Spotlight: June Hur

This Spotlight post will focus on the author June Hur and her current works and upcoming works!

June Hur is a Korean-Canadian author I have been bringing up for a while on this blog (I try to be gentle about it. Really.) in various posts. Whether it is a review, a themed booklist, or a to-be-released list, I want to bring up her books because they’re just so exciting!

The Silence of Bones was one of my most anticipated reads of 2020 and despite the uncertainty of the time it came out and the world sort of stopping, the library eventually got going once again. I was able to get a copy and it helped to have something I had been looking forward to in my hands.

June Hur’s writing really picks you up and places you in the time and setting of the story she’s telling. You walk with her characters in the mud and on the roads toward unravelling a mystery. You really feel all the research that went into every detail of her first novel to make the time period come to life. And the story at its heart is an emotional one about family, which sort of destroyed me. I didn’t expect a debut novel to really hit me as hard as it did but here we are.

This is why I am such a fan of June Hur and why I am looking forward to her other novels. I hope you, reader, will also give her books a chance and pick them up.


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Title: The Silence of Bones

What It’s About:

I have a mouth, but I mustn’t speak;
Ears, but I mustn’t hear;
Eyes, but I mustn’t see.

1800, Joseon (Korea). Homesick and orphaned sixteen-year-old Seol is living out the ancient curse: “May you live in interesting times.” Indentured to the police bureau, she’s been tasked with assisting a well-respected young inspector with the investigation into the politically charged murder of a noblewoman.

As they delve deeper into the dead woman’s secrets, Seol forms an unlikely bond of friendship with the inspector. But her loyalty is tested when he becomes the prime suspect, and Seol may be the only one capable of discovering what truly happened on the night of the murder.

But in a land where silence and obedience are valued above all else, curiosity can be deadly.


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Title: The Forest of Stolen Girls

What It’s About: 1426, Joseon (Korea). Hwani’s family has never been the same since she and her younger sister went missing and were later found unconscious in the forest near a gruesome crime scene.

Years later, Detective Min-Hwani’s father-learns that thirteen girls have recently disappeared from the same forest that nearly stole his daughters. He travels to their hometown on the island of Jeju to investigate. only to vanish as well.

Determined to find her father and solve the case that tore their family apart, Hwani returns home to pick up the trail. As she digs into the secrets of the small village-and collides with her now estranged sister, Maewol-Hwani comes to realize that the answer could lie within her own buried memories of what happened in the forest all those years ago.


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Title: The Red Palace

What It’s About: To enter the palace means to walk a path stained in blood…

Joseon (Korea), 1758. There are few options available to illegitimate daughters in the capital city, but through hard work and study, seventeen-year-old Hyeon has earned a position as a palace nurse. All she wants is to keep her head down, do a good job, and perhaps finally win her estranged father”s approval.

But Hyeon is suddenly thrust into the dark and dangerous world of court politics when someone murders four women in a single night, and the prime suspect is Hyeon’s closest friend and mentor. Determined to prove her beloved teacher”s innocence, Hyeon launches her own secret investigation.

In her hunt for the truth, she encounters Eojin, a young police inspector also searching for the killer. When evidence begins to point to the Crown Prince himself as the murderer, Hyeon and Eojin must work together to search the darkest corners of the palace to uncover the deadly secrets behind the bloodshed.


Note: This title is set to be released on January 25th, 2022. Look forward to it!


Spotlight: Justina Ireland

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In this Spotlight post, I will be highlighting an amazing author – Justina Ireland.  If you know her for her alternate history zombie novels or her work in the world of Star Wars, then this post will show you that there is more to check out and even upcoming.   I always appreciate an author that writes fully fleshed out characters with unique voices that are kicking butt and getting things done.  

With each new book, I think this author just gets better and better and I enjoy the range of titles and varied stories.  Stop sleeping on this author and  read her stuff, people! (And also check out her upcoming middle-grade novel!)


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Title: Vengeance Bound
Written by:  Justina Ireland

What It’s About: Cory Graff is not alone in her head. Bound to a deal of desperation made when she was a child, Cory’s mind houses the Furies—the hawk and the serpent—lingering always, waiting for her to satisfy their bloodlust. After escaping the asylum where she was trapped for years, Cory knows how to keep the Furies quiet. By day, she lives a normal life, but by night, she tracks down targets the Furies send her way. And she brings down Justice upon them.

Cory’s perfected her system of survival, but when she meets a mysterious boy named Niko at her new school, she can’t figure out how she feels about him. For the first time, the Furies are quiet in her head around a guy. But does this mean that Cory’s finally found someone who she can trust, or are there greater factors at work? As Cory’s mind becomes a battlefield, with the Furies fighting for control, Cory will have to put everything on the line to hold on to what she’s worked so hard to build.


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Title: Promise of Shadows
Written by:  Justina Ireland

What It’s About:  A teen who is half-god, half-human must own her power whether she likes it or not in this snappy, snarky novel with a serving of smoldering romance.

Zephyr Mourning has never been very good at being a Harpy. She’d rather watch reality TV than learn forty-seven ways to kill a man, and she pretty much sucks at wielding magic. Zephyr was ready for a future pretending to be a normal human instead of a half-god assassin. But all that changed when her sister was murdered—and Zephyr used a forbidden dark power to save herself from the same fate.

On the run from a punishment worse than death, an unexpected reunion with a childhood friend upends Zephyr’s world—and not only because her old friend has grown surprisingly, extremely hot. It seems that Zephyr might just be the Nyx, a dark goddess that is prophesied to shift the power balance: for hundreds of years the half-gods have lived in fear, and Zephyr is supposed to change that.

But how is she supposed to save everyone else when she can barely take care of herself?


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Title:  Scream Site
Written by:  Justina Ireland

What It’s About:  Sabrina Sebastian’s goal in life is to be an investigative reporter. For her first big story, she researches a popular website called Scream Site, where people post scary videos and compete for the most “screams.” While Sabrina’s friends and her sister, Faith, talk nonstop about the creepy viral videos, Sabrina just hopes that covering this trend will get her the internship she’s wishing for. But as she digs into the truth behind the website, she begins to suspect that these aren’t only aspiring actors and videographers at work. Some clips seem a little too real. And when Faith goes missing, Sabrina must race against time to save her sister from becoming the next video “star.”


Dread Nation (Dread Nation, #1)

Title:  Dread Nation
Written by:  Justina Ireland

What It’s About:  Jane McKeene was born two days before the dead began to walk the battlefields of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania—derailing the War Between the States and changing the nation forever.

In this new America, safety for all depends on the work of a few, and laws like the Native and Negro Education Act require certain children attend combat schools to learn to put down the dead.

But there are also opportunities—and Jane is studying to become an Attendant, trained in both weaponry and etiquette to protect the well-to-do. It’s a chance for a better life for Negro girls like Jane. After all, not even being the daughter of a wealthy white Southern woman could save her from society’s expectations.

But that’s not a life Jane wants. Almost finished with her education at Miss Preston’s School of Combat in Baltimore, Jane is set on returning to her Kentucky home and doesn’t pay much mind to the politics of the eastern cities, with their talk of returning America to the glory of its days before the dead rose.

But when families around Baltimore County begin to go missing, Jane is caught in the middle of a conspiracy, one that finds her in a desperate fight for her life against some powerful enemies.

And the restless dead, it would seem, are the least of her problems.


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Title: Deathless Divide (Dread Nation, #2)
Written by:  Justina Ireland

What It’s About: After the fall of Summerland, Jane McKeene hoped her life would get simpler: Get out of town, stay alive, and head west to California to find her mother.

But nothing is easy when you’re a girl trained in putting down the restless dead, and a devastating loss on the road to a protected village called Nicodemus has Jane questioning everything she thought she knew about surviving in 1880s America.

What’s more, this safe haven is not what it appears—as Jane discovers when she sees familiar faces from Summerland amid this new society. Caught between mysteries and lies, the undead, and her own inner demons, Jane soon finds herself on a dark path of blood and violence that threatens to consume her.

But she won’t be in it alone.

Katherine Deveraux never expected to be allied with Jane McKeene. But after the hell she has endured, she knows friends are hard to come by—and that Jane needs her too, whether Jane wants to admit it or not.

Watching Jane’s back, however, is more than she bargained for, and when they both reach a breaking point, it’s up to Katherine to keep hope alive—even as she begins to fear that there is no happily-ever-after for girls like her.


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Title:  A Phoenix First Must Burn
Edited by:  Patrice Caldwell

What It’s About:  Evoking Beyoncé’s Lemonade for a teen audience, these authors who are truly Octavia Butler’s heirs, have woven worlds to create a stunning narrative that centers Black women and gender nonconforming individuals. A Phoenix First Must Burn will take you on a journey from folktales retold to futuristic societies and everything in between. Filled with stories of love and betrayal, strength and resistance, this collection contains an array of complex and true-to-life characters in which you cannot help but see yourself reflected. Witches and scientists, sisters and lovers, priestesses and rebels: the heroines of A Phoenix First Must Burn shine brightly. You will never forget them.


Note: Justina Ireland has a story featured in this short story collection so I did want to include it.  She’s actually been part of few other short story collections as well so don’t forget to check those out as well.  They include Black Enough: Stories of Being Young & Black in America, This Is Our Rainbow: 16 Stories of Her, Him, Them, and Us, and Three Sides of a Heart: Stories about Love Triangles.  


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Title: Star Wars: Lando’s Luck (Flight of the Falcon #1)
Written by:  Justina Ireland
Illustrated by:  Annie Wu

What It’s About: When Lando Calrissian gets caught smuggling on the planet Hynestia, the queen agrees to let him go if he delivers something called the Solstice Globe to the Empire on her behalf. Lando is relieved that his punishment is a simple delivery mission-but he soon discovers things are not as simple as they seem. The queen”s daughter, Princess Rinetta, has stowed away on the Millennium Falcon and demands Lando and L3-37 take the globe back to its home planet, which needs the globe to survive.

Now Lando has to choose: Do what”s right, or do what”s best for Lando. But if he”s lucky enough, he just might be able to do both….


Note: She’s also written a few other stories in the Star Wars universe including, Star Wars: Spark of the Resistance and A Test of Courage.  



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Title: Ophie’s Ghosts
Written by: Justina Ireland

What It’s About: Ophelia Harrison used to live in a small house in the Georgia countryside. But that was before the night in November 1922, and the cruel act that took her home and her father from her. Which was the same night that Ophie learned she can see ghosts.

Now Ophie and her mother are living in Pittsburgh with relatives they barely know. In the hopes of earning enough money to get their own place, Mama has gotten Ophie a job as a maid in the same old manor house where she works.

Daffodil Manor, like the wealthy Caruthers family who owns it, is haunted by memories and prejudices of the past—and, as Ophie discovers, ghosts as well. Ghosts who have their own loves and hatreds and desires, ghosts who have wronged others and ghosts who have themselves been wronged. And as Ophie forms a friendship with one spirit whose life ended suddenly and unjustly, she wonders if she might be able to help—even as she comes to realize that Daffodil Manor may hold more secrets than she bargained for.


Note: This middle-grade novel is set to be released on May 18, 2021. I love historical fiction with a bit of the spooks


Spotlight: 2 New Podcasts I’m Listening To

Hello, folks. I’m just going to slide in across your reading list of blogs you follow to get you totally pumped about 2 podcasts I have been listening to lately. One is book related and one is TV related. I’m definitely trying to keep it fresh during my lunch hour when I have time to munch on something delicious and relax through listening.


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Title: Mangasplaining
Hosts: Deb Aoki, David Brothers, Christopher Butcher, & Chip Zdarsky

What It’s About: A podcast where three of the hosts discuss manga and force their pick for that week on their friend, who doesn’t read manga. Perfect for those who are new to reading manga or who do not read it often.



I have been following Deb Aoki for some time on Twitter and really enjoy her. It’s just nice to see another lady out there enjoying manga and sharing their thoughts. You know…besides myself just screaming about Rumiko Takahashi into the void. I actually had the thought the other day that I would listen to a podcast about manga if Deb ever decided to do one and so here we are. It’s a fairly new podcast with their first episode released last month on February 3rd. They start out big with a classic – Akira Vol. 1 by Katsuhiro Otomo.

What I also enjoy about this podcast is that it features a reader who does love comics and is a comics creator (i.e. Canadian National treasure Chip Zdarsky) but has not had a lot of experience with reading manga. He’s not alone! Many people can be into comics and graphic novels and go their whole reading life without picking up a manga series. This reader experience is definitely a point of interest for me. I also have to mention that I love the insight into translating manga and the connections to other book and trends in manga.

I’m definitely looking forward to the next episodes.


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Title: That’s Messed Up: An SVU Podcast
Hosts: Liza Treyger and Kara Klenk

What It’s About: Like the title suggests…this podcast is about Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. Each week, the hosts break down the story of one SVU episode, make some jokes, reveal the true crime story the episode is based on and interview someone from that episode.



I have been watching Law and Order: Special Victims Unit since I was a teen. Probably shouldn’t have considering how disturbing a lot of the episodes are and considering all the police brutality it featured, but here we are, more than a decade later and this show is still thriving.

What I like about this podcast is that it truly feels like a conversation between two friends that cannot wait to talk about the show. The hosts are also hilarious. I have choked on a french fry while listening to them. I also appreciate that they discuss the true crimes each episode is based on because…we all know that despite that disclaimer at the beginning of each SVU episode, they’re based on something.

This is also a fairly new podcast but there are already 12 episodes available. Dig in!

Spotlight: Not Your Idol Manga Series

In this Spotlight post, I will be discussing a new manga series called Not Your Idol by Aoi Makino.

I have to mention that this is a dark series and when it was announced for licensing by Shojo Beat, I was quite surprised. If you’ve picked up any of the other titles of the Shojo Beat line, in tone, this one is drastically different. I was used to the romantic comedies and nostalgic high school dramas so this one settled like a ton of bricks .

I am going to mention some items that all readers should know about going into reading this manga, especially if the content is a dealbreaker for them.

Trigger warnings (TW) for Not Your Idol include: sexual assault, violence against women, stalking, PTSD.


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Title: Not Your Idol Vol. 1
Written and drawn by: Aoi Makino

What It’s About: After that day, she stopped being a girl.

In the wake of an assault, Nina Kamiyama, a former idol in the group Pure Club, shuns her femininity and starts dressing as a boy. At high school she keeps to herself, but fellow student Hikaru Horiuchi realizes who she is. What secrets is she keeping? The shocking drama starts.


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Title: Not Your Idol Vol. 2
Written and drawn by: Aoi Makino

What It’s About: Heartbroken Nina Kamiyama is a former idol. She’s decided to keep her past identity a secret for her personal safety, but the dangerous situation intensifies when another discovers who she really is. Who can she trust?



I am highlighting this series because while heavy, it brings up topics I feel need more focus like the problematic aspects of the idol system, how young girls interact with femininity and misogyny, and how trauma can change a person. I do listen to Kpop a lot but I am also very aware of the realities the young women and men face in that industry and some of the dangers as well.

The characters are interesting and infuriating and the pace of the story is okay so far. I am very interested in Nina Kamiyama learning to grow and define herself away from the idol persona. I’m invested in her healing and the thoughts she voices are pretty powerful. With a mystery, you want everything at once but this one is taking a bit more time to ask those hard hitting questions of its readers.

While I think bringing up these topics are important, especially centered around current Japanese culture, I do believe that the structure of the story, character development, and their execution will matter most in judging the series as a whole. The series is currently on hiatus so I don’t know when volume 3 will arrive. It feels like the series is at a tipping point and I am wary of it. It could either be a needed commentary on society or it could devolve into a painful and offensive mess. Right now, I am giving it the below rating as I am a bit stuck on how to rate it without getting the full picture of this series and where it is going.

Let’s see what happens.


Spotlight: Doodling and Journaling

This Spotlight post is all about creativity! I found an old journal of mine from when I was 14-years old the other day where I doodled and wrote about the Lord of the Rings and the anime I was super into at the time, and it got me thinking. Journaling!

So in this post I wanted to provide some materials and ideas to get those wanting to dip their toes into journaling…well, journaling.

First, there’s some journaling books. Your journal can be about anything really – thoughts, planning, lists, goals, story ideas, dreams, family, plants, reading, or music. Second, there are some doodling and art books. It’s your journal so do what you want with it. Lastly, I am including journaling videos that illustrate 3 different styles and journal purposes.

I hope this post inspires you to dust off that Christmas journal you received from your cousin 4 years ago and finally fill it with oodles of doodles, book reviews, quotes you love, plans, and things that break your heart.


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Title: Journal Sparks: Fire Up Your Creativity with Spontaneous Art, Wild Writing, and Inventive Thinking
Written by: Emily K. Neuburger

What It’s About: Using words, drawing, collage, and observation-based list-making, award-winning author Emily K. Neuburger highlights the many paths into journaling. Her 60 interactive writing prompts and art how-tos help you to expand your imagination and stimulate your creativity. Every spread invites a new approach to filling a page, from making a visual map of a day-in-my-life to turning random splotches into quirky characters for a playful story. It’s the perfect companion to all those blank books and an ideal launchpad to explore creative self-expression and develop an imaginative voice — for anyone ages 10 to 100!


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Title: Journal Me Organized: The Complete Guide to Practical and Creative Planning
Written by: Rebecca Spooner

What It’s About: Whether you’re rearranging your laundry room, planning the week’s menus, outlining your dream vacation, or training for your first 5K, Journal Me Organized provides all the information you need to eliminate mental clutter, focus on goals, and enjoy a creative outlet. Author Rebecca Spooner covers everything, from choosing a notebook and the basics of cross-referencing to the intricacies of different types of journaling, planning, goal setting, and time management. The fun truly begins with Spooner’s inspirational pages, clever ideas, and easy-to-follow instructions. She provides tutorials, sample lettering to trace, and templates that range from minimalist daily spreads to exuberant designs that capture the joy of holidays, birthdays, and personal milestones.


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Title: How to Draw Everything: An Illustrated Sourcebook
Written by: Chika Miyata

What It’s About: With over 2,000 images, this visual reference book offers instructions for drawing animals, people, plants, food, everyday objects, buildings, vehicles, clothing, and more. The section on people gives simple tricks for showing emotion (angry, surprised) and action (skipping, doing a handstand). There’s also a section on clothing that shows how to draw coats and jackets, shoes and boots, bell-bottoms and skinny jeans. From tricycles to tanker trucks, the book gives tips on drawing all kinds of moving vehicles.

At then end of each chapter, author and artist Chika Miyata challenges you to synthesize what you’ve learned and create a scene. At the end of the chapter on animals, the challenge is to draw a zoo. At the end of the chapter on food, the challenge is to keep an illustrated food journal.

Each entry is broken down with step-by-step illustrations, making this book perfect for beginners or experienced artists in need of a quick refresher and a great resource for those who want to express themselves through illustration or cartooning.


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Title: Draw Every Little Thing: Learn to Draw More Than 100 Everyday Items, from Food to Fashion
Written by: Flora Waycott

What It’s About: Learn to draw and paint more than 100 of your favorite everyday items! Step-by-step projects, prompts, creative inspiration make it fun and easy to draw your outfit, your favorite foods, your garden, and much more using drawing and painting tools you already have on hand.

The Inspired Artist series invites art hobbyists and casual art enthusiasts to have fun learning basic art concepts, relaxing into the creative process to make art in a playful, contemporary style. With Draw Every Little Thing, the first book in this series that also includes Block Print for Beginners (March 2021), you can learn to draw and paint your favorite everyday items. From learning to draw and paint plants, flowers, and bicycles to the neighborhood café and the contents of the kitchen cabinet, this contemporary drawing book demonstrates just how easy it is to render the world around you with little more than a pencil, paper, and paint.

Following a brief introduction to the joys of simplistic drawing and painting, this aesthetically pleasing book familiarizes you with a range of drawing tools and materials, including graphite pencil, pen and ink, colored pencil, and gouache, before offering a quick overview of basic color theory. Each subsequent chapter is then devoted to a specific theme—kitchenalia, hobbies, neighborhood haunts, and much more—and packed with simple step-by-step drawing projects.

This accessible book encourages you to jump around so you can draw what immediately inspires you. Interactive prompts, creative exercises, and inspiring ideas make the process fun and engaging. Easy techniques and helpful instructions show you how to develop your own personal style, as well as add color to your drawings using gouache and colored pencil. Crafty projects round out the book, allowing you to use your newfound drawing and painting skills.

Filled to the brim with whimsical artwork and loads of creative ideas, Draw Every Little Thing encourages artists of all skill levels to draw any time inspiration strikes.


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Title: Colored Pencil: A Playful Guide to Drawing with Colored Pencil on the Go!
Written by: Cara Hanley

What It’s About: Anywhere, Anytime Art: Colored Pencil makes colored pencils approachable and accessible. The author’s contemporary art style takes a fresh approach to colored-pencil artwork, which can be dry and traditional-looking. Anywhere, Anytime Art: Colored Pencil presents colored-pencil drawing in a youthful way, focusing on urban and suburban scenes as well as subjects from daily life.

Learn basic drawing topics like tools, materials, drawing techniques, and color theory, and then dive into helpful tips, hacks, and techniques for creating art while out and about. Step-by-step projects covering a variety of subjects, from campers and cafes to cats and cityscapes, make drawing with colored pencils quick, easy, and fun for artists of all skill levels.

Learn to be spontaneous with your artwork, and expand your artistic horizons!


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Title: DIY Watercolor Flowers: The Beginner’s Guide to Flower Painting for Journal Pages, Handmade Stationery and More
Written by: Marie Boudon

What It’s About: Learn to paint beautiful watercolor flowers in simple steps with this free and easy approach to watercolor painting for beginners. Marie Boudon’s beautifully presented creative course will give you a good grounding in this new-to-you medium and teach you all you need to know to get started with painting flowers in watercolor.

Find out about paper, brushes and paints, color mixing, wet and dry techniques, blending and gradients, contrast and even how to digitize your work. Then learn to paint roses, peonies, carnations, dahlias, anemones, poppies, leaves, details and textures and how to bring all of these together into beautiful compositions which make lovely art pieces, journal pages, handmade stationery and greetings cards, inspirational quote frames, personalized gifts and more.


Style of Journal: Thoughtful and personal writing but also involves decoration.


Style of Journal: Artistic but also about organization with lists and ideas for the day.


Style of Journal: Definitely about organization with books lists and calendars for reading. There’s even space for reccomendations and review notes.

Spotlight: 3 Podcasts I’m Listening To

In this Spotlight post, I will be highlighting 3 podcast that discuss books across genres and reading audiences.

They have been around for a while but I only discovered them recently as I tried to expand my listening options. I’m very picky when it comes to podcasts because if the hosts are dry and cannot laugh at themselves or discuss something thoughtfully, I find it hard to keep listening. But these podcasts really suit my listening style and what I am looking for.


Title: Overdue
Hosts: Andrew Cunningham & Craig Getting

What It’s About: Overdue is a podcast about the books you’ve been meaning to read. Join Andrew and Craig each week as they tackle a new title from their backlog. Classic literature, obscure plays, goofy children’s books: they’ll read it all, one overdue book at a time.



I don’t listen to a lot of podcasts hosted by men, but Andrew and Craig are fun guys. I like that they discuss anything and everything, from the classic’s of literature to young adult fiction to romance fiction.

Not many men will very publicly (the internet is forever) admit they’ve read the entirety of the Twilight series, including Midnight Sun. You have to respect these guys for that.


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Title: Books and Boba
Hosts: Marvin Yueh & Reera Yoo

What It’s About: Books & Boba is a book club and podcast dedicated to spotlighting books written by authors of Asian descent. Every month, hosts Marvin Yueh and Reera Yoo pick a book by an Asian or Asian American author to read and discuss on the podcast. In addition to book discussions, they also interview authors and cover publishing news, including book deals and new releases.



I’ve been listening to this podcast a lot lately and I really enjoy its focus on Asian authors. I also appreciate how they read widely – from mystery to young adult fiction to literary fiction to translated fiction. I also like hearing the hosts add to each book with their own thoughts and feelings and experiences.

Marvin and Reera always seem to have toughtful and interesting discussions. They also have a nice conversational style and I enjoy their voices.


Title: The Worst Bestsellers
Hosts: Kait & Renata (plus an occasional guest)

What It’s About: Worst Bestsellers is a podcast where Kait, Renata, and a guest talk about popular books of questionable quality. It’s kind of like How Did This Get Made? or Mystery Science Theater 3000, but for books.



This podcast is pretty great. It’s like having a book club with your friends and just talking about each book.

But only if all of you really really didn’t like the book you were reading each month and had a lot of opinions to share.

I’m also a total nerd for their supplemental materials like their Readers Advisory corner where they suggest alike or alternative materials to check out based on the book they talk about that episode.

Spotlight: Geek Girls Don’t Cry: Real-Life Lessons From Fictional Female Characters

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Title: Geek Girls Don’t Cry: Real-Life Lessons From Fictional Female Characters
Written by: Andrea Towers

What It’s About:  What does it mean for a woman to be strong—especially in a world where our conception of a “hero” is still so heavily influenced by male characters like Batman, Spider-Man, and Superman? Geek Girls Don’t Cry explores the subject, offering advice tailor-made for fans of any age.

Andrea Towers, who works in public relations at Marvel Entertainment and has written about superheroines for outlets such as Entertainment Weekly, outlines some of the primary traits heroic women can call upon, like resilience, self-acceptance, and bravery, pulling in stories from real-life women as well as figures from the pop-culture pantheon. She also interviews the creators of our favorite fictional heroines, who discuss how they drew from their own experiences to develop these protagonists and how, conversely, their own creations continue to inspire them.


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I will preface this with, I don’t feel like this book is a self-help book.

I think it is more an introduction and conversation starter about topics like trauma, grief, adversity, isolation, and mental health through pop-culture characters.  In this book, we explore the above topics through various familiar characters like Black Widow, Dana Scully, Wonder Woman, Hermione Granger, Katniss Everdeen, Princess Leia, River Tam, Mako Mori, and many more.

Many of us readers and pop culture devourers relate to fictional characters because of their mental health, traumas, and stories of overcoming obstacles.  Either we have experienced those same/or similar things or we have known someone who has.  There is something to be found in that – whether it is understanding or it is the gentle reminder to not give up.  Seeing yourself and seeing hope are two very important things.

What I appreciated about this book was that it outlined each character and how they related to the topic of that chapter but also presented commentary from mental health experts (i.e. Dr. Janina Scarlet, Dr. Amy Saborsky, and Dr. Andrea Letamendi) and research studies.  There’s a section at the end of each character study that summarizes really well, how we can learn from those characters.  Whether it is about lessons in self-care or asking for help or loving yourself or leaning on friends/found family, these are all important things to highlight.

This book is an interesting one and I am hoping more people will discover it and get something out of reading it.

Blast from the Past: Paperbacks

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While these two books were published in 2017 and 2018, their subject matter is about taking a look at the history of books from specific time periods and reading audiences.

It is important to reflect back on those trends in literature and make connections for what gave rise to them, what influenced them, and what readers got out of them.  It is also interesting to bring them forward in time with our current selves and society.

I mean…at the age of 14, I thought the best book I had ever read was a paranormal mystery teen romance featuring a recently resurrected Egyptian mummy prince.  I still own that book, by the way, and may speak of it again one day.


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Title:  Paperbacks from Hell: The Twisted History of ’70s and ’80s Horror Fiction
Written by:  Grady Hendrix

What It’s About:  Take a tour through the horror paperback novels of two iconic decades . . . if you dare. Page through dozens and dozens of amazing book covers featuring well-dressed skeletons, evil dolls, and knife-wielding killer crabs! Read shocking plot summaries that invoke devil worship, satanic children, and haunted real estate!

Horror author and vintage paperback book collector Grady Hendrix offers killer commentary and witty insight on these trashy thrillers that tried so hard to be the next Exorcist or Rosemary’s Baby. Complete with story summaries and artist and author profiles, this unforgettable volume dishes on familiar authors like V. C. Andrews and R. L. Stine, plus many more who’ve faded into obscurity. Also included are recommendations for which of these forgotten treasures are well worth your reading time and which should stay buried.


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Title:  Paperback Crush: The Totally Radical History of ’80s and ’90s Teen Fiction
Written by:  Gabrielle Moss

What It’s About:  For fans of vintage YA, a humorous and in-depth history of beloved teen literature from the 1980s and 1990s, full of trivia and pop culture fun.

Those pink covers. That flimsy paper. The nonstop series installments that hooked readers throughout their entire adolescence. These were not the serious-issue novels of the 1970s, nor the blockbuster YA trilogies that arrived in the 2000s. Nestled in between were the girl-centric teen books of the ’80s and ’90s—short, cheap, and utterly adored.

In Paperback Crush, author Gabrielle Moss explores the history of this genre with affection and humor, highlighting the best-known series along with their many diverse knockoffs. From friendship clubs and school newspapers to pesky siblings and glamorous beauty queens, these stories feature girl protagonists in all their glory. Journey back to your younger days, a time of girl power nourished by sustained silent reading. Let Paperback Crush lead you on a visual tour of nostalgia-inducing book covers from the library stacks of the past.


Written by Lindsay Ellis and Angelina Meehan.
Directed & animated by Andrew Matthews.
Produced by Amanda Fox

This video may be from 2018 but it is really good at highlighting the trends in YA as well as some of its history and statistics.  It is worth a watch.

Warning though? J.K. Rowling’s face pops up and considering recent events, it might upset some viewers.  I know that when her face popped up on the screen my eyes rolled so hard that they fell out of my face and into the sea.


My Thoughts graphic

I wish there were more books like these, which examine but also celebrate stories, while also discussing them in a way that is for every reader audience.

I also really want a full book (not a few mentions in several chapters of an academic book) that examines YA and Middle-Grade fiction written by black and other authors of colour.  I think that would be a fascinating history to explore on its own and one that is sorely needed.

There is a gap here so let’s fill it.

Spotlight: Author S.K. Ali

Spotlight - Redesign

On this Spotlight post, I will be highlighting some items by a really amazing author that I admire – S.K. Ali.

A few years ago, I had the amazing opportunity to meet S.K. Ali at a young adult fiction event at my local library when her first novel, Saints and Misfits, had been released.  Her book was already on my radar so I jumped at the chance to go to this event and hear her speak about her book.  I love hearing authors discuss their work and process so this is my idea of a perfect Sunday afternoon.

Hearing her speak really made a lasting impression on me.  When I had the chance to speak with her later one-on-one, she was incredibly kind when faced with my shyness.  She’s a fierce and authentic woman, which comes through in her writing and the voices of her characters.  It was a done deal for me and I went out and bought Saints and Misfits that day, read it, and loved it.

My hope with this Spotlight post is that readers will discover a new great author and find stories that they can relate to.


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Title:  Saints and Misfits

What It’s About: There are three kinds of people in my world:

1. Saints, those special people moving the world forward. Sometimes you glaze over them. Or, at least, I do. They’re in your face so much, you can’t see them, like how you can’t see your nose.

2. Misfits, people who don’t belong. Like me—the way I don’t fit into Dad’s brand-new family or in the leftover one composed of Mom and my older brother, Mama’s-Boy-Muhammad.

Also, there’s Jeremy and me. Misfits. Because although, alliteratively speaking, Janna and Jeremy sound good together, we don’t go together. Same planet, different worlds.

But sometimes worlds collide and beautiful things happen, right?

3. Monsters. Well, monsters wearing saint masks, like in Flannery O’Connor’s stories.

Like the monster at my mosque.

People think he’s holy, untouchable, but nobody has seen under the mask.

Except me.

Note:  In the above interview, the author discusses Saints and Misfits and might discuss some spoilers for the book.  That being said, the interview is really insightful so give it a watch.


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Title:  Love from A to Z

What It’s About:  

A marvel: something you find amazing. Even ordinary-amazing. Like potatoes—because they make French fries happen. Like the perfect fries Adam and his mom used to make together.

An oddity: whatever gives you pause. Like the fact that there are hateful people in the world. Like Zayneb’s teacher, who won’t stop reminding the class how “bad” Muslims are.

But Zayneb, the only Muslim in class, isn’t bad. She’s angry.

When she gets suspended for confronting her teacher, and he begins investigating her activist friends, Zayneb heads to her aunt’s house in Doha, Qatar, for an early start to spring break.

Fueled by the guilt of getting her friends in trouble, she resolves to try out a newer, “nicer” version of herself in a place where no one knows her.

Then her path crosses with Adam’s.

Since he got diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in November, Adam’s stopped going to classes, intent, instead, on perfecting the making of things. Intent on keeping the memory of his mom alive for his little sister.

Adam’s also intent on keeping his diagnosis a secret from his grieving father.

Alone, Adam and Zayneb are playing roles for others, keeping their real thoughts locked away in their journals.

Until a marvel and an oddity occurs…

Marvel: Adam and Zayneb meeting.

Oddity: Adam and Zayneb meeting.


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Title:  The Proudest Blue: A Story of Hijab and Family
Written by: Ibtihaj Muhammad & S.K. Ali
Illustrated by: Hatem Aly

What It’s About: With her new backpack and light-up shoes, Faizah knows the first day of school is going to be special. It’s the start of a brand new year and, best of all, it’s her older sister Asiya’s first day of hijab–a hijab of beautiful blue fabric, like the ocean waving to the sky. But not everyone sees hijab as beautiful, and in the face of hurtful, confusing words, Faizah will find new ways to be strong.


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Title: Once Upon an Eid: Stories of Hope and Joy by 15 Muslim Voices
Edited By: S. K. Ali & Aisha Saeed
Illustrated by:  Sara Alfageeh

What It’s About: Once Upon an Eid is a collection of short stories that showcases the most brilliant Muslim voices writing today, all about the most joyful holiday of the year: Eid! Eid: The short, single-syllable word conjures up a variety of feelings and memories for Muslims. Maybe it’s waking up to the sound of frying samosas or the comfort of bean pie, maybe it’s the pleasure of putting on a new outfit for Eid prayers, or maybe it’s the gift-giving and holiday parties to come that day. Whatever it may be, for those who cherish this day of celebration, the emotional responses may be summed up in another short and sweet word: joy. The anthology will also include a poem, graphic-novel chapter, and spot illustrations.

The full list of Once Upon an Eid contributors include: G. Willow Wilson (Alif the Unseen, Ms. Marvel), Hena Khan (Amina’s Voice, Under My Hijab), N. H. Senzai (Shooting Kabul, Escape from Aleppo), Hanna Alkaf (The Weight of Our Sky), Rukhsana Khan (Big Red Lollipop), Randa Abdel-Fattah (Does My Head Look Big in This?), Ashley Franklin (Not Quite Snow White), Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow (Mommy’s Khimar), Candice Montgomery (Home and Away, By Any Means Necessary), Huda Al-Marashi (First Comes Marriage), Ayesha Mattu, Asmaa Hussein, and Sara Alfageeh.


Extra Notes_

I recently discovered through twitter that a bunch of Asian authors were getting together online for the month of May and hosting panels discussing topics like world-building in science fiction and fantasy worlds, Asian food and identity, Asian Characters in Historical YA, and Writing the Complexity of the Asian American Experience.  That’s just to name a few! There are about 6 videos online already with more coming in the next few days.  I am including one below that features S.K. Ali.

Spotlight: 2 Podcasts

Spotlight - Redesign

If you are an avid listener of podcasts (like me), you have a weekly schedule of when your favorites update and release a new episode.  You listen to them while cooking or working out or when composing an email for work. Whether you are into comedy, facts, ghosts, kpop, video games, or true crime, there is a podcast waiting for you.

I am usually a true-crime podcast listener.  I have podcasts I enjoy and ones I wholly avoid.  However, there is the odd podcast I listen to that are reading and book related.

In this Spotlight post, I will be talking about 2 podcasts that I listen to regularly that discuss books at vastly different ends of my reading spectrum.


Teen Creeps

Podcast Name:  Teen Creeps
Hosts:
  Lindsay Katai and Kelly Nugent

Description: This podcast features Lindsay and Kelly discussing a YA pulp fiction novel every Wednesday.  They sometimes even cover current YA books and films from the 80s and 90s like The Craft and The Lost Boys.

My Thoughts graphic

One of the things that drew me to this podcast is the subject matter.  I had missed these pulpy books completely while growing up and some of the authors were unfamiliar to me.  But other authors like Lurlene McDaniel, R.L. Stine, V.C. Andrews, and Christopher Pike were very familiar to me and I wanted to hear everything about them.  I also like learning about those books I missed out on like, Go Ask Alice by Anonymous.   It also really gets to one of my interests in young adult fiction and that is its history – how young adult fiction presented itself during different time periods, what their stories were about, and how it evolved.

Besides the subject matter, I really enjoy the hosts.  Lindsay and Kelly not only bring some hilarious jokes and valid insight into the bizarre aspects of each book, but they also bring honest conversations about their lives.  I like their friendship and how easily they can talk to each other about books.

There are listeners that do not appreciate conversation in their podcasts but I actually really enjoy that aspect.


Podcast name:  Shojo & Tell: A Manga Podcast
Host:  Ashley McDonnell (plus guests)

Description: Host Ashley McDonnell discusses either a classic or a current shojo or josei manga series each episode and talks them over with another manga enthusiast.

My Thoughts graphic

I tend to exclusively read shojo or josei manga (with the occasional Shonen thrown in) and besides listening to myself talk about them, I wanted other opinions about current and past publications.

I found this podcast recently and have been really enjoying it.  I appreciate that the host looks at new manga and older manga with guests that are different but also avid readers of shojo.  Some guests even work in the manga industry.

I grew up reading CLAMP and due to my age and being unable to easily google the entire history of a series, a lot of things flew past me unnoticed.  For this reason, I am happy that the host doesn’t shy away from talking about those details (i.e. gender) and the differences between a manga published by two different publishers several years apart (i.e. Wish as published by Tokyopop and Dark Horse).

The podcast really makes you feel like you’re part of a discussion on shojo manga rather than just a listener.