all of the great contemporary reads, lots of stress but lots of books! // February 2019 Wrap Up

GUESS WHO’S BACK AND HAS READ 15 BOOKS* IN THE SHORTEST MONTH OF THE YEAR!!!

This gal!!

I’m actually so happy with this, February was a busy month for me (hence my unexpected two weeks wish hiatus!!) so THIS IS A SUCCESS.

*Fine, two of them I had started at the end of January. BUT IT COUNTS OK.

  • King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo: 4(.5?) stars / I have a very gushing review you can check out, but I really enjoyed this!! I adore Nina and Nikolai to no end. ❤️
  • The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali by Sabina Khan: 4.5 stars / I am very biased because I FELT SO SEEN through the rep of a Bangladeshi-American sapphic teen in this book, and I have no regrets!! I CRIED.
  • Aristotle & Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz: 3.5 stars / I wish I had enjoyed this more, because it was a sweet story, but it was a tad bit too slice-of-life for me? (or maybe I just wanted them to GET TOGETHER SOONER ahaha oops)
  • The Weight of Our Sky by Hanna Alkaf: 4 stars / ft. a historical setting of Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, a Malaysian Muslim teen with OCD, broke my heart!
  • Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds: 3 stars / ft. a black teen, unexpected A Christmas Carol vibes, and social awareness 💔 It just felt too quick for me to connect to the character?
  • Our Year of Maybe by Rachel Lynn Solomon: 4 stars / ft. a bisexual Jewish boy and his best friend Sophie who’s in love with him; sort of messy, but the greatest character development and I’m soft for the m/m romance !!
  • Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi: 4.5-5 stars / ft. a Thai protagonist with anxiety, and a troubled boy who likes to bake!! The sweetest, slowest-burn romance omg over text. I ADORED THIS SO MUCH
  • Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed: 4 stars / such a heartbreaking, powerful read tackling forced arranged marriages ft. a Pakistani-American protagonist 💔😭
  • Odd One Out by Nic Stone: 2.5 stars / I really do appreciate all the diversity in this book, especially the ownvoices black main characters but I just did not enjoy this book? And I’m so sad cause I loved Dear Martin! I just did not enjoy any of the leads, either through another character’s POV or their own. It made it very frustrating.
  • On the Come Up by Angie Thomas: 4.5 stars / A book from the QUEEN! I loved Bri’s story, so much love for the family relationships and social awareness omg
  • Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy: 3.5 stars / ft. summer romance, a slice-of-life novel following a queer protagonist and journey of self-discovery 💕
  • Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde: 4.5 stars / ft. the softest romances, all the nerdiness, a biracial and bisexual Asian-American with ADHD? (in a f/f/ romance!) as well as a fat character with anxiety and on the autism spectrum! 😍
  • Always Forever Maybe by Anicca Mrose Ricci: 3.5 stars / deals with an abusive relationship that was so hard to read ahhh
  • Summer of Salt by Katrina Leno: 4 stars / ft. a SOFT AF f/f romance and magical realism!! (also tackles rape 😭💔)
  • Noteworthy by Riley Redgate: 3.5 stars / ft. acapella, soft friendships and an Asian-American protagonist!

I mean, I only have like 4 to choose from, but I loved writing my discussion on the lack of romance tropes for marginalized identities! Diversity in books is something that means a lot to me, and I want so much to see so much more in YA books regarding diverse populations, including tropes. 💕

  • I!! Had!! So!! Much!! Work!! School KILLED ME 😭
  • I got my report card and went down in some subjects, but up in others? I’ve been able to maintain my 90+ average so far, but idk how lmao pray for me
  • Valentine’s Day was a flop but I bought chocolate for myself and it was delicious 💁🏽‍♀️
  • I went to an escape room with my friends to celebrate a friend’s birthday! WE ESCAPED 💪😊
  • Someone stole my money at work last weekend!! I had a good amount of cash (plus two toonies) and an Indigo gift card, and they were all gone 😦 My debit card and Tim’s card was still there, but I’m wondering if I should be worried the person took a picture of my debit or something?? Am I just being paranoid? No purchases have been made but what if they use it to buy something online?? AM I CRAZY?
  • This month was pretty bland otherwise!! Mostly stressful though omg.

I see some people doing this and thought I’d give it a try! I don’t usually set a ton of goals for myself, so we’ll see lmao

  • Read 8-10 books! (March is VERY busy for me, and even though I have spring break I really doubt I’ll get as much reading done!)
  • Follow my blog schedule! I want to be more organized (in one aspect of my life anyway, it’s not happening for school) and I’m hoping to post a bit more often this month!
  • Blog hop more often/more regularly! I don’t know how feasible this is based on my schedule, but I’m going to aim for Friday to be my blog-hop night 💪 I love reading and commenting on other posts, I just have no time!
  • STOP PROCRASTINATING. (Says me as I procrastinate on homework by writing this post, whateverrrr)

What was your favourite book you read in February?! Mine was probably The Love & Lies of Rukhsana Ali and Emergency Contact! I can’t believe it’s already March oh my gosh. Do you have any goals, or anything special coming up for you?! Let’s talk, I missed you guys!! 💕

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Is there a lack of romance tropes with marginalized protagonists? // We need more diverse books!!

Romance tropes, to the say the least, are slightly* very overdone.

(I mean… That’s why they’re called tropes??)

There’s the love triangle (cringe), forbidden romance, hate-to-love, friends-to-lovers… all the good stuff that you swoon over in books!

And as entertaining as those are, I feel like there’s also the issue of people being tired of these tropes? That, as much as there are books where we really enjoy these tropes, people don’t always want them as much. *cough* Love triangles *cough*

We might say it’s because they’re all the same, they’re overdone, and unoriginal or unrealistic and sure, I get that! I’ve even said it myself.

Yet as easy it is to write off love triangles or forbidden romance as being “dead” or “overdone”, SO MANY YA books containing those tropes feature the same kind of characters; allo cishet, able-bodied, white protagonists, and THAT’s my issue, more than how much tropes appear in books.

Which is what this post is all about!! I’m focusing on the appearance of queer POC protagonists in particular, but this absolutely applies to any marginalized population as well.

*VERY, in case you couldn’t detect the sarcasm ahaha

FIRST – THE TROPES.


In case you needed a little reminder of your favouritetropes!!

  • Love triangles: Usually featuring one girl and two guys who are in love with her! Extra Stereotypical Points if one guy is super sweet and caring and the other is the broody bad-boy (If you haven’t read one of these YOU ARE LYING)
  • Friends-to-lovers: Um what else do I say here… but often very cute! Though what I often dislike is when it’s like “they’ve been friends for years” and so when the book start the character is like already in love with their love interest even though we’ve hardly seen any reason WHY or any development?? like off I understand how people who’ve been friends forever can fall in love, that’s super cute but in a book it so often feels like lazy writing??
  • Insta-love: STAY AWAY STAY AWAY STAY AWAY
  • Hate-to-love/enemies-to-lovers: The angst! The tension! The best!
  • Forbidden romance: Similar to the star-crossed lovers, but not necessarily the same? But you know the drill, there’s always something that’s preventing this couple from getting together! But it can be sooooo good
  • Star-crossed lovers: (too much) angst!! Passionate kissing scenes and Romeo & Juliet number 3546 😅
  • Best friend’s brother (lmao): hm ok 🤔😅 Haven’t read as many of these? Not super interested in it either tbh
  • The ‘innocent’ girl and the ‘bad’ boy: welp what a classic am I right??
  • The nerdy boy and the Manic Pixie Dream Girl: I just find Manic Pixie Dream Girls (super weird/quirky/super exotic or unfamiliar to the nerdy boy) very bland? I think in attempting to BE ‘different’ from other girls they all become the same oops
  • Soulmates: Usually becomes the same as insta-love but hey, maybe that’s the cynic in me?? (Says me, while being a huge romantic)
  • Fake boyfriend/girlfriend: THE CUTEST I LOVE

*Subjective

Because although when we think of these tropes there are tons of books that come to mind, there is still a LARGE lack of marginalized people being represented in those same tropes we claim as being dead or unoriginal. Let me ask you: how many books have you come across with a love triangle featuring a POC, or a disabled, or marginalized character versus one with your typical white, allocishet Katniss-Gale-Peeta? I’m not saying they don’t exist, but the gap in numbers is quite large, I bet.

I’m not trying to attack books or anyone who reads and enjoys books with your “typical” types of characters (there are tons I love to death myself!), but as an advocate for diverse books and as a POC myself, this is something I’ve noticed and I wanted to speak about, from my own experience!

To be frank, it’s not that hard to answer this question in my mind. It’s a big fat YES. Now, I’m not in any way trying to diminish all the books out there who DO feature tropes with marginalized protagonists!! But I’m trying to say there should be MORE.

All my life, I’ve grown up seeing straight and white as the default. When I used to imagine writing my own books, I imagined the main characters as white because it never occurred to me that there could ever be books with characters who looked like me? And that reality is incredibly depressing.

Now, having found mainstream books that feature characters like me, or of other non-white identities, is so empowering and wonderful and I just don’t want it to stop where it is. When it comes to romance tropes, there is just SO MUCH POTENTIAL for all that could be done for diverse books! Yes, these tropes are common. Yes, we’ve seen them many times before. But not with everyone. And I want this so badly, you have no idea!! Love triangle featuring Asian characters? SIGN ME UP. A queer hate-to-love romance? MINE. Disabled characters becoming friends-to-lovers? YES PLEASE.

Literally take any trope and I will be overjoyed because marginalized identities are so often removed from the narrative concerning tropes. When we say they’re overdone, it almost never applies to minorities and almost solely refers to the “typical” YA character. And that’s an issue!

Take love triangles, for example. Hugely overdone, super common, yada yada yada. Off the top of your head can probably list a ton (Hunger Games, TMI, TID, The Selection, Red Queen…) but how many feature marginalized characters?

………..

Exactly.

I want to step into a bookstore and see more books like When Dimple Met Rishi or My So-Called Bollywood Life. I want to see books like The Love & Lies of Rukhsana Ali. Books like To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. Books like Let’s Talk About Love. Books like Starfish and Summer Bird Blue. I want to see love triangles, forbidden romances, fake dating, hate-to love with brown characters, black characters, disabled characters, Asian characters, queer & POC characters! I want to see stories with intersectional representation.

The world is just made of so many more different, amazing people other than straight white kids, and it’s doing everyone such a huge disservice not to represent that in our selection of books.

(And I limited this post to simply romance tropes because of Valentine’s Day, but this applies to every trope out there! I want to see brown girls or boys as the Chosen One, queer protagonists the secret heir to the kingdom, see disabled characters part of a prophecy to save the world.)

I WANT IT ALL. And I’m not sorry for that.

Are tropes over?? What are your thoughts? What are some of your favourite romances featuring marginalized characters?! Let’s spread some diverse books love! 💕

(also hi here’s your belated reminder for Valentine’s Day that being single is OKAY and you don’t have to be in love or in a relationship to be happy because you only need books you are an amazing individual who will reach success and great things with or without being in love!! okay bye I hope you had a great Valentine’s Day!!)

What Makes the Perfect Ship? // ft. My Favourite Couples In Books

Let me preface this by saying: I have a HECK TON of YA ships I would DIE FOR.

(Let’s not put that to test though.)

Over the years, quite a many (literally most of them, give or take a handful) books feature a romantic relationship. And okay, not all of them are good (ahahah @ The Selection days) but there are several that were SO GREAT I LOVE THEM TO DEATH.

But how do you KNOW which ones are the amazing ones and which ones aren’t? (Ya just do, Aline, stop questioning everything uselessly) LET’S SEE.

  • ft characters that are strong individually, and together 👬
  • ft characters who complement each other
  • ft characters who don’t hold each other back 🙌
  • ft characters who have CHEMISTRY 🔥👩‍❤️‍💋‍👩
  • ft characters who don’t “cure” their partner’s demons, but helps them to defeat them themselves 💪
  • ft a slow burn hate-to-love relationship 🔥😠–>😍 (always a win unless it’s just done very badly lmao

I feel like my favourite couples tick at least one-two, if not more or all of these “criteria”?! Some of it just makes SENSE. Like if they don’t have chemistry? Ship is sinking. If the characters are boring or their sole winning characteristic is when they’re with their partner? Ship is sinking. If the characters are strong individuals, and just FIT together?? SHIP HAS SAILED, AND I’M ON THAT SHIP OKAY.

So in honour of Valentine’s Day coming up and to comfort my very single status, here’s some of my favourite ships*!! In case you are looking for the perfect romance this Valentine’s Day 😉

*I’m linking up with this week’s Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl) prompt: Top Ten Favourite Couples in Books!

Literally all the ships from Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo but particularly KAZ & INEJ and JESPER & WYLAN ❤ ❤ ❤ (Okay that’s 2/3 so I might as well also scream NINA & MATTHIAS)

  • Kinej has such a unique, heartbreaking relationship, I just…!!! They complement and contrast each other SO WELL yet are similar in so many ways aaaah
  • Jylan (?)/Wesper (?) is such a PURE and wholesome ship?? Jesper and Wylan are both so precious and to see them both support and lift each other up is the most beautiful thing
  • Natthias / Mina (??) HATE-TO-LOVE! (Mostly on Matthias’ side but whatever) These two have such an opposites-attract relationship and I LOVE
  • What is the ship name for all these characters, idek. Perhaps using their last names? Ghrekker? (no.) Brafa? (No.) Helvik? (?) Zelvar? (Maybe?) And Wesper is actually kind of cute! I’m not quite sure whether any combos of Van Eck (or Hendricks) would work with Fahey …
  • THIS ISN’T EVEN IMPORTANT WHY AM I DOING THIS

Jem & Tessa / Will & Tessa from The Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare: not gonna lie, I was tempted to put “Jem & Aline” or “Will & Aline” there for a second BECAUSE AH MY FAVES. 😭

Lei & Wren from Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan: LOOK AT THIS BEAUTIFUL F/F SHIP IN FANTASY CAN I JUST??!?!?! It breaks my heart to see what they must go through but I ADORE these two. What an amazing ship 😭

Monty & Percy from The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee: Monty is such an idiot but I love him!! Their relationship was just the cutest and most precious omg.

Lila & Kell and Rhy & Alucard from Shades of Magic by V.E. Schwab: Am I cheating a bit? Yes. Do I care? Nope!! Because UM HI THESE TWO COUPLES ARE AMAZING. I adore Kell & Lila’s relationship, and Rhy & Alucard’s banter is so fantastic.

Simon & Blue from Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli: The cutest!! Their emails to each other made me smile so much and made me so happy

Lara Jean & Peter in To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han: COVINSKY IS SO AMAZING AAH!!! I so want to reread this books now ahahah

Shahrzad & Khalid from The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh: What an amazing hate-to-love romance OH MY GOD. So spectacular and literally all the feels!!

Tanner & Sebastian from Autoboyography by Christina Lauren: THE SWEETEST. SO PURE. BEAUTY. GOODBYE.

Tella & Dante from Legendary by Stephanie Garber: It was either this or Lira & Elian but I’m going with this one because that book had me SHOOK okay and it’s just… ahhhh all the chemistry between these two!!

Honourable mentions: Lira & Elian from To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo (THEIR BANTER), Helen & Aline from The Dark Artifices by Cassandra Clare (WHAT A beautiful HEALTHY RELATIONSHIP AAHHH)

Also can I just make a note as to how little f/f ships I have on here? I have ONE. ONEEEEEEE. I need more in my life omg 😭 GIVE ME RECS.

What makes you love a particular ship/fictional couple? What are some of your favourites?! (I need to live vicariously through the romances of fictional characters okay) Oh and if you have any m/m or f/f favourites, non-binary or QUEER ❤ favourites for that matter, let me know because I CRAVE more of them ok. They’re fabulous AND I NEED MORE. Also if you’re participating in this week’s TTT, feel free to link your post as well! ❤

12 2019 Books By Asian Authors I want to read this year // #YARC Sign-Up + Update post!

2019 is SO FULL with books by Asian authors and I. AM. HERE FOR IT.

I’m Asian, and I love reading diverse books by diverse authors so a reading challenge which promotes doing just that with books by Asian authors? YES PLEASE. This year-long challenge is hosted by 4 lovely bloggers; Shealea, CW, Vicky, and Lily! They are all such amazing bloggers and wonderful people, and I’m so happy they created this challenge. It’s such an incredible idea!! The goal is to read as many books by Asian authors as possible (which I was going to do anyway haha).

I don’t usually lean towards reading challenges because I have an issue with TBRs where I just can’t ever really stick to them? I love making lists, so I make a list of the books I want to read and suddenly I’m reading…. anything other than those books. (WHY) I think I just have an issue with reading that feels “required” in any manner, because it sort of puts pressure on me…. BUT I DIGRESS.

On that line of thought, I decided I’m going to aim for the Indian cobra goal (11-20 books)! I was going to go for the Philippine tarsier (1-10) to put as little pressure as possible, but looking at my TBR (and what I’ve already been reading), I think 11-20 should be attainable throughout the year! Or so I hope! 🙈

I have A LOT of books by Asian authors I still need/want to read (both backlist and upcoming titles), so I’ve decided to list 10 2019 books which I’m really excited for! I do have other backlist titles I want to read as well, but inevitably some are going to be replaced by other books not on the list because my brain does not always cooperate with TBRs hahaha.

The Love & Lies of Rukhsana Ali by Sabina Khan (Jan 29th): I actually just finished this a few days ago! I’m hoping to have a review up near the end of the month, because I LOVED IT and I want everyone to read it 💕 It features a gay Muslim Bangladeshi-American main character who is sent to Bangladesh after her parents catch her with her girlfriend–and although the writing wasn’t my favourite, the story was so impactful and means SO MUCH to me. ❤️

The Weight of Our Sky by Hanna Alkaf (Feb 5th): I’ve heard nothing but the most INCREDIBLE things, there’s OCD rep and it’s set in Malaysia?! MY KIND OF BOOK. I don’t normally pick up historical fiction, but I have a feeling I’m going to love this one ahh.

The Beauty of the Moment by Tanaz Bhatena (Feb 26th): An Indian main character in a New girl/Bad boy trope??? YES PLEASE.

Ruse by Cindy Pon (March 12th): I really liked Want when I read it last year!! So excited for the sequel, though I don’t remember a ton from Want hahahah oops I’m a goldfish okay

Descendent of the Crane by Joan He (April 2nd): I mean, I haven’t read or watched Game of Thrones lmao, but I heard Chinese-inspired Game of Thrones and I’M PSYCHED omggg 😭😍

Love From A to Z by S.K Ali (May 7th): AHHH a Muslim main character?! I will never stop being excited for these books, BLESS 🙌 The love interest also has multiple sclerosis, and I am so excited to read this contemporary love story ahh.

There’s Something About Sweetie by Sandhya Menon (May 14th): Ahh I really liked When Dimple Met Rishi! Dimple was kind of annoying, but Rishi was adorable. I have a feeling I’m really going to love reading Ashish and Sweetie’s story ahh!! ❤ (Also Sandhya Menon’s books have the cutest covers and the girls are so pretty!!)

We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal (May 14th): GOSH THIS COVER IS GORGEOUS also an epic fantasy in a world inspired by ancient Arabia? *grabby hands* Seriously, this book sounds so amazing and I neeeeeeeeed it

Tell Me How You Really Feel by Aminah Mae Safi (June 11th): Um just LOOK at that pure, wholesome, f/f rom com bliss cover???? CAN I JUST 😭😍

Wicked Fox by Kat Cho (June 25th): “Fresh and addictive fantasy romance set in modern day Seoul” –> MY. KINDA. BOOK.

Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim (July 26th): LOOK AT THAT GORGEOUS ASIAN COVER ahhhhhh I am so happy!! And so excited!!

This Time Will be Different by Misha Sugiura (June 4th): Contemporary featuring a Japanese-American lead! Me love. ❤

Hahaha can you tell I got lazier with why I’m excited as the list went down?? BUT I’M EXCITED FOR ALL THEM OKAY I PROMISE. Also can I just squeal about how there are so many books here with Asian representation on the covers??!?!?! Years ago I would’ve never imagined to see people of colour like me, or other marginalized groups on the cover of mainstream YA novels. And here we are now!! 😭💕 IT MAKES ME SO HAPPY AAHHH.

I wasn’t going to add these to this post because I didn’t want it to be freakishly long, but these are some backlist titles I hope to read as well!!

Forest of a Thousand Lanterns // Empress of All Seasons // Smoke in the Sun // The Astonishing Color of After // Under a Painted Sky // Written in the Stars // Shadow of the Fox // A Torch Against the Night & A Reaper at the Gates // The Way You Make Me Feel // Mariam Sharma Hits the Road // Not Your Sidekick

I’m going be updating the books I read across the year under this section!

Are you participating in the #YARC reading challenge? What books are you planning to read? Are any of you excited for these books? (YOU SHOULD BE!) Am I the only one who sucks at keeping up with TBRs? Talk to meeee 💕🙈

Basically Nina is my QUEEN, as always // Spoiler-Free King of Scars Review

Hi, my name’s Aline and I WILL FIGHT anyone who says Nina’s not amazing. Thank you, goodbye.

(Not really, I have lots more to say sksksksk)

In case you were not aware (and there’s a very good chance of that since I’ve posted a grand total of one post so far lmao), I ADORE the Six of Crows duology by Leigh Bardugo! I also liked the Grisha trilogy, because of all the magic and NIKOLAI, but I did not fall in love with its characters as thoroughly as I did with Six of Crows. Now, here I have a book with NINA, one of my absolute favourites, AND Nikolai????????? My queen of waffles and the king of wit and charm? Needless to say, I HAD HIGH EXPECTATIONS. Were those expectations met? Yes… with a side dish of no. LET ME EXPLAIN.

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The month of fantasy, basically // Books I read this month

My first post, woo!!! I’ve been debating making this blog since the start of the month, but, well, here we are at the end of the month. I’m still high-key overwhelmed to think it’s already been a month of 2019? I’m still back in 2010, ok.

Anyway, this month I read 12 books, which is really good! Two books were rereads (Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom !!!!!!!! aka the BEST BOOKS EVER GO READ THEM) but the rest were all new to me.

Biggest disappointment

I mean, out of 12 books. But still.

I was expecting so much more from Solitaire, to be honest! I didn’t hate it, but after really enjoying I Was Born For This, this one definitely didn’t quite live up to my expectations. The plot was messy, there were several aspects which I just felt weren’t executed well… I don’t know. It’s complicated.

Favourites:

Legendary truly captivated me so much, I was so invested and god was I SHOOK at that ending! The world is so amazing, and I loved this one so much more than the first book. I NEED Finale. Omg.

Six of Crows & Crooked Kingdom were MASTERPIECES as usual. I loved them so much. If you haven’t read them………… I will not share my cookies ok. That is a threat. I have to say, although I didn’t love the Grisha trilogy as much as Six of Crows, I did enjoy the books! It was interesting to finally have read them after all this time haha.

*whisper* I did not love The Cruel Prince, buuuuut I did enjoy The Wicked King! So many twists and turns and that ending, like the first one begs so much more aaaaah.

Shout out also to The Brilliant Death as well for the especially cute and slow burn romance of 2 non-binary main characters!! Diversity in fantasy is where it’s at people. ❤ ❤

Also: The Poet X was a beautifully written, and nuanced piece of work in verse, that I enjoyed so much! It explored sexism, relationships, the complex nature of strict parents, and so much more. ❤

What were your favourite reads this month? Have you read any of these books? What did you think? Let’s chat!