Mystery Monday | Fate by Ian Hamilton

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

Who is it by? Ian Hamilton, a Canadian authour of the now 11 novels in the Ava Lee series. His Ava Lee series has recently been green lit to be adapted into a TV series by the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation). Fate is the first book in his new Uncle Chow Tung series which will star a younger version of Ava Lee’s mentor and former business partner.

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

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

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

When did it come out? January 22, 2019

 

 

 

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

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Book Review | Unmarriageable by Soniah Kamal

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

Book Review | The Gown: A Novel of the Royal Wedding by Jennifer Robson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review:

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

Book Review | Family Trust by Kathy Wang

Authour:
Kathy Wang
Format:
ARC
Publication date:
October 30th 2018
Publisher:
William Morrow
Publisher Social Media: 
Twitter/Facebook/SavvyReader/
Source:
Received from publisher

Review:
Family Trust centres on Stanley Huang, a proud and complicated man who is on his deathbed. We are the introduced to those closest to him, including his son, Fred who has vast ambition and an even bigger ego to boost, his daughter Kate, who is trying to balance her professional life and family, Linda who is his highly accomplished ex-wife and finally Mary, his younger second wife who is also his primary caregiver. Each has their own reasons for feeling anxious about Stanley’s death, and all these reasons along with their current personal obstacles and issues are slowly revealed in their individual chapters.

Of all the characters, Kate was my favourite as her story resonated with me even if I’m not a mother as a result of the two of us being around the same age. I enjoyed seeing a female character in a high powered job who is incredibly capable yet still has doubts about her own abilities and actions. Her story was also refreshing considering the fact that after her marriage collapses the events that follow are not what the reader would typically expect. Linda’s story was also compelling as she’s an older woman trying to navigate what she truly wants in life especially with the freedom she has. In the end, I was satisfied with both of their character growth in addition to the resolution of both of their story arcs.

The other characters in the book were not as likeable, however I appreciated how Wang was able to portray both Fred and Mary as sympathetic people.  As a result, even if you do not agree with their motivation and actions, they were tolerable since they felt like human beings who truly believe that what they want is reasonable. 

Initially I found that Family Trust dragged and I truly was hoping for more excitement. However, as I gradually read on and more was revealed about Kate and Linda since it gave the book a more feminist tone which I definitely appreciated. I love how the true stars of the book were both professionally successful and self-sufficient women and how the book shows us the challenges and discrimination faced by even women who were considered well off. A thoughtful character-driven family drama, Family Trust may appeal to anyone who enjoyed Jade Chang’s The Wangs vs. the World and/or Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney’s The Nest as it’s another biting look at just how crazy a family can get when it comes to money.

 

 

 

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 | Kingdom of the Blind by Louise Penny

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

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

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

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

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

 When does it come out? November 27, 2018

 

 

 

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

Mystery Monday | Dark Sacred Night by Michael Connelly

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

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

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

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

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

When does it come out? October 30th 2018

 

 

 

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

Mystery Monday | The Frangipani Tree Mystery by Ovidia Yu

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

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

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


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

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

When did it come out? September 4, 2018

 

 

 

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

Mystery Monday | The Golden Hairpin by Qinghan CeCe

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

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

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

Where does it take place? Ancient China

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

When did it come out? February 20th, 2018

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

Book Review | The Dinner List by Rebecca Serle

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

Review:

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

Book Review | Bonjour Girl by Isabelle Laflèche

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

Review:

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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