Oh hello! Can you believe, it’s the first Top Ten Tuesday of the new year? It truly does not feel real. But I am excited for a lot of new content on the blog! Especially content that talks about books I’m very excited for! Also, these are all books that I do not have ARCs of! Next week, you will see a post about the ARCs I do have (and have read and plan on reading)! 💕
Whew, okay! I am very confident I won’t get to all of these right upon their release, but I am very excited to hopefully get to them all throughout the year! But I will 100% read Chain of Iron right at that midnight release because I truly feel like I already can’t wait a second longer! Which 2021 release during these first three months is your most anticipated? And I hope you all are having a good and safe start to the new year! I love you! 💕
Hello friends! I hope you enjoyed My 2020 Reading Year in Review, but I just wanted to give a little bit more love and celebration to a few books that mean the whole world to me! Growing up, I couldn’t even dream that I would be able to pick from so many books from Asian authors, featuring Asian main characters, with Asian families, and just celebrating Asian lives. I truly feel more and more blessed every year, because I feel like every year this list gets harder and harder to make because we are getting more and more ownvoices stories that are going to make it easier and easier for kids to see themselves completely whole, not just bits and pieces. (Obviously publishing has SO MUCH work to do, but I can’t help but smile when looking at this list and how much overflowing love I have for these stories!) But here are my five favorite books written by Asian authors in 2020. 💕
Japanese influences + Kiki’s Delivery Service inspirations + the power of friendship and having people who will unconditionally love and support you = perfection. This was truly the perfect middle-grade for me, and one that will be in my heart forever.
“A made thing could grow and change beyond its original purposes. I would show the Emperor: I’d grown beyond mine.”
Every pov, every storyline, every plot twist, every companion, perfection. I am still so blown away by the debut novel, the magic system, and how the last page left me feeling. I am absolutely begging for book two and more of this Asian inspired kingdom! (and more of my favorite crustaceans love story sapphics!)
“They called me the Bitch Queen, the she-wolf, because I murdered a man and exiled my king the night before they crowned me.”
This so beautifully (and sometimes heartbreakingly) incorporated Filipino culture, I was completely immersed and utterly captivated on every page. I truly inhale read this in 48 hours and I could not be bothered to tear myself away for anything besides work. This book truly reminded me of that magical feeling that reading can give you, especially when you feel safe and seen and so in love.
“What I want more than anything else in the world is to feel like being myself isn’t something that should be hidden and a secret.”
This book was everything and had so many perfect layers, from seeing this main character unapologetically talking about their diaspora experiences, from the real truth about fetishization, from cultural appropriation and how it is never okay, and how westerners treat Asians, but south Asians in particular. But also, this book had the perfect sapphic romance interlaced throughout, where real learning (and unlearning) happened so beautifully.
“Rin had spent so long hating how she felt when she burned, hating her fire and her god. Not anymore.”
The Poppy War trilogy is truly once in a lifetime and this conclusion was honestly a work of art all itself. This series is a military epic fantasy that is ownvoices and inspired from the authors family history and the stories she learned from them. Heavy themes of war, colonization, racism, colorism, genocide, cycles of abuse, and so many different types of trauma are never shied away from. I’ve read and reviewed many books these last six years of my life, and I’m not sure a series has impacted me more than this one. Every sentence has meaning, every chapter is so well planned, every event conveys layers and layers of thoughts and feelings. History is truly created by the victors mostly with the most blood on their hands, and the stories that get told are mostly through a white and colonized lens. R.F. Kuang has done so much with these three books and they mean so much to so many Asian readers.
2020 is finally over, and somehow the year felt like it lasted a decade and a month at the very same time. I just want to wish you all (and all your families) the best in 2021, and I hope it is filled with love and happiness and good health and opportunities. I know 2020 was not only a hard year, but maybe the hardest year for a lot of us, and I will keep telling you that I love you, and that I see you, and that I’m proud of you. I promise, better days will come. But in the meantime, we can escape into some books, and blog posts, and reading statistics!
Thanks to the amazing Brock at Let’s Read, here are some 2020 reading statistics that I was able to gather from his amazing spreadsheet that I use every single year:
God, 2020 was such a weird year for my reading (and for falling in love with the publications from that year), but I am very thankful for this list, and these ten books, and the love and healing they made me feel for very different reasons at very different times throughout this year. I hope in 2021 I can be more confident and more unapologetic (with the book community and with other aspectS of my life) and I hope that I have an overflowing list of new favorite stories to pick from while I’m compiling that Year in Review blog post. What was your favorite read of the year? I feel like I switched between #1 and #2 many times before finally going with what felt more right. Okay friends, I’m sending each and everyone of you my whole heart and I hope 2021 feels lighter and brighter for you. I love you.
“Hate that was so bright and hot that it was the first thing that truly warmed him.”
How the King of Elfhame Learned to Hate Stories is an illustrated novella following Cardan Greenbriar, during many different stages in his life, while we slowly see all the different things that shaped him cruelly. The sound that left me when I opened this book and realized we were going to get present day with Jude from Cardan’s POV… be still, my hopes and dreams and heart.
Rovina Cai’s art is truly so beautiful that it renders me speechless. I was already in love with her and her art because of her work with The Wayward Children series, but this entire book feels like am immersive work of art. From the perfect color palette, to the most perfect details, she executes the vibe of Cardan and his story in a way that I don’t think another artist could.
In this story, Cardan’s life is very much impacted by a troll named Aslong who was wronged by Cardan’s father. She tells a story about a boy with a heart of stone, who finds himself in a predicament with a monster girl who won’t scare him away, until his heart starts beating again. And then all throughout his life, she tells his alternate versions of this same story, each version with a new meaning for a new version of Cardan himself.
“She was the only real thing in a land of ghosts.”
We also get to see so much of Cardan’s perspective during The Cruel Prince, much like we did with Tarryn in The Lost Sisters, and it was everything. Nicasia and Locke have much wanted character development in this book, too, and I am literally on my knees begging for Holly to just give us the trilogy in Cardan’s complete point of view. But we see Nicasia being fostered on the land because her mother, Orlagh, Queen of the Undersea, wants to start putting pieces in motion. We get to see Locke, and his empty house and even emptier heart, teach Cardan the word “cruel” on every page. And these two, in addition to a prophecy looming over this young prince, are truly the first catalysts to this story and I was so in love seeing behind the scenes. And when Holly gives us Locke’s perspective one of these years…
“Playing the villain was the only thing he’d ever really excelled at.”
Each part, each mini story, we get to see Cardan questioning who he is and who he wants to be. Not to make this too deep, but Cardan very slowly realizes that he is not responsible for the terrible acts his family committed; both to him and to the people they ruled over. He struggles with his identity of a prince who should feel like he has everything, and a boy who feels like he has nothing. But seeing him finally understand that he deserves not only love but unconditional love? Him slowly appreciating that his heart can be warm and beat unapologetically? Truly some powerful stuff.
On a personal note, I think most of you know that Holly Black is an author who means a lot to me. Her fae stories are what first got me into YA when I was young, and it really changed me as a reader and probably a human as well. I know most of you know that 2020 has been a hard year for everyone and everything, very much including my reading, so being able to curl up and read about my emotional support fae, from my emotional support author, just meant a lot to me. I truly think reading this book a day before release (bless you Waterstones and my mail person) was the best reading experience I’ve had all year, and for that alone this book was probably the easiest five star I’ve given in a year of not a lot of five star reads.
“Feels as though she has to earn the crown on her head over and over again.”
Overall, this felt like the fairytale of my dreams. Cardan is my favorite character in The Cruel Prince series (or any of Holly’s books, I think) and this truly was such a magical, wonderous, unforgettable addition to this world. I am incredibly biased over this series because so much of my heart and nostalgia are wrapped up within this world, but I honestly think there is just so much to love on every page of this book. I feel blessed to read about each time Holly gives us a new book, and this will for sure be a favorite of mine for all of 2020. Lastly, I cannot believe we really got to read about Cardan going out for boba.
Content & Trigger Warnings: abandonment, bullying, abuse, mention of drug use, humiliation, talk of cheating, and a lot of drinking.
“Reading will make you brilliant but writing will make you infinite.”
Juliet Takes a Breath is a graphic novel adaptation of the novel with the same title and unpacks so many different themes, from white feminism and intersectionality to finding your place in queer spaces, heartbreak and coming out.
At the center of this story is Juliet, who moves from the Bronx to Portland, Oregon, to start an internship with a feminist author called Harlowe Brisbane. During this internship she gets introduced to a super diverse group of queer people and finds a queer space to belong for the first time.
As time goes on, Juliet becomes more comfortable within queer spaces but also learns that Harlowe Brisbane is not everything that she had hoped she would be and represent for her.
“They didn’t even know me and it was like they loved me. I almost couldn’t accept it. Like the ache of Lainie had me numb way deep in my spirit too.”
There is truly so much to say about Juliet Takes a Breath because it unpacked so many different themes but I thought it was all done incredibly well. I haven’t read the original novel but this graphic novel had me so hooked and so in love, that it made me want to read it, even though I now obviously know the basic storyline.
But it just made me so intriguied to see how the novel unpacks all of these issues because if the graphic novel already did it so well in such a small amount of pages, then surely the novel will be doing an ever greater job at it!
I also just adored all the characters in this novel so much and I would want to read more about them. This novel features an incredibly diverse cast of characters! Most of them are queer and/or genderqueer, we have Black characters, Latinx characters and a biracial (White & Korean) love interest.
Juliet herself is Puerto Rican, fat and a lesbian. She also has asthma and is shown using her inhaler on page.
“And you get to decide what you believe and how you worship yourself.”
Even though Juliet has known for a long time that she is gay and feels quite comfortable and confident in that identity, and even has been in a relationship for a year, she hasn’t really been part of any queer community and she really finds a wonderful support system with these people.
The story actually starts with Juliet coming out as a lesbian to her family and while a lot of the members of her family are dismissive at first, most of them are accepting. But Juliet’s mother does not accept her sexuality and calls it “just a phase” and thinks that Juliet just needs to find the right guy. It was a storyline that obviously many queer people can relate to and that I thought was well done overall.
I really loved Juliet’s relationship with her brother, even though we only got to read about it briefly and later on in the novel we meet Juliet’s cousin and aunt who live in Miami, who were also such wonderful characters to read about and had a big impact on Juliet’s journey too.
“Juliet Milagro Palante. I love you like the seas love the moon. Whatever you are, whoever you love, I’m here.”
One of the biggest themes of this graphic novel was white feminism and the saviour complex that white people have. This is definitely a story that is not always a fun and happy read, it can be quite uncomfortable at times. But it shows a reality of our world and I really appreciated that the author was so blunt about it.
This graphic novel talks about casual racism, it talks about how reverse racism doesn’t exist, it’s about how white people will so often overstep and speak over people of colour when they are trying to help. And it’s also about holding people accountable.
All those aspects, while brief, due to the nature of this format, were so well done and surely very eye-opening for many people.
On top of all that, Juliet Takes a Breath also has themes of different kinds of romantic relationships and how self-love plays an important role in that. We see that the relationship that Juliet is in in the beginning of the story does not seem very healthy and it shows just how important communication is in a relationship.
But within the course of this novel, Juliet starts dating someone else and it is a really beautiful development. There is also a great f/f sex scene with a big emphasis on consent and masturbation is also explored in this graphcic novel. Neither of thoses scenes are explicit but make it very clear what’s happening.
“Kira felt like home. Like a million street bikes zipping down the bronx river parkway and popping endos under the elevated trains. Dinosaur-sized butterflies fluttered in my stomach.”
And of course there is the beautiful art style, that I truly loved and that only added so much love for this graphic novel for me. I loved the line art and how much very clear body diversity there was with these characters. It also has a very warm and pleasant colour palette, that just made it a very pleasing reading experience.
“Gender is a trip. Limitless like the universe.”
Overall, as you might be able to tell from this review, I truly loved this graphic novel and cannot wait to dive into the novel soon because I am just that in love with the characters and themes in this story!
Trigger and Content Warnings for homophobia, racism, fatshaming, sexual harassment, smoking (weed), use of d-slur (in a reclaiming nature).
This summer, BTS and BigHit released five graphic lyric books that tie-in with the Bangtan Universe and it was pretty much the best combining of worlds for me! All five of these books are by different artists, all who took very different approach to enhance the power of these stories, and I think I fell in love with each one for a brand new reason! But I knew that before the end of the year, I wanted to do little mini reviews of them all, and what more perfect date than the birthday of our main character, Kim Seokjin! I hope you guys enjoy!
This first installment in the BTS Graphic Lyric series is the start of it all, where we get to see Jin and his current life where he is very much feeling the weight of his father’s expectations. But that weight starts to feel a little lighter when he meets six boys at school, and the seven of them have to work together to clean up a space. Soon he realizes that maybe he really doesn’t have to walk this path in life alone, while the reader gets little glimpses and hints of the different paths that are yet to come for all seven of them. And all good things must come to and end, especially the the Bangtan universe.
The art of this book is so very beautiful, and I think the color palette is perfection. The images and colors truly go together magically and fully set the stage of this heart-wrenching story. Yet, the last pages still instill so much hope in the reader.
This is my personal favorite installment of all the BTS Graphic Lyric series! Instantly, from the very first page, you can tell that this story is going to take a much darker turn. While the lines of what is real and what is fake are blurring for all the members throughout, with the help of beautiful opaque papers on certain pages to really heighten the storytelling.
This installment very much focuses on Hobi and Jimin and the abandonment both of them have felt. Both are trying to be brave, make the best of the situation they are in, but they desperately want to be saved and not alone. Yet together, in the hospital, they are able to carve out their own little corner of happiness because of dance and because of each other.
TL;DR: The BigHit carousel(s) will forever haunt me.
The way this installment was made for those who love to suffer from that yoonkook angst. We see Jungkook, losing his childhood quickly before his eyes, while his father leaves him and his mother. Then we get to see Yoongi, finding love and happiness in his piano because of his mother, but that all changes when he loses everyone and everything he has loved, except for a few piano keys, because of a fire.
Both of these boys are definitely descending into darkness and despair, but maybe together they will be able to find some light and hope. And this beautiful uniquely bound book, telling this tale, make the visuals feels so real and so haunting.
Namjoon and that train container haunt my dreams, I swear to you. This is the Graphic Lyric book that I really recommend watching the music video with, because no other BTS MV gives you as much Bangtan Universe storyline as Run. And the art in this book just adds to everything and makes the story play before you like the visual masterpiece that it is.
But we get to see Joon working impossibly long hours, while trying to take care of his family and still find happiness while achieving dreams for himself. And we also get to see Taehyung and how his father is an alcoholic who is being violent towards him and his family. Both of these young men are just looking for safety and solace, and they are willing to do anything to achieve it, but in the meantime they can find a little bit of both of those things with each other.
This last (as of now) Graphic Lyric book is a beautiful glimpse into the boys being together, being safe, and being carefree enjoying time together while Jin views it all. Yet, how the pages are also able to be turned, we can see Jin struggling with waking up and having to start all over again while Jungkook and Yoongi, Jimin and Hobi, and Tae and Namjoon are in their other alternate realities where they are struggling together.
Truly this whole story is so wild, so beautiful, and so heart-wrenching. Not only is Butterfly one of my favorite BTS songs, it just so beautifully encapsulates change, and opportunity, and how things can always get better, even if we are forced to endure not so great situations a little while longer.
I truly do not know where this story is going to end, but BTS (in this alternative reality and in our own) are soulmates and I hope they all get the happy endings that they deserve.
I truly cannot wait to see where this story goes next! I will say, that these books are kind of hard to get now, especially the box set and anything close to the original price! But Cokodive does have them singularly as of the writing of this blog post! I hope you all enjoyed, and truly there is no better combination than BTS and books for me! But I hope you’re all have the happiest of reading, the happiest of listening, and just the happiest of days and nights. I love you!
I’ve always loved to read novellas so very much, but I do feel like I have indeed been slacking 2020 (or Tor just hasn’t been sending me any to review like they did in the past)! But here are five that I hope to get my hands on very soon!
A young royal from the far north is sent south for a political marriage. Alone and sometimes reviled, she has only her servants on her side. This evocative debut chronicles her rise to power through the eyes of her handmaiden, at once feminist high fantasy and a thrilling indictment of monarchy.
In a botched demonic extraction, they say the demon feels it ten times worse than the man. But they don’t die, and we do. Equilibrium.
The unnamed and morally questionable narrator is an exorcist with great follow-through and few doubts. His methods aren’t delicate but they’re undeniably effective: he’ll get the demon out—he just doesn’t particularly care what happens to the person.
Prosper of Schanz is a man of science, determined to raise the world’s first philosopher-king, reared according to the purest principles. Too bad he’s demonically possessed.
There is a Wild Man who lives in the deep quiet of Greenhollow, and he listens to the wood. Tobias, tethered to the forest, does not dwell on his past life, but he lives a perfectly unremarkable existence with his cottage, his cat, and his dryads.
When Greenhollow Hall acquires a handsome, intensely curious new owner in Henry Silver, everything changes. Old secrets better left buried are dug up, and Tobias is forced to reckon with his troubled past—both the green magic of the woods, and the dark things that rest in its heart.
Zen Cho returns with a found family wuxia fantasy that combines the vibrancy of old school martial arts movies with characters drawn from the margins of history.
A bandit walks into a coffeehouse, and it all goes downhill from there. Guet Imm, a young votary of the Order of the Pure Moon, joins up with an eclectic group of thieves (whether they like it or not) in order to protect a sacred object, and finds herself in a far more complicated situation than she could have ever imagined
When Rosa (aka Red Riding Hood) and Hou Yi the Archer join forces to stop the deadly sunbirds from ravaging the countryside, their quest will take the two women, now blessed and burdened with the hindsight of middle age, into a reckoning of sacrifices made and mistakes mourned, of choices and family and the quest for immortality.
What is the last novella (or short story) that completely won you and your heart over? I truly do miss reading and reviewing them, and hope to add so many more to my TBR for 2021! Happy reading, friends! I love you!