Mini Review: Recent Reads

Hello all, it’s finally autumn and maybe that’s why this month of October has been hectic! It feels like I’ve come alive. If not for this terrible flu I had these days, I mean. Anyway, I wanted to do something a little different and share mini reviews of my recent three reads! I really enjoyed them and hope you forgive the utter unrelatedness of them.

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The Border Keeper by Kerstin Hall

It took me embarrassingly long to finish this. But that’s not any fault of this novella because it was very atmospheric and enjoyable. In fact, the stretched out reading period might even have added to the story’s vast feel. It takes you in and out of so many different realms and when you go through it slowly, it expands even more, if that’s possible. I love liminal stories. I enjoy portal fantasies very much. Something about the sad tinge of this novella made it stand out from the others. I should quote the author here because they say it best: “It’s a twisty kind of story, and no one is quite what they seem. Thematically, it has a lot to do with ideas of healing and justice, but there are also pretty demons with long hair and an exceedingly grumpy genocidal witch.”

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Foul is Fair by Hannah Capin

Modern Macbeth with a focus on Lady Macbeth. Words as sharp as the story at its core: It’s Dare Me and Kill Bill but fresh in a way that’s darkly enchanting. Our main girl, Jade, drives the plot with her equally and terribly (read: justifiably) mischievous coven. I haven’t read Hannah Capin’s debut Dead Queens Club yet (it’s on my TBR!) so this was my first introduction to her work and it was interesting to see how Foul is Fair made use of the original play and how, when it comes down to it, subverted it. It’s listed as the first book of a series, which I’m looking forward to. If you are into layered stories of revenge that doesn’t pull its punches, you’ll enjoy this one!

I received an ARC of this book via NetGalley. Foul is Fair comes out on February 4th by Wednesday books.

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Mooncakes by Wendy Xu & Suzanne Walker

Mooncakes is the season of Fall in graphic novel form. Especially after reading a couple of intense books in a row, the quiet coziness and warmth of the full color pages and the lovable characters, the family dynamics, the inclusivity (it has deaf, bisexual and nonbinary rep as well as a Chinese American main cast!) and the magic of it was very welcome. I loved both main characters so much, but I couldn’t get enough of Nova’s badass grandmas and cousin Terry and wanted to know more about Nova and Tam’s backstory, as well as the magic system. Overall, it was so soft and lovely.

So, these are my most recent reads. What have you been reading lately, let me know in the comments and have an amazing day!

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Blog Tour: Relic by Bronwyn Eley

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Relic (2019)1

★★★★☆

Book Information

Title: Relic

Author: Bronwyn Eley

Publisher: Talem Press

Publication date: 12 September 2019

Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy

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Synopsis:

In the city of Edriast, there is no deadlier duty than to serve as the Shadow.

As the personal servant of the powerful Lord Rennard, the Shadow’s life is all but forfeit. Rennard possesses one of five rare and dangerous Relics – a jewel that protects his bloodline, but slowly poisons everyone else in its proximity. When the current Shadow succumbs to its magic, nineteen-year-old blacksmith Kaylan is summoned to take his place.

It’s an appointment that will kill her.

As the time Kaylan has left ebbs away, hope begins to fade… That is, until she discovers a plot to destroy all five bloodlines in possession of the Relics.

A rebel force plans to put an end to Rennard’s rule and Kaylan suddenly finds herself embroiled in a cause that might just be worth fighting for. But no cause is without its costs…

As her life hangs in the balance and rebellion bears down on Edriast, Kaylan must decide where her loyalties lie – and how she’ll leave her mark on the world.

Relic is the absorbing first novel in The Relic Trilogy, a thrillingly dark YA fantasy series.

Book links:

Amazon 

Goodreads 

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Review

And now, for my review of Relic!

Before that, though, I’d like to thank Shealea over at Shut up, Shealea and Caffeine Book Tours for choosing me as one of the hosts of the Relic blog tour, as well as Talem Press for providing me with an advance copy. I’m so happy I got to read Bronwyn Eley’s promising fantasy debut for my first blog tour ever!

We are introduced to the world of Relic in the city of Edriast, where Lord Rennard, who has hold of the magical gemstone, rules with an iron fist. The narrative doesn’t stray from Edriast and we experience the city with its every aspect: from the imposing castle to the slums and lush companion houses, Edriast comes alive as Kaylan, a young Blacksmith apprentice and the narrator, navigates being pulled away from her life and dropped into one of danger, conspiracy and uncertainty. I must say I loved reading about Kaylan and Shae’s friendship, as well as Kaylan’s bond with her brothers. It establishes her as a family-oriented, selfless person as she later takes huge risks to ensure their safety.

“What had this city turned us into? Nothing but puppets to a grand master.”

However, she is not able to stop thinking of her own well-being as the elusive Relic’s power consumes her, slowly breaking her in body and in spirit. The supporting cast both inside the castle and in the city can ultimately provide little help for her, but they stay by her side and support her. One character in particular, Jesper, makes actual effort to save Kaylan’s life and becomes a genuine friend to her. This is a welcome change, because Kaylan is rarely treated with any sympathy by anyone throughout the book and it gets worse as the Relic takes its toll on her. She begins turning on herself as well. Her inner conflict and the rising stakes are depicted so well that I think the middle through the end is the strongest section of this book.

“I wasn’t some quivering animal caught in a hunter’s sight. I was angry. The words came out in a low snarl, deep from my chest, as if I really was a wild beast.”

We follow Kaylan through shady taverns, secret passageways and castle dungeons, the setting works with the story to create a claustrophobic, almost drowning atmosphere. In that aspect it reminded me a bit of Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast series  but although Relic spans only one city, the larger world is hinted at by the ending and the existence of four other Relics belonging to four other bloodlines. It’s good set-up for the future books and later parts of Kaylan’s journey.

I do wish we got to learn more about the magic system, because honestly, despite its destructive qualities I couldn’t help but wonder if the Relic could have any redeeming qualities. So far it has only brought death and ruin, but maybe there’s more to it.  I especially liked that it was… personalized, at times. Almost playing with Kaylan’s mind the way a cat would with mice.

“It was as if it had a voice of its own. The Relic. It had no words, but it mocked me.”

Overall, if you are a fan of:

  • Dark fantasy heavy on political intrigue
  • Gormenghast-like claustrophobic worldbuilding
  • Quietly festering beginnings and explosive endings

… you don’t want to miss this.

So, these are my thoughts on Relic! Continue scrolling for a playlist and moodboard inspired it, I had so much fun making them! Please let me know what you think in the comments as well as the upcoming Twitter chat (more info on that below!).

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A Relic Playlist by Me ♫

Wolfpack by Johannes Bornlöf

Falling Too Far by Mellancolia

Walk Towards Silence by Kasper Schill

The Otherside by Wolf Colony

My House by PVRIS

Power is Power by SZA (ft The Weeknd)

The Killing Kind by Marianas Trench

All Die Young by Smith Westerns 

Venom by Eminem

On My Way by Alan Walker (ft Sabrina Carpenter)

Listen here.

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A Relic Moodboard by me

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Tour Schedule

September 16 (Monday)

  • Blog tour launch (from Shut up, Shealea)
  • Post from A Bronx Latina Reads
  • Post from hollylovesbooks
  • Post from Sifa Elizabeth Reads

September 17 (Tuesday)

  • Post from Heart’s Content
  • Post from Laurensliterarylibrary
  • Post from Sincerely Karen Jo
  • Post from Words of Hannah Kay
  • Post from Zany Bibliophile

September 18 (Wednesday)

  • Author interview (from Shut up, Shealea)
  • Post from The Book Piles
  • Post from Gwendalyn’s Books
  • Post from The Inked In Book Blog
  • Post from Lost in Storyland
  • Post from One in a Million

September 19 (Thursday)

  • Post from Al-Alhambra
  • Post from Lori’s Bookshelf Reads
  • Post from Milles Rêves en Moi
  • Post from Novel Nerd Faction
  • Post from Sometimes Leelynn Reads

September 20 (Friday)

  • Creative post (from Shut up, Shealea)
  • Post from Belle’s Archive
  • Post from Blissful Reveries
  • Post from Book Geek Musings
  • Post from Bookworm Muse
  • Post from Open Pages

September 21 (Saturday)

  • Post from A Bookworms’s Chapters
  • Post from Bibliomedico
  • Post from Bubbly Books
  • Post from Indelible Ink Inscribes
  • Post from Its Just A Coffee Addicted Bibliophile
  • Twitter chat hosted by @CaffeineTours 9:00 AM Eastern Standard Time (EST)9:00 PM Philippine Time

CBTTC (Relic)

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Author Information

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Bio:

Bronwyn joined the military right out of high school, where she learnt (among other things) to disassemble and reassemble a rifle blindfolded. After that, she spent a lot of her time travelling around the world. Her favourite places (so far) are Scotland, Mongolia, Iceland, and Ireland.

Bronwyn finally found her natural habitat when she landed her first job in the publishing industry. While she has always been a writer, it was only when surrounding herself with books that she realised her life’s dream was to become an author. Relic is her first novel.

Bronwyn lives in Sydney and spends her time eating chocolate, reading and practicing her martial arts.

Author links:

Author website —https://bronwyneley.com/ 

Goodreads — https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/19245366.Bronwyn_Eley

Facebook — http://facebook.com/bronwyneleyauthor 

Instagram — http://instagram.com/letters_from_neverland 

Twitter  — http://twitter.com/bronwyneley 

 

Review: The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang

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★★★★★

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

This is not a timely review. The Poppy War was one of the most anticipated releases of 2018 and it took me quite a while to read it. I picked it up, after reading five chapters left it, then went back to it by listening to the audiobook (which is fantastically narrated, by the way) after my friend read it and told me she loved it. It’s the sort of book that demands you to fly through it even when you might not help being haunted by it, especially the second and third parts when it dives headfirst into war and atrocities.

And here’s the thing: it does not pull its punches when it comes to dealing with such topics. Around the main character Rin is a world inspired by 20th century China, and events that shadow the real-life Nanking Massacre so even if, or maybe because of, it takes place in a secondary world, The Poppy War is steeped in horrible, not so distant history. Before ever reading the book, I had read the author’s essay on ghosts and what they represent in Chinese fiction, which I definitely recommend because it gives perspective as to what she’s trying to accomplish in The Poppy War and is just an all around wonderful, chilling piece of writing that I feel is relevant.

Some content warnings to be aware of before reading The Poppy War are: body horror, drug use, (secondhand but still jarring account of) rape, war, experimentation on people against their will, self-harm and extreme gore.

“She squeezed her wrist, fingers closing over pale burn scars, and inhaled. Focus. In the corner, a water clock rang softly. “Begin,” said the examiner. A hundred test booklets were opened with a flapping noise, like a flock of sparrows taking off at once.” 

The Poppy War consists of three parts, part one perhaps being the most recognizable one in structure to the YA Fantasy genre, though most tropes are shifted and shaped to accommodate the scope of the story, which is definitely Adult in execution rather than Young Adult. We follow Rin as she prepares for the Keju, a nation-wide test that will hopefully land her a place in Sinegard, a military academy that trains the best of soldiers. She, unlike most heroes seen in fantasy, works her ass off to get into her defining school.

Here the worldbuilding is imbued in the storytelling as Rin learns about the history of Nikan in her classes along with the reader, learns war strategy and meets all sorts of side characters we see break apart in the following chapters. My favorite has been Nezha, Rin’s rival turned friend at Sinegard and Jiang, the elusive Lore master who pushes Rin to think differently about the magic and faith system of the world they live in. Later, when Rin meets Altan, he offers yet another view for her to consider which in my opinion one of the reasons why the magic system of The Poppy War holds strong: it’s what Jeannette Ng says here about grounding the magic with reality and imperfect understanding vs the underlying rules of the world and Kuang does this masterfully.

“The gods were simply those beings that inhabited that space, forces of creation and destruction, love and hatred, nurturing and neglect, light and dark, cold and warm… they opposed one another and complemented one another; they were fundamental truths.”

The second and third parts of The Poppy War centers on the war between Nikan and the opposing Federation of Mugen. Rin plunges into the thick of it, both learning more about her own history and trying to survive and let others live. Unfortunely, the story grows darker and darker and she is not able to sustain her anger. She learns how to wield it instead. She is almost always the controlling agent of her actions, even when she is ambushed, beaten, starved and tortured which ultimately leads her to a dooming decision. It feels satisfying, like chess pieces finally coming together to deliver the finishing blow. But it’s also terrifying, the reality of it becomes too much for her to fathom. She is a changed person, we are invited to feel what she feels and anticipate the next step of her revenge.

The Poppy War is the most solid start to a series I’ve read in a while. I’m hoping in the sequel, The Dragon Republic, Rin lives the consequences of her actions because the foundation is there. It’s straight onto Book 2 for me!

A Hello and a Beginning

After having had this blog for quite some time and leaving it empty, I finally decided to do a proper introduction and start posting!

I still feel a bit shy when interacting with the online book world despite being a quiet part of it for some time now, but I know it’s such a brilliant community and my writing can definitely benefit from it. Plus, talking to other writers and seeing their story seeds come alive on paper always fills me with joy. So this is offically a call for you to come talk to me about your writing any time!

First things first, I realized while writing this post that I already have an About page that details what you can expect to find on this blog, so head onto there  if you would rather skip the introduction.

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A little bit about me and my writing: I write mostly fantasy for all age categories, as it’s what I enjoy reading the most. My current WIP is an adult fantasy about a doomed agreement between an imprisoned pirate girl and a conniving sorceress with a grand plan in a world that is wrecked by the second wave of a deadly epidemic which distorts the flow of the magic in the land. It took me the better part of two years to develop this story  and its world. I shared the first round of drafts with some critique partners already — I was overwhelmed by the positive and constructive reaction and it’s truly turning out to be the book of my heart. My other projects are mostly short stories, which is another medium I love experimenting with.

Thank you if you read this far and I hope to talk to you in further posts on this blog.

Have an amazing day!