Book Review: Permanent Record by Mary H.K. Choi

Permanent Record

  Synopsis: After a year of college, Pablo is working at his local twenty-four-hour deli, selling overpriced snacks to brownstone yuppies. He’s dodging calls from the student loan office and he has no idea what his next move is.

Leanna Smart’s life so far has been nothing but success. Age eight: Disney Mouseketeer; Age fifteen: first #1 single on the US pop chart; Age seventeen, *tenth* #1 single; and now, at Age nineteen…life is a queasy blur of private planes, weird hotel rooms, and strangers asking for selfies on the street.

When Leanna and Pab randomly meet at 4:00 a.m. in the middle of a snowstorm in Brooklyn, they both know they can’t be together forever. So, they keep things on the down-low and off Instagram for as long as they can. But it takes about three seconds before the world finds out…

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Hoo boy do I have a lot of feelings about this book. Let’s get into it.

“Trying to get better at the thing you want to be the best at is humiliating.”

First off, I think the branding for this book is a bit off. Going in, I thought this book was going to be a romance, which I didn’t mind, but this book is definitely a slice of life contemporary, with hints of romance. 

Pablo Neruda Rind is truly one of the most interesting characters I think I’ve ever had the privilege of reading about. His character just felt so real to me, which is one of my favorite things about him. He is 20, Biracial (Pakistani and Korean) and severely in debt. He has dropped out of NYU and isn’t quite sure where his life is going, so he works the graveyard shift at a bodega.

Leanna Smart was a child star, and now a pop singer. I also really enjoyed her character, although I didn’t think she was fleshed out enough, (more on that later) she is also Biracial (Mexican and White), and 22.

One thing that really made this book for me was the mental illness representation. Pablo is deeply anxious and very depressed throughout almost the whole book. As aforementioned, his character felt realistic to me. He makes a lot of rash decisions, ones that made me want to physically shake him. But he feels like a real person, and his mental illness made me feel seen.

One thing that I didn’t love, was that we don’t get Leanna’s perspective. I feel like she would’ve added so much more depth. Since it’s only in Pablo’s perspective, we only see her through his eyes. It’s kind of implied that she struggles with her mental health as well, but we only really get to see her as a Manic Pixie Dreamgirl. 

Another thing. My favorite parts of this book were when Pablo and Leanna were together, but they weren’t together a ton. For me, this book tended to drag a bit when it was just him.

Another good thing, their banter was amazing! I definitely am a big fan of Choi’s style of humor. 

“God, this country, it’s so predatory.” 

This book tackles an issue that I haven’t often seen before. College. I think college is portrayed as a magical place that we all should strive for, which it very much could be. I think a lot of people don’t realize how stressful picking where you want to go, and taking on that kind of financial burden, especially at 16-18. And even picking exactly what you want to do at such a young age can be very emotionally crippling. 

Overall I definitely think I would pick up more books by Choi. If you’re looking for a contemporary that’s on the more hard-hitting side, with some interesting characters and a great discussion around mental illness, you won’t want to miss this one!

Review: The Secret History by Donna Tartt

The Secret History

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This book, is one that I find nearly impossible to explain. For all intensive purposes I’d like to say that this book made me think college would be really murdery and mysterious when in reality it’s just sleep deprived kids trying to find someone who will give them free food.

It’s been months since I finished this book, and yet I still can’t stop thinking about it. It’s a book that will leave you breathless, even months after reading. It’s a book that feels akin to lighting a candle and just watching it burn, just for the aesthetic.

I must point out immediately that my words are not quite as pretty as the words in this book. It’s mostly just me pointing out things and making incoherent gremlin noises. But, they are genuine gremlin noises.

“I suppose at one time in my life I might have had any number of stories, but now there is no other. This is the only story I will ever be able to tell.”

It opens, with murder. Bunny is dead, that’s not a spoiler, you find out on page 1 that he is dead and that his group of friends killed him. Instead of focusing on the whodunit part of the book, it instead explores the why.

It must be said early on, you probably won’t like the characters in this book, and if that’s something important to you, than I suggest you find another book to read. All these characters are seriously flawed, and make the worst of decisions at all time.

Richard, our narrator, the man looking back on all of this, is ordinary. He’s the only one out of the group who isn’t rich, but that makes him no less pretentious. Henry is perhaps the worst of all of them, or maybe the best. Camilla and Charles are twins. Charles being a frequent user of varying vices, to the point of addiction. And Camilla being one who steals people’s hearts, which is a solid day job if you ask me. Bunny is the one who got murdered, and for someone named Bunny, you’ll porbably be glad he’s dead, since he was a raging bigot. And lastly, Francis, who owns a summer home, where much of this story takes place.

While all of these characters are the literal worst, Tartt has this ability to make you question everything you’ve ever known. I find her ability to keep you on your toes and keep questioning these characters hypnotic, and honestly? God-tier level prose. I’ve read a lot of books in my life, and there are few that have made me think like this book has.

I just want to know what went wrong in my life. Because this book about a group of friends murdering their friend, purely for the aesthetic, kept me rooted in the story, kept me guessing, literally had me petrified to flip the pages.

“Beauty is terror. Whatever we call beautiful, we quiver before it.”

Absolutely masterful.




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Fall Releases

  Today is the first day of fall! And I am the most excited. Fall is the best time to sip warm drinks and read books, and to cry over characters!!

Anyways these fall releases are coming for my throat. Like, legitimately, I’ll probably die. But that’s fine. As long as I stay alive long enough to read and review these releases then I’ll go in peace.

  On a lighter note, here are 5 upcoming Fall releases that should be on your TBR!

The Beautiful (The Beautiful, #1) by Renée Ahdieh

Releases October 8th, 2019

The Beautiful (The Beautiful, #1)

So personally, I’m very ready to welcome vampires back into my life. As long as they like, commit crimes and do illegal stuff. I’m not here for the sparkle vampires. Ahdieh, I’m counting on you!

Ninth House (Alex Stern, #1) by Leigh Bardugo

Releases October 8th, 2019

Ninth House (Alex Stern, #1)

This is Bardugo’s highly anticipated adult debut! I’ve only read Shadow and Bone by her but I fell in love with her writing style, (even though that book was a 3 star for me). I’ve heard that her writing has grown a lot since then too, which is very exciting. Also? Secret societies? At Yale? Morally grey characters? Murder me in an alleyway!

(On a darker side note, I’m now worried someone will get murdered in an alleyway in this book so maybe I shouldn’t say that.)

The Last True Poets of the Sea by Julia Drake

Releases October 1st, 2019

The Last True Poets of the Sea

I ship this book with my hot little hands they should be together!

Madeline Miller, the author of Circe, one of the best feminist fantasy books ever, called this book: Profound and Page-turning. So guess what I just bought three copies of?

Shadow Frost (Shadow Frost, #1) by Coco Ma

Releases October 1st, 2019

Shadow Frost (Shadow Frost, #1)

This cover: drops

Me: God??? Is that you??

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

Releases November 5th, 2019

The Starless Sea

Is there anything more iconic than Erin Morgenstern releasing a book 8 years ago, disappearing, seemingly forever, and then just casually announces this a thing? What an icon.

Okay but I’m so ready for this book to come out. Like, forget climate change this book is going to kill us faster and with better prose!

What are some Fall releases you’re excited for?

September TBR

Hello, lovelies! I hope you all had a great Summer and if you attend school, I hope going back to school is good!

Honestly, this year is going way to fast for me to keep up, like before I know it I’ll blink and it’ll be 2020 and I’ll be stressing about those releases too. But let’s focus on the current moment, September, the month where publishers decided to go say: Y’know what? Let’s just release ALL of the books this month. *Cue panic with no disco*

 Lair of Dreams (The Diviners #2) by Libba Bray

Lair of Dreams (The Diviners, #2)

I’m reading this for The Diviners read-along which is exciting, I pos-i-tute-ly loved, The Diviners (I will see myself out) I did not ever think I’d like anything horror but Libba Bray was like “hold my rosé”

Permanent Record by Mary H.K Choi

Permanent Record

I don’t read romance very often but I love this synopsis! I also really like anything that closely examines our relationship with social media and how it affects both our professional and personal relationships. I’m always down to call out society

Frankly in Love by David Yoon

Frankly in Love (Frankly in Love, #1)

Did you say a fake dating scheme??

So I got an ARC of this one from the publisher this week so gotta hurry because it comes out on September 10th!

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow

The Ten Thousand Doors of January

Look okay, if you tell me your book is a portal fantasy with a gorgeous cover and that it’s diverse and that it’s historical? Sweetheart, you could’ve just asked for my money 

Gideon the Ninth (The Ninth House #1) by Tamsyn Muir

Gideon the Ninth (The Ninth House, #1)

My most anticipated release of 2019? Perhaps

That cover, just, sent me. I can’t. I was left dying in an alley, but that’s cool.

I’m *shrugs* maybe a little excited?

Undead Girl Gang by Lily Anderson

Undead Girl Gang

So this is the September pick for the Dragons and Tea Book Club and it’s been on my TBR for a while so I am very excited! It has a fat Latina MC and raising BFFs from the dead to solve their murder! Here’s the page breakdown for you if you’re interested!

War Girls (War Girls #1) by Tochi Onyebuchi

War Girls (War Girls, #1)

So I don’t know what this book is about but Penguin sent me an ARC to read and review so who am I to tell them no? This book comes out on October 15th btw!

Is this TBR highly stressful? Yes. Will I ever make a TBR that isn’t highly stressful? No.

What’s on your September TBR?
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Review: Looking For Alaska by John Green

Synopsis: Before. Miles “Pudge” Halter is done with his safe life at home. His whole life has been one big non-event, and his obsession with famous last words has only made him crave “the Great Perhaps” even more (Francois Rabelais, poet). He heads off to the sometimes crazy and anything-but-boring world of Culver Creek Boarding School, and his life becomes the opposite of safe. Because down the hall is Alaska Young. The gorgeous, clever, funny, sexy, self-destructive, screwed up, and utterly fascinating Alaska Young. She is an event unto herself. She pulls Pudge into her world, launches him into the Great Perhaps, and steals his heart. Then. . . .
After. Nothing is ever the same

Rating: ☆☆

As someone who is an avid reader (and or devourer of novels), I have read a book countless times because people were losing their minds over it. When I was around 11, I read The Fault In Our Stars and fell head over heels for John Green’s cynical humor, easy writing style, and characters.

This, however, was not at the same level.

This was Green’s debut, and I’m sorry to say, it reads like a debut. This book has also not stood the test of time well. It feels like offensive 2005 fiction, which, essentially, is kind of what it is.

Honestly, I feel that there isn’t much of a plot here. It just seems to be, smoke cigarettes, get wine drunk, call Alaska a slut, miss classes, do something stupid, pull a prank, then do it all over again.

It’s okay for books to be more character-driven, but if it is you need to have interesting characters, which these characters are lacking in that area.

Miles “Pudge” Halter is a lacking boy if there ever was one. His character is about as fun as driving a screw into your eye. He knows lots of people’s last words, which is kind of cool, and he is constantly searching for the “Great Perhaps.” He’s easily influenced by Alaska and quickly picks up smoking, and drinking, just because he wants to be good enough for her and wants her to go out with him. Isn’t obsessive love a trope we want to leave behind in the early 2000s? Also, he’s so whiny. The entire book(especially towards the end) he just whines on and on about how he deserves better and how he deserves to be with Alaska and I had to keep myself from chucking the book across the room.

Alaska Young is a disaster, plain and simple. She’s the character I liked the best, and yet, one who I found a massive issue with. Green writes her character to like books and be a feminist while owning her sexuality which sounds awesome! This sounds like a character I’d enjoy reading about. But she seems to be constantly slut-shamed by the other characters, and the way Green writes her is so objectifying. Which it seems very hypocritical to objectify a character who doesn’t like it when people objectify her. And honestly, without spoiling anything, I didn’t feel bad for what eventually happens.

Chip “The Colonel” Martin is Alaska’s best friend and one of the first “main characters” we meet in the story. And honestly, I can barely remember anything about him. I took extensive notes for both books I read, and yet the only thing I was able to retain is that he had a bad relationship with a girl, whose name I can’t remember.

It seems like for a book with such a lack of plot until you’re 80% in, the characters should be a lot more memorable. Not to mention again, some of the things these characters say is incredibly offensive. There are two lines where two different characters are openly making fun of people with disabilities, which knocked at least two stars off of my rating.

Now let’s talk about some good this book had. John Green has a very specific brand of cynic humor that works very well for me, so many times I felt myself laughing at something one of the characters said. I also enjoyed the prank scenes, they just felt very fun and free and encapsulated the rebellious feeling of doing something wrong.

Overall, this book definitely isn’t Green’s best work, and obviously some people are going to love it so much more than I will, but I think it was okay and it flies by quickly(I read it in two days) but it is still quite problematic and I just couldn’t ignore some of that.

Review: Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

Synopsis: Heart of Darkness, a novel by Joseph Conrad, was originally a three-part series in Blackwood’s Magazine in 1899. It is a story within a story, following a character named Charlie Marlow, who recounts his adventure to a group of men on board an anchored ship. The story told is of his early life as a ferry boat captain. Although his job was to transport ivory downriver, Charlie develops an interest in investing an ivory procurement agent, Kurtz, who is employed by the government. Preceded by his reputation as a brilliant emissary of progress, Kurtz has now established himself as a god among the natives in “one of the darkest places on earth.” Marlow suspects something else of Kurtz: he has gone mad.

A reflection on corruptive European colonialism and a journey into the nightmare psyche of one of the corrupted, Heart of Darkness is considered one of the most influential works ever written.

Rating: ☆

There is a certain emotion I  associate with this book, one of pure malice, a feeling of wishing this novel to be erased from my memory entirely. 

To be frank, this novel is very bad. And let’s talk about why.

Heart of Darkness is a book Conrad wrote based on his experiences in the Congo, a novel he wrote to shed light on the various horrors of colonialism. However, readers can’t help but be unaffected by the absolute nonchalance he writes with. A tone as unsympathetic and flat as soggy cornflakes. 

Because of this, this book was probably a stale attempt as making money off of race crimes, the biggest problem here is that it did.

This entire book is written in spoken word format, this story is told by Marlow,  a seaman who witnessed firsthand some of the atrocities of colonialism. He tells in great length the things he views, and yet? I absolutely couldn’t care less. A description of black people chained together and being forced to carry things on their heads down the street should elicit a sickening feeling, and I was, but Conrad wasn’t. He writes it like it’s a common occurrence, which it could’ve been, but for someone who’s “health was severely affected for the remainder of his life,” you would think he’d elaborate on that matter more.

Another big issue is that Conrad’s prose is deeply long-winded and boring. There are several long passages, (passages that took up most of the page, mind you) that I reread several times, yet still couldn’t figure out what he was trying to say. If one description lasts longer than a few sentences, most readers will lose interest very fast. 

There’s another problem with this book. It is deeply racist. 

There is a specific scene where Marlow allies himself with the slaves, basically implying he has gone through exactly what they have when he is a white seaman. It is incredibly problematic to compare your struggles to someone else, especially if one of these people have been enslaved.

Especially towards the end of it, Conrad seems to be frantically throwing words in and hoping they’ll create something cohesive, he introduces a character towards the end who had no real significance except he could fill up more page time with her. 

A point must also be made that every black character that Marlow meets, he assumes that they will automatically be a “savage” who can’t read or write.

However, is his apathy towards their suffering meant to anger the reader or to make us realize that we’ve gotten comfortable? I will say this the question that haunted me the most and is also the only thing that has stayed with me through the course of reading this book.

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Review: The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

The Cruel Prince (The Folk of the Air, #1)

Synopsis: Jude was seven when her parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Jude wants nothing more than to belong there, despite her mortality. But many of the fey despise humans. Especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King.

To win a place at the Court, she must defy him–and face the consequences.

As Jude becomes more deeply embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, she discovers her own capacity for trickery and bloodshed. But as betrayal threatens to drown the Courts of Faerie in violence, Jude will need to risk her life in a dangerous alliance to save her sisters, and Faerie itself.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Reading The Cruel Prince left me feeling conflicted, a want for love. So many friends love this book, my sister adores Holly Black, this seemed like a shoo-in. I should’ve loved this- but I just didn’t. 

This had so many of my favorite things in it, morally grey characters, a compelling fantasy world, sibling dynamics. 

But let’s talk about why this kinda didn’t work for me.

For those who have read it, you’ll know this book opens with a murder. Jude, Taryn, and Vivienne have lived in the human world, unbeknownst to the world of the Fae. Until one fateful day, when they are barely children, that Madoc, a general of the Fae, massacres their human parents, and drags them to Fairyland, where they are planned to spend the rest of their days. 

From here, they all take different forms of action. 

Jude is on a mission, one to become fae herself. She’s jealous that they can be crueler, that fact they would never let her forget. She is human. All she wants to do is prove that she can be worse than they are. Then she thinks, she’ll gain their respect.

Oh man, I have so many feelings about Jude. She’s just, so awful, She’s never happy, her whole life has been one long attempt at proving herself, to prove she can be meaner, and worse. And just wow. I love her so much, but I need to point out certain inconsistencies. 

She watched her parents get brutally murdered, as a young girl, which should have been very traumatic for her: and yet, it’s barely brought up. Right off the bat, she’s entering a tournament, but we take no time at all to talk about how that scarred her emotionally?

Cardan is The Cruel Prince. He’s the worst of the fae, the one who bullies Jude the most, the one who seeks to make her life a living hell. Upon meeting him, I had mixed feelings, but upon finding out his back story, and seeing how his life had played out, I believe he is the most developed character in this book. His behavior makes sense, and I’m very interested to see where he goes in book two.

But Cardan just deserves to be swaddled in warm blankets and fed chocolate mocha biscotti and soaked in a hot bath with a lemon-vanilla bath bomb. And yes I’ve thought about this extensively.

Vivienne is half-fae and half-human, the product of Madoc shacking up with their mother, until she leaves him, in which bad things ensue but that’s beside the point.

What all can I say about Vivi? She’s just, the most unproblematic character in this book. All she deserves is happiness with her pink-haired girlfriend. And that’s all I’ll say on the matter!

Taryn is the worst character. Like, she’s just so mean. And not in a fun way. She jeopardizes Jude’s safety and just wants a man so she can blend in. She’s also so shady and just! I ship her with death so hard! Forget Jude and Cardan I think Taryn x Death is a better ship.

I honestly think this book just isn’t for me. The writing just didn’t jive with me. Not to say Holly Black’s prose is bad, I just don’t think it flows right for me as a reader. It felt boring at parts, and for a book that’s not even 400 pages, I feel that it took me a while to read.

With that being said, however, I do think this book had its high points, and I’m curious to read The Wicked King!