Book Review | A Phở Love Story Book by Loan Le

Authour:
Loan Le
Format:
ARC
Publication date:
February 9th 2021
Publisher:
Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
Source:
Received from publisher

Review:

As a Vietnamese person, reading A Pho Love Story felt like I was visiting characters who could be my family or friends of my family. This was the first time that I could see myself culturally in the characters of a novel as my mother was also from Nha Trang and the rest my family is primarily from Central Vietnam a major region which is often forgotten since most people see Vietnam as being divided into just South and North Vietnam. I relished in the fact that I could pick up on the Vietnamese that was spoken by the characters, though it may confuse for readers who aren’t familiar with the Vietnamese language as sometimes the context clues aren’t enough. I also loved seeing the characters eat home cooked Vietnamese dishes that aren’t as well known to people who aren’t Vietnamese. Everyone may have heard of phở and banh xèo, but in my family those were more for “special occasion”. We tend to regularly eat things like canh sườn bí (pumpkin/melon soup with pork), canh chua (sweet and sour soup), bánh bèo (water fern cakes), and bánh ướt (Vietnamese pancake wrappers made from rice noodles) all of which are things that Linh and Bao eat in the book. 

Family is often at the heart of Vietnamese culture, so it should be no surprise that at its core, Loan Le’s A Pho Love Story is as much a story about family as it is about first love and finding yourself. I found it interesting reading about teens who had to help with their family business, while also being regular high schoolers. It was cool getting a behind the scenes look at what goes into running a Vietnamese restaurant. I liked how the challenges were not glossed over, whether it be competing restaurants, the power of word of mouth or even difficult and racist customers. Speaking of which, it was heartwarming seeing Bao stand up for his parents and the Vietnamese community that he is part of. Children of immigrant from non-English-speaking countries can relate to how Bao’s parents were reluctant to fight back against the racist attacks for fear of making things worse. I’m probably not alone in my experience growing up and hiding things to protect my parents while also feeling helpless, unable to defend them. So it made me tear up a bit out of pride that Bao could find his voice at this age.

But what truly stood out to me was just how Vietnamese this book was. It should go without saying, but Asian Americans aren’t a cultural monolith. Sure there may be common elements in many Asian immigrant families like the double standards when it come to boy and girls, and the “encouragement” of picking a stable career like medicine, engineering or something in business/finance over something less “certain” like the arts but there are also many experiences that are unique to those who come from a Vietnamese background. Vietnam has had a history of being constantly ravaged by wars, and this has left a mark on its people. Even after all the years, it lingers on as intergenerational family trauma. A Pho Love Story touches on this through the gradual revelation of the Mais and Nguyễns’ shared past and the reason behind the “bad blood” between the two families. This book was refreshingly honest in how it doesn’t shy away from showing how detrimental family secrets can be, especially to the younger generation. The only way families can overcome intergenerational family trauma is by coming together and being open with one another. 

Despite “love story” being in the actual title, the romance in this book wasn’t my favourite thing. It was odd how Linh and Bao can go years with barely any interaction, yet suddenly develop feelings after a few short encounters, though maybe that’s how things are when you’re a teenager? That being said, I appreciated how they didn’t officially date until much later in the book, and that was after working together on an assignment for their school newspaper that had them trying out date spots together to recommend to high schoolers. That their family hated each other was not romanticized as evident by Linh’s eventual anxiety spirals and the emotional toils on both of them because of being forced to keep their relationship a secret from both their families. I did like however enjoy both Bao and Linh’s individual journeys in the book, I loved seeing Bao discover his passion and Linh come into her own as an artist. And I love Linh’s friendship with Allie and Bao’s friendship with Việt.

Initially, it took some time for A Pho Love Story to hook me in but I’m glad I stuck with it as I ended up enjoying it in the end. In the past year and going into this year, I’m seeing more and more books by Vietnamese writers coming out and it makes me proud to be Vietnamese seeing all the Own Voices stories. Especially in YA fiction, as it’s important for Vietnamese teens to read books where they can see themselves in the characters so that they know their stories matter just as much as anyone else’s stories.

Comparable Titles: Our Wayward Fate by Gloria Chao (review); Loveboat, Taipei by Abigail Hing Wen (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.

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.

5 YA Novels to Look Forward to in 2021

Last year I attended a couple of online previews and get an early sneak peek at several YA titles coming out in 2021. It was definitely an interesting experience attending these events online, and while I miss the in person events, I’m glad the publishers could move them online so we can still hear about all the amazing titles coming out in the new year. So without further delay, here are my top picks of YA books coming out in the first half of this year! 

 

You Have a Match by Emma Lord
Release Date: January 12, 2021

I haven’t read Tweet Cute yet, but I’ve seen many bloggers rave about it. You Have a Match is Emma Lord’s second YA novel, and it’s described as “The Parent Trap meets 23andMe”.  Protagonist Abby discovers she has a sister through an online website, and it turns out her sister is Instagram star Savannah Tully and the complete opposite of her! The two girls decide to meet up at a summer camp to figure out why Savannah was given up for adoption a year before Abby was born.On top of the family drama and secrets, Abby also has to confront the awkwardness between her and her best friend and crush Leo, who also is the co-chef at the camp where both girls are staying. This was one of the three review copies in the digital swag bags provided to us, so I’m hoping to get around to reading it sometime this year.


Hot British Boyfriend by Kristy Boyce
Release Date: February 9, 2021

This book was Marisol’s pick from the Frenzy Presents event in December since she also studied in England and ended up marrying her “Hot British Boyfriend”. Pitched as “The Holiday meets Legally Blonde”, Hot British Boyfriend is about Ellie Nichols’ quest to land a hot British boyfriend during her high school’s study abroad trip to England. After all, the best way to get over the humiliation of a public rejection is to move on with someone better! Readers who love teen romances that take place overseas like the Stephanie Perkins’ books will probably enjoy this one as well!


Pride and Premeditation by Tirzah Price
Release Date: 
April 6, 2021

If you’re a fan of Jane Austen and mysteries, then this book may be perfect for you! The first in a new series of Jane Austen murder mystery retellings. In Pride and Premeditation, Lizzie Bennet is now an aspiring lawyer, while Fitzwilliam Darcy is the stern young heir to the prestigious firm Pemberley Associates. The two find themselves force to spend more time together as Lizzie is determined to prove herself by solving a murder case where she believes that the authorities have got the wrong person. As a fan of murder mysteries, I’m intrigued to see how the Lizzie and Darcy dynamic will be in a legal environment, so this one is for sure on my radar. It should also be on your radar if you’re a fan of the Lady Janies series.


Tokyo Ever After by Emiko Jean
Release Date:
 May 25, 2021

Not going to lie, Tokyo Ever After is the title that I am the most excited for out of all the books I heard about from the previews last year! I’m hoping to get a review copy of this one so I can read it as soon as possible and share with you guys my thoughts on it. Izumi Tanaka is a Japanese American girl who has been raised by her mother with no idea of who her father is. So she’s in for a big shock when she discovers she is none other than the Crown Prince of Japan! Described as “The Princess Diaries meets Crazy Rich Asians”, I’m looking forward to all the Japanese culture and family drama and the promise of a potential bodyguard crush romance. As an Asian American who also grew up in a predominately white town, I can definitely relate to feeling like I don’t belong both in the country I was born in and my parents’ country. Tokyo Ever After has already been optioned for a TV series and a sequel is already set to come out in 2022!!


Sunny Song Will Never Be Famous by Suzanne Park
Release Date: 
June 1, 2021

Sunny Song’s summer goals include making Rafael Kim her boyfriend, getting to 100 K followers and of course having the best summer ever! Unfortunately, her plans are ruined when she accidentally makes an inappropriate video that goes viral, causing her principal to make her parents send her to a digital detox camp. Now she’s stuck in a farm in Iowa, which is basically the middle of nowhere to her, with no Internet access! Touching on topics like online addiction and casual racism, Sunny Song Will Never Be Famous promises to be both funny and heartwarming that fans of Jenny Han’s books may also enjoy as well.

The 10 Best Books I Read in 2020

2020 was a weird year and not going to lie my reading was definitely affected. I got a good chunk of reading done when I was sick earlier this year, but then I went quite a while before I picked up anything new. So this shouldn’t come as a surprise, but most of the books on this list were ones I read in the first half of this year rather than the second year. Without further delay here are my favourite reads of 2020, and as always they are in no particular order.


The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner

At first this book was a bit slow for me. However, it won me over with its charm and strong, albeit imperfect female characters. In the end, I fell in love with the members of “The Jane Austen Society” and were rooting for them to find their own happiness. If you like warm historical novels set in cozy villages, and/or are a fan of Jane Austen’s books, then this one may be the satisfying read is for you!

The Good Shufu by Tracy Slater

This book has been on my TBR list since my early blogging days. I finally was gifted a copy of it last year and picked it up this year in anticipation of my Japan trip. Little did I know, that no travelling would be happening. Anyways, I love reading about the relationship between Tracy and the Japanese salaryman who becomes her husband. It was interesting to see how two individuals from different backgrounds come together to build a marriage. As someone who is interested in Japanese culture and still trying to learn the language, I especially enjoyed reading about how Tracy adapts to the culture and her new life in Japan. A heartwarming read about finding love and starting a family in an unexpected time and place.

Vanessa Yu’s Magical Paris Tea Shop by Roselle Lim (Read the review)


I think I enjoyed Roselle Lim‘s Vanessa Yu’s Magical Paris Tea Shop more than her debut. While Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune had more soul as it was a story about family both blood and found, Vanessa Yu’s Magical Paris Tea Shop is definitely a lighter fare with its matchmaking and love plot. Of course food also has a role in the book however it’s to a much lesser degree than the mouthwatering descriptions of food and cooking that were found in Natalie Tan. That being said, Vanessa Yu’s Magical Paris Tea Shop made me want to go out and buy some pastries, so make sure you have some on hand while reading this one!

All the Devils Are Here by Louise Penny (Read the review)

I always look forward to having a new Louise Penny novel every year. All The Devils Are Here is without a doubt one of my favourites of her more recent Inspector Gamache novels. I love how the setting has changed in this book to Paris, France, as it allows readers to see Gamache and Beauvoir to go out of their usual comfort zones as they try to figure out the mystery and unveil another massive conspiracy.

The Marriage Game by Sara Desai (Read the review)

I wanted to pick this romance because it’s by a Canadian author and I thought it was interesting that both of the main leads work in HR like jobs. The side characters in this book are also awesome, from the hilarious aunties to Layla’s badass cousin, Daisy. I love how family was such a major part of Layla’s story. Also, if you’re a foodie, then you’ll probably enjoy reading about all the Indian foods as Layla’s family owns an Indian restaurant. The Marriage Game has a pretty fun concept with the bet that Layla and Sam have going on, and I look forward to the other books in this series. As Daisy’s book will come out in 2021 and it involves the fake engagement trope, I’ve already requested it on Netgalley so fingers crossed I get to read it soon!

The Diamond Queen of Singapore by Ian Hamilton (Read the review)

I will not lie it was a bit painful reading a book about someone who jet sets as much as Ava Lee during a pandemic when all travel is cancelled. Anyway, the latest instalment in the Ava Lee series has many of the elements that make this series one of my favourites. There’re tons of globe trotting, high stakes negotiations, and of course some awesome action scenes! Looking forward to seeing the direction that Ian Hamilton takes next with the Ava Lee series.

10 Things I Hate About Pinky by Sandhya Menon (Read the review)

I’ve been looking forward to Pinky and Samir’s we saw them constantly butt heads in There’s Something about Sweetie. In 10 Things I Hate About Pinky, we get to learn more about Pinky including her insecurities especially when it came to being compared to her cousin which is definitely something I could relate to. We also get to see more of Samir finally dealing with his issues which were hinted at in There’s Something about Sweetie. But most of all it was quite satisfying to see Pinky and Samir come together after being teased for so long.

The Library of Legends by Janie Chang (Read the review)


The Library of Legends is my first Janie Chang book, and what made me pick it up was the promise blend of mythology with real life. I love how Chang weaves elements of Chinese legends with the students’ journey. I was unaware of the brutal war between Japan and China, so it was interesting to learn more about the lesser talked about events that took place in the shadow of Pearl Harbour. There is also a love story that later comes to fruit in this book that is a sweet addition to a story that took place during a time with so much destruction that even the celestials were left broken.

Loveboat, Taipei by Abigail Hing Wen (Read the review)

This was the first book I actually started in 2020. I was fortunate enough to get an ARC of this title, and it definitely lived up to my expectations of it. There’s so much juicy drama and I love the cultural rediscovery and exchange aspect of this story as I never even heard of “Loveboats” before I learnt about Loveboat, Taipei. Ever’s story of exploration and coming into her own as both were relatable in its own way, and I was more than satisfied with her ending. I’m looking forward to the next book in this series and I may be in the minority with this, but I hope it features a certain pair of secondary characters from the first book.

If I Had Your Face by Frances Cha (Read the review)

Compared with other books I don’t think the book got as much as attention as it deserved, so I’m going to take this time to once again recommend this book. Frances Cha’s If I Had Your Face is an incredible debut that looks at issues that Korean women face today. From the pressure to get married, the lack of opportunities for young people without family connections to the impossible beauty standards that are exacerbated by the prevalence of plastic surgery I loved how it didn’t shy away from the problems in the lives of these young women. Forgot top ten, this one was definitely in my top three reads of 2020.

 

 

 

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 #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.

5 Fiction Books Coming Your Way in Fall 2020

With the pandemic and lockdown happening where I lived, all book events were moved from in person to online. So instead of attending the Penguin Teen Social and Frenzy Presents events in person like I usually do in the previous, I ended up watching them online. Anyways keeping with the tradition, I thought I’d share some of my top picks of for this fall from both events. Please feel free to comment on the post with what books you’re looking forward to reading this fall/winter.

Charming as a Verb by Ben PHILIPe (RELEASE DATE: September 8, 2020)

Last year I was fortunate enough to attend a party for Ben Phillipe’s debut novel, The Field Guide to the North American Teenage which was a surprisingly charming and witty read. Ben’s second book is also perfect if you’ve read and enjoyed his first novel or if you’re a fan of Nicola Yoon’s books. Charming as a Verb follows Henri “Halti” and Corinne’s unlikely and somewhat “forced” friendship as it potentially develops into something more all while they’re both dealing with the usual stress of being a senior in high school with dreams of going to one of the prestigious colleges. On top of the pressure they feel, they also find themselves confronting real issues that children of immigrants face regularly like code switching and gentrification.

Jo An Adaptation of Little Women (Sort Of) By Kathleen Gros (Release date: September 22, 2020)

Jo is probably my favourite of the March sisters, even if I would’ve prefer she stay unmarried in the end. Anyways, the latest adaption of Little Womenis a middle-grade graphic novel that appears to also take the characters into more modern times. Here, Jo is a 13 years old who has her own blog and also works for her school newspaper. There’s definitely a few new twists in this tale, as Jo realizes not only is she unable to return the feelings of her best friend Laurie but she may not be into guys at all? This one looks like it will not only be a cute story but also a diverse and inclusive one as well, oh and bonus points for it being by a fellow Canadian!

All About Us by Tom Ellen (Release date: October 13, 2020)

One of the few adult titles that were showcased during the Frenzy Presents presentation. This one is for all you fans of Christmas novels with a dash of romance and time travel in the mix! Another take on the classic A Christmas Carol, All About Us is about a man who’s failing marriage makes him wonder if he had the right choice years ago and if he would make the same choice again if given the chance to go back to that fateful day in 2005. Adorable, funny, and possibly heartbreaking this one is for those who love David Nicholls’s One Day or the movie 13 Going on 30 with Jennifer Garner and Mark Ruffalo.

The Magic Fish by Trung Lê Nguyễn (RELEASE DATE: October 13, 2020)

This Own Voices graphic novel reads like a memoir. I love seeing more books by Vietnamese storytellers. as someone of Vietnamese descent and a lover of comics, I’m really looking forward to this one, both for the story and the beautiful illustrations. Apparently there are three interwoven plots in Trung Lê Nguyễn’s The Magic Fish. The first is a fairytale that is read to Tiến by his grandparents, the second is the story of the grandparents living in Vietnam during colonial time and finally we have the story of Tiến trying to find the words both in Vietnamese and English to tell his parents that he is gay. all three have distinctive art styles, so readers will be able to differentiate between the stories.

Super Fake Love Song by David yoon (RELEASE DATE: November 17, 2020)


David Yoon’s Frankly in Love was one of my favourite books last year. I loved his writing and portrayal one of teen boy’s experience growing up as a son in a Korean immigrant household so I’m excited for his sophomore novel! The synopsis of this one sounds interesting with its themes of rock music and a small lie getting out of control. Plus I’m hoping for more of his fictional but realistic take on teen relationships in high school.

Blog Tour | Dating Makes Perfect by Pintip Dunn

Authour:
Pintip Dunn
Format:
eGalley
Publication date:
August 18th 2020
Publisher:
Entangled Teen
Source:
Received from publisher

Review:
Lately, I’ve been getting more into enemies-to-lovers rom-coms, With Pintip Dunn’s Dating Makes Perfect, it helped that Orrawin Techavachara (aka Winnie Tech) and her “sworn enemy” Mat used to be best friends as children. From the moment her parents announced that they would arrange “fake dates” for Winnie to get practice and Mat appeared, the sexual tension was thick. The enemies to lovers trope in Dating Makes Perfect was also used interestingly as the reason for their “hate” is rather heartbreaking though realistic given their age and the circumstances. However, this is quickly resolved once they finally talked things out, and it made the moment they when they finally acted on their feelings is so much more satisfying!

As a child of immigrants with siblings, I could relate to many of the things Winnie and her sisters go through. Like the constant comparisons and the no dating until university rule, which then changes to questions about why you don’t have a boyfriend yet once you start university. The 180 on the boyfriend stance is just hilarious, and I agreed with Bunny and Ari, it’s not like you can suddenly flip the switch on something like that. I also enjoyed learning more about Thai food and cultural traditions, as it’s not something I was very familiar with before reading this book.

Overall, what I liked best about Dating Makes Perfect is how self-aware the book can be while name dropping popular romantic comedies, both recent ones and classic since the fake dates that Winne’s mom plans are inspired by those movies. I like that Winnie isn’t afraid to stand up for herself, especially when she tells a guy not to do something and he does it anyway. Also it was refreshing to have the love interest realize his pushiness and acknowledges and make up for it and not just have the heroine grovel and forget about how her love interest was also wrong. A cute and mostly light YA romance, I think fans of books with close sisterly bonds, fake dating and hate to love trees will appreciate Winne’s coming of age and first love story.

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About the Author:

Pints Dunn is a New York Times bestselling author of young adult fiction. I graduated from Harvard University, magna cum laude, with an A.B., and received my J.D. at Yale Law School. 

My novel FORGET TOMORROW won the 2016 RWA RITA® for Best First Book, and SEIZE TODAY won the 2018 RITA for Best Young Adult Romance. In addition, my books have been translated into four languages, and they have been nominated for the following awards: the Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire; the Japanese Sakura Medal; the MASL Truman Award; the Tome Society It list; the Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award; and a Kirkus Reviews Best Indie Book of the Year. My other novels include REMEMBER YESTERDAY, THE DARKEST LIE, GIRL ON THE VERGE, STAR-CROSSED, and MALICE.

Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/pintip_dunn/ 

Twitter – https://twitter.com/pintipdunn 

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/AuthorPintipDunn?pnref=lhc 

Website – http://www.pintipdunn.com/ 

 

 

 

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 #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.

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.