2021 Book Challenge Quarter 3

You know, you’d think I would have read all the books since getting home from Vietnam, but I guess I just… haven’t!

Eek, only five books read this quarter! I guess things just picked up with being busy, and I did start working my way through a K-drama (and then binged “Squid Game”), which are all like reading a book anyway, so I guess I can see why I wound up not reading as much.

I dunno guys think I can get to 52 by the end of the year when I’m only half way through?!

Anyway, I did enjoy all the books I read this quarter, so here’s a review! Slight spoilers ahead in the thoughts section!

Everything I Read from July to September

The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi | 2021 Book Challenge

21. The Henna Artist

Quick Summary

Taking place in the 1960s, Lakshmi has spent her adult life escaping an abusive marriage and reinventing herself as Jaipur’s most prominent henna artists. Her main ambition is completing her beautiful home, complete with a mosaic she herself designed. Everything, including her hidden past, is upturned when her husband finds her and hands her a young girl who is a sister Lakshmi never knew existed.


I really loved this story but maybe because Lakshmi is the kind of main lead I love, and Jaipur is somewhere I really want to visit. This was my airplane book, meaning I started it on my way back from Vietnam and finished by the time I landed in the US. Joshi just created a really interesting world around Lakshmi, and I loved the characters she created.

The Secret Keeper of Jaipur | 2021 Book Challenge

23. The Secret Keeper of Jaipur

Quick Summary

The sequel to The Henna Artist, this book picks up 8 years later and follows the POV of Malik (my favorite character from the first book), Nimmi, his girlfriend, and Lakshmi. Malik is an intern at Jaipur Palace and witnesses the balcony collapse of the new cinema. When he gets closer, he realizes this wasn’t simply a tragic accident.


Over all, a good second book that has me excited for the third. I don’t love that we have three different POVs, and I would’ve preferred to just follow Malik back in Jaipur instead of getting scenes in Shimla. Definitely worth a read if you want to be back in the same universe as these characters!

The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes | 2021 Book Challenge

22. The Giver of Stars

Quick Summary

Alice Wright thinks she’s escaping a boring life in England when she marries Bennett Van Cleve, but she finds small town Kentucky to not be much different. And to top it off, her husband doesn’t seem to be too interested in her! She jumps at the chance to join the new traveling library, an initiative started by the First Lady herself, Eleanor Roosevelt. Through Alice, we’re introduced to a motley crew of characters who become the Packhorse Librarians of Kentucky.


I picked this book up on a whim when I was at BJ’s with my mom and sister around when I first got back. It’s a good book and a cool story about a period of time there’s really not much out there about. I don’t know why but it took me forever to make my way through it. It’s not an uninteresting book, but I guess no one of the characters grabbed me the way other Jojo Moyes characters have? Like I said, I don’t know! The story is great and the setting of Kentucky sounds breathtaking, but I guess I wanted characters who were a little less… obvious? Or maybe I just needed a little more romance lol.

Her Last Flight by Beatriz Williams | 2021 Book Challenge

24. Her Last Flight

  • Author: Beatriz Williams
  • How I Read: Libby / Kindle
  • Category: Historical Fiction (1920s/40s)
  • Location: California / Hawaii
  • Support Local // Buy on Amazon

Quick Summary

As is typical with Williams, this book has two narrations. The first takes place in 1947 with Janey Everett who is writing an autobiography of the great aviation pilot Sam Mallory who disappeared when he joined the Spanish Civil War. She goes to Hawaii, convinced she’s found the also missing Irene Lindquist, the Amelia Earhart-esque character of the book.

The other narration takes place in biography form and is Sam and Irene from how they met to their rise through aviation celebrity.


I don’t know what it is but the beginning of aviation just doesn’t intrigue me. The 1920s/30s in general never grabbed my attention like fiction around WWI and WWII. I started this book on my plane home from the US as well, and I don’t think I gave it quite the fair shot because I was still very much in the world of Jaipur and Lakshmi and not that interested in diving into the world of Hawaii and California and 1920s aviation. I think I got about 30% and then forgot about the book for a good 2 months before picking it up again!

However, once I did, I pretty much zipped through it as I do with all of William’s books! It actually might be one of my favorites of hers. The twists and turns as you get into these characters and their motivations are so good!

Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 | 2021 Book Challenge

25. Kim Ji Young, Born 1982

Quick Summary

A book that helped spark a feminist revolution in Korea! Kim Ji Young is an every (Korean) woman story about a housewife who suddenly starts exhibiting strange behavior like impersonating others. The book is a bit of a biography that leads the reader through her life and gives you an idea of why she ends up like this.


This book is criminally short! My friend, Kayley, recommended it for our book club, and I probably read it in a few hours. It’s written a way that feels like someone’s report on someone else, which I think you’re either going to like or dislike.

What’s crazy is I can 100% see how Korean women felt heard when they read this! As someone who taught as young as 1st grade and as old as retirement age, I was able to see a wide range of how Korean society can really grind down people, especially women. If you think America has a ways to go to shattering the glass ceiling, trust me, Korea is ever further behind. Imagine working hard through college to get a job, deal with sexism and pay disparity, and then you get married and are expected to quit, become a housewife, and eventually care for at least your husband’s in-laws. To the point that they most likely will move in with you in your small apartment.

The Mountain Sings by Nguyen Phan Que Mai | Book Challenge 2021

26. The Mountains Sing

  • Author: Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai
  • How I Read: Paperback
  • Category: Historical Fiction (Vietnam War)
  • Location: Hanoi and Northern Vietnam
  • Support Local // Buy on Amazon

Quick Summary

The Mountains Sing is a dual narrative book about the Trần family, specifically Trần Diệu Lan and her granddaughter, Hương. The book starts with Diệu Lan and Hương towards the end of the Việt Nam War in Hà Nội. Both Hương’s parents went off to fight, and they haven’t heard from either of them or any of Diệu Lan’s children. As they survive the end of the war and into a post-war, Communist Việt Nam, Diệu Lan tells Hương of her life story from her youth in Nghệ An through the Land Reform that forced to flee.


Ahhh I loved this book! It really gives you a look into what was going on in Việt Nam during the 20th century from a more human perspective and how these huge political movements affected individuals. I still think the Việt Nam War is criminally under-taught in high school history.

And that’s all I’ve read so far! Let me know what you’ve been reading!

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