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.

Book Review: Muse of Nightmares

39851395Rating Five Star

Title: Muse of Nightmares

Author: Laini Taylor

Rating: 5/5 Stars

Series? Yes, 2 of 2

Goodreads

Book Depository ||  Booktopia  ||  Dymocks


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

The following review will contain spoilers for the first book, Strange the Dreamer (which I have reviewed here). There will be no spoilers for Muse of Nightmares.

Laini Taylor is a wordsmith and a weaver of dreams, she never ceases to amaze me. This duology will go down as my all-time favourite, sharing the throne with The Orphan’s Tales Duology and Six of Crows.

Muse of Nightmares.png

As long-time blog readers might remember, Strange the Dreamer was one of my favourite reads of 2017. Within the first few pages, I was captivated by Lazlo’s dreams, Sarai’s musings, and the magic of Weep. If the first book in this duology was a languid and indescribably vivid dreamscape, then Muse of Nightmares was a triumphant awakening into a reality equally monstrous and fantastical. To me, Muse was pitch-perfect from beginning to end, marked by Laini Taylor’s inimitable lyrical prose and enviable imagination. Continue reading “Book Review: Muse of Nightmares”

Book Review: Spinning Silver

38606192Rating Five Star

Title: Spinning Silver

Author: Naomi Novik

Rating: 5/5 stars

Series? No

Goodreads

Book Depository  |  Dymocks  |  Booktopia

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

Spinning Silver.png

Naomi Novik is one of my favourite writers, and Spinning Silver is my favourite book she’s written to date. While Spinning Silver is a standalone novel, it complements Uprooted beautifully as a sister-novel. Both draw inspirations from folklore and fairy tales, with Spinning Silver being an empowering and poignant examination of Rumplestiltskin. The author mentioned that while Uprooted was a homage to her mother’s experiences, while Spinning Silver is an exploration of her father’s story and heritage as a Lithuanian Jew. Richly imagined, filled with strong female characters, and expertly told, this is a book I can see myself rereading time and again in years to come.

Spinning Silver was a technical marvel, beginning from Miryem’s narration and effortlessly adding in other viewpoints throughout the novel. Each of these points of views added another layer to the world building and increased the emotional complexity and stake. They were also beautifully distinctive, from Miryem’s practical and resolute voice, to Wanda’s honest and determined narration, to the brooding and skittish tsar. Although the ARC I read did not provide any chapter heading indicating when the point of view has been changed, I was never confused due to the power of the writing.

The character development over the course of this short novel was phenomenal, as was the way the relationships between various characters were built. My favourites were the main leading ladies, each unique and possessing different kinds of strength. Miryem with her talent for bargaining and sense of fairness. Wanda and the way she savours life and constantly persist, even when things are not going her way. Irina and her cunning mind, coupled with her complete refusal to indulge in the nonsense of brooding tsars and greedy demons. Their strength and their collaboration throughout the novel was a refreshing change from fairy tales of old, where the heroine is often bereft of help unless it’s provided by fairies or dashing princes.

Like Uprooted, Spinning Silver was richly imagined and atmospheric. I read this book just as we headed into winter in Melbourne, and it felt so perfect. The Staryk with their foreboding presence created a dark and palpable tension. Novik’s description of dark and chilly winter nights were so vivid it made me shiver. In spite of the dark atmosphere, the book also contained a lot of humour and hope – I found the tsar and Irina’s chapters especially hilarious. Reading this book was like experiencing your favourite storybook for the first time, with all of the misogynistic and racist undertones cut out.

Speaking of racism, I thought Spinning Silver did an excellent job in critiquing the anti-Semitic subtext in Rumplestiltskin through Miryem’s chapters. This is also the first time I read a fantasy where the heroine goes through length to honour Sabbath, even when she’s imprisoned by a legendary monster. I will link some #ownvoices reviews of the book from Jewish readers when I find them, if you’ve written one, please let me know!

Overall, Spinning Silver was a brilliant and immersive fairy tale reimaging! One you should not miss, especially if you, like me, have always found the tale of Rumplestiltskin wanting.

Midnight Designs: Uprooted and Spinning Silver

Naomi Novik Wallpaper Preview.png

Uprooted and Spinning Silver are the perfect modern fairy tales: bewitching, evocative, with a strong streak of feminism. I am sharing my love for Naomi Novik today by bringing you two phone wallpapers featuring Agnieszka and Miryem

Important:

  • Characters and quotes belong to the brilliant Naomi Novik.
  • The phone wallpapers are free for your personal use only.
  • Please do not edit, repost, redistribute the images.
  • They are made for iPhone 6, but should fit most smartphones.

 

Uprooted Wallpaper

I was a glaring blot on perfection. But I didn’t care. I didn’t feel I owed him beauty.

Spinning Silver Wallpaper

Because that’s what the story is really about, getting out of paying your debts.

  • 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.

Reread at Midnight: The Poppy War Chapter 4

The Poppy War Reread Chapter 4.png

It’s that time of the week again! Today we take a deep dive into Chapter 4 of The Poppy War, where the infamous Altan Trengsin makes his first appearance.

Reminder that these posts will contain spoilers for the ENTIRE book. If you haven’t finished reading The Poppy War yet, feel free to check back when you are done.

REREAD INDEX

Chapter 4

We quickly learn that Sinegard Academy is pretty much a glorified bootcamp, where students are literally left to either sink or swim. Continue reading “Reread at Midnight: The Poppy War Chapter 4”

Reread at Midnight: The Poppy War Chapter 3

Reread TPW Chapter 3.png

Welcome back to The Poppy War Reread, this week we are diving into chapter3.

Reminder that these posts will contain spoilers for the ENTIRE book. If you haven’t finished reading The Poppy War yet, feel free to check back when you are done.

REREAD INDEX

CHAPTER 3

Content Warnings for Chapter 3: allusion to drug use and drug addiction, allusion to genocide.

Rin and Nezha are the last to arrive to the main hall, thanks to their scuffle at the end of the last chapter. I love that the older students are being loud and brash on purpose to set the new recruits on edge, reminds me of my good old days in high school. Continue reading “Reread at Midnight: The Poppy War Chapter 3”

Book Review: The Queens of Innis Lear

37795682Rating Three Star

Title: The Queens of Innis Lear

Author: Tessa Gratton

Rating: 3/5 Stars

Series? No

Goodreads

Book DepositoryDymocks  |  Booktopia


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

The Queens of Innis Lear Tessa Gratton.png

I still vividly remember studying King Lear for Year 11 English class, for me, it’s Shakespeare’s most memorable tragedy. I spent many hours that year writing about the folly of men in power and the toxicity of patriarchal societies, so I was immediately intrigued when I learned of this feminist retelling of King Lear. Continue reading “Book Review: The Queens of Innis Lear”

Book Review: Furyborn

34323570Rating Three Star

Title: Furyborn

Author: Claire Legrand

Rating: 3/5 Stars

Series? Yes, 1 of 3

Goodreads

Book Depository | Dymocks | Booktopia


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

Furyborn is an ambitious fantasy following a prophecy about preordained queens and mythic reckoning over the course of thousands of years. On the one hand, we have Rielle, who must conquer deadly trials to prove she is the predestined Sun Queen. On the other, we have Eliana, a cynical assassin who only knows Rielle as a bloody and half-forgotten legend.

Sadly to say, the execution fell a little bit flat for me, I was only invested in one half of the narrative voices. As the book has dual point of views that are separated by millenia, it can at time feel disjointed. I had high expectations for this novel, especially given the explosive prologue. However, the rest of the book never quite manages to regain the exhilaration of its first chapter.

furyborn.gif

I did really enjoy Rielle’s point of view, and I felt connected to all of the characters around her. There is also the compelling dramatic irony running throughout, as we know from the first chapter that her story ends in tragedy. Learning the steps which led Rielle into becoming the reviled Blood Queen of prophecy is like putting together an intricate puzzle you don’t quite have the heart to complete.

Rielle’s character development throughout the novel was credible and engrossing, especially when the voice of Corien is thrown into the mix. The constant battle between her moral integrity and her darker impulses are even more exciting than her elemental trials.

Audric is also one of the sweetest love interest I’ve read about in YA, and remembering his eventual fate every time I see him on page causes me deep pain. One can easily see the groundwork for future disputes between him and Rielle, it almost feels inevitable – but you can’t help but wishing that maybe through reading, the ending may transform into something different.

The world building within this book is variable in quality. Once, there was a great battle between angels and saints, the saints who emerged victorious eventually went on to find all of the great nations within this world. Each saint commands a specific elements, and there are several humans who can do the same. However, the fated Blood Queen and Sun Queen of the legend, can control all the elements (*cue Avatar opening music*). Beyond the names of a few angels and saints, and seeing people handling the various elements, we don’t get an in-depth look at the fabric of this world – it seems to crumble upon further scrutiny.

I also had a hard time with Eliana’s chapters, I felt very detached from her – perhaps because she also kept an emotional distance between herself and other characters. The readers are constantly told about how she feels, rather than seeing it in action. The characters supporting her story were also less vivid than the ones in Rielle’s scenes. Overall, the only thoughts I ever had while reading her chapters were ones wishing they would end soon so that the limelight can be given back to Rielle.

While I had mixed feelings about Furyborn, I love Rielle and Audric more than enough to want the sequel. It’s going to be a long wait until next year!


Have you read Furyborn? Did you think it was worthy of the hype?

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”

Midnight Designs: The Poppy War

The Poppy War Wallpaper Teaser

The Poppy War is one of my most anticipated releases of 2018 and it did not disappoint. Quite the opposite, it left me breathless and dazed, groveling for a sequel like a poppy-addled addict. I will do a full review once I have digested everything, but for now, I have some wallpapers inspired by the book for you all. Let’s be honest, we all deserve all little TLC after the novel.

  • Quotes and characters belong to the brilliant R. F. Kuang, cover art from The Poppy War hardback are drawn by Jung Shan.
  • The phone wallpapers are free for your personal use only.
  • Please do not edit, repost, redistribute the images.
  • They are made for iPhone 6, but should fit most smartphones.

TPW Teaser 01

DROPBOX LINK

I don’t believe in gods. I believe in power.

Sorry I don’t make the rules, but all the best protagonists are Slytherins. Rin is ambitious and resilient, she burns for power and she will grab life and deities by the throat to earn it. Also the best exam crammer I have ever seen in a fantasy novel, I am ready to declare undying allegiance to her.


TPW Teaser 02

DROPBOX LINK

War doesn’t determine who’s right. War determines who remains.

As implied by the title of the book, war plays a huge role in The Poppy War, and the novel does not hold back from the violence and horrors which accompanies it. Many events in the book parallels the Second Sino-Japanese War, and it expertly weaves between historical reality and fantasy to create a devastating portrait of war.


TPW Teaser 03

DROPBOX LINK

She came from nothing. She wasn’t going back to nothing.

One of the things I love most about Rin is her drive and personal agency, her sheer determination to write her own story — even if it’s one where she may not end up the hero.


  • 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.