Book Review | Ming’s Christmas Wishes by Susan L. Gong, Masahiro Tateishi (Illustrations)

Authour:
Susan L. Gong, Masahiro Tateishi (Illustrations
Publication date:
September 29th 2020
Publisher:
Shadow Mountain
Source:
Received from publisher

Review:
I rarely review picture books on my blog, but thought I’d make an exception for Ming’s Christmas Wishes, as it’s about a young Chinese girl who feels like she’s not enough. At school she’s too “Chinese” while at home she’s too “American”. Any child of first-generation immigrants can definitely relate to this feeling at some point in their life.

As this is a picture book, the illustrations are of utmost importance. I was extremely impressed with Masahiro Tateishi’s illustrations. The illustrations are a combo of digital and traditional paintings. Elements of calligraphy and traditional Chinese designs can also be found throughout the book. I loved how the flashbacks were done in a more traditional style and that they were shown as less vivid on the pages to differentiate the recollections from the current scenes. The illustrations complemented the text perfectly, as what you read in the text is basically what you see in the corresponding illustrations, and this is perfect for Susan’s straightforward storytelling. 

That being said, I found the story left much to be desired. For instance, while it was good to see the early history of the Chinese Americans alluded to, that’s all that happened. There were brief mentions of early hardships, the San Francisco’s “Great Quake” as well the Chinese “picture brides” but nothing was really explained. It felt like the author tried to touch on as many historical points as possible and as a result none of them were discussed in a meaningful way. Instead it may be confusing to just about anyone reading the book who is unaware of the historical context of the story. Even I had many unanswered questions after finishing the book. This also isn’t helped because the story ends rather abruptly, and while the message of blending traditions is nice, there was no proper lead up to the conclusion. Many of the conflicts were also left unresolved, and the reader is supposed to go along with the fact that things are going to be okay.

I’m all for more diversity in picture books, especially Christmas ones. And I think kids will relate to Ming’s curiosity and questioning nature, her desire to fit in and her frustration with adults telling her no with no explanation. I related to her close relationship with her father, who was more understanding than her strict mother. Ming’s Christmas Wishes has the potential to be a good jumping point for conversations about the Chinese immigrant experience and about racism and discrimination.

 

 

 

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 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.

Blog Tour | Dating Makes Perfect by Pintip Dunn

Authour:
Pintip Dunn
Format:
eGalley
Publication date:
August 18th 2020
Publisher:
Entangled Teen
Source:
Received from publisher

Review:
Lately, I’ve been getting more into enemies-to-lovers rom-coms, With Pintip Dunn’s Dating Makes Perfect, it helped that Orrawin Techavachara (aka Winnie Tech) and her “sworn enemy” Mat used to be best friends as children. From the moment her parents announced that they would arrange “fake dates” for Winnie to get practice and Mat appeared, the sexual tension was thick. The enemies to lovers trope in Dating Makes Perfect was also used interestingly as the reason for their “hate” is rather heartbreaking though realistic given their age and the circumstances. However, this is quickly resolved once they finally talked things out, and it made the moment they when they finally acted on their feelings is so much more satisfying!

As a child of immigrants with siblings, I could relate to many of the things Winnie and her sisters go through. Like the constant comparisons and the no dating until university rule, which then changes to questions about why you don’t have a boyfriend yet once you start university. The 180 on the boyfriend stance is just hilarious, and I agreed with Bunny and Ari, it’s not like you can suddenly flip the switch on something like that. I also enjoyed learning more about Thai food and cultural traditions, as it’s not something I was very familiar with before reading this book.

Overall, what I liked best about Dating Makes Perfect is how self-aware the book can be while name dropping popular romantic comedies, both recent ones and classic since the fake dates that Winne’s mom plans are inspired by those movies. I like that Winnie isn’t afraid to stand up for herself, especially when she tells a guy not to do something and he does it anyway. Also it was refreshing to have the love interest realize his pushiness and acknowledges and make up for it and not just have the heroine grovel and forget about how her love interest was also wrong. A cute and mostly light YA romance, I think fans of books with close sisterly bonds, fake dating and hate to love trees will appreciate Winne’s coming of age and first love story.

————————-

About the Author:

Pints Dunn is a New York Times bestselling author of young adult fiction. I graduated from Harvard University, magna cum laude, with an A.B., and received my J.D. at Yale Law School. 

My novel FORGET TOMORROW won the 2016 RWA RITA® for Best First Book, and SEIZE TODAY won the 2018 RITA for Best Young Adult Romance. In addition, my books have been translated into four languages, and they have been nominated for the following awards: the Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire; the Japanese Sakura Medal; the MASL Truman Award; the Tome Society It list; the Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award; and a Kirkus Reviews Best Indie Book of the Year. My other novels include REMEMBER YESTERDAY, THE DARKEST LIE, GIRL ON THE VERGE, STAR-CROSSED, and MALICE.

Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/pintip_dunn/ 

Twitter – https://twitter.com/pintipdunn 

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/AuthorPintipDunn?pnref=lhc 

Website – http://www.pintipdunn.com/ 

 

 

 

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.

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.

Mystery Monday | Foresight (Uncle Chow Tung #2) 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). Foresight is the second book in his newest Uncle Chow Tung series which stars a younger version of Ava Lee’s mentor and former business partner.

What is it about? The betting shops run by Fanling Triad gang are losing money because of the competition from the Hong Kong Jockey Club, Chow Tung’s men are starting to lose trust in him and are turning towards other means to make their money. In an effort to increase their profits, Chow Tung aka “Uncle” decides to take a risk by quickly investing in the textile industry in Shenzhen. By doing so he will not only create new partnerships but also encounter enemies both new and old along the way.

Where does it take place? 1980s Hong Kong and China in particular Shenzhen which is directly across the border from Hong Kong.

Why did I like it? Following the events of Fate, Chow Tung aka “Uncle” is now head of the Fanling triads. I was looking forward to see more of his adventures since Ian Hamilton has two more books lined up in his Uncle Chow Tung series, Foresight and Fortune which is due out in 2021. Unfortunately, it took some time for me to get invested in Foresight’s plot compared to Fate and this may be because of all the financial and business “talks” that occur in the book. The book does eventually pick up and there are a few interesting twists and reveals especially with regards to the political loyalty and government in China. Hamilton’s writing is of course also as sharp as always, and he does an excellent job at capturing the small details and showing the emotional turmoil of his characters. I’m not sure if I will pick up Fortune as its clear, especially after this book that I’m much more interested in Ava Lee’s journey compared with Uncle’s past.

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.

Mystery Monday | The Night Fire by Michael Connelly

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? Michael Connelly has written around 30 books, and he is best known for his known for Bosch and Mickey Haller series. Before becoming a best-selling crime writer, he was formerly a newspaper reporter. Dark Sacred Night  is the third book in his Renée Ballard series, which features a fierce female detective.

What is it about? After the funeral of one of his former mentors, Harry Bosch is given a murder book by his friend’s widow. Sharing it with Detective Rene Ballard, the two decide to once again team up and try to solve this cold case. Will their investigation lead to some unpleasant discoveries for Bosch?

Where does it take place? Bosch and Ballard’s investigations in this book takes them and the readers from LA to West Hollywood and parts of some cases even stretches into Las Vegas.

Why did I like it? It feels like forever since I’ve picked up a book by Michael Connelly. Unlike his other books, The Night Fire was definitely a slow burn despite the always sharp writing from Connelly and the fact that both Bosch and Ballard are juggling multiple investigations in addition to the case that is the main plot of the book. However, I did appreciate that things eventually did pick up towards the end of the book and all their cases ended up being connected in some way. I also liked how Connelly wraps up the cases in this book, but leaves the ending open for another Ballard and Bosch team up. Long-time fans of Connelly’s books will be happy with cameos from Maddie, Bosch’s daughter and his half-brother, Mickey Haller, who Bosch enlists to help him with a personal issue that has the potential to lead to more serious consequences down the road. I hope we get to see more of Maddie as her choice of future career seems like it can have some interesting developments for both Bosch and the Connelly universe. So, even though this book was a bit on the slow side for the majority of the novel, I’m actually looking forward to the next Bosch and Ballard book and to them coming together again as partners.

When did it come out? October 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.

Book Review | Butterfly Yellow by Thanhha Lai

Authour:
Thanhhà Lại
Format:
ARC
Publication date:
September 3rd 2019
Publisher:
HarperCollins
Publisher Social Media: 
Twitter/Facebook/SavvyReader/

Source:
Received from publisher

Review:
My parents grew up during the Việt Nam War, and one of the stories I’ll always remember is how my mother and sister reunited with their half-brother after the war was over. Despite haven’t never met in person, they knew he was their brother because he looked just like their father. My mother and aunt’s story is just one of countless stories to come from those who were impacted by the Vietnam War. In Thanhhà Lại’s Butterfly Yellow, we have the story of Hằng who finally has made her way to America and is desperate to reunite with her younger brother, Linh.

Known for her award-winning middle grade novels, Butterfly Yellow is Thanhhà Lại’s foray into YA fiction. As it was my first book by this authour I was unsure what to expect, however I was eager to get my hands on it as I love supporting Vietnamese voices. Unfortunately, I found that Butterfly Yellow was not for me. Most of the novel felt more middle grade than young adult to me with the exception of the main subject of the book and LeeRoy’s little “problem”. I also found it difficult to connect with several parts of the book as Hằng’s broken English was confusing and it distracted me from whatever was happening when she spoke as I was too busy trying to decipher what she was saying. I can, however appreciate how realistic it was to have Hằng’s dialogue written this way as it does an excellent job at showing her limited English abilities and the struggles that come from it.

I also appreciated the detail that went into describing the events leading to Hằng’s “Extreme Trauma” status. My favourite sections of the book were the chapters that showed us what life was for Hằng during and post the Việt Nam War, in addition to the backstories of characters such as the old man who lets Hằng and LeeRoy work on his farm for money as well as the woman whom Linh/David calls his “mama”. Although those sections weren’t labelled so it took a minute or so before I was able to recognize whose chapter it was.

At its heart and underneath all of Butterfly Yellow’s awkwardness is an important story that hasn’t been told in fiction compared to other major historical events. Yet in the end, Butterfly Yellow fell flat for me because in spite of its heartfelt and engrossing moments I wanted more. I would’ve liked to see Hằng and Linh/David more developed as characters and if I were being honest less of LeeRoy wouldn’t be awful. Nevertheless, this book about healing, resilience and family may speak to anyone looking for a young adult novel about war and trauma.

 

 

 

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 | Almost American Girl by Robin Ha

Authour:
Robin Ha
Format:
ARC
Publication date:
January 28th 2020 by
Publisher:
Balzer + Bray
Publisher Social Media: 
Twitter/Facebook/SavvyReader/
Source:
Received from publisher

Review:
 Almost American Girl is a graphic novel memoir written and illustrated by Robin Ha. Though it resembles a YA novel, it is also based on the creator’s life experience. The book starts with Ha Chuna aka Robin being told by her mother that they are going to the US to visit a friend. However, shortly after they arrive, she learns that she and her mother will not be returning to South Korea as her mother will be marrying her “friend”. The rest of the book follows Robin’s journey as she struggles to adjust to her new life while dealing with the challenges you would expect she’d face including difficult step-siblings, unpleasant food, bullying, and trying to adapt to a new culture and language.

While Almost American Girl is Robin’s story, it also reads as a “love letter” to her mother who over the course of the novel faces several setbacks but shows enormous strength and resilience. Furthermore, while Robin’s passion for art is central to this book, her love and admiration for her mother is just as obvious. I do however wish we had more time with “adult” Robin as the jump from her high school years to her adult years felt a bit rushed near the end. It would have been interesting to get more of a glimpse of her time in Korea as an adult as well as her life in the “present”. Though I understand why this was not the case since the book is meant to be more for a YA audience and of course there is not enough room to fit everything in.

This being a graphic novel, I can’t forget to talk about the illustrations. As a result of reading and reviewing the ARC, my copy of the book was mostly in black and white with only the first few pages in full colour. Personally I did not mind this as it felt as if I was reading manga plus it also helps keep the focus on Robin’s story. Other than that, I found the artwork to be simple and clean throughout. However, the art is also incredibly detailed when it came to the backgrounds and in highly emotional moments as both the detailed facial expressions of the characters and the backgrounds helped to set the mood for these scenes. Another interesting visual element in this book, which was also an example of visual elements replacing words was how scribbles and symbols were used to show the words and the occasional conversations that Robin couldn’t fully understand.

A worthwhile read, Robin Ha’s Almost American Girl is for the kid (or adult) who feels or has ever felt like an “outsider” and can relate to the awkward and painful moments of growing up in America.

 

 

 

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

Book Review | Loveboat, Taipei by Abigail Hing Wen

Authour:
Abigail Hing Wen
Format:
ARC
Publication date:
January 7th 2020
Publisher:
HarperTeen
Publisher Social Media: 
Twitter/Facebook/SavvyReader/
Source:
Received from publisher

Review:
I love exchanges, especially ones where my travel expenses are mostly covered, so I would have killed to have the opportunity that was forced upon Everett aka “Ever” by her parents. Fortunately with Loveboat, Taipei I felt I was right by Ever’s side experiencing her culture and “freedom” from her parents for the first time.

Those who are children of immigrant parents, myself included will find that they are able to relate to at least part of Ever’s story and the pressure and guilt trips she faces from her parents, especially her mother. While my brother and I were never pressured by my parents to become doctors, we both were “encouraged” to pick “safe” majors and careers. This may be why I couldn’t help be root for Ever, as it was clear that she was incredibly passionate about dance and that it was obvious that this was what she was meant to do.

In addition to Ever, we are also introduced to Rick and Sophie who are cousins as well as Xavier, who at first glance appears to be your typical wealthy, playboy. In Abigail Hing Wen’s hands these teens become more than your ordinary character archetypes. For instance Xavier’s life isn’t perfect and he actually hides a sensitive and caring side while Sophie, who befriends Ever has her own issues and isn’t just a fun, ditzy, cheerleader who only exists to support Ever. Both Xavier and Sophie have their own problems and agendas and they’re not immune to reacting and taking action in the heat of the moment. The same can be said for Rick who is seen as the “golden boy”, while it’s true that compared to the others, he has a charmed life it’s not without its own stresses that mostly come from his family’s disapproval of his girlfriend as well as her dependence on him.

As with any excellent contemporary YA novel, there is both drama and romance in Loveboat, Taipei. I knew from the start who I wanted to end up together and since I was satisfied with the romance so I did not mind the love triangle. That being said, I do believe that since Loveboat, Taipei tried to tackle countless serious topics at once including parental pressure and guilt, mental illness, harassment, leaking of nude images, parental abuse and abandonment they often weren’t addressed properly due to lack of space and time in the book. Furthermore, with the drama I felt like some characters got off too easily for example, Sophie who I felt was quickly forgiven for her actions. While I was sympathetic to her character I did not fully buy into her “redemption” and wished she faced more consequences.

Loveboat, Taipei actually lived up to my expectations. The story was perfectly paced and the writing flow well. It also made me tear up a few times while warming my heart at other times. Sure there was plenty of drama, as expected when you have a large group of young people who are free from their usual family obligation and responsibilities, I personally found that the amount of drama was just enough to keep readers invested in the characters and the story.

Taiwan was never high on my travel bucket list, however having lived vicariously through Ever’s adventures I may be reconsidering it as a travel destination. I can’t wait for the next book and I am crossing my fingers that it will focus more on Sophie or Xavier or even both of them!!

 

 

 

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