Midweek Mini Reviews #28

This Midweek Mini Reviews post features two non-fiction, travel inspired books.

The Romance of Elsewhere: Essays by Lynn Freed
To be honest, The Romance of Elsewhere was a bit of a disappointment for me as I thought the essays would be more about travel. Instead, only the title essay and the one tittle “Letter from London” were truly about travel while the other essays looked at a more general restlessness and not any sense of wanderlust. Featuring all previously published essays, the writings seem to be comes someone of rather a privileged background as shown by the mention of servants and an estate and a few of them had a bit of a condescending tone. That being said, it was fascinating to read Freed’s essay about choice and about her life growing up in South Africa during the apartheid-era and of course I appreciated the first essay which talks about travel and wandering the world in a raw and un-romanticized way. All in all, for the most part, I couldn’t really get into most of the essays. Despite that, however, I found that they were for the most part, well written and more often than not provided some thought-provoking and revealing insights about home and wandering.

Around the World in 80 Novels: A global journey inspired by writers from every continent by Henry Russell

I picked up this book when my travel plans changed and it seemed like I wouldn’t be able to go anywhere this year. If you’ve ever been curious about the real life settings and inspiration for some of the most famous books, Henry Russell’s Around the World in 80 Novels is for you. I liked how there was a good mix of classics and modern literature across various genres. On top of that, there are like tips and suggestions for those who are able to travel to these places. However, even if you aren’t able to physically travel to these countries, I like how this book expands on the idea that you can travel anywhere in the world and through time without leaving the comfort of your usual reading spot. Be ready with a notebook and pen while reading this book as I ended up discovering many titles to add to my TBR including Jean Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea (Jamaica and Dominica), Rose Macaulay”s The Towers of Trebizond (Turkey) and Death in Oslo by Anne Holt set in Norway.

 

 

 

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 #27

This Midweek Mini Reviews post features non-fiction books about relationships.

Man Fast: A Memoir by Natasha Scripture
When it comes to non-fiction, I love reading memoirs about single women searching for themselves and through travelling. Based on its description, Natasha Scripture’s Man Fast sounded like it would be a compelling read for me. Natasha has an interesting background, having worked in communications for the UN, which meant even before she embark on her “man fast” journey, she was already quite the globetrotter! That being said, Man Fast was a bit of a letdown for me. I could relate to her love of adventure and desire to help others as well as the societal pressures she faced by that was the extent of my connection with this book. I also love the parts where she talks about her relationship with her family. Still I felt like this memoir was lacking something and I just couldn’t get on board with many of the spiritual discussions in the book which made those sections drag on even longer. Furthermore, the book also felt slightly disorganized and all over the place. So, while it’s refreshing to have a woman’s journey, not end with finding the “one”, I felt like there wasn’t much takeaway from this book even if it was a well written on

Is There Still Sex in the City? by Candace Bushnell
Chances are if you hear the name, Candace Bushnell you think of Sex and the City and Carrie, Charlotte, Miranda and Samantha. Even for someone who hasn’t read any of her books, I am still vaguely familiar with Bushnell’s work because of the Sex and the City and the Lipstick Jungle TV shows. That being said, I was surprised by how dark and serious Bushnell’s latest book, Is There Still Sex in the City? was. Immediately the book starts with divorce and death, which are both talked about in a matter of fact way, this is followed by the revelation that Bushnell has become disillusioned with life in The Big Apple. And while it took a few pages, I did eventually recognize the familiar voice of the creator of SATC as this book was also told through a series of connected first person narrated essays. I’m probably not the demographic for Is There Still Sex in the City? as I felt like this one wasn’t for me, however I did appreciate how real and raw Bushnell’s voice was when she talks about life after divorce, as well as grief, sex, friendship and dating in your 50s and 60s.

 

 

 

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 | This Time Will Be Different by Misa Sugiura

Authour:
Misa Sugiura
Format:
ARC
Publication date:
June 4th 2019
Publisher:
HarperTeen
Publisher Social Media: 
Twitter/Facebook/SavvyReader/
Source:
Received from publisher.

Review:
Every so often, when I’m stuck between two ARCs I turn to social media to help me decide what to read next. Misa Sugiura’s sophomore novel, This Time Will Be Different was the winner of a recent poll I had.

CJ Katsuyama is a Japanese-American teenager who lives with her mother, a high-powered executive and her aunt who runs the family flower shop. While there are countless things CJ isn’t sure of, the one thing she is sure of is that she loves working on floral arrangements with her aunt. So, when she learns that the family shop is being sold to a descendant of the man who cheated her family during World War II she decides to do something about it.

There are two things that I loved about This Time Will Be Different. The first was how relatable CJ was as a teenager, I found it refreshing that she was cynical when it came to matters of the heart as a result of her family’s complicated love history. Still it was nice to have a character be jaded when it comes to love yet still root for others and have crushes. I also appreciated how in the end CJ’s hasn’t been completely changed, she is open to love but not overly sentimental about it. The other thing I loved was the strong women in CJ’s life, I also liked how it the book highlights how CJ feels pressured as a teen to be amazing, especially seeing how well her mother has done for herself as a single and working parent.

This Time Will Be Different was an unexpected read for me, but in a positive way. It started off as a slow read for me, and initially I was only interested in learning more about CJ’s past as it was more interesting than her present day situation. However, I came away learning so much about the language and meaning of flowers in addition to the history of Asian Americans, particularly the Japanese and of the origins of the “model minority” myth. Even though all of this felt like an enormous information dump and at times the placement of these sections affected the pacing of the novel, I still was grateful that it gave me the context to critically look at CJ’s story.

An emotionally resonant story about family, community, and activism This Time Will Be Different shows that real life and people cannot be simplified into good or bad and that history can bring complications even several generations later.

 

 

 

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

A Q & A with Roselle Lim

I was fortunate enough to read Roselle Lim’s début novel, Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune a few months before its release date. In case you haven’t already done so, please check out my review of the book here.

Anyway, when I was asked by Penguin Random House Canada (the publisher) if I was interested in doing an author interview, I jumped at the opportunity to feature an Asian and local author on my blog! Keeping with the theme of luck, I decided to keep it to just eight questions since eight is a lucky number in Chinese astrology. So without further delay, here is a Q&A post with Roselle. Enjoy!

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1. Firstly, if you were to describe Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune using only 3-8 emojis, what would they be?

2. Natalie’s story begins with her return to her old Chinatown neighbourhood, have you ever been to San Francisco’s Chinatown? If so, what are your suggestions on what to see and do?

I visited San Francisco’s Chinatown once as a child, but I’ve been to many Chinatowns in Canada, US, and Asia. In fact, I grew up in Manila’s Chinatown! If possible, ask the locals where they get dumplings. Food is the best way to introduce yourself to the culture and area.

After you’ve eaten, go to the paifang and begin exploring the shops, walking everywhere. Go slow. Immerse yourself in the sights, sounds, and smells.

3. There is an obvious magical realism element in Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune. What was your favourite Chinese ghost story and/or superstition growing up, and has adulthood changed the way you see it now?

Don’t sleep with exposed feet facing a window; otherwise, a ghost or spirit will yank you by the toes and eat you! My mother also convinced me to jump up and down to grow taller. I look back on these superstitions with mirth and a sense of wonder. Still, I only sleep with my feet facing a wall.

4. Family especially the mother-daughter relationship in addition to the family that you choose is a major theme in your book, did you draw upon any of your own relationships in real life for inspiration when writing these characters?

As much as I’d like to say that these characters are family members in disguise, they aren’t. Family is complicated. Often times, I write about relationships I wish I had. The book’s characters embody people I have met and are bits and pieces of strangers I’ve spoken with. Celia and the others embody the community in north Scarborough I called home.

5. Food is of course central to Natalie Tan’s story, how did you decide which recipes to include in the book? And which ones are your favourites?

The recipes are my father’s and they are my childhood favourites. I love food and knew it had to be an invisible, yet palpable, secondary character in the novel. I remembered how I felt eating them. Those feelings dictated which recipe to use in each scene.

While, I love them all, I have a soft spot for the fresh spring rolls. It was such a comfort food growing up.

6. As a fellow foodie and as someone who used to live in Toronto, I’ve also got to ask what are your go to recommendations for must try food places in and around the City?

Oh my goodness, where do I even begin?

  • Fishman’s Clubhouse for their epic tower of king crab and lobster.
  • Saigon Star in Markham for curry crab.
  • Izakaya Guu downtown for delicious Japanese bar food.
  • Casa Manila for excellent Filipino food midtown.
  • Cafe Demetres for dessert and delicious crepes.
  • Destiny Tea House for bubble tea and tasty Taiwanese snacks.
7. Music also has a major role in the story, and I love that your book has its own playlist. Were these the songs that you listened to while working on the book or were they just the music that inspired Natalie’s story?

Most are songs I listened to while working. Classical music establishes mood, tempo, and atmosphere, while operas provide emotion. The overall feel of the playlist is to convey a soft sense of romance. It isn’t a jubilant declaration so much as a wish—a hope to experience love as Natalie sees it. Teresa Teng, however, is a relic from my childhood as she was my parent’s favourite singer.

8. And finally, can you tell us anything about what you’re currently working on at the moment or any upcoming projects?

Book Two is set in Paris and it involves Evelyn Yu, the fortuneteller in Natalie Tan. I’m working on revisions and hope to be done soon.

Book Review | Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune by Roselle Lim

Authour:
Roselle Lim
Format:
ARC
Publication date:
June 11th 2019
Publisher:
Berkley Books
Source:
Received from publisher.

Review:
Everyone knows what comfort food is, well Roselle Lim’s debut novel is what I call a comfort read. Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune is just one of those reads that warm the heart, and provides a sense of nostalgia.

The story follows a young woman who returns to the neighbourhood, she grew morup in upon hearing of her mother’s death. When Natalie comes back home, she finds her once vibrant San Francisco neighbourhood dying, a shadow of what it once was. I found it interesting that the authour chose to tell Natalie’s story from first-person point of view. This helped me to further connect with Natalie’s personal history and story, including the father she never knew, and the mother who she was estranged from. Natalie’s story was more tragic than I initially thought, however I appreciated the complicated mother-daughter dynamics in the book. I also could relate to Natalie in more ways than one, especially her restlessness and wanderlust. Still, I admired how she fights for her dream and was able to make something of herself.

Along with this being a story of family, community and getting back to your roots, there is also romance in store for Natalie. Though if I were honest, the romance plot in the book didn’t genuinely work for me. The romance had its sweet moments but the development was too fast and the circumstances were too rooted in fantasy and not realistic for me to enjoy. Fortunately, it was not the main focus of Natalie’s story.

Still, there’s definitely something magical about Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune, and I’m not saying that due to the magical realism elements of Natalie’s story. Roselle Lim’s writing truly brings the world that she created to life. The descriptions of all the food is so vivid and mouth-watering that it made me hungry. This is one novel you shouldn’t read on an empty stomach! Luckily, there are recipes in the book and while I may not be much of a cook, I now want to try them out for myself.

Touching on topics like mental illness, and estrangement between mothers and daughters, Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune was not the light and fluffy read I thought it would be. It is however, a read that is as enchanting as its cover promises.

 

 

 

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