Happy Pride Month! I had a lot of fun with the Asian Readathon in May, and I really love the idea of celebrating Pride Month by reading stories about or written by members of the LGBTQ+ community!
This is an extremely unofficial readathon, and I did consider joining one of the dozens of Pride readathons already happening, but I enjoy being able to read with a theme and very few parameters (it’s why I’m so awful at book clubs). I tried to pick books from different genres, because last month I read mostly YA fantasy (and loved them all, don’t get me wrong), but the thing about being a mood reader is that you don’t really get a choice in what looks good.
Our Wives Under the Sea – Julia Armfield (horror) In the Dream House – Carmen Maria Machado (nonfiction, memoir) History Is All You Left Me – Adam Silvera (young adult, contemporary) A Magic Steeped in Poison – Judy I. Lin (fantasy, young adult) Sawkill Girls – Claire Legrand (horror, young adult) Summer Sons – Lee Mandelo (horror)
May is always one of my busiest months (birthdays, holidays, the first time in the year when the weather gets nice and suddenly we’re not longer cooped up indoors), so when I signed up for the Asian Readathon for Asian Heritage Month, I was worried I was getting in over my head. I was especially nervous because I’d been in quite a reading slump so far this year, but I surprised myself by not only reading six books for this readathon, but also both of my Book of the Month selections and one (of three, sadly) books from my online book club!
All of the books I selected for this readathon were already on my tbr list, so it felt good to knock that number down a bit. I also made it a goal this year to read more books by POC, so this felt like a perfect reason to do that. If I want to read these books anyway, why not do it during a time to celebrate and bring awareness to these authors and stories (of course, we shouldn’t be reading these books exclusively for one month of the year). What I’m learning is that I really enjoy stories about different cultures, especially those that include mythology and folklore from said cultures. Who knew that young adult fantasy still had my heart?
The Asian Readathon had five simple rules, as follows: – Read a book written by an Asian author. – Read a book featuring an Asian character who is a woman AND/OR older. – Read a book by an Asian author that has a universe you would want to experience OR a universe that is totally different from yours. – Read a book by an Asian author that has a cover worthy of googly eyes. – Read a book by an Asian author that has a high rating OR was highly recommended.
I found that all of these books covered multiple rules. For example, The Ones We’re Meant to Find was written by an Asian author, had a universe that is totally different from mine, had a cover worthy of googly eyes, AND was highly recommended by a handful of my friends. In that regard, it was easy to reach this goals of the readathon, and I loved the loose interpretations here. It took a lot of the stress away from the readathon, and I had a lot of fun with it!
Summary: Life is looking up for Holly Darling. She’s running a successful skincare company; her son, Jack, is happy and healthy; and the tragedy of her past is well behind her . . . until she gets a call that her daughter, Eden, who has been in a coma for nearly a decade, has gone missing from the estate where she’s been long tucked away. And, worst of all, Holly knows who must be responsible: Peter Pan, who is not only very real, but more dangerous than anyone could imagine.
Holly has no one to turn to–her mother is the only other person in the world who knows that Peter is more than a story, but she refuses to accept that he is not the hero she’s always imagined. Desperate, Holly enlists the help of Christopher Cooke, a notorious ex-soldier, in the hopes of rescuing Eden before it’s too late.
Genre: fantasy, retelling Rating: ★★
Peter Pan is one of those stories that I’ve always held a little too close to my heart. There’s something about the idea of never growing up; of a magical world full of fairies, mermaids, and pirates. There’s a complete romanticization of the story, with lines like, “You know that place between sleep and awake? That’s where I’ll always love you. That’s where I’ll be waiting.”
I’m also, unsurprisingly, a fan of twisted versions of fairytales, so when I read the synopsis I thought I would love this story. Instead, I found myself angry, confused, and, at times, downright disgusted with some of the concepts in this story. This book tries so hard to be edgy and dark, but it winds up pushing the limits and loses any credibility here. I’m on the fence about whether books should incorporate trigger warnings, but considering the heavy subjects in this book, I felt like there should have been some kind of warning for readers.
Trigger warnings that are included: rape, sexual assault, drug abuse, murder, thoughts of suicide, physical and mental abuse, death/murder of children.
Summary: Mina’s people believe the Sea God, once their protector, now curses them with death and despair. In an attempt to appease him, each year a beautiful maiden is thrown into the sea to serve as the Sea God’s bride, in the hopes that one day the “true bride” will be chosen and end the suffering. Many believe that Shim Cheong, the beloved of Mina’s older brother Joon, may be the true bride. But on the night Cheong is to be sacrificed, Joon follows Cheong out to sea, knowing that to interfere is a death sentence. To save her brother, Mina throws herself into the water in Cheong’s stead. Swept away to the Spirit Realm, a magical city of lesser gods and mythical beasts, Mina seeks out the Sea God, only to find him caught in an enchanted sleep. With the help of a mysterious young man named Shin—as well as a motley crew of demons, gods and spirits—Mina sets out to wake the Sea God and bring an end to the killer storms once and for all.
Genre: fantasy, young adult, retellings Rating: ★★★★
If I’ve learned anything in the last year, it’s that I am an absolute sucker for young adult fantasy retellings. As a reader, I gradually moved away from YA and fantasy when it felt too bogged down and moved on to more mature stories, but why the heck did I do that?? These books all have gorgeous covers that reel me in, and then I’m completely drawn into them with their beautiful prose, heartbreaking stories, and fantastic world-building. The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea is no exception to this rule.
Summary: In the overthrow of the Mexican government, Beatriz’s father is executed and her home destroyed. When handsome Don Rodolfo Solórzano proposes, Beatriz ignores the rumors surrounding his first wife’s sudden demise, choosing instead to seize the security his estate in the countryside provides. She will have her own home again, no matter the cost. But Hacienda San Isidro is not the sanctuary she imagined. When Rodolfo returns to work in the capital, visions and voices invade Beatriz’s sleep. Rodolfo’s sister, Juana, scoffs at Beatriz’s fears—but why does she refuse to enter the house at night? Why does the cook burn copal incense at the edge of the kitchen and mark its doorway with strange symbols? What really happened to the first Doña Solórzano? Beatriz only knows two things for certain: Something is wrong with the hacienda. And no one there will help her.
Genre: horror, historical fiction Rating: ★★★★★
I’ve been anxiously waiting The Hacienda for a few months now, and when it came up as an option for Book of the Month, I didn’t hesitate. It has everything I want in a story: a haunted house, a hot priest, witchcraft, gothic horror vibes, oh and it’s essentially a retelling of Rebecca in 19th-century Mexico. What’s not to love?