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 essentially 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, manga has a wide range of genres and target demographics but with their own terms. The ones you might see often are:

Shonen: Aimed at YA boys, oftentimes featuring a young male protagonist with plenty of action 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 TATBILB. Examples: Fruits Basket, Nana, Kaichou wa Maid-Sama.

Seinen: Targets a more mature audience, typically more graphic or violent in nature with psychological themes. There are exceptions of course in romance and comedy. Examples – Ghost in the Shell, Beserk, Vagabond.


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.

  • slice of life + romcom
  • the most lovable cast of characters
  • comedic relief while dealing with heavier themes of emotional hardship
  • 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/full of fluff
  • opposites attract
  • fast developing romance

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
  • geek culture (gaming + otaku)
  • relatable characters
  • all around feel-good story

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 multidimensional characters
  • plenty of moments that made me laugh and also moments that pulled at my heartstrings
  • uplifting & 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 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
  • epic battle of wits with high stakes
  • 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
  • wholesome and HILARIOUS
  • 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
  • dismantles gender roles
  • strangely endearing (he’s a domesticated ex-gangster being a house husband)

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!

10 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.

Jade City by Fonda Lee

Think 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. There are territory disputes, assassination attempts, knife duels to the death, blood feuds to settle—truly a seamless blend of modernity and casual brutality in the gritty, bustling streets of Kekon. Jade City is intense, heart-pounding epic of family, loyalty, and honor. The world-building is ambitious and immersive, the fight scenes are explosive, and the characters come in all shades of morally grey. Read my full review on the blog here.

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!