I’ve been in a little bit of a reading slump and blogging slump during the month of December. There’s been the usual end of year family visits and festivities – as well as the mad rush at the mall where I work, so I have not had as much time to read. However, making Best Of lists is one of my favourite blogging activities, so I knew I had to get this up despite the time constraints. I’ve read many brilliant books this year, and below are some of my favourites.
- City of Brass by S. A. Chakraborty: This stunning and expansive debut novel is one of my absolute favourite fantasy reads of this year (sharing the crown with the equally impressive Jade City). An #ownvoices at its best, the book uses historical and cultural cues from the real world to invent a rich world where djinns and devas roam a mythic city – steeped in courtly intrigues and surreal wonders. I cannot wait to read Kingdom of Copper!
- Jade City by Fonda Lee: I knew I needed this book in my life the moment I read the blurb hinting at clan wars and supernatural wuxia action. I got even more than I bargained for, along with the page-turning action and complex political treacheries – it was also populated with a cast of compelling characters. Also one of the most dimensional portrayal of sibling rivalries I have read.
- Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor: One of the first books I read in 2017 and it remains one of the best. The writing in this book is achingly beautiful, weaving myth about a fabled city and a boy who grew up amongst books. Filled with monsters and magic, along with romance and tragedy – it has all of the signature elements that made me love Laini Taylor in the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series. Get this though, Strange the Dreamer is even BETTER than DOSAB.
- Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie Mclemore: I tend to love all magical realism, so it’s little surprise that Anna-Marie is quickly becoming my favourite YA author. Wild Beauty is 100% my aesthetics: a quintet of cousins with the power over flowers, a boy without memories, a dark family curse dooming lovers to disappear. Beautifully written, filled with exquisite imageries, and best paired with a reading of Secrets of a Heart Note by Stacey Lee – another book about flowers and forbidden love that I enjoyed immensely.
- Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo: I love a good fairy tale retelling, and this collection comes with several feminist reinvention of familiar tropes, made all the more delightful by the fact that the stories hail from the Grishaverse. While you can find a couple of these stories in previous publication, my favourite was Ayama and the Thorns, a new addition to this collection – hands down one of the best Beauty and the Beast retellings of all time. The book is also beautifully and thoughtfully illustrated, pick up the physical copy!
- Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashadourst: A brilliant Snow White retelling that turns a story about a stepmother’s envy into a tale about the strength of women, especially when they are working together. I loved both the narrative voices, but I particularly relished in Mina’s chapters as she turned from girl to queen. Definitely one to pick up on a chilly winter night, especially if you enjoy immersive fairy tales.
- Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtues by Mackenzi Lee: This book was just pure delight and absolute fun! Monty’s is simultaneously charming and utterly insufferable, I adored him! I also loved Percy and Felicity, the cast of characters possessed an enviable chemistry – I could read about the trio and their adventures for days. I especially recommend the audiobook – the narration by Christian Coulson (teenaged Tom Riddle in the second HP movie!) is utter perfection.
- The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F. C. Yee: This was just so much fun! The clever adaptation of a popular Chinese epic for the modern age, with characters that leaps off the page with their distinctive and larger-than-life personality. Genie is a protagonist you’ll absolutely one to root for, whether she’s trying to pass exam or save the world from hungry demons.
- Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng: After reading this book, Celeste Ng has moved immediately into my small list of autobuy authors. I especially love the way she manages to imbue mundane tasks with so much beauty and emotional weight. This book documents the way middle-class suburbia systemically exclude everyone they consider to be an outsider, absolutely heartbreaking and powerful.
- The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo: One of the best audiobooks I picked up this year. The book follows a fictional actress as she recounts her life story to a fledging journalist. It shows 1950-1970s Hollywood in all of its glamourous glory, as well as interrogate its inherent racism, sexism, and anti-homosexual attitude. I was captivated from the very first page, and Evelyn is one of the most intriguing protagonist of 2017.
Let me know if you’ve read any of them, or which you’re thinking of picking up! I wish you all a safe and happy new year 😀
Title: The Language of Thorns
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Rating: 5/5 Stars
Series? Spin-Off of the Grishaverse
Book Depository // Dymocks // Booktopia
Disclaimer: I received this book from Hachette Australia in exchange for an honest review.
The Language of Thorns is an enchanting collection of folklores from Leigh Bardugo’s richly embellished Grishaverse. Aside from the pleasure of reading stories your favourite Grishaverse characters would have grown up hearing, the beguiling tales within this collection will captivate readers with their subversive narrative and beautiful composition. In these stories, you will find human truths hidden amongst dangerous beasts and courageous maidens – simply put, this is fairy tales at its finest.
We have all grown up reading or hearing fairy tales, we know their rhythm as intimately as our own heartbeat. The stories within The Language of Thorns retains that familiar rhythm of a well-loved and oft-told fairy tale, yet they also manage to invent delightful and transformative twists. While Leigh Bardugo never flinches from portraying the cruelty and savagery of the Grishaverse in these tales, she doesn’t shy from infusing the stories with courage and optimism either. The writing throughout this collection is consistently lyrical and gorgeous, it’s one of those book that begs to be savoured on repeat.
I feel each of the six stories within deserve their own mini-review, so here goes. Continue reading “Book Review: The Language of Thorns”
Title: The Wall of Storms
Author: Ken Liu
Rating: 5/5 Stars
Series? Yes, 2 of 3.
Book Depository || Booktopia || Dymocks
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from Harper Voyager Australia in exchange for an honest review.
NOTE: The following review will contain some spoilers for The Grace of Kings, the first novel within this series.
After reading The Grace of Kings, I knew that Ken Liu has changed the game for epic fantasy. With The Wall of Storms, he continues to push on the boundaries of expectations and raised the bar even higher.
The Dandelion Dynasty was established within the first novel, with the text raising some tough questions about the philosophy of governance in times of war. In The Wall of Storms, the book take these ideas one step further by discussing economic and infrastructural development in the time of peace. While that may all sound like cumbersome and tedious reading, The Wall of Storms manages to be a page-turner despite its hefty length and ambitious themes. It’s no secret that I adore Ken Liu’s writing, and The Wall of Storms has become my favourite of his published books. Continue reading “Book Review: The Wall of Storms”
2017 has been a decent reading year so far, but I felt that while I read a lot of good books – I haven’t read as many exceptional books this year. All of the books that ended up on this list are very special and memorable to me.
The list also came a bit later than usual because my reading life skyrocketed with a couple of excellent reads in June – so I had to wait until I finished them to complete the post. It’s still missing a couple of books I started in June, but completed in July – but you’ll find out all about them at the end of this year 😉
Hurricane Heels by Isabel Yap: I read this novella at the turning of the new year, and it touched me on such a personal level. Magical Girls is one of the tropes I grew up consuming and loving, and in Hurricane Heels it gets such a visceral and modern treatment. The book is filled with complicated friendships between girls trying to juggle their momentous destiny with daily life. Continue reading “Best of 2017 So Far”
Title: The Grace of Kings
Author: Ken Liu
Series? Yes, 1 of 3
Rating: 4/5 Stars
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 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”
Like many others, I am 100% ready to leave the nightmare that was 2016 behind and begin afresh in 2017. Before we look forward to the new year, I would like to look back on one of the few good things 2016 offered: all the wonderful books I got to read. I loved many books this year, but here are 8 of the books that personally touched me the most.
Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo: I will never love another crew as much as I love the six characters in this series. This epic conclusion brought more character development to the table, as well as more scenes between all of my favourite ships. Filled with all the things I love best: witty banter, impossible heists, lady friendships, and Kaz Brekker’s one liners. Full Review. Continue reading “Best of 2016”
Title: When The Moon Was Ours
Author: Anna-Marie McLemore
Rating: 5/5 stars
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.
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. Continue reading “Audiobook Review: When The Moon Was Ours”
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”
Title: Every Heart A Doorway
Author: Seanan Mcguire
Rating: 5/5 stars
Book Depository // Dymocks // Booktopia
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from Pan Macmillan Australia in exchange for an honest review.
Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children
Every Heart A Doorway is a charming, dark, and wistful tale about the children who are dumped back into reality after their adventures in otherworldly lands. I absolutely adored it, and I think anyone who grew up reading about doorways hidden behind wardrobes or within rabbit holes would feel the same. This review will be a bit on the shorter side, as the book itself is not very long and I don’t want to spoil anything for you. Continue reading “Book Review: Every Heart A Doorway”
Title: The Long Way To A Small, Angry Planet
Author: Becky Chambers
Rating: 5/5 stars
Series? Yes, companion novel out this year!
Book Depository // Dymocks // Booktopia
Be Warned: I love this book so much I don’t think I can be trusted to be coherent or impartial in this review. The flawless Kynn of Diva Booknerds recommended Small Angry Planet to me last year – as I trust her in all things bookish I purchased it, and it’s been sitting around on my Kindle for months on end. I want to go back and smack my past-self for ignoring this gem of a book for so long. Small Angry Planet is one of those rare books that has both heart and brain, capable of making you think and feel for a long time after its last pages.
I don’t read a lot of science fiction, but I do love the genre for exploring contemporary issues in a different setting. Not to mention that space is boundless in its ability to inspire, and the vastness of the unknown is ceaselessly intriguing. Small Angry Planet captures all of the things I love best about the genre, and further delivered a human (or should I say, sapient) warmth to the story. Continue reading “Book Review: The Long Way To A Small, Angry Planet”