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?

Favorite Literary Couples III

Image from We Heart It

Listing down my favorite fictional couples has become a yearly tradition that I do it every Valentine’s Day. You can see my choices in 2010 and 2011 by clicking on the links. I highlight five favorite couples from books that I’ve read starting mid-February of last year until today. It’s always hard to narrow down my choices because I’m a big fan of romances when they’re done well.

Harper and Jake from Saving June by Hannah Harrington – Harper and Jake’s love story is the most swoon-worthy out of all the contemporary YA novels that I read last year. It’s the perfect kind of slow burn romance that develops through a road trip, both of them trying to handle the pain of losing a loved one.

Grace and Vaughn from Unsticky by Sarra Manning – From contemporary YA, we shift to contemporary adult with these two broken individuals. A relationship based on convenience between two people riddled with imperfections could go wrong in so many ways and yet it works for Grace and Vaughn.

Sean and Puck from The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater – Sean Kendrick is a quiet young man but when he chooses to speak his mind? Oh how he slays you with those perfect lines. Sean and Puck’s relationship starts with a friendship based on mutual interests and subtly develops the more time they spend together.

Karou and Akiva from Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor – Karou and Akiva’s romance might seem like instant love at first glance but as you go through this lyrical novel, it becomes obvious that there’s so much more to it than initial attraction. It was the back story that I loved, finding out more about their past and what made them who they are when they meet again. I cannot wait to read more about them in Days of Blood and Starlight.

Kate and Curran from Magic Slays and Magic Gifts by Ilona Andrews – I may be cheating a bit here because I already listed Kate and Curran as a favorite couple last year but I can’t help it. I love how their relationship develops and it’s not the least bit boring even though they’re an established couple. Both of them still have issues that they need to work out and they go through all of that together.

I love that these couples are from books that fall under different genres (contemporary YA, contemporary adult, YA fantasy, adult urban fantasy). Yay for varied reading choices! I also listed down five runners-up in the previous years so I’d do the same here:

Hazel and Augustus from The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Claire and Venturo from Silver Shark by Ilona Andrews
Julie and Finn from Flat-Out Love by Jessica Park
Willa and Colin, Paxton and Sebastian from The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen
Carly and Ryan from Raw Blue by Kirsty Eagar

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! Who are some of your favorite fictional couples from the novels that you’ve read the past year? Any recent romantic reads?

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?