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It’s happened: I’ve become old and jaded and grumpy. Hm – maybe not quite, but definitely tired.

My reading tastes have changed, and changed most dramatically over the course of the past year or so. I used to gravitate toward Chinese novels like 一生一世,美人骨 by 墨宝非宝, Japanese novels like 東京レイヴンズ by あざの 耕平 and 心霊探偵八雲 by 神永学 and 魔法科高校の劣等生 by 佐島 勤, and English books a la Mythos Academy by Jennifer Estep and Penryn & the End of Days by Susan Ee and Death Sworn by Leah Cypess. Grand books in the largest of senses, on the biggest of stages, saving the world from one large tragedy or another, be it publicly or silently. Teenage superhero novels, if you will, with a dash of romance.

I still enjoy those types of novels. But lately, more and more, I’ve found myself gravitating toward another kind of read, and noticed this especially when I attempted to clean up my to-read list on Goodreads. Recently, it’s been Breathe, Annie, Breathe by Miranda Kenneally and The Last Time We Say Goodbye by Cynthia Hand; 你是我的荣耀 by 顾漫 and 我不喜歡這世界, 我只喜歡你 by 喬一; 魔女の宅急便 by 角野 栄子 and 窓際のトットちゃん by 黒柳 徹子. Recently, it’s become quieter books – in a sense – books about saving yourself. I’ve gravitated toward character-driven stories, about learning about yourself, about growing up, and about growing old. (It probably has roots in the changes and experiences in my own life, but I’m hardly about to start playing armchair psychologist.)

In an attempt to tackle my ever-ballooning to-read list, I tried blowing through a couple reads over the past few weeks, but found that some of the books I would’ve been so excited and in love with three, four, five years ago, when I first purchased/received them, no longer struck the same chords. It’s… a little strange? A little sad. A little nostalgic, even. Not to mention, I’ve tumbled ass-first out of the typical YA age bracket, and some of the books have, inevitably, begun to feel a little less relatable, and a little less “for me” – because they aren’t quite, not directly, not anymore.

(I wish we could make the NA bracket A Thing.)

But, there will always be books, and more books, and entire sections and genres of books to explore. A shift in reading tastes is nothing groundbreaking, really, and hardly profound. It was just interesting to have shifted like so, slowly, without noticing, and then to have suddenly, via cleaning up my to-read list on Goodreads, turned around and looked back the way I came – and noticed. Woah.

轻易放火 by 墨宝非宝
Published June 1st 2014 by 湖南少年儿童出版社
Source: Webnovel
Rating: ★★★½☆

Jia He is a worker-bee screenwriter in China, a profession that really does not get much for recognition but suits her personality of not liking to be in the spotlight. One day, she gets a call and finds out who will be the leading actor of her latest script—Yi Wenze, her longtime idol since her teenage days. Jia He is the screenwriter on-location for this project. So, she is there, trying best to maintain her composure and contain her starstruck giddiness in front of her idol. In the process, she happily discovers, some time later, that she has become friends with her idol. Aaaah! Already a dream come true, right? Her time with this project comes to an end, and she bids farewell and returns home, thinking that if some day she runs into Yi Wenze again, they are acquainted enough that they can nod their heads in friendly greeting to one another. But then, soon after, she gets a phone call, and the name that shows up on her caller ID is… Yi Wenze.

And so, this is a story of how a little screenwriter is pursued by her idol, the one who had been in all her teenage dreams, how she goes from being idol’s diehard fan, to idol’s friend, to idol’s girlfriend, to idol’s fiancee, to idol’s… Hehehehe.

Sugary-sweet and adorable! The leading couple is cotton-candy cute, and I really appreciate the lack of melodrama (and JY’s reaction to any hint of it), but also, I feel like they jumped the gun on a lot of things, while other elements of the story ended up feeling incomplete.

老婆,你好! by 月下蝶影
Published November 4th 2014 by Createspace
Source: Webnovel
Rating: ★★½☆☆

He was confused, so he asked, “I have a car, a house, good-looks and money. What am I lacking in?”

She replied, “All those attributes are what men use to lure mistresses. So, which of those attributes is a good characteristic?”

Ashamed, he reflected, “I am loyal to one and I can host and cook. I can make the bed and accompany you when you wish to go out.”

She replied bitterly, “I shall, reluctantly, accept you then.”

Good men would not let the women they love fight with the mistress but get rid of them on their own.

I feel like I should’ve really enjoyed this? I really liked the leads individually, as well as the main secondary characters. I really liked how this novel turned so many of my least-favorite tropes completely on their heads. But the leads, while great individually, didn’t seem to have much chemistry, and I still really, really don’t understand why WC started chasing her in the first place, let alone why he persisted for so long (I refuse to believe the epilogue reason exists because that’s the Dumbest Thing). The book was slow-paced, which isn’t always bad, but the ending, with an abrupt, out-of-character proposal, and a rushed parade of scenes that quickly pushed them to their “traditional,” happy ending, dashed a lot of my expectations.

Defending Taylor
(Hundred Oaks) by Miranda Kenneally
Published July 5th 2016 by Sourcebooks Fire
Source: Auction
Rating: ★★½☆☆

There are no mistakes in love.

Captain of the soccer team, president of the Debate Club, contender for valedictorian: Taylor’s always pushed herself to be perfect. After all, that’s what is expected of a senator’s daughter. But one impulsive decision-one lie to cover for her boyfriend-and Taylor’s kicked out of private school. Everything she’s worked so hard for is gone, and now she’s starting over at Hundred Oaks High.

Soccer has always been Taylor’s escape from the pressures of school and family, but it’s hard to fit in and play on a team that used to be her rival. The only person who seems to understand all that she’s going through is her older brother’s best friend, Ezra. Taylor’s had a crush on him for as long as she can remember. But it’s hard to trust after having been betrayed. Will Taylor repeat her past mistakes or can she score a fresh start?

The romance was cute; I liked Taylor’s family, especially her siblings; it had all the elements of a Hundred Oaks book. But. Taylor was a hot mess and she had sO many opportunities to confess, and at the beginning it made sense, but toward the middle, it was flat out frustrating to read.