Dumbledore’s Army Readathon Sign UP #DAReadAThon

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Disclaimer: Harry Potter belongs to Pottermore and J. K. Rowling, please don’t sue me.

Dumbledore’s Army once strived to keep Hogwarts a safe space for all students, despite the odds which were stacked against them. For the upcoming new year, I wanted to take a leaf from their book, and to remember to keep fighting -especially to keep the voices of everyone visible in my reading experience. Come join me and declare your allegiance for Dumbledore’s Army, we’ll take it one page at a time.

dareadathon-information

What: #DAReadAThon is a Harry Potter themed readathon, focusing on diverse (especially #ownvoices) books.

When: The readathon will begin Sunday 1st January and conclude Sunday 15th January, midnight to midnight – wherever in the world you’re based.

Who: Anyone can join, although it would be easier for you to write up your reviews and sign up posts if you had a platform such as a blog or a booktube. If you have a twitter or instagram account, please join in on the #DAReadAThon hashtag! You don’t have to be familiar with Harry Potter to join, but the prompts will make more sense to you.

How: You can sign up in this post right here, and start planning your TBR from today. Sign up will remain open for the duration of December.

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Halloween 2016: Diverse Horror

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A post recommending short stories is the closest I will ever come to celebrating Halloween. The holiday just seems so incongruous with the Australian summer, and I did not even know of its existence while growing up in Vietnam.

On the other hand, I am someone who’s always been morbidly fascinated by ghost stories and grisly horror. I am particularly invested if there’s a cultural or human element to the story, my faint heart vastly prefers a solid story of human tragedy to an all-out gore fest. This short recommendation list will include a couple of short stories I read throughout the week leading up to Halloween, they all feature diverse author and/or characters.

Trigger Warning for most of the stories for blood and violence.Read More »

Book Review: Three Dark Crowns

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2stars

Title: Three Dark Crowns

Author: Kendare Black

Series? Yes, 1 of 3

Rating: 2.5/5 stars

Goodreads

Booktopia // Dymocks // Book Depository // Amazon


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

Three Dark Crowns is blessed with a unique and vivid world, along with a premise that promises high stakes and dangerous intrigue. Unfortunately, I felt very little was accomplished within this first novel. I also found it difficult to invest in any of the three princesses, despite Three Dark Crowns being a very character-driven book.

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Three dark queens
are born in a glen,
sweet little triplets
will never be friends.

Three dark sisters
all fair to be seen,
two to devour
and one to be Queen.

The title of Three Dark Crowns refer to three sisters born to a monstrous destiny. Katherine, Arsinoe, and Mirabella are separated in their childhood – each groomed to become a powerful wielder of magic in their respective talent. Katherine is fostered with the powerful Arron family, she is taught to live and breathe the art of poison. Arsinoe is a naturalist, meant to wield abilities to control animals and manipulate crop growth. Mirabella is an elemental, she commands wind, fire, and the very earth (she’s basically the Avatar) – she also garners strong support from the religious order of the kingdom. One amongst the triplet will be crowned queen, at the cost of her sisters’s lives.

The world of Three Dark Crown is richly imagined, with clear distinction between the different disciplines and their respective lands. I found the Arron family, head of the poisoners, to be the most compelling of the sets of characters. The naturalist and their companion animal also made for an interesting setting, although I felt their chapters would have benefited from expansion on the world building. Mirabella seems very isolated with her elemental ability, and the setting she inhabited was the weakest of the three – despite the supposed political machinations by the temple.

I struggled with the book because the three main girls had quite similar voices. Katherine and Arsinoe, in particular, suffered from similar character flaws and an inability to excel at their talent. Arsinoe’s chapters were also overshadowed by Jules, her best friend and confidant. As a result, I cared for her the least of the siblings. Mirabella stood out from her sisters as her chapters felt more energetic and vivacious. She is also the only sibling who remembers the childhood the girls spent together, thus she feels most conflicted with her destiny.

Throughout the novel, the book builds towards the eventual reunion and battle between the sisters, but I could never become fully invested in their dilemma. The plot also involved at least three different romances, with suitors who began to bleed together in my mind. For a book about three young women on the brink of death, there was an inordinate amount of swooning and love polygons.

The book was missing the action and political machinations promised by its premise. Instead, Three Dark Crowns was filled with repetitive chapters about each girl’s unchanging situation. The triplets remained the pawns of more ambitious court members, and while this may change in future instalments, it made for a very frustrating and monotonous read.

There is definitely a lot of potential here for a great series, but the first volume missed the mark by failing to involve me in the characters’ story arcs. While I am still curious to see how things will play out, especially given the reveal at the end of the book – I am ultimately disappointed by this book.

#CritYourFaves Sign Up Post

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Introduction:

Often, it’s too easy for us to turn a blind eye to the flaws in our favourite books or series. Although there is no such thing as an objectively perfect work of fiction, it’s difficult to confront issues in the things we love. While it may be uncomfortable, or at times painful, I think it’s essential to point out lack of representation or perpetuation of harmful tropes and themes – no matter what kind of media you consume.

The #CritYourFave blog event encourages you to post discussion throughout the month of October, analysing your favourite book or series through a more critical lens. It’s not my intention to tell you to stop the things you love, but to acknowledge any misgivings they may have. If this sounds like something you would like to do, then sign up below!

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When?

Sign up will open from now until the end of September. You can post from any time between the 1st – 31st of October.

I will be posting a link up at the start of October with the names, blog links, and subject for all those who signed up, so anyone interested can keep an eye on their blog for their discussion post.

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What Do I Need?

Anyone can sign up as long as they have some sort of platform to post their discussion on, be it blog, tumblr, or vlogs. Please use the hashtag #CritYourFave when you promote the post on social media so that others can find your post.

A twitter account is not necessary, but I will be hosting a twitter chat during the month of October. I will also be retweeting and promoting everyone’s post on my own twitter.

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Prompts

Here is a list of possible discussion topics, but of course, you can choose one of your own.

  • The lack of diverse representation in a book series
  • Problematic faves and how to deal with it
  • Discuss a series you love and what issues you had with it
  • Discussion of a harmful trope and how it’s detrimental to the book and its readers e.g. woman in the fridge, racial stereotypes, toxic masculinity
  • Tokenisation in book(s)
  • Post-series revelations (e.g. Dumbledore being gay, Hermione could be black) and why they are not good enough
  • Queer baiting in fiction
  • Unhealthy romance in fiction

I really could go on, but anything goes here! The only thing I ask is to AVOID AD HOMINEM. Please critique and analyse the work, not its creator or authors. Encourage honest discussion, but avoid personal attacks.

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Sign Up

Just fill out the Google Form below.

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If you have any questions at all, please don’t hesitate to throw them my way. For now, happy reading!

Book Review: Empire of Storms

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5star

Title: Empire of Storms

Author: Sarah J. Maas

Rating: 5/5 stars

Series: Yes, 5 of 6.

Goodreads

Book Depository // Amazon // Dymocks // Booktopia


Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from Allen & Unwin/Bloomsbury Australia in exchange for an honest review.

Needless to say, after finishing Queen of Shadows last year, Empire of Storms became one of my most anticipated books of 2016. I was over the moon when I received it, and despite its hefty size, I devoured the entire thing in three days in between working full time. Currently, I am still reeling from the emotional punches the book delivered, but I will try my best to deliver a coherent review. This will be completely spoiler-free for Empire of Storms, but will contain spoilers for its prequels.

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I keep coming back to this series time and again because Sarah J. Maas is the master of page-turning action and wringer of my heartstrings. Empire of Storms is no different, filled to the brim with engaging action, careful plot twist, and amplified emotional drama. I would highly recommend reading this book over a couple of days off, as I had troubles putting it down from beginning to end.Read More »

Recs: Diverse SFF Short Stories

Diverse SFF Short Stories

If you’ve been on Twitter this past week, you’ll notice that the community is abuzz with discussions on representation in fantasy. I can barely believe that it’s still up for debate. I am continually disappointed that while white and heteronormative narrative continues to dominate the genre, we still get people leaping to its defense when someone questions about the absence of diversity.

Somehow, there’s an idea that diverse fiction is a genre unto itself, that we should not demand to see ourselves reflected in popular fiction. In my mind, good fiction should be relatable and to some extent, it should accurately reflect the real world – even if it’s a fantasy.

To soothe my anger at the twitter debate, I went on Tor’s website to read through several of the SFF short stories they publish. I love the fiction published on this site because i) it’s free! and ii) it’s always quality and pushes to be inclusive. At the end of the day, the best way to support inclusive stories is to read them and shout your love to the world about them. So here’s a list of great SFF stories you can enjoy by just clicking on the link!


THE WEIGHT OF MEMORIES by Cixin Liu / translated by Ken Liu

We made a terrible mistake in thinking that replicating memories was sufficient to replicate a person.

Cixin Liu took the world by storm with The Three-Body Problem, one of the first Chinese science fiction to be translated into English. I love how he uses daring ideas on science, and reapplies it to answer questions about humanity. This short story about engineered and inherited memories between a mother and her unborn child captures his style perfectly. Ken Liu delivers a smooth and technically impressive translation, as always.Read More »

Book Review: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

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4-star

Title: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Author: J. K. Rowling, Jack Thorne, John Tiffany

Series? No. This is NOT the 8th book, OK.

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Goodreads

Book Depository // Amazon // Dymocks // Booktopia


Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from Hachette Australia in exchange for an honest review. I also bought my own copy the day of release because it’s Harry Potter and I can’t help myself.

I had originally intended to wait until #ReadThemAllThon to begin reading Cursed Child as my Thunder Badge entry. Alas, on the release day I could not help myself – after seeing a couple of photos on twitter of people attending the release party, I quickly ran out to the shops and bought myself a copy. I devoured the story twice in the space of 12 hours, and only my friend borrowing the copy prevented me from reading it a third time.

Note that I will be splitting this review into two parts. The first part is my general, non-spoilery thoughts on the script. The second part will be a spoiler filled section detailing exactly which parts of the script worked or didn’t work for me, and will be marked. If you haven’t had a chance to check out the Cursed Child, please be mindful when you are scrolling through this post to avoid spoilers!

My emotions in regards to the Cursed Child are wildly mixed. On the one hand, the trip down memory lane was beautifully nostalgic, and I teared up several times while reading the script. However, many of the plot points in this story are simply absurd and outlandish – I can barely believe that J. K. Rowling gave it the green light and asked fans worldwide to consider it an ‘8th book’. Although I loved many things about the play, it’s still a far cry from the original seven Harry Potter books.

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Blog Hop: All About Aussie YA

One of the things I love most about blogging is its ability to connect me to all the readers around Australia. Some of my most treasured memories as a blogger are moments where I got to meet my fellow Aussie bloggers, like the time Jeann and Jenna came to Melbourne, or when I went to Sydney for the Writer’s Festival back in May, and more recently the Nevernight Launch in Melbourne.

The Oz YA community has helped shaped me into the blogger that I am today, and I will forever be grateful to their collective passion, intelligence and wit.

Aussie YA Blog Hop

This blog hop is organised by Jeann at Happy Indulgence, along with the Aussie YA Blogger admin group. There will be a twitter chat
on 14th July so follow @AusYABloggers and #AusYABlogChat for more information!

What I Love About Aussie YA

I love the familiarity of the setting and the immediate relevance in the issues touched on in Oz YA books. Although I adore books for their ability to transport me into another country or another realm altogether – reading Australian fiction and their familiar surroundings help ground my emotions and make the characters come to life in a more profound way. We are also blessed with a host of amazing authors who regular engage with their readers and share their experiences.Read More »

Book Review: Nevernight & Recap Of The Melbourne Book Launch

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4-star

Title: Nevernight

Author: Jay Kristoff

Series? Yes. 1 of 3.

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Goodreads

Book Depository // Amazon // Dymocks // Booktopia


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

I posted a list of ‘5 Reasons You Should Preorder Nevernight’ a couple of months back, so it should come as no surprise that I absolutely adored the book. Nevernight has just the right blend of nostalgia and fresh, original elements. It dares to go dark places, but is also never afraid to poke fun at itself and its genre, making it one of the best fantasy I’ve read this year.

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The book starts off with a bang, seamlessly mixing sex and death in a memorable opening sequence. It’s a hint of things to come, as Nevernight is filled to the brim with both lust and love, violence and despair, and ceaseless heartstopping action. Within the book itself, Jay Kristoff also employs a myriad of different story telling techniques, from occasional changes in point of views and narration, to the use of those clever little footnotes. Like the story, the craft employed within this book is unpredictable and ever-changing. Despite employing all of these narrative techniques, the book never becomes confusing, and the narrative voice is usually a perfect fit for a the scene at hand.Read More »

Potterhead July: Tales of Beedle the Bard and the Power of Stories

PotterheadJuly-Power-of-Stories

First of all, I would like to thank you to every single person who has contributed a post or commented on a Potterhead July post – you’ve made July truly magical. We have less than a week left until the release of The Cursed Child, and I hope we will all love it as much as we loved the adventures of Harry Potter.

Here’s my own entry for the Potterhead July festival, admittedly several weeks late because I am horribly disorganized and got consumed by Pokemon GO. I also wanted to chance to finish rereading The Tales of Beedle the Bard before I completed this post because I wanted it to be a truly informed and comprehensive discussion on the function of fictional works – both within our real lives and within the world of Harry Potter.

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I remember my initial excitement over The Tales of Beedle the Bard, and how it made me felt closer to Harry Potter’s fantastical world. It felt right that young witches and wizards would also fall asleep to bedtime stories, and that these repeated stories should be more powerful than they seem. After all, isn’t this exactly what happens in real life? I have always loved books about stories, especially the ones that hid truths in plain sight or became more powerful with each telling. The Tale of the Three Brothers will eventually go on to become a fine example of this fact.

The wizarding’s world lack of fictional books prior to the reveal of Beedle the Bard have always struck me as odd. Here was a group of people living amongst the magic we Muggles could only dream of, yet they seemed utterly devoid of fictional imagination. Where was their equivalent for Tolkien, or Jane Austen, or J. K. Rowling? Entire generations of children grew up to be obsessed over Quidditch and love potion, where people poured over gossips penned by Rita Skeeter, yet where were the people in love with fictional universes? Hermione Granger, our resident bookworm, mentions only non-fictional biography or textbooks. Even Gilderoy Lockhart’s wildly fictitious accounts were based on the real life and works of other witches and wizards.

Naturally, the lack of fictional works in the world of Harry Potter had a very obvious explanation: it’s a gap in JKR’s immense world-building. To an avid fantasy reader like myself (and like most readers of Harry Potter), it’s an absence that made the wizarding world less believable – simply because I think a civilisation cannot exist in the absence of stories. Do wizarding folks simply not need fantasy because their life is literally magic? Do they not need grand legend and tales because, for them, Merlin and the philosopher’s stone are real? Somehow, I doubted this. When Tales of Beedle the Bard arrived, it saved me from a wizarding world identity crisis. It’s OK, everyone, they also grew up with stories, they also know of their power.Read More »