Novella Review: Hurricane Heels

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Title: Hurricane Heels

Author: Isabel Yap

Series? Linked Short Stories

Rating: 5/5 Stars

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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 »

Book Review: Not Your Sidekick

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4-star

Title: Not Your Sidekick

Author: C. B. Lee

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Series? Yes, 1 of 3.

Goodreads

Book Depository // Booktopia


Do you remember Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson? That series where super powered humans emerge in a post-apocalyptic world, quickly dividing society into factions? Well, I have good news for those who enjoyed it – Not Your Sidekick gives you a similar premise, but filled with a whole lot more of diversity and heart. Although it dresses up in superhero capes and fun action – at its heart Not Your Sidekick is the perfect book for anyone who’s ever felt the yearning  to be a part of something more.
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Comic book superheroes and supervillains gets a makeover in Not Yout Sidekick. Aside from action sequences and save-the-world type plotlines, we also get an introspective and character centred novel. While the book was extremely fun during its engaging action scenes and exposition, it shined brightest due to the lovable and diverse cast of characters. Alongside with saving the day, Jess and the crew also have to contend with romantic mixed signals, embarrassing siblings, and the difficulties of finding gainful employment without work experience. It’s comic superheroes at their most relatable.Read More »

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: Movie & Screenplay Review

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4-star

Title: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Author: J. K. Rowling

Rating: 4/5 stars

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Book Depository // Dymocks // Booktopia


The review below is spoiler free! Please avoid commenting with big plot spoilers!

If I was a Niffler, I would not covet jewels or freshly minted coins – I would be looting the JKR’s brain for more Harry Potter content. Like all my fellow Potterheads, I can’t help but want to revisit the wizarding world. Simply rereading the book is not enough, I always want more – even though I am aware they will rarely meet my immense expectations for the series.

Needless to say, I was still amongst the first in line to queue up to purchase tickets to Fantastic Beasts. This was in spite of my decidedly mixed feelings on Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. I ended up adoring Fantastic Beasts in spite of its many flaws. I think being able to experience the movie, rather than relying on a script alone, went a long way in making me appreciate this story. Not to mention that Newt Scamander is the Hufflepuff hero we’ve all been waiting for, and he deserves all of our love.

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Personally, the highlight of this screenplay and movie for me is the character of Newt Scamander. He’s at once the quintessential Hufflepuff and a unique character all his own. Remember when JKR explained why all the Hufflepuffs stayed for the final Hogwarts Battle? It wasn’t because they wanted glory, or power, they stayed because that’s what Hufflepuff do – because being good needs no reward. That’s Newt, you feel it every time he interacts with one of his creatures or champion for another character. I also love the dichotomy of his mild social awkwardness, standing right alongside with his confidence and conviction in his passion for magical creatures. Eddie Redmayne totally owned this role, bringing Newt to life with his charismatic and multifaceted performance – I don’t think I would have ended up loving Newt quite as much without Eddie.Read More »

Audiobook Review: When The Moon Was Ours

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5star

Title: When The Moon Was Ours

Author: Anna-Marie McLemore

Rating: 5/5 stars

Series: No

Goodreads

Book Depository // Amazon //  Booktopia // Audible


When The Moon Was Ours is a mesmerising magical realism that reminds us fairy tales are and magic belong to everyone, regardless of your race, gender, or sexuality. Written in exquisite prose and narrated in rhythmic cadence, here is an audio book I would recommend to anyone who’s ever felt different and unheard. MOON is imbued with love, hope, and dream. It’s the perfect respite from a world filled with intolerance and fear. Given the devastating result of the US elections, we need books and voices like MOON in our lives, now more than ever.

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MOON begins with a girl who lost the moon, and a boy who fights every day to bring its light back into her life. The story of Miel and Sam is one well known to their town, turned mythic and strange with numerous retellings. However, the narration takes us beyond the fairy tale of a girl made from water and a boy named Moon. It shows us all the players in the tale in all of their messy, complicated glory. Through the journey these characters undergo, MOON brings in questions that challenges perception of culture, gender identity, and family.Read More »

Book Review: A Closed and Common Orbit

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Title: A Closed and Common Orbit

Author: Becky Chambers

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Series? Companion Novel to The Long Way To A Small, Angry Planet

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Book Depository // Amazon // Dymocks // Booktopia


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

Note: This review will contain spoilers for the prequel The Long Way To A Small, Angry Planet. Common Orbit can be read as a standalone, although you will be spoiled for part of Small Angry Planet’s ending.

I read Small Angry Planet earlier on this year and it catapulted into my all time favourite list, it’s a scifi bursting with heart and soul. Needless to say, I have been anticipating the release of Common Orbit ever since.

Companion novels are a mixed beast for me, although I love revisiting the world, I am always afraid I won’t love it as much as the original if the characters I grew to love are no longer around. My fears were quickly dispelled as Common Orbit prove to retain all the heart that made me love Small Angry Planet. It also stood on its own two feet as an excellent, thought provoking novel that examines the meaning of family and identity.

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Read More »

Book Review: All The Ugly And Wonderful Things

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5star

Title: All The Ugly And Wonderful Things

Author: Bryn Greenwood

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Series? No

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Book Depository // Amazon // Booktopia


All The Ugly and Wonderful Things is a book that hooks you in, creeps under your skin, and refuses to let go. Written with a poetic and quiet intensity, the characters of this novel will haunt your thoughts long after the last pages are turned. The book effortlessly provokes a reaction: whether it’s one of disgust or of sympathy. Yet, the emotions never feel manufactured or disingenuous despite the controversial nature of the book’s themes.

“I liked learning things. How numbers worked together to explain the stars. How molecules made the world. All the ugly and wonderful things people had done in the last two thousand years.”

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“That’s not the only thing love means. You just got your mind in the gutter.”

Wavy is a girl who grew up without love, told by her own mother that she’s dirty and repulsive. At the beginning of the book, we meet Wavy at the tender age of five, already irreversibly damaged by her psychological and physical abuse. She does not speak, does not allow people to touch her, and is physically unable to eat in front of others. As expected, Wavy has an inherent distrust for the adults she encounters – until she meets Kellen. Kellen, despite being a con man and labelled a ‘fat slob’, is the exception. He’s able to get through her walls and connect with Wavy in a way even her younger brother and grandmother (the other two significant people in Wavy’s life) could not.

“Odd couple that they were, they had a real connection. Then he tugged her boot off and kissed the bottom of her bare foot. I could see him doing that kind of thing to his own kid, but she wasn’t. She was somebody else’s little girl.”

The plot is classic lonely girl meets lonely boy – yet it’s turned on its head by the huge age gap between the two characters. Wavy meets 24 years-old Kellen when she is just 8 years-old.  It’s a gap that seems morally unbreakable, although Kellen signifies safety and belonging to Wavy, two concepts that were completely alien to both of them prior to their meeting. Their relationship is a way for them to find their own comfort and identity in the midst of their awful world. Yet, physically, Wavy and Kellen could not be more mismatched: the text reminds us time and again of Wavy’s waif-like appearance, in contrast to Kellen’s huge form and beer belly. Wavy and Kellen’s bond is no fairy tale romance– it’s messy, fraught with emotional baggage and trauma from their environment.

This book is a remarkable example of the classic writing advice: ‘show, don’t tell’. The reader is never left with a biased viewpoint of our protagonists. Instead, we view Wavy and Kellen’s relationship from a multitude of characters – some recurring, some present for barely half a chapter. The book never presume to tell its audience how to feel about the relationship between Wavy and Kellen. I was allowed to be disturbed as much as I was allowed to be moved. To the very end, I still cannot condone all of Kellen’s actions, both he and Wavy remains extremely flawed. There’s no glorifying of tragedy or romanticising of any circumstances. Bryn Greenwood’s writing unflinchingly explores the ugly places, whether it’s base desires or unpleasant physical descriptors. It’s uncomfortable, it’s confronting, and it will make you question your own moral compass and societal values a thousand times over.

“You can look up the word keening in the dictionary, but you don’t know what it means until you hear somebody having her heart ripped out.”

I can’t quite believe this is Bryn Greenwood’s debut novel, her writing is polished yet evocative. Despite the limited vocabulary of some of her point of view characters, she manages to write some achingly beautiful paragraphs – which just goes to show that SAT words are not everything. The book is captivating, it absorbed and wholly absorbed me until the very end. Although I have only read this one book, I can already tell her stuff will go onto my auto-buy list because this sort of writing is what I live for.

As promised by the title of the novel, the story within is features events that will trigger revulsion – but not necessarily in the manner you would expect. Personally, it was the society around Wavy and Kellen that made me feel the most disgust. It’s a novel completely removed from the white fence, suburban homes – hence, it’s a story that’s completely distant from my own experiences. Its content are at once brutal and beautiful, and it will leave me reflecting and conflicted on the nature of humanity for a long while.

This book does come with a long list of triggers, so please note these before deciding whether you want to read it. Trigger Warnings: child abuse, domestic abuse, implied sexual abuse, drug use, alcoholism, eating disorder.


I am very curious on the thoughts everyone will have upon completing this book, so if you have read it, please come discuss it with me below!

Book Review: Crooked Kingdom

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Title: Crooked Kingdom

Author: Leigh Bardugo

Rating: 5/5 stars

Series? Yes. 2 of 2.

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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

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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.

Book Review: Fudoki by Kij Johnson

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Title: Fudoki

Author: Kij Johnson

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Series? No.

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Book Depository // Amazon 


I was really hesitant about purchasing a physical book, I don’t like the cover and I’m shallow like that. However, the Kindle e-copy costed $20AUD, so I conceded and purchased the hard copy instead. Fortunately, it turned out to be one of my best purchasing decision of this year, because the content of this book is extraordinary in its ability to weave Japanese history with magic. I have never read a book quite like it, at least not in English – and I am eager to go back and explore more of Kij Johnson’s other novels.

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The book is heavily inspired by Japan’s Heian era, specifically by the classic Tales of Genji, and the Pillow Book by Sei Shonagon. Similar to the authors of these archaic text, our narrator is a noblewoman, sequestered behind the gilded screens of her palace for all her life.Read More »

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

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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 »