Diverse Fantasy!

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Hey folks!

Firstly I apologise for being silent for the last month. March is the busiest time of year in my area and April has been a revolving door of sickness, but I’m getting back on top finally! I have a bunch of content that I just need to transfer form my blogging notebook to here (I old school it first with pen and paper) so you should see some more content in coming days.

Secondly I’d like to shout out to Amy at  Talking Tales.  I was picking up an order (Down the Hume by exciting new author Peter Polites) and Amy recognised my name and introduced herself.  It was very exciting to meet someone from the web in my suburb! Make sure you check out Amy’s web site – she’s a book seller who knows her stuff and her blog is just beautiful.

And so, on to today’s topic. I’ve joined the Book Riot Insiders group (you can find more about that here) part of which is membership to some slack channels for the group, which is proving to be a tonne of fun. Today Jenn from Book Riot was raging over a list of fantasy books brought out by Barnes and Noble for people starting off in the genre. All the authors mentioned were white.

So I thought I would put together a little list of fantasy books from a more diverse range of authors. I haven’t read all of these, but those I haven’t read are on my TBR. Fantasy is more a genre I flirt with than commit to. Let’s go.
1.  Zen Cho Sorcerer to the Crown.

 

This book is so good. Imogen has criticised it for being a little slow to start, but once Prunella arrives in the scene it fairly rollicks along. Great story with some unique takes on things and feminist AF.

2.  N. K. Jemisin The Fifth Season.


You may wish to time your reading of this, as the final instalment in the trilogy isn’t going to be out until later this year. And once you’ve read the first, you’ll be champing at the bit to get your hands on the others. Jemisin is an amazing fantasy writer and she’s written a pile of books. Check them out!

3. Roshani Chokshi The Star Touched Queen.


I had only read rave reviews about this book prior to picking it up, and they were completely justified. Chokshi uses the world of Indian mythology as her playground and brings it to life. A Crown of Wishes, more of a companion book than the next in the series, is out in the US now and is just as good.

4. Octavia Butler Fledgling.


 Vampires!! Octavia Butler is an amazing writer. This book will make you ask yourself lots of questions about all sorts of relationships.

5. Ellen Van Neerven Heat and Light


Ellen Van Neerven is a Yugambeh woman and for this collection of stories, she draws from her people’s Dreamtime stories. I’m not aware of other Australian Aboriginal writers dabbling with fantasy quite like this (but am more than happy to be corrected if I’m wrong about that!)

6. Nnedi Okorafor Binti series, Akata Witch series


Okorafor’s Binti stories are just amazing. She writes a beautiful mix of tradition and fantasy which I love. I haven’t read the Akata Witch books yet (actually the second is only due out in the US in October, but Okorafor has been tweeting covers 😊) but I’m hoping to get to them soon.

7. Nalo Hopkinson Brown Girl in the Ring.


Full disclosure, I found this author mentioned while I was refreshing my memory for this article, and her stuff looks amazing. Distopian fiction,organ farms, and a pantheon of gods harassing the main character for attention. I’m in!

8. Keith Liu The Grace of Kings.


Another I haven’t read, but has won a bunch of awards and is described as epic fantasy. Get on it!

9. Rin Chupeco The Bone Witch.


Another from my TBR, I’ve heard so much good stuff about this one. Witches, necromancy and Asian styled fantasy. Yes please.

10. Karuna Riazi The Gauntlet.


This is being touted as a middle grade novel, and I’ve heard such good stuff about it! This is described as a ‘steampunk Jumanji with a Middle Eastern flair’ and I’m really looking forward to reading it.

I was also tempted to mention Zone One by Colson Whitehead, my favourite zombie book, but I think zombies are technically horror?

Tell me, who are you diverse fantasy author faves?

Review: Stay With Me

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Yejide and Akin are a married couple living in Nigeria in the 80s. After 4 years of marriage and no baby, Akin’s family become insistent that something is done. That something is a new wife joining the household, and Yejide feels betrayed and desperate.

Told in alternating chapters through the eyes of each party, Stay With Me is colourful, revealing and devestating. Stay with Me follows the relationship between Yejide and Akin through it’s ups and downs over the years, through love, sacrifice and loss.


Oh my goodness, this book! I can’t give too many details of the plot as I don’t want to give away any spoilers. I will say that the story of the beginning of a family and the eventual shattering and disintegration of the household is both compelling and devestating. The dual nature of the narrative lends sympathy to both characters. It is heartbreaking to watch them make poor decisions and the way those decisions impact the other.

 As a non African, I found the cultural differences around marriage and the expectation of children being actually enforced by the wider family both surprising and educational. While this does happen to a very minor degree here with hints being dropped and questions being asked nothing this impactful would be endured.What a lot of stress for a young couple to go through! Polygamy was also an interesting concept to see explored, particularly when it didn’t seem to be wanted by either Yejide or Akin. I can’t imagine trying to maintain a healthy relationship which contains a third person that you don’t want to be there.

I enjoyed seeing the 80s political climate of Nigeria through this lense as well and seeing how the changes affected the people on the ground.

This story will take you on a raw and emotional journey. Make sure you have the tissues on standby.

4 out of 5 interfering in-laws.

Review – Binti: Home

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The latest offering in the Binti series from Nnedi Okorafor doesn’t disappoint.

After a year at Oomza University, Binti is ready to return home to visit her family. This comes with its own challenges as Okwu, her Meduse friend, decides to accompany her, becoming the first Meduse to visit Earth in peace after generations of conflict.


Coming back to this world reminded me of how much I love it. I particularly enjoy Okorafor’s wonderful world building and the way she fuses the traditional and the fantastic to make an amazing backdrop to the story.

During the journey home, we learn of the trauma Binti has been suffering after what happened on her voyage to the university. Even just the presence of Okwu can be distressing for her. 

Even once she reaches home, Binti’s journey is difficult for her. She is not the same person as the one who left her close knit family. Not only mustthey get to know the new person she has become, but Binti must also reacclimatise to life in her village and others expectations of her, which are very different to what she has become used to at university.

Binti’s journey not only allows her to remember who she was before she left home, and helps her come to terms with where she she has ended up, but it also takes her on an eye-opening journey into her family’s heritage which she wasn’t anticipating.

I’m very much looking forward to the third Binti instalment due September 2017.

5 out of 5 fabulous family secrets.

Recommended Aboriginal reads

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Hi everyone, please enjoy this post by Dr Anita Heiss from her wonderful blog.

Anita Heiss

For those listening to the yarn I had with Dom Knight  on ABC Sydney this morning, here’s the titles I mentioned…

Books I’d planned on mentioning:

Dom mentioned my novel Tiddas  And finally, there was some discussion on my book Barbed Wire and Cherry Blossoms.

For other ideas of where to find some deadly Aboriginal literature, head to my Black Book Challenge

Happy reading!

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Review: Caraval

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Scarlett has wanted to take her sister, Tella, to the amazing Caraval performance since they were children. Now her father has arranged her marriage, Scarlett believes this opportunity is behind her. Legend, the mastermind behind Caraval, has other ideas and sends tickets to Scarlett with an invitation. Scarlett is reluctant to go – her wedding is very soon, and it may be her only opportunity to save herself and Tella from their cruel father. With the help of a sailor, Tella gets Scarlett to the performance, only to be kidnapped shortly after arriving. Scarlett must find and save Tella within the 5 days of the performance, but how is she to do that when nothing is what it seems?

I wanted to love this book. I really did. 

But I didn’t. Possibly the comparisons to The Night Circus elevated my expectations way to high.

My main issue with the book was the main character. I found Scarlett just plain annoying. We spend a  lot of time inside her head, and it’s pretty whiny in there. Scarlett wants to look after Tella, but struggles to take any risks at all to do so. She wants to be saved. She wants to be looked after. Scarlett eventually (and very suddenly) finds her ability to kick arse, but this appears to be entirely linked to her intimate encounter with the love interest.Thank goodness he managed to dislodge the stick up her butt while he was down there.

The other big issue for me (which other reviewers have noted) was the lack of laws in the fantasy world. This can be good up to a point,but after that point it’s just plain confusing.

This book did a lot of stuff well. The presentation is absolutely stunning. It would look gorgeous on your shelf. The world building was also fun, grand and sweeping if you can suspend your disbelief to deal with some of the inconsistencies.

I know I’m in the minority with this review, most people seem to love it. If you like gorgeous costumes, rich fantasy worlds and damsels in distress, then this book is for you.

2.5 out of 5 .

Review – Dreadnought by April Daniels

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Danny is a girl in a boy’s body, until she ends up at the scene of a vicious superhero fight and, as a result, inherits the power of Dreadnought. Danny’s body changes as well, and finally she is the girl she always knew she was. This, of course, comes with its own set of challenges – an unsupportive mother and downright abusive father, her best friend thinks he should automatically have first dibs on dating her, and she has no real choice but to be out.

On top of that, she has to figure out how to use her powers, the politics of the superhero realm to ponder, a new bunch of people to judge her and a homocidal maniac trying to take over the world.


I am not a superhero fan by any stretch of the imagination, but if more superhero stories were like Dreadnought, I would be. Danny’s voice is both unique and authentic, and her struggles are both recognisable and understandable.

One of Danny’s toughest lessons is to be her own advocate and to learn not to rely on her family for reassurance or support. While most YA contains an element of this (the teen goes off on their own just to discover their moral compass is just where their family put it and they return to the fold wiser and more experienced) Danny, at the tender age of fifteen, has to find within herself the strength and courage to value her identity, her body and her very existence after her family has refused at the most fundamental level to accept her for who she is. This is an important difference. In life and literature, most teens head out into the world to make their own mistakes mostly knowing they will have their parents love and support when they return. Danny, and teens like her, do not. Danny knows her parents’ moral code is flawed, and she isn’t entirely convinced by the superheroes either. Unlike most teens, Danny actually does have to figure things out on her own. 

This is such a wonderful debut. The writing is punchy, the action sequences are great, and I think this book would translate wonderfully to the screen.

Thank you April Daniels for this wonderful book! I can’t wait till the next instalment!

5 out of 5 reasons why I have been ruined for all other superhero narratives. 

Avid Reader’s Big Breakfast with Dr Anita Heiss

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I’ve mentioned Avid Reader multiple times on the blog – it’s my favourite indie bookstore in Brisbane. This morning, a number of us braved the heat and humidity for the very special opportunity of hearing Dr Anita Heiss speak about her latest release: Barbed Wire and Cherry Blossoms.

Dr Heiss is a member of the Wiradjuri nation, and writes all manner of books, articles and poetry. She lectures on Indigenous Literature is a Lifetime Ambassador of the Indigenous Literacy Foundation, is an Advocate for the National Centre of Indigenous Excellence and is an Ambassador of Worowa Aboriginal College. She is also an Adjunct Professor with the Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning, UTS.

The talk was hosted by Fiona from Avid Reader, who always asks wonderful questions.

With regards to creating a new story, Dr Heiss said that she had written a lot of books about Country, but none about Cowra. She was nervous about telling the story of her family both because everyone would think it was about them, and because of responsibility that she feels for getting it right. She had been struggling for a plot and flew to Hawaii, and ended up visiting Pearl Habour. While there, she became very conscious of the many Japanese tourists in Pearl Harbour, and the way they reacted to the rhetoric around the Pearl Harbour memorial, written by the US victors. While the Japanese tourists appeared very calm, Dr Heiss wondered what they were thinking.

The Aussie view of history is also a particular one – in writings about Cowra it has never been acknowledged that 4.5 miles from Cowra there was another camp with prisoners in worse conditions. (The Japanese POWs were kept in conditions in line with the Geneva convention. The Aboriginal people in the local mission were not.) Dr Heiss wanted to write a story acknowledging the other encampment, and romance would be the tool to link the two, and to draw an audience.

Dr Heiss also talked about the lengths of the reconciliation effort in Cowra – with the Japanese, not the Aboriginal people.

Research is very important to Dr Heiss, and she described sourcing stories from the Cowra community as well as checking her facts with author Graham Apthorpe (author of A Town at War: Stories from Cowra in WWII) and her meetings with an Extraordinary Professor in Japan who teaches about the Cowra breakout. Dr Heiss obtained feedback from many sources on her drafts to ensure she was telling the story accurately.  She loosely based  Mary on her mother, and Banjo on her grandfather, and was aware that she needed to acknowledge the community Elders of the Coe, Williams and Murray families. Dr Heiss would have liked Mary to fall pregnant in the story, but her mum objected that she wouldn’t have even kissed him during this amount of time. This was backed up by Dr Heiss’ Japanese expert, who confirmed that at that time a Japanese man would not have been that familiar with a Western woman. Dr Heiss explained that as war is an extraordinary time, she felt comfortable with Hiroshi’s familiarity with Mary as long as he was aware it was an extraordinary situation.

When asked why she had chosen fiction, Dr Heiss responded that she wanted to compliment the work that already existed, and draw a wider audience. She wants people to realise that Australian history can’t be discussed without also discussing the Aboriginal people.

We learned a little about Dr Heiss’ background – her Austrian father couldn’t speak English when he met her mother, but they shared strong family values and work ethic, as well as  great love for each other. Dr Heiss  said that their relationship had made her a romantic, which meant that she could believe in the relationship between Mary and Hiroshi and see the bigger picture.

Dr Heiss is hopeful that the book will be picked up for the school curriculum. From my own point of view, it would be a great tool in an English classroom. I mentioned in my review that the book provides a clear but accessible understanding of the laws of the time and the impact on the people. 

Dr Anita Heiss has a new book due out in May (yay!).

You can read my review of Barbed Wire and Cherry Blossoms here.