diversity spotlight thursday, OwnVoices, Romance, Speculative Fiction, YA

Diversity Spotlight Thursday #5

Diversity Spotlight Thursday is a weekly spotlight created by Aimal at Bookshelves and Paperbacks that specifically illuminates diverse literature. You can find more details of it in the announcement post here. Each post involves sharing:

  1. A diverse book I have read and enjoyed
  2. A diverse book that has already been released but I have not read
  3. A diverse book that has not yet been released

As part of #AsianLitBingo this month, I’m focusing on books by Asian authors and with Asian characters in this spotlight.

Read and enjoyed: Not Your Sidekick by CB Lee

Goodreads Link

29904219

Welcome to Andover… where superpowers are common, but internships are complicated. Just ask high school nobody, Jessica Tran. Despite her heroic lineage, Jess is resigned to a life without superpowers and is merely looking to beef-up her college applications when she stumbles upon the perfect (paid!) internship—only it turns out to be for the town’s most heinous supervillain. On the upside, she gets to work with her longtime secret crush, Abby, who Jess thinks may have a secret of her own. Then there’s the budding attraction to her fellow intern, the mysterious “M,” who never seems to be in the same place as Abby.

But what starts as a fun way to spite her superhero parents takes a sudden and dangerous turn when she uncovers a plot larger than heroes and villains altogether.

My thoughts:

Not Your Sidekick was actually featured in my first Diversity Spotlight Thursday, as a book on my TBR, and I was so lucky that Emily Mead lent it to me so I could finally read it. What I enjoyed:

  • The futuristic setting, heroes-and-villains foundation of their society, and their technologies were so much fun to read about. It reminded me of Big Hero 6 and I would so love to see a similar kind of animated adaptation of this book.
  • Jess was so compelling as a protagonist — her insecurities about not measuring up in terms of achievements, and regarding her cultural identities, felt very real.
  • It’s really interesting to read about an Asian diasporic character in this kind of story — talking about Jess’s Chinese classes in one paragraph and superheroes in the next; very affirming to read about.
  • Family stories are always great, and I loved that Jess’s parents and siblings had such a strong presence in the book, which shifted in a well-developed way as the story progressed.
  • Jess and Abby were an adorable duo!
  • The action-packed scenes and discoveries at the end were fun and gripping to read about

Definitely recommended!

TBR: The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco

Goodreads Link

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The beast raged; it punctured the air with its spite. But the girl was fiercer.

Tea is different from the other witches in her family. Her gift for necromancy makes her a bone witch, who are feared and ostracized in the kingdom. For theirs is a powerful, elemental magic that can reach beyond the boundaries of the living—and of the human.

Great power comes at a price, forcing Tea to leave her homeland to train under the guidance of an older, wiser bone witch. There, Tea puts all of her energy into becoming an asha, learning to control her elemental magic and those beasts who will submit by no other force. And Tea must be strong—stronger than she even believes possible. Because war is brewing in the eight kingdoms, war that will threaten the sovereignty of her homeland…and threaten the very survival of those she loves.

My thoughts:

I’ve heard a lot of friends talking about and saying they really enjoyed this, so this is definitely a book I plan on reading! I love the sound of Tea’s gift for necromancy — the dark magic aspects of the Old Kingdom books by Garth Nix were one of the things I loved about the series, so it’ll be great to see these themes/elements here. The cover also looks beautiful. Knowing that The Bone Witch has culturally diverse elements, and is by a Filipina/Chinese author, is also a strong motivation for me to read it.

Not Yet Released: When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

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Goodreads Link

Dimple Shah has it all figured out. With graduation behind her, she’s more than ready for a break from her family, from Mamma’s inexplicable obsession with her finding the “Ideal Indian Husband.” Ugh. Dimple knows they must respect her principles on some level, though. If they truly believed she needed a husband right now, they wouldn’t have paid for her to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers…right?

Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic. So when his parents tell him that his future wife will be attending the same summer program as him—wherein he’ll have to woo her—he’s totally on board. Because as silly as it sounds to most people in his life, Rishi wants to be arranged, believes in the power of tradition, stability, and being a part of something much bigger than himself.

The Shahs and Patels didn’t mean to start turning the wheels on this “suggested arrangement” so early in their children’s lives, but when they noticed them both gravitate toward the same summer program, they figured, Why not?

Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works hard to prove itself in the most unexpected ways.

My thoughts:

Rom-com! Indian protagonists with strong cultural elements! Amazing-sounding characters! I don’t really have much to comment except this sounds adorable and I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for this one (good to know it’s being published in Aus/NZ!)

Have you read, or do you plan on reading, any of these books? Let me know your thoughts!

Australian, diversity spotlight thursday, Historical Fiction, Magical Realism, OwnVoices, Speculative Fiction

Diversity Spotlight Thursday #4

Diversity Spotlight Thursday is a meme started by Aimal at Bookshelves and Paperbacks; you can read the announcement post here. Each spotlight involves sharing:

  1. A diverse book I have read and enjoyed
  2. A diverse book that has already been released but I have not read
  3. A diverse book that has not yet been released

Read and enjoyed: Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

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Goodreads Link

Summary:

Raised in South Carolina and New York, Woodson always felt halfway home in each place. In vivid poems, she shares what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s, living with the remnants of Jim Crow and her growing awareness of the Civil Rights movement. Touching and powerful, each poem is both accessible and emotionally charged, each line a glimpse into a child’s soul as she searches for her place in the world.

Woodson’s eloquent poetry also reflects the joy of finding her voice through writing stories, despite the fact that she struggled with reading as a child. Her love of stories inspired her and stayed with her, creating the first sparks of the gifted writer she was to become.

I reread this recently and it was an absolute delight. Woodson’s writing was beautiful, immersing me completely as it evoked her family life and world as a child. Telling the memoir in verse was especially effective in evoking emotions, and the sense of times gone past.

As a writer, I enjoyed the details of her coming to realise her intuitive passion for words and storytelling and began to write. I especially loved this moment, when she discovered a picture book with an African-American child and realised “that someone who looked like me/could be in the pages of the book/that someone who looked like me/had a story” – it was incredibly moving.

TBR: Ida by Alison Evans

Goodreads Link

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Summary:

How do people decide on a path, and find the drive to pursue what they want?

Ida struggles more than other young people to work this out. She can shift between parallel universes, allowing her to follow alternative paths.

One day Ida sees a shadowy, see-through doppelganger of herself on the train. She starts to wonder if she’s actually in control of her ability, and whether there are effects far beyond what she’s considered.

How can she know, anyway, whether one universe is ultimately better than another? And what if the continual shifting causes her to lose what is most important to her, just as she’s discovering what that is, and she can never find her way back?

Ida is an intelligent, diverse and entertaining novel that explores love, loss and longing, and speaks to the condition of an array of overwhelming, and often illusory, choices.

I’ve been so looking forward to reading Ida, which was released in Australia in January – it’s so rare to see ownvoices stories of genderqueer characters, and I’ve heard a lot about how great the queer rep is + how naturally it’s integrated.

Whilst I’m not generally a sci-fi reader, the premise does sound really interesting – a blend of contemporary and realism with the classic coming-of-age/finding your path YA and New Adult concerns. Should be a thought-provoking read!

Not Yet Released: The Girl with the Red Balloon by Katherine Locke

Goodreads Link

29917906Summary:

When sixteen-year-old Ellie Baum accidentally time-travels via red balloon to 1988 East Berlin, she’s caught up in a conspiracy of history and magic. She meets members of an underground guild in East Berlin who use balloons and magic to help people escape over the Wall—but even to the balloon makers, Ellie’s time travel is a mystery. When it becomes clear that someone is using dark magic to change history, Ellie must risk everything—including her only way home—to stop the process.

You had me at ‘conspiracy of history and magic’. The Cold War’s a fascinating period of history, and I’d love to learn more about it through this story. This is an ownvoices book, featuring a Jewish-American protag.

Have you read any of these books? What are your thoughts?

diversity spotlight thursday

Diversity Spotlight Thursday #3

This is a weekly spotlight created by Aimal at Bookshelves and Paperbacks that specifically illuminates diverse literature. You can find more details of it in the announcement post here. Each post involves sharing:

  1. A diverse book I have read and enjoyed
  2. A diverse book that has already been released but I have not read
  3. A diverse book that has not yet been released

Read and enjoyed: When the Sea Turned to Silver by Grace Lin

Goodreads Link

Pinmei’s gentle, loving grandmother always has the most exciting tales for her granddaughter and the other villagers. However, the peace is shattered one night when soldiers of the Emperor arrive and kidnap the storyteller.

Everyone knows that the Emperor wants something called the Luminous Stone That Lights the Night. Determined to have her grandmother returned, Pinmei embarks on a journey to find the Luminous Stone alongside her friend Yishan, a mysterious boy who seems to have his own secrets to hide.

Together, the two must face obstacles usually found only in legends to find the Luminous Stone and save Pinmei’s grandmother–before it’s too late. A fast-paced adventure that is extraordinarily written and beautifully illustrated, When the Sea Turned to Silver is a masterpiece companion novel to Where the Mountain Meets the Moon and Starry River of the Sky.

This is third in a loosely-linked series of middle grade fantasy books by Grace Lin, in a world strongly rooted in Chinese culture. I do recommend reading them in order (#1: Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, #2: Starry River of the Sky) because it’ll help immerse you in the world and understand references here and there a lot better.

This book wove a mystery really well through multiple interlinked stories, and small hints that make you really want to piece the puzzle together properly. I loved the art in the book, which was absolutely beautiful. The ending was also really satisfying. I’d have appreciated such a book so much when I was younger, and hope to learn more about Chinese culture (I’m Chinese-Australian) and understand the way they were interwoven in the story better, in time!

TBR: When the Moon Was Ours by Anne-Marie McLemore

Goodreads Link

To everyone who knows them, best friends Miel and Sam are as strange as they are inseparable. Roses grow out of Miel’s wrist, and rumors say that she spilled out of a water tower when she was five. Sam is known for the moons he paints and hangs in the trees, and for how little anyone knows about his life before he and his mother moved to town.

But as odd as everyone considers Miel and Sam, even they stay away from the Bonner girls, four beautiful sisters rumored to be witches.

Now they want the roses that grow from Miel’s skin, convinced that their scent can make anyone fall in love. And they’re willing to use every secret Miel has fought to protect to make sure she gives them up.

I have heard so many good things about this book. The dedication is beautiful, the cover is beautiful, I’m keen to read more about diverse identities I don’t see represented often in fiction, and can the paperback please come out soon or an Australian publisher pick it
up? xD

Not Yet Released: The Emperor’s Riddle by Kat Zhang

Goodreads Link

Mia Chen is on what her mother calls a Grand Adventure. She’s not sure what to make of this family trip to China, and didn’t want to leave her friends for the summer, but she’s excited about the prospect of exploring with her Aunt Lin, the only adult who truly understands her.

Then Aunt Lin disappears, right after her old nemesis, a man named Ying, comes to visit. Mia knows that years ago, when Aunt Lin and Ying were sent to the Fuzhou countryside to work as laborers, the two searched for an ancient treasure together–one that still hasn’t been found. She’s suspicious that their shared history might be linked to Aunt Lin’s disappearance.

When Mia discovers an old map filled with riddles in Aunt Lin’s room, she quickly pieces together her mission: find the treasure, find her aunt. Now, Mia, along with her big brother, Jake, must solve the clues to rescue the person she knows best in the world—and maybe unearth a treasure greater than her wildest dreams.

I’ve had this book at the back of my mind since I saw the publication announcement! As with Grace Lin’s books, I would have loved to see these kinds of fun, positive, middle grade representations of Chinese culture and Chinese characters when I was younger. I love the puzzle/riddle aspects described, and the fact that it’s set in China. Seriously cannot wait to read this.

diversity spotlight thursday

Diversity Spotlight Thursday #2

This is a weekly spotlight created by Aimal at Bookshelves and Paperbacks that specifically illuminates diverse literature. You can find more details of it in the announcement post here. Each post involves sharing:

  1. A diverse book I have read and enjoyed
  2. A diverse book that has already been released but I have not read
  3. A diverse book that has not yet been released

Read and enjoyed: Bird by Crystal Chan

Goodreads Link

Nothing matters.

Only Bird matters.

And he flew away.

Jewel never knew her brother Bird, who died the day she was born, but all her life she has lived in his shadow. Her parents blame Grandpa for the tragedy; they say he attracted a malevolent spirit – a duppy – into their home. Grandpa hasn’t spoken a word since.

Now Jewel is twelve, and she is sure that Bird will haunt them forever – until the night she meets a strange boy in a tree. If she can find out who he is, perhaps she can discover her own identity too.

This was a gorgeous and incredible middle grade book with strong themes of family and friendship. Jewel’s narrative voice was absolutely beautiful, and I was immersed in it from start to finish. I also strongly empathised with her vulnerabilities, which have been shaped by the difficulties in her family as a result of the lingering tragedy of Bird’s death.

The other storyline involved Jewel’s friendship with John, a mysterious boy (black, adopted by white parents) who is temporarily staying in their town. Their relationship was heartwarming, exploring both joys and challenges. A highlight was how passionate they both were about the world – Jewel is fascinated by the Earth and aspires to become a geologist; John wants to become an astronaut and loves astronomy, which is refreshing to see in children’s fiction. Definitely a book I recommend.

A note that the author, like Jewel, is mixed-race – though Crystal Chan is half-Chinese, whilst Jewel is half-Jamaican, a quarter white, and a quarter Mexican.

TBR: Where the Streets Had a Name by Randa Abdel-Fattah

Goodreads Link

Thirteen-year-old Hayaat is on a mission. She believes a handful of soil from her
grandmother’s ancestral home in Jerusalem will save her beloved Sitti Zeynab’s life. The only problem is the impenetrable wall that divides the West Bank, as well as the check points, the curfews, the permit system and Hayaat’s best-friend Samy, who is mainly interested in football and the latest elimination on X-Factor, but always manages to attract trouble.

But luck is on their side. Hayaat and Samy have a curfew-free day to travel to Jerusalem. However, while their journey may only be a few kilometres long, it may take a lifetime to complete.

Confession time: I’ve never actually read any of Randa Abdel-Fattah’s books *hides*. I know, what kind of an Australian am I?! Well, I’ve been meaning to for a long time, and conveniently enough, every one of her books is on my library’s ebook catalogue. Of all of them, this one intrigues me the most based on how moving and personal it sounds.

I’ve only read a handful of books set in the Middle East in the past – off the top of my head, ones I really enjoyed were I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai and A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini, though the latter was so difficult for me to recover emotionally from. YOU SHOULD READ IT.

I’ll definitely be reading this in January, as my first ever buddy read, with @paperwanders. Very excited!

Not yet released: The Secret of a Heart Note by Stacey Lee

Goodreads Link

Sometimes love is right under your nose. As one of only two aromateurs left on the planet, sixteen-year-old Mimosa knows what her future holds: a lifetime of weeding, mixing love elixirs, and matchmaking—all while remaining incurably alone. For Mim, the rules are clear: falling in love would render her nose useless, taking away her one great talent. Still, Mimosa doesn’t want to spend her life elbow-deep in soil and begonias. She dreams of a normal high school experience with friends, sports practices, debate club, and even a boyfriend. But when she accidentally gives an elixir to the wrong woman and has to rely on the lovesick woman’s son, the school soccer star, to help fix the situation, Mim quickly begins to realize that falling in love isn’t always a choice you can make.

At once hopeful, funny, and romantic, Stacey Lee’s The Secret of a Heart Note is a richly evocative coming-of-age story that gives a fresh perspective on falling in love and finding one’s place in the world.

You thought the Stacey Lee fangirling was over with the last spotlight? HAHAHAHA no. It’ll never be over.

Even though I’m not a huge romance fan, this sounds like such a fascinating and unique story, and the inspiration behind it (see here) is really intriguing. I’ve pre-ordered it and can’t wait to read it and share my thoughts with you all!

diversity spotlight thursday

Diversity Spotlight Thursday #1

My first time participating in this amazing weekly blog meme 🙂 This
is a weekly spotlight created by Aimal at Bookshelves and Paperbacks that specifically illuminates diverse literature,
and you can find more details of it in the announcement post here. Each post involves sharing:

  1. A diverse book I have read and enjoyed
  2. A diverse book that has already been released but I have not read
  3. A diverse book that has not yet been released

1. Read: George by Alex Gino

Goodreads Link

Summary:

24612624BE WHO YOU ARE.

When people look at George, they think they see a boy. But she knows she’s not a boy. She knows she’s a girl.

George thinks she’ll have to keep this a secret forever. Then her teacher announces that their class play is going to be Charlotte’s Web.
George really, really, REALLY wants to play Charlotte. But the teacher
says she can’t even try out for the part … because she’s a boy.

With the help of her best friend, Kelly, George comes up with a plan.
Not just so she can be Charlotte – but so everyone can know who she is,
once and for all.

About time I got to this book! Such a beautifully written middle grade. I really felt for Melissa (not a spoiler, she uses her name in the first chapter), I loved the friendship between her and Kelly, and the last chapter was SO heartwarming. I’ll admit the kids-putting-on-a-play storyline is something I’m a little tired of in children’s books now, but this one put a nice spin on it which I really liked.

2. TBR: Not Your Sidekick by CB Lee

Goodreads Link

Summary:

29904219Welcome to Andover… where superpowers are common, but internships are complicated. Just ask high school nobody, Jessica Tran. Despite her heroic lineage, Jess is resigned to a life without superpowers and is merely looking to beef-up her college applications when she stumbles upon the perfect (paid!) internship—only it turns out to be for the town’s most heinous supervillain. On the upside, she gets to work with her longtime secret crush, Abby, who Jess thinks may have a secret of her own. Then there’s the budding attraction to her fellow intern, the
mysterious “M,” who never seems to be in the same place as Abby. But what starts as a fun way to spite her superhero parents takes a sudden and dangerous turn when she uncovers a plot larger than heroes and villains altogether.

Asian and queer superheroes? Intersectionality? A My Hero Academia feel? I NEED THIS BOOK. Going to be difficult to get my hands on, though…why must diverse American books be so hard/expensive to get here! xD

3. Not yet released: Dear Miss Sweetie by Stacey Lee

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When I saw the announcement I may or may not have looked like this…

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Stacey Lee is basically my favourite author and if you haven’t read any of her books already, get your hands on them and improve your life.

That’s all for this week! I’ll have another post up for the next Diversity Spotlight Thursday.