My thoughts on Meteor Garden | Thoughts on TV

meteor gardenMeteor Garden (2018)
Country: China
I watched it on: Netflix
number of episodes: 49 (DVD/Netflix version)
genre: romantic comedy
rating: 3.5/5 stars – I liked it

An ordinary girl is admitted to the most prestigious school in the country where she encounters F4, an exclusive group comprised of the four wealthiest and handsomest boys in the school – Dao Ming Si, Hua Ze Lei, Xi Men and Mei Zuo.

Shan Cai is an 18-year-old girl from a family that’s barely able to make ends meet. Due to a turn of events, she gets accepted into a school that only accepts the upper class elites. She immediately clashes with her classmates especially Dao Ming Si who is spoiled, arrogant and a bully. She remains defiant even after becoming a target of a series of pranks intended to torment her and just when she’s about to give up, Hua Ze Lei always seems to show up to lend her a helping hand.

Eventually, the four boys begin to acknowledge Shan Cai’s unyielding personality that is like her namesake which is that of a weed that can never be brought down. She also begins to see the good in the boys, which paves the way for friendship and an eventual romance.

my review

If you’ve never heard of Meteor Garden before, it’s a Chinese drama that centers around Shan Cai who goes to university for the first time. She wants to study nutrition, so she can help her family with their restaurant and improve their dishes even more. When she attends the school for the first time, she learns about F4. They’re a group of 4 guys, who are incredibly popular. They are the top of their class, rich, and handsome. One day, Dao Ming Si (one of the F4 members) steps on Shan Cai’s phone, breaking the screen. She confronts him and asks him to apologize. That’s where her relationship with the guys begins.

There are some things about this series I truly loved, and some I didn’t like. Let’s get started on the things I loved.

⭐️ friendship. I am a big fan of friendships in media, because my friends are so important to me. Every time a show centers around a friend group, I’m already intrigued. I enjoyed the friendship between Shan Cai and her childhood best friend who works in the same store as she does, the friendship between the F4 guys, and especially the friendship between Hua Ze Lei and Shan Cai.

⭐️ romance. While I did have my problems with the romance, I found myself shipping it anyway. They’re so cute! Actually, I was torn when I hit the middle of the show. I wanted her to be happy with Dao Ming Si, but I also wanted her to be with Hua Ze Lei. CHOICES.

⭐️ family. I’m lucky enough to be very close to my family, and have a good relationship with them. That’s why I love watching family dynamics on TV. I enjoyed how Shan Cai’s parents were so proud of her for getting in to the school and the dishes she made. I also loved Dao Ming Si’s relationship with his sister. She loved him so much, and tried to protect him without coddling him at the same time.

⭐️ addictive. I know this sounds weird, but trust me. This series is so addictive. I start watching it one evening in my hostel while traveling, and ended up watching 5 episodes in a row. I stayed up for hours just to watch this.

Now for the things I didn’t love…

💥 it was too long. This series could have been 25 or 30 episodes instead of 49. Honestly, at some point I got really annoyed. How many bad things can happen to one couple?? I’m not used to Asian dramas being this long. The majority of dramas I’ve watched had 20 to 35 episodes and I feel like that’s a great length for a storyline like this one.

💥 alpha male/aggressive behavior. This happens so often in these dramas, and I’ve learned to deal with it. That doesn’t mean I have to love it though. If you’ve seen an Asian drama, you’ll probably know what I’m talking about (not that Western shows don’t have these problems): grabbing and dragging the girl by the wrist, caging her in, yelling at her instead of talking to her, etc. It’s not healthy, everyone. It’s not.


Ultimately, I enjoyed watching this show. I binge-watched it, and have zero regrets. I’m still a little bit in love with Hua Ze Lei… Have you watched this show?

Running With Lions | an adorable LGBT+ contemporary at sports camp

running with lionsRunning With Lions by Julian Winters Published: June 7th 2018 by Duet Books Genre: contemporary (YA) Rating: 5/5 stars – ★★★★★

Bloomington High School Lions’ star goalie, Sebastian Hughes, should be excited about his senior year: His teammates are amazing and he’s got a coach who doesn’t ask anyone to hide their sexuality. But when his estranged childhood best friend Emir Shah shows up to summer training camp, Sebastian realizes the team’s success may end up in the hands of the one guy who hates him. Determined to reconnect with Emir for the sake of the Lions, he sets out to regain Emir’s trust. But to Sebastian’s surprise, sweaty days on the pitch, wandering the town’s streets, and bonding on the weekends sparks more than just friendship between them. 

my review

A few months ago, I saw this book on a blogger’s list of recommendations for Hufflepuffs. I can’t actually remember who made that post, or I would’ve linked it here. However, they described it as a queer sports camp romance for Hufflepuffs. Doesn’t that just sound fantastic? I knew I wanted to read it then. While I was at YALC during the summer, one of the stands was selling this book! It was the perfect opportunity. I bought it there, and started reading while I was waiting in line for signings. I ended up finishing it the next day because I just couldn’t put it down.

STORY

What is Running With Lions really about? It follows Sebastian and his friends as they go to their yearly summer training camp. They all play on the football team (soccer), and every year they train together for a few weeks before the season starts. This helps them get back in shape and get familiar with the team again.

This year, however, Emir Shah shows up at summer training camp. Emir is Sebastian’s childhood friend, but they haven’t really talked in the past few years. As they start training together, Sebastian starts falling for Emir.

I simply adored this book. I’ve always liked summer camp stories, but one that’s both Hufflepuff and queer? Sign me up. Like I mentioned before, I absolutely flew through this book. Every time I had to put it down, I was sad. Which is ridiculous because the reasons I put it down were so exciting! There were book signings, book sales, new friends to make, and Comic Con. And all I could think about was finishing this book.

CHARACTERS

Before I say anything about the characters themselves, I want to address the diversity in this book. I can’t speak for the representation, but I can say that I’m happy that this novel was diverse. Step in the right direction, everyone! There’s a:

  • bisexual main and side character
  • gay side characters
  • Pakistani, Muslim character
  • black side character
  • Hispanic side character

This is the composition of Sebastian’s team, obviously, as it is their summer camp. I adore how it is emphasized that their coach made sure to build a team where everyone is accepted and safe. A safe space for LGBT+ athletes… We can only dream about it. The coach also mentions why that’s so important to him, and it made me love him even more.

The main character of this novel is Sebastian. I love, love, love Sebastian. The person who made the recommendation list was so right, Sebastian is definitely a Hufflepuff. He’s so kind, supportive and loyal – not that people from other houses can’t have any of these traits. When Emir shows up and doesn’t really get along with the team, he wants to make every effort to ensure the team embraces him. It’s so adorable, and I think we all need a Sebastian in our lives. He also identifies as bisexual, which is clearly stated on the page.

Then there is Emir. Emir is Pakistani and Muslim, and has a very specific reason for coming to summer training camp. I don’t want to ruin anything for you, so you’ll have to discover what it is for yourselves. I ADORED EMIR. Listen, I’m overflowing with love for these characters.

I’m going to be honest, I loved everyone in this book aside from Mason. He was horrible to Gray for no reason whatsoever, and I think he’s awful.

Something that stood out to me while reading this book was that it addresses fat shaming, bullying, and body positivity for men. While we are talking more and more about body positivity and loving your body, most people only connect the movement with women. But men can suffer from body image issues too! Sebastian was bullied when he was a kid for being fat, and it has definitely left its scars. He believes himself to be fat/undesirable. I love that this book addressed body positivity, and I love the conversation he has with Emir about it.


I loved this book, if you couldn’t tell already. It’s adorable, cute, and wonderful. It made me feel all the things, and I hope everyone else picks this book up too. I can only think of one negative thing about this book: Mason. Everything else is fantastic.

The One Readathon TBR | #theonereadathon

November 17 marks the start of The One Readathon To Rule Them All which, if you hadn’t guessed already, was inspired by Lord of the Rings. You can find more information on the readathon here. I saw the announcement on Ashley’s channel (Don’t Have a Degree in Reading), and fell in love with the readathon. It takes place from November 17 until December 1st.

They’ve created a few routes you can follow, but the main objective is to get the ring to Mordor. You can find all the information on the different routes in the video linked above! Every place/city has a prompt attached to it, so you can travel through reading. You can use a book for multiple prompts as well.

I am going to take route 4: the nomadic traveller which means I’m choosing the cities I’m going to myself. Here’s what I plan on reading, and which cities they correspond to.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (HP #2) by J.K. Rowling
I want to continue my re-read of Harry Potter, which I pretty much do every year. I re-read the first book in August, and want to continue. Obviously, this will be a pretty quick read considering I’ve read it more than 15 times already. I will be annotating and tabbing my copy, which may slow me down.

The Chamber of Secrets will take me to:

  • The Shire: re-read a favorite fantasy book
  • Fangorn: fantasy with magical/supernatural creatures
  • Minas Tirith: fantasy book

Wundersmith: The Calling of Morrigan Crow (Nevermoor #2) by Jessica Townsend
I read the first book in September and fell in love with this world and the characters in it. I preordered the second book, but haven’t read it yet. Let’s change that! Once again, this will probably be a fairly quick read since it’s a middle grade novel.

Wundersmith will take me to:

  • Fangorn: fantasy with magical/supernatural creatures
  • Rohan: fantasy with a female MC
  • Minas Tirith: fantasy book
  • Mordor: the last/most recent installment of a fantasy series

The Cruel Prince (The Folk of the Air #1) by Holly Black
I’ve seen so many people rave about this book on their blog/YouTube channel! I wasn’t planning on buying this at all, so I was incredibly happy to see it in my library last week. I definitely want to read it before having to give it back, which makes this the perfect time to pick it up.

The Cruel Prince will take me to:

  • Fangorn: fantasy with magical/supernatural creatures
  • Rohan: book with female MC
  • Minas Tirith: fantasy book

It might also take me to Isengard, because the prompt is ‘fantasy with a villain/morally grey MC/POV’. I’m not sure whether that’s the case, so I didn’t put it down for Isengard yet. Let me know if the book would fit that too! The same goes for Moria, for which the prompt is to read a grimdark/spooky fantasy.

The Black Tides of Heaven (Tensorate #1) by J.Y. Yang
This book seems so fascinating to me, and I really want to read it. I believe it’s a collection of novellas set in Yang’s Tensorate world. I know next to nothing about this book, other than it is Asian inspired, explores gender, and is own voices. The author was born in Singapore and they identify as queer and non-binary.

The Black Tides of Heaven will take me to:

  • Bree: fantasy in a non-European setting
  • Rivendell: book with LGBTQIA+ rep
  • Gondor: fantasy with POC rep
  • Minas Tirith: fantasy book

Girls of Paper and Fire (Girls of Paper and Fire #1) by Natasha Ngan
Another one I desperately want to get to. I preordered a Kindle copy because this book just sounds so fantastic. It’s about girl who get chosen as concubines for the King, and two of the girls falling in love with each other. At least, that’s what I think it’s about…

Girls of Paper and Fire will take me to:

  • Bree: fantasy in non-European setting
  • Rivendell: fantasy novel with LGBTQIA+ rep
  • Rohan: fantasy with a female MC
  • Gondor: fantasy with POC rep
  • Mordor: most recent installment in fantasy series

That’s what I plan on reading in the next few weeks! I might still be reading The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson, which is my current read. It’ll fit for a few of the topics too, so I’m not too worried about that. Are you participating in the readathon? Have you read any of these books?

5 books that have been on my unread shelf for way too long

Recently I have gotten better at reading my books fairly quickly after purchasing them. When I first started my blog however, I bought so many books! Many of the hauls were influenced by other bloggers or YouTubers… I have done quite a few unhauls in the past few years and gotten rid of books I don’t really want to read anymore but there are some books on my shelves that have been there for 3, 4 or even 5 years, and I still haven’t read them. Here are 5 of them!

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton
I received this book from Pan Macmillan when I visited them during my ‘study visits’ at university which was in March of 2015… I know, it’s been almost 4 years. I have never unhauled it because I do want to read it. It’s a historical fiction novel set in Amsterdam in 1686, when a woman receives a cabinet-sized replica of their home as a wedding gift from her husband. The tiny creatures ring eerily true… That sounds incredible and so atmospheric, and I don’t even know why I haven’t read it yet.

Promise of Blood (Powder Mage #1) by Brian McClellan
I don’t actually know how long this has been on my shelf, but it’s probably been at least 3 years. I bought this because I read two sentences on the cover. “The age of kings is dead… And I have killed it.” That caught my attention, and made me read the premise. The first sentence of the synopsis convinced me and made me buy it. “It’s a bloody business, overthrowing a king.” I happen to love reading fantasy about assassins, mercenaries and bloody rebellions so why have I not read this yet?

The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien
I’m disappointed in myself. I’m such a fan of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, so I don’t understand why The Silmarillion is still left unread. To be fair, his books are quite intimidating because of his endlessly long sentences and descriptions.

Walk on Earth a Stranger (Gold Seer #1) by Rae Carson
I bought this when it was first released (2015!) because I adored her previous trilogy, The Girl of Fire and Thorns. I know I enjoy her writing. I’m intrigued by the premise of this book. Why, Jolien, why? I’m questioning myself now. I really need to read this in the next 6 months.

Lock In (Lock In #1) by John Scalzi
I’ve never read a John Scalzi book which is a shame because he’s such a well-loved science fiction author. I bought this one in a secondhand shop in London in 2015. It was like £2! It’s not even very long, so there’s really no excuse for me not having read it yet. If you’re not familiar with Lock In, it’s about a virus that causes “Lock In”: victims are fully awake and unaware but unable to respond or do anything. Someone was killed, and the murderer may have been an integrator (someone who borrows their bodies to people who are locked in). Sounds intriguing, right?


Someone please hold me accountable and make me read these books. Have you read any of these? Which books have been on your shelves for ages?

5 books I need to read before 2019 | #T5W

Today’s Top 5 Wednesday is books you want to read before the start of 2019. 2018 is almost over, and that scares me. Honestly, what happened? Where did it go? I feel like I zoned out for ten minutes and the year was gone. Anyway, these are 5 books I want to read before I blink and 2018 is over with.

 

Night by Elie Wiesel
I recently bought this, and I know I want to read it before the year is over. I’m sure I’ll achieve that goal too, because this book is incredibly short. It’s a autobiographical piece in which Elie Wiesel talks about the things he experienced in Auschwitz and Buchenwald.

Train Man by Hitori Nakano
Another recent addition to my shelves, albeit a slightly more upbeat one. This is a (translated) Japanese novel about a geek who saves a young woman from another guy on public transport, and turns to an online messaging board for help when she thanks hum with an expensive gift. Keep in mind that this was written in 2004…

The Way of Kings (Stormlight Archive #1) by Brandon Sanderson
It’s happening, people. In fact, writing this post has inspired me to start the book. I’m currently reading The Way of Kings, and really enjoying it!

The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy (Montague Siblings #2) by Mackenzi Lee
I was so excited for this book to come out. It’s been out for a little while now and I haven’t read it yet. I think I will listen to the audiobook, because I did the same for the first book, The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue.

The Salt of the Earth by Józef Wittlin
I got approved for an e-ARC of this book, and I’m really excited to read it. If I’m not mistaken, it’s a new translation of a book that was originally written in 1935 in Polish. It’s about a peasant called Piotr, who wants nothing more than an official railway cap, a cottage, and a wife. Unfortunately, WWI breaks out and he is drafted into the army. Apparently this is a pacifist novel that truly challenges war. I’m excited to read it.


What do you think, will I succeed in reading these before the year is over?
Which books do you want to have read by the start of 2019?

Collector’s editions I’d like to own | #TopTenTuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly post hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s topic is actually bookish merchandise I’d like to own, but I’ve been trying to cut down on the stuff I own. I’m becoming a bit more minimalistic, so I have less clutter in my apartment. So instead of merchandise, I’m talking about collector’s editions I’d like to own -but am too cheap to buy for myself.

The Lies of Locke Lamora (Gentleman Bastard #1) by Scott Lynch – 10th anniversary edition
I love this series, and the Gollancz anniversary editions are all just so beautiful. Just look at it! It’s so gorgeous. Obviously, I would only collect anniversary editions of books I truly love and know I’ll keep on my shelf for ages. This series is definitely one of them. The special edition of Red Seas Under Red Skies, the sequel, is gorgeous too.

The Final Empire (Mistborn #1) by Brandon Sanderson – 10th anniversary edition
Another Gollancz anniversary edition that is just so beautiful. I wanted to include the anniversary editions of The Well of Ascension and The Age of Heroes too, but I figured you didn’t want to see a list made up of only like 3 series.

Six of Crows (Six of Crows #1) by Leigh Bardugo – collector’s edition
Look at this precious book! I adore this duology, and I simply love this cover. The red is just so striking. It also has a letter from the author and six full-color character portraits. Honestly, I would get it just for the portraits.

A Darker Shade of Magic (Shades of Magic #1) by V.E. Schwab – collector’s edition
I only have a physical copy of the first book in this series, and that’s in the UK paperback. I really want to own these hardcovers, because they’re absolutely stunning. But I would also never get rid of my UK paperback as I got it signed and personalized by V.E. Schwab when I met her at YALC in 2017.

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien – special collector’s edition
Despite being an avid Tolkien fan, I don’t own a copy of The Hobbit -and my copies of Lord of the Rings are so used and beat up. For some reason, I love this cover. I think it’s a combination of the tall trees, the mustard color, and the lovely grey.

Eragon (Inheritance Cycle #1) by Christopher Paolini – collector’s edition
This is one of my all-time favorite series, partly because it’s one of the series that truly got me into reading. I need to buy new copies, because mine are not only worn out but also a combination of paperback and hardback, Dutch and English.

The Iliad & The Odyssey by Homer – Barnes & Noble Collectible edition
I’m not sure I’ve ever read these front to back, but I really want to. This edition is absolutely gorgeous, and I want it.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë – Barnes & Noble Collectible edition
So far, Jane Eyre is one of my favorite classics. Ever. My copy is very ugly though, and I want to replace it with a pretty one like this. It’s not on the priority to-buy list, but it is something I want to own one day.

Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien – Juniper edition
Like my copy of Jane Eyre, my copies of the Lord of the Rings books are worn out and ugly. These covers by Juniper Books are so beautiful that I need to own them one day. I love how the spines form the gate to Moria together.

Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling – Juniper Books, Hogwarts Express edition
Look at the spines!!! One can never have too many copies of Harry Potter. Fight me.


I want all of these editions. But I just can’t justify spending the money on them, at least not right now. For example, the Juniper HP editions are gorgeous but the set costs $300. Do you own any collector’s editions?

Review: Pachinko | a heartbreaking yet beautiful read

pachinkoPachinko by Min Jin Lee
Published in 2017 by Apollo
Genre: historical fiction (adult)
Rating: 4/5 stars – would definitely recommend

A victorian epic transplanted to Japan, following a Korean family of immigrants through eight decades and four generations.

Yeongdo, Korea 1911.

In a small fishing village on the banks of the East Sea, a club-footed, cleft-lipped man marries a fifteen-year-old girl. The couple have one child, their beloved daughter Sunja. When Sunja falls pregnant by a married yakuza, the family face ruin. But then Isak, a Christian minister, offers her a chance of salvation: a new life in Japan as his wife.

Following a man she barely knows to a hostile country in which she has no friends, no home, and whose language she cannot speak, Sunja’s salvation is just the beginning of her story.

Through eight decades and four generations, Pachinko is an epic tale of family, identity, love, death and survival. 

my review

I should have written this review months ago because I read Pachinko in May of this year, and loved it. Although I gave it 4/5 stars, it has become one of my most memorable reads so far. It’s one that will end up on a lot of favorites lists from now on: books that made me cry, emotional reads, favorite historical fiction books, and so on. It deserves a spot on all of those.

Plot

This story follows multiple generations of one family, as well as some of the people they encounter throughout their lives. We start the book off with Hoonie, who was born with a cleft palate and twisted foot. He is the only one of his siblings strong enough to survive. We get a quick overview of his life and marriage to Yangjin. Together they have a daughter called Sunja. She is pretty much the focus of this book. For the majority of the novel, we follow Sunja as she grows older. Aside from Sunja and her parents, we also follow her children, and grandchild.

As you can probably tell, this isn’t a fast-paced book filled with action scenes. It’s a character driven novel, and focuses far more on the people than the plot. I tend to love books that focus on the characters as I end up far more attached to them this way, so this novel was right up my alley.

There’s so much I loved about this story. It taught me quite a lot about Korea in the 20th century, as well as the annexation of the country by Japan and the treatment of Koreans who lived in Japan. Don’t worry, reading this book doesn’t feel like attending a history lecture. Instead, the nuggets of history are interwoven in the characters’ lives. It’s also very obvious that Korea and Japan (just like the rest of the world) were extremely sexist during those times. I’m not going to comment on the world and sexism today, because that’s a rant for another day. While I know that the sexism and troubles of woman are historically accurate, that doesn’t make it any easier to read.

The only downside of this book is that it can be so difficult to read because it’s incredibly sad. This novel is heartbreaking. I honestly felt like nothing good ever happened to this family, and was ready to leap into the book and rescue them all.

Characters

I grew so attached to Sunja. My heart still aches for her, months after finishing this book. She has such a tough life but she never gives up. She keeps going, so she can provide for her family as best she can. I honestly admire her, although I wouldn’t want her life at all. She just couldn’t catch a break!

I don’t know whether I can truly talk about the characters of this book, because it may be a bit of a spoiler? This is the kind of story you have to discover by yourself, and I don’t want to give too much away.

I will say that this book makes you empathize with the characters. The author manages to stir up such strong feelings in you as a reader. There were people I loved and wanted to protect and others I wanted to hurt.

All in all, this is a gorgeous novel about people making the best of terrible situations.


I genuinely don’t know how to convey me feelings on this book properly. I want everyone to read it, but I can’t articulate how I feel about it well. If the premise sounds at all interesting to you, please give it a chance.