Book Review | Ming’s Christmas Wishes by Susan L. Gong, Masahiro Tateishi (Illustrations)

Authour:
Susan L. Gong, Masahiro Tateishi (Illustrations
Publication date:
September 29th 2020
Publisher:
Shadow Mountain
Source:
Received from publisher

Review:
I rarely review picture books on my blog, but thought I’d make an exception for Ming’s Christmas Wishes, as it’s about a young Chinese girl who feels like she’s not enough. At school she’s too “Chinese” while at home she’s too “American”. Any child of first-generation immigrants can definitely relate to this feeling at some point in their life.

As this is a picture book, the illustrations are of utmost importance. I was extremely impressed with Masahiro Tateishi’s illustrations. The illustrations are a combo of digital and traditional paintings. Elements of calligraphy and traditional Chinese designs can also be found throughout the book. I loved how the flashbacks were done in a more traditional style and that they were shown as less vivid on the pages to differentiate the recollections from the current scenes. The illustrations complemented the text perfectly, as what you read in the text is basically what you see in the corresponding illustrations, and this is perfect for Susan’s straightforward storytelling. 

That being said, I found the story left much to be desired. For instance, while it was good to see the early history of the Chinese Americans alluded to, that’s all that happened. There were brief mentions of early hardships, the San Francisco’s “Great Quake” as well the Chinese “picture brides” but nothing was really explained. It felt like the author tried to touch on as many historical points as possible and as a result none of them were discussed in a meaningful way. Instead it may be confusing to just about anyone reading the book who is unaware of the historical context of the story. Even I had many unanswered questions after finishing the book. This also isn’t helped because the story ends rather abruptly, and while the message of blending traditions is nice, there was no proper lead up to the conclusion. Many of the conflicts were also left unresolved, and the reader is supposed to go along with the fact that things are going to be okay.

I’m all for more diversity in picture books, especially Christmas ones. And I think kids will relate to Ming’s curiosity and questioning nature, her desire to fit in and her frustration with adults telling her no with no explanation. I related to her close relationship with her father, who was more understanding than her strict mother. Ming’s Christmas Wishes has the potential to be a good jumping point for conversations about the Chinese immigrant experience and about racism and discrimination.

 

 

 

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

Mystery Monday | All the Devils Are Here by Louise Penny

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

Who is it by? Louise Penny is a former journalist and radio host with the CBC. The authour of the best selling Chief Inspector Gamache series, All the Devils Are Here is her 16th book in the Inspector Gamache series. She currently lives in a small village south of Montreal.

What is it about? While in Paris, after having had a lovely family dinner Stephen Horowitz is struck down by a delivery van while trying to cross a street. And despite what the police may have think, Stephen’s godson, Gamache is certain that this was no accident. Not willing to drop it, Gamache conducts his own investigation as to why his godfather was targeted. This reunites him with his former second in command and son in law, Jean Guy Beauvoir. Using all their skills and resources available to the Gamache family, what the two uncover is a conspiracy and cover up that once again proves to be much bigger than either either could have anticipated with many major, powerful players involved.



Where does it take place? This time the Gamaches are in Paris, France visiting their son-in-law Jean Guy and their daughter, Annie who is about to give birth again. Paris is also where their son Daniel and his family have been living for some time.

Why did I like it? After the events of A Better Man, I wasn’t sure where Louise Penny would go next with her Inspector Gamache series. Thankfully, this time around she did not disappoint. In All the Devils Are Here we get to learn more about Armand Gamache’s family, the focus this time is on the father-son relationships. The first one being that of Gamache and his godfather, the powerful financier and enigmatic Stephen Horowitz, and the second one is the relationship between Gamache and his son, Daniel. As the partnership between Gamache and his second-in-command and son-in-law, Jean Guy, so central to the Inspector Gamache series it’s easy to forget that Gamache has a son of his own besides his daughter, Annie. This book finally sheds some light on the relationship between Daniel and his father, showing that the reason he was barely mentioned or showed up in the earlier books was because the relationship between father and son has been sprained for some time. What I like about Louise Penny’s books is that she writes in a way that lets the readers see into the innermost thoughts of the various characters in the book, both the minor ones and the major ones. It is through this that the reader can understand why Daniel is anger with his father. It is interesting seeing the Gamaches through the eyes of other characters who are “outsiders” to their circle of friends and family. Compared with A Better Man, the writing has also gotten better in All the Devils Are Here, although the case here is a bit confusing to follow at first because of all the technical details. Nonetheless, All the Devils Are Here was a compelling addition to one of my favourite mystery series.

 When did it come out? September 1, 2020

 

 

 

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 #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.