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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The Tiger’s Watch by Julie Ember – Brimming with fantastic ideas but ultimately underdeveloped

Summary:

Sixteen-year-old Tashi has spent their life training as a inhabitor, a soldier who spies and kills using a bonded animal. When the capital falls after a brutal siege, Tashi flees to a remote monastery to hide. But the invading army turns the monastery into a hospital, and Tashi catches the eye of Xian, the regiment’s fearless young commander.

Tashi spies on Xian’s every move. In front of his men, Xian seems dangerous, even sadistic, but Tashi discovers a more vulnerable side of the enemy commander—a side that draws them to Xian.

When their spying unveils that everything they’ve been taught is a lie, Tashi faces an impossible choice: save their country or the boy they’re growing to love. Though Tashi grapples with their decision, their volatile bonded tiger doesn’t question her allegiances. Katala slaughters Xian’s soldiers, leading the enemy to hunt her. But an inhabitor’s bond to their animal is for life—if Katala dies, so will Tashi.

I received a copy from the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

My review:

For a book that boasts a fantastic premise with very needed representation, I was excited to read this book and I was ready to love it. Unfortunately though, I am sad to say that I was a little disappointed by The Tiger’s Watch. I have such mixed feelings about this book too, but I’ll do my best to articulate them all.

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Carry On by Rainbow Rowell – Cute, shippy, nostalgic… but what else is there?

Summary:

Simon Snow is the worst chosen one who’s ever been chosen.

That’s what his roommate, Baz, says. And Baz might be evil and a vampire and a complete git, but he’s probably right.

Half the time, Simon can’t even make his wand work, and the other half, he sets something on fire. His mentor’s avoiding him, his girlfriend broke up with him, and there’s a magic-eating monster running around wearing Simon’s face. Baz would be having a field day with all this, if he were here—it’s their last year at the Watford School of Magicks, and Simon’s infuriating nemesis didn’t even bother to show up.

Carry On is a ghost story, a love story, a mystery and a melodrama. It has just as much kissing and talking as you’d expect from a Rainbow Rowell story—but far, far more monsters.

My review:

Carry On is the sort of book that either works for you, or it doesn’t. I don’t like to describe books using such rigid polarity, but I’ve never seen it more true for any other book.

For me, I unfortunately fall into the latter category; Carry On did not work for me. I, like a few others, just did not get it. I appreciate what fanfiction does and achieves – such as exploring the plethora of potential and possibilities of a given story and its characters. I tried very hard to understand the appeal of this book, tried very hard to find its merits, but the problem is: fanfiction it may be, but Carry On was just not a good story.

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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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The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F.C. Yee – Chinese folklore + A protagonist that slays schoolwork AND demons = My new favourite book

Summary:

The struggle to get into a top-tier college consumes sixteen-year-old Genie Lo’s every waking thought. But when her sleepy Bay Area town comes under siege from hell-spawn straight out of Chinese folklore, her priorities are suddenly and forcefully rearranged.

Her only guide to the demonic chaos breaking out around her is Quentin Sun, a beguiling, maddening new transfer student from overseas. Quentin assures Genie she is strong enough to fight these monsters, for she unknowingly harbors an inner power that can level the very gates of Heaven.

Genie will have to dig deep within herself to summon the otherworldly strength that Quentin keeps talking about. But as she does, she finds the secret of her true nature is entwined with his, in a way she could never have imagined…

I received a copy from the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

My review:

After finishing this bookI thought to myself, certain as hell: No book has never EVER made me this happy. Do you know those books where you felt like it was written for you? The Epic Crush of Genie Lo felt like that book for me. Yes, The Epic Crush of Genie Lo is my new favourite book! But not as in, five star tier favourite. I’m talking about, forever in my heart tier of favourite (I even made a Goodreads shelf for this).

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