Books Books

Girls of Paper and Fire

Like the vast majority of my book purchases, I came across Girls of Paper and Fire in QBD when I was randomly looking through the YA section for anything that might happen to take my fancy. The title and the cover drew me in, then I was sold when I read the blurb. Due to some enthusiasm on my part, as well as understanding, this review does contain a couple of minor spoilers. If you don’t wish to be spoiled, I recommend you read the book first.

Is it just me or is the whole “Royal Male Figure” gets what’s basically a harem a popular genre at the moment? Okay, it might just be me. But then, there’s The Selection series, which has the Prince in what’s essentially a The Bachelor situation, picking from a… well, a selection of pretty girls. Then there was Grace and Fury, a fantastic book that came in one of my OwlCrates (before I had to give it up ;_;) where the ruler, or in this case his heir, had a similar selection from a bunch of girls preened and polished to take on the role, to select three women for his wives/consorts. Then Girls of Paper and Fire… Okay, yeah, sure, it’s no Twilight, Vampire Diaries, Vampire Academy, The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod, Evernight, House of Night, Cirque Du Freak, etc. Vampire craze, but maybe I’m not crazy in seeing a pattern here.

Beyond the blurb, I wasn’t really sure what to expect from Girls of Paper and Fire when I first opened it up. Until I read the Author’s Note at the beginning. That Author’s Note made me desperately want to find Natasha Ngan and give her the biggest hug I could (if she wanted one).

I am so thankful for the existence of this book, and that it was apparently in one of the latest OwlCrate editions. (Sad I missed out on it through them, though it’s even more evidence that the OwlCrate people and I have a shared excellent taste!)

Ngan wrote this book because she knows that everyone deserves to have their story told. That’s how a gay Malaysian girl who had to deal with rape and abuse came to have her story told. (I am talking about Lei. I have no idea if Ngan is gay and has had to deal with rape and abuse, though all the more reason to hug her if she has.)

Lei was a wonderful character who I found myself feeling deeply for very quickly. Smart and strong, I found my heart breaking at her situation, even more so when we got to further know Wren, and Wren’s situation.

The world was immersive. I found myself vividly picturing the Moon and Steel caste walking around. From bird demons to wolf demons, and the bull Demon King, I could easily envision them as a part of the world, looking down on mere humans for not having the same abilities as them.

The story was absolutely stunning. I was cheering for Lei as she stood up against oppression every chance she got, and found myself saddened when she was kicked back down by those who are on top. The love story had me cheering (in so many ways. I cannot stress enough how much seeing a gay love story happen without very clear signposting on the book makes me happy.)

The characters were truly wonderful. From Lei, who stood up when she could, to the spoiled Bull King who played with his toys. Of course there’s Wren, strong, determined Wren. But mostly I found myself loving Ngan’s depiction of Aoki, if for no other reason than the truthful depiction of how not everyone who’s abused sees it that way. They can often overlook the bad times and think of the good. That, and her being the youngest of the girls being the one to see the King as kind makes the most sense, as when we’re younger we’re more eager to look for love in the wrong places, and see the tiniest things as signs of something better.

I cannot possibly recommend this book enough. It enraptured me, and as a lover of diversity in YA I want to throw it at as many people as possible to make them read it. That being said, it does deal with some very heavy topics, particularly rape and abuse, and I can understand that not everyone can handle such things. If you are one of those who can handle it, I highly recommend Girls of Paper and Fire, and I hope you find yourself as drawn in to Ngan’s world as I was.

I will most certainly be reading this again at some stage. Likely before the next one comes out. (If there’s not going to be a next one, I will protest quite vigorously!)

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Blog Posts, Books Books

Myself as a Reader/Books Books

I have been a reader for as long as I can remember. I grew up with Harry Potter, with the first book coming out when I was in my first year of primary school, through to the seventh book coming out when I was in my second-to-last year of high school. Even in my final year, I had Rowling’s wizarding fairy tale book, Tales of Beadle the Bard to entertain me and keep me going through the school year.

I can vividly remember starting a new school in year five, clutching my copy of the fourth book to my chest. I regret to say that as a child, I wasn’t necessarily good at looking after books, and with my intense love for this series, my copies were so well-read that the hard covers ended up off the books, and the books themselves rather water-logged due to an unfortunate habit of reading in a bath. I have since perfected this habit, along with one of reading in a pool, to the point where any book is perfectly safe within my hands while I soak in the water that I love. Though, that can be a tale for another day.

For father’s day when I was five years old I read my first ever book aloud to my grandfather, at Pancake Manor. He was appropriately delighted as I regaled him with the story of Sam I am, while reading Green Eggs and Ham. My love for books has only grown as I have. I can now appreciate the Harry Potter series as more than just an entertaining children’s story. Just as I can now appreciate the amazing story behind Green Eggs and Ham, as Dr Seuss. An entire story, written with only 50 words.

While my love for books has eventually evolved to wanting to write, to leave my own mark on the world, and to edit, to help others achieve their goals, my love of reading rarely waivers. I have my slumps, of course. Most people do. Even in the middle of my deepest slumps, however, I can always be found with at least one book in my bag. (Though most often it’s two or more. In case I finish one.) In the past I have tried having ereaders, for the convenience of a library in my bag, along with cheaper books. However, at the end of the day, for me in particular—although I am certain there are others who share my preference—nothing will ever beat the feeling of a real book in my hands.

In January, I set myself three book-related goals to achieve by the end of the year. At the moment, it isn’t looking like I will achieve two of them, although that’s not to say it’s impossible. My first goal was to read at least 100 books by the end of the year. This is after I achieved last years goal of reading 52 books, of which I achieved a little over 70. It is currently the tenth month, and I am sitting on 76 books read. Not where I would ideally be sitting, this late in the year, although that does not mean it’s not still achievable.

My second goal has already been achieved, although half by accident. Recently, I made a promise to myself to stop buying so many books. My hope is to save my money, so that I might move down to Victoria after I have finished my study. I broke that just this Wednesday, however, after I finished A Promise of Fire, the first book in The Kingmaker Chronicles by Amanda Bouchet. I had to immediately go out and purchase the next two books in the series. I may also have bought The House with a Clock in its Walls by John Bellairs while I was there, after having watched the recent film adaptation. These three books apparently helped me move up from my gold QBD card, to a platinum one, which was my second book-related goal.

Finally, my third goal for the year, which I am a mere thirteen books away from completing, is to read the entirety of Terry Pratchett’s wonderful Discworld series. Through the year, I have been working through the books.

My third goal is one two things which has been helping me toward my first goal, with the second thing being a subscription to the wonderful YA book-to-your-door service of Owl Crate. I have been subscribed since early last year, and never once regretted it. Once a month I have a package delivered to me, with a new book, along with a number of wonderful things related to the book. I have two beautiful and unique Harry Potter mugs. (One day I’ll have to find which crate I missed had the first one, so I can collect what I am certain will eventually be a beautiful set.)

Last month’s book was Mirage by Somaiya Daud. When I receive my Owl Crate, I refrain from looking anything up about the author or the book, until I have finished it. So with every one of the books I have read from them, I have gone in unaware as to what I might expect. This is how I read Mirage. Naturally, just with every other book I have received so far from this service, I absolutely loved it.

So, this is where I plan to start something that I have been wanting to do for a while. For a few years now, I have been thinking about starting a YouTube channel, where I discuss books that I have read, and my thoughts regarding them. However, without a good webcam or microphone, this isn’t something that I am likely to begin any time soon. Instead, I will begin slowly by simply posting my reviews online. Conveniently I now have a blog for it!

I hope to commit to posting a review every Friday. Please, wish me luck in this endeavour for the future. Along with the entire endeavour to put myself out there as a freelance Creative Writer, and Editor.

Book’s Books

In Daud’s note to readers that accompanied her book in its Owl Crate packaging, she mentioned that she has written other novels, though Mirage is her debut. What an absolutely stunning debut it is. It wasn’t hard for me to find myself on Andala and its moons among a conquered populace. I felt for Amani’s plight as she struggled to become someone so different to the kind and loving person she is at heart.

Amani was a lovely protagonist, a poet with a heart big enough to love even those who pulled her from her family. Through the course of the novel she grows from a simple farmer’s daughter, to someone who can hold her own amid a court of vipers.

The tale was a beautiful rendition of The Prince and the Pauper with its own wonderful twists and turns. While look-alikes Marim and Amani hardly trade places for fun, Amani still has a chance to enjoy the splendours of life as a Princess for a change, while Marim finds herself with a confidante.

I am most desperately looking forward to a sequel already. While I was nearing the end I found myself convinced that Amani’s tale could not yet be over. As I came to the last few pages I grew more certain, until I closed the book with a delicious sense of unsatisfaction. The first story has been told, certainly, but there is more to come which I shall no doubt relish reading.

Perhaps one day I will devise some sort of rating system for the novels I review, although for now I think I’ll simply leave things in a different manner. For me, a true test of a book is whether or not I wish to reread it. While some books lead me on with promises of sequels, I may not necessarily go back and reread them. Mirage however, is certainly something that I can envision myself reading at least once more in the future.