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.

 

Book Review | This Time Will Be Different by Misa Sugiura

Authour:
Misa Sugiura
Format:
ARC
Publication date:
June 4th 2019
Publisher:
HarperTeen
Publisher Social Media: 
Twitter/Facebook/SavvyReader/
Source:
Received from publisher.

Review:
Every so often, when I’m stuck between two ARCs I turn to social media to help me decide what to read next. Misa Sugiura’s sophomore novel, This Time Will Be Different was the winner of a recent poll I had.

CJ Katsuyama is a Japanese-American teenager who lives with her mother, a high-powered executive and her aunt who runs the family flower shop. While there are countless things CJ isn’t sure of, the one thing she is sure of is that she loves working on floral arrangements with her aunt. So, when she learns that the family shop is being sold to a descendant of the man who cheated her family during World War II she decides to do something about it.

There are two things that I loved about This Time Will Be Different. The first was how relatable CJ was as a teenager, I found it refreshing that she was cynical when it came to matters of the heart as a result of her family’s complicated love history. Still it was nice to have a character be jaded when it comes to love yet still root for others and have crushes. I also appreciated how in the end CJ’s hasn’t been completely changed, she is open to love but not overly sentimental about it. The other thing I loved was the strong women in CJ’s life, I also liked how it the book highlights how CJ feels pressured as a teen to be amazing, especially seeing how well her mother has done for herself as a single and working parent.

This Time Will Be Different was an unexpected read for me, but in a positive way. It started off as a slow read for me, and initially I was only interested in learning more about CJ’s past as it was more interesting than her present day situation. However, I came away learning so much about the language and meaning of flowers in addition to the history of Asian Americans, particularly the Japanese and of the origins of the “model minority” myth. Even though all of this felt like an enormous information dump and at times the placement of these sections affected the pacing of the novel, I still was grateful that it gave me the context to critically look at CJ’s story.

An emotionally resonant story about family, community, and activism This Time Will Be Different shows that real life and people cannot be simplified into good or bad and that history can bring complications even several generations later.

 

 

 

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

Authour:
Roselle Lim
Format:
ARC
Publication date:
June 11th 2019
Publisher:
Berkley Books
Source:
Received from publisher.

Review:
Everyone knows what comfort food is, well Roselle Lim’s debut novel is what I call a comfort read. Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune is just one of those reads that warm the heart, and provides a sense of nostalgia.

The story follows a young woman who returns to the neighbourhood, she grew morup in upon hearing of her mother’s death. When Natalie comes back home, she finds her once vibrant San Francisco neighbourhood dying, a shadow of what it once was. I found it interesting that the authour chose to tell Natalie’s story from first-person point of view. This helped me to further connect with Natalie’s personal history and story, including the father she never knew, and the mother who she was estranged from. Natalie’s story was more tragic than I initially thought, however I appreciated the complicated mother-daughter dynamics in the book. I also could relate to Natalie in more ways than one, especially her restlessness and wanderlust. Still, I admired how she fights for her dream and was able to make something of herself.

Along with this being a story of family, community and getting back to your roots, there is also romance in store for Natalie. Though if I were honest, the romance plot in the book didn’t genuinely work for me. The romance had its sweet moments but the development was too fast and the circumstances were too rooted in fantasy and not realistic for me to enjoy. Fortunately, it was not the main focus of Natalie’s story.

Still, there’s definitely something magical about Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune, and I’m not saying that due to the magical realism elements of Natalie’s story. Roselle Lim’s writing truly brings the world that she created to life. The descriptions of all the food is so vivid and mouth-watering that it made me hungry. This is one novel you shouldn’t read on an empty stomach! Luckily, there are recipes in the book and while I may not be much of a cook, I now want to try them out for myself.

Touching on topics like mental illness, and estrangement between mothers and daughters, Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune was not the light and fluffy read I thought it would be. It is however, a read that is as enchanting as its cover promises.

 

 

 

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 | There’s Something About Sweetie by Sandhya Menon

Authour:
Sandhya Menon
Format:
eGalley
Publication date:
May 14th 2019
Publisher:
Simon Pulse
Source:
Received from publisher.

Review:
We first met Ashish in When Dimple Met Rishi as Ashish is Rishi’s little brother. There’s Something about Sweetie continues Ashish’s story and introduces us to the sassy Sweetie Nair. I’ll be honest, despite my excitement for this book I was a bit wary. The plot of There’s Something about Sweetie meant that Ashish and Celia would no longer be a couple and I loved them as the beta couple in When Dimple Met Rishi. In spite of that, Sweetie quickly won me over and I truly felt that she and Ashish were the perfect foil to one another. 

This was a book that had me grinning from ear to ear, of course, there were a few (joyful) tears as I love how authentically both characters’ families were portrayed. As a child of immigrants, I could definitely relate to Sweetie’s conflict about wanting to be her own person and not giving in to familial pressure yet at the same time not being able to fully go against her parents. After all, even if you disagree with them their words still have an effect on you because they’re your parents and you want them to accept and love you for who you are. I also loved how this was a YA novel where families, especially parents play such an integral part in a teenager’s life. However, I also love how both Sweetie and Ashish’s friends are heavily featured in this book, especially as they are all such fun characters who always have each other’s’ backs. Furthermore, it was amazing how a couple of Ashish’s friends, even got their own subplot and character development moments.

Ashish truly has come a long way since his first appearance and I love how Sweetie grows, although her character doesn’t change a great deal. Perhaps this due to the fact that she was shown as being perfect with her only flaw being her struggling between standing up for herself and being a dutiful daughter? It’s hard for anyone to not fall in love with her. A delightful read, There’s Something about Sweetie is one of those books that’s guaranteed to put you in a good mood with its adorableness, lack of any major angst and message of loving yourself and opening yourself up to others.

 

 

 

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 | Somewhere Only We Know by Maurene Goo

Authour:
Maurene Goo
Format:
ARC
Publication date:
May 7th 2019
Publisher:
Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Source:
Received from publisher.

Review:
For those who remember or are familiar with the movie, Roman Holiday starring Gregory Peck as a reporter and Audrey Hepburn as a princess looking for one day of freedom from her royal duties. Somewhere Only We Know modernizes this story by having it set in present day Hong Kong. I also like how Goo made the story her own by changing up the setting and making the two characters Asian American teenagers while still making nods to the book’s inspiration. The Hong Kong setting allows readers to visit another country and culture and experience Hong Kong from more of a local’s perspective, though with a sprinkling of the tourist highlights of course. I also felt that the pacing was actually perfect, especially for a story that supposedly takes place over less than two days at no point in the story did ever felt rushed. 

Somewhere Only We Know has two narrators, “Lucky” aka Fern (neither is her real name) and Jack. I found it refreshing that both were older teens as we watch them struggle to find their passion and decide what they want to do in life. I related to both characters’ pressure and stress over not letting others down, especially when they’ve made so countless sacrifices for you. I also appreciated how the parents, especially Jack’s parents weren’t your stereotypical strict, “tiger” parents. Since Jack’s story is told from his point of view, we only view his parents from his eyes. As a result, it was nice when he finally is able to talk to them and they’re able to clear up any misconceived notions he had about them. 

Finally central to Somewhere Only We Know is the relationship that gradually develops between Lucky and Jack. While there were a few clichéd moments that could be attributed to the K-drama feel of the book, their relationship like the characters themselves felt truly authentic. The romance wasn’t swoon worthy nor did it make me hardcore ship Lucky and Jack together. However, in the end I bought their connection and I’m satisfied with how both their story ends. 

A light read that isn’t all rainbows and sunshine, Somewhere Only We Know is still an entertaining read, especially for those who love K-dramas, or those who believe you can find love from a short, chance encounter.

 

 

 

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 | If I’m Being Honest by Emily Wibberley & Austin Siegemund-Broka

Authour:
Emily Wibberley & Austin Siegemund-Broka
Format:
ARC
Publication date:
April 23rd 2019
Publisher:
Viking Books for Young Readers
Source:
Received from publisher.

Review:
As a slightly obsessive YA contemporary rom-com reader, I’ve wanted to read an Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka book ever since their début novel last year. Fortunately, I was able to snag an advance copy of their latest book, If I’m Being Honest. Pitched as “The Taming of the Shrew meets Mean Girls”, I was a bit wary of it since The Taming of the Shrew is the Shakespeare play that I hate the most. Yet something told me to give it a chance and fortunately I listened.  

To almost everyone around her, Cameron Bright appears to be your stereotypical “mean girl”. She’s attractive, popular and has no regard for others. However, as readers, we get a glimpse at Cameron’s home life and her complicated family, thus showing us a more vulnerable side to her “mean girl” actions. After getting to know her better, it was difficult not to feel sympathy for her. She just wants her father to acknowledge her since her mother never seems to care about her. So while Cameron is not your typical, likeable protagonist I actually liked her for her independent nature and how she was incredibly honest to others even if it was to a fault. It was also enjoyable to have a protagonist who was a teenager who, while flawed had several layers to who she was. This made it more satisfying as we see Cameron develop into a more self-aware and caring person while still retaining her “bite”. Furthermore, she learns to accept her flaws and won’t settle for someone who can’t take her as she is.

The romance in If I’m Being Honest was sweet. I love all the banter between Cameron and Brendan especially since they went from sending emails to each other to texting and then to interacting in person. There’s also family drama in this book as both of Cameron’s parents are not truly present in her life and Brendan and Paige also do not have the best relationship with their parents. Cameron’s mother, however does do a heel face turn towards the end of the book, though I had difficulty buying into her reasoning as it just doesn’t add up. That being said, it was refreshing to see parents who weren’t perfect, but who weren’t exactly all complete monsters either.

Similar to Always Never Yours, If I’m Being Honest is a modern twist of The Taming of the Shrew. However, it’s so much more than that. If I’m Being Honest stands on its own as an unflinchingly realistic, but empowering twist on your average teen rom com. I’ll definitely be checking out future books by this duo as well as Always Never Yours since the couple from that book make an adorable cameo in If I’m Being Honest.

 

 

 

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’s Next? #6 | This Time Will Be Ordinary

What’s Next is a weekly book blogging meme originally created by IceyBooks; where bloggers ask their readers to vote on which one they should read next.

Today on Words of Mystery, I need to decide which of the YA contemporary novels I should pick up next.

For two sisters as different as Plum and Ginny, getting on each other’s nerves is par for the course. But when the family’s finances hit a snag, sending chaos through the house in a way only characters from a Jane Austen novel could understand, the two drift apart like they never have before. Plum, a self-described social outcast, strikes up a secret friendship with the class jock, while Ginny’s usual high-strung nature escalates to pure hysterics.

But this has always been the sisters’ dynamic. So why does everything feel different this year? Maybe because Ginny is going to leave for college soon. Maybe because Plum finally has something that she doesn’t have to share with her self-involved older sister. Or maybe because the girls are forced to examine who they really are instead of who their late father said they were. And who each girl discovers—beneath the years of missing their dad—could either bring them closer together…or drive them further apart.

Katsuyamas never quit—but seventeen-year-old CJ doesn’t even know where to start. She’s never lived up to her mom’s type A ambition, and she’s perfectly happy just helping her aunt, Hannah, at their family’s flower shop.

She doesn’t buy into Hannah’s romantic ideas about flowers and their hidden meanings, but when it comes to arranging the perfect bouquet, CJ discovers a knack she never knew she had. A skill she might even be proud of.

Then her mom decides to sell the shop—to the family who swindled CJ’s grandparents when thousands of Japanese Americans were sent to internment camps during WWII. Soon a rift threatens to splinter CJ’s family, friends, and their entire Northern California community; and for the first time, CJ has found something she wants to fight for.

So, which book do you think I should pick up first? Cast your vote in the Twitter poll below!

https://twitter.com/WordsofMystery/status/1113953200598601733

Frenzy Five | Spring/Summer 2019

It’s hard to believe it’s been 7 years since the very first, Frenzy Presents. Frenzy Presents has certainly come a long way since its humble beginnings especially as this event had over 110 attendees and that’s not including the waitlist! This particular event was definitely shorter than the ones in the past due to the Angie Thomas event that was taking place at the Art Gallery of Ontario later that afternoon. Still there was no shortage of great titles, so without further ado here are my top five picks from all of the titles presented.

1. The Wise and the Wicked by Rebecca Podos (Release Date: May 28, 2019)

A contemporary-fantasy hybrid novel, The Wise and the Wicked is about a family with an unusual power. Every woman in Ruby’s family when they come of age, has the ability to see when exactly they will die. And without fail, every member of the Chernyavsky family has died in the same manner that they saw that is until Ruby’s great-aunt Polina passes away. This twist leads to Ruby having hope that things are not completely set in stone, but can she really change her fate? An own voices magical realism story, this one awesome some awesome LGBTQ characters and representation which I’m all here for!

2. Ordinary Girls by Blair Thornburgh (Release Date: June 4, 2019)

This one was one of the titles on my wish list and I was fortunate enough to snag an ARC in my swag bag. A modern retelling of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, this one’s for those who love stories about complicated and dysfunctional family dynamics particularly among sisters. 

3. This Time Will Be Different by Misa Sugiura (Release Date: June 4, 2019)

Another contemporary YA novel that I’m eagerly anticipating, this one is about a Japanese American girl whose family owns a flower shop. Interestingly enough this one looks at the effect that the Japanese internment camps still has, since CJ’s family ends up selling their shop to the family that swindled her grandparents during WWII. This causes CJ to stand up and fight for her family, causing conflict within their entire Northern California community. Perfect for fans of Samira Ahmed’s Love, Hate & Other Filters, Sandhya Menon’s When Dimple Met Rishi as well Jenny Han.

4. The Evil Queen by Gena Showalter (Release Date: June 25, 2019)

Everyone that attended the event received a chapter sampler of this Evil Queen retelling. For fans of twisted fairy-tale retellings like the Lunar Chronicles series, this one takes place in a world where your fate is already written in the fairy tales. Everly Morrow is a loner and outsider who has the ability to commune with mirrors. Unbeknownst to her, she is destined to be the “Evil Queen” in Snow White’s story. Will she succumb to becoming the evil queen and a villain or give up her crown to become a hero? After reading this one, I’m even more intrigued to read the rest of Everly’s story.

5. Serpent & Dove (Serpent & Dove #1) by Shelby Mahurin (Release Date: September 3, 2019)

Okay so technically this one doesn’t come out until the fall, however those who attended the Spring 2019 Frenzy Presents event were given a tiny glimpse of some upcoming fall titles. This one is the first in a fantasy duology, and is the authour’s debut novel. Although, fantasy isn’t my typical cup of tea I’m excited for this one because it has a runaway witch, a marriage of convenience cleverly orchestrated by the protagonist and of course some forbidden romance between a huntsman and a witch! Also how awesome is this cover?