Review: Meg & Linus

26176756Can friendship, Star Trek, drama club, and a whole lot of coffee get two nerdy best friends through the beginning of their senior year of high school?

Meg and Linus are best friends bound by a shared love of school, a coffee obsession, and being queer. It’s not always easy to be the nerdy lesbian or gay kid in a suburban town. But they have each other. And a few Star Trek boxed sets. They’re pretty happy.

But then Sophia, Meg’s longtime girlfriend, breaks up with Meg. Linus starts tutoring the totally dreamy new kid, Danny—and Meg thinks setting them up is the perfect project to distract herself from her own heartbreak. But Linus isn’t so sure Danny even likes guys, and maybe Sophia isn’t quite as out of the picture as Meg thought she was. . . .

From crowdsourced young adult imprint Swoon Reads comes Meg & Linus by Hanna Nowinski, a fun friendship story about two quirky teens who must learn to get out of their comfort zones and take risks—even if that means joining the drama club, making new friends, and learning how to stand on your own.

I wanted to like this book. It was cute and enjoyable at times, but also extremely frustrating.

It was nice to see nerdy protagonists who are into school because they like learning, not just because they have to be there to survive in the world. Linus talks about his love of numbers sometimes, which was great to read. I’m more of a music and words kind of person, a little like Danny in some respects, so it’s nice to have a different perspective. The characters are also highly relatable, even if Meg annoyed the heck out of me a lot. Despite that, I really liked her relationship with her mother. And Danny was definitely a highlight of this book for me.

I wanted to say some nice things about this book since it wasn’t all bad, but there is a lot of bad. So strap in. I’m frustrated and need to vent. I have a few things to cover so I’ll save the one I’m gonna rant about until the end of the laundry list.

I’ll touch on the craft-level issues I had first before getting into the numerous representation issues. The writing really isn’t very good. There’s a lot of unnecessary repetition and, if I didn’t have a vague idea of how author pay works, I would be wondering if the author got paid by the exclamation mark or something. She could’ve cut 90% of them without any trouble whatosever. This, however, was all overshadowed by the problems with the rep.

First of those: our old friend, ableist language. TW: I’m including censored ableist slurs in a sec. It’s bloody everywhere in this book. And there is never a good reason for it. No characters are doubting their own mental wellness or anything. So it’s completely superfluous and downright frustrating. Some chapters you can’t go two pages without “cr*zy” or “ins*ane” popping up.

TW over.

This isn’t my lane, I’ve also noticed some cissexism about the way attraction is spoken about. It didn’t come up often, but characterising sexual orientation as the kinds of body parts you’re attracted to is weird as hell. Like… trans people exist, and you don’t necessarily know what body parts people have unless they tell you or you happen to see them. Let’s be honest. They’re talking about genitals, just in a roundabout way. It’s been established time and time again that gender =/= genitals. We’ve got to stop making these basic-level mistakes already.

I’m also not wholly comfortable with the way Linus’s weight is treated at times. This also isn’t my lane, but lines like “He has kind of a round face and he’s more than a bit… rotund” rub me the wrong way. In this particular case, his weight was already mentioned in the previous sentence already so this borderline euphemism was unnecessary in the first place and gives off vibes that being fat is something negative that you have to tiptoe around. I don’t know if I’m reading into things, but that’s the feeling I got.

And now…

The thing that really got under my skin: the inconsistent inclusiveness of bisexuality. Early in the book, Linus says “even if he’s gay or maybe bi” but then Meg says in another chapter, “we don’t know if he’s gay.” This is a pattern. The book will occasionally nod to the fact bisexuality exists, but then the next time it is conspicuously absent. And don’t even try to tell me it’s meant to show one character is biphobic/bimisic without condoning it, because it is not addressed in the text. Furthermore, the character who paid vague attention to bisexuality falls into the same trap later when he says “and Danny might not be gay” so… there goes that argument.

Furthermore, the moments where we are acknowledged are usually tacked onto the ends of sentences talking about how he might be gay, like we’re an afterthought. By itself, I probably wouldn’t have been so annoyed, but that combined with the erasure makes for one really gross cocktail.

I thought we were done with that when the sexuality speculation dropped off as we entered the second quarter of the book, but then it cropped up again 2/3 through. Because apparently I am not allowed to have a moment’s peace.

The thing is, inclusion isn’t a “one and done” thing, where you can pay some bare-minimum lip service and then stop trying. You have to be consistent. Giving a nod to the possibility of bisexuality is meaningless if you undo all that work next time. There’s a world of difference between “I don’t know if he’s gay” and “I don’t know if he’s into guys.”

The fact this book has given a few rare and half-assed acknowledgements that bisexuality exists, only to ignore us every other time, gives the impression that the author cared more about dodging criticism than actually being inclusive. You can’t just throw us scraps on occasion while continuing to erase us anyway.

The thing is, when you erase bisexuals, you erase other people, too. We’re something of a canary in a coal mine when it comes to queer rep. People who erase us also tend to erase pansexuals, asexuals and aromantics. Often, they erase binary trans and nonbinary people as well.*

*Some nonbinary people ID as trans, but not all. Hence the separation.

This book is a recent release. It’s 2017. Bisexuals have been talking about erasure for years. We’re getting to the point where you have to actively ignore us in order to not understand this.

The constant vacillation between bare-minimum acknowledgement and outright erasure completely spoiled any enjoyment I could have for this book. Without that issue, I might’ve given it a three-star Goodreads rating instead of two.

Get it together, authors. Bisexuals are human beings, too. Stop treating us like this. I’m sick of having to brace for mistreatment every time I read a queer book that isn’t by a bisexual author.

Review: Flowers of Luna by Jennifer Linsky

32882682“You are rude,” the woman said, turning back to me, “and slow.” She put her hand on the hilt of her katana. “I wonder if such a slow, rude person has any friends?”

Growing up on a mining ship in deep space was lonely, but now Ran Gray has come to the moon to make a name for herself in fashion. When a chance encounter on Valentina bridge leads to cross words and crossed swords, Ran wonders… will she ever escape her family’s reputation? Did her opponent really just ask her out on a date? And if she did, what will Ran wear?

Flowers of Luna is forty-three kilowords of sapphic romance in a hard science fiction setting. Winchell Chung has reviewed the manuscript for science accuracy and given it the coveted “Atomic Rockets Seal of Approval.

Like a lot of readers, I was really drawn to the concept of Flowers of Luna. NA f/f romance between two Japanese diaspora girls, one of whom is biracial, on the moon? It was an easy decision to pick this one up.

For the most part, the book lived up to what I hoped it would be. The writing was full of fascinating little nuggets of worldbuilding detail–particularly regarding the joint American, Russian and Japanese settlement of the moon–and the protagonist Ran’s chosen career path in fashion thoroughly informed her narration. On that, point, though, I definitely needed to keep Google close at hand to translate a lot of jargon I, being one of the most useless human beings regarding fashion, did not understand at all. Easy enough in this age of smartphones, though. The real-life historical information and illustrations of the twelve body archetypes were also quite interesting.

Linsky’s futuristic universe uses different terms to describe heterosexual, bisexual and gay: polarity biased, parallel biased and mirror biased, respectively. This was pretty cool, though given today’s breadth of language to describe identities that exist beyond this triad, perhaps a little oversimplified. In addition, I really liked the inclusion of an androgyne character who uses xe/xir pronouns in a totally normalised way.

I found the majority of this book to be an enjoyable read, Ran and Hana’s romance and the running gag about Hana’s underwear situation in particular. The romance does escalate very quickly, but I found it was done well, proving that it is possible for romances to develop at speed when in the hands of an author who knows what they’re doing.

However, my enjoyment soured towards the end. I don’t think I’m ever going to be comfortable with the “cheating bisexual” trope, which pops up here. In addition to a remark from Ran complaining about her bisexual relatives acting “morally superior” because they’re bisexual/parallel-biased, I found I couldn’t really like the book as much as I wanted to in the end. I don’t know how the author identifies, but it is possible for bisexuals to display internalised biphobia anyway.

The word “crazy” also crops up a couple times, but it’s definitely not the worst I’ve seen on that front.

It’s also worth putting out a couple trigger warnings for passing mentions of domestic abuse and rape. I don’t think they’re problematic in themselves, but forewarned is forearmed if you’re triggered by either of those things.

Overall, Flowers of Luna was a good read marred by the use of a harmful trope that affected by enjoyment of the book as a whole. Up until the last section, this was shaping up to be one of my favourite reads of the year. I’m certainly not going to fight other bisexuals who were okay with this book, but I did find it quite hurtful personally. I’m a little torn over this, considering this book also includes rep for biracial people, Japanese diaspora people and lesbians, but I’m simply not comfortable with this trope being used in a time when bisexuals still face large amounts of bigotry in both the media and everyday life.

Review: Secrets of Skin and Stone

34388622Something is wrong in Hidden Creek. The sleepy Alabama town is more haunted than any place fiend hunter Grisham Caso has ever seen. Unearthed graves, curse bags, and spilled blood all point to an evil that could destroy his gargoyle birthright. The town isn’t safe for anyone, and everyone says fiery Piper Devon knows why.

Piper wants to leave Hidden Creek behind. She’s had enough of secrets—they hide in the shadows of her room and tell her terrible things are coming. Too-charming city boy Grisham might be her only chance to save herself.

To survive, Piper and Grisham have to shed their secrets and depend only on each other. But what lurks in Hidden Creek still might take everything away from them, including each other.

I received an ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

This book took a while to grow on me. Up until around the 50% mark, I seriously considered DNF-ing. Most of that had to do with the instalove-esque relationship dynamics between the two protagonists. I mean, do heterosexuals really get distracted by a person’s attractiveness while said attractive person is a potential danger to them? Eventually it all fell into place and stopped annoying me, but it did result in me taking much longer to read this book than I’d originally planned.

This next point is *slightly* spoilery, but it happens early in the book so I don’t think it’s too bad. Warning for spoilers anyway.

Continue reading

#AsianLitBingo Wrapup

So WordPress is a horrible creation that completely did not save my draft last time I tried to do this. So let’s try again.

As part of Asian Lit Bingo, I set out to read seven books by Asian authors in May. And then I hit a reading slump, but I did manage to read three. I’ll list them beneath the bingo board.

AsianLitBingo for covers

West Asian MC: Does My Head Look Big in This? by Randa Abdel-Fattah

Central Asian MC: Jamilia by Chingiz Aimatov

South Asian MC: When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon (review)

These were all ownvoices.

May wasn’t a great reading month for me. I probably shouldn’t have taken on this challenge at all, but at least I got some reading done.

 

On Rating Books Without Reading Them

A common issue within the book community is the question of whether it is appropriate to rate a book without having read it. Some readers say that it’s never okay, which I think is lacking in nuance. There are bad reasons for rating a book without reading it first, but there are also good reasons to do so.

Basically, I think it’s all contingent on how much you actually know about a book and your motivations for giving it the rating you did. If you’re just giving a book five stars because your favourite author wrote it, that’s kind of ridiculous but doesn’t really hurt anyone.The reason I mention it at all is because, often, these ratings are ignored when the issue of rating books without having read them comes up in discussion. People complaining about ratings of unread books are typically referring to low ratings and fail to see that, really, if you’re categorically slamming low ratings, you should probably at least pay some lip service to the high ratings as well. Isn’t that the whole principle you’re trying to convey? That books should never be rated unless you’ve read the things? Talking about one and not the other when making that kind of blanket statement shows a huge hole in one’s argument.

Besides, there are good reasons to downrate a book you haven’t read. Namely, if other readers have provided enough evidence to prove that the book is a huge mess of bigoted misrepresentation. Often low ratings in this case are provided to try and attract the publisher’s attention so they’ll do something about it. Maybe delay release and revise the book or, if that’s not possible for whatever reason, at the very least stop acquiring books like it.

A book that has been at the centre of this to rate or not to rate furore is THE BLACK WITCH. A reviewer live-tweeted the issues they had while reading the book and later wrote an 8.7k review detailing, with textual evidence, the sheer volume of problems with the book. The book is racist, sexist, homophobic and ableist. Many readers who, for whatever fucking reason, actually like the book try to claim it’s about a bigoted character learning to not be bigoted, but Shauna’s review clearly points out this does not succeed. The fact such a book is being held up as some great anti-racist story, which it isn’t, instead of promoting authors of colour writing their experiences is pretty damn shitty in itself. The community has been downrating this book to hopefully get some kind of action from the publisher, but the publisher didn’t really give a shit and were even caught shifting the blurb on Goodreads around to put praise for the book at the top, before it was readjusted by Goodreads librarians.

But, hey, the book hasn’t really been heard from since publication so we must’ve done something right. Yeah, I was one of the one-star raters. Because the book damn well deserved it and we had more than enough evidence to figure that out without having to read the damn thing cover to cover.

I think that’s the kicker: is there enough evidence out there to rate the book without having to read the whole thing? In THE BLACK WITCH’s case, yes, there was. Shauna didn’t write a fucking 8.7k word review for fun. She wrote it to inform the rest of us so we wouldn’t have to put up with that shit.

A book where this wasn’t the case is RAMONA BLUE, where biphobes decided the concept of a lesbian character realising her sexuality is more fluid than she first thought was somehow lesbophobic. Like, to be clear, this wasn’t a lesbian being turned straight by a dude, but that’s how many people took it based on a blurb. The blurb has since been changed to more accurately reflect the book, but the whole downrating in this case was uncalled for. It was as if entire swathes of the world’s population collectively forgot bisexuality exists. Or maybe they never acknowledged its existence in the first place. If you read the blurb now, it is blatantly obvious the character isn’t turning straight because of a dude. She still likes girls and she’s still fucking queer.

There are books that take supposedly queer characters and then go “teehee the character was straight the whole time,” such as LOOK BOTH WAYS, but apparently readers would rather focus on a book like RAMONA BLUE that doesn’t even come close to that level of bullshit. I guess LOOK BOTH WAYS, being blatantly biphobic, doesn’t offend them or something. Who the fuck knows. I’m over it. Someone actually tried that “read it before deciding” shit on LOOK BOTH WAYS but I’m fucking bisexual and don’t need that bullshit in my life. Actually, the tweet exchange was so goddamn incredible I’m gonna post it here because you need to read this. I’m not hiding any twitter handles because the person in the wrong doesn’t deserve it and Tasha, whose review I linked above, is awesome and deserves all the follows.

and then she blocked me 1

She blocked me after I pointed out her fuckup. It was amazing. Not wholly relevant to my post, but I’m still gobsmacked by the exchange and wanted to share it. It does hit on an important point while talking about book reviews, though. There’s been a strange pattern of actual book reviewers saying reviews shouldn’t actually make you decide whether or not to read a book, which is the most hilarious accidental self-deprecation I have seen in my life. Amazing the mental gymnastics people will engage in to excuse supporting bigoted books.

It also hits on a reason book reviews are important: not just to demand action on the publisher’s part, but to warn people when books might hurt them. I had LOOK BOTH WAYS on my Goodreads TBR. If Tasha hadn’t warned me, I could’ve spent money on that book only to find it blatantly disrespected who I am as a person. Book reviews are important for this reason, among many others.

Back to the point of this post: the question of rating a book before reading it is more complex than blanket statements make it seem. It needs to be taken on a case-by-case basis. THE BLACK WITCH was the first book I downrated without reading and I was a little nervous about doing it at first, but the book community was trying to make a point that they won’t tolerate books about bigotry that a) centre privileged perspectives and b) end up being bigoted messes because the author has no idea what they’re doing. We don’t need that shit. Just read THE HATE U GIVE by Angie Thomas instead. It’s better-written anyway.

Book reviews and ratings are an important tool. Sometimes, you’ve got to go for the nuclear option to just make publishers notice something isn’t right. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but it’s important that we try. We’re trying to sculpt a fairer, more diverse industry here. Change doesn’t happen by being nice. While focusing on positive rep is also greatly important, you’ve got to criticise the assholes, too.

 

 

Review: The Traitor’s Tunnel by C.M. Spivey

34031351Witch-blooded robber Bridget has made a reputation for herself in the capital city, but she’s not interested in the attention of the Thieves’ Guild–and she’s not bothered by the rumors of urchin kidnappings, either. With winter coming, she’s looking out for herself and no one else.

Until she picks the wrong pocket, and recognizes her estranged brother Teddy.

Young craftsman Theodor arrives in the capital ready to take the final step toward his dream career as Lord Engineer of Arido. His apprenticeship with a renowned city engineer comes with new rules and challenges, but it’s worth it for the exposure to the Imperial Council.

While spying on her brother, Bridget overhears a secret meeting that reveals a cruel plot. After more than a decade apart, Theodor and Bridget must reunite to stop a traitor whose plan threatens not only their city, but the whole empire.

Set seven years before the events of From Under the Mountain, The Traitor’s Tunnel is the story of two young people presented with a choice–to protect themselves, or to protect others–the consequences of which will change their lives forever.

I was fortunate to be on Twitter when C.M. Spivey offered to give out free advance copies, so naturally I jumped on that. Everything about this book sounded incredible, including it being ownvoices for asexuality, and it did not disappoint.

Estranged siblings Bridget and Theodor are the protagonists, and they’re both queer. Theodor is asexual and in a long-term M/M relationship with Leander. Bridget is currently in an F/F relationship with Keaton, and has had relationships with men in the past. There are also a few characters with brown skin, including both love interests and Bridget’s former partner, Micah. Children’s genders are not assigned at birth but decided by the children once they reach a certain age. Until then, “ze” pronouns are used. There is a passing reference from a female character about an ex-wife, which also provides the clue that same-gender marriages are normal. Asking for consent before initiating romantic contact is also completely normalised. This whole story world is a bloody breath of fresh air.

Theodor and Bridget are compelling protagonists from wildly different worlds, being that Bridget has been thieving for years while Theodor was raised in a more sheltered environment. Bridget tends to be more action-oriented while Theodor, even though he is ambitious, is more anxious and cautious. His relationship with Leander has the expected familiarity of a long-term relationship, the both of them knowing each other so well that they sometimes don’t even need to speak in order to communicate. There was something really comforting in that. The author really did a great job making all the inter-character relationships fit together as wonderfully as they did. I just really love these characters, okay?

I did initially fear the plot would drag a bit, but my fears were soon thrown out the window. All that setup is absolutely necessary for anything in the plot to make sense and it’s all fascinating stuff anyway. There are multiple villains and the one most prominent in the story is that mind-bending kind where you’re not exactly sure they’re a villain for quite a long time. There is a huge disconnect between the way both protagonists perceive this character which only adds to the mystery.

THE TRAITOR’S TUNNEL is a great little book with refreshing worldbuilding and utterly compelling characters. I’m really glad I read it and, quite frankly, the whole thing has refreshed me after this weird reading slump I’ve been in.

Review: When Dimple Met Rishi

28458598A laugh-out-loud, heartfelt YA romantic comedy, told in alternating perspectives, about two Indian-American teens whose parents have arranged for them to be married.

Dimple Shah has it all figured out. With graduation behind her, she’s more than ready for a break from her family, from Mamma’s inexplicable obsession with her finding the “Ideal Indian Husband.” Ugh. Dimple knows they must respect her principles on some level, though. If they truly believed she needed a husband right now, they wouldn’t have paid for her to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers…right?

Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic. So when his parents tell him that his future wife will be attending the same summer program as him—wherein he’ll have to woo her—he’s totally on board. Because as silly as it sounds to most people in his life, Rishi wants to be arranged, believes in the power of tradition, stability, and being a part of something much bigger than himself.

The Shahs and Patels didn’t mean to start turning the wheels on this “suggested arrangement” so early in their children’s lives, but when they noticed them both gravitate toward the same summer program, they figured, Why not?

Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works hard to prove itself in the most unexpected ways.

I received an e-ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

WHEN DIMPLE MET RISHI is a cute romantic comedy with Indian-American protagonists. I loved both Dimple and Rishi for different reasons. Dimple is such a little ball of spitting flames and Rishi is very much the kind of soft male protagonist that I like. If I’m gonna read m/f, there better be a soft boy involved. None of that toxic masculinity nonsense. These two are exactly the kind of characters I love to read about.

The book is very well-written in a way that tickles the senses and is endlessly relateable. The alternating POV was confusing at times, but much of that is owed to formatting issues with my e-ARC that I’m sure will be cleared up in the published version. I did actually like the headhopping between Dimple and Rishi’s POVs. It was fascinating to see how their minds worked differently, and the contrast between their perceptions of what the other was thinking and their actual thoughts. There is a huge disconnect between Dimple’s body image and Rishi’s view of her, particularly early on. It was also great watching these two characters slowly melt out of their set archetypes and even surprise themselves by doing so.

I also really feel for Rishi’s internal conflict regarding following his dreams vs fulfilling the expectations placed upon him. And Dimple’s conflict regarding the fact she despises being lumped into traditionalist boxes, and yet the boy her parents picked out for her turns out to be a good match. After the worst possible first meeting is dealt with, of course.

The best thing about Rishi, to be honest, is the fact he can go from horrendously awkward to ridiculously suave in 0.2 seconds. Like, I don’t know how this wordsmith is the same kid who greeted Dimple with the worst opening line known to man, but here we are and I totally believe it. And I love that Dimple is into coding and is so determined to get what she wants out of life, even if that determination sometimes causes a few bumps in the road for her. These two kids… I just love them to pieces. Let me hug them. But I’d definitely need to announce myself or Dimple will probably throw something at me.

Unfortunately, there was a lot of casually ableist language in this book. TW FOR CENSORED SLURS: The text is peppered with “cr*zy” and “ins*ne” and similar variants. TW OVER. I’m also not entirely comfortable with the way the bisexual character is portrayed in some respects. The one f/f relationship she’s had in the past “wasn’t serious” and is the one character who sleeps with multiple people around the same time, both of which play into some rather unpleasant stereotypes about bisexuals: bi women are actually straight, and bisexuals are inherently promiscuous. There’s also no actual use of the word bisexual, but the implication is pretty clear. I can’t speak for the ableism, but while these hints of biphobia annoyed me, I was able to enjoy the book anyway so I still think it’s worth reading. Just… non-bisexual authors. Please. Stop doing this.

Overall, WHEN DIMPLE MET RISHI is a fun romantic comedy and a great addition to the YA category. If you like slow-burn romances, girls who code, and oddly suave teenage boys, this is definitely a great read.

On Creative Self-Doubt

And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.

Last month, I got up on stage and performed a twenty-five minute cabaret set. I picked all the songs and wrote the monologues myself. It was the first time I had ever done something like that, but all the components were things I had done individually before. I’ve been singing for over a decade and have been writing stories for even longer. I was proud of my performance, even though I made a few mistakes. It was my first time doing that sort of thing, after all.

My performance was professionally filmed and I recently worked up the nerve to watch the recording. I didn’t like it. I stuttered a lot and my singing was much pitchier than I thought it was. My vocal tone was way worse than I realised and I made a lot of weird facial expressions that made the whole thing hard to watch. I had hoped to use some parts of the video if I ever put together an audition showreel, but that’s unlikely to happen now.

I hate watching videos of my performances. I am incapable of sitting back and enjoying my achievements. There’s always something new to nitpick, some minor imperfection to make me cringe.

I feel much the same way about my writing at least 50% of the time. At any given moment, it’s anyone’s guess whether I’m going to love what I’m writing or want to print it out specifically to burn it. It seems I am constantly swinging between the two extremes in any creative pursuit. I don’t have this issue quite as much with dancing, because I only started like two years ago and no one expects me to be amazing anyway. So in a way, having spent so much of my life singing and writing means I have piled expectations upon myself. I’ve been doing this so long. I should be good at it. Why am I not good at it?

Keeping the self-doubt at bay is an ongoing battle. I’m very much a brute-force kind of person when it comes to internalised adversity. That Sylvia Plath quote pretty much sums up my approach. It takes guts to fight it and keep going. I kick it in the face and force my way through until I feel less like shit. It’s relatively effective.

It was my first time tackling a twenty-five-minute self-devised performance. My voice rarely records well on video and I’m never going to have an accurate sense of what I actually sound like anyway. The audience loved it. They didn’t give a shit what my face was doing. I bounced off their energy and their remarks. We had fun together. So what if it wasn’t perfect? What are the odds of me needing a showreel when I don’t even have that vocal degree I want yet anyway?

My writing doesn’t have to be perfect right now. That’s what editing is for. I have all the time in the world to get things right. People love my concepts when I talk about them. I have days when I love everything that comes out of my brain. It’s okay to be shy about sharing my writing sometimes and it’s completely unrealistic to expect to make bread when I haven’t even finished growing the wheat yet.

I am naturally an insecure person, but I’m definitely not alone in that. Even in my manner of speech, I tend to soften my language and it can be very difficult for me to assert myself, depending on the company I’m keeping at the time. I walk a fine line in writing. Sometimes I can be assertive as all hell and scare people, but other times I can’t help but add little pieces of qualifying language, the maybes and I thinks and sometimeses. Is that even a word? It is now!

Fuck the doubt. It doesn’t even pay rent for the space it takes up in my head. I will keep writing and keep singing and keep fighting for what I want out of life. I am good at things. I don’t need to be the best. I just need to be me. That’s all any of us need to be.

How do you tackle self-doubt? Not only that, tell me something you’re proud of. Big or small. Let’s kick self-doubt in the face together.

#AsianLitBingo TBR

Because I clearly didn’t have enough on my reading and writing plate already, I’ve decided to participate in the Asian Lit Bingo, created by Shenwei @ READING (AS)(I)AN (AM)ERICA.

It’s a similar concept to the Diversity Bingo I’m also taking part in, though the aim here is just to read at least a full row of five–either vertically, horizontally or diagonally–rather than necessarily completing the whole board. Some people are aiming to be overachievers, but I don’t think I am capable of such a feat at this point in my reading life.

Here are the rules, as written by Shenwei themself on their announcement post.

Eligible Books:

  • Fiction books should have an Asian main character (can be one of several main characters) and be by an Asian author to qualify. It does not have to be #ownvoices, but reading #ownvoices books is strongly encouraged!

  • Nonfiction books should be by an Asian author with a focus on Asian people, whether it’s a[n] [auto]biography, history book, essay collection, etc. A nonfiction book can count for prompts other than the nonfiction square provided that it that focuses on a person/group that corresponds to that prompt (e.g. an autobiography of a Asian trans woman could count for either the nonfiction category or the LGBTQIAP+ Asian MC category).

  • The free space is for any book with an Asian main character by an Asian author.

And here’s the board:

AsianLitBingo clean board.png

Because of financial constraints, I’m doing the diagonal from the top left corner to the bottom right, plus a couple extra squares for fun and profit. I’m able to find books on this diagonal that I already own, can get from the library, or get as cheap/free ebooks or e-ARCs.

Now, onto my TBR:

blog announcement

I’ll try to include what additional categories these books are eligible for, but I will very likely miss some. Apologies in advance.

East Asian MC: Flowers of Luna by Jennifer Linsky (which also fits a few other categories such as SFF with Asian MC, LGBQIAP+ Asian MC, Queer Romance with Asian MC, Multiracial/Multiethnic Asian MC, and Romance with POC/Indigenous Love Interest. I think it might fit other categories but I’m not sure.)

West Asian MC: Does My Head Look Big In This? by Randa Abdel-Fattah (also fits Asian Muslim MC, Religious Asian MC, Contemporary with Asian MC)

Free Space:  Fire Boy by Sami Shah (also fits South Asian MC, SFF with Asian MC, possibly Asian Muslim MC). AT THIS TIME OF WRITING, THE KINDLE VERSION OF THIS BOOK IS FREE ON MANY VERSIONS OF AMAZON.

Central Asian MC: Jamilia by Chingiz Aimatrov (also fits Historical Fiction with Asian MC, Translated Work by an Asian Author)

South Asian MC: When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon (also fits Contemporary with Asian MC, Romance with POC/Indigenous Love Interest)

Bonus:

South-east Asian MC: Another Word for Happy by Agay Llanera (also fits Queer Romance with Asian MC, Contemporary with Asian MC, Romance with POC/Indigenous Love Interest)

SFF with Asian MC (If I get approved for the ARC)The Epic Crush of Genie Lo (also fits East Asian MC)


There are also prizes to be won as part of Asian Lit Bingo. I’ll paste Shenwei’s information below:

Contest 1 – Equal Opportunity/Participation Contest

Every person who participates in the reading challenge and reads at least 3 books for the challenge will have one entry each for this contest. The winner will be randomly drawn. If somehow the winner drawn is the same as the winner of the second contest, I will draw a different winner.

Prize: Your choice of one 2017 release by an Asian author. Open to international.

Contest 2 – Extra Credit/Merit-Based Contest

For the more competitive folks, the competition for the prizes is based on the number and type of books you read and review for the challenge. The person who accumulates the most points wins. Here is the point system:

  • 1 point per book read
  • 1 extra points per #ownvoices (ethnicity-wise) book (so 2 points total for an #ownvoices book)
  • 1 point per review for qualifying books

Prize: Your choice of one 2017 release by an Asian author, plus a custom-designed mug with a book quote of your choice by Aentee @ Read At Midnight. Open to international.

Safe to say I will not win the extra credit contest, but I’ll be posting at least a few reviews over the course of the month anyway and I’m under the impression all the books I’m reading are OwnVoices.

Shenwei’s masterpost also links to a document listing a whole lot of suggestions of what to read for the month, so if you’re struggling you can take a look at that.

Happy reading!