Friday, January 19, 2018

The Sweetness of Salt by Cecilia Galante

The Sweetness of Salt by Cecilia Galante
Published October 25, 2010
Summary on Goodreads

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Review:
Another book that has been on my TBR shelf since forever and with books from almost 10 years ago, I have been more lenient in terms of deciding whether or not to put the book down after a few chapters.  I’m so glad that I actually got to read this book though.  The book really centered around some really important core values such as family, love and redemption.  Forgiveness is also another vital value that this book touched on. 

The Sweetness of Salt isn’t a book with a ton of action but instead it’s a book that really speaks to you.  I was a little worried in the beginning about having to put this book down in favor of another more enticing novel but I couldn’t help but get sucked into the story between Julia and her sister, Sophie.  The writing style was also so wonderfully done – it did an amazing job in depicting that fragile state of their relationship without shattering it. 

The best part, for me, in this book was the whole mystery surrounding the missing sister.  When that tidbit was first revealed, I was shocked because how did no one mention this to Julia at all and it definitely started to explain on why her parents were so overprotective and so determined to keep her in this sheltered life.  It also really helped me stay engaged in the book as well because I really wanted to know the whole story behind this sister and what really happened. 

Overall, I think the author did an amazing job in creating such layered and intricate characters and for showing how complicated family relationships really are.  It was realistic and relatable.  I also liked how the book focused on the family aspect as opposed to a romantic love like most YA novels out there.  I highly recommend this book to everyone except for those who crave a fast-paced, action-packed novel.
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Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo

The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo
Published April 6, 2013
Summary on Goodreads

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Review:
This book was fantastic – the imagery and vividness of the spiritual world was amazing.  I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

I definitely enjoyed the supernatural aspect in a different culture.  Most of the books I read are based on western superstition but this one was completely founded on Chinese afterlife and I found it fascinating.  Being Asian myself but was born and raised in the US, I don’t have too much knowledge on the whole funeral aspect of Chinese or any sort of Asian culture.  Plus my parents were both from Christian families and I was also raised as such so those sacrifices and offerings were pretty much foreign information to me which is why I found this whole book quite absorbing.  There was definitely a mesmerizing aspect to it that really sucked me in and I found myself deeply entrenched with Li Lan and her current situation.

Li Lan was a mix of personality – there were times when she seemed headstrong and then other times when she seemed weak and confused.  So I’m a bit on the fence in terms of liking her or not.  However, there was one thing that stayed true for her: her love for her family especially her Amah (nanny/nurse).  There wasn’t anything really that she wouldn’t do for them.  So I definitely respected her for that.  But she was also careless, reckless and too trusting especially for situations where she didn’t have any information on so it just drew in further trouble for herself at the end.  There were certainly a lot of times where the only person she could blame was herself for getting into a mess so I wasn’t particularly fond of that trait. 

The most fascinating aspect was definitely the shadowy parallel spiritual world. There were so many aspects to it that were quite enticing and mysterious such as the whole paper money and the food offerings.  I recognized some of the ceremonial proceedings but it was interesting to find out so much more.  The author certainly did her research and I really enjoyed reading about the marriage cultures too.  The whole part of the “second wife” and “third wife” and even the concubines were intriguing.  And it was most curious to see how everything translated into the spiritual world. 

Since I had “read” this book via an audiobook, I was actually quite confused when I kept hearing British accents until I realized that Malaysia was actually ruled by the British during this time period so that was also a fascinating tidbit that I didn’t know before.  Even though this book is fictional, I felt that I learned a lot about the Chinese-Malaysian culture as well as some history.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book.  I also liked Er Lang and was rooting for him at the end.  He was certainly an unique character, to say the least.  I would definitely recommend this book for everyone.
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Monday, January 15, 2018

Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee

Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee
Published May 24, 2016
Summary on Goodreads

Buy Links:
Amazon | Book Depository | Audible
Review:
So I picked up this book for my Read Harder challenge and I’m glad I did.  I’m usually not a huge historical fiction fan but I enjoyed this book a lot.  I found it engaging and it was a delightful read.

Mercy Wong was certainly a character – in a both good and bad way.  There were a few incidences in the beginning where I found her aggravating because she had a short fuse and would blow up at every other turn, it seemed.  However, as the book progressed, I got to know her bit more and she also matured along the way so by the end of the book, I came to really like her as a person.  She was resourceful, intelligent and inquisitive (in a good way).  I admired how she would find ways to get around things specifically getting into that exclusive boarding school and then later using those same wits to survive the aftermath of the earthquake.  She was definitely an admirable person.

I also enjoyed reading about the other characters specifically Francesca.  There were so many diverse characters which I loved and I liked how even during that turmoil time, there were people who were so willing to lend that extra set of hands as well as people who didn’t want to provide any help.  You can definitely tell who was who and by seeing how someone react in that crazy time is a huge indicator as to what kind of person they were. 

The plot was highly entertaining – there were a lot of fun scenes as well as a lot of emotional and realistic moments.  As stated above, after Mercy succeeded getting into that exclusive boarding school and somehow had to convince everyone that she was a Chinese heiress from China despite the fact that she was born and raised in SF, there were so many scenes when she was “tested” and had to come up with complete bogus ceremonies that left me LOL so hard.

Overall, great book.  It was certainly an interesting read and I didn’t realize until it happened that this was based on the earthquake of 1906 and that struggle and confusion in the aftermath.  This book definitely let me on a roller coaster of emotions – funny, sad, confused, heartbroken, hope, and many more.  I would definitely recommend this one.
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WINTER GIVEAWAY

It's so cold here!  Winter is definitely underway here in NYC.

That being said, I'm hosting my WINTER GIVEAWAY!  Let's get on with it already.

The deets:
Ends Feb. 28th
US only
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a Rafflecopter giveaway 

Disclaimer:
The books will come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, meaning some will be in hard cover, some will be paperback and still others will be ARCs!  Don't discriminate ;)

Friday, January 12, 2018

Just One Day Series by Gayle Forman

Just One Day Series by Gayle Forman
Published between 2013-2014
Summaries on Goodreads

Buy Links:
Amazon | Book Depository | Audible | Audiobooks
Review:
There are some books where you should read and then there are some books where you have to read.  I have to say, these books fall in that latter category.  I absolutely loved these books!  Just One Day spoke to my heart, Just One Year spoke to my mind and Just One Night spoke to my inner romance.  These books were so beautifully written that when it ended, I just wanted more.  I wanted to live inside these books and be exposed to Willem and Allyson 24/7.  I even ended up rereading Just One Night simply because I couldn’t get enough. 

Everything in these two books plus a novella was literally so good.  I loved Allyson and Willem to bits.  Allyson seemed like my kind of girl – orderly, planned and whatnot. The only difference between me and her is that I love to travel as well whereas she doesn’t seem as interested in exploring until that fateful encounter with Willem.  I loved Willem – now I have this intense desire in going to Amsterdam to meet my own Dutch boy.  Though, Amsterdam has been on my to-go list for a very long time but this series has really driven that incentive way up. 

The one thing that really drove these books to my heart was that they were so completely relatable – the fact that you can meet someone and then lose all contact with them due to circumstances or whatnot.  And then there’s that desire to reconnect and there’s just no way.  The crazy thing is that both of them were trying to find the other with no result and the only way that they finally met up again is that both of them were trying so hard.  If it was only one person who felt that need to find the other, it wouldn’t have happened.  It required both of them and I see that as a symbolism for any relationship – that it needs both parties to work hard for it to succeed.

The one thing that blew my mind was how far they went in trying to find each other.  For one, Allyson went through an intense digital search for him, called every single bar in the vicinity to find that one person who could possibly connect the two and even learned an entirely different language to help ease the search.  And then for Willem, he actually went all the way to Mexico to find her.  That just showed so much dedication from both of them that I was honestly flabbergasted.  Would anyone today really go to that length? 

Another thing that I found delight in reading was how much that one day impacted both of their lives.  For most people, one day really isn’t enough to get to know someone much less then proceeding to spend another year remembering and changing your life for the better.  The book delivered a lot of hope in my opinion that maybe if we can just connect with that one person then things can change.

I absolutely loved the novella at the end – it did do a good job in wrapping things up between the two of them.  I just wish there was more especially in the NY side of things since there were so many people from Allyson’s life that was rooting for the two of them.  After reading this series though, I’m not sure why it’s on the ALA list of banned/challenged books but I’m so glad that it is so I was able to read them for my Read Harder challenge. 

All in all, AMAZING books – you really don’t hear that kind of sentiment too much from me but honestly, these books were so good.  I would read them all over again.
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