Friday, April 27, 2012

Giveaway: Cat Girl's Day Off

Today I have the awesome chance to for you guys to win a copy of Cat Girl's Day Off by Kimberley Pauley which is published by Tu Books!

First off head on over to The Enchanted Inkpot to check out an exclusive Q&A with both the author and the editor of this book! Here's a little excerpt to get you hooked:

Ello – Thanks for publishing a book with Asian characters that are not stereotypes in any way! It is so refreshing to see that! Even Nat’s family was real (well except for the talents part) and not caricatures. So that takes us to the diversity question, which is always a hot topic. Given Tu’s mission, can you both share with us how important diversity is to the both of you? What does diversity mean to you?

Stacy – To me, it means intercultural connections. I’m white, though of course that could mean a variety of cultures of origin (in my case, Swedish, Irish, Scottish, English, German, Prussian, and a little bit Cherokee and Choctaw), and growing up in the rural Midwest I knew so few people from anything other than a Swedish/German/English background. But throughout my adult life, I’ve met so many people whose experiences/cultural background/faces are different than mine, and I want to them (and the fantastic/science fiction versions of them) reflected in the books I read just as much as I want to see myself. As it’s been said so many times, books should be both windows and mirrors—we all need both.

Kimberly – Growing up, I don’t think I ever thought about how the characters in books didn’t look like me. It just wasn’t something that even occurred to me as I read about girl detectives with titian hair or English school children passing through magical wardrobes. Possibly the first time it really hit me was when I read Justina Chen Headley’s Nothing But the Truth (and a few white lies), which wasn’t until 2007! I’ve since made it a point to look for more diverse characters. There aren’t as many as I’d like to see, that’s for sure, though I do think it is getting better. Slowly.

To me, I think we’ll be where we need to be when it’s something we don’t have to talk about anymore. That’s actually something I think I did okay with in this book. Nat’s half-Chinese, but it isn’t important that she is. The story isn’t about her race or ethnicity, just like it isn’t integral to the story that Oscar is gay. He just is.

Check out the rest of the awesome Q&A here.

Intrigued? Here's the book summary:

Natalie Ng’s little sister is a super-genius with a chameleon-like ability to disappear. Her older sister has three Class A Talents, including being a human lie detector. Her mom has laser vision and has one of the highest IQs ever. Her dad’s Talent is so complex even the Bureau of Extra-Sensory Regulation and Management (BERM) hardly knows what to classify him as.

And Nat? She can talk to cats.

The whole talking-to-cats thing is something she tries very hard to hide, except with her best friends Oscar (a celebrity-addicted gossip hound) and Melly (a wannabe actress). When Oscar shows her a viral Internet video featuring a famous blogger being attacked by her own cat, Nat realizes what’s really going on…and it’s not funny.

(okay, yeah, a frou-frou blogger being taken down by a really angry cat named Tiddlywinks, who also happens to be dyed pink? Pretty hilarious.)

Nat and her friends are catapulted right into the middle of a celebrity kidnapping mystery that takes them through Ferris Bueller’s Chicago and on and off movie sets. Can she keep her reputation intact? Can she keep Oscar and Melly focused long enough to save the day? And, most importantly, can she keep from embarrassing herself in front of Ian?

Find out what happens when the kitty litter hits the fan.

This book sounds awesome for a multitude of reasons. The main character is half Chinese plus her best guy friend is gay? It's like they stole my life and put it into a book! Except of course I don't have the ability to talk to cats. A pity that one.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Immortal Rules Q&A with Julie Kagawa!

Today Harlequin Teen has provided me with some great Q&A from Julie Kagawa all about her new book The Immortal Rules! Read on if you want to find out about Julie's favorite butt kicking heroines, why she decided to write a vampire book after all, and whether or not she would choose to die or become a vampire!

After writing the Iron Fey series for so many years, how difficult was it to immerse yourself in a futuristic world filled with vampires, rabids, and an enslaved human race?

It was... very different. I think the hardest thing for me was the fact that this tory does take place in the real world - a futuristic, vampire-infested world, but the real world nonetheless. Things had to make sense, for example: how far can a large group walk in a single day if there were no roads, they were going through thick woods, and there were children in the group? I had to have logical reasons for everything; I couldn't just make something work" because of faery magic," lol.

Just like Meghan Chase in the Iron Fey series, the main character in The Immortal Rules, Allison Sekemoto is a "take charge and kick butt" kind of girl. Is this intentional? What woman - real or fictional, alive or deceased - do you look up to or admire?

Yes, Allison comes from a very different world than Meghan Chase. Meghan's upbringing was pretty normal; Allison grew up among vampires and monsters, where every day was a fight to live, so she couldn't afford to be weak. While Meghan had to learn to "take charge and kick butt," Allison's first impulse is stab first, talk later.

As for female role models, the first that comes to mind - when it comes to kicking vampire butt anyway - is Buffy Summers. Thank you Joss Whedon , for making me love feisty, snarky, heroines who can dust all sorts of nasties but who also look good in a cheerleading outfit! ;)

You mention in your acknowledgements of The Immortal Rules that at the beginning of your writing career you promised yourself you wouldn't write a vampire book. What changed your mind?

Well, there were already so many really good books about our favorite bloodsuckers, so many stories and ideas, I thought I didn't have anything new to add to the masses. I was actually toying with a post-apocalyptic YA novel when my agent mentioned I might want to try writing a vampire series. I wasn't intrigued with the idea at first, but then I thought about combining vampires with the post-apocalyptic novel and then the rest sort of fell into place.

Allison claims she hates vampires and believes they are monsters yet when faced with a choice of die or become one, she becomes a vampire. Would you have made that same decision?

Me personally? No. I'm like Zeke in the belief that there is something better waiting for me beyond this life and I just have to do my best until it's time for me to go on. Besides, I love pizza and Mountain Dew too much to give it up.

Who do you think the most complex character is in The Immortal Rules?

Probably, Kanin Allie's sire. He's a vampire who has made his peace about being a monster, yet chooses to live by his own set of moral rules. He warns Allison about getting too close to humans, yet he does not kill unless he absolutely has to. He is tormented about something in his past that he refuses to share with anyone. He is certainly the most mysterious of all the characters, if not the most complex.

Before starting writing full time you were a professional dog trainer. Do the professions share any similarities?

Lol, well you have to think on your feet a lot. And some of the small dogs could be compared to tiny snapping goblins, but writing requires less dodging skills, though perhaps the same amount of creativity and problem solving.

When starting a new series, like Blood of Eden, do you have the entire series mapped out in detail or do you let the story develop book by book?

I have a high point that I write toward in each story; I know this and this has to happen, but getting from point A to point B usually develops as I go along.

And for the speed round:
What book have you read, and re-read, and read yet again?

Any of the Harry Potter books.

Favorite song to play when writing a fight scene?

My "favorites" change daily. Right now it's "Awake and Alive" by Skillet.

Worst job?

Working a kiosk in the mall during Christmas. It sold glass figurines, and the maneuvering space around hundreds of very breakable merchandise was quite small. I was like a bull in a china shop.

Best vacation spot?

Walt Disney World

Sweet or Salty?


One thing most people don't know about you - and would never guess!

I used to play the flute when I was a kid. I was really good at it too, but my instructor stopped teaching to have a family and I never went back to it.

A big thanks to Harlequin Teen for providing this awesome Q&A!

Be sure to add The Immortal Rules to your shelf on Goodreads here and enter my giveaway for a copy here!

To find out more about Julie Kagawa  and her books be sure to check out her official website and follow her on Twitter!

Julia :)

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Book Review: The Immortal Rules + Giveaway!

The Immortal Rules (Blood of Eden #1)
by Julie Kagawa
504 pages
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Publication Date: April 24, 2012
Source: Publisher for Review (Thanks Harlequin Teen!)
Add this book to your shelf on Goodreads

In a future world, Vampires reign. Humans are blood cattle. And one girl will search for the key to save humanity.

Allison Sekemoto survives in the Fringe, the outermost circle of a vampire city. By day, she and her crew scavenge for food. By night, any one of them could be eaten.

Some days, all that drives Allie is her hatred of them. The vampires who keep humans as blood cattle. Until the night Allie herself is attacked—and given the ultimate choice. Die… or become one of the monsters.

Faced with her own mortality, Allie becomes what she despises most. To survive, she must learn the rules of being immortal, including the most important: go long enough without human blood, and you will go mad.

Then Allie is forced to flee into the unknown, outside her city walls. There she joins a ragged band of humans who are seeking a legend—a possible cure to the disease that killed off most of humankind and created the rabids, the mindless creatures who threaten humans and vampires alike.

But it isn't easy to pass for human. Especially not around Zeke, who might see past the monster inside her. And Allie soon must decide what—and who—is worth dying for.

I am a HUGE skeptic when it comes to vampire novels. Because of some YA vampire lit out there *cough* Twilight *cough* I have avoided paranormal and basically all vampire stuff like the plague. In fact before reading The Immortal Rules the only other vampire novel I had ever read was Cirque Du Freak by Darren Shan and that was only because it was forced upon me by my Library book club. So to say that I was a bit hesitant to read The Immortal Rules would be a huge understatement. Honestly, the only reason I decided to read it was because the author is Julie Kagawa and she's Asian and I still haven't read her Iron Fey series so I felt guilty. I know, shame on me. >.< I guess you could say I wasn't in the best mindset going into this book. I kept having to reassure myself with "It's not gonna be Twilight, IT'S NOT GONNA BE TWILIGHT" and lo and behold: It wasn't! Let me tell you I am beyond glad that I decided to give The Immortal Rules a chance because this book is FREAKING AMAZING vampires and all!

There are many reasons why I love this book but first and foremost is the heroine Allison Sekemoto. This girl can kick ass like nobodies business, she's Asian, AND she's my short buddy measuring in at only 5' tall (just like me)! Yeah, we're obviously fictional soul mates. But Asian shortness aside this girl is AWESOME. She's tough as nails, a true survivor, and even after she's been turned into a vampire she still tries her hardest to maintain a strong moral compass. Oh and did I mention that she wields a samurai sword? Yeah, she's a beast.

Another thing that I just love about The Immortal Rules is the way Julie Kagawa was able to create her post-apocalyptic world. It's hard enough to write a believable post-apocalyptic setting without adding in the craziness of vampires and rabids (which are basically a vampire/zombie cross-breed). This is a world like no one has written about before. It's totally unique and while it is definitely fiction it also seems like a believable apocalyptic future. Yes, even with the crazy vampireness it still has an element of reality to it. Nice job Julie Kagawa!

So the thing I was most skeptical about was definitely the vampires and Julie Kagawa pulled these guys off so well. No sparkling skin and longing looks ala Edward Cullen here! These vampires are BADASS. They're evil, and bloodthirsty (obviously), and not the kind of creature you would want to run into in a dark alley. Plus they rule the world. Literally. Plus I loved Allison's inner struggle of wanting to maintain her humanity and yet not being able to because she's been turned into a vampire. Ohhh the character issues and development! SO GOOD.

The Immortal Rules has everything you could want in a good novel. It's got awesome characters (Allison Sekemoto may just end up replacing Katniss Everdeen as my favorite female heroine!), great action and suspense, a darker futuristic setting, and even a little bit of romance. It's less a book about vampires and more a book that has vampires in it. For the paranormal lover and non-paranormal lover alike I would highly recommend this book! I give The Immortal Rules 5 out of 5 ice cream cones.

If The Immortal Rules is any indication of how good Julie Kagawa's The Iron Fey series is then I need to get reading that pronto! I am definitely now a HUGE Julie Kagawa fan!

Oh and The Immortal Rules has already been optioned to be a film. This has me super excited because if they end up making it the main heroine is gonna be Asian and will quite possibly end up being a hapa! OH YEAH! You do not even understand how excited that makes me.

And now for the giveaway!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Cover Comparison [30]

Cover Comparison is back guys! This week we're taking a look at the covers of The Heist Society by Ally Carter. Let's get started.

                                                  US Cover                     UK Cover

US Cover: To me this cover feels like it's trying really to hard to be cool and sophisticated but instead it comes off as a bit cheesy. It's got the model doing the whole smirky side grin plus the reflection of a painting in the sunglasses. And I haven't noticed it till now but what the heck is up with the light reflecting off the middle left of the sunglasses? *shakes head* However I do think this model has a great Kat look to her and I love the font they chose. Thumbs up on those fronts.

UK Cover: Okay so as much as I don't care for the US Cover of The Heist Society the UK Cover is even worse. Oh gosh don't get me started on this one. It literally makes me cringe just looking at it. >.< The model is all wrong and why they chose to do three different font colors is beyond me. Honestly I think it looks like a slapped together photoshop job that someone would do if they were entering a cover recreation contest and not like an official cover at all. Just bad.

So who wins? US Cover takes the crown here! It may be cheesy but the black white and red theme is great and the model they chose is perfect. The UK Cover is just way too cringeworthy.

Which cover of The Heist Society do YOU like best? Be sure to vote in the poll below and sound off in the comments about why you made your decision!

Edit: Some UK people have been saying that they haven't seen the UK cover before, only the US cover. After some research I think this cover might be the Australian one? I'm not sure but I do know it's a legit cover. :P

Have any suggestions for future cover comparisons? Leave them in this form!

Julia :)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Book Review: Glimmer

by Phoebe Kitanidis
352 pages
Publisher: Balzar + Bray
Publication Date: April 17th 2012
Source: Teen Book Scene
Add it to your shelf on Goodreads!
When Marshall King and Elyse Alton wake up tangled in each other's arms with zero memory of how they got there or even who they are, it's the start of a long journey through their separate pasts and shared future.

Terrified by their amnesia, they make a pact to find the answers taht could restore their missing memories. As they piece together clues about their lives, they discover that they're in the idyllic resort town of Summer Falls, where darkness lurks beneath the town's perfect facade. Not only is the town haunted by sinister ghosts, but none of its living in habitants retain bad memories of anything - not the death of Marshall's mom, not the hidden violence in Elyse's family. Lonely in this world of happy zombies Marshall and Elyse fall into an intense relationship, but the secrets they're trying to uncover could be the death of their growing love - and everyone, and everything, they love in Summer Falls.

Glimmer is a strange, strange book. Honestly I'm not too surprised because after all the book does start with two teenagers waking up in bed naked together. Yep, you read that right. NAKED. Oh and did I mention these teenagers have no memory of who they are or how they got naked? Yeah, totally awkward. Especially when you're trying to explain the book to family and friends. I had this type of conversation multiple times:

Friend: What are you reading?

Me: Oh it's this book called Glimmer.

Friend: Cool, what's it about?

Me: Two teenagers who wake up in bed naked together with no memory of how they got there.

Friend. That sounds..... interesting? *looks at Julia like she's sprouted two heads*

Yep. I'm pretty sure some of my friends now think I have REALLY weird taste in books. Haha. But awkwardness aside Glimmer wasn't like anything I had read before. It's an eclectic mix of contemporary mystery and paranormal with some romance added in for good measure. All in all it's a unique and intriguing story and it wasn't at all what I thought it was going to be. The paranormal stuff really threw me for a loop. Don't get me wrong, I thought the story was alright, but gosh dang it, this book was just SO ODD.

The story is set in the fictional town of Summer Falls where the weather is always lovely and idyllic and people pass out from daily "heatnaps" that erase bad memories. Sound creepy? You have no idea. Before the stories end characters become comotose zombie's (only without the cool "I want to eat your brains factor"), people turn out to possess magical powers, and ghosts chase our lovely heroes.

Speaking of lovely heroes let's talk about Marshall and Elyse. Yep, the ones who wake up in bed naked together. These guys are interesting characters but they really didn't have a lot of depth. Of course they have lost their memories so they don't even know who they are but still: there has to be more to Elyse than her "wish" to run off to California and more to Marshall than his desire to get in Elyses pants. Okay so maybe I'm being a bit hard on Marshall, but even Marshall hates on himself partway through the book so I figure it's okay. :P

The problem for me was that Marshall and Elyse spent a lot of the story being selfish and I have a really hard time sympathizing with selfish characters. In the end they did make sacrifices and helped save the world (the world of Summer Falls at least) so I guess I can't be too hard on them but I still found it hard to like them. Not only that but their romance was really awkward and contrived. I'm just not into a lot of sexy times and this book definitely had some of that. :/

The plot itself was really crazy and totally blew my mind. I honestly didn't understand half of what went on in this book and I'm still sort of shaking my head and thinking "What the heck did I just read?" However I give mad props to Phoebe Kitanidis for writing such a crazy story. I don't know where she came up with this but the ingenuity is impressive. I will definitely be looking out for more of her stuff in the future!

I've been a bit hard on Glimmer but I really do think it was a cool and unique book. It wasn't necessarily my cup of tea but the mystery was intriguing and I LOVE that it's a stand alone novel. There need to be more stand alones in YA lit!

I give Glimmer 3 and a half out of 5 ice cream cones.

Julia :)

Monday, April 16, 2012

All Things Asian Wrap Up and My Favorite Asian Related Books!

The past two weeks me, Lucia of iLive, iLaugh, iLove Books and Izzy of My Words Ate Me have been celebrating all things Asian from Asian authors and bloggers to Asian book characters and food. We've had tons of awesome guest posts, interviews, and of course GIVEAWAYS! For links to every single post be sure to check out the official All Things Asian event page!

All Things Asian wouldn't be complete if I didn't share with you guys my personal favorite Asian related books. So here are some of my favorite books with Asian characters, themes, or written by Asian authors!

It's hard not to notice Terra Cooper.

She's tall, blond, and has an enviable body. But with one turn of her cheek, all people notice is her unmistakably "flawed" face. Terra secretly plans to leave her stifling small town in the Northwest and escape to an East Coast college, but gets pushed off-course by her controlling father. When an unexpected collision puts Terra directly in Jacob's path, the handsome but quirky Goth boy immediately challenges her assumptions about herself and her life, and she is forced in yet another direction. With her carefully laid plans disrupted, will Terra be able to find her true path?

I LOVE this book. Not only is it written by Justina Chen (who is by far my favorite Asian author EVER) but it also has one of the most swoonworthy fictional guys ever: Jacob! Unfortunately that just conjured up images of Jacob Black in my mind. Curse ye Twilight! The Jacob in North of Beautiful is MUCH better than Jacob Black. At least I think so. He's Asian, and goes geocaching, and is totally artsy and emo-esque and I want him to be real so he can be my boyfriend. :P

Belly measures her life in summers. Everything good, everything magical happens between the months of June and August. Winters are simply a time to count the weeks until the next summer, a place away from the beach house, away from Susannah, and most importantly, away from Jeremiah and Conrad. They are the boys that Belly has known since her very first summer--they have been her brother figures, her crushes, and everything in between. But one summer, one terrible and wonderful summer, the more everything changes, the more it all ends up just the way it should have been all along.

I think you would have to be living under a rock to not know about this series. Take note: If you have not yet read the Summer trilogy DO IT. Especially over the summer. These are the PERFECT summer beach reads! And that is why I love them. Jenny Han is such an awesome Asian author and her next book series is written by both her and Siobhan Vivian. I can hardly wait! I just know it's gonna be awesome. :D

Tree-ear, an orphan, lives under a bridge in Ch’ulp’o, a potters’ village famed for delicate celadon ware. He has become fascinated with the potter’s craft; he wants nothing more than to watch master potter Min at work, and he dreams of making a pot of his own someday. When Min takes Tree-ear on as his helper, Tree-ear is elated–until he finds obstacles in his path: the backbreaking labor of digging and hauling clay, Min’s irascible temper, and his own ignorance. But Tree-ear is determined to prove himself–even if it means taking a long, solitary journey on foot to present Min’s work in the hope of a royal commission . . . even if it means arriving at the royal court with nothing to show but a single celadon shard.

One of the first Asian related books I ever read! My mom had us kids study this in school and I love her for it. If you have yet to pick up a Linda Sue Park book what are you waiting for? They're so good. My favorite historical fiction for sure. :)

Two theater-mad, self-invented fabulositon Ohio teenagers. One boy, one girl. One gay, one straight. One black, one white. And SUMMER DRAMA CAMP. It's a season of hormones, gold lame, hissy fits, jazz hands, song and dance, true love, and unitards that will determine their future --and test their friendship.

Okay so this book really isn't that Asian related but there is one Asian character AND HE IS SO SWOONWORTHY GUYS OH MY GOSH! Theo is every musical theatre girl's dream boy. He's straight, adorable and Asian, and he can play the piano like no one's business. Gosh can he just marry me know? Just a heads up if you are reading this and you happen to be a straight musical theatre performing and piano playing Asian guy then I will so date you. Just saying. :P So yeah I love this book because it totally plays to my musical theatre loving self. It's a total guilty pleasure. I've read it at least 4 times. >.<

Millicent Min is having a bad summer. Her fellow high school students hate her for setting the curve. Her fellow 11-year-olds hate her for going to high school. And her mother has arranged for her to tutor Stanford Wong, the poster boy for Chinese geekdom. But then Millie meets Emily. Emily doesn't know Millicent's IQ score. She actually thinks Millie is cool. And if Millie can hide her awards, ignore her grandmother's advice, swear her parents to silence, blackmail Stanford, and keep all her lies straight, she just might make her first friend. What's it gong to take? Sheer genius.

Stanford Wong is having a bad summer. If he flunks his summer-school English class, he won't pass sixth grade. If that happens, he won't start on the A-team. If *that* happens, his friends will abandon him and Emily Ebers won't like him anymore. And if THAT happens, his life will be over. Soon his parents are fighting, his grandmother Yin-Yin hates her new nursing home, he's being "tutored" by the world's biggest nerdball Millicent Min--and he's not sure his ballpoint "Emily" tattoo is ever going to wash off.

I did a post last week about why I love diversity in YA and I mentioned these books specifically because they are AMAZING. Never have books captured Asian humor so perfectly and been so relatable. I don't know how they read if you aren't Asian but personally I found these hysterical and I just absolutely love them.

What was once the western United States is now home to the Republic, a nation perpetually at war with its neighbors. Born into an elite family in one of the Republic’s wealthiest districts, fifteen-year-old June is a prodigy being groomed for success in the Republic’s highest military circles. Born into the slums, fifteen-year-old Day is the country’s most wanted criminal. But his motives may not be as malicious as they seem.

From very different worlds, June and Day have no reason to cross paths—until the day June’s brother, Metias, is murdered and Day becomes the prime suspect. Caught in the ultimate game of cat and mouse, Day is in a race for his family’s survival, while June seeks to avenge Metias’s death. But in a shocking turn of events, the two uncover the truth of what has really brought them together, and the sinister lengths their country will go to keep its secrets.

Full of nonstop action, suspense, and romance, this novel is sure to move readers as much as it thrills.

An awesome dystopian novel written by an awesome Asian author? YES. I loved this book so much and the main guy character is even a hapa! This was definitely one of my favorite dystopians of 2011. If you haven't read it yet you need to. Seriously, it's amazing.

"Getting her fortune told by a Taiwanese 'belly-button grandmother' (who feels up her navel) instead of attending the spring dance is just one of the joys of being Patty Ho, a covertly snarky 'hapa' (half Asian, half white) struggling with her dual heritage. Patty's domineering mother is determined to make her a good Taiwanese girl. Gangly Patty, no 'China doll,' longs to be white like her long-gone father...readers will find a compelling narrative, and a spunky, sympathetic heroine. This book should enjoy wide appeal."

This list would not be complete without Nothing But the Truth (and a few white lies) by Justina Chen. IT'S ALL ABOUT BEING A HAPA GUYS! In fact it was this book that introduced me to the term hapa that then inspired my blog name. Nothing but the Truth is definitely a fairly accurate portrayal of what it's like to grow up hapa and for that I love it. <3

So those are some of my favoritest Asian related books! I hope you guys get a chance to read them and be sure to leave suggestions of some of your favorite Asian related books in the comments!

Don't forget to check out all of the All Things Asian posts by visiting the official event page and of course be sure to enter all the giveaways for chances to win some of these books I mentioned, awesome swag, gift cards, and more!

Did you guys love All Things Asian as much as I did? Let me know in the comments what you thought and be sure to drop me an email if you want to get involved with next years All Things Asian celebration!

Julia :)

Friday, April 13, 2012

Asian Blogger Spotlight: Meet Zara from A Bibliotaphe's Closet!

Today I have the privilege of spotlighting the Asian blogger Zara from A Bibliotaphe's Closet!

 What do you look for in a book?
I love language and tend to gravitate towards literary fiction, historical fiction, memoirs, and poetry. I look for tight, clear, beautifully written narrative that’s lyrical, but not wordy. And I love the stories I read to be character driven with depth and sensitivity. I’m impressed if the characters are flawed, but believable. Stereotypes drive me crazy! I have to really care about the characters in a book in order to really enjoy my read. If I’m indifferent about them, I don’t believe the author has succeeded in doing his or her job. I dislike superficial plots and perfectly tied and/or explanatory endings. “Show me, don’t tell me” has always been my “rule of thumb.” Essentially, though, I put a high value on a novel if it has emotionally stunned me with its writing and narrative; its characters’ evolution in the work; and if some part of me, however small, has opened in perspective by experiencing the richness of the story.  

What got you into blogging?
I’ve always been a voracious reader ever since I started reading at the age of five. My passion for books evolved into writing, which I stayed with and formally studied in university having graduated with a BA in English Literature and Creative Writing (and a minor in Women’s Studies and Minorities in Canadian Society) from YU. Eventually I worked as an editor for a small publishing company, so I have always been involved with books one way or another.

As a reader, my own personal library collection kept growing. I bought books with anticipation like a child entering a toy store. And as I read them, I kept a personal diary of my thoughts and reactions. It felt somewhat tedious to fill my hardcopy journal so I wanted to find a place online to house them for myself. A collection started on the application Evernote. But, after a while I got bored with it and wanted to share my ideas with someone else.

I had no experience in blogging. I did a search on Google to find out where I could indeed start. It led me to I posted a few reviews, tinkering with the application. I slowly taught myself how to use it. And then all this blogging jargon hit, too. What was a button? A widget? Rafflecopter? I had no idea.

I’ve only recently passed a few milestones for myself as a blogger. Just two weeks ago, I finally put images and links onto my sidebars! Last week, I figured out how to create a Google document. I only started blogging in December of 2011, so I’m three months young in the blogging world. But, the process and slowly growing into the blogging community has been fantastic. I’ve finally found people who have the same amount of passion I have for books! And I love that blogging allowed me to make that discovery.

Who's your favorite author/authors?
I love our iconic Margaret Atwood for her exact prose. I also met Barbara Gowdy personally and her honesty in writing is just as genuine as she is in person. I love Michael Ondaatje for his character driven stories, which are both intelligent and sentimental. I love the stark work of Mark Strand’s poetry. And I trust Jhumpra Lahiri as a supreme writer about the marginal experience.

If you could have any supernatural power, what would it be?
This question should have been pluralized because if I had the ability to own a superpower, I wouldn’t limit myself to just one! I would love to be able to read minds, influence them, understand and speak all languages, and shapeshift at will. Flying doesn’t suit me because I’m extremely scared of heights and immortality would only imprison me throughout the ages. Death is a good thing. It’s inevitable and necessary. And time, well, I wouldn’t want to mess with that. Too complicated.

Do you think Asian characters and/or authors are prominent enough in young adult fiction?
No. Young adult fiction tends to focus primarily on the White-American tradition if it writes culturally at all. I see trends focused more on the paranormal and fantasy genres than anything else. I’ve come across a lot of vampires, werewolves, angels, witches, demons, shape-shifters, etc. Another popular theme in YA is romance, but usually from a non-Asian perspective.

Perhaps the danger in writing “Asian characters” in YA is to over-simplify their specific cultural experience in consideration of its target audience. The problem when that happens is the endorsement and danger found in reinforcing Asian stereotypes. But, yes, it would be wonderful to see more Asian authors and/or Asian stories in YA fiction. Absolutely.

How close would you say you are to Asian culture?
Culture doesn’t stem entirely from geography or place of origin. It’s a culmination of your experiences. I was born in Toronto, Canada to two Filipino immigrants so I’m a product of two places and two cultures: a dichotomy between the east and the west; the Asian and the non-Asian.

I feel as an individual, I’m always on the peripheral when I think of myself culturally. I have one foot in the Philippines and the other foot on Canadian soil. And it’s a balancing act of choices. I do my best in taking the “best” cultural examples from both sides.

For example, I still believe and favour a more traditional sense of courtship and the importance of honouring your elders by name and action. As well as supportive of what it means to be subservient in an act of respect and propriety. But, I’m also quite forward-thinking when it comes to independence and feminist values.

Language and food, too, play a part in defining me culturally. I can understand Tagalog, but I speak and major in the English language with no visible Filipino accent. I love all types of Asian food: Korean, Japanese, Chinese, Thai, and Filipino are favourites. But, when I cook at home, I tend to cook “neutral” dishes for my husband who is Latin-American and my children who love spaghetti! But, when a power struggle threatens my cultural sensibility, I defend it vigorously.

Would you say you appreciate Asian inspired literature more, less, or the same as other literature?
As an Asian-Canadian, I don’t believe it’s a matter of appreciating Asian inspired literature more than books with other cultural themes. As a voracious reader and writer, myself, I appreciate great literature, period, especially since literary fiction is my favourite genre of choice.

I do, however, believe my experience in reading stories and poems that contain Asian themes is a more intimate one because I can empathize more readily with its references to food, language, geography, cultural traditions, customs, and forms of propriety. It’s also a privilege to be able to recognize yourself and your specific cultural experience written out in a book and shared with a larger audience. This kind of perspective leaves me with not only a great sense of pride and honour, but enjoyment when I can connect Asian references in a work to my own personal definition of what it means to be an Asian and how that definition continually grows and changes. It also affords me a truer sense of when an author, Asian or non-Asian, has gotten its details, references, and cultural implications wrong.

And now it's time for this or that!

The part of the interview where we ask if you like this or that!

This is a very difficult choice for me because the Filipino egg roll called Lumpia is divine, while I’d pretty much do anything for a tray of sushi! Crispy white tuna is my favourite. And Lumpia dipped in a vinegar sauce is a super snack!

Ramen. Especially when it’s in the Korean kimchi soup. It helped me survive through college.

Intricately designed chopsticks. Or for Filipino style, the tablespoon AND fork, rather than the fork and knife. But, when eating rice with freshly cooked crabs, I’ll eat the way Filipino natives and my ancestors ate: with my hands!

Thanks for taking the time to let us interview you Zara! Be sure to check out Zara's blog A Bibliotaphe's Closet and give it a follow!

Be sure to hit up our All Things Asian event page for all the posts and giveaways! Click HERE to see more awesomeness. (And no, you don't have to be Asian to participate!) And don't forget to check out iLive, iLaugh, iLove Books and My Words Ate Me today for more posts!

Julia :)

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Asian Author Spotlight: Melissa de la Cruz

Today I've got an interview with Asian author Melissa de la Cruz! You might know her from her popular Blue Bloods series or her The Au Pairs Novels. The first book in her new series Wolf Pact is coming out from Disney Hyperion this fall. Read on as Melissa shares with us what inspires her to write, her advice for young writers, and how her Asian heritage influenced her writing!

What were your favorite books as a kid?
As a kid I loved everything from Dr. Seuss to A.A. Milne, graduating to Anne of Green Gables series, Little Women, Sweet Valley High, Stephen King, Anne Rice.
What inspires you to write your book(s)? 
Everything, anything. You overhear something. Or your friends talk about something. Or you read something in the newspaper or a magazine or you see something in TV. For my first novel Cat's Meow about a fashionista, I was inspired by an article I read in Vogue about this socialite who bought Sammy Davis Jr's wardrobe and WORE it--it was so fabulous. For Blue Bloods I was inspired by something I read online about how all these famous, wealthy and illustrious Americans - like the Roosevelts and Bushes and even famous people like Marilyn Monroe and Oprah - could trace their ancestry to the Mayflower. I thought, what if the reason these people are so entrenched in power and influence is because they're undead? Because they're vampires?
What advice would you give to another writer? 
I have an entire section on advice on my website!
If you could have any supernatural power, what would it be?
I would make the days much, much longer so that I have enough time for everything - all my deadlines, time with my family, time for myself, time for my friends.  

What are some of your favorite books with Asian characters?
Joy Luck Club was definitely very influential for me. I loved and hated it at the same time. As I've grown up, I've loved it more. I think as a young and angry Asian-American woman, I didn't like it very much when I first read it, I thought it was very much "victim-y" but now I realize how wise it is, and how it told HER story, but not mine and that was fine.
Do you think Asian characters and/or authors are prominent enough in young adult fiction?
I don't know what you mean really - I think Shaun Tan is very prominent and respected, and there are a lot of great writers out there in YA who have published books and made a name for themselves- Cherry Cheva, Paula Yoo, Malinda Lo, Cindy Pon, Marie Lu, so our voices are being heard.

Do you feel like your Asian heritage influenced your writing at all?
Yes, it's part of me so it's in my writing. I think New York is very much like Manila, my parents always said New York was "Manila with money." Society is the same everywhere --people are the same, they have the same cliques the same foibles. When I was writing about the Blue Bloods, even though they are WASPs from the Mayflower, the way they act, the way they lived, it was very much influenced by what I saw growing up as a kid in Manila, my dad had his own investment bank and my mom was prominent socially and written about in magazines.

Thanks for such an awesome interview Melissa! To find out more about Melissa de la Cruz and her books be sure to check out her official website. You can also follower her on Twitter here.

Be sure to hit up our All Things Asian event page for all the posts and giveaways! Click HERE to see more awesomeness. (And no, you don't have to be Asian to participate!) And don't forget to check out iLive, iLaugh, iLove Books and My Words Ate Me today for more posts!

Julia :)

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Asian Author Spotlight: Ellen Oh + Giveaway

Today I get the privilege of spotlighting Asian author Ellen Oh!

Her debut novel Prophecy - The Dragon King Chronicles (it's the first in a trilogy!) won't be coming out till January 2nd 2013 from HarperCollins but that doesn't mean we can't highlight her now right? Enjoy this great interview where Ellen shares with us why she thinks diversity is important, talks about her love for spicy food, and tells us her favorite Asian dish!

What made you choose to write the genre you do?
I don’t think I chose to write in this genre, my story dictated what I wrote. It just happened to be YA. But subconsciously it probably helped that I had small children and I was reading a lot of children’s books at the time. In fact, I preferred them to adult books. Still do!

What inspired you to write your book(s)?  I'd become fascinated with Ancient Asian history after reading a biography on Genghis Khan back in the year 2000. It led to years of obsessive research that led to a kernel of an idea -- an idea that I could write a fantasy novel using a mix of history, mythology and legend.

What advice would you give to another writer?  "Shut up and listen carefully" should be your new mantra. Before you get offended or confused, let me explain. Writers can be very opinionated and defensive and yet at the same time really insecure and paranoid. This comes out in how you interact with other people, how you talk, how you act, and even how you write. In order to become a better writer, I had to tell myself to shut up already and start listening carefully to what's really being said.

How do you listen carefully? First, you have to take ego out of the equation. All the ego - not just the "I'm the best writer in the world" ego, but the "I suck and can't even write 'how to' manuals for a can opener" ego. It is inevitable that most of us are our own worst critics. It's just as important to tell your critic to shut up. You know the one that sounds like Joan Rivers and says you suck and you're ugly. That guy. You need to punch that guy in the face and tell him to shut up. Listen to your gut not your critic. Your gut wants to help you succeed. Your critic wants to make you stab yourself in the eye with a spoon. So who do you really want to listen to?

Listening carefully also means to weed out the negativity. To weed out the naysayers. The people who just want to bring you down (whether on purpose or unconsciously) and say things that undermine your confidence. Listening carefully means recognizing truth from untruths. Not easy to do when your inner critic is bitching at you about how badly you stink. He helps all that negativity take root and you begin to second guess yourself. He needs an ass whooping. And you need to listen carefully. When you take your ego and your critic out of the equation, then a negative criticism becomes easier to analyze. It's easier to consider whether it really has merit or if it's just trash talk.

One naysayer told me that my first book (which I shelved) was "too oriental for western sensibilities." After I kicked in his teeth (in my head), I listened carefully to what that criticism was really about. In my first book, I had some difficult Korean names. The kind that make you scratch your head wondering how to even attempt pronouncing them. Fair enough, I thought. I never did like the fact that I had no idea how to pronounce all the Elvish names in Lord of the Rings. I kept that in mind when I wrote Prophecy. Now I have names in my book that are easier to pronounce. Did I sell myself out to do that? Absolutely not. I listened carefully. I disregarded the inherent racism in the implied criticism and instead focused on how to address it.

As a writer, there will be many times when your ego and your critic will get in the way of your writing. Don't let them control you. Don't let them block your forward progress. Tell them to shut up so you can listen carefully. Only then can you find the truths that will work best for you.

If you could have any supernatural power, what would it be?
I would want to be like superman strong, but without the kryptonite.

What is your opinion on spicy food?
I’m Korean, does that answer your question? ;o) I’m the type of person that will try to add Tabasco to everything I eat (except sweets). So yeah, I pretty much adore spicy food. But as I get older, the spicy food isn’t loving me back as much so Zantac has become my new best friend.

Do you think there needs to be more diversity in young adult fiction?
Hell yes! We need a lot more diversity in YA fiction. I just did a blog post on this subject here:

One of the reasons I wrote up this post was because my oldest daughter, who is 12, has now been haunting the YA sections of the bookstore and she commented on how “white” it was. It made me sad because she felt excluded without even really knowing why.

I will also be doing a blog series where I ask authors of diverse books to talk about what diversity means to them and why it is so important.

How close would you say you are to Asian culture?
Well I wrote a book about ancient Korea because I was fascinated by Asian history. I am a huge K-pop and K-drama fan and I adore Korean food. Well actually, I love all food, especially Asian food. There is no doubting my Americanism, but I respect and admire my Korean roots.

What is your favorite Asian dish?
This is way too hard! Because the answer is – it depends on my mood. When I’m in the mood for noodles, my favorite food is Pho. If I want comfort food – it’s Korean bibimbap. Then there are days where the only thing that I want to eat is sushi. And when I just gotta have meat, kalbi is the only way to go.

Thanks for such an awesome interview Ellen! To find out more about Ellen's debut novel Prophecy check out Ellen's official website here and take the time to check out her blog here where you can see the posts she mentioned on cultural diversity! Totally awesome right?

And now for the GIVEAWAY! *throws confetti in air*

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Asian Blogger Spotlight: Meet Kristan from We Heart YA + Giveaway!

Today for All Things Asian I get to spotlight Asian blogger Kristan from We Heart YA!

Not only is Kristan a blogger but she's also an author! Her book Twenty-Somewhere was the winner of the St. Martin's Press "New Adult" contest! So take some time to read about how Kristan got into blogging (before it was even called blogging!), her advice to other bloggers, and what her favorite Asian related books are.

What got you into blogging?

Believe it or not, I got my first computer when I was 2 and 1/2! I think I wanted one because my parents were always on them (for work) and I wanted to be "cool" like them. We were early adopters of the internet (anyone still use AOL? anyone remember Prodigy?) and I made my first website at age 9. It was dedicated to my favorite things (Star Trek, the Spice Girls, and Sailor Moon) but I quickly realized that other people were making much better websites about that stuff, so I switched to writing about myself. It was a blog before that term even existed.

My style and content has changed a lot over the years (from childhood ramblings, to teenage angst, and now "grownup" thoughts) but at the core, it's always about self-expression and reflection. My personal blog (about writing, reading, my dog, travel, etc.) is at, and I discuss Young Adult literature with 3 great friends at

What advice would you give to another blogger?
#1: Stick with your passions. If you're really into something, that's what you're going to be able to blog about week after week, and that dedication and enthusiasm is what's going to attract readers.

#2: Experiment. Have fun. Or as Miss Frizzle from the Magic School Bus would say, "Get messy! Make mistakes!" The neat thing about blogs is that they grow and change along with us. There's no reason to be embarrassed about your early posts, just like there's no reason to be embarrassed if you liked Barney as a kid. It's natural. Eventually you'll settle in to your own blogging voice, but in the meantime, play around, emulate other bloggers that you admire, try new features, etc.

What were your favorite books as a kid?
As a girl, my favorite books were Anne of Green Gables (1-5) by Lucy Maud Montgomery. As a teen, I glommed onto the capital-L literary scene, with books like Beloved by Toni Morrison or Blindness by Jose Saramago. But I've always read widely, from romance to mystery, scifi to the classics. I think being open-minded to all genres has served me well, both as a writer and as a person.

What are some of your favorite books with Asian characters?
This might seem like a copout answer, but it's true! Amy Tan's books are probably my favorite "Asian" books. The Joy Luck Club is good, but I actually like the movie better. (Probably because I watched it two dozen times growing up, no lie.) My favorites are The Bonesetter's Daughter, followed by The Opposite of Fate (her memoir) and The Hundred Secret Senses (which features a halfie like me). Amy Tan just has a way of portraying Asian culture and mother-daughter relationships so simply and genuinely. It's like looking into a mirror.  

Do you think Asian characters and/or authors are prominent enough in young adult fiction?
No. I think we're making progress, but it's slow. Malinda Lo, Cindy Pon, and Marie Lu all come to mind as successful, prominent authors in YA, but characters? Where are the Asian Bellas and Katnisses? And where are the Asian guys, whether writers or heroes?

(Well, I do have ONE answer to that. My friend Andrew Fukuda is a male, Asian YA writer. His forthcoming series THE HUNT is getting some good buzz.)

To some extent, we as the Asian community need to be responsible for bringing these people to light. We have to encourage our stories and our writers, and then we need to buy their books to show the publishing industry that there is a demand.  

Do you think there needs to be more diversity in young adult fiction?
Yes. Again, we're making progress, but it's slow. And when I say "diversity," I don't just mean ethnic books. It's about diversity of experiences. Characters who are rich, poor, smart, dumb, white, black, yellow, green, urban, rural, American, international, and everything in between.

As a side note, I would like to add that not all of these diverse characters need to have stories that focus on their diversity. I think it would be great to see stories about action heroines, or awkward guys, or sports stars, who just HAPPEN to be Asian or gay, etc.
How close would you say you are to Asian culture?

Not as close as I'd like to be, but at the same time, closer than I sometimes realize.

As a halfie, I've always felt somewhere in between. Put me with a bunch of white people, and I'll look out of place. Put me with a bunch of Chinese people, and the same thing. Most of the time I feel lucky, because I get the best of both worlds, but every now and then I'm reminded that that means I don't fully belong in either one.

(Note: Not every halfie feels this way!)

Interestingly, my boyfriend is an adopted Korean, so he looks fully Asian but was raised completely American. We are both in between, but in very different ways. And over the years as we've gotten to know each other, moved in together, and talked about a future family, I can see how much of an influence my Taiwanese mother had on my upbringing. Things that I thought were normal, he thinks are totally weird.

I'm very proud of my Asian heritage, but I will say that the biggest disconnect for me is my inability to speak Mandarin. This has been one of my great disappointments in life, and has prevented me from bonding with most of my mother's family back in Taiwan. Learning to speak Chinese is still a goal of mine, and I hope that someday, achieving it will allow me to feel even closer to my Asian culture.

Thanks for the great interview Kristan! Be sure to go check out the blog that Kristan helps collaborates on here and also check out her website here.

And now it's time for a GIVEAWAY!!!!

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