READING CHALLENGE | Asian Readathon

During this difficult and uncertain time, I have been finding readathons so incredibly helpful as they keep me entertained and help me exceed my reading goal(s) for the year.

I decided a bit last minute to participate in the 2020 Asian Readathon this year. Recently, I discovered it and I just love that everyone will be supporting Asian authors through what we all love immensely—books.

Asian Readathon is a month long readathon that will take place during the entire month of May. The host, Cindy from @readwithcindy, began this readathon with the idea in mind to show support and understanding by dedicating a month to reading books with Asian characters and/or books written by Asian authors.

I immediately fell in love with the idea and just knew I had to join in on the fun. Choosing a TBR for this readathon has been quite challenging and it took me a few hours to finalise my list of books to read. I did some careful planning whilst keeping in mind the books I already owned, books that I know I will enjoy, how to fit them with the challenges and to vary the Asian ethnicity so that the books have more cultural diversity.

There are a total of five challenges, including an optional one. So, in total, you only need to read five books but after seeing all the amazing books I already own and have not read yet, I could not leave one out of my list. I am probably way too ambitious but I will be trying to read a total of eleven books for this reading challenge.

More information, including recommendations of Asian books to read, is available if you simple search “Asian Readathon 2020” or “Asian Readathon Recommendations” on YouTube. Cindy’s video can be found here which includes the rules, challenges, information about the Little Fires Readalong & Watchalong and more. You can also find Asian Readathon on Twitter here.

Before I show you my TBR for the readathon, I just wanted to thank Cindy for this amazing idea. This is such a great way to distract us from everything that is going on in the world, to support Asian authors and to get us reading more diverse books. 


MY 2020 ASIAN READATHON TBR

1ST CHALLENGE — read any book by an Asian author.

Strange Weather in Tokyo by Hiromi Kawakami

G O O D R E A D S  |  S Y N O P S I S

Tsukiko is in her late 30s and living alone when one night she happens to meet one of her former high school teachers, ‘Sensei’, in a bar. He is at least thirty years her senior, retired and, she presumes, a widower. After this initial encounter, the pair continue to meet occasionally to share food and drink sake, and as the seasons pass – from spring cherry blossom to autumnal mushrooms – Tsukiko and Sensei come to develop a hesitant intimacy which tilts awkwardly and poignantly into love.

Perfectly constructed, funny, and moving, Strange Weather in Tokyo is a tale of modern Japan and old-fashioned romance.

I read this book for the first time in last year and really liked it. I remember it being such a cute read so, I decided to reread it for this readathon as it is quite short.


Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim

G O O D R E A D S  |  S Y N O P S I S

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.

Steeped in Chinese culture, sizzling with forbidden romance, and shimmering with magic, this young adult fantasy is pitch-perfect for fans of Sarah J. Maas or Renée Ahdieh. 

Penguin Random House South Africa gifted me with a review copy and I am so excited to finally get to it. I have heard nothing but amazing things about it and I absolutely love the gorgeous cover.


The Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo

G O O D R E A D S  |  S Y N O P S I S

With the heart of an Atwood tale and the visuals of a classic Asian period drama The Empress of Salt and Fortune is a tightly and lushly written narrative about empire, storytelling, and the anger of women. 

A young royal from the far north is sent south for a political marriage. Alone and sometimes reviled, she has only her servants on her side. This evocative debut chronicles her rise to power through the eyes of her handmaiden, at once feminist high fantasy and a thrilling indictment of monarchy.

I have been seeing this one around bookstagram and book Twitter and decided to pick it up as it seems like a really short read. The second book’s cover also has me completely in love.


2ND CHALLENGE —  read a book featuring an Asian character or written by an Asian author who you can relate to.

A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi

G O O D R E A D S  |  S Y N O P S I S

It’s 2002, a year after 9/11. It’s an extremely turbulent time politically, but especially so for someone like Shirin, a sixteen-year-old Muslim girl who’s tired of being stereotyped.

Shirin is never surprised by how horrible people can be. She’s tired of the rude stares, the degrading comments – even the physical violence – she endures as a result of her race, her religion, and the hijab she wears every day. So she’s built up protective walls and refuses to let anyone close enough to hurt her. Instead, she drowns her frustrations in music and spends her afternoons break-dancing with her brother.

But then she meets Ocean James. He’s the first person in forever who really seems to want to get to know Shirin. It terrifies her – they seem to come from two irreconcilable worlds – and Shirin has had her guard up for so long that she’s not sure she’ll ever be able to let it down.

This is one of the books I own that I have been wanting to get to for a long time. I chose it for this challenge simply because Tahereh Mafi is a woman and I am too.


Loveboat, Taipei by Abigail Hing Wen

G O O D R E A D S  |  S Y N O P S I S

When eighteen-year-old Ever Wong’s parents send her from Ohio to Taiwan to study Mandarin for the summer, she finds herself thrust among the very over-achieving kids her parents have always wanted her to be, including Rick Woo, the Yale-bound prodigy profiled in the Chinese newspapers since they were nine—and her parents’ yardstick for her never-measuring-up life.

Unbeknownst to her parents, however, the program is actually an infamous teen meet-market nicknamed Loveboat, where the kids are more into clubbing than calligraphy and drinking snake-blood sake than touring sacred shrines.

Free for the first time, Ever sets out to break all her parents’ uber-strict rules—but how far can she go before she breaks her own heart?

Loveboat, Taipei is a book I have been hearing a lot about lately and I thought I would give it a try to see what the hype was about. Bought it on my Kindle the other day for really cheap and was so happy to find that it fits perfectly for this prompt. The main character of this story is eighteen years old, which I still am and I am really excited to read her story.


Love and Misadventure by Lang Leav

G O O D R E A D S  |  S Y N O P S I S

Lang Leav is a poet and internationally exhibiting artist. Awarded a coveted Churchill Fellowship, her work expresses the intricacies of love and loss. 

Beautifully illustrated and thoughtfully conceived, Love and Misadventure will take you on a rollercoaster ride through an ill-fated love affair- from the initial butterflies to the soaring heights- through to the devastating plunge. Lang Leav has an unnerving ability to see inside the hearts and minds of her readers. Her talent for translating complex emotions with astonishing simplicity has won her a cult following of devoted fans from all over the world.

Also bought this one for really cheap as an ebook. I chose it because I can relate to the poet with of our love for poetry. This is also the perfect opportunity for me to finally get to Lang’s books .


3RD CHALLENGE — read a book featuring an Asian character or written by an Asian author who is different from you.

Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan

G O O D R E A D S  |  S Y N O P S I S

Each year, eight beautiful girls are chosen as Paper Girls to serve the king. It’s the highest honor they could hope for…and the most demeaning. This year, there’s a ninth. And instead of paper, she’s made of fire.

In this richly developed fantasy, Lei is a member of the Paper caste, the lowest and most persecuted class of people in Ikhara. She lives in a remote village with her father, where the decade-old trauma of watching her mother snatched by royal guards for an unknown fate still haunts her. Now, the guards are back and this time it’s Lei they’re after — the girl with the golden eyes whose rumored beauty has piqued the king’s interest.

Over weeks of training in the opulent but oppressive palace, Lei and eight other girls learns the skills and charm that befit a king’s consort. There, she does the unthinkable — she falls in love. Her forbidden romance becomes enmeshed with an explosive plot that threatens her world’s entire way of life. Lei, still the wide-eyed country girl at heart, must decide how far she’s willing to go for justice and revenge.

This book has been on my TBR for the longest time. Honestly, I do not know much about this book but I chose it for this challenge because the main character is different from me as she falls in love with another girl. 


The Kiss Quotient by Helena Hoang

G O O D R E A D S  |  S Y N O P S I S

A heartwarming and refreshing debut novel that proves one thing: there’s not enough data in the world to predict what will make your heart tick.

Stella Lane thinks math is the only thing that unites the universe. She comes up with algorithms to predict customer purchases — a job that has given her more money than she knows what to do with, and way less experience in the dating department than the average thirty-year-old.

It doesn’t help that Stella has Asperger’s and French kissing reminds her of a shark getting its teeth cleaned by pilot fish. Her conclusion: she needs lots of practice — with a professional. Which is why she hires escort Michael Phan. The Vietnamese and Swedish stunner can’t afford to turn down Stella’s offer, and agrees to help her check off all the boxes on her lesson plan — from foreplay to more-than-missionary position…

Before long, Stella not only learns to appreciate his kisses, but to crave all the other things he’s making her feel. Soon, their no-nonsense partnership starts making a strange kind of sense. And the pattern that emerges will convince Stella that love is the best kind of logic…

I have owned this one for such a long time and decided to choose it for this challenge because the heroine loves mathematics—which I do not like at all. I read the author’s second book in last year and thought I should pick this one up as well. 


Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones

G O O D R E A D S  |  S Y N O P S I S

The last night of the year. Now the days of winter begin and the Goblin King rides abroad, searching for his bride….

All her life, Liesl has heard tales of the beautiful, dangerous Goblin King. They’ve enraptured her mind and spirit and inspired her musical compositions. Now eighteen and helping to run her family’s inn, Liesel can’t help but feel that her musical dreams and childhood fantasies are slipping away.

But when her own sister is taken by the Goblin King, Liesl has no choice but to journey to the Underground to save her. Drawn to the strange, captivating world she finds–and the mysterious man who rules it–she soon faces an impossible decision. With time and the old laws working against her, Liesl must discover who she truly is before her fate is sealed.

Dark, romantic, and powerful, Wintersong will sweep you away into a world you won’t soon forget.

The author of this book is Korean and I am South African, so this fits perfectly for this challenge as well.


4TH CHALLENGE — read a book recommended by an Asian.

Severance by Ling Ma

G O O D R E A D S  |  S Y N O P S I S

Candace Chen, a millennial drone self-sequestered in a Manhattan office tower, is devoted to routine. So she barely notices when a plague of biblical proportions sweeps New York. Then Shen Fever spreads. Families flee. Companies halt operations. The subways squeak to a halt. HSoon entirely alone, still unfevered, she photographs the eerie, abandoned city as the anonymous blogger NY Ghost.

Candace won’t be able to make it on her own forever, though. Enter a group of survivors, led by the power-hungry IT tech Bob. They’re traveling to a place called the Facility, where, Bob promises, they will have everything they need to start society anew. But Candace is carrying a secret she knows Bob will exploit. Should she escape from her rescuers?

A send-up and takedown of the rituals, routines, and missed opportunities of contemporary life, Ling Ma’s Severance is a quirky coming-of-adulthood tale and satire. 

There are so many books recommended by Asian booktubers that I would love read but I decided to go with this one which Cindy (from @readwithcindy) recommended in her announcement video of the 2020 Asain Readathon. I decided that I will try to listen to it on audiobook when the time comes.


5TH CHALLENGE — read Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng and participate in the Little Fires Readalong & Watchalong.

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

G O O D R E A D S  |  S Y N O P S I S

In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned – from the layout of the winding roads, to the colors of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules.

Enter Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and single mother – who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenaged daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.

When old family friends of the Richardsons attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town–and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs. 

Little Fires Everywhere explores the weight of secrets, the nature of art and identity, and the ferocious pull of motherhood – and the danger of believing that following the rules can avert disaster.

I bought this book a little over a year ago on sale from Bargain Books when I visited the city and it has been sitting on my shelf ever since. Really looking forward to finally read it! There is also a Little Fires Readalong (from the 1st until the 15th of May) and Watchalong (from the 15th until the 29th of May). I do not think I will be able to participate in either of them because I want to read other books first and I am not sure if I will be able to get my hands on the series. However, this is still a book I want to get to, so just reading it on my own sounds amazing too.


That is it for this blog post! Let me know in the comments below if you will be participating as well and if so, what books you will be reading. I would love to add more Asian books to my ever-growing TBR!

Keep on reading and never stop telling stories.

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