American Panda by Gloria Chao | Book Review

Title: American Panda
Author: Gloria Chao
Pages: 320 pages
Release Date: February 6th, 2018
Source: Hardcover from Amazon
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult
Rating: 3.5/5 stars
An incisive, laugh-out-loud contemporary debut about a Taiwanese-American teen whose parents want her to be a doctor and marry a Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer despite her squeamishness with germs and crush on a Japanese classmate.

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?

Buy the book!
I am so touched to see someone that looks like me on the cover of a highly promoted book in the Young Adult genre. When I first heard about this book, I was too excited to get my hands on it. I preordered the book, which is something I don't do anymore and it just shows how excited I was. I'm so delighted to be featuring this book on my blog and to be part of getting this book into the hands of other readers.

That being said, I really wanted to love this book. I don't read contemporary often, but when I do its usually diverse contemporaries. American Panda took me a little more than over a week to get through. While it was a pretty short book, I noticed that I wasn't that eager to pick up the book from time to time. Maybe that's why it took me so long to finish it! I'll be honest and say the book was slow and the plot didn't entice me as I originally hoped it would.

17-year-old Mei Lu knows that when she grows up she's going to be a doctor, marry a pre-approved Taiwanese man, have lots of male babies and provide for her family. What her parents don't know is that Mei doesn't want to follow the path they've carefully constructed for her. However, there is even more pressure on Mei to do what's expected of her because her brother shamed the family. Mei struggles with appeasing her family's age-old traditions while also trying to follow her own dreams.

Although I am Asian American, I have yet to face some of the things that the main character faced in this book. I think that's such an important thing to note- just because I come from the same background as a character, doesn't mean I'm going to have the same experiences. This is extremely important and something I stress because we can't judge a book based on how similar the character's experience was to our own. We must value all experiences. Fortunately for me, my parents did not push the notion that I had to be a doctor or a lawyer when I was growing up. They told me that I could be anything I ever wanted, as long as I was happy. Even though I didn't really grow up with the same experience, I could totally relate to Mei.

If you're looking for an authentic representation of what it's like to live under the pressure of cultural traditions, I would highly recommend this book. I think that a lot of Chinese traditions are very misunderstood and could even be considered cruel. This book explores what it's really like for someone to live under the pressure of these traditions and how difficult it can be to reconcile your own life with your parents expectations of you.

I enjoyed this book. It won't be making my list of top books any time soon, but I appreciated it for the representation and the storytelling. I just know this book is going to help a lot of people who feel the same way as Mei- pressured by her family's expectations and her culture to follow an already set path in life. The author said she wished she had this book when she was in school. I'm very grateful that I was able to read it at this stage in my life. So please, I encourage you to read and share it for others who might be experiencing the same thing.

Scythe by Neal Shusterman | Best Book of 2018 Already?

Title: Scythe
Author: Neal Shusterman
Pages: 435 pages
Release Date: November 22nd, 2016
Source: Hardcover from Amazon
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Dystopia
Rating: 5/5 stars
Thou shalt kill.

A world with no hunger, no disease, no war, no misery. Humanity has conquered all those things, and has even conquered death. Now scythes are the only ones who can end life—and they are commanded to do so, in order to keep the size of the population under control.

Citra and Rowan are chosen to apprentice to a scythe—a role that neither wants. These teens must master the “art” of taking life, knowing that the consequence of failure could mean losing their own.

Buy it now! 
Guys, I read a lot of books. It's basically the point of this blog and the perk of being a book blogger. When you read as many books as I do, it's easy to get lost in the same old boring tropes and reused plot lines. However, I can firmly say that Scythe by Neal Shusterman is unlike anything I have ever read before and it could, quite possibly, already be one of my favorite books this year.

Scythe takes place in what I would call a "perfect world". In this world, there is no hunger, no war and no misery. Humanity has even conquered death. Now Scythes, charged with the power to kill people, are the only ones who can control population growth. They call it gleaning. The story follows our two main protagonists, Citra and Rowan, who are chosen as apprentices to a Scythe. They will be trained in the history of the mortal world and in the art of killcraft to compete against each other in a battle where only one one will survive. Citra's and Rowan's lives are altered forever as they learn what it really means to live and they are thrust into the Scythedom, which holds more corruption than they ever realized.

The synopsis does a great job of pulling the reader in. I was quite skeptical about the concept of a utopian society because I had read other books I didn't enjoy that featured the same concept *cough cough The Giver*.  Unlike the criticism I had for those other books, Scythe had such interesting world-building and Shusterman was really able to develop his vision.

We are introduced to the Thunderhead, which is kind of like an all-seeing god that is responsible for keeping the world in this perfect state. My only qualm was that we didn't get to see more of how the Thunderhead came to be and what events led to its creation. However, I didn't think the lack of its history deterred this from becoming a great story in any way. In fact, I was glad the author focused on the present, where we were introduced to present-day technology and rules that were associated with this world. My favorite part was that the author substituted some of the most fundamental constitutional amendments for his own amendments! That takes a lot of creativity and thought.

As much as I want to reveal every part of this world that I loved, I really want you to read and discover it for yourself. It was very complete world-building. Every question I had about the world that came up in the book was quickly answered as I kept reading. I felt very fulfilled.

Even though this was a perfect world, no character in this book was perfect. Each character is defined by their morals and beliefs, especially the Scythes. The Scythes have the freedom to choose who they glean and with what method, as long as they don't surpass their gleaning quota for the year. A lot of their choices are based on each individual Scythe's personality. There are Scythes that never wanted to become one in the first place, but they don't think anyone else would be more fair at the job. These Scythes are usually more compassionate and merciful. On the other hand, there are Scythes who kill because they enjoy killing; these are mostly the corrupt ones. This book made me question a lot of things, but most of all: If I was a Scythe, how and who would I glean? Is this system of killing really fair?

If the plot and characters aren't enough to draw you in, the twists and turns might do the trick! Scythe was incredibly enjoyable, and I found that putting down the book for more than a few hours was IMPOSSIBLE. I wanted to finish the book as fast as possible to find out what happened in the end. It was a fast-paced book that didn't at all feel like 400 pages. Not to mention, the book is a lot darker than most YA sci-fi fantasies, so it's something you'll find unique from your daily reading regimen. If you want to pick up something that is far from light but makes your morals, read this book.

2018 New Year's Resolutions 🎉

I have commitment issues.

For me, it's always been difficult to propose a New Year's resolution and then actually commit to it. For many years, proposing New Year's resolutions has always been about the attention. Of course it doesn't hurt to set yourself some goals for the new year, but I've noticed that I never actually complete the goals I set for myself. It may sound silly but I think 2018 is going to be different than last year. In many ways, it is going to be my defining moment. I am going to be 18, and I will start my first semester of college. Without a doubt, this year is going to get busy. I want to cut through the chaos and propose the fives most important goals I want to achieve in the new year.

1. Revive this blog

This blog is my baby. It was how I entered the book community, and I've recently been neglecting it to work on my Booktube channel and Bookstagram. I wish I could make the excuse that I didn't have enough time in 2017, but my watch history on Netflix would certainly object. The thing is, I had the time to churn out some blog posts or write a short review. I was just sooooo lazy. I always imagined this blog as being strictly about books, after all I am The Book's Buzz. However, lately I've been thinking about posting some non-bookish content as well. It would certainly make sense since I haven't been reading lately, but I have been exploring, discovering and experimenting. This year, my goal is to POST, whether it be about books or not.

2. Have a fucking awesome second term senior year

Sometimes I forget that I'm a senior in high school, who is going to college next year! I spent majority of my first semester of senior year crying, complaining, and being depressed. I was in a bad state for the first half of the year, and I don't want a repeat. I want to enjoy school, even though I dislike homework and tests. At the end of 2017, I received the greatest news of being accepted into my dream college. It was a great way to end the year because now I can spend the rest of senior year happy and excited for my future! I will study hard, but I will not let school get in the way of my mental health and social life. I promise to make the most out of the rest of my senior year!

3. Become a minimalist; live minimally

Some of you are probably giving me the stink eye right now. How can I be a minimalist when I collect and hoard so many books? That's something I ask myself every day. Truth is, I've been trying really hard to donate a lot of my books and give them away, especially now since I'm moving away for college. To me, becoming a minimalist means reducing the waste that I make and the things that I own. I can achieve this by packing lightly for college. Another huge goal of mine is to become zero waste in college. This will actually be easier to achieve because my college is also becoming a zero waste institution, so it will make my transition a lot easier if my college has the same values as I. It's so easy to see something in the store and immediately buy it. Something I want to start doing is evaluating what tangible objects I need and what I don't need. NEED being the key word here. In my opinion, this will likely be the hardest goal to accomplish because I am a sentimental person who will find a reason for everything to be in my life.

4. Be daring in college

I will be starting college this year, and I will be moving out of the state. I would say I'm already being daring by moving out of state for school, but I really want to explore outside my comfort zone. What do I like to do besides reading, blogging, taking pictures and sleeping? I've already been doing some research on my future college and plan on trying out for the school's female a cappella group, joining a house (which is their version of a sorority), attending parties, and running for a leadership position of some kind. In this new year, I want to be daring and spontaneous, not just in college but in life.  

5. Drink more water

This isn't just a filler goal for me. Because of the little fluids that I drank, I experienced some health related problems in 2017. Drinking water has so many health benefits, that I really don't know why I can't just drink water! It's more of a memory thing, where I just forget to drink water through the day until I'm ready to go to bed (which by the way is really bad because you end up having to go to the bathroom a lot before bed or even wetting the bed altogether!). In this new year, I need to be happy and healthy so drinking water is imperative.

I Finally Read The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern...

Title: The Night Circus
Author: Erin Morgenstern
Pages: 512 pages
Release Date: September 13th, 2011
Source: Paperback
Genre: Fantasy, Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway - a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love - a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.

True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus per­formers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.

Written in rich, seductive prose, this spell-casting novel is a feast for the senses and the heart.

Buy it now!
**This review is formatted a little differently as it's one I wrote for my school newspaper. Thought I would share it with you guys anyway!**

Erin Morgenstern published her book The Night Circus 7 years ago, but the international bestselling novel just recently caught my attention and instantly became one of my favorite books of the year. Despite all the praise that this book received from fellow reviewers and acclaimed authors, it sat on my shelf for three years before I decided to pick it up. Now after finally completing the novel, I can say that it is worth all the hype. 

The circus arrives without warning. When it arrives, circus-goers line up at the front gate anxiously waiting for the sun to set and the doors to open. Striped tents, breathtaking circus acts and sweet-smelling popcorn stands furnish the circus grounds. It is called Le Cirque des Reves, and it is only open at night. 

Behind the curtains, two magicians, Celia and Marco, duel to become the last one standing in an ancient challenge that stems back to their mentors that trained them. As the two meet and begin to develop feelings for each other, the challenge only becomes more burdensome. Meanwhile the circus, sustained on the lives of the two magicians that hold it together with their magic, is transforming beyond the audience's eyes. Read more to find out what happens next. 

Out of all the books I've ever read, The Night Circus has the best writing. It's very atmospheric and descriptive, without being too lyrical or obnoxiously metaphoric. The imagery is so intense you will feel like you're walking through the curtains with the audience, watching the magic unfold. The use of dramatic irony gives the reader a sense of control over the characters when the stakes are life and death.

One of my only reservations with the book was that the story was not told in a linear sequence. As the story jumped from year to year non-chronologically, my understanding of when the events happened became hazy. A few chapters in, however, I got used to it. 

The story actually has quite a dark tone to it. Betrayal, deception and even death characterize this seemingly lighthearted tale of two magicians falling in love. I'd recommend it to anyone looking for a book that undermines their initial expectations and brings a new and adventurous twists to what might have been a simple love story. Lovestruck magicians at odds, chocolate mice and clocks that come to life? Sounds like the perfect read to me. If you're still torn over the fact that the Harry Potter series has ended, I'd recommend this book to any HP fans out there! Both The Night Circus and the Harry Potter series will make you want to run away to an imaginary world! 

Sadly, this is Erin Morgenstern's only published book, leaving her readers anticipating for more of her work. However, not to fear because theres a good chance she is working on something huge as we speak!

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