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just like a library book, this post is overdue...

Updated: Sep 18, 2022

a pre[r]amble...

it's been a long few weeks and I'm sorry to be away for so long. it's been really hard for me to focus long enough to stick to anything I've been reading; regardless of how interesting it may be.


I've been so stressed about everything I've wanted to do and man, I've been busy. I started a YouTube channel a little while ago and recently I accepted a volunteer position as a state advocacy leader for the leukemia & lymphoma society's advocacy team and office of public policy. I am so excited to move forward with this role and to move into a new phase of Amanda vs cancer. which reminds me... I found out at the end of march that I am finally, after four long years, in remission and I've been reeling trying to understand what life is now.

so, with all the existential crises and side projects... reading has been difficult to focus on. I feel like im constantly trying to finish everything and I end up finishing nothing.


I've been writing this post over the course of three weeks!


I feel like I'm burning myself out but I'm so determined to try to keep up. all of this to say, I decided this week to cut my Goodreads reading challenge from 100 books to 52 this year. part of me feels like I'm failing but the rest of me doesn't want to push myself to dreading it and resenting it and giving up altogether.


I started to get anxious in the middle of march comparing how many books I read last year (16 books) versus this year (4 books; 1 dnf):


(the pics below are from the story graph app; be my friend!)

March 2021

March 2022

I made myself feel inadequate and I kept stressing myself for not having the drive to read as much as I had last year and the shame continued. ultimately, I realized that it didn't matter. I was missing the point. at the beginning of this blog, I made a point to say that I wanted to be more intentional with my reading and with my reviews.

so here we go...

here are the four books I read and one I dnf in march:

 

Book 14: These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong

The year is 1926, and Shanghai hums to the tune of debauchery.

A blood feud between two gangs runs the streets red, leaving the city helpless in the grip of chaos. At the heart of it all is eighteen-year-old Juliette Cai, a former flapper who has returned to assume her role as the proud heir of the Scarlet Gang—a network of criminals far above the law. Their only rivals in power are the White Flowers, who have fought the Scarlets for generations. And behind every move is their heir, Roma Montagov, Juliette’s first love…and first betrayal.

But when gangsters on both sides show signs of instability culminating in clawing their own throats out, the people start to whisper. Of a contagion, a madness. Of a monster in the shadows. As the deaths stack up, Juliette and Roma must set their guns—and grudges—aside and work together, for if they can’t stop this mayhem, then there will be no city left for either to rule.

it turns out that a rose by any other name actually would not smell as sweet.

like with every book, (except maybe shadow rider), I come in expecting to uncover the next great love. I was drawn to the book because it was a retelling of "Romeo and Juliet" and it ended up being the death of this book to me.

the parallels were so glaringly obvious....

[the main characters are Roma and Juliette; I mean, come on!!!!]

it started out as a game to me to figure out where all the parallels were but after a while, it became distracting. It would throw me completely out of the secondary plot [weird nano bug things that cause people to go crazy and claw at their own necks until they bleed to death?!] which would have been interesting in and of itself. in the end, there was a deviation from the standard plot of Romeo and Juliet and, while I am curious to see how it goes, I don't know if I'd be able to get myself to read our violent ends [ bookshop ].

 

Book 15: Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman, long inspired by ancient mythology in creating the fantastical realms of his fiction, presents a bravura rendition of the Norse gods and their world from their origin though their upheaval in Ragnarok. In Norse Mythology, Gaiman stays true to the myths in envisioning the major Norse pantheon: Odin, the highest of the high, wise, daring, and cunning; Thor, Odin’s son, incredibly strong yet not the wisest of gods; and Loki—son of a giant—blood brother to Odin and a trickster and unsurpassable manipulator. Gaiman fashions these primeval stories into a novelistic arc that begins with the genesis of the legendary nine worlds and delves into the exploits of deities, dwarfs, and giants. Through Gaiman’s deft and witty prose, these gods emerge with their fiercely competitive natures, their susceptibility to being duped and to duping others, and their tendency to let passion ignite their actions, making these long-ago myths breathe pungent life again.

my parents, more specifically my dad, have been on a massive viking kick. we binged the show vikings a while back, we recently watched the new spinoff vikings: valhalla on Netflix, dad watched a Norwegian show called ragnarok (also on Netflix), and now they're watching the last kingdom. all through this journey, I realized how little I knew about norse mythology and how much I've been wanting to read this book. while doing some cleaning around the house, I played the audiobook and was able to finish it most of it in a day! I loved the liberties Neil took with the stories and the personalities he gave to each of the deities and mythical creatures. it was a great way to be introduced to the characters and I am curious to find other books or graphic novels (aside from the obvious thor) to dive into based on norse mythology.

 

Book 16: They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera

On September 5, a little after midnight, Death-Cast calls Mateo Torrez and Rufus Emeterio to give them some bad news: They're going to die today. Mateo and Rufus are total strangers, but, for different reasons, they're both looking to make a new friend on their End Day. The good news: There's an app for that. It's called the Last Friend, and through it, Rufus and Mateo are about to meet up for one last great adventure and to live a lifetime in a single day.

this book. this book broke my heart.

I think it's a very difficult book to read because it gives you hope. it gives you a yearning. it makes you anxious. it makes anguished. but no matter what you do, no matter how much you want, the title tells it all: they both die at the end.

it is a beautiful book. there is no denying it. but I couldn't help but read it through a different lens. I read it through the uncertainties that I've lived through as a cancer patient and, knowing that, it's hard to not see myself in Mateo and Rufus. there are times where I have been Mateo, afraid to leave the house and consistently catastrophizing whether today might be the day or now might be the time things take that turn for the worst. and there are times where I have been rufus and I've said fuck it. I will look into the eyes of death and I will face him head on. it is this juxtaposition that makes their last day on earth so magical. so whimsical.

it makes you think, if you knew you were going to die by the end of the day. how would you spend it?

and you know what? after spending four years with cancer and thinking about this in the back of my mind, I still don't know what I'd do.

and would I even want to know? would that make it any better? any worse?

I think the timing of this book is fitting. I started reading it the day after I had my bone marrow biopsy (probably another reason why I read it through the cancer lens) and I finished it a few days before I got the results. maybe I should've found something lighter to read... but im glad I didn't. this book was worth every tear.

 

Book 17: The Day the Lies Began by Kylie Kaden

It happened the day of the Moon Festival. It could have been left behind, they all could have moved on with their lives. But secrets have a habit of rising to the surface, especially in small towns.  Two couples, four ironclad friendships, the perfect coastal holiday town. With salt-stung houses perched like lifeguards overlooking the shore, Lago Point is the scene of postcards, not crime scenes. Wife and mother Abbi, town cop Blake, schoolteacher Hannah and local doctor Will are caught in their own tangled webs of deceit.  When the truth washes in to their beachside community, so do the judgements: victim, or vigilante, who will forgive, who will betray? Not all relationships survive. Nor do all residents. Sometimes, doing wrong can feel completely right… 

after reading they both die at the end I wanted something familiar. I needed to read (listen to) a book that felt like "my usual order". some suburban murder mystery that was mildly predictable but still interesting enough for me to listen to. the book was very interesting but it definitely was not a light listen; it dealt with some very heavy topics (see content warning). while I liked the story, I found there were times where it was difficult for me to follow along with what was happening and there were a few times I had to rewind a little. I think a chunk of that could contribute to me cleaning while listening but there were a few times I got characters confused. I will say, while there were moments that felt frustratingly predictable, the end really threw me for a loop. not the best murder mystery I've ever read/listened to, but a decent one for sure.

 

Book 18: A Tiny Upward Shove by Melissa Chadburn

Marina Salles's life does not end the day she wakes up dead.

Instead, in the course of a moment, she is transformed into the stuff of myth, the stuff of her grandmother's old Filipino stories--an aswang. She spent her life on the margins, knowing very little about her own life, let alone the lives of others; she was shot like a pinball through a childhood of loss, a veteran of Child Protective Services and a survivor, but always reacting, watching from a distance. Death brings her into the hearts and minds of those she has known--even her killer--as she is able to access their memories and to see anew the meaning of her own. In the course of these pages she traces back through her life, finally able to see what led these lost souls to this crushingly inevitable conclusion.

In A Tiny Upward Shove, the debut novelist Melissa Chadburn charts the heartbreaking journeys of two of society's cast-offs as they find their way to each other and their roles as criminal and victim. What does it mean to be on the brink? When are those moments that change not only our lives but our very selves? And how, in this impossible world, can we rouse ourselves toward mercy?

I want to start by saying, I really enjoyed what I read of the book so far; so this "certified snoozle" is a Dnf and not a 0 pup rating.

I am half filipino and I grew up hearing stories about aswang (pronounced: "uh-swung"; in the stories I knew, the Aswang is a vampire like creature who preys on pregnant women and children)

so when I read the description of the book on netgalley, I was ready. I started reading the book and I loved it right from the start. the first few chapters set the tone for what an aswang is in the context of the story and the generational creation of this family's curse. as the story continued, it was told through the eyes of the deceased marina salles who, herself, has become an Aswang. it is told in two voices: the young and living marina who carries us through the story of her life and how she dies and the angry and transformed aswang marina describing the life of her killer before they meet and searching for him after he's killed her with the intent to kill him as well.

as you can imagine, the story has a deeply intense plot and, while I thought the writing was beautiful and steeped in a familiar culture, the content was way too much for me to continue. I found myself exhausted reading through a few pages and wanting to find anything else to take my mind away from it. I think in the context of everything else going on and with the anniversary of my diagnosis and everything that comes with it, it was just too much to bear.

will I try to come back to it? yes. definitely. I want to go back and start over. read the book through in its entirety because it has the potential to be a book I would greatly enjoy. but it is definitely something I need to be in the right Frame of mind for.

 
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