I’ll be honest, I’ve never celebrated Halloween in earnest. I grew up in the Southern Hemisphere where the end of October is synonymous with sunshine at 7PM and spring flowers, which is completely at odds with thoughts of witching hour and horror movies. I always love an excuse to sink into a dark story, though – so I celebrate Halloween by consuming atmospheric books, scary podcasts, and watching thrillers. Read on if you would like to know what I’ve been checking out this October!
I’m sure anyone with a passing knowledge of the online YA community would be familiar with the brilliant and hilarious @broodingYAhero! Broody is my favourite parody account on twitter, walking that perfect line between sass and social commentary. Seeing a tweet by Broody on my timeline never fails to cheer up my day.
As you may know, Broody is getting his own novel – Brooding YA Hero: Becoming A Main Character (Almost) As Awesome As Me. I have the gorgeous new cover for you all to see later on in the post. We have the marvellous Carrie DiRisio, mastermind behind the twitter account and the book, with us here today. Joining her is the extremely talented book illustrator, Linnea Gear! Thank you both for this opportunity!
You’ll find many things within this post, so stay tuned until the very end for the following:
- Interview with Carrie and Linnea
- New Cover Reveal
- International Giveaway for a Preorder of Brooding YA Hero: Becoming a Main Character (Almost) As Awesome As Me.
There’s nothing like a reading challenge to wake a book blog from its slumber – especially one with a theme so close to my heart: Asian literature. #AsianLitBingo aim to promote Asian representation in fiction, especially #ownvoices stories.
This reading bingo challenge was originally created by Shenwei at Reading AsiAm. They kindly accepted me on board as a co-host, and I’ve created the graphics you see in this post. These are free for anyone participating in the challenge to use, you don’t have to ask!
Here are some ground rules for the challenge:
- Book must have an Asian main character (can be one of several main characters) and be by an Asian author to qualify. It does not have to be #ownvoices, but #ownvoices is strongly encouraged.
- Book can be a novel, short story collection, or comic book/graphic novel.
- Book must be read during May 1st through May 31st to qualify.
- Review link-up will close end of June 1st at midnight PST. The extra margin is to give people the opportunity to write up a review for a book they might have finished late May 31st. We’ll follow the honor system assuming you didn’t read the book on June 1st.
For more details, please check out Shenwei’s post where you can also sign up and add a link to your own TBR. Check out the bingo and my own TBR below!
The bingo line I’m choosing is 3-Across, as it contains genres I know I would love, ones that are slightly outside of my comfort zone, as well as the coveted Free Space (a god-send for people unable to stick to a TBR like myself!)
SFF With An Asian MC:
Ninefox Gambit by Yoonha Lee: It’s been a while since my last science fiction, and Ninefox has been sitting on my Kindle for a while so this was an easy pick. It sounds like a challenging read as it’s filled with hard-science and mathematics – but the intriguing concept of a disgraced space captain sharing her consciousness with an undead tactician is one too promising for me to pass up!
Historical Fiction With An Asian MC:
Everything I’ve Never Told You by Celeste Ng: Another one that’s been sitting at the back of my Kindle. The story is set in 1970s Ohio, featuring a Chinese-American family and the events surrounding the death of their eldest daughter: Lydia. I’ve heard such amazing things about how this book discusses race and family.
Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh: Although her debut duology had its imperfections, I absolutely love the way Renee Ahdieh captures the senses with her writing. She also has a knack for writing some killer sentences, be in romantic or inspirational. Flame in the Mist boasts cross-dressing, a heroine who’s tough-as-nails, and a Japanese setting. I am 100% on board.
Retelling With An Asian MC:
The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni: The amount of time I’ve false-started on this book throughout the one year I’ve owned it is near laughable. It’s not a criticism on the writing, but it seems every time I go to read it – something comes up in real life and I have to leave it unfinished. I hope this is the year I can read and complete this enchanting retelling of the Mahabharat.
Contemporary With An Asian MC:
When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon: I am cutting this one close because it’s not released until the 30th of May – but I am crossing fingers and toes that Netgalley comes through! The happiness in this cover is so delightfully infectious, and I need a romantic comedy to get me through the start of Melbourne winter. It’s also been getting excellent ratings from South Asian readers so I have high hopes.
I would love to see your TBR if you’re participating in the challenge, please link them to me if you have one posted! What are some of your favourite books featuring an Asian protagonist/by an Asian author?
Title: Hurricane Heels
Author: Isabel Yap
Series? Linked Short Stories
Rating: 5/5 Stars
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.
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.
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.
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. Continue reading “Halloween 2016: Diverse Horror”
Title: Crooked Kingdom
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Rating: 5/5 stars
Series? Yes. 2 of 2.
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.
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. Continue reading “Book Review: Crooked Kingdom”
Title: Three Dark Crowns
Author: Kendare Black
Series? Yes, 1 of 3
Rating: 2.5/5 stars
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
Just fill out the Google Form below.
If you have any questions at all, please don’t hesitate to throw them my way. For now, happy reading!
Title: To The Sky Kingdom
Author: Tang Qi, translated by Poppy Toland
Rating: 2/5 Stars
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.
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. Continue reading “Book Review: To The Sky Kingdom”