The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

 

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It must take some daring, writing a novel inspired by One Thousand and One Nights, which has seen so many versions and interpretations that it seems impossible to write something fresh and different based on it.

(One of my favourites is Sharaz-De, the visually sumptuous graphic novel version by Italian Sergio Toppi).

But somehow Renee Ahdieh has done it. She’s written a story that is more than just the One Thousand and One Nights of stories, it is a story about a brave and strong young woman, who is fearless and also vulnerable, and a conflicted king with the reputation of a monster, one who marries and murders each new wife before dawn. It is an adventure with sword fighting and archery and a hint of dark magic.

“We women are a sad lot, aren’t we?”
“What do you mean?”
“Strong enough to take on the world with our bare hands, yet we permit ridiculous boys to make fools of us.”

Part of me was a bit hesitant when I went into this book. But then I got sucked into it, and this reader-of-several-books-at-a-time sank and submerged into this one book and only came up for air when I was done. It just propelled me along, wanting to know the reason for the caliph’s evil deeds, whether Shazi would seek revenge for her best friend’s death, and what was going on with her father??

Ahdieh is adept at making the reader reconsider the characters in the story, that the ‘good guys’ might not necessarily be the heroes, that there may be something else behind the ‘bad guys’.

As she said in an interview with Hypable:

“There are no heroes or villains,” she told us, “There are only people who want different things.”

Silly me, I hadn’t quite realized this was the first book in a series when I started reading it, but too late, I was already enthralled and will just have to wait until the next one emerges soon – later this month!

out10ishere

I read this book for the Once Upon a Time X challenge,

hosted by Carl of Stainless Steel Droppings.

Recent Reads: Displacement; Supermutant Magic Academy; Dial H

Last week’s reads include quite a few comic books/graphic novels. Some of which took me by surprise.

 

Displacement: a travelogue – Lucy Knisley

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Knisley’s illustration style is always so pretty and pleasant. Just really cute and kind of huggable. Even when the subject is a little bit less than pretty and pleasant – taking care of her two aging grandparents on a holiday cruise. Her grandparents are in their early 90s. And amazingly they are still up and moving and able to go on a cruise, something that the retirement home they live in has organised. Although whether they are able to enjoy the cruise is a different thing. Lucy’s grandfather has asthma and can’t walk much, and while her grandmother is more mobile she is less lucid and doesn’t know who anyone is except her husband. So this holiday for Lucy is more of a stressful one than she expects. She has to shepherd them around, make sure they take their medications, help them pack and unpack, make sure they don’t get lost in the huge ship, get them fed and in bed. It is at times an uncomfortable read, knowing that this is the life that awaits many of us.

Supermutant Magic Academy – Jillian Tamaki

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This is a collection of webcomics that Tamaki has been writing and illustrating since 2010, although according to her website, “minus the really, really bad ones”, and including some new pages. You probably can guess from its title – set in a magic school, full of weird characters, some not exactly human. But whether human or not, they face the usual teenage problems. Boys. Girls. Crushes. Relationships. Problems at school. Problems keeping their human form together and disintegrating into the ether. You know, the usual stuff.

Probably my favourite page

One has to keep in mind its original form, that of a webcomic, when reading this. So instead of a proper storyline, the book is more to be read as anecdotes in the lives of these students. The exception is the story that spans quite a few pages at the end.

I rather enjoyed Tamaki’s sense of humour, as well as her illustrations. And I liked how, despite the lack of a proper story arc, we get to know the characters and their rather unique lives.

Tamaki, by the way, illustrated the Eisner Award-winning This One Summer which she co-created with her cousin Mariko.

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This counts towards the Diversity on the Shelf challenge.


 

Loyola Chin and the San Peligro Order – Gene Luen Yang

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I was surprised to see this book on the teen comics shelves at the library, mostly because I thought I had read all – or nearly all – of Yang’s comics. Turns out I was wrong! This is a rather weird book, it starts out with Loyola learning that she can alter her dreams by consuming weird foods. But it is cornbread that leads her to this strange being whom she develops a major crush on. Then learns that he has some strange schemes up his, erm, non-existent sleeve.

I always appreciate it when Asian characters in books are just regular people. Ok, so in this case, a regular cornbread-eating-weird-dreaming girl. What I mean is that this story is not about being Asian. That Loyola Chin could easily be substituted for any other girl of any ethnicity who dreams weird dreams.

While parts of this story was just a bit too odd (plugging a TV wire into your nose-kind of weird), I did like the bits that were less dream-like and more reality-based, like her classmate Gordon Yamamoto having a crush on Loyola. This book, by the way, is apparently the sequel to Gordon Yamamoto and the King of the Geeks. I didn’t know that when I borrowed this book. So now I’m going to have to go find that one, because I liked the Gordon Yamamoto character, the big dumb guy who’s kind of sweet.

Also why is Loyola always wearing a t-shirt and a long skirt?

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This is yet another Diversity on the Shelf read

Dial H Vol 1: Into You – China Miéville, Mateus Santolouco (Artist), Riccardo Burchielli (Artist), David Lapham (Artist)

When I spotted China Mieville’s name on this book, I had to pick it up. I didn’t know he wrote comics and was excited to see it. But it didn’t start out so great for me. The first part of the book was a bit confusing.

Nelson Jent is overweight, unemployed, and a bit of a loser really. But when his friend gets beaten up by thugs, he tries to help out and finds himself in a phone booth trying to call for help. But instead he turns into….

boychimney

the very ugly Boy Chimney.

I was very put off by that. Ugh. Cannot stand looking at that image. And I’m not usually squeamish.

Thankfully Boy Chimney isn’t his forever-costume. Instead, the dial turns Nelson into a variety of superheroes, like Iron Snail and Captain Lachrymose.

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And yes, while Nelson is male, he is not your typical good-looking athletic young man type of superhero, he’s large and generally unhappy with his life. I also appreciate the women in this superhero comic, on both good and bad sides.

Apparently this is a reboot of a classic DC series. Is this something I’d like to read more of? I’m still on the fence there.

2016 Reading Challenges

Ah, a new year, a clean slate! And this year, with my number of books read set back to zero, I would like to begin again and join some challenges. More importantly, I will try my very best to maintain my enthusiasm for the challenges throughout the year!

 

BackToTheClassics2016

 

Karen at Books and Chocolate is once again hosting the Back to the Classics Challenge,  where we will be reading books written at least 50 years ago (by 1966) in 12 different categories. Or at least I hope to be able to read books in all 12 categories!

1. A 19th Century Classic – any book published between 1800 and 1899.

An Old-Fashioned Girl – Louisa May Alcott (published 1869)

2.  A 20th Century Classic – any book published between 1900 and 1966.

The Making of a Marchioness – Frances Hodgson Burnett (published 1901)

3.  A classic by a woman author.

Read: Miss Happiness and Miss Flower – Rumer Godden (published 1961)

The Time of Man – Elizabeth Madox Roberts (published 1935)

4.  A classic in translation.

Read: Alberto Moravia’s Conjugal Love (translated from Italian)
Journey to the End of the Night – Louis-Ferdinand Céline, Ralph Manheim (Translator) (published 1932)
Dom Casmurro – Machado de Assis (published in 1899)
The Makioka Sisters – Jun’ichirō Tanizaki, Edward G. Seidensticker (Translator) (published 1943)

5.  A classic by a non-white author.

Read: The Makioka Sisters by Junichiro Tanizaki

A Raisin in the Sun – Lorraine Hansberry (published 1959)
Go Tell it On the Mountain – James Baldwin (published 1953)
The Train to Pakistan – Khushwant Singh (published 1956)

6.  An adventure classic – can be fiction or non-fiction.

Read: Kon-Tiki by Thor Heyerdahl

Wind, Sand and Stars – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Lewis Galantière (Translator) (published 1939)
Annapurna: The First Conquest of an 8,000-Meter Peak – Maurice Herzog (published 1951)

7.  A fantasy, science fiction, or dystopian classic.

The Man in the High Castle – Philip K Dick (published 1962)
When the Sleeper Wakes – HG Wells (published 1899)

8.  A classic detective novel.

The Crime at Black Dudley – Margery Allingham (published 1929)
And Then There Were None – Agatha Christie (published 1939)

9.  A classic which includes the name of a place in the title.

Howard End – EM Forster
Winesburg, Ohio – Sherwood Anderson

10. A classic which has been banned or censored. If possible, please mention why this book was banned or censored in your review.

A Separate Peace – John Knowles

according to the ALA: Challenged in Vernon-Verona-Sherill, NY School District (1980) as a “filthy, trashy sex novel.” Challenged at the Fannett-Metal High School in Shippensburg, Pa. (1985) because of its allegedly offensive language. Challenged as appropriate for high school reading lists in the Shelby County, Tenn. school system (1989) because the novel contained “offensive language.” Challenged at the McDowell County, N.C. schools (1996) because of “graphic language.” Source: Newsletter on Intellectual Freedom, May 1980, p. 62; Nov. 1985, p. 204; Jan, 1990, pp 11-12; Jan. 1997, p. 11.

11. Re-read a classic you read in school (high school or college). 

Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
Gulliver’s Travels – Jonathan Swift (published 1726)

12. A volume of classic short stories. This must be one complete volume, at least 8 short stories.

Stories – Katherine Mansfield (published 1956)

ReadMyOwnDamnBooksbutton

#ReadMyOwnDamnBooks over at Estellas Revenge

 

I’ve got a pile of books on my night stand, and another next to my Macbook. Both of which I hope to clear by the end of 2016.

 

  

 

diversity

Diversity on the Shelf 2016 over at The Englishist

I’ve taken part in Aarti’s Diversiverse for the past couple of years now, but I try to read as diversely as possible throughout the year too. I just need to post about these books already. Hopefully this challenge will encourage me to do more of that.

I’m going for 5th Shelf: Read 25+ books

BOOKS READ 

1. Delicious Foods – James Hannaham
2. Supermutant Magic Academy – Jillian Tamaki
3. Loyola Chin and the San Peligran Order – Gene Luen Yang
4. The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye – Sonny Liew
5. The Makioka Sisters – Junichiro Tanizaki
6. The Wrath and the Dawn – Renee Ahdieh
7. The Old Garden – Hwang Sok-yong
8. Nijigahara Holograph – Inio Asano
9. The Book of Memory – Petina Gappah
10. Fresh off the Boat – Eddie Huang
11. Mayumi and the Sea of Happiness – Jennifer Tseng
12. Modern Romance – Aziz Ansari
13. The Paper Menagerie and other stories – Ken Liu
14. Who Slashed Celanire’s throat? A Fantastical Novel – Maryse Conde
The Partner Track by Helen Wan
15. Half a Lifelong Romance by Eileen Chang

I’m not going to list all the books right now, instead, I’m noting some books already on the lists of my other challenges (see above)

In the Light of What we know – Zia Haider Rahman
Ten Things My Father Never Taught Me and other stories – Cyril Wong
The Makioka Sisters – Jun’ichirō Tanizaki, Edward G. Seidensticker (Translator)
A Raisin in the Sun – Lorraine Hansberry
Go Tell it On the Mountain – James Baldwin
The Train to Pakistan – Khushwant Singh

I’m also adding to that some books on my list for Diversiverse last year that I never got to
Skin Folk: stories by Nalo Hopkinson
Grace of Kings by Ken Liu
Spirits Abroad by Zen Cho

 

Nonfiction Reading Challenge hosted at The Introverted Reader
Non-fiction Reading Challenge – The Introverted Reader

Explorer–Read 6-10

What makes this book so great – Jo Walton
Why I read: the serious pleasure of books – Wendy Lesser
Fire shut up in my bones – Charles M Blow
Four seasons in Rome – Anthony Doerr
Population: 485 – Michael Perry
Between the World and Me: – Ta-Nehisi Coates
The Corpse Walker: Real Life Stories, China from the Bottom Up – Liao Yiwu, Wenguang Huang (Translator)
As Always, Julia: The Letters of Julia Child and Avis DeVoto

(and more to come)