Let’s talk about another guilty pleasure of mine: asian drama. I was actually going to write this post a looong time ago, but then I kept getting sidetracked^^;; I came up with a list of my favorite dramas, but then I’d remember another drama not on the list that I liked, and then another, and then of course I had to re-watch the dramas to see which one I liked better… and then a couple weeks slipped by. Oops? So I decided that, instead of an all-time-best list, I’d just make one never-ending list and add to it every once in a while, because there are so many great dramas and it’s impossible to just choose a few. In no particular order, here are the first five!

锦绣未央 [The Princess Weiyoung]

This one’s basically a gift to your eyeballs. The costumes, the music, the editing, the background… everything is gorgeous and meticulously planned. The gorgeous setting helped the plot seem sprawling and effortless and augh this was so, so beautiful. And the characters! Tiffany Tang is one of my favorite actresses, and I love the chemistry she had with Luo Jin, as well as the close-knit relationships between her character and many of both her family and “family” members! Drama aside, it was very heartwarming to see. It’s worth pointing out though that this follows the novel extremely, incredibly loosely – I wouldn’t recommend watching if you expect the drama to be exactly like the novel. But if you’re looking for gorgeous visuals and a headstrong lead and incredible chemistry between an equally talented actor and actress, I’d highly recommend this drama!

태양의 후예 [Descendants of the Sun]

I’m never going to make an asian drama list and not include this drama – it strikes a perfect balance between action and romance and cheese and sweetness, and the concept is different and really interesting. I don’t know why but it took me a few tries to get into this drama, but I’m so glad I did finish it because it was so good *O* I especially liked the second couple’s story /ducks pleasedon’tkillme/. HEARTSTRINGS ARE TUGGED. And the easy, sweet, and caring relationships between all the characters, despite their situations, were really enjoyable to watch. I loved the action scenes, the bantering scenes, the sweeter scenes… this is such a good show^^

역도요정 김복주 [Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Soo]

This is one of those dramas where the main leads just make the entire show, you know? The story’s meh and skimps out on addressing the real issues, but I loved how refreshing and genuine and solid of a relationship KBJ and JJH had. It was a little silly, a little awkward, but it was so nice to watch. Between strangers-to-lovers and friends-to-lovers, I’d pick the latter any day, and Weightlifting Fairy had one of the best relationship portrayals I’ve seen on screen: supportive, warm, and trusting. They’re so precious ;__;

微微一笑很倾城 [Love O2O]

This is one of those dramas I can watch over and over again. I actually read the novel first, and it remains one of my favorite books, and I loved the drama as well. I loved the concept, and how scenes were split between the online game and real life. I love my historical drama, but I also love my modern-day drama, and this just struck the perfect balance! The friend, family, and love relationships were so cute and never ceased to put a smile on my face. And the relationship between Wei Wei and Xiao Nai! I loved how, instead of your typical romcom when it’s the two romantic leads getting into a misunderstanding, in this drama the two romantic leads are on the same side, and in a misunderstanding with someone else. The scene on the basketball court was particularly memorable, where one of the side characters is surprised that Xiao Nai didn’t doubt Wei Wei, and he replies with “why should I doubt my girlfriend?” Hearts. Fluttering.

힘쎈여자 도봉순 [Strong Woman Do Bong Soon]

The plot definitely isn’t as tight as it could’ve been, and the mystery and crime aspects not blended with the romance and comedy as well as it could’ve been, but somehow despite the flaws, I thought this was a really nice drama just the same. It’s one of those shows to watch when you want to see something cute and with a happy ending, you know? One of those ones where you can count on funny scenes and cute romance and good defeating evil. The leads are cute as fuck – I really liked Park Bo Young, Park Hyung Shik, and Ji Soo (though, isn’t it time he got something other than the third wheel role?^^;;;). I’d really recommend if you’re just in the mood for something fun! Especially that last episode. I can admit to watching and re-watching it more than a few times.

Raised by Wolves (Raised by Wolves #1) by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Published June 8th 2010 by EgmontUSA
Source: Purchased
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Adopted by the Alpha of a werewolf pack after a rogue wolf brutally killed her parents right before her eyes, fifteen-year-old Bryn knows only pack life, and the rigid social hierarchy that controls it. That doesn’t mean that she’s averse to breaking a rule or two.

But when her curiosity gets the better of her and she discovers Chase, a new teen locked in a cage in her guardian’s basement, and witnesses him turn into a wolf before her eyes, the horrific memories of her parents’ murders return. Bryn becomes obsessed with getting her questions answered, and Chase is the only one who can provide the information she needs.

But in her drive to find the truth, will Bryn push too far beyond the constraints of the pack, forcing her to leave behind her friends, her family, and the identity that she’s shaped?

Because I’ve been staring at this page for a few days now and still have no idea how to start this review, some lists!

Things I liked:

  • I enjoyed the first third-or-so of the story! It was fast-paced, interesting enough, and Bryn’s voice really shone through the pages. You could feel her strong character, and while she was kind of cringe-y at times – maybe just because I’m pretty close to her polar opposite and wouldn’t do a lot of the things she did – it was really fun to keep up with her.
  • The cubs! They were really cute.
  • Ali, Bryn’s mom, is fierce and protective and loyal and all-around wonderful and must be protected.
  • SHE PROTECTS BRYN AND TREATS HER RIGHT AND WHEN ABSOLUTE SHIT HITS THE FAN, SHE SAYS THINGS LIKE THIS: “…if we weren’t leaving because of what they’d done to you, we’d be leaving because the pack has twisted you enough to make you think that it’s okay for someone to treat you that way.”

Things I disliked:

  • I said I liked a third of a book but it’s more like the first quarter or the first fifth? I liked everything up until when Chase popped in.
  • Who’s Chase? Some super hot, super mysterious werewolf guy. I think. I have no idea. He was super protective of Bryn, and super love-struck if that counts?
  • But really all we know is that a handful of short, supervised meetings between him and Bryn are enough to get her to throw away her family, her friends, and the life she’s always known to basically tie the rest of her life to this guy.
  • We’re treated to a lot of cheesy lines but there’s very little substance to Bryn and Chase’s relationship. I want to swoon and coo over their relationship but there’s nothing to swoon or coo over because their relationship is built on very close to nothing.
  • The book after Chase appeared meandered in this downward spiral toward nothingness.
  • All that talk about how extra super special Bryn was really didn’t help the book’s case either.
  • There is also some plot – if you read close enough. About a rabid. But it’s drowned out by Bryn and Chase’s attraction and all this talk about how Bryn’s a Super Special Snowflake.
  • I actually kind of liked Callum in the beginning, and then he became more and more overbearing, and then he took things way too far. Protecting someone! Isn’t an excuse! For beating the shit out of them!
  • !!!
  • !!!!!!!
  • I haven’t read a lot of werewolf books, and I think Raised by Wolves might be my first YA werewolf book, or at least the first Goodreads and I can remember, but yeah, I get that a lot of fantasy novels about werewolves like to play with and reinforce the idea of strong bonds between the pack members, the idea of a pack hierarchy, and consequentially, what happens when those things are toyed with or broken. But still! I like to think that everyone, human, somewhat, or not, would agree that violence is hardly not the answer, and definitely not the answer here.
  • Raising a hand against someone in the name of protecting that very person is not okay, but everyone aside from Ali – even Bryn – just accepts it.
  • Holy fucking shit.
  • Callum gets of way too lightly, with very little repercussion. Instead, he’s basically crowned as all-knowing and all-seeing. //gag//

Scarlet (The Lunar Chronicles #2) by Marissa Meyer
Published February 5th 2013 by Feiwel & Friends
Source: Borrowed
Rating: ★½☆☆☆

Cinder, the cyborg mechanic, returns in the second thrilling installment of the bestselling Lunar Chronicles. She’s trying to break out of prison—even though if she succeeds, she’ll be the Commonwealth’s most wanted fugitive.

Halfway around the world, Scarlet Benoit’s grandmother is missing. When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information as to her grandmother’s whereabouts, she is loath to trust this stranger, but is inexplicably drawn to him, and he to her. As Scarlet and Wolf unravel one mystery, they encounter another when they meet Cinder. Now, all of them must stay one step ahead of the vicious Lunar Queen Levana, who will do anything for the handsome Prince Kai to become her husband, her king, her prisoner.

I’m going to be honest here: probably the only reason why I finished Scarlet was because I read it during history (because I’m a perfect model student, didn’t you know?). Because, really, anything is more interesting than history with a clueless substitute teacher. Even a story that nearly drove me to tears of boredom and frustration.

The most annoying thing about Scarlet was Cinder’s identity. Or, rather, the other characters’ inability to put together two and two and realize who Cinder was. I’m pretty close to crying, guys. Scarlet and Wolf were LOOKING for Princess Selene. By the end of the book, they KNEW the princess was secretly smuggled to earth and taken in by someone with the last name “Linh.” They KNEW that a Lunar teenager had recently broken out of prison (don’t tell me they didn’t know there were so many broadcastings about it) with the last name “Linh.” If they were really looking for Princess Selene, wouldn’t they have been just a little suspicious? Then if they’d done the math, they would have realized that – surprise! – the escaped fugitive and the princess were around the same age. Don’t even get me started on Captain Thorne (HE WAS WITH HER FOR THE LONGEST).

And KAI. It’s been maybe a year since I’ve read Cinder, so I might be wrong, but I’m pretty sure that whole capture thing at the end of Cinder and the Lunar Queen (whose name I’ve conveniently forgotten) were huge clue-ins to Cinder’s identity as Princess Selene. Of course, that’s not the only fuck-up from him. His big decision at the end to “save everyone” made no sense whatsoever. Yeah, okay, Earth’s going to be okay for a little bit. A couple years at most. But after that? It’s going to be goodbye, Earth.

Cinder? It’s best if you stick with Captain Throne. Granted, he isn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer, but at least he hasn’t doomed an entire planet. Yet.

That aside, the romance didn’t raise any points for Scarlet, either. It wasn’t terrible, I suppose. Just… lacking. There wasn’t really any base for the romance. Since romance is one of the genres, it’s pretty obvious that Scarlett and Wolf are going to get together, but when they do, it’s pretty disappointing. One minute they’re flinging fruits at each other and in the next they’re kissing in a jail cell and there’s literally no in-between.

The Queen’s Army/wolf pack left me equally interested and confused. I will admit to skipping over some details and things towards the end because I just wanted the story to hurry up and end already, but even so… the hierarchal system and the wolf/man concept just seemed hazy and I felt so lost. Other little things confused me too, like the setting. Sometimes it took a while to figure out where they were because all the settings seemed so similar, and the narrative neglected to point out any landmarks or such for clarification.

Captain Thorne, inability to see what was dancing in neon lights right in front of his nose aside, was funny and witty, and generally I liked him. Cinder too had turned quite interesting and badass (I greatly preferred her narratives over Scarlet’s). But that aside, there weren’t very many redeeming points for Scarlet as far as I’m concerned.

The way my rating system’s set up, I’ve described a one-star as “eh, don’t bother” and a two-star as “interesting enough to finish, but too many flaws for my liking” – pretty much Goodread’s “did not like it” and “liked it.” So I’m setting Scarlett in the middle. I did finish it, but would only recommend it for people who really enjoyed Cinder. Then again, 86% of Goodread-ers gave Scarlett 4 and 5 stars, so I guess I’m the black sheep?

But there’s my two cents ( ´ ▽ ` )ノ

Another month – done! We’re inching closer and closer to winter break! I’m booking tickets home tonight, and I’m ridiculously excited. I hate riding airplanes, but if it means heading home for the holidays… YES PLEASE! But I’m getting a little ahead of myself. So. Today on the blog: the month that was October!

October on the blog

  • I read and loved The False Prince!
  • THERE IS A THREE INGREDIENT BOBA RECIPE and you can find it riiight here.
  • Death Sworn was also a really nice read! Right up my alley 🙂
  • The Book Thief was a good read? Quiet and lovely, but definitely not all I was hoping for.
  • On the other hand, I didn’t know what to expect with The Reader and it turned out to be a really fun read!
  • My good-reads streak was broken by the “meh” This Song Will Safe Your Life…
  • And The Bone Season

Out and about

I’ve safely survived my first lab evaluation, handed in a major translating project, and just finished my first batch of midterms, and I’m honestly terrified because my bio scores come out in two days (or, two days at the time of writing up this post), and I have absolutely no idea how it went – I did manage to answer every single question in detail, but I might’ve done them all wrong? It’s happened before ><;; (thank god for ochem’s otherwise depressingly low averages, ahah).

But, a different subject! I got around to trying the Mediheal Acai facemask I was talking about in my last month’s wrap-up! It smelled lovely, but I’ll be honest: I’ve tried masks from Mediheal, Tonymoly, and Innisfree, and the way they feel on my skin and the results they produce appear just about the same. I still have quite a few masks to go through, but next time I’m buying, I really think I might just go for the cheapest options, in this case. Does anyone have any recs, maybe?

I’ve also been expanding items on my menu list! I’ve been telling myself that I should make dumplings – they’re a bit time-consuming, but once they’re done, I can throw them in the fridge and the batch’ll probably last me a week or two, right? But I’m super lazy to attempt it… I have finally lugged a bag of rice back to my apartment, and I finally got around to buying proper cooking utensils, so I’ve been making things like Korean pancakes and pasta and omelets and stir-fried noodles, though! So that’s a step? I’m still averaging just one big meal and one little meal per day, but at least my mom’s not convinced I’m going to die of hunger anymore…^^;;;

October on the playlist

  • 여자친구 GFriend – 유리구슬 Glass Bead
  • 여자친구(GFRIEND) – 시간을 달려서(Rough)
  • 여자친구(GFRIEND) – 너 그리고 나
  • 여자친구 GFRIEND – 오늘부터 우리는
  • GFRIEND(여자친구) _ LOVE WHISPER(귀를 기울이면) (so, I got really into a certain group this month…)

So there we have it! My October in a nutshell. And now, onto you – how was your month? The good, the bad – let me know! There’s only two months left of the year – we can do this!!

The Bone Season (The Bone Season #1) by Samantha Shannon
Published August 20th 2013 by Bloomsbury USA
Source: Purchased
Rating: dnf

The year is 2059. Nineteen-year-old Paige Mahoney is working in the criminal underworld of Scion London, based at Seven Dials, employed by a man named Jaxon Hall. Her job: to scout for information by breaking into people’s minds. For Paige is a dreamwalker, a clairvoyant and, in the world of Scion, she commits treason simply by breathing.

It is raining the day her life changes for ever. Attacked, drugged and kidnapped, Paige is transported to Oxford – a city kept secret for two hundred years, controlled by a powerful, otherworldly race. Paige is assigned to Warden, a Rephaite with mysterious motives. He is her master. Her trainer. Her natural enemy. But if Paige wants to regain her freedom she must allow herself to be nurtured in this prison where she is meant to die.

I felt like I was drowning.

The Bone Season was quite possibly my most anticipated book of 2013. Granted, that was years ago and my reading tastes could’ve changed, but I was really, really, really looking forward to it. There was so much hype from so many people I share similar tastes with, and the blurb had me at “criminal underworld.” That’s probably where things started going wrong.

Thing is, The Bone Season starts out perfectly fine. There might be one too many characters to keep track of at first, but it’s not bothersome. Paige, while nothing outstanding, is a character that I’d be comfortable enough to spend the book’s 500-or-so pages with. Then things kicked off – dangerous, criminal underworldly events that got me really excited, and I remember telling my friend who had gifted me the book that things were getting really good and I was starting to really love it. Famous last words, right?

Flash forward a handful of pages and the book does a complete 360. No more criminal underworld. Goodbye to the life vest and flotation device – a couple chapters in, Paige wakes up in a completely different place, and it seems as if the author just discarded the first part and restarted. The Bone Season drop kicks you off the cliff, and it’s all downhill from there.

The world-building is everywhere and nowhere all at once, and I found myself constantly flipping back to the glossary at the beginning, and still completely and utterly confused. Information comes in huge, indigestible glops, the breaks between which are just as massive, and it’s amazes me how something can be so simultaneously vague and intricate. The Bone Season really doesn’t do anything half-assed.

Somewhere between the realization that you could pretty much kill off any character, Paige included, and I wouldn’t be able to care less, and the awkward budding of romance that had no basis upon which to exist, I gave up and set the book aside, and I don’t think I’ll be continuing.

This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales
Published September 17th 2013 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Source: Traded
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Making friends has never been Elise Dembowski’s strong suit. All throughout her life, she’s been the butt of every joke and the outsider in every conversation. When a final attempt at popularity fails, Elise nearly gives up. Then she stumbles upon a warehouse party where she meets Vicky, a girl in a band who accepts her; Char, a cute, yet mysterious disc jockey; Pippa, a carefree spirit from England; and most importantly, a love for DJing.

It’s been so long since I’ve written a review, and I’ve pretty much forgotten how to do so. Gah. I was going to make this my first proper, thorough one, but the more I thought the angrier and more convoluted this review became, so I’m just going to keep this (relatively) short: I liked This Song Will Save Your Life, but I also really didn’t like it.

I like the intent; I enjoyed the DJing; I really liked many parts of the overall message.

But I hated how Elise’s attitude. She hated people judging her, but she kept judging other people and looked down on people who didn’t share her interests. Elise sits alone with earphones plugged in and this holier-than-thou attitude – everyone who likes pop music is a brainless idiot? – and even goes as far as to scoff at her friends’ likes and interests. She then turns around and harps on other people for their friendship choices, for being too judgy, and basically insinuates that she’s not “cool” because everyone at her high school’s too mindless, their interests too bland. Therefore she, as the one and only special snowflake, has to take her amazing gifts and talents elsewhere – a warehouse nightclub, with “cool older people” who fawn over and fluff her ego (true friendship). She’s so self-centered and hypocritical and I just. I mean. Wow. Tone it down a little, yeah?

The ending contains little acknowledgement of her own missteps, and while I get that she’s experienced a lot of hurt and loneliness, when she remains like so, unrepentant, for the great majority of the book, it’s really hard for me to garner sympathy for her.

The Reader (Sea of Ink and Gold #1) by Traci Chee
Published September 13th 2016 by Putnam
Source: FC from Publisher
Rating: ★★★½☆

Once there was, and one day there will be. This is the beginning of every story.

Sefia lives her life on the run. After her father is viciously murdered, she flees to the forest with her aunt Nin, the only person left she can trust. They survive in the wilderness together, hunting and stealing what they need, forever looking over their shoulders for new threats. But when Nin is kidnapped, Sefia is suddenly on her own, with no way to know who’s taken Nin or where she is. Her only clue is a strange rectangular object that once belonged to her father left behind, something she comes to realize is a book.

Though reading is unheard of in Sefia’s world, she slowly learns, unearthing the book’s closely guarded secrets, which may be the key to Nin’s disappearance and discovering what really happened the day her father was killed. With no time to lose, and the unexpected help of swashbuckling pirates and an enigmatic stranger, Sefia sets out on a dangerous journey to rescue her aunt, using the book as her guide. In the end, she discovers what the book had been trying to tell her all along: Nothing is as it seems, and the end of her story is only the beginning.

I was on hiatus when all the buzz for The Reader happened, so I didn’t actually know this existed until recently, but I’m glad I decided to pick this up! I was sold at “swashbuckling pirates and an enigmatic stranger,” and the book proved to be a really fun read.

The writing’s really suitable for fantasy – a little mysterious, a little lofty, a little wry, alternating between lines like “people passed stories from mouth to mouth like kisses, or plagues…” to characters huffing, “Yes, I’ll read now. But if Captain Cat continues to act like a yellow-bellied coward, we’re skipping it” (which by the way, is me at all the waffling main characters of numerous books. Get moving!!).

And really, reading the book was like a mini adventure or a treasure hunt of its own. I’m not sure if the book’s design is the same across all editions, but I have the hardcover edition, and I love the little intricacies of the design! I don’t want to give too much away, but just as the story dropped little fragments and clues and left the reader to gather them all up and piece them together at the end, so did the book’s designs, which really added to the reading experience.

The setting is lush and sprawling across the pages, and the plot is rather intricately layered – it was really cool to see all the parts that I thought were insignificant and/or unrelated come together at the end – but if I had to pick a favorite, the experience of reading The Reader would be the best part. The Reader’s just one of those books that just work really nicely in physical book form: the design is well-planned to match the story, and then the story sweeps you along so that every little thing about the design of the book in your hand is heightened by Sefia’s experience with the book in her hand. And that was really pretty cool. Although I do have to mention – while it was lovely to see Sefia fall in love with books – eyes wide and dreamy, unlike my own 0 to 100 experience – the whole “this is a book” thing got repetitive after a while, and then annoying after that. So while I loved the idea of a book about books, there was a point where the novelty wore off. Maybe somewhere around here? –

“Reading herself in the book.
Reading herself reading herself in the book.
Reading herself reading herself reading herself…
Maybe someone was reading her right now, and if she looked up, she would see their eyes staring down at her, following her every move. Maybe someone was reading the reader.”

(And then, a couple paragraphs later, cue: “THIS IS A BOOK.” /sighs/)

I also really enjoyed the romance. Really, really enjoyed the romance. Maybe in part because it was light and fair and barely-there, given life by the plot instead of the other way around, as is common with a lot of reads. Mostly, though, because of Archer, resident cinnamon roll who could kill you, but is still a cinnamon roll who deserves all the love and happiness in this world because he’s pure and deadly and sweet as fuck.

“He could not remember wanting anything so badly as he wanted to kiss her now. To be that close to her, mouth to mouth, testing the shapes of her teeth and her lips. It was as if he’d never really wanted anything, and now this wanting blazed inside him like a lamp, the light reflecting out of him as bright as a beam from a lighthouse.

But he didn’t dare.

He looped his arms over the rails, and made his sign for the book.

And Sefia began to read to him, her voice clear and strong in the wind, and that was enough. It didn’t matter what the book or the legends said. What mattered was that he and Sefia were there, legs kicking idly off the edge of the quarterdeck, with the breeze and the bright afternoon sun pouring over them. What mattered was that they were together… and he was happy.”

Kind, lovely, cute, dangerous cinnamon roll. Yep.

I also really loved the chapter (section?) “The Boy from the Sea – Harison’s Favorite Song,” which was just three short stanzas but made me feel all sorts of bittersweet and sad, but I’ve already quoted two things and this review’s already more than long enough as is, so: page 325 of the hardcover! Please read it.

I did have a few other small bones to pick with the book, though. For one, there were a couple glaring inconsistencies, most of which surrounding Sefia’s book knowledge. I found it really strange that she didn’t know about books and reading, but was somehow able to teach herself to read? I get that she remembered a little from what she’d seen from her parents when she was very little, but I can’t imagine how she’d be able to come up with the proper sounds just by looking at letters she doesn’t recognize? Also, she didn’t know what a book was, but the word and meaning of a bookmark seemed to come to her very naturally… how?

And, then while it was pretty cool to have all the pirate inserts, and Lon’s chapters… I felt like they weren’t that necessary for the overarching plot? It was intriguing at the beginning, but as the story went on, they began to feel more and more like filler chapters – and I’ll admit to skipping and skimming parts of them. If those parts were cut down a little, and more scenes were introduced into the climax, particularly around Tanin’s big part, then I think the story would’ve read more cohesively and smoothly.

But overall, I loved the idea of a book celebrating the magic of books, and with the really lovely reading experience, The Reader delivered! And, one more quote to end this review, because I can’t resist, and because this passage just stuck with me for a long time:

“I’d be lyin’ if I said I didn’t want to be part of that story… We got such a short time in this world, you know? Cut shorter by the blasted foolishness of men. Tavern brawls, rival outlaws, wars that claim the lives of thousands. Our existence is so small that most of us only matter to a handful of folks: the captain, the crew, maybe a couple others. But bein’ part of a story like that? A story that’d blow all others outta the water in its greatness and scope? It wouldn’t give me more time here, but if I were part of something like that, maybe my life wouldn’t be so small. Maybe I could make a difference before my time ran out. Maybe I’d matter.”

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Published March 14th 2006 by Knopf Books for Young Readers
Source: Borrowed
Rating: ★★★☆☆

A story about, among other things: A girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery. . . .an unforgettable story about the ability of books to feed the soul.

I feel kind of heartless writing this review. I guess that’s the thing about books dealing with topics like these; I wanted so badly to say I bawled my eyes out after reading The Book Thief, or that it broke my heart into tiny, tiny pieces, or point to the mountain of tissues by my side but instead I’m sitting here a good chunk of time later, with no clue how to start.

Let’s just start with: yes, this was sad. It’s almost a given, seeing the topic. But it didn’t strike any chords, didn’t trigger the waterworks, and didn’t make me want to read and re-read over and over again to savor the story. Yes, Zusak is a brilliant writer. He really knows how to craft sentences, everything is incredibly well-written, and his prose is probably the thing that convinced me to keep reading. But I felt very disconnected from the characters, the setting, the story.

One of the first things you’ll hear about when people talk about The Book Thief is how it’s narrated by Death. Which seems interesting until you actually read the story, and then you realize that Death’s narrative is akin to placing me in front of a classroom filled with strangers, and giving me an hour to talk about a topic I’ve never researched: I’m going to ramble and stutter and repeat myself over and over again, and you’re hardly going to be interested in, much less pay attention to, a good chunk of it. It was interesting at first. Every chapter or so Death would come in with these little interjections and offer us a little glimpse into the future or the past, or a random little musing that wouldn’t quite seem so significant, but would make you curious enough to mull over. But it got old quickly. The thing about giving your readers little tidbits to mull over on the side is that it takes away from the actual story. The Book Theif was simultaneously trying to tug at your heartstrings with Liesel’s story and bait you with tidbits and musings from Death, but didn’t juggle the two carefully enough, resulting in an incredibly disjointed story, and a disconnected reader.

I loved the idea. The Book Thief is about the people on the “other side.” I’ve read so many Holocaust novels from Jewish perspectives. Number the Stars by Lois Lowry was perhaps the first historical fiction novel in this time period that featured a different narrator. The Book Thief was the second, and I went in expecting something bigger, something deeper, but it pretty much just touts a everyone-in-the-army-is-evil mantra. Is it too much to say that I was hoping for something more? Needless to say, The Book Thief stayed small, safe, and disappointing. I feel like there were bigger things, bigger problems that The Book Thief only skimmed over. I mean, I know Liesel’s still a child, and people probably made an effort to shield her from what they could, but Nazi Germany’s reach was global. They were a Big Deal, but the The Book Thief pretty much disregarded that.

Next time I go into a book with this big and this wrong of an expectation, yell at me?

I liked it enough to finish it; The Book Thief was a decent novel. I really liked the “power of words” theme, and the characters, while not the most memorable cast I’ve ever “met,” were solidly written. I liked the idea of a book thief (and, after misspelling it again and again in this review, I’ve learned that, unlike most of the words in the English language (?), it’s spelled with “ie” and not “ei”) and her scenes running around town.

I was, however, a little disappointed to find that, while she was called the “Book Thief,” she only stole two or three books. With a title like that, I was thinking of thefts climbing into the double digits.

So, all in all, it was okay. I’ll probably look up excerpts and quotes from time to time, because Markus Zusak’s writing is lovely in that quiet kind of way. And while The Book Thief made a decent one-time read, it wasn’t outstanding by any stretch, an apt bookstore-read, though I am glad I read it.

Death Sworn (Death Sworn #1) by Leah Cypess
Published March 4th 2014 by Greenwillow
Source: Traded
Rating: ★★★½☆

When Ileni lost her magic, she lost everything: her place in society, her purpose in life, and the man she had expected to spend her life with. So when the Elders sent her to be magic tutor to a secret sect of assassins, she went willingly, even though the last two tutors had died under mysterious circumstances.

But beneath the assassins’ caves, Ileni will discover a new place and a new purpose… and a new and dangerous love. She will struggle to keep her lost magic a secret while teaching it to her deadly students, and to find out what happened to the two tutors who preceded her. But what she discovers will change not only her future, but the future of her people, the assassins… and possibly the entire world.

Because I’m quite the pessimist and always prefer my bad news before my good, I figured I’d start my review that way, too – bad before the good. Not that there wasn’t a lot of things to dislike about this book. Really, there wasn’t anything I particularly disliked about Death Sworn at all. It was just… light.

Death Sworn was a pleasant book – light on the romance, awesome characters, filled to the brim with secrets and conspiracies… it wasn’t a terrible book by any means. It was enjoyable, but I guess it just wasn’t the most impressive book.

This paragraph I’ve added in just now, after I’ve written the rest of this review, but now, mulling things over, I realize that Death Sworn has another noticeable flaw: world-building, or rather, the lack of it. I didn’t quite notice it when I was reading, or immediately afterwards – the writing and the story uses just the bare minimum and somehow makes it work – but Death Sworn lacked a lot of world-building details. We’re never really quite sure what’s going on beyond the caves where the book takes place, or really who any of the main power figures of the Empire are, though their names are scattered throughout the book. The Renegai (magicians) also remain quite a mystery for the duration of the novel, as does the whole magical system. Surprisingly, it didn’t take much away from my initial reading experience, but these were all things I’d like to know.

Also, I think it really says something about YA novels nowadays (or maybe just my crappy reading selection?) when I get extremely, irrationally happy when the main character, the single female, walks into a cavern filled with male assassins – most if not all of which have probably never seen a woman in their lives – and none of them looks her way. They’re assassins – they’re trained killers. They’ve got more to do than trip over themselves for some girl, no matter how kick-ass or beautiful she was. I also got extremely, irrationally happy when Ileni said something like “I love you, but I’m not stupid.” FINALLY. A heroine who can love while keeping her head on straight. Hallelujah. Where have you been my whole life. It’s a bit of an exaggeration, but I also think it’s quite sad to feel happy over things that should already exist.

I really liked Ileni, her level-headedness, and the way that, when something bad happens to her (and a lot does), she kind of just sucks it up and moves on, doing what she can. I know I’d fall apart and probably hide under a rock for a while, especially if I’m put in her situation: sent into a cave full of assassins without adequate magic to protect oneself with, but she has to trick and convince them that she does, for her own safety. Yep, if I was in a novel, I’d probably be that one crybaby helpless character who dies in the first chapter. Maybe the second, if I was lucky. But I digress. She knows her limitations and she doesn’t try to rely on miracles. She’s realistic, but she isn’t a bundle of negativity, and I liked that.

The romance was light, but a good kind of light. It was one that builds up slowly – they’re allies and have a lot more on their plate to worry about than love. Please excuse my laziness to walk upstairs and find my copy of Death Sworn for the exact quote, but I remember this one part when they begin realizing their feelings and Sorin freaks out and backs up a little, then says that basically meant that falling in love with Ileni was unavoidable, as she was the only girl he’s ever seen. That made me laugh a little. I liked how they were honest and awkward and they fit each other so nicely.

I think the main thing though, was that Death Sworn was exactly my kind of book. Magic, assassins, light romance – you’d really have to screw up for me to dislike it. And what Death Sworn did was far from that.

Today, I interrupt your seemingly non-stop stream of bookish rambling to bring you food-related rambling! Hehe. Remember back in August when I wrote and rambled my way into a boba craving, said I was going to post a simple recipe for homemade boba, and then promptly forgot about it? GUESS WHAT I FINALLY REMEMBERED a few months later. Better late than never, right?

**HEADS UP I’m probably going to screw up and use boba and tapioca balls interchangeably throughout this post. They’re the same thing, though! Its all good^^

The Ingredients

  • 100 grams of tapioca starch (+ some extra for shaping)
  • 80 grams of hot water (+ more water for shaping)
  • 40 grams of brown sugar
  • FOR BOBA DRINKS: brown sugar or honey (to flavor – as much as your heart desires) + your favorite drink
  • makes roughly 2-3 servings

The Method

  1. Melt the brown sugar in hot water – make sure the water’s boiling before you add in the sugar. I didn’t have the grain-type sugars on hand when I made the ones in the pictures above, so I used brown rock sugar crystals (I think that’s what it’s called in English?), and that worked just fine too. Remember not to let it boil for too long with the sugar, though! As soon as the sugar melts, you’re good to go.
  2. Add the sugar to the tapioca starch!
  3. Shape your mixture into little balls! Okay, this step’s kind of tricky – there’s a lot of boba-making recipes online that makes the shaping part super easy, like the mixture’s super pliable and well-behaved. But it isn’t! It looks kinda hard (it isn’t), dries pretty quickly, and when it dries, it crumbles easily. So if this happens to yours? Don’t worry – that’s normal, and your boba should (probably hopefully most likely) come out juuuust fine. What you want to do is try to get this done as quickly as you can. There’s a lot of ways to shape boba – you can lay the whole thing out flat, cut them into squares (divide in horizontal lines, then vertical) and shape the squares into little balls, or you just can grab little pieces of the mixture and shape them into balls. They also don’t have to be round – you can make them any shape your heart desires! – though do bear in mind that they do get slightly larger when you cook them. It’s not enough to be too troublesome, though.
  4. Once your tapioca balls are formed, place them in a container and sprinkle a little extra tapioca starch over them to keep them in shape, and from sticking to one another. At this point, you can either store the container in the refrigerator and go about your day, or you can cook them to eat right away!
  5. So you’ve decided to eat your boba now! Fill your pot with hot water – you want enough water so that all of the boba is completely submerged, with plenty of space at the top. I’d say the height of your water should be at least twice the height of your boba when it rests at the bottom of the pot – maybe three times the height?
  6. Bring the water to a boil, then add in your boba.
  7. Bring the water to a boil again. When your boba starts to float at the top of the water, put a lid on the pot, bring the flames to a low heat, and let it cook for 15 minutes.
  8. Once 15 minutes are up, turn off the stove and, without removing the lid, leave the pot as is and let the boba steam for another 15 minutes.
  9. You’re done! You’re now the proud owner of a pot of homemade boba 😀 How you eat this is now entirely up to you. I recommend mixing your boba with some sugar or honey to taste. This flavoring step you’ll want to do as soon as you take the boba out of the pot, as it starts to harden once cooled. Then just add however much you want to a nice drink, add a thick straw, and you’re done! As far as drinks go, I’m pretty basic, so I recommend milk tea, fruit tea (you could even be all fancy and chop up some fruit into cubes the size of your boba), or just plain fresh milk). You could also be like my brother and just dump the entire thing into a bowl and eat it as is. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Tips + Tricks

  • So, turns out, shaping the boba into little spheres is actually kind of a pain in the ass because of how quickly everything dries. To make things easier, boil some extra water and set it on the side. While shaping your boba, dip your fingers into the extra warm water every once so that your boba mixture stays wet enough to mold.
  • Dust your workplace with a layer of tapioca starch – the mixture dries rather quickly and requires lots of water, but too much water and the whole thing gets really sticky! Also remember to add extra tapioca starch into the container you put all your newly shaped boba into – this prevents the individual boba from sticking to each other, and from losing shape. Turns out boba’s pretty temperamental^^;;;
  • If you’re only feeling like drinking one cup, cook a small portion of your boba, and stick the rest of it in the container in the refrigerator! I’d say this could hold for about a week at least. Remember though – once heated, you’ll have to eat it – re-refrigerating the boba will cause it to lose that delicious chewiness. And that would kind of suck.