Doesn’t Quite Hit All the Notes, and Falls a Bit Flat at the End – A Review of At the Table of Wolves by Kay Kenyon

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Lately I’ve noticed something in the book blurbs I come across on websites like Goodreads and Amazon: the “X Meets X” comparison, with “X” representing a popular book, TV show, movie, or video game. On one hand, I understand the prevalence; it is a very useful shorthand, after all, for describing the concept behind a particular book by using widely familiar media to give the reader some idea of what to expect. On the other hand, the comparisons can be (often are, rather) deceptive – I’ve seen these “X Meets X” comparisons, read the book in question, and wondered how in the world the blurb’ writer even thought the comparison was apt in any way except in the vaguest of terms.

Because of this, I’ve developed a rather healthy scepticism where it concerns such comparisons. I find it a lazy way of describing a book’s concept – useful when pitching a book for publication, perhaps, but far less useful once the book has already been published and is out in the wild. I have been burned far too many times by such comparisons to really want to believe them at face value.

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A Diamond in the Rough – A Review of Lost Gods by Micah Yongo

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This review is based on an ARC given to me for free by the publisher, Angry Robot Books. This does not in any way affect my review.

This novel is slated for release on July 3, 2018.

Lately, something very wonderful has been happening in genre fiction: the rise of authors from marginalised backgrounds. Whether they are women, people of colour, members of the LGBTQIA community, or all of those at once (and so many are), it is becoming easier to find such authors on both bookstore shelves and awards lists. To be sure, both those things are still heavily dominated by white cis male heterosexual authors, but increasingly the genre fiction community (especially the science fiction, fantasy, and romance communities) are doing what they can and diversifying their respective fields as much as possible (in spite of pushback in the opposite direction from insufficiently housebroken Puppies of various persuasions). As a brown Southeast Asian woman who is both an avid reader and an aspiring writer, this can only be a good thing.

Still, it does take some work to actually find such authors, given the sheer volume of books that are released every year, but fortunately my friends are quite good at filtering stuff they think I might like, and of course there is the Internet. In fact, it was the latter that led me to Lost Gods by Micah Yongo.

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Shades of Greatness – A Review of Elantris by Brandon Sanderson

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I come across writers at various stage of their career. Sometimes I get lucky, and come in at the ground floor, as it were, picking up an author’s debut novel and then following them as their career (hopefully) grows and flourishes. Sometimes I come to it at the end, when the author has either not written anything in a very long time or (as is more often the case) already passed away. And then there are those times when I start reading an author’s works in the middle of their careers, when they already have a few (or several, if they are prolific) books under their belt and are still capable of producing many more.

That was the case with Brandon Sanderson. The first book of his that I ever read was The Final Empire, which is the first novel in the Mistborn series. To say that I was blown away is something of an understatement; after reading that novel I practically inhaled the two other books in the first trilogy, and while I haven’t gotten around to reading the sequel trilogy, it’s because I got sucked into the even more epic (and even more delightful) Stormlight Archive.

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A Typical Young Adult Story Somewhat Redeemed by Its Setting – A Review of The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo

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Since around 2017 I have actively tried to make forays back into young adult literature after many long years not reading in the genre. I abandoned YA not long after The Hunger Games movies reached the peak of their popularity, and it began to seem like every new YA release was merely a poor, cliche-laden copycat of Suzanne Collins’ (exceptional) series. When almost every other book looked like a badly-done cash grab for a slice of The Hunger Games’ popularity, I decided to cut my losses and move on.

Lately, though, I have been trying to get back into YA, mostly because it looks as though the genre’s attempts to ride on The Hunger Games’ coattails is over. There is a trend away from the cliched “White People’s Love Triangle at the End of the World” types of stories that have been popular for a while now, and more towards stories about more important political issues both in the past and in the present. Even better, people of colour are becoming more visible in YA, telling their own stories and, through those stories, tackling vital issues about what it means to live and grow in the 21st century.

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A Fun Adventure That Could Push Harder, But Doesn’t – A Review of Free Chocolate by Amber Royer

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This review is based on an ARC given to me for free by the publisher, Angry Robot Books. This does not in any way affect my review.

This book is slated for release on June 5, 2018.

I’ve loved chocolate since I had my first taste of it when I was a little girl. It was a piece broken off of a Nestle Crunch candy bar, handed to me by one of my parents, though I don’t remember which. That first taste created a love for chocolate that lasts to this day (though nowadays I eat more dark chocolate than milk chocolate, due both to changing tastes and health reasons). Indeed, there is no flavour quite like chocolate – and I and many chocoholics both in the past and in the future will agree that chocolate is one of the most sublime foodstuffs ever discovered.

The sublimity of chocolate was first discovered by the Mesoamericans, who first started harvesting and then cultivating the cacao plant for use in rituals and medicine – and later, when the Aztecs came to power, as currency. When the Spanish conquered Central America they brought chocolate over to Europe, where it became a popular foodstuff; as a result, plantations were set up all across the world, most of them in colonies falling within a narrow band of twenty degrees north and south of the equator. Most of the world’s chocolate now comes from countries that fall in that band: the Ivory Coast and Ghana are the leaders of production, with Indonesia, Cameroon, and Nigeria close at their heels. The Philippines is a very small producer, comparatively speaking, but the quality of the chocolate produced is exceptional, if the results from the 2017 Academy of Chocolate Awards are any indication.

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