Sunday, 14 September 2014

ARC Review: Consumed by Justin Alcala


Author: Justin Alcala
Publication Date: September 11, 2014
Published by: Zharmae Press

I received the e-ARC/Media Kit from the publisher for the blog tour.

Goodreads Synopsis:


Sergeant Nathaniel Brannick is trapped in Victorian London during a period of disease, crime, and insatiable vices. One night, Brannick returns from work to find an eerie messenger in his flat who warns him of dark things to come. 

When his next case involves a victim who suffered from consumption, he uncovers clues that lead him to believe the messenger's warning. Despite his incredulity, he can’t help but wonder if the practical man he once was has been altered by an investigation encompassed in the paranormal. That is, until he meets the witch hunters, and everything takes a turn for the worse.

Nath's Thoughts:


One of the beauties of knowingly reading outside your genre is that you get to experience the story with no expectation/presumption. I had that exact experience when I read 'Consumed', walking into the threshold its mesmerizing, terrifying Victorian horror world with little idea of what was going to happen and what I would be subconsciously looking for. It was a pleasant experience overall, something I am grateful for -- something I might do again in the future, for a limited set of genres ('genre' as in 'what is actually in this book', not as in 'what age group this book is targeted for').

Consumed was -- to me -- the story of a broken, lost man's journey back to a meaningful, purposeful life. Granted, that journey involved a murder mystery to solve, vampire hunters and their targets swarming parts of London, an addiction to opium, and a shady work partner. But putting back together pieces of a broken life is the essence of Nathaniel Brannick's emotional journey -- this was what I saw him doing between the lines of the action. Each event in the book was a wake-up call for him, and with each screw-ups and near-misses he was forced to see what he had been doing to himself and his life. 

Of course, this doesn't mean the action and the twists within the plot weren't great. Consumed was so quick-paced, and throughout the wild ride, I was on the edge of my seat the whole time trying to guess what would happen next -- and most of the time I would guess the wrong thing! Every scene, character, and setting in this book lived and breathed horror. Even in the lightest moments, I could still feel a lingering sense of terror, of a dark shadow lurking in the background. I had a hard time trusting every new character, to the last moment their motivations were explained. And even after the last page, the question of whether Nathan had chosen the right allies still lingered in my head. Who were crazy, and who were not? To what extent did everyone tell Nathan the truth? I must say I was quite delighted to know that a sequel is a possibility. Nathan's story simply couldn't end where it did in Consumed!

Character-wise, Consumed has a lineup of interesting, quirky characters. Whilst some of them did fill archetypal roles, they didn't feel archetypal -- talk about Davis, the womanizing/overeating detective partner; the witch-hunter siblings Vasile and Vasilica Ivanescu (the latter delighted me a lot -- a fighter female in historical fiction :D); Nathan's lively, not-quite-the-shrinking-violet-proper-lady late wife Catherine; the cat appropriately called 'Hades'; a lot of others. And, of course, one just can't leave out Nathaniel Brannick. A brilliant detective with flaws and heartbreak, a distinct way of speaking (I found his sarcasm endearing), and a honest voice. Nathan's voice was one of the things I adored about Consumed. It was era-appropriate in terms of grammar and vocabulary choice, but it didn't feel faked and I didn't have to strain to read it (as I sometimes had to do some other historical fiction work, as they tried really hard to emulate classics).

Overall, Consumed was an enjoyable haunted-house-roller-coaster ride in a foreign theme park for me. Apart from a few paragraphs of chunky dialogue/exposition towards the conclusion, I liked everything that I read. Whilst this book didn't shatter my world the way some other books did in the past, I would still recommend it to older teenagers and adults who are keen to read an action-packed, distinct historical horror. I think 'Consumed' won't disappoint.

Rating: 4.0 out of 5


Sunday, 7 September 2014

Blog Tour and Interview: Consumed by Justin Alcala


Nath's Quick Note:

Alright, so I am finally joining a blog tour as a stop... and I'm branching out of my usual reading genre, and venturing into historical fantasy horror. I basically got in touch with the author, Justin Alcala, through Twitter (kind of long story short, but that's the essence), and for a long time I've been entertained and impressed by his witty tweets about horror and writing. I am not done reading yet, thus the review will follow sometime soon -- but I can assure you all that I'm loving what I read so far! It is one fast-paced, intriguing, horror-filled mystery, which (in Nath's opiu... err, opinion!) will be relatable and enjoyable for readers mid/late teens upwards.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

ARC Review: How To Be Manly by Maureen O'Leary-Wanket




Title: How To Be Manly
Author: Maureen O'Leary Wanket
Publisher: Giant Squid Books
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Length: 198 pages (PDF ARC)
Publication Date: September 16th, 2014


When Rachel from Giant Squid Books contacted me about this book, I must admit I hesitated. I don't usually read contemporary, and I was afraid I would not be able to compose a good review. After a bit of deliberation, I decided to bite the bullet and take the challenge of reading and reviewing 'How To Be Manly'. And, my, I must say that I don't regret my decision.

Theme/Plot/Storyline

At heart, 'How To Be Manly' is a light-hearted, yet meaningful and touching coming-of-age tale. It revolves around the life of Matthew Sullivan, a heavyset sixteen year old boy who enjoys food (his cake-baker grandma's homemade cake and cooking, especially), has exactly two close friends -- one a boy with shyness/social issues and another one a bad boy by the town's standard, is failing his Math class, and has a crush on his 'friend' Cassie. Throughout a beautifully woven string of 'ordinary' (by a high-fantasy and dystopia lover standard, that is!) events [SPOILER] including a disastrous end of schoolyear party, a fateful trip to a yard-sale in which Matty meets his saviour in the form of an old copy of a book, a football camp, a horrible act done by Matty's irresponsible-immature-absent father to the family, and the mistakes Matty made in his quest to save the family he knows , Maureen O'Leary-Wanket takes us readers on Matty's bumpy ride to (young) adulthood. Whilst Matty's story seems so familiar to me (in my reader life and in my life as a person), I still found myself quite enchanted by his journey. O'Leary-Wanket knows how to write a page-turner which captures your attention to the end despite the light, warm vibe. I finished this book in one single sitting (about two hours), and enjoyed every moment I spent with it. It began and end in such good points that I found myself smiling for Matty and his journey to be Manly (yes, that is a capital M, and there is a reason for it).

Characters


'How To Be Manly' has a relatively small cast, although I guess it is just the right size for a contemporary. The star of the story is, of course, Matty. He locked my attention from get go, his problems with weight, family, and unrequited crush. From the start, we are exposed to the flaws of his character; his reluctance to exercise, his general passive nature (which will change throughout the story), his (normal) occasional laziness, and his denial of several obvious things. But we are also made aware of his potential, and of the support network he has in his grandmother and the townfolks. I was delighted to see Matty's transformations through the page, to see him finally seeing things clearly, being proactive, and finding a love/first relationship he can cherish. Matty is no superhuman and not an intense dystopia hero with dark past. But he goes through his own journey of self discovery, and thus is a hero in his own right -- a relatable one.


Whilst we don't get to see much of the supporting cast (apart from grandma, who is an admirable force on her own right), I got a strong sense of how they influence Matty's journey. His sick grandfather, his grandmother who is trying her best to help others and hold her own, his absent father who is an absolute egoist (and 'egoist' is a mild word, mind you), his elderly neighbor, his two best friends, his crush Cassie, the coach's family... everyone. There is a saying that 'it takes a whole village to raise a child', and we get to see how true this saying is in 'How To Be Manly'. It is Matty who wants a change, yes -- but it is others who help him making it happen. Overall, I like the supporting cast and their roles in the story. It's also worth noting that even though some of them are there to drive the plot, they feel well fleshed-out, not just a cookie cutter/placeholder.

Style


'How To Be Manly' was written in Matty's 1st person boyish (or should I say 'manly'?) voice. It is straight forward and easy to read, simple yet honest. Overall I like the writing style.


Conclusion


'How To Be Manly' was a good, satisfying light read. While it has some general elements of coming-of-age contemporary, it is a distinct book on its own, and is highly relatable. The characters are realistic and vivid, and whilst the romance is a little cliched and predictable (I predicted the outcome by the end of chapter one), I was happy with how it turned out.



Rating: 3.8 out of 5

Friday, 11 July 2014

Book Review: The Winner's Curse (The Winner's Trilogy #1, Marie Rutkoski)

From Goodreads

I first heard about this book on Twitter, right around its release date. Several bloggers I follow had been involved in the promotional blitz, and I saw a lot of tweets floating there. Back then, I was pretty overloaded with TBRs and stories to try and pick it up on the day it was released, but I did keep it in mind, somewhere.

Fast forward to July 2014, I was stopping by the YA floor of the city bookstore to pick up another book. Naturally I did take a look around after picking up that other book -- and almost straight away bumped into this one. And just then, I felt the urge to pick it up, something I can't explain. Thus I brought a copy along to the cashier, paid for it, and straight away started reading.

... and I was pretty much occupied, for the next one or two days. Not because I was totally in love, but because I was kind of curious/mysteriously addicted for reasons I couldn't pinpoint.

The Winner's Curse got its title from the concept of pyrrhic victory, in which you burn on your way to win something. Set in the fictional country of Herran, during its occupation by the Valorians, The Winner's Curse revolves around the life of Kestrel, daughter of a Valorian general. In this story, Kestrel gets her taste of pyrrhic victory when she bids a lot for -- and wins -- a slave which she is intrigued with. The victory soon burns hotter, as the slave, Arin, proves himself to be something else; a person who both intrigues and frustrates Kestrel. The two evolves into star-crossed lovers, then into something else altogether, then into something else. Whilst the book is heavy on romance (sometimes to the point of dragging the plot and drowning the action, the world, and the political drama), the theme of pyrrhic victory remains strong until the end, as the characters continue to sacrifice things they hold dear to achieve something else which looks good at the moment. Despite my mixed feeling about the pacing and parts of the plot, I think the overarching plot has done a good job keeping with the theme, right to the bittersweet, uncertain conclusion. If you enjoy romance, I'm sure you'll quite enjoy the storyline -- it's just not 100% for me, seeing that I don't enjoy pure romances.

In my opinion, both Kestrel and Arin are likeable enough. Kestrel, with her talent for tactic and strategy and her desire to be true to herself, is an example of 'quiet strength' type characters done well. Even when she's subtle, even when she loves her piano, even when she only know basic fighting to defend herself, even when she fights her father every day because he wants her to join the army, she knows where exactly her power lies -- her brain and her keen eyes. Arin, on the other hand, is one of those rebel boys type I've always liked. Compared to many others I've met, he is (understandably) gloomier, more serious, more vengeful, and much better at acting -- but his strength relies on his pride and determination. He is the one with a bigger growth throughout the book, despite being the secondary narrator (the primary privilege belongs to Kestrel). These two are a very interesting, diverse duo. Whilst the main romance storyline isn't entirely new and unique, Kestrel and Arin and their societies add new dimensions to the 'star-crossed'. Both characters remain strong and true until the end, and they grow through their feelings for each other and their experiences through the book. They might be in love, but they remain realistic and focus on what they truly want in life. Whilst I'd at times wished we would see more personalities in the other characters (especially Kestrel's many high-society friends who blurred after a few chapters), I am happy to have met Kestrel and Arin, and am curious to see what would become of them in the next books, especially as individuals. I hope they will continue to grow and be more comfortable in their awesome skins.

Now, I'm going to do what I normally don't -- and talk about the cover. Among the YA and adult covers I've seen, this is perhaps one of my least favourite. I think it is a pretty cover, and I do appreciate the designers for their work with that amazing dress -- but I find the concept untrue to the story and to Kestrel's character. Despite her gentle, tactile nature, Kestrel is not a damsel-in-distress. She fights her own duels and trains with the guard captain on an at least weekly basis. Whilst Kestrel does wear dresses, I feel that the cover doesn't encompass who she essentially is. She looks like a princess there, not like a general's daughter who wishes to live life in her own terms. I wish the cover had captured more of her strong, analytical side and portrayed her as the quiet strength that she is.

Overall my feelings about this book is a little bit mixed. I liked it when I read it, and I thought it had good points. It matched my expectations, and I had moments when it filled me with emotions (one of it had something to do with a library and a book, and another with hair and braids). But it doesn't really stand out among the fantasies (and romance-fantasies) that I've read before. I will most probably pick up and read the sequels, though, to figure out what happens after the end of the first book and to see more of the world and the minor characters.


Overall rating: 3.8 out of 5

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Book Review: Guardian (Proxy #2, Alex London)




Image taken from goodreads. Do hover your cursor over the blacked-out phrases, if you have read both Proxy and Guardian or do not mind spoilers ;).

Alex London's Proxy is one of the few books I've ever loved that much. It was shocking and amazing, heartwarming and heartbreaking. I found myself immersed in the debt and in the injustice, in the characters' journeys and in the amazing plot -- which involves a zoo and a canyon. When I closed my hardcover copy, nursing a broken heart and basking in the warmth of hope and friendship, I knew I would -- without doubt -- read Guardian. The only thing standing between me and this interesting sequel, back then, was the fact that it hadn't yet been published.

A couple of months later, Guardian was published. My friend Commander LilaJune (check out her review here) and I got our hands on it within the first few days of publication. We got completely hooked, and finished it in one day (well, she finished it first, and I stayed up all night reading to catch up because I have a severe case of 'fear of missing out'). Tons (alright, exaggeration alert) of Twitter DM-s were sent, and thoughts and feels were discussed -- and we agreed on a fact I think is important:

... Whilst Proxy is a breakneck thriller, Guardian is a romance (I think Sofia, who first introduced me to Proxy, kind of agreed with this, too).

Yes, there is still action (lots of them, to be exact). Yes, there are deaths, cruel plot twists, moments of self realizations and self doubts, and all the things present in Proxy (although, compared to what happened in Proxy, what happens in Guardian feels mild). But the heart of the story itself was the budding romance between our beloved former-whipping-boy-turned-'messiah' Syd, and the main newcomer in the book, the terrifying, glitched (oh, don't you just love it when authors develop their own slangs for their books? ;)), yet somehow sweet bodyguard Liam.

Liam is a bodyguard boy with mysterious past, one metal hand, perpetually wet 'puppy' eyes, insane killer instinct, and a somewhat-glitched devotion to his responsibility, Yovel (who was known by Syd, and would rather be called Syd). Liam has a Yovel tattoo on his chest (which will come in handy in a sticky situation later ;)), and  spends a lot of time running after/having hots for/thinking about his Yovel. While at first this idol-crush looks a little silly and a little scary, it gradually evolves to a substantial, healthy attraction/affection as Liam learns more about the person under that 'Yovel' label. Although romance is not usually my main genre, I found myself enthralled by the Guardian romance, captivated by Liam's development and inner struggles; Syd's anguish and desire to keep his sense of self; and the sweet thing they share together. I think I would safely say that Guardian is high up on my 'romance' favourite list.

Like other well-done protagonists are, Liam and Syd don't exist in a vacuum. There are other characters, ones which help them most of the time, and ones which serve as antagonists. Among those characters is Marie, a recurring character from Proxy who brings along with her the topics of idealism versus reality, and family. And among the antagonists is a six-year-old gang lord (don't ask me why!!!) who highlights problems with the society and the delusion/thirst for power, as well as provides a comic relief in an otherwise very-much-screwed-up situation. Some characters die; some others stay on. Whilst there is no clear resolution of the fates of all the characters who remained alive at the end of the Guardian (after the adventures and the cruel big twist which started in Proxy), I would say almost everyone learns their different lessons throughout the book. They are forced to examine their stances and beliefs, with the collapse of their society and the looming threat before them. They are forced to work together. They are forced to start anew. And they make a network of beautiful stories, that the lack of absolute resolution did not at all bother me.

There are several questions I still had, after I flipped that last page and turned my e-reader off. What had actually happened to Liam before the book -- before he was a soldier for the rebellion movement. What was the main antagonist's story, and what drove him to do all the things he did (there were serious moments where I questioned his choices and motivations, especially towards the plot climax). What was the thing London actually wanted to achieve with his conflict arc and the cruel, twisty resolution. What would be the future of the world. But until clarified by Alex London, all of those are mysteries -- mysteries I'll let be for the time being, as I remember this book as one of my favourite romance reads.

Although... well... really... a third book or a Liam-novella won't really hurt ;).

Final rating: 4 Stars.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

The Chocolate Book Tag


I'm truly, madly, deeply in love with books. And I love chocolate well enough to have mocha or cappuccino every morning, eat mostly chocolate cakes, and sneak in a mini chocolate bar or two or three (alright, alright. So, I really love chocolate). So hereby I present my take on combining two of the many things I love with all my heart. Many thanks to Sofia Li from Loving The Language of Literacy who has tagged me with this yummy tag -- and provided me with a great reason to procrastinate from both my fantasy WIP and my experimental Legend fic ;).

Disclaimer: all cover images taken from Goodreads (saved)


Dark Chocolate - A book which covers dark topic

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card


Ender's Game is a tale of war and loss of innocence, of manipulation and painful realisation of one's strengths and weaknesses. Adults separating children from their families, breaking them over and over again, turning them into battle commanders in a war against another species. This book, and its child protagonist (he's not even yet a teenager) Ender Wiggin broke my heart into a lot of dark, bitter pieces.

White Chocolate - Your favourite light-hearted or humorous read

Various snippets from various books
There have been humorous, light-hearted chapters/scenes I absolutely loved and visited over and over just for good laugh, though -- I'm not a crazy, uptight, cranky old lady XD. But, yeah, I haven't read any fully 'light-hearted' book which I loved recently. I'll pass on this one.  

Milk Chocolate - A book with lots of hype that you're dying to read


Shadow and Bone (Grisha Trilogy) by Leigh Bardugo
I kept seeing references of it popping on Twitter -- even some of my favourite authors are crazy about it! I looked up the synopsis yesterday, and the world/premise got me interested. The last book of the trilogy has just been released, so it could be a perfect timing for me to pick it up and start reading.

Chocolate With a Caramel Center - Name a book which made you all gooey inside while reading

Guardian by Alex London

So, alright, perhaps I should've spent more time worrying about Syd and the future of the world when I read this... but the bodyguard love interest, Liam, made it impossible for me not to feel all gooey! The combination of perpetually wet blue eyes, a metal hand, secret love and devotion to the person he's supposed to protect, and mad badass-ery made me swoon and sigh. Liam/Syd is probably one of my
favourite couples in the recent YA I read -- sweet, while still well-developed and realistic.

Wafer Free Kit Kat - Name a book that surprised you recently


Aristotle and Dante Discover The Secrets of The Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
I must admit I always approach contemporary books with caution -- especially, when I hear the word 'romance' associated with them. I downloaded this upon my little recommendation circle's suggestion (looks at Commander LilaJune), and started reading as I waited for my turn at the optometrist's office. Against all odds, I was hooked. I finished this in less than two hours, and was impressed by the characters, the writing, and the gravity of the issues presented in this book. It wasn't pretentious, it wasn't cheesy -- just simply honest and refreshing.

Snickers - A book that you're going nuts about

The Young Elites by Marie Lu

I've been keeping an eye out for any update on this since they announced it. And I'm even more giddy now that my amazing friend Tina has sent me a sample she grabbed at BookCon (I don't know how I'll ever repay you, Cousin. Really). Unlike almost all other YA fantasies I know of, The Young Elites is taking a daring approach and presenting main characters who are on the darker shade of grey. That, and the interesting world I've glimpsed through the sample pages, is getting me all nuts about it.

Hot Chocolate with Marshmallows - What book would you turn to for a comfort read?


Champion by Marie Lu
Those of you who follow me on Twitter must've known by now that I worship June Iparis's sharp mind and strong heart. June's a lot of things I aspire to be; she knows what she wants and isn't afraid to let go of other things to get it, and she knows how to remain strong even when her heart's broken. Whenever I'm confused, or upset by any of my grown-up troubles, flipping through her chapters in Champion (she dual-narrates with her equal-footed counterpart Day) helps me putting things into perspective and gathering strength to devise my next strategy. If June can move on and be the amazing woman she is at the end of all of that, why can't I overcome my much lesser problems?  

Box of Chocolates - What series have you read that you feel has a little something for everyone?

Chasing The Valley by Skye Melki-Wegner




I must admit that I first picked it up because it is a MG/YA fantasy written by a female Australian author (a rarity in the YA section, even here in Australia) -- and because the main character, Danika, is the female version of the streetboy characters I have a soft spot for (she'll hold up just fine in a running/climbing/weapon-stealing match with Legend's Day Wing, The Ascendance Trilogy's Sage, and The Seven Realms' Han Allister). Once I actually started reading the first book, though, it became apparent to me that it was a crazy fusion of all kind of speculative fiction -- sci-fi, dystopia, high fantasy. Danika's world is a dystopia; a dictatorship led by a ruthless king who bombs his own cities and is super-keen to expand his dictatorship. Danika lost her family in a chemical bomb attack (an evil love child of sci-fi and high fantasy, essentially). In the story as told by the books, she's trying to run away to freedom at the valley, with a diverse crew featuring rich kids and street criminals (adventure). While I don't go through my days constantly thinking about the series (as I do some other books and series), I actually quite like it and appreciate the creativity behind the idea.

So, yeah, those are my chocolates... what are yours? ;)

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

The Dissector (2): A Love Letter to Reading and Genres

'The Dissector' is a series of posts in which I will dissect topics which interest me, with my subjective, frank, extra-sharp mental scalpel. While honesty is a rule of these posts, I'd like to emphasise, once more, that this is merely my attempt of understanding myself and the world better. This remains, simply, one woman's opinion. Something the said woman doesn't intend to, and will never think of, shoving down anyone's throat.

Disclaimer: All Included Images Are Taken from The Books' Goodreads Entries


I read.

And that's simply a two-word sentence. I don't want to expand it by adding 'YA books', 'speculative fiction', 'historical fiction', 'anything which is good', or other tags. Because, hey, I read. My brain is programmed to pick anything written and try to make sense of it within my language limitations (I'm only fluent in two languages, English and Bahasa Indonesia). The moment I wake, I will reach for my phone and check, after my personal email and private messages/direct messages on various social networking platforms, what my preferred news website has to offer that morning. More often than not, I will read one or more news articles, editorials, or feature articles which pique my interest, too (although I'll stop before that button which says 'comment', because the comment section is often waaaay darker than any depressing article). Then I will trawl Twitter, and read a couple of interesting book-and-writing related articles tweeted by the friends and authors I follow. I don't limit myself to what is serious and important; it's a matter of interest for me. And as such, chance is I will read self-posted advertisements on power poles on my way to work or to my weekend morning coffee. And the banners hanging above my lovely neighbourhood square. And the announcements in the lifts I ride on my way to my desk. And any announcement stuck on the office door, or behind the bathroom stall doors. And everything which has ever made its way to my home mailbox, except if it's a personal mail not addressed to me. And random blog posts from my random google search. And wikipedia articles about people who appeared in the news that day.

(Alright, let's take a moment of silence here to absorb all my craziness. Those who aren't willing to dig deeper into a long essay about my excessive reading habit may stop reading right here and right now -- thank you for stopping by.)

My attitude is, admittedly, quite different when it comes to my 'hobby reading/enjoyment reading'. This comes down to the fact that I cannot possibly read every book ever written, unless there are 300 hours in a day and 365,000 days in a year. Like everyone else, I pick and choose what I read. And throughout my life, my choices have always been evolving. It has been a really fluid journey, with winding roads and branching points, and loops which converge and re-converge.

As a preschooler and kindergartener, I read a lot of fairytales and books about animals. They were not my choice, of course -- they were either gifts, or something my parents bought in a bookstore -- but I did love them. And they did spark my interest in reading, and my creative imagination. I think my parents and everyone who had ever babysat me had caught, so many times over, me in the midst of recreating those stories with my plush toys -- with my own crazy twists.

In primary school (ages 6 - 12), I devoured things I could find in my library and in the (then-limited) children section of my local bookstore in Jakarta, Indonesia. I remember borrowing, as my first library book ever, a book about who Henry Dunant was (it was like a children's version of biography, it told me his life but not in excessive details). I remember reading this book and this one and this one, in full admiration of the strong girl protagonists and the adventures they go through. I remember reading a lot of children-appropriate humour, and translated mangas too (hi Sailor Moon!). But above all, I also remember, as a pre-teen in years 5 and 6, reading this book and this one. I couldn't find any English entry
for those, and I apologise for it. But to summarise -- they were Indonesian historical fiction novels, intended for adult, written by an Indonesian author who wrote several other historical fiction books. I did not purchase them. My Dad did, many years before. He didn't make me read it; he didn't even mention he had them. I simply found them sitting in one of his drawers, and devoured them during a summer holiday. I just couldn't stop. Ancient and Colonial-era Java, frozen in the vivid, enthralling lines of narration and dialogues, captivated me. Suddenly, I saw the soul in the eras I'd had brief, formal and hard-fact-ladden brushes with in the history classes at school. Those periods were suddenly not just periods. They were writhing, breathing, with characters -- imperfect, human -- who gave breaths of life to those periods. It was my first experience of true reading bliss, one which I remember fondly until today.

I remained a keen and (looking back) critical reader throughout High School (ages 13 - 18). My High School had a relatively large, well-stocked library of fiction and non-fiction alike, and I always end up on the 'fiction' section. Birthday money, pocket money, and allowances had also started flowing, leaving me with a new power to buy what I want to read. As my body and mind shifted from a child's to a woman's and hormones started flooding, I became more drawn to romance too. Adult romance, more exactly. There were the one or two YA romances (then a rare thing to see in the library or even in bookstores -- all I remember is Meg Cabot's contemporaries) thrown in there, but mostly I was busy wrangling one of Danielle Steel's bestsellers out of a fellow student's hands or browsing Sandra Brown's crime/romance in my local bookstore. I watched romantic Japanese animes, and swooned over romantic mangas. In the later years of my adolescence, as I battled (a relatively mild, now that I've seen many other cases) a year-long-encounter with anorexia and recovered, I was introduced to the world of the section of adult contemporary I then knew as 'chick-lit'; books about grown women and their everyday issue, ranging from weight management (something relevant to me then) to relationship issues (which often involved prettier, taller, skinner women competing for the hot guy's attention). The history, culture, and fantasy loving girl in me had never died though. I managed to introduce the Harry Potter series to my reading list in the midst of everything else. I also managed to read, between homework and marching band training camps, a couple of historical fiction and culture-nuanced books which strongly resonated to me then. I devoured Snow Flower and The Secret Fan. I read my way through Ca Bau Kan (book and summary in Bahasa Indonesia), a bittersweet (fictional) historical romance telling the story of a Chinese Indonesian merchant and his Betawi (native Batavian/Jakartan) mistress/courtesan. I also read this amazing Indonesian book about a Chinese Indonesian family in a relatively recent era (the title roughly translates to 'The Last Yum Cha'). And funny things being funny -- even though the amount of contemporary and romance I read back then exceeded the amount of the fantasy and historical, I remember those few fantasies and historicals better today. Seems that my subconscious has always been clinging to my preferred genres, after all!

The university/college period (ages 19 - 22) was what I would say the darkest period of my reading. Moving to a new country, switching from reading primarily in Bahasa Indonesia to reading primarily in English, and succumbing to peer pressure to 'be cool' and 'try find a boyfriend' slowed my reading -- a lot. It didn't help that I knew no one who loved reading as much as I did (or I knew them, but didn't know them enough to know they loved reading). And -- a dark story -- I was suffering from a severe 'new-grown-up' stuck-up syndrome, in which I refused to admit love for anything remotely youthful (apart from Harry Potter and a few Animes, which she read and watched in secret in her bedroom). If I could find 19 year old Nath and give her a real hard slap on her face and yell at her for being a bloody liar and con, I think I would. She should have known she was a fantasy and historical fiction girl. She should have known she loved characters who saw the world with fresh, untainted eyes, and strived to make them better. She should have stopped trying to be 'an adult' and tried to exclusively read 'deep' adult contemporaries and 'high literature' which didn't make her feel good about the world. She should have had a better sense of what made an adult and adult, and known that 'not reading dragon-and-kingdom fantasy and fictionalised history' didn't make her an adult. After all, at the end of those years of trying to read books which 'matter', she wasn't finished growing up. She still had childish whims. She still didn't know (and actually kind of doesn't) know what to do in many situations. She was still awkward.

And above all -- she was somewhat miserable creature who believed people were all messed up, and that heroes are creatures of fantasy.

What. A. Fool.

'Pretentious reader Nath' died right at the end of her university days, when she met a wonderful man who to this day still appreciates her every quirk, the way she appreciates his. But her love for reading had been buried by years of pretension, and she evolved into a restless caged beast desperate to let her imaginative side roam free -- 'Non-reader Nath'. She paced and paced. She tried reading fanfiction of the books she'd read and loved -- most of which were of romance variety. She tried writing, doing something she loved -- and actually was so out of touch with her fantasy that she couldn't even write a page she didn't cringe at. She got confused, angry, bored. Until, one day, while sitting at a nail salon having her fingernails primped and painted some, she looked up and saw the TV there playing The Hunger Games movie. 'Non-reader Nath' saw two sisters on the screen. She saw one of them picking up a bow and a quiver, and later taking another's place in a death match. She saw a messed up society, and a character who gave hope. A character who took action and did good.

And 'Non-reader Nath', love child of 'Pretentious reader Nath' and 'Nath's innate mule-like stubbornness', burned to ashes right there and then. In her place, rose the Nath who realises she loves adventures, fantasy, history, and characters who give hope. The Nath who loves her stories, her reading, and who she is. The Nath who isn't afraid of getting judged -- and knows that whatever she does, she will end up getting judged anyway. The Nath who is who I am now.




I finished watching The Hunger Games at home that very day, with my husband. I bought all the three books soon after, and devoured them in two nights. I wrote The Hunger Games fanfiction (most of which I didn't end up publishing, because they were so bad -- but hey, that's part of writing journey, right?). I branched out to Divergent and Insurgent. I got introduced to Daughter of Smoke of Bone, and devoured Days of Blood and Starlight soon after. I found the whole YA fantasy/sci-fi/dystopia genre. I perused samples of others, bought some, read some, DNF some. I found Legend, just like that -- and devoured it, then Prodigy, and was completely humbled by the amazing characters and their struggles, the social injustice in their society which resembled something I'd seen as a child and accepted as part of life, being the entitled brat I was. I read Proxy, and was once more reminded of that. I analysed everything critically. And before I knew, I was alive again. I fell in love with characters who tried to make the world better by real action, and not just sitting-there-wallowing-why-life-is-unfair-and-sad like some of the characters 'Pretentious Nath' met. I wrote fanfiction. I started original story ideas, and am realising some of them in full-fledged WIPs. I met fellow readers and YA fiction enthusiasts on Twitter, some of whom I consider my close friends now. I was introduced to more books -- not just YA, but simply good books with inspirational stories and characters. I read some which fell within speculative fiction, and am planning to read some of the suggested historical fictions. For the first time in my life, I have a recommendation-based TBR list, instead of a haphazard one totally composed through long hours combing sections of bookstores and libraries. I learn to listen to others' inputs and opinions, and give chances to books I would otherwise not look at. I learn how to put the life lessons I've learned from books in coherent thoughts, and discuss them with my friends and in book reviews.

I am now alive. And learning.

And I am reading again, for pleasure.


All it took was an adaptation of a YA book, beautiful, hopeful stories which stoked the embers of my dormant fantasy-and-historical-fiction fangirl, characters who despite their limitations and their hardships are trying to make the world better and not muddle-it-because-my-life-suck-and-I-don't-know-how-to-not-rain-on-everyone's-parade, and a community of reading enthusiasts keen to read things which they can learn positive lessons from.


All it took was an inspired feeling.

But of course, this is just my reading journey. I am well aware that there are others who get inspirations in different ways, and others with different journeys. There are people who like sad stories and characters who constantly break things -- and it's more than alright. It's amazing that you read. It's amazing that things move you. Just like I love and respect my genres, you should love and respect your genres too -- never say you're 'ashamed',  'embarrassed', or that you feel you are 'weird'. Protect what is dear to your heart, if you must. Read what you read. Love what and who you love. Surround yourself with people who read similar things; find some on Goodreads or other social medias if you know none. Gift your favourite book to loved ones, convince them why they should read. Talk people to include your favourite books and genres in their reading list -- with the respect you'd like them to show your favourite books and genres. Spread the book love, not hatred for what you see as not 'on par with' your kind of books. Judge if you must, but remember that judgement is a reflection of what you think and not of someone else's behaviour (yes, it is hard. I still struggle with it myself. But just give it one try :)).

Let your books and genres make you a better person who learns from the stories and the characters.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Book Review: Ender's Game (Ender Quintet #1, Orson Scott Card)

This post is part of a joint effort by me and Commander LilaJune of LilaJune's Book Saloon to kickstart our blogging. Every week we'll post a review of the same book or a discussion on the same topic. This week, we are visiting the fascinating world of Ender's Game, where a brilliant boy learns about himself, others, and humanity in a heartbreaking tale of friendship and a sacrificed childhood.

(Cover image taken from Goodreads)


Disclaimer: I owe Sofia of Loving the Language of Literacy for her help in review-structuring. She is one awesome young lady.

Read the Goodreads synopsis here

I've known about this book (a classic, in my opinion) for a long, long time, and even have an old edition sitting in my bookshelf without knowing it (because my husband and I don't tell each other about the books we own, yeah). It's not until I got bored during a flight and put the movie adaptation on that I became super duper interested in reading it, though. I picked up the movie tie-in addition in an airport shop on my flight home, unaware of the one my husband has at home -- and with the encouragement from my blog buddy and Commander LilaJune, I started it. At that time, I had a high expectation of it. And once I finished reading, I must say it didn't disappoint.

Plot/Premise/Theme

Ender's Game is a story of how the threat of war, the government and its programs, the adults and the other children at Battle School, and Ender's own thoughts, love, confidence, and insecurities makes and breaks Ender Wiggin.  The premise itself is interesting: young, brilliant children in training to save the world from an imminent 'bug' invasion. This book spans a few long years, and it looked slow at first -- but later I realised that it worked well with the plot and theme. In the first few chapters, the story looked like a loose recap collection from various periods of Ender Wiggin's young life, but the more I read, the more I saw how the previous chapters built the foundation of the current chapter, little by little until it culminated in a heartbreaking final chapter. Every event in the book is important, and related to the climax and resolution. It is a plot unlike another I'd seen before, yet it felt unique and clean. And (despite the obvious spoiler given away by the movie), at the end, it still awed me.

Characters & Romance (or lack thereof)

One thing Card did really well with this book was characterisation. Ender's Game has an array of ethnically and psychologically diverse characters (even though it only has a grand total of two important female characters -- but I guess one can't pick on a classic for doing this :)), who are well-defined throughout the pages. Through Ender's interaction with any given secondary character, Card defined both Ender and the other character. When Ender's not there in the scene, the role of defining secondaries fall into the hand of his sister Valentine, and his maker/destroyer Graff, the head of Battle School.  What I love the most about Ender and all the supporting characters is how grey they are. They switch sides. Each of their strength is also their weakness, and while some of them are capable of doing evil things, they are capable of doing good as well. And they always have reasons. At the end, Ender Wiggin endeared and frightened me just the same, with his sharp mind, his regrets, his robbed childhood, and his resolution to fix the damages he had done the universe and his 'enemy'. He is one of my favourites in this book, along with his sharp-yet-gentle sister Valentine, who is his light at the end of the tunnel, the hope in the midst of regrets and adversities.

Despite the lack of romance (bar that sneaky handhold between two minor characters at the very end) which is probably tied to the characters' young ages, Ender's Game still explores the theme of love really well. The brotherly love Ender has for his older sister Valentine, and her equally fierce sisterly love for him, shines beautifully through their thoughts of each other and the few moments they share together. The friendship Ender has with Alai, Shen, Dink, and others; the mentor-mentee relationship he has with first Petra (the other girl in the story apart from Valentine) and later Bean -- I didn't feel deprived of the 'warm' feeling of romance as I read. Ender's Game proves that there are more facades of love apart from romance, and that protagonists can work and grow up well without romantic interests. This is a point I think every Science Fiction and Fantasy author should really consider, before they add a one-dimensional/damsel-or-hansel-in-distress love interest or a weird love triangle for protagonists who do not need them.

Style and Feel

Card's style is clean and open, and I enjoyed it. There are paragraphs with long, elaborate setting descriptions (especially in the Battle Room) which slowed me down and forced me to exercise my brain, but I really enjoyed Ender's internal monologues and the character interactions. Whilst Card uses a lot of 'telling' (and less 'showing' than many other authors I've read) in this book, it didn't feel impersonal to me, and I was kept interested throughout. I felt the joy. I felt the heartbreak. The book tugged me in all the right directions. Oh, and that ending. That. Ending. It got through to me. What does one do once the truth's revealed? How does one fix the humanity, the universe, and one's mistakes?

Final Verdict

One of the classic/older books I actually finished and liked. I liked how relevant and universal the themes in it are, even years later. Whilst I would love to see more female characters (of the strong variant) in the book (especially in Battle School), I loved Ender and everyone else who is there (perhaps not so much Graff, Ender's sadistic brother Peter, and the adults who either don't care or are too cowardly to fight their own battle, but the Battle School kids are awesome).

Whilst there is a lot of devastation at the end, there is also hope. I've been warned about the gloomy nature of the sequels (by the internet and my friends), and I'm on the fence about continuing. Maybe I'll pick the second book up one day, but for now, I'm content with Ender's current resolution and the story which captivated me.

Overall rating: 5 out of 5.

So - have you ever watched a movie adaptation before reading the book? How did it affect your enjoyment of the book? How did you feel about Ender, his decision, and his painful self realisation/awareness? What would you do if you were in Ender's shoes?

Monday, 2 June 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Books That Will Be In My Beach Bag This Summer

Image taken from the host's blog


Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. Every Tuesday, book bloggers from all over the blogosphere (har har har cliched much Nath!) will present a compilation of 10 book(ish) things they love. Details and lists of past and future topics can be viewed here.

Alright. This is my first time participating in Top Ten Tuesday, after months of lurking in the (Bloglovin and Twitter) background, spying on and reading everyone else's entries. And, esteemed readers, let me tell you something -- I nearly delayed starting my venture into this meme's world (*cue horror gasps*). I actually messaged this lovely lady this morning to agonise over whether I should really make a list of 'top ten books that will be in my beach bag this summer', because to be honest there is nothing summer-y about the dystopia, high fantasy, sci-fi, and haunting 'true story' type biographies that I read!

After a bit of that oh-so-familiar 'should I' discussion, and a walk in mild-yet-still-cold Sydney winter (which I will soon leave for the Pacific Northwest summer :)), I decide to bite the bullet -- and compose the list of 'light, fresh' summer-reading... Nath's version. Some of these books are recs I haven't yet 'attacked'; some are little pretties I stumbled upon in bookstores; others are second and third books of series I've started reading and liked; and a couple are old favourites I'd love to read again under the summer sun. Without further ado, here they are -- hope you all enjoy!








   

  1. Dreams of Gods and Monsters (Daughter of Smoke and Bone #3), by Laini Taylor (Cover image from: Laini Taylor's Website)
    My lovely, minky (ha!), fantasy lover and book nerd lawyer-to-be sister-in-law (hi there Tones!) introduced me to Daughter of Smoke and Bone last year, and I've been loving it since. It's high-fantasy, and quite different from the sci-fi and dystopias I usually read, but Taylor's beautiful imageries and interesting characters and storyline keep me hooked. This book is near the top of my to-read list, and is waiting for a continuous period of five or six or seven hours in which I can devour it uninterrupted. I figure a tanning session on the beach (with a big brolly and a slathering of sunscreen) will be an ideal time for it.  It will be haunting and heavy at times, yes, but the finale of Karou and Akiva's worlds-and-lives-spanning love story is a beautiful fairytale for summer.
  2. The Selection (The Selection #1) by Kiera Cass (Cover image from: Kiera Cass's Website)
    I've seen this book everywhere and taken a sneak peek in the bookstore, and I'm pretty interested in the theme/premise of a 'The Bachelor' type reality show with dystopian twist. But, to be honest, the presentation (girl with dress on the cover) and the light style is too much 'flowers-and-love-hearts' for my hardened reader soul. Perhaps the warm sunlight, the cocktails with mini umbrellas, and the lovely sound of crashing waves will soften my heart and help me to start reading this.
  3. Uglies (Uglies #1) by Scott Westerfeld (Cover image from: Scott Westerfeld's Website)
    I did an online YA fiction writing course last year, and this book came recommended by my amazing tutor (hi there Benjamin!). I started reading a sampler, and could already see the looming dystopia -- but I've been distracted by other books with 'heavier' themes since and haven't been able to get back into the world of surgery-enhanced 'pretties' and untouched youngsters 'uglies'. Continuing the pretty-dress-and-party theme of The Selection, this one will be a good read for a holiday too.
  4. Once We Were (Hybrid Chronicles #2) by Kat Zhang (Cover image from: Harper Collins' Website)
    I read the first book of the Hybrid Chronicles, 'What's Left of Me'. And I cried over Eva and Addie and the world which forces them to pretend only one of them still live in their body. As time goes past and I read more dystopian books, it becomes apparent to me that whilst still dark, the Hybrid Chronicles is one of the 'lighter' of the dystopian series I have read. I really want to know what becomes of the sisters and their love stories and their friends, thus I will take this in my beach bag (or in my kindle in my beach bag) to read.
  5. Tandem (Many Worlds #1) by Anna Jarzab (Cover image from: Anna Jarzab's Website)
    Confession: I've had this book since early this year. And I've never got past page 9. The premise of dimension travel is interesting for me, but the first scene where the character's approached by a guy at her school threw me off somehow (bad, impatient reader, I know!). In this book, the main character will channel her princess alternate-reality persona, thus this book goes really well with some other in the list.
  6. Defector (Variants #2) by Susanne Winacker (Cover image from: Susanne Winnacker's Website)
    I read Impostor (Variants #1), which was a pretty short book to me. Whilst the premise of X-men style superpower has been done so many times before, the combination of crime/murder mystery and the superpower itself provided an interesting read. This goes with the theme of 'continuing the books I've read and sufficiently liked'.
  7. Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire #1) by George R.R. Martin (Cover image from: GRRM's Website)
    I haven't progressed on this good book for a year or so. So, yeah, time to pick up my slack and at least finish this first book (although, admittedly, I love my YA dystopia genre more).
  8. The Demon King (The Seven Realms #1) by Cinda Williams Chima (Cover image from: Cinda Williams Chima's Website)
    This comes with a strong rec from my awesome friend Tina at The Book Landers. Apparently it has a protagonist similar to some characters I've loved before -- and the next books in the series apparently don't disappoint too! I haven't read much 'kingdom-fantasy' type books for the past few years, and I'm looking forward to start this.
  9. These Broken Stars (Starbound Trilogy #1) by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner (Cover image from: Amie Kaufman's Website)
    This will be my go-to book if I need some romance to brighten my day. I read this before, finished it, and loved it as a romance. Tarver and Lilac are heartbreakingly perfect as a couple, sweet and fiery, childish at times and mature at other times. And along with the romance, it presents valid questions about life and great character developments, which satisfy my need for 'heavy' themes.
  10. Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban (Harry Potter #3) by J.K Rowling (Cover image from: Bloomsbury's Website)
    A classic favourite of mine. I will be re-reading this for Hermione and her Time Turner, the Trelawney funny moments, and the wonderful DADA class with Professor Lupin (one of my favourite characters in the entire series). It's a heart-stopping page turner with good emotional arcs, serious at times but not yet too dark like the later books are.
  11. Mandatory to-bring Read to everywhere: Legend Trilogy by Marie Lu (Cover images from: Marie Lu's Website)
    Well, I'm obsessed with this. And I do miss Day and June and their love story every single day, so taking them on a holiday with me is just a natural thing to do. (Yeah, Cousin? *winks*)
So... what do you think of my summer reading list? Is it summery enough? Have you read any of books 1 - 8 (which I haven't actually read?) Also... why all my summer books are part of series? lol 


Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Book Review: Unwind (Unwind #1, Neal Shusterman)



*This post is part of a joint effort by my friend Commander LilaJune and I to jumpstart our blogging and discipline ourselves to post regularly. She is writing her own review of Unwind as I write mine, and we are planning to post our reviews around the same time. We have more reviews and discussions planned down the road for this program -- so, yeah, you're free to badger me with comments if I don't keep my words!*



Cover picture taken from here

Synopsis (from Neal Shusterman's website):

In a society where unwanted teens are salvaged for their body parts, three runaways fight the system that would "unwind" them Connor's parents want to be rid of him because he's a troublemaker. Risa has no parents and is being unwound to cut orphanage costs. Lev's unwinding has been planned since his birth, as part of his family's strict religion. Brought together by chance, and kept together by desperation, these three unlikely companions make a harrowing cross-country journey, knowing their lives hang in the balance. If they can survive until their eighteenth birthday, they can't be harmed -- but when every piece of them, from their hands to their hearts, are wanted by a world gone mad, eighteen seems far, far away.

In UnwindBoston Globe/Horn Book Award winner Neal Shusterman challenges readers' ideas about life -- not just where life begins, and where it ends, but what it truly means to be alive.

Background

Like many books in my recent reading list, Unwind came recommended by one of my reading and fangirling mates on Twitter. This time, the honour of ricocheting me straight into the erratic orbit of Neal Shusterman's insane world goes to the goddy amazing young lady called Sofia, who blogs *regularly* (looking nervously at self) about books at Loving The Language of Literacy. This well-read literacy warrior came to me with a shining recommendation for Unwind as I was wandering around looking for a good book to quench my thirst for breakneck speed and great plot. And, my, Unwind didn't disappoint. From the moment I picked it up and got sucked straight into the terrifying and very possible dystopian world, until the moment I put my e-reader down with my head in my hands, I was constantly impressed and wondering about what on the pages would happen a few screen-taps down the road. It was insanity at its best. And the best kind of insanity indeed.

The Summary According to Nath

As we've probably expected, 'Unwind' revolves around the idea of 'unwinding', which I would describe as a perfect yet morally-questionable solution to the pro-life and pro-choice battle, shortage of donor organs, and juvenile delinquency. In Connor, Risa, and Lev's dystopian world, pregnant women aren't allowed to abort, but can choose to leave their babies on someone's doorstep ('storking'). Parents can also opt to give their 13 to 18 year old teenagers up for government-sanctioned organ-harvesting ('unwinding'), for any reason and without consequences. The government presents the argument that once unwound, a child would continue to live through his or her organs which now provide life or a second chance for others in need -- in a 'divided state'. The main characters, Connor, Risa, and Lev are all slotted for unwinding, for various reasons. Hot-headed Connor, with his anger issues and penchant for troubles, was given away by the parents who didn't have any other way of dealing with his behaviours. Risa, an aspiring musician raised in an orphanage ('state home'), was sent away after failing to prove her worth to the government who needs reasons to keep supporting her welfare and education. And Lev, a boy from a religious family, was a 'tithe', a child born to be unwound as part of his wealthy parents' offering to their community and religion. These three teenagers meet each other as Connor tries escaping his Unwinding, unknowingly assisting Risa on his way and pulling Lev out of the path of voluntary unwinding. Through many misadventures and desperate attempts to stay alive and whole (for Connor and Risa) and to go back to his destiny (Lev), the three are forced to examine their lives and their choices, and see their world in a totally different way.

Plus Points

  1. Plot
    One of the many things Shusterman did amazingly with Unwind is, like I've mentioned, the idea and the plot. He was able to weave the three different story strands of the main characters into a solid, tight rope, using their strength, weaknesses, and inner demons to drive the plots. Despite the multiple supporting characters and switching POVs, the main focus remain on Connor, Risa, and Lev's stories. The three, especially Lev and (to some extent) Connor, go through massive journeys of self-discoveries, growing from children influenced fully by their environment and immediate problems to young adults who know the extent of their strengths and are able to use their skills to help teenagers facing the same injustice -- which is unwinding. I won't spoil the plot here, but let's just say there are so many clever character-driven twists in the story, and I'm happy with where the three are at the end of the book.
  2. Theme and Premise
    There are a lot of philosophical gems in this novel, and a lot of questions about humanity and morality. The main question here is, 'what makes a human, human?'. Through the main characters' thoughts, and heartbreaking stories of various side characters (CyFy, The Admiral, "Humphrey Dunfee", Emby aka The Mouth Breather), Shusterman presents the light and dark side of unwinding, which are so closely entwined to one another it is a blur. On one side, an organ might save a young child, a much-loved teenager, or an adult with a family and a lot of responsibilities. On the other side, the unloved, scraped teenager whom the organ came from, with their own memories and dreams and aspirations, is no less human than their recipients. What makes some lives more valuable than others? Is it true that 'unwinding' is the best thing the society could do to "incorrigible" teenagers? What has the 'convenient' notion of unwinding done to the society and the world? Has it fixed all the problems, or has it simply made people less forgiving and more ignorant? What would you do if a father or a mother change their mind and decide to forgive a teenager for his or her mistake or existence -- only to find out he or she has been unwound?
  3. Cast 'Diversity'
    Character-assemble wise, Unwind is diverse and clear. Diverse, in that we get to see characters with all sorts of different backgrounds (delinquents, state home children, tithes, supporters of unwinding, grieving parents who regret unwinding their children, people receiving parts from unwound children) and different stances regarding unwinding. Clear, in that the main characters' and the major secondary characters' motivations are laid out clearly throughout the story and are reasonable/logical. Despite the semi-colossal number of cast members, very few characters are one-off. They always make reappearance later (or in the later books, which I would talk about in separate posts), whether it is a full-blown appearance or a cameo. A handful of characters linger in my brain until long afterwards. I can't stay they stuck there -- at least yet, but I find myself thinking about them at times.

What Nath Thinks Could Be Improved


  • Deep Characterisation
    Due to the large cast list, everyone has got a limited 'page time' to explain themselves. Their pasts and motivations are well explained, but the 'little things' which make them more personable (as in their habits, favourite food, favourite colours, soft spot...) aren't as exposed. Coupled with the 3rd person POV, this makes the characters 'distant' -- easy to sympathise with but somewhat hard to identify with. The book would have been greater than it already is if, say, we get to know more sides of Connor, or Risa, or Lev.

  • Romance
    The romance between two of the major characters feels underdeveloped. It has a strong 'passing attraction' and a 'just-because' feel to it -- and even without it, the plot will still make a perfect sense. Perhaps this is intentional, and the romance is meant to be a 'side story' -- but to me this romance subplot just serves as a weak point for a strong book and I would prefer to see the book without it.

Overall Rating

4.8 out of 5 stars