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I’ve never really dived into YA books, but these 2 had me completely immersed.

 

For a bookworm, it may come as a surprise to you that I haven’t jumped on the YA bandwagon. The last time I read a YA book and/or YA book series was in high school. Yes, it’s been that long and yes, it was the Harry Potter series. There are so many of them these days that have been adapted into major movies. Think Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, The GiverThe Hunger Games series, The Book Thief, and John Green’s books.


P.S. Check out this comprehensive list of YA novels that are made and being made into movies. Super awesome.

But for some reason, I’ve just never picked one up … until recently.

These are the two voices that had me fully infused into their worlds right now:

 

13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl by Mona Awad

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Why the impulse buy: The Penguin logo on the cover and how strikingly honest the title is.

When it was released: February 23, 2016

What’s it about: Growing up in this image-obsessed culture, each chapter follows a small-town girl who struggles to conform and never came to be, progressively identifying herself with nothing but her large curves.

How I enjoyed it so far: I’ve read halfway through the book in one sitting on the night I bought it. I’m surprised it’s the author’s debut – it’s only a 224-page paperback, but covers every common theme all women and all girls (and I mean ALL – large, small, normal, not normal, extraordinary) will find super relatable: focus on appearances, pressure to look good, dealing with double standards, toxic friendships, abusive relationships, identity crisis, and more. The best part? Our main girl Lizzie tells it all in a voice you’ll find so familiar, you almost thought it’s your own at least a hundred times. The only thing I recommend you not doing is to read the critic’s reviews – you won’t find the book as hilarious as they say. I mean, it is in a few paragraphs here and there, but at large, it’s the sad kind of funny you know oh-so-well.

Paired with: 2015 Raw Pu-erh tea, 6th-9th infusions

A little excerpt: (pages 6-7)

“People call Mel a slut at our school too. Because of what she wears on days when we don’t wear our uniforms, but also because of what she wears on regular days, which is nylon thigh highs instead of the itchy wool tights we’re supposed to wear. And she rolls her kilt all the way up so you can see where the thigh highs end. My mother thinks this is why people call Mel a slut. But I don’t think so. Not to sound like an old woman, but you should see girls these days. Some girls roll their kilts all the way up to their crotches. I wear mine down to my knees, but sometimes I’ll roll it up just a little on the way to school. But then it always rolls back down by itself. It’s fine. Later on I’m going to be really f**king beautiful. I’m going to grow into that nose and develop an eating disorder. I’ll be hungry and angry all my life but I’ll also have a hell of a time.”

 

 
 

Counting By 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan

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Why the impulse by: The New York Times Bestseller label on the cover and mainly, the one-page intro that had be grabbing the book the second I’ve reached its last word:

* * * * * * * * * *

Nobody’s perfect.

I was taken to see an educational consultant that autumn and the woman did an evaluation. She sent my parents a letter.
I read it.
It said I was “highly gifted.”
Are people “lowly gifted?”
Or “medium gifted?”
Or just “gifted”? It’s because that all labels are curses. Unless they are on cleaning products.
Because in my opinion, it’s not really a great idea to see people as one thing.
Every person has lots of ingredients to make them into what is always a one-of-a-kind creation.
We are all imperfect genetic stews.
According to the consultant, Mrs. Grace V. Mirman, the challenge for the parents of someone “highly gifted” was to find ways to keep the child engaged and stimulated.
But I think she was wrong.
Almost everything interests me.

* * * * * * * * * *

When it was released: September 16, 2014

What’s it about: A gifted child’s coming-of-age story who coped through the loss of her loving, adoptive parents.

How I enjoyed it so far: This was more of a children’s book than it is a young-adult’s. Nevertheless, it’s another voice I can so relate with just by glancing over my in-depth, nobody-would-read-them-all-but-I’ll-just-insert-this-research-and-that-research-to-back-up-this-claim Ingredients 101 section. Also written in first person, you fellow solitary weirdos would find Willow Chance cool. Deep down you know you’re intelligent gifted, but the whole world thinks you’re weird, so you identify those who decidedly conform as the “normalized”. She’s brave that way. And later becomes equally above-average in maturity and strength in how she eventually not just think about her own hobbies and interests, but also in the ways she consider other people’s emotions like no other 12-year-old girls would.

Paired with: Oolong tea – Tieguanyin

Excerpt: I think I’ve given more than enough excerpt of the book (what with the whole intro), haven’t I? :p But here’s one of my favorite monologues of Willow from page 355:

“I am worried about Quang-ha.
I know that he has lots of homework this week. I hope that he at least attempts to do some of it.
And then there is Dell. Will he go back to putting things in closets? Will he return to staring out the window and waiting for his life to begin?
Will Pattie keep working so hard? I know for a fact that those fumes from the nail polish are bad for her.
I realize now that I’m worrying about all of them.
It’s better than worrying about myself.
This is one of the secrets that I have learned in the last few months.
When you care about other people, it takes the spotlight off your own drama.”


 
 
 

What about you? Have any YA book I haven’t read that you think everyone must (and absolutely must!) read?

 
 
 

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Recent tea reads

 

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I’ve never really showed my share of books on tea around here. It’s always been a series of random books that I personally find interesting, which can range from business books to traditional fairy tales (you’re most likely to find me in bookstores around town …). But since you’re here now and probably a fellow tea and books lover, I want to share with you some of the most fascinating reads on tea, its origins and making, as well as the cultural connotations that the cup carries.

 

How to Make Tea: The Science Behind the Leaf by Brian R. Keating and Kim Long

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For a 160-page book, this is a comprehensive read on tea basics and technical aspects of making the brew. If I have to sum it up in a short sentence, it’ll be “A definitive how-to article of everything you need to know about tea in book form” :p Not formal and definitely non-boring, so please don’t judge the book by its title :) If you’re a newfound lover of tea, I highly recommend How to Make Tea as your brewing companion.

P.S. The book features simple diagrams and lined illustrations along with its texts.


 

识茶·泡茶·品茶 (彩图版)

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If you can read and understand simplified Mandarin Chinese, you should definitely get this book. I found it at a Kinokuniya bookstore, and it was on sale. So yeap, how could I not get it?! Everything you need to know about tea in China, with an encyclopedic introduction to the different types of Chinese teas along with how to best enjoy them respectively spanning the first half of the book, and with traditional tea recipes and their health benefits for soothing all sorts of ailments covering the second half of it. What I love most was that it’s modern, easy to understand, and highly applicable. So get the gem from the Chinese-language sales section of Kinokuniya, stat.

 
 

 
 
 

The Tea Book by Linda Gaylard

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Better known as The Tea Stylist, Linda Gaylard is your go-to gal for learning how to love the cup of joy. Just because tea originated from China doesn’t mean Indians, Africans, Japanese, the Brits, or even Indonesians cannot enjoy the brew. Personally, I think this is highly condensed book about tea for the general public, but what I find helpful in your tea journey was the beautiful visuals and infographics throughout the pages – they really help you learn. The contents were neatly divided according to what the average Joe Schmoe would be interested in when he’s first introduced to tea, but probably still hasn’t delved deeper yet into its world. If you can’t tell the difference between Chinese red tea and rooibos tea, I highly recommend getting this guide for your toilet reading ;) The last chapters of the book features both tea and tisane recipes for you to try at home. Neat, huh?


 
 

The Ancient Art of Tea: Wisdom From the Old Chinese Tea Masters by Warren Peltier

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Now if you’re the artsy-fartsy type (like I am) and is reaaally into the long, complex history behind the beverage, what made it so popular around the world, and the rich culture that it’s bore, I super duper recommend The Ancient Art of Tea. Just a couple of weeks ago I discussed what I learned about the factors affecting the taste of your tea when it concerns to companionship – do you enjoy it better in solitude, or with a friend? Turns out the ancient practitioners, i.e. the experts, claimed that tea is best enjoyed alone. I would argue that it’s best when you make it for your good tea-loving friend, but that’s just one of the interesting things you’ll learn from this handy 6-inch (square) hardcover. Its customs, rituals, and etiquettes are all classic wisdom for making tea your natural way of life.


 
 

 
 
 

So which one of these reads piqued your interest the most?

 
 
 

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Currently reading: Quirkology + notes


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Quirkology by Richard Wiseman, page xvi

I gotta admit, the book description alone got me hooked, and so I got this impulsively. But Quirkology turned to be a fascinating read, particularly if you have an affinity with trivia and are the type who questions everything. In the introductory pages, you’ll already learn many intriguing findings from the most unusual aspects of psychological research. One study that intrigued me was that of Victorian polymath Francis Galton, who devoted his life to offbeat topics throughout his scholastic career. Wiseman noted that, as with all scientists, Galton was so bothered by the mystery behind preparing the perfect cup of tea that he actually conducted tests to find out the exact temperature and steeping time to produce the best-tasting brew … at least, for his taste:

Even the making of tea caught Galton’s attention, what he spent months scientifically determining the best way to brew the perfect cup of tea. Having constructed a special thermometer that allowed him constantly to monitor the temperature of the water inside the teapot, after much rigorous testing Galton concluded that:

. . . the tea was full bodied, full tasted, and in no way bitter or flat . . . when the water in the teapot had remained between 180 and 190 degrees F (82.2 and 87.8 degrees C), and had stood eight minutes on the leaves.1

Satisfied with the thoroughness of his investigation, Galton proudly declared, “There is no other mystery in the teapot.”

 

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Interestingly enough, there’s a similar study recently published on The Journal of Food Science that compares the antioxidant capacity of each tea type depending on how it’s prepared, with also both the water temperature and steeping time factoring in the study. Now we know that to get more antioxidants out of your brew:

  • White tea:
    – Leave steeping time longer (up to 2 hours) in hot water
  • Green tea:
    – Leave steeping time longer (up to 2 hours) in cold water, or
    – leave steeping time short (up to 5 minutes) in hot water
  • Black tea:
    – Keep steeping time short (3-5 minutes) in hot water

While I firmly believe every individual best enjoys their cup of tea differently (and by individual I also mean Galton himself), at least we now know what’s the best way to get the most out of the nirvana.


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So my question to you is this: How are you going to brew your next cup of tea?

 



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 Footnote(s):

  1. The Art of Travel, or Shifts and Contrivances Available in Wild Countries []