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Review: Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt

Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt

Recommended: ehhh
For people who don’t care if the octopus is a small part of this and not the heart of it, for folks who enjoy understated stories with quiet character development, for a gentle mystery. Not for likeable characters, engaging plot, or vivid emotions.

Summary

After Tova Sullivan’s husband died, she began working the night shift at the Sowell Bay Aquarium, mopping floors and tidying up. Keeping busy has always helped her cope, which she’s been doing since her eighteen-year-old son, Erik, mysteriously vanished on a boat in Puget Sound over thirty years ago.

Tova becomes acquainted with curmudgeonly Marcellus, a giant Pacific octopus living at the aquarium. Marcellus knows more than anyone can imagine but wouldn’t dream of lifting one of his eight arms for his human captors–until he forms a remarkable friendship with Tova.

Ever the detective, Marcellus deduces what happened the night Tova’s son disappeared. And now Marcellus must use every trick his old invertebrate body can muster to unearth the truth for her before it’s too late.

Thoughts

Who else came to this book lured in by the promise of narration via octopus? I imagine lots of people, myself among them.

Who else was disappointed by the lack of octopus narration?
🙋‍♀️🙋‍♀️🙋‍♀️

There are a few good chapters of it for sure, but they’re short at two or three pages each and make up overall a small (but impactful) portion of the story. My expectations for this were WAY off, as I thought it’d be closer to 50%, so when I got into this and realized it was mostly narrated from two humans (with the occasional omniscient view of side characters where fitting) I was quickly put off of it. This was not what I signed up for.

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Review: The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood

The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood

Recommended: ugh, yes
For lovers of meta trope silliness that’s a bit tongue in cheek, for lovers of fake-dating romances, for people in that academia life who want the thrill of love in it (though according to this book none of those people will have time to read anyway 😔)

Summary

As a third-year Ph.D. candidate, Olive Smith doesn’t believe in lasting romantic relationships–but her best friend does, and that’s what got her into this situation. Convincing Anh that Olive is dating and well on her way to a happily ever after was always going to take more than hand-wavy Jedi mind tricks: Scientists require proof. So, like any self-respecting biologist, Olive panics and kisses the first man she sees.

That man is none other than Adam Carlsen, a young hotshot professor–and well-known ass. Which is why Olive is positively floored when Stanford’s reigning lab tyrant agrees to keep her charade a secret and be her fake boyfriend. But when a big science conference goes haywire, putting Olive’s career on the Bunsen burner, Adam surprises her again with his unyielding support and even more unyielding…six-pack abs.

Suddenly their little experiment feels dangerously close to combustion. And Olive discovers that the only thing more complicated than a hypothesis on love is putting her own heart under the microscope.

Thoughts

Ahhhh, shit. I liked it. There was so much hype that I fully did not expect to. Also I kind of hate the cover for some reason? Though I get it now. I guess it looks too much like the guy is confused and not into it, and I don’t like that vibe in a story, but that’s not where this one goes.

I loved how the common tropes were acknowledged and teasingly turned on their head at times. Rom-coms exist in this universe, and the characters know about the fake-dating tropes and associated perils. It was such a fun aspect for an avid reader of rom-coms and romance. ☺

Part of my original hesitation on this book was the expectation that it would be the same old story of the one perky outgoing character and the one reclusive character (sunshine and grump, basically). It kiiind of was, but I think it also developed both leads into more than their assigned stereotypes. There was friendship for each of them on both sides, and other relationships that mattered. Part of the fun, as always in the trope, is the discovery of each other as more nuanced than they first thought.

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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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Review: Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner

Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner

Recommended: for certain people
For folks who love food or have strong memory associations with it, for a heartwrenching amount of grief, for (seemingly, I guess who knows what she kept to herself) total honesty and dull blunt assessments of some of the most painful moments in her life, for little splashes of joy, for baffling contrasts of explosive anger and tender love

Summary

In this exquisite story of family, food, grief, and endurance, Michelle Zauner proves herself far more than a dazzling singer, songwriter, and guitarist. With humor and heart, she tells of growing up one of the few Asian American kids at her school in Eugene, Oregon; of struggling with her mother’s particular, high expectations of her; of a painful adolescence; of treasured months spent in her grandmother’s tiny apartment in Seoul, where she and her mother would bond, late at night, over heaping plates of food.

As she grew up, moving to the East Coast for college, finding work in the restaurant industry, and performing gigs with her fledgling band–and meeting the man who would become her husband–her Koreanness began to feel ever more distant, even as she found the life she wanted to live. It was her mother’s diagnosis of terminal cancer, when Michelle was twenty-five, that forced a reckoning with her identity and brought her to reclaim the gifts of taste, language, and history her mother had given her.

Thoughts

I guess I didn’t expect or realize that this would be a memoir entirely via food. I’m not terribly interested in descriptions of food or eating or cooking or really much of anything about food, so this was honestly a struggle for me. Pretty much my own fault, but I still would have given this a go had I realized, I just would have been more prepared for it. There are a lot of sections that are entirely about different ingredients, or the process of cooking a meal, or the experience of eating it. If food holds memories for you (or you just like food I guess) then it probably won’t be any issue. This is a huge part of why I didn’t connect to or enjoy this one much, as much as you can “enjoy” such a sad focus in a memoir.

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Review: A Touch of Darkness by Scarlett St. Clair

A Touch of Darkness by Scarlett St. Clair

Recommended: eh
For Hades and Persephone sex scenes, for another angle of these characters, for some great creative imaginings of other gods and their world. Not for terribly interesting characters or plot conflicts

Summary

Persephone is the Goddess of Spring by title only. The truth is, since she was a little girl, flowers have shriveled at her touch. After moving to New Athens, she hopes to lead an unassuming life disguised as a mortal journalist.

Hades, God of the Dead, has built a gambling empire in the mortal world and his favorite bets are rumored to be impossible.

After a chance encounter with Hades, Persephone finds herself in a contract with the God of the Dead and the terms are impossible: Persephone must create life in the Underworld or lose her freedom forever.

The bet does more than expose Persephone’s failure as a goddess, however. As she struggles to sow the seeds of her freedom, love for the God of the Dead grows—and it’s forbidden.

Thoughts

I finally read this after borrowing it from Hoopla like eight times! It was decent. Thankfully it was more tame than the other Scarlett St. Clair book I read without realizing their, uh, style of writing. xD It can get distracting.

Anyway, my favorite thing about the story was probably the connections to other stories I’ve read fictionalizing Persephone and Hades. It’s fun to tease out the common thread of the original story by seeing what themes come up repeatedly. Minthe, Tartarus, pomegranates, and even pink dresses. Somehow it’s all connected! Delightful.

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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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Review: The Woman in the Library by Sulari Gentill

The Woman in the Library by Sulari Gentill

Recommended: yessss
For a story within a story (within a story?), for a lot of twistiness around writing and text and authors, for a good old fashioned murder mystery, for a lovely exploration of Boston!

Summary

The ornate reading room at the Boston Public Library is quiet, until the tranquility is shattered by a woman’s terrified scream. Security guards take charge immediately, instructing everyone inside to stay put until the threat is identified and contained. While they wait for the all-clear, four strangers, who’d happened to sit at the same table, pass the time in conversation and friendships are struck. Each has his or her own reasons for being in the reading room that morning—it just happens that one is a murderer.

Award-winning author Sulari Gentill delivers a sharply thrilling read with The Woman in the Library, an unexpectedly twisty literary adventure that examines the complicated nature of friendship and shows us that words can be the most treacherous weapons of all.

Thoughts

THIS. WAS. SO. GOOD. By chapter two or three I was so giddy with excitement over all that this book was already promising. There’s a text within the text, and it allowed me to come up with 4 or 5 wildly different theories as to what the resolution of the story would be. I got real creative, LET ME TELL YA. And that last line? BOY DO I HAVE THOUGHTS.

Okay. Obviously it’s a murder mystery, so I’ll keep the spoiler talk out (and/or hidden under a spoiler tag at the end). It was freaking fantastic though! It seemed like everyone at one point or another was a suspect. There was one point about 80% of the way through that made me go “OH okay, it’s obviously X.” And then the characters slowly came to that conclusion. But still — I had an extremely fun time all the way up to that point waiting to see what would happen.

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Review: Soundless by Richelle Mead

Soundless by Richelle Mead

Recommended: sure
For an incredibly sensory experience of the world, for a common plot executed in a unique way

Summary

For as long as Fei can remember, no one in her village has been able to hear. Rocky terrain and frequent avalanches make it impossible to leave the village, so Fei and her people are at the mercy of a zipline that carries food up the treacherous cliffs from Beiguo, a mysterious faraway kingdom.

When villagers begin to lose their sight, deliveries from the zipline shrink. Many go hungry. Fei and all the people she loves are plunged into crisis, with nothing to look forward to but darkness and starvation.

Until one night, Fei is awoken by a searing noise. Sound becomes her weapon.

She sets out to uncover what’s happened to her and to fight the dangers threatening her village. A handsome miner with a revolutionary spirit accompanies Fei on her quest, bringing with him new risks and the possibility of romance. They embark on a majestic journey from the peak of their jagged mountain village to the valley of Beiguo, where a startling truth will change their lives forever…

Thoughts

A few decisions didn’t make sense to me and seemed like plot holes, but overall I enjoyed this unique implementation of a common plot of exploitation and world changing secrets about everything you know. I was more than willing to suspend disbelief to enjoy the adventure and revelation.

The ending pivoted in fairly quickly in the last twenty percent or so and I wish there had been a little bit more hinted earlier to lead to it. As it was, it felt a little abrupt and strange to get key details only in the last act, but I guess that’s the experience the character has too so I certainly do empathize!

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Review: The Noh Family by Grace K. Shim

The Noh Family by Grace K. Shim
A fast forward Friday pick!

Recommended: eh
For a identity & family story set in Korea, for little tidbits of fashion, travel, and K-drama fandom. but it also has a character who seems much younger than her age, and makes thoughtless decisions

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 traveling 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?

Thoughts

This was solidly ok. It read quickly, partly because the plot was very straightforward and unsurprising. It was pretty predictable, even from startling early on. That’s not necessarily bad, but I don’t expect to be thinking about this book in a month from now. It’s one that will probably remain in the moments where I was reading it and not be carried forward much past that.

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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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