The Cup of the World: Review & Thoughts


This post will contain spoilers. It is not so much a review but merely thoughts.

The Cup of the world starts off like the typical, magical YA medieval fantasy with romance. However, it diverges and becomes more mature, exploring the psychological effects of lies and manipulation.

The book is about Phaedra, daughter of a baron who has been visited by a stranger in her dreams for a long time. As she becomes of age and word of her beauty spreads, she is constantly sought after for her hand in marriage yet she rejects them all, even one of the prince. instead, she arranges to elope with the stranger in her dreams, Ulfin, lol of Tarceny. All seems well…too well. Thus, the plot begins and war wages in attempts to retrieve Phaedra who everyone believes has become bewitched due to Tarceny’s reputation of black magic and defiance to the king.

While many do not have an affinity for the protagonist Phaedra, due to her cold and selfish nature, I’d say it is done so to portray her mental state as a victim in a Stockholm syndrome manner–being highly suspicious of those who tries to help her cause where she is the only one blind to her situation that she needs saving. At times, the realization of the situation surfaces, but she quickly pushes it aside in justification of her actions and the supposed love between her and Ulfin. I can’t help but think this story would be the modern day equivalent of abuse, manipulation and estrangement by a sociopath and the road to redemption and reclaiming one’s self. In this case, the sociopath being Ulfin who uses Phaedra for his own purposes and makes his moves of deceit strategically well in advance.

I finished the book at night and my mind was in the world of Trant the whole night and upon waking, wondering if there had been an ounce of goodness in Ulfin, who almost successfully wins Phaedra back with more lies at the end. The book leaves me wanting more of a light and happy fantasy novel yet I appreciate it taking a different approach.

Developing Range of Vocabulary

Since the days of memorizing vocabulary in K-12, I feel my range of vocabulary is very narrow — bad for being an aspiring writer.

I use Kindle these days to read and sought to find a way of adding words I looked up from the dictionary within Kindle into a list, preferably a list I can quiz myself on digitally. Unfortunately, there were no such apps or integration. The closest thing to that functionality is built specifically on the Kindle Paperwhite. I have an iPad. So, I googled apps and found’s app!

vocab appThis app allows you to look up words and add it to a list of words you are learning. This is a two step process when I’m reading but it works for me. When I read and come across a word I don’t know and want to learn, I simply look it up and add it to my list. My goal is quizzing myself for 5-10 minutes per night before I go to bed everyday. I’ve started day one and already increasing my range of vocabulary.

The app has a ‘play’ function that combines random words and your list and gives you a variety of quiz questions in which you earn points for correct answers. I love the app and its user interface. One problem I came across is that not all words can be added to your list, though this happens occasionally only.

Practicing My Voice

While reading John Gardner’s ‘The Art of Fiction,’ I had to stop and write down this piece as an exercise in voice and style:

A few summers when I was still a child at our old house–not the last one but the one on the corner of Thomas and Lake– my aunts, after visiting California, brought up bread I yearn for every summer; a scarcity not found here: bread with purple, yam paste swirled inside–a moist and warm consistency as if the heat of California had traveled here. We loved it so much, my sister located the pastry shop to a Chinese San Diego store upon visiting her boyfriend deployed there and returned with the bread for us.

Book Review: The Name of the Wind

the name of the windI picked up The Name of the Wind by Patric Rothfuss in The King-Killer Chronicles for two reasons: I needed another series to keep me occupied while waiting for the 6th book in A Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones), and I read raving reviews about The Name of the Wind. I admit the prologue’s writing style scared me, thinking the rest of the book would be written the same way that didn’t really engage me and kept me at a distance. However, past the prologue, the narrative appealed to me, even with the first person narrative.

Kote, the innkeeper is an instantly likable character. He is very well alive with Patrick Rothfuss’ detailed descriptions here and there:

The man had true-red hair, red as flame. His eyes were dark and distant, and he moved with the subtle certainty that comes from knowing many things.

From that, we know that our protagonist is more than the average, ordinary person both in physicality and in skill or knowledge.

He moved with a strange delicacy and grace, as if he were close to dancing.

How can you not like a person with such grace?

As we learn more about Kote, we love him more even with his serious flaws that puts him in trouble. I’m assuming you have to be an avid reader to pick up this book and with that, Kote/Kvothe also relates to the readers with his immense love of reading and knowledge. We relate to his attraction to the world’s largest library of books upon books. He is a fascinating character we want to learn more about as we take a look into how a legend is made (reminding me of Cynthia Voigt’s Jackaroo). This series is all about stories: the myths (and truths), legend making and trying to change stories (or history).

The book and series is broken down into the present where Kote is hiding away in a small town, and three days of telling his story. His story seems different than typical orphan heroes because we learn of his life before he became an orphan. He was someone before, and that makes for a better sense of intimacy with the hero.

Music plays a large role in this series–in the lives of the main characters. Instead of just mentioning song lyrics, we are presented with the instruments and even musical elements. Upon finishing the book, I was inspired to find and listen to medieval music though what I long for are the actual music in the book, wanting to be even more immersed in the world of The Name of the Wind. When an author creates a secondary world so alive that you want even more, you know it is a good book.

One thing that I’m not so sure about is the cataclysmic moment (recalled later on several times) that pushes Kvothe on his journey. I’m not sure it was believable, or rather, if it had an impact on me. Perhaps if we had been presented more with his troupe other than being so focused on Kvothe that the rest is just background, there would’ve been an emotional impact. Think A Song of Ice and Fire by George RR Martin. There were traumatic instances for me as a reader of which I won’t spoil on here. Though Kvothe speaks of how devastating the experience was, I did not feel that same devastation.

Otherwise, this is a series to look out for! Another thing, it has a well thought out and complex magic system that takes on a scientific approach. Definitely interesting. Anyways, FOX has allegedly bought the rights for it and I wish HBO would buy it instead and make a tv series of it. Now remains, who to cast?! :)

Film Review: Aragami


Aragami is produced by Ryuhei Kitamura who is known for his cult film Versus. Aragami follows the fate of two wounded samurai finding shelter at an isolated temple. There, they meet the lord of the temple and a woman. However, the two are not any regular beings and the situation turns tense as the man hands a difficult responsibility to the only surviving samurai and reveals his identity. Aragami is for people who can appreciate good dialogues, great acting, social dynamics and sword fights.

From the mysterious host of the temple’s true identity to the ending cameo, it never ceases to stimulate. Each dialogue and interaction has intent and moves the story forward. Aragami is well paced and builds suspense, even with the intentional long pauses of tense silence that eventually breaks out.


The acting is superb for shooting and finishing the film in 7 days — one of the requirements as part of a challenge with the director of 2LDK. Other requirements were having only 2-3 actors, one room, and one character must die. Masaya Kato who plays the mysterious lord of the temple oozes a strong, charismatic presence whereas Takao Ohsawa, the healing samurai, dons his role well as the underdog for the job the mysterious warrior has endowed on him. Kanae Uotani plays the mysterious woman accompaniment of Masaya Kato. Chemistry can be seen between the two men with their very different personalities but the audience will be drawn to the mysterious warrior, Masaya for his elegant clothes and charisma. In real life, Masaya Kato also does martial arts and has experience with sword fighting. This may be the reason he is so in character. (I have noticed in person that those with a theater, dance or martial arts background has a different posture and presence than normal people). I have left out the official names or titles to prevent spoilers because the film will be more enjoyable learning one thing at a time such as identities.

You have to applaud Ryuhei Kitamura for his ability to deliver a good story with limited characters, production time and only one room for the setting. If you love seeing a wide collection of weapons–especially swords–this movie is for you. All the swordplay and fights are entertaining and the conversations are interesting. Do not miss out on this gem!

If you’ve seen Aragami, leave your thoughts in the comments!

Book Review: Stardust by Neil Gaiman

stardustThis is my first Neil Gaiman book. I was a little disappointed with the writing style initially, but it works for the genre that Gaiman intends. The writing style is like an oration. Stardust is pretty much a fairytale for adults but an original story and not a retelling of classics such as Snow White. It was a quick read and satisfied my thirst for fantasy. At times, solutions are too simple–similar to Ponyo’s antclimactic climax: a disappointing moment where the solution was uttering an oath of love. Starfust is straightforward and linear, yet story arcs all lead up to each other with a nicely tied ending. Neil Gaiman succeeds at creating a hook at the end of each chapter, leaving the reader with an “a-ha!” and wanting to know more.

I thought Stardust would make a fantastic movie, and there is one! However, the quality of the movie didn’t seem up to par.

Stardust is an easy, fun read and I recommend it! It’s only 1.99 right now for Kindle.

Fantasy & Sci-fi Books for Teenage Girls

These were my favorite fantasy and sci-fi books as a teenaged girl and highly recommend for the adventurous girl. They made me yearn for my own journeys…and also soup with bread, potatoes, onions and carrots (it always seemed so tasty in these books). I wonder why these books have not been made into movies yet because they would be perfect (compared to the ones such as teen sci-fi and paranormal romance). While I understand that teens these days may relate more and are more interested in the usual sci-fi books such as Divergent or paranormal romance such as Twilight that are set in a modern world, I believe the genre and settings of those I suggest are still great for teen girls as it instills a sense of wonder, adventure and girl power. Unfortunately, I can’t offer too much details because it has been a long time since I’ve read these books, but once I re-read them, I’ll update my reviews.

Claidi Journals by Tanith Lee

The Claidi Journals series were my first Tanith Lee books that led me to her adult books such as Silver Metal Lover. While my peers were goggling over the Harry Potter world of fantasy, I was away in a bright, colorful, land of odd building structures and animals. My sister and I still whisper in each other’s ears, “Vrrbrr,” because it is such an amusing name for an animal we encountered in The Claidi Journals. What stood out to me was the brief introduction into genetics and choosing partners based on genetic fit-ness.

Wolf Tower: The Claidi Journals I (Claidi Journals, 1)

Wolf Star: The Claidi Journals II

Wolf Queen: The Claidi Journals III

Wolf Wing: The Claidi Journals IV

Kingdom Quartet by Cynthia Voigt

The Kingdom Quartet remains my favorite. I prefer the original cover images of Vermeer’s paintings rather than the ones below for the first two books as the paintings are more fitting. Sets in a British like world across generations with characters in each book loosely tied to characters in the other three. Jackaroo is the most bland of the series, but it questions the making of legends in an interesting way. There is not much adventure in Jackaroo but set within the same place throughout the book whereas the rest of the series are all about going off into the world. I loved reading The Wings of a Falcon while listening to Sounders’ song, Tsis Muaj Koj and also Ib Zaug Ntxiv (kudos to you if you appreciate music other than American). This song has a longing, ocean-y feel to it that really sets the tone for the book. You’ll understand when you read the beginning and get to the ending. It makes more sense when you understand the lyrics which are sung in Hmong. I wish there would be a continuation of the series and even more connections between the characters because oftentimes, I’m trying to find the connections even if there may be none.

Jackaroo: A Novel of the Kingdom

On Fortune’s Wheel (Kingdom)

The Wings of a Falcon

Elske: A Novel of the Kingdom



I listened to Princessa’s Seven Days a Week while reading East, amplifying the winter setting. Old music, I know, but it matches. East is a retelling of “East of the Sun and West of the Moon.” I have not read the original folklore but it is similar to Beauty and the Beast.

Treasure at the Heart of the Tanglewood (Action Packs)

The Goose Girl (Books of Bayern)

Daughter of the Forest: A Sevenwaters Novel 1 (Sevenwaters Trilogy)

I have not read the rest of the books in this series so I can’t comment on the series as a whole, but book one was good!

Enchantress from the Stars

Don’t judge a book by its cover, they say, but I did! I was automatically drawn to it while perusing a Scholastic Books catalog and eventually borrowed it from the public library. Never regretted it. The theme of living in a certain era and having thoughts well ahead of it saddened me. I believe this was my first sci-fi novel?

Dragon Sword and Wind Child (Tales of Magatama)

I’ve read the second book also but it pales in comparison to Dragon Sword and Wind Child. Or, maybe my literary expectations are just much higher now as an adult. I appreciated the author introduction included–the fact that she had to write and translate the tales she was told as a child instead of waiting for another person to write them.


Gravity Rush

Videogame Review: Gravity Rush

Gravity Rush is a mediocre adventure game. It’s not often that I play videogames with a female lead so it was interesting seeing how a female lead is crafted such as personality type and values that she–the mysterious Kat–stands for.

Gravity Rush took more than 1/3 of the game for me to be interested, albeit encouragement from Twitter friends. After 1/3 of the game, Gravity Rush gets better and better, only to cut you off with an ending without solving multiple loose ends.If I had played Gravity Rush a year ago, I would be angry. I’m not angry only because I know that there is a sequel that I’m looking forward to playing. Gravity Rush would’ve been a stronger game had it offered more storyline teasers throughout. I am addicted to those mysterious scenes that actually hook me in the game wanting to know more. There is definitely more to the story with themes of fate or destiny that were just barely brushed on which we will see in the sequel.

Gravity Rush is set in an era akin to a 1940′s (think 1940′s crime mystery films) with jazzy ensembles that do not particularly stand out. Although the music matched the setting, I think more could’ve been done to spark a connection with the player as I often do not notice the difference between each piece nor do I recall any in particular.

The monsters, called Nevi, reminds me of ICO which drew my interest in the game in the first place. They’re not difficult to defeat if you collect enough gems and level up (a part I somehow glossed over and missed until I watched a walkthrough). The art of mastering gravity also took watching a walkthrough to learn and could’ve saved me considerable time and energy because I always panicked when flying in the air uncontrollably.

I was disappointed at barring the player from going inside buildings and homes. There was a lack of interaction with nonplayable characters–an aspect critical for creating a lively world.

Overall, Gravity Rush is a fun game–I stayed up late playing it. It teases with its storyline but does not offer a satisfied end result in players.


Great Albums: Jason Mraz Before “We Sing. We Dance. We Steal Things.”

jason mraz

One of  my favorite musical artists throughout my teenage years was Jason Mraz. Pre-We Sing. We Dance. We Steal Things, specifically.I admit the first time I tried listening to his albums after falling in love with “The Remedy,” I found it boring and difficult to like. However, his music requires an acquired taste. On a second listen, I  got comfortable with his  style and  fell in love with tracks such as “You & I Both” and “Life is Wonderful” which allowed me to enjoy his other  tracks and appreciate his style and  music. I can’t just choose one album of his or target one specifically as a great album because most of them were good. Some were recorded concerts which combined songs from different albums and improvisation. I can say that a majority of the songs on each album appealed to me which is my definition of a great album.

Here’s an example of a live song and how he improvises at the end. The sound quality is superb.

I enjoyed all those albums before Jason Mraz became more mainstream. As stated by Jason Mraz, he grew as a person which affects the music he creates. That isn’t bad because we all need to  grow as individuals but the problem is his change in musical style and even lyrics.

Pre-WSWDWST Jason Mraz music was undefined. It was difficult to pinpoint what genre he fell in. Now, Jason Mraz aims for a hippy genre similar to “I’m Yours,” and even branches out to a country feel in his album Love is a Four Letter Word. His current music sounds canned and tries to fit  into predefined genres. I argue that  great art of any kind attempts to break genres and categories. They  combine genres and use whichever style best meet their expressive needs.

His  lyrics previously were raw, complex and had implied meanings rather than telling the listener directly what he feels or experiences. For example, in “Please Don’t Tell Her,” Jason Mraz never once flat out state that he misses his ex-girlfriend but implies it.

Please don’t tell her that I’ve been meaning to miss her
Because I don’t

Although he does  say the words in those lines, he’s trying to deny the fact that he in fact misses her. Here’s more:

Please don’t tell her that
‘Cause she don’t really need to know
That I’m crazy like the rest of us
And I’m crazier when I’m next to her

So why after the all of everything that came and went
I care enough to still be singing of the bitter end and broken eras
I told you I don’t but
I am only trying to be the best with my intent to cure
The rest is sure to lay me ease the plural hurts of the words of reverse psychology
That’s easier said
Easier than done
Please don’t dare tell her what I’ve become
Please don’t mention all the attention I have drawn
Please don’t bother cause she’ll feel guilty when I’m gone

Because I’m crazy like the rest of us
But I’m crazier when I’m next to her
And it’s amazing how she’s so self-assured
But I know she’d hate me if she knew my words
Do I hurt anymore
Do I hurt, well
I don’t

Here, he is showing us that he misses her without telling us. Good art shows and doesn’t tell. He’s showing what state he is in after their breakup. Basically, he’s a mess.

To contrast with that, here is what his current lyrics are like:

I don’t wanna be someone who walks away so easily
I’m here to stay and make the difference that I can make

Here, he is almost preaching his intents rather than showing his intents. The lyrical style has changed drastically.

I understand that the change in his music is because he wants to share positive music, but he doesn’t have to change his songwriting style. His music before were quite negative, or comes from a lacking perspective. Yet, emotions and experiences were expressed true. They had more emotional depth. This doesn’t mean I didn’t like We Sing. We Dance. We Steal Things. because there were actually some great tracks (ie: “A Beautiful Mess” and “Details in the Fabric”) and some with good lyrics like “Dynamo of Volition.” However, even in “Dynamo of Volition,” he is stating rather than showing.

With that said, I want the old Jason Mraz back! What do you think? Do you agree that his music has changed and which style do you prefer? Let me know in the comments!



Videogame Review: Xenoblade

The only thing I really liked about Xenoblade and what stood out the most was this:

Not surprising because this ending theme is the only musical piece by Yasunori Mitsuda. The ending theme makes up for the heart-warming feeling that Xenoblades lack in its ending.

Xenoblade does not live up to the hype–acclaimed as the best JRPG of this generation. I haven’t played JRPGs of this generation but all I know is, it is mediocre compared to last generation’s JRPGs/RPGs. Yet I post it on this blog because I’ve been looking forward to it and it’s from Monolith Soft. It isn’t a poorly done videogame and is worth the time, just not up to my expectations. If this is the best JRPG of this generation, then I can only imagine how terrible other JRPGs are.

Xenoblade took god knows how long until I became a little more interested in the game. To be exact, the point where Alvis saves Shulk through a mysterious encounter, enabling Shulk to reconnect with Dunban. I never developed a love for or interest in the characters, only a small interest enough in its story. The problem with Xenoblade from the start is that there wasn’t much to love such as the town and characters. Hence, once tragedies happen, they bore little heartache for me.

There are grand themes similar to Tetsuya Takahashi’s earlier RPG’s Xenogears and Xenosaga, however, these themes are not executed as well as the aforementioned. There is a lack of scale despite grandiose themes of man versus machine and man versus god(s). The music is good but none of them stirs my heart. They often are whimsical and tries to be emotional but does not evoke any emotions. Had Yasunori Mitsuda been hired as the main composer, the music would have turned out differently–much fonder.

Other tidbits:
- Even the most serious scenes are ruined by Riki’s yapping. Can anything be more annoying than the Nopon? And people thought Chu-Chu from Xenogears was worthless…
- Sidequests and Affinity are pointless. Sidequests should supplement the game, driving the story further
- Xenoblade lacked those fun puzzles every RPG has
- Kallian is most princely swoon (sorry, just fan-girling)

I am in the minority with my negative review, but my stance is justified by Tetsuya Takahashi’s statement in an interview his goal of producing a videogame anyone can like. Producing an RPG anyone can like means the game is diluted for the masses while alienating those with higher expectations. It has also been said by Tetsuya that Xenoblade is only 5% of what Monolith Soft can produce and they aim to produce better games than Xenoblade. If so, I await for that day. For an RPG that can surpass Xenogears. Despite my negative review, I’m proud that Tetsuya Takahashi created RPGs viewed as the best in both this and last generation: Xenoblade and Xenogears, respectively.