Soy Sauce For Beginners~ By Kirstin Chen
Gretchen Lin recently returned home to Singapore after discovering her husband has been cheating on her with one of his undergraduate students. Gretchen was born into the Lin Family Soy Sauce, her grandfather started the company and now her father is reaching retirement. Lin’s soy sauce is not the average soy sauce as you learn from reading this book; but the book is not just about the family business.
When Gretchen moves back home to Singapore she discovers that her mother has become an alcoholic and the drinking is so bad she is killing herself from it. Gretchen’s father being of the strict Chinese belief that you do not seek help from other but hide family secrets is stuck with watching his wife suffer; until one day Gretchen finds the strength to confront her father and he gives in and sends her to rehab.
Throughout the story we meet her jealous cousin who wants to take over the family business but has been let go due to making poor decisions; then there is Frankie her best friend who moves to Singapore to work for the family company. Gretchen who was convinced that she wanted nothing to do with the family business has an eye opening revelation that she is where she needs to be and starts to regain the closeness she needs with her family.
I loved this book so much, it was not what I was expecting which is why I loved it even more. If you have not read this one and you are a lover of Asian fiction the way I am, add this one to your to be read pile.
My Friend Anna~ By Rachel DeLoache Williams
I decided this week to listen to this book at work, I had heard so much talk about it that I had to know how someone could scam a “friend” out of $65,000; Rachel narrates the audiobook.
Rachel meets Anna through mutual friends, they hang out and do all the fun NYC life things (things I miss so much living in AZ). Anna invites Rachel on this all expense paid trip but when it is time to book tickets Anna asks Rachel to book them; when she tries to use the debit card that Anna gave her it was declined and Rachel offers to purchase the tickets.. (RED FLAG FOR EVERYONE BUT RACHEL).
It then gets worse when Rachel has to put her personal and corporate AMEX cards on file at this crazy expensive hotel (WHO WOULD DO THAT). The story goes on from there to Rachel trying to get her money and Anna having a barrage of excuses why the wire transfer was taking so long. Anna in the end did get caught but not because of what happened to Rachel but because she screwed with the wrong people and they were not having it.
I really wanted to feel some empathy (which I do lack sometimes..lol) for Rachel but I couldn’t. What person with an ounce of common sense would keep fitting the bill for things in hope of getting paid back, especially in excess of thousands of dollars.. NO ONE… I am happy I listened to this and did not buy the book, because this was not worth more than my $8 subscription to Scribd. My opinion is my own and not meant to hurt feelings.
Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck & Fortune~ By Roselle Lim
I enjoyed this book a lot, it reminded me of a Chinese version of Like water For Chocolate; if you have never read that book or seen the movie, please do both.
Natalie Tan wants very much to be a chef but her mother is completely against it. Natalie and her mother get into a huge fight which cause Natalie to move out drop out of culinary school and explore the world and sharpen her cooking skills; all of this causes them to not speak to each other for several years.
Miranda Tan, Natalie’s mother who could not bring herself to leave her apartment, she was terrified of the outside world, more so after her mother was accidentally killed being hit by a car. Miranda one day decides to leave her home and when she does she falls to her death, with Miranda passing, Natalie must return to her home of San Fransisco’s China Town, where she will be given the gift of a magical family cookbook and she must try to restore what was once a great family town to live in by reopening her grandmothers restaurant.
If you love books on traditional values, superstitions and a little magic thrown in there, then this is a great read.
Daisy Jones & The Six~ By Taylor Jenkins Reid
I struggled reading this, I tried a few times and I just could not get into it. Until the other day, I decided to listen to in on Sribd. This book was a much better listen than read for me.
Daisy Jones is this rich young girl growing up in LA during the late sixties/seventies; she is the party hard girl, dating musicians and living the life no teenage girl should be living; every girl wants to be her and did I forget she is drop dead gorgeous. Daisy can also sing but is adamant about singing her own songs when she finally gets signed to a record deal.
The Six~ A band on the rise lead by Billy Dunne. Billy becomes the typical sixties/seventies rock star; partying hard, lots of drugs, drinking and women. Billy and Daisy are both signed to the same record company and are brought together to turn “Honeycomb” into a hit.
The story is written in the form of an interview, giving the accounts of what brought them together and tore them apart from the perspective of each band member and everyone who surrounded them during this time frame.
There was so much hype surrounding this book that I wanted to love it so much and it was just meh. It felt a bit cliche and overdone with so many accounts of the events being told, overall listening to it was much better than trying to read it for me (thanks to Benjamin Bratt and Jennifer Beals). My opinions are my own and not meant to hurt any feelings.
My Sister, the Serial Killer~ By Oyinkan Braithwaite
Korede receives a phone call from her younger distraught sister, saying she needs her help. Korede already knew what she was needed for; this will now be the third time her sister has called her to come and help dispose of yet another boyfriend.
Ayoola is young, pretty and is use to getting what she wants from men, it is like she hypnotizes them with her beauty and charm. Korede is a nurse and is not as beautiful as her younger sister, she is in love with the Tade, a doctor she works with. He is not aware of this at all; men are blind sometimes to what is right in front of them.
Ayoola visit Korede at work one day to have lunch with her and Tade falls for her immediately. Korede is not happy at all and she tries very hard to warn Tade that her sister is dangerous but he does not believe her, he thinks she is jealous of her sister; until one night he is put in a situation that could cost him his life.
What I loved so much about this book was that it dark and funny but had very serious moments as well. It also showed the bond between sisters and that no matter what may happen, you always should stand by your family; because in the end blood is thicker than anything.
𝐓𝐨𝐢𝐥 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐓𝐫𝐨𝐮𝐛𝐥𝐞~ 𝐁𝐲 Augusten Burroughs
First let me start off by saying I have been a fan of Mr. Burroughs for many many years. I happen to come across his work while I was rearranging the memoir section while working at Barnes and Noble; and I have been hooked on his work ever since and this book did not disappoint me.
We are taken on the journey from when Augusten is a young boy and is told by his mother that the premonition he had about his Amah is not just by random chance; but in fact that he comes from a family line of witches. The book takes us through several scenarios where he has been able to know something is going to happen and coming to understand this amazing gift that was passed down to him with.
This book is written in true Augusten form, tons of laugh out loud moments and and dripping in his snarky undertone (which I love so much); the writing just pulls you in and keeps you wanting more.
I do not want to give too much away as the element of surprise is why we read these books; I will say as always I was sad when I finished it. There are not many who write memoir’s that can make you feel as though an easy conversation is going on between just you and the author; Augusten for sure has mastered that. With that said this is a must add to your fall reads.
The Woman In The White Kimono~ By Ana Johns
Do you believe in love at first sight? If not, this book will make you believe in it.. This is a love story between Cricket (Naoko) and Hajime (Jimmy) set in Japan post war 1957. Jimmy kneeling down admiring the blue stone street looks up and sees Naoko; from that moment on the two are inseparable.
Flash forward to present day and a frail sick man ridden with cancer is trying to bring his past and present lives together. Jimmy Kovac is dying and before he does he passes on a letter to his daughter Tori; a letter that will leave her with many unanswered questions about her father and lead her around the world to Japan to find answers she was not expecting.
Ana Johns writes this so beautifully, we are transported from past to present with seamless motion. You will be taken on a journey of tradition and stigma; love and loss. Without giving the entire story away all I can say is I was made a believer that you never forgot and you never stop loving your first love; life may go on due to circumstances beyond anyones control but love does not waver.
Pachinko~ By Min Jin Lee
This book follows the story of Sunja, a young Korean girl who finds herself pregnant by a married yakuza man and in order for her family name to not be ruined she agrees to marry a young Christian minister and moves with him to Japan. Once in Japan life does not become any easier, the story takes us the the war years of Japan and Korea and how hard it was for all to just survive; life as a Korean in Japan is not easy and you see that as you read this book and move with them through decades of their lives.
What I throughly enjoyed was that every character is touched upon and you are not left wondering what happened to them. I was left speechless and almost brought to tears in a few chapters. This book is so well written and flows nicely, I was not wanting the chapters to end. While reading this book details were vividly clear, that is important to me as a reader. I want to get lost in a book and see what I am reading and this book did that for me.
Pachinko holds true to traditional values that seem long lost, some traditions should never become lost because times are changing; they keep a family strong and rooted together. My take away from the book was that women have always been strong and will always be the backbone of the family; they make sacrifices that many do not know or will ever understand because that is what needs to be done for your family. I enjoyed this book immensely and am putting on my list of books I gift to people.
A Place For Us~ By Fatima Farheen Mirza
The story is about a Muslim family and their traditions and beliefs and how it effects their lives but mostly the life of their son Amar. Amar falls from the graces of his family by rebelling against everything they believe and everything he was taught. It highlights the strength of the relationship between brother and sister and the disconnect between father and son. Amar and Hadia’s relationship is strong, she is the keeper of secrets and the one he trust the most. His father struggles to not just understand his son but actually know who his son is and why he feels such a disconnect from the family. The book started off great and then I felt as though the pace slowed down with the flashbacks, which is where stepped away.
I picked it back up a few days later and was surprised to see that the book did pick up pace again. Part 4 of the book was beautifuly written, it brought a softer side to Rafiq the father, which I had been hoping for. There is a part in this section of the book that actually brought my to tears. I gave the book 4 stars because the flashbacks were a bit much for my liking, with that said I do recommend it should be put on your reading list.
If You Leave Me~ Crystal Hana Kim
This is Crystal Hana Kim’s debut novel and she in no way disappointed me. This story is brilliantly written, each chapter guides you through the lives of the three main characters- Haemi, Kyunghwan and Jisoo. The story line is set in the time of the Korean War when they all had to flee to safety in a refugee camp. Haemi and Kyunghwan were childhood friends and their friendship continues to grow as they sneak out and spend time with each other past curfew. Haemi does not hide her affection for Kyunghwan but he does not give in to her, his focus is on school. Kyunghwan’s cousin Jisoo takes notice of Haemi and before he goes off to war he wants to be married and have a family to come home to, Haemi decides to marry Jisoo for a better life for her family and their lives are never the same after that. The story guides us through their lives throughout the years after the war, we follow Haemi and Jisoo and their growing family; Kyunghwan and his inability to settle down and Haemi’s never-ending love and desire to be with her true love Kyunghwan.
This story was beautifully written, having just read Pachinko this felt like it could tie in with that story line. I enjoyed how each chapter was about each character, there was no crazy flashbacks or flash forwards that distracted me. I highly recommend add this book to your reading list, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did..
The Seven Husbands Of Evelyn Hugo~ By Taylor Jenkins Reid
The title of the book does state the obvious of what the book is about, but it is the back story that makes this book so good that I could not put it down. The story of Evelyn Hugo starts when she is a young girl wanting to flee the life she was living in Hell’s Kitchen New York; it is also about the young not very famous reporter Monique, that Evelyn has hand picked to write her tell all autobiography. We follow the life of Evelyn from the start of her career in the 50’s; Evelyn marries husband number one to get out of her terrible life in New York to make her way to bright lights of Hollywood to make a name for herself; and boy does she ever. Every husband after that had a purpose for Evelyn so she was able to make a name for herself and be with the love of her life. But the question I kept asking myself throughout the book, Why Monique? The question does not go unanswered without a heartbreaking cost to Monique. Taylor Jenkins Reid writing is brilliant, I wanted more with every page I turned. I could actually see this as a movie and kept trying to think who would play Evelyn. This story gave a vivid glimpse of what a determined woman will do for fame and love.
I do recommend this book to be added to your TBR pile, you will love every second of the glamorous life that is Evelyn Hugo..
Family Trust ~ By Kathy Wang
The story starts off by introducing us to the patriarch of the family Stanley Huang, divorced father of two and remarried to Mary who is twenty-eight years his junior. Stanley has recently been diagnosed with cancer and his family must now deal with the reality that his time is limited. The story is told in point of view from each character in the book; Fred the son who is a Harvard Business School graduate who comes across whiney and unfulfilled with his life. Kate who works for a successful company in Silicon Valley manages to balance work and her family life, that includes supporting her husband as he tries to get his so called start up company off the ground. Mary who married Stanley because he had a home and money to take care of her, she in turns dotes on his every need. Then my favorite character Linda, Stanley’s first wife who finds herself trying to find love in the online dating world. Stanley always alluded he was a wealthy man and now the family is all wondering what is going to be left to them when Stanley’s time comes.
I felt the book lacked some luster, reading through chapters I felt I could not connect with the characters, except for Linda. It also bother that the word ostentatious was used more than I care for within the first 50-60 pages. The story line is good, I just was hoping for more energy and excitement, after reading the Crazy Rich Asian series, Pachinko and If You Leave Me, I think I set my hopes high for this one.
Nell and Lady ~ By Ashley Farley
This is a heart felt story that starts in 1970’s and takes us to present day. The story touches on emotional topics such as cancer, sexual abuse, racism and alcoholism. Set in Charleston, SC, Willa Bellemore befriends her new maid Mavis, they become more than friends they become family. Mavis finds her self pregnant and is afraid she may be let go. That does not happen, Willa and Mavis raise their girls to be just as close as they are; when Mavis passes away Willa adopts Nell.
Nell and Lady were the best of friends until Lady’s 16th birthday party, when a terrible thing happens to Nell; Nell instead of turning to her “family” shuts them out; for years Lady is left wondering what caused Nell to leave and finally gives up trying. Decades pass and Nell and Lady each endure their own struggles in life until Willa is facing her final days and her only wish is that her girls find their way back to each other.
Ashely Farley’s characters are very relatable, the story line is based on so many every day issues that so many families deal with. This was a beautiful, easy read that touch my heart and shows that anything ca be overcome.
The Air You Breathe ~ By Frances De Pontes Peebles
The story is told to us by Dores~ we are on a journey that starts at the sugar plantation in Brazil, where two young girls, The Little Miss and Jega build their friendship. Graca, the Little Miss, born into a privileged family that owns the plantation and Dores (Jega) the orphaned kitchen help. When the girls are young, Graca’s mother takes them on a trip to Recife to see a Fado singer, this concert sets in motion the dream life the girls want to live.
After the sudden death of Graca’s mother she is sent to a boarding school, where Dores is to accompany her as her maid. The girls are not their long before then runaway to live their dream. Graca is the better singer of the two; Dores becomes the songwriter who creates the songs to turn Graca into Sofia Salvador.
Over the span of the story we see the love Dores has for Graca, not just as a friend and what Dores will do to help Graca live her dream. Even though there is beauty in Graca, we see that she has a selfish side and she wants what she wants and everyone around her caters to her, especially Dores.
The book takes us on a breathtaking journey of Brazil, through the streets of Lapa where we learn of the Roda and Samba; from there to the bright lights and fame of Hollywood. The story is powerful, tragic and beautiful. The characters are strong and captivating each in their own way. You will love them and hate them and love them again.
This is by far in my top 3 of the year of must reads, I could go on forever about the book, but this is a review not a book report. I hope you as you read you can hear Samba being sung,I hope you see and feel how friendship and love become “The Air You Breath” the way I did.
Mother Winter – Sophia Shalmiyev
This is Sophia’s debut book; a memoir of her life and I feel memoirs cannot be given ratings like a fictional book, because this is her story, she lived it and she is gifting it to us and I am grateful she did.
Sophia elegantly and lyrically takes us on the journey of her life, what it was like for her to live without her mother. A mother she was taken from; because her mother was an alcoholic. A father she was forced to live with, a father who was abusive and took her from Russia without her every seeing her mother again. The longing of a child and the questions of why constantly being there. All of the adversity did not break her, it made her strong and it gave her an amazing outlook on not just life but being a woman and a mother.
I loved everything about Sophia’s book, it is raw and honest and very relatable. I felt all her pain and her highs and lows. When she was hungry, I felt her hunger, when she was describing what it was like to be unkept, I wept for her. What I loved the most is the use of vignettes; I have not read a memoir that has used them and tied them in so beautifully that I got lost in reading them. I found comfort and strength in her words, being a woman and reading another woman’s life story is empowering.