Big Bad Wolf Book Haul: In Which I Tried but Failed to Control Myself

So! Apparently it’s been more than a fortnight since I last posted anything on my blog. And no, I didn’t purposely wait for two weeks so I could use the word fortnight on my opening line. I was just… really lazy. And almost worryingly absentminded. I kept meaning to brainstorm a new blog post but whenever the thought occurred to me, I’d immediately get distracted with something else. And here I was congratulating myself last month for being really active on my book blog. Didn’t realize I’d slide back to my old habits immediately after.

That being said, last week I was able to at least come up with two blog post ideas that I’ve vaguely considered for a while now. One is a personal post – a homage, really – to my love for notebooks and journaling while the other is, as of writing this, a messy rant about a certain YA fantasy book that really disappointed me last year. I fully intended on just forgetting that book for the rest of my days but its absolutely absurd ending (and implications) kept hounding me. So naturally the only way to free myself from it is to pick it apart in a detailed blog post.

While I’ve already outlined both future posts – the book rant-y one even has a messy intro – I didn’t spend enough time and energy on actually writing them so I wasn’t able to finish them by the end of last week. Now I’ve had my heart set on posting something, anything, on my blog this week so I’ve resorted to writing something that I’m confident I can churn out without too much fuss: a book haul.

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Off Tangent Thoughts: On Organizing my Bookshelf

Hey y’all! I initially planned on posting a Book Talk regarding Three Dark Crowns this week but a couple of things got in the way. Mainly, my health. It’s nothing too serious, just a bit of a nuisance at this point, really.

I had like 30% of the first draft of my Book Talk all typed up but I knew that if I really pushed for publishing it this week, it’d be too sloppy and meandering (more than my Brand permits). So… Next week it is then. However, I didn’t want another week to pass without me posting anything on my blog so I was over the moon when Camillea @CamilleaReads posted this and introduced me to this lovely prompt/meme by Charvi @ItsNotJustFiction.

In Charvi’s own words, Off Tangent Thoughts is “a bi-monthly meme that has a basic list-based format wherein bloggers express their points in the form of a short or long list with the points under the list being merely a couple lines or even complete paragraphs.” As someone who is constantly struggling not to go off tangent whenever I write a post, this prompt is a great opportunity for me to just write whatever. Plus, this Saturday’s prompt is all about organizing books on your bookshelf and… well, let’s just say I have more than enough thoughts on that particular topic.

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Book Talk | Ruthless Magic Pt.1: Much Ado about Theme

Part 2 | Part 3

Although I’ve been a self-proclaimed book reviewer for nearly a decade now, if there was ever a story element that I shied away from as much as possible, it’s themes. And with good reason. Themes are intangible and vague, requiring in-depth analysis to figure out, especially on a long-form story like a novel. For me, if a book is good, it’s good; I’ll leave the theme analysis to people more capable than me. The more concrete story elements like character and plot are more of my jam.

Of course, now that I know better, I realize you can’t actually treat individual story elements without touching upon the theme at all. In fact, story elements don’t exist separately from one another. They’re all interconnected, they’re all related and defined by all the others. The theme just so happens to be the one element that’s more pervasive and subtle than the rest. It weaves the whole story together, makes the sequence of scenes, dialogue, and conflict have some higher meaning.

I didn’t quite understand just how important the theme was until I read a Megan Crewe’s Ruthless Magic, a book that failed at communicating its theme at the most basic level despite having all the necessary tools at its disposal.

Ruthless Magic by Megan Crewe

Summary:
Each year, the North American Confederation of Mages assesses every sixteen-year-old novice. Some will be chosen. The rest must undergo a procedure to destroy their magical ability unless they prove themselves in the mysterious and brutal Mages’ Exam. 

Disadvantaged by her parents’ low standing, Rocío Lopez has dedicated herself to expanding her considerable talent to earn a place in the Confederation. Their rejection leaves her reeling—and determined to fight to keep her magic. 
Long ashamed of his mediocre abilities, Finn Lockwood knows the Confederation accepted him only because of his prominent family. Declaring for the Exam instead means a chance to confirm his true worth. 
Thrown into the testing with little preparation, Rocío and Finn find themselves becoming unlikely allies—and possibly more. But the Exam holds secrets more horrifying than either could have imagined. What are the examiners really testing them for? And as the trials become increasingly vicious, how much are they willing to sacrifice to win?  [blurb taken from GoodReads]

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2018 Reading Challenge Highlights

It’s a few days into 2019 and I’m still trying to cross out a few of my 2018 to-do’s because that’s just how I roll. Time management? Don’t know her.

Obviously, I meant to have this up before the new year but for reasons unbeknownst even to myself, I wasn’t able to start working on this post until the day after the first day of 2019. I had a rough outline scribbled somewhere in my little notebook about a week or so ago but I didn’t bother typing it down until much later. Oof.

Anyway. I read 100 books last year and, although there were a couple of bumps in the road, I mostly enjoyed the books listed in my Reading Challenge. Some I enjoyed better than others but, for the most part, 2018 was a good year of reading for me. I started reading a lot of series/trilogies, a couple of non-fiction books, and new titles from debut authors.

Interestingly enough, I hadn’t noticed how often I reached for fantasy and high fantasy books until I looked back into my reading list. To be honest, making this list was a bit tricky because my genres weren’t as varied as I’d like. I couldn’t really include that many categories because most of the time it would turn out that I hadn’t really read that many books in a certain genre for them to count as a category. In some genres like horror and thriller, I hadn’t even read more than three books of the genre. It’s strange because horror and thriller used to be my favorite genres when I was a kid. Now I’m more into magic and stuff.

So, yeah, the categories on this Reading Challenge highlights is going to be a little paltry but whatever.

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No Shelf-Control *emotional*

Nearly a decade ago, back when I was a teeny tiny highschooler with an insatiable desire to devour books, I never imagined little ol’ me of ever owning shelves and shelves and shelves of books. Back when all I could do was read the paltry collection of middle-grade books – and two Sweet Valley High contemporary editions for some reason – in my school’s pathetic excuse of a library, I never dreamed that I’d be the conflicted owner of hundreds of books across nearly all genres. I was a simple bookworm that was happy to hold any kind of fiction book back then, never assuming that one day I’d fill every shelf space of my own room. 

Yet here I am. 

Just so we’re clear, I’m not writing this post to flex or anything. In fact, a deep shame overcomes me whenever I take the time to assess the pandemonium that is my to-be-read (TBR) shelves. That’s why I haven’t been able to organize it as orderly as I’d prefer. Or so I tell myself.

How did it come to this? How did I lose track of how many books I own to a point where every available flat surface in my room has at least one stack of books on it? And why can’t I stop myself from buying more books? (No joke, the week before, I bought four secondhand books online and they arrived last Monday afternoon. I don’t know where to put them.)

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Book Talk: Writing with Empathy (Heart of Mist by Helen Scheuerer)

Over the years, I’ve honed what I now call my three-chapter sniff test. Basically, if I can’t find anything or anyone to care about by chapter three, there’s a huge chance that I’m not going to care about the story as a whole. And I’m usually right. It doesn’t have to be a something big like the main character or the plot. Really, it can be any aspect of the story, from one interesting plot point to a minute worldbuilding detail. In fact, the main reason why I was so taken by Ready Player One – to the point where I literally did not notice the problematic main character, the flimsy plot, and dumb dumb dumb action scenes – was because I fell hard and fast for the concept of OASIS.

Ultimately, readers are looking for one thing when they’re reading a book: a reason to care. It’s a simple enough requirement but anyone who’s ever dabbled in fiction writing will tell you that it’s extremely difficult to execute. Which is why I was so enamored with Helen Scheuerer’s Heart of Mist on the very first chapter alone. In such a short period of time, I cared about Bleak, the tough as nails, aloof main character who, for all intents and purposes, should have made me recoil. I’ve consumed enough media to know how… iffy these types of female characters, especially YA heroines, can be portrayed so I think I was rightly wary. I mean, tough-talking, ostracized, female character, with a pining conventionally attractive childhood friend to boot? Sounds like 80% of the heroines in the genre, let’s be honest.

However I soon learned that while Bleak might seem like the standard no-shits-given main character with a tragic past in a YA fantasy, she’s far from the typical cardboard cutout “badass” heroine.

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Year in Books so Far (32%)

In accordance to my New Year’s resolution to blog more (and blog better… if possible), I’m going to share my surprisingly uplifting progress for this year’s Goodreads’ Reading Challenge. Hardly an interesting topic but there really isn’t anything else going on in my life to talk about so this will have to do. Adulthood is simultaneously exhausting and disappointing and I’ve moaned about that one topic too many times already.

Anyway. Last year’s embarrassing failure still haunts me so I’ve been extra careful not to fall behind this time around. I can never forget that I once pledged a hundred books in 2017, thinking that I had all the time I’d ever need after I’d graduate university, only to chop my goal in half when I had four months left of the year and barely reached a quarter of my goal.

Yeah, I can be very extra when it comes to books.

On the first few months of 2017, I was busy stressing about graduation, chasing deadlines, fulfilling requirements that made absolutely no sense, and constantly disassociating whenever the situation called for my full attention. It was pure pandemonium and I had nobody to blame but my own stupid self. In fact, it got so bad that I was convinced that I developed hypertension because of all the headaches and bouts of nausea. Turns out that it was all just stress. My blood pressure’s fine, always has been; I just had a really unhealthy way of dealing with stress, thank god.

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