My Owl Crate for May 2019

I know, I’m about a week late in posting my OwlCrate, but I’m so glad it’s here! It did not arrive late, my crazy schedule just has me exhausted, and this month has been pretty busy for me! I’m happy to show you all my OwlCrate items for May!

Beautiful sleeping mask, inspired by A Court of Mist and Fury. Created by Bookworm Boutique
Passport wallet, featuring a quote from ‘The Hobbit’! Designed by Kit Cronk Studio
Enamel Pin, created by IceyDesigns

Pillowcase designed by Stella Bookish Art, featuring a quote from V.E. Schwab’s ‘A Darker Shade of Magic’
Water Bottle featuring a quote from Neil Gaiman’s ‘Stardust’. Created by KDP Letters.
Hafsah Faizal’s debut novel ‘We Hunt the Flame’, signed by the author!
Special booklet included in OwlCrate

Receiving ‘We Hunt the Flame’ was a pleasant surprise, since I pre-ordered a copy of Faizal’s debut novel last month. So I ow have two copies of her debut novel! This is a wonderful addition to my list for Asian Readathon, as it will be the novel I will take on as May comes to a close. I’m very much looking forward to diving in!

“Girls of Paper and Fire” by Natasha Ngan: A Review

Book: ‘Girls of Paper and Fire’ by Natasha Ngan
Publisher: Jimmy Patterson Books, Little Brown and Company
Length: 400 pgs.
Series or Standalone: Book #1
in a Series

I read ‘Girls of Paper and Fire’ for Asian Readathon. I didn’t think that I would be swept into this novel so quickly. YA isn’t necessarily the genre I actively lean towards, but the subject content (women finding strength among each other among a harsh, patriarchal environment) was something I was very intrigued about. It did take me a couple weeks to finish, but I have my hectic schedule to blame for that!

‘Girls of Paper and Fire’ takes place in the world of Ikhara, where humans are Paper castes, the lowest ranking citizens. They exist to serve Steel and Moon caste citizens (Part Demon/Human & Demon form, respectively), Paper caste girls’ destiny to become consorts for the Demon King. This story follows the journey of Lei, a Paper caste girl six months shy of her 18th birthday, who works in her father herb shop in the peaceful village of Xienzo. One day, the Demon King’s crew comes for Lei, ripping her from the security of her home to become a Paper Girl. For Lei’s family, they face this horror a second time, for the same group took Lei’s mother seven years prior. Lei is then swept into the Demon King’s region of Han, where she is trained to become the Ninth Paper Girl. Along the way, she learns about the hidden politics that the Demon King and his people exist with within their daily life. Lei also goes on her own personal quest to learn what became of her mother.

Before the novel begins, both James Patterson and Natasha Ngan shares with the reader a trigger warning for violence and sexual assault, and there are certainly scenes in this book that’s difficult to absorb. Lei and the other Paper Girls range between 16-19 years of age, and they must endure varying degrees of physical abuse from the Demon King, and other members of the Royal guard. Although these parts are very difficult to read, they add to the narrative of Lei gaining strength within herself to gain the upper hand over her abusers. She yearns for freedom, yet she is entangled in traditions that are centuries old, thus she finds herself leaning on the guidance of another Paper Girl to navigate through the social graces and code that women must adhere to while living in the Palace. As the plot unfolds, it is reveled that an uprising is in the making, and hidden alliances are formed. This adds into growing tension within the story that culminates into action and dramatics that flowed beautifully.

The supporting characters in ‘Girls of Paper and Fire’ share a camaraderie with Lei in the pathways that align with a YA tale, artfully written to depict the struggles these women face as they live their roles as Paper Girls: the best friend who seeks understanding from Lei as she fights to understand her emotions with the Demon King. The antagonist, set out to make Lei’s life miserable, while enduring the damaging effects of being a Paper caste woman. A blooming romance, which is a female/female relationship. Ngan detailed the growing dynamic between Lei and her partner (from acquaintances to close lovers) very beautifully. It highlighted the strengths and weaknesses of both characters involved, featuring the sacrifices each woman faced upon realizing their feelings for one another.

‘Girls of Paper and Fire’ serves to give readers a deeper understanding of women fighting for justice and empowerment, while handling the ugly face of hierarchy and assault. Natasha Ngan amazingly shares her narrative to young women, providing a strong statement to walk without shame, to understand that victims of assault are not along in their struggle, that they can rise like waves and crash over opposition.

Rating: 5/5Stars

May 2019 Book of the Month Unboxing

My Book of the Month selection for May arrived today! I’m not sponsored by Book of the Month, but I love receiving their boxes each month. They always have captivating titles, and their service covers many book genres.

This month I chose The Buried: An Archeology of the Egyptian Revolution, by Peter Hessler. It is a book that talks about the Egyptian Revolution through the eyes of a journalist who moved to Cairo with his family when things were beginning to change in a monumental way!

Brief Summary (from Goodreads):

Drawn by a fascination with Egypt’s rich history and culture, Peter Hessler moved with his wife and twin daughters to Cairo in 2011. He wanted to learn Arabic, explore Cairo’s neighborhoods, and visit the legendary archaeological digs of Upper Egypt. After his years of covering China for The New Yorker, friends warned him Egypt would be a much quieter place. But not long before he arrived, the Egyptian Arab Spring had begun, and now the country was in chaos.

In the midst of the revolution, Hessler often traveled to digs at Amarna and Abydos, where locals live beside the tombs of kings and courtiers, a landscape that they call simply al-Madfuna “the Buried.” He and his wife set out to master Arabic, striking up a friendship with their instructor, a cynical political sophisticate. They also befriended Peter’s translator, a gay man struggling to find happiness in Egypt’s homophobic culture. A different kind of friendship was formed with the neighborhood garbage collector, an illiterate but highly perceptive man named Sayyid, whose access to the trash of Cairo would be its own kind of archaeological excavation. Hessler also met a family of Chinese small-business owners in the lingerie trade; their view of the country proved a bracing counterpoint to the West’s conventional wisdom.

TBR Book Tag

I discovered this book tag through ‘Feed the Crime‘s blog.

How do you keep track of your TBR list?

I mainly keep track of my TBR list through keeping a mental checklist of what I would currently love to read. I also have most of them listed on Goodreads, but I don’t focus on that too much.

Is your TBR mostly print or e-book?

My TBR is mainly print books. I have some on my Kindle also, but not many.

How do you determine which book from your TBR to read next?

Since this month I’m participating in Asian Readathon, I’m focusing on books that stick to that format. Aside from that, I’m mainly a mood reader.

A book that has been on your TBR the longest.

Image result for image of the fault in our stars
One day I’ll read this!

A book that you recently added to your TBR.

Image result for Image Shatter Me

A book on your TBR list strictly because of it’s beautiful cover.

I don’t follow this, I purchase them because I’m interested in reading them.

A book on your TBR that you never plan on actually reading.

A book of Grimm’s Fairy Tales. A co-worker gave me a copy during last year’s Secret Santa.

An unpublished book on your TBR that you’re excited for.

Image result for images Color Me In
Color Me In by Natasha Diaz. Thank you NetGalley!

A book on your TBR everyone has read but you.

Image result for images The Gilded Wolves
The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi

A book on your TBR everyone recommends to you.

Image result for images book cover American Gods
American Gods by Neil Gaiman

A book on your TBR you’re very excited to read.

Image result for image the tea girl of hummingbird lane lisa see
The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See. I love this author!

The number of books on your Goodreads TBR shelf.

I have 32 on my TBR shelf. But I have more than that lol

Asian Readathon Blog #2

I’m now at Chapter 10 of ‘Girls of Paper and Fire’. There is a lot of build-up as Lei and the other Paper Girls prepare to meet the Demon King. There’s also lots of history about aristocratic women and their fashion sense, along with deep-rooted class differences between Paper and Steel castes. I really appreciate Lei’s growing bond with her personal maid. It provides her a link to a (very small) network of female companions. I’m trying not to get my hopes up too much, since this is an emotional story, revolving around a group of nine women vying for the King’s attention. I do like what I’m reading though.

Asian Readathon Blog #1

At the moment I’m reading ‘Girls of Paper and Fire’ by Natasha Ngan. I’m a little over 50 pages into the story. I really appreciated the trigger warning of violence and sexual assault before the novel begins, and it’s pretty accurate. Despite reading some intense content within the first couple chapters, I’m still enjoying the book. The world building of Ikhara is also very in depth, and I’m completely taken in with the many clans/castes in each region.

Although I’m reading ‘Girls of Paper and Fire’, I’m also reading ‘Crooked Kingdom’. I’m pacing my reading so I don’t become too overwhelmed with several books at once.

Independent Bookstore Day Book Haul

Since Independent Bookstore Day was over the weekend, Andy and I couldn’t wait to make our visits to local bookstores within Hunterdon County. We set our sights on three local stores, with a last minute stop over to Pennsylvania to visit a book store that has many wonderful titles.

Our first stop was over to Act2 Books in Flemington, NJ. This location has many Classical books, along with Contemporary and Sci-Fi/Fantasy selections. I had fun browsing the selections available, and settled on picking up Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. I already had a copy of this book on my old Nook, but it’s still packed away in a box from a recent move. I also own a physical copy of a Pride and Prejudice retelling (Pride & Prejudice and Zombies), but don’t want to begin that without reading the story that started it all!

We then drove around the corner, and down Main Street to visit Twice Told Tales/Moonstone Mystery Bookstore. This location has a bigger section of Children/YA books, as well as Adult Literature and many Mystery selections. I stopped by Twice Told Tales a month ago to search for the first book in the Merry Gentry series by Laurell K. Hamilton. I was unsuccessful, but I purchased Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi instead. I haven’t began reading it yet, but I’m looking forward to it! Yesterday I bought Hollow City by Ransom Riggs. Hollow City is the 2nd installment of the Miss Peregrine series.

Our third bookstore visit was at The Book Garden in Frenchtown, NJ. This is a lovely shop set in a home. I love the way the titles are set up throughout the rooms of this small home. I also adore the little gnome sitting on the front steps of the shop! The Book Garden has a pretty decent selection of adult and children’s books. I purchased a copy of ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, and ‘Are You My Mother’ by Dr. Seuss. I was also given an Advance Readers’ Copy of ‘Prarie Fever’ by Michael Parker, which was a pleasant surprise! The Book Garden’s strong pull towards community outreach and networking reminds me of the Bank Street Bookstore in New York City. Bank Street Bookstore primarily caters to educators, yet its drive to connect with community and diversity is extensive.

Our last bookstore stop was at The Doylestown Bookshop, in Doylestown, PA. Since we were already near the PA border, we decided to make a trip to Doylestown and browse the stories. I’ve visited this book store on previous occasions, and I enjoy the extensive collection of books they contain. I always make sure to leave with a fun children’s title, since they have an extensive collection of books for early childhood educators. I also enjoy the adult literature and YA choices available. Yesterday I purchased ‘Radio Silence’ by Alice Oseman, and ‘Hop’ (a springtime picture book) by Jorey Hurley.

I had such a fun time adding on to my personal book shelves during Independent Bookstore Day. Of course, many of these titles are going into my growing TBR pile! They will be read, eventually. I never get tired of adding more titles though…and I took the time to support local businesses, a definite positive!

Books on Feminism that I Enjoy

While watching Steve Donoghue’s channel on BookTube, I learned that Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ is being re-released, along with a new cover. I loved reading ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ in college. It was for a Women’s Studies course (I minored in Women’s Studies at Seton Hall…a long time ago). I didn’t read the book in its entirety, but I enjoyed the content that I did read for the class. I loved all the courses for that minor, the faculty was more approachable to speak with than some of the professors in my major.

I also recall reading ‘Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls’ by Mary Pipher. It wasn’t for a class, but I was always into reading stories about ongoing women’s issues. This book documents the ongoing plight of teenage girls as they repeatedly fall into the plight of body image, peer pressure, and depression. Strong bonds are vitally important in ones life, yet women are constantly pressured to turn against each other, leading toward lasting emotional issues. It also shares the struggles women endure in mother/daughter relationships, wisdom clouded by the need for instant gratification.

I also enjoyed Angela Y. Davis’s ‘Women, Race, and Class’. This is a powerful book that documents the women’s movement throughout the decades, with a focus on the struggles women of color endured in order to gain equal recognition alongside their White American counterparts. I recall reading about the honorable figures within the suffrage movement during my college courses, and was surprised to learn that there were conflicts women of color faced, when all women were fighting to achieve the common goal of equal rights. It was an revealing, eye-opening experience.

Crooked Kingdom: Reading Blog #1

I finally began reading Crooked Kingdom! I’m at Chapter Five, where the Dregs are formulating a plan to rescue one of their own valuable members. The story begins with Kaz Brekker and his crew are at a severe disadvantage, trying to navigate around their community when the entire area is at odds with them.

Like Six of Crows, this story immediately drew me in. I can’t believe that it took me all month to begin reading it! I purchased the story as a Kindle read, so I can now catch without worrying about returning it to the library. I adore library books, but I took too long to get around reading my borrowed copy, and I couldn’t renew it since another patron wanted to borrow it (since it’s being adapted to Netflix soon, I can understand the demand).

I can’t wait to delve deeper into the story, especially reading about the strong female characters in the book.

I’m also reading a Netgalley selection, Time After Time by Lisa Grunwald. This story takes place in New York City in the 30s, centering around an engineer falling in love with a mysterious woman he sees among the crowds. I love everything about New York City. Since I was once a resident in the Bronx and Upper Manhattan, I always hold a special place in my heart for New York.

Professional Reader

Asian Readathon TBR

This month is a very, very lackluster reading period…I’m in progress of reading one book at the moment. That story is Crooked Kingdom, by Leigh Bardugo. I wanted to read this story at the beginning of April, but it never came to pass. Better late than never, I guess!

Now that May is approaching, I want to get back into reading more than one book per month. Since the Asian Readathon is during the month of May, I decided to give it a go! I set my goal to reading three books this month. If I get to these books, great. If I can read more, even better!

Read a book by an Asian author
‘The Gilded Wolves’ by Roshani Chokshi

From Goodreads:

It’s 1889. The city is on the cusp of industry and power, and the Exposition Universelle has breathed new life into the streets and dredged up ancient secrets. Here, no one keeps tabs on dark truths better than treasure-hunter and wealthy hotelier Séverin Montagnet-Alarie. When the elite, ever-powerful Order of Babel coerces him to help them on a mission, Séverin is offered a treasure that he never imagined: his true inheritance.

To hunt down the ancient artifact the Order seeks, Séverin calls upon a band of unlikely experts: An engineer with a debt to pay. A historian banished from his home. A dancer with a sinister past. And a brother in arms if not blood.

Together, they will join Séverin as he explores the dark, glittering heart of Paris. What they find might change the course of history–but only if they can stay alive.

Read a book featuring a Intersectional Asian character
‘Girls of Paper and Fire’ by Natasha Ngan

From Goodreads:

In this lush fantasy, Lei is a member of the Paper caste, the lowest and most oppressed class in Ikhara. She lives in a remote village with her father, where the decade-old trauma of watching her mother snatched by royal guards still haunts her. Now, the guards are back, and this time it’s Lei they’re after–the girl whose golden eyes have piqued the king’s interest.

Over weeks of training in the opulent but stifling palace, Lei and eight other girls learn the skills and charm that befit being a king’s consort. But Lei isn’t content to watch her fate consume her. Instead, she does the unthinkable–she falls in love. Her forbidden romance becomes enmeshed with an explosive plot that threatens the very foundation of Ikhara, and Lei, still the wide-eyed country girl at heart, must decide just how far she’s willing to go for justice and revenge.

Read a graphic novel
‘The Boat’ by Matt Huynh