[Book Talk] What Makes a Bookish Romance Ship-worthy?

It's been a while since my heart has been set aflutter by a bookish romantic pairing. The most recent one that I can think of is Cress and Thorne's scenes in The Lunar Chronicles, and that was well at the beginning of last year! It's not as if I haven't read any good novels with romantic pairings in it; they just haven't managed to turn me into a shipper.

It may simply be that I've gotten more cynical over the years (🖤), but it has made me think about what has me shipping fictional couples together. I came up with the following:

1. Knowing Each Half of the Ship as Individuals

Romance is about the relationship between two people, and if I don't care about those people, I wouldn't be invested in their relationship. Also, as much as I love happily ever after, I enjoy a story more where the characters have lives and goals outside of their romantic relationship. For this reason, I'm all for slow burn romance. Give me character growth, together and apart; give me characters who actually get to know each other first; and eventually, give me that "Oh" moment where the gears shift and they realise they're right for each other all along. 😍

2. They're Good for Each Other

Obviously, I'm not going to ship an abusive relationship. Apart from that, I find that lately I'm put off by love interests who repeatedly declare that they're no good for the other character and that they shouldn't be together. Sometimes, they're right. (A case that comes to mind is Christian Grey). I'm all for conflict and obstacles, but at the end of the day, I want the characters to raise each other up and bring out the best in each other.

3. Chemistry

This is a hard one to talk about, because I haven't been able to put my finger on what makes up chemistry. Sometimes sparks just jump off the page whenever two characters are in a scene together, and that's it! I think maybe a huge part of it is dialogue, but even the wittiest dialogue would come up to nothing if the characters don't work together. Maybe it's the friction and collaboration of the two personalities? What do you think makes for chemistry?

Let's talk!
What makes you a shipper? 
What was the last bookish romance that made you swoon?
Shoot me some romance recommendations!

[The List] Trying (and Failing) not to Multi-task

The List is a feature where I hold myself accountable regarding my TBR. This (hopefully) stops me from picking up new books despite my a pile of unread books.

With the new semester kicking off, I haven't been reading much. 😩 I was also trying to stick to one (big) book, but I got bored, so...

The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton

The Story: It is 1866, and Walter Moody has come to make his fortune upon the New Zealand goldfields. On arrival, he stumbles across a tense gathering of twelve local men, who have met in secret to discuss a series of unsolved crimes. A wealthy man has vanished, a whore has tried to end her life, and an enormous fortune has been discovered in the home of a luckless drunk. Moody is soon drawn into the mystery: a network of fates and fortunes that is as complex and exquisitely patterned as the night sky.

Why I'm Reading It: My friend and I had a little book swap, and she lend me this one. It turned out to be a brick of a book! It's much more dense than what I probably like, but I'm intrigued by its use of multiple point of views. It's a slog at times, but I've gotten halfway through the book so I'm not giving up now!

Does My Head Look Big in This? by Randa Abdel-Fattah

The Story: Sixteen-year-old Amal makes the decision to start wearing the hijab full- time and everyone has a reaction. Her parents, her teachers, her friends, people on the street. But she stands by her decision to embrace her faith and all that it is, even if it does make her a little different from everyone else. Can she handle the taunts of "towel head," the prejudice of her classmates, and still attract the cutest boy in school?

Why I'm Reading It: I've heard about this book for a while, and I couldn't resist when I saw it in the library of the school I'm interning at. So far, it's interesting but also heavy-handed at times. 

The Romance Reader's Guide to Life by Sharon Pywell

The Story: Neave and Lilly Terhune couldn’t be more different. Lilly is a beauty who runs through men like water. Neave, having been told at an early age by their mother that she will not be able to get by on her looks, always has her head in a book. During WWII, when the men are gone, both sisters start working. But when the servicemen return and take back their jobs, Neave and Lilly are left with few options besides marriage. But they have other ideas. But just as their business is truly taking off, Lilly disappears and Neave must figure out what happened. Luckily, she has Lilly’s assistance helping from above, even if she doesn’t know it quite yet.

Why I'm Reading It: I saw it on NetGalley, and the synopsis piqued my interest. I'm not fully loving it at the moment, but I'm hoping it just gets better from here.

What are you reading, or are on your TBR right now?

[Announcement] New Header!

Hello friends! Last week, I took a short break from blogging to spend some much-needed quality time with my family. I thought it would be perfect to come back with this update. I have a new header!!

My wonderful and talented friend, Elise, created the wonderful image above. I've dreamed about this picture ever since I started the blog, and she's actually brought it to life. 💜You'll see it on my Twitter as well, and if you like, you can grab my button from the sidebar!

You should check out Elise's art in her Etsy shop! She creates watercolour painting of awesome babes of pop culture. You should also follow her on Instagram and see what project she's working on next!

I'm so psyched about this update, and I hope you love it too!

[Review] The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

The Star-Touched Queen is a beautifully-written Hades and Persephone-style story about Maya, a princess born under a horoscope of death and destruction, who is set on a path to discover her strength and who she really is. Chokshi writes gorgeous prose, and the worlds Maya live in are enchanting. At times, however, the plot gets a little lost amidst the pretty. 

Given my lack of familiarity with either the Hades and Persephone or the Indian mythology, I was reading this story with entirely fresh eyes. I read so much fantasy that sometimes elements of the world feel worn, so it was a lot of fun to have this setting where most of the elements - the magical creatures and themes - are unfamiliar. My favourite was the flesh-eating horse demon, Kamala, and the elephant who spun clouds. And of course, The Night Bazaar.

I didn't know what to think at first about Amar. He seems like an absolute dream - a guy who promises to share his kingdom with you in a relationship that is completely equal. At the same time, he is unable to tell Maya pretty much anything about himself, or why he seems to have loved her even before they met. To be honest, by the end I wasn't fully swept up by the romance, but for me the story is less about their love anyway and more about Maya's journey to finding her place and self.

Chokshi's writing is stunning. Just look at this:

What I wanted was a connection, a shared heartbeat that kept rhythm across oceans and worlds. Not some alliance cobbled out of war. I didn’t want the prince from the folktales or some milk-skinned, honey-eyed youth who said his greetings and proclaimed his love in the same breath. I wanted a love thick with time, as inscrutable as if a lathe had carved it from night and as familiar as the marrow in my bones. 
She has a way with similes and metaphors, and her style really suits the genre. At times, however, I got sidetracked by the poetry of her writing that I lost the thread of the story. A couple of times, I had to backtrack to make sure I hadn't just missed an explanation about something. All in all, though, The Star-Touched Queen was an enjoyable debut that would suit fans of fantasy and retellings of mythology. I look forward to reading more from Roshani Chokshi!

Reading this book contributes to the following challenges:
❥ Goodreads Challenge

Title: The Star-Touched Queen (The Star-Touched Queen #1) ❙ Author: Roshani Chokshi ❙ Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin ❙ Source: Borrowed ❙ Release Date: 26 April 2016

"Maya is cursed. With a horoscope that promises a marriage of death and destruction, she has earned only the scorn and fear of her father’s kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her whole world is torn apart when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. Soon Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Neither roles are what she expected: As Akaran’s queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar’s wife, she finds something else entirely: Compassion. Protection. Desire…

But Akaran has its own secrets—thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Soon, Maya suspects her life is in danger. Yet who, besides her husband, can she trust? With the fate of the human and Otherworldly realms hanging in the balance, Maya must unravel an ancient mystery that spans reincarnated lives to save those she loves the most…including herself."

[ARC Review] the princess saves herself in this one by Amanda Lovelace

Let's start this off by stating what may soon become obvious: technically speaking, I don't understand poetry. I don't know much about the different structures or techniques. The only thing I understand is when poetry moves me, though I can't intelligently tell you why. It's why I like reading the lyrics to songs, and why I burst into tears when I first listened to this. The title - the princess saves herself in this one - immediately grabbed my attention. My first ever blog had a similar sentence as its tagline. I don't usually read poetry collections, but I wanted to read this one.

It's a difficult book to review as usual. Not only because I have no preference for a particular structure of poetry and so has no criticism or observation to offer in that area, but also because the poems feel so raw and personal. I can't criticise her writing. Some of them struck a deep chord with me, some of them didn't. There are some that I would love to share, because I think a lot of people should hear them. Overall, I'm awed by the bravery it takes to bleed your heart out onto the pages like Lovelace has done here. By the time I reached 'the queen' part of the book, I was absolutely rooting for her.

I think there are girls out there who should read this collection and who would see themselves in it, if not parts of it. As for me, I probably won't go out of my way to read more poetry in this form, but I appreciated having read this book.

(I received a copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This has not influenced my opinions of the book.)

Reading this book contributes to the following challenges:

❥ Goodreads Challenge

Title: the princess saves herself in this one ❙ Author: Amanda Lovelace ❙ Publisher: Andres McMeel Publishing ❙ Source: NetGalley ❙ Release Date: 14 February 2017

"A poetry collection divided into four different parts: the princess, the damsel, the queen, & you. the princess, the damsel, & the queen piece together the life of the author in three stages, while you serves as a note to the reader & all of humankind. Explores life & all of its love, loss, grief, healing, empowerment, & inspirations."

[ARC Review] Ida by Alison Evans

Ida has something I wish to read more of (diversity), something that I'm fascinated by (parallel universes), and something I can totally relate to (feeling stuck with life). Pack all of those up with an eerie, gripping plotline, and voila! You get a book you can't put down.

The thing I love most about Ida is the diversity. Ida has a Vietnamese mother and a German father. She identifies as bisexual and is in a relationship with a genderqueer person. Her cousin is also genderqueer. These are just parts of the characters' identities - no big deal in their day to day, though I sensed hints of the larger society's biases against them. It was a big deal for me, however, as it was the first time I read a book with genderqueer characters. It was eye-opening, in that I had to check some of my ingrained assumptions about pronouns.

The plot revolves around Ida's ability to switch between different universes. The thing is, she doesn't know that she can do this - she thinks she's travelling back in time. There are two aspects to this that I love. The first is the way Ida uses her ability to fix any mistake or change even the smallest decisions, like choosing a different shampoo. If I could time-travel, there's a 90% possibility that I would do exactly what Ida did. The second is that, in the story, there is a company whose job is to watch out for people like Ida who are unaware of the consequences of switching. These characters, genderqueer and ageless, are as fascinating as Ida, and I'd love to read more about their work, lives, and how the company came to be.  

On the down side, there are points during the storywhere I felt like I've missed something. I had to backtrack to understand why Ida was so jumpy at first, and I was confused about the terms she used to describe her ability. At times it sounded like she knew she was switching universes, when she wasn't supposed to know about it yet.

While I couldn't relate to her extraordinary ability, I could relate to that feeling of not knowing where you're heading, or trying your hardest to move forward but you just can't seem to. I'm not sure if it's the intention, but the concept of parallel universes is particularly fascinating to me in this context. There might be different versions of yourself and your life out there, but perhaps at the end of the day they're all moving in the same direction and you have to make the same decisions in any life.

Overall, Ida was an excellent, thought-provoking read. Not only did I love the science-fiction-y concepts that the plot involves, but also the way it is grounded in the very real struggles of young adults.

(I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way influenced my opinion on the book.)

Reading this book contributes to the following challenges:

❥ Goodreads Challenge

Title: Ida ❙ Author: Alison Evans ❙ Publisher: Echo Publishing ❙ Source: NetGalley ❙ Release Date: 2 February 2017

"How do people decide on a path, and find the drive to pursue what they want? 

Ida struggles more than other young people to work this out. She can shift between parallel universes, allowing her to follow alternative paths. 

One day Ida sees a shadowy, see-through doppelganger of herself on the train. She starts to wonder if she’s actually in control of her ability, and whether there are effects far beyond what she’s considered.

How can she know, anyway, whether one universe is ultimately better than another? And what if the continual shifting causes her to lose what is most important to her, just as she’s discovering what that is, and she can never find her way back?"

[Cake Break] Let's Catch Up

I love Jamie at Perpetual Page-Turner's feature here, where she talks to her readers as if they are meeting up for coffee. I adore getting to know a little more about her this way, so I'd like to follow her lead and maybe make some connections myself! I'm adapting it slightly because I go for sweets over coffee. So, have a cake break and chat with me?

Hii! It's been a while since we last caught up with each other. How have you been? I hope 2017 has been kind to you so far, and I hope you're okay. Watching the news, it feels like the world is spiralling, and it's a relief to (sort of) see a friendly face. Today, I have my nutella toast, but I'm dreaming of this:

Photo credit: Nuts About Tella.

If we were sharing this doughnut...
I'd tell you that I've been feeling a lot of gratitude for the friends that I have. I've always had trouble making friends, mainly 'cause I'm an awkward turtle about initiating conversations. In recent times, there have been moments when I feel sad that my efforts to pursue friendships haven't been reciprocated. Lately I've been catching up with everyone, however, and I'm reminded that I already have awesome people in my life. It's always good to make new friends, but I'm also happy with what I have.

I'd ask you if you have any recommendations for an easy, healthy breakfast. You may have noticed by now that I'm weak for Nutella. Last year, I got into a bad habit of having it on toast for breakfast practically every day. Yeah, it's not good. So I've been working on breaking that habit by eating breakfast parfaits, or good old eggs and bacon. I'm always open for recommendations though!

And on that note, I'd tell you that I've been cooking and baking a lot! Well, more than I normally ever do, anyway. It's the restlessness of the holiday, I tell you. Since around Christmas time, I've tried about seven different new recipes. Mind you, I haven't gotten them perfectly right, but I haven't burnt down the kitchen either! What's a skill you'd like to get better at?

I'd ask you if you've ever read mangas. Until I was in about fifth grade, my mother actually banned my sister and I from reading mangas, believing that we'll benefit more from getting into the habit of reading 'proper' books. I don't know if she was right or not, but she did let us read them eventually. Cardcaptor Sakura was my favourite, and I recently found out they're doing a new series for it! I've read a few chapters and they gave me the best kind of nostalgia.

I hate to end this on a depressing note, but I'd have to confess that I'm scared about where the world is heading. I watch the news about what's happening in USA, and I feel helpless and angry. I see the reactions of the Australian government to the immigration ban, and I worry for my future as an immigrant here. I talk to my parents about what's going on at home regarding attitudes to people like me, and I'm not sure it'll be safe for me to keep calling it home. So where do I belong? If we're heading for disaster, where will I go? If you share similar fears, I hope you know you're not alone. I don't know how to make it better, but I stand with you.

Anyway, tell me what's new with you! 
What have you been up to?