Ya girl is back to ramble on about the books she has finished reading!
Ever since I wrote up the very first post in the series, I found that this both really works for me + it’s a great way for me to review the books I have read without committing to a full review!
During the second half of the month, I read eight books (seven novels and one flash fiction) from a wide variety of genres and did like them all.
I also participated in the Reading Rush (which made up five of these books) during my family vacation, and I’m super proud of myself, honestly.
On to the books!
AMERICAN PANDA BY GLORIA CHAO ★★★★★ (4.75)
Synopsis (from Goodreads):
At seventeen, Mei should be in high school, but skipping fourth grade was part of her parents’ master plan. Now a freshman at MIT, she is on track to fulfill the rest of this predetermined future: become a doctor, marry a preapproved Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer, produce a litter of babies.
With everything her parents have sacrificed to make her cushy life a reality, Mei can’t bring herself to tell them the truth–that she (1) hates germs, (2) falls asleep in biology lectures, and (3) has a crush on her classmate Darren Takahashi, who is decidedly not Taiwanese.
But when Mei reconnects with her brother, Xing, who is estranged from the family for dating the wrong woman, Mei starts to wonder if all the secrets are truly worth it. Can she find a way to be herself, whoever that is, before her web of lies unravels?
This was one of my favourite books of 2018, and it was so fun to reread! I still deeply related to it and I will always love the book for that – being an Asian brought up in a highly westernized environment is an experience I haven’t been able to read elsewhere. I loved how character driven this book is and how Mei is presented, as well as how proudly Asian this book is.
The familial relationships were well-written here and I loved how it was portrayed. Also oh my god, I love the romance! Probably my favourite thing (or second favourite thing) about this one. It was so cute and had me constantly grinning. I love Darren and Mei both as individual characters and together. So soft. So adorable. MY HEART.
ALL THE WAYS HOME BY ELSIE CHAPMAN ★★★★☆
Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Sometimes, home isn’t where you expect to find it.
After losing his mom in a fatal car crash, Kaede Hirano–now living with a grandfather who is more stranger than family–developed anger issues and spent his last year of middle school acting out.
Best-friendless and critically in danger repeating the seventh grade, Kaede is given a summer assignment: write an essay about what home means to him, which will be even tougher now that he’s on his way to Japan to reconnect with his estranged father and older half-brother. Still, if there’s a chance Kaede can finally build a new family from an old one, he’s willing to try. But building new relationships isn’t as easy as destroying his old ones, and one last desperate act will change the way Kaede sees everyone–including himself.
This is a book about what home means to us—and that there are many different correct answers.
Oh my god, this was so lovely and sad at the same time. Kaede is definitely an angry, unlikeable and deeply flawed hero, but he is such a compelling character. His deep desire to be just loved and cared for, as well as him as a character, absolutely broke my heart and (nearly) made me tear up.
Even though I was screaming at him to not do the things he did, I still love him as a character. I loved the portrayal of Japan and Asian culture. The weaving of the theme of home with the story was fantastic.
However, I do feel like the story could have been wrapped up better, a bit too open ended for my tastes. I also wanted to know more about the grandpa. The relationship between Shoma and Kaede was so heartwarming, and made me feel wholesome. Plus, I hate the father so much. With a burning passion.
TELL ME HOW YOU REALLY FEEL BY AMINAH MAE SAFI ★★★★☆ (3.5)
Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Sana Khan is a cheerleader and a straight A student. She’s the classic (somewhat obnoxious) overachiever determined to win.
Rachel Recht is a wannabe director who’s obsesssed with movies and ready to make her own masterpiece. As she’s casting her senior film project, she knows she’s found the perfect lead – Sana.
There’s only one problem. Rachel hates Sana. Rachel was the first girl Sana ever asked out, but Rachel thought it was a cruel prank and has detested Sana ever since.
Told in alternative viewpoints and inspired by classic romantic comedies, this engaging and edgy YA novel follows two strongwilled young women falling for each other despite themselves.
Book #1 for the Reading Rush!
It was such a lovely read, and I’m so relieved I enjoyed it! This was highly reminiscent of rom-coms and even incorporated some of the more well-known ones in. The characters were real complex and I loved how ambitious both main characters were, I personally enjoyed them.
The depiction of LA was gorgeous and made me want to go there ASAP. There were lots of great side characters and side conflicts/plotlines, and I loved the film aspect. I felt like I would have liked it more if not for a few things, though.
If I had binged it (I am on vacation visiting family when drafting this), I would’ve loved this more, though I couldn’t binge it. I felt less and less drawn to it at the end? A tad too overdramatic for my tastes.
But the main kicker was that I felt something missing/parts of the book felt, especially at the last third. It was like Safi had all the threads and didn’t connect them together, and I felt cut off from some fairly pivotal and/or interesting moments in the book. I needed more and to see more of the fallout of some events, and it was frustrating seeing that not happen. And, was I the only one who felt the ending was abrupt? I don’t know.
I know I just lowkey trashed this book, but we do stan intersectional rom-coms in this house! I’m glad that this is out in the world and I think this is oh so important. I would definitely recommend this if you’re interested in it, because I think it is well worth the read.
ARE YOU SLEEPING BY KATHLEEN BARBER ★★★☆☆
Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Serial meets Ruth Ware’s In A Dark, Dark Wood in this inventive and twisty psychological thriller about a mega-hit podcast that reopens a murder case—and threatens to unravel the carefully constructed life of the victim’s daughter.
The only thing more dangerous than a lie…is the truth.
Josie Buhrman has spent the last ten years trying to escape her family’s reputation and with good reason. After her father’s murder thirteen years prior, her mother ran away to join a cult and her twin sister Lanie, once Josie’s closest friend and confidant, betrayed her in an unimaginable way. Now, Josie has finally put down roots in New York, settling into domestic life with her partner Caleb, and that’s where she intends to stay. The only problem is that she has lied to Caleb about every detail of her past—starting with her last name.
When investigative reporter Poppy Parnell sets off a media firestorm with a mega-hit podcast that reopens the long-closed case of Josie’s father’s murder, Josie’s world begins to unravel. Meanwhile, the unexpected death of Josie’s long-absent mother forces her to return to her Midwestern hometown where she must confront the demons from her past—and the lies on which she has staked her future.
Book #2 for the Reading Rush!
This was … an interesting read. I went in expecting one thing and got something else. It is incredibly bingeable and the podcast was interesting.
However, this book made me so angry though, because some characters in the novel were utterly despicable and fame-chasing.
I think the writing was well done, and the twists enjoyable, though IMO they are pretty predictable. The format was fantastic, and it makes it more unique. It was a solid thriller, but didn’t super stand out to me, I suppose. I just felt meh over it, in the end.
DAYS PAST, CHAIN OF GOLD EXTRA CONTENT, #3) BY CASSANDRA CLARE ★★★★☆ (3.5)
Book #3 for the Reading Rush!
Okay, can we get this out of the way: Cassie Clare is releasing free 10 flash fiction stories set around the Last Hours and no one is talking about it? Thank you. I did enjoy this one more than the others, I suppose.
I love Henry and (now starting to love) Christopher, and I’m so happy Henry is getting the recognition he deserves!!1!1
So I’m dying for Chain of Gold and it kills me a little that it isn’t coming out until March 2020, but I get it. Overall, this was a solid piece of flash fiction and all you Shadowhunter fans need to read them.
THE BEST LIES BY SARAH LYU ★★★★☆ (4.5-4.75)
Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Remy Tsai used to know how her story would turn out. But now, she doesn’t even know what tomorrow will look like.
She was happy once. Remy had her boyfriend Jack, and Elise, her best friend—her soulmate—who understood her better than anyone else in the world.
But now Jack is dead, shot through the chest—
And it was Elise who pulled the trigger.
Was it self-defense? Or something deeper, darker than anything Remy could have imagined? As the police investigate, Remy does the same, sifting through her own memories, looking for a scrap of truth that could save the friendship that means everything to her.
Told in alternating timelines, Thelma and Louise meets Gone Girl in this twisted psychological thriller about the dark side of obsessive friendship.
Book #4 for the Reading Rush!
Oh my god this was fantastic?? Why aren’t more people reading this? This book is beautifully intoxicating and so compelling that you want to get to the end.
The dual narrative of seeing the progression of Remy & Elise’s friendship alongside the development of Remy & Jack’s relationship as well as what led to his death? A++.
I’ve found something that isn’t incredibly acknowledged is the fact that friendships can be just as painful as relationships, especially friendship breakups, and this book definitely paid homage to that fact, in a way. The writing was fantastic and the development of both Remy & Elise as characters was seriously perfection, and I loved how neither of the girls were villainized, but rather depict and flesh them out as girls who are going through their own issues and girls who are, in the end, human.
This gave me very Imagine Us Happy vibes for some reason, so if you like that, you should try this!
I also really loved the side plots of the novel and how it affected each of the characters. The timeline was also done well too & it didn’t feel jarring at all. Do be aware that the novel deals with a lot of heavy issues (I’ll put a list of triggers below) so please take care before going in!
Trigger/content warning: emotional abuse, physical abuse, domestic violence, manipulation, alcohol use, smoking, death, murder, frequent mentions of a gun, blood mention, suicidal ideation, intense and distressing familial conflict. (Taken from CW’s phenonenal review!)
WARCROSS BY MARIE LU ★★★★☆ (4.5, audio reread)
Synopsis (from Goodreads):
For the millions who log in every day, Warcross isn’t just a game—it’s a way of life. The obsession started ten years ago and its fan base now spans the globe, some eager to escape from reality and others hoping to make a profit. Struggling to make ends meet, teenage hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down players who bet on the game illegally. But the bounty hunting world is a competitive one, and survival has not been easy. Needing to make some quick cash, Emika takes a risk and hacks into the opening game of the international Warcross Championships—only to accidentally glitch herself into the action and become an overnight sensation.
Convinced she’s going to be arrested, Emika is shocked when instead she gets a call from the game’s creator, the elusive young billionaire Hideo Tanaka, with an irresistible offer. He needs a spy on the inside of this year’s tournament in order to uncover a security problem . . . and he wants Emika for the job. With no time to lose, Emika’s whisked off to Tokyo and thrust into a world of fame and fortune that she’s only dreamed of. But soon her investigation uncovers a sinister plot, with major consequences for the entire Warcross empire.
Book #5 for the Reading Rush!
So, I loved this audio reread so much and I don’t know why. But I’m gonna say it – this is her best book yet.
The world and Warcross is absolutely awesome, as is the fact that this is set in Tokyo (albeit, a near-future Tokyo but still!!). It did take a while for me to truly be interested in the plot, but once the Warcross aspect started coming into play and became the main focus, I was so into it
For some reason, I was shipping Emika and Hideo so hard? I loved how proudly Asian and diverse the cast was. From a Chinese-American MC, a Japanese-English(?) LI, a disabled major side character, major side LGBTQIAP+ characters and so much POC representation, this was such a breath of fresh air.
Two things that annoyed me a bunch: the consistent repetition of the fact that Emika has rainbow hair, and the repetition of ‘I let out a breath I didn’t know I was holding.’ Like, come on.
The narrator was pretty solid! Not my favourite narrator ever, but she held her own and her imitation of the various character’s accents did not make me want to well, die, so I’d say that’s pretty good!
WILDCARD BY MARIE LU ★★★★☆☆
Synopsis (from Goodreads, spoilers for Warcross)
Emika Chen barely made it out of the Warcross Championships alive. Now that she knows the truth behind Hideo’s new NeuroLink algorithm, she can no longer trust the one person she’s always looked up to, who she once thought was on her side.
Determined to put a stop to Hideo’s grim plans, Emika and the Phoenix Riders band together, only to find a new threat lurking on the neon-lit streets of Tokyo. Someone’s put a bounty on Emika’s head, and her sole chance for survival lies with Zero and the Blackcoats, his ruthless crew. But Emika soon learns that Zero isn’t all that he seems–and his protection comes at a price.
Caught in a web of betrayal, with the future of free will at risk, just how far will Emika go to take down the man she loves?
This was good, but this was definitely weaker than Warcross. While it was fun to reread since I had forgotten most of the main plot points, this book had very little actual Warcross games, which was one of my favourite parts of Warcross in the first place, so this was disappointing.
I loved the development of the Phoenix Riders, and seeing more of their backstory, which was awesome because I absolutely ADORE the Phoenix Riders. I also really enjoyed seeing the development of Emika and Hideo (OH MY GOD) as well as the development of certain characters introduced in this book (I don’t want to say because spoilers).
There was something really missing in this book. Maybe it was because this book took a darker turn than Warcross (I don’t mind dark, but this was … kind of dull). I don’t know, I really did not care for this one as much, I suppose? UGH I don’t know.
The audio narrator was the same as Warcross, and what I said about her performance in Warcross still stands.
What are some books you recently read, and what do you think of them? Have you read any of the books here, and do you agree (or disagree) with any of my opinions? Why/why not? I’d love to know.