Asian Readathon Wrap Up

I enjoyed this Readathon and if it is hosted again next year I plan on participating again. I discovered some great reads and authors that hadn’t been on my radar before. If they write anything else that peaks my interest, I’ll definitely pick them up. It’s not often that I pick up an author I’ve never heard of before and this Readathon introduced me to a lot of new authors. It also showed me that the amount of Asian authors I read was woefully lacking. I aim to fix that in the future.

Without further ado, here are the books I read for the Asian Readathon:

Completed Books:

  1. As Miss Beelzebub Likes by Matuba (Vol 1)[3 stars]
  2. Not Your Sidekick by C.B. Lee (The Sidekick Squad, Book 1)[4 stars]
  3. Not Your Villain by C.B. Lee (The Sidekick Squad, Book 2)[3 stars]
  4. Reflection by Elizabeth Lim (Twisted Tales, Book 4)[4 stars]
  5. I’m Afraid of Men by Vivek Shraya [3 stars]
  6. Sorry to Disrupt the Peace by Patty Yumi Cottrell [2 stars]
  7. A Thousand Beginnings and Endings edited by Ellen Oh & Elsie Chapman [average of 3.8 stars]

I didn’t get around to finishing Descendant of the Crane like I’d originally planned but I do hope to read it in the hear future. As well, I didn’t read The Sun is Also a Star as I instead chose to read books written by Asian authors instead of just about them. Finally, I didn’t end up finishing Everything Here is Beautiful, even though I’ve started it. I hope to finish it shortly but I also have 2 other books on the go right now. Either way, I will be reading all 3 of these books before too long

All of the books I read throughout this Readathon have their own dedicated post. Here’s a very brief outline of my feelings on each book:

Continue reading “Asian Readathon Wrap Up”

A Thousand Beginnings and Endings – Edited by Ellen Oh and Elsie Chapman

Average Rating: 3.8/5  stars

Thosand

Pages: 323

Series: n/a

Genres: YA, Short Stories, Anthology, Fantasy, Mythology

Reading Challenges: 1 (Asian Authors: various nationalities); 5 (Group book of the Readathon)

The hosts of the Readathon (Cindy, Sandra, Chloe, Kav, and Ellias) are hosting a live show on Saturday, May 25 at 6pm EST on readwithcindy’s channel on YouTube. If you have not yet read this Anthology, I highly suggest you do. If you have, I highly suggest you watch the live stream to see what other peoples’ thoughts and feeling are on these different stories.

On a side note, this live stream is occurring the same weekend as Anime North in Toronto, Ontario. I know this is a huge coincidence, but I enjoy the fact that I’ll be taking a break from a convention celebrating the same cultures as this Readathon so that I can watch the live stream of the group book.

Overall, I found this book to be highly enjoyable. I enjoyed reading short stories by authors I already know and love as well as being introduced to new authors that I’ll definitely be checking out again. I enjoy learning about different cultures’ mythologies and belief systems and reading this Anthology introduced me to some that I didn’t know I didn’t know. I’ll definitely be looking for more about these stories in the future.

Continue reading “A Thousand Beginnings and Endings – Edited by Ellen Oh and Elsie Chapman”

Sorry to Disrupt the Peace by Patty Yumi Cottrell

Rating: 2/5 stars

Sorry.jpg

Pages: 263

Series: n/a

Genres: Fiction, Mystery, Contemporary

Reading Challenges: 1 (Asian Author: Korean); 3 (LGBT+ author)

While I love a good mystery, this book didn’t do it for me. Almost at the start of the novel, I was able to guess what the “mystery” element would be. I wish that this book had held me in a little bit more suspense than it had.

Another thing that I found issue in was the main character, Helen, and her obsession with thinking that she’s the best, most ethical person there is. She claims that she’s the best at everything she does even though time and time again it’s shown that she’s not as good at everything as she thinks she is. While this could be a good plot point in a book if the character is able to show growth, Helen seems to remain incapable of seeing her own faults. Helen is the spitting image of an unreliable narrator, but she was not written well.

That being said, my biggest issue with Helen would probably have to be the fact that she’s the most self-absorbed person I’ve read about in a while. Everything that’s happening around her has to be related to her own experiences, even if there’s no correlation. She questions what stories about her dead brother have to do with her life and what she could do with the information instead of being thankful that she’s learning more about her brother. As well, she seems perfectly content at blocking out other peoples’ existences when they don’t benefit her in any way. Not only that, but Helen remains delusional as to her own self-absorption. There’s even a moment in the book where Helen laments that she prefers to be “an extra in the movie of [her] own life”.

I have no problem reading about a character that I personally don’t like, or even being in their head, but that’s only when the plot is able to grasp my attention and hold some weight. In this book, however, I felt like there was only the barest hint of a plot around Helen’s musings. While the synopsis of the book talks about Helen trying to figure out why her brother took his own life, the book doesn’t seem to be about this at all. The real mystery, to me, was finding out why Helen was so obsessed with herself and how she believed that she was perfect.

While it is true that this book shows how Helen is attempting to deal with her grief, very little of what is said has to do with anything other than her own self-absorption. I’d be more understanding of this if her self-obsession hasn’t been established before Helen received the news that her brother was dead.

After finishing this book and reading some reviews about it, I don’t understand how people were able to find this story humorous. There was nothing funny to me, seeing a person who has their own issues trying to overcome grief in the only way she knows how. While I did not personally enjoy this story, I would never laugh at someone’s pain. I can’t think of anything in this story that there was to laugh about other than someone being so close minded as to laugh at another’s struggles and pain.

Sure Helen is not a character I like, but that doesn’t mean that I’m willing to laugh at her struggles. I don’t think anyone should be made fun of for the struggles they go through or how they deal with their situation in life. So if you do decide to read this story, please think about the message that it’s trying to get across, and how Helen is trying to deal with her situation, before you decide that something is funny. Try to put yourself in her situation and see how you would feel being laughed at.

Yes, the writing and phrasing was weird at times, but that doesn’t negate the fact that this is a story about someone dealing with the grief of losing a loved one. Yes, Helen makes mistakes, but she’s human. I don’t think it’s right to laugh at someone for trying to help out and accidentally messing up.

Please, think about how your thoughts or actions would impact a person before you act on them. Yes, Helen is a fictional character, but there are so many people alive right now going through similar things. Please, have some empathy and compassion.

I’m Afraid of Men by Vivek Shraya

Rating: 3/5 stars

I'm Afraid

Pages: 96

Series: n/a

Genres: Nonfiction, Feminism, Autobiography, LGBTQ+

Reading Challenges: 1 (Asian Author: Indian); 3 (author identifies as Trans)

This book is a harder read as it focuses on the harder parts of realizing you identify as trans. It deals with the hard topics of not feeling masculine enough or feminine enough, of not feeling like you belong to either of the binary genders. It shows the good and the bad of identifying as Transgender as experienced by Shraya.

One thing that I found confusing about the book was that Shraya talked about her encounters by referring to the people involved as “you”. I found this hard to follow as she jumped from story to story, but I can appreciate that this is her way of coping with what happened. It’s also a way to protect the identity of those involved, which I appreciate as some of the stories discussed occurred when Shraya was a young boy.

As a white, cisgendered female, I found it very impactful to read about what it’s like for a person of colour to have to struggle with these issues. While I will never experience the terror or uncertainty that people like Shraya have had to/will go through, I hope that these issues become easier to deal with – or even non-existent – in the future.

I’m sorry that people still have to deal with this hatred and bigotry and I hope that one day these problems go away. I know that this will probably never happen, but stories such as Shraya’s go a long way in trying to break the stereotypes and stigmas associated with identifying as queer.

I found it important that Shraya touched on people who believe themselves to be allies yet still don’t fully understand what society has been doing wrong. As someone who considers myself to be an ally, I know it’s hard to imagine what Shraya and others like her go through on a daily basis because I have never been forced to deal with these issues.

I understand that the message gets across the best when allies and other people are forced to deal with actual situations head on, as Shraya mentions, but I wish it did not have to be this way. I wish that victims did not have to relive their trauma or recount the traumas of others in order to get “allies” to understand what is actually happening in the world.

I really do believe that everyone should read stories such as this one in order to fully understand the ordeal that Shraya and others like her have to go through. I would absolutely recommend this book to people, even if just as an entry point to understanding the struggles that people go through. Please, understand that what Shraya talks about is important and more people need to grasp the severity of this issue. If you have already read this story, why not talk about it or other stories like it with your friends and loved ones? Why not share Shraya’s story, lend the people you care about the book, so that they too may understand struggles that they might deal with but other do every day?

 

**edit**

For anyone who cares about the Beauty Guru drama that’s happening between James Charles and Tati Westbrook, books like this one show how harmful your actions can be to a person even of you don’t realize it. James Charles has said things that he believed he could get away with because he’s a member of the LGBTQ+ community. And those comments were not okay. The things that James has said recently about transgendered people touches on many of the same things that Shraya touches on in this hard hitting piece. No matter who you are, you need to be aware that the person you’re forcing to act a certain way or do certain things will be scarred by your actions, probably forever. RESPECT people and their decisions, don’t force them to do anything.

Reflection by Elizabeth Lim

Rating: 4/5 stars

Reflection

Pages: 408

Series: Twisted Tales, Book 4

Genres: YA, Fantasy, Retellings

Reading Challenges: 1 (Asian Author: Chinese)

While this book doesn’t fulfill many of the reading challenges for the Asian Readathon, it has been a book I’ve been wanting to read for a while now. I know that I’ve already read a book (or two) that was (were) written by a Chinese author, that didn’t stop me from picking up this book. I aim to read a more diverse selection of books throughout this month, but I’m glad that I picked Reflection up.

As a fan of both Disney and retellings in general, this book was right up my alley. I’ve already read one of the Twisted Tales books and enjoyed that so I was pretty sure that I’d enjoy this one, too. I was not disappointed.

If you’re a person that enjoys historical novels with a twist – like, say, mythological characters thrown in – but don’t mind the book being based on historical events only loosely, you might enjoy this read. Finding out that Mulan was a real person that fought for China when I was a kid made me love her story even more.

Mulan remains one of my favourite Disney movies of all time. This book made me remember just how much I love the story. While I know the Disney movie isn’t 100% true to history, I can’t help but want to learn more about Fa Mulan after reading this book.

I’m glad that this book was written as it widened my understanding of Chinese mythology and folklore. It took some of the things that I enjoyed so much as a child – like Mushu, Mulan’s guardian – and brought it to the forefront of the story in a new way. Lim did a wonderful job at making her characters jump out of the story and settle themselves in my brain.

This book was also be a great book for a younger person to read if they’re into fantasy. While generally YA books are labeled such as the main characters are in that age range, this story was written such that it is easy to follow and is not graphic. While this book may be taking place within a war, it does not go through any gruesome descriptions that might upset a young reader.

I enjoyed that there was a tiny hint of the romance that takes place in the movie, but that this romance did not take over the story. It was alluded to multiple times throughout the book, but it wasn’t until the very end that there was any romance payoff.

Continue reading “Reflection by Elizabeth Lim”

Not Your Sidekick by C.B. Lee

Rating: 4 stars

Not your Sidekick

Pages: 283

Series: The Sidekick Squad, Book 1

Genres: YA, LGBT, Fantasy, SciFi

Reading Challenges Met: 1 (Asian author: Chinese/Vietnamese); 3 (many intersectional characters, main character is of Asian intersectional identity)

One of the overarching goals/challenges of this Readathon is to read books written by different Asian ethnicities. As the first book I read was written by a Japanese person, I decided to go for a different Asian ethnicity this time (Chinese/Vietnamese).

This story is about a girl, Jess, who has resigned herself to live in a world full of superheros and supervillains with no powers of her own. Finally admitting to herself that she’s normal (that is, without powers), Jess applies for an internship as a way to set herself apart from the rest and to look good on her college applications. This internship ends up being for the supervillain of her city. Add to that her crush also works at the lab and a budding friendship/attraction with the mysterious “M”, and the internship is more interesting than Jess expected.

Overall, this book had a healthy dose of LGBTQ+ representation. I believe that this representation was wonderfully written as it did not marginalize these characters or make it seem as if they were out the outskirts of society because of their sexuality or gender identity. It prominently showcased bi, gay, lesbian, and trans characters.

To me, the romances shown in this story were well written. They were believable for teenage romances, each character acting the way I believe a character would when it comes to dealing with insecurities and jealousy.

Lee also did an amazing job at writing about trying to find your place when you feel like you’re not enough, the way Jess does for most of the book. Right from the beginning it’s obvious that Jess feels like she’s not good enough to be a part of her family and the reader really gets to see her growth as a person on this (and other issues) throughout the book.

I believe that this is a great opening book to the series as it really captured my attention. The plot was engaging and intense, I never felt like the plot was dragging on or too slow. As well, a lot was packed into this book without making things feel rushed. If you’re a person that enjoys reading about super humans, and you’re not against reading about teenagers, this would be a good book for you.

Continue reading “Not Your Sidekick by C.B. Lee”

As Miss Beelzebub Likes by Matoba

Rating: 3 stars

As Miss B

Pages: 141

Series: As Miss Beelzebub Likes

Genres: Manga, Fantasy, Romance, Humour/Comedy

Reading Challenges Met: 1 (Asian author: Japanese); 2 (it’s a manga); 4 (was originally written in Japanese and then translated to English)

This manga was an entertaining read, though it didn’t meet the expectations I had going into it. I expected a more cohesive plot than there was, though there was the barest hint of a larger plot behind all of the one page gags. I’m sure that if I were to continue to read on with the series, which I might still do, the hidden plot will eventually become more of a focal point. It is labeled a romance manga, after all.

The characters themselves were interesting. I liked the way that Matoba wrote them, each one having a unique personality. If I do decide to continue on with the series it’ll be because of the characters and not the plot.

If you’re into slapstick comedy and one liners, this manga might be more your taste than it was mine. Don’t let the talk of romance keep you from it, the romance part of the story is very minor. Also reading about demons is always fun.

 

Asian Readathon TBR

I have decided this month to participate in the Asian Readathon. This readathon is a month long affair and is very flexable in its requirements, which I appreciate. It is being hosted by Cindy (from ReadWithCindy), Sandra (from GotAThingForThings), Chloe (from BooksWithChloe), Kav (from xReadingSolacex), and Ellias (from ElliasReads). All five of these individuals are BookTubers and I recommend checking their channels out if you haven’t already.

For more information about the Readathon, I suggest checking out their Twitter “@asianreadathon” as they have already been very active on it. This is also an easy way to find the Master List of Book Suggestions and Reading Goals/Prompts for the Readathon.

While I expect to deviate from this selection of books slightly, and to add to it as the month progresses, here is my (current) TBR for the Readathon:

Books:

Reflections by Elizabeth Lim: This is a retelling of Mulan, in which Fa Mulan goes further than disguising herself as a man named Ping. In this novel, Mulan must travel to the Underworld in order to save Li Shang’s life as he sacrificed himself to save her. As this story is focused (very loosely) around Chinese history, I believe this books works wonderfully for this Readathon.

The Sun is also a Star by Nicola Yoon: This story takes place when Natasha finds out that her family is being deported back to Jamaica. The day before they leave, she runs into a boy named Daniel. As Daniel is a person that has Korean ancestry, I thought that this month would be a perfect time to read this book. I’ve had the desire to read the book for a while now, and what’s a better time to do so than during an Asian Readathon?

As Miss Beelzebub Likes by Matoba (Vol 1): A manga that was originally written in Japanese, this book fulfills more than one of the readings prompts for the Readathon. The concept of Satan’s right hand [wo]man being a ditz and all about love sounds intriguing to me. I’m looking forward to reading the first volume of the series and, hopefully, continuing on with series.

Everything Here is Beautiful by Mira T. Lee: This is a story about two sisters and their journey through love, loyalty, and heartbreak. This is a book that deals heavily with mental health, a topic that is extremely important to understand.

A Thousand Beginnings and Endings edited by Ellen Oh & Elsie Chapman: This is the group book of the Readathon, to be discussed in a live stream on Cindy’s channel May 25th at 6pm EST. It is an anthology based around the authors’ own East and South Asian cultures.

Descendant of the Crane by Joan He: As He is a Chinese author, this story is perfect for this Readathon. It is about Princess Hesina of Yan dealing with the aftermath of her father’s murder and her sudden elevation to queen. Hesina turns to Akira, a cunning investigator with his own past, to help solve her father’s murder.