September Reading Wrap-Up

September might have been my worst reading month of the entire year but there are 3 more months left in the year and I might surprise myself. I am caught in a reading slump of sorts. Or perhaps I have just stopped reading fast. Whatever it is, it takes me forever to finish a book now because I just don’t gravitate towards reading as much as I did. Maybe it’s a temporary thing. I hope it’s a temporary thing. I don’t know.

Here are my stats for the month:

I read 19 (eep!) books last month. Of these:

  • 6 were from my TBR pile.
  • 12 were from the library.
  • 1 was a reread.

All were physical copies except for one.

I received 22 books this month.

  • 1 was purchased.
  • 16 were requested/accepted review copies.
  • 5 were unsolicited review copies.

The TBR pile currently stands at 510.

These are the titles I read in September:

  1. Death Wears a Mask – Ashley Weaver
  2. A Useful Woman – Darcie Wilde
  3. Heroine Complex – Sarah Kuhn
  4. The Girl Who Drank the Moon – Kelly Barnhill
  5. Champion of the Rose – Andrea K Host
  6. Vassa of the Night – Sarah Porter
  7. Bones of the Fair – Andrea K Host
  8. The Art of Subtext – Charles Baxter
  9. Heartless – Gail Carriger
  10. The Clever Little Witch – Laeve Baeton
  11. Snow Bears Never Lie – Said
  12. The Swan Riders – Erin Bow
  13. The Fantastic Adventures of Baron Munchausen – Heinz Janisch
  14. Beautiful Bastard – Christina Lauren
  15. A Little Taste of Poison – R. J. Anderson
  16. The Adventures of Miss Petitfour – Anne Michaels
  17. Heartless – Gail Carriger
  18. The Diary of Ma Yan – Ma Yan
  19. A Front Page Affair – Radha Vatsal

The Art of Perspective by Christopher Castellani


Paperback, 160 pages
Published January 5th 2016 by Graywolf Press
Source: Raincoast Books

I am so extremely glad that I chose to read The Art of Perspective by Christopher Castellani as my introduction to The Art of series. Since then I have read 1.5 more and I am afraid any other book would have either intimidated me or turned me off for its snobbery.

In The Art of Perspective, Castellani asks who it is that tells a particular story. That is, whose perspective is the audience following, whose glasses colour our vision, and what biases does the audience knowingly or unknowingly have or through which view the events unfolding the narrative.

Castellani does close readings of many texts and teases out active (and sometimes distanced) narrators to show how and why it matters who tells the story. He talks about how some of the story is evident simply from what the narrator chooses to say and how he says it.

Another observation of his I found fascinating is the way modern writers take pains to ensure there is no overt narrator in the stories they write. The story and perspective always rests with one of the characters in the book and not some omniscient narrator who is everywhere and sees everything. I rather think modern writers are wary about the big brother aspect of such omniscient narrators but this is an interesting observation anyway.

Castellani writes in an extremely accessible way and while volumes of critical work on literature is not everyone’s cup of tea, Castellani’s tone is often not one of a superior talking down to the ignorant masses but as someone who is talking, maybe over a cup of tea, on the vagaries of literature and the way we tell stories. It was an extremely interesting read and made me want to read every single book in The Art of Series because I figured if they all read even a little like this one, I was going to love them.

But of course that is another story. If you like literature and would like to read more critical work (not exactly theory) on it, you should definitely start with this one.


Thrill Me: Essays on Fiction by Benjamin Percy


Paperback, 173 pages
Expected publication: October 18th 2016 by Graywolf Press
Source: Raincoast Books

I have been, recently, reading a spate of books on writing by authors because I learn better through example rather than instruction. So in a partnership with Graywolf, over the next few months, I will bring to you guys my reviews of some of “The Art Of…..” series by Graywolf Press as well as the odd book about writing (not necessarily from Graywolf).

The first of these reviews is from Benjamin Percy who I was not at all familiar with and whose fiction I still haven’t read mostly because he writes horror and I don’t read horror. What? I happen to like sleeping.

Let’s have the details before we continue.

Thrill Me begins with a essay about Percy’s own life, a glimpse of the things that inspired him and made him the person and writer he is. One thing I know for sure, he was a terrible big brother. As a younger sister with two older brothers as well, I fully empathize with his younger sister.

The chapters following the first are less essays on fiction and more an explorations about the techniques that make for a good novel. Let’s be clear that we are talking genre fiction here and not the so-called literary fiction.

The second chapter deals with suspense and discusses the times required to create suspense in a novel so the reader is compelled to continue reading. Percy lays down clear rules that lead to good fiction, for example, creating urgency and deadlines to give tension to the plot.

The third chapter discusses set pieces; the pieces in a work of fiction imbued with particular (if not logical) importance. These can be anything from an orange that appears just before anything important happens in a book or something benign like a smile on a particular character’s face. Sort of like a cue or a low-level foreshadowing. I didn’t know this technique at all and can’t wait to try it out in my next project.

The fourth chapter which talks about the importance of being judicious in your portrayal of violence lest you make your reader insensitive to it has been very helpful to me. I was stuck on this scene where someone has to die a particularly gruesome death but I didn’t think I wanted to describe it but felt I had to. Percy’s chapter helped me write my way through the scene and I feel particularly happy about the result.

Thrill Me tackles a whole lot of writing techniques like designing suspense, fictional journeys, flashback scenes, and modulation. While I do not agree with all his advice (styles differ and what works for one writer may not work for another), I appreciated all of it. It is the first time someone has so clearly articulated answers to my questions in book form. The look at how another writer writes is fascinating. His close reading of many other texts plus the discussion that follows his readings is also a treasure trove for both writers and literature students.

If you are a writer or are interesting in honing your craft, you should definitely pick up a copy of Thrill Me. You won’t regret it. I know I don’t.


The Reading Forecast

Reading Forecast

Woohoo, I’m late this week but things have been so hectic. Why? The Book Wars got a new home and I have been busy preparing for that. Or um, the site. Anyway, it’s complicated and I’m tired. But I got quite a bit of reading done…well, relatively.

Here’s what I read last week:

  1. The Bone Queen – Alison Croggon
    It was as excellent as I had thought it would be and left me hankering to reread the first in the Pellinor series. I’m resisting because I just reread it this year but…
  2. Death Wears a Mask – Ashley Weaver
    I quite enjoyed this one.
  3. A Useful Woman – Darcie Wilde
    Yep, yet another series I’m going to follow.
  4. Heroine Complex – Sarah Kuhn
    Oh this was fun! I can’t wait for the sequel.
  5. The Girl Who Drank the Moon – Kelly Barnhill
    I looooved it!

Currently reading:

  1. The Art of Subtext – Charles Baxter
    I’m beyond disappointed by this one. It’s pretentious and honestly, I feel like the author rather likes the sound of his own voice. Right now I’m just gritting my teeth and trying to get through it.
  2. Champion of the Rose – Andrea K Host
    This one is a reread. I am enjoying it as much as I did the first time around.

Reading in the Coming Days:

Once I finish Rose, I will read The Swan Riders by Erin Bow, probably with Heartless by Gail Carriger. After that is Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter.

Currently Watching: Jealousy Incarnate

Jealousy incarnate (2)

Jealousy Incarnate has been the focus of a lot of behind the scenes drama what with multiple broadcasting stations fighting to air the show. Not that I blame them. With Gong Hyo Jin and Jo Jung Suk at the helms, it is guaranteed to be some sort of success.

I have watched the first four episodes of the drama and I enjoyed them. I don’t know if this will remain true for the next 20 episodes but as of right now, this drama manages to be both relevant and heartwarming.

Gong Hyo Jin always infuses her character with such warmth and naturalness that I really want to see her playing an antagonist. But she’s not an antagonist this time around, she’s a weather girl yearning to be an announcer. The PD of the news program is horrific in his demands that the weather girls contort their bodies in appealing ways for the (male) viewer. Jo Jung Seuk’s character, Lee Hwa Shin, is…complicated. It would be so easily to call him an asshole and dismiss him as yet another Mr. Darcy but that would be too quick a judgement.

Lee Hwa Shin is a very flawed human being; he has too much ego, he is brash, and he sucks at communication which is odd considering his job. He treats Na Ri pretty horribly–at first that’s what I thought but then again, he is the one who tells off the PD of the news program for the way the man treats the weather girls (ugh). He is the one who fights to have her reinstated when she gets fired (not that she knows it). The problem is he dresses up his goodness with remarkably jerkish words that make me want to slap him silly.

Thankfully, Nari is not a Candy. She is sassy and just so…likable. Gong Hyo Jin is a master at making you feel for the characters she plays and it’s no different this time.

I also love that the writer casts such an intense spotlight on breast cancer. Na Ri’s mother, grandmother, and aunts have all died of the disease and she has monthly checkups with her doctor so they can catch and remove any lumps etc. The discussions are very frank in the drama and I appreciate that. But what I appreciate even more is the fact that Lee Hwa Shin also has breast cancer–that sounded wrong. What I mean is, Lee Hwa Shin is groped by Na Ri who tells him that he needs to go see a doctor because his chest feels the same way her mom’s chest did. He resists but then circumstances force him to a doc who sends him to a breast cancer specialist.

He resists the idea that he, a man, could have breast cancer but the fact is inescapable and I love that Jo Jong Seok is able to convey his terror and his embarrassment (for having breast cancer) with such delicate and layered detail. I love that Na Ri and Lee Hwa Shin have a common ground that equalizes them because cancer doesn’t care about social and economic class.

The side characters are also very interesting. The two older women, one an announcer and the other a reporter, are rather rare examples of older women with power and good looks because usually older women are shown in the domestic sphere being conniving. These two have pride in their work which leads them to be rivals with each other but it’s sort of a cleaner rivalry than the ones found in makjang dramas.

The drama is characterized by love triangles. The older generation has one (the aforementioned ahjummas and a chef), the current generation (Pyo Nari, Lee Hwa Shin, and Lee Hwa Shin’s best friend), and the younger generation (Pyo Na Ri’s brother, Lee Hwa Shin’s niece, and this dude I don’t know who). I suppose the drama will give us different shades of jealousy.

The other man in this tale, Jo Jung Seok’s best friend, is an interesting character but one I am not sure what to feel about. He is a chaebol which means his is a life controlled by his parents and company but his decision to ‘cheat’ on the woman his parents want him to get married to with Na Ri fills me with dread because along that way lies pain, tears, heartbreak.

But I guess that’s why this is a drama.

So far so good anyway.

August Wrap Up

August is done and gone and all I have left to show you are the titles of the books I read. Which will come a bit later in this post. First, some statistics.

I read 45 books this month. Of them:

  • 26 were from my TBR pile (or books I owned).
  • 19 were from the library.
  • 4 of the 45 books were ebooks.

I acquired 28 books this month. All of these are review copies.

Of these 28, I have already read 9.

The TBR pile currently stands at 504.

Titles I read this month:

  1. So Much For that Winter – Dorthe Nors
  2. Missy Piggle-Wiggle and the Whatever Cure – Ann M. Martin
  3. Other-Wordly – Yee-Lum Mak
  4. Magic Stars – Ilona Andrews
  5. They All Saw a Cat – Brendan Wenzel
  6. The Wish Tree – Kyo Maclear
  7. Dreaming Death – J. Kathleen Cheney
  8. The Safest Lies – Megan Miranda
  9. Bera the One-Headed Troll – Eric Orchard
  10. Kestrel’s Choices – Misty Massey
  11. Hey, Coach! – Linda Ashman
  12. If a T. Rex Crashes Your Birthday Party – Jill Esbaum
  13. Small Magics – Ilona Andrews
  14. Thrill Me – Benjamin Percy
  15. Bad Girls Throughout History – Ann Shen
  16. The Creepy Case Files of Margo Maloo – Drew Weing
  17. Death at Wentwater Court – Carola Dunn
  18. Cloudwish – Fiona Wood
  19. Mighty Jack – Ben Hatke
  20. Between the World and Me – Ta-Nehisi Coates
  21. Friday Barnes Girl Detective – R. A. Spratt
  22. Look – Solmaz Sharif
  23. Good Night, Firefly – Gabriel Alborozo
  24. Friday Barnes Under Suspicion – R. A. Spratt
  25. Journey – Aaron Becker
  26. The King and the Sea – Heinz Janisch
  27. Sonya’s Chickens – Phoebe Wahl
  28. Vasilisa the Beautiful – Anna Morgunova
  29. Strictly No Elephants – Lisa Mantchev
  30. Double Trouble for Anna Hibiscus – Atinuke
  31. Quest – Aaron Becker
  32. The Land of Forgotten Girls – Erin Entrada Kelly
  33. The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories – Ken Liu
  34. Dreamers Often Lie – Jacqueline West
  35. Princess Disgrace: Royal Disaster – Lou Kuenzler
  36. All Four Stars – Tara Dairman
  37. May Day – Gretchen Marquette
  38. Uprooted – Naomi Novik
  39. The Disappearance of Ember Crow – Ambelin Kwaymullina
  40. The Ugly Duchess – Eloisa James
  41. The Treasure of Maria Mamoun – Michelle Chalfoun
  42. The Water and the Wild – K. E. Ormsbee
  43. The Doorway and the Deep – K. E. Ormsbee
  44. Looking Back – Lois Lowry
  45. The Bone Queen – Alison Croggon

The Reading Forecast

Reading Forecast

Due to upheavals in my personal life, this is a bit late not that anyone apart from me cares. Whew, I’m exhausted today. So let’s get right into it. Here’s what I read last week:

  1. May Day – Gretchen Marquette
  2. Uprooted – Naomi Novik
  3. The Disappearance of Ember Crow – Ambelin Kwaymullina
  4. The Ugly Duchess – Eloisa James
  5. The Treasure of Maria Mamoun – Michelle Chalfoun
  6. The Water and the Wild – K. E. Ormsbee
  7. The Doorway and the Deep – – K. E. Ormsbee
  8. Looking Back – Lois Lowry

Currently Reading:

  1. Lair of Dreams – Libba Bray
  2. The Bone Queen – Alison Croggon
  3. Blackass – A. Igone Barett
  4. The Heroine Complex – Stephanie Kuhn
  5. The Art of Subtext – Charles Baxter

To read in the coming week:

Hopefully these and more.