Book Review: Girls of Paper and Fire

34433755Rating Four Star

Title: Girls of Paper and Fire

Author: Natasha Ngan

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Series? Yes

Goodreads

Book DepositoryBooktopia  | Dymocks


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

Trigger Warning for sexual assault.

Girls of Paper and Fire is an antidote to the poison that is on the daily news. It’s a testament to the resilience of survivors, filled with fire and fury and hope. If you are in the mood for a read that will set the patriarchy alight, this is definitely one to grab.

Girls-of-Paper-and-Fire

There is a lot to unpack about this stunner of a debut novel. The experience of reading Girls is intensely personal, as the book draws intimately from the Natasha Ngan’s experiences. From the cultural flourishes to the Paper Girls’ shared trauma, every detail within the book is carefully considered to create an emotionally immersive experience. I confess this novel left me in a daze after I finished it, so do approach with caution considering the heavy content within.

The world building in Girls is rich and expansive, helped by Natasha Ngan’s beautiful descriptive writing. Characters within this world are divided into three groups – with the powerless humans of the Paper caste oppressed by the demons in the Steel and Moon castes. There is mythology and founding legend deeply rooted in the fabric of this world, re-purposed by the ruling class to reinforce their reign at the top. I loved the political tension between the different caste and the various provinces of the Demon King’s vast empire. As the world is based in Malaysia, it’s as rich in cultural diversity as its real-life counterpart.

Lei is a Paper Girl, one among a group of nine selected to be concubine to the Demon King. Born to a world where women are routinely robbed of their agency, Lei emerges from the page simmering in anger yet plagued by insecurities and self-doubt. Her character arc is an exploration of self-empowerment and reclaiming of identity in a deeply flawed and misogynistic system. I appreciated that the book presented a multitude of ways in which these women coped, and does not pass judgement on any methods.

The romantic love story within this book is the slow burn F/F fantasy romance readers everywhere have been waiting for. It’s satisfying watching two women learn of each other’s flaws and strengths, empowering one another, and falling in love along the way. It’s so easy to root for these ladies and cheer on their battle against the world.

If you only pick one debut novel to read in 2018, make it this one.

#1KBE A Thousand Beginnings and Endings Reading Challenge

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This challenge is co-hosted by LitCelebrAsian, so please keep an eye on the blog and twitter to follow updates, author interviews, and more!

What is A Thousand Beginnings and Endings?

A Thousand Beginnings and Endings is an upcoming anthology featuring retellings of mythology and legends from East Asia, South Asia, and Southeast Asia.The collection is edited by Ellen Oh and Elsie Chapman, and will feature stories from the following authors: Elsie Chapman, Renée Ahdieh, Sona Charaipotra, Preeti Chhibber, Roshani Chokshi, Aliette de Bodard, Melissa de la Cruz, Julie Kagawa, Rahul Kanakia, Lori M. Lee, E. C. Myers, Cindy Pon, Aisha Saeed, Shveta Thakrar, Alyssa Wong.

For more information and preorder:  Harpercollins | Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Indiebound | Book Depository | Dymocks | Booktopia Continue reading “#1KBE A Thousand Beginnings and Endings Reading Challenge”

Book Review: The Poppy War

35068705Rating Five Star

Title: The Poppy War

Author: R. F. Kuang

Rating: 5/5 Stars

Series? Yes, 1 of 3

Goodreads

Book DepositoryDymocks  |  Booktopia


The Poppy War is a searing and blood-soaked military fantasy that will carve itself into the reader with every word. Deftly blending historical events and Chinese mythology, the novel imagines a vivid new world and uses this alternate universe to process living generational trauma. Between the endless actions and warfare, among the figures of gods and monsters, readers will also find a human story about war and the lasting impact it has on the individuals and nations involved.

The-Poppy-War Continue reading “Book Review: The Poppy War”

Book Review and Author Interview: Jade City

34606064Rating Five Star

Title: Jade City

Author: Fonda Lee

Rating: 5/5 Stars

Series? Yes, 1 of 3

Goodreads

Book Depository // Dymocks // Booktopia


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

Jade City

I read Jade City after a brief reading slump (thanks, Animal Crossing Pocket Camp!) and it was everything I needed to reignite my love for reading and losing myself in another world. Today I have both a book review and an author interview with Fonda Lee to share with you! You’ll find the interview at the end of the post, please check it out and give Fonda’s books some love!

Jade City Review

Jade City is a boldly ambitious and culturally distinctive urban fantasy, merging gangster drama with wuxia flair to create a complex story about family, honour, and national pride. The book sets the bar sky-high on numerous fronts, whether it’s attentive character development, sensory stimulating fight scenes, or cut-throat political trade wars. However, what I loved most about Jade City is its carefully considered and provoking theme which ties jade to birthright, to power, to duty, and to family. I found the book’s exploration of identity in a nation ruled by jade and blood immensely moving and powerful. Continue reading “Book Review and Author Interview: Jade City”

Book Review: Girls Made of Snow and Glass

32768509Rating Five Star

Title: Girls Made of Snow and Glass

Author: Melissa Bashardoust

Rating: 5/5 Stars

Series? No

Goodreads

Book Depository //  Dymocks  // Booktopia // Audible


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

Girls Made of Snow and Glass is an exquisite retelling of Snow White, reinventing a tale about jealous queens and helpless maidens into a story of female empowerment. The familiar tale is dissected with precision and carefully imbued with new layers of complexities. The final result is a gorgeously rendered story about a glass queen and a snow princess, both working to defy the roles the men in their lives have forced upon them.

Girls Made of Snow and Glass

“If they love you for anything, it will be for your beauty.”

Mina first heard the phrase above when she was sixteen, in the same moment she learned she has a heart of glass – incapable of beating, and purportedly also unable to comprehend human love. Her father, Gregory, the power-obsessed magician who created the glass heart, is utterly convinced Mina is devoid of the potential for love. Instead, he persuades Mina that only her beauty can pave her way to any semblance of happiness. His words haunt Mina’s steps for several years, even as she becomes queen of the northern territories of Whitespring. As Mina ages, she can feel her youth and beauty slip from her. She becomes keenly aware of her precarious position in court as her stepdaughter, Lynet, blossom into the very image of her long-dead mother – the beloved queen Amelia. Continue reading “Book Review: Girls Made of Snow and Glass”

Book Review: City of Brass

36475759Rating Five Star

Title: City of Brass

Author: S. A. Chakraborty

Series? Yes, 1 of 3.

Rating: 5/5 Stars

Goodreads

Book Depository // Booktopia // Dymocks


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

For me, City of Brass takes the title of Fantasy Debut of the Year. It contains an impressive and expansive world, populated by a cast of diverse and morally-complex characters. This is fantasy at its finest, imaginative and mesmerising, while also offering cutting commentary on the real world. There’s engaging action, compelling palace intrigues, slow burn romance, and everything else I could possibly love in fantasy – get this book into your hands!

City of Brass Continue reading “Book Review: City of Brass”

Midnight Designs: Cindy Pon Appreciation Post

Cindy Pon Appreciation Post Teaser

This week marks the release of Cindy Pon’s latest novel, Want. To celebrate, I’ve compiled a wallpaper post based on the cover of Want, along with a couple from her previous series, Serpentine.

Although the publishing world is getting better every year in terms of representation, it’s still rare to see an Asian face grace the cover of any YA books. I’ve been loving the covers of Cindy’s more recent novels, gorgeously illustrated by Zachary Schoenbaum (for Serpentine) and Jason Chan (for Want).

Cindy’s debut, Silver Phoenix, was also the first YA fantasy novel I read with a Chinese protagonist – I remember cherishing it for telling me a story that was at once fresh and nostalgic. Being able to see yourself is a powerful thing, and it was Cindy’s book that propelled me to begin my first (but very short-lived) book blog. I just celebrated my 2nd year of blogging on Read at Midnight yesterday, and I am glad to share my blog birthday with Cindy’s latest novel!

As always, a couple of house rules:

  • The wallpapers are set for iPhone 6S, but should work across a range of smart phones. They’re free for personal use.
  • All characters belong to Cindy Pon. Illustrations of the characters are by Zachary Schoenbaum (for Serpentine) and Jason Chan (for Want).
  • Please do not edit, repost, redistribute the images, or claim them as your own.
  • Find more information on Serpentine, Sacrifice, and Want on Goodreads!
  • If you enjoyed my work, please consider buying me a cuppa or two via Ko-fi! All donations will go towards image licensing for my next shareable graphics project, so we will all benefit ❤

Serpentine TEaser 2DROPBOX LINK

 

Serpentine TeaserDROPBOX LINK

 

Want TeaserDROPBOX LINK


  • Find more of my free book-related designs here.
  • If you enjoyed these free graphics and want to support me, you can find me on Society 6.
  • Alternatively, you can commission me for your custom graphics by contacting me.
  • Finally, you can grab me a cuppa via Ko-fi here.

FIND ME ON: Twitter // Instagram

Book Review: The Grace of Kings

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4-star

Title: The Grace of Kings

Author: Ken Liu

Series? Yes, 1 of 3

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Goodreads

Book Depository // Amazon // Dymocks // Booktopia


In a genre inundated with tall-tales of reluctant white heroes fulfilling their Destiny, Ken Liu’s voice unabashedly stands apart. He is a constant innovator, whether it’s with his short fiction, full length novel, or translated work. At the same time, he also showcase the roots of his identity via the incorporation of Chinese history and mythology in all his writing. The Grace of Kings embodies Ken Liu’s style completely, fusing his unique voice with an ambitious saga about war, governance, and people who defy destiny.

The Grace Of Kings

The Grace of Kings is told via a series of interconnected chapters, each giving the reader an insight to the many characters that populate this vast world. The character featured may only fleet in and out of the narrative, or reappear numerous times to emerge as a central figure to the tale – but each of their story felt crucial to the overarching epic.Ken Liu’s mastery over short fiction is evident by his previous works such as The Paper Menagerie, and I loved seeing these skills applied on a grander scale to create the rich tapestry of The Dandelion Dynasty. Although each chapters felt episodic, there was a constant sense of momentum and urgency throughout the text, making this a constantly engaging read despite its hefty length. Continue reading “Book Review: The Grace of Kings”

Book Review: When Dimple Met Rishi

284585984-star

Book Review: When Dimple Met Rishi

Title: When Dimple Met Rishi

Author: Sandhya Menon

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Series? No

Goodreads

Book Depository  ||  Amazon  ||  Booktopia  ||  Dymocks


Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from Date A Book/Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

NOTE: I read this book as part of #AsianLitBingo, you can find my full TBR here.

When Dimple Met Rishi is like a sip of iced-coffee on a stifling summer day: refreshing, energising, and never fails to put a smile on my face. This endearing romantic comedy explores the whole spectrum of the young adulthood experience with sincerity and humour. Within these pages you will find an honest examination of culture and identity, as well as a thoughtful study on dreams and ambitions.

When Dimple Met Rishi Continue reading “Book Review: When Dimple Met Rishi”

Book Review: Flame in the Mist

233080873star

Title: Flame in the Mist

Author: Renee Ahdieh

Rating: 3/5 Stars

Series? Yes.

Goodreads

Book Depository  ||  Dymocks  ||  Booktopia


Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from Hachette Australia/Date A Book in exchange for an honest review.

I read this book as part of the #AsianLitBingo challenge, you can check out my TBR for it here.

While Flame in the Mist was an enjoyable read overall, I felt somewhat let-down because of its immense potential to be remarkable. The premise promised greatness: a fantasy set in an alternate feudal Japan, featuring a cross-dressing noble lady skilled at invention and her time amongst lordless samurai warriors. I expected Flame in the Mist to sweep me off my feet. However, issues with inconsistent character development and pacing meant the book missed the mark for me.

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Flame in the Mist follows Mariko Hattori, daughter of a prominent daimyou, as she attempts to exact her revenge on The Black Clan. She believes this notorious mountain-based samurai gang is responsible for the death of her servants and foot soldiers, as part of an effort to assassinate her. Mariko infiltrates The Black Clan by disguising as a young male traveler. Before she knows it, Mariko is embroiled in a net of intrigue involving a lost shogun and a struggle for nationwide dominance.

First of all, I just wanted to say that Flame in the Mist is not retelling of Mulan – because it’s something I keep hearing on Twitter. Both stories have a cross-dressing heroine, and that’s where the similarities end. Japan and China are separate countries, and Mulan is not a folklore they share.

One of the things I was glad to see in Flame in the Mist is how different Mariko is from Renee Ahdieh’s previous protagonist, Shazi. Mariko is more of an observer and a thinker, someone who weighs up all of her options before acting. Due to this, at times her narration can seem repetitive and sedate. Despite the her tendency to lapse into long internal monologues, I appreciated that Mariko was the main driver of her story. It’s her actions that continually propelled the plot forwards, in spite of the machinations around her.

I must admit that I found many of the secondary characters to be lacking in dimension. Aside from Okami and Ranmaru, who had development thanks to their many interactions with Mariko – the rest of the cast suffered. I never felt that Mariko formed am authentic or lasting bond with The Black Clan. Similarly, the side story featuring Mariko’s twin brother, Kenshin, and his love interest fell a little flat. The book did try to address the sexism inherent within Mariko’s society, and I commend it for featuring several key female characters. Towards the end, there are hints that more of these characters will take centre-stage in the sequel – so I look forward to seeing the gender roles explored further.

My main issue with Flame in the Mist came from most of the book’s characterisation being told rather than shown. The book kept telling me about the brilliance of Mariko’s mind, how mysterious Okami is, how Ranmaru’s presence exudes power and command – but I was never convinced as they did little to back these claims up. The primary romance in the novel also suffered due to similar lack of development. One moment, our protagonists were eyeing one another with disinterest and hostility, the next they were utterly consumed by lust. I did like the interactions between them once the romance begun, but I am still perplexed on how it happened.

As for the world building, I admit I was a little disappointed by Flame in the Mist’s vision of Japan. Having read The Wrath and the Dawn, I know the author is capable of ensnaring all of our senses when it comes to setting. The Japan in Flame in the Mist seems a bit like a theme park. Samurai? Check. Emperors? Check. Maiko and geisha? Check. Teahouses? Check. Ninja? Check (you can’t tell me that Mariko’s inventions aren’t directly copied off ninja devices!) Youkai? Check. Lengthy description of kimono? Check. I also found the use of the Japanese vocabulary inconsistent and confusing, as it seems the author could not decide whether she wanted to use the English or the Japanese equivalent of certain words, and constantly fluctuated between them. Mercifully, this was limited to the first few chapters of the novel.

Overall, I am still invested enough in the story to check out the sequel. I would recommend it if you’re looking for a non-Western YA fantasy – especially as it seems I am amongst the minority when it comes to this book.


Have you read Flame in the Mist? What are some of your favourite books set in Japan?