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 nooks 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 #29

This Midweek Mini Reviews post features two new YA titles.

Once Upon an Eid: Stories of Hope and Joy by 15 Muslim Voices
Once Upon an Eid is an anthology of short stories that take place around or during Eid, a religious festival celebrated by Muslims worldwide that marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan. As a non-Muslim person, I was intrigued by this book because I am familiar with some of the authors who have stories in this collection including S.K. Ali who is one of the editors. Like any holiday anthology the 15 stories are all heartwarming, fun and joyful in their own way. Two of my favourites were Like Chest Armor and Huda Al-Marashi’s Not Only an Only. The former was an adorable story about a girl’s first time wearing a hijab with touching upon other things like crushes and fandom in middle school, while the latter was a story about female friendship that I anyone who has been a minority in their school could relate to. I also enjoyed Asmaa Hussein’s Kareem Means Generous because it gave me a warm, fuzzy feeling and I liked that it is set in Toronto, Canada. As Once Upon an Eid is geared towards middle grade and not YA, I’m far from the target audience for this short story collection. However, even I can tell after reading all the stories that Once Upon an Eid is a special book and I love getting a glimpse at how different cultures celebrate Eid. With the countless number of Christmas books out there, it’s nice that Muslims kids are able to have another collection of stories that they could personally relate to.

My Summer of Love and Misfortune by Lindsay Wong
Pitched as Crazy Rich Asians meets Love & Gelato, I really wanted to like My Summer of Love and Misfortune. But it took way too long to get into it, and while I could appreciate the character development and growth I couldn’t completely buy into Iris’s “transformation”. While it doesn’t necessarily mean this is a bad thing, in the case of My Summer of Love and Misfortune the uneven pacing along with all the drama in the book gave me whiplash. In spite of that, I didn’t hate Iris, in fact I couldn’t help but feel bad for her because she really is clueless and while she is shallow she truly believes she has good intentions. Also despite being an annoying character, I was still rooting for her to finally stand up for herself against those who did not treat her well. The writing in this book was strong, along with all the juicy family drama redeemed this book for me just a bit. My favourite parts were seeing the Wang family reunited and seeing Iris and her cousin Ruby come together and realize they actually make a great team. It’s unfortunate, but My Summer of Love and Misfortune was not the fun and light summer read that I had hoped it would be.

 

 

 

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 | 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.

Book Review | Almost American Girl by Robin Ha

Authour:
Robin Ha
Format:
ARC
Publication date:
January 28th 2020 by
Publisher:
Balzer + Bray
Publisher Social Media: 
Twitter/Facebook/SavvyReader/
Source:
Received from publisher

Review:
 Almost American Girl is a graphic novel memoir written and illustrated by Robin Ha. Though it resembles a YA novel, it is also based on the creator’s life experience. The book starts with Ha Chuna aka Robin being told by her mother that they are going to the US to visit a friend. However, shortly after they arrive, she learns that she and her mother will not be returning to South Korea as her mother will be marrying her “friend”. The rest of the book follows Robin’s journey as she struggles to adjust to her new life while dealing with the challenges you would expect she’d face including difficult step-siblings, unpleasant food, bullying, and trying to adapt to a new culture and language.

While Almost American Girl is Robin’s story, it also reads as a “love letter” to her mother who over the course of the novel faces several setbacks but shows enormous strength and resilience. Furthermore, while Robin’s passion for art is central to this book, her love and admiration for her mother is just as obvious. I do however wish we had more time with “adult” Robin as the jump from her high school years to her adult years felt a bit rushed near the end. It would have been interesting to get more of a glimpse of her time in Korea as an adult as well as her life in the “present”. Though I understand why this was not the case since the book is meant to be more for a YA audience and of course there is not enough room to fit everything in.

This being a graphic novel, I can’t forget to talk about the illustrations. As a result of reading and reviewing the ARC, my copy of the book was mostly in black and white with only the first few pages in full colour. Personally I did not mind this as it felt as if I was reading manga plus it also helps keep the focus on Robin’s story. Other than that, I found the artwork to be simple and clean throughout. However, the art is also incredibly detailed when it came to the backgrounds and in highly emotional moments as both the detailed facial expressions of the characters and the backgrounds helped to set the mood for these scenes. Another interesting visual element in this book, which was also an example of visual elements replacing words was how scribbles and symbols were used to show the words and the occasional conversations that Robin couldn’t fully understand.

A worthwhile read, Robin Ha’s Almost American Girl is for the kid (or adult) who feels or has ever felt like an “outsider” and can relate to the awkward and painful moments of growing up in America.

 

 

 

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 | Loveboat, Taipei by Abigail Hing Wen

Authour:
Abigail Hing Wen
Format:
ARC
Publication date:
January 7th 2020
Publisher:
HarperTeen
Publisher Social Media: 
Twitter/Facebook/SavvyReader/
Source:
Received from publisher

Review:
I love exchanges, especially ones where my travel expenses are mostly covered, so I would have killed to have the opportunity that was forced upon Everett aka “Ever” by her parents. Fortunately with Loveboat, Taipei I felt I was right by Ever’s side experiencing her culture and “freedom” from her parents for the first time.

Those who are children of immigrant parents, myself included will find that they are able to relate to at least part of Ever’s story and the pressure and guilt trips she faces from her parents, especially her mother. While my brother and I were never pressured by my parents to become doctors, we both were “encouraged” to pick “safe” majors and careers. This may be why I couldn’t help be root for Ever, as it was clear that she was incredibly passionate about dance and that it was obvious that this was what she was meant to do.

In addition to Ever, we are also introduced to Rick and Sophie who are cousins as well as Xavier, who at first glance appears to be your typical wealthy, playboy. In Abigail Hing Wen’s hands these teens become more than your ordinary character archetypes. For instance Xavier’s life isn’t perfect and he actually hides a sensitive and caring side while Sophie, who befriends Ever has her own issues and isn’t just a fun, ditzy, cheerleader who only exists to support Ever. Both Xavier and Sophie have their own problems and agendas and they’re not immune to reacting and taking action in the heat of the moment. The same can be said for Rick who is seen as the “golden boy”, while it’s true that compared to the others, he has a charmed life it’s not without its own stresses that mostly come from his family’s disapproval of his girlfriend as well as her dependence on him.

As with any excellent contemporary YA novel, there is both drama and romance in Loveboat, Taipei. I knew from the start who I wanted to end up together and since I was satisfied with the romance so I did not mind the love triangle. That being said, I do believe that since Loveboat, Taipei tried to tackle countless serious topics at once including parental pressure and guilt, mental illness, harassment, leaking of nude images, parental abuse and abandonment they often weren’t addressed properly due to lack of space and time in the book. Furthermore, with the drama I felt like some characters got off too easily for example, Sophie who I felt was quickly forgiven for her actions. While I was sympathetic to her character I did not fully buy into her “redemption” and wished she faced more consequences.

Loveboat, Taipei actually lived up to my expectations. The story was perfectly paced and the writing flow well. It also made me tear up a few times while warming my heart at other times. Sure there was plenty of drama, as expected when you have a large group of young people who are free from their usual family obligation and responsibilities, I personally found that the amount of drama was just enough to keep readers invested in the characters and the story.

Taiwan was never high on my travel bucket list, however having lived vicariously through Ever’s adventures I may be reconsidering it as a travel destination. I can’t wait for the next book and I am crossing my fingers that it will focus more on Sophie or Xavier or even both of them!!

 

 

 

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 | Scavenge the Stars by Tara Sim

Authour:
Tara Sim
Format:
ARC
Publication date:
January 7th 2020
Publisher:
Disney Hyperion
Source:
Received from publisher

Review:
In this gender bent retelling of the classic novel, The Count of Monte Cristo the “Count” is now a fierce and cunning young girl named Amaya Chandra who goes infiltrates the wealthy circles of Moray as the Countess Yamaa to get revenge

Scavenge the Stars was a compelling take on both the “girl gets revenge” trope and The Count of Monte Cristo. However, while I can appreciate the fact that Amaya was unskilled as she was still just a teen, I wish her motivation for revenge was more personal as it would have made for a more compelling story. Still, I did love her character’s journey. The same can’t be said about Cayo, I’m not sure what other characters saw in him, other than his family name and him supposedly being attractive but I was not a fan. Although, I did find his devotion to his sister admirable. As for the rest of the cast of characters, I liked the children who helped Amaya on her revenge request, though I felt like they weren’t truly fleshed out. Same with the villains in the book, they seemed like straight forward “scoundrels” which is unfortunate as I wish the conflict was more “grey” and Boon and Kamon Mercado had more redeeming qualities since the “heroes” in Scavenge the Stars definitely had their flaws.

While the plot, pacing and writing were solid for the majority of the novel, I felt that towards the end the story began to lose momentum and it did not pick up again until the last pages of the book. That being said, the ending did slightly redeem the story as the new twists introduced that are connected to the larger geography and politics in book’s world has me looking forward to the next book in this duology. So, if you’re looking for a well written, more diverse revenge story and do not mind the lack of romance or somewhat messy world building then consider picking up Scavenge the Stars.

 

 

 

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 Map from Here to There by Emery Lord

Authour:
Emery Lord
Format:
eGalley
Publication date:
January 7th 2020
Publisher:
Bloomsbury YA
Source:
Received from publisher

Review:
The Start of Me and You was probably my least favourite of Emery Lord’s books nevertheless I still loved the book and Paige and her friends so I was beyond excited when a sequel was announced!

The Map from Here to There picks up a few months after the events of The Start of Me and You, Paige is working at her local movie theater for the summer and excited for her boyfriend, Max’s return. Readers may want to re-read The Start of Me and You again along with the bonus chapter as a refresher is definitely recommended before diving into this book. One of the reasons I found it difficult to dive into this book initially was as I couldn’t remember everything that happened in the first book. However, once I remembered I did enjoy being back in the world of Paige and her group of friends.

The romance in this book was another matter. Paige and Max are no longer in the honeymoon phase of their relationship. The cracks are starting to form and while I appreciated how their relationship goes through the challenges that I’m sure countless couples in their last year of high school faced, I can’t help but feel that the majority of their conflict was just created to add drama and excitement to the story. Furthermore, I was a bit disappointed that they barely interacted with each other once Max came back, although this probably was why they encountered the problems that they did. Nonetheless, I did like where we leave them in the end.

What I liked about The Map from Here to There was its accurate portrayal of the struggle teens face when it comes to anxiety and senior year of high school in addition to thinking about what comes next. I also loved the correspondences between Max and Paige as those sections were probably the best part of the book.

If I’m being honest, my main complaint would be that not much happens in this book. Compared to Emery Lord’s other books, the pacing for The Map from Here to There was a great deal slower, and other than the relationship drama not much else happens in this book. The book also ends on a rather abrupt albeit hopeful note, and while it would have been nice to see what school, Paige ended up picking it was realistic for her not to have yet decided by the end of the book. So perhaps my expectations for this book were over the top, but The Map from Here to There was a bit of a letdown. And while I am curious to see where the gang ends up, I’m not sure I need read another book about Paige.

 

 

 

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

The 10 Best Books I Read in 2019

The Mountain Master of Sha Tin by Ian Hamiton

The latest book in Ian Hamilton’s Ava Lee series has the titular protagonist facing off against the man who has tried to kill her. After a bit of a letdown with The Goddess of Yantai, The Mountain Master of Sha Tin has won me back to the series.

“First Fai and now May are telling me to be careful, Ava thought. Was it a coincidence, or was fate warning her?”

Read the review

The Right Swipe by Alisha Rai

Alisha Rai has quickly become one of the authours whose books I immediately jump on when they become available. The Right Swipe is Rhiannon’s (the badass sister of Gabriel from the Forbidden Hearts series) story, and it did not disappoint!

“I was thinking…ninety-nine percent of the time, immediate block for ghosting, right? This might be the .01 percent time when a ghost wasn’t being a total cowardly dog.”

Read the review

The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory

A lot of people have been fans of Jasmine Guillory, however The Wedding Party was the first book of hers that I really got into. I love Maddie and Theo’s back and forth banter and the romance that develops is very sweet as well. Also considering both are besties with Alexa (the protagonist of The Wedding Date), hilarity ensues as they try to hide what they’re doing from her.

“What the fuck was wrong with her? Was there some sort of force field around Theo’s apartment that led straight to his bed? Was there an invisible sign when you turned onto his street that said in big letters BAD DECISION CENTRAL? How had she ended up in his bed again?”

Read the review

Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune by Roselle Lim

If you’re a foodie than this book is a must read! Natalie Tan’s Book Of Luck And Fortune has been has been compared to Chocolat. And TV rights have already been sold for this debut! Despite the various lists its been on Natalie Tan’s Book Of Luck And Fortune isn’t really a romance, but rather it’s a heartwarming story about family (both blood and chosen) and of a community coming together.

“Nothing made me happier than the act of cooking. My happiest memories were of spending time in the kitchen with Ma-ma as we prepared our meals. The best cooks doubled as magicians, uplifting moods and conjuring memories through the medium of food.”

Read the review | Read my Q & A with Roselle Lim

Frankly in Love by David Yoon

Fans of John Green’s books may enjoy David Yoon’s debut novel as his writing in Frankly in Love reminds me a lot of Green’s writing style. But more than that I love how Yoon portrays both the love and dysfunction that bond immigrant families together as well as just how tricky it can be growing up as a teenager with immigrant parents in America.

“You have a Chinese boy problem. I have this white girl problem. Our parents have these big, huge blind spots-racist blind spots-in their brains. What if we used those blind spots to our advantage?”

Read the review

Happy Go Money by Melissa leong

I love Melissa Leong’s financial segments on The Social and was really looking forward to her book. Combining happiness and psychological research with financial advice, this book’s an easy to digest read about personal finance.

“You work hard for your money. It should make you happy. You deserve that.”

Read the review

There’s Something About Sweetie by Sandya Menon


I loved When Dimple Met Rishi, and it wasn’t until There’s Something About Sweetie that I found a new favourite Sandhya Menon book. Once you get to know her, it’s easy to see why Ashish and pretty much everyone else falls in love with Sweetie!

“No. It’s not. When I walk down the road, people immediately make judgments about me based on my body size. That doesn’t happen to you guys, no matter how self-conscious you might be about your bodies. You’re still thin, and you get to exist in spaces without constantly being found wanting.”

Read the review

Song of the Crimson Flower by Julie C. Dao

Song of the Crimson Flower is my second Julie C. Dao book, the first being Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix. Of her three books, Song of the Crimson Flower is without a doubt my favourite! Love the gorgeous and lyrical setting and writing and the stubborn but feisty heroine.

“Tam never saw you the way I did. He never valued your kindness, your generosity. Your love and respect for your family. I see you. I see you, Lan.”

Read the review

A Dangerous Engagement by Ashley Weaver

I’ve been getting back into mysteries again and my go to has been cozies and historical mysteries. What I love about most mystery series is that you don’t have to start at the beginning of the series to enjoy the book. A Dangerous Engagement is your typical husband and wife as amateur sleuths duo set during the 1920s a time of gangsters and the Prohibition.

“Focus on the wedding details before you look for a mystery, Amory, I told myself. There would be plenty of time for that later.”

Read the review

Our Wayward fate by Gloria Chao

Maybe it’s because I’m not Chinese, but I’m not really familiar with the story of The Butterfly Lovers. Taking me by surprise, I related to Ali Chu’s story of being one of the few Asian people in my school and neighbourhood. And while it took some time for me to get really into the story, I did like the relationship between Ali and Chase and all the secrets it brought out not only about their families but about the Taiwanese-American community.

“Don’t you care that this is what everyone expects?” I blurted. “That this is fulfilling every stereotype? You said yourself you hated how they all asked if you knew me.”

Read the review

 

 

 

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.

Book Review | 10 Blind Dates by Ashley Elston

Authour:
Ashley Elston
Format:
ARC
Publication date:
October 1st 2019
Publisher:
Disney-Hyperion
Source:
Received from publisher.

Review:
Ashley Elston’s 10 Blind Dates may be the perfect read for you if you’re a fan of those Hallmark Christmas movies about family and love! Taking place over the winter holiday break, 10 Blind Dates follows Sophie tries to get over a recent heartbreak by letting the members of her large, Italian family set her up on ten blind dates. What follows is an entertaining concept with some crazy competitiveness and bets and of course a bit of chaos and hijinks.

Given the premise and title, boys and romance are a major part of Sophie’s story. However, I loved that the core of the book was about Sophie reconnecting with her cousins and her extended family. As a person who growing up was incredibly close with her cousins and who is not as close with them now, it made me nostalgic for my childhood. Furthermore, I also enjoyed seeing Sophie’s relationship with her sister, Margot and it was obvious how their close bond was even if they mostly interacted through texting.

As for the actual romance subplot of the book, I’m satisfied with where we leave Sophie though the romance wasn’t necessary in my opinion. 10 Blind Dates is mainly about Sophie going out and having fun, and forgetting about her heartbreak. And this works all too well, especially as all her adventures are documented online, catching the attention of her ex. I’m just glad that there was no backsliding on Sophie’s end when it came to her ex.

A light, and incredibly fluffy read 10 Blind Dates did not stand out as a particularly unique or special read for me. However, it does have a great deal of heart and if you like stories with large, close-knit families then you’ll probably enjoy this one.

 

 

 

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 | Song of the Crimson Flower by Julie C. Dao

Authour:
Julie C. Dao
Format:
ARC
Publication date:
November 5th 2019
Publisher:
Philomel
Source:
Received from publisher

Review:
Here’s the thing, fantasy has never been a genre that I gravitated towards. That being said, I never knew how much I wanted a Vietnamese YA fantasy world novel with characters who have actual Vietnamese names until I read Julie C. Dao’s Song of the Crimson Flower.

Having read Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix, I was excited to return to the same gorgeous world again and see how Jade and Koichi are faring. I also loved how Commander Wei’s role was hilariously foreshadowed when the father of the heroine, Lan tells her she can visit the Gray City if she somehow convinces the Commander of the Great Forest to escort her there. Of course it was also interesting to see the mythology and world expanded from the previous books in addition to how things have changed a couple of years after the events the Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix.

However, the central plot of Song of the Crimson Flower is Lan and Bao’s story. I was looking forward to their love story and while I wish the romance was better developed, particularly on Lan’s part I did find their relationship to be sweet. When it came to other parts of the story I was a bit disappointed. The antagonist, Madame Vy wasn’t fully realized as a serious threat or even as a character. She had the potential to be a major villain, but instead was relegated to the background for the majority of the book. Actually, I was also slightly disappointed that even though the stakes could have been high, they truly weren’t in the end as all major conflicts and battles were swiftly dealt with off-screen. So as much as I enjoyed Bao and Lan’s story, I would have preferred that we had at least a glimpse of the main battle that took place as there was so much hype surrounding the battle/war.

As a companion book to both Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix and Forest of a Thousand Lanterns, Song of the Crimson Flower is more of a love story set in a fantasy world and not a full on fantasy novel. Therefore, it is not necessary to have read the other books to enjoy this standalone novel. Still, without a doubt I would say that my enjoyment for Song of the Crimson Flower exceeded that of Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix. Having recently returned from a trip to Huế which was one the capital of the Nguyen Dynasty as well as the Đàng Trong Kingdom, I was able to better appreciate the rich setting and characters in this book. Beautifully written though not incredibly action packed, Song of the Crimson Flower may be more suited to those who are looking to dip their toes into the fantasy genre rather than for fans of true high or epic fantasy.

 

 

 

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 | 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.

Book Review | The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee

Authour:
Stacey Lee
Format:
ARC
Publication date:
August 13th 2019
Publisher:
Putnam
Source:
Received from publisher.

Review:
Stacey Lee is a fairly well-known name when it comes to young adult fiction. Not only is she a writer of historical young adult fiction, she is also one of the founders of the We Need Diverse Books movement and non-profit organization. 

With The Downstairs Girl, Lee takes us to Atlanta, Georgia in the late 1800s. I’m sure I’m not the only reader to be surprised to learn that Chinese workers were shipped to the South to replace the field Black slaves after slavery was abolished. It was interesting read about the experience of the Chinese in America in the late 1800s as more often than not, their contributions and experience are left out of the mainstream history textbooks.

The Downstairs Girl works as it is obvious a ton of research was done to ensure that the story was historically accurate. This was obvious with portrayal of the major issues during this time including racism and the suffrage movement. It doesn’t shy away from the fact that the white women leading the suffragist were only interested in rights for (white) women, and they did not feel the need to consider intersectionality in their fight for women’s rights even though Black women like Noemi in the book were instrumental in the suffrage movement. Still I liked the female characters and their interactions and relationships in the book, and I appreciated how plucky both Jo and Noemi were. Furthermore, without spoiling too much, I loved the relationship Jo has with Old Gin who raised her and taught her everything she loves about horses. 

The Downstairs Girl has all the makings of a decent historical fiction read. That being said, even with its distinctive characters and unique premise and setting I wasn’t completely sold on it. For one, I could have done without the romance in the book, and I also felt that parts of the story dragged. Still the book feels truly authentic and gives readers new insight into the suffragists and the South on top of the Chinese experience in the South in 1860s America.

 

 

 

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.

6 YA Books to Read This Fall

Fall is just around the corner, and with a new season comes more great new read to cozy up with. Over the past few months, I was fortunate enough to get the opportunity to attend a couple of fall previews. So for those of you who are looking to add even more books to your TBR pile you’re in luck, because I’ve got some recommendations to share with you guys.

Butterfly Yellow by Thanhha Lai (September 3, 2019)

This one is high on my reading list as there still aren’t many #ownvoices novels featuring Vietnamese protagonists. It follows a girl named Hằng who finally makes it to the US and is looking to reunite with her brother, Linh. Along for the ride is her new friend, LeeRoy who dreams of being a cowboy. Of all the titles presented at Frenzy Presents, this is story of unlikely friendship, road trips, displacement and family is probably my most anticipated read.

 

Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin (September 3, 2019)

At the Frenzy Presents event, the one word that was used to describe this book was “filthy”. Other than that, the concept of a forbidden romance between a witch and a witch hunter has me intrigued. This is the one title that has been compared to the Sarah J. Maas books and it is also perfect if you liked dark fantasy series like Rin Chupeco’s The Bone Witch.

 

There Will Come a Darkness by Katy Rose Pool (September 3, 2019)

This book was my YA Horoscopes match for the TeensRead Fall 2019 Preview. Compared to Six of Crows, this book promises to turn the trope of the Chosen One on its head. Fair warning though, this book is far bleaker than Six of Crows. If you want to know more about my thoughts on this book, be sure to come by the blog next week for my blog stop and review for this title.

Frankly in Love by David Yoon (September 10, 2019)

The name David Yoon may ring a bell because of his wife, Nicola Yoon who is a best-selling YA author and whose books have both been turned into major movies. However, with his debut novel he proves that he’s also a gifted writer. In fact, Frankly in Love is currently on my list of top reads of 2019! Highly recommend this well-written and touching story about first love, family and being the kid of immigrant parents.

Unpregnant by Jenni Hendriks and Ted Caplan (September 10, 2019)

Another book that I was fortunate enough to read early. This one is about a teen in Missouri who is forced to take a road trip with her ex best friend when she discovers she’s pregnant and needs to get an abortion. This one is being marketed as “Thelma and Louise but…with a happy ending” and I agree. If you’re a fan of the movie Juno you may like this one. Also like Juno, Unpregnant is set to become a movie produced by Greg Berlanti and Sarah and directed by Rachel Lee Goldenberg who worked on The Mindy Project. A timely read, I really enjoyed this one and am looking forward to seeing how the book gets translated to the big screen! 

Dangerous Alliance: An Austentacious Romance by Jennieke Cohen (December 3, 2019)

I love a good historical mystery and even better if there a good romance subplot! This one was pitched to us as a “Victorian Tinder”, which has piqued my interest. For fans of My Lady Jane and The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, I think Dangerous Alliance may end up on my reading list solely on the basis the that the heroine is not only a badass but also a major Jane Austen fan looking for her own “Pride and Prejudice” type of love.