Crystal obediently follows her husband Brian to his new job in Thailand, but she is sick of taking care of everything he decides without input. In Thailand, the kids settle in but Brian is rarely home and Crystal’s isolation and exhaustion push her to the brink
This book is all plot. The writing is somewhat stiff and formal, even in moments of extreme emotion. Because of that, I didn’t connect very much with the characters. I was primarily interested in the view of Thailand in the 1970s given, and that is what I ended up focusing on and enjoying the most. It’s amazing how many of the problems Crystal faces would be pretty much non-existent now due to advances like mobile phones and the internet.
One thing I appreciated was the deep dive into Crystal’s mental health and the options she had. I didn’t think mental health care was really a thing then, so that surprised me a bit. Overall the book was one I was able to get through, and fairly quickly, but it didn’t stand out to me for much besides the setting. The way characters spoke to each other felt unrealistic, and prevented me from getting a sense of reality at any point.
I’ve only spent about a day and a half in New York City, despite living pretty close to it my whole life. I’ll probably go back some time, if only for the sheer number of libraries that I didn’t visit and absolutely should have. This is one of them:
The Morgan Library
This library in Manhattan started as a super rich financial mogul’s personal library, but was made public according to the guy’s will after he died. PS — dude was JP Morgan, of the company JP Morgan, if that rings any bells. SUPER RICH DUDE.
Since aforementioned dude was super rich, the library is ENORMOUS. It takes up about a half block of the city, and I’m not sure exactly how big that is, but it’s big.
They have some really cool items in the collection. Not only are there rare and first edition books (like Gutenberg Bibles and the draft of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol), but they also have paintings, sculptures, and even notes and drafts from musicians.
Verdict:Probably a better read for everyone else than it was for me. My experience was somewhat dull, but I have no doubt this will be a hit with most other readers if they think they would like it!
Recommended: eh For a glimpse into 1920s Shanghai, for a historical fantasy gangster story (not a common combo I think), for flavors of Romeo & Juliet but ultimately its own standing story
The year is 1926, and Shanghai hums to the tune of debauchery. A blood feud between two gangs runs the streets red, leaving the city helpless in the grip of chaos. At the heart of it all is eighteen-year-old Juliette Cai, a former flapper who has returned to assume her role as the proud heir of the Scarlet Gang—a network of criminals far above the law. Their only rivals in power are the White Flowers, who have fought the Scarlets for generations. And behind every move is their heir, Roma Montagov, Juliette’s first love…and first betrayal. But when gangsters on both sides show signs of instability culminating in clawing their own throats out, the people start to whisper. Of a contagion, a madness. Of a monster in the shadows. As the deaths stack up, Juliette and Roma must set their guns—and grudges—aside and work together, for if they can’t stop this mayhem, then there will be no city left for either to rule.
Look, I know. This book has everything. Shanghai in 1920s, one of my favorite place-time combos. A basis in Shakespeare. A fantasy element of monsters. A touch of brutality and gore to darken the story.
So why didn’t I love it???
I’m a bit baffled, honestly. I’ve tried to pinpoint what kept me from falling in love with this book, as I should have by all rights. I think my issue was partly that I wasn’t expecting it to be intertwined with magic and I wasn’t really in the mood for that — and obviously that’s a personal issue, nothing with the book. But the bigger issue I faced was that I just didn’t really care about either of the main characters.
I stumbled upon this gem of a bookstore (in searching online, not in real life, alas):
Behold! El Ateneo Grand Splendid!
This grand hall in Buenos Aires, Argentina started as a performance area for all kinds of events, like dancing and music. In the 1920s it was turned into a cinema, with seating installed. Then in 2000, a company leased the building, removed the seating, and turned it into a flagship bookstore for their publishing house. Pretty impressive history of artistic involvement in this building!
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 A Cuban Girl’s Guide to Tea and Tomorrow by Laura Taylor Namey. She’s a new author for me, but if this book is as good as I hope it will be, she’ll be a familiar author before long. 🥰 Expected release: November 10, 2020
Why wait on this one?
Multiculturalism is a constant delight. I love stories that allow people of all kinds to shine through, and sending a Cuban American girl from the lively culture of Miami to rainy small-town England is a combo I haven’t been able to experience yet. Seeing through someone else’s eyes is always a revelation, and I live for the moments of humour and wisdom that come with it.
I’m all about stories focusing on identity and finding yourself, especially when it happens by force when all your plans totally blow up in your face. Grace in those moments is a pleasure for me to see and read, and it sounds like Lila is definitely in that category.
ENGLAND! TRAVEL! I know, I know, I’ve been saying this about pretty much every book I’ve featured for months now. But I’m used to traveling to several new countries every year, and traveling is very much on hold for the forseeable future. So I take what I can get. And what I can get is England, shown to me on the arm of charming teashop boy Orion.
Summary: For Lila Reyes, a summer in England was never part of the plan. The plan was 1) take over her abuela’s role as head baker at their panadería, 2) move in with her best friend after graduation, and 3) live happily ever after with her boyfriend. But then the Trifecta happened, and everything—including Lila herself—fell apart.
Worried about Lila’s mental health, her parents make a new plan for her: Spend three months with family friends in Winchester, England, to relax and reset. But with the lack of sun, a grumpy inn cook, and a small town lacking Miami flavor (both in food and otherwise), what would be a dream trip for some feels more like a nightmare to Lila…until she meets Orion Maxwell.
A teashop clerk with troubles of his own, Orion is determined to help Lila out of her funk, and appoints himself as her personal tour guide. From Winchester’s drama-filled music scene to the sweeping English countryside, it isn’t long before Lila is not only charmed by Orion, but England itself. Soon a new future is beginning to form in Lila’s mind—one that would mean leaving everything she ever planned behind.
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 Love and Olives by Jenna Evans Welch, which is another choice that should be no surprise to anyone who knows my reading habits. 😁 Expected release: November 10, 2020
Why wait on this one?
Alright, my first reason for wanting to read this is a simple one: I’ve read one of her past books in this “series” and loved it! Like Love & Gelato. I love both of those things, so how could I resist a book about it?? To be fair I don’t love olives, but I’m willing to overlook that fact for the sake of the book. ^.^
Now more than ever I’m aggressively pursuing sweet lighthearted stories that I just really need right now OKAY? And this story of Liv meeting her father basically for the first time in her life and trying to fit in her own image of herself and family and all the confusion that comes with identity struggles PLUS she’s in another country AND there’s this guy…
Remember that part above where she’s in another country? Liv goes to GREECE! This feels fitting, because the first trip abroad I took was to Italy & Greece, so this will complete the duo of my experiences with Welch’s books. And again, y’all, I usually travel so much. This year, I got one trip in before everything closed. I’m so grateful for that one trip, but now I”m trying to make up for the rest with books. So please, Mx. Welch, take me away to sunny, sandy, Santorini!!! 🤩
Summary: Liv Varanakis doesn’t have a lot of fond memories of her father, which makes sense—he fled to Greece when she was only eight. What Liv does remember, though, is their shared love for Greek myths and the lost city of Atlantis. So when Liv suddenly receives a postcard from her father explaining that National Geographic is funding a documentary about his theories on Atlantis—and will she fly out to Greece and help?—Liv jumps at the opportunity.
But when she arrives to gorgeous Santorini, things are a little…awkward. There are so many questions, so many emotions that flood to the surface after seeing her father for the first time in years. And yet Liv doesn’t want their past to get in the way of a possible reconciliation. She also definitely doesn’t want Theo—her father’s charismatic so-called “protégé”—to witness her struggle.
And that means diving into all that Santorini has to offer—the beautiful sunsets, the turquoise water, the hidden caves, and the delicious cuisine. But not everything on the Greek island is as perfect as it seems. Because as Liv slowly begins to discover, her father may not have invited her to Greece for Atlantis, but for something much more important.
This is going to be one I recommend to basically everyone. 🥰
Recommended:yeeeeeeeesssssssss!!!!!!!!!! for a lovable lot of characters, for a story that has a lot of elements to it, for a wide variety of situations
Summary: After fleeing crumbling, volatile Venezuela, Yola Palacio wants nothing more than to settle into a peaceful new life in Trinidad with her family. And who cares if they’re there illegally—aren’t most of the people on the island? But life for the Palacios is far from quiet—and when Yola’s Aunt Celia dies, the family once again find their lives turned upside down. For Celia had been keeping a very big secret—she owed a LOT of money to a local criminal called Ugly. And without the funds to pay him off, Ugly has the entire family do his bidding until Celia’s debt is settled. What Ugly says, the Palacios do, otherwise the circumstances are too dreadful to imagine.
To say that the year that follows is tumultuous for the Palacios is an understatement. But in the midst of the turmoil appears Roman—Ugly’s distractingly gorgeous right-hand man. And although she knows it’s terrible and quite possibly dangerous, Yola just can’t help but give in to the attraction. Where, though, do Roman’s loyalties lie? And could this wildly inappropriate romance just be the antidote to a terrible year of Ugly?
Thoughts: I saw this book’s synopsis and thought I would probably love it, and yup, I was right. 😍
What I loved The setting in Trinidadwas an quick obvious draw for me, because I don’t know much of anything about it. Well, now I do! Like the fact that there’s the largest natural tar deposit in the world there, and also that they have notoriously poorly paved roads because they export all their tar. 😂 The little tour around the island on Yola and Roman’s excursions were a perfect way to introduce readers to the area.
I quite adore Bill Bryson from some of his other travel and language books I’ve read. When I saw this at my favorite used bookstore, I had to grab it up! I can’t very well travel right now, so I’m embracing it in books even more than I usually do. Bryson is a delightful tour guide who constantly cracks me up and fascinates me with interesting history and observations. Who knew that rabbits were such a deadly scourge in Australia? NOW I DO!😊
–> THE UNKNOWN NUCLEAR EXPLOSION in 1993, there was a huge unexplained explosion, that for years no one could explain or find. In 1995, it was discovered that a Japanese terrorist group had performed a test nuclear explosion in Australia’s vast desert in some land the organization owned — and no one knew about it until 2 years after.
–> THE MAN WHO NAMED AUSTRALIA Lachlan Macquarie, a Scottish governor of the original colonies, is the one who made the name Australia take root. Before, it was just called New South Wales or Botany Bay without any real discrimination. He also has a TON of stuff named after him, either first or last name.
–> THE SECRET MENACE OF RABBITS Early in the colonization, some fancy to-do aristocrat brought some rabbits with him to put in his garden and enjoy watching them. But then they escaped, and mated like rabbits as they swarmed to continent, absolutely devouring and destroying tons of the scrub and low brush of the land. It’s still a problem, and this is one organization trying to deal with it.
–> THE WHITE AUSTRALIAN POLICY When people were first immigrating to Australia (by choice, not as prisoners), there were some official policies in place that allowed officials to test anyone entering on any European language and kick them out if they fail. The discrimination towards non-whites was pretty clear with this policy in place. Who’s going to pass a literacy test in Scottish Gaelic??
–> GOLD AUSTRALIA Australia was desperately poor for a long time after being colonized, as is maybe not terribly surprising in a continent that’s mostly desert and has lots of really intense weather. What turned all that around was the discovery that Australia also had a TON of gold. People started panning, or drilling, or mining, or however you get gold out of the earth, and suddenly they were a pretty well-to-do corner of the world.
Lines that linger
Put in the crudest terms, Australia was slightly more important to Americans in 1997 than bananas, but not nearly as important as ice cream.
It is a fact little notes that the Aborigines have the oldest continuously maintained culture on earth, and their art goes back to the very roots of it. Imagine if there were some people in France who could take you to the caves at Lascaux and explain in detail the significance of the paintings — because it as fresh and sensible to them as if it were done yesterday.
In 1989, 1990, 1992, 1995, 1996, and 1998 Nyngan was devastated by torrential flash floods. For five years during this same period, while Nyngan was being repeatedly inundated, the town of Cobar, just eighty miles to the west, recorded not a drop of rain. This is, if I haven’t made it clear already, one tough country.
Hey y’all! In contrast to Throwback Thursday, I use Fridays to look ahead to an upcoming release that I’m excited about! Today’s is A Thousand Questions by Saadia Faruqi, and if you want something light and wholesome, here it is!! Expected Release: October 6, 2020
Why wait on this one?
I love going anywhere, and since I can only travel in books right now, I’m delighted to join Mimi on her trip to Pakistan to meet her long-distant grandparents. Having a main character who doesn’t know much about the country despite her ties there helps provide a bridge for me, since there’s a lot I wouldn’t know about living there either.
I’m a sucker for a nice happy story about friendship and learning to understand each other. Mimi x Sakina (love that name!) sounds like a friendship I can get behind. I already want to know them and see them succeed and work together and bond… and they’re just characters in a book. 😂
It might only be a small part, but there’s a language aspect to this book as Sakina is torn between learning English to go to school or staying at her job to help her family. I’m sure it will be a difficult situation, but I still can’t wait to see her work through it. Plus, language! Love it! I hope there are some delightful little mixups as they each learn. ^.^
Summary: Mimi is not thrilled to be spending her summer in Karachi, Pakistan, with grandparents she’s never met. Secretly, she wishes to find her long-absent father, and plans to write to him in her beautiful new journal.
The cook’s daughter, Sakina, still hasn’t told her parents that she’ll be accepted to school only if she can improve her English test score—but then, how could her family possibly afford to lose the money she earns working with her Abba in a rich family’s kitchen?
Although the girls seem totally incompatible at first, as the summer goes on, Sakina and Mimi realize that they have plenty in common—and that they each need the other to get what they want most.
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 one that is hard to miss with it’s striking cover, Ties That Tether by Jane Igharo, featuring a Nigerian Canadian woman who’s done with her series of parental setups and stumbles upon a chance man of her own. Expected Release: September 29, 2020
What’s better than an unexpected romance? I dare say most people don’t expect much to come from a one-night stand after that one night, but Azere finds a whole lot more of a connection with Rafael. I think this will be a delightful fall into love and I can’t wait to be there for it. ^.^
As if new love wasn’t fraught enough, Azere also has to worry about her cultural navigation in this new relationship. Dating a guy who doesn’t share her ethnicity can have it’s own difficulties, but she also has to deal with a family that’s big on preserving heritage. AKA – you’re Nigerian, so you’d better be dating a Nigerian, even if you move to Canada! This is two cultures I’ll get to learn about!
Basically, this whole thing sounds like a plot basis I know and love. A sweetly developing romance; a culture I’ll get to learn about; an immigrant’s work to navigate her past and her future; Canada; it’s got it all!
At twelve years old, Azere promised her dying father she would marry a Nigerian man and preserve her culture even after emigrating to Canada. Her mother has been vigilant about helping–forcing–her to stay well within the Nigerian dating pool ever since. But when another match-made-by-mom goes wrong, Azere ends up at a bar, enjoying the company and later sharing the bed of Rafael Castellano, a man who is tall, handsome, and white.
When their one-night stand unexpectedly evolves into something serious, Azere is caught between her growing feelings for Rafael and the compulsive need to please her mother who will never accept a relationship that threatens to dilute Azere’s Nigerian heritage.
Azere can’t help wondering if loving Rafael makes her any less of a Nigerian. Can she be with him without compromising her identity? The answer will either cause Azere to be audacious and fight for her happiness or continue as the compliant daughter.