Author Q&A and Book Review: American Panda by Gloria Chao


35297380*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: American Panda

Author: Gloria Chao

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Publication Date: February 6, 2018

Synopsis from Goodreads:
At seventeen, Mei should be in high school, but skipping fourth grade was part of her parents’ master plan. Now a freshman at MIT, she is on track to fulfill the rest of this predetermined future: become a doctor, marry a preapproved Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer, produce a litter of babies. With everything her parents have sacrificed to make her cushy life a reality, Mei can’t bring herself to tell them the truth–that she (1) hates germs, (2) falls asleep in biology lectures, and (3) has a crush on her classmate Darren Takahashi, who is decidedly not Taiwanese. But when Mei reconnects with her brother, Xing, who is estranged from the family for dating the wrong woman, Mei starts to wonder if all the secrets are truly worth it. Can she find a way to be herself, whoever that is, before her web of lies unravels?

Author Q & A

A huge thanks to Gloria for taking the time to answer my questions below. She gives awesome insight into her experience writing this wonderful book and what her future books might look like. Take a look below and see!

What inspired you to bring the story of American Panda to life?

I wrote American Panda when I switched careers from dentist to writer and was having a hard time communicating with my parents. I wanted to write the book that I needed then and also the book I needed as a teen.
I hope American Panda can show readers that they aren’t alone, that it’s okay to not feel wholly one thing or another, and that cultural gaps can be difficult. I wanted to capture the struggles I went through as a teen that were difficult to explain to my friends, and I wanted to write a character that was relatable to many but also specific enough to show a window into another world. I also wanted readers to know that things can get better, as they did for me in real life.

2. What has been the most exciting aspect (so far) of publishing American Panda?

The most exciting part of this journey so far has been hearing from readers (of all ages and backgrounds) who connected with Mei and her story. These readers are the ones I wrote the book for and knowing they found each other has been a dream come true. Thank you, everyone, for all the tweets, messages, and fan art that have brought tears to my eyes! It was also so wonderful receiving starred reviews from Voya magazine, Booklist, and Publisher’s Weekly!

3. What does your writing space look like?





I am very spoiled and have a view of Lake Michigan.

4. What book do you have on your nightstand right now?

I don’t read in bed, but the book I’m currently reading that’s on my desk right now is Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. Her writing is gorgeous and I love that she writes about secrets. My second book, which I’m currently revising, is all about family secrets and the dangers of not communicating, and it’s been fun reading Little Fires Everywhere as I edit!

5. Who are some authors who inspire you and why? Did any of these authors have an influence on you as you wrote American Panda?

J.K. Rowling and Stephanie Meyer’s books made me fall back in love with books during dental school. As I revised American Panda, I was inspired by Amy Tan and all the amazing, brave POC Own Voices writers including but not limited to Jenny Han, Nicola Yoon, Zoraida Còrdova, Angie Thomas, Anna-Marie McLemore, Marie Lu, Adam Silvera, and Jason Reynolds. I’m also inspired by Jason Reynold’s story and how he didn’t read growing up, which I relate to. He’s amazing for what he’s accomplished, and he’s also one of the nicest authors I’ve ever met!

6. Do you have any other future writing projects in mind?

I’m currently drafting Misaligned, which will be out fall 2019 with Simon Pulse. The book follows a teen outcast who is swept up in a forbidden romance and down a rabbit hole of dark family secrets when another Asian family moves to her small, predominantly white Midwestern town. In this book, I explore race, identity, and the dangers of not communicating.

I have ideas for 2 other books that also feature Taiwanese protagonists struggling with the cultural gap, so it’s safe to say I will be exploring similar themes for a little while!

And what did I think?

I absolutely loved Chao’s book! It thought it was an intense, heart-wrenching, emotional journey of a young woman who is not only trying to discover who she is, but is also trying to navigate the strict traditions of her family and her culture. She is struggling to find her place on the vast campus of MIT–denying many of the things she loves out of her sense of loyalty and duty to her parents. When that duty becomes too much, Mei is sure that everything she’s ever known and love will come tumbling down. Her story is one of great strength and bravery. She fights for what she feels is right, even if that means going against the people who mean the absolute world to he. Chao’s writing brings Mei and her experience to life. Although my experience as a young woman is vastly different–not even comparable–to Mei’s, I felt as though I was her. I connected with her frustration and her anxiety. I understood her desire to be the perfect daughter and to work as hard as possible to be successful. Chao’s book is infused with life and realness. Her story is tangible, visceral, and so relatable. In my opinion, this is a definite must-read!


Review: The Revenge of Analog by David Sax

34220715.jpgTitle: The Revenge of Analog

Author: David Sax

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Publication Date: November 2016

ISBN: 9781610398213

Synopsis from Goodreads:
A funny thing happened on the way to the digital utopia. We’ve begun to fall back in love with the very analog goods and ideas the tech gurus insisted that we no longer needed. Businesses that once looked outdated, from film photography to brick-and-mortar retail, are now springing with new life. Notebooks, records, and stationery have become cool again. Behold the Revenge of Analog. David Sax has uncovered story after story of entrepreneurs, small business owners, and even big corporations who’ve found a market selling not apps or virtual solutions but real, tangible things. As e-books are supposedly remaking reading, independent bookstores have sprouted up across the country. As music allegedly migrates to the cloud, vinyl record sales have grown more than ten times over the past decade. Even the offices of tech giants like Google and Facebook increasingly rely on pen and paper to drive their brightest ideas. Sax’s work reveals a deep truth about how humans shop, interact, and even think. Blending psychology and observant wit with first-rate reportage, Sax shows the limited appeal of the purely digital life–and the robust future of the real world outside it.

As a lover of analogue, this book really struck a chord with me. My home is filled with books, records, stationary, board games, and film. I love Poleroids and vinyl, and I’m sure you can guess, the delicious pages of a freshly opened book. Sax discusses the recent trend of people turning away from digital products to seek the analogue–looking for products that are tangible and engaging in a way that scrolling across a glass screen is not. Sax addresses the move away from e-books and digital cameras, and explores how various industries are looking to de-tech, even to a small extent, to give people room to breathe and be creative. He discusses how analogue items like notebooks and whiteboards allow for limitless creativity while digital programs limit thought to the confines of the program or website one is using. Physical objects open up the minds of the users to discover the depths of their own minds by offering a place of peace and quiet, and simple encouragement.

Sax sticks with a simple formula in each chapter, which I did find a bit repetitive. Each chapter introduces a company or product, discusses it’s rise, fall, and comeback as each triumphs over a technological world. I thought it was a very neat set of case studies, however I think they could have been condensed into fewer chapters, combining a few perhaps so as not to reiterate the same argument across the first set of chapters. When Sax switches gears to work and education, things get even more interesting and his arguments switch gears a bit, re-engaging the reader. He talks about companies that have moved away from automated processes and have brought skills back into North America to hire workers in a skill-learning environment. He discusses the flowering of children’s creativity in the classroom as teachers reject the fleeting and brief displays of digital technology in favour of the classing whiteboard where lessons remain for longer periods of time, allowing children to read, digest, and absorb knowledge.

I would definitely recommend this one. Even if Sax’s chapters are repetitive, his thesis seeks to define the triumph of analogue products in a digital world. If you love anything analogue, this book will hit close to home. The book highlights how analogue products are truly a creative outlet and an art form for those who create them and appreciate them. These products are not just about acquiring something, they are about an experience both physical and emotional. This is something I truly connect with and I hope you will too with this book.

Review: The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

26032825*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: The Cruel Prince

Author: Holly Black

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Publication Date: January 2, 2018

ISBN: 9780316310277

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Jude was seven years old when her parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Jude wants nothing more than to belong there, despite her mortality. But many of the fey despise humans. Especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King. To win a place at the Court, she must defy him–and face the consequences. In doing so, she becomes embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, discovering her own capacity for bloodshed. But as civil war threatens to drown the Courts of Faerie in violence, Jude will need to risk her life in a dangerous alliance to save her sisters, and Faerie itself.

This book takes me back to so many of the books that shaped my young reading life. It’s been years since I’ve read a Fantasy novel that’s captivated me in such a way. I love the beautiful and cruel world of the faeries and Black doesn’t disappoint.

The Cruel Prince takes the reader into a world that operates under a completely foreign set of rules, fraught with murder, betrayal, kidnapping, slavery, lies, deception, and more. Black weaves a plot thick with intense and heart-stopping moments. She does not shy away from the awful and the cruel, but presents them in such a way so as to expose the startling nature of the world of Faerie. It is not a place that is governed by traditional human laws. It is a place, wild, free, and untameable.

Jude is a feisty character who defies all expectation. She is full of rage and confusion, coming of age in a world that views her as an entirely different species. As a human, she is not natural to this place and nearly everything about it is set up to kill her. Having been raise here, she no longer belongs to the human world either. One sister is part Faerie and another does what she can to accept her fate and find some semblance of belonging by shunning the human realm. Jude seeks to find her place without losing herself. At the cusp of becoming an adult, Jude asserts her independence and finally begins to make decisions for herself, altering the course of her fate forever.

The Cruel Prince is the first in a series of books and is a fierce start with tons of promise. I can’t wait to see where this story goes and how Jude develops. Very excited to read more!


Review: Silence in the Age of Noise by Erling Kagge

34647487*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: Silence in the Age of Noise

Author: Erling Kagge

Publisher: Pantheon

Publication Date: November 21, 2017 (First published in 2016)

ISBN: 9781524733230

Synopsis from Goodreads:
There is a solution to the noise, distraction, ceaseless pings and alerts that undermine our patience and disturb our daily equilibrium: silence. What is silence? Where is it? How do we create it? These are the starting points for ErlingKagge’s journey, an adventure that allows him to recount his own experiences (he once spent 50 days walking solo in Antarctica without radio contact) as well as discuss the observations of other poets, artists, and explorers. 

This book is an excellent meditation on finding silence in a noisy and ever engaged world. We live in a time where technology and connectedness rule and so infrequently do we forget what it means to have a moment of peace–in sound and thought. Kagge’s text is brief and compact, but elegant and beautiful. He incorporates his own anecdotes and experiences through written word as well images to reflect on what silence is and what it has meant in his own life. He shares the observations of others including artists, explorers, and writers to draw the reader’s attention to what it means to make space for silence in one’s life.

Silence doesn’t always refer to lack of sound, he defines. Silence can be found as one drives in a car with music turned up to drown out the noise of the world around. Although I didn’t always find each argument to be as thoroughly fleshed out as it could be, I do find that the overall message and thoughts in this book have stuck with me. Kagge ruminates on silence as a means to creativity, wonder, and happiness. In turn, he’s inspired me to dwell on the same. His book, in a way, is a silence itself. It inspires an opening of thought to reflect inwardly on life and to move towards a place of gratitude, meditation, and imagination.

This book is beautiful inside and out. The cover is absolutely stunning. I would buy this book simply for the minimal mountain landscape and peaceful varied rose palette. Full of images that bring to mind absolute stillness and silence, this book is really a work of art as well as a contemplation. It’s definitely a worthwhile read. At the start of the year when everyone is thinking about resolutions, this book is a great way to find a resolution to instill peace within each and every reader.

Review: Artemis by Andy Weir

34928122*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: Artemis

Author: Andy Weir

Publisher: Crown Publishing Group

Publication Date: November 14, 2017

ISBN: 9780553448122

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Jazz Bashara is a criminal. Well, sort of. Life on Artemis, the first and only city on the moon, is tough if you’re not a rich tourist or an eccentric billionaire. So smuggling in the occasional harmless bit of contraband barely counts, right? Not when you’ve got debts to pay and your job as a porter barely covers the rent. Everything changes when Jazz sees the chance to commit the perfect crime, with a reward too lucrative to turn down. But pulling off the impossible is just the start of her problems, as she learns that she’s stepped square into a conspiracy for control of Artemis itself—and that now, her only chance at survival lies in a gambit even riskier than the first.

I’ve never read Weir’s The Martian–although I’m very excited to and will be borrowing a friend’s copy to read soon!–so I didn’t have any expectations going in to read Artemis. I always appreciate a really good sci-fi book. I’m not a hardcore sci-fi devotee, but I do enjoy a great story about space travel or technology in the future. Artemis takes us to a settlement on the mood. In this society, there are no real rules or laws. Bad behaviour is punished often with a fine, and if it’s bad enough, with deportation to Earth where one will face gravity sickness. Terrible crimes are left to the punishment of the country to which the criminal is sent. Petty crimes are hard to track and have few consequences.

Jazz Bashara is a smuggler and a porter in the city of Artemis. She doesn’t make a lot of money but has great aspirations to earn substantial wealth and finally, FINALLY, have access to a private apartment with her own private bathroom with a shower. It’s hard to achieve such wealth on Artemis. Everything is expensive–most goods having to be imported from Earth. Jazz avoids work in her skill as a welder, not wanting to fall under her talented father’s shadow. She wants to do it on her own. She’s a rough-and-tumble kind of character–a bit crass, often mingling with those from the wrong side of the tracks. When the opportunity presents itself for Jazz to finally reach her financial goals, she jumps at the chance, a decision that changes absolutely everything. She risks her own life and the fate of Artemis in order for the chance to turn her luck around.

This story is exciting and the plot is fast-paced and innovative. Weir has built a stellar lunar world full of complicated technology, intricate politics, and heart-stopping danger. I always appreciate excellent world building and Weir does a great job of immersing the reader in this advanced society on the moon. It’s imaginative and vivid. However, in contrast, I didn’t love the dialogue throughout and I found the characterization to be lacking. I would be surrounded, lost in the world and enjoying the details of the setting and the thrill of the plot, but the dialogue would bring be back to reality. Jazz’s lines are often a bit silly which detract from her character quite a bit, making her seem less believable. Additionally, Jazz–as the protagonist–doesn’t really progress through the course of the book. She becomes less selfish and learns tough lessons, but there’s no really improvement or change in who she is, even after life-altering and death-defying events. I left the novel feeling unsatisfied which how things turned out.

That being said, I think this would make an excellent movie and was a quick and overall enjoyable read. The world is completely fascinating and Weir leads his characters to explore every facet of it. Each component of the setting is essential to the story are we learn about each in great detail. To see this brought to life on the big screen would be breath-taking. It’s worth the read! I think many of you will really enjoy this book.

Review: That Inevitable Victorian Thing by E.K. Johnston

25528808*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: That Inevitable Victorian Thing

Author: E.K. Johnston

Publisher: Dutton Books for Young Readers

Publication Date: October 3, 2017

ISBN: 9781101994979

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Set in a near-future world where the British Empire was preserved, not by the cost of blood and theft but by effort of repatriation and promises kept, That Inevitable Victorian Thing is a novel of love, duty, and the small moments that can change people and the world. Victoria-Margaret is the crown princess of the empire, a direct descendant of Victoria I, the queen who changed the course of history two centuries earlier. The imperial practice of genetically arranged matchmaking will soon guide Margaret into a politically advantageous marriage like her mother before her, but before she does her duty, she’ll have one summer incognito in a far corner of empire. In Toronto, she meets Helena Marcus, daughter of one of the empire’s greatest placement geneticists, and August Callaghan, the heir apparent to a powerful shipping firm currently besieged by American pirates. In a summer of high-society debutante balls, politically charged tea parties, and romantic country dances, Margaret, Helena, and August discover they share an unusual bond and maybe a one in a million chance to have what they want and to change the world in the process —just like the first Queen Victoria.

While the main premise of this book is admirable–a world of true equality in which there is no racism, classism, sexism, homophobia, etc.–this is a story that falls very flat. I think it’s because it’s attempting to do far too much in too little time, that this story lacks so much and is, in the end, a disappointment. There is little in the way of character development or plot flow. This story is choppy and shallow, not diving into the depths of what it really could be. Each chapter is broken by the insert of a quote, or letter, or expert which, in all reality, just serve to confuse the story more.

The world itself falls flat and it hard to follow–it’s a futuristic society that follows Victorian ideals and values yet strives to set people free of the restrictions that such a society traditionally upheld in the real world. The author really needed to spend more time developing this world and painting that picture for us, to really immerse us in this culture that’s been created. Instead, things are glazed over and presented quickly without any real time for us to digest how things are constructed. We aren’t really given a chance to understand the rules of this new world before the story is completely upended and the setting shifts–then we have to come to learn an entirely new world and way of life.

I was excited to see something rarely discussed in main-stream lit: the introduction of a female/female romance, as well as an intersex character. However, neither of these topics are discussed at any length. The author throws them at us like, “Here, look! See? My book is different. Let me show you,” without really exploring these topics at any length and with no foundation. The relationship between Margaret and Helena comes out of nowhere and the characters themselves have little to no introspection to explain their inner thoughts and feelings. This is especially confusing in Helena’s case because we meet her when she is deeply entrenched in a heterosexual relationship. In regards to the discover of the intersex characters (no spoilies), it’s something uncovered later on in the book, but is really glossed over. It’s mentioned, but not explained or explored. These were both prime windows of opportunity to discuss the LGBTQI community at length and really create a dialogue with readers, however both instances felt extremely forced and not genuine in the slights. This is quite a disappointment as there is much lost potential here.

I felt like this story was a whole lot of TELL and minimal to no SHOW. Everything is really shoved down the readers’ throats without coaxing us to believe in this world. There’s nothing tangible and nothing relatable about it. This is probably the biggest let down of a book that I’ve read in a while.

So, the best thing about this book? The cover! Just enjoy how pretty it looks. Don’t bother reading. Two stars to this one for the cover and the potential of an interesting premise.



**Wolves of Winter REVIEW AND GIVEAWAY**

Wolves-of-Winter-blog-tour*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Scroll down for your chance to win your own survival kit, including a signed copy of this awesome book plus lots of other fun stuff!

Title: Wolves of Winter

Author: Tyrell Johnson

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Publication Date: January 1, 2018

ISBN: 9781501155673

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Forget the old days. Forget summer. Forget warmth. Forget anything that doesn’t help you survive. Lynn McBride has learned much since society collapsed in the face of nuclear war and the relentless spread of disease. As memories of her old life haunt her, she has been forced to forge ahead in the snow-covered Canadian Yukon, learning how to hunt and trap to survive. But her fragile existence is about to be shattered. Shadows of the world before have found her tiny community—most prominently in the enigmatic figure of Jax, who sets in motion a chain of events that will force Lynn to fulfill a destiny she never imagined.

Ahhhh I loved this book! I couldn’t put it down. This book has fuelled the fire that is my love of post-apocalypse fiction. Lynn, the protagonist, is a badass survivor. She and her family escaped the war and the flu that killed of most of human kind. The flu did not leave them totally unscathed. They lost Lynn’s father, her pillar, and were forced to flee and make a life for themselves in the harsh cold climates of northern North America. They subsist on carrots and potatoes, along with whatever meat they can hunt or trap. Years have passed without them crossing paths with any other humans,  however that all changes when Lynn happens upon the stranger, Jax. Through Jax, Lynn discovers the world outside of their limited existence. She learns more about her world and even herself than she could have ever imagined. This stranger’s presence in her life shifts her perspective and sets her on a course that could change the world.

This story is absolutely riveting. I can easily say it’s in the top 5 best books I’ve read in 2017. Johnson kicks off the new year with a bang with his heart-pounding, suspenseful thriller. We’re thrust into the action years after humanity has faced its downfall. We learn about the fall through Lynn’s memories and the memories of her family, learning about it in bits and pieces. This world that Johnson has built is both beautiful and terrifying. With so few people left and so much unknown, these characters face a daily struggle just to stay alive. In a cold world covered in snow it is both peaceful and dangerous. Outsiders are not trustworthy and everyone is suspicious. It makes for a very intense reading experience!

Lynn herself is a red-haired, firecracker of a woman. She’s tenacious, hardy, self-sufficient, independent, and determined–a great heroine for a great story. She’s learned to fight and to do what it takes to survive. She doesn’t stray towards violence, but she learns defend what is her’s and to protect those she loves by doing what needs to be done. She’s a woman grown, yes, but this is still a coming of age story where she makes the decision to leaver her family and its safety behind to make a way for herself. It’s a story of self-discovery as Lynn uncovers unfathomable secrets about her own past.

Such an excellent and worthwhile read! I’m so glad to have read such a fast-paced and thrilling story.

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