Blog

wrap-up: january 2022

Welcome to the first installment of a new series on my blog…*drumroll please*…monthly wrap-ups!

Welcome to the first installment of a new series on my blog…*drumroll please*…monthly wrap-ups!

I’ve always loved reading these for the glimpse they give into people’s lives. While books are always fun and interesting to read about, I also like seeing what else bloggers are interested in. Wrap-ups help me get to know other creators better and so I wanted to implement this monthly reflection into my own blog!

Since this is my first time writing one of these posts, I’m not really married to any particular structure yet and might change the formatting as I make more in the future. But the content in this post—some talk on books, some talk on what I’ve been enjoying, some talk on my life, and some talk on what’s ahead—is the kind of content you should expect from me in my monthly wrap-ups!

what i read

January was a slow reading month for me because I only finished two novels. However, I still feel like I consumed a lot of words—I went back to school at the beginning of the month and have been doing nonstop readings for my classes ever since. So even though I didn’t finish a lot of books, I do feel like my mind has been constantly expanding!

The two books I did read were both ones I really enjoyed. And so far, I’ve been sticking with my goal of writing more Goodreads reviews this year!

Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer ⭑⭑⭑⭑⭑

Read my Goodreads review here.

Win Me Something by Kyle Lucia Wu – ⭑⭑⭑⭑

Read my Goodreads review here.

what i blogged

It’s been a long time since I’ve blogged this consistently! I’ve liked challenging myself to think of new topics each week and to interact more with the community on here.

2021 roundup

2022 bookish goals

pondathon ii sign-up post

if you liked this, read this

2022 anticipated releases by asian authors

what i watched

Single’s Inferno (2021)

Yes, I fell into the Single’s Inferno trap…at first I checked it out because everyone was talking about it. But despite my aversion to the premise and the superficiality of the show, I have to admit that I became very invested in it. I’ve never been able to watch Western dating shows but with Single’s Inferno, I actually enjoyed getting to see the cast bond with each other and to see the psychology behind how people acted. The show has its problems but I won’t say I didn’t derive a lot of enjoyment from it—and yes, I’m hoping for more seasons or a reunion segment.

Our Beloved Summer (2021)

When I tell you I became so invested in this show that I put off all of my schoolwork to watch it…this was the first K-Drama I’ve ever finished and now I’m hoping to watch more. The story is so sweet and honestly made me cry…MANY times. I love the childhood rivals-to-friends-to-lovers-to-exes premise, and then seeing how they come back together. Even more than that, I feel like this show is just genuinely super well done. Every character gets their own backstory, the storytelling techniques are extremely smart and innovative, and the vibes of the whole series are just so sweetly nostalgic. Also, even though the protagonists follow the “nerd x idiot” pattern, they both also have their own unique personalities and characteristics, which I liked.

The Great British Bake Off Series 12 (2021)

GBBO is one of my comfort shows (even though it’s oftentimes completely stressful to watch) so I had to catch up on the latest season with the one-month Netflix subscription I got myself in January. I have to say, this was probably one of my favorite seasons. I loved a lot of the bakers and their dynamics, and I always love seeing the creations they come up with for each prompt.

what i listened to

“Christmas Tree” – V

Ever since I watched Our Beloved Summer I’ve been listening to V’s “Christmas Tree” nonstop. It’s just so pretty and brings back all the feels from the show.

“Yesterday Once More” – The Carpenters

This is an old favorite of mine because my mom would sing it all the time as we were growing up. I listened to it a lot this month because I was writing about it in one of my classes.

“I Will Spend My Whole Life Loving You” – Imaginary Future, Kina Grannis

This is also a song I’ve loved for a while—ever since it released in 2017, actually. I’ve been playing my spring playlist a lot, so my roommate heard this song when I put the playlist on in our dorm room and she really liked it. We’ve been listening to it on repeat ever since.

what i did this month

January was a pretty jam-packed month! Like I mentioned before, my Winter Quarter started on January 3rd and I’ve been really busy ever since. I just finished Week 5 of my quarter, which means I’m in the middle of midterm season.

Despite the heavy workload, I’m really enjoying my classes this quarter. I’m taking a reporting story called “Exploring Asian American Stories” and it’s super fun, interesting, and rewarding. I’m also taking another Journalism class on how marginalized people are framed in the media. And I’m taking a Creative Writing class on creative non-fiction, an Asian American Studies class on refugee aesthetics, and a plant biology class as well. This latter class is an intro class and it’s a bit out of my comfort zone (I had to take my first written exam!), as I’m a humanities gal through and through, but I’m genuinely enjoying all the new things I’m learning and I love how passionate my professor is about the material!

I made vol-au-vents with salmon cream cheese filling right before I left home. I’ve been wanting to bake these ever since I watched Series 6 of GBBO (probably my favorite season of the show ever). They turned out so yummy! I made my own rough puff pastry and was scared they wouldn’t rise enough, but they came out just as I wanted them to and I was really happy.

If you want to make these yourself, I used this YouTube video for the puff pastry, this recipe for the shell-baking specs, this YouTube video for more vol-au-vent shell-specific tips, and this recipe for filling inspiration (I adapted it to use salmon, hot mustard, basil pesto, cilantro, ground pepper, and green onions in the cream cheese).

We got a ton of snow where I am so my friends and I had a snowball fight and made a bunch of snow angels. It was nice to get a break from doing work and to feel like a kid again.

I got to see a beautiful performance by my school’s symphony orchestra (they are extremely talented and led by a really amazing conductor). They played Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5 as well as the overture to Rossini’s Semiramide, and it was gorgeous.

On the first day of Lunar New Year, I got to go to Chinatown for one of my Journalism class assignments. It made me really happy because it made me feel connected to home, which I was missing a lot. It was also a super rewarding experience—my partner and I were tasked with talking directly to Chinatown residents, business owners, and community leaders. I had to pull out my rusty Mandarin skills but I learned so much from the conversations and it was so nice to connect with the community! We also got to eat a lot of yummy food.

To celebrate Lunar New Year, my residential college held a dumpling-making party which was so fun.

This month, I also celebrated some friends’ birthdays with delicious meals, published an article in the school paper, mooched a ton of free food off of school events, and dressed up and danced at my residential college’s formal.

Overall, it was a busy month, but a rewarding one.

looking ahead

Later next week, I’ll be going to San Francisco for a class trip and I’m so excited! It’s been a long time since I’ve traveled anywhere far (besides going back and forth between school and home). I’m hoping that the last half of the quarter will give me some more time to read for pleasure (although based on past quarters, this might be wishful thinking).

I hope the weather will warm up as the days get longer, because I can’t deal with the freezing temperatures here anymore—almost every day is in the teens (Fahrenheit)! But above all, I’m looking forward to more good times with loved ones and for more learning.

How was your January? What are you looking forward to the most in February?

Follow me on Instagram

Follow me on Twitter

Follow me on Goodreads

Follow me on YouTube

2022 anticipated releases by asian authors

Lunar New Year starts this week! To celebrate, I’ve compiled a list of 10 Asian-authored books that will be published in this coming year. I’m so excited to read all of these in the Year of the Tiger!

Lunar New Year starts this week! To celebrate, I’ve compiled a list of 10 Asian-authored books that will be published in this coming year. I’m so excited to read all of these in the Year of the Tiger!

1. Red Thread of Fate by Lyn Liao Butler – February 8, 2022
Red Thread of Fate by Lyn Liao Butler

I added this book to my TBR the second I saw the title, because I’ve always been fascinated by the concept of the red thread of fate. But I became even more intrigued after reading the blurb—this story is one of family mystery and drama, in which a women unexpectedly becomes the guardian of a child while she is in the process of adopting a son.

2. The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea by Axie Oh – February 22, 2022
The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea by Axie Oh

Axie Oh’s YA contemporary XOXO was one of my favorite 2021 reads, so I’m excited to see how Oh writes fantasy in this retelling of the Korean story “The Tale of Shim Cheong!” I love books that retell myths and folktales, and this one has been compared to Spirited Away, which is my favorite Studio Ghibli film. (Also look how beautiful the cover is!)

3. Time is a Mother by Ocean Vuong – April 5, 2022

Ocean Vuong is one of my favorite writers—his exploration of subjects like family, history, memory, sexuality, and diaspora has influenced me a lot. I can’t wait to read this second poetry collection of his and how he builds on the themes of On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, as well as the forms and techniques of Night Sky With Exit Wounds.

4. Queen of the Tiles by Hanna Alkaf – April 19, 2022
Queen of the Tiles by Hanna Alkaf

A murder mystery about competitive Scrabble with a Muslim, Malaysian MC? Yes please! I love stories that are structured around competitions because they remind me of the mystery books I enjoyed as a kid, such as The Candymakers by Wendy Mass, The Fingertips of Duncan Dorfman by Meg Wolitzer, and The Gollywhopper Games by Jody Feldman. I’m excited to try an aged-up version of these reads!

5. Kaikeyi by Vaishnavi Patel – April 26, 2022
Kaikeyi by Vaishnavi Patel

I just found out about Kaikeyi when a saw this tweet from editor Priyanka Krishnan, which put the cover side-by-side with her previous post that said “I would love to work on a book like CIRCE or THE LOST QUEEN—but maybe moving east for the source of inspiration.” I immediately went to check out the book, which reimagines the story of a vilified woman from the Ramayana. I’m so so excited about this premise and can’t wait to read the novel!

6. Once Upon a K-Prom by Kat Cho – May 17, 2022
Once Upon a K-Prom by Kat Cho

Childhood friends-to-lovers is one of my favorite tropes so I can’t wait for this book that also has idol and prom elements to boot! This novel honestly just sounds like a fun and feel-good story and I can’t wait!

7. Babel, or The Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of the Oxford Translators’ Revolution by R.F. Kuang – August 23, 2022
Babel by R.F. Kuang

I have no hesitation in saying this is the book I’m most excited to read in 2022. I love R.F. Kuang’s writing to death and The Poppy War trilogy changed my life. As a current college student, I’ve grappled a lot with the idea of revolution while occupying a position of both privilege and powerlessness. I’m excited to see how Kuang tackles this question, as well as how she explores imperialism, translation, language, and institutional power, which are all subjects I’m extremely interested in.

8. The Fortunes of Jaded Women by Carolyn Huynh – September 6, 2022
The Fortunes of Jaded Women by Carolyn Huynh

I’m a sucker for mother-daughter stories and this novel focuses on the Duong women, who live in Orange County’s Little Saigon. This book seems right up my alley and I can’t wait to follow the threads of these characters as they navigate their lives and their relationships with one another!

9. Foul Lady Fortune by Chloe Gong – September 27, 2022
Foul Lady Fortune by Chloe Gong

Need I say anything else? I loved These Violent Delights and Our Violent Ends and can’t wait to reenter Gong’s world. I’m excited to see how she explores the growing political conflicts of 1930s Shanghai, and to read more of Gong’s beautiful prose as she continues to dissect imperialism and identity.

10. Daughters of the New Year by E.M. Tran – October 11, 2022

Everything I love is in this book, a multi-generational tale that spans time and space, with mystical elements and mother-daughter relationships. How can I not be excited for this novel? October can’t come soon enough!

Which 2022 releases are you most excited for? Are there any books on this list that you’re also anticipating?

Follow me on Instagram

Follow me on Twitter

Follow me on Goodreads

Follow me on YouTube

if you liked this, read this

Do you ever finish an amazing story and think “I wish there were more books like this?” If you’re anything like me, you also love to find connections between novels. Today, I pulled from my 2021 and 2022 reads to create a thread of recommendations based on the standout elements of each novel!

Do you ever finish an amazing story and think “I wish there were more books like this?” If you’re anything like me, you also love to find connections between novels. Today, I pulled from my 2021 and 2022 reads to create a thread of recommendations based on the standout elements of each novel!

This is a long thread, so I’m hoping you can find a book you’ve read on here and then keep coming back for your next pick when you’re finished!

If you liked Good Talk: A Memoir in Conversations by Mira Jacob for its graphic novel memoir elements and exploration of motherhood, read The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui.

If you liked The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui for the beautiful illustrations that cross space and time, read The Magic Fish by Trung Le Nguyen.

If you liked The Magic Fish by Trung Le Nguyen for its coming-of-age plot and cute gay romance, read Heartstopper by Alice Oseman.

If you liked Heartstopper by Alice Oseman for its wholesome illustration style, read Stargazing by Jen Wang.

If you liked Stargazing by Jen Wang for its strong friendships, read Class Act by Jerry Craft.

If you liked Class Act by Jerry Craft for the elements of found family and self-discovery, read Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram.

If you liked Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram for the bonding between grandkid and grandparents, read I Love You So Mochi by Sarah Kuhn.

If you liked I Love You So Mochi by Sarah Kuhn for its protagonist discovering her passion and figuring out her future, read Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers.

If you liked Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers for the sweet sapphic romance and goofy friendships, read One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston.

If you liked One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston for the New York City setting, read Severance by Ling Ma.

If you liked Severance by Ling Ma for the new adult figuring herself out, read Yolk by Mary H.K. Choi.

If you liked Yolk by Mary H.K. Choi for the young woman navigating a family member’s sickness, read Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner.

If you liked Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner for the dive into dealing with a mother’s death, read Memorial Drive: A Daughter’s Memoir by Natasha Trethewey.

If you liked Memorial Drive: A Daughter’s Memoir by Natasha Trethewey for the recounting of growing up through a framework of a mother-child relationship, read Heavy: An American Memoir by Kiese Laymon.

If you liked Heavy: An American Memoir by Kiese Laymon for the exploration of complicated mother-child relationships, read Speak, Okinawa: A Memoir by Elizabeth Miki Brina.

If you liked Speak, Okinawa: A Memoir by Elizabeth Miki Brina for its focus on biraciality, read Win Me Something by Kyle Lucia Wu.

If you liked Win Me Something by Kyle Lucia Wu for its quiet but impactful story, read Clues to the Universe by Christina Li.

If you liked Clues to the Universe by Christina Li for the characters who pursue their dreams, read The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo.

If you liked The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo for its spoken word verse, read The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta.

If you liked The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta for the journey of self-acceptance and self-discovery, read Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender.

If you liked Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender for how it brings a city to life, read Our Violent Ends by Chloe Gong.

If you liked Our Violent Ends by Chloe Gong for its beautiful prose, read The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo.

If you liked The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo for its dark and historical elements, read How Much of These Hills Is Gold by C Pam Zhang.

If you liked How Much of These Hills Is Gold by C Pam Zhang for its use of language and physicality, read Bestiary by K-Ming Chang.

If you liked Bestiary by K-Ming Chang for its centering of girlhood and bodies, read Sour Heart by Jenny Zhang.

If you liked Sour Heart by Jenny Zhang for its multiple perspectives, read There There by Tommy Orange.

If you liked There There by Tommy Orange for its interconnected characters and community, read Afterparties by Anthony Veasna So.

If you liked Afterparties by Anthony Veasna So for its often ironic and humorous voice, read How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia by Mohsin Hamid.

If you liked How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia by Mohsin Hamid for its interesting form and narrator, read The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen.

If you liked The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen for its telling of historical events through a time-bending structure, read Against the Loveless World by Susan Abulhawa.

If you liked Against the Loveless World by Susan Abulhawa for long span of historical fiction, read Pachinko by Min Jin Lee.

If you liked Pachinko by Min Jin Lee for the way it follows a family across generations, read The Mountains Sing by Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai.

If you liked The Mountains Sing by Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai for its focus on land and loss of land, read Island of Shattered Dreams by Chantal T. Spitz.

If you liked Island of Shattered Dreams by Chantal T. Spitz for its lyricality, read If They Come for Us by Fatimah Asghar.

If you liked If They Come for Us by Fatimah Asghar for the poetry that ties together heritage and history with self-identity, read Night Sky with Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong.

If you liked Night Sky with Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong for being in verse, read The Crossover by Kwame Alexander.

If you liked The Crossover by Kwame Alexander for the protagonist pursuing his dreams, read XOXO by Axie Oh.

If you liked XOXO by Axie Oh for the K-Pop elements, read I’ll Be the One by Lyla Lee.

If you liked I’ll Be the One by Lyla Lee for its protagonist who loves to perform, read On the Come Up by Angie Thomas.

If you liked On the Come Up by Angie Thomas for the young adult seeking to make her goals reality, read With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo.

If you liked With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo for the protagonist who loves to cook, read Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune by Roselle Lim.

If you liked Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune by Roselle Lim for its tantalizing food descriptions, read Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors by Sonali Dev.

If you liked Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors by Sonali Dev for its Austen-inspired plot, read A Taste for Love by Jennifer Yen.

If you liked A Taste for Love by Jennifer Yen for its delicious recipes, read Arsenic and Adobo by Mia P. Manansala.

If you liked Arsenic and Adobo by Mia P. Manansala for its humorous murder mystery, read Dial A for Aunties by Jesse Q. Suntanto.

If you liked Dial A for Aunties by Jesse Q. Suntanto for the interfering family members, read Dating Makes Perfect by Pintip Dunn.

If you liked Dating Makes Perfect by Pintip Dunn for the forced dating, read Rent a Boyfriend by Gloria Chao.

If you liked Rent a Boyfriend by Gloria Chao for the fake-dating, read Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating by Adiba Jaigirdar.

If you liked Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating by Adiba Jaigirdar for its protagonists who have opposite personalities, read Counting Down with You by Tashie Bhuiyan.

If you liked Counting Down with You by Tashie Bhuiyan for the protagonists who butt heads, read Made in Korea by Sarah Suk.

If you liked Made in Korea by Sarah Suk for the rival entrepreneurs-turned-lovers romance, read A Pho Love Story by Loan Le.

If you liked A Pho Love Story by Loan Le for the forbidden romance, read Not Here to Be Liked by Michelle Quach.

If you liked Not Here to Be Liked by Michelle Quach for the protagonists forced to team up, read The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo.

If you liked The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo for its featuring of a small business, read The Stationery Shop by Marjan Kamali.

If you liked The Stationery Shop by Marjan Kamali for its reunion of lovers after a long period of time, read Mó Dào Zǔ Shī by Mò Xiāng Tóng Xiù.

If you liked Mó Dào Zǔ Shī by Mò Xiāng Tóng Xiù for the xiānxiá fantasy, read Jade Fire Gold by June C.L. Tan.

If you liked Jade Fire Gold by June C.L. Tan for the desert settings, read She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan.

If you liked She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan for its dark themes and dive into gender, read The Vegetarian by Han Kang.

If you liked The Vegetarian by Han Kang for its commentary on womanhood, read The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan.

If you liked The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan for the mother-daughter relationships, read Beloved by Toni Morrison.

If you liked Beloved by Toni Morrison for the way it portrays a parent’s love, read Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates.

If you liked Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates for its theme and structure, read the work it responds to, The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin.

If you liked The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin for its discussions on race and religion, read All About Love: New Visions by bell hooks.

If you liked All About Love: New Visions by bell hooks for its focus on the radical role of love, read The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism for the Twenty-First Century by Grace Lee Boggs with Scott Kurashige.

If you liked The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism for the Twenty-First Century by Grace Lee Boggs with Scott Kurashige for its teachings on how we should go forth in our interactions with each other and the Earth, read Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer.

If you liked Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer for how it shows the relationship between land and people, read We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom and illustrated by Michaela Goade.

If you liked We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom and illustrated by Michaela Goade for how it portrays the important role of women, read Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga.

If you liked Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga for the protagonist who is transplanted to an environment with many class and cultural differences, read Mansfield Park by Jane Austen.

If you liked Mansfield Park by Jane Austen for its humor and English setting, read My Oxford Year by Julia Whelan.

If you liked My Oxford Year by Julia Whelan for its integration of literary and historical allusions, read Dictee by Theresa Hak Kyung Cha.

If you liked Dictee by Theresa Hak Kyung Cha for its unique form, read The Story of My Teeth by Valeria Luiselli.

If you liked The Story of My Teeth by Valeria Luiselli for how meta it is, read Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu.

If you liked Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu for how it depicts leaving home and family, read Goodbye, Again: Essays, Reflections, and Illustrations by Jonny Sun.

If you liked Goodbye, Again: Essays, Reflections, and Illustrations by Jonny Sun for its personal narrative essays, read Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning by Cathy Park Hong.

If you liked Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning by Cathy Park Hong for how it explores Asian American identity and experiences, read The Making of Asian America: A History by Erika Lee.

If you liked The Making of Asian America: A History by Erika Lee for the inclusion of history from many different places and time periods, read Jade City by Fonda Lee.

If you liked Jade City by Fonda Lee for the Asian-inspired setting, read A Wish in the Dark by Christina Soontornvat.

If you liked A Wish in the Dark by Christina Soontornvat for the kidlit fantasy, read Rea and the Blood of the Nectar by Payal Doshi.

If you liked Rea and the Blood of the Nectar by Payal Doshi for the protagonist’s adventure trying to bring her brother home, read Six Crimson Cranes by Elizabeth Lim.

If you liked Six Crimson Cranes by Elizabeth Lim for the protagonist experiencing new places and people, read Lady Susan by Jane Austen.

If you liked Lady Susan by Jane Austen for its epistolary form, read Dear Martin by Nic Stone.

If you liked Dear Martin by Nic Stone for the young characters trying to figure out their place in the world and their experiences as people of color in America, read We Are Not Free by Traci Chee.

If you liked We Are Not Free by Traci Chee for its honest depiction of the United States’ incarceration of Japanese Americans, read Citizen 13660 by Miné Okubo.

If you liked Citizen 13660 by Miné Okubo for its impactful black-and-white illustrations, read Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi.

If you liked Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi for being a powerful memoir, read Know My Name by Chanel Miller.

If you liked Know My Name by Chanel Miller for the journey of growth, healing, and self-identity, read Naturally Tan by Tan France.

If you liked Naturally Tan by Tan France for the look into a celebrity’s life, read Dear Girls: Intimate Tales, Untold Secrets, & Advice for Living Your Best Life by Ali Wong.

If you liked Dear Girls: Intimate Tales, Untold Secrets, & Advice for Living Your Best Life by Ali Wong for its humor, read Sex and Vanity by Kevin Kwan.

If you liked Sex and Vanity by Kevin Kwan for its satirical look at class and wealth differences, read The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga.

If you liked The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga for its darkness and suspenseful moments, read Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen.

If you liked Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen for the sibling ties and shenanigans, read It All Comes Back to You by Farah Naz Rishi.

I hope this post helps you find some new books to read! Please let me know if you make your own thread like this, too. I’d love to check it out!

Have you read any of these books, and what would you recommend if you were the one making this list?

Follow me on Instagram

Follow me on Twitter

Follow me on Goodreads

Follow me on YouTube

pondathon ii sign-up post

I’m so excited to share today’s post with you all! As I mentioned in my 2022 bookish goals post, I plan to participate in CW’s Pondathon II this year. All week, I’ve been looking forward to making my character card and TBR.

I’m so excited to share today’s post with you all! As I mentioned in my 2022 bookish goals post, I plan to participate in CW’s Pondathon II this year. All week, I’ve been looking forward to making my character card and TBR.

what is the pondathon?

Pondathon II is a story-driven and gardening-themed readathon hosted and run by CW from The Quiet Pond. The aim of the Pondathon II readathon is to read books to earn plants and decorate your own little garden so that we can restore the forest together. More information about the readathon can be found here.

information about joining the pondathon

  • You can sign-up to the Pondathon II readathon here. The readathon starts on January 10th 2022 and ends on December 11th 2022; sign-ups are open across the duration of the readathon.
  • You also get to create your own Pond animal character for the Pondathon, and create your own character card!
  • If you’d like, create a blog post, bookstagram post, booktube video, Twitter thread, or whatever medium you wish, with ‘#PondathonII’ in the title or your tweet. Share the character you have created and your character card!
  • Link back to this post so that new friends can find the readathon and join in as well.

my pond character

My character card

Xiaobai, Tender of the Cabbages

My Pond Character is Xiaobai (like dàbáitù but xiǎobáitù), and he is the Tender of the Cabbages! Xiaobai is a white rabbit who loves to spend time in the garden. He visits the cabbages everyday to make sure they are content!

my pondathon tbr

I have several books on my TBR for 2022, and these are just a few of them!

Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley

1. Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley

Firekeeper’s Daughter is a YA thriller that follows a biracial, Native teen. I’ve read very few thrillers, let alone YA thrillers, so I’m excited to read this book! Also, I go to university on Ojibwe land (the protagonist of the novel, Daunis, is an Ojibwe woman) so I want to learn more about people whose land I’m settled on.

Kindred by Octavia Butler

2. Kindred by Octavia Butler

I’ve never read an Octavia Butler novel before so this is at the top of my TBR. I’ve heard so much about both Kindred and Butler’s writing in general, so I’m really anticipating this read!

The Love Songs of W. E. B. Du Bois by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers

3. The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers

I first learned about Honorée Fanonne Jeffers in an English class, where we read The Age of Phillis. I love Jeffers’ writing so I’ve been looking forward to reading this novel ever since it came out. Also, T.S. Eliot’s The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock is one of my favorite poems. I’m interested in seeing how Jeffers engages with Eliot. It’s a hefty tome, but I can’t wait to dive into its pages!

Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer

4. Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer

I’ve already started reading this book and it’s just as captivating as everyone said it would be! I love reading Kimmerer’s prose and seeing how she ties together Indigenous teachings, Western science, life lessons, botany, and the observations she makes about the Earth.

Win Me Something by Kyle Lucia Wu

5. Win Me Something by Kyle Lucia Wu

I first heard about this book when it was chosen as an Asian American Girl Club book club pick. I was excited about the premise because similarly to the protagonist, Willa, I also identify as a Chinese American from the Tri-State Area. Besides that, I’m also interested in reading about Willa’s coming-of-age and seeing how Wu explores class differences!

Are you participating in Pondathon II? Let me know what’s on your TBR and link me to your sign-up post so I can check out your character!

Follow me on Instagram

Follow me on Twitter

Follow me on Goodreads

Follow me on YouTube

2022 bookish goals

I’ve never been too great at following annual TBRs and reading lists; setting yearly intentions, on the other hand, is extremely rewarding for me.

I’ve never been too great at following annual TBRs and reading lists; setting yearly intentions, on the other hand, is extremely rewarding for me.

Last year, I made a list of my reading-related goals for the year. In reflecting, I found that they were super effective in helping me to engage with books more intentionally! I also realized that they’re a helpful benchmark for me to mark how I grow as a reader throughout the year.

This year, I’d like to focus a lot more on how I engage with the book community and what role I can play as a reader. For example, I find it super rewarding to discuss books with others, so I’d like to contribute more of my thoughts on what I read!

goals

1. Read 50 books

Back in high school, I’d set my reading goal to 50 books each year, and would never reach that mark. In 2020, I finally decided to get real with myself and set my goal to 25. But as it happened to turn out, I did reach 50 books that year! Last year, I increased my goal to 30, and I ended up reading 100 books!

While I am a huge proponent of quality over quantity when it comes to reading (and most other things in life), I find that setting myself a number keeps me motivated to prioritize reading more. Now that I’ve been able to read 50 books for the past two years and have increased the presence of reading in my daily life, I feel more comfortable setting myself the goal of 50 books again. It’s a bit of a jump from 40, but—aside from the fact that I have an aversion to the number four since it’s unlucky in Chinese culture—I’d like to challenge myself!

However, I also want to set myself the intention to read carefully, and to enjoy the books I read, rather than purposely seeking out books that will help me hit my goal faster.

2. Read more books by underrepresented authors who hold identities different from my own

Last year, I set myself the goal of reading more books by “BIPOC, POC, and underrepresented authors.” While I did read almost all authors of color in 2021, I found myself gravitating toward books by cis-het, abled, Chinese American and East Asian authors because those stories felt relatable and comfortable.

While I love those books so much and will continue to read books by Chinese American and East Asian authors—because it feels so nice to find stories that resonate deeply with my own experiences—I think it’s also extremely important to read stories by authors who have different identities from me, and stories about experiences I haven’t had.

With this goal, I have an intention of reading books by authors of differing racial/ethnic identities, including Black, Indigenous, Pacific Islander, Latinx, South Asian, Southeast Asian, and West Asian authors. I’d also like to read more books by LGBTQ+ authors, disabled authors, neurodivergent authors. I want to read more books by non-American authors and authors who have different religious views from my own. This is obviously a non-exhaustive list of identities held by authors whose works I haven’t read enough of, but regardless of whether I’ve named them here or not, I want to seek these books out!

3. Read more non-fiction books

Every time I finish reading a non-fiction book, I realized how truly rewarding they are. However, I usually gravitate toward fiction because frankly, the prospect of picking up a non-fiction book often feels daunting and boredom-inducing.

But, I really want to grow my knowledge base and develop my passion for self-learning. There’s so many subjects out there that I’d like to learn more of. Especially in topics of feminism, race, class, and more, I want to increase my familiarity with these subjects so I can better navigate my place in the world and the communities around me.

4. Standardize my rating system

I want to set guidelines for how I rate books because I’ve realized in the past year that the number of stars I’ll give becomes extremely subjective—I’ll often compare a book I’m rating to one I’ve just read, or I’ll realize later that I didn’t like a five-star read as much as another five-star read. If it sounds wacky, it totally is…I didn’t expect book-rating to be this difficult for me!

Starting this year, I’m going to write out my parameters for each star rating, and try to use them as a sort of “rubric” for evaluating books:

Five stars – This book is a new favorite; I completely enjoyed it; it changed my worldview; and/or the craft is just so exceptional that even if I wouldn’t call it a favorite, I think the book is flawless.

Four stars – I enjoyed the book and think it’s well-written, but there are some flaws or it just didn’t impact me as deeply.

Three stars – The book is okay—it has a mix of pros-and-cons, and is not one that I’ll think much on later or want to reread.

Two stars – This book was a chore to get through and I didn’t enjoy the reading experience. The craft is more bad than good.

One star – I have never given a one-star rating and I hope I never read a book so bad that I’ll feel compelled to. I imagine this book to be absolutely terrible, with no redeeming qualities.

Despite creating these new guidelines, I expect that it’ll still take me a while to hone my rating skills. I hope, though, that this will help me in being more objective in my ratings (objective not in the sense that my ratings are without opinion, but that they are standardized and not made in comparison to other books). I think I’m also going to only give full-star ratings (rather than half-stars), as I feel it will force me to really develop what my standards are.

5. Share more of my thoughts on what I read

Along with my previous goal, I want to explain more about why I’m giving a book a certain rating. I think this will be helpful not only for other readers who want to know more about a book and for increasing discussion, but I also feel this will be super rewarding for myself as well! Reflecting on what I liked and disliked about a book and articulating my thoughts will sharpen my reading skills and increase my capability to talk thoughtfully about books.

In the past, I’ve often avoided writing reviews on my blog and on Goodreads because I put pressure on myself to make them extremely thorough and professional. As a perfectionist, I also feel like if I write a review on one book, I need to write reviews on every single book. I want to combat this tendency by pushing myself to be more casual about sharing my thoughts—and although I’d like to do so more, I at the same time want to relieve myself of the pressure to write an essay about every book I read.

I want to write more Goodreads reviews and share more of my opinions on my Bookstagram! And maybe even writing more short and sweet reviews on this blog?

6. Give monthly updates on my blog

I never really keep up with posting consistently on my blog, because school always gets in the way of me sitting down for a long while. However, one goal I want to implement this year is to give monthly updates about not only what I’m reading, but also about my personal life! I’ve seen a lot of other bookblogs do similar series, and I love the idea of this blog being a record of where I am in my life, and the context in which I’m reading the books I talk about. And hopefully this will help you readers get to know me more as well!

7. Participate in reading challenges and other community events

I joined Subtle Asian Book Club in 2020, and I’ve found it to be immensely rewarding. It keeps me reading each month (and even more than that when the book club does challenges like 2021’s summer bingo), helps me determine my TBR when I have no idea what to read next, and has provided an amazing community! I love that through this book club, I can talk to others who are reading the same books as I am, as well as find recommendations and opportunities for casual conversation!

I’m (obviously) going to keep reading with SABC, but since it’s been such a rewarding experience, I’m going to try joining in on other community events as well! I’m planning to participate in Pondathon II, a 2022 readathon created by CW at The Quiet Pond. I love that this thon is year-long, as it’ll motivate me to keep reading. This one specifically seems super fun, since it’s story-driven and full of challenges. It’s clear that CW has put a ton of effort into organizing this thon, and I can’t wait to participate!

Hey, look at me, I’m stopping here even though seven isn’t as round of a number as five or 10—I’m already overcoming my perfectionism!

I’m really excited for this year and all the books I’ve yet to read (especially because it’s BABEL year…). I feel uncertain about what’s ahead of me in my personal life, but although the unknown feels scary, it also feels full of possibilities!

What are your bookish goals for this year? Let me know in the comments!

Follow me on Instagram

Follow me on Twitter

Follow me on Goodreads

Follow me on YouTube

2021 roundup

2021—a year of huge changes (for better and for worse) but also the year I read the most I ever have. In the midst of all the major transitions and events in my life, books were my anchor.

2021—a year of huge changes (for better and for worse) but also the year I read the most I ever have. In the midst of all the major transitions and events in my life, books were my anchor.

reflection

The continuing pandemic has brought a lot of loss to this year and, at least for me, a sense of hopelessness and monotony. However, as I look upon this year in retrospect, I think I have experienced a lot, and have even grown from those experiences.

This year, I moved onto my college campus for the first time, took classes in person for the first time, formed new relationships with people I never expected to be friends with.

One of the biggest and hardest life changes for me this year was when my family moved to a different state. After 15 years in my hometown, I had to leave behind the people and places I knew and loved. Not only did this move happen right after I moved into college, but it was jarring to return to a completely different place where I knew nobody outside of my immediate family. Especially after a year of staying inside and neither being able to enjoy all the activities I’d normally do nor seeing all the people I’d normally see, it felt like I didn’t even get a chance to properly say goodbye. While I was at school and my family was in the midst of physically moving, it felt like I had no home. But more than ever, I had to learn that my definition of “home” can expand and change, and I’m proud of myself for my–albeit slow—acceptance that I can find home in people too, even when far from the places of my heart. It also made me think a lot about displacement and colonialism—how I have been so attached to certain places that, as a non-Indigenous person, I am a settler on. And how I’ve let “legality” define so much of my “claim” to certain places. It’s spurred a lot of reflection in me, and in this coming year, I want to dedicate more time and effort into learning a) how to reckon with the harm I create as a settler on Indigenous lands and b) how to be an ally and co-conspirator for Indigenous rights.

But this year, I also read more than ever. I found myself giving more priority to reading, and carving out time for it even in the midst of all my other stresses and obligations. I found so much solace in these stories. They took me away from reality when I needed them to, they reminded me of places I’ve considered home when I felt like I didn’t have one, and they made me feel seen when I was dealing with isolation and loneliness.

In the beginning of the year, I made a list of bookish goals for myself, and here’s how I think I did.

1. Read 30 books

I closed out the year with 100 books under my belt! Which feels pretty wild to say, honestly. I actually hit 30 books by the middle of the year, but I wanted to push myself to keep reading. Especially with the help of Subtle Asian Book Club’s summer bingo challenge, I got closer to 100 books than I ever have been in the past. So I asked myself, why not? and challenged myself to reach 100 books by the end of the year.

…Which was farther in reality than it seemed in my mind. I ended up binge-reading throughout my winter break, reading two to three books almost every day in order to reach my goal. I think there are both positives and negatives to this.

Positives: I am proud of myself for sticking with a goal and accomplishing something I was determined to do. I read so many amazing books during this period. I also expected myself to burn out or enter a reading slump, but I actually think reading so much in this short period just invigorated my love for it. I was truly reminded of how much I love it, and after all of that reading, I honestly feel a little bereft to not have a book in my hand all day. I also challenged myself to try out books of different genres, subjects, and forms during this period, and I truly feel like this last stretch of reading especially broadened my horizons.

However, I don’t think I want to pose myself a similar challenge again. I hadn’t wanted to put pressure on myself by setting an official goal, but I was so determined to reach 100 that I ended up feeling like if I didn’t reach it after getting so close, I’d be a failure…which is obviously an unhealthy mindset. So this arbitrary number I set in my mind ended up giving me immense pressure anyway. I also found myself purposely choosing books on the shorter end, books under 300 pages and books in verse because I knew they’d be quicker reads. While so many of these books were amazing and were books I’d wanted to read anyway, I don’t want to be choosing books just so I can reach a number faster; I don’t want to prioritize quantity over all else. Also, because I was on break and fortunately had little other obligations (which I know isn’t a privilege that everyone has), I had the time to spend basically all day reading. But this also meant I shirked other responsibilities and passions—working on other projects, focusing on personal growth, and spending time with family. It was a very unbalanced lifestyle that I don’t want to repeat in the future.

I hope that in 2022, I can lead a more balanced reading lifestyle: one where I don’t rush myself to finish books, or pressure myself to spend every free moment of my life reading.

2. Read more books by BIPOC, POC, and underrepresented authors

Somewhat. As I mentioned in my 2021 reading goals check-in back in August, while my 2021 reads (especially the books I read by choice and not for class) have almost all been written by authors of color, they skew heavily toward Asian American writers, especially those who are East Asian and cishet. Even despite intentionally choosing more books by non-East Asian and non-cishet authors in the last quarter of the year, these trends still persisted. I don’t mean to say that it’s a bad thing to read these authors, but I do want to make an increased effort to read books by other underrepresented authors as well: Black authors, Indigenous authors, non-white Latinx authors, Pacific Islander authors, queer authors, disabled authors, neurodivergent authors, and more.

3. Expand my horizons genre-wise

I’ve read a lot more memoirs this year than I ever have in the past, and honestly they have been some of my favorite books of the year. I’ve also read a few non-fiction books, graphic novels, short stories, poetry books, and collections. I’ve dipped my toe into some genres outside of my usual contemporary/literary/historical fiction: I’ve read a few translated works, a few that verge into sci-fi-ish areas, and have picked up some more fantasy books as well (whether more or less than other years, though, I can’t say).

While I do find it rewarding to read outside my usual forms and genres, I think I’ve pretty much accepted at this point that some genres (looking at you, sci-fi) just aren’t my thing and I’m not going to pressure myself to read books I’m not interested in. However, I do want to continue exploring non-fiction more!

4. Finally finish reading The Lord of the Rings

It’s still a no from me, haha. I was trying not to read any books by white men this year so that’s my excuse. Honestly, at this rate, finishing the series isn’t high up on my list of priorities but I do want to do so…at some point in my life. Maybe in the far future.

5. Participate in the Down Memory Jane Readalong

Unfortunately I didn’t keep up with this readalong but I did take a class on Austen that I loved, and there I got to read her novels that I hadn’t yet read before this year: Lady Susan, Northanger Abbey, and Mansfield Park.

However, the readalong’s reading list contained a lot of adaptations that seem super interesting and which feature people of color. I definitely want to read those, as well as Austen’s other works, like Sanditon and The Watsons.

In regards to my blogging goals, I didn’t maintain a consistent posting schedule, nor did I interact much with other bloggers. To be honest, I think these are goals that I’ll have to put on the backburner, because between classes, work, extracurriculars, and my other obligations, I simply don’t have much time to spend on WordPress.

With Bookstagram, one of my goals was to focus less on numbers. I think this is definitely something I’m still working on, as I still often fixate on how many followers and likes I get. However, I think one improvement I’ve made in this area is no longer being part of an engagement group (I don’t think these groups are necessarily bad, but for me I found myself participating in one solely because I wanted more interactions with my content and not to create any meaningful relationships with other creators). I’ve also found a lot of joy simply in interacting with the friends I have made on Bookstagram! Even when I don’t get many likes on a post, I love that there’s a consistent group of people whom I’m always happy to see on Instagram. We’ll interact genuinely with each other’s content: DMing, commenting, and liking. Every time I see their profile pictures or handles, I get a happy little jolt like, hey, it’s them!

roundup

And now, for my annual roundup of the books I’ve read and a few of my thoughts on each! I really love this little tradition—even when I post nothing else, I always like to wrap things up at the end of the year and do a little reflection on all of the stories I’ve consumed.

  1. Good Talk: A Memoir in Conversations by Mira Jacob 5/5 – I was really touched by this graphic novel memoir about family, race, parenthood, and immigrant experiences. Jacob has an amazing art style and a voice that’s cutting, humorous, and sweet all at once.
  2. Naturally Tan by Tan France 3/5 – As a casual watcher of Queer Eye, I enjoyed hearing France’s voice come through in his memoir. However, the craft wasn’t my favorite which made me somewhat disinterested as I was reading.
  3. Clues to the Universe by Christina Li 4/5 – This middle-grade novel is so heartwarming. I loved the found family aspects and how it’s a quiet story about kids who dream big. Read my full review here!
  4. Class Act by Jerry Craft 5/5 – The sequel to New Kid, Craft’s poignant but funny voice and captivating art style once again comes through.
  5. The Crossover by Kwame Alexander 5/5 – This book reminded me of why I loved reading so much as a kid—not to generalize, but this story made me think, they don’t make books like this anymore. The plot is just so. good. and Alexander’s verse is amazing.
  6. Know My Name by Chanel Miller 5/5 – This is definitely one of the best books I’ve ever read. Miller’s writing is beautiful and I was struck over and over by her narrative. Definitely an important story to read, but also one about who Miller is beyond her “identity” as a victim.
  7. Happy Dreams, Little Bunny by Leah Hong 4/5 – Simply a sweet picture book with beautiful illustrations!
  8. We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom (Illustrated by Michaela Goade) 5/5 – I LOVED THIS BOOK SO MUCH—both the writing and the illustrations are absolutely stunning, and I can’t recommend it enough.
  9. On the Come Up by Angie Thomas 5/5 – Angie Thomas never ever disappoints. Her novels are always just masterful, with her voice, fleshed-out characters, captivating plots, and heartwarming relationships. Her writing always makes me feel the full range of emotions.
  10. Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga 4/5 – This story definitely left an impression on me, with its striking imagery and themes of womanhood, colonialism, and class.
  11. With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo 4/5 – Really loved the relationships in this story, the protagonist’s arc of personal growth, and of course, the food descriptions!
  12. The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga 4/5 – This was not an easy book to read for me, with its dark themes and gritty descriptions. But I was captivated by the protagonist’s voice and his arc.
  13. We Are Not Free by Traci Chee 4/5 – Chee’s writing truly brought me into the lives of her characters. I was invested in them and all their heartbreaks, as well as their successes. A lot of the moments in this book are ones I’ll never forget.
  14. How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia by Mohsin Hamid 3/5 – I really admire how Hamid uses form and motifs in this book. But to be honest, because I was rushing through it for class, I don’t really remember the actual story all that well.
  15. The Story of My Teeth by Valeria Luiselli 3/5 – Although the plot itself wasn’t all that interesting to me, this novel’s form is probably the coolest I’ve seen.
  16. There There by Tommy Orange 4/5 – All these different perspectives and yet I was wholly invested in every single one of these characters’ stories…Orange’s writing is gripping and multidimensional.
  17. We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo 4/5 – Bulawayo tells this story through the eyes of children and that perspective drew me into the story and left a deep mark.
  18. Yolk by Mary H.K. Choi 3/5 – Mixed thoughts on this one…the writing style and voice grated on me, the protagonist aggravated me, but ultimately the family narrative struck a deep chord within me.
  19. Speak, Okinawa: A Memoir by Elizabeth Miki Brina 5/5 – THIS BOOK IS SO UNDERRATED—maybe I’m not looking in the right places but I don’t think this book is talked about as much as it deserves. I think everyone should read this touching memoir about Brina, her parents, and her family’s story and history. (The timing of my reading this book also made it an anchor in my life. Right when I found out I’d be moving to the area Brina grew up in, I read her words recounting her coming-of-age in this place. And having read it right when the Atlanta spa shootings happened, it provided me a framework for addressing the heartbreak and vast emotions I was feeling.) Huge shoutout to Subtle Asian Book Club for sending me this book as part of a giveaway.
  20. A Pho Love Story by Loan Le 4/5 – I thought this story was cute, but maybe my huge expectations upon hearing the premise dampened my enjoyment of the writing itself.
  21. Citizen 13660 by Miné Okubo 4/5 Okubo’s striking illustrations and frank writing really pulled me into her memoir.
  22. The Mountains Sing by Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai 4/5 Mai’s story is so expansive and her writing immersive.
  23. Island of Shattered Dreams by Chantal T. Spitz 4/5 A story that’s both heartbreaking and heartwarming.
  24. Pachinko by Min Jin Lee 5/5 This is one of those books where I read it and immediately knew the story would stick with me forever. Lee’s writing gripped me from beginning to end.
  25. Counting Down with You by Tashie Bhuiyan 3/5 – I enjoyed this novel’s aspects of family and familial relationships but I wasn’t a huge fan of the writing nor the main romance of the novel.
  26. Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner 5/5 Incredible, show-stopping, heartbreaking…Zauner’s writing is just…wow. Definitely one of the best books I’ve ever read but damn if Zauner’s poignant writing didn’t put me through the wringer. Although I obviously haven’t had the same experiences as her, as someone who’s also experienced the loss of a loved one to terminal cancer and has witnessed the effects of that diagnosis on family and caretakers, some of this writing just hit way too close to home, but in a way that was honestly therapeutic.
  27. The Stationery Shop by Marjan Kamali 3/5 – This is a really touching story that I enjoyed. I just had personal qualms with the writing style.
  28. Dictee by Theresa Hak Kyung Cha 3/5 Honestly I just don’t think I’m big-brained enough to fully understand Cha’s art but I was incredibly impressed with her use of form, technique, language, and so much more.
  29. Anil’s Ghost by Michael Ondaatje 3/5 I think this is a really impressive book, just one I didn’t particularly enjoy (maybe because I was reading it for class).
  30. Rea and the Blood of the Nectar by Payal Doshi 4/5 This is an immersive children’s fantasy. Read my full review here!
  31. One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston 4/5 McQuiston always pulls out all the stops when it comes to filling their novels with all the fun tropes and quirky characters—and I love it. I found the backstory especially touching.
  32. The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui 5/5 Honestly just a gorgeous and touching graphic novel memoir.
  33. Heartstopper: Volume One by Alice Oseman 4/5 These books are so cute and are serotonin boosters for sure.
  34. Heartstopper: Volume Two by Alice Oseman 4/5 See above.
  35. Heartstopper: Volume Three by Alice Oseman 4/5 See above.
  36. Heartstopper: Volume Four by Alice Oseman 4/5 Still see above.
  37. The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin 5/5 I love Baldwin’s writing stye and the way he draws you into his words…a book that will stay with me for sure.
  38. Dial A for Aunties by Jesse Q. Suntanto 2/5 I’m not the biggest fan of murder mysteries to begin with but I also didn’t enjoy the writing style and craft.
  39. Darius the Great Is Not Okay by Adib Khorram 5/5 What can I say about this book!! It made me cry but it also warmed my soul.
  40. Mó Dào Zǔ Shī by Mò Xiāng Tóng Xiù 5/5 I’M NOT OVER THIS BOOK AND I WILL NEVER BE OVER THIS BOOK. The plot and the way it reveals itself is so good, but man, despite the happy ending, this story hurts so much. I don’t think I’ll ever recover from the pain it has inflicted on me but I also can’t imagine not having this story in my life.
  41. Sour Heart by Jenny Zhang 4/5 Zhang’s writing is so raw, so real.
  42. The Magic Fish by Trung Le Nguyen 5/5 Fun fact: I used to work at Barnes & Noble (it seems so long ago, but I actually quit just this year, when I was moving) and one of my coworkers recommended this book to me. It did not disappoint! The story is poignant and the illustrations are gorgeous.
  43. The Making of Asian America: A History by Erika Lee 4/5 I learned so much from this book, histories that I didn’t know.
  44. Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune by Roselle Lim 2/5 I’m going to be honest y’all, I desperately wanted to like this book because the premise sounded so good, but man was it a STRUGGLE to get through. Writing style and narrative was definitely not for me.
  45. XOXO by Axie Oh 5/5 I think this is the best YA romance novel I’ve read in a long time. I flew through this book. I loved the voice, characters, and relationships so much.
  46. Sex and Vanity by Kevin Kwan 4/5 Honestly I didn’t care much for the characters. And I get that it’s a satire, but I’m kind of done with reading about rich people haha. While I enjoy Kwan’s writing, I think I was constantly comparing this one to the Crazy Rich Asians trilogy and just felt like the plot, characters, humor, etc. didn’t match up to my expectations.
  47. The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo 3/5 Enjoyed the friendships, food, and family in this novel, but didn’t care much for other areas. I think I’m just quite picky about romance novels because I get quickly turned off by certain aspects and writing styles.
  48. Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi 4/5 Satrapi’s illustrations really open up the world of her memoir and I found the writing witty and poignant.
  49. Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning by Cathy Park Hong 4/5 Some of these essays I really enjoyed—felt deeply impacted by, found the technique impressive. Others didn’t really maintain my interest or jarred me with the writing style.
  50. Dear Girls: Intimate Tales, Untold Secrets, & Advice for Living Your Best Life by Ali Wong 4/5 I listened to this on audiobook, which is self-narrated by Wong, and I really loved the experience. This book is [unsurprisingly] funny, but also touching. I think I had some qualms with some of the jokes (like ones about homeless people) and found some of the writing repetitive.
  51. Jade City by Fonda Lee 5/5 Honestly, I feel like the more I love a book, the more difficult it is for me to articulate what about it impacted me so deeply. The Green Bone Saga is definitely now among my all-time favs. Everything from the characters and their dynamics to the plot, the world-building, the dialogue, the action scenes, the politics and history, the explorations of class and colonialism and othering, the sense of hopelessness when the protagonists lose everything, but also the moments of joy in between…it’s all just perfection.
  52. She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan 4/5 These characters are so so interesting, but I think I was somewhat let down by the writing and the pacing.
  53. Stargazing by Jen Wang 5/5 Just heartwarming, honestly. Kidlit for the win, always.
  54. How Much of These Hills Is Gold by C Pam Zhang 5/5 The craft of this book is just exquisite and the plot is gripping too. I wish I could write like this—I admire Zhang’s techniques so much.
  55. Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors by Sonali Dev 3/5 This book was okay, but I didn’t particularly enjoy it.
  56. Bestiary by K-Ming Chang 5/5 CANNOT SAY ENOUGH ABOUT CHANG’S USE OF LANGUAGE. The wordplay is just perfect, and Chang’s use of magical realism to explore colonialism, immigration, queerness, and womanhood is amazing too.
  57. Made in Korea by Sarah Suk 3/5 I liked the premise of the book but I found it difficult to invest myself in the main romantic relationship, as I found its foundations questionable.
  58. The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan 4/5 So much can be—and has been—said about this book, and how we “write ourselves”. I have many [conflicting] thoughts on that subject which I won’t include here, but I honestly really enjoyed reading about a lot of the mother-daughter relationships in this book. Yes, it’s a subject that’s rehashed over and over in Asian American literature, but I personally don’t think it gets old. Some of these stories I enjoyed more than others: some were revelatory, some were clichéd.
  59. The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo 4/5 This is maybe more like a 3.5 if I were to do half-ratings. While I found the prose absolutely gorgeous, I didn’t find the story particularly riveting. I think I was just super excited about the premise, but I feel like the novel didn’t add anything new to The Great Gatsby.
  60. The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen 5/5 I was super impressed by the technique and form of this book. I think Nguyen’s command of language is captivating, and the plot interesting.
  61. Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown 3/5 I had to read this book for a class and I’m going to be honest, I don’t think I’ll ever be into self-help books. While I did take away some genuinely helpful lessons to apply to my real life, most of this book felt cheesy, clichéd, and white.
  62. Lady Susan by Jane Austen 4/5 There is no end to Austen’s wit, dialogue, technique, and larger-than-life characters. I love it.
  63. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen 4/5 Once again—Austen is so witty!! Honestly, although I love her observations of society and humorous dialogue, it’s her genuine romances that I love most of all, which is why Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion are my favorite of her novels, and Northanger Abbey not so much.
  64. Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating by Adiba Jaigirdar 3/5 Cute sapphic fake-dating, which is one of my favorite tropes. Writing style and pacing didn’t fit my personal tastes.
  65. Mansfield Park by Jane Austen 4/5 See all the other times I’ve gushed about Austen. (But again, wouldn’t really consider the marriage plot a true romance, at least not one that I enjoy.)
  66. Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World by Adam M. Grant 3/5 Another book I had to read for class, but which I didn’t enjoy for its focus on capitalistic values.
  67. Jade War by Fonda Lee 5/5 I’ve already gushed over Fonda Lee but one thought that kept running through my head after I finished this book was if this one screwed me up so much, how I am going to survive Jade Legacy? (Spoiler alert: I didn’t.)
  68. Our Violent Ends by Chloe Gong 5/5 This duology is so so good. Read my full review here!
  69. A Wish in the Dark by Christina Soontornvat 4/5 This is such an amazing middle-grade novel. The way it deals with justice and incarceration is incredible, and I loved the world-building.
  70. Arsenic and Adobo by Mia P. Manansala 2/5 Like I mentioned before, murder mysteries aren’t really my thing to begin with, but I found it difficult to get through this book because of its plot, voice, pacing, and craft.
  71. Jade Legacy by Fonda Lee 5/5 All I’m going to say is, this broke me.
  72. Jade Fire Gold by June C.L. Tan 3/5 I think my expectations were just too high for this one (I got really excited when I saw it was xiānxiá). It was fine, but not exceptional.
  73. Not Here to Be Liked by Michelle Quach 5/5 In full honesty, I expected to be super annoyed by the protagonist, who sounded like a “not-like-other-girls” character. However, I ended up LOVING this book. I really liked how Eliza learns more about what feminism means as the book progresses, because no one—high-schoolers or otherwise—should be expected to have it all figured out from the get-go. I also thought the main romance was super cute (that first kiss scene!) and as a Journalism major, it didn’t hurt that a lot of the story takes place in the newsroom.
  74. Rent a Boyfriend by Gloria Chao 2/5 Yeah, remember when I said I was picky? I wanted desperately to like this novel because I love the fake-dating trope. However, the writing was way too cheesy for me, and I found the plot uninteresting and the romance too contrived.
  75. Against the Loveless World by Susan Abulhawa 5/5 This one hurted. It’s such an expansive story that encompasses womanhood, marginalization, colonialism, imperialism, love, and so much more.
  76. All About Love: New Visions by bell hooks 4/5 I learned so much from this book. It was affirming and enlightening.
  77. Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender 4/5 Really loved the story, pacing, and voice of this novel.
  78. Dear Martin by Nic Stone 4/5 This novel is riveting and insightful as the protagonist, Justyce, questions and learns. I found the ending kind of summative and anticlimactic.
  79. The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo 4/5 Really enjoyed witnessing the protagonist’s coming-of-age, but some of the verse fell flat for me.
  80. Heavy: An American Memoir by Kiese Laymon 5/5 I just had to sit for awhile after reading this memoir because it was so good and took me completely into its world. Laymon’s use of language is just exceptional.
  81. If They Come for Us by Fatimah Asghar 4/5 I love the way Asghar plays with form, and her poetry is really striking.
  82. The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism for the Twenty-First Century by Grace Lee Boggs with Scott Kurashige 5/5 This book opened my eyes to new possibilities in this world.
  83. It All Comes Back to You by Farah Naz Rishi 5/5 I loved the protagonists’ chemistry and their voices, which felt natural but witty. The banter in this one is so good, and honestly my only issue with the novel is that I wanted more!
  84. The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta 3/5 While I was touched by the protagonist’s journey, a lot of the verse didn’t work for me personally (I say this as someone who loves poetry).
  85. My Oxford Year by Julia Whelan 3/5 Mostly just liked this for its descriptions of Oxford and the allusions to/analyses of literature (what can I say, I’m an English nerd through and through). But the protagonist annoyed me (a “pick-me” white girl), and I didn’t care much for the main romance. The description of one of the characters of color just bothered me and reminded me of why I’ve been avoiding books written by white people.
  86. Afterparties by Anthony Veasna So 4/5 Really love So’s prose style and characterizations.
  87. Goodbye, Again: Essays, Reflections, and Illustrations by Jonny Sun 5/5 So much of this resonated with me. Sun’s writing is poignant and introspective, in a way that invites rather than isolates his readers.
  88. Night Sky with Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong 5/5 Forever in awe of Vuong’s way with words.
  89. A Taste for Love by Jennifer Yen 3/5 Meh. I liked the food descriptions and thought the pacing was pretty good at keeping me relatively interested but wasn’t a fan of much else.
  90. I’ll Be the One by Lyla Lee 5/5 I couldn’t stop reading this book. I loved the voice and the relationships. The pacing and plot kept me super interested.
  91. Dating Makes Perfect by Pintip Dunn 3/5 I wanted so much to like this one…I loved all the moments where Thai culture really shines through and I thought the romance backstory was cute (I always love a good childhood friends trope) but I couldn’t get over how the characters, dialogue, and narration are constantly contradictory and extremely dramatic. A lot of it just didn’t make sense to me and it got way too difficult to suspend my disbelief.
  92. Memorial Drive: A Daughter’s Memoir by Natasha Trethewey 5/5 Trethewey just has a way with words…this memoir was touching and raw and real.
  93. I Love You So Mochi by Sarah Kuhn 3/5 This was a pretty cute story and I especially loved the grandparents. The descriptions of Kyoto and its sights made me think fondly of my own trip there. However, I think this would’ve worked better as a middle-grade novel. I found the voice way too aged down, a lot of the dialogue too expository, and the premise a little shaky because it’s made obvious from the beginning what Kimi will end up doing.
  94. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates 5/5 I don’t read too much non-fiction (although this book leans more personal narrative than strictly non-fiction) but Coates’ prose is so beautiful and intimate that it really drew me in. I found this book super touching, especially in Coates’ explorations of fatherhood.
  95. Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers 3/5 The prose was a little too purple-y for me and I found it extremely distracting. While the protagonist goes on an extremely important journey of self-discovery and -growth, I found it difficult to be invested in the story because it read like the language found in uQuizzes and Tumblr posts about “what aesthetic are you?”
  96. Severance by Ling Ma 5/5 I expected to be bored by this story (especially after seeing it doesn’t use quotation marks, something I hated about Normal People by Sally Rooney and usually find pretentious) but I was actually enthralled from beginning to end. The writing is so descriptive and observational and the plot gripping (and a little too real in this day and age). I also found some of my own family’s history represented similarly on the page which struck me.
  97. Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu 5/5 This book is so—cool?! The FORM is just incredible and so meta. The writing is funny but also very touching and sometimes heartbreaking. Really loved that Yu explores Asian American masculinity and racial dynamics with nuance and in a more expansive way beyond the age-old Subtle Asian Traits-type discourse that’s found in a lot of Asian American literature and contemporary conversations.
  98. The Vegetarian by Han Kang 4/5 Not an easy book to read…but I found Kang’s writing really gripping and her craft excellent.
  99. Six Crimson Cranes by Elizabeth Lim 4/5 A page-turner for sure. Loved the world-building and plot twists.
  100. Beloved by Toni Morrison 5/5 Morrison’s writing is never anything less than masterful. Her use of language is just so exquisite and revelatory. And she has a way of completely bringing you into the world of her books, opening up all the characters and their backstories. What can I say about Beloved that hasn’t been said before? It’s just exceptional.

looking ahead

As this post is already quite long, I’ve decided to make a separate post outlining my bookish goals for this new year!

Let me know if you’ve read any of the books I’ve listed in my roundup, and what your thoughts on them are! What were your favorite books of 2021?

Follow me on Instagram

Follow me on Twitter

Follow me on Goodreads

Follow me on YouTube

review: these violent delights duology by chloe gong

With the publication of “Our Violent Ends” (which is a #1 New York Times Bestseller, woohoo!), Chloe Gong’s duology retelling of “Romeo and Juliet” has come to a close. My heart is both so full and in so. much. pain.

“‘A rose is a rose, even by another name,’ he whispered. ‘But we choose whether we will offer beauty to the world, or if we will use our thorns to sting.'”

With the publication of Our Violent Ends (which is a #1 New York Times Bestseller, woohoo!), Chloe Gong‘s duology retelling of Romeo and Juliet has come to a close. My heart is both so full and in so. much. pain.

I thought I’d say goodbye to Roma and Juliette’s story (but thankfully not this universe) with my reviews of These Violent Delights and Our Violent Ends, the two novels that make up this captivating saga which brings Shakespeare’s classic play into the ruthless but passionate world of 1920s Shanghai—a glamorous, gang-ruled city that is on the brink of civil war even as it tries to fight off foreign imperialism and a deathly, mysterious monster.

these violent delights

These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong

goodreads summary

“The year is 1926, and Shanghai hums to the tune of debauchery.

A blood feud between two gangs runs the streets red, leaving the city helpless in the grip of chaos. At the heart of it all is eighteen-year-old Juliette Cai, a former flapper who has returned to assume her role as the proud heir of the Scarlet Gang—a network of criminals far above the law. Their only rivals in power are the White Flowers, who have fought the Scarlets for generations. And behind every move is their heir, Roma Montagov, Juliette’s first love…and first betrayal.

But when gangsters on both sides show signs of instability culminating in clawing their own throats out, the people start to whisper. Of a contagion, a madness. Of a monster in the shadows. As the deaths stack up, Juliette and Roma must set their guns—and grudges—aside and work together, for if they can’t stop this mayhem, then there will be no city left for either to rule.

Perfect for fans of The Last Magician and Descendant of the Crane, this heart-stopping debut is an imaginative Romeo and Juliet retelling set in 1920s Shanghai, with rival gangs and a monster in the depths of the Huangpu River.

Content Warnings: death, violence, gore, insects, transphobia, drugs/alcohol

[SPOILERS Ahead]

rating

5/5

review

*Note: I wrote this review in 2020, after the release of These Violent Delights. This review was originally published on the Barnes & Noble website. Minor mechanical/grammatical errors have been edited.*

Chloe Gong’s stunning debut novel, These Violent Delights, is a retelling of Romeo and Juliet set in 1920s Shanghai. Juliette Cai and Roma Montagov, the respective heirs of the feuding Scarlet Gang and White Flowers who run the city, must work together to defeat a monster and the madness it brings. What’s more, they must also struggle to combat the simmering political turmoil between the Nationalists and Communists—which threatens the gang’s grasp on the city—and foreign powers who don’t have the people’s best interests at heart.

This is a dazzling and gripping novel. Chloe Gong took an age-old classic and added an amazing fantastical twist, sowed in politics and real-world “diseases,” breathed life and backstory into now three-dimensional side characters, and overall wrote with lyrical and captivating storytelling. I couldn’t put this book down.

What I love first and foremost about this novel is Gong’s storytelling skills. Her prose is absolutely riveting, sculpting the characters and drawing the reader into a Shanghai that existed a century ago with detailed, decadent descriptions. Her ability to capture different mannerisms and the character of “The City Above the River,” and to weave a suspenseful and well-paced plot full of mystery and high stakes, shows Gong’s strength as a writer.

Even after Shakespeare’s famous play has been adapted countless times, Gong still brings something novel. Her addition of a new monster, unique to the setting of Shanghai, raises the stakes of the plot and gives a deeper motivation to the two characters. The monster, with its origins and the way it operates, becomes a central point of mystery and thrill within the novel. Through her plot, Gong interweaves a demonstration of the dangers and exploitations of settler-colonialism and imperialism.

Gong also revamps the side characters to give them their own importance and backstory. She delves into explorations of LGBTQ+ experiences, and hopefully there will be even more to come in the sequel. By spending time with these side characters, Gong lends importance to their stories.

Overall, this first book from Chloe Gong proves that her masterful writing is here to stay. This new YA fantasy romance novel is sure to become a new favorite with readers. “Enduring” is what comes to mind when I think of what this novel’s trajectory will be, long after its debut.

our violent ends

Our Violent Ends by Chloe Gong

goodreads summary

Shanghai is under siege in this captivating and searingly romantic sequel to These Violent Delights, which New York Times bestselling author Natasha Ngan calls ‘deliciously dark.’

The year is 1927, and Shanghai teeters on the edge of revolution.

After sacrificing her relationship with Roma to protect him from the blood feud, Juliette has been a girl on the warpath. One wrong move, and her cousin will step in to usurp her place as the Scarlet Gang’s heir. The only way to save the boy she loves from the wrath of the Scarlets is to have him want her dead for murdering his best friend in cold blood. If Juliette were actually guilty of the crime Roma believes she committed, his rejection might sting less.

Roma is still reeling from Marshall’s death, and his cousin Benedikt will barely speak to him. Roma knows it’s his fault for letting the ruthless Juliette back into his life, and he’s determined to set things right—even if that means killing the girl he hates and loves with equal measure.

Then a new monstrous danger emerges in the city, and though secrets keep them apart, Juliette must secure Roma’s cooperation if they are to end this threat once and for all. Shanghai is already at a boiling point: The Nationalists are marching in, whispers of a civil war brew louder every day, and gangster rule faces complete annihilation. Roma and Juliette must put aside their differences to combat monsters and politics, but they aren’t prepared for the biggest threat of all: protecting their hearts from each other.”

Content Warnings: death, violence, gore, insects, transphobia, drugs/alcohol, self-harm, parental abuse/neglect, arson, murder, racism/racial micro-aggressions, kidnapping

[SPOILERS Ahead]

rating

5/5

review

Our Violent Ends picks up where These Violent Delights left off—with Roma and Juliette once again on feuding sides, and with more angry bitterness (and angsty pining) than ever. Roma believes Juliette betrayed him and that not only was their rekindled romance a lie, but also that she truly murdered his best friend, Marshall Seo. Juliette, on the other hand, has to deal with the implications of her lie, believing that maintaining it is the only way to protect Roma, herself, and the city.

Meanwhile, political tensions in the city continue to grow until they’re about to reach a breaking point: the consequences could mean the end of the gangster-ruled way of life in Shanghai and with it, the power of the Cais and the Montagovs. In order for this city to survive, each character must struggle to deal with the blood feud, these mounting civil tensions, increasing foreign influence, and a new monstrosity in the city.

Our Violent Ends was probably my most anticipated release of the entire year—I’d been waiting for it ever since I finished reading These Violent Delights last November. And let me tell you: our lord and savior Chloe Gong did not disappoint. (Not that any of us expected her to.)

It took me about five chapters to really get hooked into the story. Gong writes these novels with a beautiful, lyrical voice but it took me some time to get used to it again. That, paired along with a tense shift that I wasn’t expecting at first (but which I retrospectively realize is an important indicator in the novel!) and some beginning scenes that feature secondary relationships (what can I say, I’m just a sucker for Roma-Juliette interactions) kept me near the surface of the story. However, once I got over that short bump, I couldn’t put the book down: Gong’s storytelling is just so enthralling that I couldn’t resist being pulled in entirely. I ended up staying up until six a.m. to finish the book, which I think tells you something about how captivating it is.

This book delivers on all the thrill, passion, suspense, plot twists, three-dimensional characters, complicated politics, and dazzling world-building of book one and more.

When I first read the synopsis to this story, I was curious about how Gong would create obstacles that were different from those in These Violent Delights, as much of them—monsters, politics, blood feud—sounded similar. However, Gong blew me away with how she was able to raise the stakes and still keep me in suspense as I tried to learn more about the new monsters, the blackmailer, and the spy. Gong masterfully weaves in so many intricate details and plotlines that I was constantly hooked. She crafts so many moments of dawning realizations with her Chekhov’s guns, like Rosalind’s necklace and list.

To me, Gong’s plot works so well because she plays around with Shakespeare’s original storyline. I truly thought it was the end when Roma hears of Juliette’s (faked) death, but she ends up bursting in at just the right moment, which I thought was so clever of Gong. Because then, I truly had no idea what direction the story would go. I think it’s really bold of Gong to deviate from the expectations we have of a story we’ve heard over and over, but I think that’s also what ultimately makes her plot so successful. Although the ending—with Roma and Juliette’s graves side by side—though painful, isn’t that surprising (even though I’d like to believe, like Alisa, that Roma and Juliette are out there together somewhere), how we get there completely is.

One of the aspects that I’ve praised most about These Violent Delights is how fleshed out every single character is—they all have their complex motivations and desires and unique personalities. Gong continues to explore these characters even deeper in Our Violent Ends. My favorite member of the cast was and continues to be Marshall because he is just so! damn! lovable! but I loved getting insight into a whole range of characters’ perspectives, whether it was Kathleen or Rosalind or Tyler or Benedikt or Alisa’s.

And speaking of Marshall, LET’S TALK ABOUT HIS ROMANCE ARC WITH BENEDIKT! Maybe it’s anathema to say this, but I might even love their romance more than I love Roma and Juliette’s? Gong truly plays the long game with their relationship but it PAYS OFF SO WELL. All the angst and mutual pining hurt so good but they get their confession, their kiss, their running away to hopefully live happily ever after!! (Sidenote: I love to imagine an alternate universe where Alisa goes with them in the end and they’re a happy little found family together.) I don’t own the B&N edition of this book but I desperately want to read the short story because I need more Benedikt-Marshall in my life.

That isn’t to say that I didn’t absolutely love the Roma-Juliette arc in OVE because I 1000% did. Their love-hate for each other is so painfully good as they keep saving each other but are unable to explain why. I just love angsty mutual pining and Gong delivered all of it. The fake-dating (or should I say fake-marriage?) and each time they call each other lǎopó or qīn ài de or dorogaya BROKE ME. Even though I’m someone who gets easily cheesed out by mushy lines, I was honestly just completely happy for Roma and Juliette when they’re able to get some moments of peace together while the world outside erupts, and can finally profess their undying love for each other.

I can’t review this duology without mentioning Gong’s absolutely masterful world-building. She completely brings her imagining of 1927 Shanghai to life—it becomes a character itself, a pulsing entity that drives the story. All of her setting descriptions are so so beautiful and real and atmospheric. I could picture everything in my mind and I know from Gong’s Twitter that she puts so much detailed research into writing her books, but I can’t even imagine to what depths she must’ve gone in order to bring this world to life.

As someone who lived a few years in Shanghai as a little kid, has visited several times since, and has a parent working there, the city has a very special place in my heart. I can picture the Bund, the French Concession, the Huangpu River in my mind as they are now—but Gong brings them to life as they were then, lets me imagine and know the histories and the people who might’ve inhabited this city, and that is so special to me. Even Zhouzhuang, the canal town not far from Shanghai, is described in such a real way. I’ve visited there too as a tourist, but Gong gives life to it in a different way. The way she describes the thick walls, the place by the water where people can do their laundry…I could picture myself walking through the narrow alleys with Roma and Juliette. I don’t know any other author who writes settings the way Gong does.

I loved seeing the Mandarin words in pīnyīn incorporated throughout the novel as well, because the way they mesh so seamlessly with the rest of the prose echoes exactly how I will think in my head and speak to my family, a constant mix of English and Mandarin. As a diaspora kid, Gong’s use of language means so much.

In fact, as a diaspora kid, this entire duology means so much, the love letter it is to my homeland, to the fierce love we hold for our culture and place even as we are unabashed in the fact that we are Chinese American, just as Juliette is unashamed in her identity as “Juliette.”

Gong is also a master at interweaving politics and tying the monster(s) to the city and its political brewings. I felt that she truly captures how nuanced and complicated history is. I really appreciated how she portrays the effects of imperialism, as well as how power conflicts between the elite end up hurting the masses, the people—and how different characters have to grapple with this truth.

“In the end, the only ones who would ever pay for such destruction, in blood and in guts, were the people.”

The ending of the novel is a heartbreaking but truly fitting conclusion for two characters who love each other and their city so much. The epilogue leaves us with the same hope that Alisa has, but even if Roma and Juliette are truly gone, we are still filled with a hope that their love is enduring and powerful enough to change their city for the better.

“But this was their love—violent and bloody. This city was their love.”

In the end, this story of Roma and Juliette is the story of how powerful it is to hope, to love. As Gong writes in the epilogue, it’s love that persists and endures through all.

This duology is such a special one that I’ll be returning to over and over, and that I’ll be thinking of for a long, long time. Gong truly delivered with the sequel and though I’m sad that this part of the story is over, I can’t wait for Foul Lady Fortune!

Have you read These Violent Delights and/or Our Violent Ends? What are your thoughts? Come scream with me in the comments below!

Follow me on Instagram

Follow me on Twitter

Follow me on Goodreads

Follow me on YouTube

2021 reading goals check-in

Back in January, I made a list of goals for myself that I wanted to achieve this year—goals related to reading, blogging, and my Bookstagram. Now that I’m home from college for the summer, I’ve had more time on my hands to read, and I recently finished my 50th book of the year!

Back in January, I made a list of goals for myself that I wanted to achieve this year—goals related to reading, blogging, and my Bookstagram. Now that I’m home from college for the summer, I’ve had more time on my hands to read, and I recently finished my 50th book of the year!

It feels really shocking to me to say that, because the only time in recent years that I’ve read 50 books in one year was in 2020, and I’d only reached that number at the end of the year. So when I realized that I’ve read the same amount of books in three-quarters of the time…my expression was basically *shocked Pikachu face*.

I truly believe that the amount of books one reads is not indicative of whether they are a “reader” or not, and I want to make that clear. Nor is the amount of time one spends reading, or the number of pages. None of that matters!

However, the reason I find the number of books I’ve read so far this year personally meaningful is because I feel it is reflective of how I’ve intentionally prioritized reading more in my life. Reading more has made me happier, and thus it’s a positive change that I’m proud of myself for making! To me, the number “50” itself is arbitrary; what’s significant is that I consciously feel myself choosing to read in my spare time over, for example, looking at my phone.

Anyway, since I’ve reached this little milestone I’ve set up for myself, I thought it would be a good idea to reflect on my reading goals from the beginning of the year to set some intentions for the remaining four months of the year!

reading goals

1. Read 30 books

Check! However, I’ve realized that most of my reading has been done during school breaks. I hope that I can carve out more time to read regularly even when I return to school. I’m definitely a binge-reader, which can be not-so-great when I have other priorities, so I want to figure out how to balance reading and school.

2. Read more books by BIPOC, POC, and underrepresented authors

Yes and no. I had a streak going from January-June where all of the books I read by choice (aka not for class) were by authors of color. However, most of the books I’ve been reading by authors of color have been by Asian and Asian diaspora writers, and heavily Asian American and East Asian. I definitely want to expand on that and read more books by Black authors, Indigenous authors, non-white Latinx writers, and Pacific Islander authors; as well as books by Asian authors who aren’t East Asian. I also want to read more books by queer, disabled, and other underrepresented authors.

3. Expand my horizons genre-wise

Again, this is a yes and a no. I’ve read a bit more non-fiction, memoirs, graphic novels, essays, and short stories, for example, but I still haven’t really read any sci-fi yet this year—I don’t know what it is about that genre that scares me so much but it does. I also haven’t read too much fantasy yet this year, so I want to invest more time into that.

4. Finally finish reading The Lord of the Rings

…Nope. At this rate I’m going to have to reread The Hobbit and The Fellowship of the Ring to remember what’s going on. To be fair, though, I’ve kind of been trying to avoid reading books by white men and I don’t entirely want to break that streak…so maybe I’ll push this goal off another year.

5. Participate in the Down Memory Jane Readalong

Unfortunately, once school started, I didn’t have time to keep up with this readalong. However, I’m still hoping to pick up the books on the reading list that I haven’t read before! There’s a lot of great Austen adaptations in there that look super interesting, and I have yet to read Mansfield Park and Northanger Abbey.

I’m glad I took this time to reflect because now I see where I’ve fallen short of my goals! With the last quarter of the year approaching, I hope to choose my books intentionally to reach those goals.

In my January post, I also set some goals for myself in regards to blogging and Bookstagram. I haven’t really been keeping up with either because I was busy with school, and came home to a different state because my family moved while I was away. I’ve been busy with unpacking and getting settled in a new environment, so I decided to give myself some grace in regards to keeping up with “lost in the bookstacks.” However, I’m hoping to spend some more time on it now, at least until the end of the summer!

What are some of your favorite books that you’ve read so far this year, and do you have any reading goals you’re trying to reach? I’d love to know!

Follow me on Instagram

Follow me on Twitter

Follow me on Goodreads

Follow me on YouTube

book tour review: rea and the blood of the nectar by payal doshi

Hi all! I’m excited to share my review for “Rea and the Blood of the Nectar” by Payal Doshi as part of the Lonely Pages Book Tour! This middle-grade novel featuring an Indian protagonist is perfect for young fantasy readers who love adventures and discovering new worlds!

“The load on her heart was lighter, but her resolve and courage stronger because they were in this together.”

Hi all! I’m excited to share my review for Rea and the Blood of the Nectar by Payal Doshi as part of the Lonely Pages Book Tour! This middle-grade novel featuring an Indian protagonist is perfect for young fantasy readers who love adventures and discovering new worlds!

Rea and the Blood of the Nectar by Payal Doshi

book details

Title: REA AND THE BLOOD OF THE NECTAR

Age category: Middle Grade

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Mango and Marigold Press

Publication Date: June 1, 2021

Where to buy: Mango and Marigold Press

goodreads summary

Perfect for fans of the Aru Shah books and The Chronicles of Narnia.

A middle-grade fantasy about twelve-year-old Rea Chettri, who portals into an otherworldly realm to go on a secret quest to find her missing twin brother Rohan. The clock is ticking in this fast-paced, thrilling, and exciting adventure rife with evil creatures, a ruthless villain, and unforgettable friendships.

It all begins on the night Rea turns twelve. After a big fight with her twin brother Rohan on their birthday, Rea’s life in the small village of Darjeeling, India, gets turned on its head. It’s four in the morning and Rohan is nowhere to be found.

It hasn’t even been a day and Amma acts like Rohan’s gone forever. Her grandmother, too, is behaving strangely. Unwilling to give up on her brother, Rea and her friend Leela meet Mishti Daadi, a wrinkly old fortune-teller whose powers of divination set them off on a thrilling and secret quest. In the shade of night, they portal into an otherworldly realm and travel to Astranthia, a land full of magic and whimsy. There with the help of Xeranther, an Astranthian barrow boy, and Flula, a pari, Rea battles serpent-lilies and blood-sucking banshees, encounters a butterfly-faced woman and blue lizard-men, and learns that Rohan has been captured. Rea also discovers that she is a princess with magic. Only she has no idea how to use it.

Struggling with the truth her Amma has kept hidden from her, Rea must solve clues that lead to Rohan, find a way to rescue him and save Astranthia from a potentially deadly fate. But the clock is ticking. Can she rescue Rohan, save Astranthia, and live to see it all?

Rea and the Blood of the Nectar is Payal Doshi’s stunning #ownvoices middle-grade fantasy debut about understanding complex family dynamics, fighting for what is right, discovering oneself, and learning to make friends.”

Content Warnings: death, injuries/blood, violence

[SPOILERS Ahead]

rating

4/5

review

Rea Chettri is a 12 year-old living in Darjeeling, India who feels neglected and under-valued by her family—it seems as though her mother favors her twin brother Rohan, who is hanging out more and more with his own friends.

When Rohan disappears after an argument, Rea goes on a quest to find him and bring him back home. In her mission to save Rohan, Rea discovers the alternate realm of Astranthia, where she meets new friends and begins to untangle family secrets. Rea finds out that she has the magic to save Rohan and Astranthia, but must discover how to properly wield it.

I really enjoyed this middle-grade fantasy debut that smoothly weaves together the real-world setting of Darjeeling and the floral, whimsical realm of Astranthia. Through beautiful descriptions and lots of imagery, Payal Doshi brings the characters and settings of Rea and the Blood of the Nectar to life.

Doshi does a great job in creating complex, realistic characters. Whether the protagonist of Rea or secondary characters like Xeranther and Flula, each character has their flaws and must deal with conflicting influences.

The plot is also well-paced and interesting—I never knew what would happen next. Doshi does a great job in balancing the accomplishments and the obstacles thrown in Rea’s way. The book is full of the twist and turns that I enjoy in fantasy novels.

I loved reading about the world of Astranthia and all its little details. The creatures, like paris and Ceffyldwers, were interesting to learn about, and I appreciated how fleshed out the rules that govern their functions are. It was magical to read about the floral settings of Astranthia.

One of my favorite aspects of Rea and the Blood of the Nectar is the character development. I enjoyed following Rea as she learns to be more selfless and work together with others. Watching the female friendship between Rea and Leela develop, seeing Rea consider others’ perspectives, and reading about how Rea’s family realized her worth was infinitely rewarding.

Of course, the Indian representation was amazing to see! I loved reading about the food, holidays, and clothing that are a part of the Chettri family’s life.

I think Rea and the Blood of the Nectar does a great job in exploring the themes that young people deal with in an interesting and magical way. Doshi ties explorations of grief, jealousy, neglect, gender differences, friendship, class, and finding one’s power into an enthralling tale.

This book is perfect for young readers who enjoy reading about fantastical worlds and magical quests, and I’m excited for future installments of The Chronicles of Astranthia!

about the author

Payal Doshi

Payal Doshi has a Masters in Creative Writing (Fiction) from The New School, New York. Having lived in the UK and US, she noticed a lack of Indian protagonists in global children’s fiction and one day wrote the opening paragraph to what would become her first children’s novel. She was born and raised in Mumbai, India, and currently resides in Minneapolis, Minnesota with her husband and three-year-old daughter. When she isn’t writing or spending time with her family, you can find her nose deep in a book with a cup of coffee or daydreaming of fantasy realms to send her characters off into. She loves the smell of old, yellowed books. Rea and the Blood of the Nectar, the first book in The Chronicles of Astranthia series is her debut middle grade novel. For more information, visit her website, www.payaldoshiauthor.com, or follow her on Instagram @payaldoshiauthor and on Twitter @payaldwrites.

Links: Website | Instagram | Twitter | Goodreads

tour info

Thank you to Lonely Pages Book Tours and Mango and Marigold Press for including me as part of this tour, and for providing me a copy of the book for an honest review!

Check out the other content that’s part of this tour by viewing the full schedule below!

Book tour schedule

Are you excited to read Rea and the Blood of the Nectar?

Follow me on Instagram

Follow me on Twitter

Follow me on Goodreads

Follow me on YouTube

dear lara jean… // a reflection

With the release of the movie adaptation for the trilogy’s final installment, the To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before series is coming to a close. Although it will continue to be present in my life, this still feels like an ending and I thought I’d write a reflection about what these stories mean to me: Lara Jean style.

“And I’m certain, I’m suddenly so certain that everything is exactly the way it’s supposed to be, that I don’t have to be so afraid of good-bye, because good-bye doesn’t have to be forever.”

With the release of the movie adaptation for the trilogy’s final installment, the To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before series is coming to a close. Although it will continue to be present in my life, this still feels like an ending and I thought I’d write a reflection about what these stories mean to me: Lara Jean style.

dear lara jean,

Would it be cheesy to start off with, “I know the exact day it started. Fall, eighth grade…”?

Just kidding, but. I still remember exactly when and where I was when I first read your story, and I remember exactly how it felt.

It felt like this:

Realizing that girls like me could be in stories. (Introverted girls, awkward girls, bookworm girls, girls who liked to stay at home and make things, girls who hadn’t had relationships before, girls who made fantasy worlds in their head. Asian American girls.) I saw myself in you and it meant the world.

It felt like this:

Laughing and dreaming and crying, and wondering if what I was holding in my hands was the weight of a perfect book.

So yes…it did start fall, eighth grade. It was Black Friday of 2015, I bought the book from Barnes & Noble. I was reading it the next evening and I couldn’t put the book down, even though we were at a gathering. My friend was looking over my shoulder and she read the part that goes, “Margot cried when her book got wet.”

“That’s you,” she teased.

A journal entry from 2015, in my awful handwriting: “I also got To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han. I read it today, and I’m almost done. It’s so beautifully written.”

I loved the book because it was sweet and fun and multi-dimensional. Your life came alive for me—your family, your friends, your neighbors and classmates. Even though you were just moving through life doing mundane things, I loved reading about it because you represented so much to me, and I cared about you. And of course, your romance with Peter appealed to my hopeless romantic heart. (I’ve always loved rom-coms, and your story was the perfect one.)

To little eighth grade me, your story encapsulated this perfect idea of what high school would be like. I wanted so much to be like you when I grew older. Maybe that’s why I grasped onto your story so firmly. Before, I didn’t know it was possible for Asian American girls to have the high school experiences and love stories of YA novels.

(I didn’t end up fake-dating a Peter Kavinsky, driving around my sleepy suburban town in his Audi and living the high-school dream, but your story would only grow to mean more and more to me as the years went on.)

I’ve opened up your books countless times, and they’ve come to my mind countless more as I’ve used them to guide me throughout the years.

When I finally did start high school, I so often found myself wondering, ‘What would Lara Jean do?’

It was even in the tiniest, most meaningless things. I’ve lived next to New York for practically my whole life, but I’d never tried a Jacques Torres cookie or gone to Levain Bakery. Not until I read Always and Forever, Lara Jean, at least. Then I insisted, on my family’s next trip to NYC, that we visit Jacques Torres’ chocolate shop.

CW: Food // Levain Bakery and a cookie from Jacques Torres

It was in the big things, too. It was when my older brother left for college, and I couldn’t help but think of you watching Margot leave. It was when he went to UVA’s Days on the Lawn and I felt like I was seeing your words come to life. ‘I’m walking where Lara Jean has walked,’ I thought.

It was when I was trying to choose a college. It was when I got waitlisted by UVA, but accepted into UNC. I was so close to committing to a college I’d never seen in person, because you’d loved it so much, because you’d gone there, because the way you’d described the campus and the people, Franklin Street and the Old Well and the branches, had made me fall in love with the school. It was when I found comfort in not getting into the school I’d wanted so badly to get into (partially because of you), by remembering that the same thing had happened to you, and everything had worked out for you.

At the University of Virginia

So yeah…you’ve simply meant everything to me.

You’ve imprinted your story onto me; I’ve patterned so much of my life around you.

I remember finishing the first book, that cliffhanger that made me scream because I wanted desperately to know that everything worked out for you. I remember falling in love with John Ambrose, that April night captured in snow, the USO party. I remember smiling at the sisterly bond you and Margot and Kitty shared, and feeling like in a way you were my sister, too.

I remember how your book was one of the first YA novels I read, and it became the bar that I forever compared other YA books to. (I don’t know if any have met the standards you set so early.)

I remember reading about the end of your senior year when I was only a freshman in high school, and wondering where I would be at the end of four years, if my journey would be like yours. And then I remember getting there, and suddenly everything you said about goodbyes and leaving felt so real.

We’ve both always been such nostalgic people, reluctant to see the worlds we know and hold close change.

I remembering reading your book again the night I graduated, and even after so many rereadings, I still cried like I always do.

I remember when I had an opportunity to go to BookCon a month after Always and Forever, Lara Jean was released. When it came time to sign up for panels, I could not click all of the events with Jenny Han’s name fast enough. I even asked my English teacher if I could register during her class because there wasn’t anything I wouldn’t do to go to those events. I remember pouring my thoughts about what the books meant to me into a letter, wanting her to know how much her words have changed my life. I remember a meet-and-greet with her was the very first event I went to at BookCon, the way I could barely get out my words about how much I love your story. I remember running to the microphone during Jenny Han’s panel, eager to ask questions and learn more about you. I remember seeing my letter peeking out in a pile of notes Jenny posted a picture of, and being so excited because I so badly needed her to know what you mean to me.

CW: Harry Potter // At BookCon 2017 and my note to Jenny. Please note: These photos were taken several years ago and I do not support J.K. Rowling or the Harry Potter franchise.

I remember the excitement of hearing that your story would become a movie, that I’d finally see the reel I’d always played in my head manifest itself in real life. I remember the way I woke up extra early the day we were dropping my brother off at college just so I could watch the movie when it came out. And now, two-and-a-half years later, sitting in my room and seeing it all come to a close.

Now, I am older than you are at the end of your story. There’s no more words written down or movie left to see of what happens after. Now it’s time for me to embark on my own journey without your guidance. But you’ve shaped me into who and where I am, and you’ve prepared me to make my own narrative even though yours has come to a close.

So thank you. For everything. Always and Forever.

Love,

Follow me on Instagram

Follow me on Twitter

Follow me on Goodreads

Follow me on YouTube

Create your website with WordPress.com
Get started