Wednesday, July 31, 2013

"Memoirs of a Geisha" by Arthur Golden (1997)

A literary sensation and runaway bestseller, this brilliant novel presents with seamless authenticity and exquisite lyricism the true confessions of one of Japan's most celebrated geisha.

In Memoirs of a Geisha, we enter a world where appearances are paramount; where a girl's virginity is auctioned to the highest bidder; where women are trained to beguile the most powerful men; and where love is scorned as illusion. It is a unique and triumphant work of fiction - at once romantic, erotic, suspenseful - and completely unforgettable.

  •  Absolutely beautiful and heartwarming. This is a fairytale and a historical fiction, and may teach you a lot about Japanese culture and the art of being a geisha. Very absorbing and hard to put down.
  • If you've watched the movie and liked it, you will probably like this book even more. The movie does a decent job of portraying everything, but the book has a very "classic" quality to it that makes you feel more for the characters than you do in the movie.
  • I have no idea if I'm the only one who feels this way, but in the end, I felt so bad for Nobu. He seemed to have been wronged by the two people he cared about the most (Sayuri and the Chairman), and he had given so much to them. Admittedly, he's also my favorite character because he seems to have the most personality, so maybe I'm just biased. But I guess his role in the novel is expanded much more than in the movie, giving it more complexities and emotions.
  • The book is written as if it's an actual memoir, but I believe it isn't really..? I loved how the author allows the reader to believe that it's based off true events; the historical context is so accurate and the narration so in-depth that it's hard to believe otherwise!
  • There are funny parts and tragic parts which makes the characters and the setting leap out of the pages and into your head. Everything feels very real, and all the characters are interesting in their own way. Hatsumomo is intriguing as a villain, and Mameha depicted as a reliable and practical older sister figure. Even greedy "Mother" is one of those characters that some people love to hate.
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

"I Love You, Beth Cooper" by Larry Doyle (2007)

Denis Cooverman didn't want to give a typical graduation speech, cherishing memories and embracing challenges and crap. So, instead, he stood up in front of his 512 classmates and their 3,000 relatives and said something really important: "I love you, Beth Cooper."

It would have been such a sweet, romantic moment. Except that:
Beth, the head cheerleader, has only the vaguest idea who Denis is.
And Denis, the captain of the debate team, is so far out of her league he is barely even the same species.
And then there's Kevin, Beth's remarkably large boyfriend, in town on furlough from the United States Army.
Complications ensue.

Denis comes of age overnight in this exhilarating, endearing novel that reminds us why we can't wait to escape high school but can never leave it behind.

  • HILARIOUS book. Far from poorly written with crude humor, the author's writing style is insouciant, ingenious, subtle, and outright comical with a hint of vulgarity and some intense scenes. Each event gets funnier than the last, due to context and character build-up.
  • The main character is the valedictorian, and so his narration is quirky and nerdy, in a very fun way. He notes out the many laws that Beth has broken as they are narrowly escaping Kevin's wrath, recites the hormone glands that are going crazy in his adolescent body while sweating with anticipation and nervousness, and is, overall, an awkward but loveable dork.
  • Every scene is unforgettable and will stick in your mind, ranging from the tampons instilled in Denis' nose for the purposes of blocking a nosebleed to the alarming downhill ride that Beth's driving is composed of.
  • I also loved how each chapter started out with Denis' face, and it is progressively worse for wear as the book goes, with spilled drinks and large bruises and mosquito bites.
  • Don't expect this to be a deep read about high school! Although it does bring up important life lessons, there's not a particularly strong emphasis on graduating and looking forward to the future. It's just a very light-hearted novel, something good to read for fun.
  • If you like The Simpsons or Big Bang Theory or even anything remotely funny, you'd love this book.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars!

Saturday, July 27, 2013


So I did the PTCB, and I passed the exam.

I am now officially a licensed Pharmacy Technician.

All my testing worries are now over... I can focus on less important things, like finishing up my reading list and relaxing.

^With Love and Beauty's Pomegranate Extract mask on!!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Republic of Tea's Organic Temple of Health Review

The stimulating organic spices of ginger and cinnamon are balanced with the soft sweetness of licorice. Accents of lemon from lemongrass complement the caramel flavor notes of echinacea, which brings it reputation for healthful properties to this vibrant blend.

Price: $12 per 3.5 oz/$3.48 per oz
Preparations: 1 tsp, 5-7 min

  • Very healthful and salubrious; I'm not sure how to explain it, but it just tastes of goodness. Not yummy-goodness, just... like cleansing-goodness or recuperation-goodness. Ideal for a bad headache day or frightening cough days.
  • Less is more, I've discovered, for this tea. Two teaspoons pack a sort of unappealing and overwhelming zing of licorice and ginger, but one teaspoon is just enough to have that hint of spiciness fade out into a pleasant mellow aftertaste of cinnamon. Granted, I taste more ginger than anything else, but there is still a good mix of lemongrass, licorice, and cinnamon.
  • The taste is nothing special. I do like that there is no caffeine, so it's good for late work nights, when you're feeling tired. But it's not what I'd think of as a "de-stress" tea, mostly because I prefer more sweetness (like a dessert) for such occasions.
  • Only recommended for those who are currently sick or have a particular preference for lemongrass and ginger! Not a bad tea, but if you are neither of the above, then you may not find it worth $12 for a tin.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Teavana's White Ayurvedic Chai Tea Review$slge$ 

Journey to India and take in all its exotic pleasures with this modern twist on a sweet and spicy classic. High quality white tea combines with cinnamon, coconut, pineapple, ginger, cardamom, and cloves giving this tea complex, sweet, full-bodied flavor. This proud chai's aroma and spicy flavors deliver a melange of deliciousness sip after heavenly sip. CONTAINS NUTS.
Naturally sweet cinnamon with spicy pepper and robust clove.

Price: $10 per 2 oz; $5 per oz
Preparations: 1.5 tsp, 175 degrees F, 2 min.

  • Because this is a white tea, you can't expect it to be strong, so it's not particularly powerful. The cinnamon brings just enough kick to have a sweet and spicy aftertaste however, and that's nice.
  • I honestly prefer this to chai. It doesn't have as much caffeine, and it's not as sweet. I would advise against adding milk, but perhaps that's just me being Chinese... Just keep in mind that's it's more of a white tea than a typical chai tea, despite having the similar flavors.
  • I honestly couldn't taste any of the pineapple or coconut pieces - so when I saw them on the ingredient list, it surprised me. There's more cinnamon, pepper, clove, ginger, and cardamom - all of the exotic spices. So don't expect a whiff of the tropical.
  • This tea is somewhat delicate and harder to brew perfectly - definitely don't oversteep for more than two minutes or have it with piping hot water considerably warmer than 190 degrees F, because then it gets somewhat bitter. More flavor, yes, but not necessarily the type of flavor you can savor.
  • Seems like a very healthy tea - perhaps it's the ginger in it, but when I had a bad cough during the winter season, drinking the tea helped alleviate it. However, it stains my plastic braces on my teeth to an unappealing yellow-ish color. If you don't have braces, you probably won't have this problem.
  • I like it overall, but I couldn't understand all the hype it was receiving. To me, it just seemed like an okay tea, not bad, but not very memorable either. Perhaps that's just because I prefer stronger teas overall, whether smoky, spicy, or fruity.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Monday, July 22, 2013

"The God of Animals" by Aryn Kyle (2007)

  The god of animals.jpg
When her older sister runs away to marry a rodeo cowboy, Alice Winston is left to bear the brunt of her family's troubles -- a depressed, bedridden mother; a reticent, overworked father; and a run-down horse ranch. As the hottest summer in fifteen years unfolds and bills pile up, Alice is torn between dreams of escaping the loneliness of her duty-filled life and a longing to help her father mend their family and the ranch.

To make ends meet, the Winstons board the pampered horses of rich neighbors, and for the first time Alice confronts the power and security that class and wealth provide. As her family and their well-being become intertwined with the lives of their clients, Alice is drawn into an adult world of secrets and hard truths, and soon discovers that people -- including herself -- can be cruel, can lie and cheat, and every once in a while, can do something heartbreaking and selfless. Ultimately, Alice and her family must weather a devastating betrayal and a shocking, violent series of events that will test their love and prove the power of forgiveness.

A wise and astonishing novel about the different guises of love and the often steep tolls on the road to adulthood, The God of Animals is a haunting, unforgettable debut.

  • An intriguing read. I never thought anything about a horse ranch would be so interesting, but it was, and the pace of the story was perfect for a coming-of-age story.
  • There are so many messages that run deep, and they are reflected through several themes: honesty, death, loss, love, social class... Very poignant and will probably make you remember your awkward preteen years.
  • What always struck me as brilliant was the contrast between adults and the main character, who is only twelve years-old. Despite her very adolescent mindset, she is much more mature and capable than many of the main adult figures in the story.
  • The parents in the story can be so ridiculous sometimes. They make me frustrated as hell, but I suppose that's a good thing. The father has his own reasons for behaving the way he does, and sometimes you can't help feeling a little sorry for him. And the mother is (literally) just too weak, the way some people eventually just become a burden. Her transition from a lively hopeful girl to a reclusive frail woman is notable and heartbreaking.
  • Alice and Sheila's eventual companionship/friendship also buds over time, and I absolutely loved it. Despite the clear differences in temperament and background, the two children, even with their own foibles and troubles, begin to understand and relate to the other better.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Friday, July 19, 2013


So... yesterday I tested for the PCAT.

Four and a half terrible hours of sitting and testing. I also decided to not take a break in between, because I just wanted it all over with.

They printed out our score (excluding the essay, which has not been graded yet), and I am in the 92nd percentile!

Happiest day of my life. Seriously. I self-studied organic chemistry and microbiology and anatomy, and I am just so so happy because my seclusion has all been worth it. I scored in the 97th percentile for Chemistry section too, which I had always perceived to be my most lacking subject.

As it turns out, reading comprehension was actually my weakness... hahaha... but it is all over with, and there is no way in hell that I'm going to retake the test again. I think I'll be okay with 92nd percentile!

Finally relaxed for the first time in a long time too!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

"Corelli's Mandolin" by Louis de Bernieres (1994)
Extravagant, inventive, emotionally sweeping, Corelli's Mandolin is the story of a timeless place that one day wakes up to find itself in the jaws of history. The place is the Greek island of Cephallonia, where gods once dabbled in the affairs of men and the local saint periodically rises from his sarcophagus to cure the mad. Then the tide of World War II rolls onto the island's shores in the form of the conquering Italian army.

Caught in the occupation are Pelagia, a willful, beautiful young woman, and the two suitors vying for her love: Mandras, a gentle fisherman turned ruthless guerrilla, and the charming, mandolin-playing Captain Corelli, a reluctant officer of the Italian garrison on the island. Rich with loyalties and betrayals, and set against a landscape where the factual blends seamlessly with the fantastic, Corelli's Mandolin is a passionate novel as rich in ideas as it is genuinely moving.

I picked this book up because I hadn't read many books taking the point of Greece during WWII (then again, I hadn't really been looking haha), and it seemed interesting and had a lot of critical acclaim. The first thing I'd like to point out is how spot-on the synopsis is to the book, except for one detail: I don't know if I'd agree that there are "two suitors vying" for Pelagia's love. But whatever. Will go into that later.

  • This book actually made me cry. That's not a common occurrence for me at all. The story's genuinely moving and engrossing, with characters so real that you can feel their pain, their joy, their awkwardness, and everything else in between.
  • A definite pick-me-up for history lovers. It goes into the predecessor history of Greece, and plunges right into the tragic setting of WWII. Each soldier representative of a country might make you laugh only because of the other character's perspective on their strange behavior and actions, but in the end you understand that they're all the same in that they're people.
  • Be sure to have your vocabulary expanded. This was a definite workout to read because the author's vocabulary is so refined and detailed, and he made sure to have words that described the situation or person perfectly. These won't be commonplace words now, but it adds on to the language and flow of the story.
  • There are a lot of funny parts in here, despite the intense story. Many of them made me snicker or laugh out loud, and the ones that didn't, only didn't because it was subtle British humor. Loved it.
  • The characters are too beautiful: there's the real-hero gentle giant, Carlo, who has been hiding a heavy burden of a secret all his life; the engaging and silly-insouciant titular character, Captain Corelli; the feisty Pelagia; the ugly but motherly Drosoula, who will ultimately choose to love and care for her daughter-in-law over her own son; the eccentric Dr. Iannis; the Nazi Weber, who will eventually be haunted by what he has done to his former friends. Psipsina, the pet of the family, is just as real as her human owners. Even the unsympathetic Mandras is a tragedy.
  • Also very romantic - not in a silly maudlin way, but in a very well-written way. Here, love is clearly delineated from lust and pity: between Corelli and Pelagia, we understand what true love really means, whether it's between lovers or between family members. In the words of Dr. Iannis, it is the affection left over even when all the "passion" is gone.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars!!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Sterling Tea's Strawberry Hibiscus Review

Award winning blend with rosehips and lemongrass. Delicious hot or iced.

Price: $7.50 per 2 oz/$3.75 per oz... I got this at a sale, for $4 total of 2 oz.
Preparations: 1 tsp, 185-205 degrees F, 5-7 min.

  • Smelled so good - yum yum!
  • Tastes so good - yum yum! Strawberries... Very tangy and fruity, sweet and tart. Enough said. 
  • Would definitely recommend for fruity-tea lovers... Works well as an ice tea too, and is full-flavored, not at all weak. Could hardly taste lemongrass, but definitely got a lot of that good hibiscus yummm.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Friday, July 12, 2013

Davids Tea's Mango Madness Tea Review

One sip of this tea and you'll do anything to get your hands on more. In fact, we're a bit worried about letting people get a taste. There might be riots. Looting. Traffic jams. It's a lot of responsibility! But who can blame you for going crazy over this delicious white tea? It's fruity. It's refreshing. It tastes just like a ripe piece of mango. In short, it's total madness.

Price: $10.50 per 1.76 oz/$5.97 per oz
Preparations: 2 tsp, 201 degrees F, 5-7 min.

  • Delicious! Sweet and tangy; mango flavor is not artificial at all, but there are some sugar cubes and candied fruits as well.
  • I finished the entire 3.52 oz tin after four months. During the fourth month, the taste seemed to be diminishing, and I think it's either because the bottom of the canister had the "crap pieces" or because the tea doesn't stay fresh for long. If it's the latter reason, then I'm actually relieved because that probably means the tea is indeed organic.
Overall, I would recommend this for mango lovers of any kind (I know I am!) or those who enjoy fruity teas.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

"The Piano Teacher" by Janice Y.K Lee (2009)

In 1942, Will Truesdale, an Englishman newly arrived in Hong Kong, falls headlong into a passionate relationship with Trudy Liang, a beautiful Eurasian socialite. But their love affair is soon threatened by the invasion of the Japanese, with terrible consequences for both of them and for members of their fragile community, who will betray one another in the darkest days of the war.

Ten years later, Claire Pendleton comes to Hong Kong and is hired by the wealthy Chen family as their daughter's piano teacher. A provincial English newlywed, Claire is seduced by the colony's heady social life. She soon begins an affair... only to discover that her lover's enigmatic demeanor hides a devastating past.

As the threads of this spellbinding novel intertwine and converge, a landscape of impossible choices emerges - between love and safety, courage and survival, the present, and, above all, the past.

The novel is split into two time periods: 1940's, and ten years later, both in Hong Kong.
  • Very engaging book. In all actuality though, I found the 1940 storyline much more vivid and interesting than the 1950 storyline; Claire is a boring girl (though I understand that the author probably made her that way to let the readers see her development).
  • Trudy is an extremely singular character, she really stands out in the pages - through her quirks, her fickle observations, etc. She is witty and charming, resourceful and practical, and ultimately proves to be somebody truly good in such a devastating time period, which makes her downfall even more tragic.
  • Will also packs on allure and interest in the story, which is good since he is such an integral part of the novel. He is constantly haunted by his regrets and his past love, and it makes the reader feel for him.
  • The pieces really connect together in the end, as you gather bits of information from everybody in the small community. There are a few things that are never explicitly explained (what spooked Victor with Will in the car, what really happened to Trudy), but it does not distract away from the story and lets the reader interpret these small mysteries using other clues and what is already known. I felt like that really added on to the destructive and chaotic nature of war.
  • Overall, most of the characters are so alive and human that you can feel as if you're really seeing them as you read.
By the time I had reached the end, I was truly sad for these characters, which hardly ever happens to me when I read a book. This is a very well-written historical fiction, and I would highly recommend it for anyone with an interest in WWII, Hong Kong/China, or even anyone who just likes romance.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars.