Freedom Swimmer by Wai Chim – A powerful and unforgettable story about daring to dream, bravery, and freedom

Summary:

Ming survived the famine that killed his parents during China’s ‘Great Leap Forward’, and lives a hard but adequate life, working in the fields… When a group of city boys comes to the village as part of a Communist Party re-education program, Ming and his friends aren’t sure what to make of the new arrivals. They’re not used to hard labour and village life. But despite his reservations, Ming befriends a charming city boy called Li. The two couldn’t be more different, but slowly they form a bond over evening swims and shared dreams…But as the bitterness of life under the Party begins to take its toll on both boys, they begin to imagine the impossible: freedom.

My review:

Note: review will discuss themes that may be distressing; tw’s for death and poverty

Before I delve into my high praises for this book, I want you to go into this book review knowing one thing: Freedom Swimmer by Wai Chim was based on the author’s father’s life. I didn’t know this when I read Freedom Swimmer; I only knew when I read the very end. So, knowing this, let me tell you how much I love Freedom Swimmer, and why you and everyone should read one of my top reads of 2017.

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The Paper Menagerie by Ken Liu – At times emotional, at times heart-rendering, and at times horrifying, this book is Asian-inspired SFF at its best

Summary:

With his debut novel, The Grace of Kings, taking the literary world by storm, Ken Liu now shares his finest short fiction in The Paper Menagerie. This mesmerizing collection features all of Ken’s award-winning and award-finalist stories, including: “The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary” (Finalist for the Hugo, Nebula, and Theodore Sturgeon Awards), “Mono No Aware” (Hugo Award winner), “The Waves” (Nebula Award finalist), “The Bookmaking Habits of Select Species” (Nebula and Sturgeon award finalists), “All the Flavors” (Nebula award finalist), “The Litigation Master and the Monkey King” (Nebula Award finalist), and the most awarded story in the genre’s history, “The Paper Menagerie” (The only story to win the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy awards).

My review:

It took me months to read The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories. Not because it was a bore – in fact, far from it. The Paper Menagerie is one of the most affecting books I have ever had the pleasure of reading. Some of the stories hit me so close to home that I had to take long breaks, but it didn’t change how much I loved this short story collection.

The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories is a collection of short stories that explore a plethora of unique and fascinating ideas. Some were speculative fiction, some were fantasy, some had elements of magical realism, but the best part was that most of the stories had Asian protagonists and were centered on Asian mythology and philosophy. There’s something so powerful and validating about reading something that feels important and familiar to me. In that sense, reading The Paper Menagerie was a personal and emotional experience; I have a feeling that, for years to come, The Paper Menagerie will be a book that I hold very close to me.

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Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han – The ending that fans of the series deserved

Summary:

Lara Jean is having the best senior year a girl could ever hope for. She is head over heels in love with her boyfriend, Peter; her dad’s finally getting remarried to their next door neighbor, Ms. Rothschild; and Margot’s coming home for the summer just in time for the wedding.

But change is looming on the horizon. And while Lara Jean is having fun and keeping busy helping plan her father’s wedding, she can’t ignore the big life decisions she has to make. Most pressingly, where she wants to go to college and what that means for her relationship with Peter. She watched her sister Margot go through these growing pains. Now Lara Jean’s the one who’ll be graduating high school and leaving for college and leaving her family—and possibly the boy she loves—behind.

When your heart and your head are saying two different things, which one should you listen to?

My review:

I knew, the first time this book made me cry, that this would be best installment in the trilogy. By the end, I was dead-certain: Always and Forever, Lara Jean was my favourite and, I’d wager to argue, the best book in the trilogy. I loved it immensely.

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Seven Tears at High Tide by C.B. Lee – Want a stress-free read with an adorable romance? This is the book!

Kevin Luong walks to the ocean’s edge with a broken heart. Remembering a legend his mother told him, he lets seven tears fall into the sea. “I just want one summer—one summer to be happy and in love.”

Instead, he finds himself saving a mysterious boy from the Pacific—a boy who later shows up on his doorstep professing his love. What he doesn’t know is that Morgan is a selkie, drawn to answer Kevin’s wish.

As they grow close, Morgan is caught between the dangers of the human world and his legacy in the selkie community to which he must return at summer’s end.

Seven Tears at High Tide has a little bit of everything that makes it so spectacular: a heartmelting and utterly adorable romance, characters that are sweet and lovable, a mixed family with one of the most lovely dynamics I have ever read, and selkie mythology with a twist. Not convinced quite yet? Let me tell you more.

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Exo by Fonda Lee – What if Earth was invaded and colonized by aliens? This sci-fi offers a fantastic, nuanced glimpse

Summary:

It’s been a century of peace since Earth became a colony of an alien race with far reaches into the galaxy. Some die-hard extremists still oppose alien rule on Earth, but Donovan Reyes isn’t one of them. His dad holds the prestigious position of Prime Liaison in the collaborationist government, and Donovan’s high social standing along with his exocel (a remarkable alien technology fused to his body) guarantee him a bright future in the security forces. That is, until a routine patrol goes awry and Donovan’s abducted by the human revolutionary group Sapience, determined to end alien control.

When Sapience realizes whose son Donovan is, they think they’ve found the ultimate bargaining chip . But the Prime Liaison doesn’t negotiate with terrorists, not even for his own son. Left in the hands of terrorists who have more uses for him dead than alive, the fate of Earth rests on Donovan’s survival. Because if Sapience kills him, it could spark another intergalactic war. And Earth didn’t win the last one . . .

My review:

While reading, Exo by Fonda Lee, I just kept thinking, ‘Finally. FINALLY.’

Finally, a young adult dystopian/science-fiction novel with a writer that understands the nuances and complexities of colonialism and oppression. Finally, a story that isn’t just about the suppression of individualistic expression and calling it oppression, but a story that understands that oppression is systemic, involves power, and is more than about teens spearheading a revolution for the sake of plot and action. Finally, a book that has delivered a very nuanced story that shows that systemic oppression and overcoming it is not simple, but can be morally grey.

For this reason alone, I loved Exo instantly.

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