Recommended: sure For a light mystery but mostly a self-reflective journey of discovery, for mouthwatering descriptions of tasty Korean dishes, for some very poignant moments of insight into one woman’s extremely difficult life
Summary: Margot Lee’s mother, Mina, isn’t returning her calls. It’s a mystery to twenty-six-year-old Margot, until she visits her childhood apartment in Koreatown, LA, and finds that her mother has suspiciously died. The discovery sends Margot digging through the past, unraveling the tenuous invisible strings that held together her single mother’s life as a Korean War orphan and an undocumented immigrant, only to realize how little she truly knew about her mother. Interwoven with Margot’s present-day search is Mina’s story of her first year in Los Angeles as she navigates the promises and perils of the American myth of reinvention. While she’s barely earning a living by stocking shelves at a Korean grocery store, the last thing Mina ever expects is to fall in love. But that love story sets in motion a series of events that have consequences for years to come, leading up to the truth of what happened the night of her death.
Thoughts: The story itself is a slower pace as you learn about Mina and Margot in their past and present. I loved the subtle intertwining of the two. The reflections of Mina’s past experiences in Margot’s present as she investigates her mother’s death linked them together in a beautiful way. The highlight here is the writing itself, as it’s very plain and unassuming yet conveys so much emotion.
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’ve got a plan again this month for what I’ll read. These plans are sometimes a bit silly though, because by the time I write this post to share it, I’ve usually already finished a few of them. 😂 Today is no different, but I’ll include the books here anyway as I’m excited about them! It’s a tidy planned set of nine this month. 😊
The best obligations
These books are each ones I’m reading for A Reason Not Only My Own. I mean, to be real, I’m still the one deciding and benefiting here, but they’re in the list for more than just “I wanted to” reasons!
The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henderson is one that I already finished because I couldn’t resist plowing through it once I had started. I went in somehwat blind from a recommendation from my friend Elise (thanks again!), and WOW was this a fabulous recommendation! I really love it, as you can see in my review. 🙂