{Book Review} Caraval by Stephanie Garber

This review was first posted on The Last Bookstore’s blog thedwarfandgiant.com. Click on link to see the original review!! <33

Title: Caraval

Author: Stephanie Garber
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance
Publisher: Flatiron Books (January 31st 2017)
Age Range: 13-17 year olds
Pages: 416 pages (hardcover)
Buy at: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Book Depository | Google Play | iBooks

We all love to play games, maybe sometimes games with a dash of danger and daring mixed in. If you are a thrill seeker, adrenaline junkie, or just a big YA nerd like me, here are reasons why you should be reading Stephanie Garber’s newest novel and start fangirling.

WARNING: This book is highly addictive, and it is likely that you may suffer from lack of sleep, just like the author of this review, who read this book into the early morning when  she had school the next day.

With YA, we’ve heard it all right? Teenager lives normal/repressed life, finds renewed purpose, finds someone who sees their unique qualities, main character falls in love with soul mate, and the end. Nope, that’s not Stephanie Garber. She will mess you up so bad the whole time you are reading this book, you honestly will be lost on where the plot will lead you next. Seriously. I can promise you it does NOT slow down even in the last 50 pages.

Now let’s get started on a basic summary. So there’s Scarlett Dragna (what a cool last name) and her sister Tella Dragna. They live on an island with their abusive father who is the definition of a control freak. You find out in the beginning of the novel that their father enjoys punishing the other sister when one sister misbehaves. Now that is flippin’ messed up. Worse, the girls don’t have a mother figure in their lives, and they mostly rely on each other for guidance. The girls make the best dynamic duo, though I think I’m biased because I have a younger sister. Our friendship reminds me a lot of Scarlett and Tella’s relationship. I digress. Scarlett daydreams a lot about leaving the island, specifically to Caraval, a mysterious island where audience members are encouraged to participate in a game to win a wish. The book opens with a series of letters that Scarlett has written to Legend, the master of Caraval. The letters are mostly cathartic, as Scarlett doesn’t expect to receive an invitation, until she does. (SUPRISE SUPRISE!) Scarlett, being the older sister, is worried about accepting the invitation with her sister. Her sister, rebellious and fiery, “convinces” Scarlett to sail off with a morally ambiguous sailor to Caraval. Only, when Scarlett gets to the island, the game is not as simple as she thought. Her sister Tella has been kidnapped by Legend himself, and the winner has to find her first. (DUN DUN DUN!) All along the way, while Scarlett is desperately trying to find her sister, she is told that the game of Caraval isn’t real. Or is it? The deeper she goes, lines between magic and reality blur where Scarlett is suddenly in very real danger of losing her own heart and her beloved sister.

Whooohooo heavy stuff. I rate this book an 11/10 because this plot, like I said earlier, is the best worst emotional roller coaster ever. If you also have a sister share this book with them and read it together. Sisters will go far places for each other. #sistapower. Also, I haven’t mentioned yet how Garber has the most beautiful writing style. The plot can be magical, but it takes a true writer to spin magic with every word on the page. She does that and so much more. I snuggled into the pages like a warm blanket. It feels like home. A scary magical emotional home. I don’t know if that makes sense. It made sense in my head.

Anywho! I hope that you all loved reading my review, and now after reading my rambling, GO READ THE BOOK. #staylit Don’t forget to comment how you liked the book!



Book Haul: Vancouver June 2017 (and reasons to buy from local bookstores)

I’m Canadian! I was just in Canada last week during Canada Day. 😀 I love being Canadian, and right now more so than being American. For one thing, they don’t have a crazy President, and most importantly THEY HAVE BOOKSTORES. Ok, well we do have bookstores in America… they are dying out though. Anyways. Bookstores are alive and kicking in Vancouver. I have warm and fuzzy thoughts thinking about bookstores and how inviting they look all packed with fresh new books waiting to be discovered. But you don’t want to hear my warm and fuzzy thoughts. Let’s get on to the book haul!

So I bought two of Julie Murphy’s books Ramona Blue and Dumplin. I thought these two books were fantastic. They cover hard topics about teenagers trying to cope with poverty, sexuality, and body shaming. Murphy’s style of writing didn’t hook me as well as some other authors, but I think she does a wonderful job diving into issues and drawing in her readers into the shoes of her characters. I think the reason why I didn’t enjoy them as much was that they almost felt like popcorn reads. Popcorn, as in you munch on them really fast because they are salty and crunchy, but you don’t take the time to savor them. Don’t get me wrong. These books are delicious, but for me, it wasn’t a seasoned steak to chew on. I think it’s also because I’ve read so much YA over the years that when I read new books, I have very jaded views because there are so many fantastic books in this genre. It makes me sad because the more I read, I feel like the harder it will be for me to find a book that really shakes me. Anybody else?

Okay, so the next book I bought for myself was actually a collection of poems. I love reading poetry and I have Sarah Kay’s No Matter the Wreckage and also, of course, Rupi Kaur‘s Milk and Honey. I think Sarah Kay has mastered the art of living through her poems if that makes sense. With Milk and Honey, it’s different because it’s sort of a cathartic way for Kaur to channel her ups and downs in life. For that reason, I think that some people don’t like reading her poems because they can be a jarring and emotional exhausting to read all together. I haven’t read this poetry book yet. I feel like poetry needs to have a special time in my day where I can really devote myself into dissecting it’s prose. I’m not busy, but I don’t think I’m mentally available to start reading it yet. (Also I’m so excited about the typewriter in the background of this photo! We had to go check in baggage just to bring it back to LA)

Now, I know that all these books that I bought in Canada are available online on Book Depository or Amazon for a much cheaper price, but it’s nice to walk into a bookstore once and awhile and meander in the smell of crisp pages. Buying books at your local bookstore ensure that the people who work there can keep doing what they love and it makes sure that you can keep perusing through their shelves. Because public libraries are great, but we all have to admit that old and used books that have been shared can sometimes get a little crusty…

Here’s a picture I took of my sister reading in a used bookstore in northern cali

I’ll try to be back soon. I love you all so much. Tell me what you think about Sarah Kay and Rupi Kaur! Do you guys agree or disagree?


You must think that I am like the others before
Who coat hung themselves to you yearning to not be forgotten and left trampled on the ground

I am of a different sort.

Before reaching to you, I am grounded in myself

You are not a raft boat that I am searching for in this sea because I am not drowning

I learned how to swim for myself long before you reached out benevolently

Do not think you are saving a damsel in distress because I am the hero in my own story 

This road to self love was not easy so dismiss any notion that I will just hand over my individuality.


she pushes you against the wall
in the hidden hallway
pushing her lips to yours like you are the air she breathes
her kisses are innocent forget-me-nots
warm like breezy summer nights at the beach before a crackling fire

she pushes you against the wall
in passing period
and instead of passion you taste possession
her lips trail the boundaries on your skin that mark you for her own
when did her kisses stop being for you and for the people watching

she will push you up against the wall
after your football game
she is too sweet like candy you have gorged yourself on
when she finally leaves
you can still feel how she sticks to parts of you refusing to let go

she will push you up against the wall
after she finds you kissing someone else
her lips have become the mouth of a roaring dragon
her words sear across your skin like fire
and when she leaves you forever all you feel is a cold relief

-because you are a F***boy

My Problems with 13 Reasons Why

A tv show does not make you the expert on suicide
the reality is much more painful and less dramatic
sometimes there are no reasons why
you have this gaping sadness that swallows you whole every morning
there are no explanations why you feel every moment like you are drowning on dry land
There are not enough reasons why
our minds cannot help but rewind like cassette players
replaying over and over the worst moments as if it just happened
we cannot stop cutting ourselves with memories
so we become our own enemies stuck in a nightmarish replay
there are girls, whenever they look into mirrors they hate themselves because no matter how many breakfasts, lunches, dinners, they skip
despite the number of ribs they can count through their skin
they still can’t reach the perfection of alabaster plastic surgery skin on our screens
And we push away the people around us because we think it’s better to hold this weight on our own because we are constantly afraid that others would find us disgusting when they see how much baggage we carried
sometimes suicide is not revenge,
it is a decision you make when you truly believe that death would be better than any life when you are tired of this act of breathing in air
Often times, it is not the people around us to blame, but the sickness in our mind that eats away at our will to live, our purpose, our happiness
and it is a decision leaving crushed bones, families and dripping blood.
Blood. My friend almost died from losing too much blood after cutting herself in her bathtub at home.
It was not a gratuitous moment but one that was so horrifying, she can’t look at blood anymore.
Do you understand now?
our struggle is an ocean of anguish that cannot be measured and should never be cashed in for it’s worth as a drama.

Clarinet Memories

I hear them whisper dirty things about you
that you sent nudes to a man
while you were still with another
but all I still remember is your smile
the kindness you showed me
it’s hurtful to hear all these things about you
I wonder what happened to the girl who I used to know
Who called us clarinet buddies in elementary school
We would giggle and whisper in between measures of rests
you played songs to my lonely heart when I was an alien in a new school
But you left band in the 8th grade
Middle school is where they say you fell off the deep end
Now in high school
we don’t talk anymore
I see you pass by class to class
but we are entities in spheres that are worlds apart
I wonder when did this madness begin for you
I wonder if we had just stayed in touch
What we could have both been
But tomorrow
or next week
I will see you pass by again
but this time instead I will stop you
Pause a moment to say hi and ask how you are doing
You were a friend from my past who made me a home
A safe place between the measures of rests and notes
So it’s the least I can do
to just stop and give you a moment of my time

Breaking free

I have to wake up at 5am for a swim meet and then my brain itches cuz I haven’t written poetry in two weeks… 😑 #midnightpoetry
I am a Asian American woman.

Prouder than ever

Strength in my bones

Because the moment I was born

my race and sex forced me to carry fetters binding me to the weight of inequality

But I stand tall despite the extra weight of this gravity
We women of color

not only stand but we climb

We climb and bleed to reach our dreams

Only to find the glass the separates us from truly reaching them

So I sharpen my tongue

I pound my voice into a iron weapon

to shatter this glass in my way

I use each word in my arsenal to bring shame to those who rule over me

They cower in fear when I speak the truth
Though the world storms at me

I am a force to rival nature

I plant my feet firmly like roots
I am a tree that gives life

I will never be swept away

I break all their rules not only for myself

but for all men and women of races

For I am a feminist

And you’ll find me running round



paper people

my pitter patter paper heart
yearns to be among the pages
to find words to fill my empty chapters

so I write poetry
and I will not stop bleeding ink
until my blank pages are full

I am a paper person
made up of stories so precious
only my spine can bear them all

monday showers

there are those days
you come back home with your soul weary
you let yourself into the shower

sighing as the steam rises
then you cover your ears
you imagine

the torrent echoing in your ears is a storm
the sound surrounds you
making you and your worries insignificant with its ambiance

the water on your body
becomes a flood washing away all your worries
and you whisper to yourself its ok

you’ve survived another day

{Book Review} The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith*

*I recommend this novel for more mature audiences.

Title: The Cuckoo’s Calling

Author: Robert Galbraith
Genre: Mystery, Realistic Fiction, Adult
Publisher: Sphere Books (April 3, 2013)
Age Range: 16+
Pages: 455 pages (hardcover)
Buy at: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Book Depository | Google Play | iBooks


Famous model Lula Landry falls to her death from her London penthouse balcony in the early hours of a frosty morning; her death is attributed to suicide due to her history of depression and emotional stress. However, her brother is suspicious, and hires private detective Comoran Strike, an amputated veteran, to investigate further. Strike is reluctant to take on a case so thoroughly scrutinized by the public and the police, but he is suffering from personal financial and relationship crisis – this is his only lifeline. Together with his underpaid loyal secretary, Robin Ellacott, he enters the shady underworld of celebrities, agendas, and night lives, in an odyssey that captures you from beginning to end.

My Rating: 8.5/10



Just in case you didn’t know, Robert Galbraith is a pseudonym for J.K. Rowling. Trust me. Google it. If that isn’t enough reason for you to read this let me expound on the reasons why I loved this book and you should too!

I this book is beautifully written from beginning to end. You can tell that Rowling spent time crafting each sentence, there is an undeniable sense of mastery and style that is uniquely her own. Take this excerpt from the beginning chapter:

“The buzz in the street was like the humming of flies. Photographers stood massed behind barriers patrolled by police, their long-snouted cameras poised, their breath rising like steam. Snow fell steadily on to hats and shoulders; gloved fingers wiped lenses clear. From time to time there came outbreaks of desultory clicking, as the watchers filled the waiting time by snapping the white canvas tent in the middle of the road, the entrance to the tall red-brick apartment block behind it, and the balcony on the top floor from which the body had fallen.”

Wow, I mean just wow. Can we have a moment of appreciation for Rowling’s detailed description of the murder scene? Some might find this didactic imagery tedious to read, which is why I believe, it only received a 3.83/5 rating on Goodreads. But for me reading this novel was such a treat! Rowling’s high-level vocabulary is helpful if you are willing to learn. In Rowling’s second novel in the Comoran Strike Series, I learned the word quixotic and it actually showed up on my SAT test. Reading for the winnnnn!

Also, if you like British culture and terminology, this is the book for you! Apparently, tosser is a derogatory term used in G.B. that would equate to the word playboy in the states. In the 3rd book, Career of Evil, it’s funny when they mention how everyone in G.B. is raving about Kate Middleton and Prince William’s marriage. It details of London life really bring this story to life and you wish that your city was just as exciting.

In fact, this book could be defined as realistic fiction. The way Rowling integrates her characters into our present day and age make them much more loveable and relatable. Strike is an amputee and sometimes I start rubbing my own knee whenever Rowling describes how Strike falls and tears new ligaments. It’s so descriptive that I get my own phantom aches. #real. -_-

I digress, I honestly feel like Rowling is superb in the way she develops her characters. It is cool and gross how Rowling is able to write from the perspective of a male character. Cool because I can’t do it, gross because Strike kind of likes staring at the butts of hot women in his life. Butt you gotta give him some credit because he does try not to. Robin, Strike’s secretary, is my favorite character. While working for Strike she begins to find her passion for investigative work and as a result, she becomes a stronger character. This in turn creates problems later on with her fiancé who doesn’t appreciate the new willful Robin.

This is just a great crime novel, Rowling keeps you hooked each chapter with new developments in the Landry case and also in Strike and Robin’s personal lives. An exciting read!


There is a period from the middle to the end of the novel where Strike is interviewing his suspects and it drags a bit. When the ending finally hits you like a knife to your chest (veiled spoiler 😉 ) it’s like woah! What happened? I obviously have fewer complaints than praise, but this slow section is where I have to deduct some point because I think other less patient readers would have stopped reading here.

Don’t forget that this is the 1st in the series, “The Silkworm” and “Career of Evil” are out.

I hope you all loved this review I wrote today! I hope it makes up for the months I have been inactive. I definitely felt better after writing this review! Spring Break is next week so I might be able to write more in the next few days. ❤ -Ji