Jun 082020
 

Before I get into the last week of what I read for Asian Readathon, I want to take a moment to share a list of Black-owned independent book stores. I know that a lot of my friends are on a mission to read more books by Black authors, but please consider patronizing these small businesses in lieu of Amazon or whatever big chain book store you’d normally turn to. It’s a small way we can show support & love to our Black bookish community members while also doing all the other actual hard work! And keep those shelves diverse, because lord knows we all can stand to fill our brains with perspectives and experiences that differ from our own. <3

(Credit: Instagram user worn_ware)

21. Devotion of Suspect X – Keigo Higashino 

The Devotion of Suspect X (Detective Galileo, #1)

This Japanese thriller was a wild ride! Henry and I listened to the audio book and then immediately watched the movie – the book was better. One of the characters is a math teacher and I thought I’d be deterred by the math elements but it made the story even more interesting. This is actually #3 in the “Professor Galileo” series, but the only one that’s been translated to English. From what I read, you don’t have to read them in order, which is good, because I had already started reading it when I found out, lol.

I highly recommend this to my thriller lovers who are looking for something different.

22. The Good Son – Jeong You-Jeong

The Good Son

Another psychological thriller, but this time we’re back in Korea, boyyyy. In this one, we’re following a boy in his 20s as he tries to figure out DA FUQ happened after he wakes up and finds his mom dead. It goes back and forth between present day and memories. It’s pretty effing chilling, and also….quiet.

23. Written in the Stars – Aisha Saeed

Written in the Stars

Full disclosure, I picked this up thinking it was going to be some YA fluff and I kind of needed that after two back-to-back thrillers. Um, wow, no. This book is FUCKING HEAVY. Our main character Naila is Pakistani American and gets busted going to prom with her boyfriend Saif and shit really hits the fan because her immigrant parents are TRADITIONAL. So they arrange a family trip back to Pakistani that summer and first it’s just for like, two weeks, then it keeps getting extended, and eventually Naila realizes it’s because her parents and extended family are trying to marry her off.

This book….it gets SO REAL and I was actually terrified. I had no idea it would get as deep and dark as it did and I’m glad it did because this shit is the reality for lots of women and it really makes you have perspective.

Like, her family literally was like, “Marriage is more important than education” when all this poor girl cared about was getting back to the States in time for college orientation. It was crazy. Asian Readathon really took me on a lot of rides.

24. In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom – Park Yeonmi

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I wanted to read at least one non-fiction book for this readathon and I knew early on that it would be this one. Yeonmi lived in North Korea until she was 13 so not only does she provide a pretty detailed glimpse into what life was like in under the rule of the Kims, but her mother also helped provide an extensive family history, so you can see the ebb and flow of their living conditions. That’s scary enough as it is, but once it gets into the actual defecting portion of the book, I was biting my nails off. The shit she and her mother went through in China made me cry all of the tears I had inside me.

I’m not a big biography reader, but I would recommend this to anyone who is interested in learning more about North Korea from the perspective of a young defector, because there was a lot I didn’t know myself. For instance, did you know that in North Korean classrooms, elementary school kids learn math not with apples and oranges, but with propaganda. (From the book: “If you kill one American bastard and your comrade kills two, how many dead American bastards do you have?”)

Park Yeonmi is one brave lady. I wouldn’t have lasted a day in her shoes.

25. The Wrath & the Dawn – Renee Ahdieh 

The Wrath and the Dawn (The Wrath and the Dawn, #1)

I almost didn’t pick this one up off my Libby shelf but HOO BOY am I glad I did. It’s a retelling of 1001 Arabian Nights and it is LEGIT FIRE. When I read the synopsis, I was full shrug mode, but Renee Ahdieh can WRITE DIALOGUE, you guys. Holy shit, she wrote the most brilliant characters, the banter was edgy and real, and the personalities fucking sparkled.

Shazi infiltrates the palace to avenge the death of her best friend, killed by the young king who kills all of his wives. She is a strong lead, and her handmaiden is SASSY AF. I had a lot of fun reading this which was good since my last several books were so heavy and depressing.

There’s a sequel to this that I haven’t added to my list yet but you better believe I’ll read it this summer!

26. The Farm – Joanne Ramos

The Farm

Yeah, I didn’t like this much at all and I don’t really have much to say about it expect that I learned about some Filipino desserts that I want Henry to make now.

There wasn’t a single likable character in this book and it was just…not great. Unless you like reading about girls who get paid to have babies for super rich people but they have to live in this super strict and Big Brother-y facility. Then this book was made for you.

27. Severance – Ling Ma

Severance

Another post-apocalyptic novel! This one was about the “Shen Fever” which basically turned people into non-violent zombie-types who performed the same task over and over on a loop, like folding clothes, but they aren’t the focus here. The main character is a 20-something Chinese American living in NYC and working for a company that publishes Bibles, when the fever hits, and it alternates between her on the road with a small group of survivors, and her life preceding the fever. I gave this a 3 on Goodreads, but it’s more of a very solid 3.5 and ONLY because the ending is too….open.

I fell in love with Ling Ma’s writing and this was a different, fresh take on apocalyptic novels and I really needed that. The ending though, ugh.

28. The Majesties – Tiffany Tsao 

The Majesties

I finished this one on the very last day of the month and I’m really glad I was able to squeeze it in! It’s like a darker Crazy Rich Asians, following two Indonesian sisters and their, well, crazy rich family. Right away, it starts with one of the sisters mass-murdering 300 of their family and friends—not a spoiler—and the rest of the book follows the other sister, the sole survivor, as she tries to piece together what happened to make her sister do it.

I REALLY LIKED THIS BOOK and didn’t even see the (not too original, but still effective) twist coming.

***

So that’s it! I ended up reading 28 books, encompassing everything from literary fiction, YA, thrillers, dystopian novels, one graphic novel, and one non-fiction, and I DNFd two books (Guilded Wolves and The Terracotta Bride). I was going to make some graphics breaking down my stats even further, but who has time for that these days.

May 302020
 

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

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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

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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

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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

Your House Will Pay

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.

19. Anna K – Jenny Lee

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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.

20. Rebel Seoul – Axie Oh

Rebel Seoul (Rebel Seoul, #1)

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.

May 232020
 

Henry and I have a pandemic tradition where we go for walks in cemeteries every weekend while listening to an audio book together, which I am sure I already mentioned but everything just melts together lately like a clock in a Dali painting so who can be sure what I divulge anymore.

Last weekend, we went to this one cemetery in Greenfield called Calvary Cemetery, which I hadn’t been to since Chooch was a baby, like a fresh-ass BABY baby, and I just remember pushing him in his stroller and he was screaming his face off and I was probably wading through post-partum depression waters, if we’re being frank here, and I was like OMG SHUT UP I HATE YOU UGHHHHH and then never went back to that cemetery. I told Henry this cute little anecdote last weekend and he just stared at me. But look at our well-adjusted 14-year-old! I did ok! We moved past it!

Prior to that, there was this other time we went there, pre-Chooch. I vaguely remember it being winter because I tried to sled down a hill without a sled, and I was totally manic but not in the fun way, and then we came home and I tried to create a recipe by swirling peanut butter into scrambled eggs, and I think I got sick so maybe that’s why I never went back to that cemetery in all of these years? Bad associations?

Well, this time it was so lovely (and I honestly recognized NO PARTS of it) that we went both Saturday and Sunday! Usually we go to different ones but I was like, “Nah dude, let’s go back to the same one.” Maybe it was because I was really vibing with the book we were listening to (Love From A to Z), but wow, I was in a great mood on both days, the weather was beautiful, there were other people around but not enough to be alarmed, and it was just a really peaceful place.

I’m so excited that Henry has been so agreeable about listening to audio books together. I let him check out my Libby shelf during the week so he can choose one to start for the upcoming weekend, and it’s pretty adorable. He didn’t pick “Love From A to Z” though – I did because it was about to expire and this definitely isn’t something he would have chosen because it’s YA romance but also fairly heavy-hitting with Islamophobic themes.

Anyway, the majority of this book takes place in Doha so then we started watching Doha travel videos and OMG when will we ever be able to travel again. Sorry, sometimes I just have to get my meaningless complaints out of my system and let my perspective regenerate.

I had to pause the audio book numerous times while we were casually strolling around the cemetery because I was getting so angry about the way the Muslim character was treated and I kept screaming at Henry, “DOESN’T THIS PISS YOU OFF??” and he just mumbled something that sounded curiously like, “I’m a white privileged male.”

Honestly though, I have really been looking forward to these weekends because they are the only times I get out of the house (aside from casual walks around the neighborhood during the week) and it’s fun pretending like Henry and I are in a book club together even though he doesn’t usually bring much to the table opinion-wise…

Chooch won’t come with us because he doesn’t want to listen to books with his lame parents, fair enough lol.

This was a good book, you guys. I thought it was going to be a fluffy YA romance but nope, there’s substance here! I’ll include it in the next bunch of books I review for Asian Readathon, don’t you worry!

I don’t think anything else ground-breaking happened last weekend, except that I remembered the name of this one Japanese horror movie that Henry and I watched back in…2005?? And for years, the only thing I could remember was that there was something with a cello player and also there was a scene where a little girl was forced to watch her parents have sex and I thought it was from a locked closet, so I googled, “asian horror cello parents make girl watch them have sex” or something and I found it! It was called Strange Circus which you would think would ring a bell in my brain but it doesn’t, and also, the girl was forced to watch the parents from inside a cello case, so there’s the cello connection! I’m so happy I finally remembered!

But also I’m very sad because I know for sure that we rented this back then from Incredibly Strange Video still existed and Henry and I used to walk there because it was like 10 minutes away and we were bros with the owner who would automatically recommend new horror he obtained to us and that is how I watched some of the best foreign horror and bizarre student horror films in the early 2000s and sure everything is at our fingertips now thanks to the internet and hundreds of streaming services, but nothing can beat that feeling of walking into a small independent video store and bullshitting with the long-haired man behind the counter, renting shit that sometimes didn’t even have a cover.

Goddammit, I miss that. :(

 

May 162020
 

We’re two weeks into #asianreadathon and I have read some really solid books! Instead of waiting until the end, I’m breaking this up into several posts because I have already read like 14 books and, well, you can only imagine what my end tally will be. So here are the books I injected into my brain through my eyeballs (and in some cases, ears) for the first half of the readathon!

  1. Miracle Creek – Angie Kim

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If you like courtroom thrillers, this one is for you. Out of all the books on this list so far, this is the one that fits into the category of a book I’d be most likely to pick up, regardless of a reading prompt. It’s a multi-POV look into a tragic accident that occurred at a hyperbaric chamber facility run by a Korean family in Virginia. The book goes back and forth between the present-day trial and the weeks/days leading up to the accident. It’s emotionally gripping and the whole time I couldn’t wait to get to the end to find out WHO and WHY.

Each character is equally compelling, so I didn’t have that, “Ugh another chapter about THIS guy” feeling that I get sometimes with multiple-POV books. But I definitely had my favorites and there were times when I was stressed out because it was starting to look like maybe my favorites were to blame and I found myself shouting NO NO NO more than once.

I highly recommend this. It’s a winner.

2. Hotel Iris – Yoko Ogawa

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The faces I pulled while reading this must have been so ugly. I never read Fifty Shades, but I saw some reviews drawing that comparison so…yay. I didn’t LOVE this book, but I didn’t HATE it, and I think I want to read more from this author…just to see.

This is really short, I think it was less than 200 pages, but it really TAKES YOU THERE.

So far, all of the translated Japanese novels I have read in my life have had that same cold feeling to them. A quiet slow-burn. It’s all mundane then suddenly VERY DISGUSTING AND DEPRAVED.

And then the ending is like, what. And then you just kind of sit there silently, digesting, letting the words you read sink into your brain, heating your skin like the sweaty, filthy touch of an uncle.

Also, it made me think about how amazing it is that I never accidentally found myself stuck in some old man’s sex dungeon when I was a teenager.

3. The Stationery Shop – Marjan Kamali

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Before the library closed, I kept seeing this book being pimped out on the best sellers table in the front. I was drawn to the cover, of course, because would you just look at how beautiful it is?! But when I skimmed the synopsis, it just didn’t seem like something I’d be into. First of all, it’s historical fiction which I had myself convinced I didn’t like. It’s partially set in 1953 Tehran, during the Iranian Coup, which I knew nothing about, but when I was getting my TBR in order for the Asian readathon, I decided to take a chance on this because I wanted my selections to be as diverse as possible, and having Iranian representation on the list was definitely something I wanted.

Still, I expected it to be dry, too political, etc. But good lord, this book is, if I had to put it in abstract terms, like a fucking kaleidoscope of colors. The setting, the characters, the dialogue, the descriptions of the food – it was all so brilliant and sparkling and suddenly I was sending Henry links to recipes for Persian jeweled rice.

I UGLY-CRIED AT THE END OF THIS. I’m a sucker for a good love story I guess.

My Goodreads review was literally just “#brokenheartemoji” lol. I told you I’m basically a book-reviewing genius.

4. I Believe In a Thing Called Love – Maurene Goo

I Believe in a Thing Called Love

A book about a Korean American girl who uses K-Drama tropes to help her land a boyfriend? Yes, please.

This book actually started off differently than I expected – our main character actually doesn’t like K-dramas, but her dad does and is always telling her to move her big head out of the way while she’s doing homework and he’s trying to watch them. She makes the mistake of calling them his “soap operas” which makes him get all defensive about how they’re NOT soap operas and I felt myself getting physically defensive on his behalf because LITERALLY a week prior to reading this, I was on a call at work and some of my co-workers were talking about the shows they’re currently bingeing and one of my work friends said, “Erin wanted me to watch some soap opera last year but it was in a foreign language so I never did….sorry Erin” and I was like, “IT WAS NOT A SOAP OPERA IT WAS A K-DRAMA” and I remember EXACTLY which one it was: Are You Human Too?

So, her loss for not watching it because it is one of the best ones I’ve ever seen and I still think about it a lot.

However, this book is probably definitely not something I will ever think about again. It just didn’t do it for me. I couldn’t connect with any of the characters, and yes I realize that this is YA and they’re in high school but I have 100% related to other YA books before, if the writing is good. And not that the writing was BAD, but it just kind of fell flat, for me at least. I did get excited when specific K-Dramas were referenced but there was one part in particular, when our lead chooses the boy over something else, that didn’t sit well with me.

Verdict? Skip this book and watch a K-Drama instead. If you want a good high school drama, I recommend The Heirs.

5. Skim – Mariko Tamaki

Skim

I wanted to include a graphic novel on the list, and my favorite Booktuber, Kat from Paper Back Dreams, recently read Skim and gave it a great review. So I snagged it from Libby and finished it in one sitting before one of my late shifts. I’m not an avid graphic novel/manga reader so I don’t have much to compare this to, but I thought the illustrations were stunning and it was just a solid coming-of-age story. Would recommend.

6. This Time Will Be Different – Misa Siguira

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I liked this book way more than I anticipated. It seemed like it was going to be just another “unlucky in love” YA book but this tackled hypocrisy and racial themes stemming from the Japanese American internment during WWII and how grossly forgiving American history can be.

What I really loved was that this book was centrally-focused on the high school girl trying to win the guy, but actually fighting for something that matters. But yeah, there’s definitely romance in this book, lol. I liked this one better than I Believe in a Thing Called Love, which I hadn’t anticipated, but there you have it!

Also, that cover is gorge.

7. The Book of M – Peng Shepherd

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Ahhh! Henry and I “buddy-read” this together and by “buddy-read” I mean that it took us an entire week to listen to the audiobook which was v. frustrating since I’m on a schedule here. I mean, this book was over 500 pages long and it was kind of heavy, so I guess that should have been expected. It’s a dystopian thriller, about a pandemic-like phenomenon where people are mysteriously losing their shadows, and with their shadows go their memories, though not all at once.

It follows a variety of characters, and has a very strong The Walking Dead feel, in that a bunch of different groups are trying to get to the same place, and having to overcome obstacles (most being other Shadowed people who have taken to a “kill or be killed” survival tactic). It was slow-moving at first and I considered DNF’ing it after our first round of listening, but I’m really glad I stuck it out because some of the characters really grew on me and it was fascinating to watch this new world unfold as the shadowless began “re-remembering” things in different ways, creating odd new species of animals and flying death kites.

If this hasn’t already been picked up for a movie or TV series, I’d be shocked. Because this is such a winner and would translate SO WELL on screen, I think. Especially the battle scenes – I can never picture those in my head and would like to see how the author intended it to play out visually.

Several days later, Henry was reading someone’s synopsis of this book online and was so angry. He kept pointing at inaccuracies and yelling, “DID THEY EVEN READ IT?!” Henry really liked this book, clearly.

I would highly recommend this to anyone who likes The Walking Dead (Carrie, if you’re reading, this is the book I texted you about!), books about pandemics, and anything with dystopian, post-apocalyptic landscapes.

8. My Year of Meats – Ruth Ozeki 

My Year of Meats

Out of all the books I’ve read so far in May, this is my absolute favorite. I am obsessed with it. I added it on a whim, can’t remember where I saw it recommended, but I am so glad I added it to the list. From nearly the very beginning, I had a feeling that it was going to end up being a 5-star read and I was right.

This was published in 1998 I think and set in the early 90s. The premise is that there is a reality show being filmed in the US for the Japanese market about American wives and the meat-centric meals they cook for their families, so right away you’re like, “Erin, why did you like this book, you’re a vegetarian?” This book brilliantly weaves the SHITTY AND SHADY hand-holding between the US meat industry and pharmaceutical companies into an engaging narrative of a Japanese American woman, Jane, who aspires to be a legit documentarian while directing a reality show she feels morally conflicted about. It bounces back and forth between Jane and the wife of the Japanese man in charge of the show, who is dutifully cooking these American meals for him in spite of being constantly subjected to his abuse.

There are so many poignant stories being explored here and I fell in love with every single character (except for the abusive husband, he sucks obviously) and this was one the only books I’ve read ALL YEAR that I felt fully immersed in. And while I already knew a lot of the things explored here about the sickening US meat industry, it served as a great reminder that my last 24 meatless years have not been in vain.  I don’t think I will be able to stop thinking about it for a long time. It was funny, heart-warming, heart-BREAKING, and still relevant even in 2020. Please read this. It’s fantastic (and whoever the narrator of the audiobook was, she sounded like Jane Lynch and I was so into it).

[SIDE NOTE: Whoa, hold up. I Googled the narrator of the audiobook (Kate Fleming) and she apparently died in 2006 when a flashflood trapped her in her basement studio, and according to her Wiki page, at the hospital, her wife of 9 years—Charlene Strong—“was denied access to see Fleming until permission was granted by an out-of-state relative. The experience led Strong to advocate for legislation that was eventually passed as Washington’s Domestic Partnership Law.”]

9. Ghachar Ghochar – Vivek Shanbhag

Ghachar Ghochar

Please read this. It’s just a little, unassuming novella, but SO GOOD and poignant, giving a quick insight at how money and class change the dynamics within a family in Bangalore. Henry and I buddy-read this together in one day and the ending made us look at each other like, “OMG what.”

As someone who grew up with everything and then suddenly became an adult with nothing, I’m always interested in reading about the trials and tribs of other families with $$$ drama. It’s amazing how much money (or lack of) can change people, especially family.

10. Braised Pork – An Yu

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I still don’t know how I feel about this book and feel like it deserves a re-read at some point. It’s very quiet, mysterious. Kind of a thriller? Sort of a mystery? There’s a bit of fabulism? A woman finds her husband dead in the bathtub, leaving behind a drawing of a fish with a man’s head. She becomes obsessed with this image and embarks on a journey to find out what it all means.

All I can say is it’s weird and then it ends. Read it or don’t read it. It’s your life.

11. Tiny Pretty Things – Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton

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UGH this book, I don’t know why I was expecting something better. It’s just about how mean girls are to each other (and themselves) in some ballet academy in New York, except that I didn’t care about any of them, not even the “good” girl, and it just seemed like there was no point but I guess it was well-received by those who matter because it’s becoming a Netflix series. I hope the Korean representation is good in the series, because it’s kind of “meh” in this book.

12. Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 – Cho Nam-Joo

Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982

Oh shit son, this book is where it’s at. It follows Kim Jiyoung, from when she’s a child, to an adult, and shows all the ways she’s been discriminated against for being a woman. It’s a quick read, and the ending is WOW JUST WOW. I can see why this book was a best-seller in Korea and I am so glad it’s recently been translated to English. I feel like every man should be required to read books like this.

I didn’t know this until now, but THIS HAS BEEN MADE INTO A MOVIE and one of my favorite Korean actors, Gong Yoo, plays the husband and I am so stoked for it!!

Please read this book. It includes real facts throughout the fictional narrative, which I loved. You know I love learning as much about Korea as possible!

13. Wicked Fox – Kat Cho

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Sadly, I followed that strong Korean pick with a super weak, disappointing YA supernatural romp. I really thought I would enjoy a book about a gumiho (9-tailed fox spirit) in Seoul, but it was sooooooo dumb. The only thing I liked was the quick shout-out to BIGBANG’s TOP, and the various mentions of Korean foods which made me super hungry and miss Korea so much. But yeah, this book was not that great and I was barely able to stay focused.

14. A Thousand Beginnings and Endings – multiple authors/anthology

A Thousand Beginnings and Endings

To round-out my first two weeks of Asian books, I read this anthology of popular Asian folklore retellings. I started it early into the readathon, but I only read one story a night because anthologies, as I’ve discovered, aren’t really for me. This one had a lot of duds but some really solid ones too, like the Korean one – “Land of the Morning Calm” by E.C.Myers based on the Chasa Bonpuli fable –  (I swear I wasn’t being biased, I just genuinely really liked it) and the last two in the book, one of which was a Japanese retelling of the kitsune legend (“Eyes Like Candlelight” – Julie Kagawa) and another was based on the Chinese legend The Cowherd and the Weaver Girl (“The Crimson Cloak” – Cindy Pon), made me cry like a baby.

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Anyway, this has been the last two weeks of my life. Now I’m crying because I’m thinking about that Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 movie and I just can’t handle my emotions right now. Also, I want ice cream.