March 2018 Bookish Wrap Up

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Quick update: I’ll be heading out on vacation this week and I won’t be posting as often as I do. I’ll be back later this month with stories and new books to share!

I can’t believe that another month has come and gone. I’ve always regarded March to be the longest month. This is probably leftover from school when March has no days off. It just felt longer because of that.

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But I did get a lot of reading done. I was somehow able to read eight books! That’s pretty impressive to me. While I wanted to read more leisurely books, I ended up reading some pretty heavy reads. I think my definition of light reading is something heavy like grief and loss. Who knows.

I also read some cute ones too, so it wasn’t all bad. However, I do know I need a break from these heavy reads soon for my own mental health. But here’s what I got through this month!

School for Psychics by K.C. Archer

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The first book in a new series by KC Archer. You follow Teddy, a young psychic, as she starts at a school to teach her how to use her powers. Of course, trouble ensues when her friends start to go missing and her past is revealed.

American Panda by Gloria Chao

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This is a great book about a young girl named Mei and the choices her parents made for her. If you’re a young 1st or 2nd generation Asian American, this book will resonate to you in so many ways. I honestly felt things I haven’t felt for a really long time after reading this one.

The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan

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I absolutely loved this novel. It’s about grief and loss and a young girl trying to come to terms with her mother’s suicide. While it does mainly take place in Taiwan, the story is definitely something everyone can understand. Double if you’ve ever lost someone in your life you dearly and deeply loved and wished you knew better.

The Last Equation of Isaac Severy by Nova Jacobs

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If you’re in the mood to unplug from the usual grind and read a fun little mystery, then this is for you. The story follows Hazel, a young woman, who’s grandfather recently died. Before he died, her grandfather had discovered a math equation that can help predict death. We all know that’s not something you can do easily. While there’s a little math and physics scattered throughout the story, we follow Hazel (someone not inept at the level of math her grandfather was working on) and discover just where Isaac hid his last equation.

The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory

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What if you were to meet a complete stranger in an elevator and suddenly asked to go to a wedding as their fake girlfriend? You might think that was a crazy adventure, but for Alexa and Drew it was only the beginning of a bigger relationship.

This definitely was my lightest read from the month and I was super excited to enjoy it. I hope you enjoy this contemporary rom com as well!

Hot Mess by Emily Belden

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This was such a cute read as well. The story follows Allie, a girl who recently lent her boyfriend a huge amount of money for him to start his own restaurant. Suddenly, hotshot boyfriend disappears and all Allie is left with is a restaurant and penniless. What does she do? She starts getting to work on creating the best restaurant in Chicago. All of this without a single culinary bone in her body.

Love and Other Carnivorous Plants by Florence Gonsalves

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This was probably the biggest doozy of them all this month. With a ton of trigger warnings (check out my blog post for them), the cover of this book doesn’t do the story justice. I mean, it was intensely sad and immensely cathartic. However, I think the one thing that the book does well is bring a little hope to those who may feel their worlds are crumbling in their fingers.

Love, Hate, and Other Filters by Samira Ahmed

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This book was another unexpectedly good one! While it first starts off pretty tame and about a young girl trying to decide her future, it gets much deeper into the thoughts and feelings of someone accused of being a terrorist. It’s a feeling I don’t think I’ve ever experienced and something that should be stopped. Definitely check this out to feel the rawness of what it might be like to be the victim of Islamophobia.

I hope you liked what I read! What did you read last month?

Love, Hate, and Other Filters by Samira Ahmed

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As I write this, I’m also reading an article about how a 19-year-old girl was attacked at her local hospital. She was wearing her hijab and a 57-year-old man came up from behind her and proceeded to punch her repeatedly in the back of her head. Why?

The article doesn’t go into the details as to why, but the assumption is because of Islamophobia. Islamophobia is this prejudice and fear that because someone is Muslim that they’re automatically going to be a terrorist.

Islamophobia exists and it is the cruelest and most unkind form of racism. Samira Ahmed covers it perfectly in Love, Hate, and Other Filters. 

Here’s more about the story

31207017A searing #OwnVoices coming-of-age debut in which an Indian-American Muslim teen confronts Islamophobia and a reality she can neither explain nor escape–perfect for fans of Angie Thomas, Jacqueline Woodson, and Adam Silvera.

American-born seventeen-year-old Maya Aziz is torn between worlds. There’s the proper one her parents expect for their good Indian daughter: attending a college close to their suburban Chicago home, and being paired off with an older Muslim boy her mom deems “suitable.” And then there is the world of her dreams: going to film school and living in New York City—and maybe (just maybe) pursuing a boy she’s known from afar since grade school, a boy who’s finally falling into her orbit at school.

There’s also the real world, beyond Maya’s control. In the aftermath of a horrific crime perpetrated hundreds of miles away, her life is turned upside down. The community she’s known since birth becomes unrecognizable; neighbors and classmates alike are consumed with fear, bigotry, and hatred. Ultimately, Maya must find the strength within to determine where she truly belongs.

The first half of this book actually spoke to me similarly to American Panda. It’s the story about a young woman on the brink of the next phase of her life and wanting to go to another city to do it. She wants to study film in New York while her parents want her to study law in Chicago. This is a story that relates to my life and the lives of many other people. We all have dreams and sometimes those dreams aren’t within reach because of family obligations or even because you wish to respect your parents’ wishes for you. It’s a totally relatable story.

However, the second half of the book is something I can’t relate to. I can’t relate to it because I’ve never experienced it. I’ve seen racism and prejudice, but my life has never been threatened. I’ve never had someone throw a rock at me because they think I’m a terrorist. I’ve never had to worry that my family will be senselessly murdered because of my faith or our beliefs.

I’ve been treated poorly by people before. I’ve been told to go back to my own country. I’ve been catcalled in different Asian languages. I’ve been asked if I eat dog. However, despite all of the racist remarks I come across, I have never been threatened. I’ve never had to worry that my religious beliefs will cause me to get killed. I’ve never had hate thrust against me where someone ripped clothes off my body or believed my father to be a terrorist.

I think this is the biggest takeaway I got from this book. It’s the fact that Maya is just like anyone else in this world. She’s got a family that loves her and wants the best for her and she’s trying to fight for what she wants. How can we hate someone who practically is you?

I mean, Maya’s parents are dentists. When I think of dentists, I think of Hermione Granger’s parents. They’re kind and gentle people who work on people’s teeth for a living. How would a couple of dentists hurt someone?

This is what I don’t understand. How does an individual fill their hearts with so much hate that they feel compelled to take action on it? How does someone pick up that gun and shoot kids? How do we live in a world where people rationalize these thoughts and find it as the reason to harm others?

What I also love reading about this book is that it doesn’t feel like you’re reading this from the brain of a teenager. It feels mature and older even though she’s a young person. I think that’s what’s great about books like this. While it’s a younger person’s voice, you can always find something to reflect back on and sometimes younger people are older than us.

  • Hardcover, 281 pages
  • Publisher: Soho Teen
  • Rating: 4/5 stars

School for Psychics by K.C. Archer

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I used to think that I had some sort of psychic power, be it the power to read minds or even to predict the future would be somewhat helpful. But what if those powers can do something like help other humans from dying? Would you take the risk and use your powers for good or for yourself?

Here’s a little bit more about the book

Teddy Cannon isn’t your typical twenty-something woman. She’s resourceful. She’s bright. She’s scrappy. She can also read people with uncanny precision. What she doesn’t realize: she’s actually psychic.

When a series of bad decisions leads Teddy to a run-in with the police, a mysterious stranger intervenes. He invites her to apply to the School for Psychics, a facility hidden off the coast of San Francisco where students are trained like Delta Force operatives: it’s competitive, cutthroat, and highly secretive. They’ll learn telepathy, telekinesis, investigative skills, and SWAT tactics. And if students survive their training, they go on to serve at the highest levels of government, using their skills to protect America, and the world.

In class, Teddy befriends Lucas, a rebel without a cause who can start and manipulate fire; Jillian, a hipster who can mediate communication between animals and humans; and Molly, a hacker who can apprehend the emotional state of another individual. But just as Teddy feels like she’s found where she might belong, strange things begin to happen: break-ins, missing students, and more. It leads Teddy to accept a dangerous mission that will ultimately cause her to question everything—her teachers, her friends, her family, and even herself.

Set in a world very much like our own, School for Psychics is the first book in a stay-up-all night series.

Overall I thought this was a good read. It was a pretty easy book and if you’re an adult wishing you got into Hogwarts or had any magical powers, then this might be the one for you.

The story was more like a combination of Harry Potter meets Police Academy meets The Bone Season. Harry Potter because of the whole magical universe of psychics. The Bone Season because of the rebel girl who just happens to have a power greater than all of her peers. And Police Academy because I rarely read books where people join some official government law enforcement. Although, I do wish there were more antics like they had in Police Academy, but I’m just using it for comparisons here.

The story centers around Teddy, our main character, and her days training to become a psychic FBI agent. You may think that a book about young people going to school for their psychic abilities may be YA, but this actually isn’t. I was a little surprised that this wasn’t in the YA genre especially with the voice being used and the personalities of the recruits training. I think this is where I’m drawing the comparison to Police Academy because these young folks seem a little too young and immature.

I don’t want to give spoilers, but this is a slow burner. The book is written in the third person, but I really wish that it was first person. I think the story would have definitely benefitted with the first person storyline especially since we’re reading her thoughts and her dreams and following along with whatever decisions Teddy was making. However, the story does get more exciting as Teddy learns to use her powers more and also uncovers the truth about her past. Let’s just say that there are some other special organizations with a similar cause to the School for Psychics, except they are okay with you murdering people for the sake of justice.

I did like the mystery components here, but I also feel like this will be the last of the mystery. There were a lot of uncovered secrets and mysteries that were solved, so I don’t know what the next books will contain. However, I do hope that the rest of the series will show some epic battles and usage of skills by this special people.

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There were a couple of flaws that made the book a little less believable. For example, I wasn’t completely convinced it only took less than a single night for her to get on a plane to go to this elite school for training. I mean, she lived her life as a gambler and made her money that way. Now she’s going clean to work for a major government agency? It seems a little suspect.

The other thing I didn’t really seem to grasp was how she never let anyone in. While the story is mostly about Teddy and her life, there is a rag tag team of “misfits” that are involved in Teddy’s life. In my opinion, I think she did a great job with making friends and keeping them close by. She sat with them at lunch and they worked together in classes. It didn’t add up that she considered herself such a loner when there was a lot of mention of her other friends. When it finally was revealed at the end of the book that she needed her friends all along, I didn’t understand the sentiment. Weren’t they her friends from the beginning?

All in all, a good first read. Enough of the story has been outlined for the reader that the next couple of books will just flow. The book does end with a mysterious cliffhanger, so we’ll see what the rest of the series has to offer. You know me, giving the benefit of the doubt when it comes to the first book in a series.

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Simon and Schuster
  • Rating: 3/5 stars

I received a copy of this book from Simon and Schuster for free in exchange for an honest review. My opinions have not been influenced by the publisher or the author.

My Most Anticipated Reads: April 2018

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Welcome to April! Like every month, there’s so many exciting new books coming out that I need a place to keep track of them all. I hope some of these are also on your list!

Here’s what I’m most excited about coming in April 2018!

The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer

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(April 3, 2018) Greer Kadetsky is a shy college freshman when she meets the woman she hopes will change her life. Faith Frank, dazzlingly persuasive and elegant at sixty-three, has been a central pillar of the women’s movement for decades, a figure who inspires others to influence the world. Upon hearing Faith speak for the first time, Greer- madly in love with her boyfriend, Cory, but still full of longing for an ambition that she can’t quite place- feels her inner world light up. And then, astonishingly, Faith invites Greer to make something out of that sense of purpose, leading Greer down the most exciting path of her life as it winds toward and away from her meant-to-be love story with Cory and the future she’d always imagined.

Charming and wise, knowing and witty, Meg Wolitzer delivers a novel about power and influence, ego and loyalty, womanhood and ambition. At its heart, The Female Persuasion is about the flame we all believe is flickering inside of us, waiting to be seen and fanned by the right person at the right time. It’s a story about the people who guide and the people who follow (and how those roles evolve over time), and the desire within all of us to be pulled into the light.

Because We Are Bad: OCD and a Girl Lost in Thought by Lily Bailey

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(April 3, 2018) By the age of thirteen, Lily Bailey was convinced she was bad. She had killed someone with a thought, spread untold disease, and ogled the bodies of other children. Only by performing an exhausting series of secret routines could she make up for what she’d done. But no matter how intricate or repetitive, no act of penance was ever enough.

Beautifully written and astonishingly intimate, Because We Are Bad recounts a childhood consumed by obsessive compulsive disorder. As a child, Bailey created a second personality inside herself—”I” became “we”—to help manifest compulsions that drove every minute of every day of her young life. Now she writes about the forces beneath her skin, and how they ordered, organized, and urged her forward. Lily charts her journey, from checking on her younger sister dozens of times a night, to “normalizing” herself at school among new friends as she grew older, and finally to her young adult years, learning—indeed, breaking through—to make a way for herself in a big, wide world that refuses to stay in check.

We Own the Sky by Luke Allnutt

35135010(April 3, 2018) Rob Coates feels like he’s won the lottery of life. There is Anna, his incredible wife, their London town house and, most precious of all, Jack, their son, who makes every day an extraordinary adventure. But when a devastating illness befalls his family, Rob’s world begins to unravel. Suddenly finding himself alone, Rob seeks solace in photographing the skyscrapers and clifftops he and his son Jack used to visit. And just when it seems that all hope is lost, Rob embarks on the most unforgettable of journeys to find his way back to life, and forgiveness. 

We Own the Sky is a tender, heartrending, but ultimately life-affirming novel that will resonate deeply with anyone who has suffered loss or experienced great love. With stunning eloquence and acumen, Luke Allnutt has penned a soaring debut and a true testament to the power of love, showing how even the most thoroughly broken heart can learn to beat again.

Other People’s Houses by Abbi Waxman

35698114(April 3, 2018) At any given moment in other people’s houses, you can find…repressed hopes and dreams…moments of unexpected joy…someone making love on the floor to a man who is most definitely not her husband…

*record scratch*

As the longtime local carpool mom, Frances Bloom is sometimes an unwilling witness to her neighbors’ private lives. She knows her cousin is hiding her desire for another baby from her spouse, Bill Horton’s wife is mysteriously missing, and now this…

After the shock of seeing Anne Porter in all her extramarital glory, Frances vows to stay in her own lane. But that’s a notion easier said than done when Anne’s husband throws her out a couple of days later. The repercussions of the affair reverberate through the four carpool families–and Frances finds herself navigating a moral minefield that could make or break a marriage.

Defy the Worlds by Claudia Gray (Book #2 in the Constellation series)

34942737(April 3, 2018) An outcast from her home — Shunned after a trip through the galaxy with Abel, the most advanced cybernetic man ever created, Noemi Vidal dreams of traveling through the stars one more time. And when a deadly plague arrives on Genesis, Noemi gets her chance. As the only soldier to have ever left the planet, it will be up to her to save its people…if only she wasn’t flying straight into a trap.

A fugitive from his fate — On the run to avoid his depraved creator’s clutches, Abel believes he’s said good-bye to Noemi for the last time. After all, the entire universe stands between them…or so he thinks. When word reaches him of Noemi’s capture by the very person he’s trying to escape, Abel knows he must go to her, no matter the cost.

But capturing Noemi was only part of Burton Mansfield’s master plan. In a race against time, Abel and Noemi will come together once more to discover a secret that could save the known worlds, or destroy them all.

In this thrilling and romantic sequel to Defy the Stars, bestselling author Claudia Gray asks us all to consider where–and with whom–we truly belong.

Unwifeable by Mandy Stadtmiller

35297265(April 3, 2018) From the popular, “candid and bold, tender and tough” (Cheryl Strayed) dating columnist for New York magazine and the New York Post comes a whirlwind and “gutsy” (Courtney Love) memoir recounting countless failed romances and blackout nights, told with Mandy Stadtmiller’s unflinching candor and brilliant wit.

My story is not unique. Single girl comes to New York; New York eats her alive. But what does stand out is my discovery that you can essentially live a life that appears to be a textbook manual for everything one can do wrong to find love—and still find Mr. Right.

Mandy Stadtmiller came to Manhattan in 2005, newly divorced, thirty years old, with a job at the New York Post, ready to conquer the city and the industry in one fell swoop. Like a “real-life Carrie Bradshaw” (so called by Jenny McCarthy), she proceeded to chronicle her fearless attempts for nearly a decade in the Post, New York magazine, and xoJane.

But underneath the glitz and glamour of her new life, there is a darker side threatening to surface. She goes through countless failed high-profile hookups in the New York comedy and writing scene. There are soon too many nights she can’t remember, and the blind spots start to add up. She begins to realize that falling in love won’t fix her—she needs to fix herself first.

Unwifeable is a New York fairytale brought to life—Sex and the City on acid. With hysterical insight, unabashed sexuality, and unprecedented levels of raw, honest pain, Unwifeable is a “blisteringly candid” (Sarah Hepola, New York Times bestselling author of Blackout) book that you can’t help but respond and relate to—perfect for fans of Amy Schumer and Chelsea Handler.

School for Psychics by KC Archer

35297405(April 3, 2018) An entrancing new series starring a funny, impulsive, and sometimes self-congratulatory young woman who discovers she has psychic abilities—and then must decide whether she will use her skills for good or…not.

Teddy Cannon isn’t your typical twenty-something woman. She’s resourceful. She’s bright. She’s scrappy. She can also read people with uncanny precision. What she doesn’t realize: she’s actually psychic.

When a series of bad decisions leads Teddy to a run-in with the police, a mysterious stranger intervenes. He invites her to apply to the School for Psychics, a facility hidden off the coast of San Francisco where students are trained like Delta Force operatives: it’s competitive, cutthroat, and highly secretive. They’ll learn telepathy, telekinesis, investigative skills, and SWAT tactics. And if students survive their training, they go on to serve at the highest levels of government, using their skills to protect America, and the world.

In class, Teddy befriends Lucas, a rebel without a cause who can start and manipulate fire; Jillian, a hipster who can mediate communication between animals and humans; and Molly, a hacker who can apprehend the emotional state of another individual. But just as Teddy feels like she’s found where she might belong, strange things begin to happen: break-ins, missing students, and more. It leads Teddy to accept a dangerous mission that will ultimately cause her to question everything—her teachers, her friends, her family, and even herself.

Set in a world very much like our own, School for Psychics is the first book in a stay-up-all night series.

Circe by Madeline Miller

32454291(April 10, 2018) In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe is a strange child–not powerful, like her father, nor viciously alluring like her mother. Turning to the world of mortals for companionship, she discovers that she does possess power–the power of witchcraft, which can transform rivals into monsters and menace the gods themselves.

Threatened, Zeus banishes her to a deserted island, where she hones her occult craft, tames wild beasts and crosses paths with many of the most famous figures in all of mythology, including the Minotaur, Daedalus and his doomed son Icarus, the murderous Medea, and, of course, wily Odysseus. 

But there is danger, too, for a woman who stands alone, and Circe unwittingly draws the wrath of both men and gods, ultimately finding herself pitted against one of the most terrifying and vengeful of the Olympians. To protect what she loves most, Circe must summon all her strength and choose, once and for all, whether she belongs with the gods she is born from, or the mortals she has come to love.

With unforgettably vivid characters, mesmerizing language and page-turning suspense, Circe is a triumph of storytelling, an intoxicating epic of family rivalry, palace intrigue, love and loss, as well as a celebration of indomitable female strength in a man’s world.

Love and Other Words by Christina Lauren

36206545(April 10, 2018) Macy Sorensen is settling into an ambitious if emotionally tepid routine: work hard as a new pediatrics resident, plan her wedding to an older, financially secure man, keep her head down and heart tucked away.

But when she runs into Elliot Petropoulos—the first and only love of her life—the careful bubble she’s constructed begins to dissolve. Once upon a time, Elliot was Macy’s entire world—growing from her gangly bookish friend into the man who coaxed her heart open again after the loss of her mother…only to break it on the very night he declared his love for her.

Told in alternating timelines between Then and Now, teenage Elliot and Macy grow from friends to much more—spending weekends and lazy summers together in a house outside of San Francisco devouring books, sharing favorite words, and talking through their growing pains and triumphs. As adults, they have become strangers to one another until their chance reunion. Although their memories are obscured by the agony of what happened that night so many years ago, Elliot will come to understand the truth behind Macy’s decade-long silence, and will have to overcome the past and himself to revive her faith in the possibility of an all-consuming love.

The Home for Unwanted Girls by Joanna Goodman

35604040(April 17, 2018) Philomena meets The Orphan Train in this suspenseful, provocative novel filled with love, secrets, and deceit—the story of a young unwed mother who is forcibly separated from her daughter at birth and the lengths to which they go to find each other.

In 1950s Quebec, French and English tolerate each other with precarious civility—much like Maggie Hughes’ parents. Maggie’s English-speaking father has ambitions for his daughter that don’t include marriage to the poor French boy on the next farm over. But Maggie’s heart is captured by Gabriel Phénix. When she becomes pregnant at fifteen, her parents force her to give baby Elodie up for adoption and get her life ‘back on track’.

Elodie is raised in Quebec’s impoverished orphanage system. It’s a precarious enough existence that takes a tragic turn when Elodie, along with thousands of other orphans in Quebec, is declared mentally ill as the result of a new law that provides more funding to psychiatric hospitals than to orphanages. Bright and determined, Elodie withstands abysmal treatment at the nuns’ hands, finally earning her freedom at seventeen, when she is thrust into an alien, often unnerving world.

Maggie, married to a businessman eager to start a family, cannot forget the daughter she was forced to abandon, and a chance reconnection with Gabriel spurs a wrenching choice. As time passes, the stories of Maggie and Elodie intertwine but never touch, until Maggie realizes she must take what she wants from life and go in search of her long-lost daughter, finally reclaiming the truth that has been denied them both.

The Life List of Adrian Mandrick by Chris White

35297250(April 17, 2018) Anesthesiologist Adrian Mandrick is filled with contradictory impulses. He wants to be a good husband to his wife and a good father to his children; he wants to forgive his once-beloved mother for the crime she committed and the long lost father who accused her. But when he receives a call from his mother after years of silence, he takes solace in the very pain medication he prescribes, spiraling downward into addiction.

His sole source of true comfort is his “life list”—the all-encompassing record of the 863 bird species he’s spotted and identified. His is the third longest list in all of North America. But when Henry Lassiter, the legendary birder who held the region’s second longest list, dies suddenly, Adrian seizes the opportunity to make his way to the very top. A desperate search for the extremely rare Ivory-billed Woodpecker eventually leaves him stranded in the thick swamplands of Florida’s panhandle, where he is forced to confront his past and present failures, to reflect on what his obsessions and addictions have cost him, and to question what is truly important in his life.

The Only Story by Julian Barnes

36463677(April 17, 2018) In a staid suburb fifteen miles south of London in the sixties Paul, nineteen, home from university for the holidays, is urged by his mother to join the tennis club. At the mixed doubles tournament he is partnered with a Mrs Macleod. She is forty-eight, confident, ironic. Her first name is Susan; she is married with two grown-up daughters. Soon Paul and Susan are lovers.

In The Only Story Paul looks back at how they fell in love, how he freed her from a sterile marriage, how they set up together, and how, very slowly, everything fell apart as Susan sank into alcoholism, and love turned into pity and anger.

This is a profound – and achingly sad – novel about love by one of fiction’s greatest mappers of the human heart and its vagaries.

 

 

American Panda by Gloria Chao

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If you were born a first-generation child of an immigrant, then this story will resonate so much in your heart that it might break.

Here’s what it’s about

35297380At seventeen, Mei should be in high school, but skipping fourth grade was part of her parents’ master plan. Now a freshman at MIT, she is on track to fulfill the rest of this predetermined future: become a doctor, marry a preapproved Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer, produce a litter of babies.

With everything her parents have sacrificed to make her cushy life a reality, Mei can’t bring herself to tell them the truth–that she (1) hates germs, (2) falls asleep in biology lectures, and (3) has a crush on her classmate Darren Takahashi, who is decidedly not Taiwanese.

But when Mei reconnects with her brother, Xing, who is estranged from the family for dating the wrong woman, Mei starts to wonder if all the secrets are truly worth it. Can she find a way to be herself, whoever that is, before her web of lies unravels?

My parents told me the rules of the house very often: focus on your studying and get into a good school. I didn’t know until I was in high school that meant getting As in every class and getting into an IVY league and becoming a doctor. Or a lawyer.

When I was in high school, my mom thought it would be good for my budding medical career if I got into this seven-year program for pre-med students. Seven years and you’ll be a fully fledged surgeon making incisions into actual human bodies. At that time, I felt like this was my only choice and so I went with it even though I was terrible at science and math and only wanted to read and write. I even had to take Physics in my junior year when at that point it wasn’t a requirement anymore. I voluntarily took Physics!

It was also in my junior year that I finally told my mom that I didn’t want to be a doctor and I wanted to be a journalist. We had a long heart-to-heart conversation and she went with it. I don’t know how much she felt about that decision, but it made me so happy.

That’s basically what’s going on in American Panda. 

While reading this book, I could feel the anxiety and frustration Mei felt because it was the feelings I had as a kid too. My parents were strict and my mom knew if my sister and I didn’t practice piano and violin. When I got a bad score on a test, it was a big mess and I won’t recount those stories for you.

I think the only thing I didn’t like about this book was how extreme Mei’s parents were. The author’s note does say that this story was based on the experiences she’s had as well as the ones her friends had. I don’t know anyone’s parents who see their kid diverge from the medical route get completely disowned without a hope that things will get better. It just doesn’t seem real? I don’t want to discount it, but at the same time it seemed a little harsh.

But what Mei went through is real. Her feelings, her longing, her inability to speak up about it is all experiences I had. I wanted my friends to read this and say to them that this is what it was like growing up for me. I also resonated so much with the split between her Chinese culture and her American culture. I have this feeling that immigrants come to this country and think that they can maintain the values and traditions of the old country.

However, this is a new country with different rules. If you have a kid born and raised in the new country, they won’t know what the old country is. I didn’t go to Korea until I was in my 30s and I didn’t feel in any way that I belonged there.

You won’t find sophisticated language and this book isn’t meant to be literary. While this book resonated so much with me, it’s still a book written for younger people. I honestly wish this book existed when I was a kid and let me know that it’s okay to follow my dreams and while it may be rocky at first, your parents will eventually come around.

  • Hardcover: 311 pages
  • Publisher: Simon Pulse (February 6, 2018)
  • Rating: 3/5 stars

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My Favorite Snacks While Reading

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When it comes to reading, it’s always important to have the essentials by your side. You’ll need some water for hydration and tea or coffee for the hygge effect. Pillows and blankets for warmth (or comfort if you’re me) and candles because why not?

But one thing I always also remember to include is a snack. I’m a huge fan of snacking while reading. I feel like my hands need to shovel my feelings into my mouth while I’m reading through a particularly difficult passage.

However, not all snacks are created equal and if you’re reading a book the one thing you don’t want to do is stain or crumb up your pages with your chocolate mousse or Oreo cookies.

So here’s some of the snacks I prefer to eat (with a lot of photos I found while digging through my photo gallery):

Fruit

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You’ll most definitely see me eating a lot of fruit while I’m reading. Whether it’s grapes or an orange or even apple slices, I’m a huge fan of some fruit instead of some of the more sugary or salty snacks.

Macarons/Meringues

I’m throwing these both in the same category since they’re easily made the same way. Egg whites whipped the crap out of them with sugar and then into the oven.

The best part is that they’re small and can be eaten in a few bites. It’s a nice little break to take a bite while in the middle of your reads.

Chocolate

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I absolutely love chocolate with reading. And because chocolate is a pretty rich snack, it usually only takes about one or two bites to satiate my snack mood while I read. It’s also super portable, so if I’m reading in the park or somewhere random, I can always have some chocolate on me to read.

Mini Asian cakes

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This is a huge category, but basically if you go to Asian grocery stores you can buy pre-packaged snack cakes. These little snacks are individually wrapped, so you don’t have to worry about portioning out some for yourself and you can grab one on your way out the door (if you’re a fan of reading outdoors).

The sweetness factor is also pretty subtle so you’re never searching for a glass of water to drink afterwards.

Mini cakes

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Unlike the Asian cakes, these aren’t individually wrapped. Instead, these are the ones I love to pick up when I’m at a cafe. Another thing to keep in mind about these snacks is that you’ll need to sit at a table to eat them. God forbid I get some crumbs in my book that get lost in the binding.

I rarely do this mostly because I have so food restrictions, but

But the fun part about getting some small cake for yourself is how you can take your time with it. You can take one bite, read, and if the book is super good then you find yourself hours later with some more cake to eat! I mean, that’s if you can hold off your munching to get through that compelling passage.

Popcorn

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While you may thought that my favorite snacks are all sweet, the truth is that I have a super strong salty palate. That being said, I love having some popcorn while I read. It’s got the same charm as watching a movie where I’m recklessly putting these fluffy kernels into my mouth as some riveting part of my book continues to compel me.

Potato chips

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I do want to give a shout out to potato chips as well, but this isn’t a snack I take too often. The reason? They crumble too easily. Chips just happen to be too greasy so when I turn the page of the book, I don’t want my greasy fingerprints all over the page. For some reason, potato chips have the propensity to leave a greasy residue on anything you place it on. A white piece of paper can turn translucent from potato chips. Also, I always end up getting the crumbs in the binding and that irritates me to no end.

Cookies

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Of course cookies are an old standby. I can never have more than three at a time, which is great for me but most times I find myself savoring one cookie. I think it’s because when I order a cookie from a bakery, they’re always so big and it ends up being way more snack than I wanted.

Doughnuts

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The final one on this list is doughnuts. Similarly to chips, I try to avoid doughnuts when I read mostly because it’s so difficult to keep the sticky mess off your read. Even those honey glazed ones with nothing on them still have that sugary stuff all over it.

Sometimes I like to cut up my doughnut into bite size pieces and just use a fork to pop the pieces into my mouth. It’s a cleaner way of eating donuts, but not as fun as shoving that circular sugar tire into your mouth.

That’s my list! It may make it sound like I’m a super fatty, but the truth is that I only eat one or two pieces of any given snack. I’m not one to indulge unless it’s a certain time in the month. Did you see your favorite snack here? What are some of your favorite snacks while you read?

Love and Other Carnivorous Plants by Florence Gonsalves

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When I first started reading this book, I honestly thought this was going to be one of those super YA stories about a young woman who is on the brink of growing up and falls in love. Yes, it is all those things, but there is so much more to this than just vapid annoyance.

Trigger warning. Please note that this book has themes of:

  • Grief/loss
  • Mental health issues
  • Eating disorders
  • Suicide
  • Drug abuse

Here’s more about the book

31681354Freshman year at Harvard was the most anticlimactic year of Danny’s life. She’s failing pre-med and drifting apart from her best friend. One by one, Danny is losing all the underpinnings of her identity. When she finds herself attracted to an older, edgy girl who she met in rehab for an eating disorder, she finally feels like she might be finding a new sense of self. But when tragedy strikes, her self-destructive tendencies come back to haunt her as she struggles to discover who that self really is.

If you’re looking for a sophisticated “adult” read, be prepared. This isn’t for adults. The writing and the voice is way more amateur, but as a young adult novel this voice isn’t meant for adults. This book in general isn’t made for adults because while hitting on some serious adult themes, it’s still made for teenagers.

The only thing that really irked me about the book was the writing and the voice. However, I also took it with a grain of sand because Florence Gonsalves had a point in writing this book with that particular voice.

Aside from that, this was one randomly deep book. I picked this up because I wanted to read something light and simple. With the word “love” and a cute picture of a Venus Fly Trap, I thought that this would be one of those books. However, what I got was quite the opposite.

The main character, Danny (short for Dandelion, which is kind of cringe-y for a name), is a young driven woman who during her first year at Harvard suffered from so much stress and disorder in her life that she was placed in a special hospital for her eating disorder. The story begins with her release from the hospital and trying to reconnect with her friends during summer break. She has until the end of the summer to decide if she wants to go back to Harvard after she’s feeling better.

During that time, she’s faced with her best friend, Sarah, who has changed drastically within the ten months they were separated for school. She also meets a friend she met at the hospital, Bugg, who later becomes her love interest.

I think that if you’re a person who has ever had a best friend throughout your childhood and suddenly feel the strain of leaving each other for school, then this book will resonate with you. You may not be suffering from an eating disorder or even questioning your sexuality, but if you thought your friends would be friends forever and now it’s not then this will ring in your ears like the bells of Notre Dame.

I really liked this book because I resonated with that. Also, I resonated with some of the mental health issues Florence Gonsalves brings up. While I don’t have an eating disorder, it’s been considered that Bulimia and Anorexia both have underlying symptoms of OCD. The inability to control everything around them materializes in control over your own body and your food intake. It becomes an obsession with obsessive thoughts. For example, being able to look at a piece of food and not spiral out of control on what would happen if you ate that food.

It was really difficult to read Danny’s relationship with food. She’s always wearing mu-mus because she’s ashamed of the way her body looks. You find her vegan-ness to be more of a way to control her calorie intake than really anything to do with the harm of innocent creatures. You can see the symptoms in everything she says (lots of denial), her binge eating habits, her inability to tell the truth, etc.

I think the only thing I felt was a little unbelievable was the levels of Hell she found herself in. Most people don’t experience as much pain and loss as Danny does and somehow Danny gets through ALL of it before the end of the book. In the realism of the book, I had to ding it because it just doesn’t seem feasible that she can have that much woe at one time. Perhaps it is and there are some people who experience everything at once. When it rains it pours.

But in the end, I really liked this book and it kept my attention the entire time. Now I really need something a little bit more simple and fun.

  • Type of book: Paperback, 352 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (May 15, 2018)
  • Rating: 3/5 stars

I received a copy of this book from The Novl for free in exchange for an honest review. My opinions have not been influenced by the publisher or the author.