By Samantha Pak
Northwest Asian Weekly
From murder mysteries and adventures as far as outer space, to superheroines in the making and meaningful relationships, this past year, I delved into a number of literary worlds. Here is a list of my top 10 reads from 2015 (in no particular order).
By Marissa Meyer
Feiwel & Friends, 2015
As far as series finales go, it has been quite a while since I have anticipated one as much as this one. For those who have followed my column for the last few years, you’ll know I’ve written about all prior Lunar Chronicle books by Meyer. I’m happy to say “Winter” did not disappoint. Just as the previous books had strong leading females, this one did too. Despite being based on fairy tale characters who were “rescued” from their circumstances by men, these young ladies take things into their own hands and rescue themselves — with some help from their male counterparts.
Ms. Marvel Volume 1: No Normal
Written by Willow Wilson, Illustrated by Adrian Alphona
In a world dominated by white men, having a brown girl enter the superhero comic book world — without being cast as the villain — was quite exciting to experience, even for a non-comic-book-reading individual as myself. In this first installation of the “Ms. Marvel” series reboot, we’re introduced to Kamala Khan, a 16-year-old Pakistani American girl from Jersey City. While we see how Kamala receives her superpowers, we also get a glimpse into the life of a Muslim American family who are not so different from other American families. Something to keep in mind in today’s climate.
Murder on Bamboo Lane
By Naomi Hirahara
Many times, while reading stories about Asian American characters, I’ve typically related to them through their familial relationships. In this first installation of the Ellie Rush mysteries, I found myself relating to Los Angeles bicycle cop Ellie in how she interacted with her friends — who were mostly Asian Americans themselves. I could easily imagine myself sitting with my friends and having similar conversations with them. In addition, many of the other characters she comes across, from potential suspects to witnesses, showcase Los Angeles’ diverse population, something that isn’t always reflected in literature.
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before
By Jenny Han
Simon & Schuster BFYR, 2014
The genre of teenage romance doesn’t always bring to mind the word hilarity, but that is exactly what Han’s story does. The protagonist, Lara Jean Covey, has a penchant for falling in and out of love, but she also has no interest in letting the objects of her affections know. So when the poor confused boys learn about her feelings, they confront her, things begin to spin out of control, and hilarity ensues.
By Peter R. Stone
Amazon Digital Services, Inc., 2014
This is the final installment in Stone’s post-apocalyptic “Forager” trilogy, and it picks up right where the previous one left off and is no less action-packed than its predecessors. Ethan Jones and his friends have to find a safe place to stay while fleeing Newhome after they have been accused of being terrorists. Stone’s characters show readers the meaning of teamwork as they work together to clear their names and expose the real bad guys.
The Coroner’s Lunch
By Colin Cotterill
Soho Press, Inc., 2004
In 1978, at the age of 72, Dr. Siri Paiboun is looking forward to a relaxing retirement after a long career in medicine and 50 years as a member of the Lao Communist Party. But the Lao government appoints him as the country’s official coroner. This is the first installment of Cotterill’s Dr. Siri mystery series and we are introduced to Siri, along with his support staff — all of whom have been overlooked and underestimated for various reasons. Cotterill also sets the tone for the series very well, balancing the darkness of the deaths and murders in the story with humor and wit.
The Girl Who Tweeted Wolf (Hobson & Choi: Case One)
By Nick Bryan
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2014
If there ever was an unlikely partnership, it’s the one between 16-year-old Angelina Choi and John Hobson when the former is assigned to the latter’s detective office for her work experience. The pairing of a tech-savvy high school-age girl and a middle-age curmudgeon who doesn’t have time for such modern-day trappings as the Internet is an unlikely one, but Bryan makes it work and it’s especially amusing to see how the two often get exasperated by each other because of their generation gap.
Written by Jane Bahk, Illustrated by Felicia Hoshino
Lee & Low Books, 2015
“Juna’s Jar” is the story of a young girl who loses her best friend and adventure buddy when he and his family unexpectedly move away. But Juna is not discouraged and sets out to find her friend with the help of her special kimchi jar. She travels the world, meeting and making friends ranging from sea turtles and dolphins underwater to monkeys and sloths in the jungle.
Booktrope Editions, 2014
Many times in stories, when a person sets off to rescue a family member from potential danger, it is typically out of love. But for Delilah (Deli) Pelham, searching for her missing twin brother Paul is an act of obligation in order to not upset their grandmother. Teaming up with Paul’s roommate Carl and the latter’s gamer friends, Deli travels to Hong Kong with Carl and they are quickly running for their lives from creepy men claiming to be detectives. “Double Blind” is a hilarious story of how one person’s actions can trigger a situation in which everything that could go wrong does.
Night in Shanghai
By Nicole Mones
Mariner Books, 2015
“Shanghai” is the story of two unlikely people who share a deep connection but, due to circumstances, spend more time apart than they do together. And while this may not sound like much of a love story, Mones makes it work with the moments when the two do reunite. It is clear from the beginning that when Thomas Greene, a black classical pianist from the United States, and Song Yuhua, a young Chinese woman bonded to a Shanghai crime boss to pay off her father’s gambling debts, meet, the connection is there. (end)
Samantha Pak can be reached at email@example.com.