What I Read In April

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Five Books to Read This Spring/Summer

Another year of online book previews. While I always enjoy hearing about new books, part of me misses the experience of in person events and I’m not just talking about the food. Once again, here are my overall top five picks across three separate spring/summer preview events I attended. Hopefully, it helps you guys find your next read!


The Silence That Binds Us by Joanna Ho
Release Date: June 14, 2022

The synopsis of this book intrigued me in more than one way. I, too, was not the “golden child” in my traditional Asian family, and my siblings have also struggled with mental illness. I also like how this book looks at whether one should speak up or be silent in the face of injustice, as this is a choice that isn’t always easy for us children of immigrants who have endured a lot to survive to make it in a foreign country. This one was also recommended for fans of Mary H.K. Choi books.

 


Crumbs by Danie Stirling
Release Date: July 19, 2022

This graphic novel was described as “wholesome witchy” which sounds adorable. I’ve been reading more comics since the pandemic and Webtoons is one of my go-to platforms, so it’s kind of cool that this series got its start here. Looking forward to this magical, small town story of friendship and first love.

 

 


A Hundred Other Girls by Iman Hariri-Kia
Release Date: 
August 9, 2022

For fans of The Devil Wears Prada, A Hundred Other Girls is about Middle Eastern-American writer finding her place in fashion and media. This debut novel is about what it means to be a young professional in an ever changing work environment. Not just the toxicity and stress but also the sisterhood that’s formed when you’re trying to chase your dreams.

 

 


Mr. Perfect on Paper by Jean Meltzer
Release Date:
 August 9, 2022

I haven’t read The Matzah Ball yet, but Mr. Perfect on Paper sounds right up my alley! It features an anxious and unlucky in love Jewish matchmaker and a single dad and news anchor who find themselves unexpectedly drawn to each other. An uplifting interfaith romance. I like how this is inspired by the authour’s own marriage as she too fell for someone who wasn’t Jewish.

 

 


The Hanmoji Handbook: Your Guide to the Chinese Language Through Emoji by Jason Li (illustrator), An Xiao Mina (illustrator), Jennifer 8. Lee
Release Date: 
August 30, 2022

I love the concept of using pictographs to help you remember the meaning of Han Chinese characters as I’ve been doing something similar with Japanese kanji! While I’m trying to learn Japanese not Chinese, I think this book using emojis can be a good starting point as there tends to be some overlap between certain Chinese characters and Japanese kanji.

Book Review | Messy Roots: A Graphic Memoir of a Wuhanese American by Laura Gao

For a list of everything I read in March click here.

Authour:
Laura Gao
Format:
ARC
Publication date:
March 8th 2022
Publisher:
Balzer + Bray
Publisher Social Media: 
Twitter/Facebook/SavvyReader/
Source:
Received from publisher

Review:
Messy Roots is the second YA graphic memoir that I’ve read that is published by HarperCollins, and I don’t hate how we’re getting more diverse reading options when it comes to YA. As this review is based on an ARC, most of the book except the first couple of pages were in black and white. Despite the fact that as an avid manga reader I’m used to reading graphic novels in black and white, the coloured pages in Messy Roots made Laura’s illustrations feel more alive.

As a first-born daughter of parents who were Asian immigrants, there were many aspects of Laura’s story that I could relate to even though I was born in Canada and didn’t grow up in a predominately white place like Texas. The biggest example that hit me the hardest was reading about how, for Laura, Christmas in real life never matched the magic that was promised in the songs and movies I grew up with. This is especially true for children of immigrants who came from a country where Christmas was not even a thing and so they had no idea what to do. The other thing that I could relate to is how I was about the same age as Laura was when she discovered the magic of graphic novels at her local library. This is something that remains largely unchanged today. 

I know I’m not alone when I say I barely even heard of the city of Wuhan until the unfortunate events of 2020. So it was interesting to read a coming-of-age graphic memoir of someone who came from Wuhan to see it through a set of non-pandemic eyes. That being said, most of Laura’s story takes place in Texas and the United States. It’s not until near the end of the book that Laura travels back home to visit her family in 2019. This was probably my favourite part of the book, as she gets to rediscover her culture and reconnect with her family. It was also a bit bittersweet reading this section, as it made me miss my cousins in Vietnam even more. Hopefully, one day soon, I’ll be able to go back and see my family there. I’d recommend Messy Roots if you’ve enjoyed of coming-of age stories told in a graphic novel format like Gene Luen Yang’s American Born Chinese or even The Magic Fish by Trung Lê Nguyễn. 

Read this if you liked: Almost American Girl by Robin Ha

 

 

 

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

Book Review | Kamila Knows Best by Farah Heron

For a list of everything I read in March click here.

Format:
Paperback
Publication date:
March 8, 2022
Publisher:
Forever
Source:
Received from publisher

Review:
Modern retellings of classic novels are nothing new. However, I’ve noticed that there are quite a few books inspired by Jane Austen’s Emma that have come out or will be coming out this year. To be honest, I wasn’t sure how I felt about Kamila Knows Best being an Emma retelling, especially as the vibes were so obvious from the start. It was all too easy to pick out all the nods to the classic novel. Fortunately, Kamila Knows Best quickly won me over as its own story with its vibrant writing and charming cast of characters. 

Kamila was such a lovable female lead and I love how unlike Emma she wasn’t as stubborn or self-absorbed. She was actually a good friend, and she knew when to lay off her meddling and just let things be. I also loved the dynamic between her and Rohan, and it was all too satisfying to see them finally come together. Though Kamila’s romantic life isn’t the focus of her story, this book oozes love. More than just romantic love, there was also familial love, friendships, the love of dogs, and of course coming to love yourself. Kamila Knows Best truly was a sweet and heartwarming book. I also loved the evolution of Jana and Kamila’s relationship, as I am all too familiar with being pitted against other girls around my age that are either family or family acquaintances. If only we all had the opportunity to hash things out with our childhood “nemesis” in real life. 

As a fellow Canadian, I loved how unabashedly Canadian Farah Heron’s books have been, and Kamila Knows Best is no exception. I loved that I could recognize so many aspects of the setting and plot that are unique to the Toronto neighbourhood. Between Kamila Knows Best and Accidentally Engaged, I’m not sure which is my favourite of the two. I do know, however, that I am beyond excited that Jana’s book is next, as I cannot wait to read her story and to see her get her own happy ending!

Comparable Titles: The Marriage Game by Sara Desai (review)

 

 

 

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

Book Review | Rise: A Pop History of Asian America from the Nineties to Now by Jeff Yang, Phil Yu & Philip Wang

For a list of everything I read in March click here.

Authours:
Jeff Yang, Phil Yu & Philip Wang
Format:
ARC
Publication date:
March 1st, 2022
Publisher:
Harper
Source:
Received from publisher
Publisher Social Media: Twitter/Facebook/Harpercollins/

Review:
Growing up in the 90s and 2000s, as a Southeast Asian Canadian, I almost never saw myself in the media, much fewer textbooks. Sure, the Vietnam War was occasionally alluded to in the history books we used, but barely since it was more of an American thing. Other groups of Asians were just briefly touched upon in courses that were supposedly about world history and/or cultures. All this to say, I would’ve loved to have had a book like Rise: A Pop History of Asian America from the Nineties to Now growing up.

Divided into five chapters, each focusing on a specific time period, Rise has everything from essays, interviews with notable Asian Americans containing fun trivia, roundtable discussions, and even curated playlists and recommendations on decade-specific shows, films and books. One section I found interesting was the tongue in the cheek, but also critical analyses of Yellowface and how it hasn’t truly gone away but instead “evolved” over the years. 

As someone of Vietnamese descent, I appreciated how we got to hear from actual Vietnamese voices, especially in the section on Miss Saigon, as I’ve always felt conflicted about the show, even if it’s been the go to “reference” for others when it comes to Vietnam. Finally, I loved the section on Asian ethnic enclaves. It was interesting learning about the history of the various enclaves, and I hope to one day be able to visit all of them in person. 

Informative and entertaining, Rise is packed with as much material as a textbook, but written and presented in an approachable way. The book also keeps you engaged by continuously changing up how the information is presented so you aren’t just reading written articles or essays. Reading this book made me feel proud to be Asian as it’s evident that there is a great deal of passion in the community, and learning more about what went on behind the scenes of various well known Asian American projects made me truly appreciate their existence as the Asian community has had to struggle and work hard to make themselves seen and heard by everyone else. 

Rise: A Pop History of Asian America from the Nineties to Now is clearly both a deeply personal and passion project for not only the three authours but all the contributors to this book, and it serves as an excellent starter kit to Asian American history. This is a must-have for all classrooms and for anyone interested in pop culture. I’d also highly recommend getting the finished physical copy of this book for the full experience as you’ll be able to flip through all the complete essays, interviews and see the full colourful illustrations that are also done by Asian illustrators!

 

 

 

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

What I Read In March

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What I Read In February

Continue reading “What I Read In February”

Book Review | Fiona and Jane by Jean Chen Ho

For a list of everything I read in January click here.

Authour:
Jean Chen Ho
Format:
ARC
Publication date:
January 4th 2022
Publisher:
Viking
Source:
Received from publisher

Review:
Told in alternating perspectives, Fiona and Jane follows the titular characters over the course of three decades. The chapters are actually more of self-contained short stories, so they aren’t in any true chronological order. Yet it’s not difficult to follow both girls’ journeys from childhood to adulthood.  

Of the ten stories, I think my favourite would have to be “The Night Market”. As the very first story in this collection, it not only perfectly sets up Jane’s character and her journey, but helps us to better understand her character’s choices and actions in the future. Meanwhile, “The Inheritance” does an excellent job of showing the origins of Fiona with and her mother’s enmeshment, which affects all her future relationships including her friendship with Jane.

As a woman and someone who is of Asian descent, I appreciated reading a book that not only featured strong, independent Taiwanese American women but also ones whose connection remains strong even as their friendship evolves and changes as they age. Both Fiona and Jane are written as such authentic characters that it’s not hard to recognize parts of them in people you may know. It was also refreshing to read a book that doesn’t put female friendships on a pedestal as these idealized “ride or die,” and all-encompassing relationships. Even if such perfect sisterhoods do exist in real life, it’s refreshing to see friendships that aren’t just about girlfriends hanging out at the spa and getting together for brunch and drinks.

Honestly, I was expecting Fiona and Jane to be a depressing book that would break my heart more. However, that was not the case at all. Even when the book touches upon heavy topics like the stigma behind LGBTQ+ relationships, mental illness, and, of course, toxic family environments filled with guilt trips, it doesn’t dwell on the darkness for too long. This makes for a compelling read as you get to see the two women being stupid and making mistakes, yet neither of their lives ends just because of some poor decisions. 

Read this if you liked: If I Had Your Face by Frances Cha

 

 

 

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

Book Review | Loveboat Reunion by Abigail Hing Wen

For a list of everything I read in January click here.

Authour:
Abigail Hing Wen
Format:
eGalley
Publication date:
January 25th 2022
Publisher:
HarperTeen
Source:
Received from publisher

Review:
Two years ago, I made Abigail Hing Wen’s Loveboat, Taipei my first read of the year, and I did not regret my decision. Therefore, it’s only fitting that I made its follow-up, Loveboat Reunion, my first read of 2022!

Those who read and enjoyed Loveboat, Taipeimay feel conflicted knowing that Xavier and Sophie, who were the “villains” in the first book, are now the main leads. I, personally, was beyond excited for Sophie and Xavier’s story and for their relationship to properly develop, especially outside the bubble of the “Loveboat tour”. I appreciated how the two of them begin again as long distance friends who support each other from afar before they even entertained any notions of a romantic relationship. 

We also get to know both Sophie and Xavier more as individuals as the chapters alternate between the two of them. This book humanizes Sophie more as we get to see that she is truly remorseful about her awful actions in Loveboat, Taipei and is actively trying to be a better and more independent person, even if many factors don’t make it easy for her. As for Xavier, we get more insight into his struggles with his learning disability, which was revealed in the first book, as well as his estranged relationship with his father. The Yeh family, as a whole, plays a major role in not only Xavier’s story but also Sophie’s as well. And the foundation for Xavier’s messy family dynamics was laid out, starting with his first chapter, thus setting the stage for the main conflict that both Xavier and Sophie must confront together. 

While it would’ve been nice to see more of Sophie and Xavier’s romance on the page, Loveboat Reunion is more than just a second chance romance between two teens. It’s a story about paving your own way in life and reconnecting with your roots and family on your own terms. As someone who’s done more than one exchange program, part of me was a bit jealous seeing how the “Loveboat” gang managed to stay in touch even after their program had ended. Sure, life goes on, but it’s always nice to see the bonds formed from a shared unique experience remain even after everyone has gone “home” and gone back to their regular lives.

Click here to read my review of Loveboat, Taipei

 

 

 

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

Book Review | Money Like You Mean It: Personal Finance Tactics for the Real World by Erica Alini

For a list of everything I read in January click here.

Authour:
Erica Alini
Format:
Trade paperback
Publication date:
December 9th 2021
Publisher:
Dundurn Press
Source:
Received from publisher

Review:
Money Like You Mean It is written in a mostly straight-forward manner that would appeal to a younger adult audience. As this book is for Canadians in their 20s to early 30s aka millennials and Gen Z, there are also chapters are centered on things that are specific to this demographic such as living with your parents and family, tackling student debt and things to consider financially when in a serious relationship or before you consider starting a family. A majority of the suggestions offered are quite doable, and I actually found some new to me tips that I haven’t seen in previous finance books I’ve read. Things such as what to consider when getting your first place, whether to buy or rent, and a starter guide to investing, which also covers crypto, were all sections that I found interesting.

What I liked most about this book was its honesty; the author doesn’t shy from the fact that she’s written this book for those who are middle class or even a bit more well off, and that these tips and suggestions wouldn’t work for those in a lower income bracket. At the same time, she also encourages readers who are in a privileged financial situation to recognize and realize that even the most mundane things which many of them may take for granted, actually make a world of a difference especially when compared with someone who didn’t have the same kind of “helping hand”.

As one of the more up up-to-date personal finance books, Money Like You Mean It works best as a starting point for a young person just out of university/college or just starting their career as they can make the most of all the advice given here.

Read this if you liked: Worry-Free Money The guilt-free approach to managing your money and your life by Shannon Lee Simmons

 

 

 

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

Book Review | The Sultan of Sarawak (Ava Lee #14) by Ian Hamilton

For a list of everything I read in January click here.

Authour:
Ian Hamilton
Format:
eGalley
Publication date:
January 4th 2022
Publisher:
Spiderline
Source:
Received from publisher

Review:
There are only two mystery series that I’ve kept up to date with once I’ve started, and Ian Hamilton’s Ava Lee series is one of them. For the most part, there haven’t been any truly bad books. I love seeing Ava take down people, especially rich and powerful men, who underestimate her in every book. I also love how everything feels so realistic from showing the sexism that is still prevalent in Asia, to having the characters make tough choices where the resolution doesn’t come without some sacrifices to showing the readers the actual work Ava puts in, because while she has connections and a fair amount of good luck she’s also very good at what she does and she knows how to get the job done. 

Compared to the other books, I did feel like this case and the bad guys in The Sultan of Sarawak was a bit of a letdown. There was so much hype and build up to Chong family that it was a bit disappointing to see them go down quite easily with almost no backlash to Ava and her team. There’s also a chance that I could be wrong, and things will take a turn in the next book, so I guess I’ll have to wait and see. I did appreciate that in lieu of any thrilling action scenes; we got some exploration into Ava’s relationship with her father, Marcus, in more detail than ever before. 

The Sultan of Sarawak is another well-written addition to the Ava Lee series, even if at times it felt like it was lacking some of the thrills and excitement you’d expect from these books. Still, for long time readers of the series, it’s a good book to pick up as we get to see the characters we’ve come to love once more.

Click here to read my reviews of the other books in the Ava Lee series.

 

 

 

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

Book Review | Yinka, Where Is Your Huzband? by Lizzie Damilola Blackburn

For a list of everything I read in January click here.

Authour:
Lizzie Damilola Blackburn
Format:
Paperback
Publication date:
January 18th 2022
Publisher:
Pamela Dorman Books
Source:
Received from publisher

Review:
As a woman around the same age as Yinka, I truly connected with many of her personal struggles and the pressures she faced. That being said, she goes through a series of unfortunate events that even I felt were overkill. While I appreciate how everything collapsing at once coupled with the constant pressure serves as the perfect catalyst for her inevitable breakdown, all the pile-up on Yinka started to feel a bit unnecessary and even cruel. 

Reading this book, you can’t help but feel sad for Yinka. She sorely lacks people who are truly and unconditionally supportive of her. If this was an AITA reddit post, I’d have to say everyone in Yinka’s life sucks, except  maybe her Aunty Blessing and her younger sister to a lesser extent. Her cousin Ola and Ola’s mother are the worst and no amount of back story could ever redeem them. It’s kind of heartbreaking that Yinka is used to so little that she considers Nana her best friend, even though at best Nana is mostly unreliable and at her worst she is horribly judgemental.

While it’s marketed as a “rom-com,” I wouldn’t consider Yinka, Where Is Your Huzband? as a romantic comedy. The humour mostly didn’t sit well with me, and there was barely any romance in it. If she’s wanted this to be a romance, the authour should have had Donovan and Yinka interact more with each other so we could actually see the chemistry develop between the two naturally to the point where we’re rooting for them to get together.

Overall Yinka, Where is Your Huzband? had so much wasted potential and missed opportunities to be a great read. It was very well written, and I appreciated seeing not only the Nigerian and Christian representation but also asexual representation in a book that is being marketed as a romance. I just felt like the author could’ve done so much more with the various topics that she briefly touches upon in the book. Things like embracing your singlehood while also being open to love, toxic family dynamics and religious culture, and normalizing counselling for families could’ve made Yinka’s story and journey more meaningful if they were explored further. In the end, while I’m happy with where the book leaves Yinka, I can’t help but feel slightly let down as Yinka deserved so much more than what she got for the majority of this book.

Read this if you liked: The Dinner List by Rebecca Serle

 

 

 

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

What I Read In January

Continue reading “What I Read In January”

My Top Ten Reads of 2021

It’s that time of year again, when I share my top picks of the year for 2021 (in no particular order). No surprise that there are quite a lot of romances and diverse voices on this list. What can I say? I know what I like, swoon-worthy romances, travel and stories that I can personally relate to. So if you’re looking for some reading recommendations, I hope this list will provide you with some inspiration and maybe even put some titles on your radar that weren’t there before.  

House of Sticks by Ly Tran

As a child of Vietnamese immigrants, there were many parts of Ly’s story that resonated with me despite our vastly different upbringings. This debut memoir is an incredibly personal and well-written story of not just pain and heartbreak but also of how a little good fortune can make all the difference in turning your life around.

Read my review

 

Dear Paris by Janiece MacLeod 

 


I’ve been a fan of Janice McLeod’s illustrations and her words since her very first book, Paris Letters. Dear Paris is her third book, and is a collection of letters from her “Paris Letters” project that started in 2012 and ended in December 2020. These letters give us a glimpse at McLeod’s daily life in Paris through the years, and it was interesting seeing her thoughts on various things. Her water colour illustrations that are a mainstay of each letter are breathtaking as always. I’m definitely inspired to do a daily travel journal when I’m able to travel again, though I’ll probably be sticking to photographs in lieu of illustrations due to my lack of drawing/painting abilities. 

Read my review

 

First Comes Like by Alisha Rai 

Alisha Rai’s Modern Love series was what truly got me into her books, well, that and her videos on Tik Tok. While my favourite book still has to be The Right SwipeFirst Comes Love is a close second. While Dev and Jia’s love story moves at a rather quick speed, I love them as a couple, and I especially loved how they were both willing to work together to figure things out.

Read my review

 

Accidentally Engaged by Farah Heron

The follow-up novel to The Chai FactorAccidentally Engaged, was also one of my favourite romances I read this year! This one was also surprisingly steamier than The Chai Factor, not that I’m complaining. What I loved about the romance between Nadim and Reena was not only their banter but also how both were willing to buck tradition to make the other happy. I’ve Farah’s next book already on my TBR pile and am excited about what’s to come based on how good Accidentally Engaged was!

Read my review

 

A Taste for Love by Jennifer Yen

One of my first reads in 2021, A Taste for Love was a fun take on Pride and Prejudice. I appreciated how not all the storylines from Pride and Prejudice were forced into this book. Instead, it was a refreshing YA love story with Asian characters and Asian deserts that had the initial misunderstandings but also the chemistry and banter that you’d  expect from a book that is inspired by a classic Austen novel.

Read my review

 

First Love, Take Two by Sajni Patel

 

My other top romance read in 2021. I’ve been waiting for Preeti and Daniel’s story since I first learned the two had a past in The Trouble with Hating YouFirst Love, Take Two thankfully did not disappoint! I’m in love with Preeti and Daniel’s love story and I love all the girls that make up Pretties friend group. The subplot with both their families was also interesting, and I appreciated how we got a realistic mix of supportive family members along with those who are genuinely willing to change in addition to the member who stay toxic and can’t/won’t change. Preeti and Daniel deserve their happy ending and in this book they fully earn it!

Read my review 

 

The Dating Dare by Jayci Lee

I didn’t read A Sweet Mess, but I didn’t have to in order to enjoy The Dating Dare. Seth and Tara had so much chemistry, and I liked how Seth was actually younger than Tara! This book was almost all pure fluff and a great read if you wanted a happy distraction from the craziness of the pandemic and whatever scary headlines are happening in the real world. 

Read my review

 

Em by Kim Thúy; Translated by Sheila Fischman

If I had to pick only one title as my favourite from this list, I’d have to go with Kim Thúy’s Em. Having read every Kim Thúy book that has been translated into English, I believe Em  to be her strongest and best to date. I love her prose and storytelling, and the translation by Sheila Fischman is impeccable as always. 

Read my review

 

Bibliophile: Diverse Spines by Jamise Harper & Jane Mount


Bibliophile: Diverse Spines is follow-up to Jane Mount’s illustrated miscellany, Bibliophile. While both are perfect as coffee table books and gifts for the book lover in your life, Diverse Spines is also smaller and not as bulky, making it perfect take along with you on the go as well. A collaboration with Jamise Harper, the creator of the diverse spines hashtag, I loved learning about new BIPOC titles and the history behind these books as well as hearing more from actual BIPOC voices in the literary community!

Read my review

 

Fools In Love: Fresh Twists on Romantic Tales Edited by Rebecca Podos & Ashley Herring Blake 

If you’re looking for a collection of short stories that contain more than just the usual girl  meets boy YA love story, then you may want to pick up Fools in Love. These fifteen stories cover almost all the popular romance tropes, so you’ll definitely find at least one story that you’d enjoy. If you’re in the mood for quick and cute read filled with all sorts of love and magic, then considering adding this one to your TBR.

Read my review

 

 

 

 

Regardless of how these books came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.