6 Pieces of Advice that’ll Get People to Follow Your Blog!! (coming from someone who’s picky about who she follows)

So… I have had this blog for six months now. My first ever post on this blog went live on February 26th, 2019, and August 26th is my six month blogiversary. I’m celebrating (slightly) in advance!

It took me a while to find my footing and figure out what I actually wanted to do with my blog. But when I started taking blogging seriously and figuring out what I wanted from blogging, I had the best time.

I’ve had a lot of hobbies in the past–and tried to have a lot of hobbies–but none have stuck except reading, and now, book blogging. (The former stuck because of the latter.) People usually ask me how I manage to post so much whilst having school, and a big part of the reason why is because I love blogging. There’s a certain joy in drafting, formatting and editing a post I love, only for people to love it as well.

I have no words for how excited I am to continue blogging. The past six months have been great. I’m happy with what I’ve accomplished, but I know that I want to do more things, and I’m so excited to do them…. Actually, one of those things is to write an advice post.

Advice posts are incredibly fun to read, and most of the time, I find myself agreeing with what the blogger is saying. Plus, they are obviously really helpful, so today I’m gonna try my hand at writing them!

By the way, this is only part one of two advice posts coming to you this week. I was originally planning on writing one gigantic post, but then I realized that there were two core parts to it. Obviously, the first part is about how to get people to follow your blog. You’ll just have to wait and see about the second part.

Reply to Comments

I completely understand that some people out there don’t have the time or energy to reply to comments, and that everyone’s circumstances are different. At the end of the day, it’s your blog and you can do what you want with it. You don’t owe your viewers anything you don’t want to give.

But it’s way better if you take the time to reply to comments, no matter how late you are. (No one will mind, trust me.) When a blogger replies to their comments, my love and respect for them grows twofold, because it takes a lot of time and effort to reply to comments. I recently came back from a week of not replying to comments because of exams, and it took me hours to catch up on my comments.

Sometimes you just want to like a comment, or simply reply with “Thank you!!,” but I advice against doing this. When I write comments, and (probably) when other people do, I want to start a discussion, and it’s a little weird when the blogger doesn’t respond in turn. It’s like unboxing a package that just arrived at your house–only to find that it’s empty.

empty like my wallet

I don’t mean that you have to write a three paragraph reply to a three paragraph comment, but I like it when a blogger engages with my thoughts. Bloggers who do this really well are Xandra @ Starry Sky BooksBrittany @ Brittany the Book GuruMay @ Forever and Everly, and Marie @ Drizzle and Hurricane Books, just to name a few.

Have a nice blog aesthetic

I cannot stress how important blog aesthetic is!! Unless someone is viewing your site from their reader, which I don’t like doing because I want to see everyone’s beautiful blogs, your blog aesthetic is the first thing they’ll see. And no matter how good or well written your posts are, they’ll probably click away if your blog is, well, ugly.

Moreover, blog aesthetic, for me, indicates professionalism. We can’t all be Kat @ Novels and Waffles, but not to worry–literally anyone can have a blog aesthetic that won’t scare people off! May @ Forever and Everly wrote this amazing guide to blog design that covers all the basics of making your blog look pretty.

Everything you need to know is in her post, but for me, the most important thing to remember when designing a blog is consistency. When your color scheme and graphics start to clash, it’s sure to turn people away from your blog.

Write discussion and advice posts

One of the biggest mistakes I made as a newbie was thinking that I couldn’t write discussion posts. I thought that every topic under the sun had already been discussed, and that my opinions weren’t strong enough. Sure, every topic has already been discussed, but trust me when I say that there’s no harm in adding your own perspective on the topic.

You can literally come up with any topic and discuss it. I don’t think it necessarily has to be a topic you’re incredibly passionate about. It just has to be a topic that you can come up with different pros and cons for. An example of an excellent discussion that utilizes pros and cons is Olivia @ Purely Olivia’s discussion on the controversy of hyped books.

As an alternative to pros and cons, you could also list stuff. For example, I wrote a post about why bloggers care about their statistics, and in that post, I listed a bunch of reasons why bloggers would potentially care about their stats, and then expounded on them one by one. (Yes, I’m self-promoting. Shhhhhh.)

But even though I said that you don’t necessarily have to be incredibly passionate about the topic you’re discussing, you should at least have an opinion on it and state it in your blog post. After you’re done listing pros and cons, or listing a bunch of points related to the topic, it’s best to end with you own opinion on the matter. Try to bring a piece of yourself into each of your posts. It’s what makes people have fun reading your blog and engaging with your content.

If you’re stuck on topics to write about, Xandra @ Starry Sky Books wrote a list of discussion topics she’d like to read from you–free discussion prompts for everybody!

I also recommend that you write an advice post at least once in your blogging career. Advice posts and discussions usually have very clickable titles, and people are more inclined to comment on them.

Xandra @ Starry Sky Books recently wrote an advice post that I adore on four things about blogging that seem scary, but actually aren’t. May @ Forever and Everly is also the best at writing advice posts. I already shared her guide to making your blog look pretty above, but other advice posts I love from her are her posts on how to get people to comment on your blog and things you shouldn’t feel guilty about as a blogger.

If you’re stuck on what exactly to give advice on, just write about something that you’ve gained wisdom on as a blogger and/or reader. Off the top of my head, some advice post prompts are–how to leave comments on people’s blogs, how to find audiobooks, and how to post more consistently. (Feel free to use any of these!)

Ultimately, I probably won’t follow a blog if the blogger doesn’t post advice posts and/or discussions–or if I do, that blog won’t become my favorite. These types of posts are incredibly fun to read, and they are more likely to get traffic. That being said, reviews, tags, TBRs, lists, and, of course, the god tier of generic posts, wrap-ups, are important too. Any blog that has the right balance of all of these posts will probably become a favorite of mine.

Post consistently

I don’t know about you, but I probably won’t follow someone with a sporadic posting schedule. I mean, what’s the point?

Usually, the more frequently you post, the more growth and traffic you’ll get, but it’s different for everyone. My advice would simply be to post at least once a week.

Cultivate your blogging voice

A blogging voice is, in short, how you write your posts, but for me, it is what differentiates you from other blogs. Writing-wise, one of my favorites is Rain @ bookdragonism. Her voice is incredibly distinct, and reading her posts always makes me want to unleash my inner dragon.

The best way to find your writing voice is to just be yourself. Generic advice, I know, but your voice will refine as you post more and more.

But, as I mentioned above, your blogging voice doesn’t just encompass how you write a post, but also how you format it. Do you include gifs? Do you make your font different sizes? I recommend doing these things because they make your posts a little more fun. This is the first post of mine where I’ve employed these two things, and it won’t be the last!!

Because I don’t think I did a good enough job of defining a blogging voice, Marie @ Drizzle and Hurricane Books wrote an incredibly helpful discussion on what a blogging voice is and how to find it. More recently, she wrote this wonderful post on how to give your blog posts that extra spark. Giving your blog posts that extra spark perfectly sums up what a blogging voice is for.

Comment on other blogs (blog hop)

Yes, I just wrote a semi-rant about blog hopping, but as I said in that post, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t blog hop. Blog hopping is such a great way to build an audience and make friends.

In my half a year in the blogosphere, I’ve noticed that most book bloggers’ followers are book bloggers themselves. It’s a small community, so it’s important to find each other. But you shouldn’t wait for other bloggers to find you. Comment on other blogs and see which ones notice your existence.

I’d recommend following and commenting on big book blogs first. They probably won’t follow back immediately, and it’ll take a while for them to get to your comments because they have a large audience, but following them will give you an idea of what it is that makes people follow blogs.

A lot of people also lurk in their comment sections, so people will probably wonder why they keep seeing your name and avatar everywhere, and then proceed to check you out. Also, it’s better to follow the people who you always see in comment sections. You already know that these blogs are big on blog hopping, so comment on their blogs and see if they’ll comment on yours too.

Now, this is a touchy subject because I don’t want to reinforce the idea that blog hopping is something that’s purely for stats. My stand on the topic is that you should blog hop to build an audience and make friends, but when it gets to the point that you only support people if they support you, it’s time to rethink things.

Also, while commenting, please show that you actually read the post. The easiest way to do this is to make your comment more than two or three sentences long, and to share your thoughts on what the blogger talked about. It’s pretty easy to tell when someone’s comment isn’t genuine. If someone comments on my blog only saying, “Great post!!,” or “These books are on my TBR,” I probably won’t comment back. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

That’s it! All of the things that make me follow a blog, and things that have worked for me personally! I’m not trying to say that I employ all of these things–I definitely don’t. I’m trying to be better about it though!

Thank you so much for making my six months in the blogosphere worthwhile. I’ve had the best time, and I’m excited for more years to come!!

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Are We Really Friends—or Do You Just Want Me to Comment on Your Blog? || a Discussion

I don’t know if you’re aware of this piece of blogging advice, but it can be summed up in one word—interact. Comment on other bloggers’ blogs, and in turn they will check out your blog and comment on it too. It’s an almost surefire way to grow your blog’s following. In addition to that, you’ll gain blogging friends more easily.

I’ve been interacting, or blog hopping, as we call it, since I first started blogging. I attribute most of my blog’s growth during the nearly six months I’ve had it to blog hopping. But I went through a phase a while ago wherein I stopped commeting on the blogs that didn’t interest me anymore even though we were leaving each other nice comments. And guess what? They didn’t comment on my blog anymore, and I haven’t heard from them since.

I also noticed this trend of people commenting on my blog and others’ blogs with detached one word sentences that simply seem to call out, “Hey! Check out my blog.” And that got me thinking about why we even comment on other people’s blogs.

A question formed in my mind that I couldn’t ignore—Are we blog hopping purely for our stats, and not because we’re genuinely interested in the content we’re consuming?

Think about it—you start commenting on someone’s blog, or someone starts commenting on yours. Either way, you both end up following each other. For every comment you leave on their blog, they’ll leave a comment on yours. I can think of dozens of blogs who specialize in this. I’ve even started doing this.

So what happens when you stop commenting? What if you suddenly get busy? Will they stop commenting–just like that? Even though you left each other such nice comments before you stopped blog hopping, will the other person stop commenting on your blog just because they won’t be getting something in return anymore?

Frankly, the thought disturbs me. Why are we leaving nice comments on other people’s blogs just so that they’ll check out our blogs in return? If so, which friendships are real and which are contingent on blog hopping?

Let me be clear that I’m not trying to bash anyone in this post. I have fed into this mindset myself. I’ve stopped commenting on people’s blogs just because they stopped commenting on mine. I have blog hopped solely because I want other people to check out my blog and not because I genuinely love their content. I’m not trying to call out anyone who has done this because I’m guilty of it too, and the reasons for doing it are perfectly understandable.

I’m also not saying that you shouldn’t blog hop. It’s a great way to grow your blog and ensure that the posts you’ve worked hard on are actually read by someone. I’m just not a fan of the symbiotic relationships that blog hopping creates. In my humble opinion, it’s perfectly okay to blog hop for views and stats—I know I do it. But this shouldn’t be the only reason we comment on other blogs.

I still comment on blogs who don’t follow me or interact with any of my posts. And even if I won’t get a comment back, I still comment on their blogs because I like their content. That’s the level I want to reach. I want to be able to not blog hop, and still have people commenting on my blog at the end of the day because they genuinely enjoy my content.

I only follow and continually comment on about 40 blogs now, and I know that this is surely gonna kill my stats—but you know what? It’s for the best, because all of the posts on my reader, in the words of Marie Kondo, “bring [me] joy.”

Also, shout out to my blogging friends. You know who you are. I think it wouldn’t be wrong of me to believe that if either of us stopped commenting on the other’s blog for whatever reason, we would still be friends.

This amazing post by Ilsa @ A Whisper of Ink, entitled Do You Genuinely Loving the Content You’re Creating and Consuming? partly inspired me to write this post. I wrote my own discussion on the topic because I wanted to share my own perspective, and because I feel like this discussion has to be brought back.

Please tell me your thoughts down below! Is there anything you disagree or agree with? What is your perspective on blog hopping? Sadly, I can’t reply to you yet because it’s exam season for me right now, but I’ll be back in no time!

Why do Bloggers Care About Their Statistics?

This week is gonna be filled with super important exams for me, but right now my brain is overflowing with blog post ideas that beg to be written???? I really hate my brain sometimes.

Anyways, I made a blog post a few weeks ago about comparing your blogging statistics with other bloggers’. In that post, I mentioned that I always get jealous of how well other blogs are doing stats-wise. That got me thinking about why we even care about stats in the first place. (I know there are a few lucky people out there who don’t care about their stats, but I’m not one of them and I don’t think you are.) Aren’t we here to talk about books? Why does the amount of engagement we get on our posts matter? I narrowed it down to a few reasons, and today I’m gonna share them with you!

We put a lot of effort into our blogs, and our stats are the fruit of our hard work.

Planning what you’re gonna say in a post and getting all the words out takes a lot of time and brain power. I, personally, have to edit a lot to cut out unnecessary phrases because I love to ramble.

Don’t even get me started on formatting. The WordPress block editor can be such an asshole sometimes, and it’s so annoying when you have a clear picture in your head of what you want a post to look like, but WordPress just. Won’t. Cooperate. Ughhhhhh.

Additionally, a lot of bloggers, myself included, design graphics for their sites and posts. And if we’re writing a post talking about a book or multiple books, searching for their covers and including them in our posts, along with their links and whatnot, is extremely tedious for something that your readers will probably just glance over.

I haven’t even mentioned the other factors that affect blog growth, like blog hopping, promoting on social media, etc.

Bottom line, it takes a lot of time and effort to run a blog, and nobody wants their hard work to go unrewarded. For most people, the reward comes in the form of statistics.

We want to engage with more people.

I feel like the reason most of us started our book blogs was to talk about books with other people. Stats indicate how many people are engaging with our content and reading what we have to say.

We also want to scream about our favorite books so that more people will read them. How can people add them to their TBRs if nobody is reading our content?

Malka @ Paper Procrastinators actually wrote an insightful post a while ago about why they enjoy looking at their stats page. It highlights why looking at stats can actually be encouraging. Malka stated that they are happy even if a post just gets ten likes or four comments, because it means that their post generated engagement.

Stats show us what’s working and what’s not.

Maybe you’re experimenting on what time of day works best to upload. Maybe you’re unsure of what blog posts you want to write, so you’re letting your followers decide through your stats. Stats show us what posts work and which don’t.

Stats are a factor that publishers, blog tour hosts, etc. consider.

Isn’t that why we have to put our stats and follower counts on our Edelweiss and Netgalley bios? They help publishers decide whether they want to send you a free review copy of your anticipated release or not. People who have larger audiences have a higher chance of being granted access to advanced reader copies (arcs) because publishers want more people to be exposed to their books. They can’t just hand out free copies to anyone, sadly.

Blog tour hosts also consider your stats if you’ve signed up for a blog tour. Along with whether you’re an own voices reviewer or not (for books that feature diversity) and your capacity to give a convincing review of a book, site views also have to be taken into account. It’s a blog tour after all. The goal is to promote the book and help it reach a larger number of people.

And there we have it. All of the hypothetical reasons why bloggers care about their stats. What I realized while writing this post is that stats aren’t demons as long as we don’t allow them to be. Who would’ve thought?

I’d love to chat with you in the comments! Is there anything I missed? How do you feel about statistics? Any tips on how to stay away from WordPress and social media because you have to study? (Asking for a friend, who is me.)

June Wrap-Up & July 5-Star Predictions TBR

It’s already the end of June! What?? However, I’m happy with how fast time is flying because it means that I’m just a little closer to finally being done with school. Yes, even though school just started two weeks ago, I’m already thinking about summer break, or at least semester break, because come on, who needs school when there are so many books to read, you know?

I read nine books in June, which is the most I’ve read in a month so far this year. Most were read during the remaining weeks of my summer break, and I just can’t help but imagine how much more I could’ve read if school hadn’t started this month. Though I’m still really proud because all of the books I read in June were at least 250 pages long. I even read a 600-page book, and I’m six books ahead of schedule on my goodreads goal of reading 75 books this year. In terms of enjoyment, I’d definitely say it’s an improvement because most of my ratings were four stars and I even had one five star.

Notable Life Stuff

I made the most of my remaining summer break. Even though my summer break started in March, I didn’t have the opportunity to read a lot and blog a lot during its duration because I went on a two-month-long study tour that started in the beginning of April and ended in late May. When I got back to the Philippines, I knew that I had to make the most of the remaining three weeks of summer I had. So I spent it writing as many posts as I could, getting so much better at blog hopping and reading a ton. I’m so proud of myself!

I went back to hell.. I mean school. Now that school has started, I’ve been trying my best to balance studying with blogging, reading and blog hopping, but I know that I’m not gonna be able to do that for long, so my blog hopping will severely decline. I’m gonna limit my blog hopping to only Fridays and the weekend from now on. I’m sorry I can’t like and comment on all of your posts now, and I gonna miss reading all of your posts so much.

▪ I like my teachers so far! I don’t know if my teachers this year are actually good, or if it’s just that I’m putting in more effort to listen, so that I have less studying to do when I get home and more time to read and blog. But either way, they have been good at explaining lessons, and I like participating in their classes.

Books I Read in June

I read three out of the five books I put in my June Pride Month TBR. Who am I?? I view myself as a mood reader who never reads the books she puts on her TBR, but this month, I actually put in the effort and I basically finished all of the books on it. The other two out of the five I mentioned were books I won in giveaways, and they sadly didn’t arrive in time for me to read them during Pride Month. Those books were Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston and I Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver, the two gay 2019 releases that I’m anticipating reading the most and I still haven’t read. *sobs*

These Witches Don't Burn by Isabel Sterling

These Witches Don’t Burn (These Witches Don’t Burn #1) by Isabel Sterling ♦♦♦♦ || I enjoyed this way more than I thought I would, and I honestly think that it’s highly underrated. If you’re looking for a teen drama with a witchy spin, then this book is for you. Plus, it’s so gay. (lesbian MC, bi LI, trans male SC in m/m relationship, two other side f/f couples)

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Summer Bird Blue by Akemi Dawn Bowman ♦♦♦½ || Reading the first chapter of this felt like reading a dream, and then the tragedy struck, and it was like being transported to a nightmare. This book is a detailed portrayal of grief, featuring an unlikable and angry main character. I loved its discussion of sexual fluidity, and how everybody was so accepting of Rumi being on the ace aro spectrum. However, I lowered my rating of four stars to three and a half stars because I realized that the plot was a bit repetitive. I’m excited to read more from this author though!

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Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake ♦♦♦♦ || This is the most nuanced discussion of rape culture I’ve ever read. I appreciate that this talked about how rape can be subtle. Sometimes a boyfriend or even a pillar of society can commit rape, and that is why women are never believed. The ending of this isn’t a happy one, but it’s the happiest we can get at this day and age. Rather, it’s a reminder of the happy ending we could get, if we keep on believing and fighting for the woman.

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Stronger Than a Bronze Dragon by Mary Fan ♦♦♦½ || I don’t have much to say about this other than it was pretty enjoyable, and I loved the Chinese inspirations. I found the romance unnecessary though.

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Spin the Dawn (The Blood of Stars #1) by Elizabeth Lim ♦♦♦♦ || I enjoyed this so much! The writing reads like a fairy tale, and the story is reminiscent of one. The love interest and romance are kinda cheesy, but in a good way. I think that the plot did lose a little bit of its luster after the halfway point though.

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The Diviners (The Diviners #1) by Libba Bray ♦♦♦♦ || I reread this via audio in preparation to read the sequel. I love how this author writes 1920’s New York. The amount of research that must’ve gone into it makes my head hurt! Plus, the mystery is so spooky, and I loved the banter between Evie and Sam.

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The Weight of Our Sky by Hanna Alkaf ♦♦♦♦♦ || This is my second favorite book I’ve read so far the year, but sometimes I view it as my first. This and We Set the Dark on Fire are at war for the title in my heart. 

Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray

Lair of Dreams (The Diviners #2) ♦♦ || Well, I found my first two star read of the year, right after saying that I hadn’t rated a book two stars yet in 2019. This wasn’t bad, but it was just 500 pages of nothing happening. I still love how well-written the setting and diversity is, but I definitely won’t expect plot from the rest of the books in this series from now on, because I think foreshadowing is its strong point. Evie and Sam fake date in this book though!

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The Courage To Be Disliked: How to free yourself, change your life and achieve real happiness by Ichiro Kishimi and Fumitake Koga ♦♦♦ || More of a three and a half, but I decided to lower my rating because of phrases like “trauma does not exist” and “people choose to be unhappy.” I don’t think I’m gonna employ any of this book’s advice in my everyday life, but I liked how the authors explained their points. 

Blogging 

In June, I took blogging more seriously than I ever have since I first started my blog in late February. I created a posting schedule that I’ve been pretty good at sticking to so far. Plus, I blog hopped consistently. I’m hoping to keep this energy going for the rest of the school year!

Most popular post of the month: 

I Bought Books After Ages of Not Buying Them || Book Haul
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Reviews:

Blog Tour Review: Stronger Than a Bronze Dragon by Mary Fan

Review: These Witches Don’t Burn by Isabel Sterling || Unapologetically Witchy & Gay

Review: The Weight of Our Sky by Hanna Alkaf || Finally! The First 5-Star of the Year

Tags & Top Ten Tuesdays: 

Popular Books That Didn’t Live Up to the Hype: Top Ten Tuesday

Most Anticipated Releases of the Second Half of 2019 || Top Ten Tuesday

The Mid-Year Book Freak Out Tag! (2019)

Recommendations: 

If You Liked This Queer Contemporary, Try This Queer SFF!

Last Month’s Wrap-up & TBR: 

April + May Wrap-Up (3-Star Ratings Galore) & An Unrealistic June TBR

July To-Be-Read

I touched on this in my Mid-Year Book Freak-Out Tag, but 2019 has so far been a disappointing reading year. I haven’t found a lot of new favorites, and I think that it’s time to change that. All of the books on my July TBR are books that I think could be a five star, or at least a four star read. However, if my copies of Red, White & Royal Blue and I Wish You All the Best finally arrive in July, you best believe that I’m gonna sink my teeth in them immediately!

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The Dragon Republic (The Poppy War #2) by R.F. Kuang || I just started this today and it’s already so good! According to other people, this book will absolutely destroy me, and I’m ready for it. Thank you to the publisher for sending me an e-arc via Edelweiss!

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Descendant of the Crane by Joan He || As a Chinese girl, I am officially fake for not having read this yet. It literally came out in the beginning of April and was at the top of my anticipated releases for the year. Many people have screamed about this book’s plot twists, and as someone who can’t guess twists to save her life, I’m intrigued. I’m reading this next month! It’s gonna happen!

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Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson || This sounds like a good ‘ol fantasy that I’ll love with my whole heart! I have heard a few negative things about it, but the general consensus is that this new release is wonderful. Also, the copy of it that I won in a giveaway just arrived, and it’s beautiful.

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Foundryside (Founders #1) by Robert Jackson Bennett || I’ve been trying to get better about branching out into Adult SFF, and this book sounds like a good place to start. I’ve heard the most amazing things about it!

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Vicious (Villains #1) by V.E. Schwab || If I had to choose the book with the most potential out of all of these potential reads to become a favorite of mine, it would be this one. Not only is this on tons of people’s favorites lists, but its concept sounds right up my alley. And I’m sure you’ve all heard of V.E. Schwab. I’ve read two of her books, and I absolutely loved one and was incredibly disappointed by the other. Nonetheless, I still have a lot of faith in her writing and story-telling ability.  

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Muse of Nightmares (Strange the Dreamer #2) by Laini Taylor || I recently bought a physical copy of Muse of Nightmares, so I no longer have an excuse to put off reading it. As a lover of the world in Strange the Dreamer, I’m so hyped because this apparently expands on the world and answers a lot of questions from the first book. Basically, I’ve heard the most amazing things about this finale, and I can’t wait to read it. 

What was your favorite book of June? How was your Pride Month?

Review: The Weight of Our Sky by Hanna Alkaf || Finally! The First 5-Star of the Year

Di mana bumi dipijak, di situ langit dijunjung. Have you heard this before? It means where we plant our feet is where we must hold up the sky. We live and die by the rules of the land we live in. But this country belongs to all of us! We make our own sky, and we can hold it up—together.

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Add it on Goodreads

Publication date: February 5, 2019

Publisher: Salaam Reads

Genre: Young Adult Historical Fiction

Synopsis: 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.

Content Warnings: Racism, graphic violence, on-page death, OCD and anxiety triggers

Before I start this review, I must thank Kate @ Your Tita Kate for deciding to buy copies of The Weight of Our Sky to send to readers in the Philippines while she was in Kuala Lumpur. Since I’m a student, she also shouldered the shipping cost, so that’s an additional thank you to her. And if I hadn’t seen her tweet and decided on a whim to tell her that I wanted a copy, I would never have picked up The Weight of Our Sky. Basically, I just have a lot to thank her for. So if you somehow are following me but aren’t following her yet, then you should go do that right now because her blog posts are all so damn eloquent, and her personality is amazing!

I appreciate this book so much because it features a non-white, non-Christian (Malaysian and Muslim) character in a non-western setting dealing with a mental illness. I cannot stress how important books likes this are. We already have a shortage of books with mental illness rep, what more books with intersectional mental illness rep.

You would expect that being in Mel’s head would get repetitive because of her constant need to tap and count, but each time, Alkaf found new ways to show how Mel’s mental illness creeps into her everyday life. Besides that, she does such a good job of transporting us to 1969 Kuala Lumpur, expertly writing the tension between the Chinese and the Malays, while also portraying the sense of community that somehow still prevailed at the time. All of this world building is incorporated seamlessly, and not once was this book difficult to fly through. Coupled with the fact that this book is less than 300 pages, The Weight of Our Sky is very easy to binge-read.

Though I want more people to read this, it does get very dark at times, and you should definitely make sure to read the trigger warnings before you pick it up. Right from the beginning, someone close to Mel is taken from her, and the survival story just continues from there. Mel meets new people and journeys to different places, some safe and some not, trying to find her ever illusive mother.

Speaking of mothers, my own recently finished this book, and I think she was right in calling Mel kawawa, or heartbreaking. It is impossible not to feel for Mel, because she believes that her mental illness is the work of a vengeful djinn who torments her with visions of her mother’s death. And then the unthinkable happens–her mother’s life is actually in danger. But at the same time, Mel is not a human form of her mental illness. She is just a normal teenage girl with a love for the Beatles, and she would do anything for her mother.

Vincent is the sweetest boy ever, and I loved that the author didn’t try to squeeze in a forced romance between him and Melati. Auntie Bee and Uncle Chong are also wonderful people who are perfect examples that an ethnicity, or even just any group of people, aren’t a monolith. They reminded me of Chinese aunties and uncles that I’ve met myself. And Frankie is, well.. a piece of work, but even though his views about Malays are completely wrong and challenged by the narrative, his reasons for it are understandable, and I appreciated how the author chose to end his character arc.

In Alkaf’s author’s note, she mentions how much research went into writing this book, uncovering what it was like during the race riots and how mental health was treated during this time. I think the former really shows because everything that happened in this book seems like it would’ve happened in real life. And for the latter, I appreciate Alkaf so much for writing a book about a PoC struggling with mental illness during a time when mental health awareness was scarce. Even though it’s heartbreaking, it’s not much of a stretch to believe that Melati would call her mental illness a djinn and believe that counting was a form of weaving a protective shield around her loved ones.

This book reminds me of some of the required reading I had to read in school, but not in a bad way at all. My past assigned reading (especially the books O.C.W.: A Young Boy’s Search For His Mother and Chu Ju’s House), are books steeped in Asian culture, with characters driven by their love for family to go on a journey, where they meet different people and different obstacles. If this book weren’t potentially triggering, it would be the perfect required reading.

Earlier, I mentioned that this book wasn’t on my TBR until Tita Kate tweeted about it. That wasn’t because I had seen negative reviews. It was the opposite–all of the reviews I’d seen were four stars or above. But this book still slipped under my radar because not enough people were talking about it. Even now, this book is severely underhyped. So I hope this review encouraged you to read The Weight of Our Sky, because it is an excellent debut and I am so excited to read more from this author!

The Verdict: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

Is this amazing book on your TBR? Or have you read it already? What’d you think about it?