monthly wrap-ups

September 2018 Wrap-Up

In the month of September, I finished 4 books and DNF’d one book.

DoT

1) Dance of Thieves – Mary E. Pearson | Video Review | Goodreads Review | Blog Review

*Sighs*. I want to believe that Mary E. Pearson writes the first books in her series as slow-starters. I found myself infinitely frustrated with how she handled the romance between the leads, Jase and Kazi, in DoT, along with how flat and despicable the Rahtan are. I’m especially let-down as a returning fan of the Remnant Chronicles. I don’t suggest DoT as an introduction to the world of the Remnant Chronicles. It’s better to start off with Kiss of Deception. I will note that there’s a failure to draw on the same appeal of the Remnant Chronicles in this continuation as of now. I know MEP can do better than this and I hope she brings her A-game in the future installments or else I’m bowing out. – 3/5 stars

Continue reading “September 2018 Wrap-Up”

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miscellaneous · top 5 wednesday

Top 5 Wednesday: Favorite Book Covers

This is too easy for me. I’m a visually-inclined person, so it’s always fun to talk about goregous cover designs and now I have the excuse to do so.

T5W Group Link 

1. The Girl King – Mimi Yu

Expected release date January 2019.

Illustrator: Tommy Arnold

Blurb from Goodreads: “Two sisters become unwitting rivals in a war to claim the title of Emperor in this sweeping tale of ambition, sacrifice and betrayal…

Girls vying to be empress after their dad screws them over for succession?! R00d. The last surviving wolf shapeshifer?! Sounds like Sirius the Jaeger! After my summer of self discovery, it turns out I have an affinity for canine-themed characters (don’t @ me with furry jokes).

I fell in love with this cover the moment I saw it. First, dat ponytail representation. YA covers have been upping their game and I’m glad more and more stories featuring POC are getting the covers they deserve – like… covers that are accurate to the book’s protags. Hopefully this is here to stay, rather than an ephemeral plea to the YA market gods. I’m fatalistically optimistic!

The Girl King’s cover is again another example where my C-drama nostalgia mode activates.  Does this not reminds you of the 90’s Sun Wu Kong C-drama outfit and pose?! If the cover artist had this in mind, I instantly recognized it. If it’s a coincidence, then you still got me in your clutches.

2. Descendent of the Crane – Joan He

Expected release: April 2019.

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Illustrator: Feifei Ruan

Blurb from Goodreads: “Princess Hesina of Yan has always been eager to shirk the responsibilities of the crown, but when her beloved father is murdered, she’s thrust into power, suddenly the queen of an unstable kingdom. Determined to find her father’s killer, Hesina does something desperate: she engages the aid of a soothsayer—a treasonous act, punishable by death… because in Yan, magic was outlawed centuries ago.

We’re back with more fantasy Asian princesses and their outcast allies! Just kidding, I never left this zone. I’m a permanent resident of this zone.

Joan He spoke about her book’s cover here: https://www.hypable.com/descendant-of-the-crane-cover-reveal/

I always appreciate when heavy symbolism is incorporated into a cover design. The artist, Feifei Ruan, has an amazing portfolio and is the same artist who drew the cover for the Asian fairytale retelling anthology, A Thousand Beginnings and Endings.

3. Mirage – Somaiya Daud

Illustrator: Billelis

Blurb: “In a star system dominated by the brutal Vathek empire, eighteen-year-old Amani is a dreamer. She dreams of what life was like before the occupation; she dreams of writing poetry like the old-world poems she adores; she dreams of receiving a sign from Dihya that one day, she, too, will have adventure, and travel beyond her isolated moon. But when adventure comes for Amani, it is not what she expects: she is kidnapped by the regime and taken in secret to the royal palace, where she discovers that she is nearly identical to the cruel half-Vathek Princess Maram. The princess is so hated by her conquered people that she requires a body double, someone to appear in public as Maram, ready to die in her place.”

I haven’t had the chance to read Mirage yet, as it is a recent release and I have a large backlog to get through before I can even hope to start it. The warm purple of the cover is in synergy with the gold accents. After careful consideration, I actually prefer the US (purple) cover to the UK (teal) cover this time around. Billelis has done countless illustrations for YA book covers in recent memory. You will undoubtedly have come across on of their covers before if you’ve been keeping up with the recent new YA releases.

4. The Serpent’s Secret – Sayantani Dasgupta

Illustrator: Vivienne To

Blurb from cover reveal:The Serpent’s Secret tells the story of interdimensional demon slayer Kiranmala Desi, a girl who thinks she is just a regular sixth grader from Parsippany, New Jersey. That is, until the morning of her 12th birthday, when her parents mysteriously vanish and a drooling rakkhosh demon crashes into her kitchen, determined to eat her alive.  Turns out there might be some truth to her parents’ wacky stories, and that she might be a real Indian princess destined to fight demons and serpents and all the other evil in the multiverse!”

How could I not include The Serpent’s Secret on a list of bomb-ass covers? Props always to Vivienne To for illustrating this cover!  Archery Moon Serpent Princesses with teal backgrounds (and a sassy bird!) is a combination that is wayyyy too specific, and it just happens to be the combination that checks every one of my boxes. This is literally perfection.

 

5. Bright We Burn – Kiersten White

Illustrator: Sam Weber

Blurb: “Claim the throne. Demand the crown. Rule the world.”

^^^ That’s not actually what happened in this book/series but ok.

I don’t have an excuse for this. Pomegranate is one of my favorite fruits. My favorite part about the Conquerer’s Saga is actually the covers, and I have no shame in admitting that. All three of the US covers are stunning. I prefer BWB only a little over And I Darken’s cover, though all three are definitely cover-porn status.

3 stars · book review

I didn’t deserve this – Dance of Thieves Review

Dance of Thieves by Mary E. Pearson

★★★☆☆ // 3 out of 5 stars

Goodreads Review: here

Video Review: here

I didn’t deserve this. The Remnant Chronicles didn’t deserve this.

So, if you are  fan of the Remnant Chronicles, you were likely ecstatic to see Mary E. Pearson announce a continuation to her series. Unfortunately, Dance of Thieves fell short of the standard set by its predecessors. There’s a reason why Lia and Rafe just walk out of the room in this one and that is one Big Mood.

Beware: Unmarked spoilers for the ending down below.

Continue reading “I didn’t deserve this – Dance of Thieves Review”

miscellaneous · top 5 wednesday

Top 5 Wednesday: Books For My Younger Self

Top 5 Wednesday Link

I felt it was about time to do another Top 5 Wednesday topic.

September 12th: Books For My Younger Self
— This was recommended as a topic on twitter and I love it! Books that you wish your younger self would have read to learn a life lesson, get more self confidence, open your eyes to a new perspective, etc.

1. Shadow Girl – Liana Liu

33913889.jpgI rarely ever read books set in the real world, but Shadow Girl was an exception. What first drew me in was the girl on the cover and the lovely blue accents the title provides. I don’t usually like people on the cover of books, but since Shadow Girl’s cover is illustrated and has a Chinese girl on it, I couldn’t help but gravitate towards it. It’s very elegant the way I think Of Metal and Wishes had an elegant cover with an Asian girl on it (though, I heard this one is pretty racist and fetishy in terms of content, so I’m sticking clear of actually reading it).

Aside from the cover, I love how Liana Liu  discusses class differences between Mei’s low-income Chinese-American family and the ultra rich white people who hire Mei to tutor their kid. Although Mei has a very sweet personality and I… don’t, I could still relate to her immensely as she was always on-guard and trying to evaluate where she stood with the people around her and constantly trying to adapt based on their perception of her. The image she projects to the people who have (financial) power over her and who she is are different – and that is a very real experience to me. Appealing to people comes very hard to me, but as I’ve realized being my authentic self to people who don’t understand or want to understand where I’m coming is an uphill battle. It’s a battle I’m willing to go hard on, but not everyone operates like me (an INTJ with a Fe deficit OTL) – and Mei’s story is one that highlights this.

Constantly trying to meet the whims of privileged people causes Mei to undersell her value, and as the book progresses she begins to start embracing the more direct, bossy side of herself that she repressed as a tutor for wealthy families. The way Liu depicts Mei’s experiences in a single-parent, low-income family is So Real and I don’t think many readers really understood how good of an Own Voices book this is. Admittedly, readers going in expecting a gripping horror story will be disappointed, but I quite enjoyed this as an Own Voices book. I certainly related to it more than the likes of American Panda where Ivy + other prestige schools worship is rampant.

Why does this book have a 3.27 rating??? Shadow Girl is worth the read. It feels so real.

2. The Serpent’s Secret – Sayantani DasGupta

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Kiranmala, our MC, is honestly a joy to read. She comes to appreciate her parents in a whole new light on her adventure as an ARCHERY MOON SERPENT PRINCESS. As someone who didn’t appreciate her parents enough as a kid, I would have definitely benefited from reading this and seeing how much Kiran’s parents had sacrificed for her and how much they loved her and how much Kiran came to reazlie all of this when she learned about her true origins. Kiran’s love interest (?) Neel also has some princely baggage, which checks all my boxes. As I’ve come to realize all the tropes I love now are tropes I’ve loved since I was a kid, so this book would have been entirely MY BRAND. This book has some awesome Bengali folklore and an Indian princess who tbh checks all my boxes because I  love princesses especially archery moon serpent ones. Yes, it’s oddly specific in pandering to my tastes, so I’ll take it!

3. The Prince and the Dressmaker – Jen Wang

81f678XqcuL.jpgThere always needs to be more stories that show how it’s different to be ok and embrace your uniqueness. This would have been great to help little me develop some much needed Fi and validate my need for self-authenticity.

Ever since I was a wee lass, I’ve been attracted to stunning visuals. The Prince and the Dressmaker provides costume-porn galore. This would have gone perfectly with my neopets faerie dress designing phase. This also would have been my gateway into making comics if I hadn’t already encountered a slew of CLAMP and Sailor Moon manga before the age of 5.

4. Want – Cindy Pon

wantCindy Pon knows what I want in my heart, and what I want is food. And honorable boys and girls seeking social justice!

I read this just around time for Chinese New Year, so imagine how happy I was to see a YA set in Taiwan with an all-Asian main cast (not exclusively Taiwanese, we have Indians, Filipinos, and mainland Chinese in our squad too!). I enjoyed the squad dynamics in this book immensely. It gave me nostalgic feelings for Princess Returning Pearl (the Zhao Wei and Ruby Lin version, not the other one, you heathens) squad goals where everyone is so honorable and watches out for one another.

I suppose it’s redundant to say that this book is Very Asian, but it is! Jason’s family backstory and was something I never see done the same way in Western media. I cannot aptly describe this feeling with words, but it is one you recognize when you feel it in your Asian heart! This is a book that respects your momma (despite many of them not showing up or dying, but here me out). Jason’s feelings about his mom really got to me. And so did Daiyu’s family relationships. And so did Arun’s. *clutches chest* If I didn’t hate needles, I’d tattoo my mom’s favorite flower on my chest too, binch wtf (single tear).

In terms of what I would have loved to see as a kid – Daiyu’s rule-follower persona vs. her being the actual rule breaking queen. This is how I had always operated as a kid, because if you got into the adults’ good graces, you could essentially get away with a lot. I love how she didn’t come across as goody-goody (as a kid I thought these were people with bad acting skills who didn’t know how to appear sincere. heck I still think this), because she is honestly sincere about many of her aspirations. But if she plays obedient, she can wedge her ways into places where she can do real good rather than go along with her father’s nefarious plans – essentially operate within the system as a double agent of justice! And that’s what I loved about her.

5. A Skinful of Shadows – Frances Hardinge

A-Skinful-of-Shadows-1-e1492177997352This is the Slytherclaw represenation I’ve always wanted to see in a book. The MC, Makepeace, is so resourceful and clever. She’s an underdog and a bastard, but she can still match wits with the heir of her family to save herself and her brother. I would have loved to read this book as a kid – just to see how there are different ways to be a hero in your own story. This is probably the best book I bought on a whim.

monthly TBR · monthly wrap-ups

August 2018 Wrap-Up + September TBR

In the month of August I finished 4 books and DNF’d one book.

1) The Thief – Mehan Whalen Turner | Goodreads Review

I was rather disappointed given the high praise the series has received from both readers and other authors. I can only assume it gets better with subsequent books, because the first installment didn’t impress with its severe lack in focus and Walk in the Woods plot.  – 2/5 stars

2) Sea Witch – Sarah Henning | Goodreads Review

I didn’t get far in this book. I didn’t feel like it had much to offer in the wave of sea/pirate YA books being churned out this season. To be honest, many of the other ones I’ve seen have been lackluster as well, namely To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo. I remember a cry for sea/pirate-themed books a couple years back and now the publishers have delivered only to be washed away with the current they helped generate OTL. – DNF

3) Bright We Burn – Kiersten White | Goodreads ReviewVideo Review

bright-we-burn-featureWe’ve finally reached the conclusion of the Conquerer’s Saga! I haven’t been along for the ride since the beginning and I’m sorta glad. Otherwise I’d have to wait years to slog through this when I could just slog through this in less than a year. I honestly do really like Kiersten White’s writing. I just don’t think this was a particularly transformative story for Lada or Mehmed at all. Also, I’m still sore that they straight-washed Mehmed. I quite like Radu, but I would have much rather the book explored Mehmed and Radu’s relationship than follow Lada’s fruitless struggle.  – 2/5 stars

4) Heart of Thorns – Bree Barton | Goodreads Review | Video review

51caewrE0aL._SX336_BO1,204,203,200_Wow. Um. So I’m allowed to be angry over this as a biology major and as someone who bought this book via Fairyloot. This book gave me costochrondritis, and I don’t mean it in a facetious way; I mean it in a literal way. This book needed someone to fact check a lot of the science in this. Additionally, I felt there was an artificial shift in quality 80-90% of the way through where things were supposed to make sense and fall into place because the author said so. The ending is quite good, but doesn’t offset the 80% of badness it takes to get there. – 2/5 stars

5) Circe – Madeline Miller | Goodreads Review

25918058._SX540_Can I just breathe in the glory that is Madeline Miller’s writing? This is a slower paced book than what I usually read, and it was so, so welcome. Madeline Miller already earned my heart and money with The Song of Achilles (I own two copies) and she continues to deliver here. I love the gradual change in Circe over the years and how she approaches her divinity as a god that appears more mortal than most. I also never expected to like Telemachus this much over Odysseus. The way Miller writes Odysseus’ hubris and Circe’s need to be in control of her own story is (crying emoji) beyond words. I hope Madeline Miller’s next book doesn’t take too long to get into my hands. I’ll read whatever she wants to write. – 5/5 stars SLAM DUNK IT INTO MY FAVES.

September TBR

35796008.jpgI still have a large backlog of books to get to! Currently I’m reading Dance of Thieves by Mary E. Pearson (MEP!). If you recall from my past reviews of the Remnant Chronicles, I loooo~ooooved that series. I had high expecations for Dance of Thieves and MEP. The beginning 100 pages is rather slow, but the first book in the Remnant Chronicles was slow for me too. I wonder if it’s MEP’s M.O. to start slow and then sneak attack the reader with brilliance? Because after the Lost in the Wilderness arc, things pick up drastically. Jase’s character is very interesting and multi-faceted. I can’t say I’ve warmed up to Kazi, the other MC, yet, even with her tragic backstory because it’s oddly reminiscent of Inej’s tragic backstory from SOC, which leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I’m not sure how I feel about the romance btw Jase and Kazi, as how I feel about a relationship depends a lot on how much I like both characters.

I’m also reading Beyond a Darkened Shore by Jessica Leake. I totally DNF’d a book with a similar setting, Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young, because I didn’t feel like the story had much to offer me despite the fact that I do love me some viking influence. I feel like Beyond a Darkened Shore has more potential. The MC, Ciara, has strange powers and we’re given more information about her family life and position in society and it makes her feel more whole early on. The first action scene in this book was awesome, and it further establishes Ciara’s skillset AND the conflict between Northmen and Ciara’s people. I’m optimistic.

I read Stieg Larson’s Millenium Trilogy years ago when I was still studying for my SATs. I have the physical copy of the continuation of his series by another author from Half Price Books and it’s Chunky. I decided to experiment with audibooks from my library – I’m listening to The Girl in the Spider’s Web while I do other work on the computer. I’m hoping I absorb enough of the book to write a review, but I zone out a lot.

Here’s some other books I hope to get to (carry-over from last month lol)

books.jpg
too many book
  • Prince’s Gambit – C. S. Pacat
  • Roar – Cora Cormack
  • The Astonishing Color of After – Emily XR Pan
  • Akata Witch – Nnendi Okorafor
  • Spinning Silver – Naomi Novik
  • Game of Kings – Dorothy Dunnett