2023 Reads

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Here are the books I read in 2023 and my reviews!

1) Castle in The Air by Diana Wynne Jones

Castle in the Air is the sequel to Howl's Moving Castle. It has very Aladdin vibes.

The main character is Abdullah, but the characters from Howl's Moving Castle do make an appearance! While it was difficult to get into as I wasn't into the initial cast of characters, I enjoyed the ending with Howl and Sophie.

One thing that was a bit triggering for me and soured this book was when a 4-year-old was spanked for having a tantrum.

Overall it's a good read if you want to know what happens to the characters in Howl's Moving Castle, but it's definitely not one of Diana Wynne Jones' best works.

3/5 Stars ⭐⭐⭐

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2) The Flower Boat Girl by Larry Feign

Cheng Yat Sou or Madam Cheng is probably my favorite historical figure, so I was very excited to discover this book! I admit I was a little hesitant at first because the writer is white and writing about a historical Chinese figure, but it's clear he has done his research. 

I really enjoyed the historical aspect and while we may never know the true facts about Cheng Yat Sou, I think the author did a great job bringing her to life.

Huge trigger warnings for sexual assault and rape. The author does a great job with word choice so they are quick and not glorified in any way, but it can still be icky to read. This is one of the major reasons I avoid historical fiction (especially romance) because the sex usually reads as rape as that's how it was back then. That said, this is definitely NOT a romance novel, but a journey of a woman's rise to power.

There is going to be a second book and I can't wait to read it!

4/5 Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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3) Sex Talks by Vanessa and Xander Marin

I've been following Vanessa and Xander Marin on Instagram for a while now and was super excited when I heard about their new book, Sex Talks, which was my Valentine's Day gift from my husband.

I totally recommend this book to all couples, whether or not your sex life is struggling. I'm pretty open about sex and even I learned a lot!

A lot of the tips in the book have also been shared on Vanessa and Xander's Instagram as well as their podcast, Pillowtalks, so if you're looking for free resources, I'd start there!

5/5 Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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4) Strike The Zither by Joan He

It's hard to find books that feature Chinese culture and mythology, so I was excited when I came across this book. It was an enjoyable read but lacked the romance that I crave. It is a fantasy book, not a romance, but I still like my fantasy to have some romance and this one had a tiny spark that died quickly.

I'm not a fan of stories told in the first person, but what really annoyed me about this book is that the end doesn't feel like an end. It's part of a series, but I still prefer each book to stand alone and not leave much hanging. 

I did not like the intermezzo chapter, which was like an epilogue, as it switched from first person to third person and is told from another character's point of view. This makes me wonder if the second book will be changing to this character's point of view. Also, the intermezzo didn't really give the reader any new information and felt unnecessary.

I did like that it featured strong female characters and I do plan to read the next book when it comes out. 

3/5 Stars ⭐⭐⭐

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5) Sinking by Sarah Armstrong-Garner 

This book started out being intriguing and then got very confusing when the author hopped heads within a scene, sometimes it would happen between sentences! I don't mind multiple POVs, in fact, I love them, but at least separate them by chapter or with breaks! 

Eventually, the author's writing improves and the POV starts to shift between chapters, making it easier to read and more enjoyable. The first half reads like a rough draft, but the second half is much better. 

I also was not a fan of the ending as it leaves the reader hanging. What is with this trend in series to not actually make the book stand alone? I think Daughter of the Moon Goddess was the last book I read to actually have a decent ending for being a part of a series. 

The story is interesting so I will read the second book and hopefully, the writing will have improved. 

2/5 Stars ⭐⭐

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6) Alice The Cat by Tim Cummings

This is a great middle school read about a 12-year-old girl named Tess who enters a haunted house in order to save her cat, Alice.

As an adult reading this book, there were some odd word choices. Tess says buttnuggets a lot and I haven't heard any kid use that term, so it felt kind of dated? Definitely immature, but I think that's purposeful as she is 12. I get curse words aren't a thing in MG fiction, but I think another choice could have been better.

Trigger warnings to be aware of are breast cancer, parent loss, and pet loss.

While there is a ghost involved, the story ultimately focuses on a girl and how she struggles with grief after losing her mother.

3/5 Stars ⭐⭐⭐

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7) Loveboat, Taipei by Abigail Hing Wen

I really wanted to love this book, but the main character, Ever, chooses the wrong boy (in my opinion) in the end and that really sours it for me. It's also obviously set up as a love triangle, which is a trope I hate, but, as an Asian American, I could relate to Ever, so I enjoyed the book just for being able to relate to the character. It's always refreshing to read a book that doesn't have a dominant white cast. I've also been to Taipei as that's where my mom is from, so it was fun reading a setting I am somewhat familiar with. 

I don't want to spoil the book for others, so I won't delve into all the things I didn't like as they can be considered spoilers, such as naming the boys involved in the triangle. However, one thing I am disappointed in was that the author didn't get spicier, totally skipping over a sex scene that I was looking forward to throughout the whole book. Then when she gives a little more detail with the oral sex scene, it uses the typical cliche of lights bursting. I'm guessing the author wanted to have her book fit the YA category better, great for the younger audiences, but a bummer for me. 

While I definitely recommend the book, it's not one I can read again as it's not the ending I wanted, so I can't give it more than four stars.

4/5 Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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8) The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge

I read this book as a kid and held onto it, which meant I must have liked it, so I decided now was a good time to reread it as an adult. As an adult, any charm it had when I was a kid was lost as the book is so misogynistic. It's also very dated in language as the author uses "ejaculated" instead of "exclaimed" which as a child, I had no idea of "ejaculate" in the adult context, but now as an adult, "she ejaculated" just reads awkwardly and I would have preferred "she exclaimed."  

The book also reveals how much times have changed since the 1940s as it does a lot of "telling" which now seems to be a huge faux pas. I honestly did not mind this and I kind of miss this style of writing in today's books. It's still very much present in Japanese light novels, though that could just be due to translating from Japanese to English. 

I also forgot how heavy in religion this book is, which seemed to be a stark contrast to the magical qualities of the book. 

Overall I liked the story elements and loved the hints of magic, but it's just not told in a way that I love and it is not a book I would ever read again.

2/5 Stars ⭐⭐

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9-12. My Happy Marriage 1-4 by Akumi Agitogi


I haven't had as much time this year to read so I decided to find some shorter books, and this Japanese light novel has been on my list for a while. From page one I was hooked! It's a Cinderella story, but with a twist that's interesting enough to keep one reading. 

While misogyny is present in this book, it is in keeping with the period as it's a historical fantasy, so I'm not going to mark it down for that. It's a pretty slow burn, but given the characters' personalities, it fits well. Hopefully, there will be a bit more spice later in the series.

I was also incredibly disappointed with book #4. It felt like a filler. Besides that, Miyo's character seemed to have a weird change. I get she's getting more confident, but the giggling just threw me and seemed out of character for her. I also felt like Kiyoka's character isn't developing at all as I figured Miyo would soften his heart more. I hope that book #5 will be better, so I'm still giving this series five stars even though I was close to knocking it down to 4. 

This was my first Japanese light novel, so it was interesting to see how the writing style differs from American books, and I liked it. Also, I love that these are short! I wish publishers in America weren't so stingy with their word counts, requiring authors to write 100K books. 

It's been a while since I fell in love with a book series and I think these light novels might be my new go-to!

5/5 Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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