What’s Next is a weekly book blogging meme originally created by IceyBooks; where bloggers ask their readers to vote on which one they should read next. Today on Words of Mystery, I need to decide… More
“We are a family of different generations, different upbringings, different backgrounds and races–diverse in ways no half-hearted policy or opportunistic advertisement campaign can ever truly represent, and brought together in celebration of your birth.” (p. 11)
Inspired by James Baldwin’s essay My Dungeon Shook which was written as a letter to his nephew, David Chariandy takes a break from fiction writing to pen I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You which has a structure reminiscent of a novella is actually a his letter to his pre-teen daughter.
While short in length, I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You manages to tackle issues such as culture, racism, family, parenting and the immigrant experience in a powerful and emotional way. It was fascinating to get a glimpse at Chariandy’s family life and history in addition to the brief mention of his wife’s family who has had a remarkably different experience than his own. And while I enjoyed the story of how two people from incredibly different backgrounds can come together to start their own family, I appreciated how he captured the true awkwardness of two cultures coming together with immense understanding and patience. Being a child of immigrants I could also relate to the section where Chariandy talks about his kids realizing that they don’t belong and that they appear to the locals as Canadian tourists who happen to have a cultural connection to the Trinidad and its people. This was how I felt as a kid every time I visited Vietnam with my parents.
I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You is firstly a letter of love to Chariandy’s pre-teen daughter. It is clear from the beginning to the conclusion just how proud he is of his daughter and how similar to every other parent, he struggles with trying to protect her while also letting go and letting her be her own person. A quick read, I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You is a timely read that all Canadians should definitely consider picking up as it makes its readers truly reflect on life especially during the current political climate.
Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.
Having previously read a few of Isabelle Laflèche’s books from her J’adore series I was curious to see how she approaches her first YA novel. I’ll admit I had a few reservations going into Bonjour Girl as the protagonist is half Chinese, however I felt that this aspect of Clementine’s background was barely touched upon as she truly is a European teenager having grown up in France with a European mother.
One of the unique aspects of Bonjour Girl was how Clementine was an international student attending New York’s Parsons School of Design, it’s refreshing as a reader living in North America to read a book from the perspective of an international student who isn’t just another American studying abroad in Europe or Asia. Clementine’s story is an entertaining one, especially when it comes to her colourful family history. In addition, I loved how passionate she was about her goal to become a fashion influencer which is obvious when she mentions real fashion bloggers and blogs like Garance Doré.
As with the majority of novels featuring young protagonists, there is adventure as well as drama in this case the drama revolves around cyber bullying and intellectual fashion property theft. There is of course, romance as well, however I wasn’t the biggest fan of the relationship between Clementine and Jonathan. The “romance” was seriously undeveloped and lacked any chemistry that would’ve made it believable or even charming. Instead the romantic plot in this book was truly unnecessary to Clementine’s story as the book would have been a better read in my opinion if the focus was more on Clementine’s school life and her friends.
Bonjour Girl seems like it’s just the beginning of Clementine, and with the hints given at the end of this book I wouldn’t say no to reading more of Clementine’s journey. After all, while she may be an incredibly privileged teenager living an essentially charmed life, her story is one with its amusing and interesting moments and a decent cast of side characters.
Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.
“I love Jerusalem best in the morning when she’s naked before the shops are open and the scarves and jewelry cover the stone. And I like to wake her wake up and get dressed while I drink my jasmine green tea from the bakery overlooking Jaffa Gate. Or earlier still, from the Western Wall, when sacred time meets sunrise, and Jews and Muslims pray together although separately behind their glass walls at the brink of sunrise.” (p.141)
They say a person never forgets their “first”, and I suppose that’s true at least for me when it comes to cities and countries as Israel will always have a special place in my heart. Before picking up Jerusalem, Drawn and Quartered, I was vaguely familiar with Sarah Tuttle-Singer’s work through her blog posts in The Times of Israel online website, so I was already intrigued by her book. I remember picking it up shortly after the US officially moved their embassy to Jerusalem, however it was definitely a book that had been on my shelf for some time before.
In Jerusalem, Drawn and Quartered, the writer takes us deep into the parts of the Old City that the average visitor most likely wouldn’t venture to. I enjoyed the diverse perspectives and stories and I appreciated how Sarah makes an effort to talk to people of all walks of life and cultural backgrounds so that the reader is given several distinct opinions and stories and not one singular narrative. That being said, I was slightly surprised that the majority of this book was about her own personal life and not being about the Old City itself. It was also a much grittier, intense read than I expected as she does experience a great deal of trauma in her life. Nevertheless, I found Sarah’s honesty about her past and her current life in Jerusalem to be refreshing and it did make for a more emotional read.
An eloquently written book, Jerusalem, Drawn and Quartered is truly a love letter from the author to the city of Jerusalem. However, the story along with the coloured photos only offers a glimpse into the city and Sarah’s life. In the end, I was left wishing that the author expanded more on the more various quarters in Jerusalem in addition to her own story. For instance, it would’ve have been interesting to learn more about the mysterious man who was friends with her mother as he only briefly appears near the end of the book.
For those who are curious about the situation in Jerusalem and in Israel, I would recommend this book as one of the countless books that you should pick up. Sarah Tuttle-Singer does an excellent job of humanizing the city and I definitely came away from the book with a better understanding of the various sides of this conflict. After reading this book, which was a far cry from a tourist book I found myself wanting to visit Jerusalem and Israel again, though with the current political climate I’m not sure it would be possible any time soon.
Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.
By the time you guys read this post, I’ll be in another country albeit getting ready to go back home and return to work. I hope you guys all were able to enjoy this summer, I know I definitely tried to even with all the craziness of work and trip preparation. Hopefully, I’ll return with some good stories and no cases of food poisoning, sickness or serious jet lag this time around. I’ve got a pretty good lineup of books I’ll be featuring this month and if you guys are into mysteries stay tuned next month for some long overdue Mystery Monday recommendations!
September 4 – Jerusalem, Drawn and Quartered by Sarah Tuttle-Singer
September 6 – Bonjour Girl by Isabelle Laflèche
September 11 – I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You: A Letter to My Daughter by David Chariandy
September 12 – Midweek Mini Reviews #16
September 18 – The Dinner List by Rebecca Serle
September 20 – What’s Next? #4
September 24– Midweek Mini Reviews #17
September 27 – Toil & Trouble: 15 Tales of Women & Witchcraft
Litera-Trip is a new meme that I created for Words of Mystery that combines two of the things I love: books and travel. Here I will be sharing the books that I’ll be taking with me when I travel. The books will then be later reviewed in a future Midweek Mini Reviews post.
I’ll also be bringing along whatever review books I happen to still be reading by the time I have to leave. How about you guys? Have you read either of these books? Do you have any tips and reccomendations for Vietnam for me? Let me know in the comments below.
Vi by Kim Thúy
Kim Thúy is one of my favourite authours because of her lyrical and poetic prose. There still are not that many well-known Vietnamese authours and she definitely gets bonus points for being Canadian as well! It’s such a lucky coincidence that the English translation of her latest book Vi is out the same year I am going to Vietnam as it will be the perfect airplane read for me!
Lands of Lost Borders Out of Bounds on the Silk Road by Kate Harris
I was intrigued by this book because not only is it by a Canadian but the authour herself is one of Canada’s top ten adventurers. Lands of Lost Borders: Out of Bounds on the Silk Road is the story of the journey she took with her friend along the fabled ancient network of trade routes known as the Silk Road which links Asia with the Middle East and Europe. Since I’ll be doing some traveling in Asia I thought this would be the perfect read to get me inspired to embark on a little exploration and adventuring on my own as well as with my family.
Beatriz Williams’s The Summer Wives was one of the titles from the Buzz Books 2018: Young Adult Spring/Summer sampler that I was excited to read the rest of the book after finishing the excerpt. A tragic love story and a gripping mystery that is wrapped up in this family saga, The Summer Wives is the story of two women from two generations, one is a grown woman who faces consequences for her reckless choices as a youth and is forced to do whatever it takes to survive while the other is a young girl who grows up to be a movie star.
The writing is captivating, and the central protagonist Miranda is a well-developed character with a fascinating history, which made me want to get to know her more despite her being a slightly unlikable person. The story overall is also a compelling one filled with plenty of drama, secrecy and of course tragedy. There is so much tragedy that affects both the working class residents and the privileged families on the island, and it’s what makes The Summer Wives a story that completely consumes the reader, begging for their full attention in the worst yet maybe best possible way.
Other than Miranda, who truly is the star of the book, the other characters remain fairly flat and in the background. That being said, I did adore the sibling dynamic between Miranda and Hugh Jr even though they have just met for the first time. Their relationship has such a laid back and easy rapport which makes it a stark contrast to the majority of the other families and relationships on the island.
I went in to The Summer Wives expecting your typical historical fiction read with a side of romance and was definitely not ready for all the soap opera drama in the book. I would’ve preferred a happier ending for the characters in The Summer Wives, although I’ll admit the book ended in a fairly satisfying and realistic way. Even though I probably won’t be in any hurry to pick up another Beatriz Williams book, The Summer Wives is an acceptable novel to escape into for the summer and on the beach if you enjoy the historical family drama of the wealthy with a touch of darkness.
A rag to riches tale, Lucy Tan’s What We Were Promised follows the Zhen family as they move from their hometown in rural China to the USA then back to China, only this time they’ve become part of the new wealthy class living in Shanghai, China.
The story follows the lives of Wei and Lina Zhen in addition to the woman who becomes their housekeeper, Sunny. While the focus is on the Zhens, there is enough of Sunny’s backstory to fully flesh out her character development. Each the characters’ stories are told by an omniscient narrator which lends itself well to the reader who is getting a glimpse behind the “doors” of one family among the many who live in the luxury apartments.
For a début novel, What We Were Promised has exquisite prose and stellar storytelling. Tan truly captivates the reader with her descriptions of China and the manner in which she weaves together all the characters’ lives, ensures that their past and present stay connected. The book is rich in detail which further allows the reader to escape into this often inaccessible world of the well-off in China.
I appreciated the fact that Wei was not made out to be a stereotypical, arrogant executive who has countless extramarital affairs. While he has his flaws just like the other characters, it was easy to sympathize with him being a regular man who worked his way up by being diligent and hustling. Meanwhile, Lina’s story gives us a behind the glamour and glitz look at the life of a Taitai aka rich housewife. It’s understandable that transitioning from working full-time to staying at home requires a bit of an adjustment and Lina’s boredom and restlessness is never sugar-coated. Still, in spite of Lina and Wei’s story being the central focus of What We Were Promised, it’s Sunny’s story that resonated with me the most. Unlike the majority of women her age, Sunny is single and makes her own money though she sends a chunk of it back home to her parents. I enjoyed seeing a female character who actually is satisfied with not remarrying and just being financially independent and free. Sunny’s story also provides the readers with a servant’s perspective of the Zhen family drama and life inside a luxury, fully serviced apartment.
What We Were Promised is a story about homecoming, complicated and messy family dynamics and the “Asian tax” meaning the obligations we feel towards our family when we’ve made something of ourselves. And just as the title suggests What We Were Promised is also about expectations both from the family and individual and how it’s all too easy to waste time dwelling in the past and what could have been instead of staying in the present and looking to the future.
AJ Pearceit’s Dear Mrs. Bird is one of those warm-hearted British stories that has you easily to get swept up in the cozy feel of the book all while making you forget that at its core, it is still a war novel. These days, I’m less of the avid historical fiction reader than I used to be, however I was intrigued by the concept of advice columns during WWII enough to give Dear Mrs. Bird a chance.
Both sad and sweet, the heart of Dear Mrs. Bird truly lies with its protagonist, Emmy who is every bit the plucky, and likeable character that readers will find endearing and perhaps even relatable. I also adored Emmy and Bunty’s friendship as the two young women fully supported each other even when times were tough and they couldn’t be there for each other fully.
Unlike the majority of the historical novels I’ve previously read, Dear Mrs. Bird isn’t about an individual who is particularly remarkable or who finds themselves thrust into an unusual and/or extraordinary situation. Rather, Emmy is quite ordinary for a young woman of her age and era, which makes Dear Mrs. Bird stand out for it shows us that in a way even when there’s a war occurring, life still continues on as usual for the majority of the book.
A slow-paced read that can be enjoyed at leisure, little action or plot development takes place in Dear Mrs. Bird. Instead it felt like a realistic glimpse into the lives of regular people who are forced to continue on, business as usual despite the fact that there is a major war happening and that anyone could die at any moment. There are a few heartbreaking moments in this book, however I finished the book grinning. While far from my favourite read, Dear Mrs. Bird works as a heartwarming and comfortably, easy read.
What’s Next is a weekly meme originally created by IceyBooks; where bloggers ask their readers to vote on which one they should read next.
Today on Words of Mystery, I need to decide which of the three titles on my shelf I should read first.
Susan’s life would never be the same after she meets Peter Buckley. A man who was larger than life, Peter pulls Susan out of her comfort zone to taste the fine life, literally. Together they embark on a rollicking adventure through Michelin-starred restaurants in France to the souks of Morocco and the waters of the Red Sea and the Caribbean. They explore the world, and along the way discover the most desired tables (sometimes in a tent) and the best markets, moving from Peter’s adventures with Hemingway to sampling delectable treasures in an Alpine meadow.
When they return to New York, Susan and Peter—a writer, photographer, gourmand, as well as an inventive chef—incorporate their adventures into their daily American life. As they explore three-star restaurants, French farms, and Italian cheesemakers, the reader gets a taste of famous gastronomic dishes and their chefs, in addition to learning about mouth-watering recipes, culinary moments around the Buckley’s kitchen and table with family and friends, and many of their New York food secrets.
If much has been written about La Haute Cuisine in the past, nothing compares to the fresh, personal, and tantalizing tone Eating with Peter offers. All twenty-eight recipes in the book have thoroughly been tested, and should invite the reader to recreate the joys of Susan and Peter’s experience.
Kamin Mohammadi, a magazine editor in London, should have been on top of the world. But after heartbreak and loneliness, the stress of her “dream life” was ruining her physical and mental health. Gifted a ticket to freedom–a redundancy package and the offer of a friend’s apartment in Florence–Kamin took a giant leap. It did not take her long to notice how differently her new Italian neighbors approached life: enjoying themselves, taking their time to eat and drink, taking their lives at a deliberately slower pace. Filled with wonderful characters–from the local bartender/barista who becomes her love advisor, to the plumbers who fix her heating and teach her to make pasta al pomodoro–here is a mantra for savoring the beauty and color of every day that Italians have followed for generations, a guide to the slow life for busy people, a story of finding love (and self-love) in unlikely places, and an evocative account of a year living an Italian life.
When a moment of quietly ignored bigotry prompted his three-year-old daughter to ask “what happened?” David Chariandy began wondering how to discuss with his children the politics of race. A decade later, in a newly heated era of both struggle and divisions, he writes a letter to his now thirteen-year-old daughter. David is the son of Black and South Asian migrants from Trinidad, and he draws upon his personal and ancestral past, including the legacies of slavery, indenture, and immigration, as well as the experiences of growing up a visible minority within the land of one’s birth. In sharing with his daughter his own story, he hopes to help cultivate within her a sense of identity and responsibility that balances the painful truths of the past and present with hopeful possibilities for the future.
So, which book do you think I should pick up next? Cast your vote via the Twitter link below!
“My idea of home is a verb. Home is a straining towards belonging. For me the feeling of wanting to go home is home. For others, home is a place they want to escape, a place that doesn’t exist, a place that exists only in time, a place that exists in the breath of a parent, or the mouth of a lover. For some, home is geographical, but they cannot return because of political, financial, or personal reasons. Others are seen as foreigners in their chosen home…” (p. 2)
When I told one of my managers at work I was planning to visit Vietnam this summer she asked me if I was excited to “go back home”. Let me preface this by saying she meant no harm when she asked me that yet I found myself a bit taken back. Vietnam has never been “home” to me it’s been many things, like that boiling, hot country where my cousins and father’s siblings live, and the country where I never felt like I belonged despite speaking the language since apparently I walk and talk like a “foreigner” but it’s never been “home” to me.
Like with any collection, there are some pieces that speak to you while others you fail to connect with. When I first heard that there was going to be an anthology of Asian-American writers with pieces centering on the theme of “home” I was beyond excited! Even more so when I saw the list of featured writers. As it’s difficult to review an anthology as a whole, I’d thought I focus on a few pieces that truly stood out to me and share my thoughts on them.
First up is the foreword by Viet Thanh Nguyen which was both thought-provoking and powerful. I loved his writing in his short story collection The Refugees, and it is his foreword truly sets the tone as well as a high standard for the rest of the book.
“My Grandmother Washes Her Feet in the Sink of the Bathroom at Sears” by Mohja Kahf is a story that all of us children of immigrants can relate to, as it’s so much easier to look down on our parents and grandparents for what we think are odd traditions than to defend them against the scrutiny of others. The simultaneous feelings of embarrassment of your parents and shame of not being to stand by them are definitely feelings I can relate to. It the end it was a hauntingly, relatable story that remains in my mind well after I finished this anthology.
“Elegy” by Esmé Weijun Wang was my favourite piece in this anthology. It’s a nonfiction piece about how the writer discovers she’s gluten intolerant and her journey of coming to terms with the implications it has on her family and culture. I liked how she and her husband were able to create their new feeling of “home” for her by adding their own twists to her favourite foods so that she may be able to continue to enjoy them,.
Finally, while I am not a diehard poetry fan yet I did enjoy Jason Koo’s “Bon Chul Koo and the Hall of Fame”. As someone who also has a father who is an immigrant, I could definitely relate to this poem about the awkward attempts to bond with your father as an adult. Both my siblings and I do ask our dad more about what his life was like back in Vietnam as we are now old enough to appreciate these stories that he is more than happy to share with us.
As a whole, Go Home! felt a bit lackluster. However, there were several standout pieces in this anthology, and I do believe that all the voices and stories in this collection are important additions to Asian Literature that do need to be heard.
With summer around the corner, this book had me at friendship and a road trip! I didn’t even care where the characters were headed (New Orléans) but I knew this was the one title I NEEDED to have from the Frenzy Presents preview. Fortunately, through trades, I was able to obtain an ARC of it and it did not disappoint!
Mariam Sharma Hits the Road follows Mariam and her two best friends, Umar, and Ghaz as they embark on a cross-country road trip to New Orléans. Part adventure, part escape and part journey of self-discovery, Mariam Sharma Hits the Road is definitely a character-driven as the three friends have their own personal issues to sort out. Nevertheless, there are several amusing and entertaining moments during their trip and I appreciated that the characters acknowledge their privilege and the fact that negative stereotyping can come from either side.
Speaking of stereotypes, I love the relationship Mariam has with her mother and how their relationship subverts what the stereotypical Desi mother-daughter relationship and her relationship with her brother mirrors the one that I have with my brother. That being said, the families of the three are merely background characters in this book. I love the bond the three friends have with each other, cheering one another on and steeping in as “family” where their parents and even siblings may have failed them. This is all the more heartwarming as the three of them at first glance seem like a peculiar group of friends and became friends by virtue of the fact that they all felt ostracized by their own religion and culture.
For those of you who are looking for another YA novel featuring college-age teens, Mariam Sharma Hits the Road is a great read. I also heard a few people say that Mariam Sharma Hits the Road is “the” road trip novel you need to read this summer and I agree. This book is a true coming of age novel for Mariam and her two friends that manages to touch on serious issues among them being faith, race, cultural growing pains, and relationships while keeping the story fairly light-hearted. In addition, Mariam Sharma Hits the Road avoids veering into the overly dramatic storytelling territory by staying true to how the characters’ journey would unfold in life. In the end, while all three come away with new a new outlook and new insights, none of their stories are resolved neatly. Instead, just like in life, there is still so much more to all their stories even after the book is done.
“I didn’t want to cause trouble; I only knew what I knew. That Ernest could eclipse me, large as any sun, without even trying. That he was too famous, too far along in his own career, too sure of what he wanted. He was too married, too dug into the life he’d built in Key West. Too driven, too dazzling.
Too Hemingway.” (p. 100)
A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of seeing and hearing Paula McLain talk for the second time. The first time was for her book Circling the Sun which is a fictional account about the life of Beryl Markham, a British-born Kenyan aviator, adventurer, and racehorse trainer. In her latest book, Love and Ruin she returns to Hemingway by telling the story of Martha Gellhorn, a prominent war correspondent during her time and the woman who would become Hemingway’s third wife.
Now I’m not a fan of Hemingway, despite the fact that he is a great writer, however I was incredibly interested in Martha Gellhorn’s story solely for the reason that I knew her as a woman who despised being a “footnote” to Hemingway as she was an accomplished writer on her own before and after her marriage. And even though I was unable to connect with Beryl Markham in Circling the Sun, I was willing to give Love and Ruin a chance since I was actually intrigued by Martha Gellhorn, the person in addition to the life she led.
I’m not as avid of a historical fiction reader as I used to be so I wasn’t sure what to expect from Paula McLain and Love and Ruin. However, I was pleasantly surprised that unlike Beryl, I was actually able to connect with the character of Martha. I loved her desire to jump right into the action and obtain the stories from the civilians themselves. And I could relate to her love of adventure, especially as she grew older.
For the majority of the novel, Love and Ruin is a quiet novel and not much happens. However, it does eventually pick up and of course, the prose is lovely from start to finish. That being said, Martha’s relationship with Hemingway often feels like an afterthought. As a result, I felt like the pair’s falling out came quite suddenly even if there were hints here and there of the cracks in their marriage. Perhaps this is why I found the sections where readers gain a glimpse into the consciousness of Hemingway to be a compelling read. In fact, initially, I actually preferred them over Martha’s story.
With Love and Ruin, Paula McLain has solidified her place as not only a writer of historical fiction but one who tells the stories of the women who are often forgotten in the mainstream history. These are the women who if even referred to in history books, may have been portrayed in not the most flattering way. From her books, I have enjoyed rediscovering the extraordinary women who have appeared in them so far and I look forward to seeing whose story she will tackle next.
I’ve always said, as a book blogger its easy to forget what season we’re actually in because many of us are always reading ahead. For instance, over the last month or so I’ve had the pleasure of attending to bookish events that showcased some of the publisher’s upcoming fall titles. And while summer hasn’t officially begun, it can’t hurt to get a head start on creating your fall reading list. With that being said, here are a few YA titles that will be coming out in the fall season.
Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adis Khorram (August 28th, 2018)
I’ve heard great things about this one from many people. Darius is a half Persian, half White American teenaged boy who is forced to go back to Iran with his family due to the declining health of his maternal grandparents which causes him to feel even more out of place than normal. The main character self-identifies as a geek, so expect lots of references from shows like Star Trek. There’s also mental health representation as both Darius and his father suffer from depression and both deal with it in very different ways. Darius the Great is Not I Okay seems primed to be a heartwarming novel and I love that it is set in Iran as the authour is from there and we don’t often get YA contemporary novels set in the Middle East.
The Unwanted: Stories of the Syrian Refugees by Don Brown (September 18, 2018)
As a child of immigrants, one who was a refugee as well as someone who works in a field where we deal with a lot of marginalized individuals I’m always curious about the stories of those in other countries. The Unwanted Stories of Syrian Refugees is a timely read and given that it’s a graphic novel, this one is also good for just about anyone who wants to learn more about the conflict in the Middle East and the Syrian refugees. Featuring actual refugee stories, this one is an important read on a tough subject matter.
Carols and Chaos by Cindy Anstey (October 9, 2018)
So I haven’t read the Suitors and Sabotage books yet, however, it’s not mandatory to do so in order to enjoy Carols and Chaos. I love a good winter holiday read and this one with its side of mystery and danger in addition to romance sounds intriguing, to say the least. Plus I love a good historical setting and it’s always enjoyable to get a story from the perspective of the house staff rather than just the wealthy. And I’m always game for books that are recommended for Jane Austen fans.
Kingdom of The Blazing Phoenix by Julie C. Dao (November 6th, 2018)
So I didn’t realize that Julie C. Dao was a Vietnamese writer until recently, which only adds to my excitement for this book. A companion novel to Forest of a Thousand Lanterns, which I haven’t read yet Kingdom of The Blazing Phoenix is a retelling of Snow White that takes place years after the events of Forest of a Thousand Lanterns. Now normally I not much of a fantasy reader, but I’m all for supporting Asian voices plus I’ve heard great things about this one so I’m stoked to read and review this one for my blog. Also look at that amazing cover! Stay tuned for a review of this title on the blog in November.
Dear Heartbreak: YA Authors and Teens on the Dark Side of Love by Heather Demetrios (December 18, 2018)
Dear Heartbreak isn’t your typical YA anthology. Bringing together some of the biggest names in YA, this book is a series of letters from real teens writing to their favourite authours who in turn reply to them. Each of the authours has chosen a letter that hits close to home with them, and I’m really looking forward to seeing what some of my favourite authours like Gayle Forman, and Sandhya Menon have to say on things like break-ups, cheating, betrayal, and loneliness.
What are some of your guys’ most anticipated titles for this Fall?
June 5th, 2018
Received from publisher.
With the lack of cultural diversity in the romance genre becoming increasingly obvious than ever, it’s refreshing to read a romance novel with characters who feel like they could be your own family. With Helen Hoang’s debut novel readers gain a heroine with autism and a male romantic lead who happens to be half Vietnamese! Even today, it’s still rare for Vietnamese characters to be presented as leads much less romantic leads hence my excitement for The Kiss Quotient.
Stella Lane is not your stereotypical romance heroine, she’s financially independent, incredibly intelligent and has an actual job that she loves and excels at. She’s also quite a relatable and quirky in an endearing way. Meanwhile, Michael Pham was a charming and sweet guy who just wants the best for his family especially his mother. I loved that we got to meet Michael’s family and I particularly loved his relationship with his cousin Quan as they have an amusing, brotherly dynamic. And while we do not get to know Stella’s parents as well as Michael’s family, I did appreciate Stella’s mother finally stand up for her in the end as up until that point she wasn’t a genuinely supportive parent.
Stella and Michael’s relationship was truly heartwarming as it starts as a reverse “Pretty Woman” situation with Stella, offering to pay Michael for his “help” and evolves into something more. The two of them had a great deal in common, for example, both have insecurity issues and both are passionate individuals, proving that the two of them truly were “endgame”. I loved witnessing how their “arrangement” brought both of them out of their protective “bubbles” and gave them the courage to take the risks that they were too scared to do so before. It wasn’t difficult to fall for Stella and Michael after watching their relationship unfold and observing how they were delightfully awkward in trying to navigate what it was that they truly wanted from each other.
Furthermore, I adored the diverse cast and secondary characters in The Kiss Quotient and with the exception of Stella’s gross and inappropriate coworker, Phillip I would love to see more of them. As a result, I cannot wait for Hoang’s next book, The Bride Test as it features a mixed-race heroine, and an Asian hero specifically, Khai Diep who is also Michael’s cousin. And of course, I am eagerly anticipating the day there is a book starring Quan, Michael’s cousin!
As the illustrated cover hints at, The Kiss Quotient is a perfect balance of steamy and sweet. As an own voices novel for autism and biraciality, I loved that it was an original story with the usual message that everyone deserves love and a happy ending. This one’s a book worth picking up if you are a contemporary romance reader looking for a little something different.
Growing up one of my favourite newspaper comic strips was Lynn Johnston’s For Better or Worse. Similar to Grant Central Station it was also a comic strip where the characters who were based on the creator’s real-life family aged in real life. Even today the majority of comics still use “Comic-Book Time” instead of having time actually pass in real time. It’s unfortunate that Grant Central Station isn’t an actual comic strip seeing that based on the few comics included in the book, I would have loved to have seen more.
I mention this since one of the central elements of the plot in Morgan Matson’s Save the Date is the fact that Charlotte aka “Charlie” and the rest of the Grant family are characters in the mother’s comic strip. This is significant as one of the main conflicts within the Grant family concerns the mother drawing a real-life incident into her comic strip despite her promising not to. This leads to real-life consequences and one of the siblings being estranged from the Grant family. I’m glad this was not glossed over as I’ve always wondered how the people who have fictional characters based off of them truly feel about it. The conflict was handled in a way that felt authentic which I appreciated since this is a real issue creators need to consider when using “real life” in their work.
Other than the comic strip aspect of the book, I did enjoy the main storyline, which centers on Charlie coming to terms with the reality of her family and her life-changing. The fact that this occurs over the weekend of her older sister’s wedding adds a great deal of chaos and hijinks to the mix. Those who have been involved in planning a wedding know just how insane the process can become and how it brings out both the best and worst in all those involved. I could definitely relate to Charlie’s attempts to try to fix everything for her family in addition to her struggles to make a final decision when it came to college. That being said, my family is nowhere as large as Charlie’s even though they could probably match hers in terms of wackiness, hijinks, and drama.
Save the Date is probably my favourite Morgan Matson book thus far. I found it refreshing to have a YA contemporary novel where romance was only hinted at. Instead, the focus of Save the Date was on the Grant family dynamics and Charlie coming to terms with a major change. And while it was a hefty looking book, the pacing was splendidly done so that I flew through the pages quickly. An enjoyable read with a lively cast of characters, it feels at times like Save the Date was meant to be a movie or at least a TV show as you can vividly picture the story in your head. Pick this one up if enjoy a light, contemporary and entertaining YA read for the summer!