What We Were Promised By Lucy Tan | A Book Review

Title: What We Were Promised

Author: Lucy Tan

Genre: Contemporary

About the book: It’s a debut novel about a family who returns to Shanghai after trying to chase the American dream in the United States.

I received a free copy from Hachette in exchange for an honest review.

First impressions: I felt excited to read a novel about Chinese characters written by a Chinese author. I expected I’d be able to relate.

I love the title and cover page. It took me a few chapters to get into the story though.

Characters: Wei, Lina, and Qiang grew on me. They’re all flawed, but they’re hard to hate. Wei Zhen is married to Lina, but she has feelings for Wei’s brother, Qiang, who left home years ago. Sunny is a housekeeper and later she gets hired by the Zhens to look after their daughter, Karen. The adults have interesting issues to say the least.


“Why do our minds fixate on the kinds of love we’re not getting instead of the kinds of love we are?”

Writing: In both the exposition and dialogue, Tan includes some words written in pinyin, which get repeated throughout the book. I understood most of them. The author offers an English translation or enough context to decipher the meaning. She describes the scenes well, including a lot of detail.

I think the nature of the story calls for more telling than showing. That being said, I would’ve liked more of the latter.

Final thoughts: My favourite part of the story is the ending. The characters confront the past and everything finally made a lot of sense. Overall, I think the novel increased my knowledge of Chinese culture and customs.

I recommend What We Were Promised to fans of contemporary reads about families. If you know Mandarin and pinyin, you’ll recognize certain words in addition to what they mean. Even if you don’t, the writing is still accessible.

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How To Stay Positive As A Writer

It’s not easy staying positive as a writer, especially when the world keeps rejecting your work.

But positivity is a beautiful thing. Here’s to keeping your optimism alive and well.

  • Celebrate small wins. You came up with an idea? You wrote one sentence? You edited a paragraph? Celebrate that. It’s easy to overlook all the little things in life. You may feel like you aren’t making progress, but if you’re putting in the work every day, life will fall into place. Besides, small wins add up to big victories over time.
  • Look back. Remember all you’ve achieved.
  • Look forward. Think about the things you can accomplish.
  • Treat yourself. You deserve it. Play. How fun. Do other activities.
  • Be aware of your thoughts and feelings. Humans tend to focus on the negatives. Say positive affirmations. Whatever they may be.
  • Filter out the noise. There’s a lot of sounds or voices around at any given time. You don’t have to listen to all of it.
  • Use social media in moderation. Spending all day on Facebook isn’t that productive and probably won’t leave you feeling too proud.
  • Exercise often. Endorphins are a wonderful thing.
  • Choose what you read carefully. Reading is amazing. But the media you consume can have an impact on your own emotions.
  • Go for a walk outside. Soak up the sun’s rays. Vitamin D is good for your health.
  • Write for yourself. Create what you want. Tell the stories you need to tell. You’re different and unique. You aren’t anyone else, so don’t pretend to be someone you’re not.
Creative Writing

Fight To Finish | A Poem

It’s not easy, never will be

Doing something, being someone

Cut yourself some slack, let yourself relax

How long has it been?

Can you remember the last time since…

You always believed

Nothing’s done without a fight

So you have to get started

In order to finish


Confessions Of A Book Reviewer

  • I don’t always remember to write a review after finishing the book. My memory isn’t what it used to be.
  • I copy the same template for all my reviews. My reviews would be a mess if I didn’t structure them.
  • I forget some details. Sometimes I’ve even looked up the protagonist’s first name.
  • I don’t take notes while I read. Maybe I should.
  • I love reviewing physical books. More often than not, they’re fiction. But hopefully one day, I’ll get around to reading more nonfiction.
  • I finish every book. I feel like it isn’t fair to the author or potential readers if I only read and review half the novel.
  • I use the same phrases in my reviews. There are only so many ways to say I recommend a book.
  • I don’t write in books. I can’t do it. At most, I’ll write on a sticky note to mark a specific passage or page.
Creative Writing

Do It Again | A Poem

Make the same decisions

Without a doubt

Sacrifice all

In a heartbeat

So I can live

On my terms

Never mind their words

I wanted to work

Embraced long mornings

And longer nights

Worth every second

I wouldn’t change a thing

Or do anything different

Refused to accept

Less than my best

Wherever I go

Whenever I end

I’ll remember

Who got me there

Because I’d do it again


The Ultimate Guide To Writing A Novel

Whether it’s your first time or your tenth, here are some things to keep in mind as you write that novel.

This isn’t an ultimate guide by any means. Just some bad advice from an aspiring writer.

  • Take it word by word. Don’t worry about the 10,000th word or the 100,000th word. Think about the next one.
  • Edit later. Writing is hard enough as it is. Stop making the creative process harder for yourself. Besides, you can always fix your mistakes later.
  • Use good tools. If you prefer pen and paper, pick something that writes well. If you prefer typing, choose the word processor you like best. You don’t have to break the bank, but your tool needs to do its job.
  • Write the scene you want. Feel free to jump around from the beginning to the ending to the middle.
  • Enjoy yourself. Play your favourite songs. Have a drink nearby. Grab a snack or ten.
  • Live a little. Actually, live a lot. Go outside. Experience the world so you’re able to tell rich stories. You can’t shut yourself inside all day and night.
  • Have good posture. Your future self will thank you.
  • Keep your mind open. Don’t shoot down your ideas right away. Sometimes the craziest idea turns out better than you could ever imagine.
  • Challenge yourself. You’re capable of accomplishing far more than you give yourself credit for.
Creative Writing

Missing Out | A Poem

You wake up and realize

You’re not missing out

Stare at the clock

Seethe for a second too long

Wish you could teleport

To anywhere else but this hell

You get it together long enough

To plant your feet on the ground

You think this is it

Keep your head up

Prove them wrong

You’re not the girl they used to know

You reach for the moon

Looking to settle the score

Personal Reflection · Productivity

How I’m Trying To Live Better

I wanted to try to live better, so I’ve been doing the following:

Walk more. Specifically in the morning. When I was in school, I did a lot of walking. Even though I’m not taking nearly as many steps now, I hate the thought of sitting at home all day long. So now I walk and listen to a podcast at the same time.

Floss every night. It took a while to build this habit. For a time, I didn’t. Then I would but forget on occasion or get lazy. Now I’m finally flossing right after I brush my teeth.

Stay hydrated. I drank so little water in high school, I was probably close to being dehydrated half the time. I pay greater attention my liquid consumption these days, especially as the weather warms up.

Go to bed earlier. I think sleeping has been one of my biggest challenges. I have a hard time falling asleep and staying asleep. As I get busier, I find myself sleeping later. I have a morning routine, but I don’t have much of a night routine. Once upon a time, I slept earlier and woke up at a decent time. I’m doing my best to do that on a consistent basis.

Practice mindfulness. I’m not perfect, but I like living in the moment as much as possible. I put my phone away while I’m eating. I also check in with myself throughout the day when I have some time.

Even though I feel like I haven’t been that productive, I have been living a better life. And that’s something I’ll take every day.