Book Review: American Panda

At seventeen, Mei should be in high school, but skipping fourth grade was part of her parents’ master plan. Now a freshman at MIT, she is on track to fulfill the rest of this predetermined future: become a doctor, marry a preapproved Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer, produce a litter of babies.

With everything her parents have sacrificed to make her cushy life a reality, Mei can’t bring herself to tell them the truth–that she (1) hates germs, (2) falls asleep in biology lectures, and (3) has a crush on her classmate Darren Takahashi, who is decidedly not Taiwanese.

But when Mei reconnects with her brother, Xing, who is estranged from the family for dating the wrong woman, Mei starts to wonder if all the secrets are truly worth it. Can she find a way to be herself, whoever that is, before her web of lies unravels?

Read (finished): June 15, 2019

Rating: ⭐ 5/5

“It was a clashing of personalities and interpretations of cultures. How would my parents and I ever find a solution to this impossible mix of opposing ideals and desires?” – American Panda

Before I even finished the book, I knew this would be a 5-star read for me.

American Panda is about seventeen-year-old Mei, who struggles between being true to herself and being the perfect Taiwanese daughter. As her freshman year at MIT begins, Mei tries to enjoy her pre-med career path, but her heart is set on opening her own dance studio. As the secrets from her parents become too heavy to carry, Mei has to decide how she wants to live her life.

As an Indian-American, I have had the privilege of experiencing two cultures, but there are times where this makes life a little difficult to juggle. For example, my grandparents began to get “inquiries” about whether I was looking for a husband…right after my 18th birthday. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of people who are happy with getting married at that age. I am just not one of them. When I told my friends about it, only a few of them understood how I felt. They also just happened to be the ones in a similar situation.

As I read about Mei, it was hard not to relate. Luckily, my parents and I see eye-to-eye about a lot of things, but it still felt like I was looking into a parallel universe of what could have been my life. What if my parents held onto a different set of traditions? What if my sister and I were raised according to my grandma’s values? We all have different influences that shape our perspective, so I understand why not everything in the book reflected my own experiences. The book, however, never felt out of place.

Here is my warning to you: my review does not do the book justice. I like avoiding spoilers in my book reviews, which leads to vague descriptions and generic “I loved it!” statements. If you really want to know why Gloria Chao’s book is a treasure, you’ll just have to read it yourself.

Until next time, happy reading! ♡

P.S.- I wanted to express my opinion on the book by including some of my personal experiences. This is not a claim that all Asian-Americans live the same lifestyle. This is also not a claim that I hate my family because I love my family and would never trade places with someone else.

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Book Review: Anna and the French Kiss

Can Anna find love in the City of Light?

Anna is happy in Atlanta. She has a loyal best friend and a crush on her coworker at the movie theater, who is just starting to return her affection. So she’s less than thrilled when her father decides to send her to a boarding school in Paris for her senior year.

But despite not speaking a word of French, Anna meets some cool new people, including the handsome Étienne St. Clair, who quickly becomes her best friend. Unfortunately, he’s taken —and Anna might be, too. Will a year of romantic near misses end with the French kiss she’s waiting for?

Read (finished): June 10, 2019

Rating: ⭐ 5/5

“How can I have been so stupid? How could I have ever for a moment believed I wasn’t in love with him?” – Anna, Anna and the French Kiss

When Anna is sent to a boarding school in Paris, she doesn’t know if she will ever move past the loneliness. Luckily, she meets a group of new friends…and St. Clair. Soon, Anna is exploring the city streets that she now calls home. As she navigates both old and new relationships, however, Anna learns that home can sometimes be a person.

Two days. It took me two days to finish this book (one day if my eyes could keep up). This book is just so cute and romantic!

Anna is an easy character to relate with (or at least for me). Thinking back to my high school years, I was always afraid of being adventurous on my own. Like Anna, I was scared of failure and embarrassment. Luckily, I had a group of supportive friends. Anna finds the same encouragement in her new group of friends, which leads to her own growth.

Another thing that stuck out to me was the lack of “fluff.” The obstacles that arise throughout the plot are all important and plausible. Some contemporary and romance books bring in too much drama, but Stephanie Perkins explores the deeper connections of navigating relationships. Without giving any spoilers, I liked how the book included the idea of communication being important in a relationship. Anna and St. Clair’s relationship is not the only important relationship in the story. Friendship and family ties are just as important, and both are affected by the presence of communication.

If you like traveling as much as I do, then read this book. The descriptions made me feel like I was actually walking down the cobblestone roads or watching movies at a vintage cinema. My cravings for Parisian pastries and desserts definitely doubled too.

Anna and the French Kiss was relatable, cute, and romantic. After falling in love with this book, I am excited to read Stephanie Perkins’s other novels.

Until next time, happy reading! ♡

Book Review: Wicked Saints

(Note: Special edition copy from April 2019 OwlCrate)

A girl who can speak to gods must save her people without destroying herself.

A prince in danger must decide who to trust.

A boy with a monstrous secret waits in the wings. 

Together, they must assassinate the king and stop the war.

In a centuries-long war where beauty and brutality meet, their three paths entwine in a shadowy world of spilled blood and mysterious saints, where a forbidden romance threatens to tip the scales between dark and light. Wicked Saints is the thrilling start to Emily A. Duncan’s devastatingly Gothic Something Dark and Holy trilogy.

Read (finished): May 15, 2019

Rating: ⭐ 5/5

Oh no, don’t mind me. My heart just shattered into a million pieces, but I can put it back together.

Emily A. Duncan’s Wicked Saints was elegant, dark and romantic! It was easy for me to fall in love with the characters, and the world-building reeled me in.

The chapters switch between Nadya and Serefin’s perspectives, showing the two sides of a centuries-long war. Nadya, who I immediately liked from the start, has the ability to speak to the gods. This power makes her the hope for her people – and a target. Enter in the enemy’s High Prince, Serefin. It was hard to see him as an enemy after reading his perspective, but that is all I will say on that matter. Without giving away spoilers, your heart will go through an emotional roller coaster regardless of who your favorite character is, so just get attached to whomever you like.

Speaking of heartache, that brings me to another important character – Malachaisz. If you fell in love with The Darkling, then you won’t be able to resist the mysterious Tranavian soldier and his secrets.

I do not recommend this book for younger readers because there are scenes of torture and self-harm. There is also a lot of blood, which is to be expected with the elements of blood mages and war.

Wicked Saints was different from my normal reads, but I’m glad I gave it a chance. Captivating from the beginning, I can’t wait for what happens next!

Until next time, happy reading! ♡

Book Review: The Princess and the Fangirl

The Prince and the Pauper gets a modern makeover in this adorable, witty, and heartwarming young adult novel set in the Geekerella universe by national bestselling author Ashley Poston.

Imogen Lovelace is an ordinary fangirl on an impossible mission: save her favorite character, Princess Amara, from being killed off from her favorite franchise, Starfield. The problem is, Jessica Stone—the actress who plays Princess Amara—wants nothing more than to leave the intense scrutiny of the fandom behind. If this year’s ExcelsiCon isn’t her last, she’ll consider her career derailed.

When a case of mistaken identity throws look-a-likes Imogen and Jess together, they quickly become enemies. But when the script for the Starfield sequel leaks, and all signs point to Jess, she and Imogen must trade places to find the person responsible. That’s easier said than done when the girls step into each other’s shoes and discover new romantic possibilities, as well as the other side of intense fandom. As these “princesses” race to find the script-leaker, they must rescue themselves from their own expectations, and redefine what it means to live happily ever after.

Read (finished): May 8, 2019

Rating: ⭐ 5/5 stars

“Besides, you know what they say: Anything can happen once upon a con.” ~ The Princess and the Fangirl

The Princess and the Fangirl lived up to expectations as the second book in the Once Upon A Con series. I was worried that my love for Geekerella would only be limited to the one book, but my worries disappeared as soon as I read the first line. Without giving away spoilers, the story begins with a blog entry from a certain ‘Geekerella’ we all know well. The chapters for the rest of the book switches between the perspectives of Jess and Imogen.

Jess, also known as the famous Jessica Stone, was first introduced in Geekerella as Darien’s costar for the Starfield reboot. As the actress playing Princess Amara, she faces pressure from fans (and herself) to be perfect. The constant criticizing leads Jess to want nothing to do with the upcoming Starfield sequel, but not everyone is ready to accept Princess Amara’s departure.

Imogen has made it her personal mission to save Princess Amara from being killed off Starfield. She feels a connection to the character and refuses to let her go. With thousands of petition signatures, Imogen thinks she can change the fate of her favorite character. Especially, when the opportunity comes to swap identities with Jessica Stone for the weekend.

Sometimes we have to step into someone else’s shoes to see through the “glamor” filter. This book reminded me that life is never perfect, but we can come close by not comparing ourselves to others in order to be happy.

I definitely recommend reading this book, especially if you love fairytale retellings and geeky fandoms. Oh, and super cute romance…

Until next time, happy reading! ♡

Book Review: Geekerella

Geek girl Elle Wittimer lives and breathes Starfield, the classic science-fiction series she grew up watching with her late father. So when she sees a cosplay contest for a new Starfield movie, she has to enter. The prize? An invitation to the ExcelsiCon Cosplay Ball and a meet-and-greet with the actor slated to play Federation Prince Carmindor in the reboot. With savings from her gig at the Magic Pumpkin food truck and her dad’s old costume, Elle’s determined to win – unless her stepsisters get there first.

Teen actor Darien Freeman used to live for cons – before he was famous. Now they’re nothing but autographs and awkward meet-and-greets. Playing Carmindor is all he has ever wanted, but Starfield fandom has written him off as just another dumb heartthrob. As ExcelsiCon draws near, Darien feels more and more like a fake – until he meets a girl who shows him otherwise. But when she disappears at midnight, will he ever be able to find her again?

Part-romance, part-love letter to nerd culture, and all totally adorbs, Geekerella is a fairy tale for anyone who believes in the magic of fandom.

Read (finished): April 20, 2019

Rating: ⭐ 5/5 stars

“Look to the stars. Aim. Ignite.” – Federation Prince Carmindor

Is it possible to join a made-up fandom? Because I am ready to completely devote myself to Starfield.

Cinderella retellings are my favorite (I stopped counting how many A Cinderella Story movie marathons I’ve had), but this one is different from the others. Geekerella is the perfect mix of nerd culture and fairy tale romance. Elle has loved the sci-fi series Starfield for as long as she can remember. She even has a blog dedicated to it. Living with her horrible stepmother and stepsisters, Starfield is also the one thing that makes her feel connected to her dad.

One day, Elle finds herself texting with a stranger, who turns out to be the one and only Darien Freeman. Darien, the male lead in the upcoming Starfield reboot, is a secret fan of the beloved sci-fi series. As a rising star, Darien struggles with hiding his true self from his fans in order to protect his image. Elle is the only one he can truly feel like himself with – even if it is over text.

Now, here comes something more squeal-worthy. Elle hates the actor Darien Freeman, and Darien hates the blogger (Elle) who is quick to assume he is just another heartthrob looking for money. Completely unaware of the other’s identity, the two begin to grow feelings for one another.

A story of romance and being true to yourself (geeks and nerds unite!), Ashley Poston’s Geekerella has easily become one of my favorite YA contemporaries.

Until next time, happy reading! ♡

Book Review: The Gilded Wolves

Paris, 1889: The world is on the cusp of industry and power, and the Exposition Universelle has breathed new life into the streets and dredged up ancient secrets. In this city, no one keeps tabs on secrets better than treasure-hunter and wealthy hotelier, Séverin Montagnet-Alarie. But when the all-powerful society, the Order of Babel, seeks him out for help, Séverin is offered a treasure that he never imagined: his true inheritance.

To find the ancient artifact the Order seeks, Séverin will need help from a band of experts: An engineer with a debt to pay. A historian who can’t yet go home. A dancer with a sinister past. And a brother in all but blood, who might care too much.

Together, they’ll have to use their wits and knowledge to hunt the artifact through the dark and glittering heart of Paris. What they find might change the world, but only if they can stay alive.

Read (finished): January 25, 2019

Rate: ⭐ 5/5

Roshani Chokshi’s newest book had me running the streets of Paris — in 1889. There was adventure and mystery and tragedy, as well as a cliffhanger ending that left me eager for the sequel.

Before I started reading, I saw many reviews describing it as perfect for Six of Crows fans. My expectations grew with every recommendation I received, so I tried to start reading the book with a “blank” mind. Although there were similarities (fantasy heist story, crew of six), I found the plot to be amazing on its own. The diverse characters all had their own personal struggles to face, which led each to have their own motivation to take part in the heist. My favorites are Laila and Zofia! Individually, they are both strong females who must face their pasts, but the dynamics of their friendship also stood out to me. 

Another element I really enjoyed were the puzzle scenes. By including illustrations/visuals of the puzzles, I felt more involved in the solving of the riddles. Personally, I enjoy books with puzzles needing to be solved. They invite the reader into the action and thrill by challenging them to solve the mystery alongside the characters.

Without giving away spoilers, the book ends with a (HUGE and somewhat vague) reveal, leaving readers with questions and theories of what will happen next. I can’t wait to see what Roshani Chokshi comes up with for the fate of our wolves!

Until next time, happy reading! ♡

Book Review: Empire of Storms

The long path to the throne has only just begun for Aelin Galathynius as war looms on the horizon. Loyalties have been broken and bought, friends have been lost and gained, and those who possess magic find themselves at odds with those who don’t.

With her heart sworn to the warrior-prince by her side, and her fealty pledged to the people she is determined to save, Aelin will delve into the depths of her power to protect those she loves. But as monsters emerge from the horrors of the past, and dark forces become poised to claim her world, the only chance for salvation will lie in a desperate quest that may mark the end of everything Aelin holds dear.

In this breathtaking fifth installment of the New York Times bestselling Throne of Glass series, Aelin will have to choose what—and who—to sacrifice if she’s to keep the world of Erilea from breaking apart.

Rating: ⭐ 5/5 stars

I finally finished Empire of Storms this week!

The action continues in the fifth book of the Throne of Glass series with lots of twists and turns. Aelin’s scheming always leaves me in awe. She makes big plans in order to save the world from darkness, and each reveal keeps me at the edge of my seat. I also love the character growth and introduction of new ships! And by ships, I mean couples (but there are lots of ships on water too). There were some “mature scenes,” so consider this a warning for younger readers wanting to read this one. The book ended on an emotional cliffhanger (that I really want to scream about…but spoilers), and I can’t wait to see what happens next!

Until next time, happy reading!