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
Publisher Social Media:  Twitter/Facebook/SavvyReader/

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.

Midweek Mini Reviews #31

This Midweek Mini Reviews post features two books to whisked you away to magical and romantic France!

Vanessa Yu’s Magical Paris Tea Shop by Roselle Lim
Fortune tellers, matchmakers, romance and delicious pastries! These can be found in Filipino-Chinese Canadian writer, Roselle Lim’s delightful sophomore novel Vanessa Yu’s Magical Paris Tea Shop! While I enjoyed Lim’s debut, Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune I loved Vanessa Yu’s Magical Paris Tea Shop more! This is probably because I connected with the character of Vanessa more than Natalie. I loved her close and quiet relationship with her father and I could definitely relate to having to deal with nosy aunties who are always trying to get involved in her personal life. The aunties were all memorable in their own unique way and it was hilarious yet sweet how they all looked up Vanessa’s Goodreads account to ensure that the romantic “inspirations” they gave Vanessa were books she hasn’t yet read. Vanessa’s Aunt Evelyn intrigued me from her first appearance, and I loved her even more once I got to know her tragic back story and why she is so secretive and hell bent on the “rules” of fortune telling. Unlike Lim’s last book where food was central to the story, Vanessa Yu’s Magical Paris Tea Shop focuses more on the characters’ relationships and the magical realism element is not as flashy. That being said there are still a few magical elements such as the lovely visual of the red threads connecting some of lovers as well as several mouthwatering descriptions of the meals and pastries that Vanessa indulges. However, here the food helps to move along the relationships and reveal some things that were previously hidden. Speaking of relationships, I adored all the romances in the book. I appreciated how Vanessa and Marc got to know each other at a more organic pace, thus making their relationship more believable. The perfect escape read for when it feels like everything is out of our control, I appreciated how fate versus free will was a constant theme in this book and how Vanessa was always questioning things.Vanessa Yu’s Magical Paris Tea Shop has converted me from someone who didn’t have any immediate urge to visit the City of Love to someone who eagerly awaits a time when it is once again safe to travel so I can go out and have my own magical Parisian adventure!

The Secret French Recipes of Sophie Valroux
by Samantha Vérant

Sophie Valroux in The Secret French Recipes of Sophie Valroux is a protagonist that you can’t help but cheer on as despite her tragic past she truly works hard to prove herself to others. This makes her professional setback at the beginning of the novel even more heartbreaking. Fortunately, Sophie has two amazing friends Walter and Robert who are there for her. And once she hears her Grand-Mère (Grandmother) has been hospitalized, she pulls herself together so she can be with her. I loved Sophie’s relationship with her Grand-Mère and wish we got more scenes of the two of them together. It was sad that both were too scared to see each other even after Sophie’s mother died. Misunderstandings and miscommunications were unfortunately common in this book, and you couldn’t help but be frustrated by how some people treated Sophie. This was why Remi as a love interest never won me over completely. It annoyed me how he went from being rude and dismissive of a confused Sophie to suddenly complaining about why she didn’t immediately return his feelings with the same “passion” that he had for her. That being said, I’m Team Sophie and want her to be happy so if he was part of her finding happiness again it was something I could live with. The Secret French Recipes of Sophie Valroux makes it obvious how much the author loves France and food, especially French cuisine. Variant’s writing immersed me in Sophie’s world, first in the kitchen of a Michelin Star NYC restaurant and then in a Château in the south of France. If you can’t hop on a plane for a summer escape to France then this modern fairy tale of family, food, friendship and reconnecting with your past is the next best thing.

 

 

 

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 #30

This Midweek Mini Reviews post features two new YA titles.

10 Things I Hate About Pinky by Sandhya Menon
I’ve been excited for Samir and Pinky’s story ever since they interacted with each other in There’s Something About Sweetie! On the surface Pinky and Samir appeared to be complete opposites of so it was adorable seeing them get to know each other better and fall for each other’s true selves. As someone who grew up with cousins around my age, I liked the relationship between Pinky and her cousin, Dolly especially how they’re able to acknowledge their jealously of each other. I do hope that Dolly gets her own book someday. The relationship between Pinky and her mother was another interesting one. It’s one that many immigrant daughters could relate to especially if they feel like they could never see eye to eye with their moms. i do wish however that more time was spent on resolving this complicated relationship as I couldn’t buy her mother’s change of heart with very little lead up. This could also be in part due to the minor pacing issues in the book. There was a lot of back-and-forth and as a result everything felt rushed near the end. I also could have done without the possum or butterfly habitat subplots as they took time away from the development of Samir and Pinky’s romance in addition to resolving the tension between Pinky and her mother. Nevertheless, 10 Things I Hate About Pinky delivered an enjoyable fake dating, hate to love story that was the perfect light and fluffy distraction from the current craziness. Highly recommended if you enjoyed Sandhya Menon’s other books, especially if you love the humour, banter and heart in her books.

The Best Laid Plans by Cameron Lund 
Some books just read like movies. With its themes of high school relationship dramas, hookups and secret crushes Cameron Lund’s The Best Laid Plans feels like it could have been a teen movie on Netflix or Freeform. I’m always game for a friends to lover story and heard good things about this one. What I liked about The Best Laid Plans was its accurate portrayal of the high school experience, sure there were a few rather cliché and dramatic moments but for the most part the book does a decent job at subverting the usual cliché YA tropes. The characters mostly felt real and I could definitely see people I knew in them. It was also interesting to see how the book didn’t shy away from how messy and toxic friendships in high school could get while not making any of the characters out to be a one-dimensional villain. It was also refreshing for them to acknowledge how not everyone in a friend group is actually “friends” and sometimes you tolerate people because of mutual friends. I’m pretty satisfied with the ending even if the romance started to lose some of its magic near the end with all the reveals. Nevertheless, while nothing special The Best Laid Plans was a well-paced and well written novel.

 

 

 

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 #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 #25

This Midweek Mini Reviews post features a couple of new two very different YA titles!

Have a Little Faith in Me by Sonia Hartl

High school guys can be jerks sometimes. That’s what CeCe in Sonia Hartl’s Have a Little Faith in Me learns when her boyfriend, Ethan, jumps her soon after the two sleep together for the first time. As someone who is not religious I found CeCe’s experience as an “outsider” at a Christian summer camp for teenagers to be interesting. I also appreciate how the story doesn’t waste too much time on CeCe’s original reason for going to the camp which was to try to win back her ex. Instead we get to see her bond with the other girls in her cabin with whom she never thought she’d have anything in common with. I loved the girls of Cabin 8 and seeing how CeCe helps to bring them out of their shell while the girls help CeCe get over her judginess when it comes to others. It was also refreshing to have a YA novel openly call out hypocrites in religion and I liked the way the topic of consent, and how religion deals with sexuality was approached. Finally even though it’s the way the story was set up, I was still rooting for Paul and CeCe because their friendship was heartwarming and the two of them are adorable with the “stories” they tell each other. If you enjoyed Emery Lord’s The Names They Gave Us and/or Firsts by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn then this book is for you.

Our Wayward Fate by Gloria Chao
Gloria Chao has truly come into her own as a writer with her sophomore novel. Our Wayward Fate, not only looks at the what it’s like growing up as a child of immigrants in a place where no one looks like you, but it does so by incorporating elements of the Chinese legend, The Butterfly Lovers in to her story. This mostly works well, although I initially disliked the sections that contained Chao’s twist on the legend as it took time away from Allie’s story which I found more compelling. I connected with many of Allie’s frustrations as I also grew up with a mostly white town. Like Allie, every time there was a Chinese kid my age, I was often paired with them, despite the fact that I’m not even Chinese. That being said, I did like Chase and Allie’s relationship as it was adorable how they bonded over their many similarities. However, I felt that their transition into being a couple was rushed at the start as the pacing was super-fast after Chase’s arrival since everything just starts blowing up socially all at once for Allie. Fortunately their romantic relationship gets more fleshed out with time. I also liked the direction the author took with Allie and Yun and what the two of them together with Chase end up doing in the end. Finally, I appreciated how Allie was able to grow and realized that while many in her small town are racist, she is not guiltless when it comes to having stereotypes about other people either.

 

 

 

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 #24

This Midweek Mini Reviews post features two books by Palestinian American women.

The Twenty-Ninth Year by Hala Alyan

I loved Hala Alyan’s début novel, Salt Houses. This lead to me discovering her TEDx talk, which was a spoken word performance where she talks about the cities she’s been in and their effect on her. The talk really resonated with me, so I was excited to pick up her poetry collection, especially when I learnt it was titled The Twenty-Ninth Year. Being close to but not yet 29, I was hoping to find more pieces that truly spoke to me. Unfortunately, The Twenty-Ninth Year ended up not being my cup of tea. It was darker and rawer than I’d expected, touching a lot more on topics like assault, substance abuse and loss rather than just about a young woman coming of age. There were, however, some poems that stood out to me such as “Honeymoon”, “Gospel: Newlyweds” and ‘Step Eight: Make Amends” because they showed a more realistic take on a young marriage. Honest and candid, The Twenty-Ninth Year may not be a collection of poetry for everyone, but if it is for you, then it will make you feel like you are not alone.

A Woman Is No Man by Etaf Rum 

In Etaf Rum’s A Woman is No Man, a woman named Isra and her daughter, Deya are the central focus of the book, however we also get to know Fareeda who is Isra’s mother-in-law. Isra’s story is particularly tragic because of the foregone conclusion that she and her husband both die when Deya and her sisters are still young since the girls are being raised by their grandparents in the present day. What’s even sadder is that not much has changed for women, as Deya is also pressured to get married after graduating high school despite it being 2008 and her wanting to attend college instead. I really liked Deya’s story, especially how it was connected to the other women in her family and it was thrilling to watch her slowly discover the truth about her mother. I also found it refreshing how none of the characters were multi-dimensional and that no one was truly an evil person. For example, by getting Fareeda’s back story we see that everyone, not just Deya and Isra have their own traumas, struggles and weaknesses. I also appreciated how it was shown that no one in their cloistered community was truly “free”, even the men have expectations and pressures thrust upon them. A powerful and well written novel, the book is made more significant once you learn that the authour drew inspiration from her own experience. And while I could have done without the epilogue, I am satisfied with the book’s hopeful ending as it was about time things started to change and move into a more positive manner for these women.

 

 

 

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 #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 #22

This Midweek Mini Reviews post features two books focusing on South Asian women.

A Good Wife: Escaping the Life I Never Chose by Samra Zafar

A Good Wife is about arranged marriage and domestic violence, knowing that it comes as no surprise that it was a difficult read for me. Still, I felt like it was a necessary read as even today domestic violence and sexual abuse is still prevalent, especially in Asian communities where unfortunately, more than often than not it is swept under the rug. I appreciated how Samra doesn’t sugar-coat the abuse she faced as well as the reality of what happens when you leave a marriage and the mixed feelings when your marriage ends. And it was refreshing to hear her path to being free wasn’t just an easy and straight road. Instead she was constantly plagued with doubts and even backslides at one point. However, this just makes her tale all the more inspiring and powerful, especially when she gains the strength and motivation to finally stand up for herself because of her father and daughters’ love and faith in her. More than just a survival story, A Good Wife is also the story of the importance of having a community and social support system. It’s also a heartbreaking read, but also one with some hope as Samra continues to tell her story and work to help those in situations like the situation she was in.

The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters by Balli Kaur Jaswal

The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters appealed to me as it’s about travelling to a country where you look like the locals on the outside, but on the inside you’re different because you were born/grew up elsewhere. I also appreciated how the Rajni, Jezmeen, and Shirina were all complex and well-developed characters, and how the book looks at the challenges and issues women travellers face. The novel’s themes of sisterhood, culture and travel is also obvious in how the chapters are laid out. I loved that each chapter started with the girls’ late mother writing to them as it provided greater insight into who she was in addition to giving the readers some background and context about why she wanted her daughters to do the things on the itinerary she made just for them. This also made me feel like I was joining the girls on their pilgrimage and that I was right there with them every step of their journey. The conflict between the three sisters felt authentic and I truly empathized with each of them as they all had their own issues and struggles which, when not dealt with directly only exacerbated their various misunderstandings with one another. The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters is a refreshingly empowering read. What I enjoyed most was how it touches upon issues like dysfunctional family dynamics, cultural representation in the media, female feticide, sexism and misogyny while still maintaining a good amount of lightheartedness thus making it the perfect vacation read.

Publisher Social Media:  Twitter/Facebook/SavvyReader/

 

 

 

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 #21

This Midweek Mini Reviews post features two romances just in time for Valentine’s Day.

Matchmaking for Beginners by Maddie Dawson

Having heard many good things about Matchmaking for Beginners I decided to move it up on my TBR list. Unfortunately, this one fell short for me and I felt that it did not live up to the praise it received. Maybe it’s because I hate when people are no given much choice, but I had a hard time getting through this book. The protagonist, Marnie wasn’t very likeable and she came off as extremely flaky and an incredible doormat. Her heartbreak, however was relatable, which made it tough to see her getting pushed around and manipulated by basically everyone, including little kids, her horrible ex and even complete strangers. That being said, the side characters were entertaining at times and I did appreciate Jessica’s friendship with Marnie in fact, she was probably one of the few reasonable characters in the book. As for the “magic” aspect of the book, I thought it was cool initially as Blitz grew on me as a character, however, it eventually got rather irritating as the “sparkles” was used as an excuse for everything including going behind people’s backs to “help” them. I can certainly see how Matchmaking for Beginners could be the perfect, warm and magical holiday read, however for me it was too saccharine for my liking especially the ending and instead left me feeling slightly depressed.         

Liars, Inc. series by Rachel Van Dyken

The first Rachel Van Dyken novel that I read and loved was Infraction. So when I heard she had a new series coming out, this time centering on a women run PI agency that exposes cheaters, I was intrigued. Starting with Dirty Exes, I wasn’t completely sold yet. I liked Blair alright, however I wasn’t as big on Colin or even him and Blair as a couple. That being said, the book did introduce me to Jessie and Isla and from their shared scenes and off the charts chemistry in Dirty Exes I knew I just had to read their book. Fortunately, Dangerous Exes was a definite hit with me. While Jessie and Isla start off as “enemies”, it does not last very long. Soon they’re thrust into a fake engagement and before either of them realizes it, they’re hooking up and starting to develop “feelings”. I love how sweet the two were as a couple, and how they brought out the best in each other. I also appreciated the fact that Isla was half Chinese and that we got to meet Goo-Poh (her aunt). Goo-Poh was such a wild and hilarious character that she stole every scene she appeared in. While Dirty Exes was an okay read for me, Dangerous Exes was a hot and sweet romance that I could not put down. 

 

 

 

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 #20

This Midweek Mini Reviews post features two “self-help” books, perfect for starting a new year.

Happy Go Money: Spend Smart, Save Right and Enjoy Life by Melissa Leong

One of my New Years’ resolutions for 2019 was to learn to manage my money better. This is where my copy of Melissa Leong’s Happy Go Money came in. Unlike the majority of other personal finance books that I’ve tried to pick up, but failed to get through, Leong’s book was easy to follow, light-hearted and entertaining. Part personal finance, part self-help I appreciated how Happy Go Money combines psychology and happiness research with finance tips and tricks to give the reader advice, conversation starters and tasks that the readers can start to tackle their financial goals. While a lot of the material in the book may seem like common sense, it was a good reminder for me. I love how Leong encourages people to spend money on experiences and “time-savers” and I wholeheartedly agree with her advice on opening a separate, no-fee bank account with a debit card for all your non-essential spending. I’ll definitely be doing this, as soon as I have enough money to start another account without having any of my other accounts suffering as a result. Happy Go Money is perfect for people who don’t really read “finance” books but want to learn more as it manages to mostly maintain a decent balance between being warm and friendly while still being informative.

Design Your Next Chapter: How to Realize Your Dreams and Reinvent Your Life by Debbie Travis

Debbie Travis is well-known for her home and design shows on TV. However, Design Your Next Chapter isn’t another book about decorating or painting. Instead, it is more of a self-help book that is packed with tons of tips and inspiring stories about people who’ve taken the leap and pursued their dreams. While a lot of the material in the book seems geared more towards an older demographic, there are some takeaways for younger people as well. In particular, I loved the sections that allow you to fill in the blanks with your own hopes and dreams. I also found the Ten Commandments chapter, especially the section on losing your “fear” and the section on budgeting to be incredibly useful. For anyone who may find themselves thinking “what’s next?” reading this is book is a good start and for those who are curious, Design Your Next Chapter is an easily digestible and comforting read that can be relatable to many people.

 

 

 

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 #19

This month’s Midweek Mini Reviews post features some romance reads for the holiday season.

Fight or Flight by Samantha Young

I was really looking forward to Samantha Young’s Fight or Flight because of the plane travel plot. Plus based on the cover, it felt like it would be a light, and sexy vacation read. What I wasn’t expecting was for it to be more than just a fluffy romance novel. From their first meeting, you can really feel the animosity between Ava and Caleb which quickly escalates to a steamy hook up. However, this is more than an enemies to lovers romance. Both Ava and Caleb actually have some major emotional trauma from their past relationships, and this is never just glossed over. Ava and Caleb’s banter and relationships definitely has its moments, however I just could not get on board with Caleb. I felt that he was unappealing as a romantic male lead and he was too easily forgiven in the end. I would’ve liked to actually see him make more of an effort to make things up to Ava. That being said, however, Fight or Flight has one of the best female friendships, with Ava and her best friend, Harper that I couldn’t help but love the book in the end. To me Ava and Harper’s “love” story was the one that made Fight or Flight worth reading.

My Favorite Half-Night Stand by Christina Lauren

I’ve only read one Christina Lauren book before My Favorite Half-Night Stand and that was Roomies which I liked though was weirded out by parts of it. I did pick up Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating due to all the hype, but could not bring myself to finish it. Fortunately Christina Lauren won me back with My Favorite Half-Night Stand which was just perfection. I love Millie, who while has her quirks is not incredibly annoying and intolerable like Hazel was. She has her issues, of course, but she’s also just plain relatable and quite likeable. I love her and the guys as the interactions and the group chats they have are just hilarious. Also the avatars in the chat they use are super cute. Reid and Millie were also a couple I could definitely root for. Both are incredibly stubborn people who, despite being book smart are kind of clueless and a bit hopeless when it comes to matters of the heart and each other. And while I’m not a fan of any kind of cat-fishing I did like how things were realistically handled and how Millie didn’t get off easily. The perfect length for a romance novel, My Favorite Half-Night Stand warmed my heart and made me smile for most of 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.

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.

Midweek Mini Reviews #17


This Midweek Mini Reviews post features two of the books I brought with me on my trip to Vietnam this summer.

Vi by Kim Thúy

What I loved most about Vi was how family was truly the focus of the story this time around. Readers learn about the title character’s family history (starting with her grandparents) well before we get to Vi’s story and even after she goes out on her own, her family continues to have an impact on her life. I also appreciated the fact that another one of the central aspects of this novel was the Vietnamese Canadian immigrant experience which does differ from the experiences of Vietnamese Americans. I also fell in love with Vi’s family, including her brothers who all looked out for her in their own way as well as her mother who “gave” Vi to her friend, Hà to raise so that she can have a better education and future. As a result of this upbringing, Vi is able to have many adventures across the globe which I loved reading about. All that being said, however, I felt that Vi was not as well written compared with Thúy’s earlier novels, Ru and Mãn and the ending left much to be desired. Furthermore, despite being the titular character readers barely get to know Vi before the book ends. In the end, Vi was a decent read as it has Thúy’s trademark stripped-down, exquisite prose, however the lack of lightness in Vi’s story a

Lands of Lost Borders: Out of Bounds on the Silk Road by Kate Harris

Lands of Lost Borders is a memoir that details the journey and life of the author Kate Harris. Harris has always dreamt of being an explorer and it was interesting to read about how she discovered and harnessed her writing talents to get funding for her adventures as a student. That being said, this was a slow and tough read for me because felt long-winded at times with all the history lessons and technical details of biking embedded in the book. I would’ve liked there to have been more on her adventure in present day, including greater details on the characters she came across and the cities and towns she and her friend travelled through. I did, however, appreciated the fact that Harris doesn’t gloss over the difficulties of her journey as they do face many challenges along the way. So as far as travel literature goes, Lands of Lost Borders isn’t high on my favourites or recommend reading list, however I did learn about Central and Western Asia from it. In the end, I think I probably would have been better off with an audiobook for this one given the type of story it was. 

 

 

 

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 #16


This Midweek Mini Reviews post features some  non-fiction books for those who are feeling a bit lost in life.

Can’t Help Myself: Lessons & Confessions from a Modern Advice Columnist by Meredith Goldstein

I’ve always liked reading advice columns in magazines and newspapers so I was keen to pick up Meredith Goldstein’s Can’t Help Myself: Lessons & Confessions from a Modern Advice Columnist as it promised a “behind the scenes” look at one of today’s most popular columns. Unlike your typical advice column, Love Letters is unique in that it allows responses from its readers in the comments section which gives it a more modern, “group therapy” vibe. The book is divided into different sections, each starting with an introduction from Goldstein talking about her personal life and experience. This “memoir” aspect of the book is then followed by one or two questions from her column that fall under the section’s topic along with Goldstein’s response and some of the responses from the comments. I loved seeing the comments from the readers as their responses and suggestions were always entertaining and occasionally extremely hilarious. I enjoyed this refreshingly, honest look at an advice column and am looking forward to checking out the actual Love Letters column online.

Nobody Cares: Essays by Anne T. Donahue

While the first few essays in Anne T. Donahue’s Nobody Cares truly resonated with me, the majority of the essays in this collection did not. However, there were a few that stood out to me. The chief among them is the essay on not being “fun” as I hate or at the very least don’t see the appeal of the popular things she also hates although I do love brunch. Still, I loved that the takeaway was about not doing things you don’t want to anymore, thus giving you permission to not force yourself to do the things you hate, this is something I’m definitely a fan of it. The other essay that stood out to me was her essay on death titled, “It Will Never Feel This bad Again” as not only was it extremely poignant but it was probably the most honest and relatable essay about death I’ve read so far. In the end, if you’re in your 20s or 30s and feeling lost or not liking where you are in life this book will definitely speak to you. Whether it’s by providing advice that needs to be repeated for you to follow like she does in her essay “Get to Work” or being straightforward and blunt with you while oddly also being comforting as seen in her essay titled, “In Case of Emergency”, Donahue truly cements her status of the best friend you would want to have in your corner.

 

 

 

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