Pride Month 2018: Recs and TBR

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Happy Pride Month! If you’re looking for books with queer characters, here are my recommendations (click the links for plot summaries):

  • Queens of Geek (Jen Wilde) (bi rep): A read that brought me to tears and resonated with me
  • Not Your Sidekick (CB Lee) (bi rep): I was hooked by the bi poc main character who is tired of being a sidekick and overshadowed by her superhero sister
  • The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo (Taylor Jenkins Reid) (lesbian rep): Golden Hollywood actress and glamour icon Evelyn Hugo opens up in a rare and her last interview and what she reveals will leave you mindblown. CWs: domestic violence
  • Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda (Becky Albertalli) (gay and bi rep): Not Own Voices, but it means so much for many in the community. It’s a book that you would read over and over again. CWs: forced outing
  • The Sidekicks (Will Kostakis) (gay rep): An emotional tale of friendship
  • Ash (Malinda Lo) (bi and lesbian rep): A great f/f retelling of Cinderella. I also recommend Lo’s other books.
  • If I Was Your Girl (Meredith Russo) (trans rep): An emotional and sweet read
  • They Both Die at the End (Adam Silvera) (bi rep): Have tissues ready because you would love Rufus and Mateo. I also recommend Silvera’s other books.
  • Leah on the Offbeat (Becky Albertalli) (gay and bi rep): This book resonated with me and we see a main character still figuring out their identity
  • Sailor Moon (Naoko Takeuchi) (lesbian rep): Besides Sailors Star Fighter, Uranus and Neptune who are canonically queer, the characters including Sailor Moon are also interpreted as queer (the anime makes this more apparent; I see Sailor Moon and Jupiter as bi and Mercury as biromantic ace).
  • Labyrinth Lost (Zoraida Cordova) (bi rep): A fantastic magical read about family and how you shouldn’t mess with magic and the dead. I can’t wait to dive back into its world with Bruja Born.
  • The Shadowhunters series (Cassandra Clare) (trans and bi rep in The Dark Artifices. Gay and bi rep in The Mortal Instruments, The Infernal Devices and Bane Chronicles). I saw myself in Magnus Bane who is bi and Indonesian – the first I came across, so the series and character are pretty much special to me.

What’s on my June TBR?

  • Every Heart A Doorway (Seanan McGuire) (ace and trans rep): Just finished this one and it was good – though I found the Japanese rep problematic. The main character is ace and there’s a supporting trans character.
  • When the Moon was Ours (Anna-Marie McLemore) (trans rep): I can’t wait to read this as it’s also intersectional which is done well, I was told

Books I want to read hopefully very soon:

Books with queer characters are growing but there are still underrepresented groups including people who are ace/aro and nonbinary. I definitely want more Own Voices and intersectional reads on my shelves since I mostly have books with gay characters and are written by non-queer authors.

Keep supporting LGBTQIAP+ books especially Own Voices and queer authors by buying or checking them out at libraries (or request if they’re unavailable). If you’re a queer writer and working on WIPs with queer characters like me, you got this.

Please feel free to recommend books especially underhyped ones and I’ll add them to my list. Also let me know if the books I’ve mentioned rep more identities – sorry if I didn’t pick up on them.

May your TBR be blessed with LGBTQIAP+ reads 🙂

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Book Bonus 2018

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Hello! A little something different from reviews, but still book related. I’d like to bring your attention to Book Bonus, a program by Dymocks Children’s Charities which is an organisation that helps to improve children’s literacy skills and love for books.

Connected to NSW Premier’s Reading Challenge, Book Bonus is an online read-a-thon for students, starting from 5 March until September 7 this year. It raises money to provide books to schools and students, especially those in need, through student fundraising and reading, of course. Students who raise a certain amount would be rewarded books of their choice.

This year, the goal is to distribute more books than previous years, and give teachers and students the opportunity to choose their own books that would find a home in their libraries.

For more information and to get involved or donate, visit Book Bonus. Let’s encourage kids to read and get inspired 🙂

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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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.

From Twinkle, With Love (Sandhya Menon)

Release date: 22nd May

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…

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…

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…

November

Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix (Julie C Dao)

Release date: 6th November

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…

 

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