Mystery Monday | Kingdom of the Blind by Louise Penny

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

Who is it by? Louise Penny is a former journalist and radio host with the CBC. The authour of the best selling Chief Inspector Gamache series, Kingdom of the Blind is her 14th book in the Inspector Gamache series. She currently lives in a small village south of Montreal with her dog, Bishop.

What is it about? The Chief Inspector Gamache novel has Gamache, the former head of the Sûreté du Québec discovering he was named as one of the executors of an old lady’s will. However, he has no idea who she is. Furthermore, Gamache is forced to deal with the consequences of a decision he made 6 months ago. A decision which lead to him being suspended but seemed like a small price to to pay at the time to prevent a bigger epidemic. Only now is he realizing perhaps a bit too late just how blind he had been…

Where does it take place? Once again the mysteries takes readers to the village of Three Pines as well as the streets of Montréal.

Why did I like it? After I finish every Inspector Gamache book, I’m always left wanting to know what will happen next with all the characters! Glass Houses was no exception, and while I had to wait a bit longer for Kingdom of the Blind it was well worth the wait! I loved revisiting my favourite characters again, especially after the dramatic conclusion of the last book. Kingdom of the Blind in my opinion is Penny’s strongest book so far. I loved seeing Beauvoir taking a bigger role in the investigation. This makes sense since Gamache is technically suspended due to his actions in Glass Houses. It’s made clear that Beauvoir operates differently than Gamache despite being trained by him, however he is still excellent at what he does. I also loved how everything was connected in the end with the central mystery as well as how the side plot with Amelia was resolved. A great novel to cozy up to in the fall, I hope this isn’t the last we see of Gamache, Beauvoir and the rest of the Three Pines and Sûreté characters. Highly recommended if you are a fan of the series!

 When does it come out? November 27, 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.

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Mystery Monday | Dark Sacred Night by Michael Connelly

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

Who is it by? Michael Connelly has written around 27 books, and he is best known for his known for Bosch and Haller series. Before becoming a best-selling crime writer, he was formerly a newspaper reporter. Dark Sacred Night  is the second book in his Renée Ballard series, which features a fierce female detective.

What is it about? The second book featuring Connelly’s female detective, Renée Ballard sees her teaming up with veteran Bosch to try and solve the old cold case of the death of fifteen-year-old Daisy Clayton. Told from both Ballard and Bosch’s story, this is the team up that fans of these two Connelly series didn’t know they wanted but they definitely need.

Where does it take place? Like many of Connelly’s other books, this one is set in California with the case taking to them the Hills in Hollywood and San Fernando.

Why did I like it? I love a good team up, especially if they feature two of my favourite mystery novel protagonists. I’m already familiar with Bosch having read a few of the books in his series, and I loved Ballard after being introduced to her in The Late Show. The two form an unlikely but interesting duo as one is more experienced, working outside of the police force while the other is still inside, but has been ostracized by most of her peers after filing a report against one of her fellow officers for sexual harassment. I also loved the abundance of female law enforcement officers who play a central role in this book as it’s always great to see the women kick butt and be badasses. That being said, Bosch being the character that he is, ended up dominating the majority of this book despite it being a team up with him and Ballard. And while, the novel does alternate between sections from both Ballard and Bosch’s perspective, Ballard unfortunately is eclipsed by Bosch’ every time he appears or is mentioned. Nevertheless, Dark Sacred Night is another gripping novel from Michael Connelly. Ballard and Bosch work well as a team, and I wouldn’t object to seeing them team up more often in future books.

When does it come out? October 30th 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 Frangipani Tree Mystery by Ovidia Yu

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

Who is it by? Ovidia Yu is a Singaporean writer best known for her Aunty Lee books. The Frangipani Tree Mystery is the first book in her new Crown Colony series. The second book in the series, The Betel Nut Tree Mystery will be out later this month.

What is it about? Su Lin is a mission school-educated local girl who dreams of becoming a “lady reporter”. Instead she finds herself employed to look after the Acting Governor’s daughter while doing her own reconnaissance work to help Chief Inspector Thomas LeFroy solve the murder of the Irish nanny she was hired to replace.


Where does it take place? Singapore during it’s colonial period

Why did I like it? The Frangipani Tree Mystery served as a nice breather from heavier reads I brought with me for my Vietnam trip. Having a traditional whodunit set in Singapore during the early 1900s when Singapore was British colony made for a more interesting and unique story. While the mystery and reveal weren’t surprising or compelling, I did find the cast of characters to be charming as was the authour’s decision to tell the story using first and third person narrator. Su Lin was a plucky protagonist and it was refreshing to see a heroine who had a physical disability but didn’t let it get in the way of being kind and patient with others all while taking the initiative when it comes to solving mysteries. I also loved that Su Lin had dreams and ambitions of being free and was determined to take the risks that would put her on this path. The Frangipani Tree Mystery is the first book in Ovidia Yu’s Crown Colony series and while it had its charms I’m not sure I’m hooked enough to continue with this series. However, it was a solid and quick read making it perfect for those who want a historical mystery set in a foreign locale.

When did it come out? September 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.

Mystery Monday | The Golden Hairpin by Qinghan CeCe

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

Who is it by? Cece Qinghan is a Chinese writer who lives in Hangzhou, China. The Golden Hairpin is her first book to be translated into English.

What is it about? Huang Zixia is a young investigative prodigy who is forced to flee after she is framed for the murder of her family. Seeking help from Li Shubai, the Prince of Kui, she is forced into going undercover in order to stop a serial killer and to undo a curse that threatens to destroy the Prince’s life with only an unusual but exquisite golden hairpin as a clue.

Where does it take place? Ancient China

Why did I like it? Those of you who enjoy watching historical Chinese dramas will definitely appreciate the setting of The Golden Hairpin. I found it refreshing to have a Sherlock style mystery story involving the imperial courts in ancient China. In addition, I also loved the protagonist who was a young woman because not only was she incredibly clever and resourceful, but also extremely determined to get to the truth and get justice. And while I still cannot get on board with the “romance” aspect of the book, thankfully it was only hinted at and not developed. The Golden Hairpin is an interesting blend of cultural history with a traditional whodunit story, and while simple in its writing, it features a case that has countless twists and turns that made it all the more intriguing. However, if you are not a fan of cliff-hangers I wouldn’t recommend this one as there are definitely a lot of loose threads and unanswered questions after the story’s conclusion.

When did it come out? February 20th, 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.

Book Review | Toil & Trouble: 15 Tales of Women & Witchcraft

Format:
ARC
Publication date:
August 28th 2018
Publisher:
Harlequin Teen
Source:
Received from publisher.

Review:
Short story anthologies are always a mixed bag. However, Toil & Trouble: 15 Tales of Women & Witchcraft piqued my interest as it features stories about witches by several of my favourite YA authours. And while I’m not much of a fantasy, supernatural reader I thought this anthology would be a marvelous way to ease myself back into the genre. 

Altogether, Toil & Trouble features various diverse and intriguing takes on what a “witch” truly is. The stories all feature strong heroines and I loved the positive representation of sisterhood and female relationships, both friendships and romantic ones. That being said, there were a few stories that truly stood out for me. The first one being, Beware of Girls with Crooked Mouths by Jessica Spotswood. I knew her from her Cahill Witch Chronicles series, and she brings it once again with this heartbreaking and emotionally powerful story, proving that stories about witches and sisters are truly her forte. Other favourites include Emery Lord’s The Gherin Girls which looks at one sister’s toxic romantic relationship and how it affects her family. I adored this one as it made me cry while also warming my heart plus it was just a wonderful story about sisters and sisterhood. And finally The Heart in Her Hands by Tess Sharpe was an incredible story as I appreciated the message of standing up for yourself and not giving up your love as a result of another person being “chosen” as your “soulmate”.

Readers coming into Toil & Trouble will appreciate the fact that the stories in this collection feature not only the stories and voices from various cultures but also includes a decent amount of positive LBTGQ+ representation. While not my favourite anthology, I would recommend Toil & Trouble as a perfect fall read to those looking for a collection of feminist, empowering and witchy stories.

 

 

 

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 #17


This Midweek Mini Reviews post features two of the books I brought with me on my trip to Vietnam this summer.

Vi by Kim Thúy

What I loved most about Vi was how family was truly the focus of the story this time around. Readers learn about the title character’s family history (starting with her grandparents) well before we get to Vi’s story and even after she goes out on her own, her family continues to have an impact on her life. I also appreciated the fact that another one of the central aspects of this novel was the Vietnamese Canadian immigrant experience which does differ from the experiences of Vietnamese Americans. I also fell in love with Vi’s family, including her brothers who all looked out for her in their own way as well as her mother who “gave” Vi to her friend, Hà to raise so that she can have a better education and future. As a result of this upbringing, Vi is able to have many adventures across the globe which I loved reading about. All that being said, however, I felt that Vi was not as well written compared with Thúy’s earlier novels, Ru and Mãn and the ending left much to be desired. Furthermore, despite being the titular character readers barely get to know Vi before the book ends. In the end, Vi was a decent read as it has Thúy’s trademark stripped-down, exquisite prose, however the lack of lightness in Vi’s story a

Lands of Lost Borders: Out of Bounds on the Silk Road by Kate Harris

Lands of Lost Borders is a memoir that details the journey and life of the author Kate Harris. Harris has always dreamt of being an explorer and it was interesting to read about how she discovered and harnessed her writing talents to get funding for her adventures as a student. That being said, this was a slow and tough read for me because felt long-winded at times with all the history lessons and technical details of biking embedded in the book. I would’ve liked there to have been more on her adventure in present day, including greater details on the characters she came across and the cities and towns she and her friend travelled through. I did, however, appreciated the fact that Harris doesn’t gloss over the difficulties of her journey as they do face many challenges along the way. So as far as travel literature goes, Lands of Lost Borders isn’t high on my favourites or recommend reading list, however I did learn about Central and Western Asia from it. In the end, I think I probably would have been better off with an audiobook for this one given the type of story it was. 

 

 

 

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 Dinner List by Rebecca Serle

Authour:
Rebecca Serle
Format:
eGalley
Publication date:
September 11, 2018
Publisher:
Flatiron Books
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:
If you could have dinner with anyone dead or alive who would you choose? Until fairly recently I had no idea, but now I can say for certain I’d want to have dinner with Anthony Bourdain, who seems incredibly worldly and down to earth, and perhaps my maternal grandfather as he seemed to have lived a remarkable life.

This question is also answered by the protagonist of Rebecca Serle’s first adult novel. In The Dinner List, Sabrina suddenly finds herself at a dinner table on her 30th birthday with a rather unusual mix of guests. There’s her best friend, her estranged father, an older professor, her ex and of course Audrey Hepburn! Interestingly enough, only two of the guests with the exception of Sabrina are alive in the present day, as the others have all passed away. This contributes to an entertaining dynamic especially as the reasons behind why each of the guests were chosen are revealed.

Almost immediately, the premise of this book had me intrigued even though I have never picked up a Rebecca Serle book before. Having the story of Sabrina’s life and relationship told through flashbacks as part of a dinner conversation was a refreshingly imaginative take on your typical “love story”. And while The Dinner List definitely has its moments, it’s honestly so much more than another relationship story. In fact, The Dinner List is not your light-hearted romantic comedy instead it’s a fairly realistic portrayal of how all relationships, not just romantic ones change and it’s when you become too comfortable that the relationship begins to break down. This is particularly glaring as we watch how Sabrina and Jessica’s friendship has changed over time as both have grown into two undeniably different people.

I’d admit that I confused the premise of The Dinner List for just another fluffy women’s fiction book and this made it initially difficult for me to become invested in Sabrina’s story. However, in the end The Dinner List turned out to be a well written novel that while bittersweet does give us some hope for our protagonist, Sabrina and her ability to finally let go and move on with her life.

 

 

 

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 #16


This Midweek Mini Reviews post features some  non-fiction books for those who are feeling a bit lost in life.

Can’t Help Myself: Lessons & Confessions from a Modern Advice Columnist by Meredith Goldstein

I’ve always liked reading advice columns in magazines and newspapers so I was keen to pick up Meredith Goldstein’s Can’t Help Myself: Lessons & Confessions from a Modern Advice Columnist as it promised a “behind the scenes” look at one of today’s most popular columns. Unlike your typical advice column, Love Letters is unique in that it allows responses from its readers in the comments section which gives it a more modern, “group therapy” vibe. The book is divided into different sections, each starting with an introduction from Goldstein talking about her personal life and experience. This “memoir” aspect of the book is then followed by one or two questions from her column that fall under the section’s topic along with Goldstein’s response and some of the responses from the comments. I loved seeing the comments from the readers as their responses and suggestions were always entertaining and occasionally extremely hilarious. I enjoyed this refreshingly, honest look at an advice column and am looking forward to checking out the actual Love Letters column online.

Nobody Cares: Essays by Anne T. Donahue

While the first few essays in Anne T. Donahue’s Nobody Cares truly resonated with me, the majority of the essays in this collection did not. However, there were a few that stood out to me. The chief among them is the essay on not being “fun” as I hate or at the very least don’t see the appeal of the popular things she also hates although I do love brunch. Still, I loved that the takeaway was about not doing things you don’t want to anymore, thus giving you permission to not force yourself to do the things you hate, this is something I’m definitely a fan of it. The other essay that stood out to me was her essay on death titled, “It Will Never Feel This bad Again” as not only was it extremely poignant but it was probably the most honest and relatable essay about death I’ve read so far. In the end, if you’re in your 20s or 30s and feeling lost or not liking where you are in life this book will definitely speak to you. Whether it’s by providing advice that needs to be repeated for you to follow like she does in her essay “Get to Work” or being straightforward and blunt with you while oddly also being comforting as seen in her essay titled, “In Case of Emergency”, Donahue truly cements her status of the best friend you would want to have in your corner.

 

 

 

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 | I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You: A Letter to My Daughter by David Chariandy

Authour:
David Chariandy
Format:
Hardcover
Publication date:
May 29th, 2018
Publisher:
McClelland & Stewart
Source:
Received from publisher.

Review:

“We are a family of different generations, different upbringings, different backgrounds and races–diverse in ways no half-hearted policy or opportunistic advertisement campaign can ever truly represent, and brought together in celebration of your birth.” (p. 11)

Inspired by James Baldwin’s essay My Dungeon Shook which was written as a letter to his nephew, David Chariandy takes a break from fiction writing to pen I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You which has a structure reminiscent of a novella is actually a his letter to his pre-teen daughter.

While short in length, I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You manages to tackle issues such as culture, racism, family, parenting and the immigrant experience in a powerful and emotional way. It was fascinating to get a glimpse at Chariandy’s family life and history in addition to the brief mention of his wife’s family who has had a remarkably different experience than his own. And while I enjoyed the story of how two people from incredibly different backgrounds can come together to start their own family, I appreciated how he captured the true awkwardness of two cultures coming together with immense understanding and patience. Being a child of immigrants I could also relate to the section where Chariandy talks about his kids realizing that they don’t belong and that they appear to the locals as Canadian tourists who happen to have a cultural connection to the Trinidad and its people. This was how I felt as a kid every time I visited Vietnam with my parents.

I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You is firstly a letter of love to Chariandy’s pre-teen daughter. It is clear from the beginning to the conclusion just how proud he is of his daughter and how similar to every other parent, he struggles with trying to protect her while also letting go and letting her be her own person. A quick read, I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You is a timely read that all Canadians should definitely consider picking up as it makes its readers truly reflect on life especially during the current political climate.

 

 

 

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

Book Review | Bonjour Girl by Isabelle Laflèche

Authour:
Isabelle Laflèche
Format:
ARC
Publication date:
August 25th 2018
Publisher:
Dundurn
Source:
Received from publisher.

Review:
Having previously read a few of Isabelle Laflèche’s books from her J’adore series I was curious to see how she approaches her first YA novel. I’ll admit I had a few reservations going into Bonjour Girl as the protagonist is half Chinese, however I felt that this aspect of Clementine’s background was barely touched upon as she truly is a European teenager having grown up in France with a European mother.

One of the unique aspects of Bonjour Girl was how Clementine was an international student attending New York’s Parsons School of Design, it’s refreshing as a reader living in North America to read a book from the perspective of an international student who isn’t just another American studying abroad in Europe or Asia. Clementine’s story is an entertaining one, especially when it comes to her colourful family history. In addition, I loved how passionate she was about her goal to become a fashion influencer which is obvious when she mentions real fashion bloggers and blogs like Garance Doré.

As with the majority of novels featuring young protagonists, there is adventure as well as drama in this case the drama revolves around cyber bullying and intellectual fashion property theft. There is of course, romance as well, however I wasn’t the biggest fan of the relationship between Clementine and Jonathan. The “romance” was seriously undeveloped and lacked any chemistry that would’ve made it believable or even charming. Instead the romantic plot in this book was truly unnecessary to Clementine’s story as the book would have been a better read in my opinion if the focus was more on Clementine’s school life and her friends.

Bonjour Girl seems like it’s just the beginning of Clementine, and with the hints given at the end of this book I wouldn’t say no to reading more of Clementine’s journey. After all, while she may be an incredibly privileged teenager living an essentially charmed life, her story is one with its amusing and interesting moments and a decent cast of side characters.

 

 

 

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

Book Review | Jerusalem, Drawn and Quartered: One Woman’s Year in the Heart of the Christian, Muslim, Armenian, and Jewish Quarters of Old Jerusalem by Sarah Tuttle-Singer

Authour:
Sarah Tuttle-Singer
Format:
Hardcover
Publication date:
May 22nd, 2018
Publisher:
Skyhorse Publishing
Source:
Received from publisher.

Review:

“I love Jerusalem best in the morning when she’s naked before the shops are open and the scarves and jewelry cover the stone. And I like to wake her wake up and get dressed while I drink my jasmine green tea from the bakery overlooking Jaffa Gate. Or earlier still, from the Western Wall, when sacred time meets sunrise, and Jews and Muslims pray together although separately behind their glass walls at the brink of sunrise.” (p.141)

They say a person never forgets their “first”, and I suppose that’s true at least for me when it comes to cities and countries as Israel will always have a special place in my heart. Before picking up Jerusalem, Drawn and Quartered, I was vaguely familiar with Sarah Tuttle-Singer’s work through her blog posts in The Times of Israel online website, so I was already intrigued by her book. I remember picking it up shortly after the US officially moved their embassy to Jerusalem, however it was definitely a book that had been on my shelf for some time before.

In Jerusalem, Drawn and Quartered, the writer takes us deep into the parts of the Old City that the average visitor most likely wouldn’t venture to. I enjoyed the diverse perspectives and stories and I appreciated how Sarah makes an effort to talk to people of all walks of life and cultural backgrounds so that the reader is given several distinct opinions and stories and not one singular narrative. That being said, I was slightly surprised that the majority of this book was about her own personal life and not being about the Old City itself. It was also a much grittier, intense read than I expected as she does experience a great deal of trauma in her life. Nevertheless, I found Sarah’s honesty about her past and her current life in Jerusalem to be refreshing and it did make for a more emotional read.

An eloquently written book, Jerusalem, Drawn and Quartered is truly a love letter from the author to the city of Jerusalem. However, the story along with the coloured photos only offers a glimpse into the city and Sarah’s life. In the end, I was left wishing that the author expanded more on the more various quarters in Jerusalem in addition to her own story. For instance, it would’ve have been interesting to learn more about the mysterious man who was friends with her mother as he only briefly appears near the end of the book.

For those who are curious about the situation in Jerusalem and in Israel, I would recommend this book as one of the countless books that you should pick up. Sarah Tuttle-Singer does an excellent job of humanizing the city and I definitely came away from the book with a better understanding of the various sides of this conflict. After reading this book, which was a far cry from a tourist book I found myself wanting to visit Jerusalem and Israel again, though with the current political climate I’m not sure it would be possible any time soon.

 

 

 

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

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.

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.