Posted in Books

The Bookish Mutant’s Books for AAPI Heritage Month (2023 Edition)

Happy Wednesday, bibliophiles! I wrote most of this post in advance, but as of now, I’m about to move out of my dorm!! I HAVE SUCCESSFULLY FINISHED MY FIRST YEAR OF COLLEGE!!

Here in the U.S., May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, and I’ve compiled another list of book recommendations for the occasion! Diverse reading shouldn’t be restricted to a single month, but it’s so important to amplify marginalized—in this case, AAPI—voices during this month. My lists serve as guides to read during not just their respective months, but any time you’d like.

However, this year is a little different. Even though I’m too lazy to change the header image (sometimes you’ve gotta be a bit stingy with your media space), I’ve decided to put both YA and adult books on this list. I’ve started to read more adult books in the past few years, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t include some of these books on this list. So it’s a slightly wider pool to choose from this year—read at your leisure!

If you’d like to see my past lists, click below:

Enjoy these recommendations!

THE BOOKISH MUTANT’S BOOKS FOR AAPI HERITAGE MONTH

YA:

ADULT:

TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK! Have you read any of these books, and what did you think of them? What are some of your favorite books by AAPI authors? Let me know in the comments!

Today’s song:

I FEEL LIKE I’VE ASCENDED TO ANOTHER PLANE OF EXISTENCE HELP

That’s it for this list of recommendations! HAve a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

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Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (4/4/23) – Strike the Zither

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

Descendant of the Crane and The Ones We’re Meant to Find made me an instant fan of Joan He, and so I was immediately hooked when I found out that she was cooking up another piece of folkloric-feeling historical fiction! And now that I’ve finished this novel, I can safely say that Joan He has never once let me down. Fingers crossed that it’s consistent.

Enjoy this week’s review!

Strike the Zither (Kingdom of Three, #1) – Joan He

Zephyr has spent her whole life mapping survival out strategically. It was necessary after she was orphaned while she was still young, but as the strategist of the warlordess Xin Ren, she now holds the fate of a warring country in her hands. Three factions are fighting for dominance under a figurehead of an empress, and any sudden moves could mean that one faction takes over the entire Xin Dynasty.

When Zephyr is sent on a mission to infiltrate the ranks of the enemy to ensure the safekeeping of Xin Ren’s loyal followers, she collides with Crow, an enemy strategist with an agenda of his own. But the boiling point of all three factions is fast approaching, and Zephyr must do anything in order to make it out alive—even if it means exposing herself to the enemy.

TW/CW: death, blood, war themes, violence, torture, animal death, vomiting, abuse, body-shaming, xenophobia (fictional)

I’m not sure why I’m so hesitant to say that Joan He can do no wrong at this point. She’s never missed. Not with Descendant of the Crane, not with The Ones We’re Meant to Find, and certainly not with this novel. Her first two books were already works of art, and I’m glad to say that He is consistent in the quality of her writing, and consistent in her ability to put out so much unique media into the world of literature.

Each Joan He book is memorable in its own way, but what stood out to me about Strike the Zither was how wonderfully cinematic it was. It wasn’t frustratingly quippy or overtly self-serious; He knew just when to hit the balance, juxtaposing war with well-placed zither solos and political intrigue. He seems to do political intrigue especially well—there’s a way to make it genuinely interesting without having the entire focus be on court drama, which happens so often in YA, and with both this novel and Descendant of the Crane, she teases each development just enough to continually keep my attention. With the stylized art on the cover, I could honestly imagine this novel being adapted into a darker Laika Studios stop-motion film, but no matter the medium, Strike the Zither feels like it was born for the screen.

He also has an awareness of her characters that not many YA authors do—she knows that Zephyr and all of the other supporting characters are over the top, and she absolutely rolls with it. Again, Strike the Zither was a master class in balance; Zephyr neither fell into the all-too-common self-seriousness of YA, nor did she constantly break out into the dreaded Marvel Funny personality. She’s theatrical, but in a fun way that doesn’t mire itself in angst unnecessarily. Given this novel’s roots in Chinese classics and folklore, it’s the perfect way to write it; He mentions that the original epic of the Three Kingdoms had a tendency to put historical figures on a godlike pedestal, and this felt like a tongue-in-cheek response to that style.

The pacing of this novel also sealed the deal for me; although it was a little difficult to get into right out of the gate with how the world and its characters were so rapidly introduced, once it got going, the pace never faltered. Every action felt calculated, like the strategist that Zephyr is, and each choice elevated the plot to heights that I didn’t expect Strike the Zither to reach. The main twist was so deftly executed, and it had me grinning from ear to ear when I came across it, and my excitement never waned over the course of this novel. This one’s a must-read, trust me.

All in all, an impressive display of Joan He’s talent on all fronts. 4 stars! I can’t wait for the rest of the duology!

Strike the Zither is the first book in the Kingdom of Three duology; the sequel, Sound the Gong, is set for release in October of 2023 (!!!). Joan He is also the author of Descendant of the Crane and The Ones We’re Meant to Find, both of which are standalones.

Today’s song:

I’ve had this on repeat for the past few days :,) so lovely

That’s it for this week’s Book Review Tuesday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (6/22/21) – The Ones We’re Meant to Find

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

Ever since reading Descendant of the Crane about two years ago and loving it, I’ve been itching to read more of Joan He’s novels. My wishing was rewarded with this book, which came out in early May of this year. (Star Wars day, I think….YES) I bought it recently at my favorite bookstore, and I’m glad to say that The Ones We’re Meant to Find is even better than her debut – complex, tense and tender!

Enjoy this week’s review!

The Ones We're Meant to Find — Joan He

The Ones We’re Meant to Find – Joan He

my copy ft. a cool filter and yesterday’s overcast skies

As far as everyone else knows, Celia Mizuhara – Cee for short – went missing three years ago, presumed dead. But Cee is very much alive, stranded on a distant island. She’s been eking out an existence there for three years, with only a strange android for company. But when a boy washes ashore and nearly kills her, she must question what she knows of her life before – and herself.

Meanwhile, Cee’s sister Kasey lives in a floating city, protected from the natural disasters that wrack their climate change-ravaged world. Intelligent and reclusive, she lives an isolated lifestyle, working with experts on the latest technology that could further protect their floating utopia. But Cee’s fate remains at the back of her mind, and Kasey knows that her sister is still out there.

amie kaufman – The Bookish Mutant

TW/CW: loss of loved ones, cancer, grief, violence, near-death situations (drowning, attempted murder), natural disasters

It’s been almost a week since I finished this one, and lemme tell you, I am still REELING. I think I need to go back and re-read it soon…

The Ones We’re Meant to Find is very nearly a masterpiece. It’s haunting in every sense of the word, from the natural disasters surrounding it to the conspiracy within it, and it hooked me to the last page.

The Ones We’re Meant to Find is told in the dual POVs of sisters Cee and Kasey, but I enjoyed Cee’s the most; her story was the more compelling of the two, in my opinion, and I loved seeing her unravel the mystery of her marooning and of her life before. I honestly would’ve been fine if it was just her story – as much as I loved the rest of the novel, her story would’ve been a great standalone as well. I loved all of her little mannerisms and quirks, and she was such a fascinating, multi-layered character. Her tense dynamic with Hero was also so well-written – their relationship was never certain, and I loved the mercurial aspect of it. And she bounced so well off of U-me, the android, too! The friendship that they’d built over the course of three years was so weirdly touching.

Who is the best sidekick droid? (others in comments) | Fandom

And the worldbuilding? PHENOMENAL. Both Cee’s island and Kasey’s floating utopia were so complex and well-developed. There was clearly so much love and care put into every inch of this novel, and it shone through in the best way possible. I could practically feel the hum of machinery, the pouring rain, the battering ocean waves…IMMACULATE.

The mystery at the heart of The Ones We’re Meant to Find was equally compelling. I had to look back through the last few pages just so it could sink in – just when I thought it was over, He delivered another heartstopping twist that had my eyes bugging out of my skull. There are plot twists upon plot twists UPON PLOT TWISTS, and I loved it.

My only complaint is Kasey’s side of the story. I appreciated that she was more of a cold, unlikable character, but her whole side of the plot seemed rather convoluted. Remember how I said that the care put into the worldbuilding showed? There’s a bit of a catch to that, sadly; there were so many aspects that factored into the conspiracy around Cee, Kasey, and Actinium, but the sheer amount of them made me forget their significance, and when the final reveal was made, I had to flip back through just so I could remember “wait, what did that mean again? Why do we care about that?” Like I said – I need to give this one another re-read. Maybe that’ll help me absorb it all. But in the midst of all this wondrousness, this is basically my only major complaint.

Visible Confusion GIF - Visible Confusion StarWars - Discover & Share GIFs
here I go piling on all the Star Wars gifs again

All in all, a haunting and complex cli-fi with androids, sisterhood, and no shortage of thrilling twists. 4.5 stars!

𝖣𝗂𝗌𝗍𝗋𝗂𝖼𝗍 9 - 𝗣𝗿𝗼𝗹𝗼𝗴𝘂𝗲 - Wattpad

The Ones We’re Meant to Find is a standalone, but Joan He is also the author of Descendant of the Crane, and an untitled mystery/thriller novel slated for release in 2022.

Today’s song:

hmm, I listened to this whole album yesterday and loved it? what could have possibly tipped you off?

That’s it for this week’s Book Review Tuesday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

Posted in Goodreads Monday

Goodreads Monday (5/24/21) – The Ones We’re Meant to Find

Happy Monday, bibliophiles!

Goodreads Monday is a weekly meme created by Lauren’s Page Turners. All you have to do to participate is pick a book from your Goodreads TBR, and explain why you want to read it.

Continuing with AAPI books on my TBR for the rest of the month, here’s one I can’t wait to read! I’ve been seeing this one EVERYWHERE lately, and every time I see a post about it, I get even madder that my library doesn’t have it yet…[screams in the void]

I was a huge fan of Descendant of the Crane, and this one sounds even better! We’ll see…

Let’s begin, shall we?

GOODREADS MONDAY (5/24/21) – THE ONES WE’RE MEANT TO FIND by Joan He

The Ones We're Meant to Find by Joan He

Blurb from Goodreads:

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, and it’s up to Cee to cross the ocean and find her.

In a world apart, 16-year-old STEM prodigy Kasey Mizuhara lives in an eco-city built for people who protected the planet―and now need protecting from it. With natural disasters on the rise due to climate change, eco-cities provide clean air, water, and shelter. Their residents, in exchange, must spend at least a third of their time in stasis pods, conducting business virtually whenever possible to reduce their environmental footprint. While Kasey, an introvert and loner, doesn’t mind the lifestyle, her sister Celia hated it. Popular and lovable, Celia much preferred the outside world. But no one could have predicted that Celia would take a boat out to sea, never to return.

Now it’s been three months since Celia’s disappearance, and Kasey has given up hope. Logic says that her sister must be dead. But nevertheless, she decides to retrace Celia’s last steps. Where they’ll lead her, she does not know. Her sister was full of secrets. But Kasey has a secret of her own.

So why do I want to read this?

Aesthetic Ocean Gif Tumblr - Largest Wallpaper Portal

NO NO I’M JUST VIBRATING IN MY SEAT WAITING TO GET MY HANDS ON THIS BOOK –

Joan He’s thing in writing must be genre-blending, and man, it looks like she hit her stride again! Both of the sisters’ plots – one on an empty island and the other in a near-future eco city – sound equally fascinating. I always love sibling stories as well, so I’m excited to see how Cee and Kasey’s narratives are tied together and what their relationship looks like.

And the themes are…eerily timely here. Looks like there’s going to be a big discussion about climate change, what with these near-future eco cities presumably being built to withstand the severe natural disasters that come with it. I haven’t read much cli-fi (sci-fi specifically dealing with climate change – new term for me), and I’m excited to expand my horizons with this one!

Oh, and I can’t NOT talk about that beautiful cover…🥺

In short:

a) I’m here for Joan He

b) I’m here for sci-fi Joan He

Future City GIFs - Get the best GIF on GIPHY

Today’s song:

That’s it for this week’s Goodreads Monday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!