Reading Goals for 2019

Image result for 2019 happy new year

Hello everyone!

Here I am with my 2nd post of the year and of my epic comeback! Or at least, that’s how I like to look at it 😉 I am here to share with you some of my main reading goals for 2019! These are going to be fairly general goals ending with a list of authors/books that I want to read this year, that I’ve been meaning to read for quite some time.

  1. Since I am a Goodreads junkie, I will start with my Goodreads Reading Challenge! Last year, I didn’t meet my GR Reading Challenge goal…le sigh. I had finished the year having read 55 books, setting me just 5 books short of my goal! But alas, a new year means I can start again! I am being realistic and setting my goal to 60 books again. Now obviously, I am hoping to overshoot that goal, but I am going to keep it there until I can reach that goal again.
  2. This was a rather random goal that I had set for myself and slightly in jest with my husband, but I set out a personal goal to read 100 books during his first year of graduate school. Why? Well because he’s back in school again, it means that there is a lot more quiet time at home either because he’s off at school or because he’s home and needs that quiet time to study. So I figure this means that this is a great time for me to just bask in my hobbies and the things that fill my spirit with joy! He started school back in September of 2018 and up to this point, I have read…12…books. Not totally great nor on par to help me reach my goal of 100, but I guess a start? 🙂 That means that I have till June of 2019 to read 88 books…That’s 28 more books than my GR Reading Challenge…haha!! So, we’ll see how well this goal goes for me.
  3. I would like to continue to read more diversely. Last year, I set out a personal goal of reading at least 1 book each year written by a woman of color and I think, for most of the year, I was pretty consistent with this goal. I would like to continue to read and promote women of color authors, but I would also like to continue to broaden my reading to include not only authors from other marginalized communities, but also stories from marginalized communities. As a woman of color living with a hidden disability, I do think that it is partly my responsibility to read responsibly and to promote these books to continue to broaden modern literature.
  4. I would like to push myself out of my reading comfort zones. My favorite and go-to genres are fantasy and contemporary, usually in the YA realm. While there’s absolutely nothing wrong with this, I do want to push myself to read other genres to broaden my reading tastes. Thanks to Book of the Month, I did read a lot more adult literary fiction which I loved and am excited to continue!! I would specifically really like to try to read more Adult Fantasy, particularly High-Fantasy.
  5. Lastly, I have a list of authors/books that have been on my “to-read” list for quite some time now that I would like to finally get to:img_20190115_154043
    1. “Outlander” by Diana Gabaldon – I have bought, sold and re-bought this book so many times. I have been told by a number of people (including my mother-in-law) that I would love this book, so I want to FINALLY just sit down with this and dig into the story.
    2. Anything by Brandon Sanderson, specifically the Mistborn trilogy – Brandon Sanderson is a prolific adult high-fantasy writer and all of his stories appeal to me, so I don’t know why I haven’t done it yet. I might be slightly intimidated, but this is the year that I push past that!
    3. “Daughter of Smoke and Bone” by Laini Taylor – I have read her Strange the Dreamer duology and LOVED IT, so there should be no reason why I wouldn’t love her original, Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy. But…that might just be the reason why I’m nervous to get started. But, I already own the book so I might as well kick myself in the pants and get to reading!
    4. Anything by Haruki Murakami – I really don’t know why I haven’t read anything by Haruki Murakami. I rarely ever hear negative things about his books and he’s one of my favorite authors, which means we own a majority of his books. This is one that needs to get remedied ASAP.
    5. “The Bone Season” by Samantha Shannon – I think I haven’t gotten to this series because I’ve heard some mixed reviews, but I don’t know why I’ve let all that keep me back. Again, another book that I already own so I might as well just block out the haters and see for myself what I think about this book and series.

So those are my 5 main reading goals for 2019! What are you main reading goals for the year? Are there any other books/authors that I should get to in 2019? Let me know in the comments and I’m happy to add them to my always growing TBR list! 😀

Happy reading all!!

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Best Books of 2018/I’ve Missed You!!!

Hello everyone!!!!

Oh. My. Goodness. I need to start this post with saying “I’M SORRY FOR DISAPPEARING ON YOU ALL LAST YEAR!!!!” 2018 was an incredibly busy year for me. I got MARRIED, started a new job which had me traveling a bit, we moved and my husband started graduate school. Needless to say, it was a very busy year which meant that blogging had to take a backseat to all of the wonderful changes that happened in my life. Totally worth it. BUT…I did miss blogging and I missed interacting with you all!

So I’m back! I took the first week of the year to reflect on if I wanted to come back and how I wanted to change up some of my blogging for the year. The main change is that I will not be posting individual reviews for every book I read, as that was honestly just becoming too much for me.

  • I will be posting monthly wrap-ups with mini-reviews, which I think is a format that will just work better for me. It’ll keep me more motivated to take notes and then write the dang blog post.
  • This will also allow me the extra bandwidth to occasionally write full reviews for the extra stand out reads that I encounter throughout the year. For the books that blow me away, I want to have the bandwidth to dedicate to writing full blog posts that actually talk about why that book particularly blew me away.
  • I also get monthly books from Book of the Month (my FAVORITE book-ish subscription service out there) and I’m contemplating doing BOTM spotlights. I do try to read my monthly book during the month that I get it, so I thought it would be fun to do a “worth it” kind of post with these BOTM picks. Would you be interested in this?

With all that settled, I thought it would be most appropriate to kick off my first blog post back of the year with my top 10 favorite books read in 2018!!! Thanks to the fancy Goodreads “Year in Books” stats review, I have some fun reading stats to share with you all! 🙂

 

Thanks Goodreads for the fun look back on my 2018 reading year!! 🙂

Now cue the top 10 list of 2018!!! 😀 (Preface: 9 of the 10 books are in on particular order, but my #1 book truly was my #1 book of the year!)

10. “Down Among the Sticks and Bones” by Seanan McGuire

This is the second book in the Wayward Children novella series and definitely my img_20190109_145200favorite thus far! This book was creepy, a little scary and quite profound for a less than 200 page book. I really resonated with Jacks’ character and she just made me feel all the things.

9. “A Very Large Expanse of Sea” by Tahereh Mafi

This is Tahereh Mafis’ first contemporary book (I think?) and I loved it!! This is an own-voices novel following a young Muslim-American female high-schooler post 9/11, who likes to break dance with her brother and his friends. This book made me feel angry, happy and sad all at once. This was beautifully written, and as this book stems from Taherehs’ own experiences, it was also a heart wrenching read.

8. “A Conjuring of Light” by V.E. Schwab

This is the final book in the Shades of Magic trilogy and this series really solidified V.E. Schwab (Victoria Schwab) as one of my favorite authors ever! I also had the chance to meet her this year at a “Vengeful” signing! 🙂 P.S. She is the sweetest!!! Back to the book, y’all……this finale was beyond EPIC!!! I can’t say much because it is the last book to the trilogy, but all you need to know is that I loved it and it was epically awesome.

7. “The Dinner List” by Rebecca Serle 

This book really felt so serendipitous as it was one of my August BOTM picks, which was my birthday month and this book is centered around our protagonists’ 30th birthday dinner. Oh and did I mention that I also turned 30 this year? Talk about perfect timing! 😀 I didn’t expect to love this book as much as I did, to be quite honest. This was a fairly quick read, but it definitely had a deep impact on me as a woman turning 30.

6. “The Kiss Quotient” by Helen Hoang 

This book follows two protagonists, a male escort and a female data analyst with Asperger’s Syndrome, and their relationship following her paying him to teach her the ins and outs of sex. This was definitely one of the most unique books that I read all year and I loved it. This was a smutty, diverse book, which was so much fun to read! This is also an own-voices novel, which I think made it even more unique and kind of special to read.

5. “Muse of Nightmares” by Laini Taylor

This is the concluding book in the Strange the Dreamer duology and it was MAGICAL! Again, as this is a concluding book in a series I can’t say much, but…all I can say is that Laini Taylor is truly the queen of fantasy and epic world building. This duology addresses themes of war and the generational pain of war, in such a unique way! This duology is a definite must read.

4. “Children of Blood and Bone” by Tomi Adeyemi

This is the first book in an epic high-fantasy West African inspired series, and it truly delivered! This book was fast-paced, super high-fantasy world building and magic system and it was so much fun!!! This book was super intricate and incredibly unique, and I am so excited to continue on in the series! My only true gripe about this book was the romance, so I am interested to see how this continues in the next book…coming out in March!!!

3. “The Astonishing Color of After” by Emily X.R. Pan 

This book was a truly special contemporary book following a young girl (half-Taiwanese, half-white) who lost her mother to suicide. After losing her mother, Leigh is convinced that her mother has come back in the form of a bird that she sees here and there. Leigh and her father are now trying to put their lives together after this horrible tragedy. Leigh receives correspondence from her maternal grandparents in Taiwan that she’d never met. Curious to learn more, she goes to Taiwan to stay with her grandparents and she goes on a moving journey about family, culture and learning more about her mother. This book was extra special to me as an Asian-American who has struggled with mental health disorders/suicide attempt, as these are topics that aren’t talked about enough in the Asian/Asian-American/API communities. This book will forever remain a special book in my heart.

2. “Little Fires Everywhere” by Celeste Ng 

I cannot even begin to describe this book because the synopsis does not do this book justice, so all I’ll say is that this was an incredible book about family, womanhood, motherhood, being a WOC, being an immigrant woman, etc. I was amazed at how much was in this fairly average-length book and the story that was woven together was just mesmerizing. This book also addresses white progressive liberals, in a way that I could never talk about and I think that is so important to read.

1. “Pachinko” by Min Jin Lee 

And of course…my true #1 book of not just the year, but of my entire life was this book. This book is a beautiful and tragic multi-generational historical fiction book following a Korean family displaced to Japan spanning the 1900s to the 1990s. As a Korean-American, this was unbelievably special to read. Min Jin Lee did an incredible job portraying generational pain, and it was an incredibly profound experience. This was a book where when I finished it, I on and off cried for the next 20-30 minutes. This book will forever hold a special place in my heart and I absolutely urge you all to read it if you haven’t!! 🙂 ❤

Overall, I had a fantastic reading year on top of an amazingly special year!! 🙂 ❤ I have some exciting reading goals for 2019 and I’ll share them with you in the coming days. I hope you all had great reading years and I wish you all another amazing year of reading in 2019!!! 😀

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Quick Takes: Searching for Sunday

Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church
by Rachel Held Evans
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22574709My main frustration with this book is that it felt like it was trying to be too many things at once all while lacking organization. A book can be a presentation and appreciation of the sacraments, a memoir, and a discussion of the church in present day America, but it cannot be all three equally. It seemed like the focus of the book seemed to change from chapter to chapter, paragraph to paragraph. I think some books can pull this off, but it is certainly not easy to do, and even then it has to have a main focus. I couldn’t tell you what it was for this book. Regardless of the seemingly arbitrary section headings, it had the feel of a loosely tied collection of blog posts, some of which I liked more than the others. And though Evans is clearly a good writer, the style was inconsistent and occasionally over the top. Sometimes it was flush with purple prose, sometimes it was a straightforward narrative.

I wavered so much in how I would rate this book, and that’s why I landed on 3 stars. There were parts I genuinely loved, and would have liked to go back and copy parts down if it didn’t have to go back to the library. And though somewhat sloppily presented, I feel like it was a good argument for church. I found more motivation to love the Church and pursue her more. I was moved, if only for a total of maybe 30 pages. Still, you don’t want your reading experience to turn into a slog because of its mechanics–of the way it’s put together and presented. Whether or not you are a bit more easygoing on that than I am may deetermine whether or not you enjoy this book.

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The Good, the Bad, and the Orange

A Higher Loyalty by James Comeyfive-star-rating-black-clip-art-hi

35108805He who permits himself to tell a lie once, finds it much easier to do it a second and third time, till at length it becomes habitual; he tells lies without attending to it, and truths without the world’s believing him. This falsehood of the tongue leads to that of the heart, and in time depraves all its good dispositions. — Thomas Jefferson

For someone who is not big on the memoir genre, I never expected to be this moved by one, nor to be here giving out a five-star rating to one. But we live in strange times, don’t we?

We are experiencing a dangerous time in our country, with a political environment where basic facts are disputed, fundamental truth is questioned, lying is normalized, and unethical behavior is ignored, excused, or rewarded.

Let’s be honest, most of us are reading this book for the juicy bits about Trump and Hillary, but that comes later. Before that, we learn all about Comey’s childhood and the work that eventually led him to become director of the FBI. Usually, this is the part where I find my eyes glazing over sentences, bored if I were being honest, but not so with this book. It all adds dimension and color to Comey as an individual and the decisions he would come to later in life. Plus, talk about an interesting pastthe Sicilian mafia Cosa Nostra, Rudy Giuliani in his earlier years, and the Ramsey Rapist all make an appearance. Notably is his experience with bullies and the obvious connection to some people he has to deal with down the line. In contrast, he also discusses individuals who inspired him and showed him how true leadership behaves. I really enjoyed how Comey wrapped this discussion of leadership into his memoir.

Doubt, I’ve learned, is wisdom. And the older I get, the less I know for certain. Those leaders who never think they are wrong, who never question their judgments or perspectives, are a danger to the organizations and people they lead. In some cases, they are a danger to the nation and the world.

And then we get to the good, or rather, terrible stuff of Hillary and the whole email fiasco. By experiencing it in Comey’s shoes and knowing the past he was coming from, I was able to gain a whole new perspective on this moment in our nation’s history. I think it’s dangerous territory when we play judge and jury and pass judgments in ways we have no authority or expertise over. This book is important for everyone to read because it helps us avoid that line of thinking and helps us become more empathetic, focusing instead on why people may have behaved in the way they did. For someone who originally experienced a lot of anger over the way this investigation was handled, I feel much more at peace about it.

The Constitution and the rule of law are not partisan political tools. Lady Justice wears a blindfold. She is not supposed to peek out to see how her political master wishes her to weigh a matter.

And then Trump comes into the picture, and it’s like you can hear The Imperial March slowly rise in volume. Much like the Hillary drama, readers get fresh insight into this weird, creepy dance Trump and Comey had all before he got fired in such an unceremonious way. In all seriousness, I experienced a lot of emotions at this point in the bookthere was anger, fear, and at some points, tears. The radical shift in the way not just Obama but also Bush ran the White House…man, I mourned the loss of that all over again. I knew it was coming, but these chapters felt like the valley of despair. How on earth did we as a country get here? How on earth were we going to get out?

Without all those things—without kindness to leaven toughness, without a balance of confidence and humility, without empathy, and without respect for truth—there is little chance President Trump can attract and keep the kind of people around him that every president needs to make wise decisions. That makes me sad for him, but it makes me worry for our country. 

Even in the midst of all this, A Higher Loyalty ends on a very optimistic note. I was surprised to find myself, after all that came before, feeling both inspired and a little optimistic myself. I read the epilogue twice to remind myself that, though we are in the eye of the storm, all storms pass over. It’s true that this review is a far more personal/emotional one than most others, but I think it’s because this is that kind of book, and I think that shows its effectiveness in presenting its message. It inspires you to reach that higher loyalty and demonstrates what true ethical leadership can be. I hope that readers from both sides of the aisle will reach for this book, and will come out on the other side fighting for the values that make this country great.

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Double the Story, Double the Fun

Replica (#1) by Lauren Oliver
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I was looking for an audiobook to listen to and I found this through my library, so I decided to give it a go! This was a book that I had first heard about when it came out and29505437 I was initially intrigued by the premise and idea of the book!

So this book follows the perspective of two girls, Lyra and Gemma. We meet Lyra at the infamous Haven Institute, which is tucked away on a private island off the coast of Florida. What people don’t know about the Haven Institute is that it is a research facility where thousands of replicas, or human clones, are born, raised and observed. Lyra is one of these replicas and when an attack is launched on the Haven Institute, she and another replica (a boy only known as 72) manage to escape. Then we meet Gemma, who is a lonely teen who has been in and out of hospitals her whole life. After a scary and strange encounter with almost being abducted by a stranger, Gemma begins to investigates her family’s past and discovers that her father has a strange connection to the Haven Institute.

Now that you know what this book is about, there is something else that you need to know about this book! This book is written in half, half is from Lyras’ POV and half is from Gemmas’ POV. Both POV’s begin separately as we begin to see what each individual girl’s life is like and then the stories begin to overlap. The book can be read through different ways; you can either read all of Lyras’ story and then read Gemmas’ story OR you can either read all of Gemmas’ story and then Lyras’ story OR you can read alternating chapters between Lyra and then Gemma. This is such an interesting concept and I was even more interested to see how this experience was going to translate to via audiobook.

First, it was crazy to hear the voice of April Kepner from Grey’s Anatomy (Sarah Drew) and it was kind of a fun experience, haha!! Second, I did find that it was more cumbersome to switch back and forth between chapters more than I think it would have felt reading the physical book.

Overall the story was good and fun! I definitely liked reading from Lyras’ perspective more than Gemmas’. I found Gemmas’ character to be annoying and way focused on her body. Now reading through the book, I do understand where this is coming from but it was still infuriating to read from. Lyras’ perspective was really interesting since we get to see more than her own experiences, as we get to learn more about the Haven Institute through her perspective.

I definitely enjoyed the book. There is a second book to this, as it is a duology, and I am still debating on whether or not I will be picking it up soon. I don’t find myself to feel too curious to the rest of the story, but we shall see! Definitely a good reading experience!!

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Text Me, K? :)

Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi
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emergency contactAnother incredible diverse read for the win!!! This book is why representation matters so much in literature, especially today. This was another 2018 release that I was so excited for, so went ahead and got it right away thanks to Amazon!!

In this story, we follow dual-perspectives between Penny and Sam who find themselves swapping numbers thanks to an unfortunately, awkward incident. As their story progresses, they continue their relationship via their phones leading to a deeply intimate relationship with very limited IRL interactions.

First off, I really appreciated the age range of the characters in this book. Penny is in her freshman year of college and Sam is just a couple of years older. We do not typically see a lot of YA contemporaries of characters at this age or in this phase of life, which is refreshing and fun to read. It’s a different take on a contemporary, allowing the topics explored to be a bit riskier and darker which they were and I loved it!!!

Like I said, this contemporary is not your average sunny coming-of-age story, it was grittier, hard-hitting, darker and raw which made the story feel that much more real. But what I appreciated about this book was that the gritty, raw details weren’t the main parts of the story, but that they were layered within the story just like they are in real life. We are not defined by the bad things, they are parts of our bigger story and that is how this story was written about both of our characters.

And last but not least, Penny is our lead Korean-American woman who is not only a refreshing lead character but is also a different representation of Korean/Asian-American women that we typically see in literature. As an own-voices novel, I loved seeing a different take on Penny’s character and the different ways in which Korean-American women can be seen in literature. I definitely saw myself more in Penny’s character than I ever have in books and so for that, I am incredibly grateful to Mary H.K. Choi.

All in all, this was a great read. It was fun, heart-warming and a definite journey for myself and all the characters involved. This was a great new contemporary and I cannot wait to see more books from Mary H.K. Choi!!

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Rise Up!

Children of Blood & Bone (#1) by Tomi Adeyemi
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AAAAHHH!!!! YAAASSSS!!!! ALL. OF. THE. YAAAAASSS!!!!! 

Okay…now to get into my coherent review of this incredible book!! This was an children of blood and boneincredible fantasy read and a much needed read. This book follow Zélie Adebola, who is the descendant of Reapers, powerful magji whose magic used to flow through the land. One tragic evening, a ruthless king targeted the maji and had them all killed. Zélie will never forget that night, never forget the night that she watched her mother die at the hands of the ruthless king. The night that magic died.

As life happens, Zélie finds herself an opportunity to bring back magic, avenge her mothers’ death and bring down the evil monarchy. With her brother and the rogue princess, Zélie sets out on her journey and meets various obstacles along the way. Little does Zélie realize that she may be her own greatest obstacle.

This story is a West African inspired YA fantasy and it was a definite breath of fresh air for this fantasy reader. As a woman of color and as an avid fantasy reader, it was so refreshing and so impactful to read a fantasy story that only had people of color in the book. One of the greatest downfalls of the fantasy genre is the lack of representation, in any identity not just race. It is encouraging to see that more and more fantasy authors are integrating more layers of diversity into their stories and I am so excited to see what else is coming!

This book was beautiful, dark, fast-paced and action packed. It was a much darker than I had anticipated for a YA fantasy, and I was pleasantly surprised. Tomi Adeyemi took a risk with writing this dark and violent, yet also so filled with family, captivating mythology and strong women and I am here for that risk!! This book was beautiful and I am beating myself up for reading this book right when it came out, because now I have to wait an entire year for the next one!! 😦 If you haven’t already, please pick this up!! 😀 You will not regret it!! Now, I have a few spoiler-y filled thoughts, so if you haven’t read this yet…do not read further!!

Continue reading

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