be shown the ugliness of human. And yet, it’s these times that the humans show their most brilliant side. Everything have two sides, and it is us to choose which side to be discovered. Somehow, the best comes from the worse.

I could go on and on discussing about the themes, but I’d stop here now.

I heard people saying that the writing is beautiful and poetic. Sometimes I love how figurative language is used, but sometimes I don’t understand the link between them. I agree that the writing is unique and special. However, perhaps due to my lack of experiences, I can’t bring myself to appreciate the writing in some particular scenes.

Nevertheless, I really enjoy this book, and I’d recommend to everyone. It is one of those books with deep meaning, so if you don’t get it the first time, re-read it. Think about it. The treasure behind those words and pages is priceless. Oh and also, if you don’t like the beginning and want to give up, DON’T. I promise you the story will get better.