#AsianLitBingo Reading TBR

AsianLitBingo Banner

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:

Rules:

  1. 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.
  2. Book can be a novel, short story collection, or comic book/graphic novel.
  3. Book must be read during May 1st through May 31st to qualify.
  4. 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!


AsianLitBingo

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:

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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:

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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.


FREE SPACE:

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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:

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The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee DivakaruniThe 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:

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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?

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.

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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 »