Asian Historical Fiction Inspired Haul

I’m really excited about this update. I’ve been trying to be good about not buying unless I’ve already borrowed it from the library and know I enjoyed it. I had these two books on my Anticipated Reads of 2021 and had put them on loan. For the first book, I just kept having this voice saying I needed to read this physically. The second book appeared recently in an OwlCrate box and I had been so mad about missing out on it in other boxes and have been waiting so long for it, so I decided it was fate. I do believe I will enjoy having this new additions to my library, so no regrets!

Book 1: Amazon Order

The Poppy War, R. F. Kuang

I went back and forth on this one. I didn’t have a “good” reason to buy it, but I really felt it would mean more to me to have a physical copy. This was the first Illumicrate Archives book, and they released a stunning set of the series and it came out right when I first made it off the waiting list. At the time, I had decided not to buy it since the set was fairly pricey and I hadn’t heard of it before. It seemed risky to invest in a full series just for aesthetics. I kept seeing it pop up as some of my favorite BookTubers received their copies, and I began to get a little remorse when it sold out. When ReadbyTiffany did an author interview, I decided it was time to add it to the TBR. I finally caved and added it to the cart when doing some shopping for school and my new job. I said it was just for the free shipping, but I really wanted it; I had gone back and forth on having it in my cart several times. In the end, I may not like the color as much for the paperback and it doesn’t have the edge details, but I’m glad to have this edition. It’s not the smooth, glossy texture of some paper backs which always smudge and it has my desired level of floppiness.

I’m interested in this book because it’s inspired by significant events in Chinese history. The Opium Wars and the Sino-Japanese Wars greatly changed China, and it’s an intriguing time period. While there are many tragedies associated with this time, it is interesting to see how they resulted in extreme cultural change. This book is based off these events, centering on a war over control over poppies which would make opium. There is an added element of magic which sounds really cool. I’m also glad that this book will acknowledge the ethnic diversity found within China. To this day, the idea of being Han Chinese is important. This aspect of Chinese society is often overlooked and ignored in world history education.

What really makes me excited about this book is that the author is a scholar of Asian Studies, having done advanced degrees in some of the top universities in the world. I am extremely jealous of her C.V. We do share the experience of doing our postgrad work in England. I focused in modern Japanese history, but my undergrad work was more Sino-centric.

Book 2: OwlCrate One-off Book

OwlCrate is another book subscription service that’s a bit different from Illumicrate. OwlCrate is based in Portland and focuses on YA books. Illumicrate is a bit more diverse and tries to focus on new releases. I haven’t really fallen in love with it when I see it unboxed the same way I did with Illumicrate, which just has such an amazing aesthetic.

These Violent Delights, Chloe Gong.

This was the Subtle Asian bookclub’s pick for January. Sadly, I didn’t really get this in time for the discussion tonight. I could have tried to speed read it, but I’m so close to the end of my reading cleanse for TBRvtar I decided not to. I’ve seen other book subscription boxes featuring this, and I was disappointed that I didn’t find out until it was too late and saw the unboxing videos. OwlCrate included it in their recent box, so I decided to check the store. They had the full box and standalone book available, so I decided to spring for a one-off buy since I wasn’t super into any of the other items in the box. I wasn’t expecting such a cute box for a standalone book since the Book Only option with Illumicrate is just a flimsy general packaging. I loved the little owl prints along the side! I had also forgotten about the protective packing being confetti strips of paper, which at least is recyclable despite its wastefulness.

I am so happy to see the amazing detailing in this book, especially the reverse dust jacket. It was also a nice surprise that they regularly include note from the author about the book. I was glad that they chose that customization instead of just a slight font change of the dust jacket as I like the regular cover. The cover art is also printed on the signature page. I’m intrigued by the color of the hardback. It’s a muted metallic gold color that seemed a bit more olive in my lighting and wasn’t very noticeably reflective/shimmering unless held at the right angle. There’s a simplified sword and rose imprint on the hardback’s front cover. I do wish that I had an edition with sprayed edges, but this one is still lovely.

This book is a Romeo and Juliet retelling set in 1920s Shanghai. I’m not a fan of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet since it’s so frustrating how the lack of patience led to miscommunication and tragedy, but I am am fan of star-crossed lovers. I have a lot of fond (and some unfortunate) memories of my two trips to Shanghai. It’s a really interesting city, and I’m excited to hear how it’s portrayed back then. I am a fan of a Gilded Age setting, and this was an interesting time in China as they had to come to terms with the results of the forced opening from the Unfair Treaties. The main couple in this book are from rival gangs. This is also really cool to me as despite some portrayal in film and TV, I haven’t heard of the Chinese mob as much in literature. There’s also a mystery/suspense element which could really shake things up. Once I finish this, I’ll have to check out ReadbyTiffany’s author interview and Subtle Asian book club discussion.

I was originally going to combine this haul with the January Illumicrate book box, but that would have delayed my ability to share this post as the subscribers try not to spoil the contents until the social media photo challenge once the next month is getting ready to ship. Also, as I was preparing this, I realized how well these two books pair thematically while the Illumicrate theme is drastically different. Not only are these both Own Voices stories and anticipated reads I’ve been wanting to get ahold of for a long time, but the Opium Wars were what led to the climate of China in the 1920s. I’m super excited to see how these tie together.

I’m trying to get better at keeping up with my BookTube as well, but I haven’t been pleased with the editing abilities of my new laptop’s program. Well, there’s a lot I need to improve, but I’ve been very sad by how I haven’t been making any content for that channel. I used this as a chance to make a simple video which is a bit different from my thoughts here. For the video version of the unboxing (I apologize in advance for saying Poppy Wars):

That’s it for this time! It’s always a little weird doing these haul blogs as I haven’t figure out a good way to build suspense the same way I can in videos. Hope you’re staying well during this crazy weather.

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