Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Asian YA Anticipated Releases: May Edition

School has made me neglect Asian YA for a while now, but now that it's May, one of the best book release months this year in my humble opinion, I decided to launch this new feature. I'll be highlighting book releases I think are especially notable each month. Feel free to contact me with future releases you think are valuable as well, I'll try to cover as many as I can.

May is a really strong month for cute contemporaries, the highly anticipated Flame in the Mist aside, which is amazing considering that cute and fluffy reads are much harder to find with diverse books in general, although 2017 is proving to be a strong year for diverse books. Here are a handful of books that you should keep your eye out for, especially because it is Asian-American History Month!

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Wise Words from Karuna Riazi




The Gauntlet is one of my most highly anticipated reads and if you missed it, the fabulous book released last week. I have some encouraging and inspirational words from the author herself. Enjoy!

Tips on Writing a Middle Grade

Fun fact: The Gauntlet is the first middle grade I’ve ever written. In this life. I never thought that I would be able to write in that voice, be honest and true to it, and plow through an entire draft (and another one, and another one, and I know you’re reading that in DJ Khaled’s voice now, guys) without feeling like I was condescending to or disappointing the audience the book was addressed to.

So, every time someone tells me that I managed to get the atmosphere down pat, that they found Farah relatable or even that I convinced them to consider writing a middle grade too – in the words of my dear friend Heidi Schultz: ONE OF US ONE OF US ONE OF US – it’s nothing less than remarkable to me.

This is all a preamble to say: I am not sure if I am 100% qualified to give you advice on writing a middle grade, but at the same time, I do feel 100% qualified to talk you through the awkward and uncertainty of being a (or thinking that you are a) YA writer with a possible interest in a middle grade project.

Sit yourselves down, my little grasshoppers, and I’ll offer you a list of my top five tips to venture into the world of middle grades:

5. You’ve probably heard this before, but read middle grades! It is a sad and undeniable fact that middle grades are often…not as appreciated as their older YA siblings, which is a darn shame because there’s so much bounty out there on the shelves and middle grades can be just as profound, heartfelt and hard-hitting when tackling tough issues.

Some of my personal suggestions, if you’re new to testing the waters: Beastkeeper by Cat Hellisen (this is just…a master class in poetic, gorgeous fantasy that easily has YA appeal), Amina’s Voice from my Salaam Reads sister Hena Khan, Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones, Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu and anything at all from Mike Jung if you really want pure joy in your life.

4. Get to know the experts! Follow their blogs, check out what books they are recommending, read their books without cracking the spines out (that hurts) and pick up on what you love about their voices and what they do with their particular skills.

Disclaimer: If you’re on the fence about writing a middle grade and are not sure if you want to take a project on in the near future, I suggest treading carefully around Anne Ursu – she’s a middle grade whisperer, in that she will whisper in your ear about how wonderful it would be for you to write one until you, incredibly enough, have indeed written one and are about to announce the sale. (True story.)

3. Listen to what the kids are saying. I’m a big sister, babysitter, substitute teacher and a very nosy individual who likes to note down conversations, favorite flavors of bubble gum, opinions on currently airing cartoons and whose little brother likes to eat dirt whenever the opportunity allows. I recommend doing the same. You’ll get a lot of good material, probably some reminders about aspects of your middle grade life that you thought you had already been distanced from, and one or two belly laughs as well.

2. Your style will translate over. Trust me. One of the things I worried about the most in writing The Gauntlet was watering down, or attempting to, my fondness for lengthy descriptions, extended metaphors and a lot of introspective thought. I won’t lie and say that my editor allowed me free rein on that (and with good reason), but at the end of the day, I can still flip through the book and see the areas where those parts of me and my writing still shine through. Your voice is your voice, no matter what you write.

1. Finally, just have fun with this! One of the most marvelous things about middle grades is, to me, how much enjoyment they can pack into a few chapters and how they can keep you snickering hours after you turned the last page. Really indulge your sense of fun and maybe even make a list of all the cool stuff you wanted to see in books back when you were stuffing chapter books in your backpack or browsing the Scholastic Book Fair, and see how much of it you can bring to life now.

Dig deep, smile wide, and see what incredible adventures you can have – and create. Good luck!

The Gauntlet by Karuna Riazi



When twelve-year-old Farah and her two best friends get sucked into a mechanical board game called The Gauntlet of Blood and Sand—a puzzle game akin to a large Rubik’s cube—they know it’s up to them to defeat the game’s diabolical architect in order to save themselves and those who are trapped inside, including her baby brother Ahmed. But first they have to figure out how.

Under the tutelage of a lizard guide named Henrietta Peel and an aeronaut Vijay, the Farah and her friends battle camel spiders, red scorpions, grease monkeys, and sand cats as they prepare to face off with the maniacal Lord Amari, the man behind the machine. Can they defeat Amari at his own game…or will they, like the children who came before them, become cogs in the machine? - Goodreads

Amazon | Barnes & Noble| Book Depository
  

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Dual Review: Long May She Reign by Rhiannon Thomas + You're Welcome, Universe by Whitney Gardner

Published: February 21st 2017
Publisher: HarperTeen
Purchase: Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Book Depository
Freya was never meant be queen. Twenty third in line to the throne, she never dreamed of a life in the palace, and would much rather research in her laboratory than participate in the intrigues of court. However, when an extravagant banquet turns deadly and the king and those closest to him are poisoned, Freya suddenly finds herself on the throne.

Freya may have escaped the massacre, but she is far from safe. The nobles don’t respect her, her councillors want to control her, and with the mystery of who killed the king still unsolved, Freya knows that a single mistake could cost her the kingdom – and her life.

Freya is determined to survive, and that means uncovering the murderers herself. Until then, she can’t trust anyone. Not her advisors. Not the king’s dashing and enigmatic illegitimate son. Not even her own father, who always wanted the best for her, but also wanted more power for himself.

As Freya’s enemies close in and her loyalties are tested, she must decide if she is ready to rule and, if so, how far she is willing to go to keep the crown. - Goodreads

I was so excited to read this book when I saw my request had been approved, especially because of how fantastic the premise sounded. Political turmoil, especially among royalty, is something I'm always intrigued by. On paper, this book should have worked for me, with its solid qualities, but I found myself only mildly impressed.

The book starts out promisingly with Freya, the heroine, attending the fateful banquet that seals her destiny. I was surprised to find out that she was a scientist, who participates in experiments in her free time. She's resourceful and smart, which I appreciated, and has a level head.

The supporting characters were all warm and likable, though none really stood out to me. First, there's Naomi, Freya's best friend and confidante. Loyal and supportive, the best friend any queen would be lucky to have. Fitzroy, the former king's bastard son. Charming and clever, but with a potential hidden agenda. Finally, there's Madeline, the beautiful perfect lady, next in line after Freya.

The plot was one of the high points and the author uses Freya's scientist nature in the search for what truly happened the night everyone was poisoned. There is also a political undercurrent with those who are unhappy about Freya, and the different agendas that crisscrossed about her were done well. There were a few solid twists to keep me guessing but I admit I wasn't completely surprised by the finale.

The latter third was a tad of a letdown after the promising start, but the ending was well-done and I liked that it was understated instead of cheesy. I almost wish this weren't a standalone, because I felt that this book could have used more fleshing out.

Overall, I liked this book, but not enough for it to have a lasting hold on my heart or memory. I do want to see more political royal drama type books in YA, and that I sincerely hope this is just the beginning.

Thank you to Edelweiss and HarperTeen for the review copy.


My Rating:★★★


Published: March 7th 2017
Publisher: Knopf
Purchase: Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Book Depository
When Julia finds a slur about her best friend scrawled across the back of the Kingston School for the Deaf, she covers it up with a beautiful (albeit illegal) graffiti mural.

Her supposed best friend snitches, the principal expels her, and her two mothers set Julia up with a one-way ticket to a “mainstream” school in the suburbs, where she’s treated like an outcast as the only deaf student. The last thing she has left is her art, and not even Banksy himself could convince her to give that up.

Out in the ’burbs, Julia paints anywhere she can, eager to claim some turf of her own. But Julia soon learns that she might not be the only vandal in town. Someone is adding to her tags, making them better, showing off—and showing Julia up in the process. She expected her art might get painted over by cops. But she never imagined getting dragged into a full-blown graffiti war. - Goodreads



Much angstier than I was expecting quite honestly and I hadn't realized (my fault) that the graffiti war would get so intense. Julia is an angry girl and I tend to shrink away from such characters, which is why it took more time for me to warm up to her personally, but I liked how strong she was in her convictions and passions, which was admirable.

Julia's blossoming friendship with YP is my favorite thing about this book, mostly because it's sweet and good, something Julia needs in the face of the lonely situation she's ended up in due to the unfortunate consequences of her actions. Julia is a hard shell to crack, but the way she slowly lets YP in was heartwarming, and I loved the girlfriend moments they had together. Friendships are such a valuable aspect of lives and I love that this book focuses on that, where it's the central relationship in the book, besides family. On a random side note, there's a scene where an apple pie shows up at YP's house and as an apple dessert connoisseur I died at the description.

I will admit I've never read a book that deals with deafness in such a visceral way, and it was an eye-opener. Gardner writes Julia's life so clearly and it definitely made me more aware of living as a deaf or Deaf person, such as the nuances between Julia and Jordyn. I cannot vouch for the rep of the Indian culture either, but from what I've seen from other #ownvoices reviews, it's well-rounded.

I also liked how there were some supportive and nice adults in this book, always good to see in YA. Julia may not get along with all of them, which is all too true of life as a teenager or anyone really, yet they play an active role, which is sometimes difficult to find in books. I particularly liked the way Julia's character growth is seen in her interactions with her interpreter Casey and her art teacher Mr. Katz.

The graffiti war is intense, and while I was intimidated by that, I could also sense the urgency and frustration that bled out of Julia every time she sees the mysterious art being added to her tags. Graffiti is her outlet, and having it hijacked is brutal, and I liked how the plot unraveled the mystery and tension surrounding them.

Also, the art/illustrations that go with this book are perfect. Even through reading an electronic copy, I can say the final hard copy will be so pretty. The art is as gritty and statement worthy as the rest of this book is and complements the writing quite well.

My Rating:★★★

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Airy Thoughts

It's been a while since I posted something here, and I'm partly blaming the lack on school papers to really focus on blogging, and I've also seemingly lost the spark to just review books, which I've kept my book blog as. I've been working on a lot of book blog posts for my co-blogging, so it seems like I have nothing left for here sadly. It doesn't help that YA, the main genre that I want to blog about, doesn't seem to be pulling me in like it used to. I've probably read maybe six books in that genre as opposed to the dozens of romance I've read. It's not looking good for me, so this post is a little change in pace from the lit-heavy posts I've tried to pepper this blog with. It's my version of an online journal, and I hope you'll welcome the change.


I've been really into podcasts recently and subscribed to a handful of them just for fun. It's a really great way to pass transit time, I tend to read ebooks on my phone but I do get carsick quite easily so podcasts are a great alternative to that. I'll list a few I really enjoy, and if anyone's reading, I'd love to hear recommendations as well.
  • Book Riot - The Podcast 
Book Riot is pretty much well known for being the place to read up on all bookish things and so of course, their podcast is quite well-informed as well. It's like my weekly dose of literary intelligence and I've been learning a lot from the hosts. As an amateur who wants to work professionally in the literary world one day, this podcast is great to learn and pick up on the relevant topics.
  • Smart Podcast, Trashy Books
Smart Bitches, Trashy Books is one of my favorite blogs. They cover a wide variety of romance books and I get so many of my guilty purchases (in regards to buying books not in regards to the genre lol) from their weekly deals. I love the romance genre, so listening to Sarah interviewing my favorite authors and finding out all sorts of fun stuff + the billion romance read recs they talk about is so great. Super fun and so recommended.

  • Good Food 
As the title says, this is a foodie podcast. It's run by a Pulitzer Prize-winning food critic Jonathan Gold, who is based in LA, so of course, I have to tune in weekly. I honestly enjoy talking and reading about food, so listening to the episodes is a total delight, and since LA is such a rich cultural area, the diversity of the culinary guests each time is refreshing. Jonathan Gold also incorporates current events/political stuff in and ties it into the food topics each week, which is great.


Movies!! My roommate and I have made the most of our break to go see a few of the recent hit movies. For the most part they've been winners, though we were devastated because our local theater stopped playing LEGO Batman before we could go see it, an utter tragedy.

  • Logan was a winner on all parts; seeing as I haven't seen the older X-Men movies (I can't really pass up James McAvoy honestly), I'm sure the emotional impact wasn't quite as strong, but I was tearing up at the end. Laura Kinney is a great character, and honestly seeing her in this movie has made me pick up X-Men comics like the trend follower I tend to be lmao. 
  • Get Out was a movie that I can't say I enjoyed in the pure entertainment sense since it terrified me honestly. I'm never a horror girl and I've seen maybe one or two, but this movie was brilliant. The cinematography was amazing and I had chills from the plotline and the acting was so good especially by the main two. 
  • Beauty and the Beast was a gorgeous movie, just as the trailers showed. I adored the French setting and it did a great job with bringing the classic to life, although I will admit I think the Cinderella live-action was better, but only by a little. I enjoyed the additional backstory and small plot elements added to make the story more believable hah, and I'm sure it'll please any fan of the original. 

I'm a picky person when it comes to reading blogs, and while I do love a well-written review, I seem to have eclectic tastes when it comes to reading them. Sadly, this means I rarely read other blogs, especially since many of my favorite blogs have gone stagnant. On the other hand, I voraciously consume beauty and fashion blogs. The tasteful photos and gorgeous words that accompany the posts that indulge my inner vanity are my new obsession. I also read a lot of food blogs because recipes are so interesting to me and I have a million pinned in hopes that I'll get the chance to make them someday. Both are pure wistful notions in that I wish I could buy all the makeup and skincare as well as make all the beautiful pastries and meals. Maybe one day haha. 


Until next time, wishing you all the best, and forgive the change of pace, spring seems to bring new hope and inspiration for me. 




Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Cover Reveal: Why I Loathe Sterling Lane by Ingrid Paulson

RELEASE DATE: June 6th 2017
PUBLISHER: Entangled TEEN
PRE-ORDER:  Amazon
Per her 537 rules, Harper Campbell keeps her life tidy—academically and socially. But the moment Sterling Lane transfers into her tiny boarding school, her twin brother gets swept up in Sterling’s pranks and schemes and nearly gets expelled. Harper knows it’s Sterling’s fault, and to protect her brother, she vows to take him down. As she exposes his endless school violations, he keeps striking back, framing her for his own infractions. Worst of all, he’s charmed the administration into thinking he’s harmless, and only Harper sees him for the troublemaker he absolutely is.

As she breaks rule after precious rule in her battle of wits against Sterling and tension between them hits a boiling point, she’s horrified to discover that perhaps the two of them aren’t so different. And maybe she doesn't entirely hate him after all. Teaming up with Sterling to save her brother might be the only way to keep from breaking the most important rule—protecting Cole. - Goodreads


Isn't this an absolutely adorable cover? I'm dying to read this book and I'm so excited to see that the book has a cover that seems to match the fluffy love-hate duo that it promises!



Author Bio:
Ingrid Paulson does not, in fact, loathe anyone. Although the snarky sense of humor and verbal barbs in Why I Loathe Sterling Lane might suggest otherwise (and shock those who think they know her best).

Ingrid lives in San Francisco with her husband and children and enjoys long-distance running, eavesdropping, and watching science documentaries. She has always loved books and writing short stories, but was surprised one day to discover the story she was working on wasn't so short any more. Valkyrie Rising, a paranormal girl power story was Ingrid's first novel. Expect another humorous contemporary romance to join the list soon.

Website | Twitter | Facebook

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!