Being a Grinch on Christmas Day, aka my Most Disappointing Books of 2019

MERRY CHRISTMAS, EVERYONE!!!! 🎅❄️🎄

It’s Christmas, which, in my opinion, is the most famous holiday of the year! Though I must admit that I’m not much of a fan. My family and I don’t take part in most Christmas traditions, and it’s been years since I felt the holiday cheer. So I thought that it would be fitting to celebrate this holiday by being the neighborhood grinch. Today, I’m going to be talking about the most disappointing books I read in 2019!

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October Wrap-up // I actually had fun this month??

Don’t mind me. Just panicking about how we only have two months left in this decade.

Belated happy Halloween, everyone! My family and I haven’t celebrated Halloween in years (we’re not big on holidays and Halloween isn’t that popular here in the Philippines anyways), but I loved seeing everyone’s costumes on Twitter!

P.S. If any of you saw this post when I accidentally published it, I’m sorry. Take 2!

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Why Is Reading so Unpopular?

I’m not like other girls—I read. 🤧

Little anecdote: My classmates and I had nothing to do in class one day, so we split into groups and started talking. I mean, they did. I, however, sat on the floor next to a group of girls and opened my phone in order to… read my ebook—what else? One of the girls asked me what I was doing, and I told her that I was reading. She responded with an “Are you a loser” look.

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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?