Alright, alright. I know that I said I’d take some time away from blog tours and focus on my own writing this year. Yes, I already broke that promise when I joined Kate’s Spellhacker’s blog tour but after that I resolved not to participate in any more, even as Caffeine Book Tours posted their lineup and the upcoming titles beckoned me to surrender.
Obviously, when CBT announced that they were doing a HUGE blog tour for The Ikessar Falcon, not even the sharpest of blades could have stopped me from signing up. The Ikessar Falcon’s the sequel to one of my favorite high fantasy books of all time, The Wolf of Oren-Yaro. I had to join the tour.
If you read the first book of the Chronicles of the Bitch Queen, you’d understand my visceral need to know what happens next to Queen Talyien. When we last saw her, she was trapped in a foreign land, abandoned by her own people, entangled in a political scandal that could very well start a war, and betrayed by her husband Prince Rayyel. Everything that could go wrong, went wrong for Tali in The Wolf of Oren-Yaro. How could the sequel possibly make things worse for her?
Plot twists have gotten a fairly bad rep in recent years. With every story with a plot twist done well, there’s about five other stories with anti-climatic or outrageous twists that ruin the story. And it’s not hard to understand why since it’s really, really difficult to pull off a good plot twist. Especially nowadays where people have been exhausted with so many stories pulling off cheap twists just for the sake of it.
However, done right, plot twists can enhance a reader’s experience with the story, make it more impactful and memorable. Which is why although I read The Wolf of Oren-Yaro by K.S. Villoso about a year ago, I still think about it and, in particular, how it ended. Not only is the book a profound yet exciting fantasy, it also had a plot twist that nearly made me drop the book from my hands. Since I first finished it, I’ve been fascinated with the masterful way the twist was handled and revealed, how it made the story so much more compelling than it already was to begin with. So with the sequel, The Ikessar Falcon, coming up, I’ve decided to finally sit down and explore this aspect of the book and talk about how a good plot twist can add so much to a story.
Oh, and obviously since we’re talking about plot twists here, SPOILERS for this book. While I don’t think that knowing the big twist at the end before picking up the book will ruin your experience, it is still pretty fun to plunge into a story unprepared. So if you haven’t read the book, well, 1.) you should because it’s great; and 2.) you may want to skip this Book Talk for now.
I’ll be honest. Back in my elementary and high school years, I used to dread the month of August because it meant a slew of Buwan ng Wika (Language Month) activities. If you’re not from the Philippines and don’t know, every year schools nationwide celebrate our language, history, and culture for the entire month of August. Sometimes it’s condense to a week, depending on the school. It’s pretty much the same every year and in every school: singing and/or dancing to old Filipino songs (I’ve seen so many renditions Pasayawa Ko Day that the lyrics to that Bisaya song are engraved in my mind), poster making, essay writing, spelling bee, et cetera. The activities and contests try to follow the year’s Buwan ng Wika theme but it’s pretty much the same every year.
Because I went to a pretty small private school, there was only one section per year so I couldn’t escape being wrangled into at least one Buwan ng Wika activity no matter how hard I’d try. I had no sense of rhythm so none of the singing/dancing contests were possible for me which left only the more academic activities. And I, a Bisaya girl in a private school that used to penalize any student for speaking in a language other than English, never had a good grasp of the Filipino language, though, supposedly, I’d been learning it every year since 1st grade. It was actually consistently my weakest subject. I’d get better grades in Math than in Filipino and it took me ages to understand the basic idea of algebra.
I don’t think I’ve shared this on my blog before but I’m not really much of an audiobooks type of reader. Which isn’t to say that I haven’t given audiobooks a shot until now, of course. Way, way back in the olden days (back in high school), I actually got my hands on an audiobook of Stephen King’s Carrie. I made it to a couple of chapters before I called it quits. Although the narrator’s voice had a charming Texan drawl (I did some digging and apparently the narrator was Sissy Spacek, Carrie herself!) I just couldn’t really get into the story. So I opted to read the book myself.
Every time I see an ad for Audible – and, as a YouTube junkie, I see them basically every day – I look back on that Carrie audiobook, remember my lukewarm experience, and tell myself that that format of books just isn’t for me. So I’ve been mostly able to ignore the lure of audiobooks despite such rigorous marketing by that shady mega-company. The stacks of unread books on my shelves and on my Kindle also have something to do with it, but mostly I just didn’t have the time or opportunity to give audiobooks a shot.
But then my country went into lockdown because of COVID-19 and I suddenly had all the time in the world.
I’ll be honest, this post has been sitting in my Drafts since the first week of May. Maybe even earlier since, as I was agonizing over the last two or three chapter of my WIP, I was already planning to write about how I somehow managed to do what had always felt to be the impossible, which was finish a first draft of a novel. But once the initial shock and elation of having done just that wore off and I tried to put into words how I felt, I couldn’t seem to get into it. While I knew that finishing a whole novel was a feat worth being proud of, I also knew that no one but myself really cared that I did it. And I couldn’t even really talk about the specifics of my novel because… well… it’s an early draft and honestly too embarrassing to delve into just now. Dedicating an entire blog post about something that I would have to be vague about isn’t exactly a riveting read. And a slog to write.
So. Instead of wholly focusing on that first draft of mine, I decided to make this a general update post. I’ve only got one other thing I want to talk about – my bullet journal, of all things – but mainly because quarantine has severely inhibited my already dull life.
So… it’s been a hot minute since I last paid any attention to this blog of mine. And after I went to all the trouble of revamping it too. To be fair, this wasn’t the blog post that I originally planned on coming back with. I had a little in-depth review all planned out but then… well, a pandemic happened. A pretty reasonable excuse, I would say.
Anyway. Rather than doing a deep dive into an obscure book that’s not just generally unenjoyable with its weak characters and even weaker story, it’s also offensively regressive for something published so recently, I’m going to write something more lighthearted and fun. These days, with the world literally fighting to contain and conquer a highly infectious disease, a little lighthearted fun goes a long way.
I will dissect that peculiarly bad book one day. Just remembering it makes me seethe with how obscenely bad the internalized misogyny was. I want to unpack its awfulness so much. But not today.
This book tag I’m doing is Kate’s (@Your Tita Kate) original tag she posted on her booktube the other week. If you’re not already subscribed to Kate’s channel, you’re seriously missing out on some quality *chef’s kiss* bookish content. Watch her video explaining the book tag here:
Basically, the book tag is dedicated to the kickass women in Philippine history who’ve fought against colonizers, stood up against fascists, and advocated for women’s rights. Filipino women have historically been known to take no shit and get work done despite the machismo culture plaguing Filipino society. Case in point, our incumbent vice-president’s significant contributions and efforts to aid frontliners in the fight against COVID-19.
But I’m veering a little off topic here.
This book tag honors the Filipino heroines who’ve fought for our rights and our freedom. If you want to learn more about the women in this book tag, watch Kate’s video where she give a quick rundown on the Filipino heroines. You won’t regret it, I promise.
Last year I was fortunate enough to take part in six different blog tours of amazing books that I adored. Although I thoroughly enjoyed each blog tour – boosting books that gave me joy is always fun – I promised myself that I’d take a break from signing up from any more tours in the future. I told myself that in 2020 I was going to really focus on the first draft of my novel. My blog would take the backseat this time around. As I was prepping for the Hail the Bitch Queen blog tour, I promised myself that it was going to be my last tour for the time being.
But then Kate (Your Tita Kate) announced that she was doing the Asian blog tour for M.K. England’s Spellhacker.
Much like the book’s main character, the marshmallow-filled cactus Dizmon, I went back on my word. This would be my last, last blog tour.
And much like Diz’s last, last heist, this book ended up taking me on a whirlwind of an adventure that I couldn’t have ever imagined. Twists! Turns! Intrigue! Magic! Oh my!
2019 was… something. It was a hell of a year, to be honest, which is why I didn’t have the motivation to even think about a year-end post/summary. It feels like 2019 lasted a full decade, considering all that went down.
Anyway. I wasn’t going to write a new year post and intended to jump straight into a book discussion post about this weird book I read sometime last year (won’t spoil which book but let’s just say that for a book published in 2015 its slut-shaming was gratuitous and unabashedly virulent). But whenever I opened my blog I just couldn’t shake off the feeling that it was missing something. I don’t know why when I rarely add anything to my blog. Eventually I realized what felt so off. Without a post welcoming the new year, my blog felt like it was still stuck in the old one. I know that sounds lame and nonsensical but somehow I just couldn’t ignore it. I don’t have much of an audience here in my blog but I am really big on sentimental spectacles for myself. Heck, I’ve been blogging for so long purely because I wanted to document my boring life over the years.
So even though it’s about a week late, here it is. My 2020 post. This thing won’t have much of a structure, I think. I’ll do a quick review of how I fared in 2019 (a resounding meh) but I’ll mostly just talk about my plans with this blog of mine, which aren’t much considering my inconsistent blogging schedule.
High fantasy has been my go-to genre for a couple of years now. This year alone, of the more than a hundred books I’ve read, half of them were either high fantasy or contemporary fantasy. It’s a genre that I hold near and dear to my heart. So when the call came for bloggers for the blog tour for The Wolf of Oren-Yaro, a Filipino-led high fantasy, I literally jumped at the opportunity.
No joke, this book is one of the best high fantasy books I’ve read all year. And I’ve read more than a few kickass titles this 2019.
Yeah, it’s been nearly two months since I set foot in this little book blog of mine all because I decided to take another shot at NaNoWriMo. I’ve grumbled about this before and I’ll grumble again but my first serious attempt at NaNoWrimo/writing a novel didn’t end as well as I’d like. Took me ages to even get to 50k words (the default goal). Back then my writing process was so all over the place that a single scene could take me days, even weeks, to finish because I had no idea what was going to happen next. When I realized that I was literally just writing in circles, I had to call it quits.
It wasn’t easy breaking up with my first WIP. I had spent nearly a year writing and it just felt like I flushed all that work down the drain. I considered salvaging it but, alas, the story was barely hanging by a thread in the first place. Rewriting it would have done me more harm than good. It’s hard to save a story that had little to offer in the first place. But! I did end up using the magic system that I oh so meticulously crafted in my current WIP. The thing still needs a lot of work but it’s something to tinker with.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Here’s a little self-indulgent personal blog about my experience with NaNoWriMo this year and how ’17’s failure taught me more about my writing process and preferences.