Book Review: Norse Mythology

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4-star

Title: Norse Mythology

Author: Neil Gaiman

Series? No

Rating: 4/5 Stars

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Disclaimer: I received a physical copy of this book from Bloomsbury Australia in exchange for an honest review. 

When I think of Neil Gaiman’s writing, I think of the reinvention of myths, of age-old tales rewritten in timeless prose, of new surprises found in half-forgotten stories. From American Gods to Anansi Boys, from Sandman to Odd & The Frost Giant, it’s obvious that Gaiman’s relationship with myths is intimate and dynamic. Norse Mythology is no simple collection of outworn tales, it’s a reminder of the enduring power of stories – especially ones that can be retold.

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To be perfectly honest, my interest in Norse mythology have always felt like an afterthought to my passion for the Greek pantheon, or the many deities of East Asia. It’s a collection of myths that seemed to value valour in battle and warriors above all – things my bookish self could not relate to. In this book, Neil Gaiman managed to capture the humanity in the gods of Asgard, while letting them retain their infuriating yet remarkable character and habits. Although it’s a slim volume, it was packed with enough content to whet my appetite to go exploring for more.Read More »

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: Movie & Screenplay Review

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4-star

Title: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Author: J. K. Rowling

Rating: 4/5 stars

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The review below is spoiler free! Please avoid commenting with big plot spoilers!

If I was a Niffler, I would not covet jewels or freshly minted coins – I would be looting the JKR’s brain for more Harry Potter content. Like all my fellow Potterheads, I can’t help but want to revisit the wizarding world. Simply rereading the book is not enough, I always want more – even though I am aware they will rarely meet my immense expectations for the series.

Needless to say, I was still amongst the first in line to queue up to purchase tickets to Fantastic Beasts. This was in spite of my decidedly mixed feelings on Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. I ended up adoring Fantastic Beasts in spite of its many flaws. I think being able to experience the movie, rather than relying on a script alone, went a long way in making me appreciate this story. Not to mention that Newt Scamander is the Hufflepuff hero we’ve all been waiting for, and he deserves all of our love.

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Personally, the highlight of this screenplay and movie for me is the character of Newt Scamander. He’s at once the quintessential Hufflepuff and a unique character all his own. Remember when JKR explained why all the Hufflepuffs stayed for the final Hogwarts Battle? It wasn’t because they wanted glory, or power, they stayed because that’s what Hufflepuff do – because being good needs no reward. That’s Newt, you feel it every time he interacts with one of his creatures or champion for another character. I also love the dichotomy of his mild social awkwardness, standing right alongside with his confidence and conviction in his passion for magical creatures. Eddie Redmayne totally owned this role, bringing Newt to life with his charismatic and multifaceted performance – I don’t think I would have ended up loving Newt quite as much without Eddie.Read More »

Book Review: It Ends With Us

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4-star

Title: It Ends With Us

Author: Colleen Hoover

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Series? No

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I read this book as a part of the #ReadThemAllThon – specifically, it was for the Cascade Badge (Book Likely To Make You Cry). It certainly did not disappoint me in that regards, I teared up a couple of times reading this book. They ranged from tears of frustration, to tears of relief, to pure tears of joy. This short novel packs some sucker punches within its pages, it made me glad I did not give up on Colleen Hoover after reading Maybe Someday.

It Ends With Us

“There is no such thing as bad people. We’re all just people who sometimes do bad things.”

The main characters in this book are magnetic and memorable – especially once I got over how ridiculous some of the names were (e.g. Lily Bloom and Atlas Corrigan). I especially love Lily with her fire, her drive, and her compassionate heart. Even her quirks, such has her teenager letter to Ellen Degeneres, became endearing to me – after all, it’s exactly the kind of awkward behaviour I engaged in during my own adolescent years. I loved viewing the story entirely from Lily’s point of view, so that the readers can feel and falter through life in the exact same ways she did.

“Maybe love isn’t something that comes full circle. It just ebbs and flows, in and out, just like the people in our lives”

There were two main male characters in this book. Blessedly, it was not a love triangle, as I am severely allergic to those. Atlas and Ryle appeared at completely different stages in Lily’s life, and as individuals they remain distinct from one another. Lily knew her heart at all points in the novel, so I did not consider this a love triangle. Instead, it’s a complex dynamic, layered upon Lily’s personal history and her past interactions with both men – I found their story incredibly compelling.

This book touched upon multiple tough issues, and I think it largely dealt with them with gravitas and respect. The main theme the book dealt with was domestic abuse, and I felt it handled the matter very well. Victim blaming is unfortunately a huge part of how society views domestic abuse – ‘Why didn’t she just leave him?’ is a question that perpetually pops up in conversations about these sort of crime. I am glad to see the book shed light on this aspect.

“Just because someone hurts you doesn’t mean you can simply stop loving them. It’s not a person’s actions that hurt the most. It’s the love. If there was no love attached to the action, the pain would be a little easier to bear.”

Colleen Hoover’s Author Notes at the end of the book shed even more light on her personal experiences with it – and I recommend that you only read the Author’s Notes once you have finished the novel, as it definitely contains spoilers! Some of the scenes were difficult to stomach, so I would warn readers who can potentially be triggered by attempted rape and domestic violence.

I loved the direction this book took, it was similar to The Girl Who Fell – but executed with a lot more poise and expertise. Colleen Hoover dared to take readers on an unexpected and painful path, but I felt the story could not have headed in any other route. By the time my tears were shed, I had long accepted that this was a fitting ending to the novel. I also liked that there were foreshadowing in early parts of the book, so I had braced myself for this conclusion from the beginning (did not hurt any less, though).

Although Colleen Hoover is excellent at drawing out emotions and keeping her readers engage, I still find her writing style choppy at times. Primarily, this is because her characters tend to revert to cliche when they speak, especially in romantic scenes. By the end of the book, I wanted to roll my eyes a little every time someone mentioned the phrases ‘be bold, be brave’, or ‘just keep swimming’, or ‘I want to be you when I grow up’. Building up such wonderful, realistic characters – and then having them default to cheesy one liners really takes me out of the reading experience.

Overall, I found this book to be a memorable read, and one you definitely have to experience for yourself. I want to try out more of this author’s other work. Which would you recommend for me next?


If you’re reading this book during August, join us at the Bibliophile Academy in discussions, livetweets and taking beautiful photos of the novel. Find us on:

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Book Review: When Michael Met Mina

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Title: When Michael Met Mina

Author: Randa Abdel-Fattah

Series? No.

Rating: 4/5 stars

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Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from Pan Macmillan Australia in exchange for an honest review.

When Michael Met Mina is a courageous, unwavering and relevant portrayal of Australia, as well as global social climate. The book looks at Islamphobia right in the eyes are challenges it. It also comes with a cast of flawed yet endearing characters.

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One of the things I loved most about When Michael Met Mina is the pure Aussie feel to it all. For a book that challenges the status quo in this country, the text also shows a lot of pride in this nation.

Like Mina, when I first moved to Australia, I lived in West Sydney. Admittedly, we are in different life stages and I was only there for one year – but in that time-frame I have faced the same stigma that seems to plague residents of the wrong side of the harbour bridge. I love that the book acknowledges the ugly, deep-rooted bigotry – but it also takes pride in the multicultural landscape of Australia. The book and its familiar settings also reminded me why it’s so important to have books telling stories you can immediately resonate with, and why we should fight to protect Australian stories.

Amongst the deeper ruminations on the status of refugees and immigrants in Australia, the book also delved into personal challenges and triumphs of the characters. We have Mina, who’s attempting to assimilate to life in North Sydney and at her prestigious new school. The story also follows Michael, who’s parents ‘Aussie Values’ oppose everything Mina stands and her family stands for. Their personal struggle parallels the larger story Randa Abdel-Fattah is telling and cautions that politics and the wider social climates have intrinsic ties to our day-to-day life. It’s a call to be more active and engaged, whether it’s against prejudice, against preconceived ideas the media feeds us, or even against the opinions of those people we love most.

I love the portrayal of the individual characters. The book fulfils all my needs for a strong, at times abrasive and unapologetic female protagonist. I found Mina very easy to love. I also adored the friendship that she cultivates with Paula. In fact, I love these two ladies so much, I kind of thought ‘Michael who?’ – I would read volumes of just these two completely slaying the patriarchy and racists together. The sense of family and community in this book was also incredibly richly drawn, making Mina and her family feel like fully-fleshed out characters.

For a book with very serious themes, it’s not without its moment of light-heartedness and humour. I loved that Randa Abdel-Fattah reminds us of the hope and joy that can be found, even in the darkest situation – and that people do not have to wear their misery on their sleeves to validate anyone’s opinions. This entire book is filled with quotable phrases, of both the sassy and insightful kind.

The book never feels preachy or forces any opinion on its readers. Instead, it presents the quiet fear and anger that fans within Mina, or the conflicts which Michael feels – and let us draw our own conclusions without hand holding. It’s an important novel and I am ready to push this book upon everyone of all ages and background. It’s more than a love story, it’s a relevant snapshot of the issues of our current world.

I did feel that the book floundered a little bit in terms of plot direction, it felt very slice-of-life. A lot of the book was Mina or Michael’s day at school and their extracurricular event – which is authentic and true to life, but made the book felt repetitive towards the midway point. As such, the concluding chapters of the book felt anticlimactic. Despite this relative lack of dramatic tension in its ending, the book remains a thought-provoking and recommended read!


Have you read any Australian stories lately? Which are your favourites?

Book Review: The Sudden Appearance of Hope

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4-star

Title: The Sudden Appearance of Hope

Author: Claire North

Rating: 4/5 stars

Series? No.

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Book Depository


 

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

As you might know, I have been a huge fan of author Claire North ever since reading the magnificent ‘The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August’ earlier on this year. I jumped at the chance to review The Sudden Appearance of Hope, which has a kickass premise: a woman who no one can remember, living a life of crime and exacting her own brand of justice. This book delivers on so many fronts: unique plot, an almost uncomfortable lens on the state of social media, and a host of complex female characters. Although at times, I struggled with the slower pacing of the book – it was an ultimately rewarding read.

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Woman Illustration by Freepik & graphics by me.

Hope Arden is a completely isolated individual, living at the fringe of society owing to people’s inability to remember her. Her parents started forgetting about her existence within her teens. People she meets forget her the moment their eyes stray from her face. Naturally, this makes Hope a somewhat prodigious talent at minor crime. Yet, it also leaves her floundering about her purpose and identity in life. She’s a woman who can make a thousand first impressions, but will never have a chance to develop relationships or form personal connections. Instead, she grounds herself by knowing things, by listing facts, by counting – much of the book’s bulk is actually bogged down by her compulsive need to list things.Read More »

Book Review: The Star-Touched Queen

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4-star

Title: The Star-Touched Queen

Author: Roshani Chokshi

Series? Yes. Companion Novel out next year.

Rating: 4/5 stars

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Confession Time: I’ve been obsessed with this book ever since I heard of its premise – it promised to weave Persephone/Hades with the Indian epic Mahabharat. I did all the illogical fangirling thing: stalking the author’s twitter, making an excess amount of graphics, pouring over the internet for reviews and quotes, anxiously waiting by my mailbox for my preorder.

When I learned that Roshani Chokshi considers Catherynne Valente (my favourite author, ever, as you might have heard me mentioned repeatedly) my expectations only skyrocketed. For someone who’s left largely skeptical by hype, I was uncharacteristically 100% committed this particular bandwagon.

“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. I wanted the impossible.”

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In short, I cannot be trusted to be completely fair in this review. The book largely met my absurdly high expectations, which is a marvel in itself. The world is richly imagined, each description absolutely arresting and evocative.Read More »

Book Review: Emperor Of The Eight Islands

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4-star

Title: Emperor Of The Eight Islands

Author: Lian Hearn

Series? Yes. 1 of 2.

Rating: 4/5 stars

Goodreads

Book Depository


Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from Hachette Australia in exchange for an honest review.

Lian Hearn returns in top form with Emperor Of The Eight Islands. Once again, she seamlessly weaves Japanese myth and history into a brand new tale. This is a first in a series, and it features a sprawling epic, with much of the novel feeling like a prelude to an even grander story. I am already clamouring for more.

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Your life is not your own. You will die to one life and rise to another, to become what you are meant to be.

Read More »

Audiobook Review: The Name Of The Wind

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4-star

Title: The Name Of The Wind

Author: Patrick Rothfuss

Voiced by: Rupert Degas

Series? Yes. 1 of 3.

Rating: 4/5 stars

Goodreads

Audible Link


Until quite recently, I was 100% convinced that audiobooks were not suitable for me. I always found it hard to concentrate on them, and they just seemed so slow! I mean I could read The Name Of The Wind in 3-4 days, but I spent over a solid month listening to this audiobook.

Despite this length, I found that audiobooks are growing on me – I feel they’re an indulgent way to ‘read’ when you’re just too tired to use your eyes. Besides, The Name Of The Wind has a narrative that is particularly suited to audiobooks. In fact, I think I liked it more than the printed format.

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“Words are pale shadows of forgotten names. As names have power, words have power. Words can light fires in the minds of men. Words can wring tears from the hardest hearts.”

I read The Name Of The Wind when I was in high school, while waiting for the next ASOIAF book to be released. Patrick Rothfuss’s name was on everyone’s lips – and he was catapulted to stardom with this single volume. I can see why, I enjoyed his writing immensely, he writes lyrical proses that translates particularly beautiful in audiobook format. Read More »

Book Review: The Lies of Locke Lamora

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Title: The Lies of Locke Lamora

Author: Scott Lynch

Series? Yes

Rating: 4/5 stars

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Book Depository


The Lies of Locke Lamora has been on my TBR for a while, but I have always avoided it as it sounded like a bit of a sausage fest. The book does lack prominent female characters, but it somewhat makes up for it with the strength of the ladies who do feature (I need Sabetha!). What’s more, it’s dark, it’s entertaining, and it’s not afraid to stick a blade right into your heart.

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“There’s no freedom quite like the freedom of being constantly underestimated.”

While the main plot of the book features heist, treachery and more mutinies than you could shake a stick at – the heart of the novel lies in the epic bromance that is the Gentlemen Bastards. I am a huge fan of the ‘family that you choose yourself’ trope, so Locke and his gang of misfits tickled at my heartstrings. Make no mistake, they’re neither gentle or loving to one another – preferring to trade insults to niceties. Yet, through flashbacks and banter, the reader could feel the camaraderie between Locke and each of the member in his team. Morally ambiguous characters who look out for their own? Basically a set up after my own heart.Read More »

Book Review: Truthwitch

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4-star

Title: Truthwitch

Author: Susan Dennard

Series? Yes. 1 of 4 (?)

Rating: 4/5 stars

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Book Depository


I have to be frank, the twitter promotion of Truthwitch had me very nervous about this book. I thought, surely, nothing is that good – my cynicism stemmed from a 2015 burned out from hype.  Nonetheless, the day it was released, I sneaked onto Kindle and snagged myself a copy.  My fears were alleviated, Truthwitch was a memorable read – filled with characteres I could root for. While I had minor issues with some of the relationships and plot points, I could see myself becoming a loyal follower of the Witchland series.

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The Chosen Pair

“I’ll always follow you, Safi, and you’ll always follow me. Threadsisters to the end.”

The lack of central female friendship in fiction is frustratingly prevalent. We live in an age where movies are still getting a pat on the back for passing a rudimentary Bechdel’s test, for Chrissake!  Truthwitch features a steadfast and crucial friendship between two fierce ladies, for that it won a lot of points in my book.  When it’s hinted that the Classic Chosen One trope has been tweaked in favour of a Chosen pair of friends? My heart can’t take it, where has this storyline been all my life?!Read More »