Novella Review: Hurricane Heels

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Title: Hurricane Heels

Author: Isabel Yap

Series? Linked Short Stories

Rating: 5/5 Stars

Goodreads

Smashwords ¦ Amazon US ¦ Amazon UK


When I realised that this would be my first post of the New Year, I immediately wanted to showcase my favourite novella of 2016: Hurricane Heels. Packed within these five intertwined short stories is a tale of female friendship and identity that resonated with me on every level.

hurricane-heelsRead More »

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.

Read More »

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: Crooked Kingdom

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Title: Crooked Kingdom

Author: Leigh Bardugo

Rating: 5/5 stars

Series? Yes. 2 of 2.

Goodreads

Book Depository // Amazon // Dymocks // Booktopia


Note: This post will contain spoilers for the prequel, Six of Crows. It will be completely spoiler-free for Crooked Kingdom.

Six of Crows was one of my favourite releases of last year, making Crooked Kingdom my #1 anticipated book of 2016. The conclusion to this epic duology delivered in every way possible. Crooked Kingdom enthralled and delighted, even while some of the content reduced me to tears. Kaz, Inej, Nina, Matthias, Jesper, and Wylan will forever be marked as one of my most beloved fictional crew.

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Graphic by me. Kaz Character Art by Kevin Wada.

No Mourners, No Funerals

First, let’s talk characters! The friendship forged between our beloved six outcasts remain my favourite thing (in a very long list) about this series. Not only do the characters have meaningful, heartbreaking relationships with their respective romantic partners – they also share beautiful moments with platonic members of the crew. Crooked Kingdom is filled with character bonding, as well as interaction and development within the numerous friendships within the main group.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: To The Sky Kingdom

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Title:  To The Sky Kingdom

Author: Tang Qi, translated by Poppy Toland

Series: No

Rating: 2/5 Stars

Goodreads

Book Depository // Amazon


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

It pains me on multiple levels that I did not fully enjoy this book, as I wished with all my heart that I would love it. Known in its native China as Three Lives, Three Worlds, Ten Miles of Peach Blossom (三生三世,十里桃花 )– this particular title is making waves in its homeland, with both a star-studded movie and TV series in production. It’s also one of the first contemporary Chinese romance fantasy to be translated into English, and although I did not enjoy this particular story, I hope to see more works translated in the future.

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Most of my disappointment for this book stemmed from my predisposition to love it. I am Vietnamese, but I grew up consuming a lot of Chinese fantasy and media, thanks to my grandfather’s love of wuxia and historical series. I continue to love these type of shows until this very day, and still regularly watch popular series – I love the way these fantasy combine Chinese mythology and religion with fresh new worlds. The themes and tropes in these stories are as familiar to me as my own name.Read More »

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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