#YARC2019 Book Reviews: Smaller and Smaller Circles | Jade City | A Line in the Dark

In one of my most recent posts, I said that I’m going to be doing the Year of the Asian Reading Challenge with the goal of 30-40 books by the end of the year. It’s been more than a week into the second month of 2019 and I’ve only read three. After doing some quick calculations, at this rate I’m going to be ending the year with a couple of books short of reaching the minimum and, ultimately, fail the challenge. And if there’s one thing us Asians fear the most, it’s failure 😭

I’m currently loading up on more Asian books to avoid such a dark fate but, in the meantime, I feel like I should talk about the books that I have read. I’m thinking of writing these mini-reviews every month or whatever. It’ll be like killing two birds with one stone – I get to write more book reviews (which, weirdly enough, I rarely do unless the book is super good or disastrously bad) and I can have somewhat regular #YARC2019 update post.

I was lucky enough to have started the challenge with a spectacular and thought-provoking murder mystery, Smaller and Smaller Circles by F.H. Batacan, followed by an epic crime family drama with a fantastical twist, Jade City by Fonda Lee, and, just recently finished a YA contemporary that I have mixed feelings about, A Line in the Dark by Malinda Lo.

Smaller and Smaller Circles by F.H. Batacan

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The first time I heard about this book was when the movie adaptation came out. I meant to watch it in the cinema but couldn’t find the time. Which, after reading the book, I seriously regret because DAMN this book was good. And the trailer for the movie looks incredible too. I kick myself every day for having missed that chance.

Anyway. Smaller and Smaller Circles is one of the very few murder mystery novels written by a Filipino author and set in modern-day Philippines. It’s a very atmospheric read that tackled relevant issues and sensitive topics with great empathy, which I really appreciated. The story had unconventional leads too: two Jesuit priests, who both had unique voices and fascinating personalities.

I cannot recommend this book enough. Whether you’re a Filipino or not, this is definitely a thought-provoking murder mystery worth getting lost in.

Jade City by Fonda Lee

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Man, the hype is real with this book. I’ve heard nothing but praise for Jade City but I still didn’t expect that. I literally stayed up past midnight to finish the book because there was no way I was going to get any sleep after all that went down.

The world of this Jade City just felt so real. The details were colorful and vivid. While I don’t think I’d want to go to Kekon – I doubt I’d survive a day without offending one of the clans – I’d love to learn more about its history. I guess I feel that way because it reminds me a little bit of Philippine history which saw a lot of rebel groups hiding deep in the mountains to fight back against foreign invaders.

The only reason why I gave this book 4 stars instead of a perfect 5 was because it kind of took some time to get going. Of course once it did it was a wild ride that I had to constantly take a break from to catch my breath. I can’t wait for the sequel!

A Line in the Dark by Malinda Lo

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I’ve only read one other Malinda Lo book before and that was way back in 2012. The book was Ash, a Cinderella re-telling with lesbians. It was nice and sweet, albeit really slow paced. A Line in the Dark, on the other hand, was a YA contemporary with dark undertones so I assumed it would have more of an urgency in terms of the pacing instead of taking its sweet time laying out the story. Turns out I was wrong.

I skimmed a few reviews of this book before reading it and majority said that they felt rather disappointed with the story. It wasn’t as dark and twisted as it was aggressively marketed as. I don’t blame the author, of course, since she probably had no say in that area but I just can’t help but feel like the publishing company kind of pandered to its audience. There has been a demand for darker stories in YA over the past years. Unfortunately, A Line in the Dark isn’t that. In fact it was more like a slow burn with a sharp turn to a murder mystery halfway through. And, honestly, it just felt very inconsistent and jarring.

Overall, I didn’t hate this book but I just couldn’t rate it higher than 3 stars because it didn’t seem to know what it wants to be. If you’re looking for angsty lesbians, you might like A Line in the Dark but if you’re looking for something akin to Mean Girls but as a psychological thriller… well, don’t expect too much.


That’s it for this round of Asian book reviews! I know it isn’t much but I’m… trying. Struggling, more like.

I’m going to pick up Rin Chupeco’s Heart Forger sometime next week and will (hopefully) make a Sequel Sunday post out of it. Apparently, there’s gonna be an LGBT romance in that book and if it’s who I think it is, I’M GIDDY WITH EXCITEMENT.

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