Chachic's Book Nook


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Mini Review: The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

The Goblin EmperorThe youngest, half-goblin son of the Emperor has lived his entire life in exile, distant from the Imperial Court and the deadly intrigue that suffuses it. But when his father and three sons in line for the throne are killed in an “accident,” he has no choice but to take his place as the only surviving rightful heir.

Entirely unschooled in the art of court politics, he has no friends, no advisors, and the sure knowledge that whoever assassinated his father and brothers could make an attempt on his life at any moment.

Surrounded by sycophants eager to curry favor with the naïve new emperor, and overwhelmed by the burdens of his new life, he can trust nobody. Amid the swirl of plots to depose him, offers of arranged marriages, and the specter of the unknown conspirators who lurk in the shadows, he must quickly adjust to life as the Goblin Emperor. All the while, he is alone, and trying to find even a single friend… and hoping for the possibility of romance, yet also vigilant against the unseen enemies that threaten him, lest he lose his throne – or his life.

I had high hopes for this one since it kept being recommended by bloggers I trust. Also, they said that it’s a good read for fans of Megan Whalen Turner. In my eyes, that’s the highest praise that they can give! I did enjoy reading The Goblin Emperor and I really liked Maia’s character. But it didn’t become a favorite novel. I just didn’t love it as much as I was expecting. It’s a quiet kind of fantasy, a lot more introspective than action-oriented and filled to the brim with political intrigue. Maia was never groomed to become the emperor and his education is sadly lacking but he rises to the occasion beautifully. He’s a smart guy and never loses the compassion that’s such a big part of him even though he had a gloomy upbringing. He has an inner strength that others gradually recognize and admire, which helps him gain allies along the way. I like how Maia inspires loyalty because of how kind he is and how unusual that kindness is in an emperor. He deserves all the help that he can get so it’s a good thing that there are some people on his side. One thing that I liked about the novel is that it’s a standalone… as much as I love reading fantasy series, it’s refreshing to read a book that is complete on its own. While I believe this story wouldn’t linger in my mind, I did have fun reading it and would recommend the book to readers who like quiet fantasy with a strong dose of politics.

Other reviews:
By Singing Light
The Book Smugglers
Things Mean a Lot


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Top Ten Sci-Fi and Fantasy Books I Want To Read

Top Ten Tuesday2

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

I LOVE reading sci-fi and fantasy (SFF) but I’ve noticed that I’ve been on a contemporary binge in recent months. I should be more conscious about mixing up my genres so I’m focusing on SFF books that I want to read for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday post. I’ll even make it easier for myself and choose books that I already have copies of.

Among Others by Jo Walton – I’ve seen other readers raving about this book and that made me excited to grab a copy (and a hardcover at that), which I’ve yet to read.

To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis – I haven’t tried any books written by Connie Willis and I’ve had my copy of To Say Nothing of the Dog for several years now. I think I put off reading this because I wanted to read more of Dorothy Sayers’ novels first, because I heard someone say that she’s mentioned in this book.

The Burning Sky by Sherry Thomas – I have the ARC of this, which was passed on by my friend Holly. The sequels have been released and I still haven’t read the first book.

The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart – I’ve read Mary Stewart’s romantic suspense novels but I haven’t tried her fantasy yet.

Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama – I really feel bad that I still haven’t read this! It’s sitting on my bookshelf, making me feel guilty that I haven’t picked it up.

Eon and Eona by Alison Goodman – I’ve had this duology in my TBR pile for years! I grabbed copies when I started seeing positive reviews from fellow bloggers and I just haven’t found the time to read them.

The Emperor’s Soul by Brandon Sanderson – I’ve only read one book from Brandon Sanderson, which was Elantris, and I really enjoyed it. I’ve been meaning to read more of his work and The Emperor’s Soul seems like a good choice because it’s a standalone.

Shadows by Robin McKinley – I love Robin McKinley’s writing and it would be interesting to see what her latest book is like.

Fire and Hemlock or Dogsbody by Diana Wynne Jones – I really need to read more of DWJ’s books. I have so many of them in my TBR pile and I don’t know why I keep putting off reading them.

Dreamer’s Pool or Shadowfell by Juliet Marillier – More Juliet Marillier is always a good thing. I am so behind in reading her recent releases.

I have many more SFF titles in my TBR pile but these are the ones that I can remember off the top of my head. Have you read any great SFF books lately? Or is there a different genre that you would like to read more of?


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Thorn by Intisar Khanani

At the beginning of the month, I was working on my monthly recap for April when I realized that I only finished reading one novel for the whole month. Instead of doing a recap, I thought I might as well just write a review for Thorn by Intisar Khanani. Thorn is one of those titles that I would never have discovered if it hadn’t been recommended through the blog. I was immediately curious when I found out about the premise of this book since it’s a retelling of The Goose Girl fairy tale. The only retelling of The Goose Girl that I’ve read prior to this one was Shannon Hale’s which is one of my favorite books so of course, I wanted to find something similar.

ThornHere’s the summary from Goodreads:

For Princess Alyrra, choice is a luxury she’s never had… until she’s betrayed.

Princess Alyrra has never enjoyed the security or power of her rank. Between her family’s cruelty and the court’s contempt, she has spent her life in the shadows. Forced to marry a powerful foreign prince, Alyrra embarks on a journey to meet her betrothed with little hope for a better future.

But powerful men have powerful enemies – and now, so does Alyrra. Betrayed during a magical attack, her identity is switched with another woman’s, giving Alyrra the first choice she’s ever had: to start a new life for herself or fight for a prince she’s never met. But Alyrra soon finds that Prince Kestrin is not at all what she expected. While walking away will cost Kestrin his life, returning to the court may cost Alyrra her own. As Alyrra is coming to realize, sometime the hardest choice means learning to trust herself.

I read Thorn in bits and pieces, while traveling from one place to another. I can’t tell if it was because of this that I didn’t enjoy Thorn as much as I was expecting. I wonder if I would have liked the book better if I was able to read it in one go. I thought the writing was beautiful, I felt that it had a fairy tale feel to it. I also liked Thorn as a character and I was curious about her and what would happen after she loses her place as a princess. In spite of that, I felt that I wasn’t as invested in the story as much as I would have wanted. None of the other characters, except maybe for Falada the talking Horse, stood out for me. I would have wanted to care more for the prince and maybe even the king. I definitely wanted more of the thief Red Hawk. Maybe there were too many characters in the story, which made me feel that there wasn’t enough character development for most of them. The tone of the book is also a bit bleak and dark, with several characters having to endure so much but I was fine with that since the original story isn’t exactly a light and fun read. I just felt that some of the problems weren’t properly addressed towards the end of the novel. Maybe I’ll have a more positive reaction if I get to reread Thorn. I’m glad I gave it a try since The Goose Girl retellings are hard to come by. I would still be interested in checking out the author’s other books.


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Fantasy Based on Reality

Tamora Pierce

Image from Tamora Pierce’s website

Yesterday, I read this guest blog post by Tamora Pierce entitled “Craft of Writing: Suspension of Disbelief” over at Adventures in YA Publishing. I’m a fan of Tamora Pierce’s books because she writes fantasy novels with strong female protagonists. I particularly like her Daughter of the Lioness duology. I haven’t read all of her books but I would like to do so eventually. Anyway, I love what she had to say about writing fantasy and how it has to be grounded in reality. I end up loving a book when the characters and the setting feel real even if the story takes place in another world and in another time period. What I always look for in the books that I read is having a connection to the characters and being able to relate to what they’re going through. I think that happens when there’s an essence of truth in the story. Here’s one part of the blog post that I would like to share:

“Life has to be real to suspend disbelief. People should eat, and sleep. Dogs and cats have to be let out to do animal business. Teeth have to be cleaned, beds have to be made, horses must be cared for. It’s important to find out how far a horse can go in a day and under what conditions, because if you have a horse running all day without let-up, you will lose all of your horse-loving readers — and there are a lot of them out there. Magic should be the same. I view the realism in the way I write as the thing I do to make it possible for my readers to save up their suspension of disbelief for the magic, but the truth is, I try to make my magic sensible, too. It must follow rules. I like mine to draw on physics, and the energy that is inherent in all things. The stronger the magic used, the more powerful the world’s reaction to it, and the better chance that it will kill a mage who is unprepared, careless, or too weak to conduct the energy. Spell circles and drawings become magical circuits to conduct the power drawn from the mages, circuits that can increase or contain power. This way, it makes sense, and I keep my reader.”

Click the link to read the whole article, I think it’s a good one. And if you haven’t had the chance to read any of Tamora Pierce’s books, you should definitely check them out especially if you’re a fan of YA fantasy.


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Top Ten Books Set in Make-Believe Worlds

Top Ten Tuesday2

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted at The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is top ten books in a setting of your choice. I had such a difficult time deciding what setting to choose for my own list. Some of the settings that I considered (and eventually dropped): the Philippines or even Asia in general, Australia, Europe. While trying to think of titles that I want to include, I finally decided to feature books set in places that I want to visit. I wanted to include contemporary novels set in countries that I’ve never been to but then fantasy titles started to take over my list. So here’s my final topic for this week: top ten books set in make-believe worlds that I would love to go to. You know how sometimes the setting of the book is described in such a vivid manner that it paints a bright picture in your mind? Like you dove into the book and you’re right there with the characters. Or sometimes the setting itself feels like a character because it’s so alive. I’m a fan of such settings. Here are some that I loved:

Trese graphic novel series by Budjette Tan and KaJo Baldisimo – The series is set in my home country but in a city that is filled with magical creatures from Filipino myths and legends. I think it’s usually classified as horror, because the MC battles with hostile beings on a daily basis, but I think of it more as urban fantasy.

Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews – Yeah, yeah, I know I keep mentioning this series but I can’t help it. A world that crashes back and forth between magic and technology is fascinating.

His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman – I like how there was our own world in this story and it was connected to an alternate universe. I don’t remember the details because I haven’t reread this in ages.

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman – Dragons! Enough said.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor – I’ve always wanted to go to Prague and hey if demons and angels happen to linger in that place then that’s just an added bonus.

Sevenwaters series by Juliet Marillier – I liked how the setting was such a significant aspect of the story and we witness how the characters love and respect their land, which gets passed on from one generation to another.

A Face Like Glass by Frances Hardinge – Caverna is such an intriguing place because of its people who all have to wear faces like they were clothes (instead of being able to express their emotions). And also because of its craftsmen who can create such exotic delicacies.

Graceling by Kristin Cashore – I think I mostly want to visit this world because I’d like to know what Grace I’d have and what color my eyes would be, assuming I’d be lucky (or unfortunate, depending on who’s talking) enough to have a Grace.

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater – Why wouldn’t I want to meet killer horses that eat humans? The setting in this book was so atmospheric, I just wanted to be in that place.

Samaria series by Sharon Shinn – I was taken aback at how much I liked the world of Samaria, where angels and humans co-existed. I was so curious about this world and I like how each book gave readers a better understanding of what it’s like.

I could keep going but let’s stick with these ten for now. What about you, what are your favorite settings in books? Did you participate in Top Ten Tuesday this week? I’d be interested in hearing what topic you chose.


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A Face Like Glass by Frances Hardinge

I remember being fascinated by The Lost Conspiracy a few years ago and I’ve been meaning to read more of Frances Hardinge’s novels since then. But you know how it goes, you get distracted by other books in the TBR pile and you forget your intentions to read books by a certain author. Fortunately, I was attracted by the pretty cover of A Face Like Glass when I saw it in one of the bookstores here. I’ve been hearing good things about this book so I was pretty excited to read it.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

A Face Like GlassIn the underground city of Caverna the world’s most skilled craftsmen toil in the darkness to create delicacies beyond compare – wines that can remove memories, cheeses that can make you hallucinate and perfumes that convince you to trust the wearer, even as they slit your throat. The people of Caverna are more ordinary, but for one thing: their faces are as blank as untouched snow. Expressions must be learned, and only the famous Facesmiths can teach a person to show (or fake) joy, despair or fear – at a price.

Into this dark and distrustful world comes Neverfell, a little girl with no memory of her past and a face so terrifying to those around her that she must wear a mask at all times. For Neverfell’s emotions are as obvious on her face as those of the most skilled Facesmiths, though entirely genuine. And that makes her very dangerous indeed…

At a little less than 500 pages, A Face Like Glass is quite lengthy compared to some of the other YA novels that I’ve been reading lately. Which is why it kept me captivated for several days. Towards the end of the book, I decided to stay up late one night to finish it, I was so curious about where the story would go. I can’t even remember the last time I did that, probably not since I moved from Manila to Singapore last year. I found A Face Like Glass engaging for several reasons:

– I found the idea of wearing Faces like most people wear clothes intriguing. You can never know what a person is feeling based on just the expression that they’re wearing because they can choose which Face to use at any given moment. I’m fascinated by characters who are unreadable because they can surprise you in so many ways. In this book, most of the characters are like that because you can’t even use facial expressions to gauge what they’re thinking of.

– I enjoy reading about how complicated court intrigue is. I love how subtle court movements are and how the smallest of things can be significant because everything means something. There are complicated rules that courtiers follow and it requires a highly intelligent person to navigate the tricky waters of court. I liked how the craftsmen are divided into mafia-like families that compete against each other.

“It is terribly bad form to admit to being terrified for one’s life, but nobody in their right mind would go to a Court banquet without making preparations. One must have the right costume, the right Faces, and at least eighty-two ways of avoiding assassination.”

– I’m a big fan of cheese so I found Neverfell’s apprenticeship with Cheesemaster Grandible interesting. I can’t imagine what it must be like to have to take care of cheese that has its own personality – they can explode and harm people if not handled properly. The same goes for wine and everything else that Caverna excels at making, here’s a passage that I really liked:

“They were masters of memory, its loss and recovery. They could brew Wine that would make you remember the face of your dead love so clearly you could count her eyelashes, or that would make you forget specific chapters of a book so that you could read them again with pleasure.”

– The underground setting because I’ve lived in tropical countries all my life and I can’t imagine living in a dreary world below ground with no sunlight. I would probably feel claustrophobic and suffocated most of the time. It was interesting how Caverna’s inhabitants functioned underground and how they were willing to suffer the consequences just to keep the secrets of their craftsmen.

– There’s a mysterious thief in this novel called the Kleptomancer. As you well know, sneaky thieves in fiction have a special place in my heart. So when bits and pieces about the Kleptomancer started showing up in this book, I was immediately curious. I wanted to know more about him and his reasons for stealing.

– Of course, Neverfell is also another intriguing character. She’s a bright and curious individual and has such a good heart. She genuinely cares for other people, even if she had an isolated childhood. She’s always interested in helping out whenever she can.

With all the reasons listed, I think it’s pretty obvious that I loved reading A Face Like Glass. This beautiful book will definitely make it to my best of 2013 list. Highly recommended for MG/YA fans of fantasy, political intrigue, class conflict and unique world-building. I look forward to reading the rest of Frances Hardinge’s books, I have a copy of Fly By Night waiting for me back home in Manila.

A Face Like Glass paperback

Other reviews:
The Book Smugglers
The Readventurer


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The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente is one of those books that make an impact the moment you hear the title. You immediately wonder what it’s all about. I saw this one pop up in several Best of 2011 lists end of last year so I’ve been planning to read it for a while now. The perfect opportunity arrived when read-along buddies Janice and Holly agreed that this would be our next pick.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

Twelve-year-old September lives in Omaha, and used to have an ordinary life, until her father went to war and her mother went to work. One day, September is met at her kitchen window by a Green Wind (taking the form of a gentleman in a green jacket), who invites her on an adventure, implying that her help is needed in Fairyland. The new Marquess is unpredictable and fickle, and also not much older than September. Only September can retrieve a talisman the Marquess wants from the enchanted woods, and if she doesn’t… then the Marquess will make life impossible for the inhabitants of Fairyland. September is already making new friends, including a book-loving Wyvern and a mysterious boy named Saturday.

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland is a delightful read. If I was the type of reader who highlighted books then my copy would have colorful pages. I wanted to take note of so many of the passages that I liked. This is the type of novel that has lyrical writing that just sweeps you away. I’m definitely a fan of that kind of writing but there were times when it felt a bit much. There were moments when I had to read this in bits and pieces instead of swallowing everything in one big gulp because I felt like I could use a break. In a way, I wasn’t as engrossed in the story as I wanted to be. I still enjoyed reading about September’s adventures in Fairyland though. September is a pretty easy character to like – a reader craving to be part of something bigger than what she feels like is a very ordinary life. I guess my expectations were just a bit high after everything that I’ve heard about the book. Since I loved how unique the writing is, I thought it would be a good idea to give non-spoilery samples:

“Stories have a way of changing faces. They are unruly things, undisciplined, given to delinquency and the throwing of erasers. This is why we must close them up into thick, solid books, so they cannot get out and cause trouble.”

*nods head* Here’s another one I really liked:

“For the wishes of one’s old life wither and shrivel like old leaves if they are not replaced with new wishes when the world changes. And the world always changes. Wishes get slimy, and their colors fade, and soon they are just mud, like all the rest of the mud, and not wishes at all, but regrets.”

Wishes that become regrets, I think that’s beautiful. Last but not the least:

“Temperament, you’ll find, is highly dependent on time of day, weather, frequency of naps, and whether one has had enough to eat.”

Love that last bit because that is so me. My mood is dependent on whether I’ve had enough food and sleep. Also, if I’m reading a good book or not. The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland is reminiscent of the Narnia books, Alice in Wonderland and other books that follow the same format – a human child gets whisked off to a magical land, where he or she has to go on a quest although September’s story has its own twists and turns. This book is also September’s coming-of-age story, how she learns to view the world in a different light as she matures. While I did find Fairyland fascinating, I was hoping that the story would have something different to surprise me and I was starting to think that it wasn’t going to happen until revelations near the end resulted in events that I didn’t expect. I apologize for being vague but I finished reading the book on a high note and I’m really looking forward to reading the sequel. If it was available in the library or any of the bookstores that I’ve visited, I would have grabbed a copy of it already. Even though this one didn’t make it to my list of favorites for this year, I very much enjoyed reading it and I get the feeling that most fantasy readers will feel the same way about it. I feel like we made a good choice when we picked this to read together.

Fairyland chapter illustration

One of the chapter illustrations in the hardcover edition

Reviews by readalong buddies:
Book Harbinger
Janicu’s Book Blog

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