Look, I’ve already read over 20 books this month so instead of waiting for May to end and cramming the last two week’s of books into one post, we’re gonna just talk about all of Week Three’s books here now. I managed to squeeze in 6 of ’em. I’m sorry I have been reading so much/fast, but this specific readathon has been igniting something inside of me, you guys! I’m getting so much out of (most of) these books—ask Janna, I’m always texting her face off about new things I’ve learned. She puts up with the unsolicited info-splooges though, bless her.
OK, I think we left off at book #14 on my last check-in, so let’s gooooooo.
15. Love From A to Z – S.K. Ali
I went into this expecting some fluffy YA romance but this contained some heavy-hitting shit about Islamaphobia and multiple sclerosis. Henry and I listed to the audio book of this during our weekend cemetery strolls and even he was like, “OK this book is alright” although he was probably hoping for some sappy, sugary recreation of Sweet Valley High that he probably stashed under his bed in THE SERVICE.
A huge plot point of this book revolves around the main character, Zayneb, getting suspended from school because her Islamaphobic teacher has it out for her. (He even purposely mispronounces her name and WHY DO ASSHOLES LIKE THAT KEEP GETTING TEACHING JOBS?!) Her mom ends up sending her to Doha to spend time with her aunt, because her suspension happens to be the week before spring break, so nearly the entire book takes place there in Doha and I was living for it. I don’t know much about that part of the world so it Henry and me doing YouTube travel vlog deep-dives. It also gave us SO MUCH to talk about—I had to pause the audio every time Zayneb experienced yet another form of discrimination because it was making me so angry and frustrated.
And Adam’s character was so sweet—I stan!
I liked this book because it wasn’t saccharine or unrealistic. The romance wasn’t even the central theme, so it didn’t take away from the more important messages. I have another SK Ali book on my TBR for June and I’m so excited to read it!
(Also, I cried really hard at the hard. I loved this book!)
16. The Night Tiger – Yangsze Choo
OK, I can’t remember why I added this to my Asian Readathon TBR, if I saw it recommended somewhere or what, but I very nearly nixed it because it didn’t seem like something that I was going to like, judging by the synopsis (something about a boy trying to get a finger returned to his dead boss, what?), but hoo-boy, this was a solid five star read for me. The characters were so fleshed-out and colorful, I was straight-up rooting for them through the entire damn book.
I don’t want to give too much away, but you should just take my word for it that this is a magical read and go buy a copy, get it from Libby, etc. This is going end up in my Top 5 of books I read this month, I think. I GIVE IT FIVE CHEF’S KISSES, YOU GUYS. FIVE OF THEM.
17. I Love You So Mochi – Sarah Kuhn
I don’t know how this book wound up on my TBR list and I kind of wish I could go back in time and take it off. I think I thought it was more of an adult contemporary but no, it was definitely YA and pretty hollow at that. Basically, the main character gets in a fight with her mom because after 17 years she has realized that she doesn’t want to follow in her mom’s footsteps by being an artist, and then randomly her grandparents she has never met send her a plane ticket to spend spring break in Japan with them, and they’re like, “Hey teenage blood relative we have never met and just paid a grand to come visit, why don’t you just spend all day, every day, entertaining yourself on the streets of a country you’ve never been to” so she does and wow, immediately A Boy, who decides he is going to help her solve this MAJOR TASK of FINDING HER PASSION, never mind the fact that all she does is talk about clothing design, sketches outfits, turns thrifted clothes and candy wrappers into dresses for her friends, etc etc and then OMG Japanese grandma also makes dresses, but it’s not until the very end of the book that she, spoiler alert, realizes THAT SHE WANTS TO SCHOOL FOR FASHION DESIGN. This book just felt so empty to me; however I did cry at the end because anything with grandparents is like a good swift kick to the heart for me, so when she eventually said goodbye I was like JUST STAY THERE AND LIVE WITH THEM! GO CANDY-SHOPPING WITH GRANDFATHER AND FABRIC SHOPPING WITH GRANDMA! YOU STUPID DUMBO!
Yeah, I think I gave this a 3 on Goodreads but I would round down to a 2.5. It just wasn’t that interesting, yet here I am, having strong feelings nevertheless, lol.
18. Your House Will Pay – Steph Cha
My phone is next to me, blowing up with news alerts about the Black Lives Matter protests across our country, like I even need a reminder that nothing has changed in America since the Rodney King beating of 1991, which is what this book is loosely based on. I always thought that I wasn’t a big fan of historical fiction, but this was an exception. It’s about the riots that took place in LA in 1992, after the asshole police officers were acquitted in the beating of King, and how the Korean American community got swept up in the violence which, being 12 years old at the time, I had never known. Of course I remember Rodney King and the riots, but I had no idea about the Korean connection, and after reading this book, I fell down the rabbit hole because I needed to know more. This is how I ended up watching a documentary on YouTube specifically detailing how Korean got entangled in the riots, partially because so many of the stores where the riots were taking place were Korean-owned, but mostly because there was an incident during this time where a Korean woman shot and killed a black teenage girl in her store because she thought she was stealing juice. And the media and police used this to change the narrative into a “black vs Korean” conflict. One of the quotes from a Korean woman in the documentary was something like, “I don’t hate black people. I hate the white people for starting this.” And then another person said, “Michin nara!” which means “Crazy country” in Korean. Sing it.
So this book rewrites the story of the teenager being killed by the store owner, and then follows each family to the present day. It’s a heavy book and it made me extremely angry and sad because, you know, nothing has changed.
Out of all the books on my TBR for this month, this was one of the ones I was most stoked for and I cheered when it finally became available on Libby. It’s a retelling of Anna Karenina which I never read, but I saw a tagline that said it’s like Gossip Girl crossed with Crazy Rich Asians, so I was all in.
I thought that it was only OK, and I was also kind of squirmy because I’m 41 and essentially reading about a bunch of teenagers fucking, so…that was great. Honestly, most of the characters were insufferable and I never really understood what was so great about Anna K? Yet somehow, I was there for the ride. And I’m glad I didn’t know much about Anna Karenina because it made the end of this book way more of a WHOA DIDN’T SEE THAT COMING for me. I think I would have enjoyed this a lot more if I was reading it on the beach….in Busan.
Also, I know Eleanore is a fictional character, but man I wanted her to die. Or at least get an STD.
Last but not least for Week #3 is Rebel Seoul which was like reading the script for a Korean sci-fi drama, holy shit. And the casting I did in my head was impeccable, I must say. I’m kind of a dunce when it comes to anything relating to war, so the plot kind of lost me at times. There were too many political organizations to keep up with and then on top of that, let’s throw a major crime syndicate into the mix…but there was a lot of action and descriptions of parts of Seoul that I have been to so it made my heart feel warm and whole. I didn’t expect to like this one as much as I did —and actually, I added it at the same time as Wicked Fox, which I assumed I would like more and it ended up being the opposite!
One and a half days left to finish three more books! BYEEEE.