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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2022 Reading Goals & Challenges

Hello 2022! New year, same Nina excited for all the books to come. Last year I set a reading goal of 75 books and found it to be a bit stressful, so this year I’m setting a more manageable goal of 50 books! The goal? Expand my reading horizons while also tackling the books I already own.

I have quite a few books on my 2022 TBR already–48 to be exact! Every year I make a list of books I want and hope to read. Many of them are the year’s new releases I’m anticipating, but I actually never manage to read all of them so there’s plenty of leeway for my mood reads and the books I already own but haven’t gotten around to reading.

There’s one particular book on my TBR that has made an appearance on every list since 2019: Deathless by Catherynne Valente. I’ve been meaning to read it for such a long time and I’m fairly certain it’ll be my next favorite (not sure why I put off books I know I’ll love for so long). This is finally the year!

Most of the books on my TBR are 2022 releases so if you want to see what I’m excited for most, check out my 10 Most Anticipated Books of 2022!


2022 Reading Goals

  1. Read 50 books.
  2. Read my shelf: every month read one book I already own.
  3. Listen to one audiobook each month.
  4. Read two nonfiction books.
  5. Read more translated web novels.

New books are hard to resist, but this year I’m determined to make an effort to read the books I already own. I’m limiting myself to only buying six new physical books between now and December. The idea is for every two books I read from my own shelf, I get to buy one new book. I’ve always been a bit of an impulsive buyer; easily swayed by pretty covers, but I want to be more conscious and deliberate in the purchases that I make. One, because I don’t have any room, and two, to save money!

I also need to unhaul books because I have stacks and stacks everywhere–ARCs from publishers and my own impulsive buys that have been gathering dust. I plan on doing a giveaway as promised for the giant stack that reached my height, and also donating some to the Little Free Libraries in the area. As much as I’d love to keep all these books for my future personal library, they’re better off in other hands right now.

Last month I signed up for an Audible subscription to listen to Jade Legacy while working out, and I’m not sure if it was because of Andrew Kishino’s phenomenal narrating or some other reason but I developed a newfound love for audiobooks! I want to incorporate an audiobook into my monthly reading (it’ll also give me the motivation to go to the gym more consistently).

As an escapist reader, nonfiction is by far my least read genre, but I want to dip my toes into the water so I set a humble count of two: one memoir and one self-development. Maybe I’ll enjoy them enough to pick up more!

My final goal is to read more translated web novels. With the huge success of MXTX novels hitting the New York Time’s bestsellers, I’ve realized that it’s a largely untapped territory for me! I’ve watched the animated adaption of Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation but I’ve never read any novels from this renowned author. Heaven’s Official Blessing is first on my list of many web novels.


12 Months 12 Recommendations Challenge

This challenge has been making rounds on bookstagram and booktwt these past few weeks and I wanted to join in on the fun! I have 12 months to read 12 recommended books. I asked booksta for recs and here were the results:

Thank you everyone for the recommendations!

Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge – Tiffany @quilltreefox

The Bromance Book Club by Lyssa Kay Adams – Bea @beamasalunga

Book Lovers by Emily Henry – Bernie @apaperbacklife

Into the Heartless Woods by Joanna Ruth Meyer – Stephanie @theespressoedition

The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson – Kingley @kingley.I

The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa – Breana @milkyboos

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman – Naîma @bookish_loverr

Six Crimson Cranes by Elizabeth Lim – Mimi @mimi_booknook

Finlay Donovan is Killing It by Elle Cosimano – Adriana @adri.mst

The Sweetest Oblivion by Danielle Lori (3 times) – Yasmine @yasminerahmani_

Wildcard by Marie Lu – Delalune @delalune_ma

Kafka on the Shore by Murakami – @not_vics_priv


It’s looking like a promising year for reading! I can’t wait to discover new favorite authors, books, and series. Did you set any reading goals or challenges?

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

Vincenzo

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

Cover

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!

Game

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 Most Anticipated Books of 2022

2022 is on the horizon and with the new year comes new books to get excited about! I already have over 30 books on my TBR but I narrowed down 10 books releasing in 2022 that I’m most excited about. Looking for new books to add to your reading list? There’s a fairytale-esque fantasy inspired by East Asian folklore, a thrilling art heist novel, a dark contemporary fantasy with secret societies, and so much more. See you in 2022!


The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea by Axie Oh

February 22nd, 2022

The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea is a Spirited Away-esque retelling of the Korean folklore, “The Tale of Shim Cheong”. A girl finds herself in the spirit realm after sacrificing herself to the sea and sets out to wake the Sea God with a motley crew of demons, lesser gods, and spirits. I love all Miyazaki/Studio Ghibli films and Spirited Away is one of my favorites, so this sounds like the book of my dreams. It also gives me Bride of the Water God vibes, a manhwa I absolutely adored when I was younger. Don’t get me started on the sheer beauty of the cover!

Deadly storms have ravaged Mina’s homeland for generations. Floods sweep away entire villages, while bloody wars are waged over the few remaining resources. Her people believe the Sea God, once their protector, now curses them with death and despair. In an attempt to appease him, each year a beautiful maiden is thrown into the sea to serve as the Sea God’s bride, in the hopes that one day the “true bride” will be chosen and end the suffering.

Many believe that Shim Cheong, the most beautiful girl in the village—and the beloved of Mina’s older brother Joon—may be the legendary true bride. But on the night Cheong is to be sacrificed, Joon follows Cheong out to sea, even knowing that to interfere is a death sentence. To save her brother, Mina throws herself into the water in Cheong’s stead.

Swept away to the Spirit Realm, a magical city of lesser gods and mythical beasts, Mina seeks out the Sea God, only to find him caught in an enchanted sleep. With the help of a mysterious young man named Shin—as well as a motley crew of demons, gods and spirits—Mina sets out to wake the Sea God and bring an end to the killer storms once and for all.

But she doesn’t have much time: A human cannot live long in the land of the spirits. And there are those who would do anything to keep the Sea God from waking…


Portrait of a Thief by Grace D. Li

April 5th, 2022

Ocean’s Eleven meets The Farewell in this Asian American heist novel inspired by the true story of Chinese art vanishing from Western museums. It’s about ambitious college students reclaiming stolen art, Chinese American diaspora, and the colonization of art. The book isn’t even out yet but consider it a successful heist in stealing my heart.

History is told by the conquerors. Across the Western world, museums display the spoils of war, of conquest, of colonialism: priceless pieces of art looted from other countries, kept even now.

Will Chen plans to steal them back.

A senior at Harvard, Will fits comfortably in his carefully curated roles: a perfect student, an art history major and sometimes artist, the eldest son that has always been his parents’ American Dream. But when a shadowy Chinese corporation reaches out with an impossible—and illegal—job offer, Will finds himself something else as well: the leader of a heist to steal back five priceless Chinese sculptures, looted from Beijing centuries ago.

His crew is every heist archetype one can imagine—or at least, the closest he can get. A conman: Irene Chen, Will’s sister and a public policy major at Duke, who can talk her way out of anything. A thief: Daniel Liang, a premed student with steady hands just as capable of lockpicking as suturing. A getaway driver: Lily Wu, an engineering student who races cars in her free time. A hacker: Alex Huang, an MIT dropout turned Silicon Valley software engineer. Each member of his crew has their own complicated relationship with China and the identity they’ve cultivated as Chinese Americans, but when Will asks, none of them can turn him down.

Because if they succeed? They earn fifty million dollars—and a chance to make history. But if they fail, it will mean not just the loss of everything they’ve dreamed for themselves but yet another thwarted attempt to take back what colonialism has stolen.


Violet Made of Thorns by Gina Chen

July 26th, 2022

A morally gray witch, a cursed prince, and a prophecy that will ignite their destinies. I’m a big fan of love/hate relationships; it’s one of my favorite fictional romance dynamics. The author describes this as a “fairytale romance for people who would consider literal murder before considering they might have feelings.” I’m sold. Not to mention it’s a fairytale-inspired dark fantasy with an Asian anti-heroine!

Violet is a prophet and a liar, influencing the royal court with her cleverly phrased—and not always true—divinations. Honesty is for suckers, like the oh-so-not charming Prince Cyrus, who plans to strip Violet of her official role once he’s crowned at the end of the summer—unless Violet does something about it.

But when the king asks her to falsely prophesy Cyrus’s love story for an upcoming ball, Violet awakens a dreaded curse, one that will end in either damnation or salvation for the kingdom—all depending on the prince’s choice of future bride. Violet faces her own choice: Seize an opportunity to gain control of her own destiny, no matter the cost, or give in to the ill-fated attraction that’s growing between her and Cyrus.

Violet’s wits may protect her in the cutthroat court, but they can’t change her fate. And as the boundary between hatred and love grows ever thinner with the prince, Violet must untangle a wicked web of deceit in order to save herself and the kingdom—or doom them all.


A Magic Steeped in Poison by Judy Lin

March 22nd, 2022

It was love at first sight. I’m absolutely the kind of person that judges a book by the cover (don’t we all to some extent?), and I can’t wait to read this Chinese mythology-inspired story about a girl who competes in a cutthroat magical tea-brewing competition. MAGICAL TEA-BREWING COMPETITION!

I used to look at my hands with pride. Now all I can think is, “These are the hands that buried my mother.”

For Ning, the only thing worse than losing her mother is knowing that it’s her own fault. She was the one who unknowingly brewed the poison tea that killed her—the poison tea that now threatens to also take her sister, Shu.

When Ning hears of a competition to find the kingdom’s greatest shennong-shi—masters of the ancient and magical art of tea-making—she travels to the imperial city to compete. The winner will receive a favor from the princess, which may be Ning’s only chance to save her sister’s life.

But between the backstabbing competitors, bloody court politics, and a mysterious (and handsome) boy with a shocking secret, Ning might actually be the one in more danger. 


A Thousand Steps Into Night by Traci Chee

March 1st, 2022

A Japanese-influenced fantasy about a girl who embarks on a quest to reverse the curse that is turning her into a demon. My brain immediately thought of Nezuko from Demon Slayer, except instead of having a brother to help her, our heroine is aided by a thieving magpie spirit! I can’t wait to see how Miuko will “outfox tricksters, escape demon hunters, and negotiate with feral gods” on her adventures.

In the realm of Awara, where gods, monsters, and humans exist side by side, Miuko is an ordinary girl resigned to a safe, if uneventful, existence as an innkeeper’s daughter. But when Miuko is cursed and begins to transform into a demon with a deadly touch, she embarks on a quest to reverse the curse and return to her normal life. Aided by a thieving magpie spirit and continuously thwarted by a demon prince, Miuko must outfox tricksters, escape demon hunters, and negotiate with feral gods if she wants to make it home again. But with her transformation comes power and freedom she never even dreamed of, and she’ll have to decide if saving her soul is worth trying to cram herself back into an ordinary life that no longer fits her… and perhaps never did.


Strike the Zither by Joan He

October 25th, 2022

A random fact about me that no one asked for: I grew up playing Dynasty Warriors, a game franchise based on the Chinese historical novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms. It covers the history of the late Han dynasty and the Three Kingdoms period; part history, part myth, part legend. I was obsessed with the encyclopedia of the game, which detailed important figures and battles during the turbulent warring era. Why does this matter? Strike the Zither is a reimagining of that Chinese epic featuring a genderbent Zhuge Liang, the greatest military strategist of the time period! Plus rivals to lovers and backstabbing! I’m counting down the days.

A reimagining of the Chinese military epic Romance of the Three Kingdoms, in which a strategist must help her warlordess to victory against the rival kingdoms to the north and the south while overcoming her fate as written by the gods.


Daughter of the Moon Goddess by Sue Lynn Tan

January 11th, 2022

I was so lucky to be able to read an ARC of this (thank you Harper Voyager!), and let me tell you this book is as stunning as its cover–in fact, it’s one of my top 5 reads this year. The worldbuilding is lush and magical, the writing is exquisite, and the fairytale-esque atmosphere will sweep you away. Daughter of the Moon Goddess reimagines the legend of the Chinese moon goddess, but focuses on her daughter. She embarks on a dangerous quest that pits her against the most powerful immortal in the realm to free her exiled mother. It’s such a romantic fantasy with adventure and immortals and magic. Fantasy lovers, add this book to your reading list!

Growing up on the moon, Xingyin is accustomed to solitude, unaware that she is being hidden from the feared Celestial Emperor who exiled her mother for stealing his elixir of immortality. But when Xingyin’s magic flares and her existence is discovered, she is forced to flee her home, leaving her mother behind.

Alone, powerless, and afraid, she makes her way to the Celestial Kingdom, a land of wonder and secrets. Disguising her identity, she seizes an opportunity to learn alongside the emperor’s son, mastering archery and magic, even as passion flames between her and the prince.

To save her mother, Xingyin embarks on a perilous quest, confronting legendary creatures and vicious enemies across the earth and skies. But when treachery looms and forbidden magic threatens the kingdom, she must challenge the ruthless Celestial Emperor for her dream—striking a dangerous bargain in which she is torn between losing all she loves or plunging the realm into chaos.


Book of Night by Holly Black

May 3rd, 2022

I love Holly Black’s The Cruel Prince, so when I found out she had an adult debut releasing in 2022 I was elated! This modern dark fantasy has shadow magic and secret societies “in the same vein as Ninth House and The Night Circus” (two of my favorite books). Magical realism meets dark academia. This book lives in my head rent free.

In Charlie Hall’s world, shadows can be altered, for entertainment and cosmetic preferences—but also to increase power and influence. You can alter someone’s feelings—and memories—but manipulating shadows has a cost, with the potential to take hours or days from your life. Your shadow holds all the parts of you that you want to keep hidden—a second self, standing just to your left, walking behind you into lit rooms. And sometimes, it has a life of its own.

Charlie is a low-level con artist, working as a bartender while trying to distance herself from the powerful and dangerous underground world of shadow trading. She gets by doing odd jobs for her patrons and the naive new money in her town at the edge of the Berkshires. But when a terrible figure from her past returns, Charlie’s present life is thrown into chaos, and her future seems at best, unclear—and at worst, non-existent. Determined to survive, Charlie throws herself into a maelstrom of secrets and murder, setting her against a cast of doppelgangers, mercurial billionaires, shadow thieves, and her own sister—all desperate to control the magic of the shadows.


Foul Lady Fortune by Chloe Gong

Angsty lovers, marriage of convenience, political intrigue, and sleuthing spies. I can’t even express how eager I am to read the spinoff to These Violent Delights. We don’t have much information yet, but I expect this to become and instant favorite just like TVE! Chloe Gong could publish her grocery list and I’d devour it in a heartbeat.

If You Could See the Sun by Ann Liang

Elite boarding school? Teaming up with academic rivals? Scandals and secrets? Invisibility powers? Everything about this sounds so fun–YA contemporary with a touch of magical realism. I’m especially looking forward to the exploration of class and privilege, and hoping that there’s a rivals to lovers romance.

This debut YA novel follows a Chinese American teenage girl, who, upon discovering that she can no longer afford tuition at her elite Beijing boarding school, teams up with her academic rival and monetizes her strange new invisibility powers by discovering and selling her wealthy classmates’ most scandalous secrets.


Babel, or The Necessity of Violence by R.F. Kuang

August 23rd, 2022

It’s no secret that R.F. Kuang is one of my favorite authors after The Poppy War series completely and utterly destroyed me. Her next masterpiece is a dark academia set in 1930s Oxford and I am here for it. There’s nothing else I need to know. I’m ready for the reinvention of dark academia as we know it.

Traduttore, traditore: An act of translation is always an act of betrayal.

1828. Robin Swift, orphaned by cholera in Canton, is brought to London by the mysterious Professor Lovell. There, he trains for years in Latin, Ancient Greek, and Chinese, all in preparation for the day he’ll enroll in Oxford University’s prestigious Royal Institute of Translation — also known as Babel.

Babel is the world’s center of translation and, more importantly, of silver-working: the art of manifesting the meaning lost in translation through enchanted silver bars, to magical effect. Silver-working has made the British Empire unparalleled in power, and Babel’s research in foreign languages serves the Empire’s quest to colonize everything it encounters.

Oxford, the city of dreaming spires, is a fairytale for Robin; a utopia dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge. But knowledge serves power, and for Robin, a Chinese boy raised in Britain, serving Babel inevitably means betraying his motherland. As his studies progress Robin finds himself caught between Babel and the shadowy Hermes Society, an organization dedicated to sabotaging the silver-working that supports imperial expansion. When Britain pursues an unjust war with China over silver and opium, Robin must decide: Can powerful institutions be changed from within, or does revolution always require violence? What is he willing to sacrifice to bring Babel down?


What’s your most anticipated book of 2022?

A Discussion around She Who Became the Sun & the Importance of Visibility in the Marketing of LGBTQ+ Books

If you’re familiar with my bookstagram or blog, you might know that Shelley Parker-Chan’s She Who Became the Sun is one of my favorite reads this year. I recommend it often simply because I love it. It’s a book about destiny and ambition, war and vengeance, and at the heart of the story is a nuanced exploration of gender identity. 

I’ve never put much thought into how the book was marketed, but I recently had a conversation with someone who thought the LGBTQ+ advertisement of the book was “kind of manipulative and off putting”. 

I was bewildered. The two relationships in the book are afab (assigned female at birth) with a woman, and amab (assigned male at birth) with a man. Gender and sexuality are significant aspects of the story, so it was difficult to fathom how the LGBTQ+ marketing of a book about genderqueer characters was manipulative.

Here’s the thing–they never read the book. They argued that the synopsis didn’t give the impression that the book was LGBT, therefore the LGBT advertisement was a manipulative gimmick used by publishers to reach the bestsellers lists. 

Although we were unable to see eye to eye, the conversation made me examine the consumer perception of how books are advertised, and I wanted to emphasize the importance of visibility in the marketing of LBGTQ+ books, as well as open the discussion to the rest of the book community. I’ll address the points they made and offer my own thoughts.


1. Books have to have “gimmicks” for publishers to advertise or it doesn’t go to the top of the bestsellers list.

The two examples they used as “gimmicks” were the LGBT advertisement of SWBtS and the autism representation of an unnamed author’s books. 

The identities of characters are not gimmicks. Marketing a book for having LGBTQ+ rep or autism rep is not a “gimmick” that magically gets the book to the top of the NYT bestsellers. These are central themes of the stories, and oftentimes a reflection of the author’s own experiences. Books SHOULD be marketed with their Own Voices identity. Why would such a significant part of the book be left out?

Not to mention, reducing all the efforts of an author’s achievement to just advertising “gimmicks’’ is unfair and unfounded. Imagine months upon months, years upon years of hard work, pouring their heart out into these stories, only for their success to be minimalized as an advertising trick. Don’t get me wrong, a great marketing campaign can certainly get a book a lot of exposure, but there’s so much more to it. 

2. Publishers are just using this “advertising gimmick” to chase the LGBT audience.

Is it to chase an audience or is it for the intended audience to find these books? If you are queer, writing about queer characters, who do want your book to be read by? Many queer readers want to read queer stories; queer trials and tribulations, queer joy and triumphs. Authors want to share these stories. Publishers are accurately marketing these books so that they can be found.

I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve seen people say they wish things were more explicitly marketed as queer so that it would be easier to find. This reminds me of an incident a webcomic creator had with someone telling them to exclude identity and orientation when promoting their story. 

In the words of LySandra Vuong, the creator of the webtoon COVENANT, “how will queer ppl find my story if i dont tell them its queer”.

3. “Not a fan of such labels…people are just people regardless of designation or other issues. I mean everyone has issues.”

Yes. Everyone has issues, but the issues LGBTQ+ people face are not the same issues that straight cisgender people face. She Who Became the Sun is about gender dysphoria. It also deals with internalized homophobia and self-hatred that stems from the disconnect between body and gender identity. Just because these issues don’t directly affect you, doesn’t mean they’re not important narratives. 

4. “There have been great books about LGBT and autism and other representation for ages. And none of the publishers bothered to point it out. LGBT is not exactly new.”

LGBT is certainly not new, but historically, literature with LGBT themes have faced backlash, bans, and censorship. Writers have faced persecution. This might explain why publishers weren’t as open in explicitly marketing those books in the past. In 2016, The American Library Association noted that half of the most challenged books in the United States had LGBTQ+ content. (ALA)

The publishing landscape is finally evolving to be more inclusive in the books that are published and the advertising of those books, but there’s still a long way to go. We should be pushing for progress, not dwelling in past practices. 

5. Advertising SWBtS as LGBT is “very targeted advertising on the part of the publisher when I’m sure the author had a story they just wanted to tell.” 

Shelley was kind enough to share her thoughts on how SWBtS was advertised and the story she wanted to tell:

“We want to tell a story, and we also want that story to reach the audience we were speaking to when we wrote it…She Who Became the Sun is a queer work—its central theme is a queering of history—and I wrote it for a queer audience. Sure, it might be read outside of that core audience, but the queer audience is the one that’s going to understand it best. And it’s the only audience I personally care about.”

“The pitch for my book was always “a queer reimagining of the rise to power of the founding emperor of the Ming dynasty.” And (part of) the reason I chose Tor over other publishers is because I knew they ‘got’ its queerness. I knew they weren’t going to try to market my book as a feminist retelling without mentioning the queerness. The marketing allowed my book to find its true audience, and that’s what was most important. And if it turns out that there’s a vibrant queer audience that happens to be hungry to see themselves in fiction, and that enthusiasm sends queer-marketed books to the top of the charts (which I don’t think is as straightforward as that, but that’s a separate issue)—well, it’s about time that queer books got their moment in the sunlight after barely existing for the entire lifetime of modern publishing.”


Now, more than ever, we should be celebrating LBGTQ+ stories and voices. These books deserve to be visibly marketed so that they can be seen and heard, so hungry readers can find them and see themselves in books. 

Thank you to everyone who replied to my story on Instagram to talk about SWBtS with me, and to Tiffany (QuillTreeFox) for reading over this and giving valuable feedback! Of course, a special thank you to Shelley for sharing her own process and experience as well.

My dms are always open over on bookstagram if anyone wants to discuss more about this!

“It’s about time that queer books got their moment in the sunlight after barely existing for the entire lifetime of modern publishing.”

Shelley Parker-Chan

Spooky Season TBR 🎃🦇👻

My favorite season is here–not just autumn, but the spooky season. I have a tradition of watching all the spine-tingling, terror-inducing movies I can leading up to Halloween to get into the spirits, and this year, I wanted to add books to that! I’ve compiled a rather ambitious spooky season TBR full of eerie horrors, suspenseful thrillers, and murder mysteries to indulge in October. Bring on the dread and the unease, the disquiet and apprehension to your reading lists!


There’s Someone Inside Your House

My favorite subgenre of horror is definitely the slasher variety–there’s something far more terrifying about a human wrecking havoc than a paranormal entity, perhaps because there’s a sense of realism. That being said, I’ve been eyeing this YA slasher for quite some time! Pitched as Scream meets YA, There’s Someone Inside Your House was recently adapted by Netflix (releasing October 6th). I’ll be reading for book before I watch the movie!

Makani Young thought she’d left her dark past behind her in Hawaii, settling in with her grandmother in landlocked Nebraska. She’s found new friends and has even started to fall for mysterious outsider Ollie Larsson. But her past isn’t far behind.

Then, one by one, the students of Osborne Hugh begin to die in a series of gruesome murders, each with increasingly grotesque flair. As the terror grows closer and her feelings for Ollie intensify, Makani is forced to confront her own dark secrets.


House of Hollow

Look at how stunning this cover is. Was I swayed by the cover before even reading the synopsis? Maybe. This one blends horror and fantasy, with elements of magical realism. Horror never looked so pretty.

Seventeen-year-old Iris Hollow has always been strange. Something happened to her and her two older sisters when they were children, something they can’t quite remember but that left each of them with an identical half-moon scar at the base of their throats.

Iris has spent most of her teenage years trying to avoid the weirdness that sticks to her like tar. But when her eldest sister, Grey, goes missing under suspicious circumstances, Iris learns just how weird her life can get: horned men start shadowing her, a corpse falls out of her sister’s ceiling, and ugly, impossible memories start to twist their way to the forefront of her mind.

As Iris retraces Grey’s last known footsteps and follows the increasingly bizarre trail of breadcrumbs she left behind, it becomes apparent that the only way to save her sister is to decipher the mystery of what happened to them as children.

The closer Iris gets to the truth, the closer she comes to understanding that the answer is dark and dangerous – and that Grey has been keeping a terrible secret from her for years.


Home Before Dark

This might be the only horror novel I’ve seen garner a lot of love on bookstagram. I’ve never read any of Sager’s books, though his mysteries and thrillers seem to be a hit. I’m eager to delve into this story about haunted houses and ghostly encounters.

What was it like? Living in that house.

Maggie Holt is used to such questions. Twenty-five years ago, she and her parents, Ewan and Jess, moved into Baneberry Hall, a rambling Victorian estate in the Vermont woods. They spent three weeks there before fleeing in the dead of night, an ordeal Ewan later recounted in a nonfiction book called House of Horrors. His tale of ghostly happenings and encounters with malevolent spirits became a worldwide phenomenon, rivaling The Amityville Horror in popularity—and skepticism.

Today, Maggie is a restorer of old homes and too young to remember any of the events mentioned in her father’s book. But she also doesn’t believe a word of it. Ghosts, after all, don’t exist. When Maggie inherits Baneberry Hall after her father’s death, she returns to renovate the place to prepare it for sale. But her homecoming is anything but warm. People from the past, chronicled in House of Horrors, lurk in the shadows. And locals aren’t thrilled that their small town has been made infamous thanks to Maggie’s father.

Even more unnerving is Baneberry Hall itself—a place filled with relics from another era that hint at a history of dark deeds. As Maggie experiences strange occurrences straight out of her father’s book, she starts to believe that what he wrote was more fact than fiction.


The Forest of Stolen Girls

Look, I don’t just buy books based on covers, I swear! But a pretty cover is certainly hard to resist. Forest of Stolen Girls has been on my list since the beginning of the year (I’ve mentioned it in my 10 Books by Asian Authors to Read in 2021 post). This is a historical murder mystery about vanishing girls set during 1400s Korea–how cool is that?

Hwani’s family has never been the same since she and her younger sister went missing and were later found unconscious in the forest, near a gruesome crime scene. The only thing they remember: Their captor wore a painted-white mask.

To escape the haunting memories of this incident, the family flees their hometown. Years later, Detective Min—Hwani’s father—learns that thirteen girls have recently disappeared under similar circumstances, and so he returns to their hometown to investigate… only to vanish as well.

Determined to find her father and solve the case that tore their family apart, Hwani returns home to pick up the trail. As she digs into the secrets of the small village—and reconnects with her now estranged sister—Hwani comes to realize that the answer lies within her own buried memories of what happened in the forest all those years ago.


You Love Me

Ah, Joe. Our favorite psychopath returns in the third installment of the You series and what can I say other than I can never get enough of these books? Psychological thrillers are one of my favorite subgenres and no one does it quite like Kepnes.

Joe is done with the cities. He’s done with the muck and the posers, done with Love. Now, he’s saying hello to nature, to simple pleasures on a cozy island in the Pacific Northwest. For the first time in a long time, he can just breathe.

He gets a job at the local library—he does know a thing or two about books—and that’s where he meets her: Mary Kay DiMarco. Librarian. Joe won’t meddle; he will not obsess. He’ll win her the old-fashioned way: by providing a shoulder to cry on, a helping hand. Over time, they’ll both heal their wounds and begin their happily ever after in this sleepy town.

The trouble is, Mary Kay already has a life. She’s a mother. She’s a friend. She’s busy.

True love can only triumph if both people are willing to make room for the real thing. Joe cleared his decks. He’s ready. And hopefully, with his encouragement and undying support, Mary Kay will do the right thing and make room for him. 


The Final Girl Support Group

What happens to the remaining survivors of slasher flicks after the credit rolls? I love the unique premise of this one. It deals with the aftermath and trauma of surviving a horrifying massacre…but it’s not quite over yet. Gives major horror sequel vibes.

In horror movies, the final girl is the one who’s left standing when the credits roll. The one who fought back, defeated the killer, and avenged her friends. The one who emerges bloodied but victorious. But after the sirens fade and the audience moves on, what happens to her?

Lynnette Tarkington is a real-life final girl who survived a massacre twenty-two years ago, and it has defined every day of her life since. And she’s not alone. For more than a decade she’s been meeting with five other actual final girls and their therapist in a support group for those who survived the unthinkable, putting their lives back together, piece by piece. That is until one of the women misses a meeting and Lynnette’s worst fears are realized–someone knows about the group and is determined to take their lives apart again, piece by piece.

But the thing about these final girls is that they have each other now, and no matter how bad the odds, how dark the night, how sharp the knife, they will never, ever give up.


The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

Agatha Christie meets Groundhog Day. Imagine having to relive the day of a murder again and again, but each time waking up in a different body. I’d go crazy trying to solve the murder, but let’s see how our narrator fares!

Aiden Bishop knows the rules. Evelyn Hardcastle will die every day until he can identify her killer and break the cycle. But every time the day begins again, Aiden wakes up in the body of a different guest at Blackheath Manor. And some of his hosts are more helpful than others. With a locked room mystery that Agatha Christie would envy, Stuart Turton unfurls a breakneck novel of intrigue and suspense.

For fans of Claire North, and Kate Atkinson, The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is a breathlessly addictive mystery that follows one man’s race against time to find a killer, with an astonishing time-turning twist that means nothing and no one are quite what they seem.


Gideon the Ninth

We need more necromancers in fantasy. Raise the dead! I’ve seen a lot of great things about this series, and the spooky season felt like the perfect time to read the first book.

The Emperor needs necromancers.

The Ninth Necromancer needs a swordswoman.

Gideon has a sword, some dirty magazines, and no more time for undead bullshit.

Brought up by unfriendly, ossifying nuns, ancient retainers, and countless skeletons, Gideon is ready to abandon a life of servitude and an afterlife as a reanimated corpse. She packs up her sword, her shoes, and her dirty magazines, and prepares to launch her daring escape. But her childhood nemesis won’t set her free without a service.

Harrowhark Nonagesimus, Reverend Daughter of the Ninth House and bone witch extraordinaire, has been summoned into action. The Emperor has invited the heirs to each of his loyal Houses to a deadly trial of wits and skill. If Harrowhark succeeds she will become an immortal, all-powerful servant of the Resurrection, but no necromancer can ascend without their cavalier. Without Gideon’s sword, Harrow will fail, and the Ninth House will die.

Of course, some things are better left dead.


What’s on your spooky season TBR?

SABC: Summer Reading Bingo Wrap-Up ☀️

August was the first month I made a monthly TBR in quite some time–I’m typically more of a mood reader, but I wanted to join in on the fun with Subtle Asian’s Book Club’s Summer Reading Bingo. It was a great time to tackle the books that had been sitting on my TBR for far too long, as well as pick up some more recent releases that I’d been meaning to read. I ended up reading a total of 7 books/web comics–making it one of my better reading months this year. Here’s a wrap-up of all my August reads!


A book set by the water: The Ones We’re Meant to Find

It hurts me to say this, considering how much I enjoyed Joan He’s previous book (Descendant of the Crane), but I’m on the fence about this one. On one hand, it’s one of the most beautiful covers I’ve ever seen, and I think the concept is very interesting, but on the other hand, I was pretty confused for the majority of the book, and I was lukewarm about the open ending. I think sci-fi might just not be my cup of tea, sadly. Nonetheless, I’m excited for whatever Joan He writes next!

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️


Read a webtoon, manga, or graphic novel: Wind Breaker

This webcomic has been on my TBR for too long! It was trending in the webcomic community on TikTok and with all the amazing edits, I decided to finally read it. But it wasn’t exactly smooth sailing (or should I say biking). I wasn’t a fan of the art in the earlier chapters and it took nearly 100 chapters for the story to grow on me–but I’d say it’s worth it! I love the current art and I’m very much invested in the characters now.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5


A book less than 300 pages: Solo Leveling vol 2

If you didn’t already know, I’m obsessed with Solo Leveling and I’m collecting the english volumes as they release. Volume 2 recently came out so I went ahead and picked up a copy and reread it (this is my third reread). I loved it! I think the english translation is excellent and the art is wonderful as always. You can find my review for the series here: Why You Should Read Solo Leveling.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️🌟


A book recommended by a SABC member: Loveboat, Taipei

Another one I was on the fence about. This was recommended by Tiffany from SABC and it’s been on my TBR for quite some time as well! I appreciated the themes this book tackled (mental health, racism, being a first gen American) and I thought the overall message of the story was great, but there were also aspects that didn’t work for me, including the over-the-top drama, cheating, and *drumroll* love triangle (sorry I hate love triangles).

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️


A book with an illustrated cover: XOXO by Axie Oh

I adored this one! It gave me all the giddy, lighthearted romance k-drama feels and it’s such a fun read. If you like k-drama and k-pop, definitely check this one out. It put the biggest smile on my face! You can find my review here.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️


A book set during the summer: So We Meet Again

This is my favorite Suzanne Park book yet! I loved the family dynamic and how Park presented the relationship between immigrant parents and daughter, and I felt like Jess was relatable in many ways in her hopes and fears. If you’re looking for a heartwarming and uplifting read, look no further. Bonus if you’re a foodie!! Full review here.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️


Read during sunrise or sunset: The Flower Dances and the Wind Sings

I’ve been loving this webcomic, hence squeezing in a couple chapters at sunrise before I go to work. It’s FULL of angst and misunderstandings, and deals with heavy topics like postpartum depression and child neglect–essentially, the story is about a mother’s regret. It’s a terribly sad story with beautiful art, and we know how much I love the emotional havoc of tragic stories (or maybe you don’t, but now you do).

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️


Bingo! All in all, it was a pretty good reading month for me! What was your favorite read in August?

Most Anticipated Fall 2021 Book Releases

Autumn is right around the corner. With the seasonal shift comes many things I love: the ochre and vermilion foliage, the brisk morning air, the cozy sweaters—but most importantly, I’m excited for all the upcoming book releases! From debuts to prequels to highly anticipated sequels, here are 10 Fall releases to put on your radar.

September

Not Here to be Liked by Michelle Quach

Why you should read it: Rivals to lovers, intersectional feminism, Asian American rep. I’m also in LOVE with the illustrated cover!

Eliza Quan is the perfect candidate for editor in chief of her school paper. That is, until ex-jock Len DiMartile decides on a whim to run against her. Suddenly her vast qualifications mean squat because inexperienced Len—who is tall, handsome, and male—just seems more like a leader.

When Eliza’s frustration spills out in a viral essay, she finds herself inspiring a feminist movement she never meant to start, caught between those who believe she’s a gender equality champion and others who think she’s simply crying misogyny.

Amid this growing tension, the school asks Eliza and Len to work side by side to demonstrate civility. But as they get to know one another, Eliza feels increasingly trapped by a horrifying realization—she just might be falling for the face of the patriarchy himself.


The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood

Why you should read it: Fake dating, women in science, academic romcom premise.

As a third-year Ph.D. candidate, Olive Smith doesn’t believe in lasting romantic relationships–but her best friend does, and that’s what got her into this situation. Convincing Anh that Olive is dating and well on her way to a happily ever after was always going to take more than hand-wavy Jedi mind tricks: Scientists require proof. So, like any self-respecting biologist, Olive panics and kisses the first man she sees.

That man is none other than Adam Carlsen, a young hotshot professor–and well-known ass. Which is why Olive is positively floored when Stanford’s reigning lab tyrant agrees to keep her charade a secret and be her fake boyfriend. But when a big science conference goes haywire, putting Olive’s career on the Bunsen burner, Adam surprises her again with his unyielding support and even more unyielding…six-pack abs.

Suddenly their little experiment feels dangerously close to combustion. And Olive discovers that the only thing more complicated than a hypothesis on love is putting her own heart under the microscope.


Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao

Why you should read it: Pacific Rim meets The Handmaid’s Tale in a polyamorous reimagining of China’s only female emperor. You read that right—polyamorous! In YA!

The boys of Huaxia dream of pairing up with girls to pilot Chrysalises, giant transforming robots that can battle the mecha aliens that lurk beyond the Great Wall. It doesn’t matter that the girls often die from the mental strain.

When 18-year-old Zetian offers herself up as a concubine-pilot, it’s to assassinate the ace male pilot responsible for her sister’s death. But she gets her vengeance in a way nobody expected—she kills him through the psychic link between pilots and emerges from the cockpit unscathed. She is labeled an Iron Widow, a much-feared and much-silenced kind of female pilot who can sacrifice boys to power up Chrysalises instead.​

To tame her unnerving yet invaluable mental strength, she is paired up with Li Shimin, the strongest and most controversial male pilot in Huaxia​. But now that Zetian has had a taste of power, she will not cower so easily. She will miss no opportunity to leverage their combined might and infamy to survive attempt after attempt on her life, until she can figure out exactly why the pilot system works in its misogynist way—and stop more girls from being sacrificed.


October

Jade Fire Gold by June CL Tan

Why you should read it: Chinese mythology, an epic slow-burn romance, and ZUTARA vibes. Are there any AtLA fans here? Because I finally get to relive all my Zutara feels.

In an empire on the brink of war . . .

Ahn is no one, with no past and no family.

Altan is a lost heir, his future stolen away as a child.

When they meet, Altan sees in Ahn a path to reclaiming the throne. Ahn sees a way to finally unlock her past and understand her arcane magical abilities.

But they may have to pay a far deadlier price than either could have imagined.

Ferocious action, shadowy intrigue, and a captivating romance collide in June CL Tan’s debut, a stunning homage to the Xianxia novel with a tender, beating heart, perfect for fans of The Bone Witch and We Hunt the Flame.


Vespertine by Margaret Rogerson

Why you should read it: Restless spirits of the dead, aroace rep, gothic fantasy vibes.

The dead of Loraille do not rest.

Artemisia is training to be a Gray Sister, a nun who cleanses the bodies of the deceased so that their souls can pass on; otherwise, they will rise as spirits with a ravenous hunger for the living. She would rather deal with the dead than the living, who trade whispers about her scarred hands and troubled past.

When her convent is attacked by possessed soldiers, Artemisia defends it by awakening an ancient spirit bound to a saint’s relic. It is a revenant, a malevolent being that threatens to possess her the moment she drops her guard. Wielding its extraordinary power almost consumes her—but death has come to Loraille, and only a vespertine, a priestess trained to wield a high relic, has any chance of stopping it. With all knowledge of vespertines lost to time, Artemisia turns to the last remaining expert for help: the revenant itself.

As she unravels a sinister mystery of saints, secrets, and dark magic, her bond with the revenant grows. And when a hidden evil begins to surface, she discovers that facing this enemy might require her to betray everything she has been taught to believe—if the revenant doesn’t betray her first.


A Shadow in the Ember by Jennifer L Armentrout

Why you should read it: Prequel to the Blood and Ash series—loosely inspired by Hades and Persephone myth but without the kidnapping.

Born shrouded in the veil of the Primals, a Maiden as the Fates promised, Seraphena Mierel’s future has never been hers. Chosen before birth to uphold the desperate deal her ancestor struck to save his people, Sera must leave behind her life and offer herself to the Primal of Death as his Consort.   

However, Sera’s real destiny is the most closely guarded secret in all of Lasania—she’s not the well protected Maiden but an assassin with one mission—one target. Make the Primal of Death fall in love, become his weakness, and then…end him. If she fails, she dooms her kingdom to a slow demise at the hands of the Rot. 

Sera has always known what she is. Chosen. Consort. Assassin. Weapon. A specter never fully formed yet drenched in blood. A monster. Until him. Until the Primal of Death’s unexpected words and deeds chase away the darkness gathering inside her. And his seductive touch ignites a passion she’s never allowed herself to feel and cannot feel for him. But Sera has never had a choice. Either way, her life is forfeit—it always has been, as she has been forever touched by Life and Death. 


The Keeper of Night by Kylie Lee Baker

Why you should read it: Japanese mythology (Shinigami and Yokai), historical fantasy set in 1890s Japan, biracial rep (Japanese + British).

Death is her destiny.

Half British Reaper, half Japanese Shinigami, Ren Scarborough has been collecting souls in the London streets for centuries. Expected to obey the harsh hierarchy of the Reapers who despise her, Ren conceals her emotions and avoids her tormentors as best she can.

When her failure to control her Shinigami abilities drives Ren out of London, she flees to Japan to seek the acceptance she’s never gotten from her fellow Reapers. Accompanied by her younger brother, the only being on earth to care for her, Ren enters the Japanese underworld to serve the Goddess of Death… only to learn that here, too, she must prove herself worthy. Determined to earn respect, Ren accepts an impossible task—find and eliminate three dangerous Yokai demons—and learns how far she’ll go to claim her place at Death’s side. 


Archangel’s Light by Nalini Singh

Why you should read it: The highly anticipated Bluebell book from Nalini Singh’s legendary Guild Hunter series! A love story half a millennium in the making. I am very likely to cry while reading this.

Illium and Aodhan. Aodhan and Illium. For centuries they’ve been inseparable: the best of friends, closer than brothers, companions of the heart. But that was before—before darkness befell Aodhan and shattered him, body, mind, and soul. Now, at long last, Aodhan is healing, but his new-found strength and independence may come at a devastating cost—his relationship with Illium.

As they serve side by side in China, a territory yet marked by the evil of its former archangel, the secret it holds nightmarish beyond imagining, things come to an explosive decision point. Illium and Aodhan must either walk away from the relationship that has defined them—or step forward into a future that promises a bond infinitely precious in the life of an immortal…but that demands a terrifying vulnerability from two badly bruised hearts. 


November

Our Violent Ends by Chloe Gong

Why you should read it: Sequel to These Violent Delights, one of my favorite reads last year! I’m actually terrified to read this, considering the fact that it’s inspired by Romeo and Juliet, and we all know how that ended…

The year is 1927, and Shanghai teeters on the edge of revolution.

After sacrificing her relationship with Roma to protect him from the blood feud, Juliette has been a girl on the warpath. One wrong move, and her cousin will step in to usurp her place as the Scarlet Gang’s heir. The only way to save the boy she loves from the wrath of the Scarlets is to have him want her dead for murdering his best friend in cold blood. If Juliette were actually guilty of the crime Roma believes she committed, his rejection might sting less.

Roma is still reeling from Marshall’s death, and his cousin Benedikt will barely speak to him. Roma knows it’s his fault for letting the ruthless Juliette back into his life, and he’s determined to set things right—even if that means killing the girl he hates and loves with equal measure.

Then a new monstrous danger emerges in the city, and though secrets keep them apart, Juliette must secure Roma’s cooperation if they are to end this threat once and for all. Shanghai is already at a boiling point: The Nationalists are marching in, whispers of civil war brew louder every day, and gangster rule faces complete annihilation. Roma and Juliette must put aside their differences to combat monsters and politics, but they aren’t prepared for the biggest threat of all: protecting their hearts from each other.


All of Us Villains by Amanda Foody and Christine Lynn Herman

Why you should read it: A dark tale of ambition and magic + a tournament to the death. Hunger Games vibes but make it darker.

You Fell In Love With The Victors of The Hunger Games.
Now Prepare To Meet The Villains of The Blood Veil.

After the publication of a salacious tell-all book, the remote city of Ilvernath is thrust into worldwide spotlight. Tourists, protesters, and reporters flock to its spellshops and ruins to witness an ancient curse unfold: every generation, seven families name a champion among them to compete in a tournament to the death. The winner awards their family exclusive control over the city’s high magick supply, the most powerful resource in the world.

In the past, the villainous Lowes have won nearly every tournament, and their champion is prepared to continue his family’s reign. But this year, thanks to the influence of their newfound notoriety, each of the champions has a means to win. Or better yet–a chance to rewrite their story.

But this is a story that must be penned in blood.


Are any of these books on your tbr? What are you most excited for this fall?

New to Manga? Start here!

Last week I received a message from someone new to manga asking for recommendations, so I wanted to share my selection for anyone else interested and looking for a place to start! I grew up on manga—Fruits Basket, Rurouni Kenshin, and Death Note were my introductions to the vast world of Japanese illustrated storytelling. I spent the summers of my childhood in the library, where I had countless manga at my fingertips, and I still read manga to this day (though they tend to be far darker now). In this list, I’ll share both perennial classics and modern best sellers, with a variety of genres for you to explore! But first…

What is manga?

Manga are comics or graphic novels from Japan. They’re typically printed in black and white and serialized in manga magazines before the chapters are collected and printed into individual volumes. Just like fiction books, manga have a wide array of genres and specified content to reach certain target demographics. The ones you see most often might be:

Shonen: Aimed at YA boys, oftentimes featuring a young male protagonist with plenty of action and adventure, and an emphasis on friendship or found family. Think of YA fantasy like the Percy Jackson series. Examples – Naruto, My Hero Academia, Dragon Ball Z.

Shojo: Aimed at YA girls, usually with a female lead and themes of romance, friendship, and self-discovery. Think of YA romance like To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before. Examples: Fruits Basket, Nana, Kaichou wa Maid-Sama.

Seinen: Targets a more mature audience, may be graphic or violent in nature with heavier themes (i.e. psychological). Examples – One Punch Man, Berserk, Tokyo Ghoul.


If you like romance:

Fruits Basket by Natsuki Takay

I have to start the list with the beloved Fruits Basket by Natsuki Takaya, the very first manga I read when I was young and a romance classic!

A family with an ancient curse…and the girl who will change their lives forever…

Tohru Honda was an orphan with no place to go until the mysterious Sohma family offered her a place to call home. Now her ordinary high school life is turned upside down as she’s introduced to the Sohma’s world of magical curses and family secrets.

Why you should read it:

  • Slice of life + romcom.
  • The most lovable cast of characters.
  • The Sohma family carry a zodiac curse that makes them turn into respective animal when they’re hugged by a member of the opposite sex or stressed.
  • Comedic relief while exploring themes of abuse and emotional hardship. Hidden depths in the plot line–ultimately a heartfelt story.
  • Sunshine heroine + (initially) grumpy hero.

Horimiya by HERO, Daisuke Hagiwara 

Although admired at school for her amiability and academic prowess, high school student Kyouko Hori has been hiding another side of her. With her parents often away from home due to work, Hori has to look after her younger brother and do the housework, leaving no chance to socialize away from school.

Meanwhile, Izumi Miyamura is seen as a brooding, glasses-wearing otaku. However, in reality, he is a gentle person inept at studying. By sheer chance, Hori and Miyamura cross paths outside of school—neither looking as the other expects. These seemingly polar opposites become friends, sharing with each other a side they have never shown to anyone else.

  • High school romcom.
  • Lighthearted and full of fluff.
  • Opposites attract: strong-willed, outgoing heroine with a shy/reserved hero.
  • Fast developing romance.
  • Prominent side characters with their own stories.

Wotakoi: Love is Hard for an Otaku by Fujita

Narumi and Hirotaka are, by all appearances, a power couple. They’re young, good-looking professionals. But they have secrets from everyone but each other: They’re serious geeks! Narumi is a fujoshi, and Hirotaka’s a hardcore gamer. The awkward, romantic comedy manga about geeks in love that inspired the new anime! 

  • Office romcom + slice of life.
  • Childhood friends to lovers.
  • Geek culture (gaming, otaku: more specifically, rpg games and cosplaying).
  • Relatable characters!
  • All around feel-good story.
  • Secondary romance is just as cute.

If you like sports:

Haikyuu!! by Haruichi Furudate

The whistle blows. The ball is up. A dig. A set. A spike.

The “Little Giant,” standing at only 170 cm, overcomes the towering net and the wall of blockers. The awe-inspired Shouyou Hinata looks on at the ace’s crow-like figure. Determined to reach great heights like the Little Giant, small-statured Hinata finally manages to form a team in his last year of junior high school, and enters his first volleyball tournament. However, his team is utterly defeated in their first game against the powerhouse school Kitagawa Daiichi, led by the genius, but oppressive setter dubbed the “King of the Court,” Tobio Kageyama.

Hinata enrolls into Karasuno High School seeking to take revenge against Kageyama in an official high school match and to follow in the Little Giant’s footsteps—but his plans are ruined when he opens the gymnasium door to find Kageyama as one of his teammates.

Now, Hinata must establish himself on the team and work alongside the problematic Kageyama to overcome his shortcomings and to fulfill his dream of making it to the top of the high school volleyball world.

  • Sports + comedy + coming of age.
  • Wholesome friendships and rivalries.
  • An amazing cast of characters to cheer for and a wide variety of personalities to pick your favorite! Mine is Ushijima.
  • Plenty of moments that made me laugh and also moments that pulled at my heartstrings.
  • Uplifting and motivating!

If you like action:

Jujustu Kaisen by Gege Akutami

Hidden in plain sight, an age-old conflict rages on. Supernatural monsters known as “Curses” terrorize humanity from the shadows, and powerful humans known as “Jujutsu” sorcerers use mystical arts to exterminate them. When high school student Yuuji Itadori finds a dried-up finger of the legendary Curse Sukuna Ryoumen, he suddenly finds himself joining this bloody conflict.

Attacked by a Curse attracted to the finger’s power, Yuuji makes a reckless decision to protect himself, gaining the power to combat Curses in the process but also unwittingly unleashing the malicious Sukuna into the world once more. Though Yuuji can control and confine Sukuna to his own body, the Jujutsu world classifies Yuuji as a dangerous, high-level Curse who must be exterminated.

  • My absolute favorite shonen manga (and anime) this year.
  • Dark contemporary fantasy.
  • Female shonen characters done right!
  • Has me in an emotional chokehold
  • Subverts some shonen norms of the older big 3.
  • PAIN

Chainsaw Man by Tatsuki Fujimoto 

Denji was a small-time devil hunter just trying to survive in a harsh world. After being killed on a job, he is revived by his pet devil-dog Pochita and becomes something new and dangerous. He’s a simple man with simple dreams, drowning under a mountain of debt. But his sad life gets turned upside down one day when he’s betrayed by someone he trusts. Now with the power of a devil inside him, Denji’s become a whole new man—Chainsaw Man!

  • Dark comedy + horror.
  • When I say dark I mean very dark—this manga is brutal.
  • Initially absurd but there’s a much deeper plot.
  • The most jaw-dropping plot twist in recent memory.
  • Warning for gore and body horror.

Death Note by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata 

Ryuk, a god of death, drops his Death Note into the human world for personal pleasure. In Japan, prodigious high school student Light Yagami stumbles upon it. Inside the notebook, he finds a chilling message: those whose names are written in it shall die. Its nonsensical nature amuses Light; but when he tests its power by writing the name of a criminal in it, they suddenly meet their demise.

Realizing the Death Note’s vast potential, Light commences a series of nefarious murders under the pseudonym “Kira,” vowing to cleanse the world of corrupt individuals and create a perfect society where crime ceases to exist. However, the police quickly catch on, and they enlist the help of L—a mastermind detective—to uncover the culprit.

  • One of the first manga I read that got me into the medium.
  • Brilliant plot and execution.
  • Imagine two of the smartest people in the world trying to outsmart each other.
  • Epic battle of wits with the highest stakes (literally their lives).
  • Just *chef’s kiss*.

If you like comedy:

Spy X Family by Tatsuya Endo

For the agent known as “Twilight,” no order is too tall if it is for the sake of peace. Operating as Westalis’ master spy, Twilight works tirelessly to prevent extremists from sparking a war with neighboring country Ostania. For his latest mission, he must investigate Ostanian politician Donovan Desmond by infiltrating his son’s school: the prestigious Eden Academy. Thus, the agent faces the most difficult task of his career: get married, have a child, and play family.

Twilight quickly adopts the unassuming orphan Anya to play the role of a six-year-old daughter and prospective Eden Academy student. For a wife, he comes across Yor Briar, an absent-minded office worker who needs a pretend partner of her own to impress her friends. However, he is not the only one with a hidden nature. Yor moonlights as the lethal assassin “Thorn Princess.” For her, marrying Loid creates the perfect cover. Meanwhile, Anya is not the ordinary girl she appears to be; she is an esper, the product of secret experiments that allow her to read minds. Although she uncovers their true identities, Anya is thrilled that her new parents are cool secret agents! She would never tell them, of course. That would ruin the fun.

  • A spy + an assassin + a telepath = the perfect combination of action and comedy.
  • Wholesome and HILARIOUS. No manga makes me laugh as much as this one does.
  • Immediate pick-me-upper. Feeling down? Read this!
  • Marriage of convenience + found family.
  • Mr & Mrs Smith-vibes but way more fun and exciting.
  • My favorite manga in 2020! A pure delight.

The Way of the Househusband by Kousuke Oono

“Immortal Tatsu,” the legendary yakuza who single-handedly defeated a rival gang with a lead pipe, is a name known to strike fear in both hardened police officers and vicious criminals. Soon after his sudden disappearance, he resurfaces with a slight change in profession. Now equipped with an apron, Tatsu has given up violence and is trying to make an honest living as a house husband.

While adapting to mundane household tasks, Tatsu finds that being a house husband has its own challenges, from the battlefield known as supermarket sales to failures in the kitchen. Despite living peacefully, misunderstandings seem to follow him left and right. The Way of the Househusband follows the daily life of the comically serious ex-yakuza as he leaves behind his dangerous previous life to become a stay-at-home husband.

  • Episodic comedy + slice of life.
  • Will actually make you laugh out loud.
  • Dismantles gender roles.
  • Strangely endearing (he’s a domesticated ex-gangster being a house husband and all).
  • There’s now a Netflix live-adaption and an anime!

If you like fairy tales:

The Girl from the Other Side by Nagabe

Long ago, there was a god of light and a god of darkness. While those devoted to the god of light experienced happiness and good fortune, the god of darkness would play tricks on the people and steal their joy. And so, as the legend goes, the god of light decided to punish him by turning him into a monster. Enraged by this, the god of darkness wielded his punishment as a curse in order to inflict suffering upon others. Because of his actions, he was banished to the Outside, where he and his monstrous children are to remain for eternity, while those from the Inside must never come in contact with someone from the Outside, lest they be cursed with a hideous form.

A little girl named Shiva, an Insider, is found by an Outsider she comes to know as Sensei. Though they cannot touch, Sensei cares for Shiva as best he can, and together they live a moderately happy life. But soon, Shiva not only finds herself in danger from the Outside, but from her own kind as well.

  • Dark fairy tale vibes: a young human and her guardian monster.
  • Whimsical, ethereal fantasy.
  • An immersive work of art.

If you’re looking for something specific (tropes, themes, etc.), let me know! I’d be happy to give more recommendations tailored to your reading preferences.

Have you read any of these before? What’s your favorite manga?

🎧 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!

9 Books to Celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage month. To celebrate AAPI identities, cultures, and narratives, I compiled 10 of my favorite books by AAPI authors for you to add to your reading lists! Some of these books moved me to tears, some made me laugh out loud, and some made my heart race, but they all have one thing in common: they lingered in the back of my mind long after I turned the last page. They’re the kind of books that stay with you. I hope you find a story that resonates with you among these books, and I hope that you continue to read diversely even after the month comes to an end.

This post contains Amazon affiliate links!

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong

I had to start the list off with this book because none other has stayed with me—haunted me—quite like this one. On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is poignant letter that reads like poetry from a Vietnamese immigrant to his mother who can’t read. He pieces together fragments of his life, reflecting on race, identity, sexuality, and grief with a raw intensity that moved me to tears, especially as a Vietnamese-American myself. The language and writing are exquisite, and the book as a whole is a truly visceral experience.

The Poppy War by R.F Kuang

This is without a doubt one of my favorite fantasy series. The sheer scope and depth of this trilogy is incredible, from the world building to the mythology to the history. It’s a story of gods and monsters, war and vengeance. I really appreciated how thought-provoking the story was—Kuang illustrated the cycles of violence and horrors of war (inspired by historic events in the second Sino-Japanese war) masterfully. Definitely one of the greatest works of fantasy, and one of the most devastating, I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading.

The Magnolia Sword: A Ballad of Mulan by Sherry Thomas

The Magnolia Sword has echoes of the Mulan we’re familiar with—a girl disguises herself as a man and goes to war in her father’s stead—but the story itself is very different. This wuxia-inspired reimagined tale of Mulan in 5th century AD China is rich in history and customs of the past, which makes the world so much more immersive. While there are many Mulan retellings out there, none has elicited the same feelings this book has. I devoured it in a single day.

The Bride Test by Helen Hoang

One of my favorite contemporary romances, The Bride Test follows Khai, an autistic Vietnamese-American who finds himself in a peculiar situation thanks to his mother. Enter Esme, a single mom living in Hồ Chí Minh city who is desperate to give her family a better life. She has one summer to try to get Khai to fall in love and marry her. I loved this book for many reasons. My mom is a Vietnamese immigrant who raised me by herself, so I could really understand the challenges Esme faced. Hoang weaves Vietnamese culture into the story seamlessly, and the romance was a pure delight.

The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo

There’s a dreamlike quality to this story that’s difficult to fully depict but impossible to forget. A wistfulness for bygone summer days; a bittersweet nostalgia through rose-tinted lens. Vo reimagines The Great Gatsby from Jordan Baker’s perspective as a queer Vietnamese immigrant in the most elite circles of 1920s American society, where she existed in a liminal space—a borderline between acceptable and not. Beneath the glitter and glamour, the opulence and dazzling lights, was an empty and perhaps monstrous man who you might be familiar with.

Descendant of the Crane by Joan He

A princess thrown into power, a kingdom in turmoil, and a riveting murder mystery. This Chinese-inspired YA fantasy has all the political intrigue and power dynamics along with lush writing and cohesive world building. There are several twists and revelations that will catch you completely blindsided. You know that feeling when you think you’ve got it figured out only to learn that you were wrong all along? The plot twists are just that great.

The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig

Time travel, adventure, pirates, and mythology. Nix has been on board The Temptation all her life; her father the captain of the ship. They travel through time with magic and different maps, and their destination? 1868 Honolulu, when Nix’s mother died giving birth to her. I adored the blend of fantasy and history, and the descriptive writing made me feel like I was right alongside the cast of characters, navigating through time myself.

Anna K. by Jenny Lee

This modern day reimagining of Anna Karenina definitely lives up to the Crazy Rich Asians meets Gossip Girl pitch, immersing us in the lives of the elite, upper echelon of Manhattan. Featuring a diverse cast of characters, Lee touches on important themes like class privilege, sexism, racial disparity, and internalized racism. I really enjoyed the insight on Korean culture—traditional values vs modern, which I found relatable to my Vietnamese upbringing. An entertaining and fresh take on a timeless classic.

Tokyo Ever After by Emiko Jean

This was everything my Princess Diaries-loving heart could ever want. A Japanese American girl finds out that her father is none other than the Crown Prince of Japan, making her a princess. Caught between two worlds, she has to deal with the hungry press, crazy cousins, and a scowling bodyguard. I loved Izumi’s girl gang, the exploration of identity and culture, and the family dynamics. Of course, the sweet bodyguard romance was a plus! An overall fun and lighthearted story.

10 Books by Asian Authors to Read in 2021

Here are 10 highly anticipated books by Asian authors to add to your TBR this year. There’s a little bit of everything on this list, from fantasy to thriller, sci-fi to rom-com. I can’t wait to read these myself, and I hope you find a book here that might become your next favorite!

Release date: April 20th, 2021

The Forest of Stolen Girls by June Hur

Hwani’s family has never been the same since she and her younger sister went missing and were later found unconscious in the forest, near a gruesome crime scene. The only thing they remember: Their captor wore a painted-white mask.

To escape the haunting memories of this incident, the family flees their hometown. Years later, Detective Min—Hwani’s father—learns that thirteen girls have recently disappeared under similar circumstances, and so he returns to their hometown to investigate… only to vanish as well.

The Ones We’re Meant to Find by Joan He

One of the most twisty, surprising, engaging page-turner YAs you’ll read this year—We Were Liars meets Black Mirror, with a dash of Studio Ghibli.

Cee has been trapped on an abandoned island for three years without any recollection of how she arrived, or memories from her life prior. All she knows is that somewhere out there, beyond the horizon, she has a sister named Kay. Determined to find her, Cee devotes her days to building a boat from junk parts scavenged inland, doing everything in her power to survive until the day she gets off the island and reunites with her sister.

Release date: May 4th, 2021

Release date: May 11th, 2021

Black Water Sister by Zen Cho

A reluctant medium discovers the ties that bind can unleash a dangerous power in this compelling Malaysian-set contemporary fantasy.

Jessamyn Teoh is closeted, broke and moving back to Malaysia, a country she left when she was a toddler. So when Jess starts hearing voices, she chalks it up to stress. But there’s only one voice in her head, and it claims to be the ghost of her estranged grandmother, Ah Ma. In life Ah Ma was a spirit medium, the avatar of a mysterious deity called the Black Water Sister. Now she’s determined to settle a score against a gang boss who has offended the god–and she’s decided Jess is going to help her do it.

Tokyo Ever After by Emiko Jean

The Princess Diaries meets Crazy Rich Asians in Emiko Jean’s Tokyo Ever After, a “refreshing, spot-on” (Booklist, starred review) story of an ordinary Japanese-American girl who discovers that her father is the Crown Prince of Japan.

Izumi Tanaka has never really felt like she fit in—it isn’t easy being Japanese American in her small, mostly white, northern California town. Raised by a single mother, it’s always been Izumi—or Izzy, because “It’s easier this way”—and her mom against the world. But then Izzy discovers a clue to her previously unknown father’s identity…and he’s none other than the Crown Prince of Japan. Which means outspoken, irreverent Izzy is literally a princess.

Release date: May 18th, 2021

Release date: June 1st, 2021

The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo

Immigrant. Socialite. Magician.

Jordan Baker grows up in the most rarefied circles of 1920s American society―she has money, education, a killer golf handicap, and invitations to some of the most exclusive parties of the Jazz Age. She’s also queer, Asian, adopted, and treated as an exotic attraction by her peers, while the most important doors remain closed to her.

But the world is full of wonders: infernal pacts and dazzling illusions, lost ghosts and elemental mysteries. In all paper is fire, and Jordan can burn the cut paper heart out of a man. She just has to learn how.

Check out my review over on Bookstagram!

Sisters of the Snake by Sarena & Sasha Nanua

A lost princess. A dark puppet master. And a race against time—before all is lost.

Princess Rani longs for a chance to escape her gilded cage and prove herself. Ria is a street urchin, stealing just to keep herself alive. When these two lives collide, everything turns on its head: because Ria and Rani, orphan and royal, are unmistakably identical.

A deal is struck to switch places—but danger lurks in both worlds, and to save their home, thief and princess must work together. Or watch it all fall into ruin.

Release date: June 15th, 2021

Release date: July 6th, 2021

Six Crimson Cranes by Elizabeth Lim

A princess in exile, a shapeshifting dragon, six enchanted cranes, and an unspeakable curse…

Shiori, the only princess of Kiata, has a secret. Forbidden magic runs through her veins. Normally she conceals it well, but on the morning of her betrothal ceremony, Shiori loses control. At first, her mistake seems like a stroke of luck, forestalling the wedding she never wanted, but it also catches the attention of Raikama, her stepmother.

Penniless, voiceless, and alone, Shiori searches for her brothers, and, on her journey, uncovers a conspiracy to overtake the throne.


She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan

Mulan meets The Song of Achilles in Shelley Parker-Chan’s She Who Became the Sun, a bold, queer, and lyrical reimagining of the rise of the founding emperor of the Ming Dynasty from an amazing new voice in literary fantasy.

In a famine-stricken village on a dusty yellow plain, two children are given two fates. A boy, greatness. A girl, nothingness…

In 1345, China lies under harsh Mongol rule. For the starving peasants of the Central Plains, greatness is something found only in stories. When the Zhu family’s eighth-born son, Zhu Chongba, is given a fate of greatness, everyone is mystified as to how it will come to pass. The fate of nothingness received by the family’s clever and capable second daughter, on the other hand, is only as expected.



Release date: July 20th, 2021
Release date: August 31st, 2021

The Heart Principle by Helen Hoang

To most people, Quan Diep is nothing but a surly-looking, underachieving playboy. The problem is he’s not any of those things. And now that he’s the CEO of an up-and-coming retail business, he’s suddenly a “catch,” and the rich girls who never used to pay any attention to him are looking at him in a new way—especially Camilla, the girl who brushed him off many years ago.

Jade Fire Gold by June C.L. Tan

Girls of Paper and Fire meets The Tiger at Midnight in June CL Tan’s stunning debut, inspired by Chinese mythology, with rich magic and an epic slow-burn romance.

In an empire on the brink of war . . .

Ahn is no one, with no past and no family.

Altan is a lost heir, his future stolen away as a child.

When they meet, Altan sees in Ahn a path to reclaiming the throne. Ahn sees a way to finally unlock her past and understand her arcane magical abilities. But they may have to pay a far deadlier price than either could have imagined.

Release date: October 12th, 2021

Are any of these books on your TBR? Are there other books releasing this year by Asian authors on your list that I didn’t mention above? Share them!