Hello lovelies! I have the absolute pleasure of having Brownyn Eley on the blog today to answer some questions about her debut YA fantasy novel Relic.
Q: Congrats on the release of Relic! Tell us about a bit about Relic and what we can expect.
A: Thank you so much! Relic is about a young blacksmith called Kaylan, who is selected to be the new personal servant to Lord Rennard, the powerful and menacing ruler of the city of Edriast. Rennard is in possession of a Relic, a dark and twisted magical stone that imbues the possessor with frightening powers. There are only five in existence, their origins unknown, their powers wholly unique.
Kaylan begins her new role as the Shadow – the colloquial term given to the unfortunate people selected – and knows she will soon be dead, since part of the Relic’s power is to protect Rennard and his bloodline from any threat. This means that anyone outside the bloodline is slowly poisoned when in proximity to the stone. When one Shadow dies from the poisonous effects, a new Shadow is selected. It is the world’s worst lottery!
Once inside the castle, Kaylan discovers that a plot to destroy all five Relics – and the bloodlines who posses them – is underway. Kaylan has to decide where her loyalties lie and whether or not, being in a unique position, she will aid this rebellion to end magic. Of course, things are never that simple!
You can expect a very character-focused novel, because for me the characters are everything. Kaylan is stubborn, loyal and loving – and she is very much a reluctant hero. I also deal with some rather heavy topics – from alcoholism to abuse, mistrust to murder.
This is my first Juliet Marillier book and I have to say I’ve been converted. The Harp of Kings is a quietly enchanting Celtic-inspired fantasy, a ballad of lush worldbuilding and fascinating characters. Marillier is a brilliant wordsmith and cleverly threads together the multiple strands of her narrative that will leave you satisfied. From the Otherworld of the fae, the nemetons of the druids and the political turmoil caused by a certain evil crown prince, The Harp of Kings is worth a read.
Here it is, the final instalment of the Oremere Chronicles. There’s been so much leading up to this moment, so many twists and turns and revelations and sacrifices made in the name of love and loyalty to the realm. It’s safe to say fans of the series won’t be disappointed with how Helen ends this beloved series.
There’s one word to describe this book and that is epic. War of Mist picks up right after Reign of Mist, tying together all the threads that have been woven since the beginning. Told through a variety of perspectives, the reader is enthralled by the search to find what it takes to defeat the conqueror queen Ines and her grasp on the realm. Our favourite characters are all grappling with their own worries: Bleak is still coming to terms with her true identity; Dash, now older and not so much wiser, is learning new things about his body; Dimitri, forsaken and stripped of his rank, seeks to connect with his son; and Henri feels the weight of the crown as she’s torn between her loyalties to her loved ones and her people. War of Mist sees these characters continue to grow, to fall, to get back up again, continuing to prove Helen’s craft for writing genuine characters you’ll fall in love with.
And as they join forces with old and new allies to defeat Ines, Helen takes this opportunity to add layers to her intricate world by exploring further into Oremere and places only mentioned in the history books. Worldbuilding is difficult to pull off, yet Helen has a natural talent for effortlessly constructing beautiful and dangerous fantasy places.
Take my word for it. Once I picked up War of Mist, I did not put it down. Helen is such a captivating writer, keeping you on the edge of your seat while toying with your heartstrings. War of Mist raises the stakes higher than ever before, and no one is safe. Helen doesn’t hold back on the heartbreaking betrayals, the devastating deaths of favourite characters, and shocking revelations that can turn the tide of the war. War of Mist is enchanting and deadly, a perfect blend of war, politics, heartbreak and magic. New allies are discovered, old friends are reunited and we see love in all its forms. It is a fantastic conclusion to one of the best young adult fantasy series out there. I hope to see more from Helen in the future as this is her best work yet.
R A T I N G
Also, if you’re in the Sydney area and want to come to the launch for War of Mist, it’s at Better Read Than Dead in Newtown on July 27. RSVP here.
Look, I know. I’m quite late to the party, but this month I’ll be participating in the Asian Readathon created by Cindy at readwithcindy (shout out to your depressed ass from a fellow depressed ass).
What’s awesome about the readathon is you have to read from a different ethnicity per challenge. This honestly made choosing the following books difficult, but I’m happy with what I’ve picked.
Here are the challenges and what I’ll be reading.
Read any book by an Asian author
My pick for this this Wicked Fox by Korean author Kat Cho. This title isn’t out till June but I’m lucky enough to have received a proof.
Read a graphic novel featuring an Asian character or written/drawn by an Asian author
I’ve gone with My Hero Academia by Japanese author Kohei Horikoshi. I’ve had so many people (mainly my pal Elspeth) tell me to read this so why not start now.
Read a book featuring an intersectional Asian character or written by an intersectional Asian identity
I’m super excited for this challenge because The Bride Test by Vietnamese-American author Helen Hoang is one of my anticipated reads of 2019. I fell in love with The Kiss Quotient, and I’m sure Helen won’t disappoint with this one.
Read a book by an Asian author that was originally written in their native language
I’ll be reading The Three Body Problem by Chinese author Liu Cixin. I have literally had this book for months and haven’t picked it up yet despite Rebecca Kuang raving about it. What’s wrong with me?
Read the group book
The co-hosts of the readathon have chosen A Thousand Beginnings and Endings edited by Ellen Oh and Elsie Chapman. I can’t tell you how excited I am to dive into these retellings of Asian myths and legends.
If you’re doing the readathon, I’d love to know what your picks are! If you’re not, I hope you end up reading some of these titles cause I’d love to discuss with you.
As readers, we always want to know what happens next to our favourite characters. We invest so much of our time into their journeys, we often never want them to end. There’s nothing more devastating than finishing a series. One of the many ways we express our love for these characters is by writing fanfiction (FF or FanFic for short), defined as writing about characters and in a setting borrowed from another work of fiction. As described by literary agent Danielle Binks for Overland, fanfiction is ‘one of the cornerstones of the genre is the accepted understanding that what is being created is for personal enjoyment, to be shared among fellow fans.’
Thanks to Sydney Writers’ Festival and Harper Collins, I had the pleasure of interviewing bestselling author Mackenzi Lee. She’s a delight and her works include This Monstrous Thing, The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue (one of my favourites!), and Bygone Badass Broads. Mackenzi, who started as a fanfiction writer, shares her writing journey, why she focuses on women in history, and what she thinks is the future of LGBTQIA young adult literature.
Who/what inspired you to write and what was the first piece of writing you produced?
I was a fanfiction writer! My first memory of writing is the elation of realizing that other people on the internet were doing the same thing I was—writing stories about the characters and worlds I loved. I had been composing fanfiction in my head for years without knowing what it was or that anyone else but me did it. It made me feel so much less weird and so much less alone (though geek culture was still so not mainstream I would have died before I told anyone I was a fanfic writer). Posting that first piece of fanfiction—which I still remember was Star Wars fanfic on fanfiction.net called A Last Exchange (nope not there anymore you can stop looking)—is my earliest memory of writing.
I have had so many “whos” when it comes to inspiration. I’ve been so lucky to be surrounded by incredible writers and mentors and cheerleaders along my road. But my earliest was my childhood librarian, Janell, who fed me a steady stream of historical fiction featuring plucky young women, and put up with my own youthful pluckiness. She was one of the only people I remember telling I liked writing, and she always made time for me and took me seriously, which was such a gift as a child. She passed away last year, and Lady’s Guide is dedicated to her.
What are your thoughts on fan fiction as both a platform for writing and connecting with a fandom?
I’m such an advocate for fanfiction. Not only is it a great playground for fans, it’s also where many writers learn to write. Since the worlds and characters already exist, a lot of the heavy lifting is done for you, leaving room to focus on the fundamentals of craft, often without even realizing that’s what you’re doing. It also is such a joy-filled thing: to create any kind of art based on something else, you have to love that thing. L O V E it. So there is so much inherent joy in fanfiction. It also becomes a way for marginalized creators to put themselves into narratives they’re usually left out of, which is amazing. In general, I’m just a big fan of fanfiction.
How has your writing style and habits progressed over the years?
Oh gosh hugely. Every book I write teaches me so much about myself as both a person and a writer. In terms of habits, the more I write, the more I realize how important it is to not be reliant on habits. I am not always going to have my favorite chair and drink and socks and the perfect music and temperature and ambiance available when I need to write, but I still need to be able to be productive. Over the years, I’ve actually let go of habits. Flexibility tends to get me further. Farther? I still haven’t learned the difference! Clearly spelling is still somewhere I need to progress.
You have a number of books that take a stance on either sexuality or women’s roles in history which I love. Why do you chose to focus on these aspects in your work and why are they important to you?
Everywhere in history that we have stories of men doing things, there were also minorities, women, queer people, people of color, disabled people, etc. doing the same things. These people also had lives beyond their marginalization, though those are almost exclusively the narratives we remember them for. It’s so much easier to perpetuate the myth of everyone who wasn’t a cis white straight man in history didn’t exist or didn’t exist beyond that one element of their identity, but once you dig below the surface of most historical narratives, you find the opposite. I want to make these previously forgotten or lesser known stories mainstream, and also I want my readers who are part of these minorities to know that there have always been people like them throughout history who have done incredible things.
The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue was my first experience with a bisexual MC and I loved every minute of it. It’s important to teens to be represented, so I’d love to know what would you like to see more of in YA literature. Where do you see YA going?
YA is at such an interesting tipping point right now! There has been so much talk about diversity, and now we’re starting to see that reflected both in the books being published and the conversations surrounding them. But with that is also coming difficult questions. I think the conversations about intersectionality will continue to expand and become more nuanced, as well as conversations about who should write what. I also hope we start talking not just about who is telling stories, but also who is publishing them—in America, where the industry is the largest, the agents, editors, booksellers, librarians, and overall gate keepers of YA are overwhelmingly white straight cisgender women. Diversity needs to be happening at all levels. I hope to see more books in the LGBTQIA category that aren’t just L or G, and not just contemporary settings. We have come a long way, but still have a long way to go!
Finally, what tropes in YA literature do you find problematic and which ones do you love?
I love the “scoundrel with a heart of gold” archetype in anything—Malcom Reynolds, Han Solo, Robin Hood, Iron Man. It’s my favorite type of character in any context. In terms of problematic tropes, I always get frustrated with the girl dressing as a boy in historical fiction. Not only does it undercut the power of traditional femininity and the abilities of women, it also erases non binary and transgender people in history—and queer people in general, because somehow in these narratives, everyone still goes home hetero!
Hi everyone! Long time no see. I haven’t done one of these since last year. Whoops. *insert normal excuse about life, work etc*
Here’s a small highlights reel of the books I’ve been reading since January this year!
The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon
A thicc book about dragons, queens and the classic good vs evil plot. The world building is exquisite with distinct cultural descriptions of the various regions we visit through different characters. I loved the conflict of ideas and the different versions of the same story told in different regions. It goes to show who gets to write history. While some of the characters were a bit flat for me, their interactions with each other and relationships were brilliant. Of course, there’s f/f romance and talking dragons and it was everything I wanted from a feminist fantasy.
Strange Practice by Vivan Shaw
I personally really enjoyed this. It’s a Gothic urban fantasy about Dr. Greta Helsing who runs a medical practice that treats monsters from vampires, werewolves and the like. I enjoyed the first half of the book more than the second when it was banter with vampires and the mystery behind the cult who are actively seeking monsters to slay. I felt the plot gets a bit convoulted with the multiple monsters and agendas towards the end, but overall it’s a fantastic read if you’re into sassy vampires.
Identity Crisis by Ben Elton
Outrageously funny, Ben Elton explores what makes us so angry, what fuels the rage we feel when something happens, and why we get like this. From politicans scavenging to rise to the top to algorithms determining what trends in the news, and somewhat convienently placed murders, Elton unashamedly shows us how far our anger can take it, and what exactly determines our identity inthe 21st century. I also learned what Love Island was in this book.
Mem by Bethany C. Morrow
In this alternate history universe, memories are able to be extracted in its entirety as Mems, mirror-images of their source. As Mems, theyexperience that singular memory over and over, until they expire in the Vault where they are kept. The narrator, Dolores Extract 1 is a Mem who has her own consciousness and dreams and memories. I really enjoyed the discourse of the possibility of extracting memories and morality behind stripping the human of that moment in their life. What happens to us when our memories are taken away? I felt this was a touch too short and left me with a lot of questions, but it was a lovely change to what I normally read.
I Was Born for This by Alice Oseman
I honestly love everything Alice Oseman writes, and this book was no different. I Was Born For This tackles mental health, fandoms and friendships. It takes us on a journey alternating between Angel, a young Muslim girl who travels to London to meet up with her best friend on tumblr and go see their favourite band The Ark; and Jimmy, a member of The Ark who is struggling with his anxiety and the growing fame of the band and his relationships with his best friends and band members. I loved both of their stories and how they came together. Just so good. Please read this.
The Book of M by Peng Shepherd
The Book of M is a dystopian novel where people are losing their shadows, and consequently, their memories. The novel follows multiple protagonists as they fight for survival and hope they don’t lose their shadow. I loved the idea behind your shadow being a vessel for your memories and it was executed really well. I quite enjoyed the pacing of the story, especially the sections from Max as she records her travels in a tape recorder. I did find the middle to be a bit slow and the characters almost blurred together, but the ending sucker punched me. This is an astounding debut and I would definitely recommend.
Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
A brilliant middle grade fantasy from a master storyteller! I watched the film before reading this for book club, and I liked the fact the film deviates from the book in terms of plot and yet both versions of the story feel authentic and are great companions to each other. Diana creates a fascinating world with profound and dramatic characters aka Howl my chaotic son. Would highly recommend!
Star-Crossed by Minnie Darke
A quirky and fun romantic comedy from Australian talent. When aspiring journalist Justine Carmichael decides to rewrite the Aquarius horoscope in the magazine she works at to nudge her childhood sweetheart to fall in love with her, it sparks a change in the stars and other characters along the way. Featuring an ensemble cast like Love Actually, this is feel-good meet cute story you’ll devour with a cup of tea under the starlight.
The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo
One of my favourites of 2019! Set in 1930s Malaya, this captivating narrative is rife with folklore, weretigers and ghosts. Following the journeys of Ji Lin, a dancehall girl and Ren, an orphan boy who are brought together by a series of unexplained deaths, The Night Tiger is rich and evocative in its storytelling and setting. I loved the element of superstitution, about how a person has 49 days after death to be put to rest, and how men come to inhabit the bodies of tigers. It’s slow and quietly eerie, haunting you days after you finish it.
And that’s it for now! Let me know in the comments what’s been your favourite book of 2019 so far!
Look, I know it’s 2019 but I got a little too busy and forgot to post this sooooo here it is!
I feel like audiobooks don’t get enough love. Having discovered audiobooks this (last) year, I’ve been blessed with a fantastic range of books I’ve prefered on audio over physically reading it. Here are my seven top picks for 2018 and if you haven’t listened to them, go and treat yourself.
Also, not all of these were released in 2018; they are the ones I listened to in 2018!
Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel
This is no surprise (because yes, I did listen to it again). It’s a sci-fi mystery following Dr. Rose Franklin as she works with an interesting team of people to uncover the secrets behind a giant robot hand she fell in when she was a young girl. Told through interview transcripts with an anonmyous interviewer (whose voice is simply riveting) and a brilliant multiple voice cast (Vincent’s voice actor melts me), it is an out-of-this-world experience.
Sadie by Courtney Summers
I freaking loved this and honestly, Courtney Summers can have my soul. Sadie is told in two forms: a true crime podcast following Sadie’s journey (it reminded me of The Teacher’s Pet and Serial), and Sadie’s own perspective as the events unfolded. The narrator for Sadie nails her stutter and the extra effects such as coffee cups in a diner, the soft coughs and murmurs, the phone ringing were the right touches to elevate the experience this audiobook gives; it’s atmospheric, mesmerising and definitely one of my favourites from this year.
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
The hype for this book is real. It’s an amazingly crafted narrative about a journalist, Monique Grant, who is requested by the aging and mysterious Hollywood star Evelyn Hugo to write her memoir with no filter. Having had seven husbands, a robust climb in Hollywood’s glamour, the sweetness of forbidden love and a scandalous life in the tabloids, it is a tale that will leave you breathless and heartbroken. This is probably why it’s such a fantastic audiobook.
Want by Cindy Pon
Narrated by Roger Yeh, this 9 hour audiobook swept me away. This thrilling sci-fi is set in a near-future Taipei plagued by pollution and polarised in wealth. It follows Jason Zhou who, with a mismatched group of teens, risk everything to bring down the wealthy and save their city. It’s a must-listen.
American Gods by Neil Gaiman
This is loooooong audiobook (almost 20 hours, which isn’t that long compared to IT by Stephen King which I still haven’t read, but moving on). I did this in segments while commuting to work, and every time I listened I was enthralled by the story: a man named Shadow has just been released from prison after his wife and best friend die in an accident. He’s hired by Mr. Wednesday, an incarnation of Odin, as an errand boy, and follows him on his journey to employ the Old Gods for their battle against the New Gods, manifestations of modern life such as the Internet, television, etc. It’s an addictive read, rich with mythology and Americana. You can never go wrong with a story by Neil. Would highly recommend this!
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
This is narrated by Rosamund Pike and yo, she can read classics to me any day of the week. 10/10.
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
Do I even have to explain myself? This story is absolutely heartbreaking and listening to it again broke me.
You’ll find me crying in my corner.
Did you have any favourite audiobooks from 2018? Let me know in the comments!
I’m quite honestly in shock we’re about to go into 2019. What did I do this year? What did I read, learn, and love? Sooooo much.
When I think back to January, it was a cesspool of anxiety and humidity (thanks Australia). I was starting at the university magazine with a very divsere group of people who didn’t always see eye-to-eye. I was struggling to decide what I wanted to do with my career after I graduated (which didn’t happen, but I’ll get to that). Yet January kickstarted by passion for books. I travelled all the way to Melbourne for YA Day (and a conference on magazine editing), and come February, I had formed friendships with like-minded people who screamed about shitty characters with me, and other friends with whom I ate a lot of pad thai with.
It was around March I started getting quite serious about books and wanting to be in publishing. It was also around this time I discovered amazing people on Twitter who I can now call some of my closest friends. Without these people, I don’t know if I ever would have left the shell I’d been hiding in for so long. I turned up to book launches and met lovely authors. I was offered to co-host an awesome fantasy and sci-fi book club with the sweetest and sassiest people I know. I got accepted as a publicity intern with Sydney Writers Festival and learned so much from the team. I stood in the presence of Tayari Jones and didn’t lose my mind.
However, by April and May things were piling up and I was very quickly spiralling into a state where I was constantly stressed and anxious. I put on weight and started to loathe myself. I went for interviews for publicity jobs in publishing despite not having finished my degree. I got rejected. I was handling a student magazine in a rather toxic environment, managing an online publication, finishing an internship, working nights at a bar, studying, and maintaining a social life. I’m thinking back on it now and wondering how the heck I did it. I guess the answer is I sacrificed my health to keep going, and that isn’t healthy. Not by a long shot. But I didn’t feel like I could leave. That would make me a failure.
Then something happened. I got a job in publishing – a full-time paid job. My friends and family were estatic and I almost melted down from how happy I was. It was like this pressure dissolved from my body and I could breathe again. I immediately quit the student magazine and deferred university; I would have graduated by now, but I placed a lot of faith in myself to focus on the huge learning curve my new job entailed (I’m still salty at all my friends posting graduation photos, I love you but pls).
Here’s something no one tells you when it comes to full-time work. It drains you. I live quite far from the city so I commute roughly five hours a day (pleeeeenty of reading time). The shift from night work where I was working till 3am to getting up at 5:30am was difficult. I still slip into old habits by staying up till midnight on a Tuesday while watching Brooklyn Nine Nine. Full-time work at 22 meant I had to meal prep better, say bye bye to weekly pay (hello monthly!), schedule time for the gym, for friends, for the washing. Adulting is hard, and this is just the tip of the iceberg.
Pro tip: get eight hours sleep every night. Trust me. You need sleep.
Disclaimer: working full-time in an industry I love didn’t make my mental health better. I had to work on it every day. There were days I couldn’t get up, days I wanted to be nothing more than a leaf in the wind. I thought I wasn’t worthy. I had to revisit methods of self-care and love daily so I wouldn’t slip. The thing with mental illness is it will always be there, and the road to recovery doesn’t have an end. It’s a constant journey. Despite this, I’m thankful for my friends for keeping tabs on me and selflessly helping me. Much love to you.
I guess what I’m trying to do here is document what I’ve done this year and validate myself. For a while I thought I should give up. I thought it was too hard. I thought I was weak for not being able to work 38 hours a week, commute 25 hours a week, manage an online publication, go to the gym, eat healthy, see friends, make my family happy, love my partner, write blog posts and film videos, and most importantly, love myself.
Friends, my advice is don’t put too much on your plate thinking you’ll disappoint others by not doing it. You know your capacity. Don’t go over it to please others. And have some ice cream along the way. Treat yourself.
And here I am now, six months on from that one phone call that landed me a job in my dream industry. I’ve read over 100 books, learned some self-care, am getting a short story published next year, and went through the biggest learning curve of my life. I’m healthy, happy, have the best friends, a loving partner, a supportive family, and I’m so thankful. If you’re feeling down, lost or scared, know that I’m here if you ever want to talk, and it does get better. I promise.
I’m ready for 2019. There will be more reviews, videos and content. See you soon!
This gothic classic is a ghost story. It’s also psychologically manipulating and terrifying. The small details like the corners of the house, the sheer panic you feel as the characters question everything and their pasts are slowly revealed to us, and the monstrosity of the house makes this tale one of the best I’ve read in the horror genre. And also, why the heck would you rent a haunted house? Ya’ll crazy.
There’s only one rule Molly needs to follow: don’t bleed. When Molly bleeds, another Molly is born and this new Molly wants to erase the other. By a young age, Molly is well versed on how to kill herself. Despite being so short, this morbidly addictive story will have you rooting for the real Molly and leave you scared to bleed.
It’s been a long time since I fell in love with an unrealiable and anxious narrator. Tash Carmody suffered a traumatic event as a child: she watched her best friend Mallory get taken by her terrifying imaginary friend, Sparrow. Years later, Mallory is mute and Tash’s disturbing childhood memories are resurfacing, asking her the question: was Sparrow real or did Tash do something to Mallory? I couldn’t put this down, absolutely hooked from page one as I tried to fill in the holes of Tash’s memory while doubting her own tale. Such a mind game of a book.
We tend to sometimes boast about our love for true crime and serial killers. Unless you’re Martin Reese, who literally digs up murder victims and leaves anonymous messages to the police. It’s all fun and games until a serial killer starts hunting him, and a sharp detective catches his scent. A heart racing and chilling debut.
A gothic prequel to the classic Dracula inspired by notes and texts left behind by Bram Stoker himself. Stuck in a tower facing a terrifying evil with only a rifle, holy water and a crucifix, Bram recollects how he got there, back to when he was mysteriously cured of a childhood ailment by his nanny Ellen, a woman who never seemed to age and disappeared in the middle of the night as strange murders started to surface. A truly spooky read.
Let me know in the comments your favourite horror or thriller books. I’d love to read more!