General Updates

So, it’s pretty clear I’ve sort of dropped the ball with this blog lately.

I recently started a new job with a long commute and it’s definitely been a major adjustment to try to figure out how to balance my time effectively. I’m three weeks in and I think I’m finally adjusting to my new schedule, so I’m gonna try to jump back into things here. For the first two week or so of my job I was scrambling to read enough to get a few posts out and that clearly wasn’t working, so I sort of needed to take a step back and figure out the best way to go forward with this blog in terms of scheduling posts and figuring out what types of posts I want to focus on (since I definitely can’t read fast enough to post more than one review every week at this point, but I will try to post at least one review a week if I can.)

My current plan is to post three times per week (Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday) but to have things scheduled out for at least three weeks in advance (this is one of those scheduled posts.) I’m currently sitting on some drafts of reviews, discussion ideas, and tags I have in mind; it’s just a matter of fleshing things out and getting them scheduled. I tend to be at my most productive right after my morning coffee so I think I’m not going to really have time for blogging during the week but I may use Saturday and Sunday morning coffee times to catch up on my feed and get a few drafts scheduled. I tend to keep up with the news during the work week while I drink my coffee (thank god for Google News or I wouldn’t even do that) and that’s definitely a habit I don’t want to break but the weekends are going to be for my hobbies.

It’s going to be a bit of a transition as reading & blogging isn’t the only aspect of my life I’ve neglected the last few weeks. I’m also trying to get back to working on my novel (which I may eventually post about the process of or my struggles with or whatever) and trying to find time to keep up with my active hobbies like yoga and running as well as finding “Me time” for just hanging out and playing video games is going to be a lot to balance. Also there’s the whole social life thing, so it’s all gonna be a lot to figure out.

Anyways I want to thank all of my followers so far on this blog. There may not be many of you as of yet but I see you, and I appreciate you anyway.

Asian Readathon TBR

As part of my May TBR, I will be participating in the Asian Readathon hosted by Cindy (readwithcindy / announcement video here). There are 4 challenges that can be combined however the participants want, and one group read. You can hear all about the challenges (and the twist challenge) in her announcement video or the google doc she has linked in the description of her video.

My picks for the readathon are:

The Astonishing Color of After

Any book by an Asian author: The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan (Taiwanese)

Genre: YA Fiction, Magical Realism
Length: 462 Pages

Synopsis: “Leigh Chen Sanders is absolutely certain about one thing: When her mother died by suicide, she turned into a bird.

Leigh, who is half Asian and half white, travels to Taiwan to meet her maternal grandparents for the first time. There, she is determined to find her mother, the bird. In her search, she winds up chasing after ghosts, uncovering family secrets, and forging a new relationship with her grandparents. And as she grieves, she must try to reconcile the fact that on the same day she kissed her best friend and longtime secret crush, Axel, her mother was taking her own life.

Alternating between real and magic, past and present, friendship and romance, hope and despair, The Astonishing Color of After is a novel about finding oneself through family history, art, grief, and love.”

Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World

A book translated from its original language: Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami (Japanese)

Genre: Fiction, Magical Realism
Length: 400 pages

Synopsis: “In this hyperkinetic and relentlessly inventive novel, Japan’s most popular (and controversial) fiction writer hurtles into the consciousness of the West. Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World draws readers into a narrative particle accelerator in which a split-brained data processor, a deranged scientist, his shockingly undemure granddaughter, Lauren Bacall, Bob Dylan, and various thugs, librarians, and subterranean monsters collide to dazzling effect. What emerges is simultaneously cooler than zero and unaffectedly affecting, a hilariously funny and deeply serious meditation on the nature and uses of the mind.”

Girls of Paper and Fire (Girls of Paper and Fire, #1)

A book with an intersectional Asian identity: Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan (Chinese-Malaysian)

Genre: YA Fiction, Fantasy
Length: 400 pages

Synopsis:Each year, eight beautiful girls are chosen as Paper Girls to serve the king. It’s the highest honor they could hope for…and the most cruel.

But this year, there’s a ninth girl. And instead of paper, she’s made of fire.

In this lush fantasy, Lei is a member of the Paper caste, the lowest and most oppressed class in Ikhara. She lives in a remote village with her father, where the decade-old trauma of watching her mother snatched by royal guards still haunts her. Now, the guards are back, and this time it’s Lei they’re after–the girl whose golden eyes have piqued the king’s interest.

Over weeks of training in the opulent but stifling palace, Lei and eight other girls learn the skills and charm that befit being a king’s consort. But Lei isn’t content to watch her fate consume her. Instead, she does the unthinkable–she falls in love. Her forbidden romance becomes enmeshed with an explosive plot that threatens the very foundation of Ikhara, and Lei, still the wide-eyed country girl at heart, must decide just how far she’s willing to go for justice and revenge.

TW: violence and sexual abuse.”

Killing Stalking

A graphic novel featuring or by Asians: Killing Stalking, Season 1 by Koogi (Korean)

Genre: Manhwa (Webcomic), Horror
Length: 19 Chapters

Synopsis: “Yoon Bum, a scrawny, quiet boy, has a crush on one of the most popular and handsome guys in school, Sangwoo. One day, with Yoon Bum’s obsession toward Sangwoo reaching its peak, Yoon Bum decides to enter Sangwoo’s home. But what he sees inside is not the Sangwoo he had dreamed of.”

A Thousand Beginnings and Endings

Group read: A Thousand Beginnings and Endings by Ellen Oh + Various

Genre: YA Fiction, Fantasy, Short Stories
Length: 336 Pages

Synopsis: “Star-crossed lovers, meddling immortals, feigned identities, battles of wits, and dire warnings. These are the stuff of fairy tale, myth, and folklore that have drawn us in for centuries. 

Fifteen bestselling and acclaimed authors reimagine the folklore and mythology of East and South Asia in short stories that are by turns enchanting, heartbreaking, romantic, and passionate. 

Compiled by We Need Diverse Books’s Ellen Oh and Elsie Chapman, the authors included in this exquisite collection are: Renee Ahdieh, Sona Charaipotra, Preeti Chhibber, Roshani Chokshi, Aliette de Bodard, Melissa de la Cruz, Julie Kagawa, Rahul Kanakia, Lori M. Lee, E. C. Myers, Cindy Pon, Aisha Saeed, Shveta Thakrar, and Alyssa Wong. 

A mountain loses her heart. Two sisters transform into birds to escape captivity. A young man learns the true meaning of sacrifice. A young woman takes up her mother’s mantle and leads the dead to their final resting place. From fantasy to science fiction to contemporary, from romance to tales of revenge, these stories will beguile readers from start to finish. For fans of Neil Gaiman’s Unnatural Creatures and Ameriie’s New York Times–bestselling Because You Love to Hate Me.”

That’s my TBR! If you’re planning in participating in Asian readathon feel free to direct me to your TBR post in the comments, or tell me what book you’re most excited to read throughout the month of May.

Also, I already released this list on my Twitter earlier in the month, so if you’re interested in keeping up with my reading and being friends over there feel free to follow me, I generally follow back other reviewers from the book community! You can follow my progress with these books throughout the month as well on Goodreads.

Review: Before the Devil Breaks You (The Diviners, #3) by Libba Bray

Before the Devil Breaks You (The Diviners, #3)

Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Paranormal, Historical

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Length:552 pages

Date(s) Read: April 1-16, 2019

Date Published: October 2017

My rating: ⭑⭑⭑⭑⭒

Goodreads Synopsis:

New York City.
1927.
Lights are bright.
Jazz is king.
Parties are wild.
And the dead are coming…

After battling a supernatural sleeping sickness that early claimed two of their own, the Diviners have had enough of lies. They’re more determined than ever to uncover the mystery behind their extraordinary powers, even as they face off against an all-new terror. Out on Ward’s Island, far from the city’s bustle, sits a mental hospital haunted by the lost souls of people long forgotten–ghosts who have unusual and dangerous ties to the man in the stovepipe hat, also known as the King of Crows.

With terrible accounts of murder and possession flooding in from all over, and New York City on the verge of panic, the Diviners must band together and brave the sinister ghosts invading the asylum, a fight that will bring them fact-to-face with the King of Crows. But as the explosive secrets of the past come to light, loyalties and friendships will be tested, love will hang in the balance, and the Diviners will question all that they’ve ever known. All the while, malevolent forces gather from every corner in a battle for the very soul of a nation–a fight that could claim the Diviners themselves.


Review:

Let me just get one important thing out of the way: January LaVoy could narrate grass growing and I’d listen to it like it were the most riveting thing I’d ever heard. I have consumed all of The Diviners books via audio, which means my experience with them has been a lot different than it would have been were I reading them as physical books. And, quite honestly, I don’t think I’d enjoy the series as much if I tried to read them as physical copies.

What I love about every Diviners book: The characters! The friendships! I love every gosh darn character in this series, but I absolutely have to shout out my favorites: Sam Lloyd, Theta Knight, Henry Dubois, and Memphis Campbell have been standouts for me since book one, and we didn’t get much from Henry here but man I would DIE for Theta’s happiness.

As usual I’m going to start with my criticisms.

First, the sex scenes. Awkward. And like… a weird attempt at subtlety and obviousness simultaneously? Not sure if that’s just because this is YA book or what. Also, that all the sex scenes happened at the same point in the book? Like? That just made them feel forced. Fan service maybe? I don’t know. And to prove I’m not a prude I’ll just be frank here. When it comes to sex scenes, let’s leave that shit to the unprofessionals. I don’t know what it is about published works and poor sex scenes, but most of the fanfiction I’ve read does it better.

[SPOILER] Second, the characters that died like, I didn’t really care about the fact that they did? I assume I was supposed to but? The fact that I was more upset by the characters we were introduced to in this book dying than I was the characters we’ve known since book 1? Even though one of them got a lot more page time this book I still didn’t give a single fuck about them dying, so, oops? [END SPOILER]

The focus also was a little weird for me. I didn’t care all that much about the socialist revolution thing that she was trying to do because it just? Didn’t feel like it really mattered at all to the main storyline beyond Jake Marlowe being tangentially involved (but not really?) so. I don’t know. I wish it had been cut down if not cut entirely. I get that she was trying to make a point about the current social/political climate, and not a point I even disagree with, but it just felt extremely forced?

Now, I’m going to be honest, I don’t love Evie/Jericho. I don’t think they have chemistry. But that said, I also just wasn’t feeling Evie/Sam as a ship as much in this book? I don’t know. Every single romantic thing in this book just made me roll my eyes more than I liked any of it, (except for Mabel and her mans in this book, a relationship I actually liked besides Memphis/Theta, despite disliking the context around it.) Maybe I’m just heartless but I also think it felt like just another thing rather than anything important.

So to summarize, this book is just trying to do too many things and fit in so many details that feel more like just checking things off a list rather than things I should care about. It seems like everytime something comes into focus we have to move on immediately to something blurry and repeat the process.

Enough of that. Onto the good stuff.

My favorite parts of this book involved Theta and Memphis or Sam. Which is unsurprising given that they’re my favorite characters. Theta’s plotline in this book? DAMN. I would have sacrificed the entire socialist revolution plot for more of a focus on Theta’s apartment building alone. ALSO! I don’t want to spoil anything but everything that happened with her… I just want her to be happy and I love her and Memphis of course, and her and Evie’s friendship is one of the highlights of this series for me, so all the stuff that happens with that was A+.

I think Libba Bray also did a wonderful job with the conversation around mental health in this book. You can tell she tried to stay (somewhat) accurate to the time period of the novel without taking the easy way out and demonizing the mentally ill. I really, really enjoyed Conor Flynn. (Also January LaVoy once again coming through with her voice acting. Damn. She can narrate my death.) I wish we could have had more of him. And Luther Clayton was very much welcome.

Everything that had to do with the main plot, especially Isaiah’s dreams and in general his and Memphis’ storyline, were some of the best parts of the book. Unfortunately they seemed to be very much contained to the beginning 2/3 of the book. I wish more time had been spent with the brothers throughout the story in general.

Overall this book is probably between a 3 and 3.5 for me, but I’m giving it a 4 because of the bonus points for January LaVoy’s narration.

Review: Vicious by V.E. Schwab

Vicious (Villains, #1)

Genre: Fiction, Fantasy/Science Fiction

Publisher: Tor Books

Length: 371 pages

Date(s) Read: April 10-12, 2019

Date Published: September 2013 (Reprint May 2018)

My rating: ★★★☆☆

Goodreads Synopsis: “Victor and Eli started out as college roommates–brilliant, arrogant, lonely boys who recognized the same sharpness and ambition in each other. In their senior year, a shared research interest in adrenaline, near-death experiences, and seemingly supernatural events reveals an intriguing possibility: that under the right conditions, someone could develop extraordinary abilities. But when their thesis moves from the academic to the experimental, things go horribly wrong.

Ten years later, Victor breaks out of prison, determined to catch up to his old friend (now foe), aided by a young girl whose reserved nature obscures a stunning ability. Meanwhile, Eli is on a mission to eradicate every other super-powered person that he can find–aside from his sidekick, an enigmatic woman with an unbreakable will. Armed with terrible power on both sides, driven by the memory of betrayal and loss, the archnemeses have set a course for revenge–but who will be left alive at the end?

In Vicious, V. E. Schwab brings to life a gritty comic-book-style world in vivid prose: a world where gaining superpowers doesn’t automatically lead to heroism, and a time when allegiances are called into question.”


Review: Vicious, for me, was a very quick read. Given that the book I read prior to this took me a whole week, that this took me only two days was a great refresher. It’s a fun and exciting read; one that would be great to pick up for getting out of a reading slump.

My only major complaint about Vicious is that there wasn’t enough. I wanted more. A lot of it felt very surface-level and while I don’t mind a fun, plot-driven story, after seeing so many 5-star reviews for this book I was hoping for something with a little more depth to it. There’s a lot of things that have potential, but aren’t dived into as much as they could have been, and I think if this book had been given an extra 50-100 pages, it could have been that much stronger. The only characters that really have any depth are Eli and Victor, and even they could have been more fleshed out in my opinion. That said, I immensely enjoyed them and their dynamic, and I loved Victor’s dynamic with Mitch and Sydney respectively (as well as the glimpses we got of the relationship between Sydney and Mitch) but I still wanted more because it wasn’t quite enough.

My secondary criticism is about the beginning where there’s a thesis seminar for all the science majors together. That would never happen. A biology professor wouldn’t have the expertise to authorize a chemistry major’s thesis on polymers or a physics major’s thesis on nanoparticles. Also, pre-med isn’t a major, it’s a professional track. Now, I may be a little too nitpicky about this, but as someone who has a degree in physics, it was a difficult detail for me to overlook. After freshman year my classes never overlapped with biology or chemistry or engineering majors except for in general education courses. But, again, I know I’m probably in the minority for this complaint and it doesn’t take up so much time so it was easy to get past it.

The idea of a superhero story in novel format worked really well here. I loved the anti-hero and anti-villain setups, and the fact that the background between Eli and Victor as roommates and close friends. The pace of the plot is pretty unforgiving for developing their relationship further than roommates and sort-of-friends. That said, the simplistic writing style— while occasionally guilty of superficiality— worked extremely well as far as keeping me turning the pages.

There were places in the story that I was so sure this was going to be a 5-star read for me. I mean that in a good way, of course. There are some examinations— perfunctory examinations but better than nothing— about what it means to be a hero or a villain. Do intentions matter, or only actions? The question is posed, but never really answered concretely. But I sort of like that it’s left a little vague. Regardless of whether Victor’s a hero or villain, I couldn’t help but find myself rooting for him.

This book was fun. It was essentially pure entertainment, it didn’t really make me think and it didn’t draw any strong emotions out of me, but I still found myself turning the pages and wanting to know what would happen next. It was exactly what I needed when I picked it up, and though I do have my criticisms of it, I enjoyed it immensely so it gets a solid 4.0 star rating from me.

Review: Red Sister by Mark Lawrence

Red Sister (Book of the Ancestor, #1)

Genre: Fiction, Fantasy

Publisher: Ace

Length: 469 pages

Date(s) Read: April 2-9, 2019

Date Published: April 2017

My rating: ⭑⭑⭑⭒⭒

Goodreads Synopsis:

“I was born for killing – the gods made me to ruin.

At the Convent of Sweet Mercy young girls are raised to be killers. In a few the old bloods show, gifting talents rarely seen since the tribes beached their ships on Abeth. Sweet Mercy hones its novices’ skills to deadly effect: it takes ten years to educate a Red Sister in the ways of blade and fist.

But even the mistresses of sword and shadow don’t truly understand what they have purchased when Nona Grey is brought to their halls as a bloodstained child of eight, falsely accused of murder: guilty of worse.

Stolen from the shadow of the noose, Nona is sought by powerful enemies, and for good reason. Despite the security and isolation of the convent her secret and violent past will find her out. Beneath a dying sun that shines upon a crumbling empire, Nona Grey must come to terms with her demons and learn to become a deadly assassin if she is to survive… “


Review: I have… A lot of mixed feelings after putting this book down for the last time. For example, I can’t decide whether this is a hard 3-star rating, or if it’s more of a 3.5-ish.

Honestly, I do think reading this in Mass Market Paperback format might not have been the right move because I’m not sure whether my difficulties paying attention to the words on the page were because of the words themselves or because of the formatting of the text (All small and close together as MMPs are.) Truthfully I ordered the MMP on accident because I didn’t want the hardcover and didn’t realize there wasn’t a trade paperback from Ace for this book. (Which… questionable decision on their part, IMO, but I’m not a publisher nor do I work in the publishing industry, so I digress.) So I thought I would be receiving a trade paperback and what I got was a mass market which did disappoint me a little but that’s the fault of my own dumb bitch flaws.

That said, the book itself didn’t make me feel…. anything?

I liked the action, the gore, the magic system. I liked Nona, and I especially liked her friendships with Ara and Hessa. I didn’t like Clera, but not in the way that makes me think that was a fault of the writing or the book and I’m pretty sure it was a strength as some characters are meant to be unlikeable by design (as hard as that concept is for some readers to learn…)

And I do want to continue the series. I’m excited to read Grey Sister, but I think I’ll be getting a copy of the hardback from the library to avoid this confusion about whether my apathy is a fault of the book itself or the format I read it in.

However, even though there was a lot that I liked… there just wasn’t quite enough for me. I ended up skimming a lot of paragraphs, and I feel like I didn’t miss much in doing so, which means that a lot of the stuff I skimmed probably could have been cut. The writing style does get a little boring in certain parts. I mean how am I reading about a young girl murdering a man, and all these gory bloody descriptions, and yet my only thought is essentially a non-reaction and “Okay, then what?” I think it’s really just the voice that Mark Lawrence wrote this in that made it difficult for me to really feel connect.

I’m excited to read the next book. Then again, I was also excited to read this one, so I’ll try not to get my hopes too high.

OWLs Readathon: Week 1 Check In

I set a very ambitious goal for myself for the OWLs Magical Readathon, and to (attempt to) keep myself on track I’m going to be making little weekly check-in posts. I talked all about my TBR and what my goals were for the readathon here. Magical Readathon is hosted by Book Roast, who posted her video about OWLs Readathon here.

What I finished this week:

Monstress, Vol. 3: Haven (Monstress, #3)

Arithmancy Revision: Monstress, Vol. 3: Haven by Marjorie Liu & Sana Takeda

Genre: Graphic Novel/Comic, Fantasy

Publisher: Image Comics

Published: September 2018

Length: 161 pages

My rating: ⭑⭑⭑⭑⭒

I re-read the first two volumes of this series at the end of March so I would be ready to jump into this volume in April. I really enjoyed this. It didn’t bring out as many emotions in me as the first two volumes managed, but the art is no less stunning than the prior volumes and world continues to grow and feel richer and richer. I have a hard time putting into thoughts and words my feelings about comics and graphic novels— which I hope to eventually fix now that I have this blog— but yeah. This was really great, but just didn’t get me to feel enough for me to give it the full 5 stars.

What I’m currently reading:

Red Sister (Book of the Ancestor, #1)

DADA Revision: Red Sister by Mark Lawrence

Genre: Fiction, Fantasy

Publisher: Ace

Published: April 2017

Length: 496 pages

My rating: TBD

I’m not going to lie, I was hoping to already have finished this book by now but I caught up in a serious case of “Help, I opened Sims 4 for the first time in 6 months and now I can’t stop.” So my free time really was eaten up by that. I’m hoping I can finish this by the end of tonight so I can read at least one more book before picking up the books I’ll be reading for Tome Topple. There’s something about this story that like… I’m interested and entertained, and part of me wants to know more and keep reading, but at the same time I don’t feel entirely as enthralled by the world or plot as I thought I would be. I’m predicting that this will be a 3 star or 3.5 star rating when I finish it. I haven’t been taking notes, so I’m not sure whether I’ll attempt to write a review or not.

If you’re participating in the OWLs Magical Readathon let me know what books you’ve read for it so far! Also, I occasionally post updates about what I’m reading on Twitter and keep track of everything on Goodreads, feel free to befriend me in either of those places.

Tome Topple Round 8: TBR

Tome Topple is a two-week readathon hosted by Sam (Thoughts on Tomes) where the only rule is to read books over 500 pages. The announcement for this round of Tome Topple can be found here. This round is taking place from April 13 til April 26.

As some of you know if you read my OWLs Magical Readathon TBR, I’ve been planning on joining this round of Tome Topple basically since I knew it was happening and now here we are, and I’m super excited to finally be a part of it.

So my books were books I’d already picked out but I’m really happy that they fit into the challenge categories. There are two books that I definitely plan on getting to, and both of these fall into the adult category challenge. Which, shouldn’t be a surprise since about 75%-90% of what I read is adult.

1. American Gods by Neil Gaiman

American Gods

Genre: Fiction, Fantasy
Length: 541 pages

This is also the book over 500 pages that’s been on my TBR the longest. I’ve been meaning to read it since July of 2017 (Side note: I can’t believe that’s already almost two years ago.)

The main reasons I want to read this are that 1. It’s American Gods who hasn’t read this or doesn’t have it on their TBR? 2. Neil Gaiman quickly became one of my favorite authors after I read The Ocean at the End of the Lane and every other book I’ve read by him so far I’ve ended up rating at least 3-stars, and that’s pretty good consider my average goodreads rating is a 3.4 as of writing this post. And 3. I watched season one of the show out of curiosity (and because of one of my friends pestering me to do so) and ended up loving everything about it so I have some really high expectations going into this one.

2. The Hero of Ages (Mistborn, #3) by Brandon Sanderson

The Hero of Ages (Mistborn, #3)

Genre: Fiction, Fantasy
Length: 572 pages

This fits into the read a tome that’s part of a series challenge, as this is the final book in the original Mistborn trilogy. I was slightly disappointed by The Well of Ascension, so I’m not going to lie I’m going into this slightly jaded, but I am hopeful that it’ll be my favorite of the series after what TWoA managed to lay out the foundation for.

After over a month since reading book two, I think there’s finally enough distance for me to go into this book feeling refreshed and excited to get back into the world, without so much distance that I don’t remember all the worldbuilding and technical details of the magic system.

That’s the books! If you’re participating in Tome Topple and want to buddy read either of these books, or if you just want to read one of them and use me as your excuse to do so, feel free to comment and let me know you’re interested!

As always you can follow my progress with reading these and everything else on Goodreads, as well as general bookish updates and small thoughts on my Twitter.