Souls From a Serrated Page: A Review of The Chosen and the Beautiful

I’ve been waiting for this one! (Turn it up!)

How are you, traveler? I hope you’re doing well.

It’s my birthday today! 🎂 I’m turning eighteen, which is crazy! To celebrate this, I’d like to discuss one of my most anticipated reads of 2021 (and incidentally one of my new all-time favorites) The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo, the author of a fantasy novella series I love, The Singing Hills Cycle.

From the cover, premise, and style, I was absolutely ready to dive right in. And dive in, I did!

SYNOPSIS:

Immigrant. Socialite. Magician.

Jordan Baker grows up in the most rarefied circles of 1920s American society―she has money, education, a killer golf handicap, and invitations to some of the most exclusive parties of the Jazz Age. She’s also queer, Asian, adopted, and treated as an exotic attraction by her peers, while the most important doors remain closed to her.

But the world is full of wonders: infernal pacts and dazzling illusions, lost ghosts and elemental mysteries. In all paper is fire, and Jordan can burn the cut paper heart out of a man. She just has to learn how.


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Rep: queer, Vietnamese author and protagonist; queer and BIPOC characters; Asian characters

Content Warnings: racism, fetishization, and xenophobia; homophobia; domestic abuse; sexual intercourse and interactions; pregnancy and abortion; death; substance use

tl;dr: Do I recommend this book?


MY RATING: ★★★★★


“Having gay time now?” I asked, breaking the silence with a smile.

Oh, Jordan. Dearest, darling Jordan Baker — my spirit, my star, my soul. Yes. Yes, amen, I am.

Continue reading “Souls From a Serrated Page: A Review of The Chosen and the Beautiful”

Amity, Affluence, and AP Exams: A Review of Not THAT Rich

Hello again, traveler! Are you searching for a fun, diverse book by an Asian-American author? Look no further! Let’s discuss Not THAT Rich by Belinda Lei, a debut YA novel to the tune of Crazy Rich Asians and Gossip Girl that had me absolutely hooked from start to finish and gave me a bit of sunlight during freezing, frightening times.

The cover of Not THAT Rich by Belinda Lei. The text, "Not THAT Rich," at the top of the cover and the author's name at the bottom of the cover are written in gold. An art-deco-esque female figure stands in front of a gothic-style gate amidst a green background.

SYNOPSIS:

Hunter and Trisha Wang, like the majority of their classmates, are trying to balance AP classes, Ivy League applications, numerous extracurriculars, and tumultuously juicy social lives, all while living in their affluent, suburban bubble.

Will Hunter get into Stanford and still be able to maintain his relationship with the “it girl” Sierra Jones? Will Trisha find love with outsider Ray Martinez and figure out what’s going on with her influencer best friend, Pamela Shah? Will billionaire newcomer Jack Zhou figure out how to fit in? And who exactly is The Stranger?

Welcome to Winchester High, a prestigious college preparatory school where students live seemingly perfect, privileged lives.


Goodreads | Book Depository | IndieBound


Rep: Chinese-American author, protagonists, and characters; Asian and BIPOC cast; queer characters

Content Warnings: unplanned pregnancy; racism and xenophobia; homophobia; loss of a loved one; drug and substance use; bullying; physical and psychological abuse

tl;dr: Do I recommend this book?


MY RATING: ★★★★★


In short: eat the rich. They have some delicious stories to tell.

This is the sort of high-school drama I’ve been searching for all of my life.

Continue reading “Amity, Affluence, and AP Exams: A Review of Not THAT Rich”

Your Mom Will Hold Your Red Envelopes For You 🧧: 12 Books (by Asian Authors) That Feature Lunar New Year

恭禧發財! 새해 복 많이 받으세요! Chúc Mừng Năm Mới! Kung Hei Fat Choi! Lo Sar Bzang!

Happy Lunar New Year, dear traveler! Welcome to the Year of the Ox, a lunar animal that symbolizes diligence, patience, and hard work. 🐂 For those of you who are unfamiliar with this holiday, Lunar New Year commemorates the new cycle of the lunar calendar. It is typically observed in February by people in nations across Southeast and East Asia (and by Asian diaspora worldwide!) — from Mongolia to Indonesia to Taiwan to the Philippines to Tibet and beyond. (Other Asian countries, such as Thailand and Japan, celebrate their New Year’s Days on different dates.)

So many beautiful, diverse customs characterize the New Year. (Some of which I have mentioned before on my blog!) Many countries share customs, and others have unique customs of their own.

To name a few:

TibetThe Tibetan Lunar New Year, Losar, involves two main parts: a farewell to the negativity of the past and a welcoming of the fortune to come.
VietnamOne Tết tradition includes Dựng Cây Nêu, or the raising of a New Year Tree. The tree is a marker for ancestors’ spirits that travel back from the afterlife to celebrate the New Year.
South KoreaSeollal lasts three days and is a time for family gatherings. During Seollal festivities, families eat food such as tteokguk to symbolize beginning the new year with a clean mind and body.
SingaporeSingapore’s Lunar New Year is influenced by its multicultural population. On the seventh day of the New Year, loved ones gather to toss up the ingredients of raw fish salad, bringing in good luck, in a custom called lo hei.
ThailandSongkran, which begins on April 13, includes an epic water fight. Celebrators also ferry sand to Buddhist temples, which is meant to replenish the sand that has been carried away on the soles of shoes throughout the previous year.
CambodiaThe Cambodian New Year starts on April 14. Moha Sangkran, the first day of the New Year, inaugurates the New Angels who will watch over the world in the months to come. A ceremony called Pithi Srang Preah, which occurs on Leung Sakk, the third day of the New Year, involves giving special showers to Buddha statues.
MongoliaOn Tsagaan Sar, which means “white moon” in Mongolian, the hostess of a Mongolia household throws the contents of a cup of tea with milk in all directions, offering it to the gods. Celebrants often visit their entire families on this day.
MyanmarKicking off on April 13, Thingyan festivities include the nga hlut pwe, or fish-releasing ceremony, in which participants rescue fish from drying lakes, then free them into larger bodies of water, bidding them, “I release you once, you release me ten times.”
MalaysiaOn Penang Island in Malaysia, the Kek Lok Si Temple is covered with millions of colorful lamps and lights to salute the new year. In Kuala Lumpur, fireworks and music fill the air.
PhilippinesIn the Philippines, families eat tikoy, or New Year’s cake, which symbolizes familial unity, as well as pancit, noodles that signify a long life. Celebrants light fireworks and bolster this noise and cheer with horns and cooking pots.
IndonesiaDuring Imlek, families visit the Sikunir Hill in Central Java for the One Thousand-Lantern Festival, releasing a thousand lanterns into the sky. The roads from Jalan Slamet Riyadi to Purwosari to Gladag are closed for Car Free Night so that the New Year can be welcomed.
LaosFrom April 14 to 16, Pi Mai in Luang Prabang of northern Laos includes a parade in Prabang Buddha is carried on a golden palanquin. In a beauty contest called Nang Sangkhane, seven contestants, representing the seven daughters of King Kabinlaphom, compete for a beauty-queen crown.
Hong KongIn Hong Kong, people can visit the Wishing Tree at Lam Tsuen, tie a wish to an orange and a piece of string, and throw it high into the tree, hoping for their wishes to come tree in the New Year.
TaiwanThe Taiwanese Lunar New Year involves games of mahjong, delicious meals with family members, and hanging spring couplets to the front doors of homes.

(Feel free to correct me if there are any inaccuracies in the events I outlined above, or if there is anything else I can include. 🙌🏼 I’d be more than happy to add to this list!)

I absolutely love Lunar New Year! Here in the states, my friends and I always look forward to good food (so much food!) and red envelopes (which our parents will hold for us until we are older, for investment 🙈). There’s always such a lovely sense of community whenever Lunar New Year rolls around. I am filled with a renewed sense of optimism and hope.

To celebrate this momentous day, here are twelve (a lucky number for 2021!) books that feature/contain Lunar New Year in their stories! I will include four children’s books, three middle-grade books, two young-adult books, and three adult books. 💌

Continue reading “Your Mom Will Hold Your Red Envelopes For You 🧧: 12 Books (by Asian Authors) That Feature Lunar New Year”