Book Show & Tell: Forest of a Thousand Lanterns


A while ago I read Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao. It’s a fractured fairy tale about the evil queen, set in a fantasy world based on Eastern Asia. A beautiful girl named Xifeng loves a man, but her aunt Guma reads the cards and tells her the stars say she is destined for greatness, to become the Empress of Feng Lu, which Xifeng secretly desires as well. Her aunt is abusive, trying to force her to follow her fate, but she must use evil blood magic and give up the one she loves in order to succeed. She decides to do it, but she does it alone, escaping her aunt. The book is about her journey to becoming Empress and giving in to the darkness within her.

It’s a really dark and fantastical story, and I thought it was an amazing book. It was incredibly interesting reading about the story even if the characters aren’t necessarily good people. I really liked it, and I’d recommend it to people who like dark fantasy, fractured fairy tales, and Asian inspired stories.

Post #8: Lit Circle Final Project

Movie Review: Every Day (2018) – Speak Now Storyteller

For our book, Every Day, some of the most important songs in my opinion were “Colors” and “I Want You.” The latter is exactly what it sounds like, a song about wanting someone. The main character, A, doesn’t know if it’s right, all they know is that they want Rhiannon. “Colors” is about feeling blue and wanting someone you love, which I feel really relates to both of the main characters because they always have to walk away from each other when all they want is to stay. Another song I picked, “Chrono diver,” is perfect to represent the main character. It talks about always waking up in the darkness of beginning and losing yourself between memories, which is exactly what happens to A every time they change bodies.

I really like our soundtrack and its diversity. I picked lots of songs from different genres so it has a broad scope and I can represent so many different feelings and emotions through each song. I guess that’s a double-edged sword, though, because the complete diversity in genres means that the soundtrack probably isn’t very cohesive, if you were to actually listen to it all the way through. I liked the unique concept of the story and the thrill of love, but I guess it kind of lacked in substance. I really wanted it to focus more on the storyline with Nathan but it just focused on the love story. Which is fine, I’m just not as into that.

Post #7: “Talking Pictures”

The full parking lot in this picture isn’t for a specific scene, but the entire book. Each of those cars has a different driver. Each of those drivers have their own lives. We’re all our own people, and we see the people who drive these cars at school every day. Maybe we don’t know all of them, but they’re familiar. On the opposite side, A, the main character in every day, probably doesn’t know any of those people. This school isn’t familiar to them, but they could’ve inhabited any one of those people who drives any one of those cars. All the cars represent all of the lives A has lived, and many more.

This picture of the snowy peaks of Utah represents an important chapter in the book. It’s when A inhabits Rhiannon’s body and takes her on a hike in the mountains (Page 197). They want to respect her body and do something good while she’s not there so she knows she can trust them. They choose the mountains because they want her to remember being fully alone, moving with purpose, being in tune with the elements, and seeing the view from the top. Though there is only one body, A feels as if they are there with Rhiannon, the two of them together. The next day, Rhiannon says, “It’s just—do you feel you know me more now? Because the weird thing is . . . I feel I know you more. Because of what you did, and what you didn’t do. Isn’t that strange?” The idea that you can know someone better by what they don’t do, or what they do when you’re not around, is something I think most people can’t really relate to, because they aren’t there to see it, but I think it’s interesting to think about.

All the books in this picture are like a library, which represents another scene in the book. A goes to the library to meet up with Rhiannon, and pulls a prank where they pretend not to know who she is, which only works because they’re in a different body (Page 216). That in itself is big enough, it seriously freaked her out and perhaps made her lose some trust in them. Then they go to a Chinese restaurant and eat together, and have a good time. When they return to the library, they talk about books and then start making out. The mother of the boy A inhabits shows up to pick him up and gets pissed. He isn’t supposed to be kissing girls. It seems controlling to me, but at least it won’t have any lasting effects on A. Only the poor boy A was inhabiting.

The conflict started with the peculiar situation A was in, eventually confessing to Rhiannon and trying to make things work. By now, Rhiannon has tried, but ultimately decided she just can’t do it. She can’t be with A. I think the book will end like that. I believe there’s a sequel, so it probably has a different resolution then. There’s also the thing with Nathan and Reverend Poole. There’s not much left in the book, so I don’t think that will get resolved either, though I’m interested in how it ends. Are there really more people like A? Will there be a way to end the constant resetting and live a normal life? Maybe I’ll read the sequel to find out.

The book is alright. It has an interesting concept and it’s written pretty well. Maybe I’m just overly critical, but there’s something about the writing that just doesn’t make me feel like it’s amazing. It certainly captures my attention; I could read the whole book in one sitting if I wanted to, but I also feel like the pacing and the details are kind of off.

Post #6: Social Justice Background

I believe every day explores LGBT issues such as gender identity and how we can’t all fit into one box – more specifically, what it means to be genderless or genderfluid. The book places an emphasis on being accepting and not judgmental. Throughout the book, the main character, A, switches bodies, inhabiting all sorts of people, from girls to boys to anything in between, always accepting whatever body they’re placed in, and it shows how there’s nothing wrong with people who feel some sort of fluidity to their gender identity.

LGBT people and issues have existed for a long, probably all of time, but it’s only recently that these people have started fighting for their rights. In 1952, Virginia Prince, a male crossdresser, started what many people believe to be the first transgender rights movement in America (genderfluidity falls under the broader category of transgender, or those whose gender identity is different from the sex they were assigned at birth). Now, there are many people fighting for equality for trans people. A couple organizations include GATE and The World Professional Association for Transgender Health, which both advocate for human rights and justice.

The book hasn’t explicitly talked about these issues so far, but it does bring up the topic and make you think about it. Does it matter what gender someone identifies as? Should that influence what others think of them? Is it wrong to have preferences of gender when you’re interested in someone? These are some questions that the book raises. It also explores sexuality in the main love interest – is it wrong for her to not be attracted to A when they’re inhabiting a girl? Should she just be more accepting? I think it’s interesting so far, though the main character falls in love awfully quickly. I’m interested to see where the story goes with this.

multi colored pawns opposite grey ones; concept of gender fluidity

Book Show & Tell: Nothing to Envy

A couple months ago, I read Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick. I wasn’t expecting it to be so good, but it completely surpassed my expectations!

Barbara Demick is a journalist for the Los Angeles Times who moved to Seoul to cover the Korean Peninsula. After travelling to North Korea, she realized she could barely get any information that way; the government was too careful to keep the truth from foreigners. So instead, she talked to hundreds of defectors living in South Korea, writing the book based on the real experiences of six North Korean defectors. The story has a strong focus on the famine of the mid 90’s.

One of the main characters is Mi-ran, a young girl who falls in love with a boy named Jun-sang, and the book follows their forbidden love story, sneaking around at night so they wouldn’t be caught together. There’s also Mrs. Song, an incredibly patriotic mother who loved her homeland, but as the famine hit and she could no longer feed her family, she began to come to the painful truth that her country that she loved so much wasn’t as amazing as she always thought. It also follows the story of her daughter, Oak-hee, a rebellious girl who was never fond of the regime. Next, Dr. Kim looked after children in a hospital and she watched countless children die of starvation, knowing she couldn’t do anything to help. Then there’s Kim Hyuck, a “wandering swallow.” He was just a boy when the famine hit and he was left to fend for himself on the streets. All of these characters are real people who actually went through everything shown in the book.

The book was incredibly sad at times. You read about all these characters and then watch as their loved ones die. They have to fight for their lives to escape from the North Korean regime. However, it was also very interesting and informative. I learned so much about North Korea and the lives of those who live there from reading the book. Also, about halfway through when it starts telling the stories of how they defected, it becomes exciting. Watching them fight so hard and finally escape is thrilling. I really enjoyed reading Nothing to Envy.

I would recommend it to anyone who likes nonfiction, especially narrative nonfiction, or anyone interested in North Korea. I’d also recommend it to just about anybody who likes reading because I think anybody would find it interesting.

Post #5: Steelheart Final Post

Review: The Reckoners: Steelheart - Geeks Under Grace

Now that we’re done reading Steelheart, I’m sort of glad it’s over. The book had an interesting concept, but I felt like for most of the book I wasn’t engaged and it didn’t feel realistic (in the literary sense, of course it’s not realistic because there are people with superpowers). The last few chapters were definitely better than the rest, and I might even read the other books, but it’s certainly not one of my favorite stories.

I do think the book’s view on Epics is interesting. While our protagonists hate Epics, the end reveals that two of them were Epics all along. Through the whole book, it showed that normal people stand a chance against Epics, that they’re not all-powerful, so it was somewhat disappointing to find out that Prof was an Epic. I don’t think they would’ve been able to take down Steelheart if Prof hadn’t been able to occupy him for so long, which wouldn’t have been possible if he was a normal person. Still, the person to kill Steelheart was David (in an unorthodox way), so it still proves that if you have the wits, you can defeat anyone, superpowers or not.

All that said, I felt like the villains weren’t very compelling. Maybe it goes into more detail in the other books (I’m guessing not, because why talk about villains that are already dead?), but there wasn’t really any backstory given about Steelheart or Nightwielder. I didn’t feel like I really had a reason to hate them, in fact I was interested in Nightwielder. I wanted to know more about him and see his backstory, but it gave us nothing. The heroes were also kind of bland. Though they were passionate, I didn’t find myself rooting for them much. The thing I hate most in heroes is when they’re too good, so at least the Reckoners were morally questionable at times. They wondered if they were doing more bad than good and if they’d hurt too many innocents in the process, so I think that’s a step in the right direction, especially now that we don’t even know if Megan was ever on the Reckoners’ side.

Lastly, for my podcast, I worked with Ryan and we talked about the themes of revenge throughout the book. Why is David so hell-bent on getting revenge? Will he have a purpose in life after? Does he consider all of this? It’s important to the book because it’s the main reason the book even exists. If not for his revenge, nothing in the book would’ve ever happened, and I think it has real world applications too. It’s interesting how at the end of the epilogue, David realizes he wasn’t fighting for vengeance but for his father’s dreams. I wonder if David becomes one of the Faithful, especially after finding out about Prof. Maybe I’ll read the second book and find out!

Blog Post #4: Series Planning

Image result for a song of ice and fire first three books

For my series, I’m going to read the first three books in the Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin. I’ve seen the show based on the series, Game of Thrones, and I loved it. I’ve read about half of the first book already, but I was never able to finish it so I’m starting over again. The books are long – they average about 800 pages each – so I’m afraid of what I’m getting myself into, but I’m going to read every day to finish them. If all goes according to plan, I’ll finish each book by the end of each month (February, March, then April). I’m so excited to finally read this series!

Blog Post #3: Bookish Things That Bring Me Comfort

I love the coziness associated with reading. Snuggling up in my bed with a good book on a rainy or cold day, relaxing just to read, losing track of time as I immerse myself in a new story. I love reading about fantastical adventures and romance and exploration, but I also find historical books to be enthralling. I love reading about the past: what actually happened or what could have been. In the video he mentioned how he likes finding fanart that matches with the characters and dreaming about his future library, as well as the excitement of a new book arrival. These apply to me as well – I’ve always loved looking at art and architecture as it’s incredibly fascinating to me.

Another thing which I find myself doing often is daydreaming. I daydream about the stories that I’m reading, and I daydream about stories that I conjure up in my mind. Though most of these ideas will never see the light of day (they’re only for my brain), I still love imagining so many different scenarios and worlds. I love the artistic creativity that goes into writing books, fiction or otherwise. In fact, I find narrative nonfiction books to be some of the most intriguing because they have a realistic feel while also being compelling to read story wise. My favorite thing about reading on my own time, though, is not having to take notes for school. Annotating while reading is one of the things I hate the most, so being able to just lose myself in a book completely and not have to worry about writing an essay on it later is so relieving.

Blog Post #2: Steelheart’s Story

He wasn’t always known as Steelheart, no, at the age of 17 he was just another boy named Jonathan. Jon had no family except an older brother who he followed around incessantly. He had nowhere else to go. His brother, Steve, was a lowly construction worker, always working at the behest of those above him. Life wasn’t easy. Epics had already started appearing in the world of normal humans, stirring up the peace they once had. There was once a time when Jon couldn’t understand what they did, now a time long forgotten.

One day Jon followed Steve to a construction site on a hill that looked like a wreck. Dirt and sand hung in the air and clung to your clothes, sheets of steel lay haphazardly on mounds of mud. Jon was helping his brother carry a log of wood up the hill. Sweat dripped down his forehead in the blazing heat. Just then, a boom sounded from somewhere nearby. The earth shook with a vibrating thunder.

Steve dropped the log and shouted to Jon, “Get down!” Debris flung out from the top of the hill. It had no concern for the people around; they were collateral damage.

“Don’t even think about running,” a striking voice boomed from overhead. “You’re mine now.”

The two boys stared above them, but they couldn’t see through the dust. The rampage resumed, buildings being torn down in mere seconds. The air was covered by a perpetual fog and the screams of the people around drowned out any other noise. Jon was terrified. He gripped his brother’s hand, willing it all to just be a dream. A sheet of steel materialized in his peripheral, flying toward the boys at a speed he’d never seen. Before he could react, the steel lodged itself right inside Steve’s chest, sending him flying. As he fell to the ground, blood began to pool around him.

“No! Steve, please,” Jon sobbed. He clambered down to Steve’s level and held onto his brother.

“Jon, don’t ever let them take control of you. Never give in,” Steve breathed out, his last dying breath.

As the light drained from his eyes, something switched inside Jon. He would never give in. He didn’t care what it took. He would get revenge for his brother, and kill everyone who stopped him.

Jon’s head whipped up at the sound of the booming voice above him. “Oops, did I hit your brother? Aw, I’m sorry, but you look so cute when you’re angry.”

Jon didn’t fall for the mocking tone. He wasn’t even listening. With a scream, he lurched his fist forward at the figure in the sky. “Die! Die!” Flying into the air, he punched the Epic in the chest, his knuckles clattering against the man’s ribs. Upon impact, blood poured out of his mouth and he fell to the ground. As Jon landed beside him, he touched the ground, turning it to steel with his newfound powers as an Epic.

He looked over at his brother, steel in his heart, and vowed to kill anyone who defied him.

Post #1: intro-duck-tion!!!

Hi! My name is Lauren and I love cats, the internet, and learning about different cultures, languages, and geography. I also love music (the title of this post is actually a song by an artist I like) and reading! I’ve been reading for as long as I can remember and while I do love reading, I don’t read very often. I tend to have phases of reading; I’ll go months without even touching a book, then suddenly spend all my free time reading for a few weeks, then back to nothing. When I do read, it’s almost always while laying in bed, although it’s quite annoying to have to either wear glasses while laying (which is uncomfortable), or take off my glasses to lay but have to hold the book 3 inches from my face. I used to read lots of YA fiction and dystopian novels – my favorite series was always Matched – but now I read more nonfiction, especially historical novels. I tend to be drawn to anything about WWII or Europe in general. I prefer reading one book at a time because I’m afraid I’ll forget all the different things I’m reading (I already have a terrible memory). However, reading different books about different topics can be interesting and I would like to improve my reading skills.