Monday, August 29, 2016

Joint Review: The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo

Some of you may remember Yash, one of the bloggers from The Book Wars.  Well she's back to join me in our newest co-review of:



SUMMARY
For writer Jade Yeo, the Roaring Twenties are coming in with more of a purr—until she pillories London's best-known author in a scathing review. Sebastian Hardie is tall, dark and handsome, and more intrigued than annoyed. But if Jade succumbs to temptation, she risks losing her hard-won freedom—and her best chance for love.  -- [X]

CHARACTERS

Y: There are only four to five major characters, including Jade Yeo herself. They are all introduced in different capacities and social rank in relation to Jade, and given that society—and Jade’s own inhibitions—restrict how/how much Jade interacts with them, I think they are all pretty well-fleshed out. Of course, none of them hold a candle to the brilliance that is Jade Yeo. Maybe I’m only making this comparison because I’ve read Zen Cho’s Sorcerer to the Crown, but Jade’s personality reminds me of Prunella. She is practical, almost to a fault, but she is not without heart. I kind of love her. A novella full of Jade was simply not enough.


E: Ahhh! These characters!  Particularly Jade, of course.  Jade was refreshingly honest, practical, and very, very funny.  She feels so different from any other romance heroine I’ve read!  It’s hard to really describe her because she feels so very unique and so...very much herself.  And the other characters (even the ones who never appear on the page) were really, really interesting too.  The premise is one we’ve seen many times before (as is usually the case with romances), but the characters all react in such unusual ways that it really feels completely fresh and new.  And I loved Ravi from the moment he stepped on to the page - other than rogues (who are my #1) Ravi hits all my other favourite things in a love interest (the sweet, intelligent man).  Besides, I’m predisposed to like characters named Ravi.


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ROMANCE

Y: This is so different from the last two romances I’ve read. I mean, maybe the structure is familiar, but somehow this novella packs so much intrigue and surprise. From the start, it is apparent that Jade and Sebastian are attracted to one another—something that Jade has a near-clinical curiosity about—but there is something in their relationship that Jade clearly feels is missing. And the aftermath of her dalliances with Sebastian may well affect her chances at a love that is deeper than what she shares with Sebastian.
E: SO different!  There a lot of things that I really, really loved about this...that would basically be major spoilers.  Pretty much everything Yash has to say - Cho manages to really pack in a lot of surprises in such a short time!  And of course I shipped the main couple, even though I felt like the novella was less about her ending up with someone and more about her doing things on her own terms (which is exactly how I like things!)  [SPOILERS] (highlight to read)  This felt completely different than any other romances I’ve read for a few reasons.  The biggest one being that no matter what happened, Jade never felt like she was helpless. She did everything on her own terms and was pretty ok with the choices she’d made - even if they were “bad” ones.  I also thought it was really interesting that you get the brief sex scene with Sebastian - but he’s not the one she loves or ends up with.  Usually if a heroine has been with another man (rare in romance novels) it’s referred to, never described much and usually he ends up being some sort of villain.  (Of course I would have also really liked if she and Ravi had gotten some romance time in too).  Instead of just being a rake, as Sebastian’s originally set up to be, he and his wife have a legitimately happy free love relationship, which was not what I was expecting at all![END SPOILERS]

PLOT & MISC.

Y: As I mentioned above, the narrative structure isn’t surprising, it’s the way that every character behaves that interests me and, I feel, sets this story apart from others of its kind. I don’t really have much to add here. The writing flowed smoothly and the pacing was fine. It lagged a bit towards the end, but if you’re anything like me, sheer hope will carry you through.


E: Exactly.  The characters really, really set this novella apart from other romance novels.  The responses and behavior are surprising, but didn’t make it feel like you were reading a story where modern characters had been transplanted into a historical setting.

FAVOURITE LINES

Y: Oh, where to begin! Every other line is an absolute gem! Hm. Maybe this one:
“Fortunately here nobody thinks I am pretty, so my thinking I am pretty is almost an act of defiance; it makes me feel quite noble.”
The reason I love this quote so much is that I find things haven’t much changed. Whiteness is still seen as the epitome of beauty, even in countries where white people aren’t in the majority. Women of colour have internalized a sense of shame and unhappiness regarding their bodies; which is why I really believe that selfies are a lovely form of celebrating one’s confidence and beauty … but that is an essay for another time. Basically, Jade speaks the truth.
E: Can we take a minute to talk about how funny the writing is?  I know I already said Jade (who is the narrator) is funny but….this writing is so smart and so on point.  And so, so funny.  It reminds me a bit of Gail Carriger’s writing what with the matter of fact heroine and witticisms, but more socially relevant.  
"I must not feel ashamed, I must never feel ashamed. One must be true to oneself, and taste as much as one can of the varied buffet of life: that must be the guiding principle."
I think this speaks to me because she just takes ownership of her decisions and what's come of them. She is in a situation where she would be tarred and feathered by society, but she doesn't regret doing what she's done - the only reason she would be ashamed is because it is what she's expected to feel. And I really love that.


WHY YOU MAY LIKE IT

Y: 1920s! London! Chinese protagonist who loves reading—all kinds of books—and is a professional reviewer! So smart, so snarky, so freaking awesome! An exploration of sexuality! And beauty! Still relevant to us today! Interracial romance! Ladies fighting the Man! Social commentary that Jane Austen would have approved!


E: I also think people who don’t like a lot of sexy times in their books might enjoy this.  Hear me out - yes there is a sex scene, but it’s brief and easy to skip ahead if it’s not your thing.  (This may also be a reason you’d be less inclined to like it if you’re in it for the sexy times).  But if you want a romance novel that doesn’t have a picture perfect heroine, and is funny as hell, you’ll like this.  Add in all of what Yash has said, and you’ll understand why this one is officially in my top ten favourite romances.

WHY YOU MAY NOT LIKE IT

Y: I don’t know how to talk about this without giving away quite a bit, so …
[SPOILERS AHEAD!]
… I kind of wish Jade got to have fun, sexy times with [coughs]. The only sexual encounter that we read results in something, um, serious? I guess? I just would have liked a scene with Jade and [mumbles] that was genuinely sexy and romantic for Jade? [END SPOILERS]


E: What I mentioned above.  And it is a novella, which is usually a turn-off for me (in fact, if Yash hadn’t suggested this, it’s highly unlikely I ever would have picked it up on my own), but while I would have been very happy to get another 100 pages, I don’t think the story suffered for it.  But I think pretty much anyone who likes historical romance at all will like this one.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

A Day in the Life #45: In which Elizabeth has NEWS

Linking up with The Sunday Post

SO. News. I have it!
First off, most importantly, and most excited..ly?:


I AM GOING TO BE A LONG TERM SUBSTITUTE TEACHER!!!!





It's been in the works for months, but I haven't wanted to say anything in case something happened and it fell through.  To be honest, I'm still really scared about saying this.  I haven't signed anything definitive, but my fingerprint/background check/orientation/application have all been processed, and they specifically requested me so EVERYTHING SHOULD BE FINE. IT IS TOTALLY FINE I AM NOT FREAKING OUT.

This is particularly exciting though, because I decided about 6 months ago that I wanted to teach...but I haven't taught outside of private lessons in 5 years, and that really doesn't look good on a resume.  Besides that I am STILL trying to get in touch with the Department of Education about my certification...which should have been processed in May.  (I have been slacking off - May is also when I started doing the paperwork for this substitute job, and I've been dealing with the DMV too and damn it there is only so much bureaucracy a girl can deal with at one time!)  Basically I've been daydreaming about getting some sort of interim teaching where I student taught my middle school portion.  This would get me on my feet again as far as getting me used to teaching and it would look good on my resume.  Add to it that working with the teachers I did back then is a huge part of the reason I ended up loving teaching (AND now one of my friends is teaching there too) and it would just be such a huge benefit having coworkers I already know I work well with and would be such great resources for me to use.



And then it happened.  LITERALLY THAT HAPPENED I HAVE MY DREAM SHORT TERM JOB!!!!!!

One of the teachers is going on pregnancy leave, so they reached out to me! I seriously can not even express how much like a dream that is - this is literally the perfect next step for me and I am so excited (and so nervous. But good nervous) and I'm going to get to teach again and it's all going to be SO MUCH FUN.  (And so much stress but shhhh.  Besides, I play the oboe, we pretty much thrive on stress).

On the sad side of things, it means I'm going to have to quit my nanny job which has been probably my favourite thing about moving back to Baltimore.  I'll also have to quit the cafe job (sort of) which means no more free food *sobs*.  I'm actually going to have to cook I mean what even is that??  I'll be keeping my weekend shift, because as much as that might exhaust me, come December when I'm out of a steady job I am going to be reallyyyyyyy happy about having even one day of guaranteed income.  And in the meantime, hopefully my teaching certificate will come through and I'll be able to land a teaching job for the next school year!

So some of this is why I haven't been posting much these past few months, and why I've been in a huge reading slump for at least the path month (maybe even longer).  Some of it is time and energy, and I think a good portion of it is nerves. Especially right now - it's beginning to feel real and it's jolting me out of stories haha!  Buuuut there's another reason I've been in a reading slump: Otakon.




For those of you not in the know, Otakon is a four day event that celebrates Japanese culture (but focuses primarily on anime).  There's cosplay photo shoots, concerts, anime premieres, and lots and lots of panels.  Over the weekend I participated in a shinto cleansing ceremony, saw some amazing cosplay, went to a panel discussion led by a friend of mine on women working in anime, bought a Princess Mononoke print that looks like an oil painting, bought Sejoon a One Piece flag wall scroll, and saw the musicians from Persona 4 (Lotus Juice and Shihoko Hirata) and Diana Garnet live in concert.  Soooooo basically it was amazing?  And that wasn't even one of the best parts!

One of the first things my friends and I did was watch the pilot episode of a show called Under the Dog.  And it was FLAWLESS.  Like seriously, I may never have seen a pilot so perfect.  (The only other one I can think of is the Veronica Mars pilot.  Yeah. It was THAT GOOD.)  It kept the tension up almost to the point where I couldn't handle it anymore - it was so close to that line.  And it Never. Dropped.  The animation and drawing was gorgeous, the story was intense, and it gave the perfect mix of just enough information without giving too much (which is a hard thing to do, shown by the lack of other good pilots out there).  There's a fair amount of violence and some brief nudity, but they managed to frame it really...well perfectly.  It's not gratuitous at all, and what they show is very much because of what is going on - it's not fan service, and I don't think I realized how little I see that (in shows of any type) because their treatment of it really stands out when compared to other shows.  So my respect for the creators, which was already pretty damn high has basically reached like...almost unattainable heights.  Unfortunately, the kickstarter only launched enough for one episode....but as soon as I get extra money, I will be sending it their way.  I NEED MORE. (But this episode is so, SO worth watching if you ever get the chance!)

And it gets even better.  I was so, so lucky I went with veteran Otakon people (one of them has gone all but two of the years which is well over two decades!) which was helpful for basically all things ever.  (Not getting lost, what was worth seeing or skipping, etc.) Without them, I would have skipped the AMVs (anime music videos), which they said was basically the highlight of the entire con.  They weren't wrong.  They were hilarious and heart wrenching and fun and gripping. IT WAS LIKE A BILLION MINI MOVIES.  Plus you got to vote on your favourites, and I am such a sucker for voting on things.  But seriously...it has spawned an addiction in me.  I'm not going to lie, last Sunday I stayed up til midnight just rewatching AMVs over and over and over.  Plus it's made me want to watch all the shows they are based on.




This one is my favourite - it's based on an anime called Death Parade. I actually just finished it a couple days ago (and I never would have discovered it if I hadn't gone to the AMVs!) and it was one of the most thought provoking shows I've watched.  I definitely recommend it, and while I don't think it was popular enough in Japan for a second season, the first season gives enough closure to leave it where it is. (Although I would super love a second season).  It also has one of the best anime openings I've seen. Music + animation = on point.  But I am so in love with these AMVs that I've watched the first four on this playlist literally every day this week.  MY LOVE IS TRUE. (and intense).  Basically you should watch at least the first four of these because they are amazing and you need them in your life.  Sooooo if any of you have favourite AMVs send them my way. Or if you want to get me to watch a show ASAP, give me a good AMV and I will be sold.  (I have two episodes left of the fourth AMV on this list - Prince of Stride - and am planning on watching the anime for the second AMV, The Boy and The Beast as soon as I finish that. Which I would be doing right now if I were not typing up this super long blog post YOU GUYS NEED TO APPRECIATE THE SACRIFICE I AM MAKING RIGHT NOW).  In other news, I went rock climbing (in a gym) for the first time this past week and now basically all I want in life right now is rock climbing and AMVs.  (Too bad rock climbing isn't exactly a solo sport and somewhat expensive). But hey at least I've got the AMV half of things covered haha!


As you can see I've been busy!!  Usually when I'm this busy I still keep up with people's blogs but...some of you will have noticed I haven't popped by much this summer (sorry!)  So if there's anything on your blog or elsewhere that you think I'd like feel free to drop a link below!  And let me know all the things that have been going on in your summers!  I leave you with the links for the week :D



BOOKISH LINKS

Authors

Kate Elliot talks about writing women into epic fantasy without quotas.
Intisar Khanani gives a brief history of her love of water and recent bans on swim suits (aka burkinis)
Ambelin Kwaymullina and Rebecca Lim discuss intersectionality in Oz YA.
If you don't follow Ursula Vernon/T. Kingfisher's tumblr already, you totally should.  For reasons like this one.
Katherine Langrish talks about Dreams and Ghosts, and the art of telling ghost stories.


Bloggers

Hamilton's Squad created a Harry Potter/Hamilton mashup.
Kat is recapping the Shadowhunter's TV Show so it's hilarious and you should read them, obvs.
Gillian recommends literary web series (aka apparently there's more out there than The Lizzie Bennett series...which I still need to watch).
Natalie reviewed The Lost Girl by Sangu Mandanna (which was one of my favourite reads of last year, but unfortunately didn't review.  I don't think I did? So go check out her review to see why you should totally read this book!)
A Woman Fell In Love With a Bookstore's Twitter Account and It All Worked Out, or cutest irl love story ever!Molly fangirls over Tamora Pierce's upcoming NEW NUMAIR TRILOGY (which I share here because we all know I WILL ALWAYS POST TAMORA PIERCE NEWS. FOREVER. THE END.)


NONBOOKISH

Leah has thoughts on Ryan Lochte and white privilege.
Maddy talks about why casting Alia Shawkat & Aubrey Plaza as Hamilton & Burr in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Drunk History Episode is basically perfect.The Every Girl gives 10 reasons to head to Baltimore.
Kia talks about subverting gender tropes in Stranger Things.
Zack talks about fiction (tv episodes) that helped him process grief.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Top Ten Books I'd buy RIGHT now! (...if only I had unlimited funds)





Alanna: The First Adventure (Song of the Lioness, #1)Wild Magic (Immortals, #1)Sandry's Book (Circle of Magic, #1)

Ok, ok so I already own all of her Tortall books.  And some of them I even own in paper back AND hard cover.  But what do I do if I ever need to read one of her books THIS INSTANT! I travel a lot, so the need might strike when I'm across the country! Or out of the country!  I NEED ALL OF THESE BOOKS.  I'd also take her Emelan and Daine books in audiobook form because Full Cast Audio is the best thing ever. Anyway, a girl has needs. (And I don't own any of her Emelan books anyway and I don't have the shelf space for them if I did).





The Animorphs series by K.A. Applegate

The Invasion (Animorphs, #1)

Since the Animorphs books are out of print (or they were last time I checked) it has been my mission to always have copies of this series so I can pass it on to other kids growing up because this series is A. Hugely underrated and B. Is WAY more intense and heartbreaking and IMPORTANT than it gets credit for.  It doesn't shy away from the tragedies of war, and I technically have never read the entire series (my library didn't have all the books and then I grew up and forgot about it).  My plan has already worked, because the 9 year-old has read every Animorphs book I have. I probably have 2/3 of the series at this point, but most importantly don't have the first or last books!  





xxxHolic by CLAMP

xxxHolic, Vol. 1 (xxxHOLiC, #1)

Or to be more specific, the first editions which have color inserts in the front.  I don't even care that the series has totally derailed itself in the sequel, the artwork is SO PRETTY.  That's all that matters.  I actually have a few of the first editions already (they aren't expensive), so I've got a small headstart on this one!





Cat Street by Yoko Kamio

Cat Street, Vol. 1 (Cat Street #1)

So they never actually published this one in English.  But I've reread it so many times I can probably remember most of the scanlation and then I would own ACTUAL COPIES OF THIS. (It's tied with Skip Beat! for favourite manga) They might have it in Spanish actually (I know they have it in French). So I'd probably buy the Spanish copies if they exist, otherwise I'd get 'em straight from the source: Japan.






Unlimited copies of Beauty Queens by Libba Bray and Unwind by Neil Shusterman

Beauty QueensUnwind (Unwind, #1)

So this isn't even for me so much as it is for other people.  EVERYONE MUST READ THESE BOOKS.  I've actually managed to get my hands on a couple copies of Unwind and have mailed them off to various friends because it's that important to me.  (I mean, ideally I'd like to keep copies for myself too, but I'd rather everyone got guilted into reading the books because I shoved them into their faces making it super easy for them haha)





I've read snippets of Warsan Shire's poetry over the past couple years and it is so freaking gorgeous.  And perfect.  If you are a woman, and especially a woman of color this is for you.  I am usually not into poetry - in fact I pretty much only like John Donne and Shel Silverstein haha!  But her poetry is gorgeous, and this book looks gorgeous and I really, really want it.





Holly Black's Modern Faerie Tales series as ebooks

Tithe (Modern Faerie Tales, #1)

This is another series I read over and over enough to the point where I'd want to be able to read them anytime and anywhere.  Still my favourite novels featuring fae creatures to this day (and at this point I have read many, many, MANY of them)





For those of you who don't know, my blog title is actually a direct quote from this book.  I freaking love this book, basically.  (It's also the title of the fourth book, but I like to pretend that one doesn't exist).  I own the omnibus of this series, but I dislike the last two books, and also it's giant AND paperback.  So it's better as an ebook (or ebooks of the first three books!) because then I can read it whenever I want and also I don't have to lug around a 10 pound book.





Garth Nix's Old Kingdom series as ebooks and/or the Australian hardcovers

Sabriel (The Old Kingdom, #1)Lirael (The Old Kingdom, #2)Abhorsen (The Old Kingdom, #3)

I actually love the original US covers of these too, but these covers are SO GORGEOUS.  The font! The fighting gear! The fact that the characters look less white!  UGH I WANT THEM.  And of course this is another series I read practically yearly, so they are also ebook essentials.





Jane Austen Cover to Cover by Margaret C. Sullivan

20819711

Because everyone needs more Jane Austen swag in their life.