This month I finished four books and share a big announcement.

There’s a reason why it’s a classic.

My student, Mark, and I read this together, and boy howdy, am I glad I had a reading buddy because this is a long book. There were times when I wanted to give up because it’s not a conventional novel. It’s not chronological. It’s absurd and confusing and over-the-top, but it also made me laugh out loud in many places. But the buildup to the ending really made the book for me.


Started this in May for Read Asian

If you read reviews first, you would have scrolled through pages of praise, so I thought this book was going to be amazing. It’s a fantasy novel based on the second war between Japan and China, and it starts off great. The first part of this 600+ pager was magic, martial arts, and a 13 year old protagonist who studied and fought her way to and through the most prestigious school in the country.

But then it’s starts to change in mood and tone. It gets dark, and then it just drops off a cliff with the “retelling” of the Nanjing massacre. It’s very graphic and violent. And this is where my love of knowing as little as possible about a book before I open it got me into trouble.

Like others, it’s easy to assume that TPW’s is a YA book, but it’s not. It’s grimdark, a genre defined as amoral, violent, and anti-Tolkien. Ironically, I had posted on IG the bookish question, “What kind of books won’t you read?” while unhappily discovering that I was reading exactly what I try to avoid.

On the plus side, I read outside of my comfort zone, and it really got me thinking about how ethics and morals have changed during recent years. I could write a whole post on it because I honestly have never read a story where the main character went from someone I rooted for to someone who chose genocide and revenge by the end. But since this is the first of a trilogy, maybe she transcends her anger and hatred, but I’m not going to read another 12,000 pages to find out.

Based on Amazon reviews, I’m not the only one who feels this way but Kuang definitely has her fans, too. She’s only 25 and has received more rewards and graduated from more ivy league universities than most achieve and do in their lifetime. In other words, she’s massively adored.


Much more my jam…

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig was recommended by my 16 year old Chinese student, and she really hit the target with this one. It’s about a young woman, Nora Seed, who is so depressed and unhappy with her life that she tries to commit suicide. But instead of going to heaven or hell, she ends up at The Midnight Library where she gets to choose a book that takes her to another life, another choice, or another regret to undo.

Well, you can imagine what a story like this does for the soul.


After the depressing Poppy War, I craved something light and easy, and The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper delivered. It’s about Arthur Pepper who is dealing with the death of his wife and as he finally decides to clean out her stuff, he discovers a locked heart-shaped box. And this leads him out of the house, down adventuresome roads and making unlikely friendships.

It was a quick and enjoyable read, very beach-holiday, and something you could recommend to all ages.


And now for my announcement! If you read my latest newsletter, you already know that I’m going to be relocating from Central to Northern Thailand for a new opportunity. It’s a big change because I will leave behind years of teaching English at language schools to take on homeroom teaching at a small international school in a small town.

Long time readers might recall that I taught primary school students back in the States, so this won’t be completely new, but that was a long time ago. Yet, there’s something about completing a cycle, full circle returns, and going back to where my teaching journey originally began that has gets me excited about the mystery of life.


Thanks for reading along my friends. I appreciate you taking the time to stop by. What did you read in June?

30 replies on “πŸ“š Reading Roundup: June 2021

  1. The books that you read all sound vastly different – why did you choose them? Was there a particular theme you were going for that I missed? And on the move – sounds both exciting and overwhelming all at once. πŸ™‚ Take it in little bites at a time and it’ll be fun! (Going through a move myself soon so I’m telling you as much as I’m telling myself!)

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    1. Yes, it’s exciting, isn’t it? I’d love to hear about it if you feel like sharing πŸ™‚ lani@lanivcox.com

      It would be nice to catch up!

      Hmmm, let’s see, my student Mark likes to read war books and I think we’ve done a good job of that. But we’ve moved on to a book about surfing now. πŸ˜€

      My other student chose The Midnight Library so I had nothing to do with it!

      I read The Poppy War because I wanted to read from an Asian author for the month of May (Asian American month), but I didn’t want to read sth depressing which I think Asian memoirs can known for since we have such hard immigration stories! So fantasy seemed like a good bet, but damn it was too much anger.

      For the Arthur Pepper book I don’t remember. I might have done the ‘Book Like Foo’ algorithm – it looked whimsical and light.

      Thanks for the advice. Gotta tell you in the time of CV it’s been hella stressful. xo

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    1. Thanks πŸ™‚ Hope you enjoy it.

      I’ve heard criticism along the lines of the book is predictable, but for me, bigger picture predictability can be comforting. But what I liked was the twist on the classic question, “What if I went back and relived all the lives I’ve ever wanted?”

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  2. The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper sounds just like the book I need to read. I’m craving something light and funny, but with heart. Have you ever read The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonason? It is such a delightful story.

    Good luck with the move. I think it is wonderful that you have this opportunity for a complete change of scenery. Wishing you the best, and looking forward to stories from that part of Thailand.

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    1. No, I haven’t. I’ll check it out, thanks.

      Yes, it’s nice to read something light and positive. Literary stuff has a strange tendency to be dark as if that makes it more ‘authentic’.

      And thank you, thank you. I’m excited for the change! xo

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  3. Congratulations on your new job. I hope it will be a really positive change for you.

    I’m glad you enjoyed the Midnight Library too. I loved it and have been recommending it to everyone. The Big T read How to Stop Time, also by Matt Haig and loved that too.

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    1. Thanks! πŸ™‚ Yes, I’m curious about his other books now. Will have to return to Matt-y.

      The book is a good reminder for all ages. Initially I was wondering what my teenage student was going to get out of it, but I think it did her good. Cheers!

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  4. Wow, exciting new adventure for you, Lani. Small town, small classroom and some job certainty sounds brilliant.

    I’ve only read blogs this month and am finding it hard to keep up with that too. You know, other responsibilities. πŸ˜‰

    I’m not into reading anything dense or dark at the moment. “The Midnight Library” sounds like something I could cope with.

    If you have students that like YA fiction, I have a copy of “The Things We Can’t Undo” by local Canberra author, Gabrielle Reid, Ford Street Publishing, on my desk. It is sitting there unread. I think it covers some big issues for teens these days.

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    1. I wish our other reading counted towards how much we read, too. I swear I read plenty online πŸ˜› but alas, they haven’t figured that out yet, but I’m sure one day there’ll be an app that does!

      I’ll keep that book in mind. Thanks πŸ™‚

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  5. Good luck with the move!

    In June I read Chaos and All That, a short novel about a Chinese young woman living in London and reminiscing her childhood in Beijing, a graphic novel about a cartoonist who becomes a father, and When in Vanuatu, from fellow blogger Nicki Chen.

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    1. Interesting. And yes, gotta get to Nicki’s book. I keep wanting to mention it in the reading round ups. Holding too much in my mind these days! Thanks, Marta! xo

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  6. I started several books in June but only finished one – The Travelling Cat Chronicles. I read it in one sitting on the train heading off on holiday and embarrassed my Husband by crying most of the way through the second half (difficult with a mask on). I liked the premise of the Midnight Library but the actual book left me a little cold. Once I started reading, I felt like I knew how the story would go without needing to finish it.

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    1. I understand the criticisms of TML, but the premise can be healing for us over-thinkers who need that gentle reminder that do-overs and regrets are what they are and our stories are still unfolding. ❀

      Which has gotten me thinking about stories that are predicable vs those that are not and why we like (or dislike) both kinds and why…

      The Travelling Cat is such a cute name for a book. Thanks!

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  7. I too have been trying to read outside of my comfort zone (i.e. fiction!). I’m definitely trying out some of your picks, especially the Midnight library! 😌
    Congrats on the new chapter, too! Wishing you all the very best πŸ’™

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  8. I would recommend “Trust Exercise” by Susan Choi…I’d be curious to see what you think. While no good book can avoid the dark as it is part of any life-story, this one I think maintains the balance between heavy and froth. But, I’d really want to know your thoughts on whether that’s true for you or not. Or if at the end the whole thing left you muddled and confused. So, if you’re willing, give it a try…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Okay, I’ll give it a try, but don’t be bothered if I don’t like it! πŸ˜› I feel like I’m growing a list of recommended reads that don’t fit me. But! It’s really made me think about what makes a good story great. Fiddling around with my own ideas at the moment. Thanks, I’ll check it out. xo

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  9. congrats on your new job Lani! that sounds exciting. i am sure you will be awesome in your new role since you are already a seasoned teacher. a smaller setting sounds like a safer idea too, in the setting of a pandemic.

    i read “the magical languages of others” by EJ Koh. definitely recommend. =)

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    1. Cool, thanks for the recommendation. And another thanks for the well wishes.

      Hope you and your family are well and good, it’s nice to see you on IG now and again. Take good care, xo

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  10. Thanks for reminding me that I still have to read Catch-22! πŸ˜‰
    Man, that kind of sucks about Poppy War… When I started reading your review I was all “Yeah! I’m so going to hunt this down in the library!” and now I’m not so sure anymore. Such a harsh character switch is pretty uncommon, isn’t it? Also not sure about being able to handle so much violence… 😦 But it is good to sometimes drop out of your comfort zone book wise at least… Okay, I will have to oversleep that one. πŸ˜‰
    The Midnight Library sounds right up my street however!
    My reading list in June included one very weird book: “The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle” by Stuart Turton. If it weren’t for me being very curious I might not have finished reading it, but at least the end did provide one with a nice story twist.
    I enjoyed reading “The Traveling Cat Chronicles” by Hero Arikawa and “The Cat and the City” by Nick Bradley very much – and noticed only later that they both play in Japan and have cats in them. πŸ˜‰
    Oh, and you might want to give this one a go: “Project Hail Mary” by Andy Weir (“The Martian”) – it was GOOOOOOOD!!!! πŸ˜€

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I really did dig The Martian so I’ll have to remember Weir’s next one. I’m in the middle of two rather strange reads, but with the move, my schedule has been completely derailed — and that includes evening reads!

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      1. I can imagine! It’s admirable you get any reading done at all with all the things going on, I bet I would simply stick with audiobooks, close my eyes and pretend to sleep. πŸ˜‰

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  11. Congrats. on your new job. Hope students are great and probably abit different. Does your hubby have a job that doesn’t matter where he is?

    I finished “Interior Chinatown”, my lst novel probably in decades. By Charles Yu. It won the National Bk award recently. The book is written in a series of different tv script style and teases upon Asian tv stereotypes but places them in ordinary stories.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, cool. I like the concept. Will remember.

      Thanks for the well-wishes, xo and yes, he’s WFH so it’s not a big deal.

      Hope you are well ❀

      Liked by 1 person

  12. My summer reading is all a blur–all except for FIERCE AND DELICATE, a memoir on dance and illness, in short essays, which was great. I’ve been working too much and not reading, writing, or blogging near enough. I’m excited about your new work opportunity, and I promise to keep in better blogging touch, so I can hear about it. (I’m going through emails I missed, and I’m still in June!) Otherwise, we’re having a good summer here, trying to get in all the fun at the pool–and with the new puppy–we can before school starts (in only 19 days–ack!).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Happy to hear that you are having a wonderful summer at the pool and with a new addition to the family.

      I understand about everything else. Since we’ve moved writing is nonexistent (with the exception of my morning journal) as is editing and it was a bit of work to get to the newsletter and do this post. But, I’m hopeful that things will calm down soon. Have fun!

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