A Scroll of 2018 Reads I’m Looking Forward To (And You Should Too)

HAPPY NEW YEAR! Hope you had a good start to 2018. If not, I hope my list of upcoming reads would cheer you up. This year promises a lot of good books, especially diverse/Own Voices ones.


This list will be updated as more book announcements come up throughout the year


January

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Before I Let Go (Marieke Nijkamp)

Release date: 2nd January

An Own Voices book that sounds chilling and promising. Corey is about to return to her hometown when her best friend Kyra dies and soon Corey feels something is not right, what with the town already moving on.

Batman: Nightwalker (Marie Lu)

Release date: 2nd January

Before his Batman days, Bruce Wayne is a rebel and gets caught up with the law, not in a good way. He is sentenced to do community service at the infamous Arkham Asylum and gets tangled up with one of its inmates…

The Cruel Prince (Holly Black)

Release date: 2nd January

Jude wishes to secure her place at the Faerie Court and ends up in the middle of faerie politics and all the viciousness belonging to court life. This leads her to take risks in saving herself, her family and the Faerie world.

Love, Hate and Other Filters (Samira Ahmed)

Release date: 16th January

Maya Aziz is expected to be a good, dutiful daughter, but she dreams of going to film school and live in New York. Her life changes when a crime happens and everyone around her becomes different people, full of hate and fear. The book deals with Islamophobia and is Own Voices.

Let’s Talk About Love (Claire Kann)

Release date: 23rd January

After breaking up with her girlfriend, Alice thought she was done with dating, but she meets Takumi and they become friends. Alice is torn between being open about her feelings and start up something with the guy or risk losing their friendship.

Alice is a biromantic/ace and poc, so make sure to check this one out!

Reign of the Fallen (Sarah Glenn Marsh)

Release date: 23rd January

Odessa is a necromancer whose job is to resurrect the noble dead…at the risk of turning them into zombie-like monsters called Shades. When it’s discovered that someone is creating Shades and turning them into weapons, Odessa questions her morals and her own power…

February

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The Belles (Dhonielle Clayton)

Release date: 6th February

Beauty is a commodity and the Belles have it and are therefore worshipped. Camellia is a Belle but wants to be the favourite, chosen to live in the royal palace and at court. But Camellia becomes disillusioned once she achieves her dream…

American Panda (Gloria Chao)

Release date: 6th February

Mei has her future all set. She’s at MIT, on the path to becoming a doctor, and has an Ivy Leaguer as a future husband. The last two things exist because of her parents.

But Mei hates germs and has a crush on someone else, but she doesn’t want to disappoint her parents. Maybe she could carry on her secrets, be herself somehow…

Shadowsong (S Jae-Jones)

Release date: 6th February

Liesl tries to get on with her life after resurfacing to her world, but she can’t move on from the guy she left behind. The line between their worlds start to crack. Liesl has to return to the underground to solve it and uncover the mystery of the Goblin King, her guy.

Immortal Reign (Morgan Rhodes)

Release date: 6th February

Enemies become allies to stop two dangerous gods from destroying the world. Jonas, Lucia, Magnus and Cleo face greater challenges as more conflicts and enemies close in.

Heart of Iron (Ashley Poston)

Release date: 27th February

Anastasia. In. Space! Ana is on a mission to steal the coordinates to a lost ship in order to save her android. But a boy gets in her way, leading them to become fugitives and on the run, Ana discovers some dark secrets and confronts something from her past.

March

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Children of Blood and Bone (Tomi Adeyemi)

Release date: 6th March

Magic is gone and wielders of it have been hunted down and killed under the king’s orders. Zélie is set to bring magic back and fight back against the king and the crown prince who’s on a mission to destroy magic for good. But Zélie struggles with her powers and…her feelings for the enemy.

The Witch Doesn’t Burn in This One (Amanda Lovelace)

Release date: 6th March

An empowering read on feminism and reclaiming femininity and selfhood with vivid imagery and sharp words.

Rainbirds (Clarissa Goenawan)

Release date: 6th March

After his sister was killed, Ren Ishida fills in her shoes, searching for solace, and witnesses the life she had. He tries to solve what happened to her during her last hours.

Tyler Johnson Was Here (Jay Coles)

Release date: 20th Match

After a shooting at a party and a police raid, Marvin’s twin Tyler goes missing and he sets out to find him. But Tyler is found dead. He’s killed by a police officer and Marvin discovers the true meaning of justice and freedom.

The Astonishing Colour of After (Emily X.R. Pan)

Release date: 20th March

Leigh is grieving after her mother dies by suicide. She finds solace in art and her mother’s wish, and she tries to find herself again.

The Heart Forger (Rin Chupeco)

Release date: 20th March

Tea, a witch with the power of resurrection and command death, leaves her self-imposed exile to begin her revenge on those who wronged her. But there are people who are prepared to fight her and those who want to use her.

Aru Shah and the End of Time (Roshani Chokshi)

Release date: 27th March

Trying to prove to her classmates that she isn’t lying about a cursed lamp, Aru ends up setting a demon free. The demon is tasked to free the God of Destruction and Aru must stop that from happening through five legendary characters from the Mahabharata and visit the Kingdom of Death.

Lost Crow Conspiracy (Rosalyn Eves)

Release date: 27th March

Anna Arden broke the binding, granting everyone, especially the lower classes, their magic that was stolen by those in power. But the latter aren’t celebrating and war threatens to overturn every peaceful thing Anna had thought she brought about.

April

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Leah on the Offbeat (Becky Albertalli)

Release date: 24th April

A promising treat for us Simon vs. fans. Leah has her drumming under her control, but the world outside of it…not so much. Her group of friends start to crack and she’s at a lost…

May

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On the Come Up (Angie Thomas)

Release date: 1st May

Not much on the details but it’s about a teen who’s an aspiring rapper. Can’t wait to hear more!

A Court of Frost and Starlight (Sarah J Maas)

Release date: 1st May

Bridging the gap between A Court of Wings and Ruin and the future spinoffs, ACOFAS centres on Feyre and Rhys and their inner circle rebuilding their home and the rest of the world. Everyone’s recovering from the war and Winter Solstice is here to take their minds off their wounds, but it’s not going to be easy…

Smoke in the Sun (Renée Ahdieh)

Release date: 3rd May

After giving herself up to save Okami and their group, the Black Clan, Mariko investigates the court’s darkest secrets under her disguise as a royal bride-to-be.

Puddin’ (Julie Murphy)

Release date: 8th May

A companion book to Dumplin’, Puddin’ centres on Millie who plans to go after her crush and ends up crossing paths with Callie, a popular girl at school. Soon they learn that there’s something between them…

The Way You Make Me Feel (Maurene Goo)

Release date: 8th May

Clara loves pranks and making misery, so when she crosses the line, she’s sentenced to working at her dad’s business. A chance for her to change her ways and find things to really care about, including a boy.

The Poppy War (RF Kuang)

Release date: 15th May

A dark-skinned peasant girl named Rin surprises everyone when she passes an empire-wide test. Despite that, she’s targeted because of her race, gender and class. She eventually discovers that she has a dangerous power relating to shamanism and as a war becomes a possible nightmare to the empire, she might be the only one who could save everyone.

War Storm (Victoria Aveyard)

Release date: 15th May

Mare faces greater challenges as war is brewing. Meawhile, Maven isn’t ready to surrender or give her up.

The Brightsiders (Jen Wilde)

Release date: 22nd May

From the author of Queens of Geek comes a story about a teen drummer who deals with family, fame and coming out as bi.

Legendary (Stephanie Garber)

Release date: 28th May

The follow up to Caraval centres on Scarlett’s sister Tella who goes on a journey to complete a bargain.

June

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The Kiss Quotient (Helen Hoang)

Release date: 5th June

With her career all figured out, there’s one thing that Stella needs to figure out. Dating. She asks help from an escort named Michael and soon, she starts to have feelings for him…

From Twinkle, With Love (Sandhya Menon)

Release date: 5th June

Twinkle jumps at the chance to direct a movie for a festival. The opportunity also gives her a chance to get closer to her crush Neil, the brother of Sahil who offered her the job. But as the filming progresses, Twinkle finds herself falling for Sahil…

Bruja Born (Zoraida Cordova)

Release date: 5th June

Lula brings her boyfriend back to life with help from her sisters, but there are consequences…she resurrects something or someone else too.

Ayesha at Last (Uzma Jalaluddin)

Release date: 12th June

With Pride and Prejudice vibes, Ayesha at Last centres on Ayesha, a secular Muslim, who dreams of becoming a poet but takes a more stable job. She crosses paths with Khalid, a conservative and handsome Muslim, who irritates her but she finds herself feeling attracted to him too…

Reaper at the Gates (Sabaa Tahir)

Release date: 12th June

Laia faces threats and an unexpected battle. Elias becomes a Soul Catcher, relinquishing his freedom to a dark power. Helene navigates around dangerous and powerful people and tries to find a way to save the Empire from the darkness.

A Thousand Beginnings and Endings (edited by Ellen Oh and Elsie Chapman)

Release date: 26th June

A multigenre anthology of East, Southeast and South Asian mythology and folklore retellings by Asian authors including Roshani Chokshi, Renée Ahdieh, Sona Charaipotra, Cindy Pon, Alyssa Wong and Shveta Thakrar. I wonder if there’s going to be some Indonesian stories (bonus points if they’re by Indonesian authors). Can’t wait to find out!

Trial of Lightning (Rebecca Roanhorse)

Release date: 26th June

An “Indigenous Mad Max: Fury Road” by an Indigenous American author, Trial of Lightning is set in a post-apocalyptic world where gods and mythical heroes roam as well as monsters.

While on a mission to find a missing girl, Maggie Hoskie, a Dinétah monster hunter, discovers something terrifying relating to a monster. Together with Kai, a medicine man, Maggie travels to uncover clues from ancient legends and fight dark magic.

September

Unbroken: 13 Stories Starring Disabled Teens (edited by Marieke Nijkamp)

Release date: 18th September

A YA anthology of Own Voices stories about diverse disabled teens by disabled authors including Kody Keplinger and Corinne Duyvis.

October

The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy (Mackenzi Lee)

Release date: 2nd October

From The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue‘s Felicity’s pov, we will come across pirates, probably an awesome adventure and science girl gangs.

Shadow of the Fox (Julie Kagawa)

Release date: 30th October

Yumeko escapes from her home temple being burned by demons, carrying a part of an ancient but powerful scroll with her. The scroll is much sought after and is broken into pieces that are missing. Yumeko has to guard her piece especially when she crosses paths with Kage Tatsumi who’s on a mission to find the whole scroll and won’t let anyone stand in his way…

Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix (Julie C Dao)

Release date: TBA

No details on the plot of the second book of Forest of a Thousand Lanterns, a Snow White retelling, but I’m excited!

December

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Queen of Air and Darkness (Cassandra Clare)

Release date: 4th December

Civil war threatens the Shadowhunters’ world. Emma and Julian have to put aside their forbidden romance to get the Black Volume of the Dead from the Faerie. But they find out something there that would destroy their world and create a dark future…

Release-date-to-be-announced Books

The Gilded Wolves (Roshani Chokshi)

A cursed heir and a crew of his are on a mission to steal an ancient and powerful artefact of fate.

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Blog Tour: The Harper Effect

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Hello! The first weeks of the year have already been busy for me since the number of books I need to review keep growing. Okay, my fault for not saying no haha. Okay, welcome to another blog tour I’m participating in. The book this time is The Harper Effect, an Australian YA.

What is it About?

Sixteen-year-old Harper was once a rising star on the tennis court—until her coach dropped her for being “mentally weak.” Without tennis, who is she? Her confidence at an all-time low, she secretly turns to her childhood friend, next-door neighbor Jacob—who also happens to be her sister’s very recent ex-boyfriend. If her sister finds out, it will mean a family war.

But when Harper is taken on by a new coach who wants her to train with Colt, a cold, defensive, brooding young tennis phenom, she hits the court all the harder, if only to prove Colt wrong. But as the two learn to become a team, Harper gets glimpses of the vulnerable boy beneath the surface, the boy who was deeply scarred by his family’s dark and scandalous past. The boy she could easily find herself falling for.

As she walks a fine line between Colt’s secrets, her forbidden love, and a game that demands nothing but the best, Harper must decide between her past and her future and between two boys who send her head spinning. Is the cost of winning the game is worth losing everything?

My Review

The writing is good and it’s refreshing to read about a YA book with a sports theme, with a main character who’s a teen tennis player. And I’m not into sports. I liked the scenes where training and the games were involved.

But I had to knock off some stars since the characters including Harper got on my nerves. Most of the time, she’s an unlikeable character that I don’t like. She does things that I don’t understand – I couldn’t follow her thoughts – and there are moments of internalised misogyny that don’t get challenged – much revolved around her love interest. Why are the other women associated with the guy rivals and kinda slut-shamed?

Colt is another brooding YA male who Harper helps get through tough times and eventually he lets her through his armour. Just boring stuff. It wouldn’t be if their relationship remained platonic and a little healthier for me.

The romance or love triangle was…unbearable. It felt so over the top, a little creepy at times (consent, not pressuring people to open up, and not stalking are actually cool, guys) and just an annoyance. Harper’s friend and sort-of boyfriend Jacob is an ass who’s forgiven too quickly. I wanted more page time of Harper and her sister instead. I thought the resolution for them was too brief.

So were the major tennis tournaments towards the end. The fast pacing made me think that winning and tennis weren’t important to Harper after all the mid-life crises she had.

Rating: 🌟🌟


Thank you Pan Macmillan for the review copy. My thoughts are based on the book and are my own.


 

Between the Blade and the Heart Blog Tour

Cover Between the Blade and the Heart

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Hello! Between the Blade and the Heart, inspired by the Valkyries and Norse mythology (are you thinking of Thor: Ragnarok right now?), is my first review and blog tour of 2018.

What is it About?

When the fate of the world is at stake
Loyalties will be tested

Game of Thrones meets Blade Runner in this commanding new YA fantasy inspired by Norse Mythology from New York Times bestselling author Amanda Hocking.

As one of Odin’s Valkyries, Malin’s greatest responsibility is to slay immortals and return them to the underworld. But when she unearths a secret that could unravel the balance of all she knows, Malin along with her best friend and her ex-girlfriend must decide where their loyalties lie. And if helping the blue-eyed boy Asher enact his revenge is worth the risk—to the world and her heart.

My Review

I enjoyed the book more so than Hocking’s previous books. Between the Blade and the Heart flows more nicely. It’s straightforward, an easy and quick read, and the plot is quite focused. There aren’t distracting subplots. But the climax is too short and the ending is…mundane.

The characters are okay. I like the Valkyries and their duties, and the consequences of not following orders hooked me in. The plot twist involving some gods is also a highlight. The book touches on the Valkyries not getting too attached to others, pulling my heart strings. But I found the romance between Malin and Asher mediocre (he’s also mediocre) and just…there’s no heat, okay. Them hitting on each other doesn’t make sense and that’s why I didn’t feel anything when that thing involving Asher towards the end happened. Malin has a better relationship with her best friend. Why can’t they be in love?

Besides Odin, I’m bothered by how the other few poc characters, minor characters, are portrayed, not like the main characters, e.g. a Japanese character shapeshifting into a spider-like monster. There’s also the part where languages other than English are kind of fading away and Central America being described negatively in terms of civilisation. It’s also near the entrance of the underworld.

There are moments where it feels like the settings, especially the far off places, are fetishised, having an “exotic” feel. As for the bisexual and lesbian rep, I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, it’s sweet and makes my heart race, but on the other, I’m like “Really?”

Anyway, the book has some flaws, but it still has admirable things, enough to like it.

Rating: 🌟🌟🌟

Q&A with Amanda Hocking

Q: What or who was the inspiration behind Between the Blade and the Heart?

A: I have already written several books inspired by Scandinavian folklore, and I was always fascinated by Valkyries. But because I had already done in Scandinavian fantasy, I wanted to come at this one from a different angle. I imagined the Valkyries helping to police a gritty, diverse, cyberpunk metropolis, in a world filled with not just Norse figures but from many mythologies.

Q: What are the life lessons that you want readers to glean from your book?

A: That love is a strength, not a weakness.

Q: If you were given the chance to go on a date with one of your characters, who would you choose and what would you do together?

A: Oona. She doesn’t swing that way, but since I’m married anyway, it would be a friendship date. I think it would be fun to go to an apothecary with her and have her show me around the magic. Or maybe just veg out and watch bad movies.

Q: Would the essence of your novel change if the main protagonist were male?

A: Yes, it would be changed dramatically. For one, Valkyries are women. But I also think the book explores the relationships between mothers and daughters, and friendships between young women.

Q: What is your definition of true love in YA literature?

A: There has to be passion and desire – not necessarily anything physical, but so much of young love is about yearning. But I also think that true love is based on mutual respect and selflessness.

Q: What advice would you give to someone who wanted to be an author/start writing?

A: My biggest piece of advice is to just write. It’s so easy to get caught up in self-doubt or procrastination. There are lot of great books and blogs about the art of writing, but the most important thing is really to just do it. The best way to get better at writing is by doing it.

Q: What’s one book you would have no trouble rereading for the rest of your life?

A: It would be a toss up between Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli and Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut. I’ve read both of those books a dozen times already, at least, and I never get sick of them.

Q: How did you name your characters? Are they based on people you know in real life?

A: It’s combination of names I like and taking inspiration from the world itself. With Between the Blade and the Heart, the names were inspired both by the mythology they come from – many Valkyries have Norse names like Malin, Teodora, and Freya, for example – and the futuristic setting of the book, so I wanted names that seemed a bit cooler and just slightly different than the ones we use now.

Q: Alright, Amanda, I know you’re a movie buff. What are some movies your characters would pick as their all-time favorites?

A: That’s a tough one. Malin – The Crow, Oona – Pan’s Labyrinth, Quinn – Wonder Woman, Asher – Inception, and Marlow – Twelve Monkeys.

Q: Which mythological character is the most like you?

A: Demeter, because she’s pretty dramatic – she basically kills all the plants in the world when her daughter goes missing – but she’s also determined, and will stop at nothing to protect those she cares about.

Q: Who is your favorite character in this book and why?

A: Oona or Bowie. Oona because she’s so practical, supportive, and determined, and Bowie because he’s adorable.

Q: What is your favorite scene and why?

A: I don’t know if there is one particular scene that I loved more than the others, but I really enjoyed writing about the city that Malin lives in and all the creatures that inhabit it.

Q: What cities inspired the urban haven where the Valkyries live?

A: I was really obsessed with this idea of an overpopulated metropolis, and so I took a lot of inspiration from some of the biggest cities in the world, particularly Tokyo, Mexico City, Mumbai, and Manila. The city itself is actually a sort of futuristic, alternate reality of Chicago (one of my favorite cities in the world), and I wanted to incorporate that into it as well.

Q: What came first: The world, the mythology, or the characters?

A: I usually say the characters come first, and the world builds around it. But for this one, it really was the world that drew me into it. I knew I was writing about a young woman who was a Valkyrie, but that about all when I began building up the world and the mythology.

Q: I love that these characters are in college. What inspired this choice?

A: Because of the complex relationship Malin has with her mother, I knew I wanted some distance between them, so I thought putting her in college, living away from her mom, was a good way to do it. Plus, I thought it would be fun to explore the all the supernatural training that would be needed to do these specialized jobs that come up in a world where every mythological creature exists.

Q: What songs would you include if you were to make a soundtrack for the book?

A: This is my favorite question! I love creating soundtracks that I listen to while writing a book, and here are some of my favorite tracks from my Between the Blade and the Heart playlist: Annie Lennox – “I Put a Spell on You,” Daniel Johns – “Preach,” Halsey – “Trouble (stripped),” Meg Myers – “Sorry (EthniKids Remix),” and MYYRA – “Human Nature.”

Q: Was this book always planned as a series or did that develop afterwards?

A: It was always planned as a duology. I don’t want to go into too much or risk spoiling the second book, but I had this idea that one book would be above, and the other below.

Q: Your novels and characters are so layered. How do you stay organised while plotting/writing? Do you outline, use post-it notes, make charts, or something else?

A: All of the above! This one was the most intensive as far as research and note taking goes, and I also had maps, glossaries, and extensive lists of various mythologies. I think I ended up with thirteen pages of just Places and Things. I do a lot of typed notes, but I also do handwritten scribbles (which can sometimes be confusing to me later on when I try to figure out what they mean. I once left myself a note that just said “What are jelly beans?”) For this one, I really did have to have lots of print outs on hand that I could look to when writing.

Q: You’ve said that pop culture and the paranormal both influence your writing. How do these things intersect for you?

A: In a way, I think they’re both about how humans choose to interpret and define the world that surrounds us. So many mythologies come from humans trying to make sense of the seasons and the chaos of existence, and even though we’ve moved past a lot of the scientific questions, pop culture is still tackling our existence. Even when looking at shows made for kids, like Pixar, they handle a lot of difficult concepts, like what it means to love someone else, how to be a good friend, facing your fears, and overcoming loss. These are things that mythologies and stories have been going over for centuries.

Q: Did you choose the title first, or write the book then choose the title?

A: It depends on the book, but I will say with this one that it took a very, very long time to come up with a title. It was already written and edited, and we were still bouncing around different names.

Q: How many more books can we expect in Between the Blade and the Heart series?

A: One more! From the Earth to the Shadows will be out in April 2018.

Q: What scene from the book are you most proud of (because of how you handled the atmosphere, characters, dialogue, etc)?

A: I don’t want to say too much or risk spoiling it, but there’s a scene near the end of the book where a confrontation leaves Malin reeling. I wrote it in an almost present tense, stream-of-consciousness way because I thought that was the best way to capture the raw intensity of her emotions.

AUTHOR BIO

Amanda Hocking NEW--credit Mariah Paaverud with Chimera Photography

Amanda Hocking is the author of over twenty young adult novels, including the New York Times bestselling Trylle Trilogy and Kanin Chronicles. Her love of pop culture and all things paranormal influence her writing. She spends her time in Minnesota, taking care of her menagerie of pets and working on her next book.

Author Website: http://www.worldofamandahocking.com/

Twitter: @Amanda_Hocking

Facebook: @AmandaHockingFans

Author Blog

Wrapping Up 2017 (Part 4): My Top Reads of 2017

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Finally I get to tell you what my top reads are this year. It was hard to narrow down but I survived. 2017 has been a good year for diverse/own voices books and it’s good to see a lot had been released in Australia around the same time as the US and UK. I can’t wait for the ones coming out in 2018!

Here are my top reads (not in any order of awesomeness):

The Hate U Give (Angie Thomas)

TW: police brutality, racism

This is an important and brilliant read on #BlackLivesMatter, police brutality and institutionalised racism. Plus the writing and characters blew me away as well as the importance of family and friendship.

The Language of Thorns (Leigh Bardugo)

This collection of Grishaverse fairytales with some retellings of familiar tales made me teary. It has everything. Witches, pretty illustrations, betrayal, dark magic, magical animals, mermaids and a beautiful retelling of the Nutcracker. Always trust Bardugo to sweep you off your feet.

Big Little Lies (Liane Moriarty)

TW: domestic violence, bullying

Australian adult books and parent drama aren’t my thing, but this one hooked me in with its suspense and cliffhangers. The plot builds up to a twist that blows you away.

A Darker Shade of Magic trilogy (VE Schwab)

TW: characters slitting hands

I love all three books of this series. I love the amazing characters and a city having four different versions of itself, tied to different kinds of magic or lackof.

A Crown of Wishes (Roshani Chokshi)

The beautiful writing and intense characters never leave you, nor does the magical setting. I’m tearing up.

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WANT (Cindy Pon)

Dystopia was reborn because of this book. I love everything from the suits that keep the fortunate alive to badass Jason and his badass squad to the page-turning climax to the pretty cover.

The Upside of Unrequited (Becky Albertalli)

This book about a fat teen girl, who has so many crushes, finally finding someone made me cry and so happy. It’s a fat positive book that teen me would’ve needed.

Forest of a Thousand Lanterns (Julie C Dao)

TW: child abuse, psychological abuse

One of the best Snow White retellings ever. The writing and the magic of the world the book is set in are soooo good and hypnotising. Just like Xifeng, the main character, I had mixed feelings about the romance. I want her and Wei together but Wei is a kind of a douche and she has a destiny to fulfill.

I love that Xifeng’s ambitious, unashamedly vain, and won’t let anything or anyone stand in her way to the throne. Plus she eats people’s hearts to stay beautiful and powerful. A villain I support.

There are some slow moments and the ending is a little too summary-ish, but the build up to Xifeng becoming empress and the evil queen/stepmother is wow. I’m totally up for the sequel.

Strange the Dreamer (Laini Taylor)

Things to love about this one: the hypnotising writing, a librarian who turns out to be a badass and becomes a major part of a mission, a girl who controls moths and a manipulative child villain.

Lord of Shadows (Cassandra Clare)

I’m impressed with the intersectional diversity in this book. Along with stronger writing and character development, it’s definitely an improvement from the other Shadowhunters books. There’s so much love and loyalty and crying. The ending…

Tower of Dawn (Sarah J Maas)

TW: ableism

I was hesitant about this one, but it surprised me. The disability rep was pretty good and respectful, though some may think differently. Curing Chaol’s disability is part of the book and there are ableist moments but they’re countered off. While the sex scenes are a little unnecessary and the married reveal made me laugh (give it a rest, Maas), Chaol does deserve happiness.

The book has awesome, intense scenes and story arcs that put the previous books to shame. The character development and plot build up are so good, and the poc rep is better.

When Dimple Met Rishi (Sandhya Menon)

Prepare to make heart eyes. This book has two poc leads pursuing their passions, diverse portrayals of Indian-Americans, and has a positive take on arranged marriages. I also didn’t see the amount of geekiness coming.

Queens of Geek (Jen Wilde)

This is a love letter to fandoms. It also resonated with me as a bi poc with anxiety and have experienced going to a con. It’s awesome and overwhelming. The diversity rep is good and we see that it’s an important part in the story itself – Charlie and Taylor have moments of seeing themselves in fiction. And it’s wonderful.

Not Your Sidekick (CB Lee)

This book is soooo good. It has family drama, teen drama, intersectional diversity, concepts of hero and villain being shaken, a balance of light and heavy moments, and the sidekick taking matters into their own hands.

Always and Forever, Lara Jean (Jenny Han)

The Song Covey family doesn’t fail to bring warmth and happiness. This book also gave me a lot of angst over Lara Jean and Peter K, but eventually ends with a satisfying ending.

Tiny Pretty Things and Shiny Broken Pieces (Dhonielle Clayton and Sona Charaipotra)

TW: bullying, bulimia

I’m a sucker for ballet stories, so I was so hooked by the cold and vicious world of ballet, the mystery, the suspense in these books. The world is so cold and vicious that the dancers literally try to tear each other apart [grabs some popcorn]. The experiences of poc dancers are explored as well as the obstacles life throws at them, which I found refreshing.

Wintersong (S Jae-Jones)

Things to love: references to Goblin Market, writing that sounds poetical or musical and the cursed love interest trope. There are some slow and aimless scenes, descriptions on “savages” and underdeveloped romance and character development, but the book is an enjoyable read.

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue (Mackenzi Lee)

I think this is my funniest read of the year. I love the characters Monty and Percy and the wild adventures they have. There’s also a Frankenstein-inspired subplot and intersectional diversity – respectful bi, poc and disabled rep.

The Crown’s Fate (Evelyn Skye)

Things to love about this book: Russia, magic-wielding lovers fighting each other – they want to be together but their duties and goals come first, character development, dark magic, beautiful writing and references to Russian folklore and the Nutcracker (gods I’m so weak for that story).

The Trials of Apollo: The Hidden Oracle and The Dark Prophecy (Rick Riordan)

I started reading more Riordan books including the Percy Jackson series this year, and wow he doesn’t disappoint. I fell in love with the Apollo series because Apollo is my fav Greek god and Riordan’s version is pretty funny and flawed. Plus Meg is a cool sidekick, the villains are creepy, and there’s more intersectional diversity compared to the Percy Jackson books.

Akira (Katsuhiro Otomo)

Wow, after finally reading this manga, I understood why it’s a classic. Science experiments, rogue and dangerously powerful subjects of those experiments, authorities forever sweating because of them, a rebel girl doing badass things, a clueless guy getting dragged into the situation and his friend becoming a superpowered villain…

So much is happening, I love it.

Milk and Honey (Rupi Kaur)

TW: sexual abuse, rape

I wasn’t prepared for this book of poems, with just a few lines on each page that are enough to reach into your soul. It’s a heartwrenching and confronting read about the effects of rape, abuse, hate, failed relationships, and the struggle of healing and self-love.

One of Us Is Lying (Karen M McManus)

TW: abuse, poor mental health rep

The Breakfast Club meets Gossip Girl and Cluedo. It was hard to put down, but the ending is out of place and I don’t like the outsider/person with mental health issues is the culprit trope. Still, an intriguing read.

Shadowshaper (Daniel Jose Older)

I love the concept of art as a power, the diverse characters who have each other’s backs and the monsters which are creepily good.

The Bone Witch (Rin Chupeco)

This book won me over with a witch who can summon the dead and manipulate bones. The writing is so haunting that it sticks with you. Despite the aimlessness every now and then, a “savage” tribe appearing and a flat romance, it’s an enjoyable and unique read.

They Both Die at the End (Adam Silvera)

I fell in love with Mateo and Rufus. They made me a little more adventurous.

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Labyrinth Lost (Zoraida Cordova)

This book has it all: dark magic, a close family of witches, bi poc main characters, betrayal, a dangerous quest to save family and beautiful writing.

Whispered Words (Takashi Ikeda)

I love this manga about two girls who are best friends but secretly love each other romantically. They keep their feelings secret because they each think that they’re not the right type of girl for the other. And on top of that, another character who’s in the middle of figuring out his gender identity is in love with one of the girls.

One Dark Throne (Kendare Blake)

Better than the first book, this one has more plotting, tension between the three queen sisters, and further exploration of magic and cultures.

Cloudwish (Fiona Wood)

I’m so happy with this book about a Vietnamese-Australian teen who’s into art and wants to defy her parents’ wishes as a perfect student, but still wants them to be proud of her.

Our Dark Duet (VE Schwab)

Monsters vs monsters. Violin playing. Tragic romance. Prepare for feels.

Death Note (Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata)

A smart and model citizen teen plays god in trying to make the world free of crime. He soon abuses that power to not get caught. This manga deserves better than a shitty whitewashed remake.

The Babysitters Club (Ann M Martin)

I’m 30+ years late, but I finally read this book and for an 80s book, I was impressed with the diverse characters. Claudia, a Japanese-American, in a central, non-stereotypical role (including her family). Stacey getting support and love from the other girls after it’s revealed she has diabetes. Mary Anne, a homebody and has anxiety, getting the same support and love too.

There’s also the fact that these girls set up a business while having school. Amazing.

Black Butler (Yana Toboso)

This manga has so much going on, so much tension, so much action, and that plot twist… wow.

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Geekerella (Ashley Poston)

TW: child abuse, bullying

A cute Cinderella retelling with cool modern twists and truly a love letter to fandoms.

Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer (Katie Alender)

This one surprised me. I was hooked by the suspense, my fav Marie Antoinette on the path of revenge, and the blending of history and mystery. The detailed descriptions of places in Paris and Versailles are refreshing.

Warcross (Marie Lu)

This book hacked into my soul. I love the game Warcross, Asians being proud of their creations, a twist on hero and villain, and a teen girl hacker/bounty hunter as the protagonist.

Crazy Rich Asians and China Rich Girlfriend (Kevin Kwan)

These books are so good that I cried and laughed so much. I love the characters even the most ridiculous ones, and the soothing feeling whenever the books go into detail about aesthetics, food and places. I love coming across Malay, Singaporean, Chinese, Indonesian slang and phrases – some I’m familiar with.

And most important of all, an Asian diasporic couple being happy and in love, and are the main characters.

Nimona (Noelle Stevenson)

This is a cute graphic novel about a powerful sidekick working for a villain and a plot twist that would blow your mind.

Saints and Misfts (SK Ali)

TW: rape, psychological abuse, bullying

This book is soooo good. I can’t speak for the Muslim rep, but I enjoyed the diverse portrayals of Muslims, Muslim women being proud of what they wear, and a Muslim teen, Janna, who does what she loves (photography and has a forehead fetish), proud of wearing a hijab and practicing her religion. She also faces criticism from her family, other Muslims and non-Muslims.

The book also explores the aftermath of attempted rape that Janna experiences. It’s confronting and the end result is bittersweet, but gives hope and strength for victims who need it.

Nexus (Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan and Deborah Biancotti)

Things to love: terrible, messy and diverse teen superheroes, teen supervillains, superpowered teen lesbians, tension within squads, character development, betrayal and a bittersweet ending.

Fullmetal Alchemist 1-3 (Hiromu Arakawa)

I love everything in this manga: the intense plot, the characters even the villains, the world of the alchemists, and the fusion of Japanese and German cultures. And yes, the frustration we short people experience.

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Wrapping Up 2017 (Part 3): My Grey Reads (Books That I Have Mixed Feelings Towards)

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Hello! I hope you had a good Christmas. I’m back with part 3 of my wrap up series. This time I’m going to talk about my grey books, books that were okay. Books I like but don’t love but don’t hate.

The Song Rising (Samantha Shannon)

TW: scenes with torture, numbers on body parts

My opinion on this one has changed over the year because…I read other books that overpowered me. I still like The Song Rising, its character developments and cliffhangers.

Breaking (Danielle Rollins)

TW: suicide, child abuse

This one was hard to get into at first, but once the plot is set in motion, it’s a page turner and I like the fairytale references. But the characters are sort of dull and the romance is unnecessary. The ending is a letdown.

IT (Stephen King)

TW: gore, homomisia, fatmisia, ableism, sexual abuse

The scariest one out of King’s books and I like the plot, the history, the suspense and how the main characters are diverse in a way.

I would’ve loved the book more if it weren’t for the gay characters either getting killed or being predatory, fatmisia (I had enough of the negative thoughts on fatness and one of the parents being fat), ableism (stuttering or speech impediment being portrayed as an obstacle you have to overcome – it rubbed me in the wrong way. Also one of the characters who has a medical condition dies) and the weird gangbang the Losers did to escape. There’s also Mike, the only poc main character, who gets injured so he isn’t really in the final battle.

Some parts are unnecessary or could be summed up in a short paragraph, not detailed in chapters.

Starswept (Mary Fan)

I like the protagonist being a viola player and work-driven to reconnect with her mother. I like the writing that reflected the musical atmosphere. But the book at times felt aimless. The worldbuilding is rough though I do love the alien language being used beyond convenient English translations. I didn’t feel attached to the characters. They, except the protagonist, are underdeveloped and the romance is meh and dramatic for a couple that don’t see or communicate with each other much.

Flame in the Mist (Renée Ahdieh)

Ahdieh’s writing will always sweep me away, but Flame in the Mist is just okay compared to her other books. It’s a slow burner and I like the characters, but the romance (most 2017 romances have disappointed me) between Mariko and Okami is flat. There’s tension and banter but after that first kiss and make out session, the flame doesn’t burn bright.

Despite Japanese culture being not just an “exotic” backdrop but is treated with respect, it doesn’t feel refreshing. It’s…typical. I felt that it was a culture I’ve seen or read so many times, nothing intersectional about it either. Hopefully the next book explores Japan further.

Beauty is a Wound (Eka Kurniawan)

TW: rape, incest, domestic violence

This is the first book with Indonesian and half-Indonesian/half-Dutch characters and by an Indonesian author I’ve read. I was able to see a bit of myself and mostly my relatives in the characters, felt connected to my culture, and there’s even a lullaby that I grew up hearing in the book. But I think this book is more for my parents’ generation since they grew up in 1960s-70s Indonesia which was a turbulent time and I didn’t know about this history.

The book is set from Dutch colonial rule to Japanese occupation during WWII to the early years of independence which includes the anti-communist purge in the 1960s. My late grandmother lived through all three periods. I wish I could ask her about her own experiences.

The book blends history and the supernatural in a similar vein as House of the Spirits. It’s a beautiful but confronting read since it centres on a “cursed” family of women who experience rape and other forms of violence by the men in their lives – even their relatives, and there’s also other women who suffered as POWs. Much of what they go through is unspoken and they accept it as if it’s normal or their fault.

Rape culture and misogyny need to die.

King’s Cage (Victoria Aveyard)

TW: poc deaths, abuse

I enjoyed this one more than the last book. The characters are less irritating and the story is more plot-driven and builds up. But the romance is mediocre, and the poc characters except Cameron are underdeveloped and disposable.

I Believe in a Thing Called Love (Maurene Goo)

TW: unhealthy relationship, abuse

I love the k-drama references, the writing (except for that coming out sentence), the relationship between the protagonist Desi and her dad, her friendships, and being awkward as hell in the romance department. Relatable.

I like how Desi uses k-dramas to help her maintain her relationship with Luca. It was cute and funny. But it became disturbing and toxic. I thought Desi would’ve stopped and learn to overcome her insecurities, at least to an extent. If I almost got killed or injured because of my partner’s plans to keep us together and they try to make us get back together through the same shitty methods (in which I almost died again), I would be pissed.

Wayfarer (Alexandra Bracken)

It’s an enjoyable read with good character development, though slow paced and a little confusing at times.

Windwitch (Susan Dennard)

Better than the first book, the diversity is a highlight in this one. It’s intersectional, e.g. Vivia and Stix are poc and lesbians. The worldbuilding is more solid and more witches appear.

The book is a little slow and confusing at times since a lot of things happen, but it all does build up to something big.

Crystal Storm (Morgan Rhodes)

The characters are the ones driving the book. Besides that, the writing is okay and the plot dragged a little.

A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares (Krystal Sutherland)

It’s an okay book about anxiety and learning to cope and overcome it, but not too much. But at times, I felt it was being romanticised and ridiculed, trying to make it cute and all.

That’s it for this post. Wrapping Up 2017 Part 4 coming soon…

Til next time,

Natalia xoxo