All posts by The Shenners

Book Blogger Memory Challenge

Found this tag/meme through Wendy at What the Log Had to Say.

The rules are very easy: Answer the questions before you read my answers!

Q1: Name a book written by an author called Michael.
Q2: Name a book with a dragon on the cover.
Q3: Name a book about a character called George.
Q4: Name a book written by an author with the surname Smith.
Q5: Name a book set in Australia.
Q6: Name a book with the name of a month in the title.
Q7: Name a book with a knife on the cover.
Q8: Name a book with the word ‘one’ in the title.
Q9: Name a book with a eponymous title.
Q10: Name a book turned into a movie.

To challenge myself further, I decided I would only do diverse books for this challenge.

Q1: Name a book written by an author called Michael.

Racial Formations in the United States

A1: Racial Formations by Michael Omi and Howard Winant

For those who don’t know, I got one of my degrees in Asian American studies, which draws a lot on critical race theory. Racial Formations is foundational text about the social construction of race that gets referenced a lot in ethnic studies courses, so I ended up purchasing the full text of the 2nd edition a few years ago.

Q2: Name a book with a dragon on the cover.

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon

A2: Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin

This book is hands down one of my favorite middle grade books because it’s so magical, full of stories within stories. It also draws on a lot of Chinese folklore and mythology, so some of the stories and figures were familiar to me. However, Grace Lin manages to put her own spin on them, so they’re not trite even as someone who grew up with them.

Q3: Name a book about a character called George.

george

A3: George by Alex Gino is the only one I can think of, and technically that’s the character’s birth name. Her chosen name is Melissa.

If you’re looking for middle grade featuring a trans character by a trans author, this book is my go-to rec. It weaves a story about a trans girl coming out with her working toward a goal of playing Charlotte from Charlotte’s Web in her class’s play.

Q4: Name a book written by an author with the surname Smith.

Rain Is Not My Indian Name

A4: Rain is Not My Indian Name by Cynthia Leitich Smith

I’ve known Cynthia Leitich Smith’s name for years, but I didn’t know she was a Native author until recently. Rain Is Not My Indian Name is one of her books that is on my TBR.

Q5: Name a book set in Australia.

lucy-and-linh

A5: Lucy and Linh (Aus title: Laurinda) by Alice Pung

I’ll admit I haven’t read much Australian YA, and Lucy and Linh was my first #LoveOzYA book I read, and if you’ve read my review, you’ll know I absolutely loved it. It is highly satirical and touches on race, class, and gender through the story of a Chinese-Vietnamese girl from a impoverished, working class background who ends up attending an all-girl private school on a scholarship.

Q6: Name a book with the name of a month in the title.

The November Girl

A6: The November Girl by Lydia Kang

This is one of my most anticipated books of the fall season. It’s fantasy and features a turbulent encounter/romance between a half-human girl who’s the daughter of Lake Superior and a biracial Black Korean boy fleeing an abusive home situation.

Q7: Name a book with a knife on the cover.

warrior-book-cover

A7: Warrior by Ellen Oh

Warrior is the second book in the Korean-inspired Prophecy series (my series review here), which follows the high-stakes quest of Kang Kira, a warrior whose mission is to save her kingdom from invasion.

Q8: Name a book with the word ‘one’ in the title.

One Dark Throne

A8: One Dark Throne by Kendare Blake

I thought One Dark Throne would be the conclusion to the series, but it turns out there are four books total in the series. *yells* I read the ARC a while back and it was Intense.

Q9: Name a book with a eponymous title.

zahrah-the-windseeker

A9: Zahrah the Windseeker by Nnedi Okorafor

Since this book is on the older side, it’s not very well known among the community, but it is so good and everyone should read it. I reviewed it here.

Q10: Name a book turned into a movie.

Crazy Rich Asians

A10: Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

I just read this book recently, and it was everything the title promised. I found it to be hilarious but incisive in its critique of the corrupting power of wealth.

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Seven Deadly Sins Tag

Capture.PNGI got this from Weezie but don’t know who created it. If you know (or if it’s you!) let me know so I can give proper credit!

1. Greed. What’s your most inexpensive book? Your most expensive?

I think my most inexpensive book in terms of % of list price I bought it for is my signed hardcover of Malinda Lo’s Adaptation. I got it for 3 or 4 USD at The Last Bookstore in LA. My most expensive is an out of print reference book on 5000 years of Chinese clothing. It was published in 1987 and the cheapest I could find it online was $80 so I paid the price knowing that it would be a good investment since I wrote a lot of dynastic Chinese-inspired stories.

2. Wrath. What author do you have a love/hate relationship with.

My problematic white fave, Tamora Pierce. I grew up reading her books and own all of them (pictured above) and love them, but in retrospect I see a lot of flaws in her racial rep, among other things, and she’s said/done some messy things on social media so I’m like 😬😬😬.

3. Gluttony. What book have you devoured over and over again with no shame?

The Will of the Empress

The Will of the Empress by Tamora Pierce. It’s the 9th book in her Emelan books (after the Circle of Magic and The Circle Opens quartets). It tells the story of the four members of the Circle at 18 years old as they are rebuilding their friendship after years of separation and coming into themselves as adults while navigating the insidious court of a ruthless empress. Tamora Pierce’s magical characters and worldbuilding never fail to enthrall me and this book is one of my absolute favorites.

4. Sloth. What book have you neglected due to laziness?

six-of-crows

Uh, Six of Crows? I keep waiting for an opportunity to finish it and then putting it off 😅

5. Pride. What book do you talk about a lot in order to sound like an intellectual reader?

Uh, I don’t do this but there were one would probably be one of my academic texts in linguistics or something.

6. Lust. What attributes do you find attractive in characters? (The original question said “male characters,” but that’s heteronormative, so change how you want.)

Ability to charm people just by being themselves. I am awkward as fuck. Also I like thief characters because of their cleverness and eye for details. Pictured above are three books featuring thieves as main characters, The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner, The Demon King by Cinda Williams Chima, an dMask of Shadows by Linsey Miller.

7. Envy. What book would you most like to receive as a gift right now?

That’s a good question, but what books don’t I have??? LOL.

Okay, ARCs of American Panda and The Astonishing Color of After since they’re my most anticipated 2018 releases, and they’re by Taiwanese American authors. 😭😭😭

I tag anyone who wants to do this tag. 😀

Most Anticipated MG/YA Releases of September and October

So September and October are a gift because there are so many great kidlit titles coming out from authors of color. Here’s a [far from exhaustive] list of ones I’ve had on my radar! I’ve had the privilege of reading many of these already (16 out of 24, which is 2/3), and I can tell you that they are amazing. 🙂

They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera (Sep. 5th) – Young Adult, SFF, Gay Puerto Rican (#ownvoices) and Bisexual Cuban American MCs, M/M romance

  • 2 boys who are going to die meet and bond over the course of about 24 hours

You Bring the Distant Near by Mitali Perkins (Sep. 12th) – Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Indian/Bengali American MCs (#ownvoices), Biracial Black/Bengali MC

  • 5 women spanning 3 generations of a Bengali family in the U.S. negotiate their multicultural identities

Shadowhouse Fall (Shadowshaper #2) by Daniel Jose Older – Young Adult, Urban Fantasy, Afro-Latina Puerto Rican MC

  • Supernatural and real world forces of evil threaten the lives and community of Sierra Santiago, who will do anything to protect her own

Warcross by Marie Lu (Sep. 12th) – Young Adult, Science Fiction, Chinese American MC, #ownvoices

  • A gamer girl/bounty hunter hacks her way into the world’s biggest virtual reality game tournament and is hired to track down a suspicious figure lurking in the game

Rebel Seoul by Axie Oh (Sep. 15th) – Young Adult, Science Fiction/Dystopian, Korean MC, #ownvoices

  • A boy who has risen in the military of a future Korea is drafted into a special weapons project that turns girls into war machines and starts to fall for his charge

Rise of the Jumbies (The Jumbies #2) by Tracey Baptiste (Sep. 19th)- Middle Grade, Fantasy, Black Trinidadian MC, #ownvoices

  • Corinne La Mer makes a dangerous journey across the Atlantic to find a way to save the missing children of her island home

One Dark Throne (Three Dark Crowns #2) by Kendare Blake (Sept. 19th) – Young Adult, Fantasy

  • The deadly race for the throne has begun, the last sister standing wins.

The Stars Beneath Our Feet by David Barclay Moore (Sep. 19th) – Middle Grade, Contemporary, #ownvoices Black MC, secondary Black Autistic character

  • Following his brother’s gang-related Death, a boy struggles to cope and avoid the gang life and finds solace in building Lego creations at the community center.

The Way to Bea by Kat Yeh (Sep. 19th) – Middle Grade, Contemporary, #ownvoices Taiwanese American MC, secondary Autistic character

  • One summer away has upended Bea’s life and friendships, forcing her to make new ones and develop confidence in being herself.

Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman (Sep. 26th) – Young Adult, Contemporary, Biracial white/Japanese American MC, Social Anxiety rep, #ownvoices

  • An anxious aspiring artist flees her abusive home with an old friend-turned-crush and embarks on a journey that will transform her.

Ahimsa by Supriya Kelkar (Oct. 2nd) – Middle Grade, Historical Fiction, Indian MC, #ownvoices

  • A girl is swept up in the freedom movement of India through her mother’s participation and becomes involved herself in radical change.

Akata Warrior (Akata Witch #2) by Nnedi Okorafor (Oct. 3rd) – Middle Grade/Young Adult, Fantasy, Nigerian American MC, #ownvoices

  • A girl and her friends develop their powers as Leopard people to face down and vanquish a threat to humanity.

Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore (Oct. 3rd) – Young Adult, Magical Realism, Bisexual Latina/Mexican American MC, #ownvoices

  • The Nomeolvides sisters are blessed and cursed. Flowers flow from their hands, but their love makes those they love disappear. A mysterious boy who emerges from their garden estate may be the key to unlocking the secrets of the past and even breaking the curse.

Seize Today (Forget Tomorrow #3) by Pintip Dunn (Oct. 3rd) – Young Adult, Science Fiction/Dystopian

  • The conclusion to a series about a girl who foresees her own future in which she kills her sister and must work to stop herself.

Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani (Oct 3rd) – Young Adult, Contemporary/Fantasy, Graphic Novel, Indian American MC, #ownvoices

  • An Indian American girl connects with her heritage through a magical pashmina that transports her to India.

Not Your Villain (Sidekick Squad #2) by C.B. Lee (Oct. 5th) – Young Adult, SFF, Black trans boy MC

  • Bells becomes a fugitive due to a coverup by the Heroes’ League and has to take down a corrupt government while applying to college and working up the courage to confess his feelings to his best friend.

Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao (Oct. 10th) – Young Adult, Fantasy/Retelling, Chinese MC

  • Xifeng has a great destiny awaiting her, but her path to becoming Empress of Feng Lu requires her to embrace the darkness within her.

Dear Martin by Nic Stone (Oct. 17th) – Young Adult, Contemporary, Black MC, #ownvoices

  • A Black teen processes his feelings about antiblack racism through a journal dialogue with Martin Luther King Jr. and becomes the center of a media storm when he and his friend become victims of police brutality.

A Line in the Dark by Malinda Lo (Oct. 17th) – Young Adult, Contemporary, Thriller, Queer Chinese American MC, #ownvoices

  • Jess harbors a crush on her best friend Angie and through Angie, is drawn into a wealthy but seedy social circle with dangers they cannot escape unscathed.

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez (Oct. 17th) – Young Adult, Contemporary, Mexican American MC, #ownvoices

  • After her sister’s death, a girl feels alone and pressured to take her sister’s place, only to discover that her sister may not have been as perfect as she seemed.

Like Water by Rebecca Podos (Oct. 17th) – Young Adult, Contemporary, Besexual Latina MC, Secondary qenderqueer character

  • A small-town girl falls for someone who brings to the surface secrets she’s been trying to suppress.

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds (Oct. 24th) – Young Adult, Contemporary/Thriller, Novel-in-Verse, Black MC, #ownvoices

  • His brother is dead, and he’ll make the killer pay, but as he goes down the elevator, someone new appears who is connected to his brother, and he may not make it to the bottom.

Calling My Name by Liara Tamani (Oct. 24th) – Young Adult, Contemporary, Black Christian MC, #ownvoices

  • A girl navigates her budding sexuality in an ultra-religious environment that treats sex as forbidden and dirty.

Beasts Made of Night by Tochi Onyebuchi (Oct. 31st) – Young Adult, Nigerian-inspired Fantasy, Black MC, #ownvoices

  • Sin-eaters practice magic to rid people of their guilty feelings but pay the price in a being permanently marked and a short life-span. Taj is called to eat the sin of a royal and is forced to fight against an evil that threatens his entire home.

#TheReadingQuest TBR

If you haven’t seen #TheReadingQuest reading challenge floating around Twitter, then you’re missing out! The theme, concept, and graphics for this challenge are all amazing, and I’m excited to be participating for the next month. This challenge is hosted by Aentee @ Read at Midnight and the graphics are by CW @ Read Think Ponder. You can find out more about the challenge here, but basically you pick one of the four character classes and follow a quest that is a series of reading prompts tailored to your character class.

I am playing as a Rogue, and here’s my character card:

Rogue The Reading Quest

Here is the reading quest board. My path is the bottom row going from the bottom right corner to the bottom left.

reading-quest-board1

Here are my picks for each prompt:

The Absolutely True DiaryA Banned Book: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

Thanks to Google, I found out that this book was banned at a high school in Texas near me. I am super late to the party on this one, but now that I have a signed copy I grabbed from Barnes & Noble, I’m ready to finally experience this highly acclaimed #ownvoices book about a Spokane Indian boy.

The Disappearance of Ember Crow

A Book Cover with a Partially Obscured Face: The Disappearance of Ember Crow by Ambelin Kwaymullina

Ever since I finished The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf, I’ve been meaning to continue the series, and here’s my chance to knock it off my TBR.

Fire Boy.jpg

A Book with <500 Ratings on Goodreads: Fire Boy by Sami Shah. Aimal @ Bookshelves and Paperbacks recommended this book, and I’ve had the ebook for a while but haven’t gotten around to it.

perfect-liars

A Book Published by a Small Press: Perfect Liars by Kimberly Reid. This book features a Black girl who’s valedictorian of her school, and the love interest is Asian, specifically Korean American, if I recall correctly.

adaptation

A Book with a One Word Title: Adaptation by Malinda Lo. I’ve literally had this book for over a year and haven’t read it, and I’m long overdue to read it.

I don’t know how far I’ll get doing the other quests, but this is my tentative TBR for all of the other character and side quests outside of the Rogue’s path. 🙂

  • The first book of a series: Songs of Insurrection by JC Kang
  • A book with a verb in its title: POC Destroy Fantasy, edited by Daniel José Older
  • A book with a weapon on its cover: Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller
  • A book with a red cover: Elements: Fire A Comic Anthology by Creators of Color Edited by Taneka Stotts
  • A book that has a TV/movie adaptation: Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly
  • A book set in a different world: The Black Tides of Heaven by JY Yang
  • Potions: a book concocted by 2+ authors: This One Summer by Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki
  • Multiplayer: buddy read a book: ?
  • Grind: a Book with 500+ pages: Shadowcaster by Cinda Williams Chima
  • A fairy tale retelling: ?
  • A book based on mythology: The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
  • Time Warp: A book set in the past or the future: Love and Other Consolation Prizes by Jamie Ford
  • Open World: read whatever you want: A Line in the Dark by Malinda Lo
  • Respawn: read a book you previously did not finish: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
  • A book cover with striking typography: Paris Pan Takes the Dare by Cynthea Liu
  • A book that contains magic: The Speaker by Traci Chee
  • Expansion: Read a companion novel or short story: Death & Night by Roshani Chokshi
  • Mini-Game: Read a graphic novel, novella, or poem collection: The Red Threads of Fortune by JY Yang
  • Animal Companion: Book referencing an animal in the title: The Foretelling of Georgie Spider by Ambelin Kwaymullina
  • A book translated from another language: Dragon Sword and Wind Child by Noriko Ogiwara, translated by Cathy Hirano

Book Playlist: The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F.C. Yee

genie lo cover

Okay, so this is my second book playlist (the first being for Want by Cindy Pon), and I’m happy to introduce y’all to these songs that I feel represent some aspect of The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F.C. Yee. It was hard to find songs with the themes/feelings I needed, but I definitely got the perfect “theme song” for Genie. Below is the track list (song titles link to YouTube) along with translations where appropriate and commentary. Enjoy!

The Epic Crush of Genie Lo album tracks

1. 終極三國 – 曾沛慈+東城衛 (K.O.3anGuo – Pets Tseng+Dong Cheng Wei)

(3anGuo=SanGuo=Three Kingdoms from Chinese history)

This has exactly the right feel for The Epic Crush of Genie Lo. It’s the theme song for a Taiwanese drama where students face down supernatural forces. The following lyrics (translated by me) were perfect for Genie:

Until the final moment, I refuse to back down
Even if the battle rages for days, hope is still in sight

Until the final moment, I refuse to back down
Even tears scattering can’t blur my vision

Sinister forces are clamoring, hunting me down to provoke me into duels
My battle prowess soars – don’t think you can escape

After I shed my uniform jacket, I’ll let you make ten moves first
[Otherwise] I’m afraid you’ll be laughed at – KO’d in one punch

2. Destiny – Infinite

I chose this song by my favorite kpop band Infinite to represent Quentin’s feelings toward Genie, specifically (spoiler alert, highlight text to read) his feelings as the Monkey King losing his beloved Ruyi Jingubang. (end spoiler) Lyrics of note (translation credit: pop!gasa):

Don’t leave, don’t turn around, I can’t let you go like this
Even if you leave me like this, you can’t escape me
Cause you are my destiny
Don’t turn around and leave me, don’t brush me off, don’t avoid me
You are my destiny

3. Run Around – Jasan Radford

90s throwback, anyone? (God, I’m old.) This song is from the English dub of Digimon 02, and I chose it for the frenetic feelings it invokes. It’s a song that goes well with Genie and Quentin’s scramble to fight demons all over the Bay Area. The lyrics are self-explanatory and can be found in the description of the YouTube video linked. ^o^

4. 天下大亂 – 蘇慧倫 (Chaos – Tarcy Su)

This song is the opening theme to the Taiwanese drama adaptation of Mulan from 1999 featuring Anita Yuen as Mulan (one of my favorite Mulan adaptations tbh). The title is an idiom that literally means “big mess under the heavens,” so I took artistic liberty and translated it as “Chaos.” The theme of the song is of a woman taking control of a messy situation, thus making it perfect for Genie. Lyrics of note (translated by me):

The Heavens can’t fix it
My fate is mine to settle

The Heavens are broken, the world is broken
Everything, everywhere is unhinged

5. Borders – Amber Liu

This last song is by Amber Liu, a Taiwanese American who’s a part of the popular kpop girl group f(x). She wrote it from a very personal place, and the theme is about breaking free of expectations and standards that hold us back, whether it’s the policing of gender expression (Amber is known for rocking an androgynous look in an industry where female idols are supposed to be ultra-feminine), stereotypes, or stigmas. I thought it was an appropriate song for Genie since she struggles to feel like she’s any good when faced with the dehumanizing experience of applying to competitive top colleges where you are measured against a checklist of traits and accomplishments. The chorus is a good message to keep in your heart during these tough times:

’Cause mom said I’d be crossing borders
Never be afraid even when you’re cornered
Stand up straight, fight your way
Fight your way, fight your way

#ARCAugust TBR

Another month, another reading challenge! For those who are curious as to what happened with my #24in48 challenge, I managed to finish 7 out of the 10 books on my TBR for the challenge, which is probably the most success I’ve had with a reading challenge in a while since I started working full-time. Despite burning through 7 ARCs for #24in48, I still have a million and one ARCs to get through, which is why I’m signing up for #ARCAugust. Here’s my rough TBR in no particular order (minus the split between YA and Adult)!

YA Fiction

  • Water in May by Ismee Amiel Williams
  • The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton
  • Solo by Kwame Alexander
  • The Edge of the Abyss by Emily Skrutskie
  • Starswept by Mary Fan
  • That Inevitable Victorian Thing by E.K. Johnston
  • A Line in the Dark by Malinda Lo
  • The Speaker by Traci Chee

Adult Fiction

  • The Red Threads of Fortune by JY Yang
  • The Black Tides of Heaven by JY Yang
  • Songs of Insurrection by JC Kang
  • Love and Other Consolation Prizes by Jamie Ford
  • Jade City by Fonda Lee
  • The Leavers by Lisa Ko

Most Anticipated 2017 & 2018 Anthologies

I love anthologies because it’s a great way to collect a bunch of talent in one place and also because you can create anthologies that focus on diverse stories and marginalized authors. Here are some anthologies coming out in 2017 and 2018 that I’m looking forward to. Some of these are explicitly for diverse stories, and others have a significant number of marginalized authors involved. Hopefully you will find something here for your TBR. 🙂

Where the Stars Rise

Where the Stars Rise: Asian Science Fiction and Fantasy, edited by Lucas K. Law and Derwin Mak (October 8th, 2017)

Where the Stars Rise is an indie science fiction and fantasy anthology featuring stories that are set in Asia or draw from Asian cultures. Almost all the authors are Asian, and the majority of these are #ownvoices stories. You can find the full Table of Contents with the story titles and authors on Laksa Media’s page.

Three Sides of a Heart

Three Sides of a Heart: Stories about Love Triangles, edited by Natalie C. Parker (December 19th, 2017)

Love triangles are among the most hated trope in YA, so this may not be for everyone, but if you don’t mind a bit of love rivalry and messiness, then this anthology may be for you. Authors of Color in this anthology: Brandy Colbert, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Sabaa Tahir, Renee Ahdieh, Justina Ireland, Lamar Giles

Meet Cute

Meet Cute: Some People are Destined to Meet, edited by Jennifer L. Armentrout (January 2nd, 2018)

This anthology features YA short stories of two characters meeting and falling in love. The cover is really cute and promises good things. Authors of Color in this anthology: Dhonielle Clayton, Nina La Cour, Nicola Yoon, Ibi Zoboi. Other marginalized authors in this anthology: Julie Murphy, Meredith Russo.

The Radical Element

The Radical Element: 12 Stories of Daredevils, Debutantes, & Other Dauntless Girls, edited by Jessica Spotswood (March 13th, 2018)

This is a follow-up of sorts to A Tyranny of Petticoats, an anthology that released in 2016. It contains a bunch of historical fiction YA short stories focusing on girls whose voices and contributions were sidelined in history. Authors of color in this anthology: Sara Farizan, Meg Medina, Stacey Lee, Dhonielle Clayton, Anna-Marie McLemore, Sarvenaz Tash.

Power and Magic Immortal Souls

Immortal Souls (The Next Queer Witch Comics Anthology), edited by Joamette Gil (March 2018), cover illustrated pictured above by Stephanie Son

If you haven’t heard of Power & Magic: The Queer Witch Comics Anthology, you should check it out. It features comics from women and non-binary creators of color. Immortal Souls is the second in the queer witch comics series and is currently fundraising on Kickstarter.

Lift Off, edited by Lamar Giles (summer 2018)

We Need Diverse Books is behind this diverse YA anthology (as well as Flying Lessons, the diverse middle grade anthology from early 2017), which features stories by various nonwhite authors, including: Melissa d.e la Cruz, Sara Farizan, Sharon Flake, Eric Gansworth, Malinda Lo, Walter Dean Myers, Daniel José Older, Thien Pham, Jason Reynolds, Gene Luen Yang, Nicola Yoon, and others.

A Thousand Beginnings and Endings, edited by Ellen Oh and Elsie Chapman (2018)

This YA anthology is one of my most anticipated releases of 2018! It is a collection of short stories by Asian authors reimagining East, Southeast, and South Asian mythology, folklore, and fairy tales. Authors in this anthology: Elsie Chapman, Melissa de la Cruz, Julie Kagawa, Renee Ahdieh, Roshani Chokshi, Alexander Chee, Aliette de Bodard, Cindy Pon, Alyssa Wong, Sona Charaipotra, Aisha Saeed, Lori M. Lee, Shveta Thakrar, Preeti Chhibber, E.C. Myers, Rahul Kanakia.

Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction (Uncanny Magazine Special Issue), edited by Dominik Parisien, Elsa Sjunneson-Henry, Judith Tarr, S. Qiouyi Lu, Nicolette Barischoff

For those who are unfamiliar with Uncanny Magazine, they publish science fiction and fantasy prose and poetry as well as nonfiction essays. This special issue focuses on disabled writers and will feature contributions from: Rachel Swirsky, Nisi Shawl, William Alexander, Fran Wilde, Mishell Baker, Alice Wong, Bogi Takács, Rose Lemberg, Khairani Barokka, and more. The Kickstarter campaign has reached its baseline goal and is fundraising for stretch goals.

Toil & Trouble, edited by Tess Sharpe and Jessica Spotswood (fall 2018)

This YA anthology features feminist stories of witchcraft. Authors in this anthology: Brandy Colbert, Zoraida Cordova, Andrea Cremer, Kate Hart, Emery Lord, Elizabeth May, Anna-Marie McLemore, Tehlor Kay Mejia, Karuna Riazi, Lindsay Smith, Nova Ren Suma, Robin Talley, Shveta Thakrar, Tristina Wright, and Brenna Yovanoff.

Review for Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman

Starfish

Note: This review is based on an ARC that I received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The finished book will be released on September 26th, 2017.

My Summary: Kiko Himura wants nothing more to escape the suffocating environment of her home and her very white hometown in Nebraska, and acceptance into Prism, her top choice of art school, is her ticket to freedom. Much to her dismay, rejection from Prism ruins her plan, but a new unforeseen opportunity takes its place: she will go on a trip to California with her former best friend, Jamie and visit art schools on the West Coast. Desperation and the nightmare of being forced to live in under the same roof as her predatory uncle are enough to outweigh her intense anxiety, so she goes. More than just a vacation, this is a trip to find herself, reconnect with Jamie, and forge a new future.

Review:

Trigger/content warnings: anxiety, emotional abuse, childhood sexual abuse, suicide ableism

I have a lot of feelings about this book because I related to Kiko so much. Growing up in a very white environment as an Asian person messes with your self-esteem and self-image, and like Kiko, I definitely felt that I would never really be seen as attractive by people because I was Asian. I literally had a white friend tell me he generally wasn’t attracted to Asian people (he is no longer my friend, in case you’re wondering). The various microaggressions she experiences are all too familiar to me.

In addition to sharing Kiko’s experience of being Asian American, I also have generalized and social anxiety, and the descriptions of Kiko’s anxiety in Starfish resonated strongly with me. There’s a scene at a classmate’s party that was especially relatable and brought back some painful memories of parties I went to in college. Another aspect of Kiko I saw myself in was her anxiety over having romantic relationships as someone with mental illness(es). The fear of falling into toxic and codependent relationships is so real. In general, the portrayal of anxiety was just so incredibly on point for me, to the point that it actually triggered my own anxiety at times because I was empathizing with Kiko’s experience on a visceral level.

Besides being really relatable, Starfish was simply gorgeously written. Kiko is an artist, and the author expresses her artist’s point of view through poetic language. Each chapter ends with a brief description of Kiko’s latest work of art, which is thematically related to the chapter in question and serves as a visual representation of Kiko’s inner emotional landscape and how she relates to the world and the people around her. These added details create a distinctive voice for Kiko’s character.

If it wasn’t obvious from the trigger/content warnings, this story deals with some heavy topics. Kiko’s home environment is incredibly toxic. Her parents are divorced, and she lives with her two brothers and her white mother. Her mother is emotionally abusive toward her. This abuse has a racialized dimension, as she uses her embodiment of white beauty ideals to belittle Kiko, whose features are more typically East Asian. Kiko craves her mother’s love and approval even while knowing that her mother does not really care about her except as it benefits or is convenient for her. It really hurt to follow Kiko through her interactions with her mother, the pain was so raw.

To make matters worse, during the events of the story, Kiko’s maternal uncle moves into the house with her family, which amplifies her anxiety. It is first strongly implied and then explicitly revealed that he sexually abused Kiko when she was younger, and she has lingering trauma from those events. Although Kiko told her mother what happened, her mother never believed her and sided with the uncle instead.

Despite the serious topics, the book isn’t all doom and gloom and angst, nor is it a tragic story. Kiko’s physical journey doubles as a psychological journey as well, allowing her to process everything she has lived through, refute the victim-blaming messages she’s gotten from her mother, and see that there are people and things outside of the cage of her toxic home. Her relationship with Jamie is very sweet and wholesome, and she also finds a role model who is Japanese American who sees her talent and gives her the push she needs to really chase her artistic dreams.

These parts of the story bring hope and light and an empowering message that were so lovely and satisfying to read. Perhaps others readers might think the ending/resolution is too much of a fairy tale happy ending, but personally, I loved it and think it’s necessary and important for readers who see themselves in Kiko. Her mental illness is not magically cured by the end of the story (which would be a very terrible message to readers), but she has greater self-awareness, a robust support system, and a means of channeling her creative energy and expressing herself honestly, all of which are critical to coping.

My one criticism of this book was the pattern of ableist language. Disabilities, including mental illnesses, span a huge spectrum, and while the rep for one disability may be great, other disabilities may not get the same treatment. In this case, the anxiety was portrayed wonderfully, but there was still ableist language that was insensitive toward other illnesses/conditions, including bipolar disorder, narcissistic personality disorder, and psychosis. Specifically, these illnesses were effectively used as a scapegoat/explanation for Kiko’s mother’s abusive behavior. (Unfortunately, it’s common even for mentally ill people to use words like “psychopath” to label people who behave in violent otherwise horrible ways.) The author did mention on Twitter that she removed the words “crazy” and “insane” from the final version of the book, but I don’t know whether these other references to mental illness were taken out or rewritten. If you’re planning to read the book, just be warned that there may be several instances of stigmatizing language.

Recommendation: Overall, I highly recommend this book because it did so much for me and covered a lot of ground and was just breathtaking to read and experience. If you have anxiety or other related mental illnesses or are an abuse survivor, I’d recommend taking it slow and taking breaks because it definitely has the potential to be triggering.

#24in48 Readathon TBR

As a way to force myself away from social media for a while and knock out a chunk of my TBR, I decided to join the #24in48 readathon. What is it? From #24in48:

If you’re new to 24in48, this is the basic gist: beginning at 12:01am on Saturday morning and running through 11:59pm on Sunday night, participants read for 24 hours out of that 48-hour period. You can split that up however you’d like: 20 hours on Saturday, four hours on Sunday; 12 hours each day; six four-hour sessions with four hour breaks in between, whatever you’d like.

Based on my average reading speed and the average page count per book, I’m setting my goal at 10 books. Picking which books to read out of my TBR actually wasn’t hard because I am due to send out the last batch of my BEA ARC acquisitions soon, so this is my last ditch effort to read the ones that I reeeally wanted to read before I sent them out to the marginalized bloggers I promised them to. Here are the books in no particular order!

  • You Bring the Distant Near by Mitali Perkins (September 12th) – YA, Historical Fiction, #ownvoices Indian/Bengali American MCs
  • Beasts Made of Night by Tochi Onyebuchi (October 31st) – YA, #ownvoices Nigerian-inspired Fantasy, Black MC
  • The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton (February 20th,, 2018) – YA, Fantasy, #ownvoices Black MC
  • Dear Martin by Nic Stone (October 17th) – YA, Contemporary, #ownvoices Black MC
  • 27 Hours by Tristina Wright (October 3rd) – YA, Science Fiction/Fantasy, various QPOC characters (#ownvoices bi rep)
  • They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera (September 5th) – YA, Speculative Fiction (idk what do classify this as lol), #ownvoices queer Latinx MC, M/M romance
  • Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore (September 26th) – YA, Magical Realism, #ownvoices queer Latina MC
  • The Stars Beneath Our Feet by David Barclay Moore (September 19th) – MG/YA, Contemporary, #ownvoices Black MC
  • Water in May by Ismee Amiel Williams (September 12th) – YA, Contemporary, Dominican MC (author is Cuban)
  • Calling My Name by Liara Tamani (October 24th) – YA, Contemporary, #ownvoices Black+Christian MC

You are permitted to cry in the comments about how utterly amazing this lineup is, I am crying as well. ;~;

Series Suspense!: 5 Sequels I Need to Read

Not everyone is a fan of book series, but I personally love them because I’m always hungry for more worldbuilding and character development and glimpses into the lives of the secondary characters (if they aren’t taking center stage themselves). Earlier this year, I did a book list featuring my most anticipated sequels releasing in 2017, and now I’m making a list of sequels to books I’ve read that are already out but I haven’t read yet. Hopefully, this will also be an introduction to a book series that you didn’t know about already. 🙂

Dove Exiled

Dove Exiled (The Dove Chronicles #2) by Karen Bao – YA, Science Fiction

I read Dove Arising, the first book in the series, as part of a readathon back in January. I first found the book at a secondhand bookstore, where the author’s last Chinese name caught my attention. The book doesn’t have very high ratings on Goodreads or Amazon, so I went in wondering if and how much I would like it. I ended up enjoying it quite a bit for a number of reasons, including the diversity (Chinese American lead and POC supporting characters!), the integration of real science from the author’s degree/background into the story, and the intense high-stakes conflict. For those who are interested, you can read my full review here.

The Disappearance of Ember Crow

The Disappearance of Ember Crow (The Tribe #2) by Ambelin Kwamullina – YA, Dystopian/SFF

If you missed my Tweet, I just got this and the third book in the series in the mail. Book 1, The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf, was one of the books I read for the #DiversityDecemberBingo reading challenge and I believe it’s the first book by an Indigenous author that I’ve read, sadly (I’ve since expanded my collection though!). Ashala Wolf is a very interesting and distinctive take on dystopian fiction because of the way it frames the dysfunctional society and centers environmental consciousness and spirituality. The author’s Indigenous background (she comes from the Palyku people of the Pilbara region of Western Australia) definitely influenced the portrayal of oppression, giving it the nuance that comes from lived experience. The story is also a bit of a mindfuck because of the unreliable narration. If you’re not a big dystopian fan, I’d still suggest giving this series a try. 🙂 I reviewed the first book here.

The Edge of the Abyss

The Edge of the Abyss (The Abyss Surrounds Us #2) by Emily Skrutskie – YA, Science Fiction

I totally requested this on NetGalley, got approved back in like January, and yet here I am…oops. Book 1 totally caught my attention because of the pirates and giant sea monsters and Chinese American protagonist (oh my!). I was a bit wary because the author is white, and while I didn’t feel like the rep was done super well, it wasn’t horrible either, and overall I still enjoyed the book for the plot and character dynamics. I’m hoping book 2 gives me more of the substance I wanted when I finished book 1 because I had a lot of questions about the worldbuilding and the characters’ backgrounds. You can read my review for The Abyss Surrounds Us here.

Shadowcaster (Shattered Realms #2) by Cinda Williams Chima – YA, Fantasy

This is a doubly sequel-ish sequel because it’s the second book in a sequel series, lol. Though I haven’t talked it about it a ton because I’ve been focusing on books by nonwhite authors on my blog and Twitter, the Seven Realm series is one of my favorite fantasy series for a lot of reasons: heart-stopping action, forbidden romance, good worldbuilding (also the main setting is a matrilineal queendom!), complex character dynamics, and as a bonus, nonwhite people in a high fantasy setting who aren’t just props or foils to white characters! The Shattered Realms series picks up 25 years after the end of Seven Realms, so it’s a pretty big time jump, but familiar characters from the first series show up, and the next generation of heroes is coming of age. Although you can technically read Shattered Realms without reading Seven Realms, if you don’t want to be spoiled for the ending of the Seven Realm series, read them in order! Shattered Realm builds on the first series by taking you deeper into neighboring nations to the Fells and beyond, so the scope is broader, and I’m really excited to explore these new places and characters. (Side note: I am still a bit salty about the mid-series cover change and prefer the original look because it’s iconic/in keeping with the previous series. Also the new covers are by the same artist who did the Throne of Glass covers, and they look too similar, in my opinion. But anyway, moving on…)

Shadowplay (Micah Grey #2) by Laura Lam – YA, Fantasy

I recently featured this series on my bookstagram, as I own both the original editions of the 1st and 2nd book from a publisher that went defunct, and the new editions of the complete trilogy released by Pan Macmillan. I read the first edition of book 1, Pantomime, back in December 2016 and was going to wait until I read the new edition to write a review to account for any changes/edits that have been made since. The Micah Grey series features an intersex, genderfluid, and bisexual protagonist who runs away to join a circus as an aerialist (flying trapeze!). The setting is a place called Elladia (located in a secondary universe) that has some English vibes too it but isn’t quite England, and it has its own mythology that is a part of the broader storyline of the series. If you want escapist fantasy, this is a book to check out. (Note: the original cover for Shadowplay is a bit misleading as the main character isn’t Asian, and I’m not even sure there is a major character who’s Asian in the series… Nor is the author Asian, for that matter.)

I realized after completing this post that all of these are SFF, which is rather predictable of me. Though that bias might also have to do with contemporary YA not being as series-oriented in general. For those who aren’t big SFF fans, I promise do blog about non-SFF books, so stay tuned for future book lists and reviews.

Also, if you want to share, please tell me about some of your favorites series in the comments! ^o^