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Book Review–The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F.C. Lee

Buy The Epic Crush of Genie Lo here

5/5*

Pub Aug 2017

 

I’m very late to the party on this book, and I wish I’d read it before now. I *need* a sequel, STAT.

TLDR–LOVED this book. Full on considering re-reading it right away loved it. Couldn’t go to sleep until I finished it so I didn’t get much sleep and now have a book hangover loved it. Put down writing my book to finish this one loved it. Like, really, really, really loved it.

Genie Lo is a Chinese American teen in the Bay Area of California (near San Francisco) whose biggest concern is getting into an Ivy League college…until Quentin shows up to tell her he’s the Monkey King and she’s his staff, reincarnated as a human. She thinks he’s out of his mind, and rightfully tells him to go away. Until a demon shows up, and all of this Monkey and Staff thing starts to sound a little more plausible.

The story uses Chinese mythology to fuel the magic, and it’s nice to see a break from Western mythos. To be fair, though, for me Chinese mythology is the next most familiar thing after Western because of living in Singapore for seven years and participating in Chinese culture.

Genie is a great, relateable character. She really just wants to live her life, be a good friend to her bff Yunie, and get into a good college. She’s frustrated by her Chosen One-ness, especially when it starts to interfere with her schooling, her friends, and her family. For adult readers, it will feel familiar to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, down to the snappy dialogue.

Maybe he thought I’d stay quiet in front of my mother for the sake of decorum. That a boy’s good name was more important than a girl’s safety. If so, he was dead effin’ wrong.

and

“My true name,” he said, “…is SUN WUKONG.”

A cold wind passed through the open window, rustling my loose papers like tumbleweed.

“I have no idea who that is,” I said.

Quentin was still trying to cement his “look at me being serious” face. It took him a few seconds to realize I wasn’t flipping out over whoever he was.

“The Sun Wukong,” he said scooping the air with his fingers. “Sun Wukong the Monkey King.”

“I said, I don’t know who that is.”

His jaw dropped. Thankfully his teeth were still normal-size.

“You’re Chinese and you don’t know me?” he sputtered. “That’s like an American child not knowing who Batman is!”

“You’re Chinese Batman?”

“No! I’m stronger than Batman, and more important, like–like. Tian na, how do you not know who I am?”

I didn’t know why he expected me to recognize him. He couldn’t have been a big-time actor or singer from overseas. I never followed mainland pop culture, but a lot of other people at school did; word would have gotten around if we had a celebrity in our midst.

Plus that was a weird stage name. Monkey King? Was that what passed for sexy among the kids these days?

Quentin, for his part, is a great foil. He imparts knowledge, but not in a boring exposition-y way. But he’s also fallible, and a bit of a douche at times. I like that he’s not perfect, that he sometimes (maybe more than sometimes) complicates Genie’s life like crazy.

There are two gods hanging around as secondary characters. One is Guanyin, who achieved enlightenment, but turned her back on it to help humanity. The other is Erlang Shen, the nephew of the king of the gods, The Jade Emperor. They are often..helpful, but not in the ways that Genie hopes. For one, neither is going to directly interfere to help catch the ~100 or so demons running around the Bay Area.

The non-celestial-being secondary characters are well fleshed out–we understand, more or less, why her parents broke up and what sort of relationship they have now, what Genie’s BFF’s hopes and dreams are and how their friendship works.

The pacing is solid, the setting is well described (I do live in the Bay Area, so take that one with a grain of salt), and I think the book has broad appeal. The prose sparkles.

Seriously. Go read it. You won’t regret it.

Book recommendation

I’ll be posting a review of this soon, but I’m just popping in to say that if you like fantasy or YA, you really need to be reading The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F.C. Yee. The magic system is grounded in Chinese mythology, but because Genie is more or less ignorant of it, we learn what’s important as she learns. Genie’s voice is hilarious–I’ve already sent quotes I highlighted to two different friends and I’m only a third of the way through the book.

“That doesn’t matter,” I hissed. “You are not entitled to my thoughts, emotions, or any other part of my life unless I say so. What you get from me is jack and squat, regardless of whether or not you understand. Ming bai le ma, dickhead?”

and later

“From what I could gather from you friend, however, the two of you are only doing this to gain access to a magical kingdom called Harvard.”

“Pfft. Yale would also suffice.”

 

Strong female protagonist who’s a badass for the win!

Review: Dream Eater by K. Bird Lincoln

Buy Dream Eater here

3*/5

Publication date–April 2017

 

I bought Dream Eater at the Worldcon Convention from the publisher’s table.

The idea is a interesting one. There are beings, called Kind, from every culture with powers and skills unique to them, more than what any mortal would have. Koi is a half Japanese, half Hawaiian college aged woman. She has a phobia about touching people because when she does, she gets a snippet of what they dream. Her mom has died, her father has dementia and her little sister is the one who holds the family together. But at the start of the book, her sister Marlin needs Koi to step up and watch her father. Koi needs to go to class, and ends up leaning on a man named Ken to watch her father. But Ken isn’t all that he seems to be–he’s a Kitsune, sent to bring her father back to Japan to face the Council. There’s a professor with evil intentions who is after Koi, as well. At first he claims it’s just for translating, but it turns out he needs her to help free the water dragon trapped in a stone, and he’s willing to hurt whoever gets in his way. The book fuses mythology from around the world, predominantly Japanese and Pacific Northwest First Peoples.

The book was pretty uneven. At times I was so engaged I devoured a chunk of it. At others, I was bored, or just lost track of the blend of mythologies.

The thing that grabbed me most was the budding sexual tension between Koi and Ken. I wanted to know where it went more than I cared about the battle between the water dragon and Thunderbird. If I read the sequel, Black Pearl Dreaming, it’s because I want to know how Ken and Koi are doing as a couple.

I got lost a number of times because the blended mythology got confusing, or didn’t work as I tried to fit the puzzle pieces of the story together. But I think this would be a selling point to other readers. I don’t think it’s necessarily badly done as much as it was I am busy and just lost the thread, and once lost, it’s impossible to get back without going back and starting over.

So ultimately, I give it a 3/3.5* out of 5 because it was okay–I didn’t dislike it. But I doubt that I’ll read the sequel.