Below is a list of everything I read in January and my thoughts on each of the books. I got off to a bit of a slow start, be hopefully things will start picking up soon as I’ve got some awesome review books to look forward to in the coming months. Both A Pho Love Story by Loan Le and Trung Le Nguyen’s The Magic Fish will have their own detailed blog review post later this month, so be sure to be on the lookout for them both!
A TASTE FOR LOVE BY JENNIFER YEN
Pride and Prejudice but set it in modern Houston, Texas with Taiwanese American families. Throw in a baking competition, and that’s how I would describe Jennifer Yen’s A Taste for Love. This was an addictive read that I just flew through.
I love the sisters’ relationship and the female friendship in the book, almost as much as I enjoyed the progression of the relationship between Liza and James. I also appreciated how even though A Taste for Love was a sort of retelling of Pride and Prejudice, it didn’t adopt all the subplots from Pride and Prejudice. Instead, Yen took what made sense for the setting and characters and put her own spin for her book.
As someone who was born and raised in North America but whose parents came from an Asian country, I definitely could relate to many of the things talked about. For instance, Liza’s aversion to dating Asians guys is definitely something my siblings have in common with her, although unlike her they remain steadfast in their determination. The passive aggressive mind games between Liza’s mom and Mrs. Lee was also hilarious, though I’m relived that Mrs. Lee ended up being a reasonable person in the end. Finally, I also loved all the baked goods in this book, and it’s always interesting to have characters who have to help at their family’s small shops on top of being a typical teenager.
Despite not intending to make it my first read of the new year, A Taste for Love was the perfect book to kick start my 2021 reading!
Yona of the Dawn Volume 27 by Mizuho Kusanagi
I’ve always been a fan of manga since high school, but these days I’m more selective about what I read as there are so many options. In fact, if I were to list all the series I read online, it would take way too long. Mizuho Kusanagi’s series, Yona of the Dawn has a special place in my heart though as it was the series that reignited my love for shōjo manga after university. It is the only series that I currently collect physical copies of. I ended up getting volumes 25-27 for Christmas and could only get to volume 27 in 2021. Highly recommend this series if you like epic historical fantasy series that is more dark and less on the fluffy romance side and am looking forward to continuing with this series, although I hate cliffhangers so I’ll probably wait until there are a couple of new volumes released so I can binge a bunch of them again.
A Pho Love Story by Loan Le
Loan Le’s debut, A Pho Love Story is a heartwarming read with a lot of soul. As a child of Vietnamese immigrants, I related to so much to the characters and cultural nuances in the book. If I were being honest, what I loved about A Pho Love Story wasn’t the love story but the cultural nuances because both the main characters are Vietnamese. Stay tuned for a more in-depth review of A Pho Love Story that I will have up on the blog later this month
FOrtune by Ian Hamilton
I’ve read Ian Hamilton’s Uncle Chow Tung series since the first book, Fate, and while it’s been a decent series, I’ve always preferred the Ava Lee series. That being said, Fortune impressed me as a compelling read. I definitely enjoyed Fortune more than I thought I would, and it was actually nice to return to the world of young Uncle and his colleagues. Also, I appreciated how we finally get to see the connections that Fortune has with its sequel series, Ava Lee. Both the introduction of Sonny and the mention of Xu and his son were an exciting development, as these are characters who would have key roles in the Ava Lee world.
The overarching plot in Fortune was also an interesting one as we see Uncle realizing that the local gangs need to be more organized and thus unified. Seeing young Uncle’s thought process and how he works and how similar it is to the way Ava goes is an excellent foreshadowing to their fated partnership and why it’s not surprising they would get along and work well together. In the authour’s note at the end of the book, Ian Hamilton talks about how Fate was intended to be the last book in the Uncle Chow Tung series, but how he now hopes to write a couple more books. I too would be interested in seeing things from Uncle’s perspective once he encounters Ava, and of course what he’s like in the later part of his life after he leaves the triads.
I read the original Kilala Princess manga series back in high school, so I was curious as to what would happen to Kilala and her friends in this sequel. In case you’re not familiar with this series, think of it as an all ages “Kingdom of Hearts with Disney Princesses” that is incredibly fluffy but also cheerful in tone. That Mulan is the featured Disney “Princess” in this book only clinched the fact that I was going to check it out. Surprisingly, instead of the black and white volumes that are typical for manga, Disney Manga: Kilala Princess – Rescue the Village with Mulan has been printed like a trade comic book and the pages even in full colours. If you‘re a fan of magical girl anime and/or Disney Princesses, then you may be into this. It’s definitely a book that was made to appeal to those who like them both. Also, while not entirely necessary, I would highly recommend reading the first Kilala Princess manga series that’s also published by Tokyopop. Reading it will help you better appreciate the story and how far the characters have come.
Regardless of how these books came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.
In a Holidaze by Christina Lauren
In a Holidaze is the book for you if you’re looking for a book to get you into the Christmas spirit. However, if you want a steamy romance, then maybe pick up one of the earlier Christina Lauren books instead. I really want to love this book, but it took way to win me over and even then I wasn’t completely sold on the romance. Fortunately, this book is incredibly light on the romance that it reads more like Womens Fiction. My favourite moments in this book were all the interactions with the various families at the cabin. I love all the crazy traditions they had and loved how competitive everyone got with each other. To be honest, I thought the whole Groundhog Day subplot would be a bigger deal in this book, so I was surprised that there weren’t that many time loops shown. I can appreciate the fact that this allows more space for the main story to develop. Honestly, In a Holidaze wasn’t my favourite Christina Lauren book, though I enjoyed it more than Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating and The Unhoneymooners. A quick and heartwarming read, this book was a nice distraction that gave me the warm fuzzies. I can definitely see this one appealing to a more younger audience as compared to the previous Christina Lauren books, it is extremely tame in terms of love scenes.
Make Up Break Up by Lily Menon
I’ve enjoyed most of Sandhya Menon’s YA novels, so I was looking forward to reading her adult début as “Lily Menon”! Unfortunately, Make up Break up lacks the charms of her Dimpleverse novels. Perhaps this may because of the third-person narrator that shows readers only Annika’s perspective, but it took an incredibly long time to like the male lead. The physical attraction was there from the start, and it was obvious that Hudson was in love with Annika, but I didn’t see the appeal of him. In fact, it wasn’t until more than halfway into the novel that Hudson showed a more “human” and compassionate side to him that was lacking from all his other previous interactions with Annika. What I enjoyed in Make up Break up was Annika’s close relationship with her father. It was refreshingly imperfect, but I’m glad that they could come to an understanding. Also, I loved her friendship with June, though it made me wish she would depend on those closest to her more when she was so clearly struggling. While the romance was a letdown for me since Annika and Hudson barely had any meaningful interactions until nearly the end, Make up Break up had a few redeeming qualities that made it an okay 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
this Is Love by Melissa Foster
Having gotten to Remi more in Call Her Mine, I was excited that she was getting her own book before the end of 2019. With This is Love, I liked that we got to know more about Remi’s past and why her brother is so over protective. I also loved how Remi and mason bonded over their past trauma and loss and how it brought them closer. That being said, Mason and Remi were probably my least favourite Melissa Foster couple because even though the attraction and sexual tension was there I couldn’t completely buy into their relationship once they got together. There were a few moments where they appeared to be a genuine couple, however there were more times where they were too saccharine. Like the other books in Melissa Foster’s series, This is Love hints at a few couples that will be the focus of future books. I’m not sure if I will pick up the others because on one hand, I’ve found Harley’s doggedness with it comes to Piper to be frankly irritating, however, on the other hand best friends to lovers is my favourite romance trope. Nevertheless, for the most part I’ve enjoyed my time in the communities of Sugar Lake and Harmony Pointe and am glad to have gotten to know these all these characters especially the Daltons.
Girl Gone Viral by Alisha Rai
Publisher Social Media: Twitter/Facebook/SavvyReader/
The Right Swipe was one of my favourite reads of 2019 however, its follow-up, Girl Gone Viral was a bit of a disappointment for me. Not only was it much more tamed and way less steamy than any of Rai’s other books in the past but the romance felt underdeveloped. The build up to Jas and Katrina’s romance was underwhelming even if the readers knew that the two had secret feelings for each other for some time. They also barely interacted with each other romantically instead there were more scenes of Katrina interacting with her staff and with Rhiannon and Jia and of Jas with his family. That being said, I loved the cast of side characters in this book, including the girls and their awesome friendship as well as Jas’ family who show that even happy families have their baggage. I also loved how far Katrina had come from her first appearance in the series and even since the start of her book. Girl Gone Viral looks at the downsides of social media and shows how something that may seem like fun to, everyone can have negative consequences for those actually involved. After all, real people are not fictional characters and even in today’s era of social media everyone deserves to have their privacy respected and to feel safe in public. In the end, I’ll probably pick up the next book for Jia’s story, though it will be with lower expectations.
This Midweek Mini Reviews post features two non-fiction, travel inspired books.
The Romance of Elsewhere: Essays by Lynn Freed
To be honest, The Romance of Elsewhere was a bit of a disappointment for me as I thought the essays would be more about travel. Instead, only the title essay and the one tittle “Letter from London” were truly about travel while the other essays looked at a more general restlessness and not any sense of wanderlust. Featuring all previously published essays, the writings seem to be comes someone of rather a privileged background as shown by the mention of servants and an estate and a few of them had a bit of a condescending tone. That being said, it was fascinating to read Freed’s essay about choice and about her life growing up in South Africa during the apartheid-era and of course I appreciated the first essay which talks about travel and wandering the world in a raw and un-romanticized way. All in all, for the most part, I couldn’t really get into most of the essays. Despite that, however, I found that they were for the most part, well written and more often than not provided some thought-provoking and revealing insights about home and wandering.
I picked up this book when my travel plans changed and it seemed like I wouldn’t be able to go anywhere this year. If you’ve ever been curious about the real life settings and inspiration for some of the most famous books, Henry Russell’s Around the World in 80 Novels is for you. I liked how there was a good mix of classics and modern literature across various genres. On top of that, there are like tips and suggestions for those who are able to travel to these places. However, even if you aren’t able to physically travel to these countries, I like how this book expands on the idea that you can travel anywhere in the world and through time without leaving the comfort of your usual reading spot. Be ready with a notebook and pen while reading this book as I ended up discovering many titles to add to my TBR including Jean Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea (Jamaica and Dominica), Rose Macaulay”s The Towers of Trebizond (Turkey) and Death in Oslo by Anne Holt set in Norway.
This Midweek Mini Reviews post features non-fiction books about relationships.
Man Fast: A Memoir by Natasha Scripture
When it comes to non-fiction, I love reading memoirs about single women searching for themselves and through travelling. Based on its description, Natasha Scripture’s Man Fast sounded like it would be a compelling read for me. Natasha has an interesting background, having worked in communications for the UN, which meant even before she embark on her “man fast” journey, she was already quite the globetrotter! That being said, Man Fast was a bit of a letdown for me. I could relate to her love of adventure and desire to help others as well as the societal pressures she faced by that was the extent of my connection with this book. I also love the parts where she talks about her relationship with her family. Still I felt like this memoir was lacking something and I just couldn’t get on board with many of the spiritual discussions in the book which made those sections drag on even longer. Furthermore, the book also felt slightly disorganized and all over the place. So, while it’s refreshing to have a woman’s journey, not end with finding the “one”, I felt like there wasn’t much takeaway from this book even if it was a well written on
Is There Still Sex in the City? by Candace Bushnell
Chances are if you hear the name, Candace Bushnell you think of Sex and the City and Carrie, Charlotte, Miranda and Samantha. Even for someone who hasn’t read any of her books, I am still vaguely familiar with Bushnell’s work because of the Sex and the City and the Lipstick Jungle TV shows. That being said, I was surprised by how dark and serious Bushnell’s latest book, Is There Still Sex in the City? was. Immediately the book starts with divorce and death, which are both talked about in a matter of fact way, this is followed by the revelation that Bushnell has become disillusioned with life in The Big Apple. And while it took a few pages, I did eventually recognize the familiar voice of the creator of SATC as this book was also told through a series of connected first person narrated essays. I’m probably not the demographic for Is There Still Sex in the City? as I felt like this one wasn’t for me, however I did appreciate how real and raw Bushnell’s voice was when she talks about life after divorce, as well as grief, sex, friendship and dating in your 50s and 60s.
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.
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.