When I’m feeling down and antsy and am unsure of what to do to occupy myself, I like to go on small drives. One day during one of these little excursions, I came across a library that is about fifteen to twenty minutes from my house. After paying them a visit, I learned that technically this library is slightly outside of my city, so if I wanted to check out books from them, I’d have to get a whole new card. Lucky for me, this city’s library community doesn’t have a residency requirement, so I went ahead and snagged a card. Now I have two library cards and I’m so fricking thrilled about that!
After getting my shiny new card, I spent a couple of hours paroozing the shelves of this ginormous library and came home with a wonderful stack of Asian literature and French fantasy titles. Some of these have been on my To-Read list for many years, however due to them being out-of-print, I haven’t been able to find copies. These are the titles I’m most eager to dive into. Let’s check ‘em out.
The House Without Windows by Nadia Hashimi
The House Without Windows is an #OwnVoices Southwest Asian (Afghani) novel about a woman who witnesses a murder in her community. She approached the body in an effort to help him and ends up covered in blood in the process. Due to the shock and trauma of what happened, she is unable to speak. When the authorities arrive and attempt to question to her, her silence ends up becoming her doom. She is accused of killing the victim and sent to a women’s prison. Shortly after arriving, she starts to get to know the women and the stories of how they ended up where they did.
The book sounded immensely powerful to me, especially on an emotional level. I have never encountered a story like this, so the uniqueness of the premise also appealed to me greatly. Some of the women’s stories were briefly touched upon in the synopsis on the inside cover, which leads me to believe that it’s going to paint an intimate portrait of societal practises and oppression where women are concerned as well, and from a region of the world that I don’t know much about but want to learn of.
Shadow Child by Rahna Reiko Rizzuto
Shadow Child is an #OwnVoices Japanese-American story that takes place in two alternating time periods, 1970s New York and World War II Japan. It follows twin girls in Hawaii who are of mixed ethnicity and who have a remarkably tight-knit bond with one another. But then a heart-breaking betrayal and the surprise attacks on Pearl Harbour occur, which tests the depth of their connection in unbelievable ways; challenges that will follow them and their separate journeys henceforth.
The author comes from a multi-ethnic background and of Japanese heritage. When I read that bit, coupled with how she spent approximately two to three years in her ancestor country of Japan to do research for her book, I was rather intrigued, especially as an aspiring author myself who both loves and loathes the art of research. Additionally, the snippet just sounded like every ounce of my type of read.
One Hundred Million Hearts by Kerri Sakamoto
One Hundred Million Hearts is an #OwnVoices Japanese-Canadian novel about a daughter and her father, specifically the secrets that he has held on to for many, many years. When Masao, her father, passes away, Miyo travels to Japan to meet with some of her family who played a big part in her father’s secrets, where she will learn more shocking revelations about his role in World War II.
This book has some bad ratings on GoodReads, so that did make me hesitate in picking it up. However, I then realised that most of the time my personal experiences with a title can be vastly different than popular opinion and that made me put all of my reservations aside. As a student of World War II history, specifically the role that Japan played in it and how they became involved (and all of that heavy stuff), the story’s basic idea really drew me towards it. When I eventually get around to reading it, I’m going to hope that I will like it far more than other people did.
The Samurai Duology by Takashi Matsuoka
The Samurai Duology (Cloud of Sparrows and Autumn Bridge) is an #OwnVoices Japanese series that begins in 1861. Japan has been an isolated and closed nation for nearly two centuries, that is until now (1861), when they are forced to open their doors to the West, which creates a lot of confusion and clashing ideals in terms of culture and societal practises, amongst other things. Two Western individuals arrive with the hopes of evading and forgetting their dark and fucked-up pasts, while a Japanese lord named Genji believe that foreigners will be the key to saving his future.
This series is one that I have been dying to read for years, but it is very difficult to find. I tried looking in used bookstores and online, but it’s either unavailable or unattainably expensive. When I saw both books casually chilling on the library shelf, I swept them up so quickly, I could give Kakashi a run for his shuriken, let me tell you. It reminds me in some small ways of James Clavell’s Asian Saga (Shogun) and I wonder if this duology was, in fact, inspired by Clavell.
The Cardinal’s Blades by Pierre Peuel
The Cardinal’s Blades is an #OwnVoices French high fantasy trilogy and I managed to obtain the first two books (The Cardinal’s Blades and The Alchemist in the Shadows). It takes place in the 1630s where Louis XIII is on the throne and the realm is governed by a cunning cardinal named Cardinal Richelieu. He is tasked with protecting the Crown from everything that wants to do it harm, including a Spanish sect known as the Court of Dragons, who wish to use their Wyvern pets in their efforts at conquering France. The synopsis did go on a bit more, but that is the gist and I didn’t really want to know more beyond that.
I love the setting and I love that there are dragons. Dragons are fricking fabulous creatures, like giant scaled kitty cats. The book feels like it shall be jam-packed with tons of action, sneakiness, political intrigue, and some shady characters that will walk a grey line so thin, it could be dental floss. All of these are traits can make for a potentially riveting fantasy thrill-ride.
Red Princess Trilogy by Lisa See
Red Princess Trilogy is an #OwnVoices Chinese, mystery series that begins in book one, Flower Net, with the death of an U.S. Ambassador’s son in the city of Beijing. At the same time, another dead body is discovered out at sea aboard a ship, the body of a Red Prince, who is the progeny of China’s most-political elite. The governments of both nations believe that these deaths are somehow tied to one another, and in effort to seek out deserved justice, they make the choice to work together to solve its mysteries as soon as possible.
This is the only set of Lisa See books that I don’t own. She is one of my favourite authors of Chinese historical fiction. The series is also very much unlike her regular narrative styles with regard to it being a mystery thriller rather than a literary work of historical fiction. I do believe these books are also out-of-print, making them that much more difficult to obtain. Once again, I saw and I swiped.
Out of this entire stack, I will more than likely begin with A Cloud of Sparrows as it’s my most-anticipated. My second most-anticipated is definitely the Red Princess Trilogy. Do any of these titles sound good to you? Have you had the (dis)pleasure of reading these? Please, come chat with me in the comments. I’d love to hear from you. Until next time, have a beautiful weekend, chums.