Friday, July 31, 2015

Book Review: A Treasury of Royal Scandals by Michael Farquhar

I rated it 4 out of 5 stars.

Overview: From Nero's nagging mother (whom he found especially annoying after taking her as his lover) to Catherine's stable of studs (not of the equine variety), here is a wickedly delightful look at the most scandalous royal doings you never learned about in history class.

Gleeful, naughty, sometimes perverted-like so many of the crowned heads themselves-A Treasury of Royal Scandals presents the best (the worst?) of royal misbehavior through the ages. From ancient Rome to Edwardian England, from the lavish rooms of Versailles to the dankest corners of the Bastille, the great royals of Europe have excelled at savage parenting, deadly rivalry, pathological lust, and meeting death with the utmost indignity-or just very bad luck.

Review: Score, found this half off at my local bookstore and decided to give it a shot. I loved European History in high school so this was right up my ally. It was pretty entertaining to read what royals did way back when. With a humorous tone and short passages, this is the type of book that passes the time enjoyably. Just to warn you, it's kind of raunchy and filled with a lot of sex scandals. This is a guilty pleasure read, for sure.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Book Review: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

I rated it 3.5 out of 5 stars.

A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.

We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from National Book Award finalist and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart.

Read it.
And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.

Review: Mixed feelings on this one. When this book came out last year, everyone was raving about it. I tend to ignore hype and let it fizzle out and if I'm still interested in it, I'll give it a read. The writing was very fragmented and the
fragments were
like this
seriously it was written
like this
trying to be lyrical, or
a poem.
I don't know.

But if that just annoyed you, the book might annoy you too. Some of the lines were pretty, and some of the metaphors I had to read once or twice because I wasn't sure it was literal or metaphorical, which irked me. The romance was pretty flat. I get the Wuthering Heights things, but it just didn't deliver in this book.

What was good about this book is that it kept me guessing, and it kept me reading, which means it's good if it can do that. But the big twist that came made me want to shake my head, because I hate when this stuff pops up in books. I guess I can't reveal the twist if you are interested in reading.

But in short. It was good because it kept me interested and I wanted to know what happened, but everything besides that, like characters, structure, plot, was 'ehhh' for me.

Oh by the way, the book doesn't explain why the four young adults are called 'Liars.' So that also irritated me.

Book Review: Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

I rate it 4 out of 5 stars.

“Dead girl walking”, the boys say in the halls.
“Tell us your secret”, the girls whisper, one toilet to another.
I am that girl.
I am the space between my thighs, daylight shining through.
I am the bones they want, wired on a porcelain frame.

Lia and Cassie are best friends, wintergirls frozen in matchstick bodies, competitors in a deadly contest to see who can be the skinniest. But what comes after size zero and size double-zero? When Cassie succumbs to the demons within, Lia feels she is being haunted by her friend’s restless spirit.

Laurie Halse Anderson explores Lia’s descent into the powerful vortex of anorexia, and her painful path toward recovery.

Review: Anderson does it again. Queen of tough issues in YA Contemporary, this will not disappoint. Voice is so authentic and unique and the prose reads like a mix of poetry, puzzle, and lyric. The characters are complicated, multi-dimensional. With just a few careful descriptions, you immediately get a feel for the complexities of each character, their problems, and internal suffering. This was so convincingly written that I feel like I was inside of Lia's head. This is probably by far one of the best YA's on the issues of eating disorders and how it essentially affects the person and those all around them.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015


I've been in a funk lately since my grandmother passed. I guess this period is grieving, but I've felt a pressing darkness upon my chest. A deep sadness that comes and goes in the most random moments. 
After a talk with my sister, I realized I need to pull myself out of the fog. Remind myself that I am, in fact, alive, and should act so. I am very fortunate to have the life I have, and I shouldn't take it for granted. The days leading up to my grandmother's death, I was really happy, and should aim to get back to that state as long as I honor her memory. Just scrolling through photos on my phone is a reminder of what life has to offer.

Like adorable Blaire and memories like painting with my sister.
Gorgeous summer sunsets.

Beautiful memories at the lavender farm, and making ordinary days extraordinary with some wine and a charcuterie/cheese plate.

And of course, love, and special moments like birthdays! Michael turned the big 28 last week!
Life is beautiful. This past week I've learned it's okay to be sad, but I should also continue to live instead of hiding or idling away.

Friday, July 24, 2015

A Personal Essay: Seeing life through filters of death.

In the east side suburbs of Seattle, it is five p.m. on July 24th, 2015. My cat is sleeping in the closet after throwing up his lunch, tonight's dinner is defrosting on the kitchen counter, and I sit upstairs in silence to write what my heart is trying to explain to my mind. Because across the Pacific Ocean in Da Nang, Vietnam, it is 7 a.m. on July 25th, 2015. My mother will rise soon, if not already, to bury her mother. My heart hurts, and my mind doesn't understand why I cannot bring myself to FaceTime her.

My grandmother's passing is the first death in the family. It was unexpected. Though I've had four days to cry until my eyes burned, and let the news sink in, I find myself okay one hour, and randomly crying the next. Somewhere between receiving the phone call and spacing out, I've found myself viewing life through the filters of death, and how it portrays myself disappoints me.

I've only seen my grandmother twice in the flesh. During my first three week visit in 2009 and the less than two week visit this pass year. When I first met her, I was scared. She was this spritely old woman who woke up at the crack of dawn to go to the market then back, bringing my sisters and I breakfast. She'd push food in front of our faces and tell us to eat, even when my sisters and I weren't hungry. It must be a Vietnamese thing. Woman express love through food. Or at least that's the impression I get from my own mother who always makes me my favorite dishes on my Birthday, holidays, and now, when I come to visit. But my second visit was different. Grandmother was now more fatigued. Observant on the sidelines instead of walking about in the center of things.

Because I am very terrible at speaking in Vietnamese, it is difficult for me to talk to anyone besides the basic elementary words and phrases. It is with deep regret that I could not know her more under the surface then what I've seen. So how is it that I feel this deep void within me?

I hope it is love because the language of love has no equivalent words to describe it. Yet if it is, it's difficult to discern with all the regret polluting it. Because I regret not being fluent in Vietnamese. I regret that I can't bring myself to even dedicate time to it now so that I could remedy this regret with my grandfather and other members of my family over there when the time comes. I regret being so selfish that I had rather study English to write up stories my extended family could never read, despite them influencing me so much that I wish I could show them, but I can't. I regret that circumstances didn't allow my sisters and I to be at the funeral and mourn alongside everyone else. To be there for own mother...

But I hope the void is due to the loss of love. Because if the language of love has no equivalent words to describe it, I hope that they can feel my love despite me standing on the outside, watching with my eyes, my lips closed but smiling, and loving with my heart even though an ocean sits between us.

As a child I observed my mother practicing ancestor worship. My sisters and I helped out, but we never partook in it. I always wondered who the recipient was of the hell notes, paper clothing, and offerings of food. I never asked. Perhaps I never will. But I know when my mother returns and it's time for another ceremony, I'll know that one of the recipients is my grandmother.

Cue waterworks because this is where my heart booms like a thunderclap cracking the black skies as I ask the question: who will worship my mother? Who will continually express gratitude for her life and the life she's given us? Of course my sisters and I all will in our own ways, but what of her ways? Who will give her offerings to her soul, hell notes to spend in the afterlife? Two out of five sisters are Catholic. And the rest of us are not religious. Sure we go to temple and say a nice prayer once in awhile, but is it the same when the buddhist religion means so much to my mother? I know I will try to understand it and practice as much as I can, but this is only one revelation death has brought to me.

The other is that life is fragile. Death knocks. And it will continually knock until its my own turn. There is no guarantee that we will have a long life, so what am I doing to make sure I am utilizing the one life I'm given? Am I being a kind enough person? A good enough daughter, sister, niece, cousin, friend, etc..? I don't know. I can only be the best me I can be and hope that counts. But right now, I know that I am not, and that's what disappoints me.

I know it's okay to grieve. It's okay to be sad. It's okay to be afraid. My heart tells me so. But my mind's not listening. It's imaging a scene a world away where something important is happening and all I can do is sit and type, trying to mediate the disconnect between two parts of myself.

Monday, July 20, 2015

WWPR: M4 version 2

Okay so I totally missed doing a 'weekly writing progress report' the last three weeks, but I am happy to report that as of July 10th, I am done with second draft edits and have sent some chapters to a few trusted critique friends. I've already received some responses and they have been extremely helpful and raised very insightful questions. My girls are so awesome and talented! Thank you!

Looking back, the second draft edits could have been done in one week instead of three as I had planned in this post. But life got busy and July has been one packed month, so it turned out okay. I am totally patting myself on the back though as I did two drafts in less than three months, though I did take a two and a half week break within that time frame:

April 19th through June 6th - Drafting
June 6th through 24th - Break
June 25th through July 10th - Read Through and Draft Two edits

Now that I've received comments from CP's, and still awaiting on some more, I'll have my work cut out for me in August when I sit myself down for another round of revisions!

Happy writing all!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015


Yesterday I mentioned trying a neat little restaurant called Nue. Before taking my sister to the airport we spent the morning in Seattle and wanted to get some lunch. I wanted to take her somewhere memorable, something new, something she hadn't tried before. On my search in yelp I stumbled upon the gem with 4.5 star rating. Whoa. Must be good from all of the photos and wonderful comments! And it certainly was.

Nue has this really cool around the world eclectic vibe with an open kitchen and communal style tables. Inspired by food all around the world, the wonderful concoctions coming from the kitchen was not to be missed. The experience was even more grand with the personable personalities of the owners who made us feel comfortable and made sure we were taken care of.

Here's a glimpse of the menu:

To drink, I got a McNguyen, which is a Vietnamese coffee cocktail, something I thought was pretty creative and tasted amazing.

The first dish we tried was the Trinidad Goat Curry. It was seriously the most delicious thing I ever put into my mouth. The balance of the curry, and texture of the cornbread was perfect and a must try.

Israeli Sabich was the next little gem we tried. I'd never had a seared eggplant before. Add that on a pita bread, and this is something I could see myself eating for lunch everyday, if only I worked/lived close to Nue.

I had the balut all to myself. Duck eggs is something I grew up with, a dish my mother always made me. I'm lacking major skills in replicating my mother's dishes, so this was really great to have as it reminded me of my mom and my roots.

The Golden Crispy Noodles were definitely spicier than I expected them to be, but I really like the kick to it and the neat texture. This was a fun one to eat. It was kind of like having a firecracker of flavors in your mouth.

As always, I like to end sweet. The liquid nitrogen ice cream was the best way to end it. If you haven't had it before, it's very creamy without the added cream! Topped with corn and a dusting of herbs, it was more than just an ordinary scoop of the ice cream. Try it, and you'll know what I'm talking about.

Nue is certainly a place that I would revisit. I left there with a happy belly, and a desire to travel to taste all of the world's wonders.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Active 4th Weekend

I'll remember this year's July 4th as the active weekend. My glutes, calves, and arms are still slightly sore, but it was so worth it having my sister visiting. She loves doing active stuff and working out, whereas I'm more relaxed, preferring long walks to intense cardio. Since Seattle is abundant in outdoor activities, Michael and I planned a weekend that would suit her interests.

Friday morning we went to Alki Beach to soak in the sun, then headed to Lake Union after lunch to go kayaking.

It was such a beautiful blue day and very warm. When we returned, Michael and I made dinner for my sister before taking her to the golf course to watch the sunset.

Saturday we did about an 8 mile hike before heading over to Michael's parents for a BBQ. With plenty of food, wine, and conversation, it was a good night.

Sunday I made breakfast before we headed into Seattle and got lunch at Nue, a new restaurant that I'll be blogging about soon.

Then it was off to the airport to say our goodbye's. What a quick weekend it was!

How did you spend your 4th? Comment below!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

IWSG: When you lose your identity.

Someone close to me is going through a very difficult time. She's going through a hard point in her life where she now questions her identity. When one great part of you is taken away and you have but a few scraps of yourself left, how do you step back and rebuild your life?

I'm being vague, I know, but I just wanted to pose the question of identity. How do you identify yourself? Or even the characters you write about? Is it by heritage? Your past history? Your likes, and dislikes? Is it simply by how one looks? Or one's intellect? Or the sum of it all? Comment below.

This was a post for IWSG, created by Alex J. Cavanaugh to 'To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!'

Thanks also goes to his co-hosts this month:
Charity Bradford, S.A. Larsen, AJ, Tamara Narayan, Allison Gammons, and Tanya Miranda!