New to Korean webcomics? Start here! ft. @readbytiffany ♡

South Korean webcomics, webtoons, or manhwa are digital comics that have gained popularity globally in the last decade. These full-colored comics are read from top to bottom as they’re published in one long vertical strip, meant for reading on a smartphone or computer. In the past year or two it’s become one of my most read mediums because I love the colorful art style and the ease of reading the format provides.

Many Korean dramas are adapted from popular webcomics, such as Cheese in the Trap and What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim, so if you’re a fan of K-dramas then there’s definitely crossover appeal! Romcom, thriller, action, fantasy–there’s something for everyone. 

I’m absolutely elated to have Tiffany from @readbytiffany here today to share webcomic recs with me! She’s a fellow villainess isekai enthusiast and smutty romcom connoisseur who compulsively reads webcomics as much as I do. But first…

Where can you read them?

  1. Webtoons – Officially translated Korean webcomics and original webcomics for free! Probably the most well-known English platform for the medium. This was where I discovered the vast realm of webcomics back in 2015! 
  2. Tapas – Webcomics AND web novels. Some are free and some are premium, which you can either pay for or earn points by watching ads and playing mini games.  
  3. Lezhin Comics – Webcomics with more variety in BL and mature content. The “Wait Until Free” selection gives you a free chapter every X hours.

These are the big three but there are many more places to read webcomics, like Tappytoon and Manta.

The very first one I read on Webtoons was Annarasumanara, a coming-of-age story about a poverty-stricken girl who’s life changes when she meets a mysterious magician. If you like magical realism and nostalgic, contemplative stories, I highly recommend it. It just so happens to be getting adapted into a K-drama by Netflix, titled The Sound of Magic.

On to the recommendations! Tiffany and I each have five of our favorite webcomics to share–there’s some romance, some action, some fantasy, and a whole lot to devour if you’re new! For those already familiar with the medium, you might also find something you haven’t read yet.

Nina’s recommendations:

Omniscient Reader

One day, our MC finds himself stuck in the world of his favorite webnovel. What should he do to survive? It’s a world struck by catastrophe and danger all around. His edge? He knows the plot of the story to end, because he was the sole reader that stuck with it.

  • Impressive cast of characters with their own distinctive personalities and struggles. Found family vibes but make it extremely dysfunctional. Clown-to-clown communications. 
  • The ULTIMATE chaotic trio–basically gaslight (Kim Dojka), gatekeep (Yoo Joonhyuk), and girlboss (Han Sooyoung). Very questionable moral compasses.
  • Powerful female characters with agency that also play a vital role in the plot line!
  • So much more than your typical isekai. Immersive world building and crazy plot twists. Ultimately it’s a story about the love for stories; an ode to storytelling. 
  • Emotional investment: 10/10. Every time I think about the end of the webnovel I feel like bursting into tears.

Positively Yours

To Hee-won’s dismay, the BFF she crushed on and her other BFF are now dating! Seriously bummed, Hee-won decides to go wild just one time, and find solace with a handsome stranger. A very satisfying one night affair has now turned into more — she’s pregnant! Fate brings them together again, and now the regimented Doo-joon is determined to do the right thing and marry her. But they’re basically strangers! Except… their bodies have been very intimately acquainted. What’s this mother-to-be to do? 

  • My all-time favorite romcom webcomic!
  • I don’t even like the accidental pregnancy trope or any sort of pregnancy in my romance but this one was so sweet and wholesome.
  • Two strangers learning how to be in a relationship for their unborn child and falling in love in the process.
  • Billionaire CEO who is not just the president of his company, but also the president of the I Love My Wife And Will Do Anything For Her club.
  • A heartwarming and comedic romance that’ll definitely put a smile on your face.

Unholy Blood

When vampires destroy her chance to have the normal life she’s always wanted, Hayan is forced to draw on her darkest secret to rid the world of the merciless hunters that took it over 10 years ago. With the support of a rising star in the local police force, Hayan steps up to protect her loved ones, face her past, and get her revenge.

  • The perfect blend of action and romance in an urban fantasy setting.
  • Hayan is secretly a vampire who just wants live an ordinary life. Her life turns upside down when vampires rip away her semblance of normality and she has to embrace the power she was born with to take down the most powerful vampires in the world.
  • She teams up with a hot detective who has his own secrets and a slow burn romance ensues.
  • For once it’s the female lead that’s overpowered! She’s seriously badass.

Solo Leveling

In a world where awakened beings called “Hunters” must battle deadly monsters to protect humanity, Sung Jinwoo, nicknamed “the weakest hunter of all mankind,” finds himself in a constant struggle for survival. One day, after a brutal encounter in an overpowered dungeon wipes out his party and threatens to end his life, a mysterious System chooses him as its sole player: Jinwoo has been granted the rare opportunity to level up his abilities, possibly beyond any known limits.

I have an entire post dedicated to why you should read my latest favorite power fantasy here, but to sum it up:

  • Underdog story of the world’s weakest hunter fighting against impossible odds on his journey to become the strongest.
  • Video game-like features (RPG leveling system, abilities, guilds) set in the modern world.
  • Full of action and epic battles (perfect for shounen fans).
  • The art! Every page flows so seamlessly and the sleek style and purposeful use of color reflects the main character’s growth. There are stunning page-long panoramic scenes for high stakes battles that are a feast for the eyes.
  • I don’t want to be the “I read Solo Leveling for the plot” meme, but…THE PLOT:

Under the Oak Tree

Stuttering lady Maximilian is forced into a marriage with Sir Riftan, but he leaves on a campaign after their wedding night. 3 years later, he triumphantly returns, ready to cherish her. As life with her husband finally begins, she only has one question — does she deserve this love and happiness?

  • Historical/fantasy romance with a bit of ~spice~.
  • Timid heroine who grows into herself + grumpy/overbearing hero who is ONLY soft for her. Daughter of a Duke + the greatest Knight in the kingdom dynamic.
  • If you look up tall, dark, and devilishly handsome, Sir Riftan will appear in the results.
  • Misunderstandings and miscommunication adds to the angst factor which I love. While both are flawed characters, there’s a lot of character development!

Tiffany’s recommendations:

An Hour of Romance

Joo-Ahn and Do-Jin couldn’t be any more different at work. She’s a perpetually single career woman who takes everything too seriously and rules with an iron fist. He’s a modelesque klutz with a heart of gold who lucked into an entry-level marketing job.

But when a company trip to a mysterious temple starts an inexplicable soul swap, they end up switching bodies for an hour each day. To avoid utter embarrassment and keep up their reputations, the unlikely pair will have to cooperate and bide their time. Will Joo-Ahn learn to sympathize with the pretty boy who can’t do anything right? And will Do-Jin see the softer side of his boss’s spiky persona?

  • Grumpy female lead x sunshine himbo love interest(!!)
  • Two office workers with polar personalities that must learn to work together after a magical spell makes them switch bodies for an hour every day.
  • From the author of What’s Wrong With Secretary Kim…so you KNOW it’s going to be top tier.

What It Takes To Be a Villainess

With a broken heart, Hwayoung falls headfirst into the river by accident but wakes up as infamous villainess Satiana Altisee Kaylon. Coming to terms with her new life as sole daughter of House Kaylon, Satiana is soon chosen as a candidate for the next empress! In the palace full of schemers and liars, she must become a cold-blooded villainess to win her royal seat by the crown prince – or her new family will face grave danger! Will being perfectly evil really be enough? ‘Cause even villains need love!

  • It’s completed(!!) meaning you don’t have to painstakingly wait for updates.
  • The Bachelor meets The Selection in a competition to win the Crown Prince’s heart and become Empress.
  • Female lead who fully embraces her villainess role and manages to capture the ML’s heart in an Isekai story.

The Villainess is a Marionette

I woke up as Kayena Hill, the novel’s villainess, praised as the greatest beauty in the empire. Who knew that her story would catch my attention because I was her in my past life? Destined for terrible ends, I’ve died twice—but I refuse to die a third time as a pawn in someone else’s scheme. I’m no longer the vain and naïve princess. Now that I know how the story will unfold, I’ll turn the tables around and have everyone dancing to my tune. This time, I’ll be the one pulling the strings.

  • The most BEAUTIFUL…I repeat…BEAUTIFUL artwork you will ever lay your eyes on.
  • A badass female lead who takes her fate into her own hands.
  • Once again…everyone is so pretty 🥺😭

No Longer a Heroine 

Lisa Cheon used to be the nation’s favorite on-screen idol, but swiftly falls from grace after being framed as a drug addict. She is offered the opportunity to turn it all around by starring on a new TV show, but it won’t be easy: her character’s love interest is her ex-boyfriend, and she’s too nervous to act without alcohol. Can Lisa regain what she has lost and face the demons of her past?

  • Thrilling, fun, exciting…could literally be a K-drama…and it SHOULD be.
  • Follows the famous Lisa Cheon, who made her name as an immensely talented child actress. After retiring due to a drug scandal, she’s headlining the nation’s most highly anticipated K-drama as the female lead.
  • Second chance romance?! But we also stan the second male lead because he’s a cinnamon roll.

Days of Hana

Friends since childhood, Haru and Hana do not have a typical relationship — Hana is human, and Haru is her werewolf who must protect her. Although werewolves are starting to have more rights, they are still seen as exotic beasts by society. As the two fall in love, what will be their fate?

  • Another A++ completed webtoon(!!) 
  • Urban fantasy centering around werewolves, starring two childhood friends…who may or may not become lovers.
  • The entire story is a larger metaphor for institutionalized racism, racial oppression, animal cruelty, civil uprising, and more.

Did any of these pique your interest? Let us know your thoughts if you pick any of these webcomics up!

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2021 Favorites: Books, Manga, K-drama & more

2021 brought me quite a few phenomenal reads, from books to manga to webcomics & manhwa. Some made me laugh, some made me cry, and some made fall down the fandom rabbit hole. Most importantly, I discovered new favorite books and series that helped me get through the difficult year! My favorite stories are the ones that leave a lasting impression; stories I still talk about long after I read the last chapter or watch the last episode, stories I want to share my love for with all my friends and family, and well, you dear reader! Before I get into my top reads and shows, let’s look at a quick recap of 2021.

2021 At A Glance

  • This year I read a total of 74 books (and currently on my 75th to reach my reading goal)!
  • My most read genre was fantasy–no surprise there as it’s my favorite–followed by romance.
  • My least read genres were sci-fi and nonfiction.
  • Nearly a third of my reads were webcomics and manga. This year I read more webcomics than ever!
  • I reread 4 books: These Violent Delights (for Subtle Asian Book Club’s January BOTM), On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, Heart of Obsidian, and Jade Legacy twice.
  • I listened to 2 audiobooks.
  • I buddy-watched 7 K-dramas.

Favorite Books

1. Jade Legacy | The Green Bone Saga by Fonda Lee

I read the entire Green Bone Saga this year and it claims the throne as my all time favorite fantasy series. It’s a thrilling wuxia-inspired gangster saga; imagine The Godfather in an urban fantasy metropolis where magic comes in the form of jade and two rival crime syndicates go to war, vying for control and power. It’s about family and honor and love and war. And it absolutely destroyed me. I’ve reread Jade Legacy twice and my mind still drifts to this brilliant story in idle moments. This trilogy was the highlight of my reading year.

2. She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker Chan

I’m not a masochist by any means, but my favorite books tend to hurt (see the above). She Who Became the Sun is a reimagining of the rise of the Ming Dynasty’s founding emperor. Mulan meets The Song of Achilles meets The Poppy War. The story revolves around a peasant who has the unwavering ambition for greatness and glory, and to achieve that she claims her dead brother’s identity. I adore quiet, unassuming characters with an underlying propensity for ruthlessness. That’s our anti-heroine. I especially loved the the nuanced exploration of gender identity alongside the themes of war and vengeance and fate.

3. Daughter of the Moon Goddess by Sue Lynn Tan

I can’t wait for everyone to read this book because it’s just so beautiful. The worldbuilding is lush and magical, the writing is exquisite, and the fairytale-esque atmosphere will sweep you away. Daughter of the Moon Goddess retells the legend of Chang’e the Chinese moon goddess, where her daughter embarks on a dangerous quest to free her mother from exile. There’s adventure and magic, immortals and romance, legendary creatures and ancient Chinese folklore. Keep an eye out for this YA fantasy debut in January!

4. The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood

My favorite romance of the year! The Love Hypothesis certainly lives up to the hype. Women in STEM? Check. Fake dating? Check. Grumpy hero who is only soft for the heroine (aka I hate everyone but you)? CHECK. I am weak for grumpy x sunshine. The characters are just so lovable. Not only that, but this was originally a Reylo fanfic! Although I’m not in the Star Wars fandom and know very little about Reylo, I’m an avid consumer of fanfics so I’m very fond of them! To see a story that started as a fanfic garner this much success makes me so happy.

5. The Heart Principle by Helen Hoang

Ah yes, yet another book that wrecked emotional havoc on me. The previous authors were all new to me, but Helen Hoang is a favorite of mine! The Bride Test remains my favorite, and while I don’t think anything will ever top that, The Heart Principle comes in at a very close second. This story has a different tone than the rest of her books. It explores heavier subjects like depression, suicidal ideation, and toxic family relationships. Some parts hit a little close to home so it was a very heart-rendering read for me.

Honorable mentions: If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio, Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao, The Keeper of Night by Kylie Lee Baker

Favorite Webcomics & Manga

Solo Leveling

If you’re familiar with my bookstagram or blog, you’re probably tired of how much I talk about Solo Leveling. I really can’t help it–it’s my favorite webcomic this year. I’m even collecting the english translated physical copies to start my Jinwoo shrine. Jokes aside, as far as power fantasy goes, this one is pretty typical in that the protagonist goes from helpless to absolutely overpowered, but it’s just so addicting. It’s full of action and epic battles and the sleek art is a feast for the eyes. The page-long panoramic scenes during high stakes fights? *chef’s kiss*

Positively Yours

The best romcom webcomic ever. No I will not be taking questions. I teared up when Positively Yours ended because I loved it so much (and because the ending was utterly perfect). I think there’s a gaping whole in my chest now that it’s over. The ML is the president of the “I love my wife and will do anything for her” club, and the best part? He has the power to. It’s lighthearted and sweet and I just felt really happy reading it. Positively Yours is my ultimate comfort webcomic.

Omniscient Reader

You ever heard of the meme “gaslight, gatekeep, girlboss”? That’s the trio of Omniscient Reader, and I’ve never loved a golden trio so damn much. Their dynamic has borderline unhinged found family vibes. Extremely dysfunctional. I’m talking about clown-to-clown communication–which, makes the wholesome moments all the sweeter. This webcomic/webnovel is an ode to stories and storytelling. It’s about the sole reader of an apocalyptic story that turns to reality, and only he knows how to survive.

Jujutsu Kaisen

You’ve probably already heard of Jujutsu Kaisen so I’ll spare the details but when I finished the anime, the first thing I did was read the manga, and boy did it get INTENSE. Pain and suffering is all I know apparently. Remember when I said I fell down the fandom rabbit hole? This was it. I caught up on the manga and turned to fanfiction to cope. Maybe I even wrote one.

Honorable mentions: Chainsaw Man, Unholy Blood, Under the Oak Tree

Favorite K-Drama


Just thinking about everyone I convinced to watch this series who later came back to tell me they loved it makes me giddy. Vincenzo follows a Korean-Italian lawyer/Mafia consigliere who flees to Seoul in the midst of a Mafia war and ends up waging his own war against a corrupt conglomerate. It holds an underlying comedic tone interspersed with suspenseful scenes, action-packed sequences, tender moments, and gut-wrenching parts. If you like found family, thrilling action, comedy, and subtle romance, this drama is a must-watch! The true MVPs were the antagonists.

Miscellaneous Favorites


Both the US & UK covers of Six Crimson Cranes by Elizabeth Lim are absolutely stunning. While I didn’t get to read it this year, it’s on my 12 months 12 recs challenge next year!


While I wasn’t the biggest fan of the Inazuma arc, Genshin Impact was basically the only game I played this year and I’m still in love with the stunning soundtrack, the plethora of characters, the beautiful landscapes to explore, and the fun events!

How was your reading year? What was your favorite book? Do you have any reading goals for 2022?

10 Highly-Anticipated Anime to Look Forward to in 2022

This was a lackluster year of anime for me. I only managed to finish two series–Jujutsu Kaisen and Attack on Titan: The Final Season (the former being the newest addition to my list of favorites). I grew up on anime, but as the years go by I find myself more inclined to read manga than watch its animated counterpart, partially because there’s far more content, it’s more convenient, and reading is my preferred medium. Is it still considered an anime slump if my interests have been tepid for the last few years? Just as all hope seemed to be lost, next year’s confirmed anime comes in swinging to change my disposition. 2022 might just be the year that reignites my love for anime.

There’s a plethora of shows I’m incredibly excited for; some of my favorite mangas finally getting adaptations, highly-anticipated prequels and sequels confirmed, and a handful of unfamiliar ones that have piqued my interest. Without further ado, here are 10 anime series and movies to keep on your radar in 2022.

Chainsaw Man

This started off as possibly the strangest and most absurd manga I’ve ever read, but gradually developed to become one of the most haunting and memorable ones I’ve had the pleasure of reading. A fantastic combination of dark fantasy, comedy, and horror with a deeper plot than meets the eye. The protagonist is a Devil Hunter with simple dreams, who also happens to become the chainsaw devil after an unfortunate turn of events. The first arc seems silly with very typical shonen tropes, but it gets significantly better the further you read. It’s also full of pain, but hey, the best things pull at your heartstrings. Content warnings for gore and body horror. This series is dark.


My favorite manga of 2019 is finally getting an anime adaption! Did I scream when I heard the news? Possibly. Words can’t fully express how much I love this series. It’s full of heart and humor and the wholesome-value is off the charts while also satisfying my preference for exciting action. SPYxFamily follows a spy who’s tasked with an assignment that requires him to go undercover and procure a fake family. Marriage of convenience fans, this is your calling! He ends up unknowingly marrying an assassin and adopting a telepath daughter. Hilarity ensures. Can’t wait to watch the anime? Pick up the manga! I also recommended it in my ‘New to manga? Start here‘ post.

Jujutsu Kaisen 0

Jujustu Kaisen is my latest favorite shonen. After finishing the first season, I read the manga and devoured it in a week (a lot of pain and suffering was involved). I love the characters, the storyline, the art, and everything in between. It subverts a lot of shonen norms of the older big 3, and has some of the most well written female characters in manga in my opinion (I’m looking at Maki). This series has me in an emotional chokehold. Was there a period of time where I obsessively read JJK fanfiction after catching up with the manga? Maybe. To say I’m excited for the prequel movie is an understatement!

Attack on Titan: The Final Season Part 2

This will be the end of an era. I still remember watching the very first season of Attack on Titan back in high school, when it was considered one of the few “mainstream” anime that everyone could get into. Alas, all good things must come to an end, and as a manga reader of this series, I’m ready to bawl my eyes out. I almost teared up when I initially heard the ending song of the final season part 1 (Shock by Yuko Ando). I can only imagine how much more devastating it will feel when the final ending song of the final episode plays. I hope we all recover from this, fellow AoT fans.

Bungo Stray Dogs 4

This is one of those series I’m invested in for the characters far more than the plot. In fact, if you asked me what the overarching plot was (my terrible memory aside), off the top of my head I wouldn’t be able to give you much. What I do love, however, is a character named Dazai–a member of the Armed Detective Agency and former executive of Port Mafia. The magic system/concept of everyone’s abilities is also really cool. The characters are based off of famous writers and their books (Osuma Dazai, F. Scott Fitzgerald, E.A. Poe, Ryunosuke Akutagawa).

Bleach: Thousand-Year Blood War

Bleach was one of the very first anime I watched when I was young, alongside Inuyasha and Naruto. It holds a special place in my heart, despite the rushed manga ending and the not-so-satisfying outcome. Bleach still has some of the most legendary moments in anime for me, from the Ulquiorra vs Ichigo battle to the reveal of the big baddie. Don’t get me started on the phenomenal OST. I imagine I’ll feel terribly nostalgic watching this, after all the last episode of Bleach was aired nearly a decade ago.

Kaguya-Sama: Ultra Romantic (season 3)

One of my favorite romcoms is getting another season! I love the rivals-to-lovers trope and Kaguya is such an awkwardly endearing character. The comical cast of side characters makes the show even better. I can never get enough of this series!

Blue Lock

I’ve been searching high and low for the next sports anime to obsess over (after Haikyuu), and Blue Lock might be the one. I’ve never read the manga but the trailer has me excited with the intensity! I’m hoping for wholesome bromances, exciting competitive matches, distinctive character dynamics, and the uplifting/motivating vibes I tend to get from sports anime.

Compulsive Gambler Twin (Kakegurui Twin)

The spin-off to Compulsive Gambler! It’s technically a prequel that takes place a year before Yumeko Jabami enters the academy, focusing on our favorite psychopathic blonde gambler, Mary Satome. It’s a bit trashy but really such a fun series. As the title suggests, the anime is about gambling! Taking place at one of Japan’s most prestigious private schools, the student hierarchy is determined by one thing and one thing only: gambling prowess. High-stakes matches take place among these gambling maniacs, sometimes putting their very lives on the line.

Fruits Basket Prelude

I love Fruits Basket. It was the first manga I read in the library when I was young and it’s a romance/slice of life classic! I’ve read the whole series and watched the original anime (I need to catch up on the remake). I can’t think of an anime with a more lovable cast of characters than this series. The upcoming special episode centers around our beloved main character’s parents. I can’t wait!

What anime are you looking forward to watching next year?

🎧 10 Audiobooks on Spotify + How to Find More

Did you know that Spotify had audiobooks? I recently discovered this and it felt like a game-changer! I’ve always wanted to incorporate more audiobooks into my monthly reading and as a frequent user of Spotify, this was perfect―all my music, podcasts, and audiobooks in one app. I can listen while I’m working out, cooking, cleaning, etc. Multitaskers rejoice!

Neon Gods was the very first one I stumbled upon after seeing a tweet from the author Katee Robert. I posted it in my story on bookstagram and got quite a few replies from people who were just as surprised as I was that audiobooks were available on Spotify for free! I scoured through a bunch of playlists to compile a list of various genres, from YA fantasy to romcom. Without further ado, here are 10 audiobooks on Spotify that you can start listening to now!

Neon Gods by Katee Robert

Society darling Persephone Dimitriou plans to flee the ultra-modern city of Olympus and start over far from the backstabbing politics of the Thirteen Houses. But all that’s ripped away when her mother ambushes her with an engagement to Zeus, the dangerous power behind their glittering city’s dark facade. 

With no options left, Persephone flees to the forbidden undercity and makes a devil’s bargain with a man she once believed a myth…a man who awakens her to a world she never knew existed. 

Descendant of the Crane by Joan He

Princess Hesina of Yan has always been eager to shirk the responsibilities of the crown, but when her beloved father is murdered, she’s thrust into power, suddenly the queen of an unstable kingdom. Determined to find her father’s killer, Hesina does something desperate: she engages the aid of a soothsayer—a treasonous act, punishable by death… because in Yan, magic was outlawed centuries ago.

In this shimmering Chinese-inspired fantasy, debut author Joan He introduces a determined and vulnerable young heroine struggling to do right in a world brimming with deception.

Wicked As You Wish by Rin Chupeco

Many years ago, the magical Kingdom of Avalon was left encased in ice when the Snow Queen waged war. Its former citizens are now refugees in a world mostly devoid of magic. Which is why the crown prince and his protectors are stuck in…Arizona.

A new hope for their abandoned homeland reignites when a famous creature of legend, the Firebird, appears for the first time in decades. Alex and Tala must unite with a ragtag group of new friends to journey back to Avalon for a showdown that will change the world as they know it.

We Are the Fire by Sam Taylor

In the cold, treacherous land of Vesimaa, children are stolen from their families by a cruel emperor, forced to undergo a horrific transformative procedure, and serve in the army as magical fire-wielding soldiers. Pran and Oksana―both taken from their homeland at a young age―only have each other to hold onto in this heartless place.

When they discover the emperor has a new, more terrible mission than ever for their kind, Pran and Oksana vow to escape his tyranny once and for all. But their methods and ideals differ drastically, driving a wedge between them. Worse still, they both soon find that the only way to defeat the monsters that subjugated them may be to become monsters themselves.

All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater

Any visitor to Bicho Raro, Colorado is likely to find a landscape of dark saints, forbidden love, scientific dreams, miracle-mad owls, estranged affections, one or two orphans, and a sky full of watchful desert stars.

At the heart of this place you will find the Soria family, who all have the ability to perform unusual miracles. And at the heart of this family are three cousins longing to change its future. They are all looking for a miracle. But the miracles of Bicho Raro are never quite what you expect.

The Bird and the Sword by Amy Harmon

The day my mother was killed, she told my father I wouldn’t speak again, and she told him if I died, he would die too. Then she predicted the king would trade his soul and lose his son to the sky. My father has a claim to the throne, and he is waiting in the shadows for all of my mother’s words to come to pass. He wants desperately to be king, and I just want to be free.

But freedom will require escape, and I’m a prisoner of my mother’s curse and my father’s greed. I can’t speak or make a sound, and I can’t wield a sword or beguile a king. In a land purged of enchantment, love might be the only magic left, and who could ever love…a bird?

You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson

Liz Lighty has always believed she’s too black, too poor, too awkward to shine in her small, rich, prom-obsessed midwestern town. But it’s okay―Liz has a plan that will get her out of Campbell, Indiana, forever: attend the uber-elite Pennington College, play in their world-famous orchestra, and become a doctor.

But when the financial aid she was counting on unexpectedly falls through, Liz’s plans come crashing down . . . until she’s reminded of her school’s scholarship for prom king and queen. There’s nothing Liz wants to do less than endure a gauntlet of social media trolls, catty competitors, and humiliating public events, but despite her devastating fear of the spotlight she’s willing to do whatever it takes to get to Pennington.

The Mountains Sing by Nguyen Phan Que Mai

The Mountains Sing tells an enveloping, multigenerational tale of the Tran family, set against the backdrop of the Viet Nam War. Tran Dieu Lan, who was born in 1920, was forced to flee her family farm with her six children during the Land Reform as the Communist government rose in the North. Years later in Hà Noi, her young granddaughter, Hương, comes of age as her parents and uncles head off down the Ho Chí Minh Trail to fight in a conflict that will tear not just her beloved country but her family apart.

All Stirred Up by Brianne Moore

Susan Napier’s family once lived on the success of the high-end restaurants founded by her late grandfather. But bad luck and worse management has brought the business to the edge of financial ruin. Now it’s up to Susan to save the last remaining restaurant: Elliot’s, the flagship in Edinburgh.

But what awaits Susan in the charming city of Auld Reekie is more than she bargained for. Chris Baker, her grandfather’s former protégé―and her ex-boyfriend―is also heading to the Scottish capital.

The Roommate Agreement by Emma Hart

Let your homeless best friend stay with you, he said. Being roommates will be fun, he said. It’s only temporary, he said. He never said I’d fall for him.

You know what isn’t ‘temporary?’ The endless stream of dirty socks in my bathroom and empty food packets under the sofa—and don’t even get me started on the hot guys who take over my living room every Sunday to watch sports. I can’t take anymore.

So I propose a roommate agreement.

How do you find audiobooks on Spotify?

Even though audiobooks don’t have its own category, they’re relatively simple to find. If you’re looking for a specific title, you can search for it like you’d search for a song or a podcast. Otherwise, you’ll have to sift through playlists for something that piques your interest.

  1. Look up ‘audiobooks’ in the search bar.
  2. Scroll down to ‘playlists’ and select ‘see all’.
  3. Here you’ll find plenty of lists, usually categorized by genre or series to go through. lismio: discover audiobooks is also a great profile to follow for audiobooks sorted by genre!

I expect Spotify to continue expanding into the audiobook market so I’m sure more audiobooks will be available in the near future!

Fresh Strawberry Milk With 3 Ingredients

Summer is in full swing and I wanted to share my favorite drink to start the day with: fresh strawberry milk. All you need are 3 ingredients! It’s easy to make and so delicious with chunky bits of fruit. It’s also perfect for picnics! I stumbled upon this while watching Korean cafe videos and I knew I had to try it myself. Now I have a jar of homemade strawberry syrup in the fridge every week. It’s better than the strawberry milk you buy at the grocery store because there’s no artificial flavoring. 100% real ingredients here! Try it out yourself and see why this refreshing, flavorful drink is so popular in Korea.


✧ Half punnet of strawberries

✧ Milk of your choice

✧ 5 tsp. of sugar

All the work in this recipe lies in a quick preparation. I spend 5-10 minutes in the evening prepping the strawberries to leave in the fridge overnight so I can have a glass of fresh strawberry milk in the morning.


  1. Wash and hull half a punnet of strawberries (approximately 1/2 lbs). This should be enough to fill a 16 oz. mason jar.
  2. Dice the strawberries so that it’s small enough to easily fit through a boba straw. I like to be able to eat the bits and pieces of fruit so mine are pretty chunky, but if you prefer a puree, you can mash or blend it as well. Fill up your mason jar.
  3. Add 5 tsp of sugar and shake (or stir if you have a puree) well. I recommend refrigerating it overnight so that the sugar can pull out all the strawberries’ juices. It’s like making macerated strawberries. You’ll get more syrup compared to leaving it for an hour or two.
  4. Voila! You now have fresh strawberry syrup with chunky bits. This recipe yields 2 to 3 drinks depending on your syrup to milk ratio. My preferred ratio is 1/3 strawberry syrup and 2/3 milk, but sometimes I split it evenly. Enjoy!


Make sure both the strawberry syrup and milk are chilled before you mix them to avoid curdling.

The syrup can be stored in an airtight jar or bottle in your refrigerator for 2-3 days.

If you decided to give this recipe a try, let me know how you like it (or tag me) over on Instagram at @tender.curiosity! I’d love to hear your thoughts.

K-Drama Review: The Penthouse (season 1)

The Penthouse: War in Life might just be the craziest Korean drama I’ve ever watched. I can’t recall a K-drama ever inducing this much stress and frustration—and I’m no stranger to makjang (highly exaggerated) dramas. It’s the ultimate revenge thriller with elements of suspense, crime, and mystery. The staggering plot twists and shocking revelations will leave you blindsided, continually second guessing what you think you know. While there are some logical pitfalls and questionable sub-conflicts, Penthouse is certainly a K-drama to remember.

Penthouse takes place in Hera Palace, a 100-story luxury apartment where South Korea’s elites reside. The drama opens with a bang when a student falls to her death, landing on the statue of the Greek goddess Hera; cradled in those cold marble arms, crimson splattered on pale open wings. It’s a symbolic scene that set the tone for the rest of the show. Hera is known as the goddess of women, marriage, and family in Greek religion and mythology. It represents the three women that the plot revolves around; three women with different backgrounds who all seek power and revenge in some way.

No one is completely innocent, except, maybe the poor girl who was murdered, but this drama is full of despicable characters you’ll love to hate (emphasis on the hate). The lies, deceit, betrayal, and corruption—there were times when I felt so upset that I had to take a break. It’s a rollercoaster of emotions. Just when I thought things couldn’t get any worse, they did, and boy did my blood boil. Aside from the highly dramatized plot twists, Penthouse also meaningfully explores themes of education, class privilege, and female rage. How far is a mother is willing to go to exact revenge when she has nothing left to lose? How dirty is she willing to play? The power of female rage is a glorious thing. Never underestimate a mother’s wrath!  

Character tier list.

My friend and I made several tier lists while watching. This one was from quite early on, when we were only three or four episodes in. As you can see, there weren’t very many characters we loved but quite a few that we despised. As more information and history were revealed, some characters moved up the list and some moved down, and I couldn’t help but pity them because at the end of the day, (almost) everyone was a victim of circumstance, whether it was how they were raised or the mental/physical abuse they faced. Except for the chairman. No pity for him here. He can rot in the depths of hell.

Check out Penthouse if you like murder mysteries, over-the-top drama, revenge stories, crazy plot twists, and the rags-to-riches trope. Keep in mind that nearly all the characters are terrible, and it’s quite stress-inducing! I’m taking a breather before I dive into season 2 because I’m not sure how much more my heart can take, but there’s something undeniably compelling about this series so I’m definitely going to see how things unfold.

The residents of Hera Palace, a luxury penthouse apartment with 100 floors, have many secrets and hidden ambitions. Sim Su Ryeon, who was born into wealth, is the queen of the penthouse apartment. Cheon Seo Jin, the prima donna of the residence, does all she can to give everything to her daughter. Oh Yoon Hee comes from a poor family background, but she strives to enter high society by becoming the queen of the penthouse, the pinnacle of success in her eyes. A battle for wealth, power, and prestige at Seoul’s most coveted penthouse begins.


Why You Should Read Solo Leveling

There’s a quote from Donna Tartt’s The Secret History that I was reminded of when I read Solo Leveling:

❝I am nothing in my soul if not obsessive.

I’ve read many books, manga, and webcomics that were phenomenal, but only a select few have really left its mark on me. The kind of stories that consume my every waking thought. I mull over it in idle moments, talk to all my friends about it, convince others to read it, buy art, collect different editions, and so on. When I’m in deep; beyond the shores of Acheron, standing before the gates of the abyss, I even look for fanfiction to read. And when there’s nothing to read, I write it myself.

This doesn’t happen very often. In fact, I can count the number of fandoms I’ve been part of on one hand, but that’s where I am with Solo Leveling right now. I stayed up until 2 am rereading all 110 chapters of the first season over the course of two days. When I caught up on the webcomic, I read the web novel, and when I finished that, I went out to buy the english physical copy to start my collection. Solo Leveling is my latest obsession for a very good reason, and it holds the throne as my current favorite webcomic!

What is Solo Leveling?

Solo Leveling is originally a Korean web novel written by Chu-gong that was later adapted into a webcomic illustrated by Jang Sung-rak (aka Dubu). In a world where portals, or “gates”, full of hostile abyssal monsters have spawned, threatening the existence of humanity, some humans have developed extraordinary powers to fight against them. This small population is known as “hunters”. Their job is to enter the gate and clear the dungeon by defeating the creatures that await within. The story follows protagonist Sung Jin-Woo, an E-rank hunter known as the world’s weakest, on his rise to power to become the strongest hunter in the world.

What makes Solo Leveling so good?

The characters. Jin-Woo starts off as the weakest hunter in the world, barely stronger than the average human, but he’s full of heart and determination. He struggled through the lowest level dungeons to provide for his family, and with a missing father and a hospitalized mother, he had to raise his younger sister himself. His motivation to get stronger is simply to protect those he cares about. He’s not a terribly complicated character—doesn’t have an elaborate ambition like many other protagonists (i.e. Naruto’s dream of becoming Hokage)—but that’s what makes him so endearing. He fights against impossible odds and overcomes challenge after challenge to grow into a powerful Shadow Monarch. Underdog stories are just so satisfying.

The side characters are compelling as well, from the various guild masters to the antagonists. Jin-Woo’s shadow soldiers Igris and Beru are my favorites! Igris is his first shadow, the ever-chivalrous knight, and Beru is his (current) strongest shadow in the webcomic.

Jin-Woo and Beru.

Can you believe that this incredibly powerful shadow general likes watching historical dramas and reenacting it with his liege? The unexpected humor is the icing on the cake!

The blend of RPG games and reality. If you’re a fan of RPG/MMORPG games, you’re going to enjoy this one. There’s a leveling system in the webcomic that’s similar to that of video games. Jin-Woo gets quests to complete—like daily training or defeating a boss—that levels him up. He is essentially a “player” in the real world. He learns and develops abilities, becomes proficient with weapons, and grows via the leveling system, hence the name Solo Leveling. For the most part, he defeats bosses himself with the assistance of the shadow army, which he commands.

The art. It’s stunning. Every page feels like a feast for the eyes. The art is sleek and modern, with purposeful use of color to reflect power. There’s a minimalist style that the artist uses to illustrate Jin-Woo and the art choice represents his character so well; bold, flat black tones that make you feel like he’s the abyss himself. Endless and vast and ancient in power. There’s a clear difference in how he’s illustrated in the beginning; full of color, softer lines, more detailed, to his current form of the Shadow Monarch; seamless blacks with a singular pop color to convey his power. I think that the absence of details in his current form shows how he lost parts of himself as he got stronger. The minimalism suits his now stoic personality. Everything is drawn purposefully.

Solo Leveling is fast-paced with high-octane action sequences that will leave your heart pounding. It starts off with a bang and pulls you into its shadows, immersing you in a world where humans and monsters battle for the fate of the world. Everything is amazing, from the visuals to the story, and you’ll find yourself reading into the late hours of the night because of how binge-worthy this series is.

Interested in more?

Thanks to its wide-spread popularity, Solo Leveling will be adapted into a drama and a game in the United States! I’m incredibly excited for both, but maybe a little more hesitant on the drama side as the quality will be dependent on which studio will handle it. I think the ultimate end game for many Solo Leveling fans is an anime adaptation. I get chills just imagining how the battles will animated. Especially one of the early ones when Jin-Woo acquires Igris. Without a doubt, it would be mentioned alongside the current giants in anime like Jujustu Kaisen and Demon Slayer. Just take a look at this amazing animation:

I hope this has convinced you to pick up Solo Leveling! Who knows, it might just be your next favorite webcomic.

K-Drama Review: Vincenzo (spoiler free)

If I had to pick a favorite Korean Drama so far this year, it would undoubtably be Vincenzo. If you’re a fan of K-drama, you might’ve already heard of Vincenzo as it has taken the community by storm. And for a good reason! But if you haven’t, the drama follows a Korean-Italian lawyer and Mafia consigliere, who flees to Seoul in the midst of a Mafia war, and ends up waging war against a corrupt conglomerate where he delivers his own brand of justice. He doesn’t do it alone, and this is where one of my favorite underrated tropes comes in: found family! He forms his own little Mafia with an eccentric, endearing group of misfits.

At times like this, we must find out who their enemies are. Because the enemy of my enemy is a friend.


Admittedly, the beginning caught me off guard with how quickly the tone shifted from serious to humorous to tragic and back. But once I got a better feeling of the show, it was no longer jarring and instead blended together seamlessly. Vincenzo holds an underlying comedic tone throughout the entire series, interspersed with suspenseful scenes, action-packed sequences, tender moments, and gut-wrenching parts. Don’t be fooled by the seemingly lighthearted tone of this K-drama. It deals with darker, heavy topics and doesn’t shy away from tragedy. It even gets gruesome! What Vincenzo excels at is the element of surprise—you’re never quite sure what to expect. I went from laughing until my sides hurt to gasping in horror, quite a few times. There’s a bit of everything, from tongue in cheek, borderline absurd comedy to a slow-burn heartfelt romance.

I’ve never seen a K-drama use its large cast of side characters so well. I was invested in every single resident and was delighted to see that there was far more to them than meets the eye. My initial impression of Vincenzo was that he was a ruthless, self-serving, pragmatic man who always seemed to be a step ahead of his enemies. While he refers to himself as a villain, I think he falls more into the anti-hero category. Sure, his moral compass is somewhat skewed (he worked for the Mafia after all), but his actions are propelled by a sense of justice. He becomes more of a compassionate character as the drama progresses, and makes plenty of friends along the way. A far cry from the lonesome lawyer who got robbed upon entering South Korea.

One of the most impressive parts of the K-drama was how terrifying yet compelling the antagonists were. They’re so evil, so chilling, so crazy that I just couldn’t look away whenever they were on the screen. The entire cast was incredible, but my highest praises go to Ok Taecyeon and Kim Yeo-jin because their performances blew me away. I watched the whole drama with my friend and he couldn’t stop talking about how scary Kim Yeo-jin’s character was because she played the role so well.

Overall verdict: Vincenzo starts with a bang (or should I say roaring blaze) and ends on an equally exciting and satisfying note. I’ll never look at lighters the same way again!

Rating: 9/10 – Highly recommend.

Bonus rating from my friend who doesn’t watch K-drama but was willing to watch this with me: 8/10

gifs from @jahe

“Villains never break up because they’re tenacious. Even when they’re in love.”


Blurb: At the age of eight, Park Joo Hyeong went to Italy after being adopted. Now an adult, he is known as Vincenzo Cassano to the Mafia, who employ him as a consigliere. Because mafia factions are at war with each other, he flees to South Korea, where he gets involved with Lawyer Hong Cha Young. She is the type of attorney who will do anything to win a case.

(From mydramalist)

Vincenzo cast:

Song Joong-Ki as Vincenzo Cassano

Jeon Yeo-bin as Hong Cha Young

Ok Taecyeon as Jang Jun Woo

Kwak Dong-Yeon as Jang Han Seo

Kim Yeo-jin as Choi Myung Hee

A New Endeavor

Hello! I’m Nina.

My love for reading started, like many other bookworms, when I was young. I spent the summers of my youth at the local library, where I lived many lives between the pages of middle-grade books and manga. I was raised among stories and dreams, and in that little nook of the now-torn-down library that I still remember so vividly, I became a voracious reader.

In the ever vast depths of the internet, I’ve always wanted to have my own virtual journal of musings and reveries and ramblings. I have a Bookstagram (@tender.curiosity) full of features and reviews, but I felt somewhat limited by what I could post, partially due to it being a book-oriented account, but also because the scrolling nature of the platform itself called for shorter, succinct captions.

While pithy is certainly an art in itself, sometimes when a book moves me so greatly, I want to be lengthy and verbose in waxing poetic love for the written word. I wanted a place where I could be as in-depth as I wanted without limitations. I also wanted to expand my content to other interests I’m enthusiastic about, like creative writing, manga discussions, K-drama recommendations, lifestyle musings, art and fashion, and so much more. Thus, my sights were set on creating a blog—and here we are!

This is a passion project that has been simmering in the back of my mind for a long time, and I’m elated to finally bring it to life. I can’t wait to share all the things I love with you all! It’s quite barren right now, but I’ll be gradually filling up the blog every week and moving in the pieces—my tender curiosities—until it feels cozy and lived in. So welcome! Let’s settle in for conversations over coffee (or tea).