January 19, 2018

Stacking the Shelves (54)

Weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews 

I had a feeling that January's book haul would be a big one but this exceeded my expectations! But between Christmas gifts, my own shopping, new ARCs and publishing friends, my stack of books just kept growing. Luckily, my actual TBR did not since a bunch of these were books I already read or I read them over my holiday break.

So, onto the books!

Thanks RJ, Kelly, Estelle & Hannah! 
Here We Are Now by Jasmine Warga

What new books have you guys gotten lately?

January 17, 2018

Binge-worthy fantasy and paranormal series

When I first started getting into YA, all I did was binge-read series because everything was new to me. I read Twilight, The Mortal Instruments, Hunger Games, House of Night (I gave up after book 8) and the Iron Fey to name a few. Eventually I expanded my binges to include more mature series like Fever by Karen Marie Moning (still one of my all-time favorites) and The Black Dagger Brotherhood by J.R. Ward. But after a while, I stopped binge-reading because I was more or less up-to-date and having to typically wait a year for the next installment.

Then, in the last two years I’ve started binge-reading again and it’s been marvelous! Either because a series just finished and was recommended by a friend or I’ve checked out older books (mainly thanks to Flights of Fantasy Book Club actually!). I’d forgotten how much I love being immersed in a single world and all its characters for a week or longer.

Elemental Blessings by Sharon Shinn
I had wanted to check out Sharon Shinn’s backlog for a while since she came so recommended by fantasy authors that I love. I started off with Archangel (first in the Samaria series) and while I enjoyed it, I never felt compelled to keep going. Then I read Troubled Waters, the first book in Elemental Blessings. I only planned to read the first book for Flights of Fantasy but I fell so in love with the world that I kept going, moving onto Royal Airs, Jeweled Fires, and thankfully only waiting a month for the release of the final book, Unquiet Land. Each book focuses on a different heroine and in this world, everyone receives blessings after they're born that are based on the elements of air, fire, water, wood and earth. These blessings guide them in their day-to-day and very much define who they are. I really enjoyed Shinn’s take on elemental magic and it made me 10x more curious about the rest of her books.

Favorite in the series: Troubled Waters

Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater
I owned The Raven Boys and The Dream Thieves for years before ever reading them. I kept thinking that I wasn’t sure if I wanted to start (and wait) for yet another series. But then a month before The Raven King came out, I decided — why not give it a try? And well, I discovered that Raven Cycle is made for binge-ing! It felt so natural to keep going. The series focuses on Blue Sargent, a girl growing up with clairvoyant women, who have warned her that she will cause her true love to die. Then she befriends Gansey, Ronan, Adam and Noah (aka the Raven Boys) and they turn her world upside down but in a good way as they set off on an adventure within their town.

Favorite in the series: Blue Lily, Lily Blue

The Others by Anne Bishop
This was one of my slower binges but I think it still counts! The Others is so intriguing because it’s technically paranormal and urban fantasy but has a bit of a dystopian vibe to it too. Bishop brings together werewolves, vampires, shapeshifters, fairies, elementals, oracles and more (all the aforementioned make up the Others) plus regular humans all into a single world. It’s about how they co-inhabit (hint: the humans are definitely not in charge) and how one single person, Meg, disrupts and changes how they all live together for the good. I read the first three books within two months, the fourth book a little later and the last book way later. If I could do it over again, I would’ve preferred a true binge-read but it is an easy world to step back into even after you’ve taken a break. The series is also stronger at the start since the first two books focus on Meg and Simon, the leader of the Others, and their complicated but unexpectedly sweet relationship. The later books get too bogged down by additional point-of-views getting introduced but I kept reading for Meg/Simon and their friendships with other secondary characters.

Favorite in the series: Written in Red but Murder of Crows is a close second.

Air Awakens by Elise Kova
I dropped everything I had originally planned to read the week I started Air Awakens in order to finish the series (5 books total). It was totally unexpected but exactly what I needed at the time — which was to get lost in a magical world. I basically read a book a day! Now, I’ll be the first to admit it’s not a perfect series (I can rattle off a couple flaws) but when it comes down to it, the writing was engaging and addicting, I really enjoyed the characters and the world, and I needed to know how it would all end. It’s about Vhalla, a simple librarian who discovers she has powerful elemental magic that’s been dormant her whole life. When Prince Aldrik becomes interested in her (in more ways than one!), it sets off events that changes both their lives and the kingdom they live in.

Favorite in the series: I have a soft spot for the first book but it’s a tie between Water’s Wrath or Crystal Crowned.

If you're in the mood to binge, I can't recommend these series enough!
And if you know of any others worth checking out, let me know in the comments.

January 15, 2018

I decided to get my DNA tested

Last year, one of my favorite travel bloggers, Polka Dot Passport, talked about her decision to learn more about her genetic origins and shared her AncestryDNA results. Even though I had been aware of Ancestry and similar sites like 23andMe before, I never fully knew what they offered and seeing the specificity of her results was what planted the seeds for me to eventually seek out my own origins.

It’s not like I’ve never thought about it before. In fact, it’s something I’ve always felt hyper aware of because I look so different from my relatives (but according to everyone, I look exactly like my maternal grandfather). Both sides of my family are mostly Filipino but my paternal grandmother is half-English (and little Spanish) and my maternal grandfather is half-Chinese. So this is always how I’ve seen myself: 75% Filipino, 12.5% Chinese, 12.5% English and 5% Spanish.

But again, this was all guess work and as I started asking questions about grandparents’ and even great-grandparents’ heritages, it became clear that my parents, aunts and uncles didn’t have the full story themselves. So when a year later I still couldn’t stop thinking about AncestryDNA, I decided to take the plunge in November (thanks to a Black Friday sale!) and get tested. It was really simple. They sent me a kit, I spit into a tube and mailed it back right away. I got my results on Christmas, of all days, and was completely shocked by what I found out.

my results!
It turns out that I am 88% Filipino (for both Asia East & Polynesia, it said primarily Philippines & Guam), not Chinese or English at all, 5% Asian mix and a 1% mix of various European countries (Ireland?!). I was so surprised that I did two things: immediately Googled how my results could be so unexpected (which led to an informative post on the breakdown of inheritance percentages) and I told my cousins. They were just as shocked and jokingly asked me if I did the kit right. I said yes and that I had proof.

So the other side of AncestryDNA is that it allows you to create family trees and if you do the test, it’ll show you DNA matches that are also on the website. 34 matches of 4th cousins or closer came up for me! I was most interested in the four 2nd cousins listed. One of them was shown to manage the other accounts so I reached out to him. Turns out we truly are 2nd cousins! He spoke to his mom and aunt and said they knew my name (I knew theirs once he told me). They’re my mom’s 1st cousins and we’re related because his grandmother is the sister of my grandfather.

My mind was blown. I had had some doubts about how legit this was in the beginning, but I’m totally a believer now. All my cousins are interested in doing it too and one of them even ordered a kit the day I shared this story. I’m excited to see what his results will be and to continue reaching out to my other matches and seeing where our families intersect.

If there's one thing I've gained from all of this, it's how incredible it is to know where you're from and a deeper desire to learn about my family's heritage.

Have any of you guys tried a DNA test or been
interested in doing on?