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Wednesday, 1 July 2020

Monthly Wrap Up | I Completed My Reading Challenge in June!

June's come and gone and we're now into the later half of 2020, which sounds both entirely crazy but also not? I don't hold expectations for the rest of the year, in that I don't expect 2020 to turn out a certain way. Rather, I want to instead, be able to finish this year and say hey, amongst all the chaos in this world, I still set sight and worked towards the goals that I want to achieve. This leads me into announcing that I completed my 2020 reading challenge. YAY! I set a goal of 12 books to read, which isn't a lot, but in the last 6 years I've barely been able to complete a reading challenge so this makes me super happy and proud of myself. Anyways without further ado, this was my June! 

On The Blog

Black Lives Matter. I stand by the Black community and the anti-racism fight. Systemic racism and injustice needs to be eradicated, and has to be done through collective effort. This point is a compilation of resources, donation sites, petitions, educational sources that I have come across over the past few days. A lot of these have been put together by Black people, which I am highly grateful for because the onus is really on us to seek further information and educate ourselves.

I Discuss:
How Life Experiences Have Re-Shaped My Reading Journey

"Top Ten Tuesday"

Reading Wrap Up



Reviews

Tales from a Tall Forest by Shaun Micaleff
Catch a Falling Star by Meg McKinley
-double review here-

Monthly Book Haul


How Was June For You?


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Sunday, 21 June 2020

Double Review: Tales from a Tall Forest & Catch a Falling Star

Author: Shaun Micaleff
Publication Date: October 16th 2017
When an innocent princess wanders into the forest, she finds herself trapped between a wolf with a ravenous appetite and a sweet little house with a secret. Meanwhile, a desperate fisherman enters into a very bad bargain with a power-hungry monkey. And meanerwhile still, a tiny tricksy tailor promises a promise that not even the most magic of beanstalks can help him escape.

Author: Meg McKinley 
Publication Date: March 1st 2019 
It's 1979 and the sky is falling. Skylab, that is. Somewhere high above Frankie Avery, one of the world's first space stations is tumbling to Earth. And rushing back with it are old memories. Things 12 year old Frankie thought she had forgotten. Things her mum won't talk about, and which her little brother Newt never knew. Only ... did he? Because as Skylab circles closer, Newt starts acting strangely. And while the world watches the sky, Frankie keeps her own eyes on Newt. Because if anyone's going to keep him safe, it's her. But maybe this is something bigger than splinters and spiders and sleepwalking. Maybe a space station isn't the only thing heading for calamity.

Review


My latest reads, Tales from a Tall Forest and Catch a Falling Star, are both from Australian authors. I thoroughly enjoyed both, with Catch a Falling Star surprising me most.

Check it out what I thought of both in my double review below.


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Tuesday, 16 June 2020

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Want To Read During Winter


Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and The Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

I may have cheated with this list, considering it's only asking for 10 but I've included series, in particular fantasy series as "one" read. I tend to associate winter with longer and denser reads though, which would explain my wanting to read more fantasy, as well as any book that I know weighs a ton. Something about the idea of getting into bed with a cup of warm tea and a nice, chunky book paints the perfect winter night image for me!

Top Ten Books On My Winter TBR


1. The Nicci Chronicles Books 1-3: Death's Mistress, Shroud of Eternity and Siege of Stone by Terry Goodkind
Okay, so technically this is 3 books but they belong to one series that I'm trying to get into. The Nicci Chronicles is a, somewhat, continuation of Goodkind's well known fantasty Sword of Truth series. It follows the character Nicci on her adventures after the end of the previous series. I read up and was told that apparently I can read this series without reading the other so hopefully that is the case!

2. Rebel of the Sands Trilogy by Alwyn Hamilton
I happened to buy the entire series for a super low price so now I have all three and am ready to follow Amani as she attempts to cross the desert to escape her town, Dreamwalk. She's on a quest to escape her pre-destined fate and I'm hoping that I'm swept up on an exciting adventure as Amani finds freedom.

3. The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge
Funny how this has made an appearance on my list when I only bought it yesterday. Yeah, oops. I picked up it purely because I really enjoyed Hardinge's writing and story development in A Face Like Glass. This follows Faith as she tries to unravel the mystery behind her father's death, and it involves a talking tree as well. Apparently.


4. East West Street: On the Origins of "Genocide" and "Crimes Against Humanity" by Philippe Sands
I added this to my 2020 reading list, which is basically made up of 13 books I want to complete by the end of the year (you can find the full list here). East West Street is a non-fiction read set during WWII and something I have been wanting to read for years now but keep putting it off. It's now or never.

5. A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James
The premise of this revolves around the attempted assassination of Bob Marley during the 1970s, something that I was made aware of whilst watching a Netflix documentary. Marlon James presents a fictional recount of the complexities of the political landscape and overall difficult times across a number of years.

6. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
I also added The Hate U Give to my 2020 reading list at the start of this year, and am determined to now read it even more.


7. Carve the Mark (Carve the Mark #1) by Veronica Roth
Also, the second book, if possible - The Fates Divide. I've had Carve the Mark on my shelf for way too long to justify keeping it if I don't give it a go. The pressures on.

8. Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente
A re-read but I feel like it's time, not only because it's winter and Deathless is set in St. Petersburg during it's blistering cold, but also because it's been so, so long since I last read it that I'm sure I would appreciate it more now than before.

9. A Storm of Swords (A Song of Ice & Fire #3) by George R.R Martin
Is this the year I continue on with this series? Also, now that I think about it, it's actually been so long since I last read the 2nd book that now I'm not sure if I can even continue to read-on? What to do?!

10. Twilight Series by Stephanie Meyer
Ok, look I'm sorry. It's ridiculous but I know I want to read Midnight Sun when it's released so to prepare myself, I have to re-read Twilight. The last time I read this series would have to be maybe 6 years ago so this is definitely going to be something else.

What Do You Want To Read This Season?


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Thursday, 11 June 2020

Let's Talk: How Life Experiences Have Re-Shaped My Reading Journey


Today's post has been something I've been thinking about for awhile now. I feel like in the last 12 months, I've come to realise how big of an impact life lessons, views and values we develop overtime and personal encounters are in our reading journey. I believe that for everyone who enjoys reading, it isn't ever really just a hobby or an activity to past time, but rather an act of building connections/relationships with books and finding out what your reading style and choices are as well as the overall experience that you're after.

I discuss, at length (oops) how I've noticed my reading has changed, whether for the best or the worst, and where I sit with my reading journey right now.


What Has Your Reading Journey Been Like?


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Tuesday, 9 June 2020

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I've Added To My TBR & Forgotten Why

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and The Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

Top Ten Books I've Added to my TBR and Completely Forgotten About

I swear this scenario applies to every single book I've added to my TBR list, or in my case, my "interest" shelf on Goodreads. I actually reserve my "To Be Read" shelf on Goodreads to keep track of the books on my shelf (IRL) that I haven't read, and the "interest" shelf for books I want to buy or read eventually. Here are 10 (out of 242 lol) that I don't quite remember why it piqued my interest:


What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler
YA Contemporary - Released: 2015
What We Saw is based on a real life story, which might be why I decided I wanted to read it. It depicts a story of a girl named Kate who left a party thinking she knew exactly every detail of the night, only to realise that there were so many facts she had forgotten or maybe facts others want to bury.

Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende
Historical Fiction - Released: 2006
One, this is a translated novel and two, it is a romance historical fiction. I've read translated novels before so qualms there but historical fiction NOT set during the Tudor times is a step outside of my comfort zone for sure so I'm not quite sure what past me was thinking. In saying, the story is about an orphan girl who falls in loves and follows the boy of her dreams towards the goal of finding gold. Surely everything goes right for them, right?

Hallucinations by Oliver Sacks
Non-fiction - Released: 2012
I added this to my TBR in 2016 apparently, which was definitely not when I was into non-fiction so I have no clue where I even stumbled upon this from. I did some psychology study in 2015 so maybe that influenced my wanting to read about the human brain and hallucinations. Do I want to read it now? Look, probably not.

Shallow Graves by Kali Wallace
YA Mystery - Released: 2016
As much as I couldn't recall ever coming across Shallow Graves I will say I'm not surprised I was intrigued by this. It tell the story of a girl named Breezy who wakes up a year after leaving a party, unsure why she's at her grave and why there is a dead person already lying in it. Honestly, thank you to this topic because 100% I will be reading this.

Infinite Jest by David Wallace Foster
Adult Fiction - Released: 2005
The blurb is better at explaining the novel:
Set in an addicts' halfway house and a tennis academy, and featuring the most endearingly screwed-up family to come along in recent fiction, Infinite Jest explores essential questions about what entertainment is and why it has come to so dominate our lives; about how our desire for entertainment affects our need to connect with other people; and about what the pleasures we choose say about who we are.
Right now I'm just asking myself how I came by this ...?

The Love Interest by Cale Dietrich
YA Contemporary/LGBT - Released: 2017
I cannot believe past Tracey would be into a book called The Love Interest, but then I read the synopsis and was like ah, okay, I see. The title doesn't really give away what the story is truly about, two secret spies who are labelled "Nice" and "Bad". Their mission is to get close to a girl in the real life, but they're competing against each other. The catch? Whoever the girl doesn't choose will die. Cool, cool, cool, cool.

Muriel Avenue Sluts by Maggie Hasbrouck
New Adult - Released: 2016
I am also at a shock that this was added to my list but also not really. In fact, I really kind of want to read this now. The premise involves Julia Turnbow who is about to follow her mum's footsteps to become a sex worker for the exclusive world of the Philadelphia's Muriel Avenue Sluts. Amongst it all she has to deal with issues of abuse, betrayal and a whole lot of other issues she never thought she would face.

To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo
Fairytale Retelling (The Little Mermaid) - Released: 2018
I'm a total sucker for fairytale retellings so no surprises here. More surprised I never got around to reading this, but it takes The Little Mermaid and makes "Ariel" or in this case Princess Lira into a character who didn't necessarily want to be human and how she learns to find the middle ground between family ties and what the heart wants.

LIKEL1K3 by Jay Kristoff
YA Sci-Fi - Released: 2018
I haven't ready any Jay Kristoff books so I definitely think this was added on a whim according to the usual hype around rather famous YA authors. I'm not sure I'll be reading this but we'll see.

The Waiter by Matias Faldbakken
Historical Fiction - Released: 2018
Another historical fiction, translated novel. I guess even though I hadn't read anything of the sort, I really wanted to back then? This sounds super intriguing though, detailing a waiter's experience as he caters towards The Hill's, a famous restaurant in Oslo, wealthy diners. His day turns into disarray as a young lady arrives to meet someone she knows at table ten.

Overall, I would have to say I don't really remember ever coming across any of these titles or even what they were about until this post. If anything it means I can weed out what I really would like to read now and what I'm no longer interested in.


What Books Have You Forgotten About Adding To Your TBR?


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Thursday, 4 June 2020

MAY WRAP UP & JUNE TBR

On The Blog

Black Lives Matter. I stand by the Black community and the anti-racism fight. Systemic racism and injustice needs to be eradicated, and has to be done through collective effort. This point is a compilation of resources, donation sites, petitions, educational sources that I have come across over the past few days. A lot of these have been put together by Black people, which I am highly grateful for because the onus is really on us to seek further information and educate ourselves.

I Discuss:
Is Gendered Reading a Thing? A Discussion on Book Recommendations Based on Gender
Five TV Shows & Movies To Delight Your Inner Kid

"Top Ten Tuesday"

New June releases I am excited for!

Reading Wrap Up



Reviews

The Clockmaker's Daughter by Kate Morton
Lethal White (Cormoran Strike #4) by Robert Galbraith 

That Was It For May!


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Tuesday, 2 June 2020

How We Can Help The BLM Movement

I felt like before I could make another normal blog post, I needed to use this platform to be able to help in anyway I can. I've tried to be vocal about my support through my other platforms but the more noise we make, the more we can create awareness, engage in conversation and see change.

I definitely do not want to come across as a spokesperson for the Black community. I acknowledge that I cannot and never will understand the experiences of a Black person, from what they have endured to what is happening right now. Instead, I want to be able to echo the Black community's sentiments in their calls for justice and overall recognition that their lives do matter.

I feel the deepest sadness and anger for any human being to be treated in such ways, but these emotions cannot just be felt, it has to be used to advocate for the Black people. I will continue to recognise, listen and actively educate myself about anti-racism. There are layers after layers of history that is conveniently glossed over and minimised, making education, at this point so important for non-black people. To have the knowledge we will then be able to help out more.

Right now, as an ally, there are a number of ways we can help the Black Lives Matter movement. This is a list of resources I have come by online that I have found helpful and are able to assist with the cause.

Donations

Resources

Ways You Can Help
This site lists out petitions we can sign, numbers to call & text, the various fundraisers/organisations we can donate to (including internationally accepted donations) and educational resources. It's been the site I have referred to due to its extensive and thoroughness.

An extensive list created by Indi @botanicaldyke to keep track of bail funds, memorial funds, actions being taken and advice for protestors.

Letters to Your Parents About BLM - translated into numerous languages
I think this is particularly important, especially for myself coming from an Asian background and trying to have conversations with my parents and relatives. We can start pushing for change in our immediate environment with the people we see on an everyday basis.

To Educate

An online library to access resources/readings/information regarding Black people and Black history. 

Books
Books with Shae has just announced Blackout Buddy Read to help allies understand what we can during this challenging time. She has named 2 books that can provide us education and background to continue to support Black people. Watch Shae's announcement video here and visit the Blackout Buddy Read official site here

The End of Policing by Alex S. Vitale - free to access as an e-book via Verso Books.
How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi 
Why I'm No Longer Talking To White People About Race - Reni Edda-Lodge
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings - Maya Angelou
So You Want To Talk About Race - Ijeoma Olou
The New Jim Crow - Michelle Alexander

For educating younger children, this list of Corretta Scott King Book Award winners includes children & YA books that recognises outstanding African American authors and illustrators.

Essays/Articles
The 1619 Project published by New York Times & New York Magazines

A full list of other resources to seek out, including numerous articles, other books and what to listen to and watch to gain further information and knowledge.

Guides
I have also found these Twitter threads to be super helpful in determining the best ways to be an ally. I am immensely grateful that these guides have been created, despite knowing how emotionally labouring it is for Black people to educate others.

Please take the initiative to learn and use your voice to speak up. 

I also would like to say that whilst supporting the Black Lives Matter Movement, I am not ignorant to the struggles our Indigenous People go through here in Australia. My background in criminology has provided me the privilege to study and be aware of the terrible treatment of Indigenous people by our systems. They may not be as visible but they exist. I would like to hope that the outrage and efforts fellow Australians have shown for the current situation in the US is also reflected at home. 

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Sunday, 31 May 2020

"Lethal White" Didn't Live Up To Its Predecessors

Title: Lethal White
Series: Cormoran Strike #4
Author: Robert Galbraith
Publication Date: April 23rd, 2019
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"I seen a kid killed...He strangled it, up by the horse."

When Billy, a troubled young man, comes to private eye Cormoran Strike's office to ask for his help investigating a crime he thinks he witnessed as a child, Strike is left deeply unsettled. While Billy is obviously mentally distressed, and cannot remember many concrete details, there is something sincere about him and his story. But before Strike can question him further, Billy bolts from his office in a panic.

Trying to get to the bottom of Billy's story, Strike and Robin Ellacott - once his assistant, now a partner in the agency - set off on a twisting trail that leads them through the backstreets of London, into a secretive inner sanctum within Parliament, and to a beautiful but sinister manor house deep in the countryside.

And during this labyrinthine investigation, Strike's own life is far from straightforward: his newfound fame as a private eye means he can no longer operate behind the scenes as he once did. Plus, his relationship with his former assistant is more fraught than it ever has been-Robin is now invaluable to Strike in the business, but their personal relationship is much, much trickier than that.

Review


It took me 8 months of reading Lethal White on and off before I could finally finish it. I would attribute that to how slow the first 500 pages of this book is, as well as a lot of meandering through subplots and minor events that, honestly, didn't have to really be introduced.

Strike and Robin make their reappearance in what I had hoped to be another thrilling and intense crime-solving story. Their investigation takes them into the lives of politicians and ministers, who all seem to be motivated by greed and power. The backdrop to this is strongly focused on corruption and secrets amongst officials who are supposed to be upright and law-abiding citizens. It's definitely a different take to what the first 3 books were like, in that instead of being focused on finding a killer or solving a mysterious death, there's a stronger element of political intrigue and uncovering political corruption, power privilege and issues of sexism, discrimination and forms of sexual assault.

Perhaps because I had an expectation that Lethal White would be similar to its predecessors, I was heavily disappointed in discovering that it wasn't. Rather than being fast-paced and shocking, Lethal White plods its way through the first 1/2 to 3/4 of the book to ultimately arrive at a more exciting and quicker paced ending. I didn't particularly enjoy the first 500 pages, finding the events to be unmemorable and really stagnant for my reading experience. Is it harsh to say that Lethal White could've foregone a lot of what happened in the first half of the story? Is it also harsh to say that I didn't really care for Robin and Strike's personal matters? Only because it was so repetitive and didn't have to take up so much of the story, like it did. I mean, it could've served as an example of how toxic relationships and behaviours can become a cycle, but I wasn't sure if Lethal White was attempting to deliver this message on top of its crime-solving plot.

It also didn't help that Galbraith wrote her characters as though this was the first time we were meeting them, instead of reading about Robin and Strike in 3 books already. So much of their past and what happened in the last three novels was repeated, which I know most sequels do, but it honestly came across as though Galbraith was worried, as a reader, I would have completely forgotten who the characters were.

However, once the story picked up (finally) the focus on the crime kicked in and I sped through the remainder of the book. I will still applaud Galbraith for her crime-writing abilities, in that they carefully and cleverly crafted the crime and the solution to it. When the truth was revealed it was such a satisfying "ah-ha" moment for me and somewhat made up for the time I spent wading through the first three-quarters, almost, of the book.

Anyways, the relief in finishing Lethal White basically told me that despite my enjoyment of the ending, it couldn't fully appease my not as enjoyable experiencing when reading the majority of this book.


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