Tigers in Viet Lore and Upcoming Novellas

About

Let me be perfectly clear, this post is not belatedly inspired by the Netflix documentary, Tiger King. The idea for this post stemmed from my excitement for two upcoming Tor.com novella by authors from the Viet diaspora:

I love fantasy novella, I love Viet folklore, and I love the recurring imagery of tigers in our tales and imagination. Hence, this is a self-indulgent post where I reflect on these stories and how ponder on how they may link to the novellas above, while I wait eagerly for their publication date.

Continue reading “Tigers in Viet Lore and Upcoming Novellas”

Audiobook Review: The Bone Shard Daughter

Title: The Bone Shard Daughter

Author: Andrea Stewart

Series? Yes, 1 of 3

Goodreads

Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

Booktopia | Libro.fm | Book Depository

Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I also purchased my own copy of the audiobook for the purpose of this review.

There is a lot going on with The Bone Shard Daughter: part fantasy, part political thriller, part mystery, part sea-adventure, part sapphic romance. If all of that sounds good to you, you’ll be even more please to know that the book emerges more than just a sum of these parts, delivering a page-turning debut that is brimming with potential. I just finished the novel a few hours ago, and I already long to dive back into the world of the Endless Sea, its twisty magic systems, and its numerous characters.

Continue reading “Audiobook Review: The Bone Shard Daughter”

Battle of the Audiobooks

Why Audiobooks?

In the past year, over 80% of my books are consumed, at least in part, through audio format. I love audiobooks for many reasons, first and foremost as it allows me to multi-task and read while I am doing chores or engaging in other hobbies (it was houseplant tending in the summer, and now thanks to the lockdown I’ve been embroidering as I listen to audiobooks).

I also admit to being a little bit of a skim reader, and audiobook slows me down and let me savour a tale. There are also some books that are inherently better told orally, particularly ones that feature a story telling tone (like The Starless Sea, or Strange the Dreamer, or Raybearer). I know some readers feel that audiobook interferes with their interpretation of the tone of certain scenes, but for me, a good audiobook narrator amplifies those feelings and injects more life into it. Case in point, you haven’t lived until you inadvertently listen to a smut scene while out in public, something fellow romance readers can attest to.

However, audiobooks are eye-wateringly expensive when purchased on their own. As someone who goes through 8+ audiobooks a month (bless you, x2 speed), I have several apps and accounts dedicated to maximising my share of audiobooks each month. I’ll go through a few of them with you today and let you know which are my favourites.
The tl;dr version: libro.fm owns my life at the moment.

Note: My experience with these apps are limited to what an Australian resident can access.

Audible

Lets get the obvious one out of the way, for a long time (I’ve been an audible subscriber since 2015!) this was the only valid audiobook option for Aussie readers. The alternative was either borrowing the cd/tapes from your local library, or drop $50 to own the CDs yourself.

Costs: AU$16.45/month for one credit, additional books are priced $14.95 each for the Australian marketplace.
For the US Marketplace, Audible Premium Plus is US$14.95-22.95/month, which gives you 1-2 credits and unlimited access to the Audible Plus catalog for the month.

Pros:
1) Excellent selection of audiobook, including some books that are restricted to Audible only (this is also a con, see my notes below).
2) Cheapest way to obtain additional audiobooks when your credits have been used up, if you’ve been a member for 3+ months, you get the option to buy a 3 credits for AU$34.95 when you are down to your last credit.
3) One additional free audiobook a month, selected by their staff – more often than not it’s one I am not interested in, but they had I’ll Be Gone in the Dark this month and the true crime enthusiast in me is very happy.
4) If you are in the US Marketplace, you also have access to their Audible Plus catalog, which has some great older titles. Currently it has the entire The Bone Witch trilogy by Rin Chupeco, Zeroboxer by Fonda Lee, So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo, and Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton, just to name a few.
5) I like using the Audible app, as it syncs to both my car and my tv seamlessly, and there’s a lot of variation on the speed, all the way up to 3x – trust me, you need 3x speed when you have to listen to non-fiction for work.
6) Easiest experience with returns, as I find I can return titles up to 6 months and you can do it directly on the website instead of contacting their customer service – unless you have returned a large number in a short period of time. Even then, they tend to let me return more titles if I contact them via email.
7) My primary ebook reader is a Kindle, and I like the convenience of my audiobook and ebook syncing as I switch medium.

Cons:
1) Part of the Amazon family, which uses loss leaders and other predatory tactics to edge out local independent booksellers. A cursory google search will also tell you about the poor working conditions experienced by their employee. I understand it’s difficult to boycott Amazon altogether, especially in parts of the world where it remains the most accessible way to get the latest ebooks and audiobooks.
2) The Amazon exclusive titles bar audiobook access from libraries and other retailers, it especially targets popular titles e.g. many of the Leigh Bardugo and SJM titles. For more details you can read this article on libro.fm.
3) Audible titles uses DRM, which means you can only play them through audible’s official apps and cannot legally import them into other apps or audiobook players that you own. So while you have purchased the audiobook, you are tied to Amazon/audible services in order to listen to it.

Tips:
1) You can sometimes buy audiobooks from Audible for less than the listed membership price if you get the Kindle edition beforehand. For many titles, you can ‘add the Audible narration’ for $2.99-3.99, sometimes it’s cheaper to buy both the ebook and audiobook for a title – especially when the Kindle edition is on sale.
2) If you don’t go through 1 audiobook a month, you can email Audible Support for a Silver membership, which charges you the membership fee on alternating month.
3) The first time you try and cancel your membership, you will be offered a significantly discounted subscription – especially if you were on a 12 month plan!

Scribd

Scribd gives you access to both e-book and audiobook, but as I don’t enjoy reading on my phone, I primarily use it for audiobook access. It costs significantly less than a monthly audible subscription, and touts to give you ‘unlimited’* (a lie!) access to their vast library. It’s similar to a streaming service/Netflix for ebooks and audiobooks.

Costs: US$8.99 or AU$12.49 monthly for access to their full library, with some limitations.

Pros:
1) Their catalog of audiobook is seriously impressive, and they are continually adding new titles it. Many new releases appear on the app the very day of the release. I can also access a few titles that are not ordinarily available on the Audible Australia marketplace, e.g. I got to listen to Red, White, and Royal Blue and A Mountain Sings long before it appeared in my local audiobook market.
2) More often than not, I can listen to at least 3 audiobooks before I get throttled and the access to titles become limited. While the app is not ‘unlimited’ as it claims, it’s still more cost-effective than the alternative of paying $15-16 per audiobook.
3) I like the ease of use of their app, and I find that it’s much easier to find new titles on this interface as oppose to Audible, as you can sort titles by “Most Recent” or click on a particular publisher to view all of the new releases for a particular category.
4) You have the option of reading e-books or accessing magazines from the app as well, I find this particularly helpful for non-fiction I use for work.
5) They have gotten better at indicating when the restrictions on certain books will be lifted by adding a specific date on when your account will be eligible for a title again.

Cons:
1) As mentioned, while it’s cost-effective the app is not truly ‘unlimited’. I can usually listen to 2-3 audiobook titles before my options are limited for the month to older releases or books that are outside of my preferred genres. The most annoying thing is there is very little transparency to indicate exactly when this shift will occur, as the algorithm is determined on a number of factors: including popularity of the book, publisher’s contract, and your own consumption level. This generally means that you are limited to one popular bestseller/new release a month.
2) While ‘saving’ books to your lists on the app is marketed as an option to keep track of your TBR, I found that the algorithm uses this to limit books I prefer ahead of the books I generally don’t care to read. For this reason, I have avoided using this option.
3) You don’t actually own the books, as the app costs me upwards of $100 a year, not owning anything at the end of it can bug me. When audiobooks are purchased outright from Audible or Libro, I can often share my account with my partner (like I do with Netflix). I can’t share a Scribd account due to limit on the level of consumption per month.

Tips:
1) Due to factors mentioned above, it’s best that you avoid listening to popular new releases on Scribd if you have the choice – as this can mean you’ll be quickly blocked to accessing further titles for the month. I find that I get the most use of my account when I listen to titles that have been backlisted for 1 year+. However, if it’s a title you really want, do not hesitate to jump on it, as I’ve noticed publishers are quick to pull titles from the service as well, particularly if they are popular.
2) Try to spread out what you listen to over the months, as how many audiobooks you can read a month is dependent on how many you read the prior month. For example, if you managed to read 4-5 titles in the previous month, it’s likely that you’ll be blocked after 1-2 titles in the subsequent month. If there are many upcoming releases you would like to listen to for a particular month, it’s best to calm your Scribd activity the month preceding those releases.
3) You can try to put your account on hold until the titles you want become accessible again.

At the end of the day, Scribd is geared more towards the casual reader than to people who want to read 5+ audiobooks per month. Even with the limitations in the app, it’s still vastly cheaper to use Scribd to supplement my library selection/Audible credits.

Libro.fm

I only began using libro.fm around 1 month ago and have loved my experience, primarily because they support independent booksellers with their platform. I find their app and website aesthetically pleasing, and it does not hurt that they are very generous to book bloggers/booktubers/influencers – often offering us a range of complimentary recent releases, and there’s always at least 2-3 titles from Authors of Colour in the mix! Needless to say, I am in the beautiful honeymoon phase with libro.fm

Cost: US$14.99 for a monthly membership that gives you 1 credit, which is comparable to the cost of Audible. While the monthly membership is only an option for people with a US/Canada based credit card, international users can purchase a gift membership for $15 per credit.

Pros
1) You own a DRM-free audiobook after purchasing from libro.fm, meaning you can literally take your book anywhere you’d like and are not limited to their app.
2) They split the profit of their sales with a local independent bookstore of your choice, and you can choose the recipient during your sign up process.
3) I love finding new books through their Bookseller Picks page. As I can’t visit real bookstores to read those little recommendation cards I love so much anymore, this is the next best thing. The recommendations are diverse and often aligns with my reading taste, for example, The House In the Cerulean Sea and Mexican Gothic are currently being highlighted. Similarly, I love the Libro.fm Playlist function for much the same reason.
4) They have a fantastic Audiobook Listening Copy program for librarians, booksellers, book educators, and book influencers alike, if you are eligible I highly recommend that you sign up. Sometimes, I gain access to books that are not ordinarily available in Australia through this option e.g. this month I got Skyhunter by Marie Lu, which is not on the Australian audiobook marketplace.
5) Very prompt customer service, while you cannot return books through your own account, I found that they are very responsive to emails, often responding within the first few hours to any queries.

Cons
1) Predominantly US-based, including the independent booksellers you can support. Their membership bit harder to access for international users, but not impossible through the gift membership option.
2) A smaller catalog than Audible, but a cursory search show me that they have all of the titles I was after on Audible in the recent months.

Tips
1) You can gift yourself a gift membership, and use the credit to purchase books that are not generally available in your region, even if the website says there are restrictions. This is life-changing for the people stuck in the Australian marketplace, I finally got myself Mexican Gothic!! I have sight set on multiple titles like Gods of Jade and Shadow, Lobizona, and Felix Ever After. For me, this access alone the $15 per credit is worth every cent.

If I have converted you to libro.fm, please consider using my referral code to grab yourself an audiobook for free. I also get an audiobook credit when you have paid for your first membership month, so we can both live our best bookish life.

——

Do you read books via audiobooks? What are your favourite audiobook providers? Aside all of these I love my Libby app as well, but I’m aware that experience with libraries greatly vary base on your location so I didn’t delve into that here.

Book Review: Empire of Gold

Book Review

Title: Empire of Gold

Author: S. A. Chakraborty

Series? Yes, 3 of 3

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Goodreads


Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from Harper Voyager and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

NOTE: This review will contain spoilers for the first two books, City of Brass and Kingdom of Copper. There will be no spoilers for Empire of Gold.

Empire of Gold is the pitch perfect conclusion to the expansive fantasy trilogy that has captured my heart and mind over the past few years. Reading the ending of this book got me doing something I have not done in an age: staying up past 2AM alternating between crying my eyes out and smiling with glee. It was tough saying goodbye to the characters I’ve come to know and love, but I can think of no better farewell than this satisfying finale.

The ending of Kingdom of Copper was ingeniously cruel, leaving the fandom reeling and begging for answers for over a year. The conclusion of this trilogy starts off where it all begins, in an unnamed Egyptian village by the Nile. This setting invited an examination of Nahri’s personal evolution since book one, the ways in which her newfound powers and her found-family have both changed her and helped strengthened her existing identity. Nahri has played several roles in her life: Cairo street thief, companion of Darayavahoush, revered Nahid, wife of an emir, a healer, a survivor. Some of these identities were choices, others were a necessity for survival. With each, Nahri has reclaimed a position in a world that often sought to exclude her. In Empire of Gold, that personal journey delves ever deeper as Nahri navigated all of her past alliances to find a place where she belongs.

The Dragon Republic Reread – Part 1

I have been blessed with an ARC of THE BURNING GOD, thank you to Rebecca and publishing royalty Natasha Bardon! But before I dived in I wanted to relive the pains and tribulation of The Dragon Republic. I have read The Poppy War at least 5 times so it’s imprinted into my memory, but The Dragon Republic came out at a busy time in my life and I’ve only read it once.

I know I haven’t been able to complete my The Poppy War reread with you all, but while I read The Dragon Republic I wanted to get my thoughts down.

This post will cover up to chapter 7, including the Prologue, it will contain spoilers for all of The Dragon Republic and The Poppy War so please read those two books first before joining me!

CONTENT WARNINGS: The following chapters contain death of a child, death of a sibling, PTSD, addiction, self-harm, racism, allusion to genocide.

Continue reading “The Dragon Republic Reread – Part 1”

Book Review: A Song of Wraiths and Ruin

Title: A Song of Wraiths and Ruin

Author: Roseanne A. Brown

Series? Yes, 1 of 2

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Goodreads


I was instantly drawn to A Song of Wraiths and Ruin (henceforth referred to as ASOWAR) the moment I saw its majestic cover. Karina and her billowing green dress, coupled with the powerful typography, is hard to pass. For a debut novel, ASOWAR is accomplished in the complexity of its world building, and the multifaceted characterisation of its two protagonists.

From the start, ASOWAR draws its readers into a detailed and carefully constructed world filled with gods and monsters inspired by West African mythology. Although sorting people into arbitrary groups is an oft-time tired staple of SFF, I enjoyed the alignment system in ASOWAR, and how it was applied to the Champion and other key elements in the book. The history of Ziran and beyond was also intrinsically linked to the plot itself, making its exposition feel natural, although at times overwhelming.

ASOWAR is a fine example of a great YA Fantasy, where the focus is as much on the individual character’s internal journey as it is on grander physical stakes. The two protagonists in ASOWAR, Malik and Karina, had vastly distinctive voices that complemented each other. Karina is fiery yet cynical, Malik is earnest and hopeful, and when they finally meet the two serves as foil for one another. I particularly enjoyed Karina’s chapters, as she was a clear agent driving the forces in her story, owning every flaw and mistake. Malik was also a rare YA hero, sensitive and deeply considerate. His chapters also deal with his anxiety issues particularly well, and I am glad to see a neuroatypical protagonist in a fantasy.

Initially pitched as “What if Jasmine and Aladdin tried to kill each other?”, the romance in this book strive to hit all the expectations that the pitch promises: natural enemies to lovers, pauper and princess, pining and betrayal, the collisions of two vastly different worlds. However, though I enjoyed the characters individually, I found their chemistry lacking when they finally meet. Personally, I am particular about my enemies to lovers, I want there to be as much angst and pain as there is love. Karina and Malik did not have enough history between them to make their conflict believable, and the book had me wondering about their commitments to their respective mother and sister rather than rooting for their romance.

Although I was not wholly invested in the romance, I rooted for all the non-romantic relationships. The book had a way in making you care for the familial relationships, whether it’s the blood bond between Malik and his siblings, or Karina with the servants she grew up with as children. As Malik and Karina’s journey began with their goal to rescue their family members from the clutches of death, the strength of these bonds kept me turning the pages.

ASOWAR also kept me turning the pages with its excellent pacing and synchrony between the two POV chapters. The final 100 pages of the book left me on the edge of my seat and upturned several expectations I had for the book. Needless to say, I eagerly anticipate the sequel.

Overall, this is a YA Fantasy with great worldbuilding and characters, although I did not love the romance. What have you been reading?

Book Review: The Ten Thousand Doors of January

Book Title: The Ten Thousand Doors of January

Author: Alix E. Harrow

Ratings: 5/5 Stars

Series? No

Goodreads


Hi all, it’s been almost an entire year since I have updated this blog. 2019 was a whirlwind for me, I became a business owner, a first home owner, and moved into the suburbs for the first time in a decade. 2020 has been catastrophic for reasons you can all relate to, but there’s been some joy mixed in as well: I got engaged, we got our first pets – two adorable kitties named Magnus and Coco who I have plastered all over social media. All in all, I have not had the time to consistently read, let alone write reviews or make graphics. Slowly but surely, I am finding my feet again, and would like to reclaim this corner of the internet — especially as I have already paid for the domain name for the coming year.

The book that I wanted to write about today is one that lifted me out of my year-long reading rut and plummeted me straight back into the rabbit hole. The Ten Thousand Doors of January is filled with a yearning for other worlds, brimming with the power of written words and the enduring magic of stories. If there’s anything a life-long fantasy reader can relate to, it’s the ache for more and this book clearly resonated. As January uncovered long forgotten Doors, I rediscovered the joy of sinking myself into the pages of a book.

For me, this book ticked all of the boxes in terms of the tropes I love: stories as literal magic, doorways into other worlds, found families in every sense of the words, and a dash of two romances filled with longing. As a self-professed sucker for beautiful writing, this book had me hook, line, and sinker. The story alternated between January Scaller’s retelling of her encounters with Doors, and the narration from a mysterious book that altered the course of her life. As the book progressed, the two stories danced inexorably closer together, weaving a cohesive narrative that spans two lifetimes and countless adventures.

Aside from the magic aspects, the book also shone a direct light on the uglier parts of society – one that stubbornly held onto tradition, white aristocracy, and polite veneer. The exploration of January’s relationship with her foster father, Mr Locke, is an extension of this discussion. While the book treated the subject with nuance, it never shied from exposing the intrinsic harm and invisible violence of Mr Locke’s archaic world views.

The other relationships within this book were written with equal expertise, from January’s heartbreaking distance from her own father, to the mutual bond of trust she shares with her canine companion Bad, to her unlikely friendship with Jane. Harrow also writes about love and romance with the same magic that she pens adventures, whether it’s the destiny defying tale of Adelaide and her otherworldly boy – or the quiet flame that burns between January and a certain grocer’s son. Thanks to the impact of all these relationships, the book felt immersive despite its shorter page length.

If you’re looking for a fresh approach to portal fantasy that delivers timeless transportive magic, look no further than The Ten Thousand Doors of January! Have you read this book? Which other portal fantasy do you recommend (my other favourite is, of course, the Wayward Children series by Seanan Macguire).

Blog Tour: Jade War Review and Graphics

Jade War Preview

Disclaimer: I received an eARC and physical review copy of Jade war from the publisher via Caffeine Blog Tour.

You can order Jade War on Amazon or Book Depository

Bear with me, I have a full review as well as three graphics wallpaper to share with you today. After all, words are not enough for me to describe how much I love the Green Bone Saga and the Kauls.

Spoiler-Free Review

Note: The review will have spoilers for the first book, Jade City. It will not contain spoilers of Jade War.

Jade City is one of my favourite books of all time, it encapsulated and elevated everything I loved about fantasy, Hong Kong gangster films, and family drama. I knew I would love Jade War, but I could not anticipate how this sequel would take everything I loved about Jade City and amplified it tenfold. If I was a No Peak loyalist by the end of the first novel, this second one made me a Lantern Man for life. The clan is my blood and the Pillar, the one and only Fonda Lee, is its master. I am here to love and support whatever she releases next, even if it’s sure to destroy me. Continue reading “Blog Tour: Jade War Review and Graphics”

Blog Tour: Spin the Dawn Graphics and Thoughts

Spin the Dawn Preview

Disclaimer: I received an eARC of Spin the Dawn from the publisher via Caffeine Blog Tour.

2019 has been a wonderful year for East Asian fantasy releases, from The Girl King, to Descendant of the Cranes, to Wicked Fox, and now Spin the Dawn – we’ve seen an exploration of a diverse array of Asian culture and history through YA fiction.

Mini Review

Spin the Dawn had two distinct story arcs, each breathing fresh air into the tropes of high-stake tournaments and impossible quests. As a daughter of a tailor, I felt a kinship to Maia, her plight and her utter devotion to her craft. Here is a heroine that did not sought to change the world with physical might or sharp wit – she altered the fabric of the universe with a decisive cut of her scissors – and I found that imagery beautiful.

I prefer my fantasy to be character driven, and this is exactly what Spin the Dawn delivered with its introspective heroine. The relationships that Maia developed over the course of this novel, especially her slow-burn friendship turned romance, was satisfying to behold.

My favourite thing about Spin the Dawn was the way the tale took familiar notes of East Asian folklore and weaved it into the fabric of its lore and legend. The resplendent robes Maia was tasked with completing called to mind the myths of Weaver girl. More than that, the story reclaimed the narrative of unfortunate girls being transformed by beautiful dresses – and placed the power back into the hands of a girl who created them.

Graphics

Spin the Dawn was rich in beautiful imageries expressed through both Maia’s embroidered creations and Elizabeth Lim’s lyrical proses. I could see no better way to celebrate than through a collection of wallpapers, to pay homage to both the book and its beautiful cover.

  • Characters and quotes belong to Elizabeth Lim.
  • The phone wallpapers are free for your personal use only.
  • Please do not edit, repost, redistribute the images.
  • They are made for iPhone XS, but should fit most smartphones.

Spin the Dawn 01

DROPBOX LINK Continue reading “Blog Tour: Spin the Dawn Graphics and Thoughts”

June Reading Updates

June Reading Updates.png

It’s been a while since my last update since most of April and May left me with very little time for blogging. I just wanted to do a quick catch up on what I’ve been reading and what I plan to read in the coming month.

What I’ve Read

Almost 100% of the reading I’ve done in the past two months have been done via audiobook. Bless them for enabling me to finish all these novels while I completed my chores or during my morning commute, I would have fell into a book slump without them. I know at the beginning of the year I said I would cancel my Scribd account, but since I read so much via audio now, the set up is working great for me.

These aren’t even in chronological reading order because I am a Mess.

 

  • Daisy Jones and The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid ★★★★☆
    This novel is best enjoyed via audiobook, sorry I don’t make the rules. TJR has a way of making her characters feel so raw and real, if I didn’t know any better I would have been searching for the discography of Daisy Jones & The Six after completing this novel. Epistolary novels don’t always work for me (see: Illuminae), because I sometimes find it hard to connect to the story. 100% not the case here, and I loved how utterly flawed everyone was allowed to be. To tell the truth, I didn’t like most of them, but they sure captured my imagination.

 

  • The Dragon Republic by R. F. Kuang ★★★★★
    HELLO IS ANYONE SURPRISED I AM COMPLETE TRASH FOR THIS BOOK. NO? OK.
    Ahem. With complete objectivity, this book was a stunning follow-up to The Poppy War. It’s more introspective, it deals with PTSD, it brings in all of the threads that complicates and muddies the war Rin is waging on Nikara and with herself. The ending left me literally reeling and screaming in random DMs for weeks. I still have not completely stopped and I fear I will never be coherent again. Give me book three or give me death.

 

  • Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey ★★★★☆
    I finished this book about two hours ago and edited the post to include it. Although it contained the familiar tropes like a magical school, a jaded private detective, a dark prophecy, a hidden world of mages, a murder mystery – Magic for Liars combined them in a way that kept the plot fresh and engaging. Imagine if Aunt Petunia never married Vernon Dursley but instead became a private investigator – who’s then called back to Hogwarts to unravel a murder, with Lily as one of the professors on tenure. Except better, because the character work in this book is freaking top notch. Just go read it OK, this is the gay and messy magical school we all deserve.

Continue reading “June Reading Updates”