Himawari House by Harmony Becker

Disclaimer: I received this finished copy and an e-arc from the publisher. Thanks! All opinions are my own.

Book: Himiwari House

Author: Harmony Becker

Book Series: Standalone for now

Diversity: Half Japanese MC
Japanese side characters
Korean MC
Singaporean MC

Rating: 5/5

Recommended For…: Young adult readers, contemporary, romance, graphic novel

Genre: YA Contemporary Graphic Novel

Publication Date: November 9, 2021

Publisher: First Second

Pages: 374

Recommended Age: 13+ (Underage consumption of alcohol, Parental abandonment, Language, Romance, Sexual content)

Explanation of CWs: Implied and very little sexual content shown. Parental abandonment shown and mentioned. Alcohol usage shown by at least one minor (in USA terms, Nao is 18) and some alcohol consumption is shown by adults. There is some romance in this book, it’s a misunderstanding trope.

Synopsis: Living in a new country is no walk in the park―Nao, Hyejung, and Tina can all attest to that. The three of them became fast friends through living together in the Himawari House in Tokyo and attending the same Japanese cram school. Nao came to Japan to reconnect with her Japanese heritage, while Hyejung and Tina came to find freedom and their own paths. Though each of them has her own motivations and challanges, they all deal with language barriers, being a fish out of water, self discovery, love, and family.

Review: This was such a gorgeous and amazing read! I fell in love instantly with the characters and I loved how well developed they were. I also loved how authentic their words were and while Western media has long made fun of people who have accents and mispronounce words occasionally, I felt like this gave people learning new languages and/or those who aren’t native speakers to a language a safe space to be in. I also loved the conversations the book had about cultural assimilation and fitting into a culture that you’re from, but haven’t been apart of or had any contact with in awhile. The book was also gorgeously illustrated and I’m dying for more stories of this world.

My only tiny issue with the book is that I was a little lost in the beginning but it works very well for this book as we’re just as lost as Naochan. It also felt a little weird with most of the different chapters being time skips and some not.

Verdict: It was amazing and I highly recommend it.

Young Reader’s Day

Hey bookies! This has been a post heavy month, but I wanted to celebrate Young Readers day with you! Since I mostly read YA I am always recommending those books, but I wanted to recommend some 2022 upcoming Middle Grade books that I’m SO EXCITED FOR! Check these out:

Amari and the Great Game (Supernatural Investigations #2)

Sequel to the New York Times bestseller Amari and the Night Brothers!
Artemis Fowl meets Men in Black in this magical second book in the New York Times and Indie bestselling Supernatural Investigations trilogy—perfect for fans of Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky, the Percy Jackson series, and Nevermoor.

After finding her brother and saving the entire supernatural world, Amari Peters is convinced her first full summer as a Junior Agent will be a breeze.

But between the fearsome new Head Minister’s strict anti-magician agenda, fierce Junior Agent rivalries, and her brother Quinton’s curse steadily worsening, Amari’s plate is full. So when the secretive League of Magicians offers her a chance to stand up for magiciankind as its new leader, she declines. She’s got enough to worry about!

But her refusal allows someone else to step forward, a magician with dangerous plans for the League. This challenge sparks the start of the Great Game, a competition to decide who will become the Night Brothers’ successor and determine the future of magiciankind.

The Great Game is both mysterious and deadly, but among the winner’s magical rewards is Quinton’s last hope—so how can Amari refuse?

Witchlings

Twelve year old Witchling Seven Salazar wants to be anything but a Spare witch. But during The Black Moon Ceremony when every Witchling in the magical town of Ravenskill is placed in their coven, that’s exactly what happens. Joining Seven in this coven of unwanted witches is Valley Pepperhorn, self-styled monster hunter and giant bully, and new witch in town, Thorn La Roux, a master with a magical needle and thread who has a terrible secret. Unfortunately, it gets worse.

When their coven does not seal, and their magic is in danger of being stripped away, Seven invokes the dangerous Impossible Task, a magical contract with a high price. Now, it’s up to the Witchlings to fell the elusive Nightbeast, or risk being toadafied.

The Lucky Ones

When 11-year-old Ellis Earl Brown learns that a famous United States senator might be coming to Mississippi, he can’t believe it. After all, why would a fancy man from Washington D.C. come all the way to the Delta just to see how poor folks lived?

It’s 1967. And Ellis Earl Brown isn’t asking for much. An adequate amount of food for his large family would be nice. A house that doesn’t rattle in a strong wind, or leak when it rains, would be great also. But “times is hard for everybody”as Mama has said, and Ellis Earl finds it hard to keep hope alive.

When his teacher, Mr. Foster, gives him a copy of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Ellis Earl wonders if he can be like Charlie Bucket. Though he doesn’t receive a lucky golden ticket, Ellis Earl does discover that sometimes being a hero simply means being in the right place at the right time. Things begin to look up for Ellis Earl and his family after he is among the five students chosen to go on a field trip to the Jackson Airport to greet Senator Robert Kennedy.

Exploring poverty, racism, and the power of education through the eyes of a kid who dreams of brighter days, The Lucky Ones will resonate with fans of Rex Ogle’s Free Lunch, Linda Sue Park’s A Single Shard, and Lesa Cline-Ransome’s Finding Langston.

Cameron Battle and the Hidden Kingdoms

As the true Descendant, I command to open
The door to Chidani; it shall be broken

Magic awaits those who seek the queen’s peace
And all the suffering you feel will cease

Those who open the histories will hear a sound
What was lost has finally been found.

Cameron Battle grew up reading The Book of Chidani, cherishing stories about the fabled kingdom that cut itself off from the world to save the Igbo people from danger. Passed down over generations, the Book is Cameron’s only connection to his parents who disappeared one fateful night, two years ago.

Ever since, his grandmother has kept the Book locked away, but it calls to Cameron. When he and his best friends Zion and Aliyah decide to open it again, they are magically transported to Chidani. Instead of a land of beauty and wonder, they find a kingdom in extreme danger, as the Queen’s sister seeks to destroy the barrier between worlds. The people of Chidani have been waiting for the last Descendant to return and save them . . . is Cameron ready to be the hero they need?

Inspired by West African and Igbo history and mythology, this adventurous middle-grade fantasy debut perfect for fans of Aru Shah and Tristan Strong celebrates the triumphs and challenges of a boy finding his truth path to greatness.

Theo Tan and the Fox Spirit (Theo Tan and the Fox Spirit, #1)

After inheriting a grieving fox spirit, a Chinese American boy must learn to embrace his heritage to solve the mystery of his brother’s death in Jesse Q Sutanto’s magical, action-packed middle grade fantasy, Theo Tan and the Fox Spirit.

Theo Tan doesn’t want a spirit companion. He just wants to be a normal American kid, playing video games, going to conventions, and using cirth pendants to cast his spells like everyone else. But, when his older brother dies, Theo ends up inheriting Jamie’s fox spirit, Kai.

Kai isn’t happy about this either. Theo is nothing like Jamie, and the two of them have never gotten along. But, when they realize the mysterious journal Jamie left Theo is filled with clues and secret codes, it’s clear that something strange was going on with Jamie’s internship at Reapling Corp.

But the only way onto the campus is the highly competitive “Know Your Roots” summer camp program, a celebration of Chinese and Indian cultures designed to help connect students with their heritage. Theo and Kai will have to put aside their differences long enough to honor Jamie’s last wishes, or the mystery he died for will remain unsolved forever…

The Prince of Nowhere

Roda isn’t afraid of the monsters that roam the wilds of the Aerlands. She’s safe in her small town, surrounded by a wall of freezing, enchanted mist that keeps the beasts away. So when Roda rescues an injured crow on the instruction of her secret pen pal, Anonymous – whose letters arrive without warning and correctly predict the future – she’s surprised to learn she’s brought home one of those monsters from the outside world. Because her crow is really a shape-shifting boy named Ignis.

Ignis doesn’t remember where he was going before he crashed. But Anonymous brought him and Roda together for a reason – and the only way to find out what Anonymous wants is to follow the trail of baffling clues in Roda’s letters. Their perilous journey leads them into the mist and beyond, to a mysterious place called Nowhere. But Ignis has secrets, and the farther they get, the more Roda doubts she can trust him.

As a nefarious force closes in, they’ll have to put aside their differences and work together. For they might be each other’s only defense against an enemy who threatens their past, present, and future.

Pilar Ramirez and the Escape from Zafa

Twelve-year-old Pilar Violeta “Purp” Ramirez’s world is changing, and she doesn’t care for it one bit. Her Chicago neighborhood is gentrifying and her chores have doubled since her sister, Lorena, left for college. The only constant is Abuela and Mami’s code of silence around her cousin Natasha—who vanished in the Dominican Republic fifty years ago during the Trujillo dictatorship.

When Pilar hears that Lorena’s professor studies such disappearances, she hops on the next train to take matters into her own hands. After snooping around the professor’s empty office, she discovers a folder with her cousin’s name on it . . . and gets sucked into the blank page within.

She lands on Zafa, an island swarming with coconut-shaped demons, butterfly shapeshifters, and a sinister magical prison where her cousin is being held captive. Pilar will have to go toe-to-toe with the fearsome Dominican boogeyman, El Cuco, if she has any hope of freeing Natasha and getting back home.

Wishing Upon the Same Stars

Perfect for fans of Other Words for Home, Front Desk, and American as Paneer Pie, this powerful and poignant coming-of-age middle grade debut novel follows an Arab American girl named Yasmeen as she moves to San Antonio with her family and navigates finding friendship—and herself.

When twelve-year-old Yasmeen Khoury moves with her family to San Antonio, all she wants to do is fit in. But her classmates in Texas are nothing like her friends in the predominantly Arab neighborhood back in Detroit where she grew up. Almost immediately, Yasmeen feels like the odd girl out, and as she faces middle school mean girls and tries to make new friends, she feels more alone than ever before.

Then Yasmeen meets her neighbor, Ayelet Cohen, a first-generation Israeli American. As the two girls grow closer, Yasmeen is grateful to know someone who understands what it feels like when your parents’ idea of home is half a world away.

But when Yasmeen’s grandmother moves in after her home in Jerusalem is destroyed, Yasmeen and Ayelet must grapple with how much closer the events of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are than they’d realized. As Yasmeen begins to develop her own understandings of home, heritage, and most importantly, herself, can the two girls learn there’s more that brings them together than might tear them apart . . . and that peace begins with them?

Kelcie Murphy and the Academy for the Unbreakable Arts

The Otherworld is at war. The Academy for the Unbreakable Arts trains warriors. And Kelcie Murphy—a foster child raised in the human world—is dying to attend.

A place at AUA means meeting Scáthach, the legendary trainer of Celtic heroes. It means learning to fight with a sword. It means harnessing her hidden powers and—most importantly—finding out who her parents are, and why they abandoned her in Boston Harbor eight years ago.

When Kelcie tests into the school, she learns that she’s a Saiga, one of the most ancient beings in the Otherworld. Secretive, shunned, and possessed of imposing elemental powers, the Saiga are also kin to the Otherworld’s most infamous traitor.

But Kelcie is a survivor, and she’ll do whatever it takes to find her parents and her place in their world. Even if that means making a few enemies.

Unseen Magic

Aldermere is a town with its own set of rules: there’s a tea shop that vanishes if you try to force your way in, crows that must be fed or they’ll go through your trash, and a bridge that has a toll that no one knows the cost of. Some say that there may even be bigfoots wandering through the woods.

For Fin, Aldermere is her new home. But she’s worried that she’ll do something to mess it up—that she was the reason she and her mother have constantly moved from place to place for so long. When an upcoming presentation at her school’s science fair gives her increasing anxiety, Fin turns to magic to ease her fears. The cost is a memory, but there are things from her past Fin doesn’t mind forgetting. This will be the last time she relies on magic anyway, she’s sure.

Except things don’t go exactly as planned. And instead of easing her anxiety, Fin accidentally unleashes an evil doppelganger. Suddenly Aldermere is overrun with unusual occurrences—and Fin is the only one who knows why. She will have to face her fears—literally—to stop it.

The Marvellers

Eleven-year-old Ella Durand is the first Conjuror to attend the Arcanum Training Institute, where Marvellers from all around the world come together to practice their cultural arts like brewing Indian spice elixirs, practicing Caribbean steel drum hypnosis, and bartering with fussy Irish faeries. Ella knows some people mistrust her Conjuror magic, often deemed “bad and unnatural,” but she’s eager to make a good impression—and, hopefully, some friends.

But Ella discovers that being the first isn’t easy, and not all of the Marvellers are welcoming. Still, she connects with fellow misfits Brigit, a girl who hates magic, and Jason, who is never found without a magical creature or two. Just as Ella begins to find her way at the A.T.I., a notorious criminal escapes from prison, supposedly with Conjurors’ help. Worse, her favorite teacher Masterji Thakur never returns from a research trip, and only Ella seems concerned about his disappearance.

As tensions grow in the Marvellian world, Ella finds herself the target of vicious rumors and growing suspicions. With the help of her new friends, Ella must find a way to clear her family’s name and track down her beloved mentor Masterji Thakur . . . before she loses her place at the A.T.I. forever. 

Grow Up, Tahlia Wilkins!

Twelve-year-old Tahlia Wilkins is ready to kick off the perfect summer at the popular kid’s pool party. But when the Red Goddess of Panties, aka her first period, arrives 24 hours before the pool party, it messes up all her plans. To make matters worse, her mom is out of town, and there’s no way she’s going to ask her dad for help! Tahlia always feared that growing up would be tough, but this is just not fair.

In order to save herself from total embarrassment, it will take all of Tahlia and her best friend Lily’s scheming to keep her reputation—and her favorite jeans—from being ruined. Sneak off to the grocery store only to have the clerk price check your “goods” over the loudspeaker? Check. Trick your mature teenage neighbor into letting you use her bathroom to ‘rehome’ some tampons? Check. Take a dip into a fountain to ‘borrow’ some quarters for a bathroom period product dispenser? Check, check, check!

With the hilarious and heartwarming tone of Dork Diaries and the critically-acclaimed movie Eighth Grade, Grow Up, Tahlia Wilkins! is a coming-of-age middle-grade novel about growing up, in all of its awkward glory.

Alliana, Girl of Dragons
Small Town Pride
Ellen Outside the Lines

Thirteen-year-old Ellen Katz feels most comfortable when her life is well planned out and people fit neatly into her predefined categories. She attends temple with Abba and Mom every Friday and Saturday. Ellen only gets crushes on girls, never boys, and she knows she can always rely on her best-and-only friend, Laurel, to help navigate social situations at their private Georgia middle school. Laurel has always made Ellen feel like being autistic is no big deal. But lately, Laurel has started making more friends, and cancelling more weekend plans with Ellen than she keeps. A school trip to Barcelona seems like the perfect place for Ellen to get their friendship back on track.

Except it doesn’t. Toss in a new nonbinary classmate whose identity has Ellen questioning her very binary way of seeing the world, homesickness, a scavenger hunt-style team project that takes the students through Barcelona to learn about Spanish culture and this trip is anything but what Ellen planned.

Making new friends and letting go of old ones is never easy, but Ellen might just find a comfortable new place for herself if she can learn to embrace the fact that life doesn’t always stick to a planned itinerary.

Aru Shah and the Nectar of Immortality (Pandava, #5)

The Pandavas only have until the next full moon to stop the Sleeper from gaining access to the nectar of immortality, which will grant him infinite power. But how can Aru, Mini, and Brynne hope to defeat him without their celestial weapons? The Sleeper and his army are already plundering the labyrinth, and the sisters can’t even enter. Their quest to get in will have them calling on old friends, meeting new allies, and facing fearsome trials, like…performing in a rock concert? When the moment of confrontation finally arrives, it’s up to Aru to decide who deserves immortality, the devas or the asuras. The most unexpected answer will come from a most unexpected place. More surprises and delights, gods and demons, and laughs and tears await in this immensely satisfying conclusion to the wild ride that began with the lighting of a lamp.

Each of Us a Universe

What do you do when you’re facing the impossible?

Ever since the day when everything changed, Cal Scott’s answer has been to run–run from her mother who’s fighting cancer, run from her father whom she can’t forgive, and run from classmates who’ve never seemed to “get” her anyway. The only thing Cal runs toward is nearby Mt. Meteorite, named for the extraterrestrial object some claim crashed there fifty years ago. Cal spends her afternoons plotting to summit the mountain, so she can find the magic she believes will make possible the impossible: to heal her mother. But no one has successfully reached its peak–no one who’s lived to tell about it, anyway.

Then Cal meets Rosine Kanambe, a girl who’s faced more impossibles than anyone should have to. Rosine has her own secret plan for the mountain and its magic, and she convinces Cal they can summit its peak if they work together. As the girls climb high and dig deep to face the mountain’s challenges, Cal learns from Rosine what real courage looks like. She begins to wonder if the magic she’s been seeking all this time is really the kind she needs.

Jeanne Zulick Ferruolo’s third novel is a glowing story of friendship, inner strength, and what happens when the impossible becomes possible.

Sojourn by Abigail Linhardt Spotlight Tour!

Sojourn copy

I’m thrilled to share this new release with you all today! This beautiful dark Fantasy is called Sojourn and it is the latest installment in the Season of the Runer series by Abigail Linhardt. Read on for more details and a chance to win one of two bookish loot boxes!

eBook - Book II Sojourn

Sojourn (Season of the Runer #2)

Publication Date: November 8th, 2021

Genre: Dark Fantasy

“THERE MAY BE NO GHOSTS OR GHOULS HERE, BUT THERE ARE MONSTERS. IT’S OUR JOB TO STOP THEM.”

Fleeing Al’Myrah, Tzarik sails with Sybal as far away from Sharar as they can. Landing on the far eastern continent of Xia, they discover there are no Runers on Xia and a civil war is heating up between the traditionalists and those who believe it is time for Xia to join the ways of the modern world.

A mysterious creed called Wushito culls the monsters without runes or the white blood. Revered or feared, Wushito exists to support the ruler of Xia–the one touched by the White Dragon. But with Runers ashore, their secrets may soon be brought to light and the traditions on which Xia is built will be tipped into chaos.

Put in the middle, Tzarik and Sybal set events into motion they must see through to the end or risk unleashing a malevolent force into the world. However, a shadow from the past appears amidst their new struggle, complicating their sojourn and quest for sanctuary.

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Excerpt

The sulfates calming inside her, Sybal gathered all that remained of her patience and followed the general. Not wanting to ever be that close to the general again, she chose a perch a few yards away behind a boulder. Just as she ducked down, the small army came into view. She’d expected them to be out3tted in matching regalia, gleaming armor, and spears. The troupe that emerged was a ragtag team in mismatched pieces of armor. Some wore furs patched together with black leather. These had black paint on their faces and over their eyes. They looked harder and 3ercer than the others. The placards they carried were the only uniform item; it bore the familiar crest of House Xhiaoh.

“They’re peasants,” she whispered. “People.”

Wu-Zhiang scoffed. “What did you expect of a people who want to overthrow Wushito? Ignorant rats.”

Touching her runes under her tunic, Sybal said, “I will not kill them. I will stop them.”

The Masahk narrowed her eyes suspiciously. “As you wish. I have no qualms with killing those who seek to overthrow my creed. On my signal…”

Swallowing hard, Sybal prepared herself. For the 3rst time, her crime 6oated to the front of her mind. She could not cut down another sentient being. She didn’t know what would happen. All she knew was that the recompense was said to be horrifying to witness and painful for the oath breaker. A long, grueling death, no doubt.

Rearing up, Wu-Zhiang held her yari aloft and struck down into the army. Without hesitation, Sybal jumped after her, drawing halat as she landed. She opted for her bow, kiting away from on-coming attacks. Drawing buhkar, she misted away and was able to stay back from the attackers. Wu-Zhiang was not as merciful nor inhibited by a magical oath that would take her life. Her fangs 6ashing in the moonlight, she bit the enemy with quick, deadly strikes. Arching her spine, she turned upside down to 3re a fatal arrow into a man who threw a spear at her.

Sybal thought they’d gotten the upper hand too quickly. She’d released a half dozen arrows into shins and feet when the invading army turned and ran forward into the trees.

“Follow them!” Wu-Zhiang hissed, wiping blood from her lips. “They are heading right to Yasuke!” A wicked grin warped her face into demonic joy. “To the blus.”

Chasing after the serpentine woman took all Sybal’s speed and strength. When the Masahk went down onto her belly and shot o, she moved with the speed of a hunting viper. A whipping, hissing sound alerted her to ShanBao’s arrow going up from where the others waited. This should have been their signal, but Wu- Zhiang had preemptively struck. Now it signaled Yasuke and Jin to move in. Sybal saw how well ShanBao knew his generals when she heard Yasuke give a wild, canine cry.

The two women came over the rocky outcropping and stopped.

“A trap!” Wu-Zhiang shouted.

Below, another horde of Wu-Tang warriors waited, unleashing arrows towards Jin and Yasuke. Sybal prepared to scream for the boy to duck, but he easily dodged the arrows with elegant lips, scaling a tree before hopping across to another, shooting his own arrows down at the same time. Yasuke leapt into the frey for melee attacks, using his claws. His fur stood on end as he roared. A 3ery fox shadow appeared behind him as his attacks grew in rage.

From behind Jin and Yasuke, the Shiuki warriors emerged, spears and staves in hand. Sybal skirted around the edge, the blood from the Wushito general’s savage attacks painting the vibrant green grass red. She met with ShanBao and the royal commander.

“I will lose my rank for this,” Commander Zhen stuttered, his face white. “We are involved in a civil dispute. A battle! The Di- Huan will have my head.”

“This was unexpected, Zhen.” ShanBao watched, horri3ed at the bloodletting. “They played us for the peaceful fools we are.”

Below, Sybal watched a royal warrior brought to his knees by a man welding the banner of House Xiaoh. The royal warrior begged for his life before the Xiaoh 3ghter stabbed him with the placard, standing it up in his corpse. Unable to bear the sight, she leased an arrow into the Xiaoh warrior’s knee.

“Careful, Sybal!” ShanBao cried. “Your oath.”

Glaring at the evil sigil, she spat. “It is far worse a punishment that I cannot take my revenge.” In truth, she had killed Whoang Xiaoh twice. She had tasted her revenge. But the opportunity to fell more of his kinsmen and followers loomed before her in insatiable temptation.

“Guard your anger,” ShanBao whispered, touching her shoulder gently from behind. “I do this to protect Xia. House Xiaoh wants one of their own on the throne.”

“Why are they striking now?” Zhen cried as he watched his men fall. “I thought we were close to an accord.”

“Hardly,” ShanBao replied. “The Di-Huan is ignorant and indecisive. His son has no desire to rule.”

Zhen swallowed hard before he spoke. “He is not touched by the dragon. They must be frightened their rule will be challenged.”

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About the Author

author pic

Abi has been a writer all her life, but is a mentor at heart. When she is not writing, you can find her slaying enemies online or hunting for the next bohemian adventure. She has published works of fiction, poetry, academia, and even won awards for her short stories in science fiction and horror.

Abi is also a proud mom of two…ferrets! She live streams on Twitch where you can enjoy her terrible gaming skills and join the live discussion. She works part-time as a freelance ghostwriter, editor, and audiobook narrator, hoping to one day make these passions her full-time job. She currently resides in Kansas.

She is one of nine children–all who share the creative spark.

Abigail Linhardt | Facebook | Instagram | TikTok

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