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In this post:
1. Wicked by Gregory Maguire
2. The Long Firm by Jake Arnott
3. Brown Girl in the Ring by Nalo Hopkinson
4. Clay's Ark by Octavia E. Butler
5. I Say a Little Prayer by E. Lynn Harris
6. Fledgling by Octavia E. Butler
7. Parable of the Talents by Octavia E. Butler
8. Song of the Boatwoman by Meiling Jin
9. Swimming in the Monsoon Sea by Shyam Selvadurai

Not counted but special mention: Story-Wallah! A Celebration of South Asian Fiction edited by Shyam Selvadurai

1. Wicked by Gregory Maguire
Not at all what I expected based on what I had heard about the musical, which seemed to be sparkly fun. Compelling read though I did not like the twist with respect to Elphaba and the Wizard.

2. The Long Firm by Jake Arnott
The main character makes this novel. He is Harry Starks, a 1960's London gang boss, who is violent, gay, magnetic and surprisingly vulnerable.

3. Brown Girl in the Ring by Nalo Hopkinson
A different take on Toronto (my hometown, yay!) in which the city is left in chaos in the near-future while the government and the people who can afford it move to the suburbs. Ti-Jeanne, the main character, wasn't easy to like at first but I got caught up in her story and I was rooting for her. I was surprised by a lot of the characters' actions and I was questioning their motivations a lot but the book was definitely a page-turner.

4. Clay's Ark by Octavia E. Butler
Clay's Ark was a surprise because I've never read her books before. I'm not sure if I liked the book but I could definitely appreciate why other people like her writing.

5. I Say a Little Prayer by E. Lynn Harris
I'm not speaking from experience at all with respect to the situations and characters presented in this book but they didn't feel believable or compelling.

6. Fledgling by Octavia E. Butler
Vampires but not in the way stories are usually written about them. ('Fun' fact: Apparently it was also published in the same year as 'Twilight' - 2005.) At first, it seemed like Butler was going with a mystery vibe because the main character Shori was trying to figure out who had hurt her but once that was figured out (relatively easily) the rest of the book was basically about her people (the Ina) coming to a decision about the perpetrators. Also, there was a lot of world-building, which I really enjoyed reading about - the details about how the Ina have lived over the years, their culture, their relationship with their human symbionts (including the details about needing more than one, the relationships between the symbionts for one Ina, the fact that they need to eat and the details about their food preparation). The issues of race and of the consent/willingness of the symbiont relationship were interesting to read about if also somewhat uncomfortable (e.g. the sex/feeding scenes) and, of course, not fully resolved but I didn't mind for this book.

7. Parable of the Talents by Octavia E. Butler
I didn't realize this was a sequel till after I finished but I felt it really worked well as a stand-alone book. The author's very thoughtful and detailed in the world-building. The novel is a lot of first-person narration, first from the main character's (Olamina) daughter and then her own POV. Reading the blurbs from the daughter's POV, I kept expecting Olamina to make some huge mistake or commit some 'ultimate betrayal' but in the end, I couldn't believe her daughter could feel the way she did, blaming her mother for everything that's happened.

8. Song of the Boatwoman by Meiling Jin

A short story collection featuring straight and queer characters/themes. I wanted to like this more but I sometimes felt there was a distance. However, I did enjoy the new (to me) perspectives that the author wrote about, e.g., a member of the Chinese diaspora in the Caribbean.

9. Swimming in the Monsoon Sea by Shyam Selvadurai

I really enjoyed this book. I felt the author really captured that extreme intensity of feeling that teenagers experience and also the characterizations, especially of the main character in some of his actions; he and the reader can see the wrongness of certain actions but also understand the impulse to act that way regardless. I also really liked the detailed descriptions of everything - the bustling market, the day-to-day lives of the main characters, an important scene between the main character and one of his sisters, the changes to the ocean and shoreline during a monsoon. The book is billed as a young adult novel but it's very readable though being in my mid-twenties, I'm not very far removed. With this and his anthology (Story-Wallah! A Celebration of South Asian Fiction), I will definitely check out more of his work.

Not counted but special mention: Story-Wallah! A Celebration of South Asian Fiction edited by Shyam Selvadurai
Awesome short story collection by various authors of the South Asian diaspora. I was especially taken by the foreword by the editor (and contributor), "Introducing Myself in the Diaspora", which definitely resonated with me with respect to my identity as the child of immigrants. He also speaks to his identity as a gay man and how that is sometimes at odds with his identity as a person from Sri Lanka.

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