Posted in Reviews

Review: Anna K Away by Jenny Lee

Anna K: Away by Jenny Lee

Recommended: sure
For a followup to the first one, for an easier read than the first one, for a short story following each character

Summary

How the mighty have fallen. Anna K, once the golden girl of Greenwich, CT, and New York City, has been brought low by a scandalous sex tape and the tragic death of her first love, Alexia Vronsky. At the beginning of the summer, her father takes her to the other side of the world, to connect with his family in South Korea and hide her away. Is Anna in exile? Or could this be her chance to figure out who she really is?

Back in the U.S., Lolly has forgiven Steven for cheating on her, and their relationship feels stronger than ever. But when Lolly meets a boy at her beloved theater camp, she has to ask herself how well Steven will ever really know her. Meanwhile, in Manhattan, everything between Kimmie and her new boyfriend, Dustin, is easy–except when it comes to finally having sex. And Bea escapes to LA, running away from her grief at her beloved cousin’s death, until a beautiful stranger steals her heart. Is Bea ready to finally forgive Anna, and let herself truly fall in love for the very first time?

Thoughts:

I was excited to see the characters again, and particularly interested in seeing what Jenny Lee invented as a followup story since this one is not based on other material, as the first one was. The plot moves much more steadily in this than the first book, and generally each character we follow is interesting. I think people who were a bit bored in the first book but liked the characters may enjoy this one more.

Continue reading “Review: Anna K Away by Jenny Lee”
Posted in Fast-Forward Friday

Fast Forward Friday: Tokyo Ever After, May 18

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 Tokyo Ever After by Emiko Jean!
Expected Release: May 18, 2021

Why wait on this one?

  • Izzy is actually a Japanese princess thanks to her unknown father, and when she learns this, I imagine there will be a WHOLE LOT TO RECKON WITH. I get total Princess Diaries vibes from this, except with Japan instead of vaguely-European-Genovia.
  • When you’re a princess of Japan, you should probably visit Japan, right? So Izzy is heading on over there to meet her new-old-father as well as a country she’s inextricably tied to and yet feels so foreign. I’m always up for a trip to Japan! Throw in standard royalty/court tropes and it only gets better! 😍
  • Obviously the frenzy of learning you’re royalty AND learning about your estranged father, AND learning about a new country and culture is going to lead to a lot of soul-searching. I’m big on books with characters learning their own identity and looking at who they are and who they hope to become.

Summary

Izumi Tanaka has never really felt like she fit in—it isn’t easy being Japanese American in her small, mostly white, northern California town. Raised by a single mother, it’s always been Izumi—or Izzy, because “It’s easier this way”—and her mom against the world. But then Izzy discovers a clue to her previously unknown father’s identity…and he’s none other than the Crown Prince of Japan. Which means outspoken, irreverent Izzy is literally a princess.

In a whirlwind, Izzy travels to Japan to meet the father she never knew and discover the country she always dreamed of. But being a princess isn’t all ball gowns and tiaras. There are conniving cousins, a hungry press, a scowling but handsome bodyguard who just might be her soulmate, and thousands of years of tradition and customs to learn practically overnight.

Izzy soon finds herself caught between worlds, and between versions of herself—back home, she was never “American” enough, and in Japan, she must prove she’s “Japanese” enough. Will Izumi crumble under the weight of the crown, or will she live out her fairytale, happily ever after?

Posted in Fast-Forward Friday

Fast Forward Friday: Where the Rhythm Takes You, 5/11/21

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 Where the Rhythm Takes You by Sarah Dass!
Expected Release: May 11, 2021

Why wait on this one?

  • TOBAGO! That is a place I have never been in real life or in a book, and that is guaranteed to attract me to a story. While this story will primarily take place at a resort, I’m hoping I can learn some about the country and people.
  • A resort, a crazy successful DJ, and first-lost love. Also inspired by Jane Austen’s persuasion apparently? I haven’t read Persuasion, but Where The Rhythm Takes You sounds like it will blend grief and love and growing up and taking risks and moving on and all kinds of strong and difficult themes of LIFE together. The plot basically sounds really strong and like if it’s done well, it will be utterly captivating.
  • And, oooooooh I feel like this might also have some really delicious tropes to enjoy in the romance-y part of it! It’s a fancy resort? On a tropical island? And they have HISTORY TOGETHER? Yup, if there’s not some kind of accidental-falling-on-each-other moment, or getting caught in the rain, or the double take when they realize how close they’re standing, I’ll be surprised. The rest can be deliciously original. I just want a few! ^.^

Summary

Seventeen-year-old Reyna has spent most of her life at her family’s gorgeous seaside resort in Tobago, the Plumeria. But what once seemed like paradise is starting to feel more like purgatory. It’s been two years since Reyna’s mother passed away, two years since Aiden – her childhood best friend, first kiss, first love, first everything – left the island to pursue his music dreams. Reyna’s friends are all planning their futures and heading abroad. Even Daddy seems to want to move on, leaving her to try to keep the Plumeria running.

And that’s when Aiden comes roaring back into her life – as a VIP guest at the resort.

Aiden is now one-third of DJ Bacchanal – the latest, hottest music group on the scene. While Reyna has stayed exactly where he left her, Aiden has returned to Tobago with his Grammy-nominated band and two gorgeous LA socialites. And he may (or may not be) dating one of them…

PS: here’s a map for anyone who has no idea where Tobago is. Learn something new every day! 😀

Posted in Reviews

Review: The Lantern Boats by Tessa Morris-Suzuki

The Lantern Boats by Tessa Morris-Suzuki

Recommended: sure
For a slow ready to sink into, for a story as it may have happened, for a book where what you want to happen isn’t necessarily what will happen

Summary

Tokyo, 1951.

Elly Ruskin is still struggling to settle. Half-Japanese by heritage, Elly was repatriated to Japan after the war, but Tokyo is a city she barely knows. And now she’s certain her new husband is having an affair with the enigmatic Japanese poet known as Vida Vidanto. 

Yet Elly is not the only one suspicious of Vida.

The occupying American forces have their eye on her too. Kamiya Jun has been recruited to spy on the poet and find out why Vida spent her war years in China. He is perfect for the part. A war orphan, he has honed the art of becoming invisible in order to survive. But following Vida leads Jun to the Ruskins. And he soon finds himself delving into their private lives as well. 

Then Vida Vidanto is found murdered in her apartment. Is it a case of mere jealousy or has there been a betrayal of a more dangerous kind? 

Because Vida had more than one secret worth killing for.

Thoughts:

This is not really a happy story, so definitely know that going in. Throughout the whole thing, there’s an edge of tension and fear, so even when things seem to be going fine, it all feels a bit perilous. That’s magnificently well captured because of the situations Elly and Jun each find themselves in, which are certainly anything but secure and comfortable.

Continue reading “Review: The Lantern Boats by Tessa Morris-Suzuki”
Posted in Fast-Forward Friday

Fast Forward Friday: Anna K Away, 4/27/21

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 Anna K Away by Jenny Lee!
Expected Release: April 27, 2021

Why wait on this one?

  • Although it wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea, I really enjoyed the first book, Anna K! I’ll say it again, making Tolstoy a contemporary YA novel is impressive, and Jenny Lee did well. I’m interested to see where she takes it in this sequel that is, as far as I know, not based on anything besides her own imaginings.
  • Travel is always a winning point for me, and even more so that it’s to South Korea! 🥰It’s a gorgeous place with gorgeous people and its own set of social issues. And I can picture it all so well after living there. I’m thrilled to see Anna’s portion of the story, where she’ll travel to partially-known family in an unknown place and perhaps find her roots.
  • The crew back home honestly sounds like they have a lot going on. And, okay, maybe the majority of that stuff is relationship stuff tied with their own self-identity, but introspective learning feels like what I’m looking for at the moment. Bring it on. ^.^

Summary

How the mighty have fallen. Anna K, once the golden girl of Greenwich, CT, and New York City, has been brought low by a scandalous sex tape and the tragic death of her first love, Alexia Vronsky. At the beginning of the summer, her father takes her to the other side of the world, to connect with his family in South Korea and hide her away. Is Anna in exile? Or could this be her chance to figure out who she really is?

Back in the U.S., Lolly has forgiven Steven for cheating on her, and their relationship feels stronger than ever. But when Lolly meets a boy at her beloved theater camp, she has to ask herself how well Steven will ever really know her. Meanwhile, in Manhattan, everything between Kimmie and her new boyfriend, Dustin, is easy—except when it comes to finally having sex. And Bea escapes to LA, running away from her grief at her beloved cousin’s death, until a beautiful stranger steals her heart. Is Bea ready to finally forgive Anna, and let herself truly fall in love for the very first time?

Set over the course of one unforgettable summer, Jenny Lee’s Anna K Away is full of the risk, joy, heartbreak, and adventure that mark the three months between the end of one school year and the beginning of the next

Posted in Reviews

2 Second Review: When The Apricots Bloom by Gina Wilkinson

2 sentence summary

Three women face their own fears and secrets in Baghdad as they navigate their lives under control of others. They become tied together, and must decide if they will choose the path of betrayal or trust when neither will come without sacrifice and pain.

Thoughts

This is a very slow pace of book, and I actually kind of loved it. It feels so perfectly fitting for the life the three women have in Baghdad. The dull slog through every day for Ally. The intolerable passing of time for Rania and Huda. The burn building just under the surface, while the face must remain impassive. Or more colloquially, like that saying about how a serenely gliding duck is paddling madly just under the surface of the water.

This brushed with some of the most painful things in life. It mentioned them, and moved on, because that’s the way the women must be if they want to keep their lives. The brusque attitude towards horrors, the horrified casualness in dismissing them… it sinks in deep.

Plot was solid. Progression was slow and steady, and then the last third of the book absolutely flew by for me. No romance, just pain and love of a different kind.

Posted in Fast-Forward Friday

Fast Forward Friday: We Are All Birds of Uganda, 1/28/21

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! and even when it’s actually not Friday, I still want to shout about it. this one in particular, because We Are All Birds of Uganda by Hofsa Zayyan is one I’ve already been recommending to people. 😅

Expected release: January 28, 2021

Why wait on this one?

  • I am forever interested in reading about places I’m not familiar with, and Uganda in the 1960s is certainly one of them. For me, the setting alone was enough to interest me from the start. Historical Uganda in the midst of a regime change is enough of a plot to hold me on its own.
  • Adding a present day timeline for Sameer learning about his own family past for the first time as he travels home from London only sweetens the deal. Learning about your roots as well as the blending of two cultures are two storylines I usually love.
  • So of course I’m in it for the drama! The drama of a regime change. The drama of discovering who you are and what life you want to live. The drama of current versus past.
  • Plus a little bonus point: if the writing is as gorgeous as the title, I expect this will be like a refreshing stream of poetic prose with lush imagery abounding.

Summary

1960s UGANDA. Hasan is struggling to run his family business following the sudden death of his wife. Just as he begins to see a way forward, a new regime seizes power, and a wave of rising prejudice threatens to sweep away everything he has built.

Present-day LONDON. Sameer, a young high-flying lawyer, senses an emptiness in what he thought was the life of his dreams. Called back to his family home by an unexpected tragedy, Sameer begins to find the missing pieces of himself not in his future plans, but in a past he never knew.

Posted in Reviews

2 Second Review: A Wife in Bangkok

2 Sentence Summary:

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

Thoughts?

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.

Posted in Reviews

Review: Heiress Apparently by Diana Ma

Heiress Apparently by Diana Ma
Verdict: a somewhat generic plot spiced up by art, history, family, racism, and so much more!

Recommended: sure
For a slightly altered YA version of Crazy Rich Asians, for a happy book where kindness takes control, for surprising pepperings of acting, art, history, and more that will keep you interested.

Summary

Gemma Huang is a recent transplant to Los Angeles from Illinois, having abandoned plans for college to pursue a career in acting, much to the dismay of her parents. Now she’s living with three roommates in a two-bedroom hovel, auditioning for bit roles that hardly cover rent. Gemma’s big break comes when she’s asked to play a lead role in an update of M. Butterfly filming for the summer in Beijing. When she arrives, she’s stopped by paparazzi at the airport. She quickly realizes she may as well be the twin of one of the most notorious young socialites in Beijing. Thus kicks off a summer of revelations, in which Gemma uncovers a legacy her parents have spent their lives protecting her from—one her mother would conceal from her daughter at any cost.

Thoughts

Admittedly better than I expected! There were conversations about art, Chinese history, belonging, racism, family, and so much more. They went a bit deeper than I expected them to, and cut to the heart of the matter without bogging down the story or losing it’s true thread. That’s a pretty impressive skill, to weave in ideas and commentary without taking over your characters. The central plot itself was also heartwarming in a lot of ways, since kindness takes precedence as the most important thing. So often, this is forgone in books for a more dramatic, cruel kind of pull. I’m not about that. I thought this was a wonderful balance.

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Posted in Book Talk, Chatty

The astonishing half-block library in NYC

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

LOOOOOK AT IT!!!! 😍 Image courtesy of Conde Nast Traveler

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.

Always remember to look up!!! Courtesy of wikimedia commons
I legitimately cannot fathom how enormous the tapestry covering the left wall is.
the poshest sitting room ever. SO. MUCH. VELVET.