Book Review | Butterfly Yellow by Thanhha Lai

Authour:
Thanhhà Lại
Format:
ARC
Publication date:
September 3rd 2019
Publisher:
HarperCollins
Publisher Social Media: 
Twitter/Facebook/SavvyReader/

Source:
Received from publisher

Review:
My parents grew up during the Việt Nam War, and one of the stories I’ll always remember is how my mother and sister reunited with their half-brother after the war was over. Despite haven’t never met in person, they knew he was their brother because he looked just like their father. My mother and aunt’s story is just one of countless stories to come from those who were impacted by the Vietnam War. In Thanhhà Lại’s Butterfly Yellow, we have the story of Hằng who finally has made her way to America and is desperate to reunite with her younger brother, Linh.

Known for her award-winning middle grade novels, Butterfly Yellow is Thanhhà Lại’s foray into YA fiction. As it was my first book by this authour I was unsure what to expect, however I was eager to get my hands on it as I love supporting Vietnamese voices. Unfortunately, I found that Butterfly Yellow was not for me. Most of the novel felt more middle grade than young adult to me with the exception of the main subject of the book and LeeRoy’s little “problem”. I also found it difficult to connect with several parts of the book as Hằng’s broken English was confusing and it distracted me from whatever was happening when she spoke as I was too busy trying to decipher what she was saying. I can, however appreciate how realistic it was to have Hằng’s dialogue written this way as it does an excellent job at showing her limited English abilities and the struggles that come from it.

I also appreciated the detail that went into describing the events leading to Hằng’s “Extreme Trauma” status. My favourite sections of the book were the chapters that showed us what life was for Hằng during and post the Việt Nam War, in addition to the backstories of characters such as the old man who lets Hằng and LeeRoy work on his farm for money as well as the woman whom Linh/David calls his “mama”. Although those sections weren’t labelled so it took a minute or so before I was able to recognize whose chapter it was.

At its heart and underneath all of Butterfly Yellow’s awkwardness is an important story that hasn’t been told in fiction compared to other major historical events. Yet in the end, Butterfly Yellow fell flat for me because in spite of its heartfelt and engrossing moments I wanted more. I would’ve liked to see Hằng and Linh/David more developed as characters and if I were being honest less of LeeRoy wouldn’t be awful. Nevertheless, this book about healing, resilience and family may speak to anyone looking for a young adult novel about war and trauma.

 

 

 

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

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.

Mystery Monday | A Dangerous Engagement by Ashley Weaver

Mystery Mondays is an occasional review feature here on Words of Mystery that showcases books in the mystery (occasionally  thriller) genre that I am currently reading and my thoughts on them. Feel free to comment and leave suggestions as to what I should read and review next.

Who is it by? Ashley Weaver is the Technical Services Coordinator for the Allen Parish Libraries, having had her starting working as a page at the age of 14. Her Amory Ames series features a wealthy young woman who with a bit of help from her husband, Milo is also an amateur detective. A Dangerous Engagement is the sixth Amory Ames Mystery novel. She now lives in Oakdale, Louisiana.

What is it about? Amory Ames is looking forward to being a bridesmaid at her childhood friend Tabitha’s wedding. However upon her arrival things are not as she thought they’d be, what with all the secrets everyone seems to be having as well as all the unspoken tension. Things take a darker turn when one of the groomsmen is found murdered on the front steps of the Tabitha’s home. Word is the murder victim may have had ties to the glamorous, dangerous world of both bootleggers and the mob but who really killed him? Not one to shy away from a murder, Amory finds herself drawn into finding the truth and getting justice once again.

Where does it take place? New York City in the 1930s.

Why did I like it? I wasn’t sure what to expect with this series as A Dangerous Engagement is my first Amory Ames book. However, I was intrigued by the premise as well as the time period. Fortunately Ashley Weaver, did not let me down! Both the writing and the characters were charming from the start, and I enjoyed the build up to the mystery. The pacing of the book was also perfect for a noir mystery. On the other hand, the relationship between Amory and Milo made me pause at times. However it’s clear that they’re very much in love with one another and that their past struggle has made them stronger as a couple. That being said, I’m not sure how they’ll fare as parents down the road, but it would be interesting to see. Other than that, I adore all the other references to 1930s New York in the book, including the Prohibition, jazz singers and gangsters what with the notorious Leon De Lora being one of my favourite characters in the book. I appreciated how he was far from being a one-dimensional character. So, if you like cozy, historical mysteries featuring a female sleuth, then give this one a shot!

When did it come out? September 3, 2019

 

 

 

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

Recently in Romance #3

 Recently in Romance is a new to this blog review feature where I’ll be sharing my thoughts on some romance novels I’ve read. This review feature was originally created by Mostly Ya Lit.

Only Ever You by C.D. Reiss

Two childhood friends, one marriage pact is the premise of C.D. Reiss’ Only Ever You. I’m a sucker for the best friends-to-lovers trope so I was excited for this one, despite having never read anything by this author. Overall, Only Ever You was a sweet and mostly satisfying read. It was refreshing to have the usual roles reversed in this book with a heroine who is a strong protector and who has more “experience” than the hero. This book was also surprisingly very steamy despite the couple not sleeping together right away. I also loved the cast of friends and family members on both sides, as they rounded out the story and added more hilarity and heartwarming moments to the book. In the end, while I appreciated the realistic way bullying was portrayed in that more often than not bullies don’t get punished, I do wish we got more of a lead up to how both Rachel and Sebastian’s career and work issues were resolved instead of a time skip epilogue where everyone is happy.

 What Happens Now? by Sophia Money-Coutts
Publisher Social Media:  Twitter/Facebook/SavvyReader/

Looking for some light reading for my trip, I decided to pick up Sophia Money-Coutts’s What Happens Now? To be honest, this one was a bit of a disappointing read for me. Firstly, it was longer than I expected and it dragged for the majority of the book. It also wasn’t as light or hilarious as I hoped it would be, there were some funny bits but they were quite dry. In addition, the romantic relationship in the book was severely under-developed as the love interest, Max was absent for most of the novel. However, I did appreciate how Lil’s pregnancy was portrayed as in reality being pregnant isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. I also loved the boys in Lil’s class as they were hilarious and I also adored the awesome support system she has with her parents and her best friend, Jess. So while I wasn’t completely on board with the romance aspect of the book, I found it refreshing to read a book where the protagonist is closer to 30 as it becomes a different type of story when it comes to showing how she handles things after she finds herself pregnant after a one-night stand.

 

 

 

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 | Frankly in Love by David Yoon

Authour:
David Yoon
Format:
ARC
Publication date:
September 10th 2019
Publisher:
G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Source:
Received from publisher.

Review:
Boy loves girl, another girl loves  another boy but the people they love would never be someone their parents would consider “appropriate”. So what do they do? They pretend to date each other as a way to sneak out with their less appropriate aka Non-Korean significant others. This is an unfortunate but not unheard of dilemma for kids of immigrants and if this were any other YA novel, you’d probably guess what happens next. However, Frankly in Love has its own unique twist on what could go wrong for these teens. 

As a child of Asian immigrants, I relished in the realness of the issues and conflict related to both race and class that Frank and his parents deal with both within their family as well as with the other families in their “community”. It was also refreshing to directly show how the generational gaps between all the parents and their kids in the book can lead to major conflicts between both groups and this book does not shy away from the fact the immigrant parents can be just as problematic, racist and buy into harmful cultural stereotypes as much as any other American. Nor does it shy away from the challenges of dating outside of your race. Furthermore, I love that I could relate to so many of Frank’s experiences, growing up as a teenager stuck between two cultures. This includes having “friends” that I only hung out with when we saw each other at one of our parents’ houses as well as being annoyed when I’m asked to order “ethnic” foods at an Asian restaurant for acquaintances and coworkers who are not Asian and are usually White.

In addition to the complicated family dynamics, I liked the friendships in the book. The bromance between Frank and Q was incredibly heartwarming and Joy and Frank start off as being causal friends before their circumstances bring them closer. I also applaud how realistic this book was when it came to the challenges of being a senior in high school and how not all relationships can handle what comes after high school. So while normally, I’m not a fan of more realistic YA much less YA narrated by a guy I did find Frankly in Love to be an enjoyable, well-written, and thoughtful albeit slightly bittersweet coming of age story.

 

 

 

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 | There Will Come A Darkness by Katy Rose Pool

Authour:
Katy Rose Pool
Format:
ARC
Publication date:
September 3th 2019
Publisher:
Henry Holt and Co.
Source:
Received from publisher

Review:
Katy Rose Pool’s début novel, There Will Come a Darkness truly does live up to its ominous title. Set in a rich, diverse world that mixes elements of both ancient mythology and apocalyptic fiction, this book follows five extremely different people who all make reckless choices and the consequences that follow.

Of the five my favourite character was Hassan, the exiled prince and someone who doesn’t have a Grace. It was satisfying to see him come into his own as a leader, and I’m looking forward to see him become a more competent leader for his people, especially after facing some major setbacks and betrayal in There Will Come a Darkness. Meanwhile, though I initially liked Ephyra because she was more of an anti-villain with somewhat sympathetic motives, her decisions and actions near the end became more annoying as she started to care more about her own comfort over what was best for her sister. I am however looking forward to getting to know Beru better as she’s finally taking charge of her own life.

I love a compelling heist/team novel and this one was action packed and fast-paced. I also appreciated how well-developed the world was and the diversity of the interpersonal relationships between the characters. The descriptions of everything were incredibly vivid and the characters truly came to life through Pool’s writing. That being said, while the writing was gripping the story had several twists that made everything darker than I thought it would be. It was a bit heartbreaking how for the majority of the characters, things just kept getting worse and worse with little to no reprieve for them. I do feel like there come have been a better balance between all the angst and darkness with the additional of a few more light-hearted moments.

For the most part, There Will Come a Darkness wasn’t too unpredictable though it did have its tiny surprises. I’m not sure if I’ll be picking up the next book as I’m a bit nervous about what will happen next however I am curious to see Hassan grow into more of a leader and to see where Beru, Jude, Anton and even Ephyra end up next.

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