Mystery Monday | Fate 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). Fate is the first book in his new Uncle Chow Tung series which will star a younger version of Ava Lee’s mentor and former business partner.

What is it about? When the The Dragon Head (also known as the Mountain Master) of the Fanling Triad dies under suspicious circumstances, his seat of power is left open. Many assume that his deputy, Ma would be appointed but the triad’s White Paper Fan, Chow Tung aka “Uncle” doesn’t believe Ma is up for the job and seeks to have an election putting Ren Tengfei, the Vanguard/operations officer forward as an alternative to Ma. However, when Ma is found shot to death along with a Blue Lantern named Peng things start looking even more suspect. Could the Fanling Triad have an enemy from within?

Where does it take place? Fate starts with Chow Tung aka “Uncle” escaping from Mainland China and follows him ten years later as the “White Paper Fan” in 1970s Hong Kong.

Why did I like it? Fate is the first book in the Ava Lee spinoff series that I never knew I needed until I got it. I’m a fan of Ian Hamilton’s Ava Lee series and I’ve always liked the character of “Uncle” so it was only natural that I’d want to know more about him and his past. Although, Fate took a bit of time for me to get hooked, it did succeed in hooking me in the end. Once the action and pacing picked up, I became invested in the story and the characters. In particular, I liked the complicated “partnership” Chow had with Zhang, a superintendent with the Hong Kong Police Force. This was a compelling relationship as both knew each other when they were first starting out, and even though both men were mentored by Tian, who was a part of the Triad they ended up taking different paths in life. I’m curious to see how their relationship evolves as things get more complicated with each book in this series. I also enjoyed meeting “Uncle” again and seeing how he rose in the ranks. Of course, I still prefer the Ava Lee series over this one. And yet I’m looking forward to continuing the Uncle Chow Tung series in hopes that I’ll get to see more family faces from the Ava Lee series including a younger, Sonny.

When did it come out? January 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.

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Mystery Monday | The Awkward Squad by Sophie Hénaff

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? Sophie Hénaff is a French author and  journalist, known for humorous column, “La Cosmopolite” in the Cosmopolitan. The Awkward Squad is her first novel to be translated into English and it is the first book in her Awkward Squad / Anne Capstan series.

What is it about? Anne Capstan, a police officer with a promising future finds herself suddenly in charge of a new squad of misfits after recent events had her coming off as a bit too “trigger happy”. Whole officially the new team was created to work on cold cases, in reality her new squad consists of various misfits whom H.Q. is unable to fire but doesn’t want to deal with. But as this mismatched crew starts woking on random cold cases they come to a discovery that the cases they’re individually investigating may be in fact related and connected to something even bigger than they could have ever anticipated,


Where does it take place? Set in Paris, France this isn’t your romantic “City of Lights”. Instead Sophie Hénaff’s book allows readers to see the more realistic side of the City that just like any other major city has its own issues and problems, including corruption and crime.

Why did I like it? The Awkward Squad features a mishmash of misfit characters. I loved how they were all able to come together in the end as a team to cleverly take down the murderer who was someone with a lot of influence and power. I especially liked the dynamic between unapologetic, and crass Rosière and rule-biding Lebreton as well as the unique partnership between Anne Capestan and Torrez, who has a reputation for bringing bad luck to those working closely with him. I loved how Capestan ignored the superstition and trusted Torrez to be her partner in the investigation, as this ended up saving her. With a wacky cast of characters The Awkward Squad had a great deal of potential. However, I felt that the book had too many storylines and characters and with all the jumping around it made it difficult to keep track of who’s who and what’s really going on. So while the ending of The Awkward Squad leaves plenty of room open for future stories, I’m not sure I will continue with this series.

When did it come out? April 3, 2018

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 Goddess of Yantai (Ava Lee #11) 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).

What is it about? Pang Fai, a famous Chinese actress and Ava’s current secret lover is being blackmailed. If Fai doesn’t comply with the demands which includes sexual favours, her latest film will not be distributed or promoted thereby ruining any future she has in the film industry. Turning to Ava for help leads to an investigation which in turn runs deeper than expected and will have future ramifications for Ava in other parts of her life.

Where does it take place? Starting in Beijing, the capital city of China The Goddess of Yantai takes readers on a thrilling journey into the seedy underground world of the Chinese film industry.

Why did I like it? I always look forward to the next installment in the Ava Lee series. However, unlike the previous Ava Lee books The Goddess of Yantai took some time for me to get into. Once it did pick up near the end, it became just as action packed and thrilling as the other books. What I liked about this particular book was how it developed Ava’s new romantic relationship with Fang Pai, a Chinese actress. We learn more about Pang Fai’s past and get to see how she and Ava are with each other during their “downtime”. I also liked the introduction of the other characters who live along the same Hutong as Pang Fai, it was heartwarming seeing how the neighbours looked out for one another. I am excited for the upcoming The Mountain Master of Sha Tin as there are hints that it will focus more on the trouble that is brewing with the triads and it will be interesting to see how Pang Fai interacts with this aspect of Ava’s life now that they are a couple. I’m also looking forward to see the regular extended cast of Xu, Sonny, and maybe even Lop in action.

When did it come out? December 4, 2018

 

 

 

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

Midweek Mini Reviews #21

This Midweek Mini Reviews post features two romances just in time for Valentine’s Day.

Matchmaking for Beginners by Maddie Dawson

Having heard many good things about Matchmaking for Beginners I decided to move it up on my TBR list. Unfortunately, this one fell short for me and I felt that it did not live up to the praise it received. Maybe it’s because I hate when people are no given much choice, but I had a hard time getting through this book. The protagonist, Marnie wasn’t very likeable and she came off as extremely flaky and an incredible doormat. Her heartbreak, however was relatable, which made it tough to see her getting pushed around and manipulated by basically everyone, including little kids, her horrible ex and even complete strangers. That being said, the side characters were entertaining at times and I did appreciate Jessica’s friendship with Marnie in fact, she was probably one of the few reasonable characters in the book. As for the “magic” aspect of the book, I thought it was cool initially as Blitz grew on me as a character, however, it eventually got rather irritating as the “sparkles” was used as an excuse for everything including going behind people’s backs to “help” them. I can certainly see how Matchmaking for Beginners could be the perfect, warm and magical holiday read, however for me it was too saccharine for my liking especially the ending and instead left me feeling slightly depressed.         

Liars, Inc. series by Rachel Van Dyken

The first Rachel Van Dyken novel that I read and loved was Infraction. So when I heard she had a new series coming out, this time centering on a women run PI agency that exposes cheaters, I was intrigued. Starting with Dirty Exes, I wasn’t completely sold yet. I liked Blair alright, however I wasn’t as big on Colin or even him and Blair as a couple. That being said, the book did introduce me to Jessie and Isla and from their shared scenes and off the charts chemistry in Dirty Exes I knew I just had to read their book. Fortunately, Dangerous Exes was a definite hit with me. While Jessie and Isla start off as “enemies”, it does not last very long. Soon they’re thrust into a fake engagement and before either of them realizes it, they’re hooking up and starting to develop “feelings”. I love how sweet the two were as a couple, and how they brought out the best in each other. I also appreciated the fact that Isla was half Chinese and that we got to meet Goo-Poh (her aunt). Goo-Poh was such a wild and hilarious character that she stole every scene she appeared in. While Dirty Exes was an okay read for me, Dangerous Exes was a hot and sweet romance that I could not put down. 

 

 

 

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 #20

This Midweek Mini Reviews post features two “self-help” books, perfect for starting a new year.

Happy Go Money: Spend Smart, Save Right and Enjoy Life by Melissa Leong

One of my New Years’ resolutions for 2019 was to learn to manage my money better. This is where my copy of Melissa Leong’s Happy Go Money came in. Unlike the majority of other personal finance books that I’ve tried to pick up, but failed to get through, Leong’s book was easy to follow, light-hearted and entertaining. Part personal finance, part self-help I appreciated how Happy Go Money combines psychology and happiness research with finance tips and tricks to give the reader advice, conversation starters and tasks that the readers can start to tackle their financial goals. While a lot of the material in the book may seem like common sense, it was a good reminder for me. I love how Leong encourages people to spend money on experiences and “time-savers” and I wholeheartedly agree with her advice on opening a separate, no-fee bank account with a debit card for all your non-essential spending. I’ll definitely be doing this, as soon as I have enough money to start another account without having any of my other accounts suffering as a result. Happy Go Money is perfect for people who don’t really read “finance” books but want to learn more as it manages to mostly maintain a decent balance between being warm and friendly while still being informative.

Design Your Next Chapter: How to Realize Your Dreams and Reinvent Your Life by Debbie Travis

Debbie Travis is well-known for her home and design shows on TV. However, Design Your Next Chapter isn’t another book about decorating or painting. Instead, it is more of a self-help book that is packed with tons of tips and inspiring stories about people who’ve taken the leap and pursued their dreams. While a lot of the material in the book seems geared more towards an older demographic, there are some takeaways for younger people as well. In particular, I loved the sections that allow you to fill in the blanks with your own hopes and dreams. I also found the Ten Commandments chapter, especially the section on losing your “fear” and the section on budgeting to be incredibly useful. For anyone who may find themselves thinking “what’s next?” reading this is book is a good start and for those who are curious, Design Your Next Chapter is an easily digestible and comforting read that can be relatable to many people.

 

 

 

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 Birds, The Bees, and You and Me by Olivia Hinebaugh

Authour:
Olivia Hinebaugh
Format:
eGalley
Publication date:
January 22nd 2019
Publisher:
Swoon Reads
Source:
Received from publisher.

Review:
Olivia Hinebaugh’s The Birds, the Bees, and You and Me is an important read, especially for teenagers since even in 2018 sex ed. is under constant attack. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon to hear about schools where the curriculum is outdated or harmful to students as happens to the characters in The Birds, the Bees, and You and Me 

The protagonist of The Birds, the Bees, and You and Me is a high school senior named Lacey who is fed up with her school’s climate of shaming students who may have real questions about their sexual health. And while she has little life experience in that area, Lacey is probably more qualified when compared with the questionable guest speakers and perhaps even a couple of her teachers as she grew up with learning everything there is to know about “the birds and the bees” from a mother who is a obstetrics nurse. 

The mother-daughter relationship between Lacey and her mother was refreshingly drama free and supportive. It was entertaining to see her mother more than ready to jump behind the antics of Lacey and her friends as they try to fight the educational “system”. In addition to being a sex-positive and health-conscious book that makes the topic of consent “cool”, The Birds, the Bees, and You and Me is also an incredible “friend group” book. There is also a bit of romance in the book, but it’s truly only a minor part of the entire book. Instead the friendship between Lacey, Evita, Theo and later Alice stood at the forefront of the book. Which is why I appreciated the fact that any potential love drama between the friends was avoided by having the characters engage in honest conversations and not fight with each other and/or act all passive aggressive. I also loved the frank way in which asexuality was discussed. Evita considers herself to be asexual, but she also struggled with discovering her sexuality, which is also common among young people in life.

I liked The Birds, the Bees, and You and Me for the fact that it tackles something I haven’t seen yet in YA novels in a non-preachy way. However, other than its interesting premise, it was only an average read for me. That being said, I hope this book gets into high school libraries as it is an excellent book about an important issue and it can help start what teens may feel to be an awkward conversation by making the topic more accessible. 

 

 

 

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 | Unmarriageable by Soniah Kamal

Authour:
Soniah Kamal
Format:
ARC
Publication date:
January 15th 2019
Publisher:
Ballantine Books
Source:
Received from publisher.

Review:
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that there will always be new attempts at retelling and adapting Pride and Prejudice and that some will excel in their efforts while others will fall flat. Fortunately, Soniah Kamal’s Unmarriageable falls into the former of the two.

Unmarriageable takes the plot of Jane Austen’s classic English novel and modernizes it by setting it in Pakistan during the early 2000s. The “Bennets” are now the “Binats“, a family who went from well off to more middle class due to jealous relatives. I loved the changes to the family’s back story and Kamal does an excellent job at keeping the essence of the original characters and their relationships while adding her own modern twists. Elizabeth Bennet is now Alysba (Alys) Binat, a teacher at an all-girls school and a feminist who tries to teach her students and her younger sisters about the importance of being independent and getting an education. 

However, it’s not just the character of Alys. This entire novel has a feminist feel to it. I loved that the minor female characters like Sherry Looclus (the Charlotte Lucas character), Qitty Binat (aka Kitty Bennet) and Annie were given a voice in this adaptation. It was refreshing to read parts of the story from their perspective. And even though they weren’t meant to be likeable, I appreciated that we got to see the story from the Bingla (Bingley) sisters as well since it makes it clear as to what their true colours are. Furthermore, the characters are seen facing issues that are familiar to women today, including abortion and fighting against the traditions relating to marriage and the role of women including having children. All that being said, the men in the book are given little notice and as a result characters like Darsee (the Mr. Darcy character) and Bungles (the Mr. Bingley character) are not as well developed.

The other thing I loved about Unmarriageable was how it doesn’t shy away from its source material. Pride and Prejudice is not only name dropped, but referenced and discussed by various characters. In fact, the novel begins with Alys asking her class to rewrite the famous first line of the novel. In addition, Unmarriageable is also a love letter to Austen and literature in general. Both Alys and Darsee are bibliophiles and I loved that the two were able to eventually bond over their love of books in addition to their experiences of studying and living abroad even if the love epiphany on Alys side felt a bit rushed.

I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t getting a bit fatigued with all the Pride and Prejudice retellings. That being said, I truly enjoyed Unmarriageable especially how it veered from its inspiration. Forget what I said about the last Pride and Prejudice retelling I read as Unmarriageable now tops my list of favourite Pride and Prejudice adaptations. Read it if you are interested in a South Asian spin on an old classic or if you’re a fan of Austen and books in general.

 

 

 

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 Gown: A Novel of the Royal Wedding by Jennifer Robson

Authour:
Jennifer Robson
Format:
ARC
Publication date:
December 31st 2018
Publisher:
William Morrow Paperbacks
Publisher Social Media:  Twitter/Facebook/SavvyReader/
Source:
Received from publisher.

Review:
Jennifer Robson has come a long way since her début novel, Somewhere in France. In her latest novel, The Gown she takes her readers to two different time periods and settings. In 1946-1947 London, England we meet Ann Hughes and Miriam Dassin  who both work as embroiderers at Hartnell’s, a designer who has designed clothing worn by the royals and who will go on to work on the wedding dress of Elizabeth II. Both women have tragic pasts and end up developing a close friendship over a short period. The third and last POV is that of a young woman named Heather living in Toronto in 2016. The granddaughter of Ann Hughes, Heather is unaware of her grandmother’s life before she came to Canada. However, upon her grandmother’s death Heather find herself in possession of a box with beautifully embroidered fabric which leads her back to England to uncover her grandmother’s past life.

I was initially drawn to this book in spite of the fact that it differed from Robson’s earlier books because I was intrigued by the fact that it would be about the people who made the wedding dress of the Queen today. The writing was beautiful and I truly felt like I was right there, inside the work rooms at Hartnell’s. Robson always take great care to research the setting and characters for her books, and it absolutely shows here. I loved how the women who were front and center in this book were also independent as well. Ann and Miriam’s story had me feeling so many feelings, both had experienced tremendous loss and their strength and resilience was incredibly inspiring. Seeing both women bond over their losses and support each other was truly heartwarming and I loved how their friendship changed both of them for the better. Heather’s story was also interesting and perhaps more relatable to me given her age and the fact that her story takes place in the present day. I enjoyed the subplot with her and Daniel, Miriam’s grandson although I wish we got to see more of how their romance developed.

A heartfelt book, The Gown is a perfect book to cozy up to during the winter holiday. Whether you’re a fan of the royal family, royal weddings and/or historical fiction The Gown is an exquisite look at the often unacknowledged but integral women who work behind the scenes to create their piece of royal history. 

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 Heartbreak: YA Authors and Teens on the Dark Side of Love

Format:
ARC
Publication date:
December 18st 2018
Publisher:
Henry Holt & Company
Source:
Received from publisher.

Review:
Anthology collections that are short stories or essays can be difficult to review at times, however reviewing an anthology of letters from real teens that are answered by authors in story form with a sprinkling of advice is something I haven’t done until now. As the title suggests, Dear Heartbreak has teens write in to authours about their heartbreaks and about the not so pleasant side of love which is unfortunately something we do not often see in non-fiction that is geared towards teenagers. I love this idea as it was a unique twist on the typical advice columns.

The authours’ personal experiences and stories lead to plenty of compelling reading material. Kekla Magoon’s response to a teen who is surrounded by people but still feels lonely, tiled “If You Call, I Will Answer” resonated the most with present me as I’ve also found it to be true that occasionally you need to be the one to reach out whether it’s when you need help or whether you just want company. The other piece that stood out to me from this collection was Gayle Forman’s response to a teen who wrote in initially about heartbreak however it turned out to be about experience. In “The Teacher of All Things”, Forman is able to write back in a way that shows she understands the teen and is able to emphasize with their desires without coming off as condescending or preachy. I also love that she recommends travel as a way to gain new experiences as I could not agree more!

In spite of the fact that I’m no longer a teen, this anthology still spoke to me and helped me to come to terms with my past experiences. I still remember as a teen and kid feeling lonely, confused and heartbroken as I faced constant rejection and felt socially isolated all while trying to find friendship and acceptance. As a result, seeing the raw vulnerability from teens and a few of the authours broke my heart and made me tear up several times while reading their stories. 

Dear Heartbreak is a collection that I wish I had as a teenager in high school. In terms of advice there isn’t anything that stands out in this book, however a list of resources is provided at the back of the book for those who need more. Otherwise, for people, particularly those in high school who feel like no one sees, hears, loves and/or understands them this book is like one giant, warm hugs.

 

 

 

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

Midweek Mini Reviews #19

This month’s Midweek Mini Reviews post features some romance reads for the holiday season.

Fight or Flight by Samantha Young

I was really looking forward to Samantha Young’s Fight or Flight because of the plane travel plot. Plus based on the cover, it felt like it would be a light, and sexy vacation read. What I wasn’t expecting was for it to be more than just a fluffy romance novel. From their first meeting, you can really feel the animosity between Ava and Caleb which quickly escalates to a steamy hook up. However, this is more than an enemies to lovers romance. Both Ava and Caleb actually have some major emotional trauma from their past relationships, and this is never just glossed over. Ava and Caleb’s banter and relationships definitely has its moments, however I just could not get on board with Caleb. I felt that he was unappealing as a romantic male lead and he was too easily forgiven in the end. I would’ve liked to actually see him make more of an effort to make things up to Ava. That being said, however, Fight or Flight has one of the best female friendships, with Ava and her best friend, Harper that I couldn’t help but love the book in the end. To me Ava and Harper’s “love” story was the one that made Fight or Flight worth reading.

My Favorite Half-Night Stand by Christina Lauren

I’ve only read one Christina Lauren book before My Favorite Half-Night Stand and that was Roomies which I liked though was weirded out by parts of it. I did pick up Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating due to all the hype, but could not bring myself to finish it. Fortunately Christina Lauren won me back with My Favorite Half-Night Stand which was just perfection. I love Millie, who while has her quirks is not incredibly annoying and intolerable like Hazel was. She has her issues, of course, but she’s also just plain relatable and quite likeable. I love her and the guys as the interactions and the group chats they have are just hilarious. Also the avatars in the chat they use are super cute. Reid and Millie were also a couple I could definitely root for. Both are incredibly stubborn people who, despite being book smart are kind of clueless and a bit hopeless when it comes to matters of the heart and each other. And while I’m not a fan of any kind of cat-fishing I did like how things were realistically handled and how Millie didn’t get off easily. The perfect length for a romance novel, My Favorite Half-Night Stand warmed my heart and made me smile for most of it.

 

 

 

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 | Call Them by Their True Names: American Crises by Rebecca Solnit

Authour:
Rebecca Solnit
Format:
Trade Paperback
Publication date:
September 4th 2018
Publisher:
Haymarket Books
Source:
Received from publisher.

Review:

“To know history is to be able to see beyond the present; to remember the past gives you the capacity to look forward as well, to see that everything changes and the most dramatic changes are often the most unforeseen.” (p. 178)

With all that is happening in the US lately, Rebecca Solnit’s latest essay collection Call Them by Their True Names is an extremely timely read. Having been introduced to her writing from her last collection, The Mother of All Questions which I enjoyed immensely, I was excited to hear that she had a new collection coming out this year.

Unlike The Mother of All Questions, the eighteen essays in Call Them by Their True Names are not tied together as tightly under one theme. Rather the theme here is looser, as the essays are on various, scattered topics ranging from racial disparities to gentrification, to climate change and environmental justice. 

Solnit is a brilliant writer and while her short essay collections may not be the easiest and/or lightest read because they need a great deal of concentration to be able to focus and truly understand each essay it’s all worth it. My favorite essays in this collection were: “Preaching to the Choir” where Solnit argues that it is more worthwhile to motivate and encourage those who are already on your side as opposed to trying to change the minds of those who disagree with you; “Eight Million Ways to Belong ” which is written as a letter to the current US president and focuses on what the wonderful cultural diversity that makes up the “real” New York; and of course “Break the Story” which serves as both a call to arms and motivational speech that should be required reading for those who wish to get into the journalism field. The three stood out to me as they were the most compelling reads in this collection.

Once again, Call Them by Their True Names is another enlightening essay collection from Rebecca Solnit. While I did not enjoy this collection as much as I enjoyed The Mother of All Questions, I did appreciate how Solnit was able to offer hope and encouragement through her essays even while discussing the major problems society is facing today.  

 

 

 

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 | Girl Squads: 20 Female Friendships That Changed History by Sam Maggs

Authour:
Sam Maggs
Format:
Hardcover
Publication date:
October 2nd 2018
Publisher:
Quirk Books
Source:
Received from publisher.

Review:

“They are strong-willed and steadfast leaders whose very existence dissents from the way the world has been run for the last two thousand years–and affirms what the future should be.” (p. 105)

What I like when it comes to Sam Maggs’ books are how they remain inspiring, funny and a marvelous starting points for reading about pop culture and feminist figures. In Girl Squads: 20 Female Friendships That Changed History, Maggs takes us through history sharing the stories of women helping other women to rise. 

Before reading Girl Squads, I was already familiar with several women for instance I was aware of the Trưng sisters, the Supreme Justices Ruth Bader and Sonia Sotomayor and Dr. Kei Okami and Dr. Anandibai Joshi who were two of the first eastern doctors of western medicine. However, similar to her other books I learned a great deal more about other awesome women, including the Edinburgh Seven who were the first women medical students in Great Britain and the Red Lanterns, a Chinese girls’ fighting group, the Red Women of Finland and the Japanese volleyball team known as the “witches of the orient”. Reading all these stories of women uniting together made for an incredibly heartwarming read. This book also extremely inspired as the women in the book faced countless obstacles in their path to in order to accomplish their goals. And while they weren’t always completely successful, their perseverance definitely left me feeling empowered. 

With its light and entertaining writing style in addition to the bright, colourful packaging and illustrations, Girl Squads is a book that is unquestionably geared towards a younger, preteen audience. This is awesome as it makes feminist history and women’s stories accessible to those who are looking for positive examples of women around the world and across time. For those of us who are slightly older, Girl Squads is one of those books that can easily be read in one sitting. I’d recommend this one for those looking for an uplifting read as it provides an excellent introduction to a number of exceptionally fascinating groups of women.

 

 

 

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 | Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix by Julie C. Dao

Authour:
Julie C. Dao
Format:
ARC
Publication date:
November 6th 2018
Publisher:
Philomel Book
Source:
Received from publisher.

Review:
I’ve said it before, and I should probably say it again fantasy fiction is typically not my cup of tea. That behind said, I occasionally enjoy a magical fairy tale retelling. Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix is a Snow White retelling with an Asian cast and setting. As it is the second book and a companion novel to Forest of a Thousand Lanterns, I wasn’t sure what to expect. 

Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix takes place 15 years after the events of Forest of a Thousand Lanterns. The heroine this time is Jade, who is the true heir to the Feng Lu. As a protagonist, I found Jade to be likeable and it was not at all difficult to root for her and her comrades. I also liked that despite being the heroine of the book, the individuals that chose to accompany Jade’s on her journey were also fleshed out with their own motivations and backstories. However, as a result of this I also felt that we barely scratched the surface of who Jade truly was as there was not much time spent with her. Moreover, I also would have liked to have seen more of Jade and her comrades working together and not having them be separated. 

On the other hand, what I loved about Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix was how the story was set in the world of Chinese mythology. Dao’s prose is exquisite and her descriptions of the setting and the various magical items such as the cloak gifted to Jade were incredibly lush, that I felt like I was actually transported into the world of the book. Furthermore, I appreciated how the third person omniscient narration of the book gave the story a Chinese folklore kind of feel. What I wasn’t too fond of was how the ending felt a bit rushed, the final battle happened so quickly and in such an intense manner that it gave me whiplash reading those scenes.

If you love the diverse representation in the fantasy, YA genre, then Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix may be the book for you. I went into it without reading Forest of a Thousand Lanterns and was still able to enjoy the book. A heartwarming story about the strength and power of love particularly familial love, this one surprisingly lived up to most of the wonderful praise its 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.

Book Review | All You Can Ever Know: A Memoir by Nicole Chung

Authour:
Nicole Chung
Format:
ARC
Publication date:
October 2nd 2018
Publisher:
Catapult
Source:
Received from publisher.

Review:
Before getting my hands on a review copy of Nicole Chung’s exquisite memoir, I was already hearing praise about both her book and her writing in general. As a freelance writer, Chung has had her writing appear in Hazlitt, The Toast, Slate and The New York Times Magazine. And in her first book, she tells us the story of her own adoption.

While I am not adopted nor am I aware of anyone in my immediate social circle that was adopted, I was still able to relate to a certain aspects of Chung’s story. For instance the bullying she endured from others among the other challenges of growing up Asian in a town where there were few people who looked like you was something that I also experience. Furthermore, I too was always looking for Asian characters to relate to in the books, movies and TV shows that were around when I grew up and was disappointed when they weren’t prevalent. That’s why I truly loved how Chung’s story about her experiences growing up emphasizes the importance of non-stereotypical, diverse representation in the media. As it’s vital that all kids see and read about characters who look like them, so that they too can believe that they can be a hero/heroine. 

Additionally, I love how All You Can Ever Know is an eye-opening read on the various complicated layers of adoption, particularly interracial adoption as she a baby from a Korean family who was adopted into a family of European descent. Chung never downplays the pros of her adoption, however she also doesn’t hold back when it comes to the harsh realities of being adopted and being of a different race than your adoptive family. This is further realized when she is reunited with her birth family, the complications and difficult truths that come from it show that when it comes to family nothing is ever truly black or white. Speaking of family, my favourite part of Chung’s story was the bond that forms between her and one of her older biological sisters, Cindy. The two of become quite close and as a result Cindy’s story is briefly woven into the memoir through various short chapters told using a third person narrator as opposed to the first person voice that Chung uses to tell her own story in this book.

All You Can Ever Know was a book that genuinely touched me and moved me to tears. Chung’s writing is raw, clear and eloquent which made her memoir an incredibly poignant read. I would highly recommend this memoir for those who are looking for a gripping and emotional story with honest insights on family, race, motherhood, identity, and heritage.

 

 

 

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

Midweek Mini Reviews #18

This Midweek Mini Reviews post features some more non-fiction books.

Love and…Bad Boys, “The One,” and Other Fun Ways to Sabotage Your Relationship by Jen Kim

Lately, it seems like I’ve been reading a ton of self-help books. To be honest, this is probably due to my interest in studying relationships which came about when I was a psychology major rather than a real interest in self-improvement. My latest read on relationships is by Jen Kim, writer of the Psychology Today’s column, “Valley Girl With a Brain”. Like her column, Love And…: Bad Boys, the “One” and Other Fun Ways to Sabotage Your Relationship is written in a way that is easily accessible and appealing to Millennials. Alongside the pop culture references, I liked that she refers to real research studies and theories on top of her personal experiences to back up what she is trying to say. Witty, sarcastic and extremely straightforward, Love And… will make you feel like you’re not alone in being single or being in a relationship where things aren’t 100% perfect. An empowering and somewhat enlightening read, pick this one up if you are one of those people who is frustrated by modern dating and/or are someone hoping to gain greater insight into why we behave the way we do in love and relationships.

30 Before 30 by Marina Shifrin

In case you don’t know her, Marina Shifrin is most known for the way she publicly quit her job on YouTube. This skyrocketed her to fame and ended up leading to many opportunities for her. In her memoir, 30 Before 30 Shifrin’s writings manages to be witty and relatable for the most part. In particular, I enjoyed her essay on how life is a vessel for you to fill with good stories in addition to the one where she talks about learning to dress for your shape and splurging on investment pieces. The section on life advice she’s gotten from doing stand-up was also an excellent read. Additionally, I loved the fun corresponding illustrations included in the book as they added to the entertainment value of the book. However, in the end this was only an okay read for me as there were several times where I just wanted a bit more. Furthermore, some of the essays just didn’t sit right with me as they were centered on goals that were inaccessible to the average millennial who aren’t given the same privilege as the writer this lead to her coming off as slightly obnoxious. Still, I think 30 Before 30 may be a book that would appeal to anyone but particularly Millennials who are looking for a bit of a “push” to go for their dreams or even to start their own bucket list with little goals or experiences they want to do.

 

 

 

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