University Goals: Semester One

My dorm room desk and lofted bed.

In a few days, I will start my first day of my first year of university!! I moved in last weekend to one of the newer dorms on campus and I love it (however, there was a gnat problem in the bathroom, but it is supposed to get fixed soon). Here are my goals for the first semester:

Academic Goals

Academically, I’ve always been very hard on myself – the word most of my friends used to describe me in middle and even high school was serious. I would get super stressed if I didn’t get an A. That kind of changed in my senior year; I felt less stressed because I had less classes, but then college applications took the place of that stress.

I know that the first year of uni will be challenging, but here are the strategies I’m going to try to use to help relax:

  1. Ask questions in class and go to tutoring. This one is self explanatory.
  2. Set times where I don’t work on academics at all (including work for clubs) AND turn off my phone and computer. I think this’ll help my mind rest and prevent myself from comparing myself to others.
  3. Don’t go on my phone in bed. This one is kind of easy because I can only charge my phone on my desk and it is underneath my lofted bed, but I also got a new phone recently and the battery life is really good, so I could charge my phone and leave it on my nightstand. . .but I don’t want to do that.
  4. Read the syllabus and put all of my assignment dates in my calendar before.
  5. Get out of my dorm room to study. There are a few places on campus that I love and some outdoor places.

Social Goals

In the past year, I’ve learned that I need alone time, but I also need to balance that with a social life. I don’t want to isolate myself in my dorm, but I do want to make it a space where I can hang out with others.

  1. Join organizations – self explanatory.
  2. Get off campus – go to bookstores, find cute cafes, and find museums that give student discounts.
  3. Get to know my roommates – self explanatory.
  4. Reach out to people I know.
  5. Maintain my relationships with my high school friends.

Personal Goals

Outside of university life, I want to continue developing my hobbies. I want my life to not be consumed by uni/feeling like I need to do things for others.

  1. Read for fun. This might get hard when I have more reading assignments, but it’s a nice thing to do before I fall asleep.
  2. Maintain my blog and bookstagram, but also make sure that I prioritize homework and organization responsibilities.
  3. Workout – luckily, my campus is very walkable, but there’s also a decent gym and pool that I can use.
  4. Stay clean and organized.
  5. Join organizations such as the Filipino club and the Asian American Activism club.

Do you have any advice for a college first year?

Life Update: 3/15/2022

This is a really short post, but here’s what I’ve been up to in the two months since I’ve last posted:

  1. I’ve read 20 books this year! So far, my favorites have been: The Ikessar Falcon, The Dragon of Jin-Sayeng, Deep in Providence, and Descendent of the Crane. My least favorites have been The Witcher (honestly, I think I need to put together a list of fantasy books I want to see adapted rather than ones that have a lot of popularity already. Although Anya Chalotra is amazing!),
  2. I’e officially been working for almost half a year. I work for a book publishing company focused on academic publishing, and it’s so interesting to see how books and other materials are put together.
  3. This month, I’m hoping to read All My Rage, Ashes of Gold, and One True Loves.

How are you? What else would you like to see from my blog?

The Lost Dreamer: Promotion with @FierceReads

I am so happy to be helping to promote The Lost Dreamer by Lizz Huerta!

Here is information about the book:

The Lost Dreamer by Lizz Huerta has been dubbed Spring’s buzziest YA debut by Entertainment Weekly and the official book trailer dropped today, 11/5. Visit this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_EXl98oubys&feature=youtu.be for your first look! 

The cover of The Lost Dreamer by Lizz Huerta!

Mini Life Update: November 4, 2020

Today has been SO LONG. I remember the day after election day in 2016, I cried because I did not expect the person who won to win.

I honestly mentally prepared myself for the worst today. However, when I woke up, and it wasn’t called, I felt impatient. Like, just tell me who wins!!!

Now? I feel numb. It’s hard to be hopeful seeing that so many people voted for the person who’s president right now again even after seeing four years of this mess.

Yes, whatever happens, there will still be work to be done. As a teen, I know I have so much more to learn. I could not vote this year but I will in 2022, ’24 and all of the elections after that.

I wasn’t planning to post but these are just a few of my thoughts. Here for everyone.

Summer Break: Wrap-Up

My end of summer 2021 post.

I cannot believe the end of summer 2021 is here! I hit 100 books and as of today (8/29/2021), I have read 112 books so far this year. I only read four books in August, but that’s because I was in. . .Santa Monica and Los Angeles.

I was cleared to go on the trip (I’d been sick the days before we left), so my experience was not the best because I was still sick when we got back home. Luckily, I am better today. There are so many amazing bookstores in LA:

  • The Ripped Bodice
  • Book Soup
  • Barnes and Noble at the Grove (I do love a good Barnes and Noble.)
  • Skylight Books
  • BookMonster – Santa Monica

I bought:

  • Wings of Ebony – got a signed copy!!
  • Raybearer – paperback and it’s so shiny!
  • How We Fall Apart – my name is in the acknowledgements, or rather, SolaceinReading is!

When I came home, I also found an early finished copy of A Clash of Steel by C.B. Lee waiting for me (for Colored Pages Tours – my post will be up on Friday, September 10) AND an ARC of The Bronzed Beasts by Roshani Chokshi!!! TBB is so good, it made me cry.

I’m mostly looking forward to September – I have been sick for a while and now know what it is, so that is so great.

Fall is my favorite. . .

The leaves! The chill in the air, that sense of a light rain, my birthday, family birthdays, Halloween, school. . .I am going to be a senior but fall just makes me feel so calm. I want to make a most anticipated releases post but don’t have the energy right now.

How was your summer?

Caffiene Tours – Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao

Let me start by saying I have not been on a book tour in almost a year. I was too busy. However, I knew I wanted to talk about Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao because you will not find a fantasy book that comes close to the sheer amount that the book made me want to throw it across the room (in a good way). Thanks to Caffiene Tours and Shealea @shutupshealea for hosting this tour. I am so grateful for Shealea and this tour company for being transparent and always being clear in their policies. I received an Advanced Reader’s Copy of this book from the publisher and Caffeine Book Tours as part of my participation in their tour.

My Thoughts

Characters – I could literally scream. I loved every character. Zhao could write whole books about the side characters, which is incredible. (Sorry that my thoughts are so messy, I just cannot recommend this book enough!!!!)

Romance – yes!!! No love triangle!! There is a polyamorous relationship and the characters fit so well together. Their chemistry is amazing!!!!

Worldbuilding – I was too focused on the perfect plot and characters, BUT the worldbuilding pulled me in and did not me go – I finished IW on my phone at Target!!!!

Plot – AMAZING. This book reads like the perfect action movie with romance. I would pay to see IW adapted.

Re-readability – YES 100%!!!!!! The entire book is so action filled and perfectly balanced with all the elements I just told you my thoughts about. You will not read a book like this in 2021. Iron Widow is life-changing, especially for me as an Asian women, and it’s great to see sexism and the patriarchy called out and challenged in a fantasy novel.

Favorite Quotes – names have been redacted

Here are my favorite quotes and some quote graphics for the quotes from Iron Widow. They are from the e-ARC so I will update this review when I read a final copy. Quotes may have changed from the e-ARC to the final version. NO SPOILERS NO SPOILERS NO SPOILERS.

“Blood dribbles from the table and from [redacted’s] fingers. A sheen of sweat glistens where his head wrapping meets his forehead. His chest heaves rapidly. His eyes meet mine.

“When he looks me in the eye again, a small smile cracks across his face. A startling sensation shivers through me, like a hundred butterflies fluttering free in my chest.

“Everyone wants me dead.”

“You’re not something I could ever come across again.”“Oh, shit.” My voice teeters toward an edge, high-pitched and airy.

Then again, I don’t belong to anybody, and I never will.

“No matter what anyone says, I’m proud to call you my co-pilot, [redacted].”

“I think this whole concept of women being docile and obedient is nothing but wishful thinking. Or why would you put so much effort into lying to us? Into crippling our bodies? Into coercing us with made-up morals you claim are sacred? You insecure men, you’re afraid. You can force us into compliance, but, deep down, you know you can’t force us to truly love and respect you.” Read this again then re-read it 1000000000000 times.

Tour Info – support everyone on this amazing tour!

Launch post with schedule: https://caffeinebooktours.wordpress.com/2021/08/22/iron-widow-tour/

Author Information

Xiran Jay Zhao.

Xiran Jay Zhao is a first-gen immigrant from small-town China who was raised by the Internet​. A recent graduate of Vancouver’s Simon Fraser University, they wrote science fiction and fantasy while they probably should have been studying more about biochemical pathways. You can find them on Twitter for memes, Instagram for cosplays and fancy outfits, and YouTube for long videos about Chinese history and culture. Iron Widow is their first novel.

Author links:

Author website — https://xiranjayzhao.com/ 

Goodreads — https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/20132644.Xiran_Jay_Zhao 

Instagram — https://www.instagram.com/xiranjayzhao/ 

Twitter — https://twitter.com/XiranJayZhao 

YouTube — https://www.youtube.com/c/xiranjayzhao 

Book Info

Title: Iron Widow

Author: Xiran Jay Zhao

Cover: Ashley Mackenzie 

Publisher: Penguin Teen Canada

Publication date: 21 September 2021

Age group: Young Adult

Genres: Science Fiction, Historical Fiction

Synopsis:

The boys of Huaxia dream of pairing up with girls to pilot Chrysalises, giant transforming robots that can battle the mecha aliens that lurk beyond the Great Wall. It doesn’t matter that the girls often die from the mental strain.

When 18-year-old Zetian offers herself up as a concubine-pilot, it’s to assassinate the ace male pilot responsible for her sister’s death. But she gets her vengeance in a way nobody expected—she kills him through the psychic link between pilots and emerges from the cockpit unscathed. She is labeled an Iron Widow, a much-feared and much-silenced kind of female pilot who can sacrifice boys to power up Chrysalises instead.​

To tame her unnerving yet invaluable mental strength, she is paired up with Li Shimin, the strongest and most controversial male pilot in Huaxia​. But now that Zetian has had a taste of power, she will not cower so easily. She will miss no opportunity to leverage their combined might and infamy to survive attempt after attempt on her life, until she can figure out exactly why the pilot system works in its misogynist way—and stop more girls from being sacrificed.

On-page Representation

  • POC (East Asian)
  • LGBTQ+ (Bisexuality, polyamory)

Trigger and Content Warnings

  • Violence and abuse, footbinding, suicide ideation, discussion and references to sexual assault (though no on-page depictions), alcohol addiction, and torture

Book links:

Amazon — https://amzn.to/2UBMGrU 

Goodreads — https://www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/52459864 

Add this to your TBRs!!!

Reaper of Souls by Rena Barron – Book Review

I loved Reaper of Souls by Rena Barron! It’s an excellent sequel to Rena Barron’s first book in this trilogy, Kingdom of Souls. Reaper of Souls picks up right where Kingdom of Souls left off.

SPOILERS FOR KINGDOM OF SOULS:


When we last left Arrah and Rudjek, they defeated Efiya and now their main concern is the Demon King. However, a new player has emerged, and her name is Dimma. Throughout Reaper of Souls (no major spoilers), we find out more about Dimma and the Demon King. What I love about Barron’s writing is that each perspective feels different. Sometimes, authors can struggle with writing from multiple perspectives that are all in first person, but Dimma, Arrah and Rudjek all sound very distinctive.

I also hear a lot that second books are sometimes not as good as the first, but this is not true for Reaper of Souls. Now, Arrah and Rudjek still have to confront the reach of the demons while also healing from the horrific events of KOS. Rudjek now has anti-magic, while Arrah has her magic from all of the tribes to help her try to locate any tribal survivors. Both are separated on different journeys, and Barron is able to make their journeys entwine even when they’re away from each other.

Overall, this sequel is amazing and I will be waiting in anticipation for the final book of this expansive and captivating fantasy trilogy.

She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan – The Journey of A Character Who Isn’t Afraid to Take It All

Wow. I don’t think I’ve been as immersed in or as satisfied by a fantasy book as I was by She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan. It’s so easy to get into Zhu’s head and to understand what Zhu is thinking – in fact, while I usually tend to focus on how fast the plot is, this time, the part of the book that made me feel engaged was Zhu. NOTE: There will be spoiler-y quotes after the review, so if you don’t want to accidentally see any spoilers JUST read the review. I will mark the quotes section in bold. Also, quotes ARE TAKEN FROM THE ARC – I will edit this when I read a finished copy. The fact that I received a copy from the publisher and Netgalley did not influence my review.

Zhu, who is genderqueer, takes the place of Zhu’s dead brother. Zhu takes no prisoners, and really sets out to conquer the destiny that was originally meant for Chongba. I love seeing main characters who aren’t afraid to take what they desire/their destiny, and Parker-Chan really made me feel like I was able to see all of Zhu’s actions.

Obviously, the world building is fantastic – I love the fantasy elements as well as the fact that most of the violence takes place off page. I felt like SWBTS focused more on the political intrigue, which I always enjoy. Additionally, Zhu’s development from child to adult felt very well paced – I never felt like I was being rushed in the story to get to the next moment.

I do have to admit that I think some of the plot went over my head just because it’s summer, so my mind is pretty much devoted to my summer program right now, so I will definitely have to re-read SWBTS and will edit this review again at some point. Just know that as someone who’s just starting to get into adult fantasy (I think I’ve only read three: The Stars are Legion, The Poppy War trilogy, and The Wolf of Oren-Yaro), this book continues my streak of books that I could read over and over again. Overall, She Who Became the Sun is a beautiful and powerful story that I fell in love with, and I hope you all read it!

SPOILERS: Favorite quotes section

You may have ended this, but you haven’t ended me, she thought fiercely at him, and felt the truth of it shining inside her so brightly that it seemed capable of igniting anything it touched. Nobody will ever end me. I’ll be so great that no one will be able to touch me, or come near me, for fear of becoming nothing.

The eunuch showed no sign of having felt any of her thoughts. He turned his back on the monks and passed through the doors, the ceaseless flow of his incoming soldiers parting around him like a stream around a rock.

He said to them, “Burn it to the ground.”

““I suppose you’ll have little enough chance, whatever I do,” Chen mused. “But I find myself moved to improve your odds. I’ve instructed Commander Wu to give you five hundred men before your departure. How many will you have then, seven hundred or so?” His laugh was like a slab of meat hitting the butcher’s block. “Seven hundred men against a city! I wouldn’t try it myself. But let me do what I can for you afterward: if you do manage to win Lu, I’ll convince the Prime Minister to let you keep whatever you’ve taken from it. Then you’ll have enough funds for your new temple.” His black eyes glittered. “Or for whatever else you’d like to do.””

“All that means is we have to make this life count.” He stared at her. She saw the moment the relief kindled in him, of having found her again to follow. The shadows on his face were already breaking apart. Through the cracks she saw the boy in him again. He said, wonderingly, “Who did you become, when we were apart?” She smiled. “The person I was always supposed to be.”

“Zhu felt a stab of uncharacteristic pity. Not-wanting is a desire too; it yields suffering just as much as wanting.”

“After a long pause Ma said, low, “I cherish you.” Zhu smiled at her. “I don’t even know who I am. General Ouyang killed Zhu Chongba, but I’m not the person I was born as, either. How can you know who you’re cherishing?” Rain drummed on the thatched roof. The mushroom smell of wet straw pressed around them with the intimacy of another’s warm body under the blankets. “I might not know your name,” Ma said, taking Zhu’s hand. “But I know who you are.”

“You never realized that it wasn’t your name they were going to call, exhorting you to reign for ten thousand years.” As the Prime Minister fell facedown in the dirt, she said, “It was mine.”

“She didn’t just want greatness. She wanted the world. The breath she took felt like joy. Smiling with the thrill of it, she said, “I’m going to be the Emperor.”

“Behold me as Zhu Yuanzhang , the Radiant King.”

Have you read She Who Became the Sun?

Review: Sisters of the Snake by Sarena and Sasha Nanua

No matter what, I think fantasy will always be my favorite genre. One book that I anticipated for a while, even before the cover was revealed, was Sisters of the Snake, an Indian inspired fantasy where the main characters switch places. I was very grateful to be on the street team for SOTS and was on #TeamRani (Rani is the princess). Sisters of the Snake is written by Sarena and Sasha Nanua, and the tagline is: “A lost princess. A desperate switch. A destiny that will shake the world.” Here is my review for SOTS:

DISCLAIMER: I was not influenced by being on the street team and by winning a copy of the book.

Right from the start, I instantly knew I would enjoy both Ria and Rani’s points of views. Both girls are trapped, but in different ways: Ria is forced to be a soldier and Rani is forced to follow her mother and father’s every command. When both are together, it’s great to see their dynamic – it feels very natural.

I liked Rani a bit more because rich princess and palaces!!!! I love that. I also thought the world building was esay to understand/fall into – the writing style of Sarena and Sasha is a good balance of descriptive, emotional, and action. Fantasy books can sometimes be hard to get into/the world building is thrown at you all at once, but this is not the case at all with SOTS.

As for the pacing, it was pretty much perfect. I never felt bored or like I was out of the loop. In the sequel, I would like to see more about the magic of the world and the history. Also, Sarena and Sasha should advocate for a map in the next book. I would recommend this for those who want a fantasy book inspired by a non-Western place, twins who don’t know they are twins, and surprising romances.

Favorite Quote

“For eighteen years, I’ve walked these halls. Cool marble floors, paisley-patterned carpets, and a frosted-glss exterior. Ornate jalis, latticed screens that filter out the hot Abai air.” – Rani, pg 19

Overall, I’m excited for the sequel and recommend this book!

Have you read Sisters of the Snake?

Life Update – 7/10/21

Interestingly, July is going well for me!!! Here’s what’s been going on in my life, including what I’ve read, a peak into my reading journal, and my thoughts as I come up on my third year bookstagram anniversary in December.

Life

I’m a part of a university’s free collegiate scholars program that I’ve been a part of since the summer before my sophomore year and I LOVE my classes this year!! I have four classes and they are all helping me. Two of them are college focused, and one is about the U.S. Census, Identity, and Politics and the other one is about The Politics of Superhero Movies. I don’t know what I’ll write my personal statement about, but I have a few ideas.

I also feel a lot less stressed this summer – I’m hoping to meet up with some of my friends this month and next month, I’m going on a family trip (we are all fully vaccinated) to see colleges in the Western U.S.

Books

I’ve read about 8 books this month.

As for bookstagram, I’m trying not to be on IG as much and I think it’s super beneficial for my mental health. Last July, I posted nearly EVERYDAY. That does not work for me. I’ve also learned not to care as much about what others think (I hope) and I’ve made some really great friends.

I got to go to the library again today (very fortunate to have a great library system in my city) and checked out some books I’m anticipating:

  1. Blood Like Magic by LIselle Sambury – I’ve followed her for a while and can’t wait to read this!!! It is a very long book and I love long fantasy novels. Also, the cover!!! Voya looks amazing.
  2. Renegade Flight by Andrea Tang – I think this is a companion novel to Rebelwing and I remember liking Tang’s writing style and world a lot.
  3. A Universe of Wishes edited by Dhonielle Clayton – love anthologies!!! The cover is so cool and there are many details. I’m most excited for Dhonielle’s, Nic Stone’s, and Anna-Marie McLemore’s stories.

Below is an image of my book tracker in my reading journal:

Missing some information but I’ve read 7 books this month – need to read 9 more books to get to 100.

Bookstagram Anniversary – Less than six months away!

Love this photo my parent took of me!!

I think I’ll have to save up money to do a fun book haul MAYBE. I’m going to college next year, so I’ll probably limit myself to 3-5 books. I already have the Fairyloot edition of Our Violent Ends by Chloe Gong preordered, so that might be my gift to myself, lol!

I don’t know where I would be without bookstagram. When I didn’t have many friends irl, bookstagram was there for me. I’m happy to say I follow a few people’s private IG’s and I hope to meet them irl someday.

What should I do for my third year bookstagram anniversary?