Hello 2022 & My Top 5s for 2021

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Happy new year! As is often the case, there is a feeling of expectation for a new year even if the passage of time is constant. We mark time and moments to achieve a sense of order, and if viewed through the right lens, we can appreciate the time given to us. I hope that 2022 brings each of you a sense of fulfilment in whatever shape that may take. Remember deep breaths and enjoy the ride.

A review of 2021 marked the re-boot of my blog, and I hope to continue with my reviews while having the opportunity to share some of my original work and manuscripts that I have in the pipeline. As a writer, the challenge of balancing my blog, manuscripts, day job, and parenthood is an ongoing juggling act. I look forward to continue this writing journey and diving into this slice of life we have on our little blue dot.

For now, I would like to share my top 5s for 2021 in each category I blogged about. Please keep in mind this is based on my published reviews for 2021 (NOT the top 5 of all time in each category).


  1. The Wife and the Widow by Christian White – atmospheric mystery story that had me reeling in its cleverness and filled me with envy that White could write in this way.
  2. Thunderhead (Book 2 of Arc of a Scythe Series) by Neal Shusterman – very rarely do second books in a trilogy exceed the first or final books in the series. Shusterman does just that with Thunderhead.
  3. The Promise Seed by Cass Moriarty – a gem of a novel that captures youth and age. The two main characters develop a bond even though their differences (on the surface) seem to be many.
  4. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern – magic is real! The night circus actually feels a part of you by the time you turn the last page.
  5. The Elements of Eloquence by Mark Forsyth – the only non-fiction book that made my top 5 for 2021, Forsyth is a master of breaking down the effectiveness of English rhetoric in what could have been a dry topic, but he makes fascinating and funny. A must for any writer’s toolkit.


  1. Free Guy – this was the surprise flick for 2021 for me. Ryan Reynolds has long been typecast and it is no different really in Free Guy, but the concept and story combined with awesome CGI had me laughing and feeling inspired in equal measure. Deserves repeat viewing.
  2. Wolfwalkers – ecstatic that I stumbled on this movie on Apple+ TV. An animated film that captures Irish folklore and imagery with such colour and beauty that every frame has been crafted with love and care.
  3. The Half of It – the relationship triangle depicted in this film is a wonderful coming-of-age comedy drama that surprised me with how emotionally effecting it was.
  4. Nobody – the ending went a bit silly but the build up, and the scene on the bus were beyond brilliant. That alone was worth the price of admission.
  5. Cruella – Emma Stone and Emma Thompson are so good that you could remove every other character in this film and still be riveted.

(honourable mention: The Last Duel – I almost put this in the top 5 over Cruella. Clever story telling, action sequences are brutal and real, and the characters are flawed and interesting)


  1. Cowboy Bebop – the ultimate sci-fi soap opera that has stood the test of time with the best killer jazz/blues soundtrack ever.
  2. Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae wo Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai – ending goes a bit overboard on the emo, but the tale of a group of childhood friends and how they drift apart (due to an incident) but come back together is both uplifting and heart wrenching.
  3. Tonari no Totoro – Miyazaki masterpiece **microphone dropped**
  4. Haikyuu!! Season 1 – this anime series will inspire you to play volleyball, or at least inspire you to follow your passions.
  5. Usagi Drop – slice of life gem of an anime where the child teaches the adult as much as the adult teaches the child about what it means to live life.

(honourable mentions: I could have listed other Miyazaki movies that I published reviews on – Princess Mononoke, Porco Rosso, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Laputa: Castle in the Sky – but that would have been a very boring list)

2021 Happy Holidays & Thank You

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In a year that has seen the COVID pandemic carry over, 2021 has been another roller coaster.

For yours truly, there have been many highs and lows. By far the most overwhelming moment was the death of my father, who passed away in March this year due to cancer. In my journey to live a meaningful life and write stories that inspire, he led a life that demonstrated his passions and what was important to him. His family, his friends, and his never-ending love for his homeland Taiwan were demonstrated in his every action and piece of writing. As a professor in political science, my father wrote articles and books (in both English and Mandarin) that created a body of work that is staggering. He encouraged and inspired me to follow my own writing even if it was as far removed from politics as can be (i.e. fantasy/sci-fi and drama fiction). I miss him every day.

Treasuring moments and focusing on what is important to me has never been clearer. Through the miasma of fear and division that our tiny blue dot is suffering from, whether that be due to the pandemic, climate change, or the political and social hatreds that humanity suffers from, I continue to search and discover hope and inspiration in many forms. This is never more obvious to me than through art. Whether that art is in the form of stories/poetry, or music/song, or paintings/sculptures/crafts, or film/tv, each of us has the ability to tap into the creative and that creation expresses emotions that inspire and lift us above the storm clouds of racism, sexism, classism, ageism (and any other prejudicial “-ism” you can think of).

Getting my blog off the ground and exploring the spark generated through books, anime and film that I read and watch has inspired me to continue working on my own manuscripts. I will take a break for the rest of 2021 and spend time with my other sources of inspiration being my wife, kids, family and friends and will return to releasing new blogs in the new year. I hope you have enjoyed the book, anime and movie reviews that I have released these past few months. Rest assured I will continue releasing reviews come 2022, and I will also look to share some WIP (work-in-progress) of stories I’m writing and would welcome feedback.

Before signing off, I wanted to share one last bit of inspiration. In October of this year, one of the greatest songs of all time was released 50 years ago. To celebrate, the artist announced that he will be doing a concert tour starting in Honolulu in January 2022 and will perform throughout the US, UK and Europe culminating in his final concert in November 2022 in Austria. In total he will be performing 69 concerts!

The artist I’m referring to is Don McLean and his song “American Pie” was selected in 2017 for preservation in the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress.

To celebrate this iconic song, I found this A Cappella version by Anne Reburn (and her clones). I hope it inspires you to follow whatever dreams you are striving to make a reality. Enjoy!

Wishing you all a joyous and safe break as we wind down to the end of 2021. May it be filled with joy, laughter and good food. Peace to you all and thank you for taking the time to read my blog

Writer’s Spark

My dad and my daughter
My dad and my daughter

There is much that inspires me to write but if you were to ask me to narrow it down to a single genesis point where my spark comes from, I would have to say it was my father. However, I would also need to add a footnote that this came into my consciousness after three odd decades of being largely oblivious to it. You see my dad was the type of father who allowed me to find my own way and this included making a ton of mistakes (a lot of the time the same ones) over and over again. He would only ever provide advice if I asked for it otherwise I had free rein to stumble in the darkness and compound my pitfalls with deeper ones. In truth, it was a double edged sword. I sometimes wished that my dad had taken more of a hand in the direction I was taking (especially when the path would lead to some painful lessons indeed) but other times, I was thankful that he allowed me the freedom to discover who I was and what I wanted in life.

For as long as I can remember, my father has been first and foremost a scholar. He obtained his PhD in political science at the University of California, Riverside and has dedicated his life to achieving Taiwan independence through democracy. He is a fighter of human rights, a defender for the working class and most importantly listens (I mean really listens). He’ll respect your point of view even if he disagrees and is the first to admit that no political system is perfect.

Through my childhood, teenage and adult years, I have seen my father accomplish many things, more than what I can list here. He has published numerous books on Asian politics and been the advisor for the former Taiwanese President Chen Shui Bian.

But it was his office that I am remember most fondly. Walking into his humble sanctuary, “the place where he writes”, you were surrounded by shelves filled with books, newspapers and magazines. It was like entering a library filled with political knowledge, philosophies, histories and ideas. There in the middle was his large desk with jars full of writing instruments, newspaper clippings, magazine articles, textbooks and a couple of photo frames of the family and my father would be sitting in his leather chair reading, writing or contemplating. What he read and wrote was obvious even if it was all in Chinese (i.e. politics, governments and world affairs). However, what he contemplated I never really asked. As a kid, I observed him, one hand on his chest, the other hand waving through the air like a music conductor, writing invisible words, eyes sometimes closed, sometimes open, thinking, always thinking… I’m sure about politics… but also I wonder about other things. He has a collection of Asian paintings with Chinese poetry written on it. He read Confucius, Robert Frost, Percy Shelley and other creative thinkers, which I have no doubt helped shape his views on society and humanity. I’m sure he pondered about life and the world we live in, not just the politics that surround it.

Seeing all this, you would have thought I’d jump into writing as soon as I learned the alphabet but here is the irony. I’m not into politics. I don’t hate it, I just find its existence unfortunate but admittedly necessary in order for the world not to fall into anarchy (and ‘anarchy’ itself a political ideal is not necessarily bad if we could all get along with each other but the reality is we don’t). Perhaps seeing my father as a political avenger for human rights with pen (his metaphorical sword) in hand was enough of the ‘real world’ for the both of us, so I never considered writing as a career.

Nevertheless, I now know (three decades on) that I love writing and I read fiction and speculative fiction because I get enough of the ‘real world’ every day and I owe this genesis from my father.

What is your spark? Where do you believe the genesis of that spark came from? Feel free to email or leave a comment and let me know.