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.


Goodreads | Book Depository | IndieBound | Preorder Portal


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”

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”

Memory is a Flood: A Review of The Deep

Greetings, traveler. It’s Black History Month! During every month of the year, I will be featuring an array of amazing works by Black authors (as all readers and bloggers should) via rec lists and book reviews. Let’s always celebrate the incredible beauty of diverse stories!

Today, we’ll be diving into the breathtaking world of The Deep by Rivers Solomon, a novella inspired by the song of the same name, written by Daveed Diggs, William Hutson, and Jonathan Snipes of Clipping (one of my new favorite hip-hop groups. Their album, Visions of Bodies Being Burned, is so good).

SYNOPSIS:

Yetu holds the memories for her people — water-dwelling descendants of pregnant African slave women thrown overboard by slave owners — who live idyllic lives in the deep. Their past, too traumatic to be remembered regularly, is forgotten by everyone, save one — the historian. This demanding role has been bestowed on Yetu.

Yetu remembers for everyone, and the memories, painful and wonderful, traumatic and terrible and miraculous, are destroying her. And so, she flees to the surface, escaping the memories, the expectations, and the responsibilities — and discovers a world her people left behind long ago.

Yetu will learn more than she ever expected to about her own past — and about the future of her people. If they are all to survive, they’ll need to reclaim the memories, reclaim their identity — and own who they really are.


Goodreads | Book Depository | IndieBound


Rep: African, non-binary author and characters; African protagonists, characters, and setting; sapphic and queer protagonist and characters; intersex character

Content Warnings: animal death; grief and trauma; slavery and themes of slavery; death of loved ones; self-harm and injury; attempted suicide; hallucinations; the aftermath of war

tl;dr: Do I recommend this book?

Image result for yes fish image

MY RATING: ★★★★★

This is my first five-star rating on this blog! Hooray!


Our mothers were pregnant African women

Thrown overboard while crossing the Atlantic Ocean on slave ships

We were born breathing water as we did in the womb

We built our home on the sea floor

Unaware of the two-legged surface dwellers

Until their world came to destroy ours

With cannons, they searched for oil beneath our cities

Their greed and recklessness forced our uprising

Tonight, we remember.

Traveler, what do you remember?

Continue reading “Memory is a Flood: A Review of The Deep”

The 69 Books I Read in 2020

Nice. 

Happy February, traveler!

Consider this a companion piece to my YouTube video, I read 69 books in 2020 🎏, attached right underneath this paragraph! The post you see before you isn’t one of my normal blog posts; it’s more of an aggregation of the books I mention in that video, along with promotion links, representation notes, and content warnings. 

Want to know whether I recommend these books? Do you want to know my one-star and five-star reads? Which were my favorite reads of the year?

Watch to find out! 😉 And subscribe to my channel for more fun content, if you would like!

Welcome to my 2020 reading wrap-up! I read quite a salacious number of books, and I’m so excited to share them all with you, dear traveler. Each book will be listed as it appears in the video!

Are you ready?

Let us depart on this journey!

Continue reading “The 69 Books I Read in 2020”

Rubble You’ll Find in a Junkyard: A Review of Cinder

It’s great to see you, traveler! For today’s review, we’re surveying the sphere of Cinder, the first installment of the Lunar Chronicles Series by Marissa Meyer, the first novel I read in 2021 C.E. — and my first one-star review of the year. This ought to be a tendentious review!

Let’s do this!

Amazon.com: Cinder: Book One of the Lunar Chronicles (The Lunar Chronicles,  1) (9781250768889): Meyer, Marissa: Books

SYNOPSIS:

Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless Lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl… Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg.

She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.


Rep: cluttered Asian-inspired world; Asian-coded characters

Content Warnings: blood and death; xenophobia and discrimination; non-consensual medical experimentation; needles; illness and plague; emotional abuse

tl;dr: Do I recommend this book?

Not really! (Thus my exclusion of promotional links!)


MY RATING: ★

Ralph In Danger - Meme Template and Creator

I know there’s a lot of love for Cinder — its aggregated 4.14-star rating on Goodreads is indicative of that. This review is by no means a charge on the author (though I do mention the author a few times below) or the series, nor do I intend to disparage your affection towards this book if you enjoyed it. It’s awesome if you like Cinder! I’m glad you do.

My opinions do not and should not reflect the opinions of others. With reference to my discussion of Asian cultures in this review, I do not and should represent Asian people’s feelings about this book. (Nor do I or should I represent Asian people’s feelings period!) These are simply my thoughts on the novel and my personal experience reading it, as well as a few other notes I had.

With that being said:

What a mess!

Continue reading “Rubble You’ll Find in a Junkyard: A Review of Cinder”

Sharpened Blades in a Gilded World: A Review of These Violent Delights

Welcome back, traveler! Let’s discuss one of the most anticipated debuts of the decade so far — the silver-medal novel in my recent data-gathering book compilation, The 20 Best Diverse Releases of 2020, According to the Internet Book Community.

Amazon.com: These Violent Delights (9781534457690): Gong, Chloe: Books

SYNOPSIS:

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.


Goodreads | Book Depository | Indigo


Rep: Chinese author; Chinese setting, protagonist, and characters; transgender side character; Korean side character; queer side characters

Content Warnings: substance use; blood, gore, and violence; explosion; death, murder, and loss of a loved one; self-mutilation while possessed; insects

tl;dr: Do I recommend this book?


MY RATING: ★★★

Note to self: Stop getting over-hyped over new releases! You will only feel pain!

Don’t get me wrong, traveler. I adore so much about this book. It is easily one of my favorite reads of 2020 — the last book I read in that year! — and the praise for it is incredibly deserved. (I’m right there with that praise. Do you see me standing over there? That’s me, shrieking commendations. I’m cheering so hard for this novel.)

These Violent Delights was tightly-woven. Chloe Gong is a talented writer, and she crafted this novel so skillfully. I will support her writing career with enthusiasm.

But, like. My dear traveler… this book would be stellar if it simply were not this book. Certain facets of These Violent Delights were marvelous, but I wish they weren’t trapped in the plot and premise they were given.

Continue reading “Sharpened Blades in a Gilded World: A Review of These Violent Delights”

The 20 Best Diverse Releases of 2020, According to the Internet Book Community

Can you believe it? It’s 2021! Time no longer exists, if it ever did in the first place.

Everything held in the boundaries of the seemingly endless, three-hundred-sixty-six days of 2020 (and these frightening inaugural weeks of 2021) has been up-in-the-air, but one thing’s for sure: we’ve kept ourselves anchored to the Earth by the provisions of fiction. It’s good to step back at times and seek out the escapism we need to stay grounded.

The books in this list are perfect vessels of catharsis and reverie.

Last year, in late December, I conducted a poll across platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, and Discord to gather a consensus on the 2020 releases and sequels you all loved. Each of the books presented in the poll were written by BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ authors, and featured wonderful diverse stories across genres.

Let’s dive into the 20 best diverse releases of 2020, according to you, the Internet book community!

Continue reading “The 20 Best Diverse Releases of 2020, According to the Internet Book Community”

Yee-Haw, This Wasn’t It: A Review of Six-Gun Snow White (ft. Eight Great Books by Indigenous Authors)

Hello again, traveler! (Scroll to the images of a fluffy Highland cows divider for the rec list! In fact, read the rec list first! But only if you want.)

Six-Gun Snow White | Book by Catherynne M. Valente, Charlie Bowater |  Official Publisher Page | Simon & Schuster

SYNOPSIS:

Forget the dark, enchanted forest. Picture instead a masterfully evoked Old West where you are more likely to find coyotes as the seven dwarves. Insert into this scene a plain-spoken, appealing narrator who relates the history of our heroine’s parents — a Nevada silver baron who forced the Crow people to give up one of their most beautiful daughters, Gun That Sings, in marriage to him. Although her mother’s life ended as hers began, so begins a remarkable tale: equal parts heartbreak and strength. This girl has been born into a world with no place for a half-native, half-white child. After being hidden for years, a very wicked stepmother finally gifts her with the name Snow White, referring to the pale skin she will never have. Filled with fascinating glimpses through the fabled looking glass and a close-up look at hard living in the gritty gun-slinging West, this is an utterly enchanting story… at once familiar and entirely new. 

MY RATING: ★★

“Saint Michael doesn’t question why when the Big Dog says git.” (I just enjoyed this line.)

I picked up this book from my school’s online library because it didn’t have a wait time, hehe.

Catherynne M. Valente is (probably; this position often fluctuates! I’m more of Ken Liu stan nowadays) my favorite writer. Her works are some of the wildest rides I’ve ever caught hold of.  Six-Gun Snow White is no exception.

I’m still giving it two stars, though.

Hear me out!

Continue reading “Yee-Haw, This Wasn’t It: A Review of Six-Gun Snow White (ft. Eight Great Books by Indigenous Authors)”

Words Like Snow and Steel: A Winterglass Review

Hello, traveler!

Let’s take a peek at Winterglass, a novella written by Benjanun Sriduangkaew. It’s the first installment of the Her Pitiless Command series, an epic fantasy lesbian retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen, which takes place in a world based on Southeast and South Asian cultures where the primary form of magic-technology is powered by the dead.

Synopsis:

The city-state Sirapirat once knew only warmth and monsoon. When the Winter Queen conquered it, she remade the land in her image, turning Sirapirat into a country of snow and unending frost. But an empire is not her only goal. In secret, she seeks the fragments of a mirror whose power will grant her deepest desire.

At her right hand is General Lussadh, who bears a mirror shard in her heart, as loyal to winter as she is plagued by her past as a traitor to her country. Tasked with locating other glass-bearers, she finds one in Nuawa, an insurgent who’s forged herself into a weapon that will strike down the queen.

To earn her place in the queen’s army, Nuawa must enter a deadly tournament where the losers’ souls are given in service to winter. To free Sirapirat, she is prepared to make sacrifices: those she loves, herself, and the complicated bond slowly forming between her and Lussadh.

If the splinter of glass in Nuawa’s heart doesn’t destroy her first.


My Rating: ★★★

(A rather unrelated note: have you ever seen a more beautiful cover, dear traveler? Its artist, Anna Dittman, is an absolute legend!)

Maybe I just don’t have enough brain cells to understand this book properly (there are no wrinkles up in my cranium, yo. Up there, it’s as smooth as the rolling sea), but I must say: Winterglass was rather difficult to dig through!

 

Continue reading “Words Like Snow and Steel: A Winterglass Review”

Why I Love to Read

When did you first start reading?

I started reading when I was too small to reach the middle shelf. (I’m still far too small to reach the middle shelf, but still.) My mother read to me every night when I was little. We’d curl up together in my bed (I remember my Dora the Explorer-themed bedspread and stuffed purple unicorns), and my mother would stack the hardback picture books (gently retrieved from our black wooden shelf against the wall of the living room) between us.

While she narrated aloud, I’d follow her index finger as it brushed against a page’s structured sentences. Her soft and expressive voice transformed my small bedroom into the palace from Twelve Dancing Princesses, the garden from Little Miss Spider, or the house from Pinkalicious. (Plus, the musical versions of those books absolutely slap — especially Barbie and the Twelve Dancing Princesses. Period!) I would imagine we were in Paris with Madeline and her boarding school sisters; sometimes, we’d be exploring the cut-out worlds of Eric Carle and the Foolish Magistrate’s home in Sagwa, the Chinese Siamese Cat.

Eventually I leveled up (as one does after gaining experience points); I no longer needed bedtime stories to lull me to sleep.  

Though I never grew out of stories.

Continue reading “Why I Love to Read”