Midweek Mini Reviews #26

This Midweek Mini Reviews post features two short but interesting books.

Useful Phrases for Immigrants: Stories by May-Lee Chai
As both my parents are immigrants from an Asian country, I was I was immediately intrigued enough to pick up May-Lee Chai’s collection of short stories. There are eight stories in this collection, and every story is about either Chinese immigrants and/or migrants in China. Though mostly well written, I found that these stories weren’t up my alley. They did however make me stop and think several times as well they made me truly appreciate how fortunate I am to be a child of immigrants. Both my parents, like many immigrants went through a lot just to give their kids a brighter future. That being said, there were a few stories which I enjoyed. “Ghost Festivals” was an interesting one as it looks at how traditional Chinese families tend to treat the issue of one of their own being gay. My favorite story, however would have to be “Shouting Means I Love You”. The last story in this collection, this one resonated the most with me as it looks at the relationship between an adult daughter and her elderly father. I loved this one because I could relate to it so much, especially with all the misunderstandings and the stubbornness of both the characters. While slim in size, Useful Phrases for Immigrants is quite powerful and the stories deal with pretty heavy issues common to all immigrants not just those from China or even Asia.

The Girl Who Reads on the Métro by Christine Féret-Fleury
The description of Christine Féret-Fleury’s The Girl Who Reads on the Métro would have you believing it was another feel good read set in Paris. However, nothing could be further from the truth. While there were some potentially heartwarming moments in The Girl Who Reads on the Métro, I found myself not caring as much as the characters were well-developed. Furthermore, nothing truly happens within the almost 200 pages of this book. And while this would have been fine if this book about books showed us more of the journey of the books, it doesn’t which made for a dull and melancholy read. Still, I could not help but appreciate the fact that there was no romance forced into Juliette’s story. A mostly disappointing read that only showed some promise near the end, I did love looking up the various books mentioned and adding some of them to my pile of books to read.

 

 

 

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 #25

This Midweek Mini Reviews post features a couple of new two very different YA titles!

Have a Little Faith in Me by Sonia Hartl

High school guys can be jerks sometimes. That’s what CeCe in Sonia Hartl’s Have a Little Faith in Me learns when her boyfriend, Ethan, jumps her soon after the two sleep together for the first time. As someone who is not religious I found CeCe’s experience as an “outsider” at a Christian summer camp for teenagers to be interesting. I also appreciate how the story doesn’t waste too much time on CeCe’s original reason for going to the camp which was to try to win back her ex. Instead we get to see her bond with the other girls in her cabin with whom she never thought she’d have anything in common with. I loved the girls of Cabin 8 and seeing how CeCe helps to bring them out of their shell while the girls help CeCe get over her judginess when it comes to others. It was also refreshing to have a YA novel openly call out hypocrites in religion and I liked the way the topic of consent, and how religion deals with sexuality was approached. Finally even though it’s the way the story was set up, I was still rooting for Paul and CeCe because their friendship was heartwarming and the two of them are adorable with the “stories” they tell each other. If you enjoyed Emery Lord’s The Names They Gave Us and/or Firsts by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn then this book is for you.

Our Wayward Fate by Gloria Chao
Gloria Chao has truly come into her own as a writer with her sophomore novel. Our Wayward Fate, not only looks at the what it’s like growing up as a child of immigrants in a place where no one looks like you, but it does so by incorporating elements of the Chinese legend, The Butterfly Lovers in to her story. This mostly works well, although I initially disliked the sections that contained Chao’s twist on the legend as it took time away from Allie’s story which I found more compelling. I connected with many of Allie’s frustrations as I also grew up with a mostly white town. Like Allie, every time there was a Chinese kid my age, I was often paired with them, despite the fact that I’m not even Chinese. That being said, I did like Chase and Allie’s relationship as it was adorable how they bonded over their many similarities. However, I felt that their transition into being a couple was rushed at the start as the pacing was super-fast after Chase’s arrival since everything just starts blowing up socially all at once for Allie. Fortunately their romantic relationship gets more fleshed out with time. I also liked the direction the author took with Allie and Yun and what the two of them together with Chase end up doing in the end. Finally, I appreciated how Allie was able to grow and realized that while many in her small town are racist, she is not guiltless when it comes to having stereotypes about other people either.

 

 

 

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 | 10 Blind Dates by Ashley Elston

Authour:
Ashley Elston
Format:
ARC
Publication date:
October 1st 2019
Publisher:
Disney-Hyperion
Source:
Received from publisher.

Review:
Ashley Elston’s 10 Blind Dates may be the perfect read for you if you’re a fan of those Hallmark Christmas movies about family and love! Taking place over the winter holiday break, 10 Blind Dates follows Sophie tries to get over a recent heartbreak by letting the members of her large, Italian family set her up on ten blind dates. What follows is an entertaining concept with some crazy competitiveness and bets and of course a bit of chaos and hijinks.

Given the premise and title, boys and romance are a major part of Sophie’s story. However, I loved that the core of the book was about Sophie reconnecting with her cousins and her extended family. As a person who growing up was incredibly close with her cousins and who is not as close with them now, it made me nostalgic for my childhood. Furthermore, I also enjoyed seeing Sophie’s relationship with her sister, Margot and it was obvious how their close bond was even if they mostly interacted through texting.

As for the actual romance subplot of the book, I’m satisfied with where we leave Sophie though the romance wasn’t necessary in my opinion. 10 Blind Dates is mainly about Sophie going out and having fun, and forgetting about her heartbreak. And this works all too well, especially as all her adventures are documented online, catching the attention of her ex. I’m just glad that there was no backsliding on Sophie’s end when it came to her ex.

A light, and incredibly fluffy read 10 Blind Dates did not stand out as a particularly unique or special read for me. However, it does have a great deal of heart and if you like stories with large, close-knit families then you’ll probably enjoy this one.

 

 

 

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 | Song of the Crimson Flower by Julie C. Dao

Authour:
Julie C. Dao
Format:
ARC
Publication date:
November 5th 2019
Publisher:
Philomel
Source:
Received from publisher

Review:
Here’s the thing, fantasy has never been a genre that I gravitated towards. That being said, I never knew how much I wanted a Vietnamese YA fantasy world novel with characters who have actual Vietnamese names until I read Julie C. Dao’s Song of the Crimson Flower.

Having read Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix, I was excited to return to the same gorgeous world again and see how Jade and Koichi are faring. I also loved how Commander Wei’s role was hilariously foreshadowed when the father of the heroine, Lan tells her she can visit the Gray City if she somehow convinces the Commander of the Great Forest to escort her there. Of course it was also interesting to see the mythology and world expanded from the previous books in addition to how things have changed a couple of years after the events the Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix.

However, the central plot of Song of the Crimson Flower is Lan and Bao’s story. I was looking forward to their love story and while I wish the romance was better developed, particularly on Lan’s part I did find their relationship to be sweet. When it came to other parts of the story I was a bit disappointed. The antagonist, Madame Vy wasn’t fully realized as a serious threat or even as a character. She had the potential to be a major villain, but instead was relegated to the background for the majority of the book. Actually, I was also slightly disappointed that even though the stakes could have been high, they truly weren’t in the end as all major conflicts and battles were swiftly dealt with off-screen. So as much as I enjoyed Bao and Lan’s story, I would have preferred that we had at least a glimpse of the main battle that took place as there was so much hype surrounding the battle/war.

As a companion book to both Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix and Forest of a Thousand Lanterns, Song of the Crimson Flower is more of a love story set in a fantasy world and not a full on fantasy novel. Therefore, it is not necessary to have read the other books to enjoy this standalone novel. Still, without a doubt I would say that my enjoyment for Song of the Crimson Flower exceeded that of Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix. Having recently returned from a trip to Huế which was one the capital of the Nguyen Dynasty as well as the Đàng Trong Kingdom, I was able to better appreciate the rich setting and characters in this book. Beautifully written though not incredibly action packed, Song of the Crimson Flower may be more suited to those who are looking to dip their toes into the fantasy genre rather than for fans of true high or epic fantasy.

 

 

 

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 | A Better Man 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, A Better Man is her 15th book in the Inspector Gamache series. She currently lives in a small village south of Montreal with her dog, Bishop.

What is it about? Gamache is back as head of the homicide department, a job he shares with his former second-in-command, Jean-Guy Beauvoir. In what may be the pair’s final case, a father approaches Gamache for help in finding his daughter who has gone missing. As more details about the woman’s condition and marriage come tonight,  the case becomes a more personal one to both men. Meanwhile a flood is hitting the pronvince and not even Three Pines is being spared, and Gamache once again finds himself being attacked this time on social media for his past mistakes.

Where does it take place? Once again the story is set both within the village of Three Pines as well as the

Why did I like it? I’ve loved most of the Inspector Gamache books that I’ve read with very few exceptions. However, A Better Man took a bit longer to sink back into. The case was a compelling one, although I think part of the reason it took me so long to get invested was because for the majority of the book the team was so laser focused on one suspect that they weren’t truly opened to any other possibilities. This made the reveal a bit of a surprise at the end, because in any other instance, you would have considered looking into that person as a suspect along with everyone else. That being said, Penny does excel at building suspense and the central mystery was laid out in a manner that entice me to keep on reading. Far from being my favourite book in the series, I did appreciate how the book never sugar-coated the mistakes the characters make and the consequences of their actions and obstacles they must face even as they strive to move forward and be a better person.

 When did it come out? August 27, 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.

Mystery Monday | The Mountain Master of Sha Tin (Ava Lee #12) 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 12 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? With Xu down for the count and his most trusted enforcer, Lop out of commission Ava finds herself being once again brought into another triad war. This time she will be up against Sammy Wing, an old enemy of hers who has tried to kill her twice as well as his own more vicious nephew, Carter as they will do whatever it takes to reclaim Sha Tin for themselves.

Where does it take place? With all the current trouble with the triads Ava finds herself back to her second home base, Hong Kong.

Why did I like it? With The Mountain Master of Sha Tin, I enjoyed the return to Ava’s old line of work and world and it was nice seeing characters like Sonny in action, doing what they do best. It was also refreshing to have Ava be the central lead for many of the missions in the book as the heavy hitters, Xu and Lop were both out of commission for the majority of the story. Ava has already proven herself in the past books to be a highly skilled and fearsome negotiator, but in The Mountain Master of Sha Tin we get to see her get her hands dirty and get directly involved in the Triad war. And in spite of her personal ties she shows that she is just the woman for the job. I loved how fast paced and action packed this book was, and I felt that those scenes were balanced nicely with small heartwarming moments between Ava and those close to her. There were also many new subplots that cropped up in The Mountain Master of Sha Tin that I’m excited to see come about in the future books. In the end, after not being blown away by The Goddess of Yantai, I’m glad that Ian Hamilton was able to win me back to the Ava Lee series with this compelling page-turner of a book.

When did it come out? July 2, 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.

Mystery Monday | A Dangerous Engagement by Ashley Weaver

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? Ashley Weaver is the Technical Services Coordinator for the Allen Parish Libraries, having had her starting working as a page at the age of 14. Her Amory Ames series features a wealthy young woman who with a bit of help from her husband, Milo is also an amateur detective. A Dangerous Engagement is the sixth Amory Ames Mystery novel. She now lives in Oakdale, Louisiana.

What is it about? Amory Ames is looking forward to being a bridesmaid at her childhood friend Tabitha’s wedding. However upon her arrival things are not as she thought they’d be, what with all the secrets everyone seems to be having as well as all the unspoken tension. Things take a darker turn when one of the groomsmen is found murdered on the front steps of the Tabitha’s home. Word is the murder victim may have had ties to the glamorous, dangerous world of both bootleggers and the mob but who really killed him? Not one to shy away from a murder, Amory finds herself drawn into finding the truth and getting justice once again.

Where does it take place? New York City in the 1930s.

Why did I like it? I wasn’t sure what to expect with this series as A Dangerous Engagement is my first Amory Ames book. However, I was intrigued by the premise as well as the time period. Fortunately Ashley Weaver, did not let me down! Both the writing and the characters were charming from the start, and I enjoyed the build up to the mystery. The pacing of the book was also perfect for a noir mystery. On the other hand, the relationship between Amory and Milo made me pause at times. However it’s clear that they’re very much in love with one another and that their past struggle has made them stronger as a couple. That being said, I’m not sure how they’ll fare as parents down the road, but it would be interesting to see. Other than that, I adore all the other references to 1930s New York in the book, including the Prohibition, jazz singers and gangsters what with the notorious Leon De Lora being one of my favourite characters in the book. I appreciated how he was far from being a one-dimensional character. So, if you like cozy, historical mysteries featuring a female sleuth, then give this one a shot!

When did it come out? September 3, 2019

 

 

 

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

Recently in Romance #3

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

Only Ever You by C.D. Reiss

Two childhood friends, one marriage pact is the premise of C.D. Reiss’ Only Ever You. I’m a sucker for the best friends-to-lovers trope so I was excited for this one, despite having never read anything by this author. Overall, Only Ever You was a sweet and mostly satisfying read. It was refreshing to have the usual roles reversed in this book with a heroine who is a strong protector and who has more “experience” than the hero. This book was also surprisingly very steamy despite the couple not sleeping together right away. I also loved the cast of friends and family members on both sides, as they rounded out the story and added more hilarity and heartwarming moments to the book. In the end, while I appreciated the realistic way bullying was portrayed in that more often than not bullies don’t get punished, I do wish we got more of a lead up to how both Rachel and Sebastian’s career and work issues were resolved instead of a time skip epilogue where everyone is happy.

 What Happens Now? by Sophia Money-Coutts
Publisher Social Media:  Twitter/Facebook/SavvyReader/

Looking for some light reading for my trip, I decided to pick up Sophia Money-Coutts’s What Happens Now? To be honest, this one was a bit of a disappointing read for me. Firstly, it was longer than I expected and it dragged for the majority of the book. It also wasn’t as light or hilarious as I hoped it would be, there were some funny bits but they were quite dry. In addition, the romantic relationship in the book was severely under-developed as the love interest, Max was absent for most of the novel. However, I did appreciate how Lil’s pregnancy was portrayed as in reality being pregnant isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. I also loved the boys in Lil’s class as they were hilarious and I also adored the awesome support system she has with her parents and her best friend, Jess. So while I wasn’t completely on board with the romance aspect of the book, I found it refreshing to read a book where the protagonist is closer to 30 as it becomes a different type of story when it comes to showing how she handles things after she finds herself pregnant after a one-night stand.

 

 

 

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 | Frankly in Love by David Yoon

Authour:
David Yoon
Format:
ARC
Publication date:
September 10th 2019
Publisher:
G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Source:
Received from publisher.

Review:
Boy loves girl, another girl loves  another boy but the people they love would never be someone their parents would consider “appropriate”. So what do they do? They pretend to date each other as a way to sneak out with their less appropriate aka Non-Korean significant others. This is an unfortunate but not unheard of dilemma for kids of immigrants and if this were any other YA novel, you’d probably guess what happens next. However, Frankly in Love has its own unique twist on what could go wrong for these teens. 

As a child of Asian immigrants, I relished in the realness of the issues and conflict related to both race and class that Frank and his parents deal with both within their family as well as with the other families in their “community”. It was also refreshing to directly show how the generational gaps between all the parents and their kids in the book can lead to major conflicts between both groups and this book does not shy away from the fact the immigrant parents can be just as problematic, racist and buy into harmful cultural stereotypes as much as any other American. Nor does it shy away from the challenges of dating outside of your race. Furthermore, I love that I could relate to so many of Frank’s experiences, growing up as a teenager stuck between two cultures. This includes having “friends” that I only hung out with when we saw each other at one of our parents’ houses as well as being annoyed when I’m asked to order “ethnic” foods at an Asian restaurant for acquaintances and coworkers who are not Asian and are usually White.

In addition to the complicated family dynamics, I liked the friendships in the book. The bromance between Frank and Q was incredibly heartwarming and Joy and Frank start off as being causal friends before their circumstances bring them closer. I also applaud how realistic this book was when it came to the challenges of being a senior in high school and how not all relationships can handle what comes after high school. So while normally, I’m not a fan of more realistic YA much less YA narrated by a guy I did find Frankly in Love to be an enjoyable, well-written, and thoughtful albeit slightly bittersweet coming of age story.

 

 

 

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 Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee

Authour:
Stacey Lee
Format:
ARC
Publication date:
August 13th 2019
Publisher:
Putnam
Source:
Received from publisher.

Review:
Stacey Lee is a fairly well-known name when it comes to young adult fiction. Not only is she a writer of historical young adult fiction, she is also one of the founders of the We Need Diverse Books movement and non-profit organization. 

With The Downstairs Girl, Lee takes us to Atlanta, Georgia in the late 1800s. I’m sure I’m not the only reader to be surprised to learn that Chinese workers were shipped to the South to replace the field Black slaves after slavery was abolished. It was interesting read about the experience of the Chinese in America in the late 1800s as more often than not, their contributions and experience are left out of the mainstream history textbooks.

The Downstairs Girl works as it is obvious a ton of research was done to ensure that the story was historically accurate. This was obvious with portrayal of the major issues during this time including racism and the suffrage movement. It doesn’t shy away from the fact that the white women leading the suffragist were only interested in rights for (white) women, and they did not feel the need to consider intersectionality in their fight for women’s rights even though Black women like Noemi in the book were instrumental in the suffrage movement. Still I liked the female characters and their interactions and relationships in the book, and I appreciated how plucky both Jo and Noemi were. Furthermore, without spoiling too much, I loved the relationship Jo has with Old Gin who raised her and taught her everything she loves about horses. 

The Downstairs Girl has all the makings of a decent historical fiction read. That being said, even with its distinctive characters and unique premise and setting I wasn’t completely sold on it. For one, I could have done without the romance in the book, and I also felt that parts of the story dragged. Still the book feels truly authentic and gives readers new insight into the suffragists and the South on top of the Chinese experience in the South in 1860s America.

 

 

 

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

Blog Tour | There Will Come A Darkness by Katy Rose Pool

Authour:
Katy Rose Pool
Format:
ARC
Publication date:
September 3th 2019
Publisher:
Henry Holt and Co.
Source:
Received from publisher

Review:
Katy Rose Pool’s début novel, There Will Come a Darkness truly does live up to its ominous title. Set in a rich, diverse world that mixes elements of both ancient mythology and apocalyptic fiction, this book follows five extremely different people who all make reckless choices and the consequences that follow.

Of the five my favourite character was Hassan, the exiled prince and someone who doesn’t have a Grace. It was satisfying to see him come into his own as a leader, and I’m looking forward to see him become a more competent leader for his people, especially after facing some major setbacks and betrayal in There Will Come a Darkness. Meanwhile, though I initially liked Ephyra because she was more of an anti-villain with somewhat sympathetic motives, her decisions and actions near the end became more annoying as she started to care more about her own comfort over what was best for her sister. I am however looking forward to getting to know Beru better as she’s finally taking charge of her own life.

I love a compelling heist/team novel and this one was action packed and fast-paced. I also appreciated how well-developed the world was and the diversity of the interpersonal relationships between the characters. The descriptions of everything were incredibly vivid and the characters truly came to life through Pool’s writing. That being said, while the writing was gripping the story had several twists that made everything darker than I thought it would be. It was a bit heartbreaking how for the majority of the characters, things just kept getting worse and worse with little to no reprieve for them. I do feel like there come have been a better balance between all the angst and darkness with the additional of a few more light-hearted moments.

For the most part, There Will Come a Darkness wasn’t too unpredictable though it did have its tiny surprises. I’m not sure if I’ll be picking up the next book as I’m a bit nervous about what will happen next however I am curious to see Hassan grow into more of a leader and to see where Beru, Jude, Anton and even Ephyra end up 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.

Recently in Romance #2

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

The Right Swipe by Alisha Rai
Publisher Social Media:  Twitter/Facebook/SavvyReader/

Hurts to Love You, the third book in the Forbidden Heart series was my introduction to Alisha Rai. And I knew when Gabe’s sister, Rhiannon made her dramatic stand for her family against Brendan Chandler I knew I had to get to know this badass, successful woman. Fortunately, I didn’t have to wait long as the first book in Alisha Rai’s Modern Love series is Rhiannon’s story. I loved Rhiannon and Samson’s story from start to finish. I was nice seeing the usually tough Rhiannon show her vulnerable and sensitive side and I loved seeing how she allows herself to slowly open up and trust Samson. I also appreciated how Rai touches upon timely issues in her book as in The Right Swipe. In a way that balances the serious subjects with the lighter love story, Rai not only looks at hookup culture and women tech entrepreneurs, but also the #MeToo movement and the effect Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) and concussions has on football players and their families. The Right Swipe is an addictive and satisfying read, I was disappointed when I finished reading the book as I wanted so much more of Rhiannon and Samson. I’m definitely looking forward to more diverse and delightful stories from Alisha Rai and to continuing this series. Hopefully I’ll love the other characters as much as I love Rhiannon and Samson.

The Wedding Party by Jasmine Guillory

The third book to take place in the same universe as The Wedding Date, I was super excited for The Wedding Party as it focuses on two of Alexa’s best friends who Carlos noted seemed to have feelings for each other in The Proposal. Though a bit confusing at first, I liked how the events of this book overlapped with several from The Wedding Date because with the focus on a different couple we get to see these events from the perspective of other characters. I also love seeing Theo and Maddie together, and I found it adorably hilarious how the two of them couldn’t resist sleeping with each other. But what I loved the most was how their whole “secret” hookups were just so obvious to everyone around them however, I’m glad it happened the way it did because we get the best scene between the two of them and Alexa. The Wedding Party was one of the romances and the first Jasmine Guillory novel to hit all the right notes for me. I liked how Theo and Maddie bonded over their similar backgrounds and the challenges and obstacles they both faced as black professionals. The pacing, setting and mutual friend romance plot were all perfect, I only wish we got more of Maddie and Theo. Highly recommended for as a beach and/or vacation read or even if you need a break from all the weddings you have to attend in this summer!

 

 

 

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 | This Time Will Be Different by Misa Sugiura

Authour:
Misa Sugiura
Format:
ARC
Publication date:
June 4th 2019
Publisher:
HarperTeen
Publisher Social Media: 
Twitter/Facebook/SavvyReader/
Source:
Received from publisher.

Review:
Every so often, when I’m stuck between two ARCs I turn to social media to help me decide what to read next. Misa Sugiura’s sophomore novel, This Time Will Be Different was the winner of a recent poll I had.

CJ Katsuyama is a Japanese-American teenager who lives with her mother, a high-powered executive and her aunt who runs the family flower shop. While there are countless things CJ isn’t sure of, the one thing she is sure of is that she loves working on floral arrangements with her aunt. So, when she learns that the family shop is being sold to a descendant of the man who cheated her family during World War II she decides to do something about it.

There are two things that I loved about This Time Will Be Different. The first was how relatable CJ was as a teenager, I found it refreshing that she was cynical when it came to matters of the heart as a result of her family’s complicated love history. Still it was nice to have a character be jaded when it comes to love yet still root for others and have crushes. I also appreciated how in the end CJ’s hasn’t been completely changed, she is open to love but not overly sentimental about it. The other thing I loved was the strong women in CJ’s life, I also liked how it the book highlights how CJ feels pressured as a teen to be amazing, especially seeing how well her mother has done for herself as a single and working parent.

This Time Will Be Different was an unexpected read for me, but in a positive way. It started off as a slow read for me, and initially I was only interested in learning more about CJ’s past as it was more interesting than her present day situation. However, I came away learning so much about the language and meaning of flowers in addition to the history of Asian Americans, particularly the Japanese and of the origins of the “model minority” myth. Even though all of this felt like an enormous information dump and at times the placement of these sections affected the pacing of the novel, I still was grateful that it gave me the context to critically look at CJ’s story.

An emotionally resonant story about family, community, and activism This Time Will Be Different shows that real life and people cannot be simplified into good or bad and that history can bring complications even several generations later.

 

 

 

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 | Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune by Roselle Lim

Authour:
Roselle Lim
Format:
ARC
Publication date:
June 11th 2019
Publisher:
Berkley Books
Source:
Received from publisher.

Review:
Everyone knows what comfort food is, well Roselle Lim’s debut novel is what I call a comfort read. Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune is just one of those reads that warm the heart, and provides a sense of nostalgia.

The story follows a young woman who returns to the neighbourhood, she grew morup in upon hearing of her mother’s death. When Natalie comes back home, she finds her once vibrant San Francisco neighbourhood dying, a shadow of what it once was. I found it interesting that the authour chose to tell Natalie’s story from first-person point of view. This helped me to further connect with Natalie’s personal history and story, including the father she never knew, and the mother who she was estranged from. Natalie’s story was more tragic than I initially thought, however I appreciated the complicated mother-daughter dynamics in the book. I also could relate to Natalie in more ways than one, especially her restlessness and wanderlust. Still, I admired how she fights for her dream and was able to make something of herself.

Along with this being a story of family, community and getting back to your roots, there is also romance in store for Natalie. Though if I were honest, the romance plot in the book didn’t genuinely work for me. The romance had its sweet moments but the development was too fast and the circumstances were too rooted in fantasy and not realistic for me to enjoy. Fortunately, it was not the main focus of Natalie’s story.

Still, there’s definitely something magical about Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune, and I’m not saying that due to the magical realism elements of Natalie’s story. Roselle Lim’s writing truly brings the world that she created to life. The descriptions of all the food is so vivid and mouth-watering that it made me hungry. This is one novel you shouldn’t read on an empty stomach! Luckily, there are recipes in the book and while I may not be much of a cook, I now want to try them out for myself.

Touching on topics like mental illness, and estrangement between mothers and daughters, Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune was not the light and fluffy read I thought it would be. It is however, a read that is as enchanting as its cover promises.

 

 

 

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 #24

This Midweek Mini Reviews post features two books by Palestinian American women.

The Twenty-Ninth Year by Hala Alyan

I loved Hala Alyan’s début novel, Salt Houses. This lead to me discovering her TEDx talk, which was a spoken word performance where she talks about the cities she’s been in and their effect on her. The talk really resonated with me, so I was excited to pick up her poetry collection, especially when I learnt it was titled The Twenty-Ninth Year. Being close to but not yet 29, I was hoping to find more pieces that truly spoke to me. Unfortunately, The Twenty-Ninth Year ended up not being my cup of tea. It was darker and rawer than I’d expected, touching a lot more on topics like assault, substance abuse and loss rather than just about a young woman coming of age. There were, however, some poems that stood out to me such as “Honeymoon”, “Gospel: Newlyweds” and ‘Step Eight: Make Amends” because they showed a more realistic take on a young marriage. Honest and candid, The Twenty-Ninth Year may not be a collection of poetry for everyone, but if it is for you, then it will make you feel like you are not alone.

A Woman Is No Man by Etaf Rum 

In Etaf Rum’s A Woman is No Man, a woman named Isra and her daughter, Deya are the central focus of the book, however we also get to know Fareeda who is Isra’s mother-in-law. Isra’s story is particularly tragic because of the foregone conclusion that she and her husband both die when Deya and her sisters are still young since the girls are being raised by their grandparents in the present day. What’s even sadder is that not much has changed for women, as Deya is also pressured to get married after graduating high school despite it being 2008 and her wanting to attend college instead. I really liked Deya’s story, especially how it was connected to the other women in her family and it was thrilling to watch her slowly discover the truth about her mother. I also found it refreshing how none of the characters were multi-dimensional and that no one was truly an evil person. For example, by getting Fareeda’s back story we see that everyone, not just Deya and Isra have their own traumas, struggles and weaknesses. I also appreciated how it was shown that no one in their cloistered community was truly “free”, even the men have expectations and pressures thrust upon them. A powerful and well written novel, the book is made more significant once you learn that the authour drew inspiration from her own experience. And while I could have done without the epilogue, I am satisfied with the book’s hopeful ending as it was about time things started to change and move into a more positive manner for these women.

 

 

 

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