Midweek Mini Reviews #33

If it wasn’t for the pandemic, right now I would be in Japan with my friend celebrating our birthdays this year. That’s why the theme of this edition of Midweek Mini Reviews features two books that allow you to travel to and experience the magic of Japan without having to leave your house. If you want even more Japanese book suggestions, feel free to comment on this post!

Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata
Convenience stores are such an integral part of Japanese life, especially in big cities like Tokyo. However, if you haven’t had the chance to experience the magic of an actual Japanese convenience store, then picking up Sayaka Murata’s Convenience Store Woman may help with that. The simple descriptions of all the sights, sounds and even smells of the store made me feel like I was back in Japan. The book follows Keiko Furukura, a Japanese convenience store worker in her late 30s whose’s lifestyle goes against the societal norms. While Keiko is without a doubt an oddball who lacks any empathy or feelings, it hard not to feel bad for her. She doesn’t want to cause trouble for anyone, and would prefer to be left alone to do what she believes is she is meant to do. Unfortunately, she lives in a country with a collectivist culture, where she is expected to get a proper job and eventually get married and have kids. This is unfortunately still the sad reality of many Asian cultures where there are often social consequences if you don’t “play your part”. A quick read, Convenience Store Woman is definitely not a light-hearted read. Every character is imperfect, and there is no attempt to hide how horrible people can be. A character like Shiraha who in another novel may have been the “love interest,” is far from it here as right from his introduction there is nothing but disgust and contempt for his entitled ass. If you’re looking for a book where the protagonist changes for the better or evolves, then Convenience Store Woman isn’t for you. However, if you’ve ever felt that you were not “normal,” then you may appreciate this book for its quiet critique of societal norms besides the fact that Keiko is a strong-willed character who succeeds in not bending to societal pressures

Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi
Publisher Social Media:  Twitter/Facebook/SavvyReader/

If you knew of a way to travel back in time, would do you take advantage of it? What if besides not changing anything, there were several rigid rules that you must follow? For instance, there is only one seat in the café that allows you to time travel, and you cannot leave it? Would you still want to go back? Toshikazu Kawaguchi’s Before the Coffee Gets Cold tells the story of four different characters who ultimately decide to go back despite the restrictions. Of the four, I think my two favourites would have to be Husband and Wife and Mother and Child. The former for its heart wrenching portrayal of marriage where the husband has Alzheimer’s. The misunderstandings on both sides and the result from one of them going back made this one a tear-jerker. While the latter was the last story in this book and it served as a satisfying story to bring things to a full circle, especially with the revelation of who the titular “Mother and Child” were. This book feels very Japanese, especially when you look at the characters and their thoughts and beliefs. To Western readers, it may be difficult to understand why some characters, especially the women choose and act as they do. However, I found that despite that Before the Coffee Gets Cold was a cozy and heartwarming read that would be perfect for the fall or as a prelude to the winter holiday season. It is also the first book in a series, and I wouldn’t mind picking up the others when out, though I think I’ll probably do audiobooks for the next book (s).

 

 

 

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

Mystery Monday | The Diamond Queen of Singapore (Ava Lee #13) by Ian Hamilton

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? Ian Hamilton, a Canadian authour of the now 13 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? When Ava’s best friend Mimi is late to their meet up, Ava knows something must have happened. It turns out, Mimi’s father has just died in what appears to be suicide. After his death, the family is shocked to discover that the only thing he left behind was massive amounts of debt. Willing to do whatever it takes to help bring peace to her friends and their family, Ava unofficially make it her job to recover the money that was stolen from Mimi’s father. However, what she thinks may be a straight forward recovery turns out not to be the case as following the Ponzi scheme takes her outside of Canada and even North America to Europe and Asia and with far reaching consequences. 


Where does it take place? Starting in Toronto, Canada Ava is able to make connections to the Ponzi scheme that takes her to Amsterdam, Antwerp, Singapore and even Chengdu China!

Why did I like it? After more than a couple of novels about Ava and her Three Sisters business partnership as well as her relationship with actress, Pang Fai The Diamond Queen of Singapore takes us back to Ava Lee, the forensic accountant and debt collector. Therefore, the book felt so nostalgic for me. Despite being out of the collections game for some time now, Ava proves why she’s the best at what she does both with getting money back and her brilliant negotiation skills. Ian Hamilton takes great care to make sure that the Ava Lee universe and the characters feel authentic, and it especially shows in this book. I loved following along with Ava’s process through her notes, and later through the detailed descriptions of the maps and diagrams she draws for others to see. We get introduced to a couple of new characters in this book and it should me interesting to see them reappear in future books. I just hope that nothing happens to Ava’s relationship with Pang Fai as I like the two of them together. Finally reading one of the Ava Lee books always feels like reading a travelogue of sorts, which unfortunately during a pandemic made me truly sad that I’m living in a city that is in lockdown. Not only did the descriptions of plane travel and hotels made me miss the mundane aspects of travel, but as someone who usually works in downtown Toronto, it made me miss the days when I could freely explore my city. The Diamond Queen of Singapore ends on a bit of a cliffhanger, so I’m looking forward to the next book and to seeing Ava take on an even bigger opponent. 

 When did it come out? May 26, 2020 (e-book) and August 4, 2020 (paperback)

 

 

 

 

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 | All the Devils Are Here 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, All the Devils Are Here is her 16th book in the Inspector Gamache series. She currently lives in a small village south of Montreal.

What is it about? While in Paris, after having had a lovely family dinner Stephen Horowitz is struck down by a delivery van while trying to cross a street. And despite what the police may have think, Stephen’s godson, Gamache is certain that this was no accident. Not willing to drop it, Gamache conducts his own investigation as to why his godfather was targeted. This reunites him with his former second in command and son in law, Jean Guy Beauvoir. Using all their skills and resources available to the Gamache family, what the two uncover is a conspiracy and cover up that once again proves to be much bigger than either either could have anticipated with many major, powerful players involved.



Where does it take place? This time the Gamaches are in Paris, France visiting their son-in-law Jean Guy and their daughter, Annie who is about to give birth again. Paris is also where their son Daniel and his family have been living for some time.

Why did I like it? After the events of A Better Man, I wasn’t sure where Louise Penny would go next with her Inspector Gamache series. Thankfully, this time around she did not disappoint. In All the Devils Are Here we get to learn more about Armand Gamache’s family, the focus this time is on the father-son relationships. The first one being that of Gamache and his godfather, the powerful financier and enigmatic Stephen Horowitz, and the second one is the relationship between Gamache and his son, Daniel. As the partnership between Gamache and his second-in-command and son-in-law, Jean Guy, so central to the Inspector Gamache series it’s easy to forget that Gamache has a son of his own besides his daughter, Annie. This book finally sheds some light on the relationship between Daniel and his father, showing that the reason he was barely mentioned or showed up in the earlier books was because the relationship between father and son has been sprained for some time. What I like about Louise Penny’s books is that she writes in a way that lets the readers see into the innermost thoughts of the various characters in the book, both the minor ones and the major ones. It is through this that the reader can understand why Daniel is anger with his father. It is interesting seeing the Gamaches through the eyes of other characters who are “outsiders” to their circle of friends and family. Compared with A Better Man, the writing has also gotten better in All the Devils Are Here, although the case here is a bit confusing to follow at first because of all the technical details. Nonetheless, All the Devils Are Here was a compelling addition to one of my favourite mystery series.

 When did it come out? September 1, 2020

 

 

 

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

Mystery Monday | Just Make Believe by Maggie Robinson

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? Based in Maine, Maggie Robinson is a former teacher and library clerk. Her books have been translated into French, German, Portuguese, Turkish, Russian, Japanese, Thai, Dutch and Italian. In addition to mystery novels, she has also written a couple of historical romances. Just Make Believe is the the third instalment of her Lady Adelaide Mysteries series.

What is it about? Lady Adelaide is haunted by the ghost of her rascal late husband, Rupert who is unable to move on until he has done enough good deeds. Unfortunately, his appearance usually means someone is about to die and that Adelaide will be embroiled in another murder mystery. However, another murder case means that Adelaide has an excuse to call Detective Inspector Devenand Hunter of Scotland Yard, the man who she wants to be more than friends with. As more turn up dead, the three must work together to figure out who is behind the deaths.


Where does it take place? Gloucestershire, England during the mid-1920s

Why did I like it? I love mysteries set in the 1920s, and this one promised an intriguing mystery and an interesting dynamic. Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy Just Make Believe as much as I thought I would. The dynamic between Adelaide and Rupert’s ghost was fun as he provided some much needed comic relief. However, Adelaide or “Addie” was annoying as a protagonist and I just couldn’t see her appeal. Detective Dev Hunter was a more compelling character given that he is of South Asian descent and appears to be the only character that is not White. He also has an interesting background, and it was interesting to see him try to avoid being corrupted by those around him, unlike most of his Scotland Yard colleagues. The murder mystery plot was also interesting, although the conclusion somehow was both fascinating yet disappointing. The build up to the reveal was exciting and the reveal of how the deaths were connected. However, the conclusion of the case was disappointing as it shows how the wealthy and influential could easily get away with murder if it ever came to that. Despite it all, I have a feeling I will be still be eagerly awaiting the fourth book in this series if only for the various sequel hooks in Just Make Believe and to see how everything plays out.

 When did it come out? July 14, 2020

 

 

 

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

Midweek Mini Reviews #32

This month’s mini reviews features two new contemporary YA fall titles!

Rent a Boyfriend by Gloria Chao
To be honest, if I ever found myself in a similar situation to Chloe (Jing-Jing) Wang, I would absolutely take advantage of the Rent for Your ’Rents services and hire a fake boyfriend. While I’ve never had my parents, try to marry me off to an awful playboy and bully just because his family is crazy rich, there were definitely several elements about Chloe’s story that resonated with me. For instance, I am well acquainted with the type of parental emotional manipulation and guilt trips that her mother makes use of. Also Chloe’s struggles with trying to balance her true self with what’s expected of her is something I’m sure countless children of Asian immigrants could relate to at some point, especially when they were or are university/college students. Rent a Boyfriend is Gloria Chao’s third YA novel, and it shows. Compared to her previous books, it is much more focused in terms of story and characters choosing to focus mainly on Chloe and her parents while showing us bits of Drew’s life. It would have been nice to get to know Drew more outside of him and Chloe, but this book was more of Chloe’s story. I did however love that this book had an epilogue as we get to see how Chloe moves forward with embracing both her “Chinese” and “American” sides and using her experiences to help others like her. I also appreciated how the dysfunction in both hers and Drew’s families hasn’t magically vanished, instead Chloe has gotten better at setting boundaries with her parents while Drew has made small steps with his family. Overall, while the romance definitely veered towards cheesy and over the top I enjoyed how this book showed us some complexities of parent-child relationships and how the community you grew up in affects your beliefs and who you become.

Not Your #Lovestory by Sonia Hartl
I’ve never understood why people think they can just document other people’s interactions without their permission just because they have a phone, a social media account and they think it’s an adorable story. That’s why I’m wary whenever I come across an online viral story as I’ve seen instances of innocent people’s lives being completely ruined as a result of a situation getting blown out of proportion. Not Your #Lovestory wasn’t the first book I’ve read about the downsides to going viral, however it is my first YA novel about this phenomenon. Seeing an ordinary teenager get doxxed and trolled by strangers who thought they had a say in her life was even more heartbreaking, especially since Macy was someone vulnerable to being exploited as she so desperately wanted to escape her small town. I hated what Eric and Jessica did to her, which is why it was so satisfying when Macy took back her life from the Internet and these strangers who wanted to use her for their own fame and gain. I also loved that this book was sex positive like Sonia Hartl’s last book, and I absolutely adore Macy’s family of strong and tough women who didn’t bend for anyone except for each other. The only thing that fell flat for me was the romance, because unlike the romance in Have a Little Faith in Me Paxton and Macy’s love story felt like it was lacking the build up needed to buy into their romance. This is unfortunate as I love the friends to lovers trope and wanted to love Macy and Paxton as a couple. In this end, this was just a lukewarm read for me. I liked how the book examines not only how far people will go to make it but also makes you question if you have a public platform just how much of yourself you’re willing to give for public consumption and if it’s truly worth 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.

Midweek Mini Reviews #31

This Midweek Mini Reviews post features two books to whisked you away to magical and romantic France!

Vanessa Yu’s Magical Paris Tea Shop by Roselle Lim
Fortune tellers, matchmakers, romance and delicious pastries! These can be found in Filipino-Chinese Canadian writer, Roselle Lim’s delightful sophomore novel Vanessa Yu’s Magical Paris Tea Shop! While I enjoyed Lim’s debut, Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune I loved Vanessa Yu’s Magical Paris Tea Shop more! This is probably because I connected with the character of Vanessa more than Natalie. I loved her close and quiet relationship with her father and I could definitely relate to having to deal with nosy aunties who are always trying to get involved in her personal life. The aunties were all memorable in their own unique way and it was hilarious yet sweet how they all looked up Vanessa’s Goodreads account to ensure that the romantic “inspirations” they gave Vanessa were books she hasn’t yet read. Vanessa’s Aunt Evelyn intrigued me from her first appearance, and I loved her even more once I got to know her tragic back story and why she is so secretive and hell bent on the “rules” of fortune telling. Unlike Lim’s last book where food was central to the story, Vanessa Yu’s Magical Paris Tea Shop focuses more on the characters’ relationships and the magical realism element is not as flashy. That being said there are still a few magical elements such as the lovely visual of the red threads connecting some of lovers as well as several mouthwatering descriptions of the meals and pastries that Vanessa indulges. However, here the food helps to move along the relationships and reveal some things that were previously hidden. Speaking of relationships, I adored all the romances in the book. I appreciated how Vanessa and Marc got to know each other at a more organic pace, thus making their relationship more believable. The perfect escape read for when it feels like everything is out of our control, I appreciated how fate versus free will was a constant theme in this book and how Vanessa was always questioning things.Vanessa Yu’s Magical Paris Tea Shop has converted me from someone who didn’t have any immediate urge to visit the City of Love to someone who eagerly awaits a time when it is once again safe to travel so I can go out and have my own magical Parisian adventure!

The Secret French Recipes of Sophie Valroux
by Samantha Vérant

Sophie Valroux in The Secret French Recipes of Sophie Valroux is a protagonist that you can’t help but cheer on as despite her tragic past she truly works hard to prove herself to others. This makes her professional setback at the beginning of the novel even more heartbreaking. Fortunately, Sophie has two amazing friends Walter and Robert who are there for her. And once she hears her Grand-Mère (Grandmother) has been hospitalized, she pulls herself together so she can be with her. I loved Sophie’s relationship with her Grand-Mère and wish we got more scenes of the two of them together. It was sad that both were too scared to see each other even after Sophie’s mother died. Misunderstandings and miscommunications were unfortunately common in this book, and you couldn’t help but be frustrated by how some people treated Sophie. This was why Remi as a love interest never won me over completely. It annoyed me how he went from being rude and dismissive of a confused Sophie to suddenly complaining about why she didn’t immediately return his feelings with the same “passion” that he had for her. That being said, I’m Team Sophie and want her to be happy so if he was part of her finding happiness again it was something I could live with. The Secret French Recipes of Sophie Valroux makes it obvious how much the author loves France and food, especially French cuisine. Variant’s writing immersed me in Sophie’s world, first in the kitchen of a Michelin Star NYC restaurant and then in a Château in the south of France. If you can’t hop on a plane for a summer escape to France then this modern fairy tale of family, food, friendship and reconnecting with your past is the next best thing.

 

 

 

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

Recently in Romance #5

 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 Trouble with Hating You by Sajni Patel

This book starts with Liya bolting from her setup meeting with Jay only for it to turn out that he’s one of the lawyers working to save her company. I love the idea of fate and bad first impressions, however I didn’t love this book. I just couldn’t connect with Liya because she was just so prickly, judgmental and kind of mean. I understand she was forced to grow a thick skin to protect herself because her parents especially her father failed her when she needed them the most but it still doesn’t justify most of her behaviour. That being said, I didn’t hate Liya and Jay as a couple. Their first date was adorable and they worked because Jay was incredibly patient and understanding. The female friendships were also awesome and I loved Liya’s friends. I really hope we get to read the other girls’ stories particularly Sana and Preeti’s stories. Furthermore, I appreciated how Liya did not sacrifice her career ambitions and dreams even though they could take her away from Jay. The Trouble with Hating You is more than just a romance, it’s a glimpse into a South Asian community and shows us examples of the bad aspects like sexual assault and domestic abuse as well as the toxic gossip and shaming culture but also the good aspects like the supportive and open-minded women who looked out for one another and arranged marriages where the couple is happily in love and clearly equal partners.

The Marriage Game by Sara Desai

The Marriage Game with its whole enemies-to-lovers situation with protagonists, Layla and Sam, was something I enjoyed. I also loved how Layla’s huge family was a major part of their story and how close Layla was with her father. The side characters were also great and I would love for Nisha, Sam’s sister, to get her own book as I feel like she and John’s story needs to be expanded upon. What I didn’t like was how the “revenge” plot was dropped so suddenly near the end, there was a resolution but nothing was seen through instead the book just kind of ended. At the very least it would have been nice for Nisha to acknowledge things and not interrupt with her own announcement. Another thing that bothered me was how Layla was supposed to be a recruitment consultant but we barely saw her do any real work, while it’s understandable that she’s starting over it was weird not to see her not even interacting with any client. Instead, the focus was on the “marriage game” of finding her a husband which was fine but could have been more entertaining, especially with the candidates. On the other hand, we get to see Sam at work as a Corporate Downsizing Consultant, which I found quite interesting. A delightful read, The Marriage Game is if you’re looking for a South Asian rom-com with lots of colour, food and heart to distract you from the chaos right now.

 

 

 

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 #30

This Midweek Mini Reviews post features two new YA titles.

10 Things I Hate About Pinky by Sandhya Menon
I’ve been excited for Samir and Pinky’s story ever since they interacted with each other in There’s Something About Sweetie! On the surface Pinky and Samir appeared to be complete opposites of so it was adorable seeing them get to know each other better and fall for each other’s true selves. As someone who grew up with cousins around my age, I liked the relationship between Pinky and her cousin, Dolly especially how they’re able to acknowledge their jealously of each other. I do hope that Dolly gets her own book someday. The relationship between Pinky and her mother was another interesting one. It’s one that many immigrant daughters could relate to especially if they feel like they could never see eye to eye with their moms. i do wish however that more time was spent on resolving this complicated relationship as I couldn’t buy her mother’s change of heart with very little lead up. This could also be in part due to the minor pacing issues in the book. There was a lot of back-and-forth and as a result everything felt rushed near the end. I also could have done without the possum or butterfly habitat subplots as they took time away from the development of Samir and Pinky’s romance in addition to resolving the tension between Pinky and her mother. Nevertheless, 10 Things I Hate About Pinky delivered an enjoyable fake dating, hate to love story that was the perfect light and fluffy distraction from the current craziness. Highly recommended if you enjoyed Sandhya Menon’s other books, especially if you love the humour, banter and heart in her books.

The Best Laid Plans by Cameron Lund 
Some books just read like movies. With its themes of high school relationship dramas, hookups and secret crushes Cameron Lund’s The Best Laid Plans feels like it could have been a teen movie on Netflix or Freeform. I’m always game for a friends to lover story and heard good things about this one. What I liked about The Best Laid Plans was its accurate portrayal of the high school experience, sure there were a few rather cliché and dramatic moments but for the most part the book does a decent job at subverting the usual cliché YA tropes. The characters mostly felt real and I could definitely see people I knew in them. It was also interesting to see how the book didn’t shy away from how messy and toxic friendships in high school could get while not making any of the characters out to be a one-dimensional villain. It was also refreshing for them to acknowledge how not everyone in a friend group is actually “friends” and sometimes you tolerate people because of mutual friends. I’m pretty satisfied with the ending even if the romance started to lose some of its magic near the end with all the reveals. Nevertheless, while nothing special The Best Laid Plans was a well-paced and well written novel.

 

 

 

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 Library of Legends by Janie Chang

Authour:
Janie Chang
Format:
ARC
Publication date:
May 12th 2020
Publisher:
William Morrow
Publisher Social Media: 
Twitter/Facebook/SavvyReader/
Source:
Received from publisher

Review:
The Library of Legends begins in China in 1937. During a time of much great chaos and historic change, there are two journeys that are taking place. The first is the main story of the students of Minghua University journeying west to safety. Among the students is nineteen-year-old Hu Lian who is one of the students tasked with protecting an ancient collection of stories known as the “Library of Legends”. The other journey occurring simultaneously and unknown to almost everyone except for a select few is the departure of all the Chinese immortals including various guardian spirits, gods, fairies, and other celestial beings from China.

I found the plot compelling as it takes historical fiction and mixes it with fantasy elements. In fact, my favourite scenes in the book were the descriptions of all the immortals who are leaving earth to go to the Kulun Mountains. I’m usually not a fan of magic realism, but the descriptions of the processions of immortals were breathtaking. It was also exciting to witness the characters from Chinese mythology come to life and interact with each other and the occasional human. The shedding of the “human” disguises of the various immortals and the reveal of their true identities throughout the book was always magical. It was interesting to see how each one had chosen to live their life when they were on earth. One memorable interaction was the one between Sparrow and the Nanking City God. Those who are familiar with the history of the Nanking will understand just how heartbreaking it is, as we the immortal god so torn that he was unable to protect his City that he has decided to leave for good as he could not watch the horror anymore. This just goes to show how terrible and hopeless the war is for China that even Gods are powerless to help.

I liked both the character of Lian and Sparrow as they both had interesting back stories and motives. Additionally, it was refreshing that while both made mistakes and were flawed, neither were not painted as villains and instead they became unlikely friends. Professor Kang was another figure I grew fond of, especially as I could relate to his fascinations with the immortals and celestial beings. I liked that we got to spend time with him as he formed a bond with Sparrow and two became each other’s confidant. As for Shao, I found him to be a bland character, and I did not have much sympathy towards him. Perhaps as he was supposed to be a character without a life purpose, that he seems less complex than Lian. I did however, liked how all the main characters such as Shao were connected to the tale of The Willow Star and the Prince.

For a story that combines Chinese myths, folklore and history, it’s rather fitting that The Library of Legends uses a third-person, omniscient narrator. This gives the book a fairytale feel, though at the cost of making it nice difficult to connect and emphasize with some characters. The writing is simple yet still beautiful and the descriptions truly transport you to the late 1930s in China. The pacing also flows smoothly for the majority of the novel. However, in the second half of the book, several important subplots were unfortunately rushed and major conflicts and issues were tied up too quickly and neatly.

If you love books and magical stories and have an interest in Chinese history and myths, then The Library of Legends may be the book for you. There is a bit of a love triangle and romance however it is mainly in the background. Instead, the focus of the book is on the characters’ physical and emotional journeys. Also, while characters are adults, this book could easily appeal to a YA audience. While I would’ve liked for more of the “Library of Legends” and its stories incorporated in the book, The Library of Legends was still a satisfying and unforgettable 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.

Midweek Mini Reviews #29

This Midweek Mini Reviews post features two new YA titles.

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

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

 

 

 

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

Book Review | The Mountains Sing by Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

Book Review | If I Had Your Face by Frances Cha

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

Mystery Monday | Don’t Look Down by Hilary Davidson

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

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

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

Where does it take place? New York City!

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

When did it come out? February 11, 2020

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When did it come out? January 21st 2020

 

 

 

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