miscellaneous · top 5 wednesday

Best Books I’ve Read So Far in 2018

Hiyo! Today I’m going to be listing the best books I’ve read this year 😀 as a part of July 4th’s Top 5 Wednesday topic. It’s not even Wednesday, but I just got back from a road trip so who cares. Let me talk about these books. Believe it or not, I already prepared my top book list for the entire year, so I’d consider this a half way point.

1) A Skinful of Shadows by Frances Hardinge

  • MAKEPEACE IS MY GIRL. She is the clever ass Slytherin-Ravenclaw hybrid protag I’ve always wanted to read in my YAs and so far no one else has come close to taking the crown her her. She has a strong personality And a strong character arc. Her resourcefulness and wit have her facing off with her golden child cousin and she would make him Quake if they were on par in terms of social status. She brings down her entire family dynasty. What more can I ask for in a YA protag?

2) Want by Cindy Pon

  • After I got mad over how SOC was hailed as the pinnacle of diversity in YA (which Unpopular Opinion, I’ve read better plots and characters so I’m taking my brownies elsewhere), I never imagined picking up a random book by an author’s name I recgonized but had never read a work of would be the perfect panacea for all my YA read gripe. It’s like Cindy Pon knows my soul and knew just what I needed to read to restore my faith in YA reads. This is more of a character driven book than say, a genre/gimmick driven book, in that in my view, it is the characters that are the driving appeal of WANT, not the sci-fi, which serves more as a back drop. Jason is such an honorable son… he tattoo’d his mom’s fave flower on his chest. If that ain’t love idk what is. And Daiyu lol is not an honorable daughter but that’s why I love her sneaky, sneaky self. And as always, Cindy Pon provides food descriptions that made me salivate so hard.

3) The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang – Maybe it’s because I’ve had a bad year reading comics or maybe because Prince and the Dressmaker is so damn feel-good. I adore this story so much.

4) Shadow Girl by Liana Liu – Underrated as HELL and deserves a better rating on GR. This is definitely more character-centric than ghost-gimmick-centric and I think that’s why people are put off by it. Believe me when I say the main character, Mei, is one of the most well-written female characters I’ve read in a YA in a long time and one of the characters I’ve related the most to.

5) I had a four-way tie btw Deathless (Valente), City of Brass (Chakraborty), The Poppy War (Kuang), and Jade City (F. Lee) and surprisingly all 4 of these are adult fantasy.

  1. Deathless – Valente’s writing is a jewel in a haystack. The book’s not a traditionally structured story. The rest of the writing choices appealed to me so much I almost didn’t care that the plot was a mess.
  2. City of Brass – FINALLY a villain that isn’t one-note evil for the sake of being evil. I have a kind of a *thing* for Dara despite the fact that he’s a war criminal.
  3. The Poppy War – Man the volano thing shook me. That’s all I have to say.
  4. Jade City – I just finished this! And the family dynamics are off the charts. I related the most to Shae as a former golden child and granfparent’s favorite who always feels like she had something to prove and tried to do that with bad life decisions. Hilo was probably ghost-written by my dad because his relationship with Shae and Andy was so much like the one I have with my dad. Hilo’s Asian dad-isms (“people are like horses”) gave me life.

 

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Current Reads: June 2018

I’m happy to report that I *finally* finished a Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab. This endeavor took me well over a year! What I’m not happy to report is that the book didn’t live up to the hype.

As usual, I’ve been more laissez faire with my DNFs this year. Here’s what I’ve been up to in June with my reading:

  1. Deathless – Catherynne M. Valente – 4 stars | Review
  2. The Ship Beyond Time – Heidi Heilig – DNF/1 star/probably gonna finish it out of spite and plus I own it. | Review
  3. Sky in the Deep – Adrienne Young – DNF
  4. A Darker Shade of Magic – VE Schwab – 2.5 stars | Review
  5. The Vanishing Throne – Elizabeth May – DNF/Will get back to it
  6. Silver Phoenix – Cindy Pon – DNF | Review

 

My current June reads:

  1. The Traitor’s Kiss by Erin Beaty

To be honest, I side-eyed this book because I heard the advertizing posed it as a “Mulan retelling” which is a dishonest assessment of this book and misconstrues what the story of Mulan means and merely uses a kickass Asian story about family honor and filial piety to ellicit a Pavlovian response from consumers in order to sell a story with a white MC that has little to no connection with the actual ballad of Mulan and one that is definitely culturally divorced from it. The book has more in common with the Disney animated version of Mulan, as the beginning of the book borrows from the matchmaking aspect of the movie. I’m sure whoever came up with the idea to advertize this as anything related to Mulan never watched past the Bring Honor To Us All sequence. I think the other tagline “Jane Austen meets espionage” is a more accurate description of this book. As to whether it’s white-washing, well if we establish that this book is in fact NOT a Mulan retelling or Mulan ANYTHING… it is not. BUT I certainly fully feel the same rage as reviewers like Aila do. It’s stupid that y’all think you can just slap the name Mulan onto this loose whitelandia remix and make big bucks from it, and do not care about the culture or people theyre borrowing this idea/story from. It is gross that people think that they can pull this, but unfortunately publishing cares about the dough and if eliciting a response from consumers by merely UTTERING THE NAME Mulan works, they will do it. It was never about our culture; it is always about the profit. Whoever did this probably did not have the conscious intention to basically say this, but actions like this just propogate the idea that POC stuff is cool and valuable (only if white ppl do it tho), but f*ck the people who actually came up with it. It’s small and might not matter to a lot of people in this specific example, but it’s a byproduct of orientalism that is ingrained into Western society.

THAT whole spiel aside, the descriptors of people of color in this book are just awkward and/or weirdly worded. There’s an overuse of “dark” and “darker” to describe non-Demoran peoples e.g. the Astrielans (who are technically Demoran, but differ in appearance) and Kimisarans, and the writing itself uses the pale/coded-white Demorans as a reference for normal to be compared to. So far, I’m sure there is an in-universe shadism and/or colonialist dynamic going on. But, the writing lacks finesse in this department wrt describing “darker” skin tones and I wonder if Beaty should have considered using a sensitivity reader for this if she already hasn’t. I would understand it more if the Demorans called the Kimisarans “dark and foreign” and commented on their accents IF we indeed got the Kimisarans’ or Astrielans’ POV of these lilywhite Demorans. So far in the book, it appears one-sided, as we are mostly seeing from the eyes of Demorans. Yes, Quinn and ?? Rob?? are described as being “darker” than Sage because of their Astriel heritage, but so far they only have generic military procedure going on for them.

2. Jade City by Fonda Lee

This was initially a slow start for me, but once I got past a few chapters, I knew I was ready to inhale-read this book! I don’t know why it took me so long to hop on the Jade City wagon, but I’m so glad I picked this up. I had no idea it would center so much around family and honor – I didn’t read cover tagline, ok? That’s my shit right there. I love that stuff. I say this only after reading 30 pages of this story. I’m trying to figure out what era this is supposedly set in. I have a feeling this is what I wished Legend of Korra were like. And if you’ve chatted with me about Avatar for any amount of time, you would know exactly where I stand with the state of ATLA and LOK and Bryke and all that business.

*cracks knuckles* that’s a wrap for now.

2 stars · 3 stars · book review

book review: A Darker Shade of Magic by Victoria Schwab

2.5 stars | Goodreads

I can’t believe this book was about a powerful rock. And yes this took me more than a year to finish.

First thoughts:

– This works better as a movie.
– Lila is insufferable.
– Kell is a male Ariel
– Holland and Astrid deserved better than cheesy villain dialogue.
– I don’t get the 4 London hype. I can give you 4 alternate versions of a whitelandia suburb with more creativity than this (as a resident of one, I say small town life is romanticized and boring BUT I could make it work with the same premise but a middle of nowhere suburb).

Mild spoilers below.

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2 stars · 3 stars · book review

book review: And I Darken + Now I Rise by Kiersten White

I just came back from vacation in Netherlands and Iceland and I felt like updating my blog here because I have a backlog of books I never posted reviews for here.

This is a joint review of And I Darken and Now I Rise by Kiersten White, books 1 and 2 of the Conquerer’s Saga. I preface this with saying that I’m in no way a Romanian + Ottoman history buff. I’m basing this review off of what I thought about the storytelling + writing. I will also say I love Kiersten White’s writing style and I don’t know the woman, but she seems pleasant and I enjoy her twitter account. What I think of the book and her characters doesn’t reflect how I feel about her. I don’t even know why I’m prefacing a review post with this because it’s been done before. In this particular instance I’m really disappointed with the work even though I love the author’s writing style. I think it’s entertaining, but I didn’t find the story itself to be like that.

And I Darken: 2.5 out of 5 stars | GR review

Now I Rise:  2 out of 5 stars | GR mini review

And I Darken booktube review

Now I Rise booktube review

And since I’ve gotten this far in the series, of course I’m going to read Bright We Burn. I do love poegranates and the cover has got me in its clutches.

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3 stars · 4 stars · book review

book review: Ash Princess by Laura Sebastian

3.5 out of 5 stars | Goodreads review

Well I’ll be damned. This was pretty good!

To be more specific, I had abysmally low expectations for Ash Princess. The first 30 pages or so told me this was full of all the princess YA tropes we love to hate and hate to love. And you know… I’m all for that shit. I love princesses and the ragtag rise to power formula. Rarely is it done with 1) good writing and 2) a novel and compelling way. Ash Princess at least nails the 1st part with pretty decent writing. I did have to wait until page 400 for things to get rolling, but I’ll definitely pick up the sequel, Lady Smoke.
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5 stars · book review

book review: The Poppy War by RF Kuang

4.5 out of 5 stars. Basically a 5 stars with only a minor deduction.

Guys, I’ve been excited for TPW by Rebecca Kuang for a very short time because it was on my radar breifly before it came out! But jfc when I heard about it I immediately jumped onto goodreads and marked as to-read because I swear this was like the kind of book I’ve always wanted to read/write. As a Chinese reader, I was BEYOND STOKED to be the first person to get my hands on this from my local library and right after I finished it, I bought my own copy. I’m in no way completely coherent in my review of this. There was just so much to talk about I don’t feel like my review as it is paints a picture of how good this book is.

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monthly wrap-ups

April 2018 Wrap-Up

There’s a little bit of April still left, but here we go.

Finished:

  1. Children of Blood and Bone – Tomi Adeyemi | Review – 2/5 stars
  2. Wonder Woman Hiketeia – Greg Rucka | 5/5 stars
  3. Heroine Complex – Sarah Kuhn |Review – 2.5/5 stars, DNF
  4. The City of Brass – S. A. Chakraborty | Review – 4/5 stars | Booktube review
  5. Radiance – Catherynne M Valente | DNF, on hold
  6. American Panda – Gloria Chao | DNF- too traumatic for me
  7. Windwitch – Susan Dennard | Review – 1/5 stars, DNF it was so bad
  8. The Belles – Dhonielle Clayton | DNF, on hold
  9. And I Darken – Kiersten White | Review – 2.5 stars, historically inaccurate, straight-washed Mehmed, but still an entertaining read despite all the missteps

Still reading

  1. The Girl from Everywhere – Heidi Heilig
  2. The Serpent’s Secret – Sayantani Dasgupta
  3. Empire of Storms – SJM
  4. A Darker Shade of Magic – VE Schwab – perpetually at 33%

 

4 stars · book review

book review: the City of Brass by S. A. Chakraborty

4 out of 5 stars | Goodreads review

Well. Hot damn. This was a good read despite the fact that I first picked it up without knowing anything about it.

I will admit the politics were hard to follow and if I were not told that the back of this book had a glossary, I’d have resulted in drawing a political dynamic chart for myself to keep track of this shit. But I like figuring this stuff out and piecing things together, so I appreciate that the intrigue wasn’t spoon-fed to me. Would I have liked some more clues? Yeah, but I never felt like the random comments/info-bites about the different tribes of Daevabad and their religions were straight-up useless/a waste of space.
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