Happy Friday, kids! I’m back from the dead with a special TBR round-up. I’m very excited to say that I’m joining the Year of the Asian Reading Challenge 2019. I try to keep my reading habits diverse, but it’s easy to lose track of that goal if you’re not being very deliberate and keeping an eye on your intentions, so this is a fun and helpful way to make sure I’m reading broadly and working to keep my blinders off. Plus, I get to discover some amazing new authors! I might even introduce you or your kids to a new favorite book, which would make me the happiest blogger on the planet.
So let’s take a look at some of the titles I’m most excited about. This isn’t an exhaustive list of everything I plan to read over the course of the challenge, but this should get me off to a good start.
A Tangle of Brungles by Shobha Viswanath and Culpeo S. Fox
To conjure up the charming Mr. Brungles, a coven of witches stir up the Great Brungle Brew. For this they toss in a parliament of owls, a cloud of bats, and a quiver of cobras, among many others. Do they succeed? The book is a hilarious twist on collective nouns.
The wonderful folks over at Karadi Tales Picturebooks were kind enough to send me a copy of this picture book, which looks absolutely delightful. Witchcraft and wordplay? YES PLEASE.
Spirit Hunters by Ellen Oh; cover art by Matt Rockefeller
Harper doesn’t trust her new home from the moment she steps inside, and the rumors are that the Raine family’s new house is haunted. Harper isn’t sure she believes those rumors, until her younger brother, Michael, starts acting strangely. The whole atmosphere gives Harper a sense of déjà vu, but she can’t remember why. She knows that the memories she’s blocking will help make sense of her brother’s behavior and the strange and threatening sensations she feels in this house, but will she be able to put the pieces together in time?
Y’all know me. I am powerless to resist a Middle Grade haunted house story. I’m already creeped out just reading the synopsis. Brrr.
The Girl from the Well by Rin Chupeco; cover design by Torborg Davern
A dead girl walks the streets.
She hunts murderers. Child killers, much like the man who threw her body down a well three hundred years ago.
And when a strange boy bearing stranger tattoos moves into the neighborhood so, she discovers, does something else. And soon both will be drawn into the world of eerie doll rituals and dark Shinto exorcisms that will take them from American suburbia to the remote valleys and shrines of Aomori, Japan.
Because the boy has a terrifying secret — one that would just kill to get out.
You had me at “eerie doll rituals.” Seriously. The creepy doll trope is one of my absolute favorites in the horror genre. I know that this novel is based on a popular Japanese legend…I’m curious to see if the dolls stem from the same legend or something else entirely. I don’t want to research it just yet because I want to remain as unspoiled as possible, but I’ll report back in my review.
Sam Wu Is NOT Afraid of Ghosts! by Katie & Kevin Tsang and Nathan Reed
Sam Wu is NOT a scaredy-cat (except he is). When a trip to the Space Museum goes terrifyingly wrong, Sam begins a mission to prove to the school bully, and all of his friends, that he is a fearless space adventurer.
I actually featured this book in a previous TBR post, which just goes to show how terrible I am at managing my TBR pile. The third entry in this chapter book series comes out next week, so I really need to get my act together and start reading!
Hell’s Game by Teresa Lo
On Halloween night in Deer Creek, Kansas, Jake Victor, Ashley and Ashton Gemini, and Kristin Grace convince Ronnie Smalls to meet them at the town cemetery, which local folklore has always rumored to be the Gateway to Hell. Their intention was only to scare him, but soon the wicked prank becomes actual horror as the group learns the Gateway is all too real. After demons snatch Ronnie and drag him to Hell, the terrified foursome vow to keep what they had seen a secret.
Two years later, the group receives a mysterious letter, an invite to play a high-stakes game in Hell. If they win, they release Ronnie’s soul as well as their own from eternal damnation. If they lose, they are stuck in Hell forever. Choosing to play, they face nightmare after nightmare as each level escalates in intensity and forces them to face the seven deadly sins.
This is a question for a very specific group of readers: Do you remember the thrill of finding some wild, obscure horror movie at the video store when you were a kid? The triumph of stumbling upon some beaten-up VHS tape from the ’80s with the green sticker on the front and a description on the back that made you feel like you had to put it in a plain paper sack before you could leave the store with it? That is what I felt when I read the synopsis for this book. And it was glorious.
Paris Pan Takes the Dare by Cynthea Liu; cover design by Richard Amari
So what if it’s a rite of passage for every seventh grade girl in town to spend a night in the woods? Paris Pan only just moved here, the woods are super creepy, and she has enough weirdness to deal with in her own family. Finding out a girl died mysteriously years ago while on the Dare — right near Paris’s new house, no less — is bad enough, but the unmistakably ghost-like noises coming out of the broken-down shed at the edge of the Pans’ property? Definite deal-breaker.
All Paris wants is to make friends, try to fit in, and not have to deal with a dead girl. But everyone has to take the Dare, and the new girl’s turn is up…
Speaking of nostalgia…this takes me back to slumber parties with scary stories about local ghosts and escaped murderers. This sounds incredibly relatable to anyone who’s ever been the new kid in town or just had trouble fitting in, and it sounds delightfully creepy. I’m so grateful for this challenge, because I don’t think I would have run across this book unless I had been actively seeking out spooky books from Asian authors.
Suee and the Shadow by Ginger Ly and Molly Park
Meet Suee: Twelve years old, wears her hair to the left in a point, favors a black dress, has no friends — and she likes it that way! When Suee transfers to the dull and ordinary Outskirts Elementary, she doesn’t expect to hear a strange voice speaking to her from the darkness of the school’s exhibit room, and she certainly doesn’t expect to see her shadow come to life. Then things start to get really weird: One by one, her classmates at school turn into zombie-like, hollow-eyed Zeroes. While Suee investigates why this is happening, her shadow gains power. Soon, Suee must confront a stunning secret that her shadow has been hiding under her own two feet — something very dark and sinister that could put Suee and her newfound friends at risk!
Love that cover! I’m really excited to have a graphic novel on the list, and I’m digging the Wednesday Addams, Queen of the Zombies vibe. This seems like a book I would have devoured as a kid. I can’t wait to read it.
Fire Boy by Sami Shah
Growing up in Karachi isn’t easy. Wahid has a lot on his mind: the girl he likes, mostly, but also choosing a good university and finding time to play Dungeons and Dragons. Oh, and the fact that he can see djinns, other-worldly creatures made of a smokeless and scorching fire. After a horrific car accident kills his best friend and djinns steal his girlfriend’s soul, Wahid vows to find out why. Fortunately, he has help in finding the djinns that tried to kill him. Unfortunately, that help is from the darkest of all spirits, the Devil himself…
This book sounds amazing — I’m so intrigued by stories about actual djinns, as opposed to the poofing-out-of-a-bottle cartoons that I grew up with — but I’m a little concerned about the content. It’s classified as YA on most of the sites I’ve searched, but a lot of the synopses make it sound decidedly adult. It sounds incredible, so I’m definitely going to read it, but my review may not end up on this site if I don’t feel comfortable calling it kidlit.
Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake
Cas Lowood has inherited an unusual vocation: He kills the dead.
So did his father before him, until he was gruesomely murdered by a ghost he sought to kill. Now, armed with his father’s mysterious and deadly athame, Cas travels the country with his kitchen-witch mother and their spirit-sniffing cat. They follow legends and local lore, destroy the murderous dead, and keep pesky things like the future and friends at bay.
Searching for a ghost the locals call Anna Dressed in Blood, Cas expects the usual: track, hunt, kill. What he finds instead is a girl entangled in curses and rage, a ghost like he’s never faced before. She still wears the dress she wore on the day of her brutal murder in 1958: once white, now stained red and dripping with blood. Since her death, Anna has killed any and every person who has dared to step into the deserted Victorian she used to call home.
Yet she spares Cas’s life.
On the list of titles that I’m ashamed to admit I’ve never read, this is pretty close to the top. (I said the same thing last year, and I still haven’t read it yet. Get it together, Jessica!) So this challenge will be a great way to remedy that, once and for all.
Ghosts for Breakfast by Stanley Todd Terasaki and Shelly Shinjo
PON! PON! PON! PON! The pounding on the door brings three unexpected guests to our young narrator’s home — Mr. Omi, Mr. Omaye, and Mr. Ono. The Troublesome Triplets, as they are called because they always seem to have some sort of complaint, have just seen ghosts — dozens of them — in Farmer Tanaka’s field! The ghosts were long and thin and white, very white, and they were dancing in the moonlight. Papa thinks the situation is great fun, but his son isn’t so sure. After all, there are ghosts out there. So Papa decides to get to the bottom of the Triplets’ story. He sets off to hunt the ghosts, and he takes his son with him.
This book has been on my radar for quite a while now, but I just haven’t gotten around to reading it yet. That’s one of the great things about this challenge: in addition to discovering new books, I’m finally reading titles that have been languishing in my TBR pile for far too long. And I have a feeling that this picture book will be an absolute joy to read.
There you have it — my first 10 YARC books. The header image I chose for this post is the Philippine tarsier badge for the challenge, which I will earn if I read any or all of these. If I read more than just these books, though, I can level up. Fingers crossed that I can earn more adorable badges by the end of 2019!
So what say you, dear readers? Do you have any favorite books by Asian authors and/or artists that I should check out? Would you like to join the YARC? Talk to me about how you diversify your reading habits. I’d love to learn from you.
And, on a personal note, thanks for reading. Sincerely, thank you so much. I’ve been gone from the blog for a while and I’ve missed you. I can’t promise that I’ll post as frequently as I’d like to, because I have quite a bit of turmoil in my personal life right now. However, I’m going to do my best to keep my head above water and, as always, keep it spooky.