The 2017 Sabbatical Reading List

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Ok, so here’s the deal; I’m taking a six-week paid sabbatical from work and it starts TODAY.

I work for a pretty awesome company that allows their long-standing employees to take a six-week paid vacation after five years of service. Well, I’ve been there for seven years so here’s my reward.

You must be wondering what I’ll be doing during that time. Well, guess what. I’m going to read. I’ve got a TBR the size of Mount Everest and I want to cut it down by half by the end of my sabbatical. It’s really ambitious, for sure, but when you’re adult and all your responsibilities are taken away from you and there’s tons of time to do nothing, then you get ambitious.

I’m super excited to start and I’ve already put together a list of some of the books I’ll be reading. Here’s my official/unofficial list. Please note that these are in no particular order:

Ok, you know that I’m going to try and stick to this list as best as possible, but there may be times I will journey off the list to read, say, the Throne of Glass series? Or finish all of The Raven Boys? There’s a lot of variables.

So, is there some truth in this list? Maybe. But I would still take it with a grain of salt.

The 2016 Bookish End of Year Wrap Up

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Hey folks! I’m sorry I haven’t been around for a while. I’ve been in some terrible reading slump where I wasn’t enjoying what I was reading and boycotting writing blog posts about it. Also, there was that big holiday that happened that kept me away from the computer.

No, honestly I’ve been reading a great book and any time outside of reading that book is wasted time. I’m just a reading machine.

Anyway, it’s been another amazing year of reads. I’m obviously going to list all the books I’ve read this year, but I do want to highlight some of my favorites. I’m not a huge fan of saying a book was good or bad because liking something is entirely subjective. Instead, I’m going to just point them out. Perhaps you’ll like them, but perhaps you won’t. Either way, reading will always get you #woke.

Also because I’m a data nerd, I’ve decided to put down some stats I’ve gathered from my reads:

  • # of books read this year: 37 (not as impressive as last year, but I’m OK with that)
  • # of books about POC: 5/37 or 14% (not bad, but I can do better)
  • # of books written by women: 35/36 or 97% of the books I’ve read this year (holy cow!)
  • Most read author of the year: Leigh Bardugo
  • Favorite books of the year:
    • Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
    • The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
    • A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas
    • It Ends with Us by Colleen Hoover
  • Author I fell in love with: R.S. Grey!

Here’s my book list. For some reason I feel like I haven’t read a lot of books this year, but in hindsight I’ve read a ton of books:

 

 

December 2016 TBR – #readthemargin

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Recently, a fellow book blogger going by the name of @ladybookmad created a new hashtag called #readthemargin for the month of December.

What’s the point of the tag? Well, because there’s a want and need to read more diverse books. As an Asian American woman, I want to educate my fellow readers on the different cultures and backgrounds . Also, it feels good to relate to the people and places I read about.

So, I’ve dedicated my December TBR not only to reading authors on the margins of society, but also to read a little bit of the people that make up a huge part of my being. I hope you’re reading the margin, or at least taking some time to read.

The Wangs vs. The World by Jade Chang

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Charles Wang is mad at America. A brash, lovable immigrant businessman who built a cosmetics empire and made a fortune, he’s just been ruined by the financial crisis. Now all Charles wants is to get his kids safely stowed away so that he can go to China and attempt to reclaim his family’s ancestral lands—and his pride.

Charles pulls Andrew, his aspiring comedian son, and Grace, his style-obsessed daughter, out of schools he can no longer afford. Together with their stepmother, Barbra, they embark on a cross-country road trip from their foreclosed Bel-Air home to the upstate New York hideout of the eldest daughter, disgraced art world it-girl Saina. But with his son waylaid by a temptress in New Orleans, his wife ready to defect for a set of 1,000-thread-count sheets, and an epic smash-up in North Carolina, Charles may have to choose between the old world and the new, between keeping his family intact and finally fulfilling his dream of starting anew in China.

Outrageously funny and full of charm, The Wangs vs. the World is an entirely fresh look at what it means to belong in America—and how going from glorious riches to (still name-brand) rags brings one family together in a way money never could.

 

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

18373213When New Yorker Rachel Chu agrees to spend the summer in Singapore with her boyfriend, Nicholas Young, she envisions a humble family home and quality time with the man she hopes to marry. But Nick has failed to give his girlfriend a few key details. One, that his childhood home looks like a palace; two, that he grew up riding in more private planes than cars; and three, that he just happens to be the country’s most eligible bachelor. 
 
On Nick’s arm, Rachel may as well have a target on her back the second she steps off the plane, and soon, her relaxed vacation turns into an obstacle course of old money, new money, nosy relatives, and scheming social climbers.

 

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

23398763“Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.” So begins this exquisite novel about a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio. Lydia is the favorite child of Marilyn and James Lee, and her parents are determined that she will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue. But when Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together is destroyed, tumbling them into chaos. A profoundly moving story of family, drama, and longing, Everything I Never Told You is both a gripping page-turner and a sensitive family portrait, uncovering the ways in which mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, and husbands and wives struggle, all their lives, to understand one another.

 

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

22822858When four classmates from a small Massachusetts college move to New York to make their way, they’re broke, adrift, and buoyed only by their friendship and ambition. There is kind, handsome Willem, an aspiring actor; JB, a quick-witted, sometimes cruel Brooklyn-born painter seeking entry to the art world; Malcolm, a frustrated architect at a prominent firm; and withdrawn, brilliant, enigmatic Jude, who serves as their center of gravity. Over the decades, their relationships deepen and darken, tinged by addiction, success, and pride. Yet their greatest challenge, each comes to realize, is Jude himself, by midlife a terrifyingly talented litigator yet an increasingly broken man, his mind and body scarred by an unspeakable childhood, and haunted by what he fears is a degree of trauma that he’ll not only be unable to overcome—but that will define his life forever. 

 

November 2016 Book Wrap Up

I knew this month was going to be pretty light on the reads, but I didn’t think it would be this light.

I’ve been blaming the weather for everything lately, so I’m going to call weather for this one too. I read only two books. TWO.

It’s always during this time of year when I get slower and slower to read books. It picks up again when the new year begins, but I’m much more interested in hanging out with friends and family during the holidays than isolating myself with my books.

I remember one time an aunt of mine decided to read at the table during a family meal and my grandma chewed her out for it afterwards. I have two things to say to that:

  1. More power to you. If you can pull off reading and eating at a table filled with your other family members, kudos.
  2. I wish it was me. The thought of my 90-year-old grandma yelling at me for being rude is probably the worst punishment you can receive in life. It’s like being waterboarded, but with guilt and senility.

But I’m not going to be that person. Nope. I guess for me, two books is all I can handle. Anyway, here’s my books:

28686840Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven – Everyone thinks they know Libby Strout, the girl once dubbed “America’s Fattest Teen.” But no one’s taken the time to look past her weight to get to know who she really is. Following her mom’s death, she’s been picking up the pieces in the privacy of her home, dealing with her heartbroken father and her own grief. Now, Libby’s ready: for high school, for new friends, for love, and for every possibility life has to offer. In that moment, I know the part I want to play here at MVB High. I want to be the girl who can do anything. 

Everyone thinks they know Jack Masselin, too. Yes, he’s got swagger, but he’s also mastered the impossible art of giving people what they want, of fitting in. What no one knows is that Jack has a newly acquired secret: he can’t recognize faces. Even his own brothers are strangers to him. He’s the guy who can re-engineer and rebuild anything, but he can’t understand what’s going on with the inner workings of his brain. So he tells himself to play it cool: Be charming. Be hilarious. Don’t get too close to anyone.

Until he meets Libby. When the two get tangled up in a cruel high school game—which lands them in group counseling and community service—Libby and Jack are both pissed, and then surprised. Because the more time they spend together, the less alone they feel. Because sometimes when you meet someone, it changes the world, theirs and yours.

31823218A Place in the Sun by R.S. Grey – When her mother’s incessant matchmaking hits an all-time high, Georgie Archibald does what any sensible woman would do: she flees the country.

Seeking refuge in the picturesque seaside village of Vernazza, Italy, Georgie’s only plan is to lie low, gorge herself on gelato, and let the wine and waves wash her troubles away… that is until she wakes up in a bed that belongs to the most romantic-looking man she’s ever seen.

Gianluca.

After going out of his way to rescue her, the former London financier turned mysterious recluse makes it clear that despite acting as her white knight, he has no plans to co-star in her fairytale.

But Georgie isn’t asking for his heart—she’s merely intrigued.

After all, Gianluca isn’t just gorgeous—tall and tan from days spent in the sun—his touch sets her world on fire. With him, Georgie experiences the most intoxicating passion she’s ever known, and it only takes a few steamy nights for her to realize that sometimes running away from trouble is the best way to find it.

 

2016 Thanksgiving Reads

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I’m super excited about this week because:

  1. I only have to work three days because of the holiday
  2. I love Thanksgiving and all the fruits of that labor
  3. I have time to READ

And with that, I put together some Thanksgiving reads to enjoy while breaking bread with your family and friends. While some of these books you could probably read within the weekend, there are some that might take some time.

103575751Q84 by Haruki Murakami – So you might be thinking that it’s nuts to try and read this three-book series within the weekend. Well, I’ve got a little history with this book and trying to read it through Thanksgiving weekend. I couldn’t do it. In fact, it took me through the middle of January to finish this book because it’s so crazy. However, if you’ve been wanting to start this one and make it your commitment for the rest of the Holiday season, this might be the best one for you.

A love story, a mystery, a fantasy, a novel of self-discovery, a dystopia to rival George Orwell’s — 1Q84 is Haruki Murakami’s most ambitious undertaking yet: an instant best seller in his native Japan, and a tremendous feat of imagination from one of our most revered contemporary writers.

2998The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett – I love this book. I love this movie. And even though it’s not really the best time of season to read it, The Secret Garden will always have a place in my heart during the holidays.

I think it has something to do with taking the dead earth and bringing something of life to it. It really warms the heart and makes me happy to read time and time again.

When orphaned Mary Lennox comes to live at her uncle’s great house on the Yorkshire Moors, she finds it full of secrets. The mansion has nearly one hundred rooms, and her uncle keeps himself locked up. And at night, she hears the sound of crying down one of the long corridors.

The gardens surrounding the large property are Mary’s only escape. Then, Mary discovers a secret garden, surrounded by walls and locked with a missing key. One day, with the help of two unexpected companions, she discovers a way in. Is everything in the garden dead, or can Mary bring it back to life?

10964Outlander by Diana Gabaldon – Yes, another big read but totally worth it. I don’t know why this is a favorite of mine for the Fall, but I think it has something to do with the cold months in Scotland wearing only a kilt and keeping warm by having sex. Or it might be because the first part of the story takes place in 1945 and for some reason I always correlate WWII with the Fall. If you’re interested in historical fiction and a little sexiness, then this will definitely keep you warm at night.

The year is 1945. Claire Randall, a former combat nurse, is just back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon when she walks through a standing stone in one of the ancient circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is a Sassenach—an “outlander”—in a Scotland torn by war and raiding border clans in the year of Our Lord…1743.

Hurled back in time by forces she cannot understand, Claire is catapulted into the intrigues of lairds and spies that may threaten her life, and shatter her heart. For here James Fraser, a gallant young Scots warrior, shows her a love so absolute that Claire becomes a woman torn between fidelity and desire—and between two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives.

3Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone by JK Rowling – Duh, nothing says the Fall and Thanksgiving like Harry Potter. While the books take place all year round, I think it’s because the movies were always released in the Fall and around Thanksgiving that it makes it a Fall read. This goes doubly for The Sorcerer’s Stone since it seems like the least wrought with anguish and pain (and that’s just something I don’t tolerate during the cold months). It’s a great re-read and a great time to also start up the novel if you’ve never read them before. I highly recommend.

Harry Potter’s life is miserable. His parents are dead and he’s stuck with his heartless relatives, who force him to live in a tiny closet under the stairs. But his fortune changes when he receives a letter that tells him the truth about himself: he’s a wizard. A mysterious visitor rescues him from his relatives and takes him to his new home, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

What are you reading this Thanksgiving?

October 2016 Book Wrap Up

 And like that, October is over. I’m going to miss this sweet month of warm/cold weather, good Fall vibes, and even greater reads.

September and October feel like the same months. It’s getting a little bit colder, but not enough to necessitate a heavy coat or many layers. In fact, the weather has been so erratic this month that just yesterday my boyfriend was wearing shorts outside. This morning we woke up to the chill that comes with winter. We’re still a ways away from that and I hope it doesn’t arrive for quite some time.

Anyway, onto the books. I love that I create these TBR lists or book hauls with full intention of reading them all within the month, but the truth and reality of it is that I’m a slow reader with a changing fascinating with genres. I can’t stick to what I set myself out to read!

Here’s my reads from October 2016:

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The Girls by Emma Cline (3.5/5 stars) – Northern California, during the violent end of the 1960s. At the start of summer, a lonely and thoughtful teenager, Evie Boyd, sees a group of girls in the park, and is immediately caught by their freedom, their careless dress, their dangerous aura of abandon. Soon, Evie is in thrall to Suzanne, a mesmerizing older girl, and is drawn into the circle of a soon-to-be infamous cult and the man who is its charismatic leader. Hidden in the hills, their sprawling ranch is eerie and run down, but to Evie, it is exotic, thrilling, charged—a place where she feels desperate to be accepted. As she spends more time away from her mother and the rhythms of her daily life, and as her obsession with Suzanne intensifies, Evie does not realize she is coming closer and closer to unthinkable violence, and to that moment in a girl’s life when everything can go horribly wrong.

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The Lovely Reckless by Kami Garcia (4/5 stars) – Seventeen-year-old Frankie Devereux would do anything to forget the past. Haunted by the memory of her boyfriend’s death, she lives her life by one dangerous rule: Nothing matters. At least, that’s what Frankie tells herself after a reckless mistake forces her to leave her privileged life in the Heights to move in with her dad—an undercover cop. She transfers to a public high school in the Downs, where fistfights don’t faze anyone and illegal street racing is more popular than football.

Marco Leone is the fastest street racer in the Downs. Tough, sexy, and hypnotic, he makes it impossible for Frankie to ignore him—and how he makes her feel. But the risks Marco takes for his family could have devastating consequences for them both. When Frankie discovers his secret, she has to make a choice. Will she let the pain of the past determine her future? Or will she risk what little she has left to follow her heart?

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Commonwealth by Ann Patchett (4/5 stars) – One Sunday afternoon in Southern California, Bert Cousins shows up at Franny Keating’s christening party uninvited. Before evening falls, he has kissed Franny’s mother, Beverly—thus setting in motion the dissolution of their marriages and the joining of two families.

Spanning five decades, Commonwealth explores how this chance encounter reverberates through the lives of the four parents and six children involved. Spending summers together in Virginia, the Keating and Cousins children forge a lasting bond that is based on a shared disillusionment with their parents and the strange and genuine affection that grows up between them.

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Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo (5/5 stars) – Kaz Brekker and his crew have just pulled off a heist so daring even they didn’t think they’d survive. But instead of divvying up a fat reward, they’re right back to fighting for their lives. Double-crossed and left crippled by the kidnapping of a valuable team member, the crew is low on resources, allies, and hope. As powerful forces from around the world descend on Ketterdam to root out the secrets of the dangerous drug known as jurda parem, old rivals and new enemies emerge to challenge Kaz’s cunning and test the team’s fragile loyalties. A war will be waged on the city’s dark and twisting streets―a battle for revenge and redemption that will decide the fate of magic in the Grisha world.

Books for a Spooky Halloween

img_0004Happy Halloween, everyone! I spent my weekend eating Halloween candy and reading romance novels, but I wanted to share some spooky stories to get you in the Halloween mood. I know I’m a little late to the party here, but I figure there are horror fans all year round. Enjoy them any time of the year!

179780The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty – Four decades after it first shook the nation, then the world, William Peter Blatty’s thrilling masterwork of faith and demonic possession returns in an even more powerful form. Raw and profane, shocking and blood-chilling, it remains a modern parable of good and evil and perhaps the most terrifying novel ever written.

The Exorcist was probably the first scary book I’ve read. I knew about the movie, but never had seen it. I actually remember trying to watch it after reading this book and just being scared the entire time. I think my entire body was shaking with nerves. However, I didn’t have that same reaction when I was reading the book. So perhaps if you’re not a big horror movie fan you can read this instead!

1868380Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin Rosemary and Guy Woodhouse, an ordinary young couple, settle into a New York City apartment, unaware that the elderly neighbors and their bizarre group of friends have taken a disturbing interest in them. But by the time Rosemary discovers the horrifying truth, it may be far too late!

I was in high school when I read this book. My copy is bound together with a rubber band and even though I read it once, it still haunts me to this day. If you haven’t read it, I strongly suggest you do. It makes watching the movie a little bit more digestible as well!

 

 

10592Carrie by Stephen King – Carrie knew she should not use the terrifying power she possessed… But one night at her senior prom, Carrie was scorned and humiliated just one time too many, and in a fit of uncontrollable fury she turned her clandestine game into a weapon of horror and destruction…

I’ll admit that I haven’t read this one, but it’s perhaps my favorite Stephen King novel-turned-into-a-movie. I guess you can say it’s some pretty dark YA. However, if you think about it in the light of understanding bullying or other emotional triggers, this book has it all. It might be scary, but sometimes the truth can be scary. All except the telekinetic abilities.

 

9460487Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs – A horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive.

This has been sitting in my TBR for a really long time. The truth of this novel is that it’s not really that scary. I think the scary aspects have to come from the old photos scattered throughout the story. I’m not a fan of old photos because it feels like their spirit is staring into my soul. They’re like clowns to me. I don’t want to be staring at clowns.

22288Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk Haunted is a novel made up of stories: twenty-three of the most horrifying, hilarious, mind-blowing, stomach-churning tales you’ll ever encounter.

They are told by the people who have all answered an ad headlined ‘Artists Retreat: Abandon your life for three months’. They are led to believe that here they will leave behind all the distractions of ‘real life’ that are keeping them from creating the masterpiece that is in them. But ‘here’ turns out to be a cavernous and ornate old theater where they are utterly isolated from the outside world – and where heat and power and, most importantly, food are in increasingly short supply. And the more desperate the circumstances become, the more desperate the stories they tell – and the more devious their machinations to make themselves the hero of the inevitable play/movie/non-fiction blockbuster that will certainly be made from their plight.

I read this back when I was in college (notice a trend on my horror books) and remember the short story about the black box. You can’t see in it and there’s no knowing what’s inside the box without looking into it. That story probably stuck out to me more than any other, but I would suggest if you don’t want a night’s sleep to pick this up and enjoy it.

7728889The Diviners by Libba Bray Evie O’Neill has been exiled from her boring old hometown and shipped off to the bustling streets of New York City—and she is pos-i-tute-ly ecstatic. It’s 1926, and New York is filled with speakeasies, Ziegfeld girls, and rakish pickpockets. The only catch is that she has to live with her uncle Will and his unhealthy obsession with the occult.

Evie worries he’ll discover her darkest secret: a supernatural power that has only brought her trouble so far. But when the police find a murdered girl branded with a cryptic symbol and Will is called to the scene, Evie realizes her gift could help catch a serial killer.

As Evie jumps headlong into a dance with a murderer, other stories unfold in the city that never sleeps. A young man named Memphis is caught between two worlds. A chorus girl named Theta is running from her past. A student named Jericho hides a shocking secret. And unknown to all, something dark and evil has awakened.

Ok, so I didn’t expect this to be scary AT ALL. I thought it was going to be a supernatural story similar to those I’ve read from YA, but I didn’t think there would be demonic moments in the story. Not to spoil the entire story, but the scene of the young girl in Greenpoint, Brooklyn really strung a chord with me especially since I live in Greenpoint, Brooklyn currently. Even though it was scary, I was still intrigued by the story and ended up reading to the end. If you’re a fan of those horror films where there’s a haunted house and demons you have to battle against then you might be interested in this one.

And finally…

52635The Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker – The Hellbound Heart is one of his best, one of the most dead-frightening stories you are likely to ever read, a story of the human heart and all the great terrors and ecstasies within.

At last he had solved the puzzle of Lemarchand’s box. He was standing on the threshold of a world of heightened sensations. In moments the Cenobites – who had dedicated an eternity to the pursuit of sensuality – would be here. They would reveal dark secrets that would transform him forever.

Seriously, Hellraiser and the Hellraiser series was the scariest thing I watched when I was a kid. My sister and I were obsessed with the puzzle box and one year even buying a replica for my cousin. The box is supposed to open the gates to Hell unleashing the cenobites. One of the most famous cenobites is Pinhead, which my family and I would believe to be played by a British theater actor who could only score this Hollywood movie.

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Happy Halloween!!!