Monthly Archives: January 2017

The Pokemon GO Book Tag

Tag created by Aentee @ Read At Midnight.

This looks like so much fun! Links are to my reviews, except in the case of upcoming releases, where the links are to the Goodreads pages for the books. 🙂

I’m not sure I can pinpoint one? But my fourth grade teacher read to our class regularly to promote reading, and the books that really stayed with me were Into the Land of the Unicorns by Bruce Coville and Holes by Louis Sachar.

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The His Dark Materials Trilogy by Philip Pullman. It’s been a while since I’ve read it, but the characters stayed with me for a long time after reading the series. I’m still not over that ending. 😥 I own the omnibus edition pictured above.

I feel like this encompasses a lot of super popular fantasy series that are by/about cishet white women, not to mention Problematic(TM) on various levels: Throne of Glass, A Court of Thrones and Roses, Red Queen, The Lunar Chronicles, Girl of Fire and Thorns, The Mortal Instruments and spin-offs (I read the first 3 books of TMI and lost track and never looked back tbh), etc.

I’d rather read diverse fantasy series, especially ones that are underexposed.

prophecy-book-cover

Hmm, I guess I’ll say Prophecy by Ellen Oh, which is the first book a historical fantasy trilogy set in a Korean-inspired alternate world. It has the standard fantasy fare: a prophecy, a chosen one, a quest for magical objects, a dragon, etc. I loved its portrayal of family bonds and friendship.

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The Crown of Stars series by Kate Elliott. I bought the books a while ago and they’re sitting on my shelf, I just haven’t gotten around to them. Each book is like 800 pages and there are 7 books, so they’re longer than even the Harry Potter series, page-count-wise.

Way too many, I’m up reading all the time…Oh, I know.

green-island

Green Island by Shawna Yang Ryan. I was up until around 4 am reading it, oops. It’s one of the best fictional representations of 20th Century Taiwanese history that I’ve ever read, and it was an emotional experience for me because of my family’s connection to that history.

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Sefia and Archer from The Reader by Traci Chee. I liked that their relationship was developed from the ground up and had real substance to it beyond superficial attraction. I gushed about them a bit more in my review (see the hyperlink).

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Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst. It’s fantasy with f/f romance and political intrigue and a murder mystery thrown in.
I feel like very few of the diverse series I’ve read have any spin-offs. I’d love for Grace Lin to write more books in the Pacy Lin series since those are among the few middle grade books with Taiwanese American representation. 🙂
I’m usually pretty good at gauging which books I’ll like or dislike so I’m rarely “pleasantly surprised” by anything. I guess I’ll say The Dove Chronicles by Karen Bao. The average rating on Amazon for the first book, Dove Arising, was about 3-3.5 stars, so I wasn’t expecting it to be as good as I found it to be. I have the second book waiting to be read, and the third comes out this year.
I’ve already read the first two books, but the remaining two An Ember in the Ashes books by Sabaa Tahir. I enjoyed the first book, liked the second more than the first, but I found some problematic things that I’m planning to address once I reread it closely. Side note: The author recently came out in defense of Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth, despite the criticism from Black and Indigenous folks who were the ones affected by the racist tropes in the book, so I have reservations about continuing to read her work. If I do I’m probably getting the books secondhand.
Harry Potter boxed set.jpg Not sure if it counts as a collector’s edition, but the new U.S. paperback boxed set of Harry Potter. I love the new cover illustrations and the Hogwarts castle montage that runs across the spines of all seven books. However, I don’t like buying big/long books in paperback because their spines get messed up easily. I guess if I bought them just to keep and not to read it wouldn’t be an issue. My sister owns the original 1st edition hardcovers, though (except book 1, which we have the 10th anniversary edition of), so I’d have to buy two sets of HP for myself.
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No cover photo yet, but this an image from Julie’s website aesthetic/layout.
I’ve been raving about it on Twitter, but Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie Dao, which is the first in a duology called Rise of the Empress, and set to release on October 10th. There’s a dearth of #ownvoices Asian fantasy, Asian fantasy written by Asian/diverse authors, and non-#ownvoices Asian fantasy that’s written well without falling into a racist garbage fire hellhole (See: The Lunar Chronicles, Stormdancer, Soundless, and basically every Asian fantasy written by a white author ever). The primary culture depicted in FoaTL is Chinese, but there are multiple Asian cultures represented within the story/series, and as far as my knowledge goes, they’re are treated as separate/distinct cultures, not thrown into a horrible mish-mash of Asian cultures that prioritizes East Asian cultures while ignoring the history of imperialism by East Asian nations in the region. The author is Vietnamese and not Chinese, but she hired multiple sensitivity readers, so I’m far more inclined to trust that the culture is treated respectfully. *fingers crossed*
Cindy Pon because she writes #ownvoices Chinese and Taiwanese SFF which is like my number one priority as far as reading goes. You can find my reviews of her first four books, which are Chinese-inspired historical fantasy, here and here. Her fifth book, Want, is coming out this summer and one of my most anticipated releases of 2017 because it’s set in Taiwan. 😀

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I’m 99.99% sure this is not the final cover image, but it’s what’s on Goodreads right now.

Malinda Lo’s A Line in the Dark, which is coming out October 17th this year. She’d mentioned working on a new book around two years ago (I think?), in a different genre from her previous books, which are SFF. Once the word came that it would be a mystery YA with an Asian American protagonist, my excitement grew by leaps and bounds because there aren’t many Asian characters in the mystery genre, and I’m always eager for more Asian American protagonists in contemporary YA. And of course, because it’s Malinda Lo, we’re gonna get queer girls. 🙂

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#DiverseAThon TBR

I decided to join the #DiverseAThon initiative. It’s a low-stress reading initiative where you read diverse books from January 22nd to January 29th. There are no reading prompts or minimum requirements. You get to pick how many and which books you’d like to read. The point is to diversify your reading and participate in discussions and/or Instagram prompts to share your progress and experiences. You can find more information about the schedule for discussions on Twitter by checking out @DiverseAThon/#DiverseAThon.

Since I failed at my most recent bookish goals (didn’t quite get blackout on #DiversityDecBingo, only read half of the 7 books for #DAReadathon), I’ve decided to take it easy this time and not stress myself out setting overly ambitious goals. Thus, I’m focusing mostly on shorter books for MG and younger YA audiences.

I picked these out based on the idea of diversity within diversity. Five of these books feature South Asian characters, but they’re from a variety of cultural, linguistic, regional, and/or religious backgrounds.

In addition, I decided to read some older diverse books, published a few years ago (or even longer). The diversity in publishing movement only blossomed in the past two years, so older books tend to slip between the cracks, overshadowed by the hype of newer/upcoming releases.

the-abyss-surrounds-usThe Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie (2016) – YA, science fiction

This book has been on my TBR forever, so I decided to bump it up, just in time for the upcoming release of the sequel. It’s a science fiction pirate adventure with sea monsters and f/f romance and a Chinese protagonist.

god-smites-and-other-muslim-girl-problemsGod Smites and Other Muslim Girl Problems by Ishara Deen (2017) – YA, mystery

A Bengali Canadian Muslim girl deals with teenage growing pains while trying to solve a murder mystery. I just interviewed the author a week ago. You can read the interview here!

child-of-springChild of Spring by Farhana Zia (2016) – MG, contemporary

A middle grade contemporary set in a small village in India, this book explores class privilege through the perspective of a young girl who is a servant to a rich girl.

paris-pan-takes-the-dareParis Pan Takes the Dare by Cynthea Liu (2009) – MG, Contemporary

A middle grade story about a Chinese American girl who’s new to town and is put to the test by her peers exploring the mystery of the supposedly haunted shed in her backyard.

the-not-so-star-spangled-life-of-sunita-senThe Not-So-Star-Spangled Life of Sunita Sen by Mitali Perkins (1993, 2005) – YA, contemporary

A second generation teen struggles to find her place in between two cultures, American and Indian/Bengali. I found this book at a used bookstore and snatched it up since it was only $2.50. It was originally published under a different title in 1993, meaning it’s as old as I am (wowzers), and was republished in 2005.

shine-coconut-moonShine, Coconut Moon by Neesha Meminger (2009) – YA, contemporary

This book features a Punjabi Sikh American girl who learns more about her heritage when her estranged uncle shows up in her life in the aftermath of 9/11.

swimming-in-the-monsoon-seaSwimming in the Monsoon Sea by Shyam Selvadurai (2005) – YA, contemporary

During monsoon season of 1980, an orphaned Sri Lankan boy grapples with his sexuality when his cousin arrives from Canada. There aren’t nearly enough queer South Asian books out there, so I’m excited to read this one. The author is gay and mixed Sinhalese/Tamil.

Review for Love Made of Heart by Teresa LeYung Ryan

love-made-of-heart

Note: I read this book as part of the #DiversityDecBingo reading challenge. You can find my list of books that I read and the links to the reviews for those books here.

My Summary: After Ruby Lin witnesses mother being hospitalized for a severe emotional breakdown, she is forced to confront her painful past and family history and come to terms with her own mental illness and trauma.

Review:

Trigger/Content Warnings: mentions/descriptions/discussions of depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, abuse/domestic violence, suicide, hospitalization, disordered eating

To be honest, it was really hard for me to read this book. Not because it’s badly written, but because I related very strongly to the story in various ways. I guess you could say it was triggering for me at certain points. However, that didn’t make me want to stop reading; it made me want to keep reading because this is the first time I’ve really seen a narrative that comes close to reflecting my experiences with mental illness as an Asian American, and as we all keep saying, representation is important.

There are a lot of ways in which this story diverges from my experiences: my mother’s illness was leukemia, not bipolar disorder and paranoia/schizophrenia; my family wasn’t an abusive/toxic environment (Kind of spoiler alert, highlight to read: Ruby’s father beat her mother and younger brother; Ruby herself is a survivor of intimate partner violence). The story takes place about 30 years ago, in the 80s. Despite these differences, I related to both Ruby and her mother’s experiences with mental illness in many ways.

One of the things I related to a lot was the taboo and silence around mental illness within the family. Although my parents aren’t the “doesn’t believe in mental illness/counseling” type of Asian parents, they never discussed mental illness in my extended family until very, very recently, after my own experiences with it brought it into the open. For a long time, whenever mental health practitioners asked me whether I had a history of mental illness in my family, I could only shrug and say “not that I know of” because if I did, nobody talked about it. In the past year, however, my dad has told me about at least three different people on my dad’s side of the family having depression at some point, and he strongly suspects my maternal grandmother has anxiety, which would not be surprising to me at all.

The book starts out with Ruby’s mother being taken away by police. This definitely reminded me of my own experience being hospitalized. In my case, it was voluntary; I decided to commit myself to the psych ward because I was suicidal and not coping well at all; Ruby’s mother is involuntarily committed. But like her mother, I was handcuffed as a precautionary measure in case I had the urge to hurt myself (or other people). Ruby’s mother reacts to this with extreme distress, and that’s completely understandable. Even going into it voluntarily, I had this overwhelming feeling of wanting to escape and take it back because I knew I wouldn’t have any freedom for an indefinitely amount of time.

Another thing that was relatable to me was Mrs. Lin’s use of food to express defeat and anger. For her, it’s dumping out food in large quantities out of spite, for me, it was starving myself for periods of time as a “punishment.” I have a messy relationship with food. I either eat too much or eat too little as a response to my depression, so I’ve gone through periods of sharp increases in weight as well as sharp decreases in weight.

Soon after her mother’s hospitalization, Ruby starts seeing a therapist to deal with her own mental illness and trauma, and a lot of her frustrations mirror mine: I went in expecting that I’d be “fixed/cured” within a certain amount of time. I was a former straight-A student and thought that I could treat therapy like an academic class and study/work my way toward “graduating” out of my mental illness, and that I was a failure if I didn’t. (Spoiler alert: That didn’t work, and I’m still struggling with not hating myself for not getting over my depression the way some people can/have.)

One of the major themes of this book is that loving someone doesn’t always mean you should live with them. It emphasizes that having distance and setting boundaries is healthy for relationships. This was very validating to me because I always felt guilty for wanting to get away from my family and live on my own. They aren’t horrible people or abusive, but I need my space and feel stifled living at home being treated more like a teenager than an adult.

I appreciated that the author included Ruby’s experiences with racist microaggressions throughout the story. Although the narrative never makes the explicit statement or connection, and the author may not have intended for anyone to see it that way, racism can very much trigger or exacerbate mental illness. Dealing with racism that further dehumanizes you when you’re already feeling like garbage is a part of the intersectional experience of being nonwhite and mentally ill. I almost never feel safe because my awareness of systemic racism means that I know I could have racism thrown my way at any time, even by people who are close to me. Cue a ton of anxiety. On top of that, not feeling comfortable calling people out and feeling like I can’t change people’s prejudices/biases has made me feel helpless and even more depressed at times. (This is why I am livid when people attribute racism to mental illness or when white people try to deflect responsibility for their racism by claiming it’s their mental illness at fault.)

Although the title “Love Made of Heart” might lead people to assume the book is a romance book, the story focuses far more on familial love and relationships than romantic love, and I’m glad that the romantic subplot didn’t hijack the story (nor was it a “cure” for Ruby’s mental illness). In the end, the most important issue was Ruby’s growth and healing as a person, not whether she ended up with anyone.

The book isn’t perfect; it was cissexist in certain places, heteronormative in others, and it also played into the stigma against Chinese-accented English by spelling words of dialogue with L’s instead of R’s for this one character, among other things. But even so, this book meant a lot to me as an Asian American struggling with mental illness. I wish there were more books in YA/NA featuring mentally ill Asian characters, especially given that Asian American girls/women ages 15-24 have the 2nd highest suicide rate after Native American women among all ethnicities within that age group. Asian Americans are also less likely to report or seek treatment for mental illness than white Americans. A book like this one could literally save someone’s life. I’m kind of disappointed that this book was published in 2002 and I’ve really yet to see anything else like it in my search for Asian American mental illness rep.

Recommendation: If you’re interested in reading it, all the warnings I’ve given at the top and in my final paragraph apply. (It may also be difficult to get a copy as it’s old and out of print.)

Author Interview: Ishara Deen

Hi, everyone! This is my first time hosting an interview on my blog. For this super special, very first interview, I had the pleasure of interviewing indie-published author Ishara Deen. Her debut novel, God Smites and Other Muslim Girl Problems, releases today, January 15th!

Before we get to the interview, let’s take a look at the book cover:

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Wow. I really love this cover! It features a brown girl front and not-quite-center, looking confident and poised to kick ass. The font has a nice and casual vibe, and I’m partial to the background because purple is my favorite color.

Now, for the cover blurb/synopsis:

LIKE NANCY DREW, BUT NOT…

Craving a taste of teenage life, Asiya Haque defies her parents to go for a walk (really, it was just a walk!) in the woods with Michael, her kind-of-friend/crush/the guy with the sweetest smile she’s ever seen. Her tiny transgression goes completely off track when they stumble on a dead body. Michael covers for Asiya, then goes missing himself.

Despite what the police say, Asiya is almost sure Michael is innocent. But how will she, the sheltered girl with the strictest parents ever, prove anything? With Michael gone, a rabid police officer in desperate need of some sensitivity training, and the murderer out there, how much will Asiya risk to do what she believes is right?

And a brief description from the author herself:

God Smites and Other Muslim Girl Problems features Asiya Haque, a Bengali Canadian teen, who is finding her strength and feminism while making her religion her own. The story showcases meaningful friendships, a confusing crush, heavy family drama and unexpected humour through a cozy mystery.

I don’t know about y’all, but between the cover and the descriptions, I’m hooked! I have my copy of the book already, courtesy of Ishara herself, and I can’t wait to read it and share my thoughts on it. Hopefully you’re curious and want to learn a bit more about the author and writing process for this book because here we go with the interview!

(Note: SW stands for Shenwei, a.k.a Me, ID is for Ishara Deen. My comments and questions are in bold font.)

SW: Every author has a story, a progression of events that eventually leads to them becoming an author, even if there are major detours along the way. What’s your story?

ID: I’ve heard a lot of authors say they write the characters they wish they grew up seeing in books. I wish I’d been that smart! I grew up playing with blonde, blue-eyed Barbies and reading Sweet Valley Twins, not noticing that something was missing there. Instead my brown-skinned self, who grew up poor (relative to Canadian standards), obese, and hijabi, went through too much of life thinking something wasn’t up to par with me.

I guess that makes sense why I’ve been writing for years, but watering down my work so that an assumed audience whose lives were more like Elizabeth and Jessica’s could understand or relate. Thankfully, each draft I wrote let me see the imaginary audiences I was writing for and edit them out so that the isolated teens who matter to me could take priority. Writing was a thing I’ve always done – it builds me as a person. Becoming an author, particularly of a series of books, is about sharing the beauty of rewriting. I want teens to know that no matter where you’re at, you can edit, clarify and construct until you’re the person you want to be.

SW: That reminds me of my own experiences with writing. I wrote a lot of characters who weren’t like me until gradually I worked my way toward writing about characters who shared my identity and experiences, the many intersecting ones I have.

In the description you gave me, you said your book tackles issues such as “religion, Islamophobia, abuse, (white) feminism, (internalized) misogyny, and the weight of being a minority within a minority group.” Did you find it difficult to incorporate all of these issues and balance them in your story? Or did they come naturally as you wrote?

ID: Writing about all of those things would have been easy, had I stopped caring so much about what others would think –as if they were the true judges of an experience they hadn’t lived!

I was so affected by the pressure, I almost didn’t publish. I had set a December release date and after the US election, I felt like it was necessary to double up on critique of Islamophobia and delay my release indefinitely because of the critique of things within the Muslim community.

Two things changed my mind. First: reindeer dick. I saw a book about a Reindeer-shifting romance. I’m going to clarify here that I’m not critiquing people’s personal fantasies –the world is hard, I totally support people getting happy. But I am critiquing that white women are free to write mothers like the one in White Oleander and fantasies about reindeer-shifters without having all white women labelled as abusive, reindeer-dick lovers. It had me wondering: why did I as a Muslim author feel responsible for those who would twist my story into “See! All Muslims are misogynists”?

Second, a small voice reminded me that increased Islamophobia didn’t mean decreased harm from white feminism or internalized misogyny. #Ownvoices authors have a right to critique and demand improvement in their communities. Writing that kind of critique is both natural and difficult, but as an author that’s what I will continue to do.  

SW: Well, I’m very glad that you decided to go through with publishing your book. In these times, voices like yours are more important than ever. Hopefully your example will inspire others to speak up. Which leads me to the next question…

Are there any authors who have inspired you a lot? If so, tell us a few.

ID: So, that part where I talked about blindly reading what’s out there and not questioning? Yeah, I read “mainstream” for too long. I’ll always have a soft spot for Nancy Drew. In romance, I loved Susan Elizabeth Phillips (even when I had to mentally edit out problematic content). Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum mysteries were great up to a point.

For a long time, I gave up on traditional publishing houses to produce what I was looking for and read only indie books. I was happy to read widely, if it meant that I’d find authors like Mariana Zapata and Nyrae Dawn. I love when authors can address tough issues but write feel-good, inspiring reads.

*trigger warning: homophobic (past) thoughts

One book that stood out for me was Tanuja Desai Hidier’s Born Confused. This was where I finally saw some of myself reflected and learned much more. I had this horrible notion growing up, that being gay couldn’t be real because more people across many backgrounds would be gay if it were true. Unfortunately, the extent of representation I had of the LGBTQ community was as the butt of jokes in movies and they were always presented as a tiny minority of white people. That made the limiting and harmful societal and religious beliefs I was taught so much easier to absorb. Born Confused showed me that the intersection between being a woman of colour and being lesbian existed. I don’t think I understood back when I read it, how much of a shift in my thinking that representation made possible. Even thinking on it now is inspiring me to address a lot more than I’ve had the courage to in my first book.

SW: Ah, now I have two more authors to look up! I am also bumping up Born Confused on my TBR list, where it has been languishing since I found it in the early days of my quest to read more diversely.

Speaking of diversity, in the past two or so years, there has been a strong call for diversity in young people’s literature. Has that movement affected how you approach writing?

ID: I love seeing how activists, academics, bloggers, reviewers, and everyday people are forcing the industry to recognize the importance of representation, especially for young people. It’s hard enough to write while holding out for the bleak hope that I’d be one of the very few women of colour that publishers decided to take on. In order to free myself from that pressure, years back I’d made the decision that when I publish, I would do it indie.

Maybe I’m a little too Type-A, but nothing has changed for me. I didn’t pitch a single agent or query any publishers. I’ve seen the Lee & Low survey on Diversity in Publishing and I’d worry about giving up editorial control where the majority of people don’t understand the experience in the story. I’d wonder if an industry – where Marketing & Publicity departments average at 77% White/Caucasian – would understand the importance of featuring a brown-skinned teen prominently on the cover. I’d outright throw a fit if their cover designers tried to bleach out the beautifully brown skin of my main character. I get that there are people outside and inside the industry who are fighting to make a difference – their work is essential and is making many worlds of difference, now and for the future. But I like that there are other options too. And for now, I need to be in charge of the details, right down to the exact CMYK colours.

Yup. I’m definitely Type-A.

SW: I totally relate to those worries, as they are thoughts I’ve had myself while thinking about getting published. In fact, anxiety about not being able to find acceptance in the mainstream publishing industry has pushed me to consider indie or self-publishing on more than one occasion. What advice would you give aspiring authors who are considering self-publishing or indie publishing?

ID: Do it! But only if you are okay with being responsible for the whole writing process, coming up with business and marketing plans, taking charge of all design and layout, learning how and where to publish, finding the right help, and a handful of other things.

I can’t pretend that the indie process is easy and I won’t lie, I have doubts that what I produced is good enough. At the same time, I don’t think anyone is claiming that the gatekeeping days of the publishing industry is over. And we’ve all seen the repeated publishing fails in the industry (seriously with the Nazi romances?). Publishers aren’t written off for their failures, indies shouldn’t be either.

My advice is this: If you don’t need the prestige of being traditionally published, if you know you write well but your topics are too far outside what the mainstream can handle, if you can hold on to the idea that indie-publishing royalties can be substantially higher if you work hard enough at making book sales, if you are willing to take your story and make it as good or better than traditional publishers could possibly make it – then I invite you to consider, someone has to be producing fabulously diverse literature. Why not you?

SW: That’s a very encouraging statement. Thank you very much!

Because the industry is the way it is, one of the common experiences that marginalized people have is that search for representation, for characters who are like us. Do you have any book recommendations for characters with similar experiences to your own?

ID: I would recommend Randa Abdel-Fattah’s Does My Head Look Big in This? for people looking for a funny, sweet read about a Muslim teen. I already mentioned how great I think Tanuja Desai Hidier’s Born Confused is for South Asian readers and others. And despite the main character being a half Mexican, half Argentinian, all-star athlete, I loved Mariana Zapata’s Kulti for its humour and inspirational main character, but also because I could relate so well to the depiction of what it’s like being the child of immigrants.

SW: Thanks for the recs. I’ve actually read Does My Head Look Big in This? myself, and I’m seconding that rec. (Readers: You can find my review of the book here.)

In relation to the previous question: Despite the recent increase in diversity in publishing, there are still many experiences that have not been represented. What kinds of stories are you still waiting for?

ID: I don’t consider myself well-read enough to comment on what’s missing, but what I haven’t seen a lot of in genre fiction is enough humanizing representations of people of colour who live below the poverty line. I want to see something beyond the tropes. Probably because I can’t figure out how to write poverty with a sense of agency, I’m hungry for recommendations on any books that can. If you know some, send them my way?

SW: Oh yes, that is definitely a gap I’ve noticed, especially as far as Asians in diaspora go. The model minority myth says we’re all successful and socioeconomically well-off, but that’s definitely not the case all across the board, especially when you disaggregate by ethnicity. One of the books that I’ve read recently that addresses class divisions and working-class POC is Alice Pung’s Lucy and Linh (originally published under the title Laurinda, in Australia), which focuses on a Chinese-Vietnamese Australian teen from an lower-class background. I wrote a review for it here. If anyone among my followers has additional recs, feel free to send them my way (leave a comment) and to Ishara (via the links at the bottom of this post)!

And that concludes the interview! Thank you for taking the time to compose such thorough and thoughtful responses. Once I post my review of your book, I will put the link on Twitter and @ you so you can share it. 🙂


Ishara Deen, author of God Smites and Other Muslim Girl Problems, is also a copywriter and grad-school dropout. She did finish a Master’s degree in World Lit, but still prefers a good mystery, fantasy, or romance over “literature.” She’s a hobby-collecting nerd, the latest of which are archery and bass guitar, and her goal in life is to write and publish what scares her, because it’s likely to scare the people that put that fear in her even more.

You can add God Smites and Other Muslim Girl Problems on Goodreads!

For future book releases, excerpts from upcoming books, and fun extras, sign up for the Muslim Girl Problems newsletter at www.isharadeen.com. You can also find purchase links for God Smites on the website.

Connect with Ishara Deen!

Facebook: www.facebook.com/isharadeen
Twitter: @isharadeen
Email: hello@isharadeen.com

Last, but not least, spread the word about this book! It’s a great addition for the #MuslimShelfSpace project that’s happening on Twitter right now!

Asian Reads: Asian Boy Love Interest in YA Edition

So this post was inspired by a Twitter thread I made about Noteworthy and the general lack of Asian boy love interests in contemporary YA. Thus, I’m doing a roundup of YA books with Asian boy love interests that I know of. I’m not including any books that have racist or fetishizing elements (so Eleanor & Park is out, not even sorry). I’m also excluding books that take place in Asia as it’s more or less a given that the love interest will be Asian. My primary focus is Asian boys in diaspora where the environment is majority white and Asian boys are not seen as attractive.

If you have any books to add, leave the title and author in the comments and I will add them to the list. My list is all U.S. books, so if you have any U.K., Canada, Australia, etc. books, submit them please! I couldn’t find any with Southeast Asian boys either, so if you know of one, drop a comment.

Note: Books are listed in alphabetical order by author’s last name. Links are to my reviews of the books. The ethnicity of the Asian boy love interest is indicated next to the title and author.

tiny-pretty-thingsTiny Pretty Things and Shiny Broken Pieces by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton – Korean American

Gigi, Bette, and June are three girls at a competitive ballet academy in Manhattan. Gigi dances despite a health problem that could ruin her. Bette struggles to live up to and surpass her legacy older sister. June hides an eating disorder and vows to take the lead spot to prove herself to her mother. With the stakes so high, the girls are willing to do anything to get to the top.

north-of-beautifulNorth of Beautiful by Justina Chen – Chinese American adoptee

Tess was born with a port-wine stain on her face that draws stares and looks of pity from people. She’s desperate to get out of her small town, away from her controlling father. A chance encounter brings cute goth boy Jacob into her life, and suddenly she’s on a different path than expected.

adaptationAdaptation and Inheritance by Malinda Lo – Chinese American

Reese and her debate team partner David wake up from a car accident, miraculously healed. All across the country, birds are falling from the sky, and people in hazmat suits are collecting them for some unknown purpose. Then, she meets the mysterious Amber Gray and discovers a shocking truth.

the-girl-from-everywhereThe Girl from Everywhere and The Ship Beyond Time by Heidi Heilig – Persian

Nix has spent her entire life aboard The Temptation, a ship that can travel through time and space, to real and fictional locations like, as long as there is a map for it. Her father captains this ship, and he is obsessed with finding a map for 1868 Honolulu, so he can reunite with Nix’s mother before she died. This quest takes them through danger and adventure, and if it is successful, it could potentially erase Nix from existence. (I realize this is sort-of-not-really contemporary but they do travel to 2016 so I’m counting it.)

born-confusedBorn Confused by Tanuja Desai Hidier – Indian American

From Goodreads: Dimple Lala doesn’t know what to think. Her parents are from India, and she’s spent her whole life resisting their traditions. Then suddenly she gets to high school and everything Indian is trendy. To make matters worse, her parents arrange for her to meet a “suitable boy.” Of course it doesn’t go well — until Dimple goes to a club and finds him spinning a magical web . Suddenly the suitable boy is suitable because of his sheer unsuitability. Complications ensue.

enter_title_final_revealEnter Title Here by Rahul Kanakia – Indian American

Reshma Kapoor, top ranked student of Alexander Graham Bell High School, will to get into Stanford. Not “wants to,” but “will.” Because she is willing to do anything to make it happen, even if it means bending or breaking the rules, and then some. For her “hook” to make herself stand out among the competition, she decides to write a young adult novel about a fictional version of herself. But the real Reshma Kapoor is a study nerd, without the appeal to the mainstream YA market. To make herself into the perfect YA protagonist, Reshma sets out to do “normal” teenage things and create a plot and character arc for herself. Unfortunately for her, things don’t always go as planned.

when-the-moon-was-oursWhen the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore – Pakistani American trans boy

From Goodreads: To everyone who knows them, best friends Miel and Sam are as strange as they are inseparable. But as odd as everyone considers Miel and Sam, even they stay away from the Bonner girls, four beautiful sisters rumored to be witches. Now they want the roses that grow from Miel’s skin, convinced that their scent can make anyone fall in love. And they’re willing to use every secret Miel has fought to protect to make sure she gives them up.

when-dimple-met-rishiWhen Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon (coming May 30th) – Indian American

From Goodreads: Dimple Shah has it all figured out. With graduation behind her, she’s more than ready for a break from her family, from Mamma’s inexplicable obsession with her finding the “Ideal Indian Husband.” Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic. So when his parents tell him that his future wife will be attending the same summer program as him—wherein he’ll have to woo her—he’s totally on board. The Shahs and Patels didn’t mean to start turning the wheels on this “suggested arrangement” so early in their children’s lives, but when they noticed them both gravitate toward the same summer program, they figured, Why not?

the-foldThe Fold by An Na – Korean American

When Joyce falls for school hottie John Ford Kang, she becomes obsessed with her appearance. She’s constantly compared to her older sister Helen, who is beautiful without trying. Then, her aunt offers her a gift: plastic surgery to get the coveted “double eye fold” that East Asians consider prettier. Joyce must decide whether this change is what she truly wants, or whether she can define her beauty on her own terms.

noteworthyNoteworthy by Riley Redgate (coming May 2nd) – Japanese American

Jordan Sun is a scholarship student at the elite fine arts school, Kensington, and she’s desperate to get a role that will prove that she’s good enough to her parents. When her audition for the fall musical flops because her vocal range and texture aren’t “feminine” enough, she resorts to desperate measures: cross-dress as a guy and audition for the elite all-male a cappella group, the Sharpshooters, for a shot at the prestigious tour that will elevate her from nobody to the cream of the crop. It’s only for three months, so it can’t go wrong, can it?

written-in-the-starsWritten in the Stars by Aisha Saeed – Pakistani American

Naila tries to please her parents, who give her considerable freedom in many ways. However, she breaks one of their strict rules about dating and boys by falling for Saif. When her parents find out that she has been dating him in secret, they decide to take her to Pakistan to “reconnect” with their roots. Unfortunately, their plans for Naila also involve forcing her to marry a man she doesn’t know. Alone and desperate, Naila must find a way to escape this nightmare.

My So-Called Bollywood Life by Nisha Sharma (coming in 2017) – Indian American

From Goodreads: Metha, Bollywood film groupie, has a dilemma: her boyfriend breaks up with her one week before senior year and instead of running the Princeton, NJ student film festival with him, she has to compete against him for the spot. What’s worse is he realized hooking up with Jenny Dickens was a mistake and he wants Winnie back. Dev Khanna, indie film savant, could be her solution. He helps her focus on what’s important and makes her feel amazing in that terrifying, not-in-control way. At first, the plan to get her festival chair spot back and spend time with Dev seems to be working…until Winnie falls in love with the one guy who just may be the perfect hero she’s been waiting for. In a story where high school has more drama than the Indian film industry, one Bolly-junkie finds herself in a classic love triangle gone wrong. With a little bit of help from fate, her drunk grandmother, and dream sequences featuring Shah Rukh Khan himself, Winnie learn that embracing Bollywood romance IRL may be the key to a happily ever after.

The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon – Korean American

Daniel is a dreamer on his way to a Yale interview that he doesn’t actually care about to please his Korean parents. Natasha is a science geek who is about to be deported to a Jamaica she barely remembers. The lives of these two teens who appear to have nothing in common collide, and both are changed in ways they never would have imagined during the course of a single day.

My Complete Fiction Collection

I finally shoved all of the stray books in my room onto my bookshelves so I could take a picture of my complete fiction collection. There are a few autobiographies and memoirs thrown in here and there, but this is 99% fiction. My book collection has changed a lot in the past two years. I got rid of/donated a ton of books (about 300) that were for early readers and started buying a bunch of newer, mostly diverse YA, NA, literary fiction titles to replace them. I don’t think my diverse book count is greater than my non-diverse book count yet, but it’s getting there.

How I Organize My Books:

  • The overarching organization scheme is alphabetically by author’s last name.
  • Books in a series are placed together and arranged in chronological order.
  • Books by the same author are arranged either by publication order or by size from smallest to largest.
  • Anthologies in which the stories are all by the same author are grouped with books by that author.
  • Anthologies that are by multiple authors are groued seall together at the very end of my collection, after the Zs, and arranged in order by [first] editor’s last name

If I didn’t arrange my books this way, I’d never be able to find anything. Haven’t updated my inventory in a while, so I’m not sure exactly how many books I have (some of these are omnibus editions so they’re actually more than one book). My best estimate is somewhere around 500. I’ve been reading and collecting YA books since circa 2003, so this is some 13-odd years’ worth of books (granted, I purchased a lot of them in the past two years, but a decent number were published years ago and/or I first read them during the 2003-2014 time period). I might update this with my book count later on.

Sorry for the bad picture quality, my camera sucks. =___=

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My main wall of shelves. There are two more against the opposite wall, one with prose novels, the other with manga.

Now, all of my shelves, one by one.

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Shelf 1: Abawi-D’Lacey
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Shelf 2: D’Lacey-Lam
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Shelf 3: Lasky-Nix
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Shelf 4: Nix-Redgate
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Shelf 5: Rodda-Zia+anthologies+three miscellaneous books that aren’t fiction

See any familiar titles and authors? 😀

Review for Green Island by Shawna Yang Ryan

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Note: I read this book as part of the #DiversityDecBingo reading challenge. You can find my list of books that I read and the links to the reviews for those books here.

Note 2: Parts of this review were originally published in and adapted from my Favorite Books of 2016 post.

My Summary: Told through the perspective of an unnamed first generation Taiwanese American woman, Green Island chronicles the life of the main character from her birth on March 1st, 1947, the day after the infamous 228 Massacre, to the year 2003, marked by the SARS outbreak, intertwining her personal, family history with the political history of Taiwan.

Review:

Trigger/Content Warnings: mentions of death, murder, torture

One of the last books I read in 2016 but also one of the best, this book was an intensely personal read for me because it focuses on a dark, tumultuous, and bloody era of Taiwanese history, called the White Terror, that my own family lived through. Taiwan was under martial law for 38 years, from 1949 to 1987, surpassed in length by only Syria (1963-2011). My parents (and maternal grandparents) grew up during that time; they immigrated to the U.S. before martial law was even lifted.

The main character was born in 1947, the year my paternal grandparents got married. My maternal grandmother was born in 1944, and my oldest paternal uncle was born in 1948, so the main character is somewhere between my grandparents’ and parents’ generations. My paternal grandfather was trained to use firearms from his time serving in the Japanese military (Japan ruled Taiwan from 1895 to 1945), and he’d thought about joining the protests against the provisional government set up by the Chinese Nationalist Party (a.k.a the KMT and the loser of the Chinese civil war). If not for his marriage, he would have gone, and probably been spirited away, never to be seen again, in all likeliness shot to death by a firing squad like so many men were.

The main character’s parents are part of the intellectual elite of Taiwan; her father is a doctor, her mother was educated in French literature and art. This makes them prime targets for persecution. After the 228 Massacre, her father attends an assembly called by the provisional government and asks for democratic rule in Taiwan. Days later, he is dragged away by KMT officers to be tortured and interrogated on Green Island, where he is imprisoned for eleven years before returning, a changed man.

At the core, Green Island is a story of the psychological and intergenerational trauma of such continual, relentless political persecution. The narrative explores the effect of Dr. Tsai’s absence and his return on the main character and her family throughout her lifetime. Even after his return, the government is not done with him or their family. After she moves to America and settles there, the surveillance follows, eventually placing her in a harrowing situation that echoes that of her father years ago. There is almost no facet of the her life that isn’t touched by her family’s past and Taiwan’s politics.

Far from being removed or objective, the story entreats readers to empathize with the difficult moral dilemmas that arise when you are forced to choose between saving loved ones and standing up for your beliefs. That the main character is never named does not make her less complex or emotionally compelling. The first-person narration immerses you in her world with all its sights, sounds, textures, cultural and sociopolitical forces, and, of course, her inner emotional landscape, in all its subtleties and extremes.

Overall, this book is a great fictionalized account of 20th Century Taiwanese history. Aside from a few minor changes made for the sake of a more cohesive narrative, it’s a very accurate depiction of Taiwanese history, according to the author herself and compared against my own knowledge of the subject.

On top of being mostly accurate, event- and timeline-wise, the story rings true to me in the details: from the terms of address among family (the Romanization was weird to me because I learned the Pe̍h-ōe-jī/Church Romanization system, but I was able to figure it out), to the pejorative phrases like “mainland pigs” (used to describe the KMT and the Chinese people who immigrated to Taiwan post-1949), to the metal bento boxes that kids took to school, to the descriptions of shaved ice stands. Although I myself did not live in Taiwan during that time period, I’ve heard enough stories from my dad to have a decent mental picture of what it was like.

Toward the end of the book, the 228 Memorial Museum is mentioned and described. I actually went there with my family back in 2015, and it was a sobering experience, to put it lightly. My older sister was crying while reading the stories of the dead and missing. I mostly just felt numb inside, weighed down by unspeakable pain and horror. It’s hard not to think about how my own family members could have been on those walls, in those pictures, how a small twist of fate spared my family the experiences of Green Island‘s main character.

Recommendation: I’ve read a number of fictional depictions of the White Terror, and Green Island is by far the most vivid and powerful of them. If you’re going to read any historical fiction book about Taiwan, Green Island is the book to read.

Review for Dove Arising by Karen Bao

dove-arising-hardcover

Note: I read this book as part of the Dumbledore’s Army Readathon challenge. You can find out more about it here.

My Summary: Phaet Theta spends her time cultivating plants in Greenhouse 22 on the lunar colony she’s grown up in. All she wants is to become a bioengineer. Unfortunately, she is forced to set aside that dream and join the Militia to earn enough money to keep her family afloat. Just when she thinks she’s reaching her goal, her mother is arrested, and nothing can be the same for her ever again.

Review:

Well, I’m glad I picked this book off my extremely long backlist to read. I walked into it with some reserve because of the 3.5 star average reviews on Amazon and came out the other end wondering why it’s underrated (in my opinion).

If I were to describe this book succinctly by referencing a familiar work, I’d call it scifi Hunger Games, minus the fights to the death on live TV, and with POC. But that’s not really doing it justice, which is what the rest of this review is for.

There are familiar tropes in this story: a corrupt government, a love triangle (sort of), and a high-stakes mission for the protagonist. What makes it stand out to me is the worldbuilding and characterization.

The author has a background in science, an ecology degree to be specific, and that definitely shows in the book. The integration of scientific facts into the story lends it a sense of realism that keeps the speculative elements grounded. It’s hard for me not to read scifi with a critical eye due to my background in aerospace engineering.

Though it’s not mentioned in the jacket blurb, Phaet is of Chinese descent. The major characters include four other POC. One is Umbriel, Phaet’s best friend, whose ancestry is never explicitly named but who is described as having dark hair and eyes and thick eyebrows (I might be misreading the text but it seemed to imply he was also Chinese?). Two of Phaet’s fellow Militia trainees are WOC: Vinasa, who is Indian and Irish; and Nashira, who is half Saudi, a quarter Nigerian, and a quarter Jamaican. The last is Yinha, the person who’s in charge of training the Militia recruits; like Phaet, she’s Chinese.

While race and ethnicity don’t have the same level importance in Phaet’s time as they do in our present-day world, the society she lives in isn’t entirely race-blind either. Someone makes a racist joke about Yinha’s eyes at one point. Also, Phaet, Vinasa, and Nashira have a brief conversation about their respective hair textures while they are getting to know one another, which was refreshingly real to read. Nash’s hair is difficult to keep in the style required by the Militia, which echoes the ways in which natural hair is stigmatized in the U.S. military.

Nor have people completely lost connection to their Earthbound roots. Bits and pieces of Chinese culture are referenced throughout the story, making Phaet’s Chineseness more than just a superficial thing. She knows the story of her great-grandmother’s migration from China to the United States, and then to the Moon, so in her own way she’s part of Chinese diaspora, with an extra migration and nationality (Lunar) added.

Phaet’s character is built around her competitive spirit and her loyalty to and love for her family. Her motivations are strongly tied to the desire for her family’s well-being, making her a sympathetic character. Though she does compete for the top rank among the recruits, a lot of that is driven by necessity–the salary will be enough to get her family financially stable–rather than personal, individual ambition. The centrality of her relationships with her mother, younger brother, and younger sister made the story compelling to me as someone with close bonds with my own family.

I mentioned a love triangle, and there are hints of one, but it’s far from being the primary plotline of the story, so if you’re sick of/averse to love triangles, don’t worry, this is not Twilight or The Hunter Games. Romance isn’t that important in general, which is a relief. (Though I’m disappointed that there are no queer characters to be found, except for one that maybe could be read as queer, but what’s new, sigh.)

Phaet’s ascent in the ranks of the recruits is not a given or an effortless task. She has some muscle from the manual labor of working in a greenhouse, but it’s not enough to make her an excellent athlete and trainee from the get-go. She has to work hard and do extra exercises and training in order to progress. There are no shortcuts.

The book doesn’t shy away from exploring the psychological effects of her Militia training. She becomes more desensitized to violence and even power-hungry, which creates conflict between her and her family and Umbriel, who are uneasy with the changes they see.

Speaking of conflict, the conflicts that drive the plot are multiple: interpersonal conflict between Phaet and other Militia recruits as well as between Phaet and the people she loves, and then also the broader conflict between Phaet and the oppressive society and government she lives in, and even within herself in the form of conflicting values and priorities.

From the beginning, the pace of the story is set at a brisk clip. Although Phaet spends half the book training, it’s not without incident, marked by fights with people who are out to sabotage her and dangerous, even deadly evaluation exercises. Then, the political intrigue kicks in, as well as the conflicts with her family caused by the changes she’s undergone, and at the end, we have a cliffhanger that sets you up for the second book.

And I’m ordering that second book (Dove Exiled) right now. The third book (Dove Alight) is due later this year, so I guess I picked the best time to read this book, as reading it earlier would have meant a longer wait. Woo.

Recommendation: Based on the Amazon ratings, I’m guessing it might be hit or miss depending on the person, but I say give it a try! It’s a solid debut novel and first installment to a science fiction series. (The author is my age and already published, I’m envious.)

Common Cover Theme Thursday: The Dark Silhouettes

So I wanted to do my own book meme that showcases smaller subsets of all the different books that I’ve read or want to read. Thus, I came up with the idea to do a weekly round-up for books with similar themes and motifs in their cover illustrations. The alliteration in the title is a bonus. Of course, most of mine will be Asian lit, but I’ll include other diverse titles as well.

If you want to do this meme, go ahead! The only rules are: 1) feature diverse books and 2) credit me/link to this post. 🙂

the-secret-sky

 The Secret Sky by Atia Abawi – Young Adult, Contemporary, #ownvoices

Set against the political turmoil of present-day Afghanistan, this book is a story of forbidden love between two young people from different ethnic groups and different social classes. Fatima is a Hazara girl from a farming family; Samiullah is the son of the landowners who oversee the Hazara farmers. When they fall in love, they must fight against their families, their cultures, and the Taliban in order to be together.

dove-arising-hardcover

Dove Arising by Karen Bao – Young Adult, Science Fiction, #ownvoices

Phaet Theta is used to keeping her head down and doing her work tending plants in Greenhouse 22 of the colony on the Moon where she lives. When her mother is arrested, she enlists in the Militia to keep her younger siblings out of the Shelter. But her straightforward plan to save her siblings and free her mother unravels when she learns information about the government that changes everything. (The protagonist is of Chinese descent.)

one-half-from-the-east

One Half from the East by Nadia Hashimi – Middle Grade, Contemporary, #ownvoices

At her aunt’s insistence, Afghan preteen Obayda becomes a bacha posh, a girl who lives as a boy, with all its privileges and freedoms. It’s a confusing and lonely experience for her until she meets another bacha posh, Rahima, and befriends her. But their freedoms won’t last forever, so they must find a way to hold onto them.

listen-slowly

Listen, Slowly by Thanhha Lai – Middle Grade, Contemporary, #ownvoices

Mai is a California girl and doesn’t care too much about her Vietnamese heritage. When summer vacation comes, she is dragged by her family to Vietnam to help her grandmother find out what happened to her husband during the Vietnam War. At the beginning, Mai is desperate to leave, but slowly, she comes to appreciate Vietnam and the importance of her grandmother’s quest.

under-a-painted-sky

Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee – Young Adult, Historical Fiction, #ownvoices

Chinese American Samantha Young is on the run from the law for killing in self-defense. She hopes to catch up to a westward-bound caravan that her father’s friend is traveling with. Her only ally is an escaped slave, Annamae, and they are forced to dress up as boys as a disguise. During their journey they encounter friends and enemies alike, and the threat of being caught follows them. They walk a dangerous path, but with their wits and the help of friends, they may just survive.

in-the-shadow-of-the-banyan

In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner – Literary Fiction, Historical Fiction, #ownvoices

Raami is seven years old when her father brings news of the civil war that topples her family from their seat of privilege and stability and forces them to flee the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh. The next four years of her life are a fight for survival. The only remnants of her past are the legends and poems from her father. Based on the author’s own experiences, this book is a tale of resilience and hope.

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The Third Son by Julie Wu – Literary Fiction, Historical Fiction, #ownvoices

Born under Japanese rule of Taiwan, Saburo is the third son, the least important child, but he is smart and ambitious. He falls for the sweet Yoshiko at a young age through a chance encounter, and is galled to see her by the side of his oldest brother and greatest rival when they meet again years later. Determined to make something of himself and win Yoshiko’s favor, he studies hard and eventually finds himself in America working on projects for the space program.

The Rapid Fire Book Tag

Going to answer some bookish questions about myself. Not tagging anyone in particular, feel free to do it if you want to. 😀 Tag created by Booktuber GirlReading, original video can be found here.

The Rapid Fire Book Tag

eBooks or physical books?

Physical because I love to sniff and pet books. 😀

Paperback or hardback?

I tend to buy paperbacks for the lower price, but ever since I discovered pre-order swag I’ve been buying a lot more hardcovers oops.

Online or in-store book shopping?

Online is convenient and I’m kind of lazy. But on the other hand, it’s relaxing to just wander around a bookstore browsing titles and being able to feel the books.

Trilogies or series?

It doesn’t matter to me. If the books hold my interest, I’ll keep reading no matter how long the series lasts.

Heroes or villains?

Villains can be interesting but in the end I prefer heroes because I’m a social justice activist, so obviously I want good to prevail. 🙂

A book you want everyone to read?

Hmm, I’d probably go with Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin. It’s such a magical tale that weaves together so many story threads, and the illustrations (done by the author herself) are gorgeous. Below is most of the jacket illustration.where-the-mountain-meets-the-moon-full-dragon

Recommend an underrated book.

the-ghost-brideThe Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo. It wasn’t marketed as YA, perhaps because the protagonist is eighteen, which makes her an “adult” based on U.S. legal standards, but the story is fairly YA-esque in my opinion. It’s an #ownvoices fantasy novel set in colonial Malaya (modern-day Malaysia) in 1893, written by a fourth generation Malaysian-Chinese author. It focuses on the story of a girl who is asked to be a ghost bride (a bride to a dead man who did not get to wed during his life) and is then drawn into the Chinese afterlife, where secrets and danger lurk.

The last book you finished?s

Song of the Cuckoo Bird by Amulya Malladi. It’s a bittersweet historical fiction novel that spans decades and tells the stories of a family of women who are outcasts in society for various reasons. It’s a very emotionally honest book, with complex, flawed characters. But not for everyone. I talk about why in my review.

Used books, yes or no?

Yes. There are Used – Like New/Very Good books I get through Amazon because they’re cheaper or out of print. And then there are used books I buy at used bookstores, which are a great place to scour for old and/or obscure books by Asian authors. I prefer new books, but I won’t say no to a good used one.

Top three favorite genre?

  1. Fantasy – I love magic and alternate universes and fantasy creatures and deities and so on.
  2. Diverse contemporary YA – I’ll admit I’m partial to stories about 2nd gen kids because their experiences are so relatable to me.
  3. Literary fiction with intergenerational narratives – That’s a very specific category, but it’s what I’m drawn to because so much of my culture is structured around family and heritage and roots, so I love reading about threads that link generations of families together. I get really emotionally invested in family relationships, much more than I do in romantic ones.

Weirdest thing you used as a bookmark?

That little strip you tear off a package/envelope to open it, lol.

Borrow or buy?

Buy. I’m a book dragon, I hoard books. ;D

Characters or plot?

Both. But in general, character-driven stories with not as much plot are better than stories with plot but characters I don’t really care about.

Long or short book?

Depends. 300-400 pages is a decent length for me. 500+ had better be a very good and very involved/complex story because otherwise…nope.

Long or short chapters?

Short ones, I guess. Feels like there are more pauses to take a mental break. More places I can stop reading for the day/time being.

Name the first three books you think of.

first-testFirst Test (Protector of the Small #1) by Tamora Pierce – The first book in a series that’s among my all-time favorites. A girl enters the training for knighthood, the first since a few centuries ago. She fights against sexism and always defends the underdog. A very feminist series that empowers women of diverse backgrounds.

hawksongHawksong (The Kiesha’ra #1) by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes – Not a very diverse book or series in terms of characters overall, but the author is queer. It features shapeshifters, political intrigue, and romance. There is a queer/lesbian MC in the fourth book, Wolfcry.

the-red-chamberThe Red Chamber by Pauline A. Chen – An English-language retelling of one of the four great classics of Chinese literature, Dream of the Red Chamber, a story of elite socialites and political intrigue set in Qing China, with a large cast of characters and complex relationships between them all. I haven’t read it yet, but it’s on my TBR. I have vague memories of the drama adaptation that my mom watched when I was very young.

Books that make you laugh or cry?

I think…books that make me cry…I laugh at a lot of things whereas crying at things is relatively unusual for me. It means I’m empathizing deeply enough with the characters to feel pain and sadness on their behalf…

Our world or fictional worlds?

Can’t we have both? Like an AU that’s connected to our world through portals or whatever?

Do you ever judge a book by its cover?

I like pretty covers but I read books with ugly ones and don’t think books are worse for having an ugly cover or better when the cover is pretty. That said, I’d rather have a pretty cover for a book I love.

Audiobooks: yes or no?

No. I’m bad at processing information through sound, so I’d get distracted very easily and miss most of what’s being said. >.>

Book to movie or book to TV adaptation?

Depends. Some books can fit into a movie, others would be better off being TV series so you can get all the details and subplots.

A movie or TV adaptation you preferred to the book?

Unpopular opinion: The Lord of the Rings. I tried to read The Hobbit and I really could not get through it. It was so dry. I don’t feel much guilt though because it’s super white and cisheteronormative. *shrug*

Series or standalone?

I’m definitely a series person. Maybe because I’m always greedy for more about the characters I love?