My reading streak has been really great recently.
I don’t know if it is because I’m finally getting to my “high expectations” TBR, or if it is because I just stopped making myself sit through I don’t like. It’s probably both, to be honest. I’m super excited to talk to y’all about them, so let’s get to it!
Blank Spaces by Cass Lennox
I had never known of this book or this author before The Ace Race readathon. Ever since coming to terms with my sexuality, I really want to read more experiences to basically feel like I’m not alone and reassure myself that the label does fit me. The Ace Race came at the perfect time and pushed me to prioritize reading books with main characters in the aro & ace spectrum.
The readathon introduced me to THREE new favourites. Soft on Soft (review here) is one of them, and so is Blank Spaces.
Blank Spaces is a love story between Vaughn, a very fashionable asexual gay man, and Jonah, almost a sex-fiend who does not date. This is a book about not trying to fit yourself into conventional boxes, learning more about yourself, accepting who you are and, pursuing the connections that make you happy.
First of all, Vaughn’s journey of learning about the “asexual” term and feeling found moved me to tears. By then, I had connected to the character so when he had that epiphany, it hit me.
But what I like the most is that this book explores unconventional relationships. I can’t say more due to spoilers but I like that Vaughn and Jonah figured out a way to be in a relationship and still be themselves (not a spoiler because it IS a romance book promising a happy ending).
Not only would this book be relatable to people on the ace spectrum, it also gives hope that we can find a way. That our sexuality does not put a stop to our love life prospects. That not wanting to do anything sexual doesn’t mean we can’t be in good relationships.
Basically, I really liked this book. I loved the characters, the plot, the concept, the way the relationship was handled, and everything in between.
Content warnings: explicit descriptions of sex.
The Cybernetic Tea Shop by Meredith Katz
This was the third new favourite that came out of The Ace Race readathon, and also my #1 book out of the three.
The Cybernetic Tea Shop includes 3 key things which I loved:
- a 278-year-old tea shop. I love tea. Well, I love chai and by extension, I love all tea.
- a robot. YES, you read that right. One of the main characters in this book is a ROBOT.
- focus on tech and Articficial Intelligence (AI).
This book is only 63 pages long but it packs SO MUCH into those few pages without making it feel crammed. The love story is between Sal, an almost-300-year-old AI robot, and Calra, an AI engineer. But it is also so much more than that.
The book explores loneliness, grief, the feeling and identity of belonging to someone, and moving on. The best part is that most feelings are shown and explored through the AI robot. It was highly fascinating to me, and also gripped my heart.
If you’re looking for a book with asexual main characters where asexuality is not a plot point at all, look no further. The Cybernetic Tea Shop is a gem among Queer SFF* books.
Content warnings: grief, loneliness, violent acts by people against “unnaturals”.
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
This book was somewhere on my list but was not ever a priority until I got Kindle Unlimited. It was available on KU, and is also the Subtle Asian Book Club pick for the month, so I was prompted to pick it up.
Pachinko is a multi-generational saga featuring mainly Korean characters through the early 1900s. I knew of the history between Korea and Japan to an extent but this book told me it in more detail through the eyes of commoners.
The writing in this book is really good. Even though the storytelling is pretty basic, following a straightforward timeline and a singular tone, the book kept me engrossed throughout. And it is not a small book either. I was totally into the story during all 496 pages.
One thing I will say though: books (or parts) 1 & 2 felt like an elaborate build up to book 3. While there were many things shown in the first 2 parts about the oppressions Koreans faced and the political unrest everywhere, it all came together only in part 3 with specific instances and quotes which felt like the culmination of all the previous scenes.
I definitely annotated more in part 3. Every point there punched perfectly because of the history and build up in the first 2 parts. It was great but part 3 felt like it had way more punch than parts 1 and 2.
The book explores religion, discrimination, oppression, family, sex, fate and more in an expert manner. I heard that the author spent roughly 30 years on this book, and it shows. Especially the treatment faced by Koreans during and after the war between Korea and Japan was in-depth and carefully shown.
I started wondering how the book would end in the second half because this kind of book will not be easy to end. And it wasn’t. The book ended very abruptly and I hated it. There was no smoothness to it at all. It was a straight cut and felt jarring. That is the main reason I didn’t rate this book 5 stars.
Today, Tonight, Tomorrow by Rachel Lynn Solomon
This book was at the edge of my TBR for a long time. I saw it around, I saw people reviewing it, but nothing pushed me to pick it up. One day I was perusing the Young Adult audiobooks and just picked this one to listen. That was a good decision.
Today, Tonight, Tomorrow is an academic-rivals-to-lovers young adult contemporary that takes place over 24 hours and includes a fun treasure hunt-like game with higher stakes. Basically, a great plot.
Things I liked about this book:
- The rivals to lovers trope here was AWESOME. The academic part just increased the thrill.
- The game. As part of a farewell thrown by their juniors, the senior batch play Howl where they have to eliminate each other while also figuring out a set of clues. I really like the idea of this game, and I liked how the plot occurred around it.
- The characters were very relatable. Meaning: Rowan and Neil were flawed beings who are still learning about themselves and are figuring out their space in the world. They’re also competitive like me lol.
Other than those straightforward things, I LOVED the discussion on romance. The author has used this book to put forward a lot of astute observations and thoughts on the romance genre and how it is perceived by most people. The author explores the feelings of someone who likes romance, and how they can be made to feel smaller and ashamed of their passions. I am also a romance lover like Rowan, and constantly feel ashamed to admit it because everyone scoffs at the genre, even if they don’t really think of it as simply fluff. These ideas are so rooted in the society that liking romance is like constantly defending one’s right to like whatever they want.
“Maybe it’s the whole concept of a guilty pleasure,” Neil says gently. “Why should we feel guilty about something that brings us – pleasure?”
I wish I had read the ebook so I could have annotated properly, but as it is, I bookmarked on the audiobook.
The only thing I didn’t like about this book was the timeline. I’m not someone who believes in relationships changing completely in a short span of time and hence didn’t appreciate that in the plot. But, that is a personal preference so other than that, the book was great.
That’s it for today! I do have a couple more books that I want to talk about but I may write long reviews for them? I don’t know. But this mini-review format puts much less pressure on me, so I’m loving it haha. I’ll see you soon with more bookish opinions!
What have you read recently? Have you read any of the books I mentioned?