book review · Uncategorized

Book Review: The Dragon Republic by RF Kuang

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Title: The Dragon Republic

Author: RF Kuang

Genre: Epic, historical Fantasy

Pages: 654

Series? Yes, 2/3

Rating: 4.25/5

All opinions are my own.*

 


Major spoilers for The Poppy War. Spoiler Free for The Dragon Republic.

The Dragon Republic is bigger and richer than its predecessor in every way: writing, plot, and characters. When we left off at the end of The Poppy War, Rin has defeated The Federation and Altan has died. Now she and the rest of the Cike face civil war. Daji is still at large leading the country but amidst that, diverging forces enlist her to start a civil war to overthrow Daji. But neither is as they seem and neither seems like the right choice.

RF Kuang explored the consequences of war in TPW but digs into the deeper recesses in this book. What happens after the war ends? Why does it feel like a loss even after they won the victory from Mugen? There are no parades, no victory celebrations, no praises and certainly no breaks in this book. Running away from her inner demons, Rin thrusts herself into civil war enlisting with Vaisra, the Dragon Warlord to overthrow Daji though his motives remain nebulous and suspicious. There are numerous descriptions of military, naval, and economic strategy. Much like the war of the first book, the plot preps and simmers slowly but violently at the beginning. Kuang moves her chess pieces slowly, almost dauntingly, until it boils over in the third act in an intense and twisting way. There’s definitely more maneuvering and strategy of large scale armies and navies in this second volume, resulting in less gory scenes than that Golyn Niis chapter but only marginally so. The action scenes are well thought out, there are no half drawn scenes of fighting, no fade to blacks. They were epic in scope and you can really picture what is happening in the whole battle scene even though you are focused only on Rin’s perspective. Whereas the reader was mostly confined to the school in the first book, we really get to see more detailed and beautiful worldbuilding here delving into Arlong and the Dragon province. But the development doesn’t stop at the material world, Kuang also develops the spiritual world more as Rin’s and the Cike’s powers are tested more. I have to admit that although I’m never really on board with fantasy books taking place too much in the spiritual world, this development of it in this world never ceased to engage me. That’s because through this, we learn more about the many issues Rin is suppressing but also the history of shaman use in this world.

This book most excels when it comes to Rin. I appreciated that while Rin is redeemable in her own right, Kuang never adds things in to Rin’s character to make her more palatable or more relatable, making her one of the most unique characters I’ve come across. Rin is dealing with a lot in this book and Kuang never lets Rin forget the things she had to do to win the war and Rin struggles to reconcile what she believed the best way to win the war with the thousands of innocent people she killed. But on top of that, Rin is being pulled every which way by different power figures vying for her special talents. She struggles to find her purpose in life because no one cares what she believes in taking only about her power can bring and what she is willing to sacrifice to exact revenge on Daji. Rin isn’t the only one that goes through the ringer however. We saw one maybe two sides to each secondary character, but here they are out of their element and each character is pushed to their limits. I especially enjoyed seeing wholesome Kitay, belligerent Venka, and a special someone (who I won’t name because spoiler) pushed to their limits. For example, Kitay who remains the diplomat and strategist struggles for his humanity and doing what is right for the army. I wish the members of the Cike were spotlighted more but they remain a welcome and funny constant to the unpredictable nature of the other characters. There are some truly sad moments in this book never vearing on sentimental but nevertheless bordering on it. The best moments of this book existed in interactions between Rin and her friends, often reminding me that while Rin is exacting revenge on Daji, I always remembered that the care and loyalty she has for her friends are unmatched. This book really goes to show how far these characters have come since they first stepped foot into Sinegard. 

No less interesting are the new characters and other returning characters. Everyone has their own motives and their own values. No matter how late they were introduced, Kuang never failed to infuse a sense of history and complication to the character. I especially liked the exploration of Daji, Vaisra, and the other warlords of the different provinces. These characters enriched the background of the story and the book would not have been the same without their strong presence. I also appreciated that she expanded her range of female characters from the first book though sadly a majority of the major players were still male. Daji, Rin, and maybe Venka were the only major female players and even then Daji and Venka appeared at only roughly 10% of the book. I hope this continues to be rectified in the final installment. 

The writing has lost some of its fast pacing and eyes-glued-to-the-page quality but it more than compensates for that with the author’s improvement in the nuance, depth, and detail of the story. Every sentence feels richer . While TPW was inspired by the works of Sun Tzu and unit 731, Kuang reached for a wider inspiration circle this time, she states she drew on the Opium Wars and the Chinese Civil Wars. There is so much more to unpack in this book and I’m looking forward to unpacking more when I inevitably reread it.

This book comes out August 6, 2019. I know that fans of TPW will love this book even more! It is one of the best fantasy sequels I’ve had the pleasure of reading. A special thank you to Harper Voyager and HarperCollins for sending me an ARC to review. I was soooo excited when I opened the package and saw it was this gem of a book I was so eagerly anticipating.

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Misc · Miscellaneous · Uncategorized

I started a Youtube channel!

Hi!

I know I have been MIA and inconsistent on this blog for a while now. But I realized my love for blogging has been waning these past 2 years. I realized this when I found out that I was taking more than 2 weeks just to finish a blog post and everytime I would come back to it, I would have this feeling of dread. I’ve wanted to make videos for so many years but always excused it because I didn’t have the right equipment, the right timing, the right setup, etc. but I finally took the plunge because I’ve been making too many excuses and it was starting to bother me. Plus, I needed some place for all my thoughts to go instead of bottling it up and having it bounce around in my head without throwing it at someone and starting discussions that I love. Anyways, I’d love it if you could check it out, it’s a review of Pan’s Labryinth!

 

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tv review · Uncategorized

I rewatched Friends..

I have to admit I did not like Friends as much this time around since I watched it for the first time 3 years ago. I had forgotten most things that happened aside from some memorable one liners (We were on a break!!!). So after rewatching all 10 seasons again, I realized that while it is a good background show to have you’re doing laundry or whatever and does have moments of great depth and relatability but there are definitely some cons that I just couldn’t ignore. Here are my stray thoughts upon rewatch.

The humor

While I absolutely adore comedy today such as The Good Place and Parks and Rec, there is something about the blunt sarcasm in Friends and other sitcoms that I totally love especially when Chandler is talking to Joey or Ross. I missed that from today’s comedies. It is especially apparent in Friends considering the characters are pretty sarcastic personality traits themselves. The jokes become pretty repetitive and formulaic but I didn’t expect anything radically different when it comes to sitcoms.

Rachel

I would argue that this show revolves around Rachel. The show begins and ends with a big decision that Rachel has to make. I really like her character growth throughout the seasons especially when it came to her career and I wish it had continued during the later seasons. I have to admit, I have a much better appreciation for her now growing up though I wish I could say the same for Ross.

Themes of Friendship!

The greatest thing about Friends is how it so accurately portrays the nature of friendship and big life events that happen when you’re in your late 20’s and early 30’s. Things like quitting your job to pursue something you actually love. Getting fired from your job. When your deepest relationship is with your friends. Trying to get pregnant. Deciding whether to commit to a relationship or even marriage. Deciding if you want kids etc. A lot of their feelings and love and devotion between friends and SO’s, these themes of finding your one true love is of course is as universal now as it was in the 90’s. I truly believe this is what makes Friends really work, the chemistry and bonds between the characters. I absolutely love the episodes when they’re doing things together such as the episode where Ross is trying to hurry everyone up for the paleontology banquet and everyone is taking their goddamn time or all the Thanksgiving episodes.

Problematic Jokes

I understand this show was written in the 90’s but I had no idea how pervasive the “gay” jokes were and it got really annoying after a while. There were whole episodes dedicating to making fun of the guys and whatever feminine habit they adopted. For example, in the episode where Joey carries around a bag, all of the friends make fun of him for carrying a purse. Or the time when Joey’s roommate who is a woman decides to spruce up the apartment and teaches Joey how to arrange flowers and Chandler furiously berates him. Or the time when Chandler plucks Joey’s eyebrows and soon after they insist they have to do something manly in order to idk continue being men? There are also way too many jokes about Ross using lotion (how that’s hilarious I don’t know). Even Monica is implicit in this, often calling Chandler and Joey girls after she does a masculine coded trait. For example, in the last episode of Season 10 she breaks Chandler and Joey’s game table, she says “I’m going to go check on the twins, see ya girls!” You could argue that these male characters do not fit stereotypical male characteristics and that makes it ok that they make fun of each other for not being “manly” cause none of them are anyway. However, it’s clear to me that in the end, the male characters continue to dig themselves deeper into the masculine stereotype they so rigidly define and never get out of it.

On the flip side, I have to give credit where credit is due although I have to admit for every credit, there is a counter..credit?. This show arguably revolves around a female main character who used to be the popular girl and is sexually promiscuous and is not punished for it (even though the show makes too many references to her being slut). Ironically, though, Rachel continues to call Ross’s female love interests sluts or whores.  The female friendships between the female characters are so wonderful and there’s numerous episodes revolving around Monica’s and Rachel’s friendship which was great to see.

The prominence of lesbian jokes also became grating. There are so many jokes about Carol being a lesbian for none other than her being a lesbian. But they did at least show Carol and Susan in a caring relationship which is something. The only thing Friends can’t be considered really is racist although how much credit should be given to them considering there were very, very few POC in the show itself? Friends does not quite stand up to the test of time but I do understand it was a product of its time.

Way too many relationships with people who you know they’re going to break up with

There are so many random extras in the show that serve as love interests that last no longer than an episode! It came to a point where I knew something had to be something wrong with the love interest. For example, Ross finds a love interest who was interested in his paleontology book in the library. She seems to be perfect: she loves paleontology and is also very good looking but come to find out she has a disgusting apartment and is a hoarder. I was frustrated at the number of “filler” love interests that came in that stood no real chance and that kind of took the fun out of it for me. I really like that Phoebe ended up with someone outside of the group, plus her and Mike are the real OTP to me.

Ross and Rachel storyline

Obviously this storyline is very hit or miss with audiences. While I found them entertaining, I never understood the appeal especially near the end, when people would come in and out of their lives and you knew they were going to break up because of course Ross and Rachel were going to end up together. Honestly, if I had it my way, I would have paired Ross with Julie from Season 2 or Charlie from Season 10 and Ross would have been with Gavin though admittedly maybe these options would not have provided enough tension? I did like that through this on and off relationship though we get to explore Ross and Rachel’s insecurities and flaws from Ross’s fear of Rachel cheating on him to both of their respective possessiveness. It would have been nice if some of those flaws had been addressed before you know, Rachel gave up a dream job in Paris for him but who cares about that when you have a hot on and off relationship with Ross right? There is a definite appeal to their story but I got tired of it very easily.

Chandler and Monica

Chandler and Monica have some very sweet moments. I especially loved Chandler’s speech to the mother about adopting her kids when Chandler tells her I’ll learn to be a good dad once the baby is born but Monica? She’s already there. She’s a mother without a baby. But I did not like their relationship dynamic after the initial stages, it just made it seem like Monica was a mom and Chandler was her kid. Chandler had so much character development from his commitment issues to opening up about his feelings and being more emotionally mature but Monica? her character development went to a standstill after she broke up with Richard which on this rewatch, I’m forever bitter about it. They were so freaking good for each other. I was also bothered by the fact that hereafter whenever Richard was mentioned, Chandler got really, really insecure about it and Monica had to convince him that he was better than Richard (even though in what ways I cannot tell you) considering Monica basically spent the entire relationship tutoring Chandler on how to even be in a relationship. Chandler did get better near the end though.

Conflict

The biggest issue I have with Friends is the constant usage of lying to build conflict. Every single episode is built on someone telling a lie to another friend and by the end, the truth is revealed. It made it really hard to understand why they were even friends and made it hard to distinguish their motives from one another. It does do very well setting up drama though. I was reading this one review about Friends and he stated that Friends was basically “a soap opera disguising itself as a comedy” which I have to agree with.

Stray Thoughts

– I think the Vegas episodes after Season 5 were among the best of the entire series. I completely love the Rachel and Ross dynamic (among the best of their acting) and their little marriage storyline was so funny

“Heelllooooo Mrs. Ross, Hellloooo Mr. Rachel!! LOL

-lots of filler storylines near the end – like Ross wearing a girl’s shirt, Joey not liking sharing food, Monica’s hair problem at the beginning

– ross and rachel storyline is sooo overdrawn. It should have ended at least 3 seasons earlier. literally everyone was better than them for ross and rachel than either of them.

-those computers and cellphones look so much older and bulkier after 3 years of not watching this show

-how awkward must it be if you say someone else’s name other than your betrothed at your own wedding? I’m looking at you Ross..

-is it just me but did Joey just get dumber and dumber with each season?

-it was so funny when the friends made fun of Ross for how many marriages he’s had

 

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Monthly Favorites · Uncategorized · wrap up

January 2019 Wrap Up

January 2019 was a stressful month for me but let’s be honest, January is never a great month for me. It’s too bad it happens to seem like the longest month of the entire year. It’s just that time where everyone is going back to their daily routine and all the fun festivities and chill time are over. You have to start reevaluating your life (as I did) and believe me, I was worried about a lot this month from taxes to money to school to what I’m going to do with my life. The thing about agonizing over big decisions that determine your life is that the process is painful but finally, finally you start to get out of your head and little by little you start to plan out the stepping stones until you feel it is feasible. I’m finally at that point and hopefully February will be better. At least it’ll be shorter. To end on a happy note, let’s end with the obligatory food pics 😉

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Noodology – Tomato Soup with Beef and Rice Noodle
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iSno Cafe Shaved Ice
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More noodles! Noodle Street – Spicy Beef Noodle Soup

But in the meantime, let’s talk about all the stuff I loved or didn’t in January. Starting with books:

Image result for the lost sistersThe Lost Sisters by Holly Black (4/5) – You know I never read short stories when it’s part of a series because I never saw the point but this short story proved me wrong. It gave more insight into Taryn’s motivations from the first book which we can all agree was confusing and sketchy at best. But, I sympathized a lot with Taryn after this story and although I do not agree with what she did (the betrayal!!), I can at least understand it.

The Wicked King by Holly Black (3.5/5) – You know, now thatImage result for the wicked king the shock of all the plot twists has died down, I can look at this book with a more clear head. I definitely do not think it was as good as The Cruel Prince. It definitely felt like a filler book; the development of the characters were sacrificed for the sake of plot development, the worldbuilding was shot to the wayside, and suddenly there are a lot more one note side characters used for advancing the plot. Of course that did not prevent me from squealing at all the Cardan and Jude scenes (yo, dm me when you get to the end of Chapter 15), and of course at that killer, killer ending. I will be waiting with bated breath for the last book. Also, shoutout to Alicia from A Kernel of Nonsense for Image result for the king of attoliabuddyreading this with me. The reading experience was so much more fun with you! 🙂

The King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner (4/5)– I’m not sure what was going through my head when I decided to quit this series at the beginning of the second book a few years ago because this series is simply amazing!! I’ve read a lot of YA books with political intrigue and none of them have really come close to the subtle machinations and plotting that this series has. Rest assure I will be doing a full review of this series once I finish the fifth book.

A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner (4/5) – The fourth book in the Thief Image result for a conspiracy of kingsseries. Another amazing installment.  This one follows a different character but I grew to love him just as much as the main characters. Again, review to come. Also, the new covers are WAY better than the old ones. Sometimes cover changes can be really good.

Image result for daughter of the forestDaughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier (DNF) – The ultimate reason why I DNF’ed this was because it was boring. It’s a very interesting book if you look at it through a feminist lens (talk to me about this, I wanna know what you think), but I grew wary once the Lady Oonagh was introduced. Of course, the female villain of the story has to wear low cut clothes and be “ladylike” and be promiscuous and sly. I hate the virgin/whore dichotomy.

 

Movies

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Bandersnatch (C)– Yes, the concept is novel and cool but only for about 10 minutes. The reason why I like watching TV and movies is because I can watch the characters come to their own conclusions. It’s part of the fun of watching characters different from you, but these “choose your own adventure” modes are you just being a stand in for the character. I could also argue that the story wasn’t right for this gimmick. If it were an adventure story such as surviving in the jungle where the choices have a lot more drastically different stakes, then sure maybe. Also, the ending was a bit too tongue in cheek and meta for me. An interesting watch, but not something I’d ever watch again.

Spiderman: Into the Spider Verse (B) – After all these years, Spiderman/Spiderwoman’s Image result for spiderman into the spider verseremains my favorite superhero and that’s because I love his/her origin story. He starts off as a teenager going about his high school life with the usual high school problems but is bitten by a radioactive spider and becomes a superhero but he’s still a teen! His story is very much a coming of age story. In much the same vein, Spider Verse is about Miles finding where he belongs but trying to live up to his people’s expectations of him. Although the story does become oversaturated what with all the different emotional beats and all the different spiderpeople coming together, it was very entertaining. Oh and yes, I did like the animation. I definitely haven’t seen something like that done in a big studio movie.

Image result for ali wong baby cobraAli Wong: Baby Cobra (A)- I’m really liking stand up comedy right now and this one was no exception. She talks a lot about modern feminism (although she’s not as feminist leaning as a lot of female comics today), her husband, racism, and a myriad of other topics. She’s pretty raunchy and crass and she tells some Asian jokes that you will only really get if you’re an Asian so that was fun.

 

TV

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Ugly Delicious S1 Ep 7 (A) – I only watched one episode which was episode 7 “Fried Rice” but I really liked it. It had such an interesting blend of talking about culture, race, and even history surrounding the cuisine. Clearly, most TV shows need to be talking about these woke topics BUT it does so in such an insightful way. I really liked the conversation they had about how we perceive authentic Chinese food vs commercial Chinese food and the concept of high end Chinese food. I Image result for patriot act hasan minhajdefinitely need to watch the rest of the season.

 

Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj Ep 1-3 (B+)– I think it’s pretty great that more young people are getting more involved in politics, although that obviously comes with consequences like the rise of polarized news. Yes, Patriot Act is a left leaning entertainment news show but I must say though that for what it is, it is informative, sincere and enthusiastic about participating in the political sphere. Minhaj is a really charismatic host and the episodes are 20 minutes long so who doesn’t have time for that? I also really like the infographics he intersperses throughout; they are very concise.

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The Good Place (A) – The Good Place is a show that I did not give a fair chance to the first time I watched it. I mean I quit it after the 5th episode but I gave it a second chance and I loved it! It is so sweet, charming and asks a lot of questions most sitcoms would not dare go near. I’m planning on a review of this as well since I’m all caught up! A must watch if you’ve already seen shows like Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Parks and Rec and Superstore, Image result for i am not a robot posteralthough this is probably my favorite out of all of them.

 

I am Not a robot (DNF) – You do not know how badly I want to fall in love with a korean drama right now but can’t find anything that I like (let me know any recommendations). This show moved kind of slowly and the whole robot thing could have led into some icky non consensual territory. Maybe I’m just making up excuses at this point.

You (C) – You may be a Netflix show but it feels a lot more like a CW show. Heck, it even Image result for youhas Penn Badgley from Gossip Girl and Shay Mitchell from Pretty Little Liars. The drama is of the back stabby, cat fighting, petty type. My problem with these types of shows is that the characters get into high stakes drama and then forget about it in the next episode. Dude, your best friend literally backstabbed you and sold you out, you got mad at her, and now the next day, with no explanation, you’re besties again?? The show was very entertaining and does delve into some interesting questions about social media and obsession. It’s a good show to binge watch.

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Book Discussion · Uncategorized

What is an effective plot twist?

Happy 2019! I’ll be honest I debated whether or not I even wanted to continue this blog after 2018 ended. I had lost some of my motivation to blog but I knew in my heart that I would want to continue discuss and write about the media I consume every time so it’s still in me to continue. How I want to change this blog however is by writing more discussions and analyses instead of reviews and wrap ups. I’ll still do a monthly wrap up (there may be a new format for this too) but for the most part, I really want to analyze what I read by analyzing the writing or seeing it through a social lens etc. I’ve always been passionate about this but I’ve just never found a lot of the motivation to put into words what I thought.

I’ve been reading a lot of books that feature plot twists lately and it got me thinking about some of the plot twists I’ve read. Plot twists manipulate and confuse but they can make the story so much more exciting and complex. What are the most effective kinds of plot twists? What makes a good one?

Spoilers below for:

  • The Cruel Prince by Holly Black
  • The Wicked King by Holly Black
  • Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
  • Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan
  • Big Little Lies TV series
  • The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner

In The Cruel Prince, Jude is a human forced to live in the Faerie world after the murder of her parents by Madoc, her “foster” fae father. In Faerie, her confidants are her sisters, cowardly and invisible Taryn and rambunctious Vivi. Her enemy is Cardan, a cruel Faerie who bullies and torments everyone but especially her. She spends the entire book trying to gain any semblance of respect in a world that sees humans as inferior by default. She eventually gives up this quest and instead chooses to gain power any way she can and force them to give her respect: “if I cannot be better than them, I will become so much worse”. Because this book is based on political maneuvering and the subtle acquisition of power, it is a fair mine field for all kinds of plot twists, some better executed than others. One of the best plot twists occurs near the end of this book when Jude uses her mithridatism to thwart Madoc. It is a brilliant plot twist because for one, Jude has been working up to this. We, as the readers do not know how she was going to use this skill only that it would be of use later on. Secondly, she is thwarting Madoc her sort of “foster” father whom she already has a tense relationship with. Although he is her parents’ murderer she still remembers the times he taught her to fight or told her bedtime stories. She understands that he loves his family but is ruthless in his teachings and knows his love comes with a caveat. Jude was raised by Madoc so how can she possibly hope to defeat him? Both have different goals and it’s tense because you question who is going to win out this fight. And even if you do know, you don’t know how. The twist is also revealed at a crucial point when we think all hope is lost with Jude. Another feature of a good plot twist demonstrated here is that after the fight, no matter the end, the character dynamics are going to change drastically.

I think the change in character dynamics is so important to a good plot twist. For one, it changes the plot hereafter and it changes the emotional stakes for the characters AND the readers. In the last heart pounding plot twist of The Cruel Prince, Jude schemes for Oak to crown Cardan as High King. Now we know that in this entire book, Cardan has been this cold blooded bully but in the past chapters, we have caught a glimmer of the humanity inside him especially when he was captured and had to confess his feelings and when he was beaten by a servant glamoured by his own brother, Balekin when he refused to practice his swordplay (fuck Balekin btw) But we know he does not want to be king at all. So the fact that the person who he has bullied, a human of all things, crowns him to be something he hates is going to drastically change things in the next book. This plot twist has great timing because we now have slightly shifted our emotional stakes on Cardan. We get to see Jude in the power position which she has wanted so badly this entire book but it came with a catch, she only has the power for a year and a day. I also really like this plot twist because it makes both characters equally vulnerable. There is a million possibilities that could potentially happen on both ends, so it makes it fun for us as readers. It also changes a lot of the emotional stakes. Whatever trust we put into their burgeoning relationship, it has been slammed down. We don’t know whether to trust in their relationship now or not or whether we can even trust what we know and believe either character will do. In the next book, we anticipate Cardan and Jude will go to even further means to get what they want.

Now let’s compare that explosive ending to the one the weakest plot twists in the series so far: the Ghost’s betrayal in The Wicked King.  In my opinion, this was not nearly as effective as that plot twists in TCP. Although it does change character dynamics, the Ghost was after all part of the Court of Shadows, it is definitely another thing to have a spy spy on you. However, we barely know anything about the Ghost! It definitely did not change the emotional stakes for me. Although it is certainly a betrayal, it is a betrayal of little consequence. Sure the Ghost bombed the quarters but what were the real repercussions of that? I didn’t remember any. Why did the Ghost betray them? Other than just for a plot twist. He was barely present in the last book too and did not seem to develop in this book. I barely even remembered that he was in this book so how am I suppose to feel anything if the Ghost betrayed them? It also feels a little cheap as of course this would be the perfect time to pull the carpet from underneath Jude just because. It changed little of the characters’ mental state just introduced a new obstacle for Jude to solve and deepened just the plot. But with Holly Black, I know that the little plot twists are only a set up for another bigger and deeper plot twist.

Of course, you don’t have to have all of these parts of a plot twist in order for it to serve well. Rick Riordan, for example, is a master of solely emotional plot twists. As demonstrated in the Mark of Athena, his cliffhangers are deadly because of the emotional stakes the reader has placed on these characters, in this case Percy and Annabeth who we have followed now for more than 5 books and are arguably the most beloved characters in the series. In Percy Jackson and The Lightning Thief, Riordan uses one of the most common plot twist tropes, that of the person you thought was on your side but turned out to be the bad buy aka Luke. We see this plot twist all the time especially in children’s movies, Wreck it Ralph, Spiderman: Into the SpiderVerse, Toy Story, Big Hero 6 etc. I think the problem with this plot twist is that it tries to establish those emotional connections too quickly and then the betrayer disappears only to reappear again kind of randomly but I understand it’s significance for the main character’s development. They are often role models or epitomes of good in the main character’s eyes and although I may have my problems with its overuse, I understand is importance to the character themes.

Plot twists can be built on top of each other and offer a look into thematic elements of the story, a definite tactic of psychological thrillers like in Big Little Lies. We have little plot twists and surprises in Big Little Lies but it culminates to the series’s biggest twist. This serves to put those other surprises into perspective and forces the reader to reevaluate what they know about the story and about their world. The plot revolves around the community finding out who choked Renata’s daughter Anabella on the playground. We follow the mom’s lives separate from that. With Celeste, we get a glimpse of the repeated abuse she suffers from her husband. The plot twist of Max being the one who choked Anabella reinforces the the overall theme and confirms Celeste’s worst fears, that her son will become just like his father. She cares most about her children and her denial about the abuse her husband perpetrates will extend beyond him and into his children even though they did not explicitly teach them to abuse. In this case, the plot twist serves more of a thematic element which I think is one of the best qualities of a plot twist. In The Queen of Attolia, Megan Whalen Turner (my master of political intrigue) has one of the best crafted plot twists that I’ve read recently in a book. The plot twist in question is when Eugenides confesses his love for the queen of Attolia, you know, the same one that cut his hand off. At first, you reel in shock wondering how in all eternity this could make any sense. How could you be in love with someone who has done irreversible damage to you who has captured you, imprisoned you, and proceeded to dump you back with only one hand. But you realize Turner has never lied to you, that this plot twist didn’t come out of nowhere, she was subtly slipped in what you thought was irrelevant and made it relevant. It is not only shocking and surprising but delivers an intense glimpse into the characters’ psyche -Gen’s near perfect ability to lie to others to himself and the queens ability to receive love but denying that for power and control. And of course, in the end, you don’t know whether it’s true or not, you can only go back and reinterpret what you thought you already knew. It is absolutely brilliant and of course, it changes the interactions hereafter immensely with the intertwining themes of love and power at play.

Of course, most of the plot twists I mentioned to some degree depend on the reader surprise. It is a very delicate balance of reveals and misdirection. The more intricate and layered these misdirection the more likely, I think you have of having a well crafted plot twist. Can a plot twist be good if you have predicted it? Of course you can know when a plot twist is coming intentionally, usually happens when the reader knows there’s going to be a confession or a secret of some sort that needs to be revealed. I like this one because it affects every decision the character makes stringing along a low grade sense of tension throughout the story. So overall, if a plot twist can somehow combine the elements of shock and surprise, but also can shift emotional and plot stakes for the characters and the reader, the plot twist can be more effective.

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favorites · Uncategorized

2018 Favorites

2018 is coming to a close and as per usual, I consumed a lot of media/things in genearl as you can probably guess. I’ve been debating the future of this blog for a while now but I’ll get into that in the next post. I didn’t do a book stats post like I normally do and even debated doing this one. But for now, a recap of my 2018 favorites!

Books

Image result for the cruel princeThe Cruel Prince by Holly Black – The Cruel Prince has probably ended up on a lot of people’s favorites and I am giving into the hype because this book deserves most of it. I completely adore this twisted world with its lies and deceit. I adore the character arcs and I simply cannot wait for what is going to happen between Jude and Cardan. The plot twists were so insane. I hadn’t read a YA fantasy book that had me on the edge of my seat and had me gladly suspend disbelief in a while. I’ll be picking up the next book as soon as it hits shelves.

 

Educated by Tara Westover – This year I read a Image result for educatedcouple of memoirs but this one was by far the best one. One of my favorite things about it was the narrator’s voice. It is completely raw and honest in its discussion of what she remembers won’t exactly be accurate all the time but that she tries to confirm with other witnesses. She surprisingly stays pretty much neutral and objective even when talking about the most horrific things that have happened to her which can sometimes be frustrating because I wanted to know what she thought of being in that situation. I loved reading about her journey written with stark descriptions of the nature that she grew up in. I loved reading about her realizations about the world she lived in and where she fit into that world and the power she gained by getting an education.

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All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation by Rebecca Traister – Nonfiction was definitely my jam this year and this was the most well-crafted I read this year. Although at first, I considered this book to be especially niche considering it is about single ladies but it turned out to be all encompassing and really lays out how this trend will affect society hereafter. It gave me so much food for thought. It gave me thoughts about how this trend will affect dating, marriage, work life, housing, the job market, and most importantly,  longstanding prejudices against single women.

March Vol. 3 by John Lewis – What I love most about this series and Image result for march vol 3this book in particular is its refusal to quite literally be black and white. Although the end goal of the civil rights movement was right, the means to get there was debated and argued. The dissent among the people of the movement, the focus on moderates of the movement.

The fact of the matter is no movement is as clean cut, heroic, and simple as one would believe. The cause is heroic but the reality is behind the scenes, there is much debating and sacrificing even your views for the greater cause. But what happens after is something worth seeing through.

Image result for the poppy warThe Poppy War by RF Kuang – Although the ending of this novel is kind of eh, there is no doubting the immense entertainment provided by its relentless main character, its study of military strategy and the often overlooked Unit 731 human experiments. I cannot wait to see where the series goes.

TV

The Haunting of Hill House – Scary and tense, the Image result for the haunting of hill houseHaunting of Hill House was absolutely incredible. More of a family drama than a horror story, it proves horror can be just as character driven as other genres.

Image result for the marvelous mrs maiselThe Marvelous Mrs Maisel Season 1 – I fell in love with Maisel and her can do attitude. The bright vividness of the production and the snappy editing and dialogue never ceased to entertain. Although season 2 failed to live up to my high expectations, the first season is so worth watching.

 

 

 

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Anne with an E Season 2– Anne with an E reminds me of everything that is quaint and wholesome in the world. It reminds me of my childhood reading Laura Ingalls Wilder books. Anne’s optimism is always appreciated as she fights for what is true to her.

This season focused much on the secondary characters including Gilbert, Diane, newcomer Cole, and Anne’s foster parents. They are each endearing in their own ways and each are finding out how they belong in this world. It’s so positive and accepting you can’t help but love this show.

Image result for love season 3Love season 3 – I’m so happy more realistic rom com TV shows are being made and this one has stuck with me throughout all these years. I completely adore the hidden satire in this series. Of course, the main draw of any rom com is the main couple. The main couple in this one is

Fargo Season 1 – I can’t believe I actually watched thisImage result for fargo season 1 show this year! It’s amazing. It’s actually quite a metaphoric show attached to a realistic often violent core. Martin Freeman is an actor I’ve always loved and I think he does a beautiful job in this one. This show is well crafted on every level from its acting to its screenplay to its editing and directing.

Movies

Crazy Rich Asians – I might love drama and intense action but at my core, there is no beating a romantic story. Crazy Rich Asians delivered on so many fronts for me. It breathes air to the stagnant trope of rich boy meets poor girl trope and the “evil mother in law” trope while being generally funny and heartwarming. This is my favorite type of commercial movie, one that is original, detailed, and passionate but still adheres to a simple formula.

Games

2018 is the year I discovered my love of games. Although it will never replace my love for books and binging TV shows, I really have found happiness in the competitiveness and stories in games.

Image result for stardew valleyStardew Valley – I love this game. It’s so cute and relaxing. You literally just take care of a farm and befriend the villagers and discover new creatures and alternatively, types of fish. There’s always things to do that keep it from becoming boring.

Soul Calibur – Soul Calibur brings me back nostalgia for fighting games. Unlike a lot of games I’m attracted to, Soul Calibur really forced me to pay attention to how I press buttons and thinking more about the movement and strategy instead of just mashing random ones like I use to do.

Polytopia – Polytopia is a simple game that still results in numerous end results plus the animation is just hella cute so there’s that too. I love the strategy you have to employ to gain control over others’ territory.

MakeupImage result for tarte microliner

Tarte Microliner – Eyeliner is my favorite piece of makeup and the tarte microliner is my favorite eyeliner I’ve ever used. It is so good; it’s shaped like a fine tip pen. It’s easy to use but very precise for the perfect winged tip. It dries really fast and does not smear but is super easy to take off.  I have such a higher standard for eyeliners now that I’ve used this one.

Image result for maybelline fit me foundationMaybelline fit me foundation – This foundation color is a perfect fit for my skin undertone. It’s not too heavy and has a more dewy finish which is perfect for me. The best part of this foundation is the drugstore price. It is amazing for the price.

Music

This year was definitely the year of the popular kpop. I fell in love with Seventeen (my favorite being “Thanks”. I love their music and will continue to listen to any new albums they come out. Although Seventeen is my favorite, I can’t forget BTS, NCT, and Red Velvet.

This was also the year of Ariana Grande, my favorite release this year being thank u, next. I don’t know, I just really like her songs but don’t ask to explain why.

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Monthly Favorites · Uncategorized

November 2018 Wrap Up

As we head into the holiday season, I find myself drawn more and more to reflecting on the year and reflecting on the people, feelings, and things I’m grateful for this year. Obviously November emphasizes this of course with Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving this year was a fun fare. I went over to my boyfriend’s aunt’s place for Thanksgiving and ate so much food. I’ve never had the traditional western Thanksgiving food so much till now. There was turkey, vegetables, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes and of course, pumpkin pie. For dinner, I went over to my boyfriend’s maternal side and ate more.. ham, turkey, creamed corn and 4 different kinds of cake plus flan. This side had a mixture of Asian food as well like sticky rice. I had so much food and it was all so good. I then had a Friendsgiving the next day with even more good food. I had the turkey obviously but also some lasagna, spinach and artichoke dip, vegetables, and 4 different types of pie!! and one apple tart (that I was in charge of and turned out much better than I thought it would be considering my dough would not even cover the pot)! We then played some Mario Party which is actually a very good party game and the games are very easy to learn.

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Friendsgiving!

It’s easy for me as an anxious person to dwell on the negatives as I’ve been want to do these past few weeks what with waiting for schools to (still) reply to me and some rejections and just my all around anxious and dissociating self. So here is me writing about some things that I am grateful for. I am thankful for my health, as frustrating as my mental health is, I still have a lot to be thankful for. I’m thankful for the exponential self growth I have achieved this year. I’m thankful for the soft sound of my fingers hitting the keyboard at work as a patient spews out her problems. I’m thankful for nice fitting jeans with the perfect top crowned with the perfect dark makeup. I’m thankful for therapy that I just started a few weeks ago. I’m thankful for the sweet rush of sweetness when you drink your first sip of boba. I’m thankful for warm, cozy nights in bed reading a book. I’m thankful for the cute clip clopping of my horse’s hooves while playing Stardew Valley and cuddling with Nathan under the covers. I’m thankful for my friends who I can reach out to anytime and feel as though I just talked to them yesterday. Whenever I talk to them I feel full, I feel whole. I have a ton more to be grateful for and I hope it encourages me to be more positive in the future.

Books

Image result for cravings chrissy teigenCravings by Chrissy Tiegen 4/5 -What I appreciate about this cookbook is the unique flair that makes it feel so personal to Chrissy. She injects a lot of her trademark humor and family history. The recipes are actually very easy and not time consuming and there’s variety of different kinds of dishes from breakfast to party dishes to Thai dishes (she’s part Thai). She wanted to emphasize the redoability (that’s not a word) of the dishes and I think a lot of the dishes you would want to do again. The pictures of the food are lovely. I haven’t tried any of the recipes but I sure want to.

 

I am, I am, I am by Maggie O’Farrell 3/5 – O’Farrell Image result for i am i am i amrecounts 17 instances of near death that she has experienced in this book. I appreciated her analysis of her immediate reactions to the these near death experiences that gives an instant reaction to what she was going through. I have two favorite stories in this collection. The first one is about the delivery of her first child. Prior to this, she was advised by doctors she must have a mandatory C-section or experience major birth complications due to her medical condition. She switched to a doctor who looked down upon those who had C-sections and refused to give her one despite her desperate insistence and she recounts the loneliness she felt even when she was with lots of hospital staff. She remembers feeling the violence simmering underneath when she narrowly escapes a stranger who turns out to be a murderer having killed a person a day after he met her. My biggest issue with the book was that it grew very repetitive and dull especially near the end. The stories started to just feel more like exposition than an analysis of death and life.

Image result for becoming michelle obamaBecoming by Michelle Obama 4/5- Review to come. But I loved it!

TV Shows

Emma Approved Season 2 (C)- I’m kind of sad this show has been cancelled due to the lack of patreon donors. But I definitely wasn’t the person I am now when I first started watching this show but I felt this time around, it lacked cohesiveness and plot. I definitely didn’t really like the mockumentary style because although we do get to see more natural settings for people to be in such as outside the office where we see more of Mr. Collins without him posing for the camera but I actually did like that people had to watch what they said in front of the camera when they were in the room. It added a certain tension. Maybe it was too late for this reboot to occur and there were too many changes ruining the nostalgia factor.

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The Haunting of Hill House (A) – Full review here.

Movies

I’m so proud of myself for watching so many movies this month. I probably watched more this month than the other months combined sadly.

Image result for searchingSearching (A) – This movie was a completely great surprise for me. Probably my favorite of the month. I really liked how social media and internet culture was used in this movie. I also really liked how it kept leading you to believe one thing but it was actually another. The ending kind of blew my mind a little. I also appreciated that the thriller took the time to explore a father-daughter dynamic. The main character feels as though he knew his daughter but as he continues his search for her, he realizes he doesn’t actually know that much about her.

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Idiocracy (C)- This movie is starting to look like real life more and more these days. Thankfully it is only a movie for now though a biting satire on consumerism, instant gratification and blind following. Besides the humor and satire, I found the plot to be painfully linear, the side characters especially the female to be written irrelevantly (sadly) and the development to be mediocre at best. It was interesting to see Terry Crews as president though.

Image result for wreck it ralph posterWreck It Ralph (A-)- I completely adore this movie. It is still as fun, original, and heartwarming as it was when I first watched it about 6 years ago. The sugar rush theme is so addicting. I love the theme of the movie, about finding who you really are despite being literally programmed otherwise. The characters are so endearing. I still want to watch the sequel although I am hesitant as I was burned earlier this year with The Incredibles 2.

Mrs. Doubtfire (A)- This movie is really funny! I had my suspicions Image result for mrs. doubtfire that it was going to be full of sexist bullshit but ironically it wasn’t that bad aside from the usual making-fun-of-female-parts-when-a-man-dresses-as-a-woman. In fact throughout the movie, he has to learn how to be more caring and more attentive to his children and ex-wife something he didn’t do before. I also liked that the ending didn’t wrap up too neatly thankfully. Robin Williams does amazing impressions and his British accent is hilarious.

Image result for kill billKill Bill (B)

Kill Bill is very unique stylistically and I absolutely adore the cinematography with its many shots seen from above the subject. Tarantino definitely gets some of the inspiration in this movie from Asian martial movies and a little bit of anime as well. I’m a bit squeamish when it comes to extreme violence in movies so I have to admit I covered my eyes for a little bit of this movie so it’s not like I’ll watch it again but I’m glad I did at least once. Although, of course, the understanding now about the sexual assault scandal of Uma Thurman and Harvey Weinstein who worked on the  Bulmovie stains the experience.

Music

Ariana Grande – thank u, next

What can I say? Another day, another Ariana Grande repeat. I also really liked the James Corden remake of it.

Misc.

Youtube – Amandarachlee

So I’ve recently went down the bullet journal rabbit hole. And I freaking love it; I’ve bought my journal, crayola supertips, the tombow dual brush pens, the whole gambit. It’s soothing and calming and literally all my favorite things: doodling, handlettering, and just scribbling down things such as to do lists or keeping track of the books and movies I’ve read or watched. Amanda’s youtube channel really inspires me and her methods are so simple that anyone can follow them. Plus it’s just so aesthetically pleasing.

Makeup Revolution – Naked Chocolate Palette

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The makeup Revolution white chocolate bar is fabulous for all the neutral colors you need. I did wish there wasn’t as much fallout with the powder and I definitely wish the glitters were more pigmented but I think it’s fabulous for the money you pay for and a great beginner’s palette. I love the dark purple and browns.

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