2020 Asian Readathon Wrap-Up + Books Read in May

Hi friends! It’s been a while! I hope you’re all safe and healthy wherever you are right now.

May has been a good reading month for me, considering the general unpleasantness of this month and the previous ones for a lot of us. I’m still in a blogging slump that’s why it took me until June to finish this wrap-up post. 🙃

Before I start my bookish wrap-up, I would just like to drop some resources for very important issues and campaigns right now:

Black Lives Matter: http://blacklivesmatters.carrd.co/

Free Yemen & Free Mena: https://yemenhumancrisis.carrd.co/ | https://yemencrisis.carrd.co/

Junk Terror Bill: https://parasapinas.carrd.co/

Please take the time to read the resources, sign petitions, and donate (if you can!)

For the month of May, I read a total of 19 books! This includes full-length novels, graphic novels, and novellas.

Here are the books I read for the 2020 Asian Readathon:

Solo Leveling (Solo Leveling #1) – Illustrated by Gi So-Ryeong and Jang Sung-Rak, based on the light novels written by Chu-Gong

Watch me yell about Solo Leveling until all of you decide to read this freaking masterpiece! !!!!

It has been a while since I’ve been blown away by a manga/manhwa and Solo Leveling is just… on a whole different level… (I’M SORRY) But what’s it about?

“Solo Leveling (나 혼자만 레벨업, Na Honjaman Lebel-eob) is a story about the weakest hunter Sung Jin-Woo and his quest to become the strongest, S-Rank hunter.”

Reading the blurb of this manhwa adaptation may just seem like your typical “zero to hero” type of story, but this is just so well put together that all the elements mix in perfectly; fan-fucking-tastic art? a fast-paced and gripping story? with amazing character development? YES YES YES!

highly recommend this especially to people who love RPG games!

Alex + Ada (The Complete Collection) – Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughn

Alex + Ada is pretty short (377 pages) for a novel that tackles a LOT of things: slavery, AI sentience, civil rights, oppression, and gender equality. For a story that had potential, I wish the plot and the characters were fleshed out more.

Alex + Ada revolves around a world where androids live among humans and serve them for whatever purpose humans desire. Androids found a way to be sentient and humans aren’t ready for that. The lack of control and the possibility of a takeover scares society even when all sentient robots want is to be accepted as non-human persons and have the same rights humans do. They can think, feel, laugh, and hurt all the same.

And Alex and Ada risk it all – for love.

In the Miso Soup – Ryü Murakami

It was actually good until like around 67% of the story when shit went down and I just lost interest in what happened after. I just wanted it to end.

Before the Coffee Gets Cold – Toshikazu Kawaguchi

“If you could go back, who would you want to meet?”

A quaint little café that offers more than just a warm cup of coffee but also the chance to travel in the past? Sounds magical! But what if I tell you that this chance comes with a lot of rules?

“The only people you can meet while in the past are those who have visited the cafe.”
“There is nothing you can do while in the past that will change the present.”
“When you return to the past, you must drink the entire cup before the coffee goes cold.”

One of the reasons why this cafe’s time-travel quirk is known as an urban legend was because a lot of people are discouraged to try after hearing the rules. But there are people who took the leap of faith.

This book follows the different but intersecting stories of four characters who chose to go back in time to mend broken relationships, relish a love that was lost, and seek acceptance, clarity, and hope.

I honestly didn’t expect this book to be so heart-wrenchingly beautiful, but wow. I’m left holding back tears and hugging my doggos for emotional support.

Love from A to Z – S.K. Ali

Love from A to Z is one of those books that TRULY DESERVE the hype it’s getting. The representation? *chef’s kiss* This book tackles pressing issues surrounding Islamophobia, the challenges that go with having multiple sclerosis and the ripples it creates on the people around them, as well as dealing with grief and loss.

S.K. Ali did a fantastic job getting the message across! Just look at some of the amazing and gut-punching lines:
* “Maybe that’s what living is — recognizing the marvels and oddities around you.”
* “…why it’s so difficult to do the right thing in front of those with the power to affect your life..”
* “Islamophobia is the thing keeping it okay to kill people like us without repercussions.”
* “I’m a person who feels things strongly. And I don’t know how to deal with my feelings. The way society tells me to. Which is mostly to ignore them.”


Trigger/Content Warnings: death of a family member, multiple sclerosis, Islamophobia, Xenophobia, cultural appropriation, mentions of sexual assault, mentions of war/war victims

The Vegetarian – Han Kang

The Vegetarian was weirdly… engrossing. I think the pacing and the shortness of this book worked well to its advantage. If it were longer, it would’ve been dragging. But then, at the same time, I’m also craving for… more. I have more questions than answers after reading it.

Han Kang’s writing is poetic, piercing, and eerie. It brings to the table the cultural issues surrounding women and their bodies and how ~MEN ARE TRASH~.

I didn’t particularly like nor care for the second part as it was in the view of a disgusting man. It would have worked better if it focused on the two women in the story instead. 

Severance – Ling Ma

I jumped into Severance after seeing people bring it up as one of their TBRs that tackle a plague/epidemic, which, I think, threw me off a bit as I was reading it.

It’s best to think of it as less of a sci-fi post-apocalyptic read — although an epidemic plays a major part in the plot — but more of a modern reflection and commentary on life under capitalism, the monotony of life as a twenty-something riding the tide, as well as the woes and pros of immigrating to America. Best resonates with millennials like me, stuck in this infinite loop of figuring out life and wanting more out of it.

Although the pacing wasn’t something I really enjoyed, I still liked it! Severance is meant to be slowly savored and digested. One of the things I liked about it is how Ling Ma managed to intricately weave the past and the present without making it confusing.

As much as I liked the book, I wasn’t invested in the story as I wanted to be.

Trigger/Content Warnings: Mention of death and losing a loved one, possible drug abuse

This is How You Lose the Time War – Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone

I was at a loss for words when I finished reading this book. A lot of times I got confused about what’s happening because the writing would throw me off. But the writing style was SO poetic, vibrant, evocative, and so beautiful that I just can’t seem to hate it.

The epistolary narration worked really well with the star-crossed lovers/forbidden romance story and I LAPPED IT ALL UP. How can you not love it when you’re thrown these kinds of lines:

* “Words hurt. I can hide in words so long as I can scatter them through my body; to read your letters is to gather flowers from within myself, pluck a blossom here, a fern there, arrange and rearrange them in ways to suit a sunny room.”
* “I love you. I’ll write it in waves. In skies. In my heart. You’ll never see, but you will know. I’ll be all the poets. I’ll kill them all and take each one’s place in turn, and every time love’s written all the strands it will be to you.”
* “Love is what we have, against time and death, against all the powers ranged to crush us down.”

I suggest listening to the audiobook for the extra punch!

Other books I read in May!

Catching Fire (The Hunger Games #2) – Suzanne Collins (re-read)

I decided to re-read the whole series before reading the prequel, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes!

Even after all these years, this series still resonate with me in ways that no other dystopian books can do. The series just keeps getting better and gut-wrenching the more you read. Having forgotten some of the events that took place in the series, it’s often distressing to get to some parts and be reminded of what’s to happen.

I also almost forgot how much I liked Finnick’s character ?? ??

Emergency Skin (Forward) – N.K. Jemisin

Great commentary on the future humans on Earth have if current political, economical, and environmental issues aren’t resolved.

The compelling storytelling and 2nd-person POV worked so well together in delivering the punches in this short story. This just made me more excited to read N.K. Jemisin’s other works!

Emergency Skin, is the second book I read in Amazon’s Original Stories: Forward.

The Kind Worth Killing – Peter Swanson

I was ready to give this 4 out of 5 stars, but my god THE LAST FEW LINES THO!

It’s basically like reading an episode of How To Get Away with Murder – thrilling, entertaining, and scandalous!

It would have been an instant 5 stars for me if some of the events didn’t feel ~too convenient~. If you’re planning to read this book, which you should, don’t dive into it thinking that you’ll predict the twists and ending, because you won’t!

You Have Arrived at Your Destination (Forward) – Amor Towles

Very interesting and futuristic take on genetic engineering! A twenty-first-century fertility lab offers aspiring parents a chance to “nudge” the genetic makeup of their future child, studying a database of generations of Americans that includes their ethnicity, gender, where they were born and raised, religion, etc., in order to predict the child’s future.

Our main character was presented with three “options” in which their future child will have different traits and polarizing ways of life. This some low-key Black Mirror shit and honestly, it won’t be surprising if this kind of technological advancement will be available in the future. But it does sound morally questionable.

If given the opportunity, would you opt for the chance to choose or influence your child’s future?

You Have Arrived at Your Destination is one of the six Amazon Original Stories collection: Forward.

Us – Curtis Wiklund

Short graphic novel that collates the authors everyday snippets of love.

It was lovely seeing Wiklund’s varying art styles and how it worked well to show the mundane yet amazing times spent with a partner.

In the Dark, Soft Earth – Frank Watson

Thank you, Plum White Press, for the advance reader’s copy. This, in any way, does not affect my review of the book.

In the Dark, Soft Earth is as refreshing of a read as it is seductive and enchanting. It is a compilation of poems exploring the beauty of nature, art, love, and self-reflection. Frank Watson manages to passionately paint a picture without overdoing it.

What I like about it is the incorporation of real paintings and even tarot cards as inspiration for his poems. I found that most of the entries I bookmarked and highlighted are mostly the ones about nature infused with romance.

In the Dark, Soft Earth will be released this coming July 7!

The Silent Patient – Alex Michaelides

I had really high expectations for this book. It was one of my most anticipated reads, considering the hype surrounding it. However, it wasn’t as staggering or as amazing as I expected. It had such a S L O W burn pacing which made it really intriguing and unputdownable! I finished this is in a day!

I both saw and didn’t see that TWIST coming. I was starting to put things together and then it hit me so hard shortly after. Still, it wasn’t mindblowing as a whole.

I enjoyed the audiobook mostly because of how the narrators delivered the story. The audiobook included a short interview with the author and one of the things I picked up from there is how he didn’t really initially see The Silent Patient as a psychological thriller, but rather more of a contemporary story. That kinda made sense to me somehow.

Trigger/Content warnings: self-harm, murder, infidelity, mentions of suicidal attempts and abuse

Mockingjay (The Hunger Games #3) – Suzanne Collins (re-read)

Re-reading this as an adult really hits differently, having realized how this is the weakest book in the trilogy, considering some questionable and feeble events in the book. I also realized that I wasn’t particularly fond of Katniss and loved the people around her instead (specifically Finnick, Peeta, and Haymitch). Please don’t mention the name Finnick Odair or I’ll just spiral into despair all over again.

I still loved it, especially the epilogue, nonetheless! The Hunger Games trilogy truly is a legendary masterpiece that transcends time.

Beneath the Dead Oak Tree – Emily Caroll

A short yet equally unflinching and harrowing story with such amazing and vivid artwork! This is making me want to check out more of Emily Carroll’s works!

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes (The Hunger Games #0) – Suzanne Collins

My actual rating is teetering between 2.5 and 3 stars because BOIIIIII this was a SLOOOOOOW RIDE.

• I tried to manage my expectations before diving in because I didn’t really want a Snow villain story in the first place and would’ve preferred to be reading a Haymitch or Finnick spin-off. With that in mind, it still managed to disappoint me. It’s sad because I wanted to LIKE this SO BAD. I was hungry for more THG material, but this shit just didn’t slap lol

• It was interesting and laughable to see the struggles that the privileged Capitol residents face; certainly unlike those barely surviving in the districts, but not without stakes and losses as well.

• Re-reading the trilogy before jumping in the prequel was a good choice because there were some implications and parallels (and familiar characters/names) from the trilogy.

• You are NOT meant to empathize or root for Snow despite this being his “villain story”, learning about his twisted ideals and wicked ways which would eventually lead to his own demise in the future. This book only shows how brilliant yet relentlessly heartless Snow has always been.

• Since it takes place during the 10th year of The Hunger Games, it was a bit interesting to see how vastly different it used to be – lackluster, but just as inhumane.

• I still like Suzanne’s writing though. Not as much as I loved the trilogy because this book is really slow and boring at times. This could’ve been shorter, ma’am. 500 pages are too long!

Trigger/Content Warnings: violence, murder, mentions of cannibalism, abuse, drug addiction, war, and death by poisoning

All Systems Read (The Murderbot Diaries #1) – Martha Wells

An introverted sentient murderbot that would do anything to avoid talking to humans WHILE also wanting to protect them at all costs AND still have time to be a TV series trash? I LOVE IT.

How about you? Did you join the Asian Readathon as well? What books have you read for the month of May?

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