When 2019 hit, a reversal of luck in my personal life is all I asked for. But there I was, still being buffeted by the winds of my foes’ enmity and cast about the waves of cruel fate up ’till March. And you ask, am I okay?
Well, the answer is: Of course, everything turned out to be fine in the end and I got to strangle 2018 and bury it behind me. It was literally one of the worst years of my life and I’m off to brighter and better things in the months ahead. I’m going to start doing my PhD in the fall, so I likely have hit my peak of reading activity for the year already. In this post I’m going to go over my book blogging experience in the first half of 2019 and reflect on what I find out in the process. I’ll be going over my reading progress in a separate post because this got too long.
Getting the hang of becoming a legit book blog (in my personal view at least hehe)
Hello, friends! Arisutocrat Awards 2018 is finally here (after months of delay)! I worked hard on ranking my favorite reads and favorite book characters in 2018.
Read in 2018, not necessarily published in 2018
Hopefully the titles should be straightforward. For Best Book, I chose the book I thought was hands down the best in craft. My personal favorite designates the book I loved the most. All other favorite categories are ranked after taking quality and personal preference into account. Unnumbered listings signify no ranking or overall similar levels of quality/enjoyment.
Books that Brought Home Honor
Best Book of 2018: Circe by Madeline Miller
Personal Favorite: Sweet Black Waves by Kristina Perez
Hi everyone! This is my planned schedule for an Artemis Fowl read-along. This is going to be pretty casual read-along and you’re not obligated to stay the entire run! At the end of each month, I’m going to write a post (and film a book talk) about revisiting the book that month so we can discuss it. If there are no takers, I still plan on going in solo!
Note: I’m currently busy in January, so my reading of the first book in Artemis Fowl will start later in the month. I still plan on getting it done, as the book is relatively short.
Hello, friends! I’ve had the pleasure to be part of The Storyteller Blog Tour organized by Penguin Teen to celebrate the release of the final book in the Sea of Ink and Gold / The Reader trilogy, The Storyteller by Traci Chee. When I was first contacted about The Storyteller, I hadn’t even started The Reader series yet, but I had always admired the covers from afar, so when it clicked that these goregous books:
…comprised The Reader series, I had to jump on this chance. The ponytail representation is real (coming from a fellow ponytail gal).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
I 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
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
There 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
Cindy 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
This 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.
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.
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.
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.
The Poppy War – Man the volano thing shook me. That’s all I have to say.
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.
Hello, friends. It’s been a productive first week of March wrt reading. I did have to DNF a book just because I can’t with the visceral sexism in the first Witcher book. If you got through it, good for you (I mean it). I’m glad I kept the receipt for that one. Truly, I should stick to reading before buying a book unless I’m sure I’ll like it.
Books I finished so far this month:
Unite Me – Tahereh Mafi – 4/5 stars
The Last Wish – Andrzej Sapkowski – DNF
Daughter of Smoke and Bone – Laini Taylor – 2.5/5 stars | Review
Shadow Girl – Liana Liu – 4.5/5 stars
Restore Me – Tahereh Mafi – 3.75/5 stars
I’m still waiting for Tomi Adeyemi’s Children of Blood and Bone from my library I’m 10th in line. The rest I’ve only read a few pages of