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.

Living the High Life at “The Thousandth Floor”

“Up here on the roof, so close to the stars, she felt young and alive and hateful.”

The Thousandth Floor by Katherine McGee is a quick, guilty-pleasure read. It takes place 100 years into the future in Manhattan and it’s is no longer an island, but a lone tower stretching into the sky at a thousand floors.

I wonder, how many meters would 1,000 floors be? The Burj Khalifa in Dubai is at 154 floors at 584.5 m (1,918 ft) and this does not include the tip. For 1,000 floors, you are looking at a little more than 6 Burj Khalifa’s — about 6.5. At 1,000 floors, it’s still within the Earth’s atmosphere.

“Maybe that’s all that praying was, she thought, just wishing good outcomes on other people.”

The floors are separated by class — if you live in the lower floors, you are in the lower, working class supporting the upper-floor residents. The higher you go in the tower, the higher your social economic standing. Then you have the super-elite families in the top floors living the glamorous life where it seems no one worries about money. These people have the latest clothes, technologies, and club memberships.

Five characters across different social classes tell their story in the book. Avery is the richest girl who lives in the penthouse and you have her rich friends, Leda and Eris. Then you have Watt who lives the middle class life and Rylin who lives in the lower floors of the tower working low-wage jobs to support her family. Out of all these characters, I was rooting for Eris and Rylin. Rylin got a chance for a better life and Eris was turning herself around. I’ll just leave it at that.

The Thousandth Floor by Katherine McGee

I was intrigued with the idea of a whole city living in a tower — and we might well be on our way — which is why I wanted to read the book. The technologies featured in the book were pretty cool. In the year 2118, you can send text messages via your eyes (instead of smartphones), you take a train from Manhattan to Paris in minutes, instead of laser tag there’s AR tag.

This book is part of the Thousandth Floor trilogy and I look forward to reading the next book, Dazzling Heights.

Recommendation: Gossip Girl meets the “Jetson’s”. If you don’t like hearing about rich people’s problems, then this book is not for you.

Have you read The Thousandth Floor?

Wild Eclectic Book Club (Name in Progress): I am trying a blog series where every other Wednesday I review a book from my ever-changing Current Reads page. My goal is I write a review without giving too much away!

A study in relationships with “Gone Girl”

“There’s a difference between really loving someone and loving the idea of her.”

gone-girl-book-cover

I finally got around to reading Gone Girl this year. I know…if you’ve seen the movie, I am 3 years too late and if you read the book, I am five years too late. Most of the time, I don’t read the latest book because I already have a high to-read stack as well as a high current reads stack. Yes, I do read multiple books. There’s always a book in my bag. I have a kindle in my purse which handy in bus commutes, a book in my backpack which is handy in train rides and business flights, an audiobook on my phone which keeps me entertained when doing chores, and 2 books on my night stand to read a few pages before bed.

Also, I am glad I took my time to wait for Gone Girl — both the movie and book hype to die down. I wanted to rid the opinions my friends planted me whether it was the book or movie. It was long enough for me to have my own thoughts and no confirmation bias.

“We weren’t ourselves when we fell in love, and when we became ourselves – surprise! – we were poison. We complete each other in the nastiest, ugliest possible way.”

As always, I want to share my thoughts without giving too much away. To me, it is more than two stories shared by two perspectives: one is unreliable and unlikeable, the other is intelligent…and unhinged and drags us for the ride. I felt this was a wild study (I mean it in the most extreme cases) of marriage. A book about he said, she said. A book about knowing the real person you’re marrying. It reminded me of the many situations where long-time couples finally moved in together to then break up a few months after. I don’t think the act of moving in changed the person, I think you saw the person you did not see all this time.

“Friends see most of each other’s flaws. Spouses see every awful last bit.”

I listened to the audiobook version and it kept me entertained when I was cleaning up our yard on the weekends. You may not get Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike to voice Nick and Amy but that is fine. I thought the person who narrated Amy sounded like one would imagine a spoiled, sheltered rich girl.

Also, the Overdrive application on my phone has been fantastic! I get access to loads and loads of audiobooks for free. It has certainly made my chores more enjoyable.

Recommendation: I recommend this book to the people who like to read what everyone is reading. Also if you are interested in the unconventional female tropes. There is certainly no pixie manic quirky dream girl here.

Have you read Gone Girl? What are your thoughts?

Wild Eclectic Book Club (Name in Progress): I am trying a blog series where every other Wednesday I review a book from my ever-changing Current Reads page. The hard part about writing these reviews is as much as I want to share what’s in the book, I don’t want to give anything away.

“Modern Romance” – How Technology has Changed Courtship and Overall, Adulthood

Modern Romance Aziz Ansari

I was not sure what to expect out of comedian Aziz Ansari and sociologist Eric Klinenberg’s Modern Romance. Last year, I read a book called Dataclysm by Christian Rudder (founder of OkCupid) and I mistaken Modern Romance would be the same thing. I was burnt out on reading books revolving around themes of dating, networking, technology, and the modern world.

“We live in a culture that tells us we want and deserve the best, and now we have the technology to get.”

Modern Romance does run through a similar vein of Dataclysm as far the said topics go. I felt Dataclysm was heavy on the data science; after all, OkCupid treated their site like a large, controlled social lab. They did user experiments to test their users such as intentionally pair users with incompatible matches or pixelating profile pictures. I am a data science enthusiast and it was a great read. Modern Romance was heavy on the social science and analyzing dating scenes across different generations and cities around the world.

“That said, can you imagine how insane that must have been—to get the first text of all time? When no one knew what a text was? It would have been like “WHY ARE THERE WORDS ON MY PHONE??? PHONES ARE FOR NUMBERS!!”

Modern Romance is hilarious — there were moments I laughed out loud alone. Books like these show you can be smart and funny.  In this book, Aziz and Eric conducted focus groups through interviews and this subreddit to learn how people across the world deal with courtships and relationships, views on open relationships, playing games, and making decisions from potential picks to potentials places to have dinner. They way people interact with technology plays a big part in the book because it makes one’s world far bigger and it should be easier — right?

“No matter how many options we seem to have on our screens, we should be careful not to lose track of the human beings behind them.”

I met my husband through online dating (before the industry blew up), but the funny thing was we’ve seen each other in passing but we never talked. The first message he wrote to me was “You look familiar, I feel I’ve seen you before.” I’ve received this line from other guys before, but I knew I’ve seen him around. My heart sank because I was new to online dating and there was still that stigma of meeting people online. I felt I was caught red-handed so I finally responded, “Yes, we’ve seen other before. You work with so-and-so.” And the rest is history. Maybe I shouldn’t call it “online dating website”, but rather an  “online introduction website.” I believe without online dating (errm…introducing), we most likely wouldn’t talk to each other at all or it would have taken a lot longer to get around talking to each other.

“Oh, I’m sure he’s much more intelligent and thoughtful in person. This is just his “lazy phone persona.” 

Recommendation: I am married and overall I enjoyed the book. I think other married or committed couples will enjoy it too. Would I recommend it for single people? Sure, but please read it with an open mind rather than deflect on how certain topics do not apply to you. Through this book, I found parts of myself I could relate.

Wild Eclectic Book Club (Name in Progress): I am trying a blog series where every other Wednesday I review a book from my ever-changing Current Reads page. The hard part about writing these reviews is as much as I want to share what’s in the book, I don’t want to give anything away.