Mood Changers

girl reading by a tree

Image from We Heart It.

This morning I saw an article which Maggie Stiefvater wrote for The Guardian that I really liked. Go check it out if you haven’t had a chance to read it. The gist of it is that she talks about how she changes moods through her writing.

I begin every creative project with a mood in my head. Every scene is planned out to feel a certain way. I navigate readers’ emotions like a small ship through a rocky strait. If I have not got inside your brain and moved emotional furniture around during the course of my novel, I feel I’ve failed.

That sounds sinister.

I mean for it to.

I felt like this is a spot-on description of how a good book can transport us to a different setting and situation, letting us experience what the characters are experiencing and as a result, changing how we feel the moment we are reading. I admit that I’m an escapist reader, I love picking up a book and losing myself within the story. The books that resonate and stand out for me are the ones that I can relate to – the ones that can make me ache and feel for the characters. The ones that can make me believe that fiction is reality while I’m in the middle of the book (or even better when the story and characters stay with me after I’ve finished). The very best ones leave me with a book hangover when I can’t stop thinking about the book because it feels like I’m still stuck in that world. I have to make a conscious mental effort to pull myself out of it. That kind of absorption happens in degrees – I can be really engrossed by a book or just be slightly into it. When I can’t find even the smallest of connections with a book, I feel like it didn’t really work for me. This is also probably also why there are times when I have to be in a certain mood to read a particular book – like I would want to read a feel good title when I’m feeling down or I need to steel myself before I read an emotionally heavy novel.

Earlier, my co-workers and I were talking about our daily commute and how crowded the MRT trains get in the mornings. One of them mentioned that she just watches movies and shows in her smartphone to drown out the reality of being squished by people around her. I’ve noticed that I’m like that with books – I tend to be oblivious to my surroundings when I’m absorbed by a great book. There was even a time when I missed my stop because I was reading. I can’t imagine what my life would be like if I didn’t enjoy reading, probably very boring and lonely.

I agree with Maggie, well-written novels can change a reader’s mood and she was able to accomplish that when I read The Scorpio Races, and more recently The Dream Thieves. What do you think about Maggie’s article? Do you agree with the idea that authors are mood changers? Let me know what you think.

WWW Wednesdays: October 2

WWW Wednesdays

WWW WEDNESDAYS… is a weekly event where you share (1) What you’re currently reading, (2) What you recently finished reading, and (3) What you think you’ll read next.

It’s Wednesday, middle of the week! The weekend is just around the corner. While I don’t participate in WWW Wednesdays every week, I still think it’s fun to do from time to time. This way, I get to talk about books that I might not get a chance to review later on.

My Most Excellent Year outdoors

Last book I finished: My Most Excellent Year by Steve Kluger, which I wrote a Retro Friday review for. It’s an under-the-radar contemporary YA novel that I think more readers should check out. It was such a fun and heartwarming read for me.

The Dream Thieves in Times

Currently reading: The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater, the sequel to The Raven Boys. I enjoyed reading The Raven Boys but my favorite Maggie Stiefvater novel is still The Scorpio Races. However, several book blogger friends have been raving about The Dream Thieves so I have high hopes for this one. I’m halfway through and I’m enjoying it but still waiting to be wowed.

The Chocolate Heart galley

Planning to read next: I requested and got approved for The Chocolate Heart by Laura Florand on NetGalley, the fifth book in the Amour et Chocolat series. I’m so excited to read this because the release date isn’t until November 26 but the galley is already available. I love the Amour et Chocolat series and it’s nice to have a new Laura Florand title in my Kindle.

What about the rest of you, care to answer the three questions thrown out by this meme? What book are you currently reading, what have you just finished and what are you thinking of picking up next?

September 2013 Releases

I don’t usually post releases per month but since there are several titles that I’m looking forward to in September, I wanted to talk about them here. All of these are books written by authors I’m familiar with, which is why I’m excited to read them.

Snow-KissedRitual MagicThe Dream ThievesWhere the Stars Still ShineShadows

September 1: Snow-Kissed by Laura Florand – I already have a galley of this but I haven’t read it yet so I wanted to include it in this list. Yay for a new Laura Florand novella!

Summary from Goodreads: After the utter destruction of her marriage and her happiness, Kai knew it was better to shut herself away from the world than to hurt and be hurt. Holed up in her mountain cabin, she planned to spend her Christmas alone. Until her not-quite-ex-husband shows up as the first flakes start to fall. Now should she send him back out into the cold? Or can she be brave enough to let this winter snow bind them back together?

September 3: Ritual Magic (World of the Lupi #10) by Eileen Wilks – You all know that I’ve been going through the World of the Lupi books the past few weeks. The tenth book has just been released! I’m still in the middle of the ninth book but I have a feeling I will be reading this one by the end of this week (or even earlier). Sigh, I don’t know what I’ll do when I have to wait another year for the next installment to be released.

Summary from Goodreads: On her 57th birthday, Lily’s mother suddenly loses all memory beyond the age of twelve. Lily knows her mother was attacked by something more than magic. More… and darker.

When Lily and Rule discover that others suffered the same, mysterious loss — at the same time on the same night—their investigation into the darkness begins. Joining them is someone Lily never thought she’d see again: Al Drummond, who once tried to destroy her. He also happens to be dead. But the mysterious attacks were caused by a power strong enough to affect matters beyond the world of the living.

With some victims losing years of memory and others their lives, Lily must discover what on earth — or beyond — connects them.

September 17: The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater – I have seen nothing but praises in the blogosphere about the sequel of The Raven Boys. I look forward to reading about Blue and the boys again.

Summary from Goodreads: Now that the ley lines around Cabeswater have been woken, nothing for Ronan, Gansey, Blue, and Adam will be the same. Ronan, for one, is falling more and more deeply into his dreams, and his dreams are intruding more and more into waking life. Meanwhile, some very sinister people are looking for some of the same pieces of the Cabeswater puzzle that Gansey is after…

September 24: Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller – I really enjoyed reading Something Like Normal last year and I can’t wait to read Trish Doller’s latest. I’ve seen the snippets that she’s posted on Tumblr and they’ve made me look forward to this release.

Summary from Goodreads: Stolen as a child from her large and loving family, and on the run with her mom for more than ten years, Callie has only the barest idea of what normal life might be like. She’s never had a home, never gone to school, and has gotten most of her meals from laundromat vending machines. Her dreams are haunted by memories she’d like to forget completely. But when Callie’s mom is finally arrested for kidnapping her, and Callie’s real dad whisks her back to what would have been her life, in a small town in Florida, Callie must find a way to leave the past behind. She must learn to be part of a family. And she must believe that love – even with someone who seems an improbable choice – is more than just a possibility.

September 27: Shadows by Robin McKinley – I’m a big fan of Robin McKinley’s writing and I’m so excited she has a new book this year (even if it’s not the sequel to Pegasus, which I’m still anxiously waiting for). This is bound to be a good one.

Summary from Goodreads: Maggie knows something’s off about Val, her mom’s new husband. Val is from Oldworld, where they still use magic, and he won’t have any tech in his office-shed behind the house. But—more importantly—what are the huge, horrible, jagged, jumpy shadows following him around? Magic is illegal in Newworld, which is all about science. The magic-carrying gene was disabled two generations ago, back when Maggie’s great-grandmother was a notable magician. But that was a long time ago.

Then Maggie meets Casimir, the most beautiful boy she has ever seen. He’s from Oldworld too—and he’s heard of Maggie’s stepfather, and has a guess about Val’s shadows. Maggie doesn’t want to know . . . until earth-shattering events force her to depend on Val and his shadows. And perhaps on her own heritage.

In this dangerously unstable world, neither science nor magic has the necessary answers, but a truce between them is impossible. And although the two are supposed to be incompatible, Maggie’s discovering the world will need both to survive.

I’m looking forward to reading these! What about you, are you excited for any September releases?

YAckers Discussion: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

YAckers

Remember the YAckers Secret Santa that I mentioned a few weeks ago? Well, I participated in my first ever YAckers discussion and we talked about The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater. The post can now be viewed over at the YAckers blog. Head on over there to check out our thoughts about the book. I’m glad the latest pick was a book that I’ve been planning to read for a while, The Raven Boys was one of my anticipated titles this year because I loved The Scorpio Races last year.

The Raven Boys from the library

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

It is freezing in the churchyard, even before the dead arrive.

Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue herself never sees them—not until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks directly to her.

His name is Gansey, and Blue soon discovers that he is a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.

But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He has it all—family money, good looks, devoted friends—but he’s looking for much more than that. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents all the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul who ranges from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher of the four, who notices many things but says very little.

For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She never thought this would be a problem. But now, as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.

I had a lot of fun reading and discussing this with fellow YAckers and I look forward to more YAcking in the coming months.

Book Haul: Hong Kong Edition

I have a Postcard Love Hong Kong edition post and now it’s time to talk about books. I kept looking for a bookstore the whole time we were there but only found one on our last day. Good thing I did because I ended up buying several items! Here’s my loot from Swindon Books in Tsim Sha Tsui:

Swindon Book shopping bag

This is what’s inside the bag:

Hong Kong book haul

UK edition of The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater, one my favorite reads last year
A Confusion of Princes by Garth Nix
Pride and Prejudice Penguin mug
Some bookmarks

I wanted to get so many other books that I haven’t seen in local bookstores like Adorkable, Wonder and one of the Harry Potter signature editions. But I already used my credit card several times during the trip so I thought I’d grab only two books – one that I’ve read (I’ve been interested in The Scorpio Races UK edition since last year) and one that I’m interested in reading. I also saw the Penguin passport holders but they only had two designs for it: The Road and The Lost Girl and I haven’t read any of those. I thought there’d be more designs but when I searched online, it looks like it comes in only those two versions. So I got a Pride and Prejudice Penguin mug instead:

Pride and Prejudice Penguin mug

Pretty, right? I have a feeling I’d eventually end up buying one of those passport holders the next time I see it in a foreign bookstore. I also got a Starbucks Hong Kong edition tumbler to add to my collection:

Starbucks Tumblers

Got any good books recently? How about book-related items like mugs or bookmarks?

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

I enjoyed reading Maggie Stiefvater’s books in the past but it wasn’t until I saw glowing reviews from blogging buddies and Goodreads friends that I became really curious about The Scorpio Races. It sounds different from anything else that she’s written and Maggie herself said that this is her favorite out of all of her books. How’s that for encouragement? I couldn’t pass up reading this one and I like that it’s a standalone novel.

Here’s the summary from Maggie Stiefvater’s website:

It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line. Some riders live. Others die.

At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them.

Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn’t given her much of a chance. So she enters the competition — the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen.

Sigh, what a lovely, lovely book this turned out to be. It’s the best Maggie Stiefvater novel that I’ve read and if you haven’t read any of her books, I recommend that you start with this one. The novel is narrated from alternating points of view – Puck or Kate Connolly’s and Sean Kendrick’s. Both are entered to compete in the deadly Scorpio Races, the annual event featuring water horses or capaill uisce. These terrifying water horses come out of the ocean only in the island of Thisby and unlike their land counterparts, they live on flesh and blood and love to hunt moving targets. A few islanders can tame them enough to ride them to the races, Sean is the most gifted when it comes to handling the water horses. Puck is the most unusual contestant in the race because she’s the first girl to enter and she’s riding her regular island pony, Dove, instead of a water horse. It was easy enough to like Puck – she’s a prickly character but brave when she needs to be and she’d do anything for her two brothers. She joins the race to discourage her older brother, Gabe, from leaving the island. While I’ve always lived in the city and can’t relate to the small town life in Thisby, I can understand how Puck feels about her homeland. To live in a place that’s not easy to love, a crazy place with wild typhoons or storms, a place that friends and family would rather leave so they can find better opportunities somewhere else. Yeah, that sounds pretty familiar. And The Scorpio Races is just as much about Thisby as it is about the water horses. Sean shares the same fondness for their homeland. When asked why he doesn’t leave, he answers with, “The sky and the sand and the sea and Corr.” Remove the Corr bit (although I wouldn’t say no to a magical water horse of my own) and that is exactly why I love the beaches in the Philippines.

I loved how the romance developed in this book, the pacing was perfect. It’s the best kind of slow burn, filled with intense, meaningful glances and one-liners that go straight to the heart. I ate it all up and savored all the scenes between Puck and Sean. These two are so very different from each other – one is feisty while the other is a quiet sort of person – but they also have so much in common. They’re tied by their love for Thisby and how they both care for their respective horses – the loyal Dove, for Puck and the blood-red, unpredictable water horse, Corr, for Sean. Both of them are orphans and because they’ve had to fend for themselves, they seem older than their teenage years. But I don’t mean to imply that the focus of the story is the romance because it really isn’t. Like I said, The Scorpio Races is about the island of Thisby, its people (viewed through the eyes of Puck and Sean) and the horses that they love. I know next to nothing about horses, I think I’ve only ridden a horse once in my entire life, but that didn’t keep me from being fully immersed in this novel. The Scorpio Races may not be for everyone (I’ve seen mixed reviews) but it makes me happy that it worked out for me. Beautifully written, it sucked me in and didn’t let go until I reached the end. One of my favorite books read this year, I recommend it to fans of horse stories and subtle romances.

Here’s an excerpt from one of the scenes from Sean’s point of view:

“As the sun shines low and red across the water, I wade into the ocean. The water is still high and brown and murky with the memory of the storm, so if there’s something below it, I won’t know it. But that’s part of this, the not knowing. The surrender to the possibilities beneath the surface. It wasn’t the ocean that killed my father, in the end. The water is so cold that my feet go numb almost at once. I stretch my arms out to either side of me and close my eyes. I listen to the sound of water hitting water. The raucous cries of the terns and the guillemots in the rocks of the shore, the piercing, hoarse questions of the gulls above me. I smell seaweed and fish and the dusky scent of the nesting birds onshore. Salt coats my lips, crusts my eyelashes. I feel the cold press against my body. The sand shifts and sucks out from under my feet in the tide. I’m perfectly still. The sun is red behind my eyelids. The ocean will not shift me and the cold will not take me.”

Other reviews:
Angieville
Book Harbinger
The Allure of Books
The Book Smugglers

Want Books: The Scorpio Races

Want Books? is a weekly meme hosted here at Chachic’s Book Nook and features released books that you want but you can’t have for some reason. It can be because it’s not available in your country, in your library or you don’t have the money for it right now. Everyone is free to join, just grab the image above. Leave a comment with a link to your post so I can do a roundup with each post.

I enjoyed reading Maggie Stiefvater’s books last year: Shiver, Lament and Ballad but I didn’t even notice that The Scorpio Races wasn’t included in my wishlist until book pushing expert, Angie, posted this lovely review. As if that wasn’t enough to convince me, Holly cemented my decision with her own review, where she gave the highest praise to the book – I quote, “This brings me to the romance, which is of the slow and gradual variety and causes me to sigh contentedly just thinking about it. It reminded me of the way a certain relationship in The Queen’s Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner develops.” How could I refuse to read the book after that? The Scorpio Races has already been released in the US and I’ve contacted Fully Booked and they said they have copies available in some branches! All I need to do is hunt it down. So much for trying not to buy books. Ah well, resistance is futile.

Here’s the summary from Maggie Stiefvater’s website:

It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line. Some riders live. Others die.

At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them.

Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn’t given her much of a chance. So she enters the competition — the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen.

What about the rest of you, what book is in your wishlist?

Waiting on Wednesday: Linger by Maggie Stiefvater

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine. WoW posts are about books that you can’t wait to get your hands on. My WoW post for today is for Linger by Maggie Stiefvater. I recently read Shiver and I loved it. I did mention that I liked where Shiver ended so I wasn’t really excited to read Linger but after reading good reviews from both Angie and Lenore, I am now looking forward to this sequel.

Here’s the premise from Maggie Stiefvater’s website:

…grace…

This is the story of a boy who used to be a wolf and a girl who was becoming one.

Just a few months ago, it was Sam who was the mythical creature. His was the disease we couldn’t cure. His was the good-bye that meant the most. He had the body that was a mystery, too strange and wonderful and terrifying to comprehend.

But now it is spring. With the heat, the remaining wolves will soon be falling out of their wolf pelts and back into their human bodies. Sam stays Sam, and Cole stays Cole, and it’s only me who’s not firmly in my own skin.

Doesn’t it look interesting? I want to find out what happens to Sam and Grace and all the rest of the characters. Linger is due out July 20. Maggie Stiefvater is holding a contest over at her blog. Anyone can join just by posting the lovely book trailer of Linger (made by Maggie) in your blog. Here’s the trailer:

How about you, what books are you waiting for this Wednesday?

Lament by Maggie Stiefvater

So the full title is Lament: The Faerie Queen’s Deception but I think it’s also widely known as Lament. I was looking forward to reading this because there’s a lot of buzz for Maggie Stiefvater’s books and I’m always ready to read more about faeries. But at the same time, I was also hesitant because this book was likened to Holly Black and Melissa Marr’s books and I wasn’t really enthralled by those books. When I saw that there was only one copy left in National Bookstore’s Trinoma branch, I thought I should just go ahead and grab it as well as the sequel, Ballad: A Gathering of Faerie.

Here’s the summary from Maggie Stiefvater’s website:

Sixteen-year-old Deirdre Monaghan is a painfully shy but prodigiously gifted musician. She’s about to find out she’s also a cloverhand—one who can see faeries. When a mysterious boy enters her ordinary suburban life, seemingly out of nowhere, Deirdre finds herself infatuated. Trouble is, the enigmatic and conflicted Luke turns out to be a gallowglass—a soulless faerie assassin—and Deirdre is meant to be his next mark. Deirdre has to decide if Luke’s feelings towards her are real, or only a way to lure her deeper into the world of Faerie.

Isn’t the cover pretty? I love the simple black and green theme and of course the four-leaf clovers raining on the cover is entirely appropriate to the story. Oh Maggie Stiefvater (I saw on her website FAQs that it’s pronounced as Steve-otter), you’ve given me hope! I was starting to think that maybe I was lacking the gene that would enable me to appreciate urban fantasy novels. Stephenie Meyer, Cassandra Clare, Holly Black, Melissa Marr. I’ve given them all a try and I wanted to love their books but for some reason, they were just okay for me. But I really really liked Lament. I’m not sure though if I should list it in my Favorite Books, I’ll probably read Ballad first before I decide. I’m sorely tempted to buy Shiver now. I don’t know if I should wait for it to come out in paperback. The cover for the hardcover is so nice though plus the print is in dark blue! I haven’t heard of any other book with blue print.

Anyway, on to the review! I really liked Deirdre even though she’s an introvert and I’m definitely not. Deirdre, nicknamed Dee, is an amazing harp player. I know there aren’t a lot of harp players around so I’d love to hear the kind of music that she makes. The book is fast-paced. Dee meets Luke in the first few scenes of the book and she starts to notice strange happenings around her right after that. She clues in her best friend, James, on what’s going on and they puzzle over the meaning of these things together. Even at the start, she knows that Luke is more than what he seems and she accepts that fact. She knows it might not be good for her to pursue a relationship with Luke but she chooses to do so. It was easy to immerse myself in the world created by Maggie Stiefvater. I now understand why her work is being compared to Melissa Marr and Holly Black’s works. All of them portrayed faeries as capricious and playful but in a dark and cruel way. Not the typical happy-go-lucky, we’ll-grant-your-wishes, pink-and-glitters faeries of other stories. In Lament, people who are aware of faeries are warned to beware and stay away from them. Yes, faeries are out-of-this-world beautiful but they are scary and they can harm you. I think I like these dark faeries better than their brighter counterparts. I also liked how Dee and Luke’s relationship developed. It was done in just the right pace for me. I have a minor quibble about Luke because he doesn’t speak like his age although I can argue that away by saying that maybe he changed with the times.

If you’re an urban fantasy fan and you haven’t given any of Maggie Stiefvater books a try, I suggest that you check this out. I highly recommend it. I really enjoyed this book – beautiful writing, great characters and of course, amazing love story. I’m hoping to see more of Dee and Luke in the sequel, Ballad but from what I can see, it’s mostly about Dee’s quirky best friend James. I guess I’m fine with that because I liked the glimpses of James that I saw in this book. To those who’ve read Shiver, do you think I should go ahead and but it as well?

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This book is one of my entries in the Once Upon a Time challenge.