blogging · books · features · shanti

Interview: Michelle Cooper, Author of Dr. Huxley’s Bequest

Hi Virtually Readers! Remember a few weeks ago when I reviewed Dr. Huxley’s Bequest, a really wonderful exploration of the history of medicine that covers a lot of ground? It’s a fascinating book, and Michelle Cooper, who wrote it, is one of my favourite authors. She is an incredible researcher, and uses her characters and stories to bring history–and now science–to life. She was gracious enough to let me interview her (which I promptly derailed by losing her email in my spam folder). If you want to learn about Tasmanian Devil milk and Michelle’s research process, you’ll definitely want to read the interview below.

Continue reading “Interview: Michelle Cooper, Author of Dr. Huxley’s Bequest”

book review · books · shanti

Dr. Huxley’s Bequest

I adore Michelle Cooper; she wrote some of my favourite novels of all time, namely the Montmaray trilogy, and also the delighful The Rage of Sheep. She hasn’t published a new book for ages, which is okay, because this one was worth waiting for! Dr. Huxley’s Bequest is a non-fiction book framed with a fictional framing device. It is aimed at younger people (like maybe 9-14), but honestly anyone can learn from it. Continue reading “Dr. Huxley’s Bequest”

books · features · shanti

What I look for in genres

Hi Virtually Readers! I’ve been thinking about genre in books a lot lately because I’m taking an English course that is essentially about genre. We’ve talked about romance, gothic, romantic comedies, and we’re about to start detective stories. I’m really appreciating some of the things this is making me think about–especially the conclusion that there is no such thing as a ‘pure’ genre. All stories use elements from different genres. For instance, the book ‘Trouble is a Friend of Mine’ is ostensibly a mystery story, but it also has elements of comedy and horror. I thought that I’d talk a little bit about what I look for in different genres, and some of my favourite books from each of those.

Continue reading “What I look for in genres”

book review · books · shanti · Uncategorized

The Game of Shanti loves this and Death

Alyssa and Cait are wild about The Game of Love and Death. I bought it and read it and now I can see why. It is SO SO GOOD. I want to make everyone read it, and hopefully this post will convince you.

23399232
Antony and Cleopatra. Helen of Troy and Paris. Romeo and Juliet. And now . . . Henry and Flora.

For centuries Love and Death have chosen their players. They have set the rules, rolled the dice, and kept close, ready to influence, angling for supremacy. And Death has always won. Always.

Could there ever be one time, one place, one pair whose love would truly tip the balance?

Meet Flora Saudade, an African-American girl who dreams of becoming the next Amelia Earhart by day and sings in the smoky jazz clubs of Seattle by night. Meet Henry Bishop, born a few blocks and a million worlds away, a white boy with his future assured — a wealthy adoptive family in the midst of the Great Depression, a college scholarship, and all the opportunities in the world seemingly available to him.

The players have been chosen. The dice have been rolled. But when human beings make moves of their own, what happens next is anyone’s guess.

Dear Game of Love and Death
How do I love you? Let me count the ways.
1) I paid attention to…
a. You blend historical fiction and fantasy perfectly
b. Your characters feel real, not overdone
c. Your setting is perfect
2) I smiled while reading you.
3) I wanted to underline your every second sentence.
4) When I finished reading you, I collapsed on the floor and cried.
I loved this book SO SO much. It’s what? My third five star of the year? And it is totally worth reading.
I loved the concept and execution of The Game of Love and Death. It doesn’t really fit into a genre, but it was so perfect. I guess if I had to categorise it, I would say that it’s a blend between historical fiction, urban fantasy and magical realism. But it is all and none of those things and once, yet it works perfectly. The idea is that Love and Death are ancient powerful beings, in many ways opposites, in many ways exactly alike. They play a game where they pick people and if the people fall in love, then they win, and if they don’t fall in love/kiss/give up everything for each other, then Death wins, and she can kill her player. This iteration of the Game is in 1930’s Seattle. The players are Flora, a African-American jazz club singer who longs to be an aviatrix, and Henry, an orphan who was adopted by his fathers best friend and loves to play baseball and double bass. The blend of magicalism (ancient powerful beings who can alter the fabric of reality), historical fiction ( 1930’s Seattle, post Depression, a time of great segregation yet also cultural and technological awakening) and urban fantasy (a city for the characters to run around in having adventures late at night) worked perfectly for me.
The characters are one of the (many, many) best parts of The Game of Love and Death. I adored Henry, who is a sweet cinnamon bun boy who is passionate about the things and people he loves. I loved how that passion developed as he fell in love with Flora, but he didn’t forget bass playing or Ethan or whatever (though his studies *may* have fallen on the wayside). His development was exceptional; he evolved from a boy who knew what he should want to someone who knew what he did want and was willing to sacrifice for it. I especially loved how him and Flora made friends. He was slightly naïve, especially about the race factor of his relationship, but that just added to his charm. Flora was also so appealing. She’s strong, she doesn’t want to need anyone (but she does), she’s also an orphan, she’s kind, she loves the freedom of flight and is willing to work hard. I really liked her as a character and also her development right up to the EARTH SHATTERING ending. I do wish that she’d flown a bit more though (there IS a plane on the cover). The supporting characters, particularly Ethan, but also Annabel and Flora’s band, were awesome as well. And then there’s Love and Death. They’re both jaded, particularly Death. They both can’t control humans. They both want to feel love. Death was particularly amazing—Brockenbrough uses third person point of view to show how she’s feeling really, really well. Her development was totally gradual, but utterly perfect as she realised how much she wanted to be loved. I also liked that even when she was taking lives, she was gentle with them. (also her in the last scene. I was sobbing internally, and then externally actually)
The setting felt so real. I’ve never been to Seattle, but Brockenbrough is a sensual writer, and she used sights and sounds and smells and even dialogue to really bring it to life. The historical element was also really well researched (I mean, as far as I can tell).
The writing in the Game of Love and Death is really really good. (also a large part of why it broke me)

“The night air was like a splash of cool water”
“An unholy crimson flower bloomed through the paper and ink”
“Henry realised he would let Flora break his heart a million times, if he could look at her face every day”
“Fascination how such a small, pointed object could bind together so much. She [Death] inhaled, feeling comforted by a variety of scents: cotton, baby powder, beeswax”
“She[Death] never had a moment to forget who she was. Never a moment to pretend she was anything but a scourge.”
“Something happens to us when we grow up. Misfortune tramples us. We forget how it feels to simply love without throwing the whole mess of life into the stew. We trade love for fear. I’m not willing to do that anymore”

Seeeeeeee? Isn’t is beautiful? Ugh reading this made me happy. (but also sad. Because it ended.)
I highly recommend The Game of Love and Death to anyone who loves glorious writing, exciting, conceptual, storytelling, and amazing characters.

So have you read this? Are you going to? Tell me about a book you’ve read where a concept like Love or Death manifests physically

books

End of Year Book and Blogging Survey

Hi there everyone! We’ve had a fantastic year of blogging and interacting with you guys and reading lots of books and learning new things… And hopefully, 2016 will be even better. Shar and I are completing Jamie@PerpetualPageTurner end of year book and blogging survey, which was pretty fun (but be prepared,because it’s also long. I’m a bit short on time right now, so I’m not going to add any links, but I *probably* will later. I’m italics and Shar is normal text. enjoy!

-Shanti

2015-end-of-year-book-survey-1024x984-900x865

Statistics

Number Of Books You Read:

208 at this time, including books I read for school

Um, I don’t know? I don’t use Goodreads because I’m too busy, but I write them all down. However, my list is at home and I’m not. I CAN tell you that about half way through the year, I’d read 50, and in December I’ve read 10 (this is actually good for me)

Number of Re-Reads: 16.

I don’t know. I’d guess around 10.

Genre You Read The Most From: This is pathetic, but I don’t do my goodreads shelves by genre, just some genres. But I read 58 fantasy books. I also have 75 ‘contemporary books’ on my shelf, but this includes non fiction, time travel books and urban fantasy, anything set in the modern day, like Simon Snow. But those are probably the leading genres.

Probably contemporary, let’s be honest here.

Bests

  1. Best Book You Read In 2015?

To make this easier for myself, I’m not going to count rereads, but Their Fractured Light, An Ember in the Ashes, The Scorpio Races and Fever would all be up there.

*forgets every single book*  Let’s see. I recently read Paper Towns (contemporary), which I really liked. Winter was spectacular (dystopia), The Girl Who Circumnavigated FairyLand in a Ship of her Own Making(fantasy), Bone Dry (paranoramal), Wonder & The Dragonfly Pool (MG), Outliers (nonfiction)

  1. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?

Black Dove, White Raven, was, frankly, boring, nowhere near Rose Under Fire and Code Name Verity.

The Summer I Turned Pretty wasn’t great, neither was I’ll Meet You There or We All Looked Up (which Shanti would disagree with)

  1. Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read?  

I was surprised by how wonderful What We Saw was. It’s one of the most beautiful contemporaries I’ve ever read, and is a simultaneously brutal and gentle examination of rape culture.

The Knife of Never Letting Go. I’d tried reading it a few years ago but didn’t get past the first few pages, but because of *encouragement* from various people, did, and loved it.

  1. Book You “Pushed” The Most People To Read (And They Did)?

Absolutely the Lunar Chronicles. At last count I’ve convinced  eight people to read these and they have. (you should read them too)

Probably the Lunar Chronicles. The book I had negative discussions about the most with people was TFIOS (because I think it’s overrated) because so many people have read it.

  1. Best series you started in 2015? Best Sequel of 2015? Best Series Ender of 2015?

Ender: WINTER ALL THE WAY oh my goodness (and runner up: Their Fractured Light)

Start: A Wicked Thing

Sequel: I adored both Burning Kingdoms and Fever.

Start: Bone Dry, followed by Illuminae.

End: WINTER. NO COMPETITION. (runner up: Blood of Olympus, Waaaay back in January)

Sequel: I don’t know *wails despondently* Carry On, maybe? Does that count?

  1. Favorite new author you discovered in 2015?

This is also a really tough question, but I’m going to say… Lauren DeStefano writes such beautiful prose and I care so much about her characters.

This is so hard! I haven’t read a lot of new series this year. But I do like Cady Vance.

  1. Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone?

I read some really good non-fiction this year– Guns Germs and Steel and the World Without Us were both very interesting. Oh, and I also read the adult book Room.

All the Light We Cannot See was an adult historical fiction, which I thought was quite good. So was Jane Eyre, which was a classic.

  1. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?

I was listening to the audiobook of Blue Lily, Lily Blue and I could not stop listening because it was so beautiful (Shoutout to Cait for making me read Maggie Stiefvater)

SO MANY. But let’s see… Graceling was pretty exciting. First and Then kept me attached to the page, partly because I thought it was expiring in 3 days (it turned out to be 6 days, but oh well.)

  1. Book You Read In 2015 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year?

The Wrath and the Dawn… maybe. I love audiobooks, but I struggle to reread them in whatever format, which is bizarre. Any Old Kingdom book fits this category.

I might reread The Lunar Chronicles (I read ALL of them- fairest to Winter, this year, although some were rereads (if you judged by this tag, you’d think i only read the Lunar chronicles and a few others. I’ve read more, I swear!!!), The Knife of Never letting Go and Graceling if I want to continue with the series.

  1. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2015?

This is a sort of impossible choice… I’ll meet you there is very appealing and conveys the book excellently, as does Made You Up and The Secret Life of Bees

*tries to branch out a bit* I only read it this week, but I DO like the cover of Immaculate. I also like The Girl With All the Gifts (obviously it’s hard for me to think beyond last week. I’m such a forgetful munchkin.)

  1. Most memorable character of 2015?

I often find myself thinking about both Beka Cooper and Tink, from the Beka Cooper books and Tiger Lily. Both are courageous characters, underestimated by those around them… and they both have superb narrative voices which are a delight to read.

Finch from All the Bright Places was so hurt yet strong and fabulously crafted.

  1. Most beautifully written book read in 2015?

Illuminae was actually very beautiful in parts, not hindered by the unusual writing. (I’m totally cheating and saying more than one for all of these) Lauren DeSTefano is someone I talk about ALL THE TIME, so apart from her, I loved the writing of The Cure for dreaming.

All the Light We Cannot See was beautiful, but a bit pretentious. I just remembered I read All the Bright Places, as you can see above, and that was gorgeous and heartbreaking as well.

  1. Most Thought-Provoking/ Life-Changing Book of 2015?

I think this survey is to make me feel sad and torn. But my Calculus textbook changed my life for the worse. Okay, that doesn’t count. We All Looked Up made me determined to reach beyond my circle of friends and be a good person and all that, because that was ultimately what the novel was about.

I don’t know… Wonder taught me about courage and understanding and seeing beyond the surface. Extraordinary Means taught me to live in the moment and appreciate what I have and surprising opportunities a ‘bad’ thing can give you. More recently, Nimona, Pretending to Be Erica, and The Girl With all The gifts  made me think about identity, the facades we put up, how we love, and if there really can be a monster inside. (Yes, everything I read in December is getting heavily featured)

  1. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2015 to finally read?

Good Omens was the best–snarky and satirical but also honest. The nice thing about Terry Pratchett is that he has so many books. (the sad thing is that he’s dead)

The Knife of Never Letting Go.

 

  1. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2015?

Like Everything from An Ember in the Ashes if pure gold. But I loved the way it addressed war and violence and the cultures which spawn them

“But it was them or us so it’s hard to feel guilty” , because the idea of guilt is so vital and the them and us delineation is so dangerous, and An Ember in the Ashes managed to express that superbly.

I write down a lot of the quotes I like in my big notebook, which I left at home. But here’s one from Jane Eyre: ‘It is not violence which best overcomes hate- nor violence which most certainly heals injury’

16.Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2015?

Shortest: Importance of Being Earnest at 67 pages (I loved this book A LOT)

Longest: Anathem at 937 pages (I read this for school. It was part confusing and part awesome and part really really long)

Not counting picture books and my sister’s books, I’m guessing The Glass Menagerie, which was 95 with an introduction and essay at the end (besides, it’s a play, so the text is more spaced out), and longest would be Winter, at 800 and something.

 

  1. Book That Shocked You The Most

(Because of a plot twist, character death, left you hanging with your mouth wide open, etc.)

The Windup Girl because genetically modified food is real.

Considering I had to google this and notice if I’ve read any of the books this year, I think I’ll just draw a blank on this one.

  1. OTP OF THE YEAR (you will go down with this ship!)

(OTP = one true pairing if you aren’t familiar)

Can I just say (almost) ALL OF THEM? Wolflet, Nina +Matthias, Devon + Ezra

Cinder and Kai. All the way.

 

  1. Favorite Non-Romantic Relationship Of The Year

(Don’t make this romantic, please , please) Lee and Jefferson from Walk on Earth a Stranger.

SO MANY. I did like Skullduggery and Stephanie from Skullduggery Pleasant.

 

  1. Favorite Book You Read in 2015 From An Author You’ve Read Previously

Loooots of them. I loved Carry On, from Rainbow Rowell, Rebel by Amy Tintera and Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods.

A lot for me too! Paper Towns, Carry On, Green Valentine, is what comes immediately to mind. There’s more, but I’ve forgotten.

 

  1. Best Book You Read In 2015 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else/Peer Pressure:

The Raven Cycle is SO FABULOUS (thank you Cait!)

The Knife of Never Letting Go.

 

  1. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2015?

Newest? That would have to be Gideon from Their Fractured Light which I finished several days ago.

If it’s newest in that sense, then Jesse from Immaculate and James from Pretending to Be Erica.

 

  1. Best 2015 debut you read?

I read so many debuts this year. Vivian vs. The Apocalypse was a really good and extremely enjoyable+ thought provoking debut.

*proud note* I read Vivian last year, and it’s one of the few books that I read before Shanti. Bone Dry, as I’ve mentioned before, was wonderful.

 

  1. Best Worldbuilding/Most Vivid Setting You Read This Year?

Brown Girl in the Ring is a really interesting urban fantasy incorporating Caribbean culture and dialect. I loved it, and the imagery of a disintegrating city controlled by magic and mobs just popped to life through the page. Bonus points to Out of the Easy.

An Ember in the Ashes and All the Light we Cannot See.

 

  1. Book That Put A Smile On Your Face/Was The Most FUN To Read?

The True Meaning of Smekday. Really, this was a reread but it is seriously one of the best MG books I’ve read even, and is delightfully absurd.

Most of my contemporary reads are pretty fun. E.G:The Improbable Theory of Ana and Zak. Also, the Lunar Chronicles are fun when I’m not worried about all my babies (which, let’s face it, is most of the time)

 

  1. Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2015?

All the Light We Cannot See was DEVASTATING and the ending and the ending and the ending *weeps* (there are like three endings fyi)

All the Bright Places.

 

  1. Hidden Gem Of The Year?

I haven’t seem much about Green Valentine or Material Girls, and both, though not without their flaws, are really smart YA about the environment.

I’m just gonna agree here since I read (or partly read) both and both were good and I feel like of the 100ish books I’ve read this year I can only think of about 10.

 

  1. Book That Crushed Your Soul?

Lips Touch: Three Times is tragic and brutal and sad… but also beautiful and now I just want to cry.

Quite a few, but since I keep waffling about all the bright places, I’m going to say Extraordinary Means instead. Also Paper Towns, but in a nicer way.

 

  1. Most Unique Book You Read In 2015?

I read a lot of unique books this year. Runner up is Illuminae for excellent use of an unusual format, but first prize goes to… Ink and Bone for being a historical alternate universe dystopic fantasy boarding school book set in Egypt.  (also, it’s quite excellent)

Illuminae for being written so, so differently.

 

  1. Book That Made You The Most Mad (doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t like it)?

I hissed a little bit at Ice Like Fire, when I wasn’t cuddling it ferociously because MY SHIP IS GONE (won’t tell you which one) and BAD things happened to it. (it crossed the point of no return is what I”m saying)

 

Shiver. If you want to know why, read my mini-review from a few weeks ago. One word: meningitis. (Side note: who knew that cold and developed North America had so many meningitis patients?)

Blogging/bookish life

  1. New favorite book blog you discovered in 2015?

Chasing Fairytales isn’t a blog I read often, but I love that Mishma is a co South Asian. And of course, Sometimes I’m a Story and the Devil Orders Takeout is amazing.

*agrees firmly*. Also Drizzle and Hurricane books and Deadly Darlings and The Quiet People.

  1. Favorite review that you wrote in 2015?

My review for an Ember in the Ashes and Blue Lily, Lily Blue are both writing I’m quite proud of.

I don’t know… I’ve basically forgotten all my reviews. Maybe my review of The Dragonfly pool or my (slightly disgruntled) review of Just Like Fate (huh. I don’t remember read that this year. Was it really this year?)

  1. Best discussion/non-review post you had on your blog?

I didn’t write enough discussions this year! Discussion: Exotic books. Fun post:Reading While Walking.

Discussions: Mental Illness in YA and reading Classics. Fun: How not to practice flute.

  1. Best event that you participated in (author signings, festivals, virtual events, memes, etc.)?

I didn’t really do any actual event this year… but doing Beautiful People/Books was fun. Also, the Cake Book Tag.

Yeah, none that I can think of.

  1. Best moment of bookish/blogging life in 2015?

All the shoutouts I got (particularly Cait’s) made me really happy. Also, I won a giveaway for a signed card from AG Howard which was awesome.

The posts where I got a lot of comments, and shoutouts as well, I guess. ^ I think Shanti liked making a tag too.

  1. Most challenging thing about blogging or your reading life this year?

I did read a whole heap of books… but I’ve felt really stressed about having to review them and sad about not having enough time to read, and that’s going to keep happening. I need a balance, I guess.

Managing to blog regularly, have books to write about, comment on other people’s awesome blogs AND keep up with schoolwork and music and friends all the other things in my life is hard.

  1. Most Popular Post This Year On Your Blog (whether it be by comments or views)?

How to Make a Bookmark in 6 easy steps (I really hope this helped some people, because it may not have been the most clear of posts)

By comments, it is (interestingly) the Unpopular Opinions tag, followed by I don’t like the Deathly Hallows symbol. Maybe we should be controversial more?

  1. Post You Wished Got A Little More Love?

I always wish my reviews got a bit more attention and I really appreciate comments on my thoughts. I would love if some more people had read my Literary Tropes Post, I guess.

Reviews and also discussions. Discussions are usually the things I think most about.

  1. Best bookish discovery (book related sites, book stores, etc.)?

I don’t know… Bookstagram is fabulous, though I don’t have an account right now, but it’s so fun to see other people’s pictures.

I knew about Bloglovin’ before, but I FINALLY got it and it’s fabulous.

  1.  Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of this year?

So my reading goals at the start of this year were

 

  • Read 160 books (yes! 198)
  • Read 10 nonfiction books. (Yes! 16)
  • Read 5 classic books. (Sort of. 4 ones I read for fun. But I also read 1984 and Hedda Gabler for school plus I’m halfway through Twelfth Night)
  • Write 80 book reviews (This was more along the lines of ‘reveiw half the books I read’ and I’m currently at 87 book reviews so almost)
  • Random books (I sort of read books I hadn’t heard of but not really)
  • 7 books by NZ/ Indian authors. (I kind of managed this by extending it to books ABOUT  India or New zealand, I read 5 by Indian/Nz authors plus two about India)
  • 2 books of poetry (Sort of. I did read parts of two poetry books, including the nature of things and by heart, but I didn’t read them cover to cover. I sort of delved into some poetry though, which is good I guess? Plus One is in free verse)
  • Only 20 rereads. (Yes, 16 right now)

My reading goals were:

 

  • Write down everything I read- I did this.
  • Read some classics- Just Jane Eyre, but better than nothing I suppose.
  • Review more books- This was a bit nebulous, but I’d say I did. More than last year for sure. But I’m still mainly reviewing for posts.
  • Read nonfiction- I didn’t read a lot, but enough, I think.
  • Read the newspaper- I did, but mainly when I had nothing else to read.
  • Read in Hindi- Ha. Ha. Ha. NO. I don’t think I picked up a Hindi book. Whoops.

Looking ahead

  1. One Book You Didn’t Get To In 2015 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2016?

THERE ARE SO MANY. I really want to read the Girl at Midnight, and seeing as I have a copy from the library… Also the Weight of Feathers and The Game of Love and Death, because I own them already.

There are a lot. But I really should read Percy Jackson and the Greek Gods, seeing as we own it and everything.

  1. Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2016 (non-debut)?

Passenger by Alex Bracken. Don’t tell my mother (just kidding, she is probably going to read this) but I really want to buy it because COVER. Also it sounds awesome. Also Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor.

I don’t know. I don’t spend a lot of time looking up what’s coming out next year, but whatever comes to me.

 

  1. 2016 Debut You Are Most Anticipating?

 I haven’t been keeping good enough track of debuts *goodreads it* Blackhearts and The Square Root of Summer and The Girl From Everywhere seem awesome.

*Goodreads it* These all look so good! Especially  A Study in Charlotte.

  1. Series Ending/A Sequel You Are Most Anticipating in 2016?

I really want to read Kingdom of Ashes by Rhiannon Thomas, the Raven King and A Torch Against the Night.

*goodreads it again* Gemina will be interesting. I’m hoping to see more of the characters…
Did you seriously read this entire post? If not, what was your best and worst and most surprising book this year? Which ones do you want to read next year and what was the highs and lows of blogging this year?