October and November #whatsonyourbookshelfchallenge

Here are some books I’ve read in October and November. I’ve been meaning to share my October reads last month, but at that time I was prepping for Lana’s first birthday party and that same week I had a terrible stomachache. It was best to take it easy that week. Funny thing was that this week I was sick again, but I managed to complete my #whatsonyourbookshelfchallenge post for October and November.

Continue reading October and November #whatsonyourbookshelfchallenge

September #whatsonyourbookshelfchallenge

I can’t believe it’s already the middle of September! Here is a recap of the books I’ve read over the past month!

Books finished

A Promised Land  by Barack Obama (in audiobook, from the library) – This book covered his early life into the end of his first term in office. It’s probably the longest audiobook I’ve ever listened to. I found his trajectory into becoming the President very interesting. He did not come from a political dynasty that groomed him for higher office. Just a man with a very optimistic and idealistic vision and it got him very far. Each time I listened to his audiobook, I felt hopeful after each session.

Continue reading September #whatsonyourbookshelfchallenge

July and August 2021 #whatsonyourbookshelfchallenge (plus why I read for fun)

I’m participating in the #whatsonyourbookshelfchallenge, hosted by SueDonnaJo and Debbie.

Up until this year I have not read much but I think that’s because I tried to treat it like the way I would watch Netflix — binging it. As of this year, I started doing Gretchen Rubin’s read 21 minute in 2021 to help me read more. I found doing this practice manageable and sustainable because reading 21 minutes a day is achievable. Now I can’t imagine a day where I am not reading 21 minutes.

I’ve been reading more for the mental health benefits and how to process difficult emotions especially as I go through life as being a new mom. Also because of the pandemic as there are significantly fewer events and people are less inclined to go anywhere, reading has provided an escape where I can still have this sense of human connection and empathy. Reading is one of the simple pleasures that has centered me because there have been many moments when I have felt overwhelmed especially on some weeks when my husband is out doing army training.

Continue reading July and August 2021 #whatsonyourbookshelfchallenge (plus why I read for fun)

Covered in paint from head to toe

If you come to my house for coffee, you’ll probably find me all covered in paint from head to toe but that’s because I’ve been painting my kid’s room. I know I paid someone to paint Lana’s room a couple of weeks ago, but there’s this one wall in Lana’s room that was not painted and it’s a plywood wall that scream the 1950s. This house was all built in 1953 after all. I was not sure if I wanted to keep the plywood wall or replace it with drywall. The painter said if I were to put drywall, he can come back another time to paint that wall for free. But after much thought, I decided to keep it but I’m going to paint it myself. Over the past week, I’ve cleaned, repaired some of the panels, spackled, filled gaps, and sanded. Today is the day for priming and painting. Working on the plywood wall is more work than painting the drywall. I can’t imagine how much more the painter would have charged me.

Continue reading Covered in paint from head to toe

Let’s have vaccine clinics in the lobby!

Happy Friday everyone! This week flew by — thank goodness! A lot has developed over the past week especially at work. Visitors seeing patients staying at the in-patient floors must have COVID vaccine or COVID negative test in the last 72 hours. The lines to the information desk are getting long. I think maybe while we are at it, we should have a vaccine clinic at all our lobby areas so if they get turned away, they can get vaccinated and not leave feeling empty-handed.

Also at work, all employees (including volunteers and contractors) at my work must have the COVID vaccine by September 30th. If they don’t get vaccinated, they can’t go to work. I’m not sure what the ultimate decision will be for those who won’t vaccinate. Is this an experiment to get more employees vaccinated? In the meantime, unions are negotiating for those who continue to not vaccinate to do weekly COVID tests in order for them to continue working but my employer will remain rigid with their decision. There is an exemption but that applies if the person is reported to get an anaphylactic shock from the vaccine. Honestly I don’t mind that my work won’t budge. As someone working for a public employer, is it financially responsible for tax payer dollars to continue to pay for employee COVID tests? Have my coworkers seen how much COVID tests cost? Also, I’m tired of holding the secondary title of contact tracer at work — it eats up a lot of time from my regular duties.

Continue reading Let’s have vaccine clinics in the lobby!

#Read21in21 January Overview

I decided to participate in the #Read21in21 challenge for this year to help me build a daily habit of reading. Surprisingly, I have yet missed a day of reading. I squeeze time for reading by listening to audiobooks on the way home from work or read for 21 minutes before going to sleep. Here is what I read for January:

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life — until the unthinkable happens.

My take: I enjoyed listening to this audiobook during my drives home. I could definitely get lost in her words.

The Overdue Life of Amy Byler by Kelly Harms

Overworked and underappreciated, single mom Amy Byler needs a break. So when the guilt-ridden husband who abandoned her shows up and offers to take care of their kids for the summer, she accepts his offer and escapes rural Pennsylvania for New York City. Usually grounded and mild mannered, Amy finally lets her hair down in the city that never sleeps. She discovers a life filled with culture, sophistication, and – with a little encouragement from her friends – a few blind dates. When one man in particular makes quick work of Amy’s heart, she risks losing herself completely in the unexpected escape, and as the summer comes to an end, Amy realizes too late that she must make an impossible decision: stay in this exciting new chapter of her life, or return to the life she left behind. But before she can choose, a crisis forces the two worlds together, and Amy must stare down a future where she could lose both sides of herself, and every dream she’s ever nurtured, in the beat of a heart.”

My take: I’ve had this book in my Kindle for a while. I do need a few guilty pleasures in my rotation because somedays work can be brutal. I truly did enjoy this book, especially as a new mom of three months. There are times where I do feel I almost lose myself in caring for her, the books reminds me that I should care for myself too.

Books I read to Lana

In the beginning of the reading challenge, I use to count reading books to my daughter as part of the 21 minutes. I still read to her daily but it is extra reading on top of my daily 21 minutes.

Rejected Princesses by Jason Porath

Well-behaved women seldom make history. Good thing these women are far from well behaved…

My take: I’ve had this coffee book table in my living room for years. I enjoy reading it. Occasionally I read passages to her. There are some stories that are not kid friendly, but she does not know that yet.

Bringing the Outside In by Mary Siddals

A rollicking book that reminds young readers to go outside and play!

My take: A fun book on enjoying the seasons.

I Talk Like a River by Jordan Scott and Sydney Smith

What if words got stuck in the back of your mouth whenever you tried to speak? What if they never came out the way you wanted them to? Sometimes it takes a change of perspective to get the words flowing. 

My take: I loved the artwork and metaphor. I would borrow this book from the library again when Lana starts to learn how to pick up a book and read.

Astrid the Unstoppable by Maria Parr

Speed and self-confidence, that’s Astrid’s motto. Nicknamed “the little thunderbolt,” she loves to spend her days racing down the hillside on her sled, singing loudly as she goes, and visiting Gunnvald, her grumpy, septuagenarian best friend and godfather, who makes hot chocolate from real chocolate bars. She just wishes there were other children to share her hair-raising adventures with. But Astrid’s world is about to be turned upside down by two startling arrivals to the village of Glimmerdal: first a new family, then a mysterious, towering woman who everyone seems to know but Astrid. It turns out that Gunnvald has been keeping a big secret from his goddaughter, one that will test their friendship to its limits. Astrid is not too happy about some of these upheavals in Glimmerdal — but, luckily, she has a plan to set things right.

A chapter book I read to Lana. Personally, I enjoy it, it’s a fun book where she skis, sleds, and sings out loud even if it annoys a certain someone. I enjoy acting out the characters for her even though she may not understand what is going on yet.

Fairytales of Charles Perrault (Little Red Riding Hood, Sleeping Beauty, Puss in Boots, Bluebeard, Cinderella)

My take: I am trying to avoid introducing Lana Disney versions of fairytales for as long as I can, so I am looking into other versions of fairytales like Perrault’s version of Little Red Riding Hood and Puss in Boots. They’re messy, wild, and teach actual lessons.

WOKE: A Young Poet’s Call to Justice by Mahogany L. Browne with Elizabeth Acevedo and Olivia Gatwood

Historically poets have been on the forefront of social movements. Woke is a collection of poems by women that reflects the joy and passion in the fight for social justice, tackling topics from discrimination to empathy, and acceptance to speaking out.

My take: I would buy this poetry book to have as part of our bookshelf.

My First Chinese New Year by Karen Katz

Chinese New Year is a time of new beginnings. Follow one little girl as she learns how to welcome the coming year and experience all the festivities surrounding it. Karen Katz’s warm and lively introduction to a special holiday will make even the youngest child want to start a Chinese New Year tradition!

My take: I don’t celebrate Chinese New Year, but my husband does. I thought this was a good first book to learn about CNY for Lana and me. I would borrow this book again when she starts to learn how to pick up a book and read.

What’s next?

I thought it would be fun to plan out what my next reads would be. Maybe I could explore a different theme each month? Here are the themes I came up with for the following months.

January: it was about getting my feet wet. So no theme here.

February: Books by Black authors

March: Books written by women

April: Books turned into films and TV series (Not that I’ve seen the films either)

May: Books by Asian authors

June: Social justice/America

July: Summer vacations

August: Books translated from a foreign language

September: Banned Books

October: Books written by Hispanic authors

November: Books written by Indigeneous people/Native tribes

December: Magic

What did you read in January? How do you decide what to read next? Comment below!

February (and January) reads (spoiler free)

January

There was no particular theme. I needed to read something to get my 20 books in 2020 kicked off.

A Simple Favor

A Simple Favor by Darcey Bell

Is it strange that the whole time I was reading this book, it was constantly giving a sarcastic tone? It was almost slapstick funny. I found it refreshingly buoyant compared to say, Gone Girl or Girl on the Train.

February

February is Black History Month so I decided to read books written by African or African-American authors.

The Color Purple by Alice Walker

This book has been on my “to-read” list for a long time and I finally got a chance to read it. The main character, Celie, has gone through a lot. You follow her for decades and you wonder if things ever turn around for her. Spoiler alert: they do but it was a long, slow burn.

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

This book was a very difficult read. It was not until the end I realized this was not a historical fiction book, but rather magical realism. There was a lot of anachronism. If you kept thinking, “wait a minute…” stop it. It is not meant to be historical fiction. The time the book takes place is fairly ambiguous and it kept me questioning until the very end.

Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue

I enjoy this book a lot. I only read a few chapters a night because I do not want it to end. I also found it relatable since it took place during a very familiar time in my life, the 2008 recession.

The theme for my next reads in March is Women’s History month. Stay tuned for my spoiler-free reviews.

Any books you recommend? What are you currently reading? Comment below!

2018 Reading Wish List

In 2018, I will probably read less books because I will not have a lot of recreational reading time due to graduate school. But that does not mean I won’t be able to carve out time. I usually like to read a paper book before going to bed to relax my eyes after interacting with my phone, a computer screen — heck any screen — all day. Here are a few bits of my reading wish list:

Exit West

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

When Nadia and Saeed fall in love in a distant unnamed city, they are just like any other young couple. But soon bullets begin to fly, fighter jets streak the sky, and curfews fall. As the spell of violence spreads, they flee their country, leaving behind their loved ones. Early in Exit West, the author Mohsin Hamid explains that geography is destiny, and in the case of his two young lovers, geography dictates that they must leave. Hamid offers up a fantastical device to deliver his refugees to places: they pass through magic doors. Rather than unmooring the story from reality, this device, as well as a few other fantastical touches, makes the book more poignant and focused, pointing our attention to the emotions of exile rather than the mechanics. Surrounded by other refugees, Nadia and Saeed try to establish their places in the world, putting up different responses to their circumstances. The result is a novel that is personal, not pedantic, an intimate human story about an experience shared by countless people of the world, one that most Americans just witness on television. 

Why is this in my wish list? I guess from the sypnosis, it gives this air of magic elements in a story we see in the news everyday. I’ve heard great things about Exit West in other reading circles, and it’s been in my read list for quite some time.

I see you claire mackintosh

I See You by Claire Mackintosh

It all starts during her commute home one night. Zoe Walker glances through her local paper and sees her own face staring back at her in a classified ad. With the grainy photo is a phone number and a listing for a website called FindTheOne.com.
 
In the following days, she sees other women in the same ad, a different one every day, and nearly all of them show up in the newspapers as victims of increasingly violent crimes—including murder.
 
With the help of a determined cop, Zoe uncovers the ad’s twisted purpose…And suddenly, the man on the train sitting across the car—the one smiling at Zoe—could be more than just a friendly stranger. He could be someone who has deliberately chosen her and is ready to make his next move.

Why is it in my wish list? Ms. Mackintosh, you have a repeat reader! I loved her first book, I Let You Go. The story was twist and turns to the very end and it stayed with me.

Fire and Fury

Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff

The first nine months of Donald Trump’s term were stormy, outrageous—and absolutely mesmerizing. Now, thanks to his deep access to the West Wing, bestselling author Michael Wolff tells the riveting story of how Trump launched a tenure as volatile and fiery as the man himself.

In this explosive book, Wolff provides a wealth of new details about the chaos in the Oval Office. Among the revelations:
— What President Trump’s staff really thinks of him
— What inspired Trump to claim he was wire-tapped by President Obama
— Why FBI director James Comey was really fired
— Why chief strategist Steve Bannon and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner couldn’t be in the same room
— Who is really directing the Trump administration’s strategy in the wake of Bannon’s firing
— What the secret to communicating with Trump is
— What the Trump administration has in common with the movie, “The Producers”

Why is this on my wish list? The excerpts I hear from the news all week are so outrageous, who could make this stuff up? Nobody, that’s who! — Unless it is all done before your very eyes. This book affirms what I’ve been hearing on the news and it makes fictional comedy shows come off as period pieces. I purchased this book on Friday — it may take 2 to 4 weeks before it arrives to my house. I can’t wait to read it!

 

Check out my Current Reads page!

Any books you plan to read in 2018?

“Marlena” by Julie Buntin

Female friendships…namely, teenage female friendships are interesting. They’re complicated.

Marlena by Julie Buntin follows the story of a 15-year old girl, Cat, who moves to a new, rural town in Northern Michigan with her brother and her newly divorced mom. Cat befriends a girl next door named Marlena — she’s older and cooler — and life for Cat is pretty much never the same. Cat went from the snobby private school good girl to the girl who pretty much drank and did drugs daily because there’s nothing to do in rural Michigan. Man talk about a downward spiral.

The book opens up with Cat talking about her friend Marlena who died. I thought this book was about friendship and it would unravel the mystery in the end how Marlena died. Nope. It did not go over that. But looking back the story was all along about Cat on how that first year living in the new town defined to who she becomes well into her mid-thirties. This was not a story about Marlena and how she died. We all have those defining moments — no matter how big or small — it’s meaningful because it makes us the person we are today, for better or for worse.

“When you grow up, who you were as a teenage either takes on a mythical importance or it’s completely laughable. I wanted to be the kind of person who wiped those years away; instead, I feared, they defined me.” 

Sometimes I am annoyed with the unreliable narrators who carry the story. This book is through the eyes of a 15-year old girl who pretty much thinks her new best friend is perfect and became pretty needy as the story progresses. For me, I tolerated the narrator. But what I did not like was that Cat in reality is not a great friend. Because she saw no wrong in what Marlena did from the drugs to cutting class, I would think a more “level-headed” Cat would have stopped Marlena. I felt if Cat intervened, Marlena may have turned her life around. However just like any other teenager who desire to fit in, Cat may have thought it was the “cool” thing to do. In her old life in private school, she was nerdy and I would assume never popular. Maybe for Cat, fitting in with the cool crowd was an upgrade. Again, female friendships are…complicated. Cat was never really a true friend.

Marlena by Julie Buntin

Have you read Marlena? Any coming-of-age books you recommend? Comment below!

“Never Let Me Go” by Kashuo Ishiguro

*Deep breath* I’m going to try to make this review as spoiler free as possible.

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At first glance a book titled Never Let Me Go by Kashuo Ishiguro sounds like a typical romance novel about lost love but I certainly did not expect high school romance meets coming-of-age meets quasi-science fiction meets quasi-dystopia. You know something is off the moment you read the first few pages because the main character, Kathy, talks about carers, donors, guardians. I immediately thought she was working in at a nursing home or a hospital. It took me a several pages in that she and her classmates are not in any normal school and probably do not live in the same world as we do. I also found it odd that in their world, they were obsessed with art and not sports.

Their school appeared to be isolated from the main cities. I found it strange the students did not feel restless. Living Los Angeles, I’ve met a lot of transplants from all over who tell me they grew up in rural you-name-it and could not wait to get out. I would expect the students in Ishiguro’s world to feel that way.

What I found interesting was that I did not feel a pull of resistance about their fates throughout the book. I feel it’s due to the main character. If we followed another character’s point of view I’m sure we’d find at least a tinge of resistance early in the novel.

Like I said, I don’t want to give too much away. I was full of questions and I imagined every implication of what happened. I feel the story was about the power and dominance of culture which was why never there was no resistance nor a desire to break away from their fates.

Verdict: I thought this was one of the most unique books I’ve read. I’m not sure what it was that drew me page-after-page well after my bedtime. Maybe I kept playing with my imagination, kept asking questions at every scene figuring out what the heck was going on.

I said the magic word “dystopia”. Don’t expect it to be like the The Hunger Games, you’ll be sorely disappointed.

The Wangs vs. The World

…Or is it the Wangs versus the common perceptions of Asians in popular media?

“The people of the world could be divided into two groups: those who used all of their chances, and those who stood still through opportunity after opportunity, waiting for a moment that would never be perfect”

The Wangs vs. The World by Jade Chang follows the story of formerly wealthy businessman, Charles Wang, who went from ridiculous, obnoxious riches to absolutely nothing. Charles Wang drags his second wife, Barbra, and his two children, Andrew and Grace, in an Oldmobile on a road trip across America to meet with Saina, the eldest child, because she owns a house…in the middle-of-nowhere in upstate New York.

The Wangs were picking up their life to settle in the middle of nowhere, while CharlesWang had plans to return to China to seek his family land taken by the Communists. It’s his last shot in getting rich quick.

The Wangs Vs. The World by Jade Chang

The backdrop of the story is during the 2008-2009 Great American Recession. People were out of jobs, and businesses were on the way out. I remembered that time, people were credit happy until they weren’t credit happy anymore; they could not keep up with payments and it all spirals out from there.

“Communists had it all wrong. It wasn’t the rich who were imprisoned by their possessions, it was the poor.”

There were funny moments where I laughed out loud. Then there were moments I was perplexed because I don’t speak any Chinese and I had to decipher what they were talking about. There were many moments when I thought everyone in this family was absolutely awful, shallow, unlikable, incapable of doing everyday things non-rich people do like work hard. They pretty cheated their way to faux success and I hoped this disaster could help redeem themselves, which did happen.

“Love saves you, as long as there’s a you to be saved.”

Then I felt the last 30 percent of the book felt rush and the last chapter was a crash. I really wanted closure for Andrew’s story especially with what he went through. Maybe an epilogue 5 year or 10 years later would have been good.

Verdict:  My feelings for this book is mixed. It started great in the beginning despite me hating a lot of the characters — I guess I enjoy hate-reading. But then when the characters started turning around, it moved too fast, then it ends. Crash. I wanted to know what happened to everyone. How did everyone adjust their new life once they settled? Did they somehow lead humbling lives after everything they lost?

I thought it was refreshing to see a different book centering on Asian families. This was certainly not the Asian family that cared if their kids get good grades. I mean the father cared more if his son gets laid in college rather than passing college — the absolute opposite of the Tiger Mom.

Hamilton: The Revolution

This Saturday, we’re going to see “Hamilton”. In honor of that, I’m going share my thoughts on Hamilton: The Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter. It’s part text version of the musical, part behind-the-scenes. Whether you’ve seen the show, listened to the soundtrack on repeat, or you did neither of the two — you are in for a real treat!

original

For me, I fit in the third category. I have not seen the show nor have I heard a single track from the musical, but I am aware of its ubiquity. I’ve been seeing headlines of “Hamilton” in the news. At the time since it was only playing in New York City, I never considered seeing the show because when will I make my way to the other side of the country? Also really, a rap-style musical about Alexander Hamilton — of all historical figures?

I can be a history nerd too. I was curious why people were obsessing over America’s first treasurer. After this book, “Wow.” Alexander Hamilton had an incredible life from an orphan boy living in the Caribbean to being the Founding Fathers who influenced and promoted the Constitution, the U.S. Treasury, the Coast Guard, the New York Post, and the Federalist Party. He is underrated because simplistically he was never President and he died fairly young. Next on my book list is Alexander Hamilton by Rob Chernow.

History is entirely created by the person who tells the story.

Hamilton: The Musical is a passion project for Lin-Manuel Miranda, who produced and starred in the original play. I certainly felt his passion through the book. The musical took him years of research, writing,  rewriting, composing songs, casting, pitching — he did it all. To support his efforts, the contribution of immigrants who make America great, and of course, Alexander Hamilton, I wanted to watch Hamilton: The MusicalI searched for Hamilton showings somewhere close by and just my luck, they’re currently showing at the Pantages. I purchased the tickets last month and I’ve been anxiously waiting to see the show since then. Can’t wait!

Recommendation: For anybody who likes musicals and enjoys reading behind-the-scenes.