Best of 2016

Happy New Year! ๐Ÿ˜€ I think we can all agree that 2016 was a difficult year on so many levels. There was so many things happening on an international scale, as well as in the Philippines (which still affects me a great deal even if I’m based in Singapore for work). On a personal front, I resigned from my previous job and started a new one. It hasn’t been smooth sailing and I’ve been struggling with having a sense of belonging. Of course, all of these have affected my reading and blogging life, which is why I haven’t been posting as much as I would want to. I’m still online on a daily basis but it has been easier for me to constantly update the social networks that I have on my phone such as Litsy (username: Chachic), Twitter and Instagram. Going forward, I think this will continue for a while. It’s just so much easier for me to check, update and reply on my phone. My laptop has been acting up and it’s been a pain to open it up and go online. Plus real life stuff happening has made everything harder. The struggle is real!

Anyway, I have a tradition of posting my favorite reads for the previous year whenever the new year rolls around, I’m a few days late but it’s still within the first week of 2017! You can check out my previous posts through these links: 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015. In no particular order, here are the books that I loved in 2016 (linked to my reviews if I have them):

a-darker-shade-of-magic a-gathering-of-shadows The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms the-broken-kingdoms

a-promise-of-fire magic-binds master-of-crows

Act Like It Summer Skin In the Middle of Somewhere Out of Nowhere

Amulet The Stonekeeper Monstress fresh-romance

It’s safe to say that I read more than I blogged in 2016. ๐Ÿ˜› That’s seven speculative fiction titles, four contemporary romance and three graphic novels. It’s funny because the easiest genre for me to get into is contemporary romance but it looks like the books that stand out more for me are fantasy titles. I think my sweet spot is fantasy with a well-written romance. In addition to these, if you’ve been following my blog for a while, you would know that I’ve been trying to read and promote books written by Filipino authors. I haven’t read that many of them this year but the ones I enjoyed reading have been:

Beginner's Guide - Love and Other Chemical Reactions Iris After the Incident

Thatโ€™s 2016 for me. How was yours? What were your favorite reads from the past year? ๐Ÿ™‚

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Graphic Novel Challenge: The Stonekeeper (Amulet #1) by Kazu Kibuishi

I read The Stonekeeper (Amulet #1) by Kazu Kibuishi months ago when I was in Manila for a vacation. I brought it with me to the hair salon and was able to read a good chunk of it while I was there, and I finished reading the rest of it when I got home. Months have passed and it’s taken me this long to write a review. I was thinking about catching up on my 2016 Graphic Novel / Manga Challenge when I remembered that I had already read the first Amulet book and I just needed to review it.

Amulet The StonekeeperHere’s the summary from Goodreads:

After the tragic death of their father, Emily and Navin move with their mother to the home of her deceased great-grandfather, but the strange house proves to be dangerous. Before long, a sinister creature lures the kids’ mom through a door in the basement. Em and Navin, desperate not to lose her, follow her into an underground world inhabited by demons, robots, and talking animals.

Eventually, they enlist the help of a small mechanical rabbit named Miskit. Together with Miskit, they face the most terrifying monster of all, and Em finally has the chance to save someone she loves.

I can’t even remember who specifically recommended the Kazu Kibuishi’s Amulet graphic novel series to me but I’ve had it in my radar for a while. For some reason, I was curious enough about it to grab a copy from Kinokuniya during one of their book sales. I’m so glad I decided to give the first book in the series a try because I had a lot of fun reading it! I was pleasantly surprised at how much depth there was to the story right from the start, something that I didn’t expect from a middle grade series. I sympathized with Emily, Navin and their mother and I wanted to give all of them a huge hug. The three of them bravely move to a new home, hoping to make a fresh start. Instead, they encounter one adventure after another and they all get to show their courage in unexpected ways. The Stonekeeper is an action-filled introduction to the series, and I can just imagine how fast the pace will be in the next installments in the series. It was really easy to get into The Stonekeeper – I liked all of the main characters and I wanted to keep reading to find out more about them. I found the worldbuilding intriguing and would be interested in learning more about it. The artwork reminded me of Japanese cartoons that I used to watch as a child, and it went very well with the story. This would definitely have been a book that I would have loved as a young reader, and something that I can recommend and give as a gift to my godsons and younger cousins. As it is, I have already passed along my copy to two other friends who have read and enjoyed The Stonekeeper too.

I’m looking forward to reading the sequels. I believe there are currently seven books in the series and I’m not sure when it will end. If you’re planning to read this series then I suggest having a few of the books on hand so you can read all of them together. I’m sure I would have enjoyed doing that if I had the chance. I saw copies of the other books in the series at a Manila bookstore, and wanted to get them but the lines to the cashiers were super long at that time because everyone was busy buying school supplies. Just means I need to find another way to get copies! In the meantime, I will keep my fingers crossed that I’ll enjoy reading the rest of the books in the series.

Here’s a link to the 9th Annual Graphic Novels & Manga Challenge 2016, credit to Kim for the graphic below:
graphicnovelmangachallenge by espressodream

Graphic Novel Challenge: Monstress, Vol. 1 by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda

I feel like I’ve been waiting for Monstress, Volume 1: Awakening by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda to be released for ages! I’ve been hearing good things about it from various sources since the first issue was released but I don’t want to start reading graphic novels per issue, so I to wait for Volume 1 to be released before I could read the series. I was thrilled to find that not only did Kinokuniya Singapore carry copies of Monstress, they also had a variant cover for it:

 

I recently finished reading a graphic novel that I wasn’t such a big fan of, which made me want to pick up another graphic novel that I was more likely to love and that led to me reading Monstress. I read this along with my good friend Kim of Dreaming of Espresso, who is based in Malaysia but was also able to get the Kinokuniya variant copy. Also, this counts as another book for me to include in my 2016 Graphic Novel and Manga Challenge, which hopefully I’ll be able to catch up on in the coming months.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

Set in an alternate matriarchal 1900โ€™s Asia, in a richly imagined world of art deco-inflected steampunk, Monstress tells the story of a teenage girl who is struggling to survive the trauma of war, and who shares a mysterious psychic link with a monster of tremendous power, a connection that will transform them both.

Monstress was brilliant! I loved reading every bit of it. If I wasn’t busy with work, I would have gulped down the whole thing in one sitting but I guess it was also lucky that I was able to stretch out my reading of this because I could savor both the gorgeous artwork and the intriguing storyline. I thought Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda did a fantastic job in collaborating on this graphic novel, and I could see why people have been raving about it. The first thing I noticed about Monstress was how detailed and intricate the artwork was, I couldn’t stop staring at the drawings. Looking at the artwork was like a visual feast. I’m not usually a fan of too much blood, gore and violence in graphic novels because I find them a bit more difficult to swallow than when I’m just reading about them as text. The violence was the one minor quibble that I had with this book, but that was overshadowed with how much I loved everything else about it. Monstress is dark in tone but I found that it was a necessary aspect of the storytelling. The setting of the story is not exactly a happy one.

The worldbuilding is incredible. It’s a world inhabited by humans, ancients, arcanics (half-human and half ancient), the old gods and last but not the least are (talking) cats. It’s a war-torn world with a rich history behind the current situation that the heroine finds herself in. I feel like we’ve only been shown the tip of the iceberg in terms of worldbuilding and there’s so much more that can be explored. I kept reading not just because I wanted to learn more about Maika and her past, but also about the world she lives in. Maika is not content to have survived the war, she won’t rest until she uncovers the secrets behind the psychic link that she has with the monster inside her. I thought the story was paced very well, and there was never a dull moment throughout the course of this volume. I loved that the setting is a matriarchal Asia in the 1900’s, and I thought it was awesome that I kept seeing strong female characters in this book. Considering the short length of Monstress, I was amazed at how it was able to tackle important themes such as identity, race, class, and power. There really was a lot going on in this volume and I have a feeling I’ll be itching to reread it sooner rather than later. Having said all of that, I guess it’s not surprising for me to say that Monstress is one of my favorite reads this year. I think the last graphic novel I loved this much was Nimona by Noelle Stevenson. I really, really hope I’ll keep loving the series because I’ve come across two Image Comics series (Saga and The Wicked and the Divine that seemed promising at the start but I eventually decided wasn’t for me after reading Volume 3.

Sharing my other bookstagrams of Monstress so you can see for yourself the gorgeous artwork that I’ve mentioned:

 

Monstress readalong with @espressodream continues. I stayed up late reading this and I can't wait for the workday to be over so I can read more of it. Pretty sure I'll finish it tonight! I'm usually not a big fan of too much violence in graphic novels but the art in this one is beautiful and detailed, the storytelling is lovely, and it has strong worldbuilding. There's so much history behind this world and I want to find out more. Also, I noticed that all the major characters are female! And there are talking cats. What are your thoughts so far, @espressodream? Anyone else read this yet? . . . #Monstress #Awakening #Volume1 #MarjorieLiu #SanaTakeda #graphicnovel #comics #Kinokuniya #ImageComics #bookstagram #instabooks #IGreads #IGbooks #bibliophile #booknerd #bookblogger #book #reading #readalong #ChachicsBookNook

A post shared by Chachic (@chachickenpie) on

 

And a link to the 9th Annual Graphic Novels & Manga Challenge 2016, credit to Kim for the graphic below:

graphicnovelmangachallenge by espressodream

Graphic Novel / Manga Challenge: This One Summer by Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki

I recently read This One Summer by Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki for my book club’s discussion and I wanted to share a mini review while the story is still fresh in my mind. Also, This One Summer can also be a contribution to my 2016 Graphic Novel / Manga Challenge, which I’ve sadly neglected because real life got in the way of things. I thought one graphic novel a month wouldn’t be too challenging, but I overestimated myself. I’m hoping I’ll be able to catch up on this challenge! My bookstagram for this title:

 

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

AN UNFORGETTABLE SUMMER.

Rose and her parents have been going to Awago Beach since she was a little girl. It’s her summer getaway, her refuge. Her friend Windy is always there, too, like the little sister she never had, completing her summer family.

But this summer is different.

Rose’s mom and dad won’t stop fighting, and Rose and Windy have gotten tangled up in a tragedy-in-the-making in the small town of Awago Beach. It’s a summer of secrets and heartache, and it’s a good thing Rose and Windy have each other.

I’ve had my copy of This One Summer for almost a year! I bought it back when I started to become more interested in graphic novels, and it took me this long to get to it. Sigh, the problems of an ever expanding TBR pile. I’ve seen mixed reviews from blogger friends regarding this title but I was feeling hopeful about it because I thought the summer setting would make for a fun read. Browsing through the pages, I could also see that the artwork is beautiful. And it really was, I thought the purple tones of the images and the artistic style fit the story well. However, I wasn’t such a big fan of this slice of life story. The writing flows in a stream of consciousness style and I found that a bit disjointed. Also, I felt that there wasn’t much that happened throughout the course of the book, which I wouldn’t have minded so much if I cared for Rose or Windy or the rest of the secondary characters a little bit more. As it was, I just wasn’t as invested in them as I wanted to be. I liked the friendship between Rose and Windy, and how they supported each other even though they bicker from time to time. I thought the other relationships in the book weren’t so great. I wish Rose’s parents were more open and honest with her about what was going on with their family. The local teens whom Rose and Windy were observing also didn’t feel like they had much to offer. The overall feel of the book was also bittersweet, so maybe I wasn’t in the right mood to read it. I might have enjoyed this more if I was the target audience for it, like if I read it as a middle grade reader. I feel bad that I didn’t enjoy reading this as much as I was expecting but I’m glad I finally picked it up because I’ve been curious about it for a while. As always, go ahead and give this graphic novel a try if you feel like it might work for you.

graphicnovelmangachallenge by espressodream

Reading at the hair salon

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’m currently on vacation in Manila. You’d think that because I’m on vacation, I’d have more time to blog. As always, I’m behind on posts! There are several things I want to blog about but I always feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day to squeeze in some blogging time. So I thought I’d come up with a short, book-related update.

Earlier today I was at the hair salon getting a hair cut and treatment. These are services that I usually try to do whenever I’m in Manila because they’re way too expensive in Singapore. In my almost four years of being based in Singapore, I’ve never gotten a hair cut or treatment there. Same goes for my Filipino girl friends in Singapore. Usually when I go to the salon, I’d just bring my Kindle with me and read whatever I’m currently in the middle of. Or I’d go through the magazines provided by the salon. But since I brought my copy of Amulet, Vol. 1: The Stonekeeper by Kazu Kibuishi all the way from Singapore, I thought I might as well bring it with me when I have a few hours to kill. What a great idea it was! This is such an engaging book and it’s super easy to get into. I was instantly absorbed and was able to read quite a huge chunk while I was waiting. It’s also easy to read in installments whenever I had to stop for them to rinse my hair. I will probably finish the book tonight and will try to look for copies of the sequels in local bookstores.

Amulet at the hair salon

The hair salon served coffee. Yay!

Note to self: bring more graphic novels with me whenever I have errands to run. What about you, what books do you usually bring with you when you know you’d have some time to kill?

Belated Birthday Book Haul

Last March 29 was my birthday and I bought a few books leading up to it. Birthdays are always the perfect excuse to buy books for myself. ๐Ÿ™‚ There was a Kinokuniya members’ sale in March so I took advantage of the 20% discount and bought these:

Lazarus and Shortcomings

Because I was able to buy books during the sale, I wasn’t planning to purchase anything else on my birthday. But I ended up dropping by the bookstore to buy some watercolors for my coloring books. I saw my friend try them out and it looked a lot more fun than using colored pencils. Aaand it wasn’t just watercolors that caught my fancy, I saw this newly released graphic novel with watercolor artwork so I decided to grab it too. Seemed like a fitting choice:

5,000km per second

My graphic novel haul:
Lazarus, Vol. 1: Family by Greg Rucka, Michael Lark, Santiago Arcas
Lazarus, Vol. 2: Lift by Greg Rucka, Michael Lark, Santiago Arcas
Shortcomings by Adrian Tomine
5,000 km Per Second by Manuele Fior

Next, three generous friends pooled their money to give me an Amazon gift card worth USD100. Woohoo! Let’s see how long it will last. ๐Ÿ˜› So far, I’ve already bought and read these:

Bryony and Roses

In the Middle of Somewhere

Kindle purchases:
Bryony and Roses by T. Kingfisher
In the Middle of Somewhere by Roan Parrish
Out of Nowhere by Roan Parrish (currently reading but not included in the pictures)

Those two last shots just show how much I love tea and desserts. And that last pic is a little bit funny because of the contrast of the smexy book cover versus the dainty tea cup and cake.

It’s Sunday night in this part of the world and as usual, I’m in denial that the weekend is over. I’ll try to squeeze in a little reading time before going to bed. Hope you all had a good weekend! If you’ve made any recent book purchases, feel free to mention them in the comments.

Graphic Novel / Manga Challenge: Giant Days

graphicnovelmangachallenge by espressodream

Image designed by my friend Kim of Dreaming of Espresso. Thanks for letting me use it!

Giant DaysThe only book challenge that I signed up for this year is the 2016 Graphic Novel / Manga Challenge, and I went for the Modern Age level. This challenge is kicking my ass! I thought it would be totally manageable, and I was half-right because it hasn’t been difficult to read at least one graphic novel a month. I just haven’t been able to keep up with the reviewing part. But hey, last month’s review was a 3 volumes in 1 review type of thing so I think I’m still good. ๐Ÿ˜› Giant Days, Vol. 1 by John Allison and Lissa Treiman was supposedly my March graphic novel but I’m posting my review late, because this work week has been tiring and I wasn’t able to find time to sit down and work on a post.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:
Susan, Esther, and Daisy started at university three weeks ago and became fast friends. Now, away from home for the first time, all three want to reinvent themselves. But in the face of handwringing boys, โ€œpersonal experimentation,โ€ influenza, mystery mold, nuchauvinism, and the willful, unwanted intrusion of โ€œacademia,โ€ they may be lucky just to make it to spring alive.

Giant Days, Vol. 1 was the book that I read during my birthday. I bought a copy of it earlier this year based on the recommendation of my good friend Maggie. I don’t think I’ve ever read a graphic novel with a college setting so I was curious when I found out about Giant Days. I was also drawn to the bright yellow cover and the illustration on it, showing a girl concentrating hard while she’s typing away on her phone. The art style seemed fitting for the storyline, and it reminded me a bit of some cartoons that I watched growing up. It had a young and fun vibe to it. Right off the bat, readers are introduced to Susan, Esther and Daisy. Three college girls who have totally different personalities but have become close friends in a short span of time. It was easy to sink my teeth into Giant Days and I found it an enjoyable read, but I couldn’t really say that I loved it. It was fun to get to know the girls and to see them supporting each other through their college-related adventures, but I wasn’t as invested in them as I would have liked to be. The length felt too short for me to get to know them enough. It would have been a stronger read for me if it had more character development. As it was, I felt that the storylines were spread a bit thinly to shine the spotlight on each of the girls. While it’s an interesting graphic novel, I’m a little undecided on whether I’d pick up the second volume due to be released sometime in April. I should probably read the rest of the graphic novels on my TBR pile before deciding to buy more.

Graphic Novel / Manga Challenge: The Wicked + The Divine

graphicnovelmangachallenge by espressodream

Image designed by my friend Kim of Dreaming of Espresso. Thanks for letting me use it!

The only book challenge that I signed up for this year is the 2016 Graphic Novel / Manga Challenge, and I went for the Modern Age level. This means I need to read and review at least one graphic novel per month. On the reading part, that’s definitely not too difficult to accomplish! The reviewing part is more difficult. I received Vol. 1 of The Wicked + The Divine by Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie (Illustrations), Matt Wilson (Colorist), Clayton Cowles last Christmas and I bought the next two installments right after. I read all three volumes together so I’m consolidating mini reviews of them in this post.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:
Every ninety years, twelve gods incarnate as humans. They are loved. They are hated. In two years, they are dead. The team behind critical tongue-attractors like Young Avengers and PHONOGRAM reunite to create a world where gods are the ultimate pop stars and pop stars are the ultimate gods. But remember: just because youโ€™re immortal, doesnโ€™t mean youโ€™re going to live forever.

The Wicked + The Divine - The Faust Act The Wicked + The Divine - Fandemonium The Wicked + The Divine - Commercial Suicide

Vol. 1: The Faust Act – So many people were gushing about WicDiv and it kept being mentioned whenever I asked for graphic novel recommendations. I was excited to get started on Vol. 1 because I thought the concept for the series was brilliant. I was intrigued when I read the premise, and immediately wanted to find out more about these young men and women who turned into gods, and manifested their powers by performing concerts. They thrived on these performances, and the audience loved them. Kind of similar to how much influence rock stars and pop stars have in the real world, just a little bit more intense. I thought the artwork was gorgeous and reminded me a bit of Jem and the Holograms, one of my favorite animated shows when I was younger. Vol. 1 served as a quick introduction to the series, showing readers a wide range of characters. I enjoyed reading it but I was mostly confused by the time I reached the end. I felt like I couldn’t get a clear grasp of the storyline. Good thing I already had a copy of Vol. 2 with me so I could dive right in.

Vol. 2: Fandemonium – Vol. 2 continues with the story that Vol. 1 started and introduced a few more of the gods. I went through Vol. 2 pretty quickly because I wanted to understand what was going on. And yes, I did get some of the answers that I wanted but even more questions were raised. Just when I thought I would finally see everything come together, BAM! Something else happens that I can’t figure out. I know I’m being very vague here but I don’t want to accidentally mention any spoilers. Similar to how I felt when I finished Vol. 1, I wanted the next installment ASAP. I was lucky I started reading these just as Vol. 3 was released.

Vol. 3: Commercial Suicide – I was so glad Vol. 3 was readily available in Kinokuniya Singapore. I didn’t have to wait too long to find out what happens next. Going into Vol. 3, I had no clue that the illustrations would be different from the earlier two installments. Each chapter was illustrated by a different artist. While the idea may seem appealing to other readers, I really liked the original artwork and wanted the story to continue in that way. I found the abrupt changes jarring. On top of that, I still felt mostly confused even if I was already in the third book in the series. Sadly, it was a disappointing read for me. I just wasn’t invested enough in the story or the characters.

After reading three volumes, my conclusion is that WicDiv isn’t a series for me. There’s too much violence, too many questions, and not enough answers. I wouldn’t have minded the violence if I loved the story, but sadly, that wasn’t the case here. As always, I’m glad I tried something new. But I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed that I would have a better experience with my March graphic novel read.

Book Haul: The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl

On Friday night, I had my favorite ramen (Ippudo) for dinner and (Laduree) macarons for dessert. Since I was in the same area as Kinokuniya’s most well-stocked branch, I decided to drop by for a visit. And after 3.5 years of living in Singapore, I caved and bought a discount card. So I’ll get 10% off on every purchase, and 20% off on special sale dates. I should have done this sooner! I kept holding off because I mostly buy ebooks for myself. The only physical copies I buy are gifts for friends, or graphic novels that I want to read. Since I foresee a lot of graphic novel purchases in my near future, I thought a discount card would be a good purchase. I think Kinokuniya’s graphic novel section is pretty up to date, I was able to find copies whenever I went there to look for certain titles, such as Saga, Rat Queens, The Wicked + Divine and Giant Days. I wanted to take a pic of their shelves but the store was about to close so

book haul - Jan 29, 2016

Last Friday’s impulse buy:
Kinokuniyaโ€™s privilege card
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Vol. 1: Squirrel Power by Ryan North and Erica Henderson
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Vol. 2: Squirrel You Know It’s True by Ryan North and Erica Henderson

I also saw two other graphic novels series that have new issues. But since I don’t want to start the (expensive) habit of buying per issue, I’m going to wait until Vol. 1 is released for these two:

Monstress Cry Havoc

And two other titles that I wanted but didn’t get because they’re too pricey for me:

Seconds The Sculptor

I need to read the graphic novels that I already have before I buy more! What about you, any recent impulse buys?

Mini Review: Soppy by Philippa Rice

Soppy by Philippa RicePosting a short review of this one because even though I enjoyed reading it, I don’t think there’s a lot that I can say about the book.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

True love isnโ€™t always about the big romantic gestures.

Sometimes itโ€™s about sympathizing with someone whose tea has gone cold or reading together and sharing a quilt. When two people move in together, it soon becomes apparent that the little things mean an awful lot. The throwaway moments in life become meaningful when you spend them in the company of someone you love.

SOPPY is Philippa Riceโ€™s collection of comics and illustrations based on real-life moments with her boyfriend. From grocery shopping to silly arguments and snuggling in front of the television, SOPPY captures the universal experience of sharing a life together, and celebrates the beauty of finding romance all around us.

I’ve seen some of Philippa Rice’s illustrations online but didn’t realize that she had a book until a few weeks ago. I couldn’t resist grabbing a copy when I saw it at the bookstore. Soppy was such an adorable read. It’s not really a graphic novel but a collection of illustrations of mostly ordinary (but also very sweet) moments in a couple’s life. Some pages have dialogue while some are just artwork. Of course, my favorites are the scenes that show the couple reading together! I thought the whole book was pretty cute and I’ll probably end up browsing through it from time to time. I really liked the red, black and white color scheme used in the artwork because it goes well with the lovey dovey theme of the book.

Soppy by Philippa Rice - reading

#RelationshipGoals