Midweek Mini Reviews #29

This Midweek Mini Reviews post features two new YA titles.

Once Upon an Eid: Stories of Hope and Joy by 15 Muslim Voices
Once Upon an Eid is an anthology of short stories that take place around or during Eid, a religious festival celebrated by Muslims worldwide that marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan. As a non-Muslim person, I was intrigued by this book because I am familiar with some of the authors who have stories in this collection including S.K. Ali who is one of the editors. Like any holiday anthology the 15 stories are all heartwarming, fun and joyful in their own way. Two of my favourites were Like Chest Armor and Huda Al-Marashi’s Not Only an Only. The former was an adorable story about a girl’s first time wearing a hijab with touching upon other things like crushes and fandom in middle school, while the latter was a story about female friendship that I anyone who has been a minority in their school could relate to. I also enjoyed Asmaa Hussein’s Kareem Means Generous because it gave me a warm, fuzzy feeling and I liked that it is set in Toronto, Canada. As Once Upon an Eid is geared towards middle grade and not YA, I’m far from the target audience for this short story collection. However, even I can tell after reading all the stories that Once Upon an Eid is a special book and I love getting a glimpse at how different cultures celebrate Eid. With the countless number of Christmas books out there, it’s nice that Muslims kids are able to have another collection of stories that they could personally relate to.

My Summer of Love and Misfortune by Lindsay Wong
Pitched as Crazy Rich Asians meets Love & Gelato, I really wanted to like My Summer of Love and Misfortune. But it took way too long to get into it, and while I could appreciate the character development and growth I couldn’t completely buy into Iris’s “transformation”. While it doesn’t necessarily mean this is a bad thing, in the case of My Summer of Love and Misfortune the uneven pacing along with all the drama in the book gave me whiplash. In spite of that, I didn’t hate Iris, in fact I couldn’t help but feel bad for her because she really is clueless and while she is shallow she truly believes she has good intentions. Also despite being an annoying character, I was still rooting for her to finally stand up for herself against those who did not treat her well. The writing in this book was strong, along with all the juicy family drama redeemed this book for me just a bit. My favourite parts were seeing the Wang family reunited and seeing Iris and her cousin Ruby come together and realize they actually make a great team. It’s unfortunate, but My Summer of Love and Misfortune was not the fun and light summer read that I had hoped it would be.

 

 

 

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

Book Review | The Mountains Sing by Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai

Authour:
Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai
Format:
ARC
Publication date:
March 17th 2020
Publisher:
Algonquin Books
Source:
Received from publisher

Review:
English language works featuring Vietnam, both fiction and non-fiction has been dominated by mainly (white) male American and soldiers’ voices. While there is nothing wrong with that, it was refreshing to read a story from told from the perspective of Vietnamese women for once. In Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai’s The Mountains Sing the two voices that narrate the book are Diệu Lan the matriarch of the Trần and her granddaughter, Hương who is only twelve at the start of the book. Both stories are of love and loss and heartbreak, and every member of the Trần family at one point or another undergoes considerable hardships. However, it is through Diệu Lan and her children that we get a glimpse at just how indomitable the spirit of the Vietnamese people are and just how resilient they can be.

At first reading, it was difficult for me to tell Diệu Lan and Hương’s chapters apart, as their voices sounded so similar. I often had to look at the dates that marked the chapters to see who’s chapter it was. However, as I became more familiar with both women I was able to recognize who’s turn it was. Diệu Lan’s story starts during the French and Japanese occupations of Vietnam and carries on through the Great Hunger, and the Land Reform and eventually through to the Vietnam War while Hương is born before the Vietnam War but ends up losing her father to the War. In the present day, Hương’s story shows us the aftermath of all the repeated trauma as well as lasting consequences of the country and its effects on the Vietnamese people and their families. Families were often separated and torn apart as a result of differing ideologies or their past actions and forgiveness is definitely easier said than done. Of the two, I was more interested in Hương’s story as she was closer to my age and I was more familiar with her Vietnam than the Vietnam that her grandmother talked about.

Interestingly, The Mountains Sing is one of the rare English language books set in Vietnam that isn’t a war book. However, it still is a difficult read at times due to the time period both Diệu Lan and Hương are living in. That being said the story was very gripping and the prose is lovely and lyrical as expected of a poet. I also loved the style of the book as it was the retelling of the history of Vietnam through the personal memories of both a grandmother and her grand-daughter. The conversational manner of the book made it easier to follow along in spite of nonlinear style of the book and the alternating narration.

Before reading The Mountains Sing, I only knew of the Vietnam War and little else of Vietnamese History. This book was an incredibly valuable read in that it opened my eyes up to all the other traumas and tragedies that my people like my parent and grandparents and the rest of my family lived through. There is a section in the book where a character is described as “a beautiful lotus flower that has risen from a pond of mud” and I couldn’t find a better description for this novel. This novel is but one work of beauty that has come out from the pond of mud that is the repeated horrors, trauma and tragedies Vietnam and its people have been through. And we can only hope that in the future we get more of these stories that may have been previously hidden from us.

 

 

 

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 | If I Had Your Face by Frances Cha

Authour:
Frances Cha
Format:
ARC
Publication date:
April 21st, 2020
Publisher:
Ballantine Books
Source:
Received from publisher

Review:
Almost every person, has some kind of insecurity. For women more often than not it is tied to their physical appearance. This is what makes If I Had Your Face a compelling story as the characters live in a society that is not only patriarchal, but also unforgiving if you do not meet the almost impossible beauty standards and/or know the right people.

Frances Cha’s If I Had Your Face, follows four different women who are at different stages of their life despite being mostly around the same age. Of the four women, I initially thought the first narrator, Ara would be my favourite as she initially appeared sympathetic due to her being mute, however I quickly realized that she was both childish and selfish, which was not helped by the fact that she was also spoiled by everyone around her. This left her with few redeeming qualities. The other character I couldn’t connect with was Wonna as it just seem like she was never satisfied, although her somewhat tragic back story did move me a little to her side even if her actions remained baffling.

On the other hand Kyuri and Miho were better developed and more fleshed out than the other women. As a result, more of the book is devoted to showing how in spite of their struggles they persist and manage to work with what they had in order for them to make a life of their own. Interestingly enough the two of them appeared to be total opposites on the surface as Kyuri has had multiple plastic surgeries to be “beautiful” while Miho is considered a “natural” beauty in spite of being a bit of an enigma. And yet both Kyuri and Miho were incredibly aware of where they stood in society, and what they needed to do to carry out their goals. In fact, one of my favourite moments was witnessing Miho come to a certain realization about her boyfriend and instead of sinking into depression, she decides to take matters into her own hand and find a way to ensure she benefits from her circumstances.

The writing in If I Had Your Face is simple yet elegant, and all four of the women’s journeys were remarkable enough that I could have easily finished this book in one sitting. Even if you aren’t a woman living in Seoul, If I Had Your Face has several themes that would resonate with all women who are feeling the pressure from both their parents and society to adhere to a certain path.

If I Had Your Face was a captivating read for me despite knowing little about the culture in South Korea beforehand. Moreover, I enjoyed watching the somewhat messy sisterhood and kinship between the four incredibly different women as they struggled both at work and in their other relationships. While there is no guaranteed of a happy outcome for any of these characters, I felt satisfied in the end, knowing that there was hope for all the women especially if they continue to have each other’s backs.

 

 

 

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

Mystery Monday | Don’t Look Down by Hilary Davidson

Mystery Mondays is an occasional review feature here on Words of Mystery that showcases books in the mystery (occasionally  thriller) genre that I am currently reading and my thoughts on them. Feel free to comment and leave suggestions as to what I should read and review next.

Who is it by? Hilary Davidson is a former journalist, now crime novelist. She currently resides in NYC. Don’t Look Down is the second book in her Shadows of New York series, and her sixth crime novel.

What is it about? A man is found dead in what appears to be his apartment. A young woman, Jo Greaver was seen running away. But are things really as they appear? Or is this case more complicated than just a woman killing her blackmailer? As NYPD detective Sheryn Sterling and her partner, Rafael Mendoza continue to investigate they find that things aren’t adding up and that those who appeared guilty may be in fact innocent and those that survived are still in grave danger…

Where does it take place? New York City!

Why did I pick this book? Don’t Look Down is my second Hilary Davidson novel, the first one was Blood Always Tells. It’s been a while, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. However, almost immediately I was hooked. We are first introduced to a young woman named Jo and everything is set up to make it seem as if she’s the “killer” who is on the run. However, first impressions can be deceiving and what follows is a cat and mouse chase with various red herrings and potential suspects thrown in as Detective Sheryn Sterling and her partner, Rafael Mendoza try to figure out what actually happened and who is the one responsible for everything. I enjoyed the multiple POVs that were used to tell the story, although I found Cal’s chapters to be less compelling than Jo, Sterling, and Rafael’s chapters. And I also love how Jo’s character developed over the course of the novel. Overall, Don’t Look Down is a brilliantly executed police procedural with enough twists and turns to keep you on your toes. It can definitely be enjoyed as a standalone despite the fact that it is the second book in Davidson’s Shadows of New York series, that being said I’m tempted to pick up the next book if there were to be one as I’d love to see more of Detective Sterling.

When did it come out? February 11, 2020

 

 

 

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

Mystery Monday | The Mitford Scandal (Mitford Murders #3) by Jessica Fellowes

Mystery Mondays is an occasional review feature here on Words of Mystery that showcases books in the mystery (occasionally  thriller) genre that I am currently reading and my thoughts on them. Feel free to comment and leave suggestions as to what I should read and review next.

Who is it by? Jessica Fellowes is an English author and freelance journalist. Before The Mitford Murders series, she wrote several official companion books to the television series, Downton Abbey. The Mitford Scandal is the third book in The Mitford Murders series. Interestingly enough, her uncle Julian Fellowes is the creator of Downton Abbey and a well-known English novelist, film director and screenwriter, and actor. She currently resides in Oxfordshire with her family.

What is it about? Louisa Cannon is a woman who longs for more than her impoverished life thus far. While working at a glitzy society party, another maid is found murdered and amidst all the chaos fortune heir Bryan Guinness decides to propose to prettiest of the Mitford sisters, Diana who is only 18 years old. Despite being free from the Mitford family, Louisa ends up leaving her shop job to become Diana’s lady maid joining Dian in her newly wedded life. A couple years later a similar murder has Louisa thinking the two could perhaps be connected…

Where does it take place? Partly in Paris, France and partly in London, England during the late 1920s and early 1930s.

Why did I pick this book? I love a good historical mystery and the plot of The Mitford Scandal had me intrigued. What I didn’t realize was that the Mitford sisters were real historical figures who were all truly fascinating people in their own right. In The Mitford Scandal, Fellowes does two things quite well. The first is she is great at setting the scene and capturing the emotional states of all her characters. The other thing I enjoyed was the writing which was both sharp and witty. I also loved how detailed the descriptions were. That being said, I found that I wasn’t all that invested in the story. I only found Guy’s chapters to be interesting and he wasn’t even the protagonist! For a book that was supposed to be a murder mystery, I was disappointed with the lack of focus on any of the investigations. The majority of the book instead revolved around Diana Mitford, who was the employer of Louisa, the protagonist. We get to see Diana’s life, both before and after her marriage while all the disappearances, deaths and murders were relegated to being side plots. The pacing of the book was also a bit weird with all the time jumps and it was difficult to remain invested in a mystery that was stretched over such a long time frame. Recommended for those who want more of a historical and less of mystery read as well as those who are curious about Diana Mitford and her sisters.

When did it come out? January 21st 2020

 

 

 

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

Mystery Monday | Foresight (Uncle Chow Tung #2) by Ian Hamilton

Mystery Mondays is an occasional review feature here on Words of Mystery that showcases books in the mystery (occasionally  thriller) genre that I am currently reading and my thoughts on them. Feel free to comment and leave suggestions as to what I should read and review next.

Who is it by? Ian Hamilton, a Canadian authour of the now 11 novels in the Ava Lee series. His Ava Lee series has recently been green lit to be adapted into a TV series by the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation). Foresight is the second book in his newest Uncle Chow Tung series which stars a younger version of Ava Lee’s mentor and former business partner.

What is it about? The betting shops run by Fanling Triad gang are losing money because of the competition from the Hong Kong Jockey Club, Chow Tung’s men are starting to lose trust in him and are turning towards other means to make their money. In an effort to increase their profits, Chow Tung aka “Uncle” decides to take a risk by quickly investing in the textile industry in Shenzhen. By doing so he will not only create new partnerships but also encounter enemies both new and old along the way.

Where does it take place? 1980s Hong Kong and China in particular Shenzhen which is directly across the border from Hong Kong.

Why did I like it? Following the events of Fate, Chow Tung aka “Uncle” is now head of the Fanling triads. I was looking forward to see more of his adventures since Ian Hamilton has two more books lined up in his Uncle Chow Tung series, Foresight and Fortune which is due out in 2021. Unfortunately, it took some time for me to get invested in Foresight’s plot compared to Fate and this may be because of all the financial and business “talks” that occur in the book. The book does eventually pick up and there are a few interesting twists and reveals especially with regards to the political loyalty and government in China. Hamilton’s writing is of course also as sharp as always, and he does an excellent job at capturing the small details and showing the emotional turmoil of his characters. I’m not sure if I will pick up Fortune as its clear, especially after this book that I’m much more interested in Ava Lee’s journey compared with Uncle’s past.

When did it come out? January 21st 2020

 

 

 

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

Mystery Monday | The Night Fire by Michael Connelly

Mystery Mondays is an occasional review feature here on Words of Mystery that showcases books in the mystery (occasionally  thriller) genre that I am currently reading and my thoughts on them. Feel free to comment and leave suggestions as to what I should read and review next.

Who is it by? Michael Connelly has written around 30 books, and he is best known for his known for Bosch and Mickey Haller series. Before becoming a best-selling crime writer, he was formerly a newspaper reporter. Dark Sacred Night  is the third book in his Renée Ballard series, which features a fierce female detective.

What is it about? After the funeral of one of his former mentors, Harry Bosch is given a murder book by his friend’s widow. Sharing it with Detective Rene Ballard, the two decide to once again team up and try to solve this cold case. Will their investigation lead to some unpleasant discoveries for Bosch?

Where does it take place? Bosch and Ballard’s investigations in this book takes them and the readers from LA to West Hollywood and parts of some cases even stretches into Las Vegas.

Why did I like it? It feels like forever since I’ve picked up a book by Michael Connelly. Unlike his other books, The Night Fire was definitely a slow burn despite the always sharp writing from Connelly and the fact that both Bosch and Ballard are juggling multiple investigations in addition to the case that is the main plot of the book. However, I did appreciate that things eventually did pick up towards the end of the book and all their cases ended up being connected in some way. I also liked how Connelly wraps up the cases in this book, but leaves the ending open for another Ballard and Bosch team up. Long-time fans of Connelly’s books will be happy with cameos from Maddie, Bosch’s daughter and his half-brother, Mickey Haller, who Bosch enlists to help him with a personal issue that has the potential to lead to more serious consequences down the road. I hope we get to see more of Maddie as her choice of future career seems like it can have some interesting developments for both Bosch and the Connelly universe. So, even though this book was a bit on the slow side for the majority of the novel, I’m actually looking forward to the next Bosch and Ballard book and to them coming together again as partners.

When did it come out? October 22, 2019

 

 

 

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

Recently in Romance #4

 Recently in Romance is a new to this blog review feature where I’ll be sharing my thoughts on some romance novels I’ve read. This review feature was originally created by Mostly Ya Lit.

this Is Love by Melissa Foster

 Having gotten to Remi more in Call Her Mine, I was excited that she was getting her own book before the end of 2019. With This is Love, I liked that we got to know more about Remi’s past and why her brother is so over protective. I also loved how Remi and mason bonded over their past trauma and loss and how it brought them closer. That being said, Mason and Remi were probably my least favourite Melissa Foster couple because even though the attraction and sexual tension was there I couldn’t completely buy into their relationship once they got together. There were a few moments where they appeared to be a genuine couple, however there were more times where they were too saccharine. Like the other books in Melissa Foster’s series, This is Love hints at a few couples that will be the focus of future books. I’m not sure if I will pick up the others because on one hand, I’ve found Harley’s doggedness with it comes to Piper to be frankly irritating, however, on the other hand best friends to lovers is my favourite romance trope. Nevertheless, for the most part I’ve enjoyed my time in the communities of Sugar Lake and Harmony Pointe and am glad to have gotten to know these all these characters especially the Daltons.

Girl Gone Viral by Alisha Rai
Publisher Social Media:  Twitter/Facebook/SavvyReader/

The Right Swipe was one of my favourite reads of 2019 however, its follow-up, Girl Gone Viral was a bit of a disappointment for me. Not only was it much more tamed and way less steamy than any of Rai’s other books in the past but the romance felt underdeveloped. The build up to Jas and Katrina’s romance was underwhelming even if the readers knew that the two had secret feelings for each other for some time. They also barely interacted with each other romantically instead there were more scenes of Katrina interacting with her staff and with Rhiannon and Jia and of Jas with his family. That being said, I loved the cast of side characters in this book, including the girls and their awesome friendship as well as Jas’ family who show that even happy families have their baggage. I also loved how far Katrina had come from her first appearance in the series and even since the start of her book. Girl Gone Viral looks at the downsides of social media and shows how something that may seem like fun to, everyone can have negative consequences for those actually involved. After all, real people are not fictional characters and even in today’s era of social media everyone deserves to have their privacy respected and to feel safe in public. In the end, I’ll probably pick up the next book for Jia’s story, though it will be with lower expectations.

 

 

 

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

Midweek Mini Reviews #28

This Midweek Mini Reviews post features two non-fiction, travel inspired books.

The Romance of Elsewhere: Essays by Lynn Freed
To be honest, The Romance of Elsewhere was a bit of a disappointment for me as I thought the essays would be more about travel. Instead, only the title essay and the one tittle “Letter from London” were truly about travel while the other essays looked at a more general restlessness and not any sense of wanderlust. Featuring all previously published essays, the writings seem to be comes someone of rather a privileged background as shown by the mention of servants and an estate and a few of them had a bit of a condescending tone. That being said, it was fascinating to read Freed’s essay about choice and about her life growing up in South Africa during the apartheid-era and of course I appreciated the first essay which talks about travel and wandering the world in a raw and un-romanticized way. All in all, for the most part, I couldn’t really get into most of the essays. Despite that, however, I found that they were for the most part, well written and more often than not provided some thought-provoking and revealing insights about home and wandering.

Around the World in 80 Novels: A global journey inspired by writers from every continent by Henry Russell

I picked up this book when my travel plans changed and it seemed like I wouldn’t be able to go anywhere this year. If you’ve ever been curious about the real life settings and inspiration for some of the most famous books, Henry Russell’s Around the World in 80 Novels is for you. I liked how there was a good mix of classics and modern literature across various genres. On top of that, there are like tips and suggestions for those who are able to travel to these places. However, even if you aren’t able to physically travel to these countries, I like how this book expands on the idea that you can travel anywhere in the world and through time without leaving the comfort of your usual reading spot. Be ready with a notebook and pen while reading this book as I ended up discovering many titles to add to my TBR including Jean Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea (Jamaica and Dominica), Rose Macaulay”s The Towers of Trebizond (Turkey) and Death in Oslo by Anne Holt set in Norway.

 

 

 

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

Book Review | Butterfly Yellow by Thanhha Lai

Authour:
Thanhhà Lại
Format:
ARC
Publication date:
September 3rd 2019
Publisher:
HarperCollins
Publisher Social Media: 
Twitter/Facebook/SavvyReader/

Source:
Received from publisher

Review:
My parents grew up during the Việt Nam War, and one of the stories I’ll always remember is how my mother and sister reunited with their half-brother after the war was over. Despite haven’t never met in person, they knew he was their brother because he looked just like their father. My mother and aunt’s story is just one of countless stories to come from those who were impacted by the Vietnam War. In Thanhhà Lại’s Butterfly Yellow, we have the story of Hằng who finally has made her way to America and is desperate to reunite with her younger brother, Linh.

Known for her award-winning middle grade novels, Butterfly Yellow is Thanhhà Lại’s foray into YA fiction. As it was my first book by this authour I was unsure what to expect, however I was eager to get my hands on it as I love supporting Vietnamese voices. Unfortunately, I found that Butterfly Yellow was not for me. Most of the novel felt more middle grade than young adult to me with the exception of the main subject of the book and LeeRoy’s little “problem”. I also found it difficult to connect with several parts of the book as Hằng’s broken English was confusing and it distracted me from whatever was happening when she spoke as I was too busy trying to decipher what she was saying. I can, however appreciate how realistic it was to have Hằng’s dialogue written this way as it does an excellent job at showing her limited English abilities and the struggles that come from it.

I also appreciated the detail that went into describing the events leading to Hằng’s “Extreme Trauma” status. My favourite sections of the book were the chapters that showed us what life was for Hằng during and post the Việt Nam War, in addition to the backstories of characters such as the old man who lets Hằng and LeeRoy work on his farm for money as well as the woman whom Linh/David calls his “mama”. Although those sections weren’t labelled so it took a minute or so before I was able to recognize whose chapter it was.

At its heart and underneath all of Butterfly Yellow’s awkwardness is an important story that hasn’t been told in fiction compared to other major historical events. Yet in the end, Butterfly Yellow fell flat for me because in spite of its heartfelt and engrossing moments I wanted more. I would’ve liked to see Hằng and Linh/David more developed as characters and if I were being honest less of LeeRoy wouldn’t be awful. Nevertheless, this book about healing, resilience and family may speak to anyone looking for a young adult novel about war and trauma.

 

 

 

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 | Almost American Girl by Robin Ha

Authour:
Robin Ha
Format:
ARC
Publication date:
January 28th 2020 by
Publisher:
Balzer + Bray
Publisher Social Media: 
Twitter/Facebook/SavvyReader/
Source:
Received from publisher

Review:
 Almost American Girl is a graphic novel memoir written and illustrated by Robin Ha. Though it resembles a YA novel, it is also based on the creator’s life experience. The book starts with Ha Chuna aka Robin being told by her mother that they are going to the US to visit a friend. However, shortly after they arrive, she learns that she and her mother will not be returning to South Korea as her mother will be marrying her “friend”. The rest of the book follows Robin’s journey as she struggles to adjust to her new life while dealing with the challenges you would expect she’d face including difficult step-siblings, unpleasant food, bullying, and trying to adapt to a new culture and language.

While Almost American Girl is Robin’s story, it also reads as a “love letter” to her mother who over the course of the novel faces several setbacks but shows enormous strength and resilience. Furthermore, while Robin’s passion for art is central to this book, her love and admiration for her mother is just as obvious. I do however wish we had more time with “adult” Robin as the jump from her high school years to her adult years felt a bit rushed near the end. It would have been interesting to get more of a glimpse of her time in Korea as an adult as well as her life in the “present”. Though I understand why this was not the case since the book is meant to be more for a YA audience and of course there is not enough room to fit everything in.

This being a graphic novel, I can’t forget to talk about the illustrations. As a result of reading and reviewing the ARC, my copy of the book was mostly in black and white with only the first few pages in full colour. Personally I did not mind this as it felt as if I was reading manga plus it also helps keep the focus on Robin’s story. Other than that, I found the artwork to be simple and clean throughout. However, the art is also incredibly detailed when it came to the backgrounds and in highly emotional moments as both the detailed facial expressions of the characters and the backgrounds helped to set the mood for these scenes. Another interesting visual element in this book, which was also an example of visual elements replacing words was how scribbles and symbols were used to show the words and the occasional conversations that Robin couldn’t fully understand.

A worthwhile read, Robin Ha’s Almost American Girl is for the kid (or adult) who feels or has ever felt like an “outsider” and can relate to the awkward and painful moments of growing up in America.

 

 

 

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, Taipei by Abigail Hing Wen

Authour:
Abigail Hing Wen
Format:
ARC
Publication date:
January 7th 2020
Publisher:
HarperTeen
Publisher Social Media: 
Twitter/Facebook/SavvyReader/
Source:
Received from publisher

Review:
I love exchanges, especially ones where my travel expenses are mostly covered, so I would have killed to have the opportunity that was forced upon Everett aka “Ever” by her parents. Fortunately with Loveboat, Taipei I felt I was right by Ever’s side experiencing her culture and “freedom” from her parents for the first time.

Those who are children of immigrant parents, myself included will find that they are able to relate to at least part of Ever’s story and the pressure and guilt trips she faces from her parents, especially her mother. While my brother and I were never pressured by my parents to become doctors, we both were “encouraged” to pick “safe” majors and careers. This may be why I couldn’t help be root for Ever, as it was clear that she was incredibly passionate about dance and that it was obvious that this was what she was meant to do.

In addition to Ever, we are also introduced to Rick and Sophie who are cousins as well as Xavier, who at first glance appears to be your typical wealthy, playboy. In Abigail Hing Wen’s hands these teens become more than your ordinary character archetypes. For instance Xavier’s life isn’t perfect and he actually hides a sensitive and caring side while Sophie, who befriends Ever has her own issues and isn’t just a fun, ditzy, cheerleader who only exists to support Ever. Both Xavier and Sophie have their own problems and agendas and they’re not immune to reacting and taking action in the heat of the moment. The same can be said for Rick who is seen as the “golden boy”, while it’s true that compared to the others, he has a charmed life it’s not without its own stresses that mostly come from his family’s disapproval of his girlfriend as well as her dependence on him.

As with any excellent contemporary YA novel, there is both drama and romance in Loveboat, Taipei. I knew from the start who I wanted to end up together and since I was satisfied with the romance so I did not mind the love triangle. That being said, I do believe that since Loveboat, Taipei tried to tackle countless serious topics at once including parental pressure and guilt, mental illness, harassment, leaking of nude images, parental abuse and abandonment they often weren’t addressed properly due to lack of space and time in the book. Furthermore, with the drama I felt like some characters got off too easily for example, Sophie who I felt was quickly forgiven for her actions. While I was sympathetic to her character I did not fully buy into her “redemption” and wished she faced more consequences.

Loveboat, Taipei actually lived up to my expectations. The story was perfectly paced and the writing flow well. It also made me tear up a few times while warming my heart at other times. Sure there was plenty of drama, as expected when you have a large group of young people who are free from their usual family obligation and responsibilities, I personally found that the amount of drama was just enough to keep readers invested in the characters and the story.

Taiwan was never high on my travel bucket list, however having lived vicariously through Ever’s adventures I may be reconsidering it as a travel destination. I can’t wait for the next book and I am crossing my fingers that it will focus more on Sophie or Xavier or even both of them!!

 

 

 

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 | Scavenge the Stars by Tara Sim

Authour:
Tara Sim
Format:
ARC
Publication date:
January 7th 2020
Publisher:
Disney Hyperion
Source:
Received from publisher

Review:
In this gender bent retelling of the classic novel, The Count of Monte Cristo the “Count” is now a fierce and cunning young girl named Amaya Chandra who goes infiltrates the wealthy circles of Moray as the Countess Yamaa to get revenge

Scavenge the Stars was a compelling take on both the “girl gets revenge” trope and The Count of Monte Cristo. However, while I can appreciate the fact that Amaya was unskilled as she was still just a teen, I wish her motivation for revenge was more personal as it would have made for a more compelling story. Still, I did love her character’s journey. The same can’t be said about Cayo, I’m not sure what other characters saw in him, other than his family name and him supposedly being attractive but I was not a fan. Although, I did find his devotion to his sister admirable. As for the rest of the cast of characters, I liked the children who helped Amaya on her revenge request, though I felt like they weren’t truly fleshed out. Same with the villains in the book, they seemed like straight forward “scoundrels” which is unfortunate as I wish the conflict was more “grey” and Boon and Kamon Mercado had more redeeming qualities since the “heroes” in Scavenge the Stars definitely had their flaws.

While the plot, pacing and writing were solid for the majority of the novel, I felt that towards the end the story began to lose momentum and it did not pick up again until the last pages of the book. That being said, the ending did slightly redeem the story as the new twists introduced that are connected to the larger geography and politics in book’s world has me looking forward to the next book in this duology. So, if you’re looking for a well written, more diverse revenge story and do not mind the lack of romance or somewhat messy world building then consider picking up Scavenge the Stars.

 

 

 

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 Art of Making Memories by Meik Wiking

Authour:
Meik Wiking
Format:
Hardcover
Publication date:
October 1, 2019
Publisher:
Penguin Canada
Source:
Received from publisher

Review:
I discovered there was a new Meik Wiking book when I came across his article on the creating happier travel memories for Afar Magazine’s website. Before The Art of Making Memories, I’ve read every one of Meik Wiking’s books. The Little Book of Hygge has a special place in my heart however, I also enjoyed The Little Book of Lykke.

I loves finding new ways to capture my travel memories I was excited to pick up The Art of Making Memories in hopes of picking up more tips. Unfortunately, I found The Art of Making Memories not as entertaining or useful as Wiking’s other books. There is a ton of research mostly from psychological studies that he used to back up his observations. Unfortunately, the majority of the book felt overshadowed by all the research Wiking cites. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy reading about the psychology behind various subjects, however as a former psychology major the bulk of what he has to say in this book felt redundant to what I learned in my courses.

Thus, in spite of this book containing Wiking’s signature dry wit and humour along with numerous gorgeous photographs all in colour, The Art of Making Memories did not capture my attention or interest compared with his last two books. Nevertheless there were a few excellent takeaways from the book which were:

  • Treat happy moments like a first date and actually pay attention to them, thus making them more memorable to you.
  • Visit a new place at least once a year, it doesn’t have to be far and can just be somewhere simple and local.
  • Rename places that are special to you by referring them to a happy memory.

The Art of Making Memories is perfect for the person who is interested in learning how to improve their memory in general or if they are just truly interested in connecting happiness research with psychology this one may appeal to them. However, you may also enjoy it if you are a diehard fan Meik Wiking’s work and want his latest to add to your collection.

 

 

 

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 Map from Here to There by Emery Lord

Authour:
Emery Lord
Format:
eGalley
Publication date:
January 7th 2020
Publisher:
Bloomsbury YA
Source:
Received from publisher

Review:
The Start of Me and You was probably my least favourite of Emery Lord’s books nevertheless I still loved the book and Paige and her friends so I was beyond excited when a sequel was announced!

The Map from Here to There picks up a few months after the events of The Start of Me and You, Paige is working at her local movie theater for the summer and excited for her boyfriend, Max’s return. Readers may want to re-read The Start of Me and You again along with the bonus chapter as a refresher is definitely recommended before diving into this book. One of the reasons I found it difficult to dive into this book initially was as I couldn’t remember everything that happened in the first book. However, once I remembered I did enjoy being back in the world of Paige and her group of friends.

The romance in this book was another matter. Paige and Max are no longer in the honeymoon phase of their relationship. The cracks are starting to form and while I appreciated how their relationship goes through the challenges that I’m sure countless couples in their last year of high school faced, I can’t help but feel that the majority of their conflict was just created to add drama and excitement to the story. Furthermore, I was a bit disappointed that they barely interacted with each other once Max came back, although this probably was why they encountered the problems that they did. Nonetheless, I did like where we leave them in the end.

What I liked about The Map from Here to There was its accurate portrayal of the struggle teens face when it comes to anxiety and senior year of high school in addition to thinking about what comes next. I also loved the correspondences between Max and Paige as those sections were probably the best part of the book.

If I’m being honest, my main complaint would be that not much happens in this book. Compared to Emery Lord’s other books, the pacing for The Map from Here to There was a great deal slower, and other than the relationship drama not much else happens in this book. The book also ends on a rather abrupt albeit hopeful note, and while it would have been nice to see what school, Paige ended up picking it was realistic for her not to have yet decided by the end of the book. So perhaps my expectations for this book were over the top, but The Map from Here to There was a bit of a letdown. And while I am curious to see where the gang ends up, I’m not sure I need read another book about Paige.

 

 

 

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