Book Review: The Waking Land

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3star

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.Read More »

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.Read More »

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.Read More »

Book Review: When Dimple Met Rishi

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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 RishiRead More »

Book Review: Flame in the Mist

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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.

FITM7

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?

10 Reasons I’ve Avoided Certain Books

It’s been a while since I’ve updated this blog, and it’s been a longer while since I did a TTT post – so today is a happy celebration of my return to both the blogging world and list-making.

My absence was due to an unplanned trip to Vietnam. Although it’s the country of my birth, I haven’t revisited in over a decade as the majority of my family is now based in Aus/NZ. The experience was surprising, challenging, nostalgic, and gave me a million reasons to revisit again soon!

TTT April 2017

Back to TTT: as most of you know, Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. This week, the topic is Top Ten Things That Will Make Me Instantly NOT Want To Read A Book. I’ll be discussing books I’ve DNF’d, series I’ve abandoned, and books I’ve wholly avoided altogether in today’s post.


Genre Snobbery: 

You’d think that as an adult with a reading pile of at least 50% pure YA, I would embrace all fiction and realise that genre snobbery is a pretentious lie concocted by old cishet white men too afraid to venture from their comfort zone. Sadly, there are certain corners of the bookstore I rarely venture to, these include:

1. Crime: I really enjoy watching crime on TV or in movies, or even manga, but I could never quite get into it in novel format. My only brushes with the genre is Gone Girl, and a couple of Japanese crime novels. Perhaps I am just missing the great ones, but the Crime section with its uniformity in both covers (dark shades, silhouettes, giant author name) and title (always inevitably referencing an unnamed ‘Girl’) currently holds no appeal to me.Read More »

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 ❤

Read More »

Book Review: Strange the Dreamer

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5star

Title: Strange the Dreamer

Author: Laini Taylor

Rating: 5/5 Stars

Series? Yes. 1 of 2.

Goodreads

Book Depository | Amazon | Dymocks | Booktopia


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

Laini Taylor weaves a languid and otherworldly dream with her latest release. Strange the Dreamer is a lesson in yearning. Readers will long for this vibrant world where science and magic exists side by side, where dreams and reality defy distinction, where there’s secrets and mysteries – none as perplexing as the puzzle of the lost city of Weep. Describing Strange the Dreamer is an exercise in futility, it’s as impossible as recalling the true name of Weep. I’ll try my best though, just for you!

Strangethedreamer Review

‘Lazlo couldn’t have belonged at the library more truly if he were a book himself.’

For most of Zeru, Weep is a fable, a mere legend of a splendid city dreamed up to entertain children and fill the pages of a storybook. For Lazlo Strange, Weep is a compulsion, he’s been riveted by stories of its marvels as a child – and he’s determined to remember the Unseen City. Lazlo also dreams that one day, he will be able to walk down its legendary lapis lazuli roads and meet the the city’s famed Tizerkane warriors. For the junior librarian, it’s an impossible dream – yet he continues to hope and hunt for signs of the lost city within The Great Library of Zosma.Read More »

Strange Teasers: The Complete Works of Lazlo Strange

Strange The Dreamer by Laini Taylor utterly consumed me within this past week. Like its protagonist, Lazlo Strange, I am enraptured by the fabled city of Weep and its stories. In the novel, Lazlo collected all of his findings on Weep into a little book – it was the symbol of all of his dreams and his yearning.

In a little more than two weeks, Strange the Dreamer will be released and you’ll find out whether Lazlo ever got to see his beloved city. For now, I wanted to share a teaser to whet your appetite. This is what I think a couple of pages from The Complete Works of Lazlo Strange might look like…

The Complete Works of Lazlo Strange

As a boy at the abbey, stories had been Lazlo’s only wealth. He was richer now. Now he had books.

Read More »