THOUGHTS: LUNAR NEW YEAR

Every family and culture has its own traditions, passed down through generations and history more colorful than one can ever begin to imagine. At home, I celebrate the Lunar New Year as a testament to my Taiwanese and Chinese heritage. There are so many finer points to the 15-day celebration, but I will mostly be writing about the ones significant to my family. But before that, a bit of background information on the Lunar New Year may be needed:

The start of the Lunar New Year is on a different day each year. Unlike the western new year, which always falls on January 1, the Lunar New Year is dependent on the time that the moon takes to orbit around Earth. Therefore, the lunar calendar is always roughly 21-51 days behind the Gregorian calendar!

The Lunar New Year is also called the Spring Festival (chūnjié / 春節) and Chinese New Year, though it isn’t just Chinese people who celebrate it. Aside from China and Taiwan, countries such as Korea, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia also take part in the festivities.

It’s a 15-day celebration. Yes, you read that correctly! People participate in different activities and consume various foods on each day. I won’t go into detail about that, but if you’re interested in reading up on each day of the lunar new year, you can do a simple Google search.

The twelve animals of the zodiac represent each year, and 2018 is the year of the Dog. According to legend, the Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Pig had a race to determine the order in which they would represent the years to come. Since the Rat rode the Ox’s back and jumped off just before the Ox crossed the finish line, the Rat was able to finish first and be the first to represent the new year, the Ox was second, and so on and so forth in the order described above.

Red (and gold) are lucky colours. Red symbolizes good luck and joy. You’ll often see it adorning decorations and the red envelopes that elders hand out to children. So how exactly did red become such an auspicious colour? Legend says that there used to be a fearsome dragon named Nian (年, literally: year) who would, on a yearly basis, come down from his mountain habitat to terrorize villages. But one day, an old man claimed that he knew a way to scare off Nian. He hung up red paper and set off loud firecrackers, and the villagers soon realised that Nian was afraid of loud noises and the colour red. Nian never came back again, and henceforth, red became a lucky colour!

It’s a time to celebrate family togetherness as well as honor the deities. On the eve of the lunar new year, it is customary for families to gather together for a reunion dinner. Traditional foods such as dumplings (餃子 / jiaozi), fish, and “new year” cake (年糕 / niángāo) are served and savored.

I’ve been helping my grandmother make dumplings for Chinese New Year dinner as long as I can remember, but I really learned how to make dumplings with my mother. When I was much younger, I had no idea what I was doing. I mixed the stuffing with all the strength my chubby arms could muster. I pounded the sticky dough until it didn’t look like dough anymore, and I almost always ended up with a fine dusting of flour all over my fingers. Basically, I was a mess! But now that I’ve had more than a decade’s worth of experience in making dumplings, I’m welcomed back into the kitchen.

 

As we fold the dumplings into their final shapes, my grandmother sneaks a coin (washed thoroughly, of course) into a “lucky” dumpling and places it on a plate amongst the other dumplings so that it is impossible to discern from the rest. She then transfers the finished dumplings into a pot of boiling water to cook, and when they’re finished ten minutes later, I help bring the never-ending supply of dumplings to the dinner table. Our family eats, and the person who consumes the “lucky” coin dumpling is said to have good luck for the rest of the year.

There is always a fish on the table as well, though it remains untouched throughout the dinner for symbolic reasons. There is an ancient proverb that says, 年年有餘 (nián nián you yú), which roughly translates into “May you have an abundance of what you need.” The last Chinese character, 餘 (meaning: abundance), has the same pronunciation as 魚 (meaning: fish). So essentially, there’s a bit of word play at hand (have I ever mentioned how much I LOVE puns?) because 年年有魚 sounds just like 年年有餘. The fish is thus used as a symbol of abundance, and it isn’t eaten until later because it’s considered bad luck to “eat away” your good fortune prematurely.

fish
whole steamed fish! courtesy of bettysliu.com

For dessert, my mom and I make niángāo. Using chopsticks, I help mix the batter that’s used to coat the red bean paste filling that our family enjoys eating. We then cover the sweet red bean with the batter, on all sides, and fry the niángāo briefly in a pan until golden brown. It tastes absolutely delicious when hot!

niangao

On the fifteenth and final day of the lunar year celebrations, my mother makes tāngyuán (湯圓), sticky rice flour balls with sweet fillings such as taro, red bean, and my personal favourite, BLACK SESAME! These glutinous rice balls are eaten to commemorate the Lantern Festival, or 元宵節 (yuán xiāo jié). They used to be called 元宵(yuán xiāo), or “first evening,” instead of tāngyuán. There is such an interesting backstory to the different names and the Lantern Festival in general, and I’d highly recommend reading up on it!

 

I love spending time with my family (as crazy and weird as they are), so I’m a bit saddened that I can’t take part in the lunar new year festivities this year. Because I am away studying at university, I am unable to go home and enjoy my family’s food and company. It’s the first time in years that I haven’t helped with the traditional cooking and cleaning, and a small part of me misses the work. I miss making a mess of the flour. I miss hearing the sizzling niángāo in the pan. I miss eating way too many black sesame tāngyuán. But mostly, I miss the familiarity and comfort of home and being able to bond over shared laughter and kitchen catastrophes. It seems strange to be alone during a holiday that places so much emphasis on family togetherness, but I made sure to call my parents and grandparents and wish them well. I can’t wait to go home and see them all again. And with that, 新年快樂 (xīn nián kuài lè / happy new year)!

dumplings

GOALS FOR 2018

Today I’m going to share my goals for 2018 with all of you. I know I’m definitely (really) late to the party, but the reason why I still want to write this post is so that I can hold myself accountable for actually going about and achieving what I want to accomplish this year!

I have a lot of big and small goals I want to meet throughout the year, and since many of them are quite different from one another, I’ve decided to group them by category.

So without further ado…

FOR UNIVERSITY ACADEMICS

  • PRIORITIZE, PRIORITIZE, PRIORITIZE!!
  • Don’t skip lectures every day. That’s what I did last semester and it bit me in the ass. I went from being a straight A student my whole life to…well, a not so great student in just one semester.
  • reconcile myself with the understanding that it’s okay to not be the best at everything
  • set aside studying time every weekend instead of going to San Francisco with friends
  • study in between classes instead of going home
  • get a GPA of at least 3.8
  • go to the library more often than just the days leading up to exams
  • take notes in class!

FOR PERSONAL GROWTH

  • visit at least two new countries
  • create spreadsheets for monthly money spending and budgeting
  • go to the gym at least three times a week
  • attend a concert
  • journal every day
  • go a month without complaining
  • quit chewing my nails to pieces
  • learn to cook five more dishes
  • listen to a news podcast in German (I’m currently studying German, so I’d love to get more practice with the language.)
  • land a single axel
  • learn how to edit video through Final Cut Pro and Premiere Pro
  • grow vertically instead of horizontally (this has been a dream of mine since forever, seriously)
  • join a lab or research team!

FOR BOOKSTAGRAM AND BLOGGING

  • read 50 books
  • post at least every other day on #bookstagram
  • write a new blog post every week
  • set aside time to read on Mondays, Fridays, and the weekend
  • finish This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • tackle an intimidating classic volume, such as Anna Karenina or War and Peace (why are all the big books written by renowned Russian authors?!)

So as you can see, there are quite a lot of things I want to do this year. Hopefully I’ll be able to refer back to this post at the end of 2018 and reflect on what goals I did or didn’t meet. This list might seem overly ambitious, but that isn’t going to stop me from trying my best to accomplish as many as possible! What’s your biggest aspiration/dream/goal for 2018?

WINTER IN GERMANY

Imagine– the warmth of roasted chestnuts seeping through your gloves, the enticing smell of currywurst wafting in the air, and the low murmurs of seasons greetings in German. Visiting the Christmas markets in Germany has long been a dream of mine. This winter break, I finally had the chance to cross it off my family’s bucket list!

Germany, known as Deutschland to native Germans, is located in central-western Europe. It has 16 states and a population of 82 million, making Germany the most populous country in the European Union.

Reichstag
German flag waving over the Reichstag, photo courtesy of google images

The main language is of course, German, though visitors will find that most Germans can speak at least ein bisschen (a little) English. They will understand if you ask, Sprechen Sie Englisch? Do you speak English?  However, it is still useful to know simple phrases and words such as bitte or dankeschön, so that you can read signs, ask for directions politely, and thank others for helping you.

In December, Germany is quite cold, but not quite cold enough for the ground to freeze over and the sky to create blizzards. But it is still chilly enough to just barely reach the negatives in centigrade, which is practically unheard of from where I live. It even snowed a little during my first morning in Berlin! To stay warm, layering is definitely key! I felt adequately prepared for the weather with thermal underwear, cozy knit sweaters, an outer coat or jacket, waterproof Timberland boots, and a grey scarf and hat. I’d also recommend investing in a quality down jacket–they’re sooo warm!

During my holiday, I stayed in Berlin’s Stadtmitte, with easy access to the historical roads of Friedrichstraße and Französischestraße. Transportation is simple and without headache–there is an underground U-Bahn station every block or two, and it works in similar fashion to subways and metros. There is the occasional busker, with his violin or accordion. Be wary of pickpockets, especially during rush hour!

Berlin’s Gendarmenmarkt square happened to be right by where I was staying. There, in front of the Konzerthaus (concert hall), was a Weihnachtsmarkt–that is, a Christmas market. (Weihnacht: Christmas, markt: market)

My first full night in Berlin consisted of copious amounts of food and three steaming mugs of Glühwein (mulled red wine spiced with cloves and cinnamon), shot respectively with Amaretto, Cointreau, and rum. Rest assured, not all of it was for me! The hot drinks seemed to banish the frigid air around us, if only for a moment.

To make the most of your Christmas market experience, I’d suggest going with family or friends. It’s not something you’d want to experience alone! You do have to pay €1 (~$1.20) to enter this Christmas market in Berlin’s bustling city center, but most others are free entry. Be sure to try the Glühwein and the famous currywurst! The mugs that are used to serve the mulled wine are collectible and vary in design year to year. You can opt to keep your mug as a souvenir or return it to get your deposit back. (You pay the deposit when you buy the drink.) I’d also suggest purchasing some hot, roasted nuts to crunch on as you watch the Christmas carolers sing on the steps of the Konzerthaus. Another delicious traditional treat to try would be the Quarkbällchen. It seems strange in name only, and it looks like a large donut hole topped with powdered sugar, but I guarantee you that it tastes better than a donut!

Though I had a wonderful time in Berlin’s Christmas market, I’d recommend Dresden’s Striezelmarkt to anyone looking for THE essential Christmas market experience. Dresden’s Striezelmarkt is the oldest known Christmas market in the world. Founded in 1434, the Striezelmarkt was originally a one-day market for locals to buy fresh food for Christmas dinner after pre-Christmas fasting. I had the opportunity to take a day trip with my family to Dresden, a two hour train ride from Berlin Hauptbahnhof to Dresden Hauptbahnhof.

The Striezelmarkt is beautifully decorated, and each booth has its own unique Christmas decor. Some of them are even animated! I saw a toy train making its way around tracks laid around the top of one booth, and another had a small bear riding a unicycle across a tightrope. Dresden’s Christmas market is also home to the largest Christmas pyramid in the world (14m tall!), shown below. The food is quite similar across all the Christmas markets I’ve visited. There is always an abundance of roasted chestnuts wrapped in paper, candied nuts, Glühwein (sometimes spiked with spirits), currywurst and bratwurst, pommes frites, Quarkbällchen, and gingerbread hearts with frosted inscriptions that read ich liebe dich (I love you) or Frohe Weihnachten (Merry/Happy Christmas). Visitors can also purchase goods such as warm hats and socks, utensils made of wood, glassware, and hand-poured candles.

My father found a café called Viba situated in a building with an amazing view over the Striezelmarkt. I had a rich heiße Schokolade (hot chocolate) and a bite of sweet Apfelstrudel (apple strudel). Our waitress didn’t speak much English but we got by just fine, with my father’s German and my own flimsy attempts.

The Christmas markets were mostly an evening affair, so during the day, I did just about every other touristy thing. I visited the Brandenburg Gate and Checkpoint Charlie, sat down for some afternoon tea at Einstein, and took a trip to Potsdam to see Sansoucci Palace, once owned by Frederick the Great of Prussia. For the history buffs, the Pergamonmuseum and Neues Museum hold a wealth of artifacts, including a reconstructed Ishtar Gate and the famous limestone bust of Nefertiti.

In short, I had the most wonderful time in Germany during this past holiday season. I find that the famous Christmas markets of Germany are quite like the busy night markets of Taiwan, only neater and more beautifully decorated. If you’re willing to brave the cold to experience something truly magical, visit Germany in December and take a stroll through the Striezelmarkt with a mug of steaming Glühwein in your hand.

By the way, I apologize for the lack of photographs. I took way too many videos and ended up making a short travel vlog of the whole experience (not just the Christmas markets!) which you can view here. Next time, I’ll be sure to take equal amounts of video and photo when I travel! There are so many places that I have yet to see and learn about. Countries close to the top of my “to visit” list include Iceland, Italy, Peru, New Zealand, and South Africa. What are some countries you wish to visit this year?

what to do when you’re running low on inspiration

Hallo, my loves! I’d like to apologize for my long hiatus from blogging. I really don’t have an excuse. I just wasn’t inspired or motivated to take photos and come up with creative posts for all of you to read and enjoy. This creative slump of mine lasted for months–it hit me in April and continued throughout the summer, well into the tail end of August.

I was constantly unhappy and insecure about what I was putting out for the world to see. Every photo had to be carefully scrutinized and put through a rigorous editing process that was very time-consuming. Every caption had to be absolutely perfect, with the paragraphs lined out properly, with no spelling errors. On top of that pressure to be perfect, I felt as if I had run out of my creative juices, and I just couldn’t possibly squeeze out another post. (What would this post be without a pun by yours truly? Hah.) I was under quite a bit of stress and distress because I felt like bookstagram was feeding on me like wildfire, consuming and burning me out with brand rep posts and sponsored book reviews and the like. I realized that most of my posts were structured around sponsored posts, and that I was doing most of it out of duty and obligation rather than pure love for my own content. This led me to doubt myself and my own abilities. I was always thinking about how I could improve my content, but suddenly, there I was, standing on a plateau with no upward climb in sight, face-to-face with an intimidating wall of black obsidian blocking me out from continuing forward. It was all psychological, of course.

Luckily, this perspective recently shifted into something much more positive. I slowly got back into posting on fragilemyths, even if it were only for two or three times a week (as opposed to none whatsoever). And now, I’m happy to say that I’m back on the bookstagram grind, posting daily like I used to! Even better, I’m back to posting here, in my true creative space.

So how did that happen?

It took me a while to figure it out, but the answer is simple. I moved. I moved away from the comfort and familiarity of home, and into a college dorm.

Now, you’re probably thinking, Zelle! Stop being ridiculous. I can’t move just for the sake regaining inspiration! And you would be right, of course. But you see, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a big move like mine. Any change of scenery would help. The important thing is that you gain exposure to something new, whether that means moving to a different city or simply changing one aspect of your daily routine.

And so, without further ado, I’ve compiled a list of things you should consider as an alternative to moving, should you ever run low on inspiration!

  1. Reorganize your bookshelves. Have you been eyeing the way Lara (bookishsolace; you should all be following this wonderfully sarcastic and sassy friend of mine, by the way) turns all her books around, so that the pages, not the spines, are facing outward toward you? Or perhaps you love Fi’s (readsleepfangirl; my friend and fellow Slytherin) collection of “rainbow books.” So what are you waiting for? DO IT. REARRANGE YOUR BOOKSHELF THE WAY YOU WANT IT. Change it up! See the gorgeous photos below, to get an idea of what I’m referring to.
  2. Take a walk around your neighborhood. Or your own backyard. Or in Dublin. It doesn’t matter, just move away from your comfortable bed and approach the outside world. Take note of what you see and feel– a falling leaf, the wind running its course through your hair, the smell of pine– take it all in.
  3. Browse Pinterest. Create a new board of photos and scenes you like! Take others’ ideas and use it as a starting place to build your own.
  4. Exercise. I’m serious. It changes you. Exercising allows your brain to release dopamine, a neurotransmitter that’s responsible for all the happy feelings we feel. And who wouldn’t want to be happy?
  5. Listen to music you normally wouldn’t listen to. I recently started listening to more underground Korean rap and R&B, especially the playlists by danielions.
  6. Make time for the important people in your life. Haven’t talked to your mum for a while? Visit her, or make a phone call. She’ll be delighted to hear from you. Or, schedule a time to grab lunch and chat with a good friend you haven’t seen for months.
  7. Move furniture around and redecorate your walls. You’d be surprised at how refreshing it feels.
  8. Take time off to focus on yourself for once. Instead of worrying about others’ opinions of you and your school/work performance, sit down and reevaluate how you want to be perceived and how you could improve on your soft skills. And then, treat yourself!
  9. Visit a museum. Go to an art museum, science museum, or a natural history museum–take your pick! It’s an easy way to learn something new on a day you don’t have any other plans. Many museums offer youth and student discounts too, so be sure to take your student ID with you!
  10. Take a class in something that you’re interested in, but never had the chance to learn before. Ceramics, zumba, flower arranging, philosophy– the possibilities are endless! You might just find a new passion. I’m currently taking a German language course, and I could not be more excited about it! I think it would be cool if I could converse with my German followers and friends (there are a lot of you!) in German. And hey, if you have any tips and tricks for learning German, or languages in general, please send them my way!

Thank you all for reading this and sticking with me. Be sure to tell me about some of the things you do to stay inspired because I’d love to know. And do let me know if any of the activities included in this list helped you move out of your creative slump!

 

review: forgotten reflections

I had been in somewhat of a major reading slump recently, after my disappointment with ACOWAR and other recent young adult book releases. One fateful afternoon, I received an inquiry requesting a review for a novel called Forgotten Reflections, pegged as “a historical thriller set during the Korean War era [that] sheds light on the brave women who handcrafted hanji paper and made their mark on the unseen pages of Korean history. In the current international climate where North Korea takes center stage, Forgotten Reflections weaves a thrilling tale of family, lost memories, folklore and an unforgotten history, spanning three generations as South Korea rises from the ashes.”

Interesting. Very interesting.

I then read the following synopsis and fell half in love with the book right from the start. Keep reading and you’ll see exactly what I mean. Prepare yourself for one hell of a cultural journey.

51lbfp2bocvl-_sy346_SYNOPSIS (Goodreads): DARE TO DREAM IN THE MIDST OF WAR. 1945. Rice fields seem endless in a quaint farming village of South Korea, yet Iseul and the villagers have been on the verge of starvation for as long as they can remember; the last of their Japanese colonizers have taken every last grain with them. In the newly independent Korea, Iseul dreams of what her future might bring. Yet, war is on the horizon, and the boy she has fallen for is an alleged North Korean communist spy. Amidst war, Jung-Soo and Iseul embark on a comic journey of self-discovery across the mountainous peninsula, as they are aided by the occasional appearance of figures from legends long forgotten. Music helps them pass the time, as does the radio and the crafty carpentry skills of Iseul who would eventually make history with her handcrafted hanji paper. Unexpected friendships are forged, love burgeons and betrayal taints their elusive dreams.

THOUGHTS: Forgotten Reflections, written by Young-Im Lee, is a powerfully poignant novel set in South Korea, during a particularly tumultuous time period remembered as the Korean War. There are occasional interjections that take place in the present, told through the narrator’s (Iseul’s granddaughter) point of view in a relaxed, conversational tone that almost seems to be beckoning readers to join the story.

I was totally cheering for young, fiery-tempered Iseul, who–excuse my language–gave zero shits that Jung-Soo was the son of a wealthy and influential politician who may have been a North Korean spy. She absolutely refused to simply accept his arrogance and proceeded to take him down a notch. After their rocky first encounter, the two eventually grow up to become great friends, along with a disabled boy named Yeong-Hoon, in Yeoju, a rice-farming province situated in the sloping valleys of central Korea. But when war threatens to tear apart the Korean peninsula, the trio’s happiness is disrupted, as Jung-Soo is conscripted into the army.

As history would have it, the war does not go well for South Korea. The army is worn down and short on supplies. Their American allies want to be home by Christmas. Jung-Soo, who loves tinkering with radios and guitars, and Dae-Gun, a friend he saves from the front lines, are reassigned to an intelligence unit, where they learn that the North Korean and Chinese armies are strategically poised to wage war in Yeoju, where Iseul still lives. Meanwhile, Iseul uses her knowledge of crafting and carpentry to create hanji paper for neighboring villages and soldiers in the South Korean army. She is wildly successful, and people begin mailing blank pages to their sons and husbands serving in the army, circumventing the severe shortage of paper. Worried for the safety of Iseul and his hometown, Jung-Soo desperately wants to warn her and the others living nearby to evacuate, knowing that the North Koreans and the Chinese may be headed to Yeoju due to rumors of a massive rice storehouse, enough to feed the two starving armies.

The character development was phenomenal, especially for Jung-Soo. I watched as he grew and matured from a spoiled, entitled child into a young man acutely aware of the world around him and his role in it. The plot was well-paced and never dragged. The drama, tension, emotion, all of it— was interwoven neatly together, creating this emotionally evocative masterpiece.

This fine piece of writing kept me at the edge of my seat, constantly worried for Jung-Soo and Iseul, and wondering if they would ever find each other again and start a new life together. I laughed at their banter and bickering. I almost sobbed my eyes out. My emotions were played again and again, and it was wonderful! My heart is full, yet it hurts because of the bittersweet ending that I won’t be spoiling here.

I actually finished this book a few days ago, but did not start writing this review until I sorted my feelings out in order. The novel really stuck with me over the last couple of days, and I’m happy to say that Forgotten Reflections is my first five-star read of this year.

Don’t be intimidated by the sheer size of this book. I promise you that every one of the 500+ pages are worth it. I consumed them all in one sitting because I just couldn’t seem to put the book down! Rarely do I see such a well-written historical fiction novel with a cast of characters from Asia. If you love modern cultural and historical fiction infused with elements of the bildungsroman genre, please, PLEASE give this literary gem a read!


Disclaimer: I was provided a copy of this book by the author, but this did not in any way impact the nature of my review and my original thoughts on the novel. (A big thank you goes to Young-Im Lee for providing me a copy! And for blessing the literary world with this beautiful book.)

another life update? YES!

hi everyone! I know I haven’t posted AT ALL during the month of February (yes, I know, I’m horrible!) and I’m so sorry for being dead.

Couldn’t resist channeling my inner Moriarty here–

Hahah. Andrew Scott is the perfect villain.

Just thought I’d update you a bit on the comings and goings of my life–

To all the authors out there whom I owe reviews to, I’m sorry for being so unfashionably late! I WILL get your reviews up this month, I promise!

Life’s been incredibly busy on my end. So many unexpected things happened to me in February and to top it all off, it wasn’t a great reading month. I’m pretty sure Goodreads says I’m six books behind on my reading goal. Oops. Not a great start.

And because I love making lists…

Things That Happened to Zelle in February

  1. YA GIRL GOT INTO COLLEGE!! (somehow) and not just one, but TWO!!? what the frickety frickle actual frick frack. I still can’t believe it.
  2. I flew to one of the colleges I was admitted to in order to do an interview for a scholarship.
  3. I met up with one of my best friends who attends the college I flew to and he took me around and bought me boba. With matcha! (See, that’s how you do it. Buy me food and you’re golden. This is real friendship, guys. ;))
  4. I walked into a college lecture and DAMN, there were a lot of people!
  5. I learned that Mata Hari’s real last name was…Zelle.
  6. Visited my grandmother’s grave the day after I received my first acceptance letter (the day I visited was the anniversary of her passing) and thanked her profusely in broken Mandarin and mixed English for always supporting and believing in me.
  7. Finished The Crown. WHICH WAS ABSOLUTELY PHENOMENAL AND LITERALLY EVERYONE NEEDS TO WATCH IT OKAY? OKAY. definitely 5/5.
  8. Finished the first season of Reign. I’m torn. I want to love it but I can’t.
  9. Finished Victoria. Jenna Coleman and Tom Hughes have some seriously SIZZLING CHEMISTRY HOLY CRUD THEY MAKE ME SO HAPPY SCREEEEEEEEE
  10. I reached 9,000 followers on Instagram. Wonder how that happened. Huh. THANK YOU ALL. ❤
  11. So I learned that the 8-year-old son of one of the teachers at my school was shot and killed during a drive-by shooting, and it makes me absolutely sick to think about it. And to make matters even worse, the person at fault was never caught.
  12. School was randomly cancelled on the 10th because our main transformer malfunctioned and went out.
  13. I had like a bazillion orchestra rehearsals because I’m flying out to compete on March 1, and I have another orchestra that I participate in because I can’t get enough of musical torture. (just kidding, I actually really love classical music)
  14. I WENT TO THE WIZARDING WORLD OF HARRY POTTER ON THE 24TH. THAT. IS. ALL. I THINK CAPS LOCK CONVEYS MY EMOTIONS WELL ENOUGH. I will do a full blog post on this later, but just look at this!!! It’s so beautiful that I almost burst into tears!

I probably had other stuff as well but since I had the insane idea of blogging at an ungodly hour of night right before my flight (wow so many rhymes), I probably forgot some things.

Oh yeah, like this one reunion I attended. Whoops. That was a thing.

And driving lessons. Can’t forget those.

Okay, now I’m just writing like I’m delusional. I’m probably going to publish this and then regret it later. In other words, I should stop here.

Hope you’re all doing well! Feel free to email me at fragilemyths@gmail.com, friend me on goodreads, or talk books with me on Instagram at fragilemyths.

13 reasons why (i read)

Two months ago, when I finally decided to cut my past-waist-length Rapunzel hair, I brought The Architect of Song with me to the hair salon.

I opened my book and barely a minute later, a young girl who couldn’t have been older than 11 immediately exclaimed, “EW! Why do you read?!”

I thought I heard wrong. Seriously. Because how could I not read?

I can give you Thirteen Reasons Why I read. (Hi, Jay Asher.)

  1. My parents. I am extremely fortunate in that both my father and mother are avid readers as well. Even before I could read on my own, my dad would read short children’s stories to me every night before bed. And when I was a little older, my mum would take me to the local library every weekend to pick out a stack of thirty books that I could hardly carry myself. Their philosophy is that…
  2. Reading fuels the brain. It keeps your brain active! It makes you think, feel, laugh, cry, and just about everything in between.
  3. I read to enjoy and explore a world that is not my own. Through reading, I can live vicariously through my favourite kickass heroines or immerse myself in the rich complexities of another era.
  4. There’s a lot to learn from reading. It’s not just about building up your SAT vocabulary bank, or even refining your writing. Literature educates you about the human experience as a whole, and it allows us to take a look at our lives through a wider lens of understanding.
  5. It’s a way to de-stress. For me, reading is necessity. I typically read a little before heading to bed. (old habits from childhood die hard?) It helps me unwind after a long day, and it’s a perfect way to relax before going to sleep!
  6. It’s a means of escape. Sometimes, when I hit a rough patch in my life or a particularly terrible day, reading becomes my chief solace. I forget about my life and my surroundings and let myself be drawn into a story, as if I’m a silent character observing and following the main cast.
  7. Reading is infinitely more interesting than TV. I mean, of course I binge watch shows and anime, but not all the time! And when I do, it’s always on my laptop. TV has never been appealing to me.
  8. It starts conversations. Having knowledge from reading scholarly works can automatically make an intellectual conversation more engaging and interesting. Reading fictional accounts can spark conversations among social circles, with friends. It’s even better when others have read a certain book too, so you can all fangirl together! So yes, I’d say that reading has the potential to expand your social skills. Not all of us are introverts!
  9. It improves focus and concentration. Reading takes time. I often hear my classmates complain about not being able to finish assigned reading because it was too boring and too long. It takes a considerable amount of focus to read and continue reading, but if you can sit it out, you’re bound to improve your concentration!
  10. It sparks imagination. Reading makes me think. That’s why I write reviews and put my thoughts online. Hell, it even inspired me to start blogging!
  11. Reading is easy to do! All you need is a good book and a source of light. Optional: a hot mug of green tea.
  12. I read to understand different perspectives. This is especially true nowadays, with the push for more diversity in literature, especially YA lit. In my 7 am literature class, we are currently discussing poetry written by people of different race, beliefs, experiences, and ideas. So although I don’t agree with William Butler Yeats’ version of the “ideal woman” (from A Prayer for My Daughter; I believe his thinking is rather antiquated), I can still understand that he simply wants his young child to grow up with peace and innocence, unmarred by the tumultuous world.
  13. So why do I read? Perhaps the simplest answer is the best one. Why not?
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photo credit: Google images

Why do YOU read? Do tell me, I’d love to know!

sherlock season 4!

FINALLY. THE LONG-ANTICIPATED FOURTH SEASON OF MY FAVOURITE SHOW IS HERE.

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I watched episodes 1 and 2 last night, and I personally thought episode 2 was better. More on that later.

The first episode, The Six Thatchers, was nothing short of amazing. It was an unforgettable, heart-wrenching opening to a new season. It was even a little creepy, with the shots of the broken busts and the skulls. Quite macabre, if you ask me. I only have one teeny tiny complaint about season 4’s first episode:

IT WAS EMOTIONAL. TOO EMOTIONAL.

What happened to the cold, hard logic of my favourite high-functioning sociopath? I wish there had been more detective and case-busting, (hahah) and I felt that The Six Thatchers had more emotional elements to it than necessary. I wanted more of Sherlock’s fascinating mind palace. I wanted to hear him voice his observations more often. (I don’t think John would agree.) I wanted Sherlock to be the detective I love so much. But instead…

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this is the expression that was on my face

*spoilers ahead*

The scene with the most emotional impact was of course, Mary’s killing blow. I had to literally pause for a second to catch my breath and then let out a small scream of frustration! WHY?! WHYYYYYY??!! Oh, my dear Watson, my heart breaks for you. The feels are still pounding in waves over me:

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I wanted to slap Sherlock for goading Vivienne into using her pistol. Ugh, Sherlock, I love you and your brilliant mind, but did you have to do that? Especially when Mary said in that voice and tone, “Sherlock,” like three times! Even though I love it when Sherlock unleashes his observational powers, sometimes I do sympathize with John and his irritation with Sherlock’s arrogance and tendency to show off.

So with a heavy heart, I watched the second episode and I literally want to SCREAM MY LUNGS OUT because WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT ENDING?!  You can’t seriously expect me to wait a whole entire week for the finale. I’m not sure I’ll live that long, truthfully, not with this enormous storm of feels brewing ominously in my brain.

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same, Sherlock, same.

The second episode, The Lying Detective, took a dark turn towards a “living, breathing coagulation of human evil” in the form of its villain, Culverton Smith (Toby Jones). The best word I can use to describe Smith is creepy. His ease in the morgue with cadavers was morbid. The fact that he killed people in a hospital that he loved and supported…well, that was a nice touch to his macabre agenda. Even his toothy smile was downright bone-chilling. *shudders* However, because Smith was so convincingly portrayed as a complete psycho, I couldn’t take my eyes off the TV screen. He makes Moriarty look tame.

And I just don’t know about that cheesy “cereal killer” pun. I just don’t know. What I do know is that I won’t be making that joke again. Ever.

I’m also not entirely convinced that Sherlock didn’t recognize his own sister, Eurus. The only explanations that make sense to me are 1) He was plotting with his sister the whole time, which explains why he wasn’t at all surprised to see her with Watson because he’d planned it. You’d think that after not seeing his sister in years that he’d express some kind of reaction. Or 2) Sherlock usually fixates himself on noticing small details about a person, not necessarily his/her face alone. So maybe, just maybe, that’s why he didn’t recognize her face.

But to think that all this time, I thought the third Holmes sibling was a brother named Sherrinford! I had my suspicions that the drug addict Sherlock previously found in a drug den was the third Holmes brother, because Billy (is that his name?) has some pretty solid observational skills, reminiscent of Sherlock and Mycroft’s own abilities. Additionally, Mycroft made it sound like he and Sherlock had another brother when Mycroft mentioned previously in another season that “[he’s] not prone to outbursts of brotherly compassion. You know what happened to the other one.”

The Lying Detective raises so many questions in my head. Why and how did Sherlock predict that Molly, Watson, and Smith would end up at Eurus’ place? I’m calling bullshit on his “two weeks” prediction. What if he arranged the whole thing with his sister? Because how could Sherlock, observational mastermind, not notice his own sister?! Where does Sherrinford (Mycroft’s post-it note: “Call Sherrinford, 2 pm”) factor into all of this? And one more question: HOW DID EURUS KNOW ABOUT FAITH SMITH AND WHAT SHE WROTE DOWN BEFORE HER FATHER ERASED HER MEMORY?

My favourite part in all of season 4 so far has to be when Mrs. Hudson shows up, speeding in a wicked beautiful Aston Martin with Sherlock handcuffed in the trunk and a police officer on her tail. And then…

Mrs. Hudson: (to John Watson) “If you ever need anything, ANYTHING, just ask.”

Watson: //scheming face// “Can I borrow your car…sometimes?”

Mrs. Hudson: *purses lips and frowns* “No.”

Watson: *shoots her with a perplexed look*

But then some time later, when Watson has to race to the hospital to save Sherlock…

Mrs. Hudson: *tosses keys to Watson*

Watson: //confused face//

Mrs. Hudson: “CAR”

I laughed until my eyes leaked tears and my cheeks hurt! Mrs. Hudson was so full of surprises, and I’m not even going to mention what she did to get Sherlock into the trunk of her Aston Martin. I can’t wait to see what role she plays in season 4’s finale.

I really hope that Sherlock will be renewed for a fifth season because I can’t seem to ever get enough of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s iconic detective. Benedict Cumberbatch is an insanely talented actor (I was amazed at the scene where he runs around trashing his apartment like a madman and waving his gun at photos of Culverton Smith) and so far, his stellar performances in these two new episodes have me convinced that the season finale will be far darker and action-packed than anything I’ve seen before in previous episodes and seasons.

So tell me, what are your thoughts on the new season of Sherlock?

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The Irene Adler (she is briefly mentioned in episode 2!) necklace and 221B Baker Street cuff bracelet featured in this post were both made by Julie from Authored Adornments. You can use code BOOKSHOP upon checkout to receive 10% off your order from her etsy shop!

hello, 2017!

Happy New Year, my friends! I hope you’re all enjoying the festivities and fireworks. May 2017 bring you all things good.

To be frank, 2016 was quite a whirlwind. Many people might be inclined to say that it was absolute shit, but I disagree. Why focus on the negative aspects of 2016, like the deaths of our beloved Alan Rickman and Carrie Fisher? Or the hate that has practically torn apart our country? Now, that’s not to say that we should overlook and dismiss these events simply because they are in the past, but rather, we should focus on the positives and propel ourselves forward.

I’d like to focus on one word for 2017: POTENTIAL.

po·ten·tial /pəˈten(t)SHəl/

(adjective) having or showing the capacity to become or develop into something in the future

(noun) latent qualities or abilities that may be developed and lead to future success or usefulness

We have potential. Heck, even electricity has “potential.” (Electric potential? Where are my physics nerds? hah.)  Point is, everything has potential. 2017 has the potential to be great or…not-so-great. It depends entirely on you and what you make of it.

There are a lot of things that I’m looking forward to in 2017, namely:

  • the Beauty and the Beast live-action film
  • graduating high school and setting off for college
  • traveling with friends and family
  • SHERLOCK SEASON 4
  • Hamilton’s West End debut in LA
  • release of A Court of Wings and Ruin

I typically don’t make New Year’s resolutions because let’s be pragmatic here, they’re usually not fulfilled. And also because I think that the drive to complete a goal should be present year round, not just at the beginning of the year. Still, I believe it’s healthy to set a few personal goals for self-growth every year. Some of my own objectives for the upcoming year include:

  • reading another 100 books for my Goodreads challenge
  • making at least three new friends
  • quitting my disgusting nail-biting habit
  • traveling to a new country + visiting a new place
  • writing and journaling on a daily basis (or at least every other day)
  • learning to cook at least 10 different dishes

Unfortunately, the we don’t live in Cinderella’s world, where everything changes at the stroke of midnight. We can never forget the tumultuous events of the past year, but what we can do is move on and forge new memories and relationships. The new year brings new beginnings and allows us a chance to start fresh. I encourage all of you to set goals and pursue them! And above all, never ever let the hard days win. Have a little faith, and focus on the positive side of things and on your potential to be a part of the goodness in the world.

Let’s make 2017 good for all of us.

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the joy of christmas book tag

Merry Christmas, lovelies! Did you get all the books you asked for? Or, better yet, a gift card to Barnes & Noble?

Christmas has always been special to me, not because of the gift-giving, but because it means time off from work and school for family. Though holiday dinners can be nerve-wracking (trust me on this one) it’s always nice seeing relatives get together and catch up. I personally love talking the night away with my cousins, with a cup of hot chocolate in hand. Like Sierra from What Light, I use a candy cane to stir the chocolate into the steamed milk to add in a taste of peppermint.

So when I saw The Joy of Christmas book tag on my friend Rachael’s blog, I knew I had to participate as well! Here goes nothing:

ANTICIPATION: the Christmas excitement is real, what book release(s) are you most anticipating?

Wayfarer by Alexandra Bracken

A Court of Wings and Ruin (ACOWAR, which might as well just be called A Court of Want a Rhysand) by Sarah J. Maas

Our Dark Duet by Victoria Schwab

Now I Rise by Kiersten White

Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh

The Hummingbird Heart by A.G. Howard

Lord of Shadows by Cassandra Clare

CHRISTMAS SONGS AND CAROLS: what book or author can you not help but sing praises for?

Heartless by Marissa Meyer. It. shattered. my. heart. and. I. still. haven’t. recovered. ugh.

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GINGERBREAD HOUSES: what book or series has wonderful world building?

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Ohh, this is so difficult! My first thought is actually my friend Tiffany’s book-in-progress. The way she structured her world is totally insane. I really felt like I was there, in the world she spun out of her imagination.

But if I had to choose from a book/series that’s already been published, I can’t go wrong with J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World, can I? Harry Potter was practically my childhood! Seventh year Hogwarts Ravenclaw Head Girl here. 🙂

A CHRISTMAS CAROL: favourite classic or one that you want to read

I meant to finish reading Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald, but I haven’t gotten around to it yet. I guess that’s something I can do with the rest of my winter break…

CHRISTMAS SWEETS: what book would you love to receive for Christmas?

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Can I just get ACOWAR right now? Please? May 2 is too far away!! But to be more pragmatic, I’d love to receive the illustrated versions of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

CHRISTMAS TREES AND DECORATIONS: what are some of your favourite book covers?

I love the covers for the Starbound trilogy! I think I’ve raved about how gorgeous these covers are in a previous book tag, but I mean look at this:

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CHRISTMAS JOY: what are some of your favourite things about Christmas and/or some of your favourite Christmas memories?

I love driving around the neighborhood, admiring the lights. Almost everyone on my street puts them up, and the myriad of twinkling lights is really breathtaking at night. It’s such a small thing, but I appreciate it nonetheless.

My dad gifted me my first fountain pen this morning, and it’s so beautiful I want to cry a little. I’ve always wanted one, so he got me a dark blue one from Cross! So while this memory is fairly fresh, I know I’ll remember for the years to come. Yesterday my uncle gave me a medical encyclopedia, which I am SO excited about! He says the virology section is the most interesting, but so far, I think anesthesia, cataract surgery, and the history of microscopes are cooler. Yes, I know. I’m such a nerd!

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Merry Christmas, everyone! Spend time with family. Eat good food. Laugh a lot. May the days ahead be forever merry and bright.