Book Review: Crooked Kingdom

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Title: Crooked Kingdom

Author: Leigh Bardugo

Rating: 5/5 stars

Series? Yes. 2 of 2.

Goodreads

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

Goodreads

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.

Pre-Release Thoughts: Caraval

I read Caraval for the ReadThemAllThon as my Marsh Badge (Paranormal/Supernatural Book). This is my version of a review for the book, as I don’t intend to write a full review until it’s closer to the release date.

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Disclaimer: I was provided with an ARC of this book by Hodderscape.

Previously, on pre-release thoughts, we talked about Nevernight. Today, we’ll be talking about all things Caraval, even though it isn’t technically out until January 2017. Guys, you have a lot to be excited for when 2017 comes around!

Caraval by Stephanie Garber will released January 31st (US) and January 26th (UK).

Goodreads | Book Depository | Amazon | BooktopiaRead More »

Potterhead July: Tales of Beedle the Bard and the Power of Stories

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First of all, I would like to thank you to every single person who has contributed a post or commented on a Potterhead July post – you’ve made July truly magical. We have less than a week left until the release of The Cursed Child, and I hope we will all love it as much as we loved the adventures of Harry Potter.

Here’s my own entry for the Potterhead July festival, admittedly several weeks late because I am horribly disorganized and got consumed by Pokemon GO. I also wanted to chance to finish rereading The Tales of Beedle the Bard before I completed this post because I wanted it to be a truly informed and comprehensive discussion on the function of fictional works – both within our real lives and within the world of Harry Potter.

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I remember my initial excitement over The Tales of Beedle the Bard, and how it made me felt closer to Harry Potter’s fantastical world. It felt right that young witches and wizards would also fall asleep to bedtime stories, and that these repeated stories should be more powerful than they seem. After all, isn’t this exactly what happens in real life? I have always loved books about stories, especially the ones that hid truths in plain sight or became more powerful with each telling. The Tale of the Three Brothers will eventually go on to become a fine example of this fact.

The wizarding’s world lack of fictional books prior to the reveal of Beedle the Bard have always struck me as odd. Here was a group of people living amongst the magic we Muggles could only dream of, yet they seemed utterly devoid of fictional imagination. Where was their equivalent for Tolkien, or Jane Austen, or J. K. Rowling? Entire generations of children grew up to be obsessed over Quidditch and love potion, where people poured over gossips penned by Rita Skeeter, yet where were the people in love with fictional universes? Hermione Granger, our resident bookworm, mentions only non-fictional biography or textbooks. Even Gilderoy Lockhart’s wildly fictitious accounts were based on the real life and works of other witches and wizards.

Naturally, the lack of fictional works in the world of Harry Potter had a very obvious explanation: it’s a gap in JKR’s immense world-building. To an avid fantasy reader like myself (and like most readers of Harry Potter), it’s an absence that made the wizarding world less believable – simply because I think a civilisation cannot exist in the absence of stories. Do wizarding folks simply not need fantasy because their life is literally magic? Do they not need grand legend and tales because, for them, Merlin and the philosopher’s stone are real? Somehow, I doubted this. When Tales of Beedle the Bard arrived, it saved me from a wizarding world identity crisis. It’s OK, everyone, they also grew up with stories, they also know of their power.Read More »

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 😉Read More »

Midnight Designs: A Court of Wallpapers

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If you follow me on any form of social media, you’ll know that I am pretty much obsessed with A Court of Mist and Fury. Many of my fellow fans have been asking for some wallpapers based off the series. To quote Rhysand, here’s to the dreams that are answered.

  • Free for personal use only.
  • Do not redistribute.
  • Series and quotes belong to the incredible Sarah J Maas.
  • Resolution is for iPhone 6 but should fit onto all phones.

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DROPBOX LINK.

A Court of Thorns and RosesIs anyone surprised I used a Rhysand quote in both these wallpapers? For this, I picked rose motifs for call-back to the Spring Court/Beauty and the Beast, some neat little arrows as a reminder of Feyre’s humble beginning as a huntress, and those masks the Spring Court denizens were stuck wearing. I totally mentally edited out the masks while I was reading the book, though.

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DROPBOX LINK.

A Court of Mist and Fury: Like the rest of the fandom, this is my favourite quotes from one of my favourite scenes. Team Night Court forever. I used motifs of constellations and stars for obvious reasons. I thought it looked like she was winnowing with the feathers (use your imagination and humour me a little here). Let’s not look too closely at her hair/Illyrian leathers in this one though, guys. My redrawing needs work.


If you’re after more Sarah J Maas related wallpapers, I posted some of the Throne of Glass series a while back here. I also started making the wallpapers for Assassin’s Blade and Empire of Storm tonight, but they didn’t really fit into the look of this post so I’ll save them for another day. Follow the blog for update as soon as they’re up!

My other wallpapers for other series can be found here.

If you love my stuff and want to commission me for a blog redesign, subscription box products, or any other graphics reason, please contact me here. I also have a Society 6 Store filled with bookish goodies.

FIND ME ON: Twitter // Instagram // Bloglovin

Book Review: When Michael Met Mina

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Title: When Michael Met Mina

Author: Randa Abdel-Fattah

Series? No.

Rating: 4/5 stars

Goodreads // Book Depository // Dymocks // Bookworld


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

When Michael Met Mina is a courageous, unwavering and relevant portrayal of Australia, as well as global social climate. The book looks at Islamphobia right in the eyes are challenges it. It also comes with a cast of flawed yet endearing characters.

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One of the things I loved most about When Michael Met Mina is the pure Aussie feel to it all. For a book that challenges the status quo in this country, the text also shows a lot of pride in this nation.

Like Mina, when I first moved to Australia, I lived in West Sydney. Admittedly, we are in different life stages and I was only there for one year – but in that time-frame I have faced the same stigma that seems to plague residents of the wrong side of the harbour bridge. I love that the book acknowledges the ugly, deep-rooted bigotry – but it also takes pride in the multicultural landscape of Australia. The book and its familiar settings also reminded me why it’s so important to have books telling stories you can immediately resonate with, and why we should fight to protect Australian stories.

Amongst the deeper ruminations on the status of refugees and immigrants in Australia, the book also delved into personal challenges and triumphs of the characters. We have Mina, who’s attempting to assimilate to life in North Sydney and at her prestigious new school. The story also follows Michael, who’s parents ‘Aussie Values’ oppose everything Mina stands and her family stands for. Their personal struggle parallels the larger story Randa Abdel-Fattah is telling and cautions that politics and the wider social climates have intrinsic ties to our day-to-day life. It’s a call to be more active and engaged, whether it’s against prejudice, against preconceived ideas the media feeds us, or even against the opinions of those people we love most.

I love the portrayal of the individual characters. The book fulfils all my needs for a strong, at times abrasive and unapologetic female protagonist. I found Mina very easy to love. I also adored the friendship that she cultivates with Paula. In fact, I love these two ladies so much, I kind of thought ‘Michael who?’ – I would read volumes of just these two completely slaying the patriarchy and racists together. The sense of family and community in this book was also incredibly richly drawn, making Mina and her family feel like fully-fleshed out characters.

For a book with very serious themes, it’s not without its moment of light-heartedness and humour. I loved that Randa Abdel-Fattah reminds us of the hope and joy that can be found, even in the darkest situation – and that people do not have to wear their misery on their sleeves to validate anyone’s opinions. This entire book is filled with quotable phrases, of both the sassy and insightful kind.

The book never feels preachy or forces any opinion on its readers. Instead, it presents the quiet fear and anger that fans within Mina, or the conflicts which Michael feels – and let us draw our own conclusions without hand holding. It’s an important novel and I am ready to push this book upon everyone of all ages and background. It’s more than a love story, it’s a relevant snapshot of the issues of our current world.

I did feel that the book floundered a little bit in terms of plot direction, it felt very slice-of-life. A lot of the book was Mina or Michael’s day at school and their extracurricular event – which is authentic and true to life, but made the book felt repetitive towards the midway point. As such, the concluding chapters of the book felt anticlimactic. Despite this relative lack of dramatic tension in its ending, the book remains a thought-provoking and recommended read!


Have you read any Australian stories lately? Which are your favourites?

Read at Midnight Designs: Morning Star

So if you’ve read my previous posts about the Red Rising series, you’ll know that I am huge fan. I finished Morning Star over the weekend and my brain is still reeling from post-series devastation/euphoria. I haven’t been able to string together a coherent review, but I have been making some wallpapers to share.

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  • Quotes belong to the magnificent Pierce Brown and the Red Rising trilogy.
  • DO:  Download wallpapers for personal use. Buy the books. Enjoy!
  • DON’T: Redistribute or modify without permission.
  • iPhone 6/6s resolution, but should work with most phones. Let me know if you need resizing 😀

Read More »

Blog Tour: The Girl Who Fell + Giveaway + iPhone WallPaper

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cover - the girl who fell

Book Detail: 

Release Date: March 1st 2016
Publisher: Simon & Schuster/Simon Pulse

Synopsis:

His obsession.
Her fall.
High school senior Zephyr Doyle is swept off her feet—and into an intense relationship—by the new boy in school.
Zephyr is focused. Focused on leading her team to the field hockey state championship and leaving her small town for her dream school, Boston College.
But love has a way of changing things.
Enter the new boy in school: the hockey team’s starting goaltender, Alec. He’s cute, charming, and most important, Alec doesn’t judge Zephyr. He understands her fears and insecurities—he even shares them. Soon, their relationship becomes something bigger than Zephyr, something she can’t control, something she doesn’t want to control.
Zephyr swears it must be love. Because love is powerful, and overwhelming, and…terrifying?
But love shouldn’t make you abandon your dreams, or push your friends away. And love shouldn’t make you feel guilty—or worse, ashamed.
So when Zephyr finally begins to see Alec for who he really is, she knows it’s time to take back control of her life.
If she waits any longer, it may be too late.

Pre-order Links:  Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Book DepositoryKobo


This book was exciting in the ways it challenged our expectations and preconception about the YA genre. I feel privileged to be part of the blog tour. I want to share with you how this book turned tropes around on its head – as well as give you two book-inspired iPhone wallpapers to take away!

5 Ways THE GIRL WHO FELL Destroyed YA Tropes

1.  The Side Characters’ Lives Doesn’t Revolve Around The Protagonist

It’s so often the case in YA that many side characters lose their agency, only fulfilling their purpose in the plot as either a dispenser of advice, or a motivation for the protagonist. We hardly glimpse at their own ambitions and plans. Their only goal seem to be servicing the main character in their story.

Zephyr’s best friend, Lizzie, defies this role. Yes, she’s an excellent friend who dispenses many warnings and advice, always steadfast and loyal. But she also has her own life outside: working towards her goal in becoming a journalist, and dealing with her own long distance relationship. Similarly, Gregg has his own group of friends and his own agency. They both love her, but they also love themselves – and that note made the book all the more authentic.Read More »

Book Review: Truthwitch

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4-star

Title: Truthwitch

Author: Susan Dennard

Series? Yes. 1 of 4 (?)

Rating: 4/5 stars

Goodreads

Book Depository


I have to be frank, the twitter promotion of Truthwitch had me very nervous about this book. I thought, surely, nothing is that good – my cynicism stemmed from a 2015 burned out from hype.  Nonetheless, the day it was released, I sneaked onto Kindle and snagged myself a copy.  My fears were alleviated, Truthwitch was a memorable read – filled with characteres I could root for. While I had minor issues with some of the relationships and plot points, I could see myself becoming a loyal follower of the Witchland series.

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The Chosen Pair

“I’ll always follow you, Safi, and you’ll always follow me. Threadsisters to the end.”

The lack of central female friendship in fiction is frustratingly prevalent. We live in an age where movies are still getting a pat on the back for passing a rudimentary Bechdel’s test, for Chrissake!  Truthwitch features a steadfast and crucial friendship between two fierce ladies, for that it won a lot of points in my book.  When it’s hinted that the Classic Chosen One trope has been tweaked in favour of a Chosen pair of friends? My heart can’t take it, where has this storyline been all my life?!Read More »