Well hello đź“š

My name is Lily, I’m an indie bookseller so I decided to create a specific place to share my thoughts, reviews, and other book-like writing. I’m also a firm believer that Amazon is evil, so please shop at your local indie!

Currently reading: Rise by Jeff Yang, Phil Yu, and Phil Wang and The Memory Librarian by Janelle Monáe.


Follow me on The Story Graph: LRugoReads and Readerly @LRugoReads.
L.Rugo Reads is my book blog, for my other projects visit my website.

Jessica Jung tells her story in “Bright”

Am I overanalyzing everything? Probably. But I feel like Jessica wrote this one with a point to prove, so I’m going to read into everything.

Last year I wrote over a thousand words about Jessica Jung’s young adult debut novel, Shine, and how reading into the story as a tell-all was a disservice to Jung as an author. Here we are in April 2022, a few weeks out from the release of Bright, the sequel, and I don’t have much to say—she wrote a tell-all. If the first book was about the idealism of pursuing your dreams, Bright is about the resilience it takes to live on your own terms. …Even if, say, hypothetically, your nine-member girl group conspires to kick you out because your new fashion brand is wildly successful and changing your priorities.

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#StopAsianHate reading lists

Author’s note: I originally published this on my short-lived Tiny Letter on March 26, 2021. As we near the one-year anniversary of the Atlanta shootings, I wanted to share it again here.

I don’t even know where to fucking begin. I’m still unable to fully process what happened last week; I don’t have any words of wisdom, comfort, intelligence, or advice. What are you supposed to say when your worst fears come to life? Two days after the attack in Atlanta I was back at work and I thought I was going to be all bad-ass: rock my Sandra Oh “It’s an honor just to be Asian” shirt and blast all sorts of empowering power anthems. Instead I was losing my goddamn mind. I shied away from every white man who passed me on the street, I was scared of every customer, I couldn’t focus or feel safe. Would I be harassed on the street (again)? Were the people at the Chinese restaurant next door safe? Would Harvard be a target? I only got through the day with some grounding exercises from friends (lemme know if you want to hear them.)

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Cracking open the angst of reclaiming culture, history, and identity in “Portrait of a Thief”

Chinese American students plotting an art heist made me think of the Beijing 2022 Olympic diaspora geopolitics.

I should start off with an apology to Grace D. Li, the author of Portrait of a Thief. Her upcoming debut novel, out this April, didn’t ask to be over-analyzed by a book blogger with too many thoughts and too little education, but that’s what the internet is for. Portrait of a Thief is one of the new books from Tiny Reparations Books, the publishing imprint under Penguin Random House founded by comedian Phoebe Robinson. Pitched as a modern and flashy art heist, “Ocean’s Eleven meets The Farewell,” and it already has a bit of buzz, including a Netflix deal. I really enjoyed reading it; I’m excited to recommend it to anyone who walks in the store and I already have thoughts on who Netflix should cast (Mark Tuan as Will Chen, please!) That said, I read it throughout the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics and kept noticing similar themes, intentional or not, that complicated both representations of what it means to be Chinese.

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“Ain’t Burned All the Bright” is the coolest book I have ever seen

Seeing and reading a book as a physical object, as art.

This is going to be a shorter “review” because I don’t really know how to put into words what I’m thinking. I’m mostly just holding Ain’t Burned All the Bright, the newest young adult book written by Jason Reynolds and artwork by Jason Griffin, turning it over in my hands and marveling at it. It’s a book: weighty and dense in your hands. It’s art: from the dust jacket to the hard covers, to each page heavy with photos of mixed-media pages. It’s a poem: all of the words written in “three longggggggg sentences” broken up into acts by breaths. Put together it’s an indescribable artifact of media that tells a story of “the strangest year of our lives.”

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What I read in 2021

This year I started to use The Story Graph to keep track of what I read, and I cannot recommend it enough. It’s a really, really good Goodreads alternative since it does a lot of the same things but more user friendly (and not owned by Amazon.) I don’t really engage in all of the reviews, ratings, challenges, or social parts, but it’s a great way to keep track of books I read, want to read, and am currently in the middle of reading. All of the basic features are free, so it’s definitely worth it! Anyways, in no particular order here’s what I read in 2021.

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Studying Asian American genre fictions

This summer I took an online college course, it was called Asian American Genre Fictions and offered through the Harvard Extension School. It explored different genres—literary fiction, spy/thriller novels, magical realism, sci-fi, and the post-race novel — through the Asian American perspective. So I signed up and it was hard (and expensive!) but also one of the most rewarding educational experiences I’ve had in a long time.

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Apartment Book Club Round 3

A while back, my roommates and I decided to start a book club together. I don’t remember who or what prompted it, but the rules were simple: each person picks a book, we draw the titles out of a jar, and then after about a month or so we’ll go out to dinner and discuss it. 

The four of us have somewhat similar tastes in what we like to read: fiction, YA, fantasy, fun tropes, magic. But we chose books new to all of us and each pick could vary wildly in how much others like it. Sometimes we’ll choose books from our TBR lists, other’s recommendations, or if we heard enough good things about it. It’s an interesting mix, and the books definitely felt like a grab-bag of miscellany, but that’s what makes our book club fun. Round three was pretty much back to normal for us, one good book, two passable, and one really, really bad one.

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Scribbles from my notebook reading “Goodbye, Again”

Getting lost in my own thoughts while reading Jonny Sun getting lost in his own thoughts.

I’ve been waiting for an advanced reader’s copy of Jonny Sun’s essay collection Goodbye, Again ever since I first heard about its existence a year ago. Sun is my favorite writer, across all of his platforms, my go-to presence when I want to be reassured that whatever I’m feeling has been felt by someone else. It’s my favorite thing about him and his style, but after reading his essay collection I started questioning that sense of comfort. Art and storytelling is comforting, but is it really healthy to find one specific person your emotional support writer? That’s a lot of pressure to put on one person’s words. And I get the feeling Jonny Sun is aware of that expectation from his readers.

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Apartment Book Club Round 2

A while back, my roommates and I decided to start a book club together. I don’t remember who or what prompted it, but the rules were simple: each person picks a book, we draw the titles out of a jar, and then after about a month or so we’ll go out to dinner and discuss it. 

The four of us have somewhat similar tastes in what we like to read: fiction, YA, fantasy, fun tropes, magic. But we chose books new to all of us and each pick could vary wildly in how much others like it. Sometimes we’ll choose books from our TBR lists, other’s recommendations, or if we heard enough good things about it. It’s an interesting mix, and the books definitely felt like a grab-bag of miscellany, but that’s what makes our book club fun. Reading Round 2 has been pretty spaced out, given the global pandemic that melted our ability to focus on anything. But we made it, so here are my thoughts.

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Understanding the “Minor Feelings” of “Interior Chinatown”

Each book on its own tells a part of the Asian American experience and together shed light on the complexities of the roles we play.

After spending seven years immersing myself in the creative Asian American community––think YouTubers, Crazy Rich Asians, even subtle asian traits––I’m pretty familiar with how the conversation about representation in media goes. It boils down to the lack of roles, the lack of opportunities to tell our own stories, and the stereotypes Asians in entertainment get pigeon holed into. Half a decade of listening to and discussing all that got tiring, so I initially avoided reading Charles Yu’s latest book. Turns out Interior Chinatown is less in conversation with Hollywood, and more alined with Cathy Park Hong’s book, Minor Feelings. Reading each tells different perspectives of the Asian American identity, and together unlock a sharp commentary of how that experience shapes us.

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“K-pop Confidential” is for those in the know

Flashy and achingly hip, this insider take on K-pop trainee life is def for the dedicated.

Months ago I got an excited message from a coworker saying she ordered copies of the upcoming K-pop YA novel K-pop Confidential by Stephan Lee for our bookstore, but really specifically for me. I’ve established myself as the K-pop bookseller at work and that means I absolutely had to read K-pop Confidential as soon as possible. But once I started reading I had the same feeling that I get when I hear a new comeback song I’m not sure about: do I actually like it, or am I just a devoted fan? Both?

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