Binge

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I was taught that being myself was not only okay, but encouraged—and by being unapologetically yourself, you thrive and inspire others to thrive.

I just finished reading Tyler Oakley’s Binge. One word: wow.

Tyler Oakley, like many YouTubers/YouTube content creators out there, recently released a book. However what makes his book distinct from others I’ve read is his transparency and realness. I can’t exactly put into words how intimate it felt reading his experiences, such as coming out to his family and friends, working multiple jobs to pay for school, and his life as a YouTuber. I laughed out loud reading his Disney Princes ranking, and I wholeheartedly agree Aladdin deserves the number 1 spot. My heart ached reading his struggles with eating disorder and his relationship with a closeted homosexual. Honestly, reading Binge felt like I was chatting with Tyler over drinks (except I don’t drink alcohol, so water on the rocks, please!).

I can continue to rave about the book, but I think I would spoil so much of it. Nevertheless, here is one of my favorite quotes from Binge I would like to share:

Maybe we all go through life carefully constructing our profiles to say what we’re looking for, all while not saying anything that might scare people away… and after a time we start to believe what we’re putting out there. Our fear of people’s rejecting the things that makes us happy limits how much happiness we can actually find. I guess when we’re a bit more honest with ourselves and others, we might get more of what we actually deserve.

Tyler is a phenomenal person who I think puts an insane amount of effort into maintaining a relationship with his audience, and bringing to light social issues, particularly LGBTQ+ issues, that we often forget or are ignorant about. Regardless whether or not you’re into the whole YouTube culture and community, I definitely recommend reading Binge.

Rating: ★★★★★

Half World

halfworldTitle: Half World
Type: novel – fiction
Author: Hiromi Goto
Genre: Adventure, Fantasy, Young Adult

Synopsis: Melanie Tamaki is human—but her parents aren’t. They are from Half World, a Limbo between our world and the afterlife, and her father is still there. When her mother disappears, Melanie must follow her to Half World—and neither of them may return alive. Imagine Coraline as filmed by the Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki (Howl’s Moving Castle), or Neil Gaiman collaborating with Charles de Lint. Half World is vivid, visceral, unforgettable, a combination of prose and images that will haunt you. (source: goodreads.com)

Rating: ★★★☆☆
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Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage

colorless tsukuruIt has been a while since I read a Haruki Murakami book. Although I have read a few novels by him, I am by no means a hardcore fan who knows everything. I read some reviews that this novel is better than IQ84 (on my list!) but pales in comparison to his earlier novels such as Kafka on the Shore and Norwegian Wood—both which are also on my list. I can neither agree nor disagree with these statements, so I can’t say much about Murakami’s writing style. However, I did thoroughly enjoy delving into the life and mind of this “colorless” character named Tsukuru Tazaki. When I read about Tsukuru and his group of friends, I felt like I could relate to him. This seemingly ordinary fellow who thinks he has no outstanding attributes compared to his friends.

I think the pacing is a little slow in some areas, but the book picks up when Tsukuru goes on his “pilgrimage” to resolve an issue from his past, thereby discovering who he is and understanding the importance of his life. The story is told nonlinearly in the beginning, jumping between two moments in the past—his high school years and college years—and the present. Then the story is told chronologically by following present-day, 36-year-old Tsukuru. I felt I was immediately thrown into the darkest moment in Tsukuru’s life in the beginning, and as the saying goes, once you hit rock bottom, the only way is up. From there, we learn his past and how much it has affected him (to the point where he welcomed death). I admit, it was a bit difficult to read because I sympathized with him.

I’m horrible at analyzing the symbolism and the themes of books, but I believe the book touches upon many topics such as spirituality, closure, and acceptance. I think the book’s main focus is the connection one has with the people whom he/she encounters. It is a bit ironic considering how much a connection I built with this fictional character, yet the ending left me baffled. I must warn you the ending is open for interpretations. I understand that the open-endedness is to show the flow of time and how Tsukuru’s life still continues onward, but after all the protagonist went through, I was hoping for something more. I guess my expectation for a happy ending is due to all the Disney movies I watched as a child, haha.

[SPOILER // highlight to view]I am still curious what happened to Haida and who killed Shiro. Was it her sister? Why weren’t there any suspects in Shiro’s case? I was hoping Haida could in some way be connected. I am curious if Tsukuru and Sara did get together, and if Tsukuru ever met Aka, Ao, and Kuro ever again. I still want to know whether the story told by the musician Haida’s father met is true, and if so, who is carrying death right now. [/SPOILER]

Overall, I enjoyed reading this book despite some plot holes and unanswered questions. I recommend listening to Franz Liszt’s Le Mal Du Pays, Switzerland while reading the novel (unless you can’t focus reading while listening, then forget my suggestion). The music was mentioned a number of times in the novel, and I think it’ll allow you to immerse yourself more in the story. Also, the book design is superb. Seriously, I was admiring the cover and first few pages longer than necessary (dat transition!).

I will end with one of my favorite quotes from the novel:

Some things in life are too complicated to explain in any language.

I Am Malala

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I Am Malala is a beautiful and empowering memoir written by young education activist Malala Yousafzai that teaches us the power of the pen. In a nutshell, the book talks about her family and hometown, and how everything changed when the Taliban appeared and took control.

As school is quickly approaching, I am dreading the thought of returning to monotony and many all-nighters. Reading this book reminded me that I should be grateful that I have the opportunity to learn unlike some who are less fortunate. I often forget how privileged I am to be living in a country where I am allowed to attend school despite being a girl, and how I am encouraged to speak and share what’s on my mind.

If you ever have a chance, I recommend picking up a copy of I Am Malala. I leave you with a quote:

“I don’t know why people have divided the whole world into two groups, west and east. Education is neither eastern nor western. Education is education and it’s the right of every human being.”

—Malala Yousafzai

Reboot

Title: Reboot
Type: novel – fiction
Author: Amy Tintera
Genre: Action, Romance, Sci-fi

Synopsis: In this fast-paced dystopian thrill ride, a seventeen-year-old girl rises from the dead as a Reboot and is trained as an elite crime-fighting soldier . . . until she is given an order she refuses to obey.

Five years ago, Wren Connolly was shot three times in the chest. After 178 minutes, she came back to life as a Reboot—stronger, faster, able to heal, but less emotional. The longer Reboots are dead, the less human they are when they return, making Wren 178 the deadliest Reboot in the Republic of Texas.

Callum 22, on the other hand, is practically still human. He’s the worst trainee Wren has ever had—his reflexes are too slow, he’s always asking pesky questions, and his ever-present smile is freaking her out. Yet he’s still her newbie. When Callum fails to measure up to Reboot standards, Wren is told to eliminate him. Wren has never disobeyed before, but she’ll do whatever it takes to save Callum’s life.

The perfect soldier is done taking orders. (source: amazon.com)

Rating: ★★☆☆☆
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I’ve Got Your Number

Title: I’ve Got Your Number
Type: novel – fiction
Author: Sophie Kinsella
Genre: Chick-lit, Romance, Comedy, Drama

Synopsis: Poppy Wyatt has never felt luckier. She is about to marry her ideal man, Magnus Tavish, but in one afternoon her “happily ever after” begins to fall apart. Not only has she lost her engagement ring in a hotel fire drill but in the panic that follows, her phone is stolen. As she paces shakily around the lobby, she spots an abandoned phone in a trash can. Finders keepers! Now she can leave a number for the hotel to contact her when they find her ring. Perfect!

Well, perfect except that the phone’s owner, businessman Sam Roxton, doesn’t agree. He wants his phone back and doesn’t appreciate Poppy reading his messages and wading into his personal life.

What ensues is a hilarious and unpredictable turn of events as Poppy and Sam increasingly upend each other’s lives through emails and text messages. As Poppy juggles wedding preparations, mysterious phone calls, and hiding her left hand from Magnus and his parents . . . she soon realizes that she is in for the biggest surprise of her life. (source: amazon.com)

Rating: ★★★☆☆
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Battle Royale

Title: Battle Royale
Type: novel – fiction
Author: Koushun Takami
Genre: Action, Thriller, Horror

Synopsis: Koushun Takami’s notorious high-octane thriller is based on an irresistible premise: a class of junior high school students is taken to a deserted island where, as part of a ruthless authoritarian program, they are provided arms and forced to kill one another until only one survivor is left standing. Criticized as violent exploitation when first published in Japan–where it then proceeded to become a runaway bestseller–Battle Royale is a Lord of the Flies for the 21st century, a potent allegory of what it means to be young and (barely) alive in a dog-eat-dog world. (source: amazon.com)

Rating: ★★★★★
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