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05 Jun, 2017

It’s Monday! What are you reading?

/ posted in: Reading

I am officially unemployed as of last week.   You know what is wild about that?  I actually had to sit down and make a to-do list because I had so many things I need to get done.  I didn’t have a to-do list when I was working.  I keep saying I’m going to lie in my hammock and read books, but aside from the last 2 chapters of Allegedly that hasn’t happened yet.  Mostly I’ve been ordering books from the library for all this reading time instead of actually reading.

I did change my library pickup location to a library closer to my house instead of the one on the way to my job.  That felt more final than packing up my stuff.

New In This Week

 

 

Finished This Week

What Am I Reading?

 

 How to Survive a Plague is a huge book.  I’m making my way slowly through it.  It is fascinating.  I love reading about the early years of the AIDS epidemic.  I’ve read a lot on the subject but this is not just repeating what I’ve already heard.

The Turner Series is to balance it out.  American War is very good so far but a sad read.  I decided to read it now for #RamadanReadathon.

What Am I Listening To?

 



03 Jun, 2017

Armchair Book Expo – ISO Books

/ posted in: Reading

 

I love reading chick lit/light romance.  It is my happy place when I need a book to just take my mind off everything.  I like most all sub-genres of it.  I like magical books.

Of course I like foodie books about people going to work in cafes or bakeries.

The problem with these books is that they are usually all written by white authors and set in either the U.S. or Britain.  When I binge on them I skew my reading statistics.  Happily I found a whole bunch of these types of books written by South Asian authors – including the wonderful Sofia Khan is Not Obliged.

I’m looking for more happy, light books set in South America or Asia or Africa.  Give me recommendations for these types of books written by black authors in the U.S. or Europe.

I’ve found a few suggestions so far that I haven’t read yet.

Romance Class is a group of Filipino romance writers.  They have a list of all kinds of books on their website.  I bought two to try.  There are some other ones that look good on that site too.  Check it out.

 

03 Jun, 2017

Armchair Book Expo – Giveaways

/ posted in: Reading

 

It’s Giveaway Day!  Everybody loves the free stuff.  That’s most of the fun of Book Expo.  Getting free books.  I recently wrote about what happened to the books I got there last year. I still have a lot of them here. So I thought it would be fun to pass them on to you.

When you go to Book Expo, you can go in with a plan of what books you want to get.  The plan falls apart about 30 seconds after you get there as people are shoving books you’ve never heard of at you.  So, in the spirit of Book Expo I’m giving away a surprise box of books.  Yep, that’s right.  You get what you get.  They may be ARCs from Book Expo.  They may be other books.  It is a total surprise.

I will give away 1 box of books for every 20 entries (up to five total boxes).  If you win and you don’t live in the U.S. and it is going to cost me a fortune to ship you books,  I’ll substitute a Book Depository gift card.
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02 Jun, 2017

Armchair Book Expo – Delving Into Diversity

/ posted in: Reading

 

“Book Expo sparked quite the controversy a couple years ago regarding diversity in books and authors. Where are we now?”

In May of this year I threw myself totally into an Asian author reading month called #AsianLitBingo.  I had a huge amount of books that I could read.  I ended up reading 10 books by 9 Asian authors.  I also ended up sort of accidentally reading 9 books by white authors.

Let’s make that clear.  In a month where I was actively and preferentially reading Asian authors, I read almost as many books by white authors and I didn’t realize I was doing it until I counted it up for this post.  I knew I had read a few books by white authors.  I didn’t realize how many.

This is why I report how many white authors I’ve read versus authors of other races in my month end posts every month.  Accountability.  If you don’t think about it, you don’t realize that you are cutting yourself off from a whole world of great books.

“But, I don’t want to have to think about author’s race.  I just want good stories.”

I want good stories too.  That’s why branching out from one point of view is so important.

“But I don’t know where to find those books.”

Here’s how.  It takes a bit of research to get started and then it snowballs into an out of control TBR list.

Check out reviews of diverse books.

A great place to start right now is at Read Diverse Books.  There is a linkup going on there for reviews.  There are hundreds from the last few months.

Follow people who read diversely

Did you like any of the reviews you read?  Follow those people.  See who they follow.  Check out their Goodreads/Twitter/Bookstagram.  You’ll soon find people who have the same tastes as you.

Find an event

There are always events going on that highlight diverse books.  #AsianLitBingo was in May.  Check out that hashtag and others like #weneeddiversebooks, #diversebookbloggers, and #readdiverse2017.  Follow some people and they will lead you to more. #RamadanReadathon is going on right now to highlight Muslim authors.  There are lots of Pride-related reading events and lists published in June.

Branch out when finding books

I love BookBub but it is overwhelmingly white.  Same with NetGalley.  You can find some books but the majority are from white authors.  BookRiot has some good lists.  If you are an Amazon Prime member and you get Kindle First, sometimes they have translated fiction on the list of books you can choose for free.  Try it.

Use Goodreads

When you find a book you like, check out the suggestions for similar books on Goodreads.  I fell into a major Indian chick-lit reading hole doing this once.  It was lovely.

Look at lists if you want a book set in a particular place or featuring a certain character.  My favorite resource is this one for books around the world. You need to do some research on this list because they aren’t all by authors who are from the place where the book is set but it is a start.

Ask for help

Know that you want to read historical fiction set in Asia but aren’t sure where to start?  Put a request out on Twitter for suggestions.   Tag it #diversebookbloggers and you will probably get a bunch of recommendations. 

If you are participating in Armchair Book Expo, put your request in your ISO Books post on Saturday.  That’s what it is designed for.  Let the group help you find the book you want.  I’m leading the Twitter chat on Saturday night and we’ll be brainstorming lists of books to meet people’s requests.

 

01 Jun, 2017

Armchair Book Expo – Collaborate and Listen

/ posted in: Reading

 

“The online book community has changed so much over the years. How do we keep up within our own book-sphere as well as within the community as a whole (i.e., libraries, bookstores, authors, publishers, etc.)?”


Keep up?  What’s that?  I am pretty much entirely out of the loop.  I almost never know what new books are coming out when.  If I do it is because I’ve read something else that I loved of the author’s and now I’m following them on Twitter.  Don’t even ask me about publishers.  I never know.  I have realized lately though that most of the books I’m loving come from Tor. 

My book finding habits have changed.  I used to just go to the library and look at the new release shelves.  I might browse around some favorite authors or genres in the stacks.  I can’t remember when the last time I did that was.

Now I have such a list of books that I want to read that I heard about on Twitter or through other blogs and websites and I put in requests at the library.  I just go as far in as the desk to pick them up.  I never actually go into the stacks any more.

In a way, that’s sad.  There isn’t the surprise of finding a good book that you didn’t know about.  On the other hand, I’ve found out about a lot of books that I would have never found just browsing the library.  Interlibrary loan is my friend.  I have weird tastes in books. 

I don’t worry about ARCs.  I have a few book tour companies that I’m signed up with and if something sounds amazing I’ll sign up for the tour.  I don’t do it often though.  (Except for this summer.  TLC Book Tours had a summer lineup that looked like they tailored just to get my attention.) I ignore NetGalley for years at a time.  I love backlist books.  There are so many books that I haven’t read yet that I don’t feel the need to be rushing to read new ones.  I don’t need the pressure of having to read a book by a certain date.  I read what I want when I want and I DNF liberally and sometimes not even on purpose.  I just get caught up in another book and forget I was reading something else.  People who put a lot of pressure on themselves don’t stick around these parts for long.
30aa68ad793acc6611203dde028a4441

So how have you changed since you started blogging? Do you try to keep up with anything?

 

01 Jun, 2017

Armchair Book Expo – What Do Readers Want?

/ posted in: Reading

“What makes or breaks a book? How do we rate the books, or determine if it is good literature or a good story?”

 

I’d like to think that I’m not a picky reader.

via GIPHY

There are just things I feel strongly about.

There are too many series that don’t need to be series.

I like series. I do. But, not every story needs to be a trilogy. If you do write a series there should be a complete story in each book. Don’t write just one very, very long story then chop it randomly into three pieces and call it a trilogy.

If you are going to be writing a series you should also get the sequels out in a timely manner. You really, really need to do this if you have a cliffhanger ending. There is one sequel I’ve been waiting years and years for and I don’t see it coming anytime soon.

Romance

There doesn’t need to be a romance in every book. Well done romance is fine but don’t have a great story and then think, “You know what this needs? Sexual tension!” and then shoehorn a needless romance in there.  You can go save a dragon by your own self or with friends without dragging along an annoying potential love interest that will just need to be rescued.


Ratings

I took any star rating scales off the blog because it was too subjective.  People didn’t always know what I meant.  For Goodreads, here is my mental scale.

  • 1 star – had to be so horribly racist or something that I just finished it as a hate read – Jules Verne’s stupid balloon book
  • 2 star –  a good story that was told very poorly – One Hundred Names
  • 3 star – most books.  I read it and enjoyed it as I was doing so.  It was entertaining.  I’m moving on now and won’t remember much about this in a few months.
  • 4 star – will stick in my mind for a while.
  • 5 star – loved it.  Will rave about this and recommend it to everyone I know.  Very rare and elusive

 

For Amazon, I only rate books I really loved (because I have to do it by hand instead of Ultimate Book Blogger automatically doing it for me.  Lazy!).  I tend to give only 4 or 5 stars.  Amazon’s ratings feel more inflated than Goodreads so I tend to rate high.

I think I’m a picky reviewer.  I don’t give many 5 stars at all.  I know some people give lots.  I give less than 10 a year. Maybe I embody the spirit of these guys.

via GIPHY

Do you think you are a tough reviewer?

 

31 May, 2017

May Wrap Up

/ posted in: Reading

I had a big month.  I read 19 books.

One event I was really focused on was #AsianLitBingo.  The goal was to read books written by authors of Asian descent with Asian main characters.  These are the books by Asian authors I read.

For the contest here is a list of links to my reviews. All books are own voices unless marked.

Paper BoatsThe Witch’s MarketThe Woman Who Breathed Two WorldsOutrun the MoonNot Your SidekickNoteworthyHold Me – own voices for secondary characters not main character and Talk Sweetly to Me – Asian author but no Asian characters-A House Without Windows – Aunty Lee’s Deadly Specials – own voices but not reviewed yet.

My bingo card. The X is for a book I DNFed.

myasianbingo

Other books I read were:

The books were:

  • 4 audiobooks
  • 5 nonfiction and 14 fiction

There were 20 unique authors.

  •  16 female and 4 male
  •  9 Asian authors (1 Afghani-American, 5 of Chinese descent, 1 Malaysian, 1 from Singapore, and 1 Indonesian)
  • 11 white authors (Yeah, still managed to read all the white people)

Reading All Around the World challenge from Howling Frog Books

  • Read a nonfiction book about the country – or
  • Read fiction written by a native of the country or someone living for a long time in the country.

I added 6 books this month to the map. Ireland, Singapore, Botswana, Malaysia, Afghanistan, and Indonesia


Armchair Book Expo started today and runs through Saturday.  I’m helping out with the Twitter parties and writing posts here for the daily topics.  There will be lots of giveaways for people participating!


In June there are a few Pride readathons and #RamadanReadathon for Muslim authors.  Are there other events going on that you are participating in?

 

31 May, 2017

Armchair Book Expo – Introduction

/ posted in: Reading

 

It’s Armchair Book Expo time!  If you don’t know, this is the home participation part of Book Expo that is happening now in New York.

I went last year in Chicago but I hated the idea of going to New York.  Is it just me?  I can’t be the only person who is not at all interested in spending time in New York, can I?  Ugh, it just seems so oppressive feeling the few times I’ve driven though. 

Anyway, I was one of the on-site correspondents for Armchair BEA last year.  This year I’m helping with the social media parts of Armchair Book Expo.  If you come to the Twitter parties (and you totally should), you’ll see me around.

Introduction Questions

 

I am…  at my last day at my job if you are reading this between 10 AM and 6 PM Eastern time on May 31.  This is a YAY not a OH SORRY. 

My least favorite … things to read are:

  • cozy mysteries
  • westerns
  • books with billionaire in the blurb
  • books celebrating really stupid life choices especially if they are made by teenagers

My favorite … bloggers to find and follow:

  • read a really eclectic group of books – fiction of all genres and nonfiction
  • don’t take themselves too seriously.  Stream of consciousness tangents during book reviews are totally encouraged.
  • read books set all over the world by authors from all over

If that sounds like you, yell and wave your hands around in the comments. 

 

 

 

29 May, 2017

A House Without Windows

/ posted in: Reading A House Without Windows A House Without Windows by Nadia Hashimi
on August 16th 2016
Pages: 415
Genres: Fiction
Published by William Morrow
Format: Paperback
Source: Book Tour, From author/publisher
Setting: Afghanistan

For two decades, Zeba was a loving wife, a patient mother, and a peaceful villager. But her quiet life is shattered when her husband, Kamal, is found brutally murdered with a hatchet in the courtyard of their home. Nearly catatonic with shock, Zeba is unable to account for her whereabouts at the time of his death. Her children swear their mother could not have committed such a heinous act. Kamal’s family is sure she did, and demands justice. Barely escaping a vengeful mob, Zeba is arrested and jailed.
Awaiting trial, she meets a group of women whose own misfortunes have led them to these bleak cells: eighteen-year-old Nafisa, imprisoned to protect her from an “honor killing”; twenty-five-year-old Latifa, a teen runaway who stays because it is safe shelter; twenty-year-old Mezghan, pregnant and unmarried, waiting for a court order to force her lover’s hand. Is Zeba a cold-blooded killer, these young women wonder, or has she been imprisoned, like them, for breaking some social rule? For these women, the prison is both a haven and a punishment; removed from the harsh and unforgiving world outside, they form a lively and indelible sisterhood.
Into this closed world comes Yusuf, Zeba’s Afghan-born, American-raised lawyer whose commitment to human rights and desire to help his homeland have brought him back. With the fate this seemingly ordinary housewife in his hands, Yusuf discovers that, like the Afghanistan itself, his client may not be at all what he imagines.

Goodreads

“My full height, my beloved husband never did see

Because the fool dared turn his back on me.”

This is a heartbreaking story about women’s lives in Afghanistan.  In this book women feel more free and open in prison than they did at home.  Zeba meets many women after the murder of her husband.  Most of them are in prison for zina – sex outside of marriage.  That can mean anything from a premarital sex to an affair to rape to just being rumored to be alone with a man.  This book depicts a society that places so much value on a man’s honor but it measures that honor entirely by the behavior of woman instead of behavior of the man.

Everyone knows that Zeba’s husband was not a good man.  However, now that he is dead, his honor (that he did not uphold in life) is of the most importance.  The fact that Zeba was arrested when she is found sitting by his dead body and not murdered by her neighbors is seen as a very merciful act.  No attempts are made to collect evidence.  She was there so obviously she did it.

Yusef, an Afghani-born American-raised lawyer, has just come back to Afghanistan to work on cases like Zina’s.  She drives him crazy by refusing to participate in her own defense.

The prison life in this story reminded me a lot of the South Korean prison that Sun in is in Sense8, if you’ve seen that show.  The women come from backgrounds so dominated by men that many of them are finding life better in jail.

This book does drag a little in the middle while the mystery of Zeba’s husband’s death is being investigated and Yusef is trying a bunch of strategies to get Zeba free. I liked the inclusion of her mother who is considered to be able to do magic.  Zeba uses what she learned from her mother to gain status in prison even though she is conflicted about it.

About Nadia Hashimi

Nadia Hashimi was born and raised in New York and New Jersey. Both her parents
were born in Afghanistan and left in the early 1970s, before the Soviet
invasion. In 2002, Nadia made her first trip to Afghanistan with her parents.
She is a pediatrician and lives with her family in the Washington, DC, suburbs.

Find out more about Nadia at her website,
connect with her on Facebook, and follow her
on Twitter.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • Books Set in Asia
  • POC authors
27 May, 2017

River of Teeth

/ posted in: Reading River of Teeth River of Teeth by Sarah Gailey
on May 23rd 2017
Pages: 152
Genres: Alternative History, Fiction
Published by Tor.com
Format: eBook
Source: Owned
Setting: Louisiana

In the early 20th Century, the United States government concocted a plan to import hippopotamuses into the marshlands of Louisiana to be bred and slaughtered as an alternative meat source. This is true.
Other true things about hippos: they are savage, they are fast, and their jaws can snap a man in two.
This was a terrible plan.
Contained within this volume is an 1890s America that might have been: a bayou overrun by feral hippos and mercenary hippo wranglers from around the globe. It is the story of Winslow Houndstooth and his crew. It is the story of their fortunes. It is the story of his revenge.

Goodreads

She had me at alternative history novella about feral hippos in the Mississippi River.  I pre-ordered.

I didn’t read it the first day it came out because I wanted to wait until I could read it in one sitting.

I wasn’t disappointed.

A post shared by Heather (@dvmheather) on


 

There are feral hippos in a section of the Mississippi. They are penned in by a dam to the north and a large gate to the south. The lake in between in controlled by a criminal who runs the gambling boats. Having large predators in the lake around his establishments is an important natural asset. The government wants the hippos out of the way so they hire a former hippo rancher with a grudge.

Winslow Houndstooth, a pansexual man from England who rides an opinionated black hippo named Ruby, puts together a crew for the job.

  • Hero Shakleby- a nonbinary black person who is a demolition and poisoning expert.  They ride a hippo named Abigail.
  • Regina Archambault (Archie) – a fat French conwoman who rides an albino hippo named Rosa.  Rosa likes to get her teeth brushed and eats pastries even though the vet said she needs to cut back.
  • Cal Hotchkiss – He is a white man who burned down Winslow’s ranch.  Winslow is planning to kill him but it helps to have a white man around to buy explosives.  His hippo is named Betsy
  • Adelia Reyes – A very pregnant assassin with two hippos named Stasia and Zahra.

I loved the world that is created here.  This reads like a wild west story with hippos instead of horses.  Of course, the job doesn’t go as well as planned.  The story is violent as fits the lawlessness of the time and place. 

My only complaint about this story is that I wanted more.  (That and I’m sad about Ruby eating a dog named Petunia.  Bad Ruby!  Note that I am not particularly sad about all the people who get eaten by hippos in this book because I like dogs better than I like most people.)  This is a novella that has a fairly abrupt ending.  I want to know what happens.  When do we get more?

September 12th, it turns out.  I’ve already pre-ordered. 

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • Books Set in North America
  • LBGTQ authors/characters
26 May, 2017

Flirting Through Math – Two Courtney Milan Stories

/ posted in: Reading Flirting Through Math – Two Courtney Milan Stories Hold Me by Courtney Milan
on October 25th 2016
Pages: 313
Genres: Fiction, Romance, Contemporary, LGBT
Published by Courtney Milan
Format: eBook
Source: Owned
Setting: California

Jay na Thalang is a demanding, driven genius. He doesn’t know how to stop or even slow down. The instant he lays eyes on Maria Lopez, he knows that she is a sexy distraction he can’t afford. He’s done his best to keep her at arm’s length, and he’s succeeded beyond his wildest dreams.
Maria has always been cautious. Now that her once-tiny, apocalypse-centered blog is hitting the mainstream, she’s even more careful about preserving her online anonymity. She hasn’t sent so much as a picture to the commenter she’s interacted with for eighteen months—not even after emails, hour-long chats, and a friendship that is slowly turning into more. Maybe one day, they’ll meet and see what happens.
But unbeknownst to them both, Jay is Maria’s commenter. They’ve already met. They already hate each other. And two determined enemies are about to discover that they’ve been secretly falling in love…

Goodreads

I’m a big fan of Courtney Milan’s historical romances.  I wanted to read another one of her books for AsianLitBingo but they don’t qualify because they don’t have Asian main characters.  I decided to try one of her contemporary romances.  Most contemporary romances don’t work for me.  I like romances PG-13 or less and you don’t generally get that in a contemporary.

I chose this book instead of the first book in the series.  The first book is about a billionaire.  That’s one of my key NOPE words in descriptions.  I don’t want to read about billionaires in romances.  This one is billionaire-free although the said billionaire is lurking around as a secondary character.

Jay is:

  • a professor at a university in California
  • Thai/Chinese
  • bisexual
  • a frequent commenter on a website who moved to being an online friend of the creator of the website

Maria is:

  • an older undergrad at the same university
  • Latina
  • trans
  • a self-proclaimed girly-girl
  • the creator of a blog that examines end-of-the-world scenarios
  • the sister of one of Jay’s friends

Jay takes an immediate dislike to Maria when they meet in person through her brother because he perceives her to be overly interested in shoes and makeup and girl stuff.  He finds her shallow. He can’t even seem to make a connection between a woman he sees in front of him and the woman he has been flirting with through science and mathematics for two years.  They aren’t even the same species in his mind.

I’m not a big fan of books that are all about mistaken identity.  This book ends the mystery about halfway through.  The rest of the book is about them trying to translate a two year online relationship into real life.  Maria has some major abandonment issues that cause her to be very fearful of committing to a relationship.  Jay needs to deal with his dismissals of women who appear very feminine.  He considers himself to be a feminist but still thinks women in dresses and makeup must be dumb.

I thought these issues were handled well in the story.  There was a lot going on.  The author writes flirting very well.  I wasn’t completely swept away with the romance here.  I think that is more an issue of not being a huge fan of contemporaries instead of being completely the fault of the book.  If you like contemporary romances that deal with issues and aren’t purely fluff, I’d recommend this one.


So well then after I read this one I had to go back and read another one of her historical romances, didn’t I?  This one happened to be all about mathematical flirting too.

 
Flirting Through Math – Two Courtney Milan Stories Talk Sweetly to Me by Courtney Milan
on August 19th 2014
Pages: 133
Genres: Fiction, Romance, Historical, General, Victorian
Published by Courtney Milan
Setting: England

Nobody knows who Miss Rose Sweetly is, and she prefers it that way. She’s a shy, mathematically-minded shopkeeper’s daughter who dreams of the stars. Women like her only ever come to attention through scandal. She’ll take obscurity, thank you very much.
All of England knows who Stephen Shaughnessy is. He’s an infamous advice columnist and a known rake. When he moves into the house next door to Rose, she discovers that he’s also wickedly funny, devilishly flirtatious, and heart-stoppingly handsome. But when he takes an interest in her mathematical work, she realizes that Mr. Shaughnessy isn’t just a scandal waiting to happen. He’s waiting to happen to her…and if she’s not careful, she’ll give in to certain ruination.

Goodreads


This is a rare historical romance novella set in England that acknowledges that England at that time was not uniformly white.  Rose is black.  She is staying with her pregnant sister who is about to have her baby while her Naval Officer husband is at sea.  They are dealing with the horrible racism of the doctor who is supposed to be helping.  At the same time, a once in a lifetime astronomical event is about to take place.  Because Rose is just a woman who does the calculation in the lab, she isn’t going to be allowed into the prime viewing space to watch it. 

When she finds out that she has a suitor who is white, she is unimpressed by his assertions that everything will work out just fine.  She knows that he has no idea of the prejudice that they will face as an interracial couple. 

This is part of the Brothers Sinister series but it can be read alone.  There is great dialogue between the characters.  I like these stories because they feature women who know their worth (and it is based on something other than their money or their looks) and men who are actually nice and worth caring about.

About Courtney Milan

“C ourtney Milan’s debut novel was published in 2010. Since then, her books have received starred reviews in Publishers Weekly and Booklist. She’s been a New York Times and a USA Today Bestseller, a RITA® finalist and an RT Reviewer’s Choice nominee for Best First Historical Romance. Her second book was chosen as a Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2010.

Courtney lives in the Rocky Mountains with her husband, a marginally-trained dog, and an attack cat.

Before she started writing historical romance, Courtney got a graduate degree in theoretical physical chemistry from UC Berkeley. After that, just to shake things up, she went to law school at the University of Michigan and graduated summa cum laude. Then she did a handful of clerkships with some really important people who are way too dignified to be named here. She was a law professor for a while. She now writes full-time.” from her website

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • Books Set in North America
  • LBGTQ authors/characters
  • POC authors
25 May, 2017

One Hundred Names

/ posted in: Reading One Hundred Names One Hundred Names by Cecelia Ahern
on May 6, 2014
Length: 10:56
Genres: Fiction
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library

Scandal has derailed Journalist Kitty Logan's career, a setback that is soon compounded by an even more devastating loss. Constance, the woman who taught Kitty everything she knew, is dying. At her mentor's bedside, Kitty asks her—what is the one story she always wanted to write?
The answer lies in a single sheet of paper buried in Constance's office—a list of 100 names—with no notes or explanation. But before Kitty can talk to her friend, it is too late.
Determined to unlock the mystery and rebuild her own shaky confidence, Kitty throws herself into the investigation, using her skills and savvy to track down each of the names on the list and uncover their connection. Meeting these ordinary people and learning their stories, Kitty begins to piece together an unexpected portrait of Constance's life. . . and starts to understand her own.

Goodreads

I was intrigued by the premise of a mysterious list of names that the protagonist has to find a connection between.  I do love a mystery.  Actually, that is a lie.  I hate a mystery.  I need to know the answer.  That’s what kept me going through this story.  I had to know the connection between the names.

Kitty Logan, a young journalist, is a horrible human.  She’s the worst kind of horrible person.  She thinks that there is nothing wrong with her at all.  Other people call her out sometimes on her callousness but she gets mad at them for being mean to her.

Kitty falsely accused a man of fathering a child with a teenage student.  He lost a lot of his friends and his marriage.  She is being sued for libel.  Don’t you know how hard this is in her life?  Her overwhelming urge is to get him to forgive her.  She centers herself in everything.

She is so clueless that she applies for a job teaching college level journalism soon after her libel trial.  She’s hurt when they tell her that they are adding her case to the curriculum but don’t want to hire her.

Kitty doesn’t like sick people.  She has avoided going to see her friend who is dying of cancer.  Later she can’t even bring herself to look at a woman with cancer who is getting her hair done for her wedding.

It would be one thing if she was a bad character who Learns a Life Lesson but that is not what is going here.  There is a character with a birthmark across her face who hides in her house cutting out pictures of models and putting them on her wall.  That isn’t Kitty’s POV. That’s the author’s description of the character.  There are racist/fetishizing comments made to a Chinese woman by a white man.  Other Chinese people only speak in stereotypically broken English. There is a young man who repeatedly publicly proposes to a friend of his in order to scam venues into giving them free drinks even though she is embarrassed and repeatedly asks him to stop.  There is also a casual anti-trans comment.  None of this is challenged.  I mentally subtitled this book White Folk Behaving Badly.

It is too bad.  The overall message of the book is a good one. I guessed the answer to the mystery but it still was a satisfying conclusion.  I just wish there hadn’t been so much tone deaf behavior written for the characters before you get to the pay off.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • Audiobooks
  • Backlist Books
  • Books Set in Europe
24 May, 2017

Noteworthy – Acapella with a Twist

/ posted in: Reading Noteworthy – Acapella with a Twist Noteworthy by Riley Redgate
on May 2nd 2017
Pages: 400
Genres: Fiction, Young Adult
Published by Amulet Books
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library

Jordan Sun is embarking on her junior year at the Kensington-Blaine Boarding School for the Performing Arts, hopeful that this will be her time: the year she finally gets cast in the school musical. But when her low Alto 2 voice gets her shut out for the third straight year—threatening her future at Kensington-Blaine and jeopardizing her college applications—she’s forced to consider nontraditional options.
In Jordan’s case, really nontraditional. A spot has opened up in the Sharpshooters, Kensington’s elite a cappella octet. Worshipped…revered…all male. Desperate to prove herself, Jordan auditions in her most convincing drag, and it turns out that Jordan Sun, Tenor 1, is exactly what the Sharps are looking for.

Goodreads

Reading this book was so stressful for me.  I’m not a fan of books that depend on misunderstanding or lies as a plot device.  I’m always wondering when the other shoe is going to drop.  That isn’t the fault of this book.  It is one of the few books that I felt did a good job with this type of story line.

There is a lot going on in this novel.  Jordan is a Chinese-American girl from a poor family in San Francisco.  Her father is disabled and her mother is having a hard time keeping a job while caring for him.  Jordan has a scholarship to this boarding school on the East coast but it doesn’t cover all her expenses.  This is a hardship for her family.  It also sets her apart from the other students who tend to be wealthy.

This story takes place at a high school.  I had a hard time remembering that since it is a boarding school.  It seems more like a college story until they discuss not being able to drive.

Jordan starts to live a double life – a girl during the day and Julian, the newest male member of the Sharps at night.  This leads to a lot of thoughts on gender and sexuality. She gets a lot of advice on how to pass for male from websites for transgender people.  She is uncomfortable with this.  Is she using other people’s real lives for her own selfish gain? Later, members of the Sharps decide that she must be a gay man.  She lets them think that instead of having them find out the truth.  Again she has to think about what it means to appropriating another group’s identity.

I wasn’t a fan of the romance aspect of this book.  It didn’t feel like it needed to be there.  It seemed like since she had spent a lot of time with a group of guys than obviously she had to fall for one of them.  I would have liked this more if it hadn’t happened.

 

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • Books Set in North America
  • POC authors
23 May, 2017

Books from BEA2016 That Should Have Gotten More Love

/ posted in: Reading

Here are some of my favorite books that I got from BEA last year. I haven’t heard anything about them anywhere else and they definitely deserve some more love.

Ghost TalkersGhost Talkers by Mary Robinette Kowal

“Ginger Stuyvesant, an American heiress living in London during World War I, is engaged to Captain Benjamin Harford, an intelligence officer. Ginger is a medium for the Spirit Corps, a special Spiritualist force.

Each soldier heading for the front is conditioned to report to the mediums of the Spirit Corps when they die so the Corps can pass instant information about troop movements to military intelligence.

Ginger and her fellow mediums contribute a great deal to the war efforts, so long as they pass the information through appropriate channels. While Ben is away at the front, Ginger discovers the presence of a traitor. Without the presence of her fiance to validate her findings, the top brass thinks she’s just imagining things. Even worse, it is clear that the Spirit Corps is now being directly targeted by the German war effort. Left to her own devices, Ginger has to find out how the Germans are targeting the Spirit Corps and stop them. This is a difficult and dangerous task for a woman of that era, but this time both the spirit and the flesh are willing…”


Vivian In RedVivian In Red by Kristina Riggle
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“Famed Broadway producer Milo Short may be eighty-eight but that doesn’t stop him from going to the office every day. So when he steps out of his Upper West Side brownstone on one exceptionally hot morning, he’s not expecting to see the impossible: a woman from his life sixty years ago, cherry red lips, bright red hat, winking at him on a New York sidewalk, looking just as beautiful as she did back in 1934.
The sight causes him to suffer a stroke. And when he comes to, the renowned lyricist discovers he has lost the ability to communicate. Milo believes he must unravel his complicated history with Vivian Adair in order to win back his words. But he needs help—in the form of his granddaughter Eleanor— failed journalist and family misfit. Tapped to write her grandfather’s definitive biography, Eleanor must dig into Milo’s colorful past to discover the real story behind Milo’s greatest song Love Me, I Guess, and the mysterious woman who inspired an amazing life.”


IQIQ by Joe Ide

“They call him IQ. He’s a loner and a high school dropout, his unassuming nature disguising a relentless determination and a fierce intelligence. He charges his clients whatever they can afford, which might be a set of tires or a homemade casserole. To get by, he’s forced to take on clients that can pay.

This time, it’s a rap mogul whose life is in danger. As Isaiah investigates, he encounters a vengeful ex-wife, a crew of notorious cutthroats, a monstrous attack dog, and a hit man who even other hit men say is a lunatic. The deeper Isaiah digs, the more far reaching and dangerous the case becomes.”

There is a sequel to this coming out this year.  It is on my list to read for sure.

 


The Littlest BigfootThe Littlest Bigfoot by Jennifer Weiner

This is a story about a lonely girl who meets a Bigfoot girl.  I read this one out loud to the husband and the step-daughter who was determined not to listen on a road trip.  The husband and I love it.  There is a sequel to this one coming out soon too.

22 May, 2017

It’s Monday! What are you reading?

/ posted in: Reading

New In This Week

 Strange Contagion: The Suicide Cluster That Took Palo Alto's Children and What It Tells Us About OurselvesStrange Contagion: The Suicide Cluster That Took Palo Alto’s Children and What It Tells Us About Ourselves by Lee Daniel Kravetz

 This promises to be a cheery read.

 

 

 

Finished This Week

Mini Reviews

Not Your Sidekick

I really wanted to love this one. Everyone loves this one. An Asian-American girl from a family of superheroes dealing with not having powers and having a crush on a girl from school. But there was no completed story in this book. It is the first of a planned trilogy but if you are going to do that, please have a full story in each book within a larger story that unites the three. In this book nothing is resolved. There were a lot of tired superhero tropes too. The most annoying was not realizing that you are talking to a person you know because they are wearing a costume. It could have been funny if it wasn’t drug out so long.

I did like Bell’s story. He is a friend of the MC who is trans. I can’t say a whole lot more because of spoilers.  So:

  1. Yay for good characters
  2. Boo to not having much of a story

What Am I Reading?

 

This about an Afghani woman who is in jail for the murder of her husband and the Afghani-American lawyer who is working on her case.  I like it so far.  It is even better because I can drop “I’m reading a book about a woman who murdered her husband” into conversation with the husband.  Always fun.

What Am I Listening To?

I do love Trae Crowder’s videos even if the last one I saw had him comparing Trump supporters to Tennessee Volunteers football fans.  (I might be typing this while wearing a Tennessee Volunteers t-shirt.)


Have you signed up for Armchair BookExpo yet?  It starts on May 31.  The schedule is up for discussion posts.  I’m going to be helping out with the Twitter chats and other social media.  Hope to see everyone there!

 

It's Monday! What Are You Reading    

19 May, 2017

Who Thought This Was A Good Idea?

/ posted in: Reading Who Thought This Was A Good Idea? Who Thought This Was a Good Idea?: And Other Questions You Should Have Answers to When You Work in the White House by Alyssa Mastromonaco, Lauren Oyler
on March 30, 2017
Genres: Nonfiction, Personal Memoirs
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Setting: Washington, D.C.

Alyssa Mastromonaco worked for Barack Obama for almost a decade, long before his run for president. From the then-senator's early days in Congress to his years in the Oval Office, she made Hope and Change happen through blood, sweat, tears, and lots of briefing binders.
But for every historic occasion-meeting the queen at Buckingham Palace, bursting in on secret climate talks, or nailing a campaign speech in a hailstorm-there were dozens of less-than-perfect moments when it was up to Alyssa to save the day. Like the time she learned the hard way that there aren't nearly enough bathrooms at the Vatican.
Full of hilarious, never-before-told stories, WHO THOUGHT THIS WAS A GOOD IDEA? is an intimate portrait of a president, a book about how to get stuff done, and the story of how one woman challenged, again and again, what a "White House official" is supposed to look like. Here Alyssa shares the strategies that made her successful in politics and beyond, including the importance of confidence, the value of not being a jerk, and why ultimately everything comes down to hard work (and always carrying a spare tampon).

Goodreads

This isn’t a run of the mill political memoir.   This is the story of what can and will go wrong.  It is the story of friendships forged in stress and sleep deprivation.  It is finding out how to stand up for yourself and your ideas when you are young and female in a job that has always been dominated by older men.

I loved a story that she discussed early in the book.  She was in charge of scheduling Barack Obama’s time.  During the 2008 campaign there was bad weather forecasted.  She decided to have him go ahead with a live outdoor event in spite of the weather.  It ended up being worse than expected and he was getting hit in the face with sleet through the whole speech.

We watched (in horror) as the event drew to a close, and Obama reached his hand to Reggie.  As we were turning off the TV, my phone rang.

“Alyssa, it’s Obama.”

“Hi!” I said, with my head down on the desk, girding myself for the inevitable and deserved.  “The event looked AWESOME! You heard John McCain canceled all of his events, right?  He looked like a total old man!”

“Alyssa, where are you right now?”

I was not sure where he was going with this, but I knew it was somewhere bad.  “My desk,” I replied cautiously.

“Must be nice.”

Click

 

She doesn’t shy away from discussing the very personal aspects of the job.  One of her proudest moments was getting tampon dispensers in the bathrooms of the White House.  Most of the people working there had been men and post-menopausal women so it hadn’t been thought a priority.  She also discusses her IBS and the problems that causes in a job where there is a lot of stress and questionable food choices.

She talks about the questions she gets about not having children.  She was working all the time during her twenties and thirties.  She didn’t marry until she was 37.  People ask her now if she is sorry that she didn’t have children.  I love that she is unapologetic about not being sorry.  She proudly proclaims her status as child-free and having cats instead.

Her job encompassed everything from setting up the schedule for the President to coordinating federal emergency response to Hurricane Sandy and the Haitian earthquake.  Where do you go from there?  She talks about how hard it is to leave the White House and decide what to do with your life.

One of the hardest parts of reading this book was remembering what it was like once upon a time.  You know, back when the U.S. Presidency wasn’t a total embarrassment.  I liked hearing about the personal side of Obama.  He introduced her to Mindy Kaling at an event because he knew she had been reading her book.  He got Bruce Springsteen to call her from a campaign event because she had to stay at the White House after setting up the concert and she was a huge fan.  He called her a year after she quit working at the White House because he heard her cat died that day.  (Everyone knew her cat.  He was famous.  She had a conversation about his health problems with George W. Bush on the way to Nelson Mandela’s funeral.)

This is a short book and a quick read.  I read it in one sitting.  I’d recommend this book to everyone who wants to know what it is really like to work in the White House.

I just have two criticisms.  First, she uses a lot of nicknames for people.  It can be a bit hard to remember who these people actually are when she is using nicknames long after introducing them by their full names.  Second, I feel like she underplays her accomplishments a bit.  She talks about women being conditioned to not stand up and present their ideas and it seems like she is still doing that some here.  If a man wrote a book about doing this job, I feel like it would be a lot more about “Look at me!  I was awesome!”  I wouldn’t necessarily like that book as much as I liked this one but what she did was pretty amazing and sometimes that gets lost. 

 

 

About Alyssa Mastromonaco

Alyssa Mende Mastromonaco is the Chief Operating Officer of Vice Media. She is also a contributing editor at Marie Claire magazine. She previously served as White House Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations in the administration of President Barack Obama from 2011 to 2014.She was the youngest woman to hold that position. Mastromonaco had worked for Obama since 2005 when he was on the United States Senate as his Director of Scheduling.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • Books Set in North America
18 May, 2017

The View from the Cheap Seats

/ posted in: Reading The View from the Cheap Seats The View from the Cheap Seats: Selected Nonfiction by Neil Gaiman
on May 31st 2016
Pages: 522
Genres: Nonfiction
Published by William Morrow
Format: Paperback
Source: Book Tour, From author/publisher

An enthralling collection of nonfiction essays on myriad topics—from art and artists to dreams, myths, and memories—observed in Neil Gaiman’s probing, amusing, and distinctive style.
An inquisitive observer, thoughtful commentator, and assiduous craftsman, Neil Gaiman has long been celebrated for the sharp intellect and startling imagination that informs his bestselling fiction. Now, The View from the Cheap Seats brings together for the first time ever more than sixty pieces of his outstanding nonfiction. Analytical yet playful, erudite yet accessible, this cornucopia explores a broad range of interests and topics, including (but not limited to): authors past and present; music; storytelling; comics; bookshops; travel; fairy tales; America; inspiration; libraries; ghosts; and the title piece, at turns touching and self-deprecating, which recounts the author’s experiences at the 2010 Academy Awards in Hollywood.
Insightful, incisive, witty, and wise, The View from the Cheap Seats explores the issues and subjects that matter most to Neil Gaiman—offering a glimpse into the head and heart of one of the most acclaimed, beloved, and influential artists of our time.

Goodreads

Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble


I learned two things from reading this collection of speeches and essays.

  1. Neil Gaiman knows everyone.  Seriously, if you can work him into your 6 Degrees of Separation list you can link to anyone.
  2. He is the speaker that you want giving the keynote address at any event.

 

I loved this collection of his nonfiction writing from the very first essay.

“I believe that people and books and newspapers are containers for ideas, but that burning the people who hold the ideas will be as unsuccessful as firebombing the newspaper archives.  It is already too late.  It is always too late.  The ideas are already out, hiding behind people’s eyes, waiting in their thoughts.”

 

He writes about the importance of libraries and about how not censoring what children read leads to children who love to read.  He talks about how being too enthusiastic about supporting your child’s reading habits can turn her off Stephen King forever.  (Oops).  He writes about Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett and the importance of Doctor Who.  Is it any wonder that I’m a Neil Gaiman fan?

These essays and speeches were written over many years.  It is fun to read him talking about his next novel that has a working title of American Gods but he doesn’t know what it will be called when it is published at the same time that I’m watching the TV adaptation.  A few of the authors that he discusses I haven’t read but he makes me want to pick them up. 

This is a book that isn’t made to be read straight through but instead to be picked up and read a piece at a time in order to savor the words and ideas.  I’d recommend this for any Neil Gaiman fan but also for people who love discussing literacy and the need for the arts in society. 

 

 

About Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman is the New York Times bestselling author of the novels Neverwhere, Stardust, American Gods, Coraline, Anansi Boys, The Graveyard Book, Good Omens (with Terry Pratchett), The Ocean at the End of the Lane, and The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains; the Sandman series of graphic novels; and the story collections Smoke and Mirrors, Fragile Things, and Trigger Warning. He is the winner of numerous literary honors, including the Hugo, Bram Stoker, and World Fantasy awards, and the Newbery and Carnegie Medals. Originally from England, he now lives in the United States. He is Professor in the Arts at Bard College.

Find out more about Neil at his†website, find all his books at his†online bookstore, and follow him on†Facebook,†tumblr, Twitter, Instagram, and his†blog.

17 May, 2017

What Happened With My BEA Books One Year Later

/ posted in: Reading

I’ve been planning on doing this post for a year.  After Book Expo America last year, there was this sort-of controversy about bloggers at book events being the worst thing ever.  We get so many books and somehow that was supposed to be bad.  I didn’t fully understand it.

Full confession time – I am a horrible blogger that everyone was talking about.  Ok, not really, I’m not the person running over other people to get multiple copies of books.  I did however send home three boxes of books from Chicago.  I don’t understand how anyone could have gotten less.

My first interaction when I walked onto the floor set the tone for the rest of the weekend.

Book guy, handing me a book – “Would you like a copy of this book?  It is a middle grade novel about a girl dealing with grief.”

Me, trying to hand it back – “No, thank you, I don’t really read middle grade.”

Book guy, walking away so I can’t hand it back – “Keep it!  You might like it.”

Short of throwing the book at his retreating head I couldn’t give it back.  I was also reverse pick pocketed where people put books in my bag as I passed by.  I tried to hand a book whose blurb I read back to the Hatchette person and I swear the woman picked up other other books and said, “If you don’t like that one, take these two too.”  On Book Expo weekend this year light a candle for the Hatchette reps.  They hand out books so aggressively that I got concerned that they are taken out back and beaten if they have any left.

I don’t buy the whole “bloggers take so many books that there are none left for anyone else” nonsense after seeing how aggressively people were handing out books whether you wanted them or not.

 

Once I got those books home what happened to them?  Was it worth it for them to give all those books to me?

BEA 2016 books

Based on that alone, it was not worth it to give me all those books. I didn’t read the majority of them. But is that the whole story?

Where are those books now?

BEA2016 giveaway

I gave away books to other bloggers who might like them. I gave more books away to people who participated in Foodies Read and most of those have been reviewed. I’m still working on adding some a little at a time to the Free Little Library in my neighborhood. I’m also planning a big giveaway to other bloggers during Armchair Book Expo this year.  The books are moving around and getting to more people.

 

A post shared by Heather (@dvmheather) on

One thing I found interesting was how many of these books I used on Instagram. I hadn’t done a lot of bookstagram posts because I’m a library user and ebook reader so I didn’t have pretty books to photograph. Suddenly I had a bunch of books. I did 49 posts featuring one or more of the books I got at BEA 2016.

 

A post shared by Heather (@dvmheather) on

So, is it a good return on investment to give bloggers books for publicity? Maybe not. But as I thought about that I realized something else.

I had thought that over the course of the last year that I would be seeing a lot of books that I first saw at BEA. I’d see them in the library and in bookstores and on blogs as they came out.

It Didn’t Happen.

I made a list of all the books that I got from BEA that I saw mentioned anywhere even once.

  • The Underground Railroad – obviously a huge hit last year
  • Pachinko
  • The Other Einstein
  • Stalking Jack the Ripper
  • The Peculiar Miracles of Antoinette Martin

That’s it.  There are five books that I got at this huge trade show that I ever heard of ever again in even one blog post or saw in the wild.  What’s the point?  Maybe it isn’t the bloggers that aren’t helping the industry.  Maybe all the buyers and librarians who are being courted by the publishers aren’t really pushing these books either. Granted I wasn’t lining up to get the hottest new releases but those were a minority of the books available.

Other bloggers who have been to BEA or other conventions – What happened to your books?  Did you ever hear of these books again after the conference?

16 May, 2017

The Woman Who Breathed Two Worlds

/ posted in: Reading The Woman Who Breathed Two Worlds The Woman Who Breathed Two Worlds by Selina Siak Chin Yoke
on November 1st 2016
Pages: 474
Series: Malayan #1
Genres: Fiction, Historical
Published by AmazonCrossing
Format: eBook
Source: Owned
Also in this series: When the Future Comes Too Soon

Facing challenges in an increasingly colonial world, Chye Hoon, a rebellious young girl, must learn to embrace her mixed Malayan-Chinese identity as a Nyonya—and her destiny as a cook, rather than following her first dream of attending school like her brother.
Amidst the smells of chillies and garlic frying, Chye Hoon begins to appreciate the richness of her traditions, eventually marrying Wong Peng Choon, a Chinese man. Together, they have ten children. At last, she can pass on the stories she has heard—magical tales of men from the sea—and her warrior’s courage, along with her wonderful kueh (cakes).
But the cultural shift towards the West has begun. Chye Hoon finds herself afraid of losing the heritage she so prizes as her children move more and more into the modernising Western world.

Goodreads

 

This is an historical fiction novel set between the 1870s and the 1940s in Malaysia.   In this area of Malaysia at the time it was common for people to be of mixed ethnic heritage.  But now the British have started to establish a presence.  Towns and cities are growing.  Chye Hoon’s father decides to learn English and move the family to a larger city to get ahead.  Although she is smart, she is not able to go to school.  She is headstrong and not beautiful so stays unmarried for a long time before becoming a second wife to a Chinese man who left his family behind in China.

This story focuses on the way the world is changing around Chye Hoon.  She is taken to a backwater town after her marriage.  She watches Ipoh grow into a mining center.  She sees her children grow up and learn English as their major language.  Even her daughters are able to be educated.  But her family traditions are very important. She longs to be able to pass on the stories that were told to her and the traditions of the families in her area.  Her children are not interested.

What do we lose in the name of progress?

I had never heard of the Nyonyas and Babas.  It took me a while to understand exactly what those terms meant.  This is from Wikipedia.

Peranakan Chinese or Straits-born Chinese are the descendants of Chinese immigrants who came to the Malay archipelago including British Malaya (now Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore, where they are also referred to as Baba-Nyonya) and Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia; where they’re also referred as Kiau-Seng)[4] between the 15th and 17th centuries.[5]

Members of this community in Malaysia address themselves as “Baba Nyonya”. Nyonya is the term for the women and Baba for the men. It applies especially to the Han populations of the British Straits Settlements of Malaya and the Dutch-controlled island of Java and other locations, who have adopted Nusantara customs — partially or in full — to be somewhat assimilated into the local communities. Many were the elites of Singapore, more loyal to the British than to China. Most have lived for generations along the straits of Malacca. They were usually traders, the middleman of the British and the Chinese, or the Chinese and Malays, or vice versa because they were mostly English educated. Because of this, they almost always had the ability to speak two or more languages.”

 

When you try to investigate Nyonya culture, the first things you see are food.  Food played a big part in this story.  Chye Hoon is widowed and has to make a living.  She decides to sell traditional Nyonya food to the men working in the tin mines of Ipoh.  Her specialties are cakes. Here is a video of a type of Nyonya cake.

I really enjoyed this book. I was immersed in her world that was changing so rapidly that by the time of her death it was unrecognizable. This series will be continuing and picking up with the story of her daughter-in-law in World War II.  That book comes out in the few months.  I’m glad for a bit of a break in between because I feel like a need to mourn a bit for amazing life of Chye Hoon before switching the main character of the story to the daughter-in-law.

 

 

About Selina Siak Chin Yoke

Of Malaysian-Chinese heritage, Selina Siak Chin Yoke (石清玉) grew up listening to family stories and ancient legends. She always knew that one day, she would write. After an eclectic life as a physicist, banker and trader in London, the heavens intervened. In 2009 Chin Yoke was diagnosed with cancer. While recovering, she decided not to delay her dream of writing any longer.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • Books Set in Asia
  • Foodies Read 2017
  • POC authors
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