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 | 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 | The Thousandth Floor by Katharine McGee

1000thAuthour:
Katharine McGee
Format:
ARC, 440 pages
Publication date:
August 30th 2016
Publisher:
HarperCollins
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:
Imagine a world, where people all live in a single residential/retail tower that has everything one could need or want. As a result, you would never have to leave your own building, ever. This is the setting of Katharine McGee’s debut novel, The Thousandth Floor. The interesting thing about it is that while the novel is set in the year 2118, it was actually inspired by a real life 2013 project called Sky City China, and while it has since been abandoned in real life it does not mean that in the future we would have a tower or even towers like the one featured in, The Thousandth Floor.

Told from the 5 different, unique perspectives I found that some of the voices were more captivating than the others. For instance, I liked Eris and Avery’s storylines and their friendship with each other but found the characters of Watt and Leda (who was a “bit:” of a hot mess) to be incredibly annoying. Still for the majority of the novel, I flew through the book at a fairly fast pace thanks in part to the authour’s writing style in addition to the way the chapters were set up. As The Thousandth Floor is only the first book in a series, there is definitely a cliff-hanger ending with a couple of the major loose ends, which has me intrigued as to how the author with proceed in book 2. (I’m hoping for some revenge and for Leda to get her comeuppance)

All that being said, I do think fans of TV shows like Gossip Girl and even Pretty Little Liars with enjoy this one as it does take some dark and twisty turns. The Thousandth Floor is also following suit with those two series as it has been optioned for an ABC television series. And seeing as the most notable thing about this book is its world building and setting, I am rather looking forward to the day when this book hits the small screen.

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 | Always the Bridesmaid by Lindsey Kelk

bridesmaidAuthour:
Lindsey Kelk
Format:
Advance Reader Copy, 386 pages
Publication date:
June 16th 2015
Publisher:
Harper Collins
Publisher Social Media:
Twitter/Facebook/SavvyReader
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:
For some of you, readers June is the start of the “wedding season” which means all those invitations to weddings of family and friends. Or perhaps you are the one getting married this year. Either way, if this is you, probably followed by you bracing for some heaving spending. For me neither is true, though my close friends are (mostly) in serious relationships, none of them are getting married anytime soon. And that’s okay, since I can live vicariously through fiction such as Lindsey Kelk’s Always the Bridesmaid which is basically all the excitement of a party without the actual stress from all the drama that usually comes to weddings.

I first time I learnt of this book from Suman at HarperCollins through twitter, and I was fortunate enough to receive a copy of Always the Bridesmaid for review from Kaitlyn who told me that it was an extremely enjoyable read (which it was so thank you so much, Kaitlyn!). I love how the relationship between Maddie and her best friends was portrayed in the book since for me; personally it rings true to life. There are times that my best friends and I would do things to drive each other insane, nevertheless when it comes down to it, we are there for each other when one of us needs it. Additionally, I also loved how each chapter starts with an entry from the bridesmaid journal that Lauren gives to Maddie and their friend, Sarah. This means you receive hilarious and amusing snippets of what the journal contains and what it asks the bridesmaids to write about, several of them make sense, however others are ridiculously cheesy, which makes it all the more entertaining.

If you are searching for a light and entertaining summer beach read, then I definitely recommend that you pick up Always the Bridesmaid by Lindsey Kelk since she truly has a gift for telling stories with flawed characters in a way that you cannot help but root for them to find happiness in the end.

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 Perfectionists by Sara Shepard

Mystery Mondays

Mystery Mondays is a sometimes weekly, sometimes biweekly and sometimes monthly 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.

Authour: theperfects
Sara Shepard
Format:
Advance Reader Copy, 325 pages
Publication date:
Comes out October 7th 2014
Publisher:
HarperCollins
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:
On the whole when people hear the name Sara Shepard, the first thing that may come to mind is the TV and book series, Pretty Little Liars. And to be honest her latest series, The Perfectionist is incredibly reminiscent of Pretty Little Liars. This does not mean it was not enjoyable, although rather if you are a fan of Pretty Little Liars then this book would definitely appeal to you, and if you aren’t well then this book has several differences from the Pretty Little Liars series.

The Perfectionist is the first of a projected two books that takes place in Beacon Heights, Washington. Here there is an enormous pressure to always appear on top and maintain a flawless image, especially at the high school the central characters attend. The story revolves around five different girls; Ava, Caitlin, Mackenzie, Julie, and Parker, who all have a vendetta against Nolan Hotchkiss, a popular, womanizing student who as we learn has several psychopathic tendencies. He has also damaged each of the girls in a number of way which leads to all of them holding a grudge against him. However that’s not where the story starts. The story in reality begins with a prologue that occurs at a party where Nolan is found dead at his own party; though originally it was deemed as a drug overdose it is later discovered he was found murdered in a manner that is eerily similar to how the five girls had plotted to kill him. The rest of the novel follows each of the five girls and we are given both a glimpse of their home life in addition to the flashbacks as to hat Nolan did to them. As a result the mystery element was not as predominant in this book, nevertheless since it is only the first book in a recent series it is completely understandable.

Truth be told, I truly liked that the mystery element was only one element of the story as I felt that getting to observe how each of the girls are making them more likeable. For instance, though I’m not a fan of cheating, I found myself rooting for Caitlyn and Jeremy and I adored the friendship between Parker and Julie who were both extremely protective and supportive of each other. However in spite of those examples, there countless other examples of horrible relationships and disgusting characters in this book. From truly awful parents and stepparents to “friends” who would stab them in the back to achieve their goals, even if it means resorting to psychological warfare of sorts. It was extremely disheartening although not surprising to read about how awful everybody outside of the five girls was to each other.

Overall The Perfectionists was a compelling, quick and remarkably addictive if somewhat twisted read. And while there are currently two books planned, I feel it may drag on although I hope not as I despise tremendously long series and it would be extremely unfortunate if it were to drag on for years akin to Pretty Little Liars since it has the potential to be excellent at the moment. Needless to say I am looking forward to the sequel, and I would not be surprised if there was some twist involving Nolan’s death and that pinning his murder of the girls is some sort of sick plan, but who knows? We’ll just have to wait and see.

If you like this book, you’ll love: No One Else Can Have You by Kathleen Hale

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

Frenzy Presents 2014 | Four Titles I Can’t Wait For!

Last Sunday, I got the great privilege of attending my first publisher event for bloggers. Hosted by the HarperCollins team at their offices, “Frenzy Presents” is sort of like a fall preview but just for upcoming YA titles from Harper. Anyways instead of doing an event recap, I’d thought I’d just highlight four of the upcoming titles (four because that was my team number for the trivia game, shot out to my teammates, Tiff and Melissa, sorry I wasn’t more useful with the questions) from the presentation that I am extremely excited for. And if you guys want recaps, I provide some links below to bloggers who are doing event recaps. So without further delay, here are the four YA books (in no particular order) that I’m anticipating from Harper:

fallingintoplaceFalling into Place by Amy Zhang

Interesting fact, the authour of this book is only eighteen years old! Pretty awesome no? This contemporary YA title was actually one that I was on the fence about, however after hearing more about it at the Frenzy Presents event, I am definitely going to pick this one up, Falling into Place follows the story of Liz Emerson a girl who one day tries to kill herself by running her car into a tree. She ends up in the hospital and the story,told by an apparently unexpected narrator consists of nonlinear “flashbacks” which will give readers more insight into who Liz was and why she did what she did. Falling into Place seems like it will be a very moving story and I am very intrigued as to who the narrator is. This book releases on September 9th 2014.

 

blackholesMy Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga

Mental illness and suicide is a topic that remains very important to me, as I personally know many people who are suffering from mental illness and have tried to do it at some point and even more than once. The story in this book is about a girl named Ayse, who because of all the stressors in her life both from her family and her classmates, decides to take her own life. She ends up going online to find a suicide partner (someone to help her take her life), and instead she finds someone who makes her question her decision to take her own life even though he is still determined to take his own life. Sounds like it will be an important and emotional read. Cannot wait for this book which comes out, February 10th 2014!

 

jewelThe Jewel (The Lone City #1) by Amy Ewing

Proclaimed as The Selection meets The Handmaid’s Tale, this is one title that I have been excited for since the start. I love that even that it’s a YA novel that tackles a lot of very serious topics like human trafficking and surrogacy as the protagonist, Violet is a surrogate whose job is to carry the children of others. There is also romance in this book which is always nice though I hope there won’t be a love triangle. If this book sounds like something right up your alley, be sure to check out The Jewel by Amy Ewing is coming out in stores September 2nd 2014!

 

redqueen2Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

Okay before this event, I had heard ALOT of things about this Red Queen. However being someone who almost always reads just contemporary fiction in the YA genre I chose to enjoy all the hype around this book as I figured it wouldn’t be the kind of book I’d like. I was proven wrong when Suman started to talk about it at “Frenzy Presents”! People with special powers, a rebel movement and awesome, kick butt characters? I am for sure intrigued, and will be definitely checking out this book when it comes out February 10th 2015.

 

Anyways those are the four teen titles, I’m looking forward to from HarperCollins. I’d like to thank Suman for the invitation as well as give a shout out to Kaitlyn (thanks for the books!) and Shannon, it was lovely to meet and talk with you again. Oh and as promised, here are some links to recaps done by other bloggers:

Video Recap from Maji Bookshelf – http://youtu.be/H4W3NNyowHA
Blog Event Recap from Maji Bookshelf – http://majibookshelf.blogspot.ca/2014/08/hcc-frenzy-presets-recap.html
Book Nerd Canada’s Event Recap – http://booknerd.ca/recap-2014-hcc-frenzy-ya-book-blogger-event/
Booking it With Haley G’s Event Recap – http://booknerd.ca/recap-2014-hcc-frenzy-ya-book-blogger-event/

Book Review | Laughing All the Way to the Mosque by Zarqa Nawaz

Authour:mosque
Zarqa Nawaz
Format:
Advance Reader Copy, 237 pages
Publication date:
June 24th 2014
Publisher:
HarperCollins Canada
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:
Back in high school, I discovered and fell in love with a Canadian television show called Little Mosque on the Prairie. It was so different from all the other shows I had seen on TV not to mention that it was funny and had a great cast of well written characters. As a result, when I heard that the creator of Little Mosque on the Prairie was coming out with a book that was a sort of memoir, I knew that it would be on my to-read list.

Laughing All the Way to the Mosque is a book that is divided into numerous short chapters, each touching upon different aspects of Islamic culture and the authour’s personal experience with them. I love the earlier chapters more than the later ones since the experiences were awfully relatable to me even though I’m not a Muslim. I can, however definitely relate to the feelings of not fitting in as a kid and feeling like an outsider as I was one of only two Asians in my elementary school which was dominated by Italians.

The chapters that stood out to me were, “Muslim Summer Camp” and “Meeting Sami”. The former was about the time she was left in charge of running a Muslim Summer camp for kids and had no idea what she was doing while the latter recounts her adventures meeting various suitors before she met the man who would later become her husband. Both of these stories were hilarious to read about and they were my two favourites in this book. However my favourite one as it is the chapter that I relate the largely to, would have to be, “Medical School Reject”. For anyone who’s been a student and who has had their plans for after graduation fall apart, Zarqa’s story and journey is a definite must read.

In conclusion, Laughing All the Way to the Mosque is an exceptionally entertaining and comedic look at at one woman’s view of growing up Muslim. I love how the book ends with a chapter titled, “Photos with White Men”. I first heard it on the CBC radio show, DNTO and I loved reading it because of its message that no matter what culture you are, your mother always knows best.

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 Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden by Jonas Jonasson

Authour:girlsaved
Jonas Jonasson
Format:
Advance Reader Copy, 387 pages
Publication date:
April 29th 2014
Publisher:
Harper Collins
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:

“Nombeko had no intention of being more cooperative toward the smarmy man than she had been in the shower the day before. So she replied that, as luck would have it, she had another pair of scissors in her possession, and that she would very much like to keep them rather than use them on Uncle Thabo’s other thigh. But as long as Uncle kept himself under control–and taught her to read–thigh number two could retain its good health.”

Prior to starting The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden, I had read two other books which broke my heart in different ways, either of them in good ways. As a result, I knew that I needed an excellent; fun read for my next book otherwise I would end up in a book slump which wouldn’t be good. After confirming that The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden would be a light and funny book, I decided to pick it up as my next read.

Since The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden was my first book by Jonas Jonasson, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I the end, I fell in love with the book, characters and the story. Nombeko, who had such a fun introduction in the book is such an remarkable protagonist. I loved how she was so intelligent, resourceful and resilient and she was just so sensible that it was easy to root for her throughout the book.

Jonasson’s writing throughout is simple, and straightforward. The third person narration throughout the book and that introduces us to Nombeko and various other characters give the story the charm and feel of a modern fairy tale. There is also much dark humour throughout the book but it is told with such lightness that it is not difficult to accept the occasional dreadful horrible things that may befall some of the characters.

All in all The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden is a laugh out loud tale of one girl’s inspiring adventure and journey of overcoming all the obstacles life throws at her while coming across an amazing cast of wacky side characters. In particular, I loved the three Chinese girls who were sisters who had much knowledge about strange an unusual things as well as Holger One and his angry girlfriend, Celeste who while annoying mainly for the reason that they held ridiculously insane ideas that more often than not lead to even more crazy behaviours, were also likeable for how hilarious they were. The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden is definitely a must read for everyone who loves a whimsical and highly amusing read.

If you like this book, you’ll love: The Best Laid Plans by Terry Fallis

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 Enchanted by Rene Denfeld

Authour:enchant
Rene Denfeld
Format:
Trade Paperback , 233 pages
Publication date:
March 4th 2014
Publisher:
Harper
Source:
Gifted.

Review:

“Why. Because you love me?” His voice is snide. “Because you care?”

“No.” She feels her voice turn into a calm river.

“Why, then?”

“It’s my job.” (p.56)

Rene Denfeld’s The Enchanted is one of those books that has much of hype around it and is usually not the type of book that I would pick up myself. In the majority of cases when I do read it despite those two things, I usually end up feeling disappointed. Fortunately for me this was not the case this time.

With a writing style that can only be described as mesmerizing, Denfeld brings you into the world of one prison from the perspectives of numerous key players in this “enchanted” place. We get to meet characters like the warden who comes off as an extremely sympathetic character, a female death penalty investigator, jailers and guards in the prison, a fallen priest and we even get a glimpse into the minds of some of the extremely dangerous inmates in the prison. All have their own justifications for their actions and although you may not agree with their views you can sort of understand where they’re coming, even though you may not necessarily accept or agree or condone their behaviour.

What’s mainly interesting is how the entire story while showing how life is for all these characters is actually narrated by a single mysterious and somewhat omniscient narrator; whose identity is only revealed to the readers closer to the end of the novel. The Enchanted has all the makings of a modern classic, and I love that while it touches on several dark subjects such as drugs, murder, rape and death, there is also a sense of some light, justice, and hope throughout. Everyone has the potential to do awful or nice things, and the setting of this book definitely brings this notion to light. Overall, while this book is not one of my all-time favourite books it is however definitely an incredibly memorable and moving book that will stay with me for an extraordinarily long time as it captivated me throughout and had me holding my breath until the last page.

 “Even monsters need peace. Even monsters need a person who truly wants to listen–to hear–so that someday we might find words that are more than boxes. Then maybe we can stop men like me from happening.” (p. 223)

If you like this book, you’ll love:  One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey

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 | After I’m Gone by Laura Lippman

afterimgoneAuthour
Laura Lippman
Format:
Advance Reader Copy, 334 pages
Publication date:
February 11th 2014
Publisher:
William Morrow
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:
Laura Lippman’s After I’m Gone is one of those books that slowly creep up on you and sucks you in without you even realizing it. Well at least that was the case for me. When I first started reading it, I thought the premise was interesting, but the pacing was a bit slow. In fact, I felt like I was waiting for the story to pick up at the beginning.

I think what I disliked about the start of the story were the chapters that focused on the past and on characters such as Bambi and Michelle whom I did not like early on. However, both grew on me at the present time as it was clear that they have matured and evolved over time and they truly did care about their family. There were also a great number of chapters told from the perspective of other characters connected to Felix and I found that they worked because they gave us more clues as to what actually happened in addition to giving readers more characters to suspect that were responsible for Julie’s death.

What I did like throughout the book were the chapters that took place in the present where readers are introduced to Roberto “Sandy” Sanchez who is a retired detective working on the cold case that is the murder of a woman named Julie who was the mistress of Bambi’s husband, Felix Brewer. I enjoyed reading those chapters more because they focused on the investigations and Sandy was a more likeable character than several of the other major players in this book. In the end my most favourite part of this book was the lead up to the reveal of the killer, as the two timelines start converging it got me excited to see who murdered Julie. And while the identity and motive of the person who killed Julie was not shocking it was definitely satisfying and made perfect sense.

What started off as an ordinary story slowly grew into a more complex story over time. As well, I was surprised to discover that After I’m Gone is for the most part loosely based on the true story of Julius Salsbury, who was the head of a large gambling operation in the 1970s. Like Felix in After I’m Gone, Julius disappeared and left behind his wife and three daughters when it looked like he would be caught. However in real life there wasn’t a murder. Knowing this after I finished reading After I’m Gone makes this book all the more fascinating and I wonder if it would have affected my reading experience if I had known about this before I started reading the book.

If you like this book, you’ll love: Blood Always Tells by Hilary Davidson

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 Mondays | Frog Music by Emma Donoghue

Mystery Mondays

Mystery Mondays is a sometimes weekly, sometimes biweekly and sometimes monthly 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.

Authour:frog music
Emma Donoghue
Format:
Advance Reader Copy, 444 pages
Publication date:
March 25th 2014
Publisher:
HarperCollins
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:
When I first heard about and read the synopsis for Frog Music by Emma Donoghue I was super intrigued and excited for it. The story is one based off of the real life, unsolved murder of Jenny, who is a cross dressing frog catcher. In Emma Donoghue’s story, Jenny’s friend, Blanche is determined to get justice for her friend and so the story is one that follows her journey to do so as well it contains countless flashbacks to when Jenny was still alive, to show readers the complicated relationship she and Blanche had.

The beginning of the novel starts off in a very haunting way that carries itself throughout the rest of the book. I loved how the music of the time plays such a major role in the story because it truly brings the story and characters to life. Yet in spite of that and in spite of the fact that I wanted so much to love this book, I found that I couldn’t connect to the story or the characters. And though I did feel sorry for Blanche, I felt she was to blame for many of her predicaments. Also the plot felt way too dragged out, and I wasn’t crazy about the constant switching back and forth between before and after Jenny’s death as they often occurred with very little warning which left me feeling confused much of the time. In addition, I kind of wished there was more focus on the mystery aspects of the story.

Although I didn’t love Frog Music, I did think it a very well researched novel with much potential. Also I definitely enjoyed the research and background notes regarding the various songs featured in the book. In addition, I appreciated the fact that there was a glossary at the back of the book which contained the English translations of the French words used by some of the characters in the book very helpful as some of the phrases and words they used were unfamiliar to me.

On a final note, the book trailer for Frog Music is amazing, check it out here if you’re curious.

If you like this book, you’ll love: Quiet Dell: A Novel by Jayne Anne Phillips

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 Valley of Amazement by Amy Tan

Authour:valleyamaze
Amy Tan
Format:
Advance Reader Copy, 589 pages
Publication date:
November 5th 2013
Publisher:
Harpercollins
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis:

Moving between the dazzling world of courtesans in turn of the century Shanghai, a remote Chinese mountain village, and the rough-hewn streets of nineteenth-century San Francisco, Amy Tan’s sweeping new novel maps the lives of three generations of women connected by blood and history-and the mystery of an evocative painting known as “The Valley of Amazement.”

Violet is one of the most celebrated courtesans in Shanghai, a beautiful and intelligent woman who has honed her ability to become any man’s fantasy since her start as a “Virgin Courtesan” at the age of twelve. Half-Chinese and half-American, she moves effortlessly between the East and the West. But her talents belie her private struggle to understand who she really is and her search for a home in the world. Abandoned by her mother, Lucia, and uncertain of her father’s identity, Violet’s quest to truly love and be loved will set her on a path fraught with danger and complexity-and the loss of her own daughter.

Lucia, a willful and wild American woman who was once herself the proprietress of Shanghai’s most exclusive courtesan house, nurses her own secret wounds, which she first sustained when, as a teenager, she fell in love with a Chinese painter and followed him from San Francisco to Shanghai. Her search for penance and redemption will bring her to a startling reunion with Flora, Violet’s daughter, and will shatter all that Violet believed she knew about her mother.

Spanning fifty years and two continents, The Valley of Amazement is a deeply moving narrative of family secrets, the legacy of trauma, and the profound connections between mothers and daughters, that returns readers to the compelling territory Amy Tan so expertly mapped in The Joy Luck Club. With her characteristic wisdom, grace, and humor, she conjures a story of the inheritance of love, its mysteries and senses, its illusions and truths.

Review:

Okay confession time I’m probably one of the very few who haven’t read Tan’s previous well known novel The Joy Luck Club. I mean I have heard of it and I have read many books with similar themes of mother-daughter relationships and the Chinese immigrant experience but for some reason haven’t read anything by Amy Tan until now

The Valley of Amazement by Amy Tan set in the early 20th century and it is a story mostly about the life of Violet Minturn, a half Chinese, half American girl living in China. Separated from her American mother at an early age, Violet is left with no choice but to become a “virgin courtesan”. This was during a time where being a courtesan was a career for women with no other alternatives. They were however afforded much more freedom than other Chinese women during this time which is really sad if you think about it.

While I was initially excited to read this book, my excitement died down when I discovered it was about the world of courtesans. However after a very strong start that did not die down, I am felt myself being bewitched by Violet’s story. Tan’s writing is really lovely and it sweeps you away to this time period as you follow the characters from Shanghai to the countryside in China to San Francisco. Throughout the novel I felt like I had become part of their world as I got to bear witness to a lot of behind the scenes stuff that you don’t usually get to read about in your history textbooks. The packaging and the design for this book is stunningly gorgeous for both arc and finished copy which makes it a perfect match for the story contained within.

One of my favourite things about this book was the relationships between many of the women in the book. In particular I loved the relationship between Violet and Magic Gourd especially how over time Magic Gourd became a surrogate mother to Violet. The two of them also worked very well as a team and I loved the chapter entitled “Etiquette For Beauties of the Boudoir” which is basically Magic Gourd teaching Violet how to be the best courtesan. I also liked the parts where we get to read about Violet mother’s story because we get the true story of how Golden Dove and Violet’s mother met and came to work together. I found that their relationship mirrored the relationship between Magic Gourd and Violet which made the story all the more interesting. The only thing I disliked about this book was how the adult Violet was so easily tricked like her mother was at the beginning of the story though I know it was necessary for the sake of the story.

The Valley of Amazement is an elegant account of the complicated world of courtesans in China and how one girl struggles to come to terms with whom she is and who her mother is. This was one book that broke my heart before putting it back together only to break it again. And although parts of it reminded me of Memoirs of a Geisha, I ended up liking this book much more. I would highly recommend this book if you like historical fiction especially those set in China.

If you like this book, you’ll love: The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert (my review)

Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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 Crane Wife by Patrick Ness

Authour:cranewife
Patrick Ness
Format:
Advance Reader Copy, 310 pages
Publication date:
January 27th 2013
Publisher:
Penguin Press (USA), Harpercollins (Canada)
Source:
Received from publisher for book club promotion.

Synopsis:

The extraordinary happens every day…

One night, George Duncan – decent man, a good man – is woken by a noise in his garden. Impossibly, a great white crane has tumbled to earth, shot through its wing by an arrow. Unexpectedly moved, George helps the bird, and from the moment he watches it fly off, his life is transformed.

The next day, a kind but enigmatic woman walks into George’s shop. Suddenly a new world opens up for George, and one night she starts to tell him the most extraordinary story.

Wise, romantic, magical and funny, The Crane Wife is a hymn to the creative imagination and a celebration of the disruptive and redemptive power of love.

Review:

The Crane Wife by Patrick Ness was one of those books that I didn’t really love but I didn’t hate it either. It was to put it simply an interesting novel and unlike anything that I had expected. For instance I wrongly assumed that the story would only be about George Duncan, the main character and not his daughter, Amanda. Also for some reason I thought Amanda would be younger instead of being a full-fledged adult and single mom. And while I would have preferred the story to be just about George, I did enjoy the interaction between Amanda’s son, JP and his grandfather George. Also I think in the end having the book be about both George and Amanda worked for the story that the authour was trying to tell.

While it starts off slow, the story in The Crane Wife does pick up with the appearance of the mysterious “Kumiko”. Like George I felt like I didn’t really know her, and it bothered me as I was curious as to whom she really was. There were however many “hints” to “Kumiko’s” true identity in what appears to be flashbacks of some sort but is really something more as revealed by the novel’s end.

The prose in The Crane Wife is my favourite thing about this book. It is very lyrical and captures the magic of what is a modern take on an old traditional Japanese folk tale. There were so many breath taking passages throughout the book, in particular the descriptions of George and Kumiko working on their “craft” are really magical as is a certain paragraph that does an excellent job of capturing why many people (myself included) still prefer print books over eBooks.

The Crane Wife seems like it would be great for fans of magic realism in adult fiction, unfortunately I’m not really into that. However it was a very unusual, interesting and magical book which is great for this time of the year.

If you like this book, you’ll love: We Are Water by Wally Lamb

Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars

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