Midweek Mini Reviews #23

This Midweek Mini Reviews post features two books for kids, just in time for the TD Canadian Children’s Book Week!

Sakura’s Cherry Blossoms written by Robert Paul Weston & illustrated by Misa Saburi 

I don’t often read and review picture books, but Sakura’s Cherry Blossoms was such an adorable and heartwarming read that I’d thought I share on my blog. Written by Robert Paul Weston and gorgeously illustrated by Miso Saburi, this book follows a little girl named Sakura whose family has to move from Japan to the US. This book is perfect for kids, especially those who have moved to a new city or even country as it perfectly captures the difficulties that kids may face as well it shows the importance of good friends and how strong family bonds will always be there even when you are not physically near each other. Sakura’s Cherry Blossoms manages to stay light-hearted for kids while touching on topics like fitting in, bullying, homesickness and illness. I also loved how it shows that as a new kid even if you have just one friend, if they’re a good one it will make all the difference. Despite not being a kid, I really did enjoy both the story and the illustrations. And I think even adult readers would be able to appreciate the charm of Sakura’s Cherry Blossoms especially if they’re fans of seeing cherry blossoms in the spring.

Clara Voyant by Rachelle Delaney

Middle Grade books tend to be either a hit or miss for me. For instance, I adore Susin Nielsen’s books but haven’t had much luck with other middle-grade novels. However, Vikki VanSickle at Penguin Random House Canada made a strong case for Rachelle Delaney’s Clara Voyant that I just had to give it a chance. This novel is set Toronto’s Kensington Market, which had me intrigued as it’s a neighbourhood that I’ve recently discovered and fell in love with. I also liked the premise of astrology and psychic abilities. That being said, it took me an incredibly long time to get invested in the characters and plot as it was only near the end when the book started to get interesting for me. What I did appreciate about this novel, however was the wonderful friendship between Clara and Maeve, and how both girls had their own ambitions but still made time for each other. I also thought the twist at the end and the reveal of what happened to the missing mascot to be quite clever. While Clara Voyant certainly had its satisfying and entertaining moments, overall I don’t think this was my cup of tea. I do think that this would make for an excellent read for those in middle grade who are slowly figuring out who they are and who might not feel completely comfortable in their own skin yet.

 

 

 

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

Midweek Mini Reviews #18

This Midweek Mini Reviews post features some more non-fiction books.

Love and…Bad Boys, “The One,” and Other Fun Ways to Sabotage Your Relationship by Jen Kim

Lately, it seems like I’ve been reading a ton of self-help books. To be honest, this is probably due to my interest in studying relationships which came about when I was a psychology major rather than a real interest in self-improvement. My latest read on relationships is by Jen Kim, writer of the Psychology Today’s column, “Valley Girl With a Brain”. Like her column, Love And…: Bad Boys, the “One” and Other Fun Ways to Sabotage Your Relationship is written in a way that is easily accessible and appealing to Millennials. Alongside the pop culture references, I liked that she refers to real research studies and theories on top of her personal experiences to back up what she is trying to say. Witty, sarcastic and extremely straightforward, Love And… will make you feel like you’re not alone in being single or being in a relationship where things aren’t 100% perfect. An empowering and somewhat enlightening read, pick this one up if you are one of those people who is frustrated by modern dating and/or are someone hoping to gain greater insight into why we behave the way we do in love and relationships.

30 Before 30 by Marina Shifrin

In case you don’t know her, Marina Shifrin is most known for the way she publicly quit her job on YouTube. This skyrocketed her to fame and ended up leading to many opportunities for her. In her memoir, 30 Before 30 Shifrin’s writings manages to be witty and relatable for the most part. In particular, I enjoyed her essay on how life is a vessel for you to fill with good stories in addition to the one where she talks about learning to dress for your shape and splurging on investment pieces. The section on life advice she’s gotten from doing stand-up was also an excellent read. Additionally, I loved the fun corresponding illustrations included in the book as they added to the entertainment value of the book. However, in the end this was only an okay read for me as there were several times where I just wanted a bit more. Furthermore, some of the essays just didn’t sit right with me as they were centered on goals that were inaccessible to the average millennial who aren’t given the same privilege as the writer this lead to her coming off as slightly obnoxious. Still, I think 30 Before 30 may be a book that would appeal to anyone but particularly Millennials who are looking for a bit of a “push” to go for their dreams or even to start their own bucket list with little goals or experiences they want to do.

 

 

 

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

Mystery Monday | The 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.

Midweek Mini Reviews #13


Love Me True: Writers Reflect on the Ins, Outs, Ups and Downs of Marriage edited by Fiona Tinwei Lam &  Jane Silcott 

This collection of essays and poems edited by writers Fiona Tinwei Lam and Jane Silcott focuses on the various stages of marriage. From the decision to get married to the struggles to partings to celebrations and everything in between, there is a good variety of “stories” contained in this collection. Two of the pieces that stood out to me were Luanne Armstrong’s The Evolution of Marriage as it was the first piece to truly speak to mean and Betsy Warland’s Dear Son as it’s a letter filled with both wisdom and love to her son. And of course, I also enjoyed the Ayelet Tasbari piece as I’m a huge fan of her writing. Love Me True: Writers Reflect on the Ins, Outs, Ups and Downs of Marriage is a heartfelt collection and I definitely appreciated the diversity in the pieces that were selected to be part of the book. However, the biggest draw of Love Me True was the fact that the writers featured in this book were predominantly Canadian. In addition to familiar names like of Mandy Len Catron, Ayelet Tasbari, and Yasuko Thanh readers will be introduced to several other talented and diverse Canadian voices.

Would You Rather: A Memoir of Growing Up and Coming Out by Katie Heaney

At this point, I’ve basically read all of Katie Heaney’s books and I’d have to say that I think she is a stronger essayist than she is a fiction writer. Would You Rather is a follow-up to her début book and first memoir, Never Have I Ever: My Life (So Far) Without a Date and let’s just say, her relationship status has changed significantly in between the two books. The main change has been the fact that Katie has realized that she is no longer attracted to men and is now content in a long-term relationship with her girlfriend, Lydia. I was intrigued by this book since I was looking forward to reading about how Heaney coming to terms with her sexuality. As always, her writing is quirky, honest and accessible due to its conversational tone. And while it took me some time to become invested in the book since not much actually happens, I did enjoy a few of the essays in Would You Rather. “OkCupid Redux” which is about Katie finally finding love with her girlfriend, Lydia was sweet and both “Roommates” and “Something New” easy to relate to. Would You Rather is an interesting exploration of what comes after you “come out” late in life and that along with all the usual confusion and changes, there is also the realization that somehow there will always be stuff to figure out. But isn’t that the case for all of 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 | The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore by Kim Fu

Authour:
Kim Fu
Format:
ARC
Publication date:
February 13th 2018
Publisher:
Harpercollins
Publisher Social Media: 
Twitter/Facebook/SavvyReader/
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:
Based off of the synopsis and the marketing, Kim Fu’s The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore was an unexpected and surprising read for me. For instance, I was not expecting the book to be structured as five (one for each of the girls) self-contained short stories that made references to the traumatic incident at the camp they girls attended. Additionally, while each of the stories was well-written and engrossing I found them rather melancholy to the point of depressing in a few of the stories. 

Despite being told in a nonlinear manner, it was not too difficult to follow each of the girls’ stories. The story was refreshingly realistic in showing how the majority of the girls have no contact with each other after they leave the camp. To be fair, they were not best friends before the incident, but the incident truly did scatter them both physically and emotionally afterward. On the other hand, I appreciated the fact that at least Isabel and Dina kept in touch and remained connected as it’s tough to have gone through something as traumatic as the girls did without having anyone who can understand. This is evident in how despite appearing fine on the surface, a second look at how the other girls’ lives turned out will show that they still bear the mental scars from the incident.

From what I heard about The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore, I was kind of expecting there to be more to the camp ‘incident” in addition how the girls over the years cope with the trauma. Instead, readers only receive brief snippets of each of the girls’ lives. The result is that while readers see just how flawed each of the girls are, the time spent with each girl is too brief. Just as readers become invested in one girl, her story abruptly ends and the book moves onto the next girl. 

Despite not being the most satisfying read, The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore remains a quiet but emotionally powerful read that will probably stay with its readers indefinitely. 

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 | Things to Do When It’s Raining by Marissa Stapley

Authour:
Marissa Stapley
Format:
eGalley
Publication date:
February 6th 2018
Publisher:
Simon & Schuster Canada
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:
Marissa Stapley’s debut, Mating for Life was an interesting read and after being asked to do the cover reveal for Things To Do When It’s Raining I was excited for her latest book. Recommended for fans of Nicholas Sparks, I can definitely understand the appeal of Things To Do When It’s Raining. After all, there are childhood sweethearts, forbidden love and of course families complicated by secrets.

However, the romance isn’t the main focus of Things To Do When It’s Raining. Instead, told from various perspectives, readers receive all sorts of hints regarding the complicated family history of both Mae and Gabe. And while the stories are compelling, the various chapters felt a bit jumbled up and confusing after some time. Understandably, although this may be due to both Lilly and George’s old age and deteriorating state of mind it made it difficult to connect with either of their stories. As for Mae and Gabe, I adored their relationship and wished it received more time, especially since the epilogue glosses over what could’ve been a compelling story of how their relationship evolved over time.

Stapley’s writing as always is incredibly vivid and descriptive and it’s always refreshing to witness her approach serious topics in a realistic and occasionally heartbreaking way in her books. I also love the quirkiness that is infused into the story, for example, in Things To Do When It’s Raining each chapter starts with a suggestion of actual activities the characters can do on days where it’s raining making it an amusing nod to the title of the book.

Things To Do When It’s Raining is a quick read, however, I personally felt that I was given an abundance of little clues and details that did not truly add up to anything conclusive. In the end, it felt truly like nothing happened or was revealed despite the massive information overload. And while this made it the story more true to reality, it felt unsatisfying to me. Nevertheless, Things To Do When It’s Raining is well-written and would make for an excellent cozy 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 | American Panda by Gloria Chao

Authour:
Gloria Chao
Format:
eGalley
Publication date:
February 6th 2018
Publisher:
Simon Pulse
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:
I’m truly enjoying the rise in diverse YA fiction voices. This is coming from a girl who grew up with little exposure to stories starring Asian characters. I remember getting excited when on the rare occasion a required reading in class was a short story by an Asian writer with Asian characters that I could relate to. American Panda is the latest addition to the own voices, narrative trend which I hope is here to stay.

While I went into American Panda under the false assumption that it would be a light, rom-com similar to Sandhya Menon’s When Dimple Met Rishi, so I was a bit caught off guard by the serious nature of the book especially in the beginning. Yes, there are a few moments of adorableness between Mei and her love interest, Darren Takahashi, however this comes later in the novel and is far from being the central focus. Instead, American Panda is about complicated parent-child dynamics, and the struggle to be true to yourself and your passions.

I can definitely relate to Mei’s pressure to not let her parents down while trying to stay true to what makes her happy. My own immigrant parents never pressured me or my siblings to be doctors, however they have made it clear that they want us to have a stable life without the hardships that they faced. And that’s what I loved the most about American Panda, it realistically showcases one example of how traditional Asian families act. Sure, my parents would never even threaten to disown any of us, however they do gossip and compare us to other kids while giving us backhand comments as a way to show that they care. I also found it refreshing how the family issues were not glossed over. By the novel’s conclusion the family conflicts are not all resolved in a neat and tidy way (as is the case in real life), instead progress is gradually being made from both sides. After all, people can’t just change on a whim, it takes time and considerable work in order to reach an understanding.

What’s nice about the rise in own voices trend is we are getting stories, especially geared towards a YA audience that we haven’t gotten before, I do not think I’ve ever read a story similar to American Panda and while I can’t relate to all of Mei’s experiences I know people who have had similar experiences. Furthermore, as a child of Asian immigrants, growing up as a minority among Caucasians who had younger parents with laissez-faire parenting styles, it was difficult for me to explain to others how I did not have the same freedom that was afforded to them. While it was fine for them to rebel and do as they pleased, similar to Mei in the book, growing up I couldn’t just do as I please without the massive guilt trips. Heartbreaking yet heartwarming, lovely, and well written American Panda is a perfect read to inspire and encourage Asian teens by showing them that there isn’t just one path that they must follow in 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.