RHC Spring/Summer Blogger Preview | Five Titles I Can’t Wait For!

Last Wednesday I got to check off another thing off my book blogger checklist, which was to attend a blogger preview at the offices of Random House of Canada. It was an entertaining night, and I got to meet a few of my fellow book bloggers for the first time as well as catch up with those who I’ve already met in person. Overall it was an entertaining and well organized event, and if they were to hold an Fall Preview I wouldn’t object to getting an invite to attend it so once again, thank you Aliya for the invite!! Anyways, I thought I’d feature a few of the titles that I am super excited for that are coming out in the next few months or so. I’m pretty sure there will be lots of overlap between my choices and the choices of the other bloggers that attended this event so without further delay here are my top five pick plus one bonus pick in no particular order:

1.finding-audrey-sophie-kinsella-book-cover Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella

When I first heard that Sophie Kinsella was coming out with a YA novel, I’ll admit I wasn’t as excited as everyone else was. I mean I’ve only read one book by her, Wedding Night which I enjoyed but I wasn’t like a super fan of her work or anything. However, after learning more about what the book is about I’m very intrigued. The protagonist in this book suffers from an anxiety disorder which as someone who struggles with anxiety often, I can definitely relate to. Also its apparently supposed to be a cute contemporary with romance which is one of my sweet spots. Thus I will definitely be anticipating the release of this book. This book releases on June 9th 2015.

 

2. godruinsA God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson

I absolutely loved, Life after Life by Kate Atkinson so when I heard that she was coming out with a sort of sequel I knew I had to get a copy of it. In A God in Ruins we get the story of Ursula’s younger brother, Teddy. This should be interesting since I really liked Teddy in Life after Life and I’m excited to learn more about him. Fortunately I got an ARC of this book, so I’ll be able to dive into it soon. This book releases on May 5th 2015.

 

3. we-are-all-made-of-molecules-susin-nielsen-book-coverWe are all made of molecules by Susin Nielsen

I adore Susin Nielsen’s writing, and her book The Reluectant Journal of Henry Larsen was one of my favourite reads in 2013. Initially I wasn’t sure about this book, but after hearing about it more at the preview, I really want to check it out when it comes out. Also I loved the fact that one of the descriptions for this book is “Nerd Power Defeats Bully”, cause that is just awesome! Don’t you guys think so too? This book releases on May 12th 2015.

 

4. a-robot-in-the-garden-by-deborah-install-book-coverA Robot in the Garden by Deborah Install

This book some really adorable and I’m just loving the Canadian cover for it. The premise of this book also sounds utterly charming as it is about a man in his thirties who come across a robot in his garden (hence the title), the story then follows all their misadventures as they try to find the robot, Tang’s home. I was sad that I was able to get an ARC of this one but luckily I know a couple of good blogger friends who did get their hands on an early copy and would be willing to share it with me. This book releases on August 4th 2015.

 

5. chinarichChina Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan

This is probably my most anticipated book of 2015. Luckily, I got an ARC of it early on and having just finished reading it, I can say that my excitement was warranted. If you loved Crazy Rich Asians, then you will love China Rich Girlfriend. And if you haven’t read either book, but want a fun and entertaining story filled with ton of gossip and drama and featuring Asian characters then you should definitely check this series out! I know I will be definitely preChina Rich Girlfriend releases on June 16th 2015.

 

**Bonus Pick: The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald**

This last pick is a bonus pick as it doesn’t release until the fall but it is already up there on my fall reading wishlist. The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend follows 28-year-old Sara from Haninge, Sweden who decides to visit her pen pal Amy in Broken Wheel, Iowa. This don’t go as Sara expects once she gets to Broken Wheel, but it does leave room for a great story that is perfect for book lovers. Hearing this book being compared to The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry has made this book a definite must read for me!

Book Review | 10:04 by Ben Lerner

Authour:1004
Ben Lerner
Format:
Hardcover, 244pages
Publication date:
September 2nd 2014
Publisher:
McClelland & Stewart
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:

“If there had been a way to say it without it sounding like presumptuous co-op nonsense, I would have wanted to tell her that discovering you are not identical with yourself  even in the most disturbing and painful way still contains the glimmer, however refracted, of the world to come, where everything is the same but a little different because the past will be citable in all of its moments, including those from our present present happened but never occurred.” (p. 109)

I was first introduced to Ben Lerner’s writing from his debut novel, Leaving the Atocha Station which came out in November 2011. Leaving the Atocha Station was about an American poet on a fellowship in Madrid. His second novel, 10:04 Learner blurs the line between fiction and nonfiction to tell a story of a writer living in New York who has achieved unexpected success who finds out he has a potentially fatal medical condition. To complicate matters even further, his best friend wants him to have a baby with her through artificial insemination.

As always Lerner’s writing style is fascinating and thought provoking. And while there is not much, other than a basic plot, he builds upon the story by making it more interesting through the difficult questions his characters ask which provide the readers much to think about. I often found myself pausing after every few sentences to take in everything that has been mentioned and to reflect on what it means to me. And while I definitely could not relate to his characters in the book, I admired how they were written to be imperfect people. Another element that I felt added to the reading experience was the employment and references to works of modern art in the novel. Lovers of modern art would probably take pleasure in the numerous references to and photos of modern art pieces incorporated throughout this novel.

On the other hand, the one element of the book that I was not the biggest fan of when it came to this book was the storytelling method employed in this book. There was a bunch of jumping around from the protagonist’s story and to the short stories that he writes, and there is even a time skip that occurs near the end without much warning. However it works for this book, and I suppose I understand why it was done the in the manner that it was.

Overall 10:04 was an extremely intriguing read, and not at all what I had initially expected it to be. In fact the ending, while meant to be satisfying left me realizing that I had grown attached to these characters. Thus while 10:04 is not something every person may enjoy, I would suggest that if you are a fan of contemporary literature and/or of introspective novels that you give 10:04 a go. 10:04 is definitely not a book that should be rushed, be rather it is one that should be taken in gradually so that you don’t miss a thing.

If you like this book, you’ll love: Waiting for the Man by Arjun Basu 

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 | Mãn by Kim Thúy

Authour:Mãn
Kim Thúy
Format:
Hardcover, 135 pages
Publication date:
August 26, 2014
Publisher:
Random House Canada
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:

“I had all of eternity because time is infinite when we don’t expect anything.” (p. 133)

Honestly, I knew approximately a year ago from today that Kim Thùy’s Mãn was to be translated into English, hence for all of 2014 I was eagerly anticipating its release even though I originally only knew two things with reference to it: one that it had references to food in it and two that it was by Kim Thùy, however those two were more than enough for me to wish for to have the book in my possession. However when the English synopsis for Mãn was released and I discovered that the book also had a love affair, I became wary as I don’t tend to take pleasure in reading books where there is cheating. Fortunately, after hearing numerous amazing things, I decided to give caution to the wind and pick it up.

Mãn is not only the title of the book, but also the name of the protagonist, a Vietnamese woman who enters into a marriage that is arranged by her “maman”, the woman who raised her as her own daughter. The marriage, though it is not what westerners would consider a “love marriage” is a peaceful one, and for some time Mãn is content with her life in Montreal, assisting her husband run his Vietnamese restaurant. Eventually, as Mãn starts to open up and develop an identity outside of her family and gain some renown for her cooking, with the assistance of her friend, Julie and later Hông, she starts to desire more in life and this slowly leads to her love affair with another chef who is also married.

One of my favourite elements in this novel is the portrayal of female relationships. From Mãn’s relationship with her “maman” to her friendship with both, Julie and Hông, I adored how positive the relationships were. These women were both supportive and fiercely protective of each other which is always pleasant to read. Additionally, I liked how similar of her previous book, Ru there are allusions to the Vietnam War and how it impacted the Vietnamese people. In particular the flashback to one character’s experience of being separated from their family and thrown into a jail that had such horrid conditions was absolutely heart wrenching. I am acquainted with various people who have personally experienced a similar separation from their family, and even a few people who met their relatives for the first time only after both the North and South became united. And while I do not believe anything justifies an extramarital affair, I suppose there was one positive consequence of Mãn’s affair, which was that it encouraged her to become an extra loving and affectionate mother to her children. It also helped that the affair was only a minor though significant piece of Mãn’s story.

All in all, Mãn was a book that I without a doubt enjoyed more than I initially thought. It was a short but emotionally powerful, in addition to being a somewhat romantic book which is reminiscent to Kim Thùy’s previous book, Ru. Once again Kim Thùy has managed to sweep me away in both time and place thus making it feel like I was standing right there beside the characters in her book. Reading Mãn was an experience I would describe as akin to the feeling I have after finally eating banh xèo (the Vietnamese crêpe described in the book that Mãn makes), after craving it for a long time; I felt satisfied although I still have room for more.

20140824-110708.jpg
Making bánh xèo, this one isn’t actually for me, as it has bean sprouts in it.
One finished product, ready to eat!
One finished product, ready to eat!

“At that precise moment, I knew that I would always remain standing, that he would never think of making room for me beside him because that was the sort of man he was, alone and lonely.” (p. 10)

If you like this book, you’ll love: Ru by Kim Thùy

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

Waiting On Wednesday #24 | Mãn by Kim Thúy

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Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme that highlights upcoming titles that we’re looking forward to/dying to read.
It is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine
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Authour:
Kim Thúy
Publication date:
August 26th 2014
Publisher:
Knopf Random Vintage Canada

Synposis:

Mãn has three mothers: the one who gives birth to her in wartime, the nun who plucks her from a vegetable garden, and her beloved Maman, who becomes a spy to survive. Seeking security for her grown daughter, Maman finds Mãn a husband—a lonely Vietnamese restaurateur who lives in Montreal.

Thrown into a new world, Mãn discovers her natural talent as a chef. Gracefully she practices her art, with food as her medium. She creates dishes that are much more than sustenance for the body: they evoke memory and emotion, time and place, and even bring her customers to tears.

Mãn is a mystery—her name means “perfect fulfillment,” yet she and her husband seem to drift along, respectfully and dutifully. But when she encounters a married chef in Paris, everything changes in the instant of a fleeting touch, and Mãn discovers the all-encompassing obsession and ever-present dangers of a love affair.

I adored Kim Thúy’s award winning novel, Ru and was beyond excited to learn that she had written more books after Ru and that another one of her books would soon be translated into English. I love reading works by Asian writers, and its unfortunate that there aren’t that many Vietnamese-Canadian authours. The fact that this book also takes place in one of my favourite Canadian is an added bonus. This is one book that I definitely would love to have.

What books are you “waiting” on this week?

Book Review | Listen to the Squawking Chicken: A Daughter’s Blueprint for Life from the Mother Who Thinks She Knows Best

Authour:chicken
Elaine Lui
Format:
Advance Reader Copy, 223 pages
Publication date:
April 1st 2014
Publisher:
Random House Canada
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:
My siblings and I grew up with not one, but two Asian immigrant moms. The first being of course our biological mothers, and the second being her older sister, our aunt, who we add the prefix “ma” in front of her name instead of calling her “auntie”. So I can definitely relate to many of the things mentioned in Elaine Luis’s sort of memoir. However in my case, my mom’s older sister fits more of the stereotypes of “Chinese” moms than my actual mother. This was probably the main draw for me when it came to this book; I love reading non-fiction especially those that I know I can relate to. My “moms” both used shaming and public embarrassment as well as guilt to get us to do what they want us to do. This mostly consisted of not being lazy and working hard instead of day dreaming.

What makes Listen to the Squawking Chicken: A Daughter’s Blueprint for Life from the Mother Who Thinks She Knows Best (I know – long title, right?) unique, in my opinion, is that it tells real stories of both Elaine and her mother aka”the squawking chicken” while at the same time incorporating elements of Chinese superstition and mythology into real life events in the book. I actually learned a lot more about Chinese culture than I did before as many of the traditions aren’t practiced in my family.

The Squawking Chicken is quite a fascinating character, and after learning about her past we get a better sense that she is a person who was reborn as the person she became out of the circumstances in her life. She is also someone who I would love to meet out of curiosity, but would probably be too intimidated to meet in real life. Though Elaine comments many times that this is her mother’s story, by the end of the book I felt like it was more of a story about both of them with a particular spotlight on the special mother-daughter relationship Elaine and her mother share.

Although Listen to the Squawking Chicken is a very short read, it is full of substance within its pages. There is also a good mix of hilarious moments like when the Squawking Chicken rounds up a bunch of her mah-jong playmates to go confront a home wrecker. This, however, is balanced out with serious moments – such as the story of the Squawking Chicken’s past and her inability to keep friends. Overall Listen to the Squawking Chicken: a Daughter’s Blueprint for Life from the Mother Who Thinks She Knows Best is a highly enjoyable read that I think will make many think twice about taking their mothers for granted.

My squawking chickens.
My squawking chickens.

UPDATE: I recently got to meet Elaine (aka Lainey) at a signing she did in Toronto and received both an arc signed for my sister, as well as a personalized finished copy of her book for me. I was extremely nervous and didn’t say much when I met her, but Lainey was incredibly kind in person as she took the time to chat with me and even got up when I asked to take a picture with her. Also just wanted to give a shout out here to the Random House publicist, Adria who was at the event. Thank you for making me feel extremely welcomed and comfortable. Overall it was a great event, and it was really interesting to hear Lainey speak in person about her experiences writing her book and about her mother.

If you like this book, you’ll love: The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe

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