Litera-Trip | Vietnam 2018 Reading List

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. 

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Book Review | The Summer Wives by Beatriz Williams

Authour:
Beatriz Williams
Format:
eGalley
Publication date:
July 10th, 2018
Publisher:
William Morrow
Publisher Social Media: 
Twitter/Facebook/SavvyReader/
Source:
Received from publisher.

Review:
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.

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 | What We Were Promised by Lucy Tan

Authour:
Lucy Tan
Format:
ARC
Publication date:
July 10th, 2018
Publisher:
Little, Brown
Source:
Received from publisher.

Review:
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.

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 | Dear Mrs. Bird by AJ. Pearce

Authour:
AJ Pearce
Format:
eGalley
Publication date:
July 3th, 2018
Publisher:
Scribner
Source:
Received from publisher.

Review:
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.

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’s Next? #3 | Eating with Bella Meaning

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!

Book Review | Go Home! edited by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan

Edited by:
Rowan Hisayo Buchanan
Format:
Trade Paperback
Publication date:
March 13th, 2018
Publisher:
The Feminist Press at CUNY
Source:
Received from publisher.

Review:

“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.

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 | Mariam Sharma Hits the Road by Sheba Karim

Authour:
Sheba Karim
Format:
ARC
Publication date:
June 5, 2018
Publisher:
HarperTeen
Source:
Received from publisher.

Review:
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.

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 | Love and Ruin by Paula McLain

Authour:
Paula McLain
Format:
Hardcover
Publication date:
May 1st, 2018
Publisher:
Doubleday Canada
Source:
Received from publisher.

Review:

“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.

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

5 YA Books I’m Looking Forward to this Fall

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 LanternsNow 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?

Book Review | The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

Authour:
Helen Hoang
Format:
ARC
Publication date:
June 5th, 2018
Publisher:
Berkley
Source:
Received from publisher.

Review:
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.

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 | Save the Date by Morgan Matson

Authour:
Morgan Matson
Format:
ARC
Publication date:
June 5th, 2018
Publisher:
Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:
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!

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 | Ayesha At Last by Uzma Jalaluddin

Authour:
Uzma Jalauddin
Format:
eGalley
Publication date:
June 12th, 2018
Publisher:
Harpercollins
Publisher Social Media: 
Twitter/Facebook/SavvyReader/
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:

“Because while it is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single, Muslim man must be in want of a wife, there’s an even greater truth: To his Indian mother, his own inclinations were of secondary importance.”

So ends the first chapter of Uzma Jalaluddin’s début novel, Ayesha At Last. In case it wasn’t already obvious, Ayesha At Last is a modern-day retelling of Jane Austen’s beloved classic novel, Pride and Prejudice. As excellent of a retelling as it is, Ayesha’s story also stands on its own as both an own voices story and a Muslim romantic dramedy.

Despite its initial slow start, I found myself slowly drawn into Ayesha and Khalid’s world and social circle until I couldn’t put down the book. The characters feel like real people as they all struggle with relatable problems like workplace harassment, racism, finding the courage to follow your dreams and dealing with familial pressure when it comes to your career and love life.

I loved the relationships and friendships in this book. Ayesha and Claire’s friendship were truly heartwarming as was her relationship with her grandparents who more often than not stole the spotlight from the other characters in every scene they appeared in. I loved Nana and his habit of quoting relevant Shakespeare quotes and Nani with her investigatory talents and love of mysteries only surpassed by her love for her family especially her granddaughter Ayesha completely won me over. Furthermore, I appreciated that we get the story from both Ayesha’s and Khalid’s point of view as it helps us to understand who Khalid truly is and not judge him based on his appearance and his initial actions.

Notwithstanding the fact that I’m all for supporting diversity and own voices, stories in addition to local talent (Jalaluddin is from Toronto) Ayesha At Last is a well-written and well-paced novel that is one of my favourite takes on the Pride and Prejudice novel to date. It’s refreshing to read a novel that has a modern and realistic take on a romance between two individuals whose faith is important to them. Highly recommended for fans of Pride and Prejudice retellings and those who are interested in reading a romance from a unique cultural perspective.

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 Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

Authour:
Chloe Benjamin
Format:
Hardcover
Publication date:
January 9th 2018
Publisher:
G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:

“If nothing else, Judaism had taught her to keep running, no matter who tried to hold her hostage. It had taught her to create her own opportunities, to turn rock into water and water into blood. It had taught her that such things were possible.” (p. 138)

What if you were told that there was someone who could tell you when you were going to die? Would you want to seek out this person to know? What would you do with this knowledge? These are questions that haunt the Gold children in Chloe Benjamin’s The Immortalists.

Divided into four parts for each of the Gold children, Daniel, Varya, Klara, and Simon. Thus readers are given a glimpse at each of their lives from the time they first encounter the mysterious gypsy woman who tells them when they are “destined” to die to the end of their life. The majority of the book is incredibly tragic and heartbreaking as we witness the downfall of each of the siblings one by one. And while none of the siblings are truly likable, they are written as if they were real people and this made it difficult not to sympathize with and mourn each of them even if they usually were the cause of their own undoing.

Often it’s been said that knowledge is power, however, in the case of the Gold siblings, it is shown that knowing when you’re going to die may not give you the sense of freedom that you think it may bring. Each of the siblings deals with this information in their own way, and none of them execute it in a healthy way. Instead, they trap themselves in “mental traps” of their own making. All four of them focus more on survival rather than actually “living” and this brings about consequences, not just to themselves but to those close to them. And in the end, the reader is left with the same question that is posed to Varya, which is more desirable? Living a longer life or a “better” life?

A beautifully written novel, The Immortalists is infused with an element of magic realism as one has to wonder if the mystical woman was truly psychic or if she was just a scammer similar to the rest of her family. Regardless, it just shows how fragile humans are and how susceptible and vulnerable children’s minds can be despite a brave front. And while I’ll be lying if I didn’t say that I was hoping for a more uplifting read, The Immortalists was still a well-written albeit at times a difficult read that I suppose deserves all the buzz it has received.

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’s Next? #2 | Deadly Summer Golden Hairpin

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 which of the two mystery novels on my shelf I should read first.

Ten years ago, Summer Butler was television’s most popular teenage sleuth. Since then, she’s hit—what gossip sites just loveto call—the gutter. Nearly bankrupt, betrayed, estranged from her greedy mother, and just about unemployable, she’s coaxed into that desperate haven for has-beens: reality TV.

Winging it as a faux PI, she’ll solve off-the-cuff mysteries in her hometown of Sweet Briar, Alabama. For added drama, there’s police chief Luke Montgomery, inconveniently Summer’s first and only love.

It’s when Summer stumbles upon a very real corpse that Darling Investigations takes an unexpected twist. The growing list of suspects is a big draw to viewers, but the reality is that Summer doesn’t know whom she can trust. Someone has written this killer new scene especially for her, and unless Summer gives the role everything she’s got, it could be her last…

In ancient China, history, vengeance, and murder collide for a female sleuth.

At thirteen, investigative prodigy Huang Zixia had already proved herself by aiding her father in solving confounding crimes. At seventeen, she’s on the run, accused of murdering her family to escape an arranged marriage. Driven by a single-minded pursuit, she must use her skills to unmask the real killer…and clear her name.

But when Huang Zixia seeks the help of Li Shubai, the Prince of Kui, her life and freedom are bargained: agree to go undercover as his eunuch to stop a serial killer and to undo a curse that threatens to destroy the Prince’s life.

Huang Zixia’s skills are soon tested when Li Shubai’s betrothed vanishes. With a distinctively exquisite golden hairpin as her only clue, Huang Zixia investigates—and discovers that she isn’t the only one in the guarded kingdom with a dangerous secret.

So, which book do you think I should pick up next? Cast your vote in the Twitter poll below!

Book Review | Royals by Rachel Hawkins

Authour:
Rachel Hawkins
Format:
ARC
Publication date:
May 1, 2018
Publisher:
Penguin Random House
Source:
Received from publisher.

Review:
In terms of release dates, Rachel Hawkins’ Royals hit the jackpot since it comes out right around the time of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding. And I’ll admit that while I’m not a major royal fan or even a fan of the royalty trope, that there’s an actual royal wedding happening this year was one of the deciding factors for me to pick up Royals.

The premise of Royals promises tons of fun and fluff and that’s exactly what you get in this somewhat shallow read. Our heroine, Daisy Winters isn’t the one marrying into Scotland’s royal family instead it’s her seemly perfect, older sister who’s going to marry the Crown Prince of Scotland. The fact that the focus is on the sibling who isn’t directly involved with the royal family made for a refreshing read as we don’t often hear from the family members who are suddenly thrust into the spotlight when someone in their “common” family is marrying a member of a royal family.

While Daisy isn’t my favourite character, I had to admire how she deals with her situation which is relatively well considering all the unreasonable expectations others have of her. She felt like an actual, ordinary American teenager and I loved her friendship with Isabel in addition to her relationship with her father who is basically the best character in the book. Furthermore, I appreciated the fact that Royals doesn’t take the stereotypical route with Daisy’s story, she doesn’t go wild with her status of being the sister of the girl who is marrying a Crown Prince nor does she even entertains the idea of hooking up with her future brother-in-law despite every other person including the Queen herself thinking she is after him. Finally I welcomed that way that Daisy and Eleanor’s sibling relationship was depicted as it felt true to life and relatable. And while it may be a bit clichéd it would’ve been interesting to get Eleanor’s story as she started off as a character who seem terrifyingly “perfect” yet was selfish and uncaring towards her sister. She only becomes more “human” and sympathetic near the end.

While Royals is a rollicking ride of a read there were a few issues I had with the book. Firstly, while the romance between Miles and Daisy had its moments, I felt like it was introduced too late into the story despite the tension being there from the start. As a result, there wasn’t enough time for the romance to fully develop. This ties into my other issue with the book which was that there were way too many storylines happening, which meant that by the book’s conclusion almost everything was left hanging which made for a less satisfying story.

For my first Rachel Hawkins’ book, Royals wasn’t an awful read, but it wasn’t my favourite read either. It is, however, an entertaining and unique take on the usual “princess” story which means it’s a fun, fairly cheesy story with a touch of drama. So if that’s your cup of tea, then this one’s for you. Personally, I liked Royals enough that I will most likely

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