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. Continue reading “Book Review: Empire of Storms”

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. Continue reading “Recs: Diverse SFF Short Stories”

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.

HPCursedChild Continue reading “Book Review: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child”

Book Review: It Ends With Us

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4-star

Title: It Ends With Us

Author: Colleen Hoover

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Series? No

Goodreads

Book Depository // Amazon // Booktopia


I read this book as a part of the #ReadThemAllThon – specifically, it was for the Cascade Badge (Book Likely To Make You Cry). It certainly did not disappoint me in that regards, I teared up a couple of times reading this book. They ranged from tears of frustration, to tears of relief, to pure tears of joy. This short novel packs some sucker punches within its pages, it made me glad I did not give up on Colleen Hoover after reading Maybe Someday.

It Ends With Us

“There is no such thing as bad people. We’re all just people who sometimes do bad things.”

The main characters in this book are magnetic and memorable – especially once I got over how ridiculous some of the names were (e.g. Lily Bloom and Atlas Corrigan). I especially love Lily with her fire, her drive, and her compassionate heart. Even her quirks, such has her teenager letter to Ellen Degeneres, became endearing to me – after all, it’s exactly the kind of awkward behaviour I engaged in during my own adolescent years. I loved viewing the story entirely from Lily’s point of view, so that the readers can feel and falter through life in the exact same ways she did.

“Maybe love isn’t something that comes full circle. It just ebbs and flows, in and out, just like the people in our lives”

There were two main male characters in this book. Blessedly, it was not a love triangle, as I am severely allergic to those. Atlas and Ryle appeared at completely different stages in Lily’s life, and as individuals they remain distinct from one another. Lily knew her heart at all points in the novel, so I did not consider this a love triangle. Instead, it’s a complex dynamic, layered upon Lily’s personal history and her past interactions with both men – I found their story incredibly compelling.

This book touched upon multiple tough issues, and I think it largely dealt with them with gravitas and respect. The main theme the book dealt with was domestic abuse, and I felt it handled the matter very well. Victim blaming is unfortunately a huge part of how society views domestic abuse – ‘Why didn’t she just leave him?’ is a question that perpetually pops up in conversations about these sort of crime. I am glad to see the book shed light on this aspect.

“Just because someone hurts you doesn’t mean you can simply stop loving them. It’s not a person’s actions that hurt the most. It’s the love. If there was no love attached to the action, the pain would be a little easier to bear.”

Colleen Hoover’s Author Notes at the end of the book shed even more light on her personal experiences with it – and I recommend that you only read the Author’s Notes once you have finished the novel, as it definitely contains spoilers! Some of the scenes were difficult to stomach, so I would warn readers who can potentially be triggered by attempted rape and domestic violence.

I loved the direction this book took, it was similar to The Girl Who Fell – but executed with a lot more poise and expertise. Colleen Hoover dared to take readers on an unexpected and painful path, but I felt the story could not have headed in any other route. By the time my tears were shed, I had long accepted that this was a fitting ending to the novel. I also liked that there were foreshadowing in early parts of the book, so I had braced myself for this conclusion from the beginning (did not hurt any less, though).

Although Colleen Hoover is excellent at drawing out emotions and keeping her readers engage, I still find her writing style choppy at times. Primarily, this is because her characters tend to revert to cliche when they speak, especially in romantic scenes. By the end of the book, I wanted to roll my eyes a little every time someone mentioned the phrases ‘be bold, be brave’, or ‘just keep swimming’, or ‘I want to be you when I grow up’. Building up such wonderful, realistic characters – and then having them default to cheesy one liners really takes me out of the reading experience.

Overall, I found this book to be a memorable read, and one you definitely have to experience for yourself. I want to try out more of this author’s other work. Which would you recommend for me next?


If you’re reading this book during August, join us at the Bibliophile Academy in discussions, livetweets and taking beautiful photos of the novel. Find us on:

TWITTER // INSTAGRAM // GOODREADS

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. Continue reading “Blog Hop: All About Aussie YA”

#ReadThemAllThon TBR Pile

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For more info on the Pokemon Indigo League #ReadThemAllThon reading challenge, read my Info/Sign Up post here. This post just includes the titles I will be tackling during the challenge period.

Chosen Pokemon

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A 2-stage evolution Pokemon is no good for points, but I just really love Vulpix & Ninetails, OK? May change it to a Togepi or Mareep if I get point hungry later on. Continue reading “#ReadThemAllThon TBR Pile”

Pokemon Indigo League #ReadThemAllThon Sign Up

Hi all, I am back with another reading challenge inspired by Pokemon Go. I have recently become quite obsessed with read-a-thons as a way to tackle my TBR, so combining these two things is the natural progression of things.

ReadThemAllThon

Disclaimer: Pokemon belongs to Nintendo. I make 0 monetary profit from my blog, please don’t sue me!

What Is It?

The Pokemon Indigo League #ReadThemAllThon is a 3 weeks long reading challenge based on the Kanto’s Indigo League. Long-time fans of the series would recognise this as the first set of gyms Ash Ketchum had to conquer in his quest to become the Pokemon Master. Now you, my friends, will also embark on a journey to become the very best. Instead of fighting gym battles, you’ll be reading books instead!


When Is It?

The read-a-thon will run for 3 weeks between Sunday 14th August to Sunday 4th September.

You can sign up anytime between now and the end of the read-a-thon.


How Do I Join?

Create a sign-up post on your own blog/booktube/booklr/etc with the books you will read for the challenge below and title it #ReadThemAllThon TBR or something similar. Then add your link to the link widget below. Please add a link back to this post! Continue reading “Pokemon Indigo League #ReadThemAllThon Sign Up”

Pokemon Go Book Tag

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Disclaimer:  Pokemon Go belongs to Niantic and Nintendo, please don’t sue me.

By the time I post this, you’re probably already well aware of the global sensation that is Pokemon Go. This blog and other parts of my life have been 100% neglected in the name of catching them all. I thought I should combine my two loves of books and Pokemon in this one tag, and I want you to join me in spreading this across the lands!

Rules:

  • NIL. Link back to my blog is appreciated but optional. Feel free to use my graphics. Tag people, don’t tag people, whatever. Just have fun!

Pokemon-Tag-01Starters

Starter Pokemons have such great nostalgic values. I love all three of the original, but I chose Bulbasaur when I started this game (WHY?! I have not even seen a single Charmander so far, I am CRUSHED!)

For the bookish equivalent, some of my first English language books were by Roald Dahl, I especially love Matilda. I also loved R. L. Stine’s Goosebumps series! The first book I ever read on my own, though, was the Vietnamese edition of Dragon Ball volume one 😉 Continue reading “Pokemon Go Book Tag”

Book Review: Smoke by Dan Vyleta

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2stars

Title: Smoke

Author: Dan Vyleta

Rating: 2/5 Stars

Series? Yes. 1 of 3.

Book Depository // Amazon // Dymocks // Bookworld


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

We all know that feeling when a brilliant premise is bogged down by it execution. The ideas and worldbuilding behind Smoke were excellent concepts. However, the book lost its footing a quarter way through – making the bulk of the novel a sedated, plodding read.

Smoke

There is no more hateful smell in the world than the smell of Smoke.

The book begins at a private boarding school in an alternate Oxford, where all sins are made corporeal in the form of thick, black smoke. Humans are literally stained by their sin in this world. In London, smoke is especially widespread amongst the lower-class. It purportedly clouds judgement, making people of low socioeconomic groups become more susceptible to crime. On the other hand, the upper echelon of society seems to be untouched by sins and the taint of smoke. Our protagonists are Thomas and Charlie, a pair of friends who starts to question Smoke and the foundation of the world they inhabit.

Smoke was off to a riveting start, I loved the dynamics between the boys at the boarding school. Julius, one of the school’s prefects, exacts his cruel brand of justice on students who are susceptible to sins. His own unstained track records are one of the first hints of the corruption within the system of smoke. I also immensely enjoyed the relationship between Thomas and Charlie. I found their friendship genuine and complex – fraught with the tension of class divide.

The laws of Smoke are complex. Not every lie will trigger it. A fleeting thought of evil may pass unseen; a fib, an excuse, a piece of flattery.

Much of Smoke’s successes and downfall lies in the fact that it’s ultimately a mystery. Readers are pulled into the enigma of Smoke and the mechanisms behind it. The hints we get are tantalising and kept me turning the pages for the first third of the book. However, the information we obtain quickly becomes repetitive. While I appreciated Smoke making a commentary on societal divide and prejudice, I also felt that the book was too heavy-handed in its delivery of this theme and would have preferred a more subtle touch. Many of the scenes were Smoke were discussed quickly became uninteresting because of repetition. I was never fully satisfied with the way the mystery resolved (or rather, didn’t resolve) itself.

The other thing I had an issue with were the characters that were introduced in Part 2 of the novel. Initially, it excited me to see two interesting ladies introduced into the mix of an otherwise male-dominated cast. Yet, the book handled their characters poorly. Livia, despite her iron-will and opinionated mind, was quickly relegated to being the third side in an unnecessary love triangle (I have to say though, I really liked how the triangle was resolved). Lady Naylor had the makings of an excellent character: a lady scientist with hidden motives. However, we did not get to see enough of her, and I disliked her characterization later on in the novel.

I also found the pacing of Smoke uneven and especially painful towards the second half of the novel. The endless wandering and walking in Smoke gave me painful flashbacks to the very worst parts of Deathly Hallows – it seemed pointless and bleak. Unfortunately, unlike Harry Potter, it also largely went nowhere at the end. That’s my whole issue with this book, no payoff.

Regardless of my issues with the latter parts of Smoke, I still found the worldbuilding commendable in both its scope and details. Dan Vyleta has obviously given this world great considerations, and I love the questions that he managed to pose with this concept. The motivations and historical reasons behind the conception of Smoke were intriguing, I am disappointed it was not explored in more details. Instead, we got an endless litany of morality lessons, along with some truly bewildering character arcs.


What do you prefer? A great premise with poor execution, or an unoriginal premise with good execution? Of course, we would love to have both, but if I had to pick, I’d pick the second in a heartbeat.

TBR Takedown Wrapup & Make Me Read It Poll

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I managed to read 4 out of the 5 books I set for myself in TBR Takedown – a feat I’ll pat myself on the back for because I have never managed to stick to a TBR so closely before. Here are some of my thoughts on the books I read, and I will be doing more full-length reviews for them later on!

I also have a poll at the end of this post, please help me fill it out, it will literally take you 2 seconds and will let you pick what I’ll be reading next month!

TBRTakeDown

The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater: 5 Stars I absolutely loved this, and all I can wonder is how on earth did it take me so long to read this book? I forgot how beautiful Maggie Stiefvater’s writing is. It’s descriptive, vivid, and she has such a masterful command on human emotions and characterisation. Ronan just jumped up to being one of my faves, his development was phenomenal in this book. Also, all the ships! I absolutely can’t wait to get started on Blue Lily, Lily Blue. Continue reading “TBR Takedown Wrapup & Make Me Read It Poll”