Review: Whistle

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Rating: ★★★★

I received a copy of this book for free from the publishers (DC Comics) in exchange for an honest review.

This was a fun origin story for a new superhero!

First off, the art in this is amazing. I loved the color palette of blue, orange, and green. It made for a striking combination. The art style reminded me of the old school cartoons I used to read in the newspaper as a kid. 

The storyline is interesting. Many reviewers mention the ending, in which things are not wrapped up completely. Things are left in a morally gray area so it may leave some readers unsatisfied. Personally, I was fine with the ending because it leaves open the possibility of more installments. Also, the morally gray ending was thought-provoking so I appreciated that aspect. 

Whistle’s powers were intriguing. Her dog-like powers and ability to communicate with dogs reminded me of Marvel’s Squirrel Girl and her squirrel-like powers. However, I would have liked more story development on her powers. There wasn’t a lot of exploration on them, and since this is a new character, it would have been helpful to see the full extent of what she could do. 

I loved the subtle cameos/references to other DC characters. For example, Black Canary makes a brief musical appearance (pg. 135), Willow wears a Flash tee shirt (pg. 139), and there is Harley Quinn graffiti (pg. 142). 

Overall, this was a solid start to a new superhero story. I am curious to see where it goes next. 


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Review: Snapdragon

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Rating: ★★★★

I received a copy of this book for free as part of an Instagram book tour (Storygram Tours) I did to promote the book.

This was such a cute graphic novel!

The story was so heartwarming. I loved how Jacks and Snapdragon’s backgrounds and pasts were connected. There were some parts where I was wondering on the relevance of some things (like the story of One-Eyed Tom), but it all came together at the end. 

However, in regards to the plot, I wanted more about the magic. Since this is a book about a witch, naturally there is magic, but it was a little vague on how it all worked. I would have loved to seen it explored in more detail. 

The diversity and representation in this book is amazing! There was so much black and LGBTQ representation. For example, Snapdragon’s friend, Lulu is transgender. I loved seeing how Lulu slowly came out to be the person she was meant to be! 

The art style worked well with the story. The color use in particular was incredibly well done. I liked how vibrant the art was. 

Lastly, I thought they should have stuck with the original name of the novel, Roadkill Witch. Snapdragon is too basic of a name for this slightly odd (in a good way) graphic novel.

Overall, this was a charming graphic novel with a dash of magic. If you’re looking for a quick read this spooky season, give this one a try! 


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The Beautiful (The Beautiful #1)

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Rating: ★★★★

I received a copy of this book for free from he publisher for promotional purposes. 

First off, this is not your typical YA vampire book. It’s a very subtle vampire book. The word vampire isn’t even used until way late in the book. 

This book is a slow burn, which I liked. It definitely takes a while to get into the story. I found that the slower pace worked well in creating the mystery and intrigue. This is the first book in a series that is projected to have 4 books, so a lot of this book is likely setting the stage for the rest of the series. The slower pace is to be expected.

The book has a lot of interesting supporting characters. My favorite was Odette. She was awesome. I can’t wait to see how her character progresses in the coming books. There’s a lot to explore with her. I also loved Pippa because she’s quite the mystery. This book didn’t delve much into her past or background so I am intrigued to find that out in the coming books. 

Overall, I enjoyed this book. I am very curious to see how the rest of the series pans out. I recommend this book if you are interested in a more historical fiction take on vampires and also if you want to read a YA vampire series that isn’t Twilight (no shade against Twilight, I just know it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea). 


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Review: From Little Tokyo, With Love

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Rating: ★★★★★

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher for promotional purposes. 

This was such a cute and heartwarming story!

I loved the representation in this. Both the main characters are biracial. Rika is Japanese and white and Hank is Filipino and Chinese. I am biracial myself (Filipino and white) so I related a lot to them. I really resonated with something Rika said. She states, “But it’s not like white people look at me and think I’m one of them” (pg. 130). I have felt that way my whole life. 

Also in terms of representation, Rika’s aunts were lesbians which I found very refreshing and important especially in regards to the Asian American community. Often times LBGTQA+ people are not accepted by the Asian American community and this book highlighted that fact.

I liked that the Rika was flawed. So many young adult female leads are written as perfect people, so it was nice to see one who had flaws. It made her feel more realistic. 

I also enjoyed that the city of LA was utilized well. Numerous books just use LA as a backdrop but never explore the city. Here, it was given a life of its own and featured lesser known attractions like the old Griffith Park Zoo (I never knew this existed and need to check it out!). 

Lastly, going back to Asian American communities, this book delved into the shortcomings of said communities. One character states,

“I really wish so many of our communities would just, like, acknowledge that anger isn’t always a bad emotion…You can’t just reject it — you have to let yourself feel it, make room for it, or all that repressing will burn you up inside”

pg 313

That is so true. We are often taught to just hold our anger inside but that isn’t healthy. We can and should be angry. Additionally, the book also talks about shame in relation to not being what is considered to be “perfect” in the community. 

Overall, this book was relatable with a super cute romance, but it also struck a more serious note and shed a light on the Asian American experience. 


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Review: Tokyo Ever After

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Rating: ★★★★½

I received a copy of this book for free for promotional purposes.

This was another solid installment in the series. 

This installment had more backstory than the previous volumes which I felt slowed down the pace of the book a little. A good chunk took place in Mao’s past and we learned more about his early days.  

Like the previous volume, this one unveiled even more about the story and the characters, including details on how Mao and Nanoka are connected. It is shaping up to be a very intriguing read! 

Overall, I really enjoyed this volume and am looking forward to the upcoming volumes. So far, this series has been full of action and mystery, with things coming together at a steady pace. If you’re looking to read a new manga series, consider starting this one (just keep in mind that all the volumes are not yet available in English yet). 


I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher (Flatiroin exchange for an honest review.

This was such a cute read! 

The premise is everything. A Japanese American girl discovering she is a princess? Yes please! As a whole, I thought the premise was well executed. There was a good balance between the humorous adjusting to royal parts and the more serious discovering who she is parts.   

I really liked that the book included a family tree with a brief description of everyone in the family. It made the book so easy to follow. 

Character-wise, I loved Izumi’s all Asian friend group (nicknamed Asian Girl Gang, or AGG for short). It was so nice seeing a female lead with a large friend group to support her. Also, one of her friends was half-Filipino just like me. I always love seeing Filipino representation in books, even if it’s just a small side character. 

I also enjoyed the writing style. It was engaging and flowed well. 

The Own Voices aspect was also really strong, especially in regards to feeling like a foreigner. The book highlighted how visiting Japan while being Japanese American feels strange since she’s not “Japanese” enough. That is so true. Being American is an added layer of identity and affects how others perceive you. I’m Filipino American and there is a difference in how people in the Philippines view you if you’re American born versus Philippines born. 

However, the book is on the predictable side. If you’re familiar with the lost royalty trope or have seen The Princess Diaries movies, then a lot of the plot points are nothing new. 

Additionally, the romance in this book is a little insta-lovey. I felt like the book didn’t even need a romance sub-plot; it was already strong on its own. 

Overall, I throughly enjoyed this Own Voices take on lost royalty! I recommend it if you love stories about royal families. 


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Review: My Last Summer with Cass

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Rating: ★★★½

 I received an ARC of this book for free from The Novl in exchange for an honest review. 

The strongest part of this book was how it portrayed a complicated friend dynamic. It explored their past as childhood friends, then their last summer together in New York, and then finally revisited them a few years later. It really highlighted the highs and the lows of their friendship well.

Since this is a graphic novel, I have to talk about the artwork. I had an ARC so the art was not in full color. But I did look through the book preview on Amazon and saw it in full color and the coloring was amazing! 

However, I wanted a little bit more from the story. The plot is incredibly basic and I would have liked for it to have been more nuanced. It’s also very fast paced and would have benefited from a slower pace, especially after the main conflict happened. It jumped from the main conflict to three years later so fast. I would have liked to seen the aftermath of it play out more (most of it happened off page), especially in regards to Megan and her parents. 

Overall, I enjoyed this graphic novel, but ultimately was left wanting more. If you like art or are an artist yourself, you may like this one! 


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Review: Loveboat, Taipei (Loveboat, Taipei #1)

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Rating: ★★★

I received an ARC of this book for free from the publisher (Harper Teen) for promotional purposes. 

I was really looking forward to reading this one since it is an Asian American Own Voices novel, but unfortunately, it did not live up to my expectations. 

The whole beginning and middle section felt like an early 2000’s teen book. There was a lot of unnecessary drama and it felt so unrealistic. The main character, Ever, went from total good girl to rebellious teenager so quickly. Also, the students in the program would often get in trouble for some things, but for other things, the faculty had no clue what was going on. (Sorry if that sounds super vague, I’m trying to remain spoiler free). 

Additionally, I didn’t love either of the two potential love interests for Ever. I just didn’t see any chemistry between Ever and either one of them. 

The book did get better towards the end (around the last quarter). Once a lot of the initial drama was resolved, the book became more enjoyable. There was actually time spent on character development, which was sorely missing for a large part of the book. Also at the end, the message and lessons really shined through. 

Overall, parts of this book were lacking, while other parts were satisfying. 


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Review: Victor and Nora

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Rating: ★★★★½

I received a copy of this book for free for promotional purposes.

This was another solid installment in the series. 

This installment had more backstory than the previous volumes which I felt slowed down the pace of the book a little. A good chunk took place in Mao’s past and we learned more about his early days.  

Like the previous volume, this one unveiled even more about the story and the characters, including details on how Mao and Nanoka are connected. It is shaping up to be a very intriguing read! 

Overall, I really enjoyed this volume and am looking forward to the upcoming volumes. So far, this series has been full of action and mystery, with things coming together at a steady pace. If you’re looking to read a new manga series, consider starting this one (just keep in mind that all the volumes are not yet available in English yet). 


I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher (DC Comics) in exchange for an honest review. 

What a tragic love story! 

This was another great comic from the DC Graphic Novels for Young Adults imprint. This one followed a young Victor Fries (aka Mr. Freeze) as he first meets Nora (aka Mrs. Freeze). I thought this comic set up their origin story nicely. 

The comic really delves into the emotional states of the characters and the tragedies of their lives. There was a lot of depth and complexity to them. Both Victor and Nora have a lot of grief and it was interesting to see how they dealt with that. If you like tragic young adult love stories, then you’ll probably like Victor and Nora’s story! 

Since this is a comic, I have to talk about the artwork. It is amazing!The use of colors in showing their relationship was very clever. Victor was cool blues, while Nora was warm hues. The colors were also useful in distinguishing whose point of view was being shown. There were also a few art style changes in the comic that were super fun. For example, on pages 38-39, the art changes to the Tim Burton skeleton look, which was so spot on! 

Overall, I really enjoyed this young adult take on a famous Gotham villain couple! 


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Review: Super Fake Love Song

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Rating: ★★★★

I received an ARC of this book for free from the publisher (Penguin Teen). Since I received an ARC, my quotes from the book are tentative.

I had previously read Yoon’s other novel, Frankly In Love, and loved it, so I knew I had to pick this one up.

It should first be said that this book is different than Frankly in Love. This book is less serious and more light hearted, so don’t go into this book expecting it to be just like Frankly in Love. 

I thought this book was so fun. I found the whole “fake being in a band to impress a girl” premise to be well executed. I loved seeing how it all came together. 

As for the actual romance, it was not the most exciting thing. I didn’t find Sonny and Cirrus’s relationship to be all that interesting or compelling. I just didn’t see the chemistry. In terms of relationships and dynamics, the book really shined in regards to Sonny and his brother. I loved seeing them reconnect. I also liked the friendship dynamic between Sonny and his two best friends, Milo and Jamal. 

I was really glad that Gunner, the school bully, was so much more than that. Oftentimes YA authors just use bullies as an adversarial cliche, but in this book we discovered that there was more lurking under his tough exterior. 

Lastly, I just love Yoon’s writing style. It flows so well and is highly entertaining. He is also so good at making big points in very subtle ways. For example, there is a short mention of the racist background of the national anthem. He writes, “ the crowd groaned along with its hoary antiquated lyrics, as always omitting the third stanza threatening murder for free former slaves” (pg 107). It was a brief nod, but I liked how it brought attention to it. 

Overall, I enjoyed this book and am looking forward to reading what he writes next! 


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Guest Post: Why it’s important to have a diverse bookshelf

Photo from Lei’s Facebook Page

Hi beauties! Today I am so excited so share a guest post from author, Belinda Lei. Lei just published her first book, Not THAT Rich, earlier this month. Described as Gossip Girl meets Crazy Rich Asians, this dramatic debut novel is about a group of private high schoolers in an affluent Southern Californian suburb. This book is at the top of my TBR for the new year. As an Asian American, I love reading books about the Asian American experience because representation matters!

Lei’s guest post highlights the need and importance of reading diverse books. As we enter a new year, I hope this post encourages to take stock of your current bookshelf and evaluate how you can do better!

So without further ado, here is Belinda Lei’s post:

“Do the books on your shelf reflect the world you claim you want?” – Kwame Alexander

In early June 2020, I had the pleasure of hearing Kwame Alexander, a prolific NYT Bestselling writer, speak and deliver a magnificent poem during Act To Change’s first Solidarity Convo. As a Managing Director at Act To Change, a nonprofit focused on ending bullying amongst youth and especially in the AAPI community, the importance of increasing diversity, representation, and solidarity amongst communities is often at the forefront of my mind. After all, it’s something that Act To Change works towards every day – addressing bullying in underserved and diverse communities. 

However, while the activist in me watched the conversation with a smile, my writer and reader’s voice was screaming at me internally, holding me to account with thoughts of “You’re not doing good enough.” Internal Tiger Mom jokes aside, I’ve always prided myself in being an avid reader of anything and everything under the sun, and I’ve always craved to have characters that reflected my 2nd generation immigrant Chinese American background and identity in the books that I read. Needless to say, I never got that when I was growing up. In my head, sure, it wasn’t ideal that the Baudelaire orphans, Hermoine, Bella, or Katniess weren’t Black, Indeginous, or a person of color (also known as BIPOC), but it was fine.

Just fine. 

And that’s where the problem lies.  In 2019, approximately 9% of main characters in U.S. books were of Asian descent, 12% were Black, and only 3% of total books included a LGBTQIAP+ character. Less than half of protagonists were white and about a third were protagonists with animals/other as the main character. When there are more white characters and talking animals as protagonists than BIPOC folks, “just fine” just isn’t good enough. Books allowed me, especially in my teenage years, to dive deep into the glory and struggles of the 1920s, capture the bougie dramatics of New York’s Upper West Side, and immerse myself in the struggles of a magical school for witchcraft and wizardry. It exposed me to a culture that was different than my own – one that was predominantly White. So why can’t I do it the other way around? 

By writing Not THAT Rich, I wanted to present a set of fun (and dramatic!) experiences that also exposed young adult readers to a cast of characters that reflected my world growing up – one that reflected the ethnic suburban enclaves that were part of my world. My hope for the book is that it emphasizes the diversity of Asian American culture, but also offers up the common challenges that teenagers all experience today – educational and familial pressures, identity struggles, and peer pressure. 

I fully acknowledge that as a new author, I still have a lot to learn about the publishing world, and that will take time. However, as a lifelong reader, I can also do better now, today. In my wild pursuit of seeking out books with characters that remind me of me, I’ve neglected to paint the other side of the world that I would like to see more of – books by other BIPOC authors that are not Asian American. I’ve neglected reading more BIPOC voices by so desperately pursuing my own. I’ve made steps towards creating the bookshelf to reflect not just the world that I want, but the world that already exists (highly recommend Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates by the way!) and I hope by reading this post, you’ll consider joining me in looking towards your bookshelf as well. 


Belinda Lei is the author of the #1 New Release in YA Asian American Fiction, Not THAT Rich.  She’s a Southern California native and an avid reader of all genres from thriller to fantasy — but especially young adult novels. She is a Yale MBA candidate, proud Georgetown Hoya, Managing Director of an anti-bullying non-profit, software engineer, and a former strategy consultant. In her spare time, she can be found cooking, spoiling her chubby cat and grumpy dog, and binge watching dramas.