Review: Beyond the Point

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Rating: ★★★★★

I received copy of this book for free from the publisher as part of an Instagram book tour I did to promote the book. 

Omg what a beautiful book! It definitely lives up to all the hype. 

The story was mesmerizing. I became so invested in the lives of the three women. I felt like I personally knew them and that I was right there with them through their ups and downs. All three of them felt so realistic.

The author’s writing style is phenomenal. There’s something utterly captivating about it. 

Some people mention that this book should be classified as Christian fiction because of the talk of God and religion. I have read my fair share of Christian fiction and I don’t think this book quite fits that. There are mentions of God, but that’s mainly due to one character being religious. Just because the Christian religion is discussed in a book does not mean it is Christian fiction. There is so much more to this book than that (friendship, love, grief, etc.). 

My edition had a little bonus section at the end with filled background behind the novel, including interviews with real life West Point women. I enjoyed hearing their experiences. 

Lastly, I wanted to share a quote from the book about love that really struck me. The author writes,

“Love starts in the body. It starts with the tingling of toes and the rushing of blood and the lightness in the head. It feels a lot like pain…There are convulsions, nausea, heartburn, and breathlessness. There is a physical ache you feel when falling in love. It’s your heart making room for someone else, like a gardener is there, digging out a hole for a new plant. There is pain, and there is fear. The fear that the hole might stay forever”

pg. 151-152

Overall, I LOVED this book and consider it a new favorite of mine. If you’ve been putting off reading this book like I did (it had been sitting on my shelf since 2019), just pick it up already and read it! 


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Review: Bad Lawyer

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Rating: ★★★★

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher (Hachette Books) in exchange for an honest review. 

What a wild ride!

I’m just about to graduate law school so I thought it was the perfect time to read this book. 

Even though the author is a white woman from a privileged background and I am an Asian American woman, I still related to her and her experiences becoming disenchanted by the law. I agree with a lot of her issues with the legal profession and system. She went into criminal law, a field I have no interest in, but I am not surprised by her experiences or her realizations. The legal system is incredibly archaic and it can be frustrating because of that. 

Even law school itself makes no sense sometimes. She writes in relation to summer jobs,

“representatives from all the top law firms in the country came…and interviewed students for their 2Ls summer jobs, which are said to determine the rest of our legal careers. Why? I have no idea. It was just something we all knew and all accepted.”

pg. 83

That is a true statement and just highlights how cookie cutter becoming a lawyer can be.

I loved how the author explained everything so simply. For example, she explains all the basics of law school in such uncomplicated language. She really provided an in-depth overview of all things law school. She even mentions bar review which was something I was super confused about when I first started law school (I naively thought it was when 3Ls studied for the bar exam, but it’s actually when law students go out to a bar for drinks). 

If the author needs an idea for another book, she should totally do a “Law School For Dummies” type of book. Her writing style is so accessible (unlike most law books) so even the lay person can understand what she’s saying. This probably stems from her inability to master the Bluebook (another archaic legal gatekeeping tool or as she puts it, “The cursed Bluebook is filled with ways to make the law inaccessible to non lawyers. That’s what the law is all about— making what should be accessible esoteric to keep lawyer salaries high” (pg. 66)). 

I did feel that the book lost a bit of its steam towards the end. It felt a little lost, like the author didn’t quite know how to end the book. Because of that, the last few chapters were disjointed from the first half of the book. The last chapters dealt with how messed up the criminal justice system is and I felt that those chapters could have been a jumping off point for a whole other book. 

Overall, I really enjoyed this memoir on the realities of being lawyer. I really recommend this if you are interested in becoming a lawyer. Not everything she says may apply to you, but it does give honest insight into the profession. 


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Review: Loveboat, Taipei (Loveboat, Taipei #1)

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Rating: ★★★

I received an ARC of this book for free from the publisher (Harper Teen) for promotional purposes. 

I was really looking forward to reading this one since it is an Asian American Own Voices novel, but unfortunately, it did not live up to my expectations. 

The whole beginning and middle section felt like an early 2000’s teen book. There was a lot of unnecessary drama and it felt so unrealistic. The main character, Ever, went from total good girl to rebellious teenager so quickly. Also, the students in the program would often get in trouble for some things, but for other things, the faculty had no clue what was going on. (Sorry if that sounds super vague, I’m trying to remain spoiler free). 

Additionally, I didn’t love either of the two potential love interests for Ever. I just didn’t see any chemistry between Ever and either one of them. 

The book did get better towards the end (around the last quarter). Once a lot of the initial drama was resolved, the book became more enjoyable. There was actually time spent on character development, which was sorely missing for a large part of the book. Also at the end, the message and lessons really shined through. 

Overall, parts of this book were lacking, while other parts were satisfying. 


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Review: All Our Hidden Gifts (All Our Hidden Gifts #1)

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Rating: ★★★★

I received this book for free from the publisher (Walker Books US) in exchange for an honest review. 

I was very excited to read this book because it focuses on tarot and I recently just learned how to read tarot. 

Speaking of tarot, I liked how there were pictures of the tarot cards scattered throughout the book. I think that is so helpful for readers who may not be familiar with tarot cards and what each card looks like. 

When it comes to the characters, there is so much representation. Roe is non-binary. Maeve has a lesbian sister. But my favorite character was Fiona, Maeve’s Filipino friend. As a Filipino myself, I love seeing Filipino representation so when Fiona was first introduced, I was ecstatic. I loved that Fiona’s family was a little witchy. Her tita (aunt) is a fortune teller who helps them and tells them about the White Lady (Kaperosa in the Philippines). I found it so refreshing to see a nonwhite representation of witchcraft. So often witchcraft in books is so centered on a white perspective, but witchcraft is in every culture, as Fiona’s tita illustrates. She mentions that versions of the White Lady exist everywhere, in different cultures and places. 

As for the plot, it started off really strong with the mystery of Lily’s disappearance. But about halfway through, it stalled and lost some of its momentum. I felt like it dragged on a bit in the middle. I believe there will be a sequel to this book, and I think the book did set up a sequel very nicely. 

Overall, I recommend this book for anyone looking for a witchy YA read! 


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Blog tour: Yolk (Excerpt + Giveaway!)

Hi beauties! Today I am a stop on the YOLK by Mary H.K. Choi Blog Tour hosted by Rockstar Book Tours. I am so excited to read this one! I’ve heard her books are amazing! Check out the excerpt and make sure to enter the giveaway! 

About The Book:

Title: YOLK

Author: Mary H.K. Choi

Pub. Date: March 2, 2021

Publisher: Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers

Formats: Hardcover, eBook, Audiobook

Pages: 400

Find it:  GoodreadsAmazon, Kindle, AudibleB&N, iBooks, Kobo, TBDBookshop.org

From New York Times bestselling author Mary H.K. Choi comes a funny and emotional story about two estranged sisters switching places and committing insurance fraud to save one of their lives.

Jayne Baek is barely getting by. She shuffles through fashion school, saddled with a deadbeat boyfriend, clout-chasing friends, and a wretched eating disorder that she’s not fully ready to confront. But that’s New York City, right? At least she isn’t in Texas anymore, and is finally living in a city that feels right for her.

On the other hand, her sister June is dazzlingly rich with a high-flying finance job and a massive apartment. Unlike Jayne, June has never struggled a day in her life. Until she’s diagnosed with uterine cancer.

Suddenly, these estranged sisters who have nothing in common are living together. Because sisterly obligations are kind of important when one of you is dying.


EXCERPT

From Chapter 1 of YOLK

By Mary H.K. Choi

Depending on where I focus and how much pressure I apply to the back of my throat, I can just about blot him out. Him being Jeremy. Him who never shuts up. Him being my ex. He whose arm is clamped

around the back of the café chair that belongs to another girl. She’s startlingly pretty, this one. Translucent and thin. Achingly so. She has shimmering lavender hair and wide-set, vacant eyes. Her name is Rae and when she offers her cold, large hand, I instinctively search her face for any hint of cosmetic surgery. Her lids, her lips, the tip of her nose. Her boots are Ann Demeulemeester, the ones with hundreds of yards of lace, and her ragged men’s jacket, Comme. 

“I like your boots,” I tell her, needing her to know that I know, and immediately hating myself for it. I’m so intimidated I could choke. She smiles with such indulgent kindness I feel worse. She’s not at all threatened by me. 

“I got them here,” she tells me in faultless English. I don’t ask her where there might be.

Jeremy says I’m obsessed with other women. He might be right. Then again, someone once described Jeremy’s energy to me as human cocaine, and they were definitely right. 

“Mortifying.” He shudders, blotting his slick mouth with a black cloth napkin. Jeremy’s the only one eating a full-on meal here at Léon. A lunch of coq au vin. I draw in a deep breath of caramelized onion. All earthy, singed sugar. 

“Can you imagine failing at New York so publicly that you have to ‘move home’?” He does twitchy little scare quotes around the last bit. He does this without acknowledging that for him, moving home

would be a few stops upstate on Metro-North, to a town called Tuxedo. A fact he glosses over when he calls himself a native New Yorker.

I watch Rae, with a small scowl nestled above her nose, purposely apply a filter on her Instagram Story. It’s her empty espresso cup at an angle. I lean back in my wicker café chair and resume lurking her

profile, which I can do in plain sight because I have a privacy shield. 

It’s the typical, enigmatic hot-girl dross on her main feed, scones cut out onto a marble surface dusted with flour, her in a party dress in a field. A photo of her taking a photo in a mirror with a film camera.

In an image farther down, Rae is wearing a white blouse and a black cap and gown. Grinning. It’s a whole different energy. When I arrive at the caption, I close my eyes. I need a moment. I somehow

sense the words before they fully register. She graduated from Oxford. It’s crushing that most of the caption is in Korean. She’s like me but so much better.

My will to live leeches out of my skin and disappears into the atmosphere. I should be in class. I once calculated it, and a Monday, Wednesday, Friday course costs forty-seven dollars, not counting rent.

Counting rent in this city, it’s exactly one zillion.

“Yeah, hi.” Jeremy flags down a passing server. A curvy woman with a tight Afro turns to us, arms laden with a full tray of food. “Yeah, can you get me a clean glass of water?” He holds his smeared glass to the light.

“I can,” she says through her teeth, crinkling her eyes and nodding in a way that suggests she’s garroting him in her mind.

“That’s not our server,” I whisper when she leaves. As a restaurant kid, albeit a pan-Asian strip-mall operation that charges a quarter for to-go boxes, I cringe with my whole body. Jeremy shrugs.

I check myself out in the strip of antique mirror behind Rae’s and Jeremy’s heads. I swear my face is wider now than it was this morning. And the waistband of my mom jeans digs into my gut flesh, stanching

circulation in my lower belly and thighs. I can feel my heartbeat in my camel-toe. It’s a dull pain. A solid distraction from this experience. I wonder if they were talking about me before I arrived.

I eye the communal french fries. Saliva pools in the back of my gums. Ketchup is my kryptonite. Especially swirled with ranch dressing, which I’ve trained myself to give up. The Raes of the world would

never. Or they would and it would be quirky and wholesome.

Her leg is the circumference of my arm.

I smile at the room in a way I imagine would appear breezy yet bored in a film about heartbreak. I love this place. You’d never guess that a dumpy French restaurant from the seventies would be the new hotspot, but that’s the other thing Jeremy’s good for: knowing the migratory practices of various clout monsters. That and ignoring the tourists as he sweet-talks Oni the hostess into ushering us past the busy

bar and into the seats in the way, way back.

Someday I’m going to eat a meal in a New York restaurant by myself without burning with shame.


About Mary H.K. Choi: 

Mary H.K. Choi is a Korean-American author, editor, television and print journalist. She is the author of young adult novel Emergency Contact (2018). She is the culture correspondent on Vice News Tonight on HBO and was previously a columnist at Wired and Allure magazines as well as a freelance writer. She attended a large public high school in a suburb of San Antonio, then college at the University of Texas at Austin, where she majored in Textile and Apparel.

Website | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads | Amazon 


GIVEAWAY

Giveaway Details: 

2 winners will win a finished copy of YOLK, US Only.

To enter click on the following link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/e2389ba21245/


Tour Schedule:

Week One:

3/1/2021Westveil Publishing Excerpt
3/1/2021A Dream Within A DreamExcerpt
3/2/2021BookHounds YA Spotlight 
3/2/2021Book-KeepingReview
3/3/2021Lifestyle of MeReview
3/3/2021What A Nerd Girl SaysReview
3/4/2021Momfluenster Spotlight 
3/4/2021Not In Jersey Review
3/5/2021Kait Plus BooksSpotlight 
3/5/2021Trapped Inside StoriesSpotlight 

Week Two:

3/8/2021My Fictional OasisReview
3/8/2021Eli to the nthReview
3/9/2021The Scribe OwlReview
3/9/2021Nay’s Pink BookshelfReview
3/10/2021Lala’s Book Reviews Review
3/10/2021The Mind of a Book DragonReview
3/11/2021Odd and BookishReview
3/11/2021Little Red ReadsReview
3/12/2021Amani’s ReviewsReview
3/12/2021michellemengsbookblogReview

Review: The Lamps of History

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Rating: ★★★

I received this book for free from the author as part of an Instagram review tour with TLC Book Tours. 

I find that poetry is always the toughest genre to review. It is so personal and subjective that it is hard to critique it in the same way as prose. Because of this, poetry can be a hit or a miss and that is how I felt about this book. It is hard to put into words exactly what I thought about this book.  

This was a very interesting collection of poetry that didn’t quite resonate with me. There were some poems that I liked but others I didn’t really get. I felt like I missed some of the references in some pieces and struggled to make out exactly what the poem was about. That being said I still enjoyed some of the poems. My favorites were: 

  • Lokshen Kugel (pg. 12)
  • When Literature Made Something Happen (pg. 18)
  • After the Party, We… (pg. 20)
  • Thought Thread (pg. 30)
  • Garlic Press (pg. 44)
  • All Souls’ Day (pg. 48)
  • Iridescence (pg. 49) 
  • Acnestis (pg. 53)
  • Knock (pg. 58)
  • Still: Softening Stale Bread (pg. 59)
  • Cenobite (pg. 76)
  • After Certitude (pg. 89)

Overall, this collection wasn’t my kind of poetry but I’m sure others would love and resonate with it. 


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Guest Post: Why it’s important to have a diverse bookshelf

Photo from Lei’s Facebook Page

Hi beauties! Today I am so excited so share a guest post from author, Belinda Lei. Lei just published her first book, Not THAT Rich, earlier this month. Described as Gossip Girl meets Crazy Rich Asians, this dramatic debut novel is about a group of private high schoolers in an affluent Southern Californian suburb. This book is at the top of my TBR for the new year. As an Asian American, I love reading books about the Asian American experience because representation matters!

Lei’s guest post highlights the need and importance of reading diverse books. As we enter a new year, I hope this post encourages to take stock of your current bookshelf and evaluate how you can do better!

So without further ado, here is Belinda Lei’s post:

“Do the books on your shelf reflect the world you claim you want?” – Kwame Alexander

In early June 2020, I had the pleasure of hearing Kwame Alexander, a prolific NYT Bestselling writer, speak and deliver a magnificent poem during Act To Change’s first Solidarity Convo. As a Managing Director at Act To Change, a nonprofit focused on ending bullying amongst youth and especially in the AAPI community, the importance of increasing diversity, representation, and solidarity amongst communities is often at the forefront of my mind. After all, it’s something that Act To Change works towards every day – addressing bullying in underserved and diverse communities. 

However, while the activist in me watched the conversation with a smile, my writer and reader’s voice was screaming at me internally, holding me to account with thoughts of “You’re not doing good enough.” Internal Tiger Mom jokes aside, I’ve always prided myself in being an avid reader of anything and everything under the sun, and I’ve always craved to have characters that reflected my 2nd generation immigrant Chinese American background and identity in the books that I read. Needless to say, I never got that when I was growing up. In my head, sure, it wasn’t ideal that the Baudelaire orphans, Hermoine, Bella, or Katniess weren’t Black, Indeginous, or a person of color (also known as BIPOC), but it was fine.

Just fine. 

And that’s where the problem lies.  In 2019, approximately 9% of main characters in U.S. books were of Asian descent, 12% were Black, and only 3% of total books included a LGBTQIAP+ character. Less than half of protagonists were white and about a third were protagonists with animals/other as the main character. When there are more white characters and talking animals as protagonists than BIPOC folks, “just fine” just isn’t good enough. Books allowed me, especially in my teenage years, to dive deep into the glory and struggles of the 1920s, capture the bougie dramatics of New York’s Upper West Side, and immerse myself in the struggles of a magical school for witchcraft and wizardry. It exposed me to a culture that was different than my own – one that was predominantly White. So why can’t I do it the other way around? 

By writing Not THAT Rich, I wanted to present a set of fun (and dramatic!) experiences that also exposed young adult readers to a cast of characters that reflected my world growing up – one that reflected the ethnic suburban enclaves that were part of my world. My hope for the book is that it emphasizes the diversity of Asian American culture, but also offers up the common challenges that teenagers all experience today – educational and familial pressures, identity struggles, and peer pressure. 

I fully acknowledge that as a new author, I still have a lot to learn about the publishing world, and that will take time. However, as a lifelong reader, I can also do better now, today. In my wild pursuit of seeking out books with characters that remind me of me, I’ve neglected to paint the other side of the world that I would like to see more of – books by other BIPOC authors that are not Asian American. I’ve neglected reading more BIPOC voices by so desperately pursuing my own. I’ve made steps towards creating the bookshelf to reflect not just the world that I want, but the world that already exists (highly recommend Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates by the way!) and I hope by reading this post, you’ll consider joining me in looking towards your bookshelf as well. 


Belinda Lei is the author of the #1 New Release in YA Asian American Fiction, Not THAT Rich.  She’s a Southern California native and an avid reader of all genres from thriller to fantasy — but especially young adult novels. She is a Yale MBA candidate, proud Georgetown Hoya, Managing Director of an anti-bullying non-profit, software engineer, and a former strategy consultant. In her spare time, she can be found cooking, spoiling her chubby cat and grumpy dog, and binge watching dramas.

Life update: Where has the time gone?

Hi beauties! It’s been well over a year since I last gave you any sort of update on my life so it’s about time I give you one. As you already know, 2020 has been a roller coaster of a year so I guess I should start with the beginning of the year. Enjoy my Cliff Notes version of my life this year:

January: So hopeful and full of promise for the year. Dated a paramedic for 2 and half weeks. Was sad when things ended (so much potential!). Read 1 book the whole month.

February: Started off so promising until my 49ers lost the Super Bowl (I still love you Jimmy G!). Went on a few dates. Ended up catching a cold during the last week (pretty sure I caught while on a date at Dave and Busters).

March: Started off so normal. Had a fabulous Spring Break and went on some wonderful dates with a guy. Buddy read The Kiss Quotient with the guy. Came back from Spring Break only to go back to school for one week. World went insane in that week. Packed up and headed back home. Started Zoom University School of Law —I mean online classes. Downloaded TikTok. Why does this month feel so long?

April: Me and Spring Break guy sadly fizzled out mainly due to COVID and quarantine. Started dating another guy. Developed an interest in astrology. Online school was uneventful. At some point my school eventually decided to go credit/no credit.

May: Took 5 finals. Strangely liked taking them at home (no pressure or anxiety from seeing other test takers). Tried to buddy read a book with the new guy I was dating. Had an uneventful and boring birthday (cheers to 25!). Broke up with said guy towards the end of the month for a multitude of reasons.

June: Hardly remember this month to be honest. Went on some Zoom dates. Learned that grad students from Stanford are not my type (Zoomed 3 of them and felt 0 connection each time). Met 2 air signs (a Libra and an Aquarius) who lived up to the flightly nature of their element (they coincidentally were both super cute guys from Oakland with plans to move to NYC). Went on a promising Zoom date at the end of the month.

July: Started dating a new guy (the one from the end of June). Went on an RV trip to Oregon and had a fun time at the WIldlife Safari (best animal experience ever).

August: School started. Once again online. Was not eager to start school again. Got annoyed with half my professors. Guy I was dating told me he’s moving back to Texas in 4-8 months. Relationship turned casual.

September: Took a nice day trip to SF with said guy. Slogged through school. Had both a midterm and a final due.

October: Only time will tell…

So that has been my life in a nutshell. I still cannot believe it is already October. Where has the time gone? March took forever but then the months just flew by after that.

What have you been up to? I would love to hear how you’ve been coping with all the curveballs of 2020. Let me know in the comments!

xoxo,


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Review: Dating Makes Perfect

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Rating: ★★★★★

I received an ARC of this book for free from the publisher (Entangled Teen) in exchange for an honest review. Since I received an ARC, my quotes from the book are tentative. 

This was the cutest YA rom-com! 

Okay so first I just have to talk about the #OwnVoices aspect. As a Filipino American, I know how important it is to have your stories told, so I was so happy to finally see a book about the Thai American experience. I had never read a book about the Thai American experience before so I was super eager to read this. From food to the Songkran festival, there was a lot of Thai culture woven throughout the novel. 

The premise of this book is adorable. I loved how the dates were inspired by romantic comedies including some of my favorites, “To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before” and “Always Be My Maybe.” 

I found this book to be highly relatable. As an Asian American, I could relate to some of Winnie’s experiences. For example, at one point, Winnie’s mom jumps to the conclusion that Winnie could be pregnant. Winnie replies, “Must you always skip fifty million steps? I haven’t even kissed him yet” (pg 126). Yup. My mom is like that too. You start dating a boy and their mind immediately goes to pregnancy. There’s also the quintessential bringing weird food to school moment that Winnie mentions in passing. Lastly, I related to how Winnie talks about respect towards her parents. She states,

“Sometimes, I get so bored of this respect. Yes, it’s important, and yes, it’s my parents’ due. But respect also prevents us from admitting our infractions— and talking about them. That’s what I want. For us to talk. Not as friends, exactly, but certainly without this yawning chasm between us.”

pg. 237

I think that is so true. There can often be this divide between Asian parents and their children because of this notion of respect. 

As for the romance, I thought it was so cute. It’s the classic childhood friends to lovers and enemies to lovers tropes but I thought it was done very well. Winnie and Mat had a lot of chemistry so I loved them as a couple. 

Overall, I recommend this #OwnVoices romance! This book gave me a ton of “To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before” vibes, so if you like that movie or the books, you’ll probably like this! 

Review: Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky (Tristan Strong #1)

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Rating: ★★★★

I received a copy of this book for free as part of an Instagram tour (Storygram Tours specifically) I did to promote the book. 

So first off I just want to say that it is incredibly refreshing to read a book about mythology that isn’t Greek. I know very little about African/African American mythology so it was fun to learn about it through reading this book. 

Since this is the first book in a new series, it is a little slow. That is understandable since there is a lot of world building and set-up that needs to be done. The one thing it could have done better was developed some of the supporting characters more. Like I wanted to know more about Ayanna. I can tell there is more to her. However, I am sure this will be revealed in the coming books. 

I really liked that there was a map included. Maps are always so helpful in reading fantasy books and makes it easy to follow the heroes on their journey. 

I also liked how the author would slip in some important messages throughout the book. At one point John Henry is talking about the Jim Crow laws and states, “A lot of times those little facts get smudged cutoff the history books. If you gon’ tell a story, you better be sure you’re telling the right one” (pg 108). At another point the main character muses, “it was my job to carry the stories of the land to its people. All the stories. If we ignored the past, how would we learn from it” (pg 426). Both of these quotes are so important because they show the importance of learning history, both the good and the bad.

Overall, I thought this was a Strong start to a new Own Voices series. I am intrigued to see what happens next. 


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