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: The Language of Thorns

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Rating Five Star

Title: The Language of Thorns

Author: Leigh Bardugo

Rating: 5/5 Stars

Series? Spin-Off of the Grishaverse

Goodreads

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.

Language of Thorns 01

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”

Best of 2017 So Far

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.

Best of 2017 First Half

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 😉

2017 Top 01

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”

Book Review: Song of the Current

35477920Rating Four Star

Title: Song of the Current

Author: Sarah Tolcser

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Goodreads

Book Depository | Amazon | Dymocks | Booktopia


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

Song of the Current is a beautiful dedication to the miracles of small things, the magic of voyages, and the infinite potential out on the open ocean. The writing conveys beautiful and vivid imageries, and I loved the interplay between swashbuckling privateer action and the subtle influences of magic.

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Caro dreams of one day hearing the whispers of the god at the bottom of the river, an event that will seal her fate as the next captain of Cormorant – the Oresteia family’s wherry. The river god speaks in the language of tides and reeds, and his words remain elusive to Caro. Events at the start of the book incapacitates Caro’s father, and forces her to embark on a new adventure and find destiny among the river currents and beyond. Continue reading “Book Review: Song of the Current”

Book Review: The Waking Land

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Rating Three Star

Title: The Waking Land

Author: Callie Bates

Rating: 3/5 Stars

Series? Yes

Goodreads

Book Depository  ||  Amazon  || Dymocks ||  Booktopia


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

The Waking Land offset the wonders of magic with human imperfections through the journey of the book’s complicated heroine, Elanna Valtai. Raised by a king who branded her father a traitor to the realm, Elanna grew up believing that her people are ignorant and unworthy. The Waking Land has a lot of potential, but falters at times with its portrayal of Elanna’s characterisation, and with maintaining a consistent pacing. For me, the book ended up being a compelling but unmemorable read.
The Waking Land

One of the largest underlying conflict in The Waking Land is the oppression of the Caerisians by the new ruling class. I am always cautious when I see fantasy races used as a tool to commentate on racism, as when not done in a respectful manner, it can be quite hurtful to marginalised readers. However, The Waking Land takes care to constantly challenge Elanna’s thoughts and the institutionalised racism around her – the text constantly questions the prejudices that drives royalty and noblewomen of Laon to jeer at Elanna’s skin colour and Caerisian parentage. Continue reading “Book Review: The Waking Land”

Book Review: Roar

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1Star

Title: Roar

Author: Cora Carmack

Rating: 1/5 Stars

Series? Yes

Goodreads


Eagle-eyed blog readers may note that the usual purchase links to online retailers is missing from this post. This was entirely intentional because I think every dollar that goes towards Roar is a dollar wasted. I went in expecting an entertaining fantasy, filled with storm magic and a princess discovering her destiny. While the book partially delivered on these expectations, it also came with a significant amount of toxic masculinity, two domineering and possessive love interests, a romance that perpetuates rape culture, and a woman of colour thrown under the bus to further the heroine’s own storyline.

Roar

I’ll get the lone positive out of the way first. The world building in Roar was compelling, set in a world haunted by tempestuous storms where gifted humans employ magic to control them. Since the internet has no shortage of glowing reviews about the magic system in Roar, I’ll leave it at that. I have a lot more to say about the toxic romance in Roar as, it is an example of how dangerous it is for harmful tropes to reign unchecked and unchallenged. This post will contain spoilers for the romantic plot within Roar. This is the book that ruins itself, so I am just helping it along.

Note: The protagonist in this book goes by three different names – Aurora, Rora, and Roar – I will use the name Roar for the sake of clarity.

Trigger warning for romanticised abuse.

My main issue with Roar is the very problematic romanticisation of male sexual aggression and possessiveness. Unlike many YA novels where the narration primarily takes place from the heroine’s point of view, Roar is also written from Cassius and Locke’s perspective – and their thoughts on Roar were disturbing and frightening, especially because the text largely presented them as romantic. Continue reading “Book Review: Roar”

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

Top Ten Anticipated Books For The Rest of 2017

TTT June-Dec 2017

Note: Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and The Bookish.

When I’m not reading, or even when I am meant to be reading, you can invariably find me snooping on Goodreads or sighing wistfully at online book retailers, searching out for my next preorder. Narrowing my wishlist for the rest of 2017 down to just 10 (ahem, plus two) was entirely too challenging – but perhaps it will be good training for an exercise in self-restraint when the books do come out (haha, who am I kidding).

TTT June Dec 2017 A

Want by Cindy Pon:  Cindy Pon wrote Silver Phoenix and Serpentine, two Asian fantasy abundant with intriguing folklore and mouth-watering food description. It’s a no-brainer that I’ll be all over Want, her first foray into science fiction. The beautiful cover by illustrated by Jason Chan also demands to be displayed face out on my bookshelf.

The Tiger’s Daughter by K. Arsenault Rivera: One female Qorin warrior, one divine empress, a shared prophecy, a star-crossed love that will conquer demons, a blurb promising ‘even gods can be slain…’ – I am shook, OK, I needed this book in my life the moment I found out about its existence. It’s also blurbed by Victoria Schwab, Roshani Chokshi, and Seanan McGuire, my hype meter is through the roof.

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng: Everything I Never Told You was an exquisite heartbreak. I was utterly captivated by Celeste Ng’s writing style, especially the way she conveys emotional weight in the most mundane of actions. I absolutely cannot wait to see what she brings to the table with this new release. Continue reading “Top Ten Anticipated Books For The Rest of 2017”

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?

Midnight Designs: Strange the Dreamer

StrangetheDreamerPreview

As Lazlo Strange became consumed by thoughts of the fabled Weep, I became utterly entranced by the world in Strange the Dreamer. I could not get the tale out of my head, so I tried to capture just a little of its brilliance with these wallpapers. Happy book birthday to Strange the Dreamer, I already know you’re my favourite read of this year ❤ These are made for iPhone 6, but should work across most smartphones.

  • Quotes and characters belong to dreamsmith extraordinaire and weaver of magic: Laini Taylor.
  • Free for personal usage only.
  • Do not redistribute: this means no reuploading to social media, Pinterest, etc… please just link back to this post.
  • Do not claim as your own.
  • 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 ❤

Continue reading “Midnight Designs: Strange the Dreamer”