blogging · books · shanti · Shar

The THIRD BLOGOVERSARY aka what is this

Hi Virtually Readers! Life is crazy sometimes and we have been blogging for three years. That’s 16.8% of our lives. It’s almost unbelievable that three years ago two girls sat by a laptop and signed up for wordpress and started to write about books.  But, obviously, we’re very happy to be here. As you may notice, we have a new design! Isn’t it pretty? We’re still working through a few kinks, but Shar did this a few weeks ago and I supported her and offered somewhat helpful advice along the way.We are going to have a giveaway at some point during this year, but our lives are just a bit busy right now, so that won’t be for a while.

Continue reading “The THIRD BLOGOVERSARY aka what is this”

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books · collabs · shanti · Shar · tags · Uncategorized

Book BFF Tag

A few days ago, I saw the ‘Book BFF’ tag on Heart Full of Books youtube channel. Given that Shar and I are twins and ‘book BFF’s’ I thought it would be fun if we joined in too. Basically, we have to guess each other’s favourite book or author in each of the groups. It may be a little confusing in written form, but it’ll be fine. Also, I feel too lazy to add links to all these books, so I just list the title and author. However, the categories of books that they had seemed sort of random, so I made up our own categories, because I’m divergent and I can’t be controlled.

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Category 1: Favourite Fantasy Series

Shar said hers were Harry Potter (J.K. Rowling), Eragon (Christopher Paolini), and Percy Jackson (Rick Riordan). I (Shanti) said that Shar’s favourites were Harry Potter, so she was right.

I said that my favourites were The Old Kingdom Chronicles, by Garth Nix, and also Daughter of Smoke and Bone, by Laini Taylor. Shar said that my favourite was The Old Kingdom. Again, spot on. This was a pretty easy question, though, because we both like fantasy and read lots and lots of it.

Category 2: Favourite NZ/Au book

Shar said that her favourite were Karen Healey’s When We Wake and Lili Wilkinson’s Love-shy. I had a total mind blank and said any books by Fleur Beale, which was exceedingly stupid of me, because When We Wake was sitting on the shelf.

Anyway, my favourite New Zealandy books are the Dreamhunter books (very creepy) by Elizabeth Knox, and Montmaray Journals (by Michelle Cooper) and The Old Kingdom also. Shar totally guessed on this one and said Lili Wilkinson too. Not that I don’t like her also, she’s just not a favourite.

Category 3: Favourite Contemporary Author

Shar’s favourite contemporary authors and Jenny Han and Rainbow Rowell. I said Morgan Matson and Jenny Han, which was close enough.

My favourite contemporary author, in case you haven’t noticed the screeching, is Jenn Marie Thorne. Her books are still fairly new to me, but I love them an absurd amount. With a few wee hints from me, Shar got this one right.

Category 4: Favourite non-YA

Apparently, Shar’s favourite non-YA (or crossover) are Farenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury, and The Catcher in the Rye, by JD Salinger. I absolutely missed the bat on this one and said A Darker Shade of Magic, by VE Schwab. .

I wrote my favourites as The Secret Life of Bees (which is adult-ish) and The True Meaning of Smekday, which is MG and decidedly wonderful. Shar had no idea and said The End of Night, by Paul Bogard, which I also love, so she wasn’t wrong.

Category 5: Favourite Retelling

This was an easy peasy one: The Lunar Chronicles, by Marissa Meyer, all round. However, points also to A Curse Dark as Gold, The Forbidden Wish, Vicious (it is TOTALLY a Frankenstein retelling), The Weight of Feathers and A Wicked Thing.

Category 6: Favourite Historical Fiction

Shar doesn’t read that much historical, so I sort of gave her hints and we ended up both putting down The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak as her favourite one.

Mine was also pretty obvious: have you heard me tell you how FREAKING AWESOME The Montmaray Journals, by Michelle Cooper are before? They are such excellent books. (If you need convincing, go read this Tis the Season of Rereading review. Also, ‘Tis the Season of Rereading is almost upon us. Be excited!) There is so much great historical fiction out there: If I gave out second place, Ruta Septys would get a lot of credit.

Category 7: Favourite Royal Protagonist

So the problem with The Lunar Chronicles is that there are too many royal characters, which is to say that I said that Shar’s favourite would be Cinder, and she said Prince Kai, adding a lot of hearts after his name and a note saying ‘except he’s Cinder’s’.

Shar said that my favourites would be Winter (who I do love) or Sophia from Montmaray who absolutely wins as one of my favourite characters of all time. So we sussed eacho other out pretty well on this one.

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Category 8: Favourite Boarding School Book

Shar said her favourite was White Cat (Holly Black) or Catcher in the Rye (JD Salinger). I was utterly confused and wrote Harry Potter or Song of the Lioness (Tamora Pierce) for her. This was quite a random category, so maybe that’s why I was so long.

For my favourite boarding school books, Tamora Pierce’s Protector of the Small definitely wins. I love Keladry a ridiculous amount. Shar said that my favourite would be White Cat or the School for Good and Evil (Soman Chainani). Sadly, after the mess of the second book, my love for the School for Good and Evil has faded a little.

Category 9: Favourite Literary Family

I love families in literature, so I thought this would be a fun category. Shar said that her favourites were ‘The Weasley’s ?? Idek’ and I put down the Weasley’s for her also.

I said that my favourites were The Garrets (from My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick) and The Dregs, from Leigh Bardugo’s 6 of Crows, because they totally count as a family. Shar said Karou & co for me (from Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone) which is also true.

This tag was quite random, but a fun chance to look at some favourite books. I tag anyone who has a bookish BFF.

book review · books

Review: A Thousand Nights

By Shar

Hello blookunity! This book was my latest conquest. It was provided for review by Macmillan via The Dorothy Butler Children’s bookshop, so thank you!

Title: A Thousand Nights25244111-_uy200_

Author: E.K Johnston

Genre: YA fantasy

Publication date: October 2015 (I’m only including this ’cause it says it on the back.)

Themes: Stories, magic, power, friendship, middle east, weird demons that take over significant portions of your head

Summary( from Goodreads): Lo-Melkhiin killed three hundred girls before he came to my village, looking for a wife.

When Lo-Melkhiin – a formidable king – arrives at her desert home, she knows that he will take her beautiful sister for a wife. Desperate to save her sister from certain death, she makes the ultimate sacrifice – leaving home and family behind to live with a fearful man. 

But it seems that a strange magic flows between her and Lo-Melkhiin, and night after night, she survives. Finding power in storytelling, the words she speaks are given strange life of their own. Little things, at first: a dress from home, a vision of her sister. But she dreams of bigger, more terrible magic: power enough to save a king . . . if only she can stop her heart from falling for a monster.

Set against a harsh desert backdrop, A Thousand Nights by E K Johnston is an evocative tale of love, mystery and magic that would not feel out of place if Scheherazade herself were telling it. 

And perhaps she is…

I loved this book so much. Right now, it’s hard for me to define why, but as usual I’ll discuss various aspects.

Premise: You (hopefully) read the blurb, but the idea is different to A Thousand Nights (I think) in that she doesn’t just live because she tells stories with cliffhangers, but more like finds power in stories. The way this magical powers are described is somewhat nebulous, but is so, so incredible. One interesting thing about this book is that almost no characters have names. They are all ‘my sister’ ‘my father’ ‘my serving girl’ This really added to the sense of the setting and gave it a very unique voice.

Setting: OMG the setting was amazing. Apparently the author used to live in Jordan? She made it sound so realistic, and she (the nameless MC) described the desert/city with so much attention to detail that you could just tell the author understood the culture really well. (or maybe she just had a really good imagination)The bath houses, the deserts, the animals, the weaving rooms, the food, was all exquisitely portrayed and was so, so gorgeous and perfect.

Characters: They were…good? So this book was supposed to be ‘the most dangerous love story ever told’, but the thing was, there wasn’t really a love story. There was, most importantly, the love between the MC and her sister, which drives her to marry Lo-Melkhiin, but he is a killer. In the end, the choice the MC makes isn’t really about love (except, as I mentioned, the love of her sister, her desert home, her family, her kingdom), but rather the idea of ‘a good man’. But on the other hand, considering the culture of arranged marriages, this actually made sense. It made the ‘love’ different but true, somehow, and kind of showed how marriage can be about family and home rather than merely love of the person you are marrying. As for the MC (so annoying not having a name!), I felt she somehow managed to fit the Arabian culture but also empower herself. She was curious and honest and so so strong. And I loved what she did in the battle scene in the end and how she weaved her own quiet, powerful magic without making much fuss about it.

Plot: While it had good movement, it didn’t exactly have a lot of direction, and I didn’t always know where it was going. The battle scene I just mentioned was unexpected, but I liked the way it tied together in the end.

I guess that in conclusion, this was such, such an amazing book. It was unexpected, and wasn’t romantic in the way you might expect, or as Arabian-nightish as you might expect, but I loved how fresh it was, the culture, the descriptions, and the writing style. If you like interesting MCs, diverse settings, nebulous magic, or really good writing, then READ IT.

In conclusion:

Plot: 4/5

Characters: 4/5

Premise: 5/5

Setting: 5/5

Writing style: 5/5

Total: 5/5

What’s a 5 star book you read recently? Do you like the Arabian Nights stories (or know them, unlike me)? Do you have recommendations of books with really exquisite settings?

 

not books

New Zealand is like Lord of the Rings (i.e, magical)

By Shar

This is the post in which you will be bombarded with photos. Additionally, you get a pros and cons list of the trip (tramping/trekking/hiking/walking)  I went on in which all these photos were taken.

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This mountain (with the double hump) is called Gloriana. How magical does that sound?

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Pro: Beautiful outdoors (as seen above)

Con: Beautiful outdoors deciding to rain when it wasn’t supposed to.

Pro: Getting to read (and finishing a book- The Fine Art of Keeping Quiet) due to being stuck in tent because of rain.

Con: Tent leaked. Wet sleeping bag, wet thermarest, tent which could be advertised as ‘cold indoor swimming pool’.

Pro: Going on a scavenger hunt with 2 6/7 year olds.

Con: Being stuck in small tent with three 6/7 year olds who have far too much energy. Suffering through the world’s most excruciating game of Last Card (uno) that went on for far, far too long.

Pro: Rain stopping when we start walking.

Pro: Snacks (CHOCOLATE, muesli bars (that’s granola bars for Americans), crackers, nuts)

Con: Coldness persisting.

Pro: Beautiful camping site.

Con: No water at campsite.

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How evil does this slime look? It’s definitely out of a fantasy novel.

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All the other flower photos were taken in the sunlight the day before. This is what the tarn (mountain lake) we camped next to looked like when we left. There was basically no visibility.

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Pro: Lots of grass to amuse aforementioned 6/7 year olds. They make slides down the hill and a grass museum with lots of things made out of grass.

Con: Deciding to read Never Always Sometimes only to discover that you’re on the last page. (This, I believe, is a disadvantage of e readers.)

Pro: More beautiful nature and no more rain.

Con: Lack of wifi.

Pro: Getting to the road end and having an amazing picnic with food from a supermarket and fresh fruit.

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Honeysuckle flowers (also entirely unedited)
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Trees draped with lichen
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snowberries (I think)
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Lichen in a bush
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Beech forest

Do you like the outdoors? (more importantly, would you sacrifice wifi for outdoors?) What beautiful nature is near you? Does this look magical? (and there is only one answer to that) What do you do in your holidays?

not books

Liebster Award (again)

By Shar

I know both Shanti and I have already got Liebster awards, but we got nominated again (by Beth! Thank you, Beth!), and I haven’t done a tag for ages, and why not? There are rules, but most people know them, so I’ll just obey them.

liebster award

1. Where do you blog?

I usually blog in my room, which is where I keep my computer. Right now I’m not at home,  so I’m sitting on the dining room table. I occasionally wander outside or around while taking bookish photos for posts.

2. Do you have any festive plans?

This question was written before Christmas, and it’s now after. I have no idea about christmas this year, but last year I went for a walk with my family (which evolved into a run along the shore by myself) hung out with my extended family at a bach (that’s a beach house for people who don’t speak New Zealand), went for a swim, and ate A LOT of amazing food.

3. Do you have any New years resolutions?

I have quite a few….

  • Practice flute 5+ times a week
  • Learn and perform Hamburger Sonate (this AMAZING piece I’m working on)
  • Do grade six music theory
  • Practice piano 5 times a week at least
  • Have at least one 45 minute (not 1/2 an hour) practice sessionn
  • Play on a real piano (not electric one, which is what we have), for at least a little while each week
  • Run 5 times a week, including one 45 minute one
  • Do some slack lining every day (not possible currently since it’s at home)
  • Be in bed at 9:30 latest on school nights, and don’t read past 10
  • Get an alarm and wake up earlier

……

  • Post at least once a week on your blogging weeks
  • Write one post every week even when you’re ‘off’
  • write reviews you don’t post
  • Read 10 nonfiction books
  • Read 3 classics
  • Read 5 outside-comfort-zone books
  • Read a new article in Hindi at least once a month

Is that enough for you?

4. Do you have a favourite festive drink?

No, but I do want to try eggnog

5. Tell me what you’re reading right now.

I just finished H.I.V.E (recommended by Heather) and I’m partway through Anna and the Swallow Man.

6. What is your favourite type of blog post to read?

Discussions if they’re written well, especially if they have a unique format.

7. What is your favourite food?

Green apples. Berries and cream. Green apples. Pie. Also green apples.

8. What is your proudest achievement?
I don’t know. I’m proud of my marks in school, but not one specific thing. I’m proud of passing two Grade 5 music exams last year (one merit, one close), I’m proud of being able to run. I can’t really think of one specific thing though.
9. Do you use Goodreads?
No.
10. What’s on your Christmas reading list?
Around Christmas, I read Immaculate  (pregnant virgin), Ms. Marvel, Paper Towns, and The Girl With All the Gifts. It wasn’t very holiday-ish (last christmas I read Let It Snow and My True Love Gave to Me and was very holidayish. Now- not so much.
11. What’s your favourite part of blogging?
Meeting new people, getting comments from new people, making friends, etc. *virtual hugs* *mini spoiler* (you’ll get this later… maybe?)
It’s seems like every blogger and it’s bloggy dog has got this award, so no tags today. Some other time maybe?
What’s your favourite part of blogging? What are you reading right now? Where are you right now?

 

books · not books

Why we need diverse books

By Shar

Hello Blookunity!  Firstly, sorry for my recent absences. I actually want to catch up with all your blogs, honestly(couldn’t help myself there, sorry). Anyway, I recently finished She Is Not Invisible, which is about (mini dumb spoiler alert that should be obvious in the first two chapters max) a blind girl, which got me thinking about diversity and books. I’m sure what I’m saying has been said in lots of ways before, but hey, the world (and the authors, more importantly) can do with hearing it again.

Firstly, a disclaimer: I’m diverse in a lot of ways. I’m mixed race. I live in a developing country. I’m a twin (who are in no way underrepresented in literature) (double negative, I know).  But I’m not in other ways. But (and I’ll say this later) aren’t we all diverse in some way?

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What are diverse books?

In my opinion, diverse books include characters with different physical and mental abilities, who are LGBTQ+, who are from different races and countries, and not always the status quo.  Diverse books are also set in diverse places: not just developed suburbia but different countries (or in the case of fantasy, lands based on different places)

So why do we need diverse books?

#difference

(no, I don’t know why I’m using hashtags) This is just a good thing for authors to do if they want to write more interesting books that people will like. Books with diverse characters, diverse setting, are interesting to read about. And not just as secondary characters and best friends. (Like the gay best friend convention. Seriously. Some people at my school went through a phase of wanting a gay best friend, not just an amazingly awesome one.) It’s refreshing and interesting to have diverse MCs. Characters with any type of difference spice up books, make them better and more awesome and interesting.

#relatableness

This should also make books more enjoyable, in terms of selling. A good author should be able to make characters whose struggles and lives we can relate to in some way. Most contemporary books I read, for example, are about characters living in a developed country. And I don’t. I’d love to read more about settings that I know. But if the characters and settings aren’t diverse, then how could someone outside of the majority in any ‘diverse’ way relate?

#inclusion

But diversity shouldn’t only be a selling point. People with different skin colours, abilities, illnesses, etc. are often in a minority. And because human tendency is to stick to people who are like us (‘birds of a feather fly together’ and stuff), it’s easy for diverse minorities to get excluded. Books only written about places I haven’t been are exclusive in a way as well, even though I do enjoy them. Diverse books put people one step closer to understanding and acceptance. And that’s what we desperately need.

#representation

We need our books to represent everybody in our communities, and people in other communities as well. Books mirror the society in which they were nurtured in some way. It may be less obvious when it’s not set in the real world (hey, I’m all for dragon representation) but it does. And all communities are diverse in some way. We need our books to reflect the society we live in- sometimes cruel, judgemental, exclusive- and show us we need to change. We need our books to give a voice to people who don’t have one. We need our books to reflect the society we want to live in too-inclusive, kind, different. Because our differences is what makes us interesting.

#wearediverse

Has anyone ever told you you’re unique? Well, you are. (they have now, at any rate). What make real life (and good books) beautiful is that each person is different. We have different beliefs, skin colours, abilities, thoughts, fears, concerns, loves. We need books that reflect snippets of ourselves and qualities in others and that make us go ‘oh, I get this’ But we need books that reflect people who seem entirely alien, and we can still empathise with. Our books should be diverse in every way, just like we humans are. Each different. Each beautiful. It can be said that it’s impossible to tell new stories. Whether or not that’s true, we need to write- and read- diverse ones.

#acknowledgement

YA (and other books too, I guess) is getting more diverse all the time. All the authors who are writing these books are doing an amazing job, and to you I say, keep up the good work.

Why else do we need diverse books? What diverse books have you read recently? Do you like diverse books?

 

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

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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?

books

Stacking the Shelves (4) or an open letter

By Shar

Hello Peoples! Shanti and I are apart right now so this post is in the form of a letter.  

Dear Shanti

I wonder what it’s like in Melbourne. We got to Auckland this morning, technically. I fell asleep at 5 and woke up at 11, so I’m super tired.

But I know I’m not the thing that matters, right? What matters is of course all the wonderful books I left for you. Isn’t it awesome that you could order them in India and here I am to pick them up? You’ve gotta be a bit grateful.

When I saw your pile of ordered books, I was cowed. There were 11 and they were SO HEAVY. Honestly! (btw, we do own A Suitable Boy. I really was not keen on carrying that one. You can read it some other time) I was the one biking around carrying them. I dropped some in the middle of the car park on the way back, but it’s fine. *brushes off clumsiness casually*

Much as I hate to admit it, you’ve got good taste. Look at these covers!!!!!

I already read Ms. Marvel and it is excellent. Considering it’s my first comic book that I actually finished, I was confused at times, but I did end up really liking it.

We must be twins, sis. (I never call you sis in real life) ‘Cause guess what I did while we were stuck in sydney airport? (to clarify, different terminals. Also, we were there like 11.5 hours. So we won on the boring miserableness.) That’s right. I bought a book. I saw some review somewhere and read a few chapters at the shop. (The kobos were buried in our carry on luggage. *le sigh*) Luckily, we didn’t buy the same book *swoons with relief, maiden-like*. I brought it with me, but I believe it’d be a wonderful addition to our bookshelf. You can read it when we get back.

DSC03018DSC03016DSC03015

While you’re missing me (because who wouldn’t), enjoy those lovely books I lugged around for you and rescued from puddles in car parks. AND THAT’S AN ORDER.

-Shar

Uncategorized

The Showcase tag

Heather is an awesome blogging friend of Shar and I’s. She blogs over at Sometimes I’m a Story, and her posts are sarcastic, thoughtful and awesome. (you should go follow her by the way) Anyway, it’s her Second Blogoversary (YAY CONGRATS HEATHER!!!!) and she created a tag to celebrate. Shar and I decided to do this tag.

201511252bshowcase

  1. What was your first post? When did you write it?
  2. What is your most popular post?
  3. What is your favorite post?
  4. What are some particularly emotional posts you’ve written? (And it doesn’t necessarily have to be weepy—you could be ecstatic or enraged or disgusted, if that applies.)
  5. Have you ever written particularly a particularly controversial post?
  6. What is your most humorous post?
  7. Have you ever given/received/exchanged guest posts?
  8. What are some things you want to blog about but haven’t gotten to yet?
  9. What is the best thing about your blog?
  10. And, for the heck of it—what are a few of your favorite blogs (that, if it wasn’t implied, are not yours)?

1- Shanti: Our first post was this sort of introduction thing that is possibly quite incoherent. It just said that we were all about words particularly books, and that Shar and I would blog once a week alternatingly. The next post was a review of Shadow and Bone (it was a bad review, by the way), and Shar’s first post was about Fangirl (Shar: yeah, you don’t have to read it. You’re encouraged not to, in fact) We started writing in August 2014.

2- Shanti: Hmm, not so sure on this one *checks statistics* I think it was my post about how to make a bookmark . We still get hits for this every few days, though I’m not sure how useful it was. (I still use the bookmark though!)

3- Shanti: Ohhhh, this is hard. I’m pretty proud of some of my reviews. I really liked my interview with Sharzahd and Despina, and the Cake Book Tag was awesome as well

Shar: I think I’m most proud of my discussion about Mental Illness in YA. (Also, other discussions.)

4- Shar: I was looking through our archives, and I remembered this story of me and a moody librarian. 

Shanti: I hated Love in the Time of Global Warming so much, and I think my review shows that.

5- Shanti: I think my post about the Deathly Hallows was pretty controversial… but I was really pleased with how everyone reacted, and there were some great comments.

Shar: I  can’t think of much, but I recently gave Shiver 2 stars, so many members of the blookunity were disappointed. Sometimes it’s hard to be fair in a review when you know someone who loves the author/book- I generally tend to give those super high or super low ratings.

6- Shanti : For me It’s probably If YA Characters Went to High School. That was fun to write (and read if you get the references)

Shar: I don’t know… I like to think I’m a funny person, but I most people don’t get my humour. It doesn’t usually come out in my blog posts… maybe I was funny in our review of Carry On? (I can only seem to think of posts from about 3 weeks ago… I appear to have abysmal short term memory.

7- Shanti: Yes! My friend Anna has helped us out with two posts, and my friend Rose also wrote a guest post about how many great books I made her read.  I’ve never guest posted for someone else though, but I’m open to the idea.

Shar: I’m open too, but we have the same answers otherwise, so let’s not bore you.

8- Shanti:I want to blog about religion in books and do more rereading features and creative reviews. And I’d love to do a feature about setting in books- called the Bookish Planet or something like that (instead of lonely planet)

Shar: I want to write more discussions and do more tags. I’d like to discuss deep things like ‘why do we read’ and ‘what are useful lessons YA can teach us’  and use more gifs and also do funny posts. (Ha. Ha. These were totally spontaneous, btw)

9.  Shar: We post regularly and have good grammar and write interestingly and deeply  and respectfully (e.g discuss what specifically bothered us about a certain book without being rude and going ‘it sucked DON’T READ IT’ and nothing else)

Shanti: We write awesome reviews, reply to comments, have cool graphics and hopefully make our readers think.

10. Not to suck up, but Sometimes I’m a Story

Paper Fury

Deadly Darlings

The Quiet People

Six Impossible Things

And a new discovery… A concerto of paint and print

And a zillion more.

Shanti: I love Paper Fury, the Quiet People and Sometimes I’m a Story too… but also

The Midnight Garden

Miriam Joy Writes

The Devil Orders Takeout

Once Upon a Bookish Time

Yay for awesome tags! What’s your favourite thing about your blog? Or if you don’t blog, tell us about another awesome blog in the comments!

 

 

book review · books

Mini Reviews for all the books I read recently

By Shar

I actually read quite a few books in the last few weeks (for someone juggling school and homework and extracurriculars) so let’s review them. (By let’s, I mean me, of course. You could in the comments)..

Shiver: (Maggie Steifvater) 2 stars

I know a lot of people LOVE Maggie Steifvater, and objectively, her prose was pretty good. So were the characters, and the premise and setting. It WAS well thought out. (Apart from, um, medical things… LATER peoples) But here’s what bothered me about Shiver.cover_shiver_300

a) The pacing – the beginning was exciting, I guess. Then they spent most of the book… kissing and being happy and talking, and then the last few chapters- everything happened and it made no sense and people died and then you think people died and just arghgh.

b) Meningitis- Just DON’T infect people with meningitis. It is just a terrible terrible idea. Just no. NO! Besides, the idea of doing this felt abrupt and random. Why hadn’t Grace thought of it before.

c) The characters- I thought they were well developed as individuals, even the secondary characters. I LOVED Grace and Sam’s relationship (if it was a bit fast). BUT. As soon as Sam popped up, Grace just forgot about her best friends, first Olivia, then Rachel. And while I liked Isabel and Grace and Isabel’s friendship, it kind of happened? Like one day she was the popular kid and the next day they’re waving meningitis needles around. What? Also, Grace says she loves reading, but never really reads. I did appreciate that she went to school though.

d) The language was nice, the character’s voices were nice (And I liked the addition of the temperature. I don’t do Farenheit though. Sometimes the random poetry and Sam’s songwritng and things felt a bit out of place and random, even if they were beautiful.

All this said, I probably will give Linger a try sometime.I liked the idea, and like I said, the writing was good. And I could rant more, trust me. But I also neglect to mention some of the good things about this… just…. MENINGITIS. It removed AT LEAST one star.

First & Then (Emma mills)- 3 stars

23310751I admit I didn’t even realise this was a Pride and Prejudice retelling. ( I was like: Devon likes Jane Austen. How odd)  liked the characters (how many characters in books take Calc? Grace did. Emmy did. Devon did. I do too, but unlike for them, it is one of my life’s biggest sources of drama (my life isn’t too exciting, I guess)). I liked the characters and the plot ( Ezra and the little cousin who’s name I forgot had such an awesome relationship) and the pacing was good, and the language. It wasn’t spectacular though, and the whole American football thing went WAY over my head. (We played it once in PE, which is my only experience. The one American who had never played it bossed us around saying ‘it’s in my blood’. We were confused)

All the light we cannot see -Anthony Doerr- 4 stars

DSC04995I’ve been reading this since early October, so I was rather happy to finish it. The prose was soooo good, and the setting was lovely and intricate. I loved the attention to small details like going to drink water that are forgotten when you’re running around infecting people with meningitis for NO GOOD REASON. (no. Can’t get over it). I think the plot was slightly slow and confusing, even though I liked the time jumps and changes in perspective. I kind of got it about the diamond? DSC04990At the same time, it kind of seemed unnecessary. Oh I LOVED the characters they were so well developed. Also the focus on not the military part of war but ordinary lives and interconnectedness and relatedness…. maybe the deep meaningful themes swallowed me slightly?

 

WINTER – Marissa Meyer- 5 stars and some bonus exclamation marks (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! asdfdjkls;)

Was way too awesome to only get a mini review… so more to come.

Have you read any of these? How do you feel about running around infecting people with meningitis? (And there is only one answer to that). Do you like minute details and beautiful prose, or do you think plot should take priority, or are you all about the balance? TELL ME NOW (or not, y’know)