Shades of Greatness – A Review of Elantris by Brandon Sanderson

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I come across writers at various stage of their career. Sometimes I get lucky, and come in at the ground floor, as it were, picking up an author’s debut novel and then following them as their career (hopefully) grows and flourishes. Sometimes I come to it at the end, when the author has either not written anything in a very long time or (as is more often the case) already passed away. And then there are those times when I start reading an author’s works in the middle of their careers, when they already have a few (or several, if they are prolific) books under their belt and are still capable of producing many more.

That was the case with Brandon Sanderson. The first book of his that I ever read was The Final Empire, which is the first novel in the Mistborn series. To say that I was blown away is something of an understatement; after reading that novel I practically inhaled the two other books in the first trilogy, and while I haven’t gotten around to reading the sequel trilogy, it’s because I got sucked into the even more epic (and even more delightful) Stormlight Archive.

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On Transforming the Self – A Review of Circe by Madeline Miller

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I first read the Odyssey when I was around nine or ten. Lest anyone think I was far more precocious than I actually was at the time, it was a prose illustrated version of the epic poem. The book was intended for twelve-year-olds and older, but my mother was well aware that my reading level was far in advance of my peers’, and so had no qualms about handing me the book.

That book would become one of the cornerstone books of my childhood: a book that would guide my future reading in various ways, and which still continues to guide my reading today. Thanks to it I have an abiding love for clever characters who think their way out of their problems – even as they think their way into them, sometimes. I had been told for a majority of my life that I was a smart girl, but never that I was strong. So to read about Odysseus, whose prowess and success was defined not by his strength but by his cleverness, his smarts, was to find an archetype to whom I could finally relate.

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A Typical Young Adult Story Somewhat Redeemed by Its Setting – A Review of The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo

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Since around 2017 I have actively tried to make forays back into young adult literature after many long years not reading in the genre. I abandoned YA not long after The Hunger Games movies reached the peak of their popularity, and it began to seem like every new YA release was merely a poor, cliche-laden copycat of Suzanne Collins’ (exceptional) series. When almost every other book looked like a badly-done cash grab for a slice of The Hunger Games’ popularity, I decided to cut my losses and move on.

Lately, though, I have been trying to get back into YA, mostly because it looks as though the genre’s attempts to ride on The Hunger Games’ coattails is over. There is a trend away from the cliched “White People’s Love Triangle at the End of the World” types of stories that have been popular for a while now, and more towards stories about more important political issues both in the past and in the present. Even better, people of colour are becoming more visible in YA, telling their own stories and, through those stories, tackling vital issues about what it means to live and grow in the 21st century.

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This is Personal – A Review of America Is Not the Heart by Elaine Castillo

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It’s not often that I write a review this early, in the first raw, blistering moments immediately after a really, really good book. That’s not how I was taught to do it. My professors always taught that these kinds of things require separation. I’ve been told that it’s always best to put some gap between the self and the experience, some breathing room, the better to see things clearly.

Except I cannot do that right now. I feel it would be almost a disservice to put that distance, to let these new-formed wounds scab over for later contemplation.

So I shall let it be. I shall write while the wounds are still open, and see what to make of it.

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A Fun Adventure That Could Push Harder, But Doesn’t – A Review of Free Chocolate by Amber Royer

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This review is based on an ARC given to me for free by the publisher, Angry Robot Books. This does not in any way affect my review.

This book is slated for release on June 5, 2018.

I’ve loved chocolate since I had my first taste of it when I was a little girl. It was a piece broken off of a Nestle Crunch candy bar, handed to me by one of my parents, though I don’t remember which. That first taste created a love for chocolate that lasts to this day (though nowadays I eat more dark chocolate than milk chocolate, due both to changing tastes and health reasons). Indeed, there is no flavour quite like chocolate – and I and many chocoholics both in the past and in the future will agree that chocolate is one of the most sublime foodstuffs ever discovered.

The sublimity of chocolate was first discovered by the Mesoamericans, who first started harvesting and then cultivating the cacao plant for use in rituals and medicine – and later, when the Aztecs came to power, as currency. When the Spanish conquered Central America they brought chocolate over to Europe, where it became a popular foodstuff; as a result, plantations were set up all across the world, most of them in colonies falling within a narrow band of twenty degrees north and south of the equator. Most of the world’s chocolate now comes from countries that fall in that band: the Ivory Coast and Ghana are the leaders of production, with Indonesia, Cameroon, and Nigeria close at their heels. The Philippines is a very small producer, comparatively speaking, but the quality of the chocolate produced is exceptional, if the results from the 2017 Academy of Chocolate Awards are any indication.

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