Book Review: Empire of Sand

39714124Rating Four Star

Title: Empire of Sand

Author: Tasha Suri

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Series: Yes

Goodreads

Booktopia  | Dymocks | Book Depository


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

Quick aside, I know it’s been almost two months since I updated this blog, but I had some important work assignments and minor life crises occur within the last several weeks. It really took away from my enjoyment from things like reading, blogging, and interacting with you guys on social media.

That chapter of my life is behind us now though, and I feel excited to resume talking about all that good stuff like fictional worlds and new favourite characters. Catch me up on what’s been happening with your life, reading-related or otherwise.

Empire of Sand.png

Onto the book of the day, Empire of Sand by Tasha Suri. I listened to this on audiobook about a month ago and it was exactly the kind of comforting fantasy I needed: richly imagined world, a heroine with plenty of fortitude and courage, a slow-burn romance, and fraught with complicated ties between family members. The themes were reminiscent of titles I’ve loved before, such as The Poppy War and The Star-Touched Queen, while being wholly its own. The narrator of the audiobook was also particularly excellent, so I would recommend exploring the audio edition of you have the option.

Personally, I felt most hooked by the opening chapters of this story, as we explored Irinah through Mehr’s eyes and come face-to-face with the prejudices faced by the Amrithi people. There were signs of magic and mysticism from the beginning, seen through the various daiva and Mehr’s own Amrithi bloodline. However, the Ambhan rule has left people fearful to speak of the power that connects the gods to the Amrithi – consequently leaving Mehr uncertain about her potential and her lineage. Another thing I found interesting within the first few chapters was her tense relationship with her family, particularly with her stepmother, Maryam. 

Mehr leaves the walls Jah Irinah within the first quarter of the novel, whisked away by a group of the empire’s most influential mystics. She is betrothed to Amun, who readers quickly learn is also an Amrithi. I love the interactions between these two characters, from their slow burn romance to how they serve as perfect foils for one another. I also loved seeing Mehr’s resilience through these chapters – even in situations where little choices are offered to her, she fights and find a way to make every decision her own. She’s a heroine that empowers herself each step of the way, and while I don’t always agree with her actions, I constantly found myself rooting for her.

Many of the book’s characters are deeply spiritual and intensely connected to cultural practices of their ancestors, from which they derive strength both mental and literal. I loved seeing how the book explored the interplay between the capacity of the Amrithi people for power, along with how they were exploited for possessing that self-same blessing. The book showed us the different ways which the Amrithi people have learned to cope, from Mehr’s resolute resistance to Amun’s stoic resignation – offering no clear answers or judgement. A lot of this novel is deeply introspective, and while it affected the pacing of the book, I felt it added a lot of depth to these characters.

While the book works perfectly as a standalone read, there is a companion novel coming out which will follow Arwa, Mehr’s younger sister. I can’t wait to see how Tasha Suri will further expand this world and its characters.

Book Rant: Kingdom of Ash

Kingdom of Ash.png

Note: This post will contain spoilers for the entire series, including the ending of Kingdom of Ash! Turn back if you don’t want to be spoiled.

If you’ve been following this blog for some time, you would know that I’ve had my ups and downs with the Throne of Glass series. I read the prequel novellas before the first book was released, and was intrigued by the world and its characters. Throne of Glass itself didn’t impress me, but I followed on because if there’s one thing I can be trusted to do, it’s to follow the hype train. I enjoyed Crown of Midnight, Heir of Fire, and Queen of Shadows, and have made countless blogging friends through this series, and because of that, reading these books will never seem a waste.

However, I started becoming disillusioned with SJM’s writing with A Court of Wings and Ruin (yes, it took me that long), and haven’t bothered reviewing any of her books since. Kingdom of Ash is the perfect example of why I can’t enjoy SJM’s writing as I once did, so I’m going to do a book rant and get it all out of my system once and for all. As mentioned above, lots of spoilers below! Continue reading “Book Rant: Kingdom of Ash”

Book Review: Girls of Paper and Fire

34433755Rating Four Star

Title: Girls of Paper and Fire

Author: Natasha Ngan

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Series? Yes

Goodreads

Book DepositoryBooktopia  | Dymocks


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

Trigger Warning for sexual assault.

Girls of Paper and Fire is an antidote to the poison that is on the daily news. It’s a testament to the resilience of survivors, filled with fire and fury and hope. If you are in the mood for a read that will set the patriarchy alight, this is definitely one to grab.

Girls-of-Paper-and-Fire

There is a lot to unpack about this stunner of a debut novel. The experience of reading Girls is intensely personal, as the book draws intimately from the Natasha Ngan’s experiences. From the cultural flourishes to the Paper Girls’ shared trauma, every detail within the book is carefully considered to create an emotionally immersive experience. I confess this novel left me in a daze after I finished it, so do approach with caution considering the heavy content within.

The world building in Girls is rich and expansive, helped by Natasha Ngan’s beautiful descriptive writing. Characters within this world are divided into three groups – with the powerless humans of the Paper caste oppressed by the demons in the Steel and Moon castes. There is mythology and founding legend deeply rooted in the fabric of this world, re-purposed by the ruling class to reinforce their reign at the top. I loved the political tension between the different caste and the various provinces of the Demon King’s vast empire. As the world is based in Malaysia, it’s as rich in cultural diversity as its real-life counterpart.

Lei is a Paper Girl, one among a group of nine selected to be concubine to the Demon King. Born to a world where women are routinely robbed of their agency, Lei emerges from the page simmering in anger yet plagued by insecurities and self-doubt. Her character arc is an exploration of self-empowerment and reclaiming of identity in a deeply flawed and misogynistic system. I appreciated that the book presented a multitude of ways in which these women coped, and does not pass judgement on any methods.

The romantic love story within this book is the slow burn F/F fantasy romance readers everywhere have been waiting for. It’s satisfying watching two women learn of each other’s flaws and strengths, empowering one another, and falling in love along the way. It’s so easy to root for these ladies and cheer on their battle against the world.

If you only pick one debut novel to read in 2018, make it this one.

Audiobook Review: Sadie

34810320Rating Four Star

Title: Sadie

Author: Courtney Summers

Series? No

Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

Goodreads

Audible ||  Booktopia  || Dymocks


I could not resist picking up this title as soon as it popped up on my Audible recommendations: a full cast of 30+ voice actors take on a revenge story, framed as a true crime podcast? Yes, please. As if that impressive blurb wasn’t enough, Sadie went on to trump every single one of my expectations. It delivers a powerful and unapologetic tale about a girl who’s hellbent on regaining control and exacting justice.

Sadie.png

The audio production of Sadie was incredible and a perfect medium for this story, if you can access it, I highly recommend listening rather than reading to this book. Half of the book features a fictional crime podcast, The Girls, as presenter Wes McCrae follows the trail of the missing Sadie Hunter – who disappeared after the murder of her younger sister, Mattie. The other half of the book, told in alternate chapters, follows Sadie as she tracks down a man she knew as Keith. The voice actors are incredible, especially Sadie’s narrator, who did an excellent job conveying her intensity and emotion. Sadie also has a stutter, and this was portrayed very well on the audiobook. Continue reading “Audiobook Review: Sadie”

Book Review: Muse of Nightmares

39851395Rating Five Star

Title: Muse of Nightmares

Author: Laini Taylor

Rating: 5/5 Stars

Series? Yes, 2 of 2

Goodreads

Book Depository ||  Booktopia  ||  Dymocks


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

The following review will contain spoilers for the first book, Strange the Dreamer (which I have reviewed here). There will be no spoilers for Muse of Nightmares.

Laini Taylor is a wordsmith and a weaver of dreams, she never ceases to amaze me. This duology will go down as my all-time favourite, sharing the throne with The Orphan’s Tales Duology and Six of Crows.

Muse of Nightmares.png

As long-time blog readers might remember, Strange the Dreamer was one of my favourite reads of 2017. Within the first few pages, I was captivated by Lazlo’s dreams, Sarai’s musings, and the magic of Weep. If the first book in this duology was a languid and indescribably vivid dreamscape, then Muse of Nightmares was a triumphant awakening into a reality equally monstrous and fantastical. To me, Muse was pitch-perfect from beginning to end, marked by Laini Taylor’s inimitable lyrical prose and enviable imagination. Continue reading “Book Review: Muse of Nightmares”

Book Review: Spinning Silver

38606192Rating Five Star

Title: Spinning Silver

Author: Naomi Novik

Rating: 5/5 stars

Series? No

Goodreads

Book Depository  |  Dymocks  |  Booktopia

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

Spinning Silver.png

Naomi Novik is one of my favourite writers, and Spinning Silver is my favourite book she’s written to date. While Spinning Silver is a standalone novel, it complements Uprooted beautifully as a sister-novel. Both draw inspirations from folklore and fairy tales, with Spinning Silver being an empowering and poignant examination of Rumplestiltskin. The author mentioned that while Uprooted was a homage to her mother’s experiences, while Spinning Silver is an exploration of her father’s story and heritage as a Lithuanian Jew. Richly imagined, filled with strong female characters, and expertly told, this is a book I can see myself rereading time and again in years to come.

Spinning Silver was a technical marvel, beginning from Miryem’s narration and effortlessly adding in other viewpoints throughout the novel. Each of these points of views added another layer to the world building and increased the emotional complexity and stake. They were also beautifully distinctive, from Miryem’s practical and resolute voice, to Wanda’s honest and determined narration, to the brooding and skittish tsar. Although the ARC I read did not provide any chapter heading indicating when the point of view has been changed, I was never confused due to the power of the writing.

The character development over the course of this short novel was phenomenal, as was the way the relationships between various characters were built. My favourites were the main leading ladies, each unique and possessing different kinds of strength. Miryem with her talent for bargaining and sense of fairness. Wanda and the way she savours life and constantly persist, even when things are not going her way. Irina and her cunning mind, coupled with her complete refusal to indulge in the nonsense of brooding tsars and greedy demons. Their strength and their collaboration throughout the novel was a refreshing change from fairy tales of old, where the heroine is often bereft of help unless it’s provided by fairies or dashing princes.

Like Uprooted, Spinning Silver was richly imagined and atmospheric. I read this book just as we headed into winter in Melbourne, and it felt so perfect. The Staryk with their foreboding presence created a dark and palpable tension. Novik’s description of dark and chilly winter nights were so vivid it made me shiver. In spite of the dark atmosphere, the book also contained a lot of humour and hope – I found the tsar and Irina’s chapters especially hilarious. Reading this book was like experiencing your favourite storybook for the first time, with all of the misogynistic and racist undertones cut out.

Speaking of racism, I thought Spinning Silver did an excellent job in critiquing the anti-Semitic subtext in Rumplestiltskin through Miryem’s chapters. This is also the first time I read a fantasy where the heroine goes through length to honour Sabbath, even when she’s imprisoned by a legendary monster. I will link some #ownvoices reviews of the book from Jewish readers when I find them, if you’ve written one, please let me know!

Overall, Spinning Silver was a brilliant and immersive fairy tale reimaging! One you should not miss, especially if you, like me, have always found the tale of Rumplestiltskin wanting.

Midnight Designs: Uprooted and Spinning Silver

Naomi Novik Wallpaper Preview.png

Uprooted and Spinning Silver are the perfect modern fairy tales: bewitching, evocative, with a strong streak of feminism. I am sharing my love for Naomi Novik today by bringing you two phone wallpapers featuring Agnieszka and Miryem

Important:

  • Characters and quotes belong to the brilliant Naomi Novik.
  • The phone wallpapers are free for your personal use only.
  • Please do not edit, repost, redistribute the images.
  • They are made for iPhone 6, but should fit most smartphones.

 

Uprooted Wallpaper

I was a glaring blot on perfection. But I didn’t care. I didn’t feel I owed him beauty.

Spinning Silver Wallpaper

Because that’s what the story is really about, getting out of paying your debts.

  • Find more of my free book-related designs here.
  • If you enjoyed these free graphics and want to support me, you can find me on Society 6.
  • Alternatively, you can commission me for your custom graphics by contacting me.
  • Finally, you can grab me a cuppa via Ko-fi here.

Author Interview: Aliette de Bodard for #1KBE

1KBE Interview Aliette de Bodard.png

My most anticipated short fiction anthology of the year, A Thousand Beginnings and Endings, is out this week. As you might remember, I am hosting a reading challenge in conjunction with LitCelebrAsian to celebrate all of the authors involved in the anthology. It is my absolute privilege to share an interview I did with Aliette de Bodard today. She contributed a retelling of Tấm and Cám, a Vietnamese fairy tale I grew up hearing.

Interview

1) What drew you to the story of Tấm and Cám, why did you want to retell this tale in particular?

For me, Tấm Cám is such a seminal Vietnamese tale, and it had a huge impact on me as a child–not so much the first part, which didn’t feel very distinct from Cinderella at the time, but the series of Tấm’s deaths and reincarnations and how she always struggles to come back to her husband no matter what shape she’s in. At the same time the familial dynamics always bothered me (as in many fairytales) because they pitted sister against sister (and not in a particularly charming way since the darker-skinned sister is the evil one). So when I retold it, I wanted to change this; and rather than have the story be about a wife striving to reach her husband, be about a sisters trying to reach each other and find a life together! Continue reading “Author Interview: Aliette de Bodard for #1KBE”

Reread at Midnight: The Poppy War Chapter 6

Apologies, I am a day late with this reread. I recently started working the Sunday shift, so we might have to change the reread schedule a little, depending on how busy I get! Thanks for understanding.
TPW Reread 6.png

Reminder that these posts will contain spoilers for the ENTIRE book. If you haven’t finished reading The Poppy War yet, feel free to check back when you are done.

Chapter 6 is largely a training chapter, made engaging by the interactions between our favourite master-student duo: Jiang and Rin!

REREAD INDEX

Chapter 6

The snow was lovely to observe for all of two serene minutes. Then it became nothing but a pain in the ass.

It’s winter in Sinegard, and Rin has little patience for it. I have to admit, snow was very disappointing after the first few minutes. Continue reading “Reread at Midnight: The Poppy War Chapter 6”

Book Review: The Book of M

39899065Rating Four Star

Title: The Book of M

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Series: No

Goodreads

Book Depository | Dymocks | Booktopia

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from Harper Voyager in exchange for an honest review. I also read a large part of this book via audiobook, which was purchased through my own Audible account.

The Book of M 04.png

The Book of M is a one of the best post-apocalyptic fiction I have read in recent years, and it’s hard to believe it’s a debut novel. It’s a poignant examination of human memories and connection, filled with powerful and surrealistic imageries. The last pages of the novel still haunt me, and I keep catching myself thinking about the book’s shadowless world. I did have some issues with the book which I will discuss below, but overall, this book marks Peng Shepherd as an author to be watched – I can’t wait to see what she will come up with next. Continue reading “Book Review: The Book of M”