Thursday, February 9, 2017

Breezy Updates: A Quick Catch-Up

I've been pretty absent on this blog, although, in my defense, I've been quite busy with a variety of stuff. This is my brief summary of what's been going down the past month or so while I attempt to regain control of my blogging life, or at least, what exists of it. I've been venturing out to new places and I'm excited to announce where those are, although if you follow me on twitter, you're probably well aware of these facts.

First up, I joined forces with my fellow romance lover Lisa, and we created a romance blog, which is where I'll be migrating all the romance content I used to post on this blog. I dearly love the romance genre, and being able to talk about it 24/7 on Scoundrels & Seduction has me feeling like a giddy child, to be honest.

I am so honored to be co-blogging on this amazing blog now. The Aus Squad is a group of some wonderfully passionate people and I'm really psyched for all the things to come.

I'll be posting more reviews soon for this blog, but as you can tell, all these extra places + Asian YA means I can finally force myself to be accountable for my own laziness which is what I desperately need now, especially since I have other people who expect me to be on top of things.

Wishing everyone a lovely week if you're reading this and happy reading to us all!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Asian YA: Highlights of 2016

I wanted to take a moment to showcase some standout titles of 2016. I think this year and on, there have been some excellent additions to the list of books that feature Asians, without reducing characters to flat stock characters, which many Asian characters often end up falling under. I've recruited some friends to rec their favorite books of this year featuring characters of their heritage. All of the following books are #ownvoices and have been vetted by readers of the heritage repped in the books.

Disclaimer: I apologize for the fact that I am not featuring any books that feature West Asian authors/characters in this list. Unfortunately, the YA genre seems to be lacking in that area, and I will do my best to make up for this fact this year, if you read this post and do know of any (and you can vouch for the rep in the book), please don't hesitate to let me know.

East Asia

Heroine Complex* by Sarah Kuhn

*Heroine Complex is classified under the Adult genre, not YA.

Being a superheroine is hard. Working for one is even harder.

Evie Tanaka is the put-upon personal assistant to Aveda Jupiter, her childhood best friend and San Francisco's most beloved superheroine. She's great at her job—blending into the background, handling her boss's epic diva tantrums, and getting demon blood out of leather pants.

Unfortunately, she's not nearly as together when it comes to running her own life, standing up for herself, or raising her tempestuous teenage sister, Bea.

But everything changes when Evie's forced to pose as her glamorous boss for one night, and her darkest comes out: she has powers, too. Now it's up to her to contend with murderous cupcakes, nosy gossip bloggers, and supernatural karaoke battles—all while juggling unexpected romance and Aveda's increasingly outrageous demands. And when a larger threat emerges, Evie must finally take charge and become a superheroine in her own right... or see her city fall to a full-on demonic invasion.

You can read my review on Goodreads.

Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee

San Francisco, 1906: Fifteen-year-old Mercy Wong is determined to break from the poverty in Chinatown, and an education at St. Clare’s School for Girls is her best hope. Although St. Clare’s is off-limits to all but the wealthiest white girls, Mercy gains admittance through a mix of cunning and a little bribery, only to discover that getting in was the easiest part. Not to be undone by a bunch of spoiled heiresses, Mercy stands strong—until disaster strikes.

On April 18, a historic earthquake rocks San Francisco, destroying Mercy’s home and school. With martial law in effect, she is forced to wait with her classmates for their families in a temporary park encampment. Though fires might rage, and the city may be in shambles, Mercy can’t sit by while they wait for the army to bring help—she still has the “bossy” cheeks that mark her as someone who gets things done. But what can one teenage girl do to heal so many suffering in her broken city?

You can read a review by Wendy at Written in Wonder.

South-East Asia

Something in Between by Melissa De La Cruz

It feels like there’s no ground beneath me, like everything I’ve ever done has been a lie. Like I’m breaking apart, shattering. Who am I? Where do I belong?

Jasmine de los Santos has always done what’s expected of her. Pretty and popular, she’s studied hard, made her Filipino immigrant parents proud and is ready to reap the rewards in the form of a full college scholarship.

And then everything shatters. A national scholar award invitation compels her parents to reveal the truth: their visas expired years ago. Her entire family is illegal. That means no scholarships, maybe no college at all and the very real threat of deportation.

For the first time, Jasmine rebels, trying all those teen things she never had time for in the past. Even as she’s trying to make sense of her new world, it’s turned upside down by Royce Blakely, the charming son of a high-ranking congressman. Jasmine no longer has any idea where—or if—she fits into the American Dream. All she knows is that she’s not giving up. Because when the rules you lived by no longer apply, the only thing to do is make up your own.

You can read Sue's review on Hollywood News Source.

Not Your Sidekick by C.B. Lee

Welcome to Andover… where superpowers are common, but internships are complicated. Just ask high school nobody, Jessica Tran. Despite her heroic lineage, Jess is resigned to a life without superpowers and is merely looking to beef-up her college applications when she stumbles upon the perfect (paid!) internship—only it turns out to be for the town’s most heinous supervillain. On the upside, she gets to work with her longtime secret crush, Abby, who Jess thinks may have a secret of her own. Then there’s the budding attraction to her fellow intern, the mysterious “M,” who never seems to be in the same place as Abby. But what starts as a fun way to spite her superhero parents takes a sudden and dangerous turn when she uncovers a plot larger than heroes and villains altogether.

You can read Diep's review on Goodreads.

South Asia

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Choski

Fate and fortune. Power and passion. What does it take to be the queen of a kingdom when you’re only seventeen?

Maya is cursed. With a horoscope that promises a marriage of death and destruction, she has earned only the scorn and fear of her father’s kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her whole world is torn apart when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. Soon Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Neither roles are what she expected: As Akaran’s queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar’s wife, she finds something else entirely: Compassion. Protection. Desire…

But Akaran has its own secrets—thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Soon, Maya suspects her life is in danger. Yet who, besides her husband, can she trust? With the fate of the human and Otherworldly realms hanging in the balance, Maya must unravel an ancient mystery that spans reincarnated lives to save those she loves the most…including herself.

Mana wrote a review on Goodreads and you can also read Rashika's review as well.

If you haven't already, take the chance to pick one of these up for yourself or friends/family and as happy reading!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Asian YA: Awesomely Asian 2017 YA/MG Books

As all book lovers who thrive on social media or anywhere on the internet, there's always new books to look forward to, whether they're a few weeks away, or even a year. While there are dozens of exciting new books to look forward to in the coming year of 2017, I wanted to feature the following books that should be on your radar when it comes to Asian YA.

Note: This list chooses to focus on books that both feature Asian MCs and Asian authors, whether they're #ownvoices or not, although the majority of the books listed here are #ownvoices. Those that are not #ownvoices or I am unsure about have been indicated with an asterisk. I tried to make it as comprehensive as possible, and if any titles are missing that fit the above qualifications or I made any errors, please let me know as soon as possible!

Correction: The author of The Takedown is a white author and I apologize for this error.

East Asia

Flame in the Mist (Flame in the Mist #1) by Renee Ahdieh*
Dove Alight (Dove Chronicles #3) by Karen Bao
Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman
Along the Indigo by Elsie Chapman
The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco*
Forest of a Thousand Lanterns (Forest #1) by Julie C. Dao*
I Believe in a Thing Called Love by Maurene Goo
Always and Forever, Lara Jean (To All the Boys I've Loved Before #3) by Jenny Han
The Ship Beyond Time (The Girl from Everywhere #2) by Heidi Heilig
A Place I Belong by Cynthia Kadohata
The November Girl by Lydia Kang
The Crystal Ribbon by Celeste Lim
The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F.C. Yee
Warcross (Warcross #1) by Marie Lu
Weaving a Net is Better Than Praying for Fish by Ki-Wing Merlin
The Amaterasu Project by Axie Oh
Spirit Hunters by Ellen Oh
Want by Cindy Pon
Noteworthy by Riley Redgate
It's Not Like It's a Secret by Misa Sugiura
The Takedown by Corrie Wang
Secrets & Sequences (Secret Coders #3) by Gene Luen Yang
Kokoro (Kojiki #2) by Keith Yatsuhashi
The Emperor's Riddle by Kat Zhang

South-East Asia

Empress of a Thousand Skies by Rhoda Belleza
Girl in Between by Pintip Dunn
Hello Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly
Not Your Villain (Not Your Sidekick #2) by C.B. Lee

South Asia

Saints, Misfits, Monsters, and Mayhem by S.K. Ali
Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani
A Crown of Wishes (The Star-Touched Queen #2) by Roshani Chokshi
Dare Mighty Things by Heather Kaczynski
That Thing We Call a Heart by Sheba Karim
Amina's Voice by Hena Khan
The Library of Fates by Aditi Khorana
When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon
Soulmated (Joining of Souls #1) by Shaila Patel
The Gauntlet by Karuna Riazi
This Promise I Will Keep by Aisha Saeed
My So-Called Bollywood Life by Nisha Sharma

West Asia

The Authentics by Abdi Nazemian
Escape from Aleppo by N.H. Senzai*

I hope you found some new books to add to your TBR and are excited about the upcoming releases! I, for one, cannot wait to pick these books up and am patiently counting down the days until I get a chance to read them. Stay tuned for the part 2: the non-YA edition for 2017 books, coming soon.

T H I S  P O S T  I S  A L S O  F O U N D  O N  A S I A N  Y A

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Review: Encore (Amplified #2) by Tara Kelly

Published: December 5th 2016
Publisher: Entangled Publishing
Purchase: Amazon / B&N / Book Depository
I lied my way into a band, humiliated them on stage, and got my heart broken by the bassist. Now…we’re on tour together.

Of course my dad, who I haven’t seen since he kicked me out, makes a surprise visit the day before we leave. Spoiler alert: It doesn’t go well. I have to quit the band and go to college or he’s cutting me out of his life for good.

This tour is the best opportunity we may ever have – and it’s already a disaster. We’re broke. We can't stop fighting. And being in such close quarters to Sean isn't exactly helping me get over him. Even though we're just friends now, every time our fingers brush or our eyes catch, my heart betrays me. He's the kind of distraction I can't afford to have right now…no matter how much I wish things were different.

This is one road trip that will be hard to forget…
- Goodreads

This is a tough book to review, not only because it could be painful to read, but also because of the depth and darkness that hides behind the usual contemporary fare. On the surface, this book does seem a tad like a cutesy road trip book, and while I was expecting it to be realistic, the way Amplified was, I wasn't prepared for how dark this book would be. I was rattled and shaken by a lot of the stuff that happened, and it was almost like a trainwreck, where you're compelled and can't look away.

I enjoyed Amplified, and liked how realistic it was, the way it didn't sugarcoat the problems or swoop everything up in a nice little bow and end it in a candy gloss happy way. So when I found out there was a sequel, of course I was excited. I admit this book is hard to swallow at many points, it tackles a lot of issues, and it hurts because everything was raw and intense. I do want to be slightly vague when mentioning specific elements, since I don't want to have previous conceptions cloud a reader's feelings towards characters, but identity, mental health, victim blaming and other issues were integral parts of the plot and the character arcs. I will note that I thought Tara Kelly did a great job with relaying the reality of misogyny in the music world and one that I can certainly confirm exists, even through the lens of being an outsider.
The truth is...they're calling you fat because you're not skinny. And that's all we can be—too fat or skinny. They're calling you a bitch because that's what you call a girl who isn't behaving. They're calling you a whore because that's just what most girls are. In their eyes, we will never be right.
The character relationships in this book are quite well-done, from the romantic one between Jasmine and Sean to the friendships that Jasmine has with the other band members and the intertwining different levels of trust they entail. Out of all the relationships, for me personally, the one between Jasmine and Veta was the one that was the most searing. Veta goes through a heavy character arc in this book, and Encore doesn't make the friendship between her and Jasmine easy. The romance in this book is understated, and while Sean is a pivotal character in the book, the central bond of music and the band is front and center.

The plot could be a little rocky at times, but it doesn't lose the hard work and tarnished hope that Jasmine and the rest of C-Side holds for their musical dreams. It takes off the glamour and glitz of the music world and grounds it in the ugly reality that I'm sure many musicians face. It makes this book that much more memorable in the face of all the rock star books that must exist in the new adult genre.

I mentioned above that Tara Kelly tackles misogyny in the music world, that exists in any professional stage. There are some dark moments in this book where Jasmine is harassed online, and it is ugly. I wish that this wasn't a reality but anyone who has ventured online knows the reality of how online anonymous (or not) comments and users can be vicious and relentless.

And, more importantly, I'm not going to watch another girl get burned at the stake over some guy's world. A fucking rumor. How many times have we heard this story? How many decades have we said we're going to do something about it? And yet, here we are...

I would say that the ending of this book is quite open-ended, but it leaves the reader with hope. Dreams, especially ones that are big as this band's, aren't going to magically come true, and though it would be nice to maybe see something happen in the future for them, I like where the book leaves them. For the scrappy crew who makes up this band, I wish them nothing but happiness and success.

Thank you to Entangled Publishing and Netgalley for the review copy.

My Rating:★★★★

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Thoughts on the Apocalypse

It's been one week since the apocalypse happened. People are protesting, fear is rampant among the citizens, and a dangerous new era has arrived. I can't help but dread every news update that I see, because in the past week, the reality has worsened, even as many try to normalize the truth of who our new president will be.

Sorry for the rather dramatic introduction, but while that may seem like a dystopian novel opening, I think these words may be even more unnerving.

"Welcome to the dawn of a new unified Republican government." 

These are actual words from the House Speaker, describing the current state of our government.

Compared to most, I'm lucky. I'm not a part of the specific marginalized groups that Trump and his campaign has targeted, although I would consider myself a second-generation immigrant. I have not been attacked or threatened by strangers based on who I am, and the worst I've encountered is some Twitter trolls. But I'm terrified. Asians have been harassed, being called slurs and I have no idea when/if that will happen to me. And while I want to think my peers are civilized, if there are vicious hate crimes occurring at even the most prestigious and well-educated schools (see the UPenn incident, an IVY LEAGUE SCHOOL), I'm terrified. I attend school in a red state, and while the district I am in voted blue, it's a sobering thought.

Last week, my friend and I were joking about Trump even being a candidate and how we couldn't wait for the news to stop focusing on him when the election effectively destroyed him. While I was aware of the legions of loyal followers I saw on the media, most people would surely be reasonable enough to see the true monster he is. Yet, this country failed me, especially those of white. Calling those who voted for him racist is too extreme, is an arugment that I've seen online. They had valid reasons and are not all ignorant, they say. Yet my question is, did sacrificing the safety and well-being and mental/physical health of the majority not factor into your decision? I'm supposed to understand why you thought letting someone who has no idea what he is doing into office was the smart, well-thought out decision. The fact that such people exist in the book community is disappointing but unsurprising, considering how many treat diversity, and the severity of the hurt racist/problematic books inflict on people.

What has kept me going is the tireless efforts of many authors that I see on Twitter, the authors that have been advocates of diversity and now in the face of a real crisis, have championed this cause with the same rigor that was applied to the problems in the book community. To take a moment, if you are vocal about the issues of diversity in books but have not cared enough to support the real issues so many Americans are facing because of the dark lord who has been elected, I don't trust you or your advocacy. You are indirectly telling me you don't care enough about my mental well-being or those of so many in the book community who are working so hard to call representatives and donate etc. This might sound harsh, but the fear and anger I've heard from friends is so much more important than your guilty conscience.

The one thing that has come out of this entire election that could even be positive, is that I've decided to seriously consider working in publishing. Literature is important more than ever, and I want to work somewhere where I can work to make a difference, and while it is a pipe dream, helping to have the publishing industry diversify and promote marginalized authors, who represent those who are going to have it the hardest in the coming years, is the least I can do to help. It's my way of working towards something I can do to help. It may not be much, but as Rudyard Kipling once said,"Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind."

I've also decided to pay even more attention to politics. I am slightly ashamed that I didn't know the name of my congresswoman until this morning. She is thankfully, very vocal about denouncing the terrifying figure up for a senior WH position as well as her opposition towards the interests of our president-elect that will destroy our country and I am grateful and proud. There are senators and House reps who are working to protect us, and I am thankful. I am still terrified because it may and very likely could not be enough because the fact stands that enough citizens believe that supporting a racist egomaniac who was fully equipped with a vice presidential candidate who is well known for being strongly anti-LGBTQ+ and appealed to the white supremacy and racism that is deeply rooted in our country, is the correct track for our country.

This ended up being filled with anger and fear and for that, I apologize but I felt this needed to be said. To my friends who are also scared and concerned, I am sending you love and hugs. I am uncertain and worried as well, but I have hope in the people that are fighting, and while so many in America are rotten from the core, I know there are those out there who know this is not okay. To those fighting, thank you and I love and respect you.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Books I'm Dying to Get My Hands On

This post is a part of the Top Ten Tuesday meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

1. Ferocious (Vicarious #2) by Paula Stokes

I adored Vicarious, the first book in this duology so much that I'm desperate for this sequel. I'm so glad I picked it up on a whim because Paula is a lovely person in real life, and the ending of Vicarious destroyed me so completely that I'm still recovering form the aftereffects.

2. How to Convince a Boy to Kiss You (Aurora Skye #2) by Tara Eglington

I really enjoyed this Aussie YA book series, and I am now dying to read the second book because Aurora and Hayden are such a charming couple and I most definitely need more of them. Also the synopsis had me laughing, and we all need a fun pick-me up sometimes and this would most assuredly fit the bill.

3. Ninth House (Alex Stern #2) by Leigh Bardugo

First of all, Leigh Bardugo has my money because I mean, Six of Crows was pretty great. Also because it's about occult stuff and mysterious benefactors and a heroine with a criminal past ought to be an intriguing protagonist.

4. A Place I Belong by Cynthia Kadohata

I might be a tad nervous about the premise of this one, just because I know it's going to make me cry and break just like all of her other books, but also because she does it so beautifully I won't mind anyway.

5. Barefoot on the Wind (The Moonlit Lands #2)

It's a Beauty and Beast retelling with a twist! and it's set in Japan. As mentioned before, I am drawn to all books about Japan, and fairy tale retellings are a huge weakness of mine.

6. The Boy is Back (Boy #4) by Meg Cabot

Meg Cabot is a queen when it comes to chick lit and I'm so bitter that I didn't even know this book existed until I read a review of it two weeks ago, so I'm stuck in a ridiculous hold line because I am going to die before I get to this book...

7. This is How It Happened by Paula Stokes

Yep, I do adore Paula, and this book will be devoured most assuredly.

8. Kissing Max Holden by Katy Upperman

The title says it all, but I have always adored contemporary YA romance books that have the friends to lovers dynamic.

9. Dare Mighty Things by Heather Kaczynski

I love that this book is grounded in the STEM field, and even though the only thing I know is that it's about a girl competing to win the last slot in a space mission, there's already such a fascinating potential, and I hope it'll be just as exciting as it seems.

10. Mirage (Mirage #1) by Somaiya Daud

This book sounds positively intriguing! I love the idea of body doubles and the political intrigue that comes with being in a royal palace. I also really need to know if there will be romance in this book because that would be the icing on the cake.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Cloudy Musings #3: Existential Crisis + New Ideas

I've finished round one of my midterms and am well into round two, which I feel much better about, though I've been going through an existential crisis recently, with the major STEM classes I've been taking. I'm not sure what I want to do yet, but I've been feeling pretty strongly lately that mechanical engineering may not be the right path for me. Working in STEM seemed like a natural progression since math has always been my strong suit, and the lingering idea that I should be in STEM just because I'm Asian. Trying to remove that label has been a little scary, but I'm opening up to the idea of quite possibly working in publishing, or with books. That is my ultimate dream career I think, and especially in the face of the troubling fact that publishing is still so non-inclusive. We'll see where the wind blows though, and who knows, I might be back to my engineering career goal in a few weeks again.

I'm still watching Shopping King Louis, which continues to exceed my expectations in how pure and fluffy the whole show is, and I want to hug the main characters so badly. I adore them and while I've dropped the majority of my current shows, I've managed to stick to this one. I saw the movie Storks in theaters mid-October, and it was adorably sweet, with a lovely and touching ending that made me melt inside. I'm apparently weak for any soft-hearted movie it seems hah. I've also returned to From Dusk til Dawn, though the gory scenes make me reluctant to watch more than one or two episodes; I will eventually catch up hopefully, since I find the main characters to be fascinating and intriguing despite these graphic aspects.
I didn't quite read as much as I wanted to the last month, due to the extended stretches of time I spent in my studying cave, but I wanted to note the few books I've read I consider, noteworthy. Heroine Complex, The Trouble with Mistletoe, How to Keep a Boy from Kissing You, The Hating Game, and Hold Me. First up, Heroine Complex is fun and zippy, a wild ride from start to finish. Bonus points for featuring a Japanese-American heroine. The Trouble with Mistletoe is a classic Jill Shalvis read, although this one is definitely ranking higher up of all the ones I've read by her and a total sweetheart romance. How to Keep a Boy from Kissing You was a delightfully charming YA romance, with a swoon-worthy boy to boot. The Hating Game was a true game-changer, and I am speechless with love for it, I am amazed at how much I heart this book. And Courtney Milan is a true talent with Hold Me, a book that not only features complex in-depth characters but also a dynamic that's riddled with flaws and strengths to really breathe life into the story.

If you haven't been around on the interwebs recently, you may have missed that I have a lovely project/blog I've started titled Asian YA. Exactly what the title says, it's a blog that both promotes Asian authors and books that are about Asian authors, with a focus on nuanced good representation. It's gotten a wonderful reception so far, and I'm so happy that it's been received so well. As an Asian-American, the way Asians are clumped together and treated very shoddily in books/media is quite upsetting and is the driving passion behind this project. I've been truly giddy with excitement as I plan future features for this blog and if you have the time, it would be lovely if you checked it out.

I hope you all have a lovely November, and cheers to those of you braving the cold weather setting in.