Wow. It’s nearly the middle of the year and I’ve all but neglected my #YARC2019 updates. Though, in my defense, most of my in-depth book reviews are Asian books so that’s… something.
Anyway! My latest book count for #YARC2019 is 11 books. It’s not bad, per se, but seeing as my goal is a minimum of 31 Asian books before the year ends, I’m kind of falling behind. However, I like to think that the few books that I have read for this challenge have been mostly spectacular. I mean, with the exception of Kendare Blake’s Three Dark Crowns – which I really picked apart in my most recent Book Talk – I’ve been really enjoying this reading challenge. I’ve read books that I typically would have shelved for “another day” (read as: “a couple of years from now, give or take”). It’s nice to have an added encouragement.
This #YARC2019 update/bulk of book reviews is mostly me giddily fangirling for these awesome Asian books that I recently read. It really is starting to seem like this is gonna be a great reading year for me.
Detective Boys of Masangkay by Bernalyn Hapin Sastrillo
Note: This middle grade book is written in Filipino and I’m not really sure if there’s an English translation available.
Suspicious things start happening in the normally quiet neighborhood of Brgy. Masangkay – pets go missing, clothes are stolen, and fighting fowls fall dead. The Detective Boys of Masangkay know that these seemingly unconnected mysteries lead to a bigger and more dangerous plot by the old mangkukulam (witch).
This book really charmed the heck out of my cold and cynical twenty-something-year-old heart. It’s just so cute and so clever. Much like with most mystery stories aimed at a younger audience, the stakes were pretty low for majority of the book. But, because the story is in the perspective of the kids, everything is treated seriously. The book frames these childish escapades through the sensible eyes of an adult but with the wholeheartedness of a child so you can understand why these young characters would feel so strongly about what we adults wouldn’t even think about. It’s really sweet. Moreover, all of the characters were colorful and three-dimensional as well so I genuinely felt like I knew them.
Another thing that I loved about this book is how well it captured what it’s like being a kid with way too much free time in the summer. This book really lets you feel that sweet carefree summer days where anything is possible if only you had enough money for jeepney fare and permission from your parents.
If you can, I highly recommend reading this book. It’s an enjoyable read and I can’t wait for the next books in the series.
The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi
At the beginning of the year, my Twitter timeline was bombarded with so much hype for The Gilded Wolves that I knew I had to read it as soon as I could. The book was about the famed treasure hunter and disinherited aristocrat, Severin, and his team of highly skilled individuals searching for an ancient artifact that could end the civilized world as they know it. Although I knew that this book had a gorgeous and intricate fantasy world, combining the glitz and glam of industrial revolution Paris with the mysterious magic of forging, I was still surprised at how taken I was with this book’s world. It was all just so beautiful.
Of course, the beauty of 19th century Paris also had some seriously dark undertones regarding racial and social issues that, unfortunately, still plague the world today. This book tackled the prejudice minorities had to endure in that era and it really gave this fantasy adventure more depth. As the author wrote in the author’s notes at the end, it’s difficult to imagine that all that pain and suffering was hidden in plain sight at a time when science and culture was thriving. But the reality is that it was present and it’s important to talk about it rather than just focus on the glitter and gold. No wonder so many people adored this book.
The sequel is slated for publication sometime in 2020 and I for one can’t wait.
Starswept by Mary Fan
I don’t know if I said this before on my blog but I’m not really a big fan of space operas. For me, space feels too vast and incomprehensible. However, this year I’ve decided to read more sci-fi and, as a result, more space operas so I could widen my horizon. Starswept was my first sci-fi book of the year and honestly I could not have gotten a more perfect introduction to the genre if I tried.
Set in a future where Earth is on the brink of destruction with only the advanced alien technology of the Adryils making the world bearable, Starswept tells a complex tale of art, capitalism, corruption, and love across the stars. In the book, the only profession that can get you a shot at escaping systemic poverty is the performing arts because the Adryils, for all their tech and telepathy, can’t express themselves through art so they pay huge amounts of money for musicians and performers. The main character, Iris, is a violist who only wants to be hired by these aliens and possibly see her mother again. The premise of this book was enough to grab my attention and the combination of music and alien tech kept me riveted.
The only thing that kept me from giving this book a full five stars was that I felt that the last quarter of the book was a bit rushed. But I do realize that, because this is the first in the series, this book had to do a lot – set up the world and the lore, introduce important characters, hint at the bigger story – so I can understand why it seemed to wrap things up so quickly. I’m definitely going to keep an eye out for the next book.
That’s all for now, I guess. I really need to up my game if I want to earn that Giant Panda badge (31-40 books). At this rate, I’ve only just passed the Philippine Tarsier badge (1-10 books) and while I love that adorable primate, I want more. Hopefully, I’ll get it together now that 2019 is almost at its halfway mark. I have to.