Midweek Mini Reviews #33

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

Midweek Mini Reviews #32

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

5 Fiction Books Coming Your Way in Fall 2020

With the pandemic and lockdown happening where I lived, all book events were moved from in person to online. So instead of attending the Penguin Teen Social and Frenzy Presents events in person like I usually do in the previous, I ended up watching them online. Anyways keeping with the tradition, I thought I’d share some of my top picks of for this fall from both events. Please feel free to comment on the post with what books you’re looking forward to reading this fall/winter.

Charming as a Verb by Ben PHILIPe (RELEASE DATE: September 8, 2020)

Last year I was fortunate enough to attend a party for Ben Phillipe’s debut novel, The Field Guide to the North American Teenage which was a surprisingly charming and witty read. Ben’s second book is also perfect if you’ve read and enjoyed his first novel or if you’re a fan of Nicola Yoon’s books. Charming as a Verb follows Henri “Halti” and Corinne’s unlikely and somewhat “forced” friendship as it potentially develops into something more all while they’re both dealing with the usual stress of being a senior in high school with dreams of going to one of the prestigious colleges. On top of the pressure they feel, they also find themselves confronting real issues that children of immigrants face regularly like code switching and gentrification.

Jo An Adaptation of Little Women (Sort Of) By Kathleen Gros (Release date: September 22, 2020)

Jo is probably my favourite of the March sisters, even if I would’ve prefer she stay unmarried in the end. Anyways, the latest adaption of Little Womenis a middle-grade graphic novel that appears to also take the characters into more modern times. Here, Jo is a 13 years old who has her own blog and also works for her school newspaper. There’s definitely a few new twists in this tale, as Jo realizes not only is she unable to return the feelings of her best friend Laurie but she may not be into guys at all? This one looks like it will not only be a cute story but also a diverse and inclusive one as well, oh and bonus points for it being by a fellow Canadian!

All About Us by Tom Ellen (Release date: October 13, 2020)

One of the few adult titles that were showcased during the Frenzy Presents presentation. This one is for all you fans of Christmas novels with a dash of romance and time travel in the mix! Another take on the classic A Christmas Carol, All About Us is about a man who’s failing marriage makes him wonder if he had the right choice years ago and if he would make the same choice again if given the chance to go back to that fateful day in 2005. Adorable, funny, and possibly heartbreaking this one is for those who love David Nicholls’s One Day or the movie 13 Going on 30 with Jennifer Garner and Mark Ruffalo.

The Magic Fish by Trung Lê Nguyễn (RELEASE DATE: October 13, 2020)

This Own Voices graphic novel reads like a memoir. I love seeing more books by Vietnamese storytellers. as someone of Vietnamese descent and a lover of comics, I’m really looking forward to this one, both for the story and the beautiful illustrations. Apparently there are three interwoven plots in Trung Lê Nguyễn’s The Magic Fish. The first is a fairytale that is read to Tiến by his grandparents, the second is the story of the grandparents living in Vietnam during colonial time and finally we have the story of Tiến trying to find the words both in Vietnamese and English to tell his parents that he is gay. all three have distinctive art styles, so readers will be able to differentiate between the stories.

Super Fake Love Song by David yoon (RELEASE DATE: November 17, 2020)


David Yoon’s Frankly in Love was one of my favourite books last year. I loved his writing and portrayal one of teen boy’s experience growing up as a son in a Korean immigrant household so I’m excited for his sophomore novel! The synopsis of this one sounds interesting with its themes of rock music and a small lie getting out of control. Plus I’m hoping for more of his fictional but realistic take on teen relationships in high school.

Book Review | Dear Emma by Katie Heaney

emmaAuthour:
Katie Heaney
Format:
Advance Reader Copy, 303 pages
Publication date:
March 1st 2016
Publisher:
Grand Central Publishing
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:
Having read Never Have I Ever: My Life (So Far) Without a Date and enjoyed it I was curious to see how Katie Heaney would approach fiction. Furthermore, the fact that the book was set in college meant that the characters would be closer in age to me and therefore extra relatable. Although a work of fiction, I believe Dear Emma shares a few similarities with Katie Heaney’s first book which was a memoir of sorts. What the two books have in common, is that both appear to be tributes to female friendships. When it comes to Dear Emma if you are looking for a book with romance in it, then you’re best looking elsewhere. The focus of Dear Emma remains truly on female friendships and college life.

What’s intriguing with Dear Emma is that not only did the author say it was inspired by Jane Austen’s Emma (albeit incredibly loosely) in addition it was also inspired by the authour’s own college experiences. As a result, it was incredibly relatable and it made me nostalgic for my university days. And sure I didn’t live away from home or near my school however I had several friends who did and the stories I’ve heard from resemble the lives of Harriet, and. That’s probably why this book resonated with me, it wasn’t too long ago that I was hanging out with my friends in one of the school’s cafeterias and/or getting together for study group sessions.

To be honest, not much happens in Dear Emma. There remains a bit of relationship drama here and there however it was only in tiny doses. I did however appreciate the fact that Harriet had her own column in her college’s newspaper as I loved reading her reactions to the letters/emails she gets in addition to how her personal life slowly collides with her “private” work life.

Dear Emma is definitely a book that could make several of us nostalgic for our postsecondary days. After all as Dear Emma demonstrates, college is a time that you may or may not find the love of your life however it’s more likely that you’ll form some memorable friendships that will have a lasting impact on you instead.

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 | Poles Apart by Terry Fallis

polesapartAuthour:
Terry Fallis
Format:
Advance Reader Copy
Publication date:
October 20th 2015
Publisher:
Douglas Gibson Books
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:
I’ve always considered myself to be a feminist, and after hearing that Terry Fallis’ fifth novel features a feminist blogger, I attempted to acquire an early copy of his book to read and review for this blog. Fortunately the Fourth Annual Ontario Book Blogger Meet granted me the opportunity to pick up an advance reader of Poles Apart which I promptly started almost immediately after I had it in my possession.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Terry Fallis, he’s a Canadian writer who is known for his hilarious novels. In his latest novel, Poles Apart he tells a different type of tale as we follow Everett Kane an aspiring writer who ends up creating the feminist blog, Eve of Equality that becomes viral. As a fellow blogger, I loved that I could relate to several of the tools and strategies that Everett employs as he creates and maintains his blog. (With the exception of my blog becoming viral) Additionally, I discovered several useful tips for bloggers that I was unaware of before reading Poles Apart. Furthermore, while I was unable to connect to most of the characters in the book I did enjoy the character development that Everett’s dad undergoes though the course of the novel.

Overall, Poles Apart touches upon an extremely vital issue which is how men can also participate in the fight for equality between sexes. And I believe Terry Fallis illustrates this point brilliantly in the character of Everett “Eve” Kane as one of the reasons that Eve refuses to come forward as the creator of the feminist blog is that he doesn’t believe he’ll be accepted and he doesn’t feel that as a man he should be the face of feminism. However, in the conclusion the novel does an excellent job of showing how everybody can be a part of the fight for women’s rights. Thus, while I cannot say that Poles Apart is my favourite Terry Fallis novel (that title still belongs to No Relations) I can however say that it is a cleverly written and entertaining novel that is absolutely worth checking out.

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