Harry Potter and the Tag of Books

Newsflash: Having first proposed Book Tag Tuesday, I promptly forgot all about it and consequently did not have a suitable post last week. We’re fixing that now. #headdesk

Anyway. I’ve been wanting to do this tag for a while, and now I finally have an excuse! Tag stolen from All You Read Is Love.

Flagrate – Writing Charm
A book whose theme you found interesting, but you would like to rewrite it.

House of Many Ways (Diana Wynne Jones). I had high expectations for this book, which is #3 in the Howl’s Moving Castle series, and it failed them all spectacularly. I liked Sophie, Howl, and Calcifer for the maybe five minutes they were in the story, but for the most part the book revolved around Charmain Baker, a spoiled, snotty little brat who reads a lot but can’t figure out how to dry a fucking dish. That’s not an exaggeration, she literally has no clue. She is inexplicably partnered with Peter Regis, the astonishingly stupid once and future king, who adds absolutely nothing to the almost tragically predictable story. A couple of the other characters keep mishearing Charmain as “Charming,” and for the life of me I don’t know why. The premise sounded great when I didn’t know anything about the characters, but the book really needed some heavy-duty surgery.

Alohomora – Unlocking Charm
The first book in a series, which got you hooked.

The Color of Magic (Terry Pratchett), the first installment of Discworld. I was in so much trouble when I got to the little demon who lives inside cameras and paints pictures at the click of a button.

Accio – Summoning Charm
A book you wish you could have right now.

The Thirty Names of Night (Zeyn Joukhadar). Seriously, I can’t wait till this comes out in November. It’s in my planner so I won’t forget to buy it.

Avada Kedavra – Killing Curse
A killer book. Take it as you like.

If we’re talking about a book that killed me (figuratively speaking), I’m going to have to go with Cat’s Eye (Margaret Atwood). This is the book that destroyed the few ambitions I harbored during high school and made me want to become a serious writer instead.

If we’re talking about a book I’d like to kill, there are several, but if I had to choose just one for destruction I’d probably pick Fifty Shades of Grey. It’s fanfiction. It should never have been published. I don’t think we’d lose anything if it just suddenly vanished. (Also, to clarify my general stance on fanfiction: I’m not against it, but I also feel that it shouldn’t be making money if the original work isn’t in the public domain. My attitude would be different if Fifty Shades were a BDSM-themed Shakespeare rewrite instead of a cheap Twilight rip-off.)

Confundo – Confundus Charm
A book you found really confusing.

Pale Fire (Vladimir Nabokov). I did not understand this book at all. I’ll be the first to admit I have very little luck with Nabokov because I generally have trouble following his prose, though I did love King, Queen, Knave. That being said, I was in my early 20s the first and only time I read Pale Fire and I’ve changed a bit since then, so I bought the book a while ago and will try it again at some point.

Expecto Patronum
Your spirit animal book.

The Woman Warrior (Maxine Hong Kingston). MY GOD THIS BOOK. There are aspects of Kingston’s experience that I don’t identify with because my parents are not immigrants, but I understand very well the desire to be a warrior in a world that doesn’t want you to be one.

Sectumsempra – Dark Charm
A dark, twisted book.

A River in Darkness: One Man’s Escape from North Korea (Masaji Ishikawa). This book was fucking depressing. Not only did Ishikawa suffer for 36 years while watching every member of his family slowly starve to death and/or eat toxic foods in an effort to not starve to death, he didn’t even get a happy ending because his sons are still in North Korea and his wife and daughter died before he could send them money.

If you’re looking for something less depressing but still dark, I’d go with The Year of the Witching (Alexis Henderson), in which a young woman living in a puritanical society meets a group of witches and takes control of four powerful curses that could lay waste the earth if she’s not careful. The most twisted part of the book isn’t the curses or the witches, it’s the creepy church that rules over everything and locks up potential heretics for torture. It’s really good. Go read it.

Aparecium – Revealing Charm
A book that surprised you in a great way and/or revealed that it was more than you thought it was.

Sharks in the Time of Saviors (Kawai Strong Washburn). I’ll be finishing the last 62 pages tonight because OMG I LOVE IT. I think I was kinda put off by the synopsis, which describes a family being driven apart and is the most likely reason I didn’t buy it the first time I saw it, but I’m really glad I changed my mind because this book is like home. Both sides of my family landed in Hawai’i before eventually proceeding to the mainland, and, though we’re not islanders anymore, the words used in this book – haole, hapaobakemusubiboro-boro – are all words I’ve grown up with. As a child I never realized how fortunate I was to have access to books written by people who looked and talked like me, but as an adult I can’t describe how powerful it is to pick up a book and start running into the words my family uses all the time, without explanation or apology. Also, the number of times spam pops up on the characters’ dinner tables? ON POINT.

I can see why it might not have as high an overall rating as I think it deserves – the Japanese and Hawaiian words are not defined or explained, so it would be easy for readers to get lost – but this obviously has not been an obstacle for me. This book has been such a wonderful surprise and I hope Washburn is planning to write more, because I really like his style.

Reading Habits Tag

Time for another tag! I’ve been tagged by Lori from Food for Thought, which is great because I love these things. 🙃  (Also, can we make Book Tag Tuesday a thing?)

1. Do you have a certain place at home for reading?

I didn’t used to, but this year I seem to have staked out the couch in the piano room. That room is perfect – I get the full benefit of the AC and the Wi-Fi, I don’t have to listen to the TV, and it’s close to the kitchen.

2. Bookmark or random piece of paper?

Hahahaha. Ha. I have a long history of inventive bookmarks. When I was little I used to dog-ear, which annoyed one of my friends so much she straightened out all my dog ears and consequently lost all my places, but as I grew up I abandoned the dog ears in favor of random shit I happened to have lying around (old receipts, clean napkins, other books, etc). Within the last couple of years I discovered Barnes and Noble sells the cutest bookmarks, so I’ve been using those because I buy  too many of them.

3. Can you just stop reading, or do you have to stop after a chapter/certain number of pages?

Currently I’m reading at least 100 pages a day. I used to be able to stop in the middle of a chapter, but nowadays I have to finish whatever chapter I’m on before I call it quits. Thanks, OCD.

4. Do you eat or drink while reading?

Fuck no I don’t want my books getting dirty

5. Multitasking: music or TV while reading?

I’m easily distracted, so no. I can’t have other words floating around me while I’m reading.

6. One book at a time or several at once?

Several at once. I’m currently reading Conjure Women (Afia Atakora) and Americanah (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie). This is low by my standards, given that I generally have three or four going on at a time, but I want to finish these two by the end of the month to round out my book count to 15, so I won’t start any new books until they’re done.

7. Reading at home or everywhere?

Always at home at the moment, but everywhere when we’re able to roam freely. What are waiting rooms but free reading time?

8. Reading out loud or silently in your head?

Silently in my head.

9. Do you read ahead or even skip pages?

No. I do skim over passages if I don’t like the book and want it to end, but I wouldn’t feel right skipping pages. (I have gotten into the bad habit of glancing ahead on a page or even onto a next page, which has led to some significant spoilers that I wasn’t very happy about, but that’s on me.)

10. Breaking the spine or keeping it like new?

What kind of monster deliberately breaks a spine?

11. Do you write in your books?


12. When do you find yourself reading? Morning, afternoon, evening, whenever you get the chance or all the time?

Usually during the evening and night when I’m working. During the three weeks I was off work, I read at all times of the day.

13. What is your best setting to read in?

In a quiet room by myself. A squashy couch and a moderately comfortable floor would be preferable. Sometimes I get tired of lying on the couch and have to lie on the floor instead because #VARIETY

14. What do you do first – Read or Watch?

Read. The only cases I can think of where I watched first and read later was Bridget Jones’s Diary and The Prestige: with Bridget Jones my roommates happened to be watching it and I liked the movie enough to go back and read the book, and with The Prestige I wasn’t aware of the book until after I’d seen the movie.

15. What form do you prefer? Audiobook, E-book or physical book?

Physical book, but I like to listen to audiobooks while I work (only for books I’ve already read or I’ll get distracted and won’t get anything done). I’m not a huge fan of eBooks because it’s not the same as holding an actual book in your hands, but I’m getting used to the idea.

16. Do you have a unique habit when you read?

Uhhh sometimes I lie on my back on the floor with my legs up on the couch, does that count?

17. Do book series have to match?

YES! It drives me crazy when I don’t get to read a matching set omfg how hard is this

10 Assumptions About Me

Hello hello!

This post was the brainchild of Lori from Food for Thought, who suggested that we do the Reacting to Assumptions tag floating around BookTube. I’m always up for a good tag, so here’s her assumptions about me!

P.S. Lori’s assumptions post is here. While you’re at it, visit the rest of her blog if you’re tired of listening to me natter on about books and nonsense. Not only does she have a lot of awesome reading suggestions, she also discusses food, coffee, and gaming!

1. You have a very specific coffee mug you use for your morning caffeine. You will wash that one specifically, even though there are clean ones in the cupboard.

Very true! I have a pair of minion mugs, which I kept in one of my work cabinets while I was still going into the office. They were my very favorite mocha mugs, though lately they’ve been sitting around in quarantine with me.

2. You prefer Marvel to DC, but you don’t consider yourself a huge superhero fan.

I have no idea how you came to this conclusion but you are so right holy crap this is seriously amazing. I’ve never really gotten into the superhero genre, but I do love the Marvel movies I’ve seen. (I mean, seriously, what’s not to love about Captain Marvel???) I’ve only seen one DC movie that I can recall (Wonder Woman), and have zero interest in the others.

3. You are a gamer, but strictly play Nintendo games.

I wouldn’t consider myself a dedicated gamer, but every now and then I get bit by the gaming bug and drop everything so I can play Pokémon for about three weeks straight. I mostly play Super Mario, Pokémon, and Yu-Gi-Oh! on my Nintendo gear. I also have a neglected PS3 named Eustace, on whom I play Dante’s Inferno, Plants vs. Zombies, and Critter Crunch.

4. Not only can you produce a violin vibrato, but it is *chef’s kiss.* Don’t be modest here, or I WILL come fight you.

I wish I could!!! 😭😭😭 I only started the violin three years ago, and have had exceptional difficulty learning vibrato because it’s really hard to relax my arm. However, the new shoulder cradle I bought makes it easier to relax, so I’m hopeful!

5. You own at least 3 pairs of combat boots and will wear them regardless of the season, because you know how to own the hardass aesthetic.

I DO LOVE BOOTS. ❤️ I currently have a pair of Doc Martens (not sure if they’re real or knock-offs) and need to buy more. I have one other pair of boots that I like to wear, but they’re not combat.

6. Your favorite mythical creature is a Griffin.

Nope, dragons are my ride-or-dies.

7. You are extremely organized with your schedule, and mark all of your work obligations and personal projects in your planner meticulously. You likely know what blog posts you will be writing weeks in advance.

Almost right – I use my planners to keep obsessive track of my work projects and reading accomplishments, but I actually don’t plan my blog particularly well! 🤣 (I do have a list of future posts, but those are all the monthly reading summaries. Otherwise I generally post on the spur of the moment.)

8. You are at least bilingual.

I’m not, but I wish I were! Unfortunately neither of my parents is bilingual, though they still tried to teach me and my brothers Japanese. (Guess how that worked out?) We use Japanese words in everyday conversation and are capable of hailing the lunar new year in Cantonese, but none of us is fluent in either language. To compensate, I’ve been developing my own languages for use in my novels.

9. You keep your desk/workplace pristine.

I bring shame on my ancestors.

10. You’re a proud Virgo, but you don’t really believe too deeply in astrology.

Good guess – I’m actually a proud Aquarius! I don’t buy into astrology, but I find that the Aquarius description does generally suit me.

NOPE! Book Tag

Friends, readers, countrywomen: I was really really bored, so I started hunting through book tags for a fun one. I have a habit of noping around a lot, so this one fit the bill. The questions were taken from the Caffeinated Bookworm Life.

As always, there will be spoilers.

NOPE! Ending
A book ending that made you go NOPE in denial or rage, or simply because the ending was crappy.

Miss Iceland (Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir). This book pissed me off so much because it made me read 255 pages of whimsical loveliness before springing literally the worst ending on me on page 256. The book follows Hekla Gottskálksdóttir, a young Icelandic writer who moves to Reykjavík in the hopes of getting her novel manuscripts published. In Reykjavík she meets Starkadur Pjetursson, an unpublished poet, and eventually moves in with him even though he knows almost nothing about her. (She reads foreign literature. He gives her a cookbook for Christmas. I would’ve tossed him into a fjord.) When he learns that she is a writer, that her poems have been published, and that he and his little club of male poet buddies have been enjoying her poems without knowing they’re hers, he becomes shocked, jealous, and threatened. He later admits that he stalked her long before she even knew about him. Having never been particularly attached to him, Hekla leaves him in the dust when she runs off to Denmark with her friend Jón John. That’s fine, but what pissed me off was that even after she’s left him she still sends Starkadur one of her novel manuscripts with the request that he allow her to use his name as a pseudonym. EXFUCKINGCUSE ME?!

I can understand Hekla’s need to publish under a male pseudonym. She’s a female writer in the 1960s. Icelandic men don’t take her seriously. Fine. I can live with that. The thing is, she already has a couple of pseudonyms, under which she’s published several poems. I don’t know why she needs Starkadur’s name. Starkadur himself says he was initially uncomfortable appropriating her work, though he grants her request all the same. The last line in the book is “The book shall therefore be mine.” I am not okay with this. This isn’t a nice send-off. Starkadur is a whiny, controlling stalker. Though he does show admiration for Hekla’s talent, it’s always with an edge of jealous insecurity. Instead of using her work as inspiration to improve his own abilities, he quits writing and starts driving a taxi because he is convinced that he will never be able to compete with her greatness WHY DOES HE DESERVE TO HAVE A NOVEL IT’S BEEN A WEEK SINCE I’VE FINISHED THIS AND I’M STILL MAD (ノಥ益ಥ)ノ ┻━┻ AND ALSO I KEEP WANTING TO CALL HIM STARDAKAR BECAUSE I SWEAR HIS NAME LOOKS LIKE SARDAUKAR AND I’VE GOT DUNE BRAIN GAAAAAAH

NOPE! Protagonist:
A main character you dislike, who drives you crazy.

Song Leiyin (Three Souls, Janie Chang). I like the book, but not because of Leiyin. She is a singularly frustrating narrator. She’s not a bad person, but there are moments where she’s so completely awful that you can’t actually sympathize with her situation. She is arrogant, selfish, and almost completely lacking in judgement. For someone who’s supposed to be smarter than her four older siblings, she can be astonishingly stupid. She’s well educated and was at the top of her high school class, but this actually means very little, because she still has no idea how the world works even after being shown a glimpse of it by her stepmother. She starts out with admirable goals but quickly loses sight of the bigger picture the minute she meets Yen Hanchin, a handsome communist. You could literally boil the entire contents of her brain down to “Yen Hanchin! Yen Hanchin! Yen Hanchin!,” because he’s the only thing she thinks about for the rest of her life. I’ve never spent so much time wanting to slap someone.

NOPE! Pairing:
A “ship” you don’t support.

Nitta Sayuri and Toshikazu Nobu (Memoirs of a Geisha, Arthur Golden). I’ve never actually gone looking for Memoirs fanfiction, but I know there are Sayuri/Nobu shippers because people will ship anything.

I don’t know who needs to hear this, but Nobu didn’t end up with Sayuri because he did not deserve her. I didn’t quite catch this the first time I read the book because I was probably somewhere between 12 and 15, but as an adult I have had it with this “He’s a kind man in his own way” garbage that all his friends keep feeding to Sayuri. He’s not kind. He’s an abusive asshole. He shows a kind of affection to people he likes (e.g., Sayuri), but he’s awful to everyone else. Later in the book, he forces Sayuri to beg and cry for his favor before he agrees to help her. He loses his temper with her even later and slams his hand onto a glass bottle, then tells her not to make him cut himself the next time he asks her for an answer. In case it wasn’t obvious already, she didn’t make him do anything. I’m sorry half his face got blown off, but SAYURI IS NOT HIS REHAB.

NOPE! Plot Twist:
A twist you didn’t see coming and didn’t like.

I technically haven’t reached this twist yet, but I made the mistake of reading the summary for Children of Dune (Frank Herbert) and have learned that Alia Atreides, one of my very favorite characters from Dune, is going around the villain twist because the voices in her head are driving her into literal insanity. I am Not Pleased.

NOPE! Genre:
A genre you will never read.

I really hate romance. I can’t even handle rom-coms. I’ve had to bypass a lot of books that sounded interesting because their summaries all promised romance. Case in point: I really wanted to read All the Stars and Teeth (great title), but I was out the minute the summary mentioned that the protagonist has to strike a deal with a mysterious pirate.

NOPE! Book Format:
Book formatting you hate and avoid buying until it comes out in a different edition.

There’s a specific type of cover material that I cannot physically handle. It’s rough and sandpapery, and every time I touch it it feels like nails on a chalkboard. I don’t know why publishers have to use this stupid material, but it’s prevented me from buying a lot of paperbacks.

NOPE! Trope:
A trope that makes you go NOPE.

Female protagonists who are supposed to be smart but actually aren’t the brightest. Yeah, it’s great having the other characters fawning over the protagonist’s brains and all, but it means nothing if the girl keeps falling into stupid traps that shouldn’t work.

NOPE! Recommendation:
A book recommendation that is constantly pushed at you, that you simply refuse to read.

Crazy Rich Asians (Kevin Kwan). A lot of my friends and coworkers have read the book and/or seen the movie, but I don’t do romance. This one poses some difficulty for me because I really want to support Asian American literature, but my fellow Asian American writers are making that very difficult because they seem to keep insisting on writing fucking romances.

NOPE! Cliché:
A cliché or writing pet peeve that always makes you roll your eyes.

The “I Must Not Harm Children Because I Am A Woman” trope. Exhibit A: season 5, episode 8 of Game of Thrones, in which a previously badass woman lays down her weapons and refuses to fight the ravenous ice zombie children who quickly mob and kill her.

NOPE! Love Interest:
The love interest who’s not worthy of being one.

Will Parry (His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman). Lyra was the only thing that series had going for it, because it went straight downhill after The Golden Compass. The Subtle Knife drove me crazy because it should’ve continued Lyra’s story but instead introduced a rude little brute named Will, who quickly became the hero while Lyra politely stepped aside and let him take over. Lyra was kinda bratty, but Will was on a whole other plane of rudeness, on top of which he threatened to kill Lyra the first time he met her. It seemed like Pullman was trying to make him forceful and charismatic, but he was just an ass. The worst part of their “romance” was seeing how much Lyra admired Will, even though he treated her like shit. Give me a fucking break.

NOPE! Book:
A book that shouldn’t have existed.

The entire Fifty Shades series. I’m sorry, but this is fanfiction. I have zero respect for the Twilight series, but it’s still Stephenie Meyer’s intellectual property, and I have no idea how Fifty Shades managed to get published when it’s literally just Twilight with no vampires and more abuse. I read the first book and was able to identify all of the original Twilight characters (major and minor), as well as scenes that were ripped wholesale from Twilight.

NOPE! Villain:
A villain you would hate to cross.

I would be worried if Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar were coming after me (Neverwhere, Neil Gaiman).

NOPE! Death:
A character death that still haunts you.

Abu Sayeed (The Map of Salt and Stars, Zeyn Joukhadar) 😭😭😭

NOPE! Author:
An author you had a bad experience with and have decided to quit.

Christopher Paolini. I tried reading Eragon years ago and couldn’t do it.

2020 Mid-Year Book Freak-Out

I normally don’t do back-to-back posts, but in this case I saw the 2020 mid-year book freak-out tag over on Food for Thought so I had to hop on 🤣 I love book tags and I’ve been meaning to do one, so I figured this was as good a place as any to get started!

The links in the first question lead to my reviews/thoughts on each book. Subsequent links in this post will generally lead to the books themselves. For the purposes of this tag, I have chosen to exclude Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (J.K. Rowling), Three Souls (Janie Chang), and Neverwhere (Neil Gaiman), all of which I had previously read.

Best book you’ve read so far in 2020

Hang tight, I’ve got a list.

  1. Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine – Gail Honeyman
  2. The Great Passage – Shion Miura
  3. Purple Hibiscus – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  4. The Map of Salt and Stars – Zeyn Joukhadar
  5. The Book of Longings – Sue Monk Kidd
  6. The Girl with the Louding Voice – Abi Daré
  7. Homegoing – Yaa Gyasi

Best sequel you’ve read so far in 2020

I’m going to have to pass on this one. I actually haven’t read any sequels this year, unless you count the Soul Eaters I binged earlier (which, since I haven’t been counting mangas, I don’t).

New release you haven’t read yet, but want to

I was originally on the fence about Mexican Gothic (Silvia Moreno-Garcia), but I’ve been getting more and more interested lately, particularly since it was highly reviewed in the paper. I’m also looking forward to How Much of These Hills Is Gold (C Pam Zhang), which I bought a couple of months ago and haven’t touched since, and Conjure Women (Afia Atakora).

Most anticipated release for the second half of the year

I really really really want to read Girl, Serpent, Thorn (Melissa Bashardoust), which is getting released in two days. I’ve never read Bashardoust, but it’s about a girl who poisons people with a touch and it’s supposed to have LGBT themes so I’m intrigued. And, since I’m bad at this and I can’t pick just one book to be excited about, I’m also looking forward to The Thirty Names of Night (Zeyn Joukhadar), which is about a closeted Syrian American trans boy and sounds heartbreaking. It’ll be great.

Biggest disappointment

The Dove’s Necklace (Raja Alem). I’ve already explained in great length why I was disappointed with this book, so I won’t repeat it here.

Biggest surprise

This one probably has to go to Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China (Jung Chang). I went into it expecting a dry history textbook and was very pleasantly surprised, even if it did take me two months to finish it.

Favorite new author (debut or new to you)

I’m torn between Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Purple Hibiscus) and Zeyn Joukhadar (The Map of Salt and Stars). Both their books were excellent, and I’m super excited to read more of their works.

Newest fictional crush


Newest favorite character

Gonna have to go with my top eight because I’m so incredibly bad at picking just one of anything sorryyyyyy 😭 I tried ranking the eight but it turned out to be impossible so they’re just listed in the order in which I read their books.

  1. Eleanor Oliphant (Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine)
  2. Red (The Girl in Red)
  3. Aunty Ifeoma (Purple Hibiscus)
  4. Rawiya (The Map of Salt and Stars)
  5. Ana ben Matthias (The Book of Longings)
  6. Adunni (The Girl with the Louding Voice)
  7. Chani (Dune)
  8. Alia Atreides (Dune)

Book that made you cry

Okay, so lately I seem to have become one of those people who weep over books and I now have a goodreads shelf named Heartbreakers, which I’ve built up considerably this year, but The Map of Salt and Stars really did me in. I originally had a list here, but I realized after writing it that Map was the one that made me cry the most.

Book that made you happy

It’s a close call between The Great Passage (Shion Miura) and Chocolat (Joanne Harris). The Great Passage is about a handful of Japanese geeks writing a dictionary, which really spoke to my soul, but Chocolat is set in a charming French village, has lots of chocolate, and is one of the sweetest, kindest books I’ve read in a long time. In other words, it was exactly what I needed to read after Purple Hibiscus smashed my heart to pieces.

Favorite book-to-movie adaptation this year

I haven’t really seen any movies because COVID, but in general I don’t go for book adaptations, (1) because they rarely do them right and (2) because I don’t really like going to the movies. This can vary depending on how excited I am about the movie, but usually I avoid theaters because I can’t just turn off the TV if I don’t like the movie.

That being said, I am still looking forward to the Dune movie coming out in December.

Favorite review you’ve written this year

My best reviews were probably the ones for The Silence of the Girls and The Dove’s Necklace, which were written before I started on my present habit of talking too much in my reviews.

Most beautiful book you’ve bought so far this year (or received)

The Map of Salt and Stars. I’m a sucker for books with blue covers that remind me of the sea and/or the stars, and this one was just so perfect.

What books do you need to read by the end of the year?

I need to finish the Dune Chronicles before the movie comes out. While the movie only covers the first half of the first book, I still want to read the whole series in case they reference later books. I’m also making it a goal to read the older books on my shelf that haven’t been touched because I keep wanting to get rid of them, but I won’t do that until I’ve actually read them.