(aka Bianca needs to pick from her 2019 reads so it can actually be a realistic goal)
2019 is slating to become a big year for me. I can already feel it in my bones that it will definitely be one heck of a year. The same sentiment can be said for all of the amazing and various books slated to come out this year. For some reason, it seems like the bookish gods agreed to drop releases that are sure to make me all fired up. Alas, I am but a fangirl with limits. I am aware that I am not the fastest reader out there. So I want to be a girl with a plan; if I specifically put my energy on these books then I will be able to promote them efficiently and effectively. After all, they are the crème de la crème out of all the to-be released books on the first half of my 2019 radar. There is this eerie feeling in my bones that draws me to these books. To be quite honest, some of them seem to already scream “Pick me! Pick me! You know you’ll love me.” I mean, how can I say no to that?
This is a realistic version of myself speaking. Also since we are going at it: yes, the covers made an impact on the decision making process. I can’t resist a good cover, okay? Yes, I included links because I’m extra like that. Yes, this is listed by release date. AND YES, I am aware that this list consists of Asian releases because I am officially joining the Year of the Asian reading challenge hosted by Shealea at Shut Up, Shealea, CW at The Quiet Pond, Vicky at Vicky Who Reads, and Lily at Sprinkles of Dreams. It is a year-long reading challenge where to goal is to read as many books as you can written by Asian authors. Sounds fun, right? (If you want to know more about the reading challenge, the blogs are linked to the host’s official sign-ups and more can be found on their official Twitter.) I’m actually aiming for the lowest badge for this challenge, which is the Philippine Tarsier, equivalent of reading 1 – 10 books. I mean, it’s a great place to start. Quite honestly, earning this tarsier already warms my heart.
I am also hyper aware that it is already March. It is still just the first quarter so who is keeping tabs? *nervous laughs* With that in mind, here are the top ten books that I would love to read and feature on my blog for the first half of 2019.
The Weight of Our Sky by Hanna Alkaf
Release Date: February 5, 2019
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A music-loving teen with OCD does everything she can to find her way back to her mother during the historic race riots in 1969 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in this heart-pounding literary debut.
Melati Ahmad looks like your typical moviegoing, Beatles-obsessed sixteen-year-old. Unlike most other sixteen-year-olds though, Mel also believes that she harbors a djinn inside her, one who threatens her with horrific images of her mother’s death unless she adheres to an elaborate ritual of counting and tapping to keep him satisfied.
But there are things that Melati can’t protect her mother from. On the evening of May 13th, 1969, racial tensions in her home city of Kuala Lumpur boil over. The Chinese and Malays are at war, and Mel and her mother become separated by a city in flames.
With a 24-hour curfew in place and all lines of communication down, it will take the help of a Chinese boy named Vincent and all of the courage and grit in Melati’s arsenal to overcome the violence on the streets, her own prejudices, and her djinn’s surging power to make it back to the one person she can’t risk losing.
Why I want to feature it: A Southeast Asian historical fiction? YES PLEASE. I am genuinely sad that this book almost slipped my radar in 2018. Luckily, even readers who do not usually go for historical fiction were raving about this book endlessly. I believe that it is a very important with all of the topics that it has under its belt, and I am drawn to books like that. It has all the elements that I want in a book, and even with the content warnings, I want to wholeheartedly embrace it. Now that it is officially released, I’m hoping to get myself a copy. In the hopes of staying optimistic, this better be released in our local bookstores soon.
Descendant of the Crane by Joan He
Release Date: April 2, 2019
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Tyrants cut out hearts. Rulers sacrifice their own
Princess Hesina of Yan has always been eager to shirk the responsibilities of the crown, but when her beloved father is murdered, she’s thrust into power, suddenly the queen of an unstable kingdom. Determined to find her father’s killer, Hesina does something desperate: she engages the aid of a soothsayer—a treasonous act, punishable by death… because in Yan, magic was outlawed centuries ago.
Using the information illicitly provided by the sooth, and uncertain if she can trust even her family, Hesina turns to Akira—a brilliant and alluring investigator who’s also a convicted criminal with secrets of his own. With the future of her kingdom at stake, can Hesina find justice for her father? Or will the cost be too high?
In this shimmering Chinese-inspired fantasy, debut author Joan He introduces a determined and vulnerable young heroine struggling to do right in a world brimming with deception.
Why I want to feature it: Full disclosure, it was the cover and the title that hooked me in. When I saw it, I was on that high from Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix and Empress of All Seasons. I’m still craving for good fantasy stories, so I’m really stoked to read about Joan He’s take on a tale ala Game of Thrones. Granted, I am not really into that kind of high level fantasy, but I am always open to reading out of my comfort zone to what seems to be such a promising read.
Side note and progress tracker: This is the first book that I have successfully requested from Edelweiss. I swear, the bookish gods are onto something. I’m also a few pages in and it has definitely made my morning commute far more interesting.
Somewhere Only We Know by Maurene Goo
Release Date: May 7, 2019
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10 00 p.m.: Lucky is the biggest K-pop star on the scene, and she’s just performed her hit song “Heartbeat” in Hong Kong to thousands of adoring fans. She’s about to debut on The Tonight Show in America, hopefully a breakout performance for her career. But right now? She’s in her fancy hotel, trying to fall asleep but dying for a hamburger.
11 00 p.m.: Jack is sneaking into a fancy hotel, on assignment for his tabloid job that he keeps secret from his parents. On his way out of the hotel, he runs into a girl wearing slippers, a girl who is single-mindedly determined to find a hamburger. She looks kind of familiar. She’s very cute. He’s maybe curious.
12:00 a.m.: Nothing will ever be the same.
Why I want to feature it: I simply adored Maurene Goo’s The Way You Make Me Feel in 2018. There is a certain appeal to her writing style and character dynamics that hook me in, and those aspects are what I’m anticipating to read. Maybe this is the closet K-drama admirer in me, but these types of stories always manage to hook me in a heartbeat. (Also, I know the main guy Jack is cropped on the cover. But believe me when I say that girls will go head-over-heels for him and they will demand an uncropped version. Call me out, but I’m betting a dollar on it.)
The Candle and the Flame by Nafiza Azad
Release Date: May 14, 2019
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Fatima lives in the city of Noor, a thriving stop along the Silk Road. There the music of myriad languages fills the air, and people of all faiths weave their lives together. However, the city bears scars of its recent past, when the chaotic tribe of Shayateen djinn slaughtered its entire population — except for Fatima and two other humans. Now ruled by a new maharajah, Noor is protected from the Shayateen by the Ifrit, djinn of order and reason, and by their commander, Zulfikar.
But when one of the most potent of the Ifrit dies, Fatima is changed in ways she cannot fathom, ways that scare even those who love her. Oud in hand, Fatima is drawn into the intrigues of the maharajah and his sister, the affairs of Zulfikar and the djinn, and the dangers of a magical battlefield.
Nafiza Azad weaves an immersive tale of magic and the importance of names; fiercely independent women; and, perhaps most importantly, the work for harmony within a city of a thousand cultures and cadences.
Why I want to feature it: Again, despite the fantasy setting, I am down to read anything that has a historical ring to it. Color me a hopeless romantic, but these kinds of novels are worth screaming about every single time. The promise of an immersive tale? I’m simply sold. (Can we also talk about that cover and how I badly want to make it move?? I’m crying and I am dying. It would look so badass!)
Girl Gone Viral by Arvin Ahmadi
Release Date: May 21, 2019
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The inventive and hauntingly timely story of a seventeen-year-old coder’s catapult to stardom, reminiscent of The Social Network with a Ready Player One twist.
For seventeen-year-old Opal Hopper, code is magic. She builds entire worlds from scratch: Mars craters, shimmering lakes, any virtual experience her heart desires.
But she can’t code her dad back into her life. When he disappeared after her tenth birthday, leaving only a cryptic note, Opal tried desperately to find him. And when he never turned up, she enrolled at a boarding school for technical prodigies and tried to forget.
Until now. Because WAVE, the world’s biggest virtual reality platform, has announced a contest where the winner gets to meet its billionaire founder. The same billionaire who worked closely with Opal’s dad. The one she always believed might know where he went. The one who maybe even murdered him.
What begins as a small data hack to win the contest spirals out of control when Opal goes viral, digging her deeper into a hole of lies, hacks, and manipulation. How far will Opal go for the answers–or is it the attention–she’s wanted for years?
Why I want to feature it: I fell into a wonderful wonderland after reading Arvin’s debut novel Down and Across. It was love at first read, and the lingering thought of Scott Ferdowsi’s journey to DC to find his grit still makes me smile. It cemented the fact that I will probably read anything from Arvin, even his grocery list. Kidding aside, as a former student of technology, I would not want to pass up on a YA offering that deals with virtual and augmented reality. This is my jam. All this talk about an inevitable distant future is thrilling and exciting, and I’m here for it. If I missed out on Opal’s story… well, I wouldn’t dream of doing so.
Side note and progress tracker: It looks like I can count this as my first official read upon joining the challenge! GUYS, I kid you not this book delivered and my mind is juggling to find words. HOW IS MAY STILL SO FAR? I’M DYING TO DISCUSS.
Stronger Than A Bronze Dragon by Mary Fan
Release Date: June 11, 2019
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When a powerful viceroy arrives with a fleet of mechanical dragons and stops an attack on Anlei’s village, the villagers see him as a godsend. They agree to give him their sacred, enchanted River Pearl in exchange for permanent protection—if he’ll marry one of the village girls to solidify the alliance. Anlei is appalled when the viceroy selects her as a bride, but with the fate of her people at stake, she sees no choice but to consent. Anlei’s noble plans are sent into a tailspin, however, when a young thief steals the River Pearl for himself.
Knowing the viceroy won’t protect her village without the jewel, she takes matters into her own hands. But once she catches the thief, she discovers he needs the pearl just as much as she does. The two embark on an epic quest across the land and into the Courts of Hell, taking Anlei on a journey that reveals more is at stake than she could have ever imagined.
With incredibly vivid world building and fast-paced storytelling, Stronger Than a Bronze Dragon is great for readers who are looking for something fresh in epic fantasy.
Why I want to feature it: Something fresh in an epic fantasy? Alright, I’m sold! It’s easy as 1, 2, 3 to get me on board with this story. What’s not to love about mechanical dragons and yet another historical setting? What I am saying basically is that, “I am trash. This story makes my eyes light up. Please, I just want to read all the Asian lit this 2019.”
Side note and progress tracker: I got approved to join the international blog tour for this book! Call me a lucky shittake mushroom, but heck! I’m so happy to be able to be given the opportunity to feature it!
Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay
Release Date: June 18, 2019
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A powerful coming-of-age story about grief, guilt, and the risks a Filipino-American teenager takes to uncover the truth about his cousin’s murder.
Jay Reguero plans to spend the last semester of his senior year playing video games before heading to the University of Michigan in the fall. But when he discovers that his Filipino cousin Jun was murdered as part of President Duterte’s war on drugs, and no one in the family wants to talk about what happened, Jay travels to the Philippines to find out the real story.
Hoping to uncover more about Jun and the events that led to his death, Jay is forced to reckon with the many sides of his cousin before he can face the whole horrible truth — and the part he played in it.
As gripping as it is lyrical, Patron Saints of Nothing is a page-turning portrayal of the struggle to reconcile faith, family, and immigrant identity.
Why I want to feature it: For one, I want to support Randy Ribay and I want this book to be so gosh-darn successful. Second, it takes guts to even publish something like this because it is not everyday that we get a book like this. There was once a time in our country that a book like this could have led to serious consequences. And lastly, honestly I wish that the synopsis of this book is only half-true – but it’s not. A war on drugs is happening in my country. The mere mention of extrajudicial killings is already a heavy topic in on itself and it is a severe issue that needs to be addressed. For a book to tackle the subject is something we need to read right now, even if stories similar to the death Jay’s cousin Jun is all over the news. You see how important this book is, right?
Side note and progress tracker: We are all in. The flames are hot and animated. The reading will commence soon! We are ready to roll.
Wicked Fox by Kat Cho
Release Date: June 25, 2019
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A fresh and addictive fantasy-romance set in modern-day Seoul.
No one in modern-day Seoul believes in the old fables anymore, which makes it the perfect place for Gu Miyoung and her mother to hide in plain sight. Miyoung is a Gumiho, a nine-tailed fox, who must eat the souls of men to survive. She feeds every full moon—eating the souls of men who have committed crimes, but have evaded justice. Her life is upended when she kills a dokkaebi, a murderous goblin, in the forest just to save the life of a human boy. But after Miyoung saves Jihoon’s life, the two develop a tenuous friendship that blooms into romance forcing Miyoung to choose between her immortal life and Jihoon’s.
Why I want to feature it: It has been so long since I watched and adored Korean dramas. Specifically, it is My Girlfriend is A Gumiho, which I absolutely fell in love with. With this particular novel coming, I believe it’s time to rekindle that specific spark I had with the magnificent being. The elements are there: a gumiho, a young boy, and a friendship that promises to blossom into a romance. There is just so much excitement in the air and I cannot wait to love this book wholeheartedly.
Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim
Release Date: July 30, 2019
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Project Runway meets Mulan in this sweeping YA fantasy about a young girl who poses as a boy to compete for the role of imperial tailor and embarks on an impossible journey to sew three magic dresses, from the sun, the moon, and the stars.
Maia Tamarin dreams of becoming the greatest tailor in the land, but as a girl, the best she can hope for is to marry well. When a royal messenger summons her ailing father, once a tailor of renown, to court, Maia poses as a boy and takes his place. She knows her life is forfeit if her secret is discovered, but she’ll take that risk to achieve her dream and save her family from ruin. There’s just one catch: Maia is one of twelve tailors vying for the job.
Backstabbing and lies run rampant as the tailors compete in challenges to prove their artistry and skill. Maia’s task is further complicated when she draws the attention of the court magician, Edan, whose piercing eyes seem to see straight through her disguise.
And nothing could have prepared her for the final challenge: to sew three magic gowns for the emperor’s reluctant bride-to-be, from the laughter of the sun, the tears of the moon, and the blood of stars. With this impossible task before her, she embarks on a journey to the far reaches of the kingdom, seeking the sun, the moon, and the stars, and finding more than she ever could have imagined.
Why I want to feature it: The minute I saw Mulan paired with that gorgeous cover, there was no question. This book will be the cause of many emotions to spur. I mean come on, how cool is this? How can I not pick it up? I’m already speechless with how it has presented itself. The MC herself looks so badass and downright ready to blow everyone in court away.
*melts into a puddle because what are words*
My Fate According to the Butterfly by Gail D. Villanueva
Release Date: July 30, 2019
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Superstitious soon-to-be 11-year-old Sab believes her fate is sealed when she spots an ominous black butterfly. Determined to reconcile her journalist older sister and their father before her time is up, Sab embarks on a quest that sends her on a collision course with the realities of Manila and the war on drugs.
Why I want to feature it: Since reading Everlasting Nora last year, I feel pretty confident that seeing Filipino characters in the novel makes me feel more at ease to read middle grade novels. Growing up, I wanted these books for myself. Now with this book dawning upon us, the happy kid inside me is bursting with joy. Not only does it feature a Filipino girl on the cover, but it also tackles important issues etched in the country and the particular city that I live in. I will never tire of supporting novels made with heart.
Okay now I feel like I should add more but I really need to be realistic. Ten is actually still a stretch – not unless some sort of speed-reading deity entered my body. The possibilities aside, I can only hope to read and support the wonderful and awesome books on this list. We already share a certain connection, and I really would love to read all of these lovely books. I know we’re still early on into 2019, so anything can happen.