Posted in Book Talk

Top Ten Tuesday: Places in Books I Wanna Go!!!

Hey y’all! Top Ten Tuesday is a bookish question idea that was originally created and hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, from way back in June 2010! Since January 2018, Top Ten Tuesday has been hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. Thanks for taking it over! The idea is to make a list of ten books or bookish things on different topics each week. Check out her site for details on how to join and what the upcoming prompts are. 😊 You can also see all the posts from other bloggers linked on each weekly post on their main site.

This week’s prompt is place I want to go that I’ve read about in books, whether real or fake. This is insanely easy for me both because I love to travel physically, and because I read a TON of books set in places I’ve never been around the world. That’s a specific draw for me. 🙂

I did have a weird moment of realization during this though. Since fictional places are also included in today’s list options, I got to thinking how there didn’t seem to be any fictional place I’d ever want to visit because in books they’re always so violent and dangerous and a million things could kill me. This was followed by me thinking how someone from one of those places would view Earth and/or the United States. And I was shocked when I realized, oh… they might feel the same. 😅 War and human rights issues constantly, a car might run you over, some places on Earth have now become literally too hot for humans to live anymore… there are definitely some issues here, even if they aren’t literal dragons. I mean, heck, we even had a recent plague!

Side note: reading about real current events in a dramatized, fictionalized way would be cool. I’d read that news site.

Anyway. The list.

The Books

Approximately arranged by how far away they are from me currently.

The Places

The Cat I Never Named: Bihac, Bosnia

Because this book was incredible and more than enough to make me fall in love with Bosnia and want to see where they’re at now, knowing the history.

Continue reading “Top Ten Tuesday: Places in Books I Wanna Go!!!”
Posted in Reviews

Review: The Spanish Love Deception by Elena Armas

The Spanish Love Deception by Elena Armas

Recommended: not for me but maybe for you?
If you like suuuuper sweet Hallmark-style moments, too-good-to-be-true characters, and sex where he calls her “baby” a lot

Summary

Catalina Martín desperately needs a date to her sister’s wedding. Especially since her little white lie about her American boyfriend has spiralled out of control. Now everyone she knows—including her ex and his fiancée—will be there and eager to meet him.

She only has four weeks to find someone willing to cross the Atlantic and aid in her deception. New York to Spain is no short flight and her raucous family won’t be easy to fool.

Enter Aaron Blackford—her tall, handsome, condescending colleague—who surprisingly offers to step in. She’d rather refuse; never has there been a more aggravating, blood-boiling, and insufferable man.

But Catalina is desperate, and as the wedding draws nearer, Aaron looks like her best option. And she begins to realize he might not be as terrible in the real world as he is at the office.

Thoughts

There was so much about this book I didn’t like, from start to finish, but I kept reading it. I assumed the sex scenes would be good and I was kind of right? Certainly generous in length of time and vivid description, but filled with — for me — total turnoffs that ruined it entirely. The excessive amount of calling her “baby,” for example. Always a weird one to me. And things that are a mix of insulting and concerning to me like “I finally have you were I want you. At my mercy.” For me that’s not sexy, just an uncomfortable power issue. Anyway. Meh.

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Posted in Reviews

Review: Lucie Yi Is Not a Romantic by Lauren Ho

Lucie Yi Is Not a Romantic by Lauren Ho

Recommended: sure!
For a unique plot of romance, for a story of motherhood with wonderful friend support, for a lot of laugh-inducing moments, for a glimpse of how co-parenting can start and work

Summary

Management consultant Lucie Yi is done waiting for Mr. Right. After a harrowing breakup foiled her plans for children—and drove her to a meltdown in a Tribeca baby store—she’s ready to take matters into her own hands. She signs up for an elective co-parenting website to find a suitable partner with whom to procreate—as platonic as family planning can be.

Collin Read checks all of Lucie’s boxes; he shares a similar cultural background, he’s honest, and most important, he’s ready to become a father. When they match, it doesn’t take long for Lucie to take a leap of faith for her future. So what if her conservative family might not approve? When Lucie becomes pregnant, the pair return to Singapore and, sure enough, her parents refuse to look on the bright side. Even more complicated, Lucie’s ex-fiancé reappears, sparking unresolved feelings and compounding work pressures and the baffling ways her body is changing. Suddenly her straightforward arrangement is falling apart before her very eyes, and Lucie will have to decide how to juggle the demands of the people she loves while pursuing the life she really wants

Thoughts

If you look back at my Fast Forward Friday post for this book, I got everything I wanted out of this and more. HOW OFTEN DOES THAT HAPPEN? (Not often!) So I’m really impressed and delighted by this story. I did expect it to be a little bit more serious and dry, but I’m really pleased that I was wrong about that one point, because it was so much fun in addition to being thoughtful and emotional. There was a lot more rom-com to this than I thought there’d be!

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Posted in Reviews

Review: A Hundred Silent Ways by Marie Jojie

A Hundred Silent Ways: A Novel by Mari Jojie

Recommended: yes!!
For a romance and a falling out of love, for grief and recovery, for guilt and hope, for a portrayal of a deaf character who is so much more than that

Summary

On the brink of a crumbling marriage, Kate Pineda-McDowell runs away from the only life she has ever known—straight into the heart of the Philippines where her estranged father lives. As she waits for her connecting flight from Tokyo to Manila, she meets Liam Walker, whose disquieting stares express deeper things than his reluctant words. Unbeknownst to both, their chance meeting circles back to a closely linked past that holds little hope for new beginnings.

Shortly after arriving in Manila, Kate finds herself drawn to seek out Liam. In a span of a few magical days, what began as a spark ignites into an electric affair that compels Liam to let someone into his silent world while Kate confronts her heartbreaking sorrows. But falling for each other means opening old wounds and revealing their most intimate yearnings.

Emotionally gripping and endearingly hopeful, “A Hundred Silent Ways” examines the many different paths people take to obtain a second chance at happiness while asking the most heartrending question of all: How much are we willing to endure to keep love alive?

Thoughts

I adored this book. Maybe I knew and forgot somehow, but one of the main characters is deaf. The way Kate and other characters interacted so naturally with Liam, a character who is deaf, made me really happy. Including written words, or noting they are writing, or his reluctance to speak, all built up that aspect of him and the story as a strong foundation.

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Posted in Fast-Forward Friday

Fast Forward Friday: Lucie Yi Is Not A Romantic (6/24/22)

Hey y’all! In contrast to Throwback Thursday, I like to use Fridays to look forward to an upcoming release that I’m excited about! Today’s is Lucie Yi Is Not a Romantic by Lauren Ho!
Expected Release: June 24, 2022

Why wait on this one?

  • I have never read a novel about a co-parenting partnership, and I LOVE that this is one. I’m not sure what the correct term is, but an alternate family structure like this is another example of diversity in stories for people of all kinds to see their own experiences reflected. I also think it’s an option for parenthood that is unknown/stigmatized, so seeing it in fiction is great!
  • There’s an extra perk for me of travel in this novel, as Lucie goes to Singapore to see her family once she’s pregnant. Since she’s pregnant and a local, I’m not sure how much exploring will happen for my benefit, but just being there in the story will be exciting! Even if her parents aren’t exactly on board with her co-parenting decision…
  • And then toss in the reappearance of an ex-fiance! Drama with lovers! I assumed the plot would go towards her falling for her co-parent, but I like the idea that it could go the direction of having a romantic partner and a parenting-partner and negotiating those intertwined relationships. Or maybe she’ll only give her heart to her baby, who knows! I think there are a lot of good options for the path, and I’m so excited to see which one plays out. 🙂

Summary

Management consultant Lucie Yi is done waiting for Mr. Right. After a harrowing breakup foiled her plans for children—and drove her to a meltdown in a Tribeca baby store—she’s ready to take matters into her own hands. She signs up for an elective co-parenting website to find a suitable partner with whom to procreate—as platonic as family planning can be.
 
Collin Read checks all of Lucie’s boxes; he shares a similar cultural background, he’s honest, and most important, he’s ready to become a father. When they match, it doesn’t take long for Lucie to take a leap of faith for her future. So what if her conservative family might not approve? When Lucie becomes pregnant, the pair return to Singapore and, sure enough, her parents refuse to look on the bright side. Even more complicated, Lucie’s ex-fiancé reappears, sparking unresolved feelings and compounding work pressures and the baffling ways her body is changing. Suddenly her straightforward arrangement is falling apart before her very eyes, and Lucie will have to decide how to juggle the demands of the people she loves while pursuing the life she really wants.

Posted in Reviews

Review: Pachinko by Lee Min-jin

Pachinko by Lee Min-jin

Recommended: for some people
For folks who like character studies and want to know about every person who pops up in the book, for folks who want a historical slice-of-life from Koreans in Japan in the 1900s. Not for folks looking for a solid plot or driving force through the story,

Summary

Pachinko follows one Korean family through the generations, beginning in early 1900s Korea with Sunja, the prized daughter of a poor yet proud family, whose unplanned pregnancy threatens to shame them all. Deserted by her lover, Sunja is saved when a young tubercular minister offers to marry and bring her to Japan.

So begins a sweeping saga of an exceptional family in exile from its homeland and caught in the indifferent arc of history. Through desperate struggles and hard-won triumphs, its members are bound together by deep roots as they face enduring questions of faith, family, and identity.

Thoughts

What. A. Slog. If the question in this review is “is this a well done book” then my answer is yes, absolutely. But if the question is, as I expect it to be, “did I enjoy this book” the answer is noooooooo. Or a generous “not really.” It wasn’t bad, but boy was it a slow journey through five generations. Sometimes I like generational stories, but this was too much for me. If I hadn’t been already 82% in I would have just DNFd it.

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Posted in Reviews

Review: Queen of the Tiles by Hanna Alkaf

Queen of the Tiles by Hanna Alkaf

Recommended: sure
For a read about grief through the plot points of a murder mystery, for colorful characters who are lots of shades of morally gray, for a lot of words you never knew (but will after reading this!)

Summary

CATALYST
13 points
noun: a person or thing that precipitates an event or change

When Najwa Bakri walks into her first Scrabble competition since her best friend’s death, it’s with the intention to heal and move on with her life. Perhaps it wasn’t the best idea to choose the very same competition where said best friend, Trina Low, died. It might be even though Najwa’s trying to change, she’s not ready to give up Trina just yet.

But the same can’t be said for all the other competitors. With Trina, the Scrabble Queen herself, gone, the throne is empty, and her friends are eager to be the next reigning champion. All’s fair in love and Scrabble, but all bets are off when Trina’s formerly inactive Instagram starts posting again, with cryptic messages suggesting that maybe Trina’s death wasn’t as straightforward as everyone thought. And maybe someone at the competition had something to do with it.

As secrets are revealed and the true colors of her friends are shown, it’s up to Najwa to find out who’s behind these mysterious posts—not just to save Trina’s memory, but to save herself.

Thoughts

If you’re a person who hears that this is a YA murder mystery based at a Scrabble tournament and thinks “OOOOOH I might like that!!” then yes, you probably will. So if you’re already interested, you can probably stop here and just go read the book itself. 🙂

There’s kind of a twist to this at the end, if I can call it that? I think those that are in it for the murder mystery element should be aware that while it is the main moving plot point of the novel as they investigate each suspect, it’s kind of a light touch. The grittiness and darkness comes from the grief the characters deal with, rather than some kind of creepy malicious danger (though there is some of that, too). Also be aware that this is a young adult novel with young adult characters. So they do make stupid decisions. There’s a conversation early on that’s essentially “Should we tell the police?” “No way, they wouldn’t take us seriously / wouldn’t do anything! WE have to solve this one!” which, as always, made me roll my eyes. Not that it’s necessarily inaccurate of how the characters would think, but sigh. Can we just trust adults sometimes maybe?

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Posted in Reviews

Review: Around the World in 80 Plants by Jonathan Drori

Around the World in 80 Plants by Jonathan Drori
Verdict: Plants are really fucking cool.
Also, this book is so good that I bought myself a copy to have halfway through reading my copy from the library. Can’t wait to dip back in and savor it all over again. ^.^

Recommended: yes!
for curious people, for gardeners, for people who like science, animals, traveling, and/or learning, for a fascinating set of plant vignettes that are easy to dip into and savor

Summary

An inspirational and beautifully illustrated book that tells the stories of 80 plants from around the globe.

In his follow-up to the bestselling Around the World in 80 Trees, Jonathan Drori takes another trip across the globe, bringing to life the science of plants by revealing how their worlds are intricately entwined with our own history, culture and folklore. From the seemingly familiar tomato and dandelion to the eerie mandrake and Spanish “moss” of Louisiana, each of these stories is full of surprises. Some have a troubling past, while others have ignited human creativity or enabled whole civilizations to flourish. With a colorful cast of characters all brought to life by illustrator Lucille Clerc, this is a botanical journey of beauty and brilliance.

Thoughts

Fun fact about me: I generally dislike touching plants. It’s a weird little aversion, and maybe it’s from that time I pet a cactus as a child and learned what “regret” meant, but regardless of the reason, it’s a thing for me. Buuuuut I also really love nature and plants and learning and science. This is a fantastic little book, and what I most want to emphasize is that I truly think anyone can read and enjoy this!!! For a very factual nonfiction book on a very sciency topic, that is quite impressive!

So what makes it so accessible? It comes down to a few things: short chapters, cultural and societal stories about each plant, and gorgeous illustrations.

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Posted in Fast-Forward Friday

Fast Forward Friday: Two Nights in Lisbon 5/24/22

Hey y’all! In contrast to Throwback Thursday, I like to use Fridays to look forward to an upcoming release that I’m excited about! Today’s is Two Nights in Lisbon by Chris Pavone!
Expected Release: May 24, 2022

Why wait on this one?

  • 1The setting, of course. I love books set in places that aren’t where I am, and Lisbon, Portugal is one of those places. This seems like a book that will track all through the city so I’ll see it a bit.
  • The mystery! I love a good amnesiac episode of trying to find out who you are. Siri, Who Am I? was a surprisingly good title, and The End of Getting Lost feels like it will have similar vibes to this one as well. Both were fab!
  • Who is the one person she doesn’t want to ask for help!? The blurb ends with that juicy little tidbit, so on top of the “who am i where am I” mystery, there’s definitely going to be some tension elsewhere as well. It must be someone she meets during the process or else she wouldn’t remember them, right? So what new person is catching her attention?
  • OH AND ALSO ITS BY THE GUY WHO WROTE THE EXPATS!!! That book was one I picked up I don’t even know how, and it was SO GOOD. I still think about that book. I recommended it to my mom and she loved it too. I didn’t realize Chris Pavone wrote it as well until literally just now when I saw the byline on the cover and yoooo I’m even more excited and maybe actually preordering this one now. 😍

Summary

Ariel Price wakes up in Lisbon, alone. Her husband is gone—no warning, no note, not answering his phone. Something is wrong.

She starts with hotel security, then the police, then the American embassy, at each confronting questions she can’t fully answer: What exactly is John doing in Lisbon? Why would he drag her along on his business trip? Who would want to harm him? And why does Ariel know so little about her new—much younger—husband?

The clock is ticking. Ariel is increasingly frustrated and desperate, running out of time, and the one person in the world who can help is the one person she least wants to ask.

Posted in Fast-Forward Friday

Fast Forward Friday: The Noh Family, 5/3/22

Hey y’all! In contrast to Throwback Thursday, I like to use Fridays to look forward to an upcoming release that I’m excited about! Today’s is
Expected Release: May 3, 2022

Why wait on this one?

  • I have a type, and that type is Korean-Americans learning about their roots /Korean family and going to Korea. I’m an absolute sucker for them and could probably make a whole list by now of the books I’ve read with that exact plot. And I will keep reading them. Enter: The Noh Family (Noh is an unusual name, I’m curious if that will come up!)
  • AHHHH SECRET FAMILY WITH FAMILY SECRETS!!!! I’m not much for gossip in my real life, but when it comes to books, I am all about learning everyone’s hidden pieces of their lives! Especially if it’s heartwarming at the end. I hope this will be heartwarming at the end. ^.^
  • Something about the unfathomably rich families of Korea also fascinates me. The pervasive way they exist in and shape the culture itself is more so even than here in America, with words like chaebol just to express the luck / goal of being in one of these families. And frankly, just the setting is enough for me! I love connecting experiences of the characters with my own from when I lived there. Even just seeing the Namsan Tower on the cover was enough to prompt a big smile!
  • Side note that the prompting event of her friends giving an orphan who never knew her father a DNA test kit seems like kind of a shitty thing to do? Especially when labeled a “gag gift?” I’m curious to see how that scene goes down.

Summary

When her friends gift her a 23-and-Me test as a gag, high school senior Chloe Kang doesn’t think much of trying it out. She doesn’t believe anything will come of it–she’s an only child, her mother is an orphan, and her father died in Seoul before she was even born, and before her mother moved to Oklahoma. It’s been just Chloe and her mom her whole life. But the DNA test reveals something Chloe never expected–she’s got a whole extended family from her father’s side half a world away in Korea. Her father’s family are owners of a famous high-end department store, and are among the richest families in Seoul. When they learn she exists, they are excited to meet her. Her mother has huge reservations, she hasn’t had a great relationship with her husband’s family, which is why she’s kept them secret, but she can’t stop Chloe from travelling to Seoul to spend two weeks getting to know the Noh family.

Chloe is whisked into the lap of luxury, but something feels wrong. Chloe wants to shake it off–she’s busy enjoying the delights of Seoul with new friend Miso Dan, the daughter of one of her mother’s grade school friends. And as an aspiring fashion designer, she’s loving the couture clothes her department store owning family gives her access to. But soon Chloe will discover the reason why her mother never told her about her dad’s family, and why the Nohs wanted her in Seoul in the first place. Could joining the Noh family be worse than having no family at all?