2018 Reading Recap and Anticipated 2019 Releases

I’m doing something a bit different in my recap this time round, because 1) the total number of books I finished this year (20) has been much lower than I read in past years, and 2) surprisingly, I recommend all of them in different ways, and it’s really difficult to pick 3 or 5 or 10 favourites.

I’ve listed all of the different books I read this year according to category below, and would love to hear your thoughts on any of them!

Historical Fiction

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien

Chinese-language Literature

Note that these are Chinese-language books which I read in their English translations. Not all of these are from mainland China — Notes of a Crocodile was written by a Taiwanese author, Oztale Sweet and Sour is from Australia, and Cantonese Love Stories is from Hong Kong 🙂

Mr Ma and Son by Lao She

Cat Country by Lao She

Dream of Ding Village by Yan Lianke

Cantonese Love Stories by Dung Kai-cheung

To Live by Yu Hua

Half a Lifelong Romance by Eileen Chang

Oz Tale Sweet and Sour by Leo Xi Rang Liu

Notes of a Crocodile by Qiu Miaojin (currently finishing this up)

Young Adult fiction

The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo

The Bone Witch and The Heart Forger by Rin Chupeco

Between Us by Clare Atkins

American Panda by Gloria Chao

The Astonishing Colour of After by Emily X.R. Pan

Graphic Novels

Amulet 8: Supernova by Kazu Kibuishi

The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang


Nocturnes by Kazuo Ishiguro

Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl

2019 Anticipated Releases

Looking forward, here are some of the books I’m most looking forward to being released in 2019:

The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling by Wai Chim (concept covers here!)

The Weight of Our Sky by Hanna Alkaf

The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee


Stories Uncovered, Stories Untold


Thank you to Verity La for publishing my creative nonfiction piece – ‘Stories Uncovered, Stories Untold’ – which you can read here. It’s fairly different from what I’m used to writing, but I’m glad I eventually got it to a point where I was happy with it. Let me know your thoughts if you decide to give it a read.


Literary Links & Inspirations


Something I thought would be nice to do is to start sharing various links to articles, etc. I find inspiring around the Internet as a writer.

Liminal Mag

Liminal was an online magazine founded by Leah Jing McIntosh in late 2016 which publishes an interview with and photography of an Asian-Australian every Monday. I’ve loved the beautiful photos — this is especially important to me considering how rare it is to see Asian-Australians in the media — and reading through the profound questions and answers in their interviews.

So many people I admire or am friends with have been featured in it. Here are some of my favourite interviews to date, but be sure to check out everything on their website 🙂


I’ve got so many podcasts I’ve subscribed to that I should spend more time listening to! Author interviews are always so insightful, particularly in this ‘natural’ way where you hear more details and more of the emotion behind their answers than in a written interview.

  • Recently, I really enjoyed the interview 88 Cups of Tea did with Emily X. R. Pan, the author of The Astonishing Colour of After (a really powerful book). I found it really interesting listening to her insights on how she changed from studying + working in business to doing an MFA.
  • Diversity Arts Australia has a wonderful podcast, The Colour Cycle. They’ve interviewed writers like Benjamin Law and discussed thought-provoking topics like making space for refugee artists, art and identity politics, and making art in exile.
  • I’ve been meaning to go through the old podcasts from The Wheeler Centre

Pencilled In Launch

The launch of Issue 3 of Pencilled In is going to be at Wandering Cooks in Brisbane on the 24th of May and it sounds like it’s going to be incredible — if you can make it, you should definitely go! So looking forward to receiving my copy.

Writing Updates

Brief update on my writing and pieces that are forthcoming:
A short fiction piece inspired by Chinese folklore, which is appearing in Issue 3 of Pencilled In. You can pre-order it here.

A historical fiction piece in the anthology Meet Me at the Intersection. More details are in the media release here.


So grateful to Yen-Rong and Rachel, and Bec and Ambelin, for their hard work in putting all of these together! I’m really excited to read the rest of the stories, and honoured to have my piece alongside them.

2017: Inspirations, Highlights & Reflections

2017 is nearly at an end (!!!) and considering the many highs and lows and all that’s happened this year, I’m taking this opportunity to recap and reflect.


I did a post on my top 5 books of 2016 last year, but this year it’s a bit harder to pinpoint which exact ones are my ‘favourites’. Instead, I’ve chosen three — below, in the order I read them — which really stood out because of how much of an impact they left on me, and included a few quotes that really inspired me. None of these spoil plot points, but if you’d rather not know about important emotional moments, maybe skip  these.

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A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

Quote 1:

You won’t understand what I mean now, but someday you will: the only trick of friendship, I think, is to find people who are better than you are—not smarter, not cooler, but kinder, and more generous, and more forgiving—and then to appreciate them for what they can teach you, and to try to listen to them when they tell you something about yourself, no matter how bad—or good—it might be, and to trust them, which is the hardest thing of all. But the best, as well.

Quote 2:

Things get broken, and sometimes they get repaired, and in most cases, you realize that no matter what gets damaged, life rearranges itself to compensate for your loss, sometimes wonderfully.

Quote 3:

 Friendship, companionship: it so often defied logic, so often eluded the deserving, so often settled itself on the odd, the bad, the peculiar, the damaged.

Quote 4:

And so I try to be kind to everything I see, and in everything I see, I see him

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

Quote 1:

Indeed, this is how 99 percent of people select their jobs: pay, work environment, hours. But that’s the point. Putting lifestyle first is how you find a job — not a calling.

Quote 2:

Even if you are perfect, the world isn’t. The secret is to know that the deck is stacked, that you will lose, that your hands or judgment will slip, and yet still struggle to win for your patients. You can’t ever reach perfection, but you can believe in an asymptote toward which you are ceaselessly striving.

Quote 3:

I was searching for a vocabulary with which to make sense of death, to find a way to begin defining myself and inching forward again. The privilege of direct experience had led me away from literary and academic work, yet now I felt that to understand my own direct experiences, I would have to translate them back into language.

Quote 4:

Moral duty has weight, things that have weight have gravity, and so the duty to bear mortal responsibility pulled me back into the operating room.

Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman

Quote 1:

Because sometimes when the world doesn’t make sense, it just feels better if there’s someone around to make it a little less lonely.

Quote 2:

But as much as I like Jamie, as much as I might even love him, needing him is something else entirely. Needing him is scary.

Because needing him means losing him will hurt so much more.

Quote 3:

Beauty isn’t a single thing. Beauty is dreaming — it’s different for everyone, and there are so many versions of it that you mostly have no control over how you see it.

Quote 4:

I have my whole life ahead of me — there isn’t room in it for anger about things I don’t have the power to change […] and that’s okay — because I will be the person I need. I will be the one I can depend on, the one who has the power to make my life better or worse […]

I accept myself.


A few highlights from this year:

  • Visiting Melbourne in January and meeting friends and authors there
  • Seeing extended family in China again (and coincidentally bumping into a uni friend there!); the brief visit to Hong Kong and Singapore after that
  • Making some really close friends within the #DiverseBookBloggers community
  • Co-hosting #AsianLitBingo and #AsianLitChat throughout May, which then turned into Lit CelebrAsian – I’m so inspired by the dedication of our brilliant team for putting so much hard work into this, entirely voluntarily, because of everyone’s passion for uplifting diverse voices
  • Noted Festival, Sydney Writers’ Festival, NYWF and Boundless (oookay I did not realise how many of these events I’d gone to until I wrote that as a list xD)
  • I really engaged more with everything I was learning at university this year – Abnormal Psychology, with its clinical applications and expanding my understanding; genuinely improving my Chinese; understanding criminal justice issues through Civil & Criminal Procedure and Criminal Law; and gaining an understanding of Public International Law.
  • Being part of the editorial team for my university’s social justice journal – again, I learned a lot about editing and different areas of social justice and how it interacts with the law throughout
  • Completing an internship which involved working on my university’s innocence exoneration project, and learning more about the criminal justice system throughout
  • Most importantly, strengthening existing friendships and making many new ones – I’m so grateful for all of you!


Some lessons I’ve learned this year (and some that I keep trying to tell myself and need to be reminded of as I face different challenges):

  • It sounds obvious, but experiencing moments that have been more uplifting AND painful than I’d ever imagined possible this year really showed me how unpredictable life is, with all its complexities, joys and difficulties.
  • Many things we experience don’t inherently make sense; it’s the way we personally interpret them that allows us to make meaning out of it. (That’s harder, however, when things are unresolved)
  • In terms of my writing, I think the fact that I haven’t written as much this year, but only worked on pieces that have really meant a lot to me, has had an influence on the fact that my writing goals are now a lot more important to me personally. I no longer worry as much about what other people think of the subject matter I choose to write about. Which is amazing, because I used to be swayed so easily by others’ mindsets.
  • It’s good to experience things outside your comfort zone — but it’s possible that your final take-away will just be reaffirming where you don’t fit in, and learning to better stay true to yourself.
  • I’ve learned to trust my friends more. There’s a long story behind what prompted me to change in this way, and the short version is that I hadn’t even realised until a few months ago that there were parts of me which I instinctively kept private – but it usually wasn’t the right choice, because those were the times when I needed my friends’ support the most. Opening up in certain ways definitely doesn’t come to me easily, but I’ve kept pushing myself, and my friendships (new and old) have grown as a result.

How was your 2017?

Boundless Festival Recap

On Saturday, I attended Boundless, a festival focused on Indigenous and culturally diverse Australian writers! The lineup of artists was incredible and it was really nice to see friends (including Annie, Glaiza and Wai) again ^_^ My eyes and fingers were slightly dying at the end of the day from live-tweeting for Pencilled In, but it was worth it!


Events I attended:

  • Deadly and Hectic: a conversation between Indigenous Australian and migrant writers from Sweatshop, a Western Sydney literary movement. Some really thoughtful discussion regarding representation. Thread of live-tweets here.
  • Shaping the Horizon: a discussion of diverse new voices and the future of the Australian literary landscape with Benjamin Law, Ellen van Neerven, Michael Mohammed Ahmad, Julie Koh and Peter Polites (!!!). Really enjoyable discussion; I wish I’d caught more of their recommendations! Thread of live-tweets here.
  • All in the Family: discussion of how to write family stories, seeking permission and how to represent them. Loved all of the panellists’ thoughts but as always, Benjamin Law was amazing. Thread of live-tweets here.



Overall, it was really refreshing to see so many diverse artists, with thoughtful discussions about representation which I learned a lot from. Definitely hoping that this is just the first of many festivals.

Recent Recs

So the #DivBookRec hashtag led to some really great recommendations being shared around Twitter today!


I thought I’d add to this and use it as an opportunity to talk about some diverse books I’ve read recently that I really enjoyed, but haven’t reviewed (yet). The books in this post all happen to be by Asian authors (though note it’s only the first that has Asian rep) and they all happen to have been part of my experience of exploring books outside of YA – I may try different themes for future posts 🙂

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

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Summary: The book involves two parallel storylines: one is the story of 16-year-old Japanese girl Nao, struggling with family issues and bullying, and seeking to write the story of her great-grandmother. The other involves an author, Ruth, who picks up Nao’s notebook after it washed up on her shore and suspects it may be debris from the 2011 tsunami. Along with her, the reader progressively discovers Nao’s story.

Why I recommend it: A Tale for the Time Being really fulfilled my need for more books that go beyond the YA I’ve mostly been reading up until now, but with a coming-of-age element. Nao’s voice was captivating with a strong sense of realism, and there were incredible, meaningful explorations of time, family, sacrifice, the writer-reader relationship and experience, with multiple gut-wrenching moments and an ending that left me thinking after I’d finished. Thanks to Aentee @ Read at Midnight who put this on my radar!

I am a time being. Do you know what a time being is? Well, if you give me a moment, I will tell you. A time being is someone who lives in time, and that means you, and me, and every one of us who is, or was, or ever will be.

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

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Summary: Covering many years, the story starts with four young friends making their way in New York City. One of them, Jude, struggles with his heavy past and the way it haunts him throughout his life and his relationships with others.

Why I recommend it: I was really hesitant to read A Little Life in the beginning – multiple people said things along the lines of ‘it will destroy you’ in terms of being a heavy emotional experience. That’s certainly true and even months later, I feel like I’m still processing everything within it, but it does a disservice to some of the most touching parts of the book – the friendships, the father-son relationship between Harold and Jude, the beautifully empathetic way it explores Jude’s character, the way it made me appreciate so many aspects of life in a new way. Powerful, resonant, and has definitely stayed with me. Thanks to my friends Sean and Wai for recommending it!

You won’t understand what I mean now, but someday you will: the only trick of friendship, I think, is to find people who are better than you are—not smarter, not cooler, but kinder, and more generous, and more forgiving—and then to appreciate them for what they can teach you, and to try to listen to them when they tell you something about yourself, no matter how bad—or good—it might be, and to trust them, which is the hardest thing of all. But the best, as well.

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro


Summary: Kathy is a 31-year-old carer, reflecting on her time at Hailsham school in the English countryside and the friendships she had then. Secrets about her and her friends’ fate, and their school, are slowly alluded to and revealed.

Why I recommend it: Kazuo Ishiguro’s writing was powerful in its simplicity, and although the book explores confronting themes (it’s better to go into it not knowing much), it does so in a subtle way that leaves all the larger an impact for it. I liked the blend of literary fiction and social commentary. Also, Kazuo Ishiguro just won the Nobel Prize for Literature, so now’s a great time to pick up one of his books 🙂

It had never occurred to me that our lives, which had been so closely interwoven, could unravel with such speed. If I’d known, maybe I’d have kept tighter hold of them, and not let unseen tides pull us apart.

Have you read any of the books here? What were your thoughts? Do you have any recommendations for someone like me who’s interested in (preferably diverse) books that go beyond the scope of YA but have crossover/coming-of-age themes?