Sunday, October 25, 2015

The Weekly Lowdown #4

Hi guys wow how is it the last week of October already? Sorry I didn't do a wrap up last week I was recovering from the BIGBANG concert last week haha!

BIGBANG 2015 World Tour [MADE] in Sydney
Which means the first thing I'll talk about is the concert! Y'all know I'm a massive K-pop fan and have been for the past 9 years. The first K-pop song I ever fell in love with and actually got me into K-pop was BIGBANG's Lies. You don't even know how excited I was when it was announced they'd added an Australian leg to their MADE tour! There was a point when it seemed it wasn't going to happen and then BAM I was sitting in Allphones Arena with workmates and we were screaming for TOP BIGBANG. They went all out and it was beyond fabulous. We gave them a yellow ocean of VIPs. It was the first K-pop concert since the 2011 K-pop Fest in Sydney that we were allowed to take photos so I certainly took my fair share. I was actually quite devastated they didn't sing Lies though. No Lies and no Let's Not Fall in Love which is one of their newest songs I love. I haven't loved BIGBANG as much in recent years to be honest. Their style has changed into more hip-hop/rap so their songs haven't really grabbed my attention lately. Let's Not Fall in Love was the first in years (probably since Haru Haru in 2008) so it was really sad they didn't sing it. But they did sing Haru Haru and we basically sang the song for them. Otherwise a stellar concert AND MY TOP AHAHAHA OF COURSE I HAVE TO TALK ABOUT TOP.  I had to try and minimise my screaming because people around me were recording and I didn't want my voice to be in people's vids but oh holy sweet baby Jesus T O P. I have so much love for this man. He is sexy beyond words.

The Imperial Russian Ballet Swan Lake
I went to watch the Imperial Russian Ballet Company perform Swan Lake at the State Theatre yesterday and OH. MY. GOODNESS. I was blown away. Best ballet I've seen yet. It trumped Sleeping Beauty (Moscow Ballet) earlier this year by far. I love watching ballet and I had high hopes for the most performed ballet in history. My expectations were exceeded. I remember I just wasn't that impressed by Sleeping Beauty (I'm one for fancy/complicated sequences with lots of pirouettes, fouettes etc.) but Swan Lake wow. The dancing was amazing. I love it when the corps de ballet are in sync and the four little swans bit was so beautiful. Then the dark swan's 32 fouettes was STUNNING. She kept spinning and spinning and the whole audience was applauding. I probably don't even make sense but basically it was danced so beautifully I was pretty emotional and nearly moved to tears. They're coming back next year for The Nutcracker which I might be even more excited about.

Stitch Bar
Colleagues took me to this hole in the ground (it's literally underground) bar last week and I had the most delicious cheeseburger. The bar was heaps dark but had this really cool vintage vibe with old photographs framed all over their walls and dripping candelabras. The cheeseburger is a must try you guys. They used a sauce that gives Maccas Big Mac sauce a run for their money. I also got some cocktail that had grapefruit sorbet which tasted refreshing and was just on point. Overall, a really fantastic meal and I'd go back again to try the rest of their menu.

I was extremely impressed by this Jap restaurant. I ordered the chicken katsu udon which is fried chicken and it was so yummy yummy yummy. And for $12.50 it was a good sized portion (not too small and not gigantic) that filled me up. Would go again.

Other joints I re-visited were Vapiano and David Jones Food Hall (pasta bar). The DJ's pasta bar is a must to sate my pasta cravings.

Interview with Lyla Payne
I was extremely lucky to be given the opportunity to interview Lyla Payne at the Bloomsbury Sydney office. Joy @ Thoughts by J and I went over on Tuesday to interview Lyla who's visiting Australia. Lyla is so nice and funny and I'll have my interview up in November along with my review of her Christmas book Mistletoe and Mr. Right/Sleigh Bells and Second Chances - which I might add is SO swoony and sweet and I adored it. Lyla's answers made me really want to read more of her NA books which means I must go buy her Whitman University series now! Thank you SO much to the Bloomsbury Sydney team, especially Sonia and Genevieve for organising and facilitating. And thank you THANK YOU for the amazing goody bag <3

Illuminae Sydney Launch
Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff's much anticipated Illuminae (The Illuminae Files) was released this week and they came to Dymocks Sydney for their launch. I'm so happy to have a personalised copy! I accidentally whacked Jay in the head for Joy's photo but the pose was worth it (;

I finally finished What We Left Behind by Robin Talley and reviewed it here. Was not impressed sadly.

Books I got
  • Captive Prince (Captive Prince #1) by CS Pacat - I've heard amazing things about this!
  • Fahrenheit 451 by Rad Bradbury - Been meaning to read this for ages and this gorgeous edition was on sale
  • Illuminae (The Illuminae Files #1) by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff - THIS BOOK. THE INSIDE OMG

From Bloomsbury Sydney:
  • Tote bag for Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone Illustrated edition
  • Inherit Midnight by Kate Kae Myers - omg it's hardback
  • Silver in the Blood by Jessica Day George - this sounds so good and the cover wow and HARDBACK
  • When We Collided by Emery Lord - !!! IT'S EMERY LORD. HEAVY BREATHING.
  • Queen of Shadows signed bookplate - I'll be giving this away at some point :D

Thank you so much Sonia/Bloomsbury Sydney for these beautiful goodies.
Currently Reading: Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Tunes: Let's Not Fall in Love by BIGBANG

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Review: What We Left Behind by Robin Talley

Firstly, thanks to Harlequin Teen Australia for this review copy <3

Date Read: October 7 - 17 2015
Date Released: October 19th 2015
Publisher: Harlequin Teen Australia
Product Page: What We Left Behind on Harlequin Teen Australia
Source: Review copy via publisher
Genre: Contemporary
My Rating:

"From the critically acclaimed author of Lies We Tell Ourselves comes an emotional, empowering story of what happens when love isn't enough to conquer all.

Toni and Gretchen are the couple everyone envied in high school. They've been together forever. They never fight. They're deeply, hopelessly in love. When they separate for their first year at college—Toni to Harvard and Gretchen to NYU—they're sure they'll be fine. Where other long-distance relationships have fallen apart, their relationship will surely thrive.

The reality of being apart, however, is a lot different than they expected. As Toni, who identifies as genderqueer, falls in with a group of transgender upperclassmen and immediately finds a sense of belonging that has always been missing, Gretchen struggles to remember who she is outside their relationship.

While Toni worries that Gretchen, who is not trans, just won't understand what is going on, Gretchen begins to wonder where she fits in Toni's life. As distance and Toni's shifting gender identity begin to wear on their relationship, the couple must decide—have they grown apart for good, or is love enough to keep them together?"


What We Left Behind started with a prologue of instalove. Alarm bells were going off in my head when I read this. I decided to give WWLB the benefit of the doubt as I progressed through the first chapter because this book deals with very important issues. Transgender/genderqueer books are rare and few, and pretty much non-existent in YA. I’m not at all knowledgeable about this community of people who don’t identify with the sex they were born with. As such I thought by reading WWLB I would have a better understanding of genderqueer people and what they have to face.

What I got instead were two teenage girls going off to college and both wallowing in self-pity. We have Toni who identifies with being genderqueer (somewhat, I’ll get onto this later) and her (his?) high school sweetheart Gretchen who’s all sorts of supportive and an amazing girlfriend. They’re hailed as the perfect couple but there’s trouble in paradise when they go to college in different states and find their own friends. Toni finds the genderqueer community at Harvard and fits right in, while Gretchen just sort of trudges through her college life at NYU.

In reality this isn’t about Toni and Gretchen. It’s really about Toni and the effect her/his selfishness has on those around them. Honestly Toni got worse and worse for me throughout the book. I wanted to shake this girl/guy so hard. They’re struggling to figure out where they fit in on the gender scale and says they’re non-binary (identifying as neither male or female) which is fine by me. But she/he decides to lecture everybody else on this. Toni goes on and on about how they hate gender pronouns (I just went through this whole paragraph editing because I wrote ‘she’) and I swear to god every time I read from their perspective I felt like I was getting a textbook lecture. Yes you’re struggling with your identity Toni, yes everybody is different, but no you are NOT the centre of the world. Toni has this amazing support network of other transgender and genderqueer students as soon as she/he enters Harvard but feels they too need to be lectured. That nobody should be using gender pronouns. This pissed me off because some of those people clearly wanted to identify as a particular gender and Toni was denying them that which they had struggled so much to reach. It was like Toni’s opinion of not fitting in a particular gender applied to everybody but nobody else understood her/him. As a result Toni pushes away anybody who isn’t part of his/her community and assumes such outsiders couldn’t ever possibly understand what he/she is going through. No consideration for other people’s feelings whatsoever. Nope. This selfishness. Went. On. For. The. Whole. Damn. Book.

Poor Gretchen tries to understand what Toni is going through. Gretch is actually the most supportive girlfriend ever. She’s always thinking about what she’s saying so as not to offend Toni, she stops using gender pronouns too. I really liked Gretchen as a person overall. She’s very selfless but at the same time a bit of a doormat. It annoyed me the way she let other people walk over her (especially Toni). However, she does grow as a person and I liked her character development towards the end of the book.

I generally liked the supporting characters, especially Toni’s friends. I liked Derek’s enthusiasm and being able to see Eli’s transition – his struggles and the family aspect. I thought that, of Toni’s friends, Nance was the most realistic. Nance wasn’t afraid to tell Toni that she thought Toni was acting all high and mighty. On Gretchen’s side we got very little. She had one friend and one roommate and I would’ve liked more of this. What I didn’t like about the secondary characters was that anybody who was straight/cis was portrayed as ignorant and/or hateful, even the nicer characters (or they barely appeared in the book). Like what, we’re not all like that. Some of us want to understand (hence why I read this book).

Romance wise I just did not get the feels. I was just annoyed at Toni because Gretchen kept giving and Toni kept taking and not giving back. That is not how relationships work. I have nothing more to say about this because the romance just didn’t work for me.

Plot wise, the story is just the progression through the school year following Toni as they try to find their identity with bits of Gretchen interspersed. I thought there could have been a whole lot more world-building with regards to college life and the difference between Harvard and NYU.

And let’s also add in that as genderqueer/transgender representation goes, this book was centred on a college community within Harvard. All these students are privileged either way. So what, you might think, doesn’t mean they don’t have the same problems as others. But being privileged changes many things. Toni’s friends and himself/herself included were loaded. They could all afford to buy the things they needed/wanted and pay for doctors/treatment. Toni took their family’s money for granted and would just spend and spend their parent’s credit card. Toni had no job, couldn’t technically support himself/herself (most people I know had their own income in college, myself included) and I thought that while they were struggling with gender identity, being affluent meant they were ignorant to a whole lot of other issues. I mean this isn’t even that important/doesn’t really relate to the book but it was another thing that ticked me off.

I felt that What We Left Behind could have been a really good book because the premise is fantastic, addressing a topic that’s not widely talked about in YA. Sadly it just fell short and I couldn’t enjoy it at all.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

The Weekly Lowdown #3

Hello October and let's take a short trip back to Hogwarts.

Firstly, how is it October already?! Where has the time gone? It's October 2015 (well duh you must be thinking) but the date holds significance for me. 5 years ago I sat my HSC exams. 5 years ago I was one of many students in NSW stressing about a series of exams that I thought would ultimately define my future. Looking back, maybe I could have studied a little harder and gamed a little less - button mashing is a great stress reliever. I think I tried too hard in Years 7-10 and by Year 11 and 12 I was just burnt out and gave up lol. What's done is done and I'm in a pretty decent place now. I wish I could go back to my 17 year old self and tell her not to worry so much, that the HSC is not the "be all and end all" as my maths teacher used to try to tell us, and that everything would be ok. But then if I hadn't tried so hard would I be where I am today? Either way, I want to wish all the students sitting their HSC/VCE (OWL/NEWTs?) the best of luck. Don't stress, just do your best and it'll be all right!

This week's wrap-up is a short one from me. Sadly no new food places because I had so many meetings this week, I was running between them and stuffing in a short 10min Maccas/Subway lunch.

  • The Girl With All the Gifts by MR Carey - I was bumming around in Kino on Friday and ran into one my favourite sales assistants there and he recommended this to me. It looks so intriguing so I was like yup I'm going to pick this up
  • Magnus Chase and the Sword of Summer (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard #1) by Rick Riordan - I was contemplating buying the US hardcover (I still might) when I got this in the mail on Friday! Thank you so much Penguin Teen Aus for sending me this finished copy. You can read my gushing review here.
  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone Illustrated Edition - YEWWWWWWWWWWWW HOGWARTS. It's beautiful inside. BEAUTIFUL I SAY. Expect the page with all the spiders. That one isn't beautiful. Nope.

Currently Reading: What We Left Behind by Robin Talley - I am struggling so hard with this book I started another - Angel by LA Weatherly. I still haven't finished In the Afterlight either ;____;
Tunes: My trance favourite this week is Restless Hearts by Mark Sixma & Emma Hewitt // Reset by Tiger JK feat. Jinsil my friend introduced to me and is the OST for a drama which I decided to look up and just started watching
Watching: Quantico is an addictive new American TV show. Seriously go check it out // Who Are You: School 2015 a K-drama mystery about high school life

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Review: The Sword of Summer (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard #1) by Rick Riordan

Firstly, thanks to Penguin Teen Australia for this review copy <3


Date Read: September 30 - October 5 2015
Date Released: October 6th 2015
Publisher: Penguin Teen Australia
Source: Review copy via publisher
Genre: Fantasy/mythology
My Rating:

"Magnus Chase has always been a troubled kid. Since his mother’s mysterious death, he’s lived alone on the streets of Boston, surviving by his wits, keeping one step ahead of the police and the truant officers.

One day, he’s tracked down by a man he’s never met—a man his mother claimed was dangerous. The man tells him an impossible secret: Magnus is the son of a Norse god.

The Viking myths are true. The gods of Asgard are preparing for war. Trolls, giants and worse monsters are stirring for doomsday. To prevent Ragnarok, Magnus must search the Nine Worlds for a weapon that has been lost for thousands of years.

When an attack by fire giants forces him to choose between his own safety and the lives of hundreds of innocents, Magnus makes a fatal decision.

Sometimes, the only way to start a new life is to die . . ."


I haven’t read something this entertaining in like… EVER. The Sword of Summer is probably the funniest book I’ve ever read and I enjoyed every bit of it.

Picking up The Sword of Summer, I expected Magnus Chase to be another Percy Jackson. Maybe Percy 2.0 new and improved. But Magnus holds his own – his own story, his own personality. He’s his own memorable character. The son of a Norse god, he’s pulled into a world where Norse mythology is actually true. He embarks on his journey of fate, destiny and heritage.

I freaking adored Magnus’ character. The thing about Riordan’s characters (ok I’ve only read PJO and this but that counts right?) is that they’re relatable, ordinary teenagers that are just trying to get by in life when they’re begrudgingly swept up into a mess of family history and quests of fate. What I love about Magnus is the way he approached everything. After everything he’s been through, he still tries to put a humorous spin on life. That doesn’t mean he takes it as a joke. Far from it; he’s been through and suffered so much he knows how to add a bit of light to situations. His thoughts are extremely sarcastic which NEVER went overboard. I just couldn’t get enough his snark. It was so fitting for the situations (I think he’d be an awesome stand-up comedian) and made them really relatable. There was this one point where they were talking about paradoxes being the strongest ingredient for crafting: “… a woman’s beard”, and Magnus goes “Dunno if that last one is a paradox” and I just about died of laughter. I admired Magnus’ values as well. The way he upheld his beliefs of friendship and family, and not in a self-righteous kind of way either, made me want to hug him and shout him a falafel meal. The way he thought of his mum, full of love and gratitude, it’s not something you often see portrayed in books, especially from a male POV.

Enough gushing about Magnus. Because now I shall gush about his companions. I loved the diversity to his crew – Blitz, Hearth (who's deaf and uses ASL), and Sam a Muslim Valkyrie. You could say they were joined by their painful pasts but on top of that they just clicked so well. It was their willingness to do anything for each other, to help save the world, to see the good in people. I know I sound like rainbows are about to shine and flowers burst at my feet (that does happen at numerous points in the book though) from all the mushy love but it’s true! I loved Blitz’s drive to open his own fashion line, Hearth’s journey to discovering magic and Sam’s struggle to balance her human life and family values. GROUP HUG.

You guys this story is more than just a story. It’s a real journey that took me through the Nine Worlds. I felt like I fell through many of the branches of Yggdrasil and encountered unspeakable foes that knocked me around but ultimately led me toward an end goal. The pace never faltered, never stopped moving. Riordan brilliantly weaves Norse mythology with a wonderful modern plot, that manages to uphold the integrity of the folklore. I’m an absolute sucker for Norse mythology and I loved learning more about the gods, Yggdrasil and the way things were connected. Everything flowed so well and it all clicked.

Now there’s the writing. Riordan just has this innate ability to craft sentences into flowing paragraphs that keep the pages turning. His puns, inside jokes and snark made this one of the most well-written books. Like omg “the [talking] sword had a point. (Pun not intended)” which you might think is lame but in context was just fabulous. The way he had Magnus pronounce or relate things from other worlds like our mortal stuff just made the story that much more believable (Folkvanger – Volkswagen lel). Also the gods ermagherd. They watch TV, they take training courses on presentations, they’re like bag ladies. Fabulous. If I haven’t convinced you to pick this up yet then you may be a lost cause.

The Sword of Summer stands as one of the best books I’ve read this year and one of the most entertaining books I’ve read in my entire life. I came out of this full of feels (yes there are feels), and very content. I felt wiser after finishing, appreciating family and life more, and also got a brush up on Norse mythology. Riordan takes us on an amazing journey, teaching us that the choices we make can fight fate, all the while cruising (speeding) through on his hilarious snark.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

September Wrap Up

Happy Labour Day long weekend Aussies! Hope you're enjoying the long weekend as much I am. I'm just over the moon because I love hot weather and it's like 33 degrees (Celsius) today - that's 90 degrees for you Fahrenheit people.

First things first - I GOT THE NEW iPhone 6s. In rose gold. And it's even more gorgeous than you think. No *slaps hand* you cannot touch. But here's a photo for you to drool over. The below photos are taken with the awesome 12MP camera. For me it wasn't too massive a transition because I had the 5s before this. I really love the 3D Touch.

I ended up getting a lot more books than I anticipated for September!

  • Saga volume 5 by Fiona Staples and Brian K Vaughan
  • Kiss of the Rose Princess volumes 5 and 6 by Aya Shouoto (my favourite manga artist probably)
  • The Martian by Andy Weir (about time I read this)
  • Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman (COVER LUST)
  • Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson (another Wild West gold rush book it seems, Rae Carson <3)
  • The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness (2 copies because I bought one and the other came with my YA Chronicles subscription box)
  • The Beast's Garden by Kate Forsyth (Beauty and the Beast retellings <3)
  • Lair of Dreams (The Diviners #2) by Libba Bray (THANK YOU ALLEN AND UNWIN FOR NOT CHANGING THE COVER)
  • Six of Crows (Six of Crows #1) by Leigh Bardugo (skdfhksdfhsd IT'S LEIGH BARDUGO and those black stained pages like wow)
  • Hans Christian Andersen Classic Fairy Tales (B&N edition so gorgeous)
  • Peter Pan by JM Barrie (yes the inside is beautiful)
  • Queen of Shadows (Throne of Glass #4) by Sarah J. Maas (YAAAAAAAAS)

I also think I got some unsolicited review copies but I can't really remember so... go me O_O

In terms of what I read...

  • Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie - Overall a good mystery but wasn't a fan that in the reveal, there were things talked about that weren't mentioned AT ALL in the story. The reader had no possibility of solving the mystery and finding motive on their own. That kills me because I knew the culprit, but I couldn't find all the pieces of the puzzle to connect them all motive-wise - turns out they were never there.
  • After Daybreak (Darkness Before Dawn #3) by JA London- A satisfying end to this vampire trilogy. Nothing really fascinating though.
  • Hothouse Flower (Calloway Sisters #2) by Krista and Becca Ritchie - Another AMAZING new adult from KB Ritchie. I adore the Calloway Sisters novels. Raisy ugh. Perfection.
  • Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman - Loved this Wild West gold rush novel. I haven't ever read a YA set in this era and Bowman really added character to this with the language. Kate's quest for revenge was stellar (Y). Her motto is probably "Shoot first . Think later."
  • Uprooted by Naomi Novik - This phenomenal. Words cannot. Magic, fantasy, lovely story, awesome MC, enigmatic Dragon. Jaz loves. Go read that is all.
  • The Diviners (The Diviners #1) by Libba Bray - Finally finished this one after attempting it again this year for Lair of Dreams. The Roaring Twenties were captured perfectly. Speakeasies, Prohibition, parties, mixed with macabre occult murders = glamorous and thrilling.

Vicolo Cafe on Kent St
This is a little Italian cafe on Kent St in the CBD. I was really impressed by this cafe! I shared a steak sandwich and antipasto board with my workmate. The steak sandwich was delicious! The steak was nice and tender which is the obvious decider for me. Highly recommend. I wouldn't have finished the whole thing on my own, so glad I shared. The antipasto was not too bad. The grilled capsicum was really nice and some of the meats were ok. Can't say I'd highly recommend it though.
I reckon Since I Left You (a bar also on Kent, very close to Vicolo) does antipasto better. If you want amazing prosciutto, then definitely try Since I Left You - they also apparently have a changing wine list. I had a really good red wine here when colleagues introduced me to this bar. SILY also has a really nice vibe if you sit outside which is what we did.

Yayoi - The Galeries Victoria
This is one of the newer restaurants opened in the Galeries and they're on the pricier side of Japanese. In contrast to the ramen-focused Ichiban-boshi upstairs, Yayoi is all about rice set menus. The place has a really clean and fresh/modern look with its booths and ordering through iPads. Also points for their smooth and responsive order system (if you've been to Wagaya, you'll know of the pains of stabbing the unresponsive ordering system). I got the chicken karage set with green tea which was $19.50. It tasted reallllly good. The karage was battered differently to the usual crumbly karage I usually get at Jap restaurants. It came with a lot of little sides and a miso soup (which was a bit too salty for my taste). The best part was the green tea - as an insane tea drinker (if you know me well, you know that I don't drink water - my whole life I've just been drinking Chinese/Japanese teas) I'm really particular about how fragrant tea is. This green tea was beautifully fragrant which I've been hard pressed to find at places these days, even Japanese joints. Overall, pricey, but worth it!

Hellohappy - Strathfield
Last night, I went to Strathfield with Jess to have dinner and our long time coming dessert date! I'm not a fan of cakes (I know, but y'all know I'm an ice cream/macarons person) so while Jess got a cake, I got a green tea frappuccino. Yes green tea again. No I never get sick of it. Yes it was pretty good though I liken it to Starbucks.

Currently reading: The Sword of Summer (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard #1) by Rick Riordan
Tunes: Avicii's new songs City Lights and Trouble