What I Read in January

Below is a list of everything I read in January and my thoughts on each of the books. I got off to a bit of a slow start, be hopefully things will start picking up soon as I’ve got some awesome review books to look forward to in the coming months. Both A Pho Love Story by Loan Le and Trung Le Nguyen’s The Magic Fish will have their own detailed blog review post later this month, so be sure to be on the lookout for them both!


A TASTE FOR LOVE BY JENNIFER YEN

Pride and Prejudice but set it in modern Houston, Texas with Taiwanese American families. Throw in a baking competition, and that’s how I would describe Jennifer Yen’s A Taste for Love. This was an addictive read that I just flew through.

I love the sisters’ relationship and the female friendship in the book, almost as much as I enjoyed the progression of the relationship between Liza and James. I also appreciated how even though A Taste for Love was a sort of retelling of Pride and Prejudice, it didn’t adopt all the subplots from Pride and Prejudice. Instead, Yen took what made sense for the setting and characters and put her own spin for her book.

As someone who was born and raised in North America but whose parents came from an Asian country, I definitely could relate to many of the things talked about. For instance, Liza’s aversion to dating Asians guys is definitely something my siblings have in common with her, although unlike her they remain steadfast in their determination. The passive aggressive mind games between Liza’s mom and Mrs. Lee was also hilarious, though I’m relived that Mrs. Lee ended up being a reasonable person in the end. Finally, I also loved all the baked goods in this book, and it’s always interesting to have characters who have to help at their family’s small shops on top of being a typical teenager.

Despite not intending to make it my first read of the new year, A Taste for Love was the perfect book to kick start my 2021 reading!


Yona of the Dawn Volume 27 by Mizuho Kusanagi

I’ve always been a fan of manga since high school, but these days I’m more selective about what I read as there are so many options. In fact, if I were to list all the series I read online, it would take way too long. Mizuho Kusanagi’s series, Yona of the Dawn has a special place in my heart though as it was the series that reignited my love for shōjo manga after university. It is the only series that I currently collect physical copies of. I ended up getting volumes 25-27 for Christmas and could only get to volume 27 in 2021. Highly recommend this series if you like epic historical fantasy series that is more dark and less on the fluffy romance side and am looking forward to continuing with this series, although I hate cliffhangers so I’ll probably wait until there are a couple of new volumes released so I can binge a bunch of them again.


A Pho Love Story by Loan Le 

Loan Le’s debut, A Pho Love Story is a heartwarming read with a lot of soul. As a child of Vietnamese immigrants, I related to so much to the characters and cultural nuances in the book. If I were being honest, what I loved about A Pho Love Story wasn’t the love story but the cultural nuances because both the main characters are Vietnamese. Stay tuned for a more in-depth review of A Pho Love Story that I will have up on the blog later this month

 

 


FOrtune by Ian Hamilton

I’ve read Ian Hamilton’s Uncle Chow Tung series since the first book, Fate, and while it’s been a decent series, I’ve always preferred the Ava Lee series. That being said, Fortune impressed me as a compelling read. I definitely enjoyed Fortune more than I thought I would, and it was actually nice to return to the world of young Uncle and his colleagues. Also, I appreciated how we finally get to see the connections that Fortune has with its sequel series, Ava Lee. Both the introduction of Sonny and the mention of Xu and his son were an exciting development, as these are characters who would have key roles in the Ava Lee world. 

The overarching plot in Fortune was also an interesting one as we see Uncle realizing that the local gangs need to be more organized and thus unified. Seeing young Uncle’s thought process and how he works and how similar it is to the way Ava goes is an excellent foreshadowing to their fated partnership and why it’s not surprising they would get along and work well together. In the authour’s note at the end of the book, Ian Hamilton talks about how Fate was intended to be the last book in the Uncle Chow Tung series, but how he now hopes to write a couple more books. I too would be interested in seeing things from Uncle’s perspective once he encounters Ava, and of course what he’s like in the later part of his life after he leaves the triads.


Disney Manga: Kilala Princess – Rescue the Village with Mulan!

I read the original Kilala Princess manga series back in high school, so I was curious as to what would happen to Kilala and her friends in this sequel. In case you’re not familiar with this series, think of it as an all ages “Kingdom of Hearts with Disney Princesses” that is incredibly fluffy but also cheerful in tone. That Mulan is the featured Disney “Princess” in this book only clinched the fact that I was going to check it out. Surprisingly, instead of the black and white volumes that are typical for manga, Disney Manga: Kilala Princess – Rescue the Village with Mulan has been printed like a trade comic book and the pages even in full colours. If you‘re a fan of magical girl anime and/or Disney Princesses, then you may be into this. It’s definitely a book that was made to appeal to those who like them both. Also, while not entirely necessary, I would highly recommend reading the first Kilala Princess manga series that’s also published by Tokyopop. Reading it will help you better appreciate the story and how far the characters have come.

 

 

 

 

Regardless of how these books came into my possession, the above review 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.

Book Review | This Is Really Happening by Erin Chack


Authour:

Erin Chack
Format:
ARC, 229 pages
Publication date:
April 25th 2017
Publisher:
Razorbill
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:
2017 seems to be the year of new books from the writers and editors of major social media websites similar to Popsugar, Elite Daily and of course Buzzfeed. This is Really Happening follows this pattern, as it is a collection of personal essays and stories from Erin Chack who is a senior writer at Buzzfeed.

This is Really Happening is another title that I read an excerpt of in 2016, and after reading that preview I knew I needed to read the rest! And fortunately for me, I was able to snag an ARC of it. The book itself truly does read as if you were having a conversation and catching up with an old friend. Erin Chack’s writing is straight forward, relatable, and poignant with just the right amount of humour to save things from getting too heavy and dark. This is especially true as she dives right into the serious topics and discusses her diagnosis with cancer and the reality of learning that you have cancer from the start.

Some of my favourite essays in this book were, “Don’t Read the Comments” about what it’s truly like to have writing as your day job while giving us a glimpse at the behind the scenes at Buzzfeed and what happens when a post you write goes viral. I also enjoyed “Find your Carrot” where Erin shares in an honest and frank manner what’s it actually like to date a person for over a decade and how you grow and change together through the different personas you both inhabit through the years.

Compared to the majority of other memoirs from hilarious women, This is Really Happening is definitely one that would appeal more to the YA audience. However even if YA isn’t quite your jam, it is still worth it to pick up This is Really Happening as it’s an unflinchingly honest, quick and fairly lighthearted read into what life can be like for a millennial which in itself is quite entertaining.

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 | Don’t Fail Me Now by Una LaMarche

dontfailAuthour:
Una LaMarche
Format:
Advance Reader Copy, 273 pages
Publication date:
September 1st 2015
Publisher:
Razorbill
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:
As somebody who is unable to drive, and who has friends that refuse to learn to drive the only way I can get the “road trip experience” is vicariously through an excellent road trip novel. Don’t Fail Me Now by Una LaMarche is a stellar example of a road trip novel that balances a serious story with moments of light humour. I loved both of Una LaMarche’s previous YA novels, although it was the synopsis of Don’t Fail Me Now that compelled me to pick it up.

Don’t Fail Me Now follows Michelle and her little siblings Cass and Denny, who live in urban Baltimore; they are struggling to make ends meet as their mother is in jail. As for Michelle’s father, well that’s where her connection to another Leah is as they share the same biological father. Buck Devereaux is the biological father of Michelle, Leah, in addition to Cass. I thought that the book captures the unfortunate reality and desperation that those living in poverty feel in a way that feels real and not overly dramatic. What I enjoyed the largely though, was how Don’t Fail Me Now doesn’t shy away from issues of race, discrimination and how they are connected. Furthermore, tough topics are examined in Don’t Fail Me Now such as dysfunctional families, addictions, and abuse in a way that doesn’t sugarcoat the reality and consequences of people’s decisions.

In the end, Don’t Fail Me Now is by far my favourite of all the books that Una LaMarche has written. It’s both a heartbreaking and a heartwarming novel concerning family, and all types of love including an adorable romance in the book. And while the ending of the book was a satisfying conclusion, there were a few loose threads that are true to real life, in that there are no quick fixes to complicated situations and problems.

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 | A Tale of Two Besties by Sophia Rossi

twobestiesAuthour:
Sophia Rossi
Format:
Advance Reader Copy, 302 pages
Publication date:
May 12th 2015
Publisher:
Razorbill
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:
Every so often after reading a large number of heavy subject books, you may crave a break from it all. For me, I usually accomplish this by picking up a light and fluffy contemporary YA novel. Vikki from Penguin Random House suggested that I try A Tale of Two Besties, and she was right it truly was an adorable read.

Tale of Two Besties, concerns two best friends, Harper and Lily who are inseparable that is until Lily’s parents decide that it would be better for her “development” if she attended the special Pathways school instead of Beverly High like the rest of her class, including her best friend Harper.

I liked that the story was told from the perspective of both girls, as we get a glimpse at what each girl is thinking and feeling while they go through similar and occasionally the same experiences and events. In addition it was cool to watch how each girl adapted to high school without each other and their attempts at staying in contact when they went to separate schools.

All in all, I believe this book does an excellent job at illustrating how friendships similar to any good relationship needs to be a two-way street and that it is imperative that friends communicate with each other so that there are no misunderstandings. Furthermore, this book demonstrates that people probably should be realistic regarding their expectations as friendships change especially when people are apart. However, if I were to be honest I ought to say reading Tale of Two Besties felt akin to reading a middle grade novel rather than a YA novel. Although this may be due to the age of the two girls, who in this book are just starting high school. Not that there’s anything wrong with middle grade fiction, in the end it just wasn’t for me.

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 Truth Commission by Susan Juby

truthcomm

As part of the blog tour, we’ve been asked to play Two Truths and a Lie. For those of you unfamiliar with the game, you make three statements, 2 of which are true and 1 is a lie. So here are mine:

1. My older sister was the one who initially inspired me to study psychology.
2. I’m terrified of snakes.
3. We used to have a pet dog back when we were kids.

The reveal for which statement is the lie will be at the end of my review.

 

truthcomAuthour:
Susan Juby
Format:
Advance Reader Copy, 309 pages
Publication date:
April 14th 2015
Publisher:
Razorbill Canada
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:
It’s has been awhile since I initially read Alice, I Think by Susan Juby. As a result, I was intrigued when I heard that she had a new YA novel coming out. The Truth Commission is the story of Normandy Pale and it is written as the narrative fiction or rather a piece of creative non-fiction which is to be Normandy’s project for her junior year of high school. Therefore we are treated to countless footnotes that Normandy uses to address her teacher in addition to anyone who’s reading her work. These provided a light-hearted touch though they could become quite irritating when she uses loads of them at once, which she hilariously lampshades in the book.

If I ought to be honest, this book was nothing reminiscent what I had expected. Though, that may have to do with the fact that I read exceptionally little on it going into the book. Consequently, I was surprised to discover that the book was much darker than I had imagined. However, this is neither a good nor a terrible thing. Instead we receive a unique and captivating YA novel that is also a remarkable piece of storytelling.

Normandy’s story is a compelling one as it shows what happens when fiction and real life collide, and I found it interesting that Normandy is dragged into become a “Truth Commission” which her two best friends, Dusk and Neil. This was for the reason that Normandy was concealing various incredibly dark secrets concerning her older sister and her family which made it weirdly hilarious that she was being made to ask people for their truths when she is extremely closed off, herself.

As a co-creator of a web comic, myself (#fakememories), I resonated a great deal with the themes in Susan Juby’s The Truth Commission. Reading The Truth Commission has made me take a step back and critically examine how I tell the stories on top of how I write and portrayal characters in #fakememories. Thus, I consider The Truth Commission to be an essential read for everybody especially for those who write and tell stories.

And finally if you’re wondering which one of my statements was a lie, it was #2.

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 | I Am Her Revenge by Meredith Moore

Authour: Revenge
Meredith Moore
Format:
Advance Reader Copy, 319 pages
Publication date:
April 7th 2015
Publisher:
Razorbill
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:
I tend to be a bit mistrustful when it comes to revenge novels, as I find that especially in YA ones there’s a trend towards a greater focus on the romance than the revenge aspect of the plot. Fortunately Meredith Moore’s I Am Her Revenge was a pleasant surprise in that it did not disappoint. From the start, I found the narrative to be extremely compelling, so much so that it was incredibly difficult for me to put the book down.

I Am Her Revenge follows Vivian, who has been trained all her life by her mother to exact revenge on the man who not only broke her mother’s heart but also ruined her mother’s life. This book was equal parts thrilling and creepy, especially the flashbacks to how Vivian was raised by her mother. I am obsessed with Vivian as a protagonist for the reason that of she is extremely cold and calculating. Still, deep down Vivian isn’t a terrible person rather she hasn’t been taught any better. And getting a glimpse into her mind, we also discover that she’s not exactly a “flawless” weapon in reality she’s just a girl who is afraid of her mother. In particular she’s terrified of being punished and she does not wish to disappoint the one person who’s always been there for her albeit in a twisted way.

Therefore, I liked seeing Vivian soften up and begin to care for others all while not deterring from her mission. I felt that this was handled quite nicely as it would’ve been a cop out and completely out of her character if she just suddenly had a change of heart and walked away from it all. Additionally, there is of course a little romance in the book and while at times it is a bit much I did appreciate how after everything she acknowledges that she’s not normal and that things akin to having a relationship won’t be trouble-free as it will not be simple to undo everything that her mother taught her, at least not right away.

There were a few things that I did not truly care for that occurred near the novel’s conclusion such as how one character expected Vivian to accept them and become a certain person; in addition, I felt that the pacing near the conclusion of the book felt slightly rushed. However, those are just two minor elements. Overall I felt that I Am Her Revenge was a revenge story done right and if you are looking for a good revenge story and you are fond of books set in boarding schools, you should definitely check this one out.

If you like this book, you’ll love: Trust Me, I’m Lying by Mary Elizabeth Summer

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

Blog Tour | Like No Other by Una LaMarche Book Review

Authour:noother
Una LaMarche
Format:
Advance Reader Copy, 312 pages
Publication date:
July 24th 2014
Publisher:
Razorbill
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:

Remember the story of Romeo and Juliet? Well what if the story rook place in modern times and Romeo and Juliet were from two completely different cultures living on opposite sides of the same street? This is what you can sort of expect in Una LaMarche’s newest book, Like No Other.

In Like No Other, the two main characters are Jaxon who is a boy of West Indian descent and Devorah, a Hasidic Jewish girl. Both are strong characters whose cultures and beliefs add more richness to their characters. I especially love how Devorah as she is portrayed as a extremely capable and intelligent person and that never changes in the book. While Devorah’s character is explored in great depth, I found that we barely get to know Jaxon. This is unfortunate as I would have also liked to have witnessed some growth and get a glimpse of how knowing Devorah has changed him in the end.

In my opinion the synopsis is a tad misleading as the romance aspect of the book was barely there. Which I suppose is a good thing in this case as I felt it was a bit insta-lovey and based more on infatuation rather than anything concrete, even though it does have its believable and charming moments. However the relationship itself, works well as a catalyst for Devorah to get out of her comfort zone, and question what she truly wants in life outside of what she has been told to want. I love how Devorah grows to become her own person, and someone who wants to and is able to fight her own battles as she slowly starts to realize that there is more to that the world and life can offer her than the sheltered upbringing she is used to. Not that there is anything wrong with that world, but I believe it’s important for everyone to be aware of all the options, and be given a choice to choose what they want out of their life even if while knowing that in reality numerous people still do not have this luxury.

Like No Other is a welcome coming of age story that adds a diverse voice to the YA genre, which is in definite need of more diverse voices. And although I liked Una LaMarche’s debut novel about friendship and summer just a tad more than Like No Other, I can safely say I like Like No Other almost as much as I liked Five Summers.

If you like this book, you’ll love:  Just One Day  by Gayle Forman

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