Distorted Reality?

Having spent about three years in the Taiwanese public education system (and having Asian parents), I often compare education systems between America and Taiwan. No public education system is perfect, of course, but one particular thing stood out to me. It’s the attitude for failure, and when to encourage students.

Growing up in my family, I am rewarded only if something I did was truly exceptional. No extra allowance for earning an ‘A’ (As good grades are the norm and what was expected of me), and when I failed, my parents didn’t tell me “it’s okay, sweetie, you tried”–they tell me to try harder. Bottom line? My parents expected nothing less than perfect of me. Not “my best,” but “the best.” They have never sugar coated the truth. When I was little, I had to work on my penmenship. If my mother did not like my work, she erased it all and I had to try again. If she was not satisfied with something I did, she tells me to redo it, go back to square one, and make sure it’s perfect the second time around. This concept has served me well. I am ahead of my classmates, and I settle for nothing BUT the best.

I found that American education was almost entirely the opposite. Teachers were forgiving (“here’s a generous curve on this easy test because 60% of the class failed” or “three day extension on this assignment because I guess you all are behind!!”)–not that I’m complaining about that, but this would definitely be the biggest difference between the two education systems. It’s nice to have a sort of a “break” from constant working and worrying, but I feel that sometimes because of this mindset, teachers are giving students a sense of a distorted reality (ex, saying that something is great when it actually isn’t) and not preparing them for the real world.

Example: today in orchestra class, I was well prepared, of course, (as I always am), and the music wasn’t too terribly hard. The second violins, however, were struggling with a particular sixteenth note passage (that the first violins, my section, easily aced). The teacher isolated the second violins and worked with them for about fifteen minutes. After that, she put both first and seconds back together. My section and I were on point, while the second violins, even after fifteen minutes of practicing, were still dragging the beat.

The teacher commented on how much the seconds have improved. “It sounds great!”

But here’s the problem: they were still dragging. In my eyes, the seconds were still wrong. Obviously, they need to find time to practice on their own. Obviously, they need to be more familiar with what they were already assigned. When I pointed out that the seconds were still dragging, the director replied, “well it sounds better! Be optimistic.”

But why should any of us settle for “better?” Shouldn’t we all try to strive for perfection? In Taiwan, these kids probably would have had their grades docked; the teacher would not have waited to practice for 15 minutes with them (it is something they should’ve done LAST WEEK!) Moreover, when the 15 minutes passed and they were still messing up, any teacher in Asia would have sent them out to practice by themselves… NOT tell them that “it sounded better.”

Sure, it’s “optimistic” (and I believe that we should all be optimistic at the right situations), but this mindset will certainly not work in real life. Say you were building a tesla coil, and instead of reading the instructions and doing the research, you decided to chill and go to a party instead. When you made the coil, you messed up (due to your own lack of preparation) and forgot to ground something. Can you say “yay, at least I tried?” No. You can’t. You’d be dead.

Similarly, in the “real world,” an employer is not going to give you a gold star for “trying your best.” If you were a doctor, a careless mistake due to your lack of preparation can kill or seriously hurt someone. A miscalculation in statistics or finances can hurt a business. Being optimistic in these situations would not help at all. Maybe I’m taking orchestra a little too seriously, but I think we should always hold ourselves to a higher standard, not settle for mediocrity and the idea that “A is for effort!” Real life certainly does not work that way, and I believe that American education systems should offer the students the harsh truth instead of a false sense of security.


It’s always pretty awkward to write the first blog post on a new blog because I almost never know what to write. This is not my first time blogging, but it is the first time that I intended to keep a personal blog going. (I bought a domain and everything, so hopefully that happens. I’m determined!). I will definitely be posting regularly (at least weekly!) about the going ons in my life, what I’m writing, reading, etc.

To start off, here’s a list of some random facts about myself.

  • I’m from Taiwan, but I’ve been living in the United States for eight years now.
  • My favorite TV shows include Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, Once Upon A Time, and House MD.
  • I’m a cross country swimmer and runner.
  • I’m a senior in high school (college application stress, yay!)
  • I play the viola and piano.
  • I started writing when I was around… 15? Before that, I was a roleplayer.
  • I love chocolate. And tea. And books. (Hence the blog title.)

Yup. So this is my little corner of the blogoverse, and you’ll more likely than not read all about my musical ramblings and my book ramblings and my problems as a writer and just you know, teenage girl problems. (:

I hope you’ll stick around with me!


Manic Pixie Dream Girl by Tom Leveen | Book Review

Imagesooo last year I met Tom Leveen (he was sooo cool hahha), and fell in love with his books Party and Zero. Naturally, when my sister picked up a copy of Manic Pixie Dream Girl, I was like, ‘yes!’. so here I am, 24 hours later. (:

Summary: The book starts off with 17 year old Tyler Darcy celebrating with his two best friends because he just got his first short story published in a literary magazine. But, instead of focusing on the celebration, there were several other things on his mind: including his girlfriend of two years, Sydney, and Rebecca Webb, a girl he’s been crushing on – no, obsessing over – since his freshmen year. Through flashbacks, Leveen takes us on a journey through Tyler’s highschool years and his final decision on whether or not to finally take action with his crush, or be happy with what he already has.

Review: I’m in love with Leveen’s writing, and the writing in this book was exceptional, as usual! Leveen is amazing at creating realistic characters – it’s not hard to simply fall in love with them. The characters are very real, and as a high schooler, I can say that I can easily see them as students at my school, etc. Character wise, my favorite was definitely Sydney, Tyler’s confident girlfriend, who, despite Tyler’s obssession with Rebecca, stayed with him. (Though she was probably just as confused and bewildered about the relationship as Tyler…) Each character is very unique as well – they don’t all fit in a stereotype, and they have their quirks and problems and stories. Real problems, real issues – if you’re a fan of character driven stories, then this is for you!

Now, as for the plot, I’m not quiteeee sure about. The ending wasn’t surprising, but it wasn’t wrapped off nicely either – I wish he could’ve given us some closure on the subject. I do, however, like the fact that the ending isn’t exactly all sunshine-and-butterflies. Although this is an easy read, I’m more compelled by the interaction between the characters instead of the actual plot. The plot, I think, was a little bit weak – I can’t exactly pinpoint what it is, but it wasn’t as intricate or fast paced as Party was.

All in all, I really enjoyed this book, and what stood out to me the most was definitely the characters. There are parts were I was smiling through the scenes, and then other parts where I could actually feel the characters’ hurt and sadness. It all just really came alive to me! The struggle between fantasy and reality, wanting something unattainable and not letting go of something you already have, the courage to act, friendship, drama… there were just so many really awesome concepts in this book that makes it hard to put down.

Overall, I rate this book a 4/5.

The Copper Witch by Jessica Dall | Book Review


Summary: Ambition is not something 17-year-old Adela lacks. From being simply a lady of a poor barony, she was able to make her way up to being queen of the entire kingdom in a few short years. Her looks, coupled with her wits, charm, and cunning, caused men to fall in love with her left and right… though despite her status, wealth, and romance, Adela found that she wasn’t happy. Her life was missing something.

Review: This is the first time I’ve read something by Jessica Dall, and though the book did not necessarily leave a super strong impression on me, it was a solid read. It’s an extremely well-written book, but I can’t say that I really fell in love with the plot or the characters, which is something that is a must in order for me to truly love a book.

To be entirely honest, Adela just wasn’t a super likable character for me. I just couldn’t connect with her… She is portrayed as very ‘fake’ – doing/saying what others want to get her way. Somehow, though, all the boys fell in love with her, and nobody really saw through her. The plot, on the other hand, revolves around Adela’s rise to power, and her romance with various men. I do enjoy some romance in novels, but this was a little much for me, personally. The ending of the book was a bit bland, and while I know it is to be continued in the next books, I didn’t think the characters and Adela was quite tied off to a stopping point. I do wish that it was a more satisfying ending!

That being said, I think Dall is a great writer, and I love her writing style. The beginning scenes were definitely some of my favorites – just because of how the characters were introduced and how all the dialogue and characterization came together. This style was consistent throughout the entire novel, which was great!

Overall, this was an above average novel, the quality of the writing was great. It wasn’t hard to pick up and read, and the story itself definitely has a lot of potential, especially in the next few books. However, the plot and the characters just weren’t my cup of tea… but I’m sure it’ll be somebody else’s. (: I would recommend this book to people who enjoy a book based more heavily on romance than history (I started reading this thinking it would be more based on events in history than a romance). And, for the reasons listed above, I give this novel 3/5 stars.

Stones for Bread by Christa Parrish | Book Review

Stones for Bread Summary: Thirty-three year old Liesl McNamara is the owner of a small bakery in the small town in Vermont. Her life was simple. It revolved around bread: her history of baking with her mother, her love of crafting each loaf, and this love, this passion, was even instilled in her by generations of bakers before her. That is, until one of the employees of the bakery signed her up for a cooking show. Since then, nothing was ever the same: stories were revealed, ties were broken, and new bonds were formed. Bread isn’t as simple as one would think.

Rating:   4.5/5.0 First off, I absolutely adored the author’s writing style and language. Parrish is a very talented writer, and it is evident in her use of words. I didn’t think I would be able to sympathize or connect with a girl who bakes bread, but through her characterization, Parrish was able to make each character: Liesl, Xavier, Seamus, Cecelia – all come to life. It is in the little details: how Cecelia played with Little Pet Shops, how Liesl packages the bread she donates to the ministries each day. Each character has his or her quirks, and I find myself holding on to each word of the book as I discover each character’s strengths, weaknesses, and histories. The plot itself is very engaging, though the book starts off slowly at first. It’s a page turner, and within the book we find ourselves going along with Liesl on her journey to let go of her past and discover faith. The author ties off the end very nicely; leaving the readers wanting a little more, but mostly happy and satisfied. While the storyline is believable, and the characters are well-developed, there are certain parts that were hard to follow, and mainly like ‘fluff’ throughout the pages. There were bread recipes in between each chapter and the history of bread making… they seemed pretty irrelevant to me. It didn’t bother me all that much, but I’d really much rather have the recipes at the end of the book and maybe not the history of bread making at all. Still, a very nice read and a beautifully crafted story by Christa Parrish. Would recommend!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com® <http://BookSneeze.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.